Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Letter to Philippi

The letter from the Apostle Paul (and Timothy, 1:1) to the church at Philippi seems to have been written from Rome while Paul was imprisoned.

1. Paul is in prison, 1:12-16,19ff.

2. Paul mentions the palace (1:13) and Caesar's household (4:22).
3. During the imprisonment at Rome, Paul faced two possibilities - life or death. Compare that to 1:19-26.
4. Christians in Macedonia (where Philippi is) were active in the collection for the saints at Jerusalem (II Cor. 8:1-5; 9:14). Silence about it in this letter would indicate it was already a thing of the past.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

My father is a World War II veteran. It was with great pride that we took him to the World War II Memorial when it was dedicated in Washington, DC a couple of years ago. Two great-grandfathers and two great-great grandfathers fought during the War of Northern Aggression (aka the "Civil War"). Sometimes when I think about this conflict I get "chill bumps" and tears come to my eyes.

So it is with fear and trembling that I say something that might be taken as unpatriotic or that might cast reflection on our men in uniform, past and present. But what I say I believe needs to be said, because it is true.

There is nothing wrong with remembering fallen soldiers. But the great memorial day for the people of God is not a day in May. It is the day Jesus Christ hung on the cross and through His blood saved His people from their sins. Therefore, being not our own but purchased with a price, our lot in life becomes that of strangers and pilgrims in this world seeking a city whose Builder and Maker is God. Following the teachings of the New Testament will make us good citizens who are obedient to the laws of the country in which we dwell. But let us not be entangled with this world, and let us remember whose kingdom we are.

The "Civil War" will provide an illustration of that which I try to describe. Within the United States of America, in states lieing both North and South, dwelt those who professed their citizenship to be in heaven, and that they were merely pilgrims and strangers in this land. Yet, heeding the call of earthly kingdoms, Christian brother took up arms against Christian brother. Forgetting their loyalty to their God, they played out their loyalties to their warring countries in determined destruction. Professed members of one spiritual kingdom denied that profession and the loyalty thereof to fan the flames of fleshly, political and geographical loyalties. But what of me? But what of you? Where do our loyalties lie? To God and His kingdom, OR to an earthly king, state or power?

I cannot say what I would have done had I been living then. I cannot say that what I am doing now is always right. But I can say on the authority of Scripture that ALL our loyalty is due the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our Sovereign Creator who is worthy to receive ALL glory and honor and power. Anything less is heresy!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Tri-directional Singing

In Colossians 3:16 (& Eph. 5:19), the benefit and purpose of singing is seen in three directions:

1. For others, "teaching and admonishing one another"
2. For one's self, "in your heart"
3. To God, "to the Lord"

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Songs and doctrinal correctness

Some of these thoughts originated in another forum, discussing songs that are not completely doctrinally correct. The songs mentioned here are mentioned because they were mentioned there. They may or may not be familiar to you. The songs are for examples and their use doesn’t necessarily mean I endorse all their sentiment.

Some people seem not to care whether a song is doctrinally correct if they like it (tune, beat, tempo, etc.). Others seem so critical that they wouldn’t like the words of anything they didn’t write/right. Perhaps somewhere in the middle of this is the place to be.

I can think of four options a person might have for handling this: sing the song without comment; sing the song but with a comment about the problem; sing the song with altered wording; or don’t sing the song. There may be other options, but I can’t think of any right now. My personal opinion is against altering the wording of someone else’s hymn/poem. Either use it or find another hymn. It just seems honest not to tamper with someone else’s song.

Here are some questions that might be helpful to ask when considering what to do with songs that could be “suspect”.

1. What is the hymn writer trying to communicate?
Perhaps we may be overly critical of some point in a song when we don’t really understand what the songwriter is trying to say. “Lord, build me a cabin in the corner of Gloryland” – seems the writer is trying to express that he doesn’t deserve a mansion – “I feel I’m not worthy, to receive all of this” – and that a cabin up there is better than a mansion down here (“Don’t care for fine mansions on earth’s sinking sand”). Not bad thoughts to express, in my opinion. I suppose the main problem is that it falls short of recognizing that Jesus has nevertheless promised us a mansion.

2. Is the overall message solid with a few questionable words, or is the overall theme of the hymn suspect?
“O What a Savior”; “they searched thru heaven and found a Savior” – the hymn writer used a literary device that doesn’t come off well in this song, IMO (though in Revelation 5, John seems to see something in a vision that uses a similar device). The writer is hopelessly straying in sin and a Savior is sought out to save him. Overall the hymn writer seems intent on glorifying the Savior, giving His death credit for saving even the vilest of sinners. He probably didn’t intend to imply that God wasn’t sure what He was doing and had to look around to see if He could find a Saviour. Yet it does give that impression to many people.

3. Does the rest of your church see a problem with these words? If not, could it just be you?
“There is a fountain filled with blood” -- Perhaps one might not like the particular poetic picture drawn by Cowper, but the point that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin comes through clearly. Not only my church, but many churches over several hundred years seem to have approved of the text. That doesn’t make it right, but should give reason for me to consider it carefully if I think something is wrong with it.

