Saturday, December 27, 2008

Who Needs Santa

One of the children in line at the mall waiting to see Santa Claus said.."Who needs Santa Claus when you’ve got Grandparents!" It is impossible, in our family, for Grandma to go overboard when it comes to Christmas gifts for the grandkids. There’s only one problem at this point...she has only 363 days left to shop for next year. One of the great things about shopping for the really young ones is that most generally they are just as fascinated by the box as the present in it. Here is a video of our youngest granddaughter who is just enamored by a $5.00 battery operated Santa playing.."We Wish you a Merry Christmas" on a violin. This little device has turned out to be quite a "baby sitter" for Grandma.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Incarnation



Lu 1:34-35 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.


Can it be anything less than absolute amazement when one ponders the fact that the second person of the Godhead took on human flesh and became man? One of us. The Apostle John put it forcefully but without hyperbole, "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth". (Jo 1:14 )

I mean, what illustration could one use to explain the fact that the Triune God sent forth His Son to become one of us? "...Unto us a Son is given..." as Isa 9:6 says...BUT it was not just any son. Something very special was taking place that night in a little town called Bethlehem. Not just a son was born, not just an ordinary child was born...but the Son of God was given..to whom?...UNTO US! Can you imagine it? Can we fathom for a moment the awesome wonder of that night when the fulness of time had come? It was President Nixon who said the greatest week in all of history was when man set foot upon the moon, and nothing has changed the world more than this. Nixon was wrong! Here we have the God of all creation...owner of all the stars and planets, the galaxies and the moons setting His foot upon His Earth... "...the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power.."He set foot upon His Earth...and John testifies.."we beheld His glory". Emmanuel, God with us! Who knew what was happening that night?

Just a few, as it turns out. Shepherds on the night shift. The spirit world rolled back the curtain between heaven and Earth and an angel of the Lord appeared along with the glory of the Lord..he announced the birth: "... behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." And SUDDENLY a multitude of the heavenly host was with the angel and they shouted: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Prior to all this the angel said to the shepherds..."fear not". Can you imagine being one of the shepherds that night? God...is showing forth, this night, His Peace, His "good will toward men". The great Reconciler, Savior, Redeemer, the One who takes away sin has entered into humanity....God with us..Emmanuel. This is what this Advent season is all about. "We hear the Christmas angels, The great glad tidings tell, O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel" This is worthy of Celebration! Merry Christmas!


Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow
Praise Him, all creatures here below
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chump Change

(click cartoon to enlarge)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Auto-crat

(click cartoon to enlarge)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Riches Have Wings

( Click cartoon to enlarge)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lost in the Hustle and Bustle

(click cartoon to enlarge)

Oh, by the way--- "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Hat Tip: Krista

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ears to Hear

It’s been about four years since my oldest granddaughter has been involved in the annual singing recital at her grade school. During these four years I have been required to endure listening to first year instrument students in the 5th grade band/orchestra recital which is held immediately after the singing recital. You can’t just get up and walk out after your kin’s part is over...can you? I never thought that it could be possible that so many bad notes could be played simultaneously on flutes, violins, violas, trumpets, tubas, bassoons and oboes all under the admiring eyes of a 5th grade music teacher wielding a mighty baton.

Please don’t misunderstand. I think it is wonderful that kids this age are introduced to the fine arts and their exposure to that world is beneficial to all. Beethoven, Bach and Brahms are resting peacefully knowing that 5th graders all over the USA are attempting to play compositions that were written by these masters hundreds of years ago. I am quite positive that as young adults they will fondly remember these days while delivering pizzas during time off from their orchestral concert dates.

But wait....! Something amazing has happened this year...2008. Mark it down! My grandkid has reached the 5th grade this year and sits in the flautist section. A major change has ocurred. It is absolutely astounding to me that the 5th grade band/orchestra could actually improve so greatly in only a year's time. How was that possible? Could Obama have had anything to do with it?

It's Amazing!

H/T: Lisa

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now...?

If you haven’t had the pleasure OR misfortune of reading this public restroom "urban legend", here it is once again for your entertainment:

I had barely sat down when I heard a voice from the other bathroom stall saying, "How are you?" I don't know what got into me, but I answered, somewhat embarrassed, "Doin' just fine." And the other person said, "So what are you up to?" (What kind of a question is that?)

At that point, I was thinking, "This is too bizarre," so I said, "Uh, I'm like you - just traveling." At this point I was just trying to get out as fast as I could when I heard another question. "Can I come over?" O.K., this question was just too weird for me, but I figured I could just be polite and end the conversation. I answered: "No. I'm a little busy right now."


Then I heard the person say, nervously: "Listen, I'll have to call you back. There's an idiot in the next stall who keeps answering all my questions."

Such are the makings of the vignettes in our modern "cell-phone" age. Larry Dixon, Professor of Theology at Columbia Biblical Seminary & School of Missions, has come up with a unique idea for utilizing the cell-phone for evangelization. Here’s what he offers:

"We can turn this contemporary phenomenon of cultural impoliteness to the Kingdom’s advantage! We can get our own wired thingies, plug them into our ears, and carry on strategic, scripted conversations in public. But – and here’s the really brilliant idea – we can pretend to be speaking with someone on the other end of the line, but actually be witnessing to the nearest PICV ("Person in Cell phone Vicinity"). And we don’t even have to have a contract with a cellular company. The wired thingy doesn’t have to really work!

You find yourself standing in line in the local post office. Your conversation goes something like this:

"Yes, my dear, I understand your objection. But the Good News about Jesus Christ is really simple. It’s as simple as A-B-C. ‘A’ stands for the fact that you must accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. ‘B’ indicates that you must believe that He died for you. And ‘C’ refers to the fact that you must confess your sins to Him and ask Him into your heart. Yes, I know, Dear. I know you’ve seen some hypocrites in churches. But you’ll never find any fault with Jesus . . ."

Read the full article: Celling—the Gospel

Friday, November 14, 2008

Talk About Optimism

In April of this year I blogged about A Box of Old Books. This box has been a continual treasure for me, especially a book entitled "Valiant for the Truth, a Treasury of Evangelical Writings." From time to time I just pick up this book and open to a random page and begin to read. Now, this blog may be one of the shortest in my short blogging career. Here is the optimism and encouragement that I read this morning on the first open page:

"O Christian workers, my heart is high with hope. The dark horizon is blooming into the morning of which the prophets spoke, and of which poets have dreamed, and of which painters have sketched. The mountains will kiss the morning radiant and effulgent, and all the waves of the sea will become the crystal keys of a great organ, on which the fingers of everlasting joy shall play the grand march of a world redeemed." (T. De Witt Talmage, 1832-1902)

Talmage was a "Wordsmith". What a way to start the day!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The “Right” Thing

It is extremely hard for me to fathom that anyone, let alone a candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America, could say these words regarding a teen pregnancy: "if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby", thereby advocating the killing of human life, i.e. the baby, for the sake of convenience.

How long does one have to stop and think about that statement before the realization hits one square in the face..just who it is that is being punished for the mistake in the scenario above. Have we, as a civilized society, gone so far down that slippery slope that the abuse of a puppy dog garners more public sympathy than taking the life of an innocent infant in the safety of his mother’s womb? Is this really a "right" thing, that one person has over another person? Don’t we still "...hold these truths to be self evident....." I would hope and pray that the young women in our land that make that mistake would do the "right" thing. That is our only hope. Our efforts and prayers and focus should be toward the Juno’s of our society for the immediate future. For those who didn’t do the "right" thing...know that God has provided forgiveness by His marvelous grace through faith in the One who has given His life a ransom for many...even our Lord Jesus Christ.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Providence or Blind Luck?



"Set the brake on the lead boxcar on track 23, Van", shouted the foreman. During my 2-1/2 year stint as a railroad trainman, I had set the brakes on hundreds of cars. This night was different. It was the middle of winter, midnight shift, six inches of fresh snow on the ground and my mind was somewhere other than the Santa Fe Rail Yard in Argentine, Ks.

I carelessly scurried up the ladder on the end of the boxcar to attempt to get to the platform where the brake could be set. I reached out for the top rung after letting go of the previous rung with my other hand. I grabbed a handful of air. I missed the top rung and my other hand had already released the rung below. Can you picture it? Now, I am going to give you the scenario as it should have played out from this point. The ladder on a boxcar goes up the full height of the car. This is somewhere between 11’ and 15’ off the ground. Since my right hand had missed the top rung my body should have fallen straight backwards onto the steel rail below which is perpendicular to the ladder. My head should have hit first in the center of this iron rail, probably crushing the skull. I weighed approximately 180 lb at the time and the force from a 15’ fall probably should have killed me instantly upon hitting the rail below.

So, what did happen? From my vantagepoint, upside down in mid air, I don’t really know how it happened..but here’s what did happen. I either gave a little push to the left, as I was falling...or God...? I ended up doing a perfect back dive from the top of the 15’ ladder of this box car..head first and hit the small ski jump area that identifies most all railroad tracks. Tracks are built up on a mound and I hit this mound perfectly as though it were a small ski jump. Six inches of fresh snow cushioned my fall. I slid to a halt about 6 feet from the rail totally uninjured. Not even the wind knocked out of me. My lantern, which was held in my left hand, went flying. The Engineer later told me he had never seen a trainman give a signal quite like the one he saw that night. He and the other co-workers came running to me. I was fine!. I finished the eight hour shift....and 50 years later still wonder what happened during that fall.

Providence or blind luck? We know, don’t we? "My times are in Thy hands:.." (Ps 31:15)

(Argentine Rail Yard)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Prove It

The following question was asked on a recent discussion forum: "How would you "specifically" prove the God of the Bible exists? " Here are my thoughts:

Several verses come to mind with this question:

Rom 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them: for God hath shewed it unto them.
Job 11:7 Canst thou by searching find out God?

Utilizing a musical metaphor, there seems to be, according to the Romans 1 verse a resonant "God Chord" within man that if generally revealed truth be followed without corrupting, it would lead one to at least discover the "eternal power and Godhead" of God.(vs 20). And of course when the truth of God’s general revelation is encountered that resonant chord within begins to vibrate to the tune of "Holy, Holy, Holy" and unconverted man then begins to run as fast and as far as he can from this truth. So it seems to me that to try to "prove" that the God of the Bible exists is a futile effort from the outset. The answer to the Job verse is, of course...No! God must reveal Himself to be the God of the Bible. And....."Amazing Grace"....He does just that!

William Dembski writes in the introduction of his book MERE CREATION: "To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exists well-defined methods that, on the basis of observational features of the world, are capable of reliably distinguishing intelligent causes from undirected natural causes." He goes on to say..."Intelligent design detects intelligence without speculating about the nature of the intelligence"

Man even runs away from the truth of "intelligent design" which doesn’t even attempt to identify the designer. Rom 1:20 "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen...." Man wants no part of, even, an unidentified "intelligent designer" even if empirically detectable.

But to the one for whom you would desire to prove that the "God of the Bible exists.." you pray for that one, you preach the Word and be prepared in season and out.. that: "...the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto (that one) the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him:.." Eph 1:17 and then you can say to that one with Paul, "And you hath he quickened who was dead in trespasses and sins:.." Eph 2:1 It is truly by GRACE that we are saved!

Then...he needs no proof...Christ says to him " I was made manifest to them that asked not after me". Rom 10:20b I KNOW whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able...." II Tim 1:12

This question could be the basis of a good sermon, by a good preacher, or, at least, a good song:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
it was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found of thee.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Here Come ‘Da Judge

Twice this week the phrase, "judge not", was commended to me by two unrelated sources. The first from a friend advocating an aberrant theology and the second in a news story regarding a political hopeful in a Florida congressional race. Now, I will admit that the first was stated on a humorous note..from the self proclaimed Pastor and only congregant of "The Church of Dynamic Pragmatism" whatever that is..however, the second from a political hopeful who has been caught in a sex scandal who won his seat in 2006 against an opponent that was caught in a sex scandal. Hypocrisy abounds, unlimited by political ideology.

This warning comes from Matthew Chapter 7:1. "Judge not, that you be not judged." Just what does this mean? I have heard it used as a command to not question erroneous theologians and defective theology, to advocating tolerance of all deviant behaviors. "Judge not"...rolls glibly off the tongue in this age of tolerance, supposedly as a loving and caring statement against insensitivity.

When the context of this particular command is examined it becomes readily apparent that this is a prohibition against individual hypocritical condemnation that may in the end result in the exposure and condemnation of one’s own faults. The passage continues.. "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." This is in essence saying what has become the common jargon of our day: "Be careful what you say and do because what goes around comes around." I’ll bet you didn’t know you were paraphrasing scripture with that adage. This reminds me of the Baskin-Robbins Bible verse. Yes, they have built an ice cream empire on the principles found in Matthew chapter 7 and elsewhere. How so? Have you ever gone into a Baskin-Robbins store and ordered a quart of ice cream? It is a thing of beauty to watch the clerk fill the container with ice cream. The closest description I can relate to you is found in Luke 6:38. It is lovingly packed "...good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over." I’ve dubbed that the Baskin-Robbins verse. They can really pack some kinda’ ice cream! And..they ain’t stingy with the product. They live out the statement "...with what measure you use it will be measured to you".

"Judge not".. does not mean, do not attempt to discern truth from error; it does not mean, do not analyze the situation to determine good from evil; it does not mean, do not decide if one is a true prophet or a false prophet. In verse 15 Jesus says beware of "false prophets"..so it can’t mean do not attempt to ascertain the truth of a matter. In 1 John 4:1 we are admonished to "try the spirits, whether they are of God"

So...what DOES it mean? In essence, I believe, it means (in modern jargon) do not attempt to take the law into your own hands. Just as an individual is not permitted to declare war against another nation, which is a government’s prerogative, so also an individual is not permitted to utilize the "keys of the kingdom" which have been given to the Church. The judgment, which is spoken of in Matthew 7, is a judgment of condemnation. In other words, in passing judgment, one has taken on the responsibility of "Judge, Jury and Executioner". Jesus said in Mt 16:19 "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." This is the discipline that is necessary in the Church, but to be administered only by those officers so ordained. The individuals first responsibility is one of self-judgment. Then, he is able, not to condemn his brother, but, to help him see the error that may have crept into his understanding. (remove the piece of 2x4 out of your own eye...then you can see to help your brother with his sawdust)

"The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in chastening of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself." Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 29

What happens when the Church abdicates it’s responsibility to "judge" righteously? That’s a whole ‘nother blog!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

....I put away childish things.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXI Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day
V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear,[17] the sound preaching [18] and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence,[19]....... which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.[26]
17. Luke 4:16-17; Acts 15:21; Col. 4:16; I Thess. 5:27; Rev. 1:3
18. II Tim. 4:2; Acts 5:42
26. Heb. 12:28


H/T: Hannah

Thursday, October 16, 2008

An Open Door?