4. Is it a factual error, a doctrinal error or perhaps only a minor interpretational thing?
I suppose all errors are ultimately doctrinal errors, but a song that presents Jesus as not born of a virgin would be a different type of error than one that puts the wise men at the manger rather than a house, as Matthew says. Further, this factual error about the house is different from the interpretational error where some people interpret certain Old Testament verses as prophecy of this event and believe there were three wise men and that they were kings.

5. Is it wrong because it doesn’t tell the whole story, or does it tell the wrong story?
“Jesus is coming soon”; “all of the dead shall rise” – all of the dead certainly are going to rise. Perhaps the writer thinks all indiscriminately will rise at Jesus’ 2nd coming, or perhaps he believes the resurrection of the just and unjust will be separate and didn’t explain it in detail. Some think the resurrection of all will be at the same time, while others believe it will be separated by 1000 years or so. It seems that whatever one’s millennial persuasion, most believe that “all of the dead shall rise.”

6. What would you do if a preacher or teacher taught what is being sung? If he were a visiting preacher, would you invite him back? If he is the pastor, would it be ignored? would he be reprimanded? run off? Another way to put this is to ask if we are harder on our songs than we would be on our teachers? The songs are easy victims – can’t talk back, don’t get their feelings hurt and we don’t have to challenge them face to face. Someone criticized the song “My Sins Are Gone” because “...The chorus has a line that says, ‘In the sea of God’s forgetfulness that’s good enough for me’ but, one cannot find the phrase sea of forgetfulness in the Bible.” How many times do we preachers preach using some phrase or word that is not found in the Bible?

7. Is there another song that expresses the same truth without the objectionable feature?
“Just a little talk with Jesus” was criticized because it mentions a little “prayer wheel turning” -- which is something Tibetan Buddhist monks do/use. Cleavant Derricks (1910-1977) was a black Baptist preacher/songwriter. The idea of a prayer wheel seems a little strange to me, but I find it unlikely that he had a Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheel in mind. More likely it was something like an attempt to describe a feeling that incited him to prayer. It is very unfortunate that those familiar with a Tibetan prayer wheel might think of that rather than what Derricks meant. Perhaps there is another song that similarly exhorts one to prayer, without such an objectionable phrase. This question should probably ultimately follow up all of the other questions. If we can express the same truth without the objectionable features, shouldn’t we do it? But also we should extend grace towards those who don’t come to exactly the same conclusions as we do.

Finally, remember that the only inspired songs are found in the book of Psalms! If we cannot bear to sing any perceived error, however minor, perhaps we should adopt the same mentality as some of the Reformed brethren – sing the Psalms only and exclude all hymns of human composure. Rather than that, I think I would apply some or all of the questions above and then follow one of three options – sing the song without comment; sing the song but with a comment about the perceived problem; or not sing the song.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stand fast

2 Thessalonians 2:15: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."

According to Franklin Senters, "Stand fast means to act like a mannequin on your beliefs. Don’t be persuaded by the latest and greatest thing that comes along. Stand solid on the word of God. Don’t let someone with a new interpretation of the scripture entice you to believe something different than what is really there in the Word of God. It also means keep standing. Don’t quit."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A High Calling May Require a High Price

John the Baptist had a high calling - John 1:6 "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." John 1:23 - "He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord,..."

John the Baptist paid a high price - Matthew 14:10 "And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison."

John got the attention of the people (Matthew 3:1-6; Luke 3:1-14); turned their attention to Jesus (John 1:29-37; Luke 3:15-18; Matthew 3); and got out of the way (John 3:30; Luke 3:16-20).

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Manna - a Lesson on God's Provisions

Exodus 16:14-21

God provides for His people, v.14; Psalm 37:25
God's provisions operate in relation to His commandments, vs. 16,19,23; Matt. 6:33
God's provisions operate in proportion to man's ability and need, vs. 17,18; Josh. 5:12
God's provisions often are not appreciated by mankind, Numbers 11:6
Material provisions are temporal; Spiritual provisions are eternal, John 6:48-51

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Romans 8:22-28

1. The Groan of Creation, verse 22.
2. The Groan of Ourselves, verse 23.
3. The Groan of the Holy Spirit, verse 26.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Shameful day in history

May 17, 2004: In Massachusetts, same-sex couples exchanged marriage vows for the first time in the United States.

Aside from Biblical considerations -- we understand that judges don't make their decisions based on the Bible -- Massachusetts has ignored history, legal precedent and established social order, not to mention the simple meaning of the word "marriage".

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Be filled with the Spirit -- A "Grammar" Lesson

"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit;" Ephesians 5:18

Be filled with the Spirit is imperative; therefore it is not a suggestion, but a command.
Be filled with the Spirit is plural; therefore it is not for a few, but for all.
Be filled with the Spirit is passive; therefore it is not fulfilled in acting, but submitting.
Be filled with the Spirit is present; therefore it is not once for all, but in progress.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Singing in Tyler, Texas

There will be a Sacred Harp singing at Bridge Pointe Baptist Church, Saturday May 20, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

For more information, check the following site:
Second annual Bridge Pointe singing

Old