My wife and I once visited a large church in the inner city. The building was probably constructed in the early 1900’s and was a magnificent Gothic structure. It was called the "Church of the Open Door". Evidently we somehow became confused regarding service times. We saw no one entering the church and therefore we were not sure about the main entrance to the sanctuary. We tried the nearest door and it was locked. We went on a little further and found another door and it was also locked. We turned the corner and found another door. Guess what? Locked! Finally we found a door that opened into the vestibule and we made our way to the back of the sanctuary as services had already begun. Even though this was a thriving inner city church, it seemed not a little ironic to us that we had trouble finding an open door at "The Church of the Open Door".

There was another church way back in the first century that may have been called "The Church of the Closed Door". This was the church at Laodicea. We see in Rev 3:20 that Christ is on the outside, knocking. The door was not open..it was locked. What had happened? It appears that they had "property"...so they needed nothing else. They said "I am rich and increased with "property"..so that as long as I have "property" and I have the keys to the "property", I have need of nothing else". What else happened? They had forgotten their mission! Or perhaps they had re-defined their mission. Maybe the "great commission" actually meant something other than preaching the pure gospel and making disciples of all nations. Perhaps it may have some political overtones and undertones...a concentration on the systems that would promote "human liberation".

Whatever it was it garnered the rebuke.." I will spue thee out of my mouth". They said.. "because I am rich and have property and hymnals and pews, vestments and endowments....I need nothing else!" The answer came back in stark reality..."you don’t know that in actuality you are miserable, wretched, blind, and naked. Buy from me pure vestments and riches that will last for eternity. I have the medicine for your eyes...that you may truly see. Repent. Repent!" True riches come by way of repentance. For the church to regain it’s sight..it’s vision, it must repent. To fill once again those emptying pews, it must repent.
The alternative is to be spued out of His mouth. "Behold I stand at the door and knock..."

This first century story has an eerily familiar ring to it!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Imperishable Inheritance

This past week has particularly driven home the point that the silver and gold of this world is a perishable item. Most of the items we buy at the super market provide a date beyond which a particular item may be of questionable use. As the stock market lost nearly 1800 points this week we are reminded that perhaps our silver and gold, 401k’s, IRA,s also have a perishable date or a date of diminished value.

I sent the following e-mail to a friend this week:

"I took what little money I had in the stock market in my IRA and converted from stocks to a money market fund. What this means is that the market was just waiting for me to take my little hit and get out. Now the market can recover fine. I think I may have been like Jonah on the boat to Tarshish...now that they threw me overboard there will be smooth sailing for the rest of you. Buy, buy, buy! I have been swallowed by the big fish."

His reply: "I wish you had done that a month ago, Jonah.....we’d all been better off!"

The market seemed to react as though the world was coming to an end. I heard one wag on TV say that "the world seldom comes to an end...so just sit tight"

Peter reminds us that we have a pipeline to the true riches. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (I Pet 1:3-5)

We can truly give thanks to our great God and Savior, even in times like these, that we were "not redeemed by corruptible things...but by the precious blood of Christ." This is the "Imperishable Inheritance", that fadeth not away..reserved in heaven for you!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Here I Stand


Here is a very clear statement explaining what it means to declare- In Statu Confessionis or Status Confessionis. I’ve borrowed this from our Lutheran brothers:

"To declare that one is in statu confessionis is to pronounce a state of confessional protest against an ecclesial entity which has become heterodox, such an entity being in violation of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. This declared critical state of affairs is a public, churchly, and confessional form of protest and is the most potent type of protest that can be made. To declare a status confessionis is a solemn and weighty matter. It is an exercise of the office of the keys.

To declare a state of confessional protest is something done for the sake of the saving Gospel of Christ. It is done pastorally in concern for the faith of those in error and for preserving the pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the holy sacraments in the Church. It is intended to bring to repentance those who have fallen into false doctrine and errant practice.

This state of confessional protest is exhibited by severing fellowship with those in one's church body which teach false doctrine and those which support false teaching either actively in word and deed or by indifference or sticking one's head in the sand. The status confessionis means that pulpit fellowship is suspended provisionally with those pastors and church officials of one's own church body which propagate false doctrine either actively or through passivity (2 Thess. 3:13-15; Romans 16:17).

In addition to this, to declare a status confessionis means to cease and desist from all activities of word and deed which support the ministry of those within one's church body who are propagating false doctrine actively or by indifference. Finally, it should be noted that being in statu confessionis is only to be a provisional (transitional) condition in which the orthodox party remains under affliction until either full doctrinal orthodox is reached or is summarily rejected in unrepentance. It is not meant to be a permanent state of affairs - something which would be harmful if allowed to remain permanent."
http://reformationtoday.tripod.com/chemnitz/id11.html

Pray for those in Beaver-Butler and pray for The Presbyterian Church (USA).
Beaver-Butler

Friday, September 26, 2008

Totally Outrageous

Sometimes one is forced to get down in the gutter with ‘em!

1. A news anchor at a FOX affiliate in Maine has received “hate mail and nasty phone calls” from viewers who think she bears a striking resemblance to the Republican vice presidential nominee. Hate Mail
What better reason to sit down and go to all the trouble to write a good piece of hate mail than the fact that someone looks like Sarah Palin. Must be an Ivy League grad! Naw, even they wouldn’t do that!

2. Palin Syrah, a 100 percent organic wine from Chile, has seen sales take a hit in a San Francisco wine bar since McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin Syrah
Well, at least “Obama Waffles”...are selling like hot cakes. Great for the economy! Thanks for waffling, Barack. Waffles

3. Chevy Chase on SNL’s Tina Fey portrayal of Sarah Palin: "I thought it was extraordinary how well she played her and much she looked like her, I'd like her, personally i felt we didn't need the Hillary stuff, I'd like her to go even harder. I want her to decimate this woman. This woman, I can't believe there hasn't been more about it... It's just unbelievable to me this woman is actually running for vice president." (Chevy Chase, exact quote) Chevy Chase

Would someone please inform this Hollywood elitist (sexist) that many folks can’t believe he made all those movies without an iota of acting ability. Wait...they already have. Johnny Carson once declared, “He couldn't ad lib a f--- (gas expulsion) after a baked-bean dinner!" Remember, he was the one that tied the dog to the bumper of the car and headed for California. What do you expect outta him?

4. Sarah Palin has five children. She is nursing her fifth child, an infant with Down syndrome. Her 17-year-old unmarried child is pregnant. Palin has spoken against sex education or the teaching of contraception. When her water broke with her Down Syndrome baby she got on a plane and flew eight hours back to Alaska, making it only hours before the birth, a risky decision for a pregnant woman of any age. After delivering one child she went back to work the next day. After the birth of her fifth child, she was back in the office after a few days. (Sally Quinn, Washington Post) Sally Quinn
Sally Quinn questions Sarah Palin’s judgment. Is she a governor or a mother? How many un-Governor-like statements about a woman can be made in only 7 sentences. I think Sally Quinn should get, at least, the coveted “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” award given out by the Laugh In crew for dubious achievements. She gets my vote. Thanks for letting us know that McCain’s running mate has 1.) five children, 2.) one with Down syndrome, 3.) one pregnant, 4.) she teaches abstinence, 5.) when her water broke she went home, and 6.) finally...after giving birth she twice went back to work in a few days. I mean, after all how could anyone in their right minds even consider for a moment, after this atrocious behavior, voting for a woman like this. How? Would this be considered “multi-tasking” by Obama....an ability to do two or more things at once?

5. For all my concern about Bush's religious beliefs, and about his merely average grasp of terrestrial reality, I have never once thought that he was an over-the-brink, Rapture-ready extremist. Palin seems as though she might be the real McCoy. With the McCain team leading her around like a pet pony between now and Election Day, she can be expected to conceal her religious extremism until it is too late to do anything about it. Her supporters know that while she cannot afford to "talk the talk" between now and Nov. 4, if elected, she can be trusted to "walk the walk" until the Day of Judgment. (Sam Harris, Newsweek) http://www.newsweek.com/id/160080
Did Sam Harris mention anything about the religious extremism found at Obama’s long attended church? Obama, according to Sam Harris’ way of thinking, will evidently walk the walk of blaming the US for developing the “Aids” virus to kill African-Americans.

6. Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings on Wednesday warned two minority groups to beware of Sarah Palin because “anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks.” Hastings
It’s really hard to believe that this man would criticize anyone given the fact that his own party impeached him in 1988 for bribery and perjury. Wikipedia

Enough, already!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Government of the People


Election season seems to be a time about which James Madison in 1788 commented in the Federalist Papers...a time of political jealousy and insufficient virtue.

"As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. (of government). Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self
government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another."
(James Madison Federalist Paper #55)



Notice that he also stated that there are "other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence." Those qualities and the recognition of them are foundational for our republican form of government. However, acknowledgement of those qualities by our candidates seem to be laid aside during the election season. Anything goes! One may search in vain amongst the candidates for any presupposition that would evince esteem or confidence in any but their own party or themselves. All the opposition are rascals and charlatans..worthy of no high office in the land. None, according to the other, have sufficient virtue to rule in our behalf.

In 1997, you may remember, a retreat in Hersey, Pa. was organized for members of congress in the attempt to instill a spirit of brotherhood by getting to know each other more intimately. It’s purpose was "to seek a greater degree of civility, mutual respect and, when possible, bipartisanship among Members of the House of Representatives in order to foster an environment in which vigorous debate and mutual respect can coexist." During election season...a time-out from civility has evidently been called. Let the name calling, back-biting, slanderous statements, foul languge, derogatory remarks, lies, half-truths, falsehood games begin. It makes you want to welcome the fact that perhaps, "only the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another. "

So what is a fair-minded member of the electorate to do? How can we sort it all out? Especially given the fact that the "main stream media" cannot be trusted. That’s a given in this day and age. Bias is rampant! The most trusted name in news, the most fair and balanced, the one with a fuller spectrum of news cannot be trusted..whoever it is. The bottom line is that our system of government requires involvement, if only in the fact that after attempting to sort out the information we go to the polling place and vote our values and our conscience. That’s the minimum. When it’s all over and the electorate has spoken..then what? As Christians here’s what:

Ro 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Ac 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
Job 12:23 He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.

God is still in control! Daniel 4:35b.... and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?



Thursday, September 18, 2008

Status Confessionis

Two groups, Beaver-Butler in Pennsylvania and San Diego Presbytery, in the Presbyterian (USA) denomination have essentially declared..status confessionis due to recent actions of the 218th General Assembly.. The term is new to me...but the concept is as old as Martin Luther, when he nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg door.

In light of their declaration I have been reminded of one of my all time favorite quotes that has been frequently attributed to Martin Luther but comes from a great 19th century hymn writer, Elizabeth Rundle Charles:
"If I profess Christ with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." (Elizabeth Rundle Charles, The Chronicles of the Schoenberg Cotta Family (Thomas Nelson, 1864)

Here is the definition of status confessionis that I have been able to glean from the internet:

status confessionis: "a state of confessing," is a dire situation in which the church must stand up for the integrity of the gospel and the authority of the Word of God it confesses. RZIM.org

Scriptural Basis for Status Confessionis (NASB)
2 John 1:9-11 - Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching,do not receive him in your house and do not give him a greeting: for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deed.

1 Corinthians 5:11 - I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.

Romans 16:17 - Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.

Mark 6:11 - Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake off the dust from the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.

Titus 3:10: Reject a factious man after a first and second warning
Additionally...Ezekiel 33 and 34, Matt 18:6-9 and others.

In layman’s terms what has happened in this bold move, both groups have declared that the larger body (PCUSA) has departed from orthodoxy. "We discern multiple errors coming from the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that have breached covenanted confessional standing (Status Confessiones). These errors must be labeled and opposed lest we be guilty of failing to raise alarm or of leading "the least of His little ones astray." (Beaver-Butler group) The San Diego group is issuing their resolution in the form of an "overture" to the next GA meeting in 2010 to return to the interpretations held prior to the 217th GA.

Read the declarations and resolutions of both groups at the following links. I am proud to say that he Beaver-Butler group is continuing in the traditions as they were known when my father pastored the Park UP Church in Zelienople, Pa. in 1948-1950. "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." 2Th 2:15


Beaver-Butler Group
San Diego Presbytery” (see San Diego Resolution)

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Gospel Coalition

Following up with my blog entry on "The Great Commission" the following 7min 45sec video is an introduction to The Gospel Coalition. So far this coaliton is made up of a diverse group of pastors who intend to proclaim the "centrality" of the Gospel message. In this introductory video you will see John Piper, Tim Keller, Phil Ryken, Mark Dever, D.A. Carson, Thabiti Anyabwile and others. They have come together in an effort to encourage each other in preserving the past, rejoicing in the grace of God, helping each other in their visons, direction and leadership and for clarifying, celebrating and preserving the gospel as the "power of God unto salvation".

Browse the website & watch some of the other videos. I personally think this is a response to the "emerging church movement", although this term or this movement is not mentioned in any of the resources I have perused.



Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Waldmannspitze

I recently coined a brand new truism. You know...like, "does a bear sleep in the woods?" or "is the Pope Catholic?"...or "you can observe a lot just by watching"....that kinda’ stuff. This particular truism is rather an inside type truism to which only a limited number of people could really give a hearty "amen". So..this one will require a bit of a set-up.

Our associate pastor,..let’s call him Pastor Paul..’cause that’s his name, is a wonderful preacher who expounds the word of God with wisdom, understanding, humility, love, concern...AND with some wonderful "mountain climbing" illustrations. In fact, not a sermon goes by that does not contain at least one mountain climbing illustration. You see in addition to his deep love for the Lord, Pastor Paul...loves the mountains. Actually, I think it may be more than just love; it may actually be an obsession. J Gresham Machen wrote, "The only way to have the slightest inkling of what a mountain is is to walk or climb up it." I personally think this is Pastor Paul’s mantra. His religious formula. His deep desire. That is... to really know what God did when he created the mountains. Therefore, his free time is spent walking and climbing them and his sermons are sprinkled with the poignant illustrations of his mountain climbing adventures. And.... we are truly blessed to have ears to hear these wonderful stories along with his unique ability to relate it all to the truths of God’s Holy inerrant Word.

Which brings me to the truism. From this point on when asked about the veracity of any truth..you may simply say, "does Pastor Paul love the mountains?" Now, when they cock their head to the right or to the left as does a puppy dog when saying "huh?"..just have them surf over to A Reformed Layman’s Perspective for the explanation. They will be enlightened and I may gain a reader. However, I suspect it will be Pastor Paul...that will gain the readers...and rightly so! (link above) How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isa 52:7)

Now, in this same vein let me relate to you that I am not a lover of the mountains. I have what might be called a "great fear of heights". (acrophobia) I have told others .... "I don’t care how high off the ground I get..just as long as I can touch it with one hand". I own a 28ft ladder that just scares me to death to think about getting that high off the ground.

I was in Germany in 1962 with the US Army stationed in a little village called Schwabach, which is about 10 miles or so South of Nürnburg. A coupla’ buddies and I made friends with a local who was a lover of the mountains. Günther, not unlike Pastor Paul, also had an obsession for climbing. He encouraged us to take a weekend excursion with him to do what could only be done near Nürnburg ..... "rock climbing" . Günther was an expert "rock climber". He was an officer in the German Army during the II World War stationed in the East with the "The Elite Gebirgsjager" (mountain corps) fighting against the Russians. Günther knows rocks & mountains...and knows how to climb them. What a guide we discovered, accidently. We spent Saturday climbing some of the easier rocks with Günther. We were beginning to get the hang of this now popular sport. Günther went first with the rope to find a secure spot where he could sit or stand and I came next with the rope tightly secured around my body climbing with finger and toe holds to the spot where Günther was. All during my climb if I were to slip and fall, Günther had the rope secured. My life was literally in his hands.

Once the summit or the top of the rock was reached if there was not an anchor eye already secured into the rock, Günther would pound into the nearest crevice an anchor eyelet and one end of the rope was fed through the eye and then both ends were allowed to evenly drop down the face of the rock. Now in 1962 we didn’t have harnesses or connected descender devices...we just had a rope. The rope was fed between the legs, brought up over the head and hung over the left shoulder and down the back and the rest hung down the face of the rock. In essence the body became a living pulley system that would allow easy descent. The top of the rope was held by the left hand and the right hand held the portion of the rope near the hips. Loosening the right hand grip would allow the body to descend down the face of the cliff as fast or as slowly as desired simply by tightening or loosening the right hand grip. Fun stuff when mastered, but putting the full weight of the body onto the rope and trusting the right hand rather than the left for security was unnerving to say the least.

Then came Sunday and "The Waldmannspitze". As long as I live I will never forget the name of this rock. It’s over there right this very minute, somewhere near Nürnburg...still laughing at me for my failure to climb it. The Waldmannspitze was not your ordinary rock. Ordinary rocks at least look climbable. This rock didn’t look climbable. Günther had been up and down this thing hundreds of times. The routine was the same. Günther would go first, find a resting spot, secure the rope and then I would follow. All went well with finger and toe holds straight up the face of this rock. Now straight up is one thing. I could handle straight up. Following the rope and the route that Günther took, I came to an area that didn’t continue straight up. This area jutted outwards and upwards at a 45 degree angle. It looked like there might be some finger holds, maybe I could get my hands into one of the crevices...but that would leave my entire body dangling in mid air dependent on my finger holds and on Günther’s ability to pull me up this 45 degree angle if I fell. It was here that I lost all faith in my own ability and in Günther’s to hold a 175 pound load 50 feet off the nearest landing...with nothing but jagged rocks to break a fall.

Now here was the next problem. Günther didn’t speak English. My buddies and I spoke enough German to order a beer...and maybe just a little more, two beers. Günther was up there somewhere at the other end of the rope and I was literally at the end of my rope. I froze. I couldn’t go on. This was it...as far as I was going. I hollered above..."Ich kan nicht weiter gehen!" (I cannot go further) Now maybe my German pronunciation wasn’t good; there is a difference between high German and low German...and Günther wasn’t responding. "Ich kan nicht weiter gehen!" ...again I shouted up the cliff. Finally I hear.."O ya..sie können" (Oh yes, you can) Again I shouted, "Ich kan nicht weiter gehen!". After about 15 minutes Günther loosened the rope so that I could descend via the same finger and toe holds that got me to that point. I failed. The Waldmannspitze won.

Forty six years of water have flowed under the bridge since that episode. Regrets? You bet! I would really rather write here and tell you that I conquered the Waldmannspitze....but I can’t. A life changing "kairos" moment? No. Not really. A great disappointment? Yes. Lessons learned: one can do a lot of things in this life that you think you can’t do. Do I remember the names of the rocks that I successfully climbed. Not in a million years....but I sure remember The Waldmannspitze. So you would ask me..."was it worth it to make the attempt and fail?" I have but one thing to say..."does Pastor Paul love the mountains?"



This is a photo, not of The Waldmanspitze..but of me climbing one of the forgotten rocks. (click photo to enlarge)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Great Commission

Make sure your denomination hasn’t broadened the definition of "evangelism" to include anything from lobbying congress to fomenting revolution in Third World countries. Evangelism is still: "joyfully sharing the good news of the sovereign God and calling people to repentance, to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to active membership in the church, and to obedient service in the world" What are your denominational contributions funding? It behooves us to know. (Based on Broken Covenant, Parker T Williamson, pg. 139)

Take a look at this interesting video on the "Great Commission":





(thanks to http://www.logosdor.com/ for video)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

HOLY SMOKES!

D.A. Carson, in his book "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church", cites an example of one particular person's move from basic orthodoxy to post-evangelicalism. "(His)...move was from the Brethren Church through Pentecostalism to the house church movement..to his present focus on post-evangelicalism. In his case, this includes Tuesday night meetings of a rather different form of church: the lounge bar of a South London pub, named Holy Joe’s. The atmosphere is relaxed: people can drink or smoke, participate as much or as little as they like in the worship evenings-which place a high value on contemplation, candle, symbols, ambient music-and if they don’t like it, they can move off to the main bar." (pg 25)


Is this a set up for a cartoon...or what? And.....it’s all true. Google... "Holy Joe’s"!!




(click cartoon to enlarge)


Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Leaping Babe.... (Luke 1:44)

After posting my previous blog entry, thoughts began racing through my head about all the evil that is personally endured by so many people in this world. It is one thing to have a proper theological understanding of the doctrine of evil, but it is certainly another to actually be touched by the evil that is so rampant in the world today. So...the question I have to pose for this blog entry is this: "Does a proper theological understanding make it easier to endure the evil that may come our way?" And a related question: "does a proper theological understanding help us to minister and comfort one another when evil things come our way?" As J Vernon McGee used to say, how does it work out.."down where the rubber meets the road".

I also understand that there are innumerable personal examples that could be used as illustrations for this subject. So many, even in our midst, have endured unspeakable evils that are part and parcel of our fallen world. Now, we are all either going to or have already faced the evil of the loss of a dear loved one.
(Rom 5:12) (Heb 9:27) All of us are going to die...sooner or later...unless the Lord returns during our lifetime. I quizzed my wife...Is it easier to deal with the loss of a loved one that has lived a full life and has come to the end.."full of years"..compared with the loss of a newborn or a young person who has just begun the journey of life? Hands down the answer was that enduring the loss of a young person would be much, much more difficult than with one who has lived a full life.

You may be asking at this point, where are you going with this blog entry. Especially given the title..where does a leaping babe come into all this discussion? I would tend to think that the process of ministering to someone who has experienced the evils of this world first hand would include a proper theological understanding. I am thinking mainly of those who have had to endure the loss of a young person, perhaps even an infant, perhaps still-born, perhaps even a regretted and forgiven abortion. What does the bible say about those that die in infancy? The believer inevitably wants assurance that their child is with the Lord in heaven"? Where does one get that assurance? We know about I Cor 1:21..." it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." So the question is this: Is God able to save apart from the preaching of the gospel? Most of us know the "Westminster Confession of Faith" teaching on this subject which says, "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit,[12] who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth:[13] so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.[14]"
(12. Gen. 17:7; Luke 1:15; 18:15-16; Acts 2:39; John 3:3, 5; I John 5:12; 13. John 3:8; 14. John 16:7-8; I John 5:12; Acts 4:12)

This is where the leaping babe comes into the picture. God has given us, in His scriptures, an illustration of infant salvation. I think we can all safely conclude that John the Baptist was one of the elect....and that he was regenerated in infancy, even in the womb. Verse 44 of Luke 1 says.."the babe leaped in my womb for joy". Prior to this in verse 15 it is said, "and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." Can we not rest assured that this child truly experienced regeneration in the womb? (As a side note, regeneration in the womb..should certainly confirm infant baptism.) Now, I cannot imagine one who leaps for joy when His Savior draws near, (no matter his age or his location) and one who is filled with the Holy Ghost in the womb...NOT being regenerated, made alive spiritually, made a child of the King, called, and justified and eventually glorified. The WCF teaching definitely has this story in mind when the above statement was formulated. (cf WCF ref# 12 above, Luke 1:15) Therefore, I think we can safely conclude that God is certainly able to regenerate, save, and justify one of His elect in the womb. And..this regenerated one is saved forever, he has eternal life, whether this little one dies in infancy or reaches the ripe old age of 96.

The final question: Can believers have a certain hope and confidence that their children who die in infancy are eternally secure? I believe the answer to this question is ...yes! This is what the Reformed confessions, which are based on scripture, teach us. The Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine Divine Election and Reprobation - Articles of Faith Article 17: "Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy." (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; I Cor. 7:14). To God be the glory!

As believers we, with confidence and hope, anticipate that we will one day be reunited with our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and grandchildren who have died in infancy of godly parents.
Meanwhile we will shed the tears, we will be sorrowful, we will cry and feel the pain, we will attempt to comfort one another and....even acknowledge that death is the evil enemy of God (ICor 15:26)... that is until that day when God shall finally and forever.......wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev 21:4)

Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Rev 22:20)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Theodicies

I have a bad habit! (well, maybe a few..but I only want to talk about this one today) I am a "quote collector". Say what? Yes, I collect quotes.....on various subjects. Now here is the problem. Where did these quotes come from? Who said that? I have recently changed my bad habit in that when a quote is collected on any subject I reference the subject, the source, and the author. However, the quotes that I am placing before you today....may or may not have the source OR the author, just the quote. So...if any of you recognize either the source or the author, please feel free to click on the comment link below and inform me of these missing details.

Most of these quotes, I have since determined, come from HERE.

My subject is "Theodices" which is based on the following syllogistic format. But first, the definition of a Theodicy...." A vindication of the justice of God in ordaining or permitting natural and moral evil". (Webster)
  1. The world was created by an all-powerful and all-loving God.
  2. Evil exists in the creation.
  3. If God were all-powerful, he could immediately destroy evil.
  4. If God were all-loving, he would immediately destroy evil.
  5. Therefore, God cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving.

EVIL—(collected quotes)

  • That is a very, very compelling point coming from the rabbi. In other words, to argue against the existence of God based on the existence of evil forces us into saying something like this: Evil exists, therefore there is no God. If there is no God then good and evil are relative and not absolute, so true evil doesn't exist, contradicting the first point. Simply put, there cannot be a world in which it makes any sense to say that evil is real and at the same time say that God doesn't exist. If there is no God then nothing is ultimately bad, deplorable, tragic or worthy of blame. The converse, by the way, is also true. This is the other hard part about this, it cuts both ways. Nothing is ultimately good, honorable, noble or worthy of praise. Everything is ultimately lost in a twilight zone of moral nothingness. To paraphrase the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer, the person who argues against the existence of God based on the existence of evil in the world has both feet firmly planted in mid-air.

  • If God wiped out all the evil in the world tonight at midnight, where would you and I be at 12:01? See, the fact is that God's going to do a complete job when he finally deals with evil. C.S. Lewis makes the point when he says, "I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does....When the author walks on the stage the play is over." Evil deeds can never be isolated from the evil doer. Our prints, yours and mine, are on the smoking gun.

  • What's curious to me in dealing with this issue is that no one raises the issue of whether one ought to continue to believe in the goodness of man after these kinds of tragedies. We see things like the Holocaust, the crime level, the innocent suffering at the hands of other human beings more often than not, and instead of shaking our fists at humankind who perpetrate the action we shake our fists at God. I don't get it.

  • Dennis Prager says, "Whenever I meet someone who claims to find faith in God impossible, but who persists in believing in the essential goodness of humanity, I know that I have met a person for whom evidence is irrelevant." ( Ultimate Issues , July- September, 1989) I like that. I think that hits the nail on the head. The last thought I will offer is just another curious one from my perspective as I hear these kinds of responses. We live our lives in rebellion to God, constantly disobeying Him, constantly disregarding him, refusing to live according to His precepts and according to His rules, and then we wonder where He is when things go wrong. Let that one sink in a little bit.

  • For example, certain virtues couldn't exist without evil: courage, mercy, forgiveness, patience, the giving of comfort, heroism, perseverance, faithfulness, self-control, long-suffering, submission and obedience, to name a few. These are not virtues in the abstract, but elements of character that can only be had by moral souls. Just as evil is a result of acts of will, so is virtue. Acts of moral choice accomplish both. Augustine knew that evil was real. Independent evidence (natural theology) was enough to convince him that God existed and that everything He created would be good. Evil, then, must be something real, but not a "thing" in the conventional sense. Evil is not a created thing, but spoiled goodness made possible by the free moral agency of rational creatures. Evil is not something present, but something missing, a privation. ---Gregory Koukl, Augustine on Evil

  • Job had learned this simple lesson long before his testing. In answer to his wife's reflection on God, he replied "What? Shall we receive good from the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" We can almost hear someone shout "Blasphemy!" when they read this. But the divine comment is, "In all this did not Job sin with his lips" (Job 2: 10). "Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good?" (Lam.3:38).

To the above bad habit, I have now added, "collector of videos". Here is one that I ran across that puts a conclusion on this blog entry:


Final Quote
If there is no God then there is no answer to the pastoral question of personal suffering and evil . It 's not there--your suffering is meaningless. But if there is a God, and if that God is the God of the Bible, then at least we have the potential of an answer. There's some kind of comfort there. God is ultimately good and just, and one day the accounts will be perfectly balanced. We can place ourselves in the hands of a powerful Creator who, by all other evidence, loves us, cares for us and comforts the afflicted. One Who will not break off a bent reed and Who will not put out a smoldering wick. One Who will hold us close to Himself. There is at least the possibility that this suffering and pain can make sense because God can use it for good in our lives. (Greg Koukl)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pete Pete and Repete

I know that most folks have endured seemingly endless praise choruses in youth services or perhaps even in regular worship services. I, in fact, visited a church one Sunday and the worship team began with the singing of praise chourses and the singing didn’t cease for 35 minutes, all while standing. My wife and I had to sit down after about 20 minutes. We were exhausted. It was a real test of physical endurance. Age may have had something to do with it! Now, I love to sing, even if I can’t. Dogs’ ears perk up when I make an attempt. Nevertheless, an attempt is made to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. So..don’t get me wrong with the cartoon I am posting. And don’t inform me that there are angelic beings that exist simply for the purpose of saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. (Rev 4:8) I know that!

The cartoon is an exaggeration of the endless repetition that is a part of so many worship services in the modern church. When I created the cartoon, I had what I thought was the perfect caption as the lady in the first row turns to the man next to her and declares....something????? After thinking about my caption for a day or so, I thought maybe this is not so perfect; maybe someone else may have the perfect caption....so that’s where you my loyal reader(s) come in. It’s your turn to provide the "perfect caption". Are you up to the challenge? Just post your caption in the comment section. If you’re in Gibsonia, Houston, Baton Rouge, Olathe, Shawnee, Zelienople, Kansas City...wherever I want your input. It’s up to you!


(click to enlarge)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Incongruity

I recently heard the following statement expressed by a Calvinist: "I worship like a Calvinist, but minister like an Arminian." Now I am quite sure that this statement may have, at least, raised the eyebrows of the likes of Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, Pink, Hodge, Sproul and many, many others who found it not incongruous to worship AND evangelize like Calvinists. The following video is the 10 minute conclusion of a debate by Dr James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Calvinist. I think you will find it an extremely worthwhile 10 minutes.



Hat Tip Deutero Q

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008

Atonement

My wife and I went to see the movie “Atonement” when it was first released. It is a movie I would highly recommend. One caveat. Spend some time before viewing with any old Monty Python or Benny Hill episodes to acclimate yourself to the common language that separates us from our English brethren. OK..OK.... “Upstairs Downstairs” and “Fawlty Towers” episodes will work equally well. Without this acclimation one will find it very hard, at times, to understand the English language as it is so proficiently spoken.... by the English.

Without giving away the entire story, it is the tale of a pre-adolescent girl who secretly sees a scene unfold before her eyes between her older sister and her sister’s boyfriend. As is often the case she makes a hasty judgment about what she has just witnessed and in the course of the events, which immediately follow, accuses the boyfriend of an atrocious deed, which, in reality, was not committed. Because of this accusation the course of three lives, including her own are radically changed forever. The rest of the movie, which spans a time period of approximately 65 years, is spent attempting to make atonement for this sin committed when she was merely thirteen years old.

All of which brings me to another Atonement, one with eternal consequences. As a layman and a student of the Word, here is my understanding. This was an atonement made for many, an atonement for the Church, the ekklesia. This was an atonement for His sheep. And.... this is the basic Gospel...Christ died for His sheep. “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep,.... I lay down my life for the sheep.” (Jo 10: 14-15) In John chapter 17 he says, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” Here we see two priestly functions, one sacrificial and one intercessory. The scope of both are identical. He prays for the sheep which the Father has given Him and He lays down His life for the sheep which the Father has given Him. Unlike the atonement in the movie in which a futile attempt is made to atone for a single wrong, the atonement Christ made is not only efficient, i.e., it accomplishes exactly what it intends to accomplish..(for He shall save His people from their sins, Matt 1:21), but also is sufficient for all the sin of those for whom it was intended. (All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; Jo 6:37) (....the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matt 20:28) (..Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Rom 4:7-8)

Now, I love a lot of folks that have come into my life. But,....there is one very special love that I have. I love my wife like I love no other. My love for her is a ”special love” that cannot even compare to my love for any other. Christ also has a special love that is reserved only for those whom the Father has given Him. The apostle Paul admonishes husbands, “love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Eph 5:25). His is the example of a discriminating love that lavishes itself only upon those whom the Father has given Him, His Bride...the Church. He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (Jo 10:27, 28) The gospel call goes out to all....Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins;.. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts2:38ff)

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal
no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not
atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
(From “Rock of Ages”-Augustus
Toplady)

The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works. (Ps 104:31)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Poolside Security

We were enjoying the poolside fun at a Lake of the Ozarks resort. David was three years old and he loved the water, the splashing, the pool toys and the people who were having a blast right in front of his eyes. His mother would, occasionally, take him to the shallow end to play. He was enthralled with it all. He couldn’t get enough. This is typical of an active, enthusiastic, reckless three-year-old! He didn’t know at the time there was a major difference between the shallow end with Mom and the deep end without Mom. I sensed his reckless, carefree spirit.

A group of us decided to go water skiing. Mom, who prefers the relaxed atmosphere of the poolside cabana, decided to stay and watch David and enjoy the morning with him. As I was leaving with our daughter, I reminded my wife she needed to keep a close eye on David since he hadn’t yet learned the difference between six feet of water and two feet of water. All he could see was the top and that all looked the same to him. Just as I was giving this sage piece of advice to my wife, David took off full gallop, as a three-year-old does, toward the deep end of the pool and did a full cannonball with his entire 32 pounds of baby fat. He bobbed once to the surface and began to sink. I raced to the edge of the pool, reached down, grabbed his flailing arm and frantically pulled him to the surface. Now here is the amazing part. He wanted none of this saving effort from his dad. He fought me all the way to the surface and continued the struggle even after his head came above the water. Can you imagine that? It’s true!

Now, it really doesn’t take much imagination to realize that I would radically interfere with his childish "free will". After all, he is a member of the family of Mom and Dad Van. Does anyone think for a minute that his will would prevail? Could he have just jumped out of my hand? Not while I was in control! "But, you’ll ruin his little creative spirit", is the modern day rejoinder. As my little granddaughter would say, "Duh,.... I think you just preserved it."

Now, I cannot count the number of times this scene, in varied form, has repeated itself in my own relationship with our Heavenly Father throughout the course of life. I will not go into personal detail but suffice it to say there have been numerous times, I’m sure, all of us have run headlong toward the deep end of the pool not foreseeing the spiritual danger. But God, in his preserving power, draws us back, in His own time, from the edge of destruction. In Calvinism this is known as the "Perseverance of the Saints"....when actually I think all would agree it is more about the Perseverance of God. "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil 1:6) I Thank God for His preserving grace toward each of us.


Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35-39)

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
—Annie Johnson Flint


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Food for Thought?

Top Ten Religious Pareidolia (see Fox News Story..link below)

1. Virgin Mary on Rye
2. Nun Bun
3. Holy Cow
4. Potato-Salad Jesus
5. Cooking-Pan Jesus
6. Fish-Stick Jesus
7. Fish-Bone Jesus
8. Granite Jesus
9. Miraculous Melon
10. Virgin Mary in a Tree

Should one ask: Is there a need for proper Christian teaching in the world?

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom 1:21-23)

WCF XXI:1 I. The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.[1] But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.[2]

1. Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1-4a; 50:6; 86:8-10; 89:5-7; 95:1-6; 97:6; 104:1-35; 145:9-12; Acts 14:17; Deut. 6:4-5
2. Deut. 4:15-20; 12:32; Matt. 4:9-10; 15:9; Acts 17:23-25; Exod. 20:4-6, John 4:23-24; Col. 2:18-23

Click for the full Fox News Story and photos.
Click for Wikipedia Report

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Steamroller Cometh

I can, somehow, hear what people might be thinking after reading some of my blog entries. "Why don’t you just leave that church and that denomination..why are you still hanging around?" That "Ferris Buehler" gem comes during the rolling of the credits... "What are you still doing here? It's over. Go home. I mean it, go home!"...says Ferris.

Jim Berkley made a comment, which I posted below on the "Dilemma" entry. I quote it again here: "We would all like ease and peace. But this is a fallen world, and we have another task: withstanding evil. We ignore and neglect that responsibility to our own peril, and especially to the peril of the most vulnerable." (Jim Berkley) You may not have gotten the full meaning of that quote if you didn’t click and follow the links to where it was discussed. But, here is my understanding: For those who are mature in the faith...,at least relatively so, if you up and jump ship...what about those as depicted in the cartoon below...."the most vulnerable". Who will be left to warn..that the "steamroller cometh", that is, when the "steamroller cometh"? When the laws and rules of the larger body..effect the smaller body..that is, the local congregation...,who would be left to point out to the less mature brothers and sisters the folly of bad decisions? Can a throne of destruction be allied with You, One which devises mischief by decree? Ps 94:20 NASB If this were to happen...who would sound the alarm?

"Do you, the members of this congregation, as those who are already under the obligation of this covenant, welcome into your fellowship these who have now professed their faith in Christ and their purpose as His disciples, and do you promise to encourage and help them in the Christian life?" As members of our local congregation we make this vow (or something similar) upon reception of new members and those baptized.
These are the ones Jim Berkley, I believe, see as the most vulnerable and if we abandon...would be neglecting our responsibility. Just thinking out loud......!

(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Per Capita

"In essence Per capita is a set amount of money (apportionment) per member that congregations pay to the larger Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Said another way, it is a Presbyterian Covenant Community Fund — part of the glue that holds Presbyterians together. Because every Presbyterian shares in the benefit of the PC(USA)’s system of government, the expenses associated with coordinating and performing the functions of that system should be shared by everyone as well." (http://www.pcusa.org/percapita/faq.htm)

“...........per capita came before the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission ...in 1986 in the case of Buonaiuto v. First Presbyterian Church. In that case, an individual member had sought to prevent his session from remitting his share of its per capita apportionment. The commission ruled:
[P]reventing one governing body of the church from carrying out its rightful responsibilities to another governing body lies outside the rights of an individual member." (http://www.pcusa.org/constitutionalservices/ad-op/note09.htm)

Aha....but it doesn’t prevent him from creating a CARTOON, when he feels funds are being misspent:
(The Layman Online)


(click to enlarge)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fickleness

(click to enlarge)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Dilemma

My daughter & her husband were carefully screened when they adopted their daughter. The adoption agencies had guidelines to detect possible familial dysfunction. Dysfunction constituted an immediate deal breaker. No child would be placed in a dysfunctional family and ignoring dysfunction was not an option. The 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA) and the decisions that have come from it have effectively rendered our Church a dysfunctional family. Our local conservative congregation is attempting to move in one direction and the denomination is moving in an opposite direction. In my position, that is, from the pew, the congregation and the denomination are a package, a family deal... so:

Here are my choices in dealing with a dysfunctional church family: Should I......
  1. stay and work to bring the denomination back to its roots and eliminate the dysfunction.
  2. stay and work to get the local congregation to accept dysfunction as normal.
  3. stay and work to get the local congregation to leave the denomination.
  4. leave the local congregation and the denomination and find a new fellowship.
  5. stay and live with it, informing converts and new members of the dysfunction.
  6. stay and ignore or hide the dysfunction from others.


These are the choices and the struggles I’m personally facing and I suspect thousands of informed others in the PCUSA are also. Here is some advice that I have been able to glean from other bloggers (Pastors and Laymen) as they ponder many of the same questions:

On option 1 above: (Efforts at the denominational level).. hasn't done a thing in renewing the denomination into a more effective Gospel preaching, Truth teaching, Christ witnessing, Cross bearing, World caring, God fearing, Scripture loving, Servant leading, Church planting organization. (Dave Moody)

On option 1 above: Right now we're all family, and even though we think our brothers and sisters on the other side have gone bonkers, we need to figure out ways to make this family work and to reintroduce a little order and morality back into the family system. (Jim Berkley)

On option 4 above: We would all like ease and peace. But this is a fallen world, and we have another task: withstanding evil. We ignore and neglect that responsibility to our own peril, and especially to the peril of the most vulnerable. (Jim Berkley)

On option 3 above: So you "simply" split. You walk away. Now, if you think you have been preoccupied with peripheral activities, you haven't seen anything yet! You need to reorganize. You must fight your way out. You must deal with families split right down the middle over staying or going. You must reinvent several wheels. You must deal with placing significant new resources directly in the hands of the old denomination, now in the hands of people who would be unfettered to use the resources for destructive purposes contrary to the gospel. And the list goes on. Things just got harder and more complicated, rather than simpler and clearer. (Jim Berkley)

On option 6 above: If we don't make a big deal, on the congregational level, of divisions/splits/etc, then nobody in our neighborhood knows about them! (Drew)


You can click on the names to see the various quotes in their entirety and for the original context. These statements are put here only for the purpose of giving the flavor of the discussions as they are taking place in the blogosphere and to help in making decisions that must be made. Originally this entry was intended to be another comment on one of the blogs that are discussing the subject...but as you can see it ballooned into its own blog entry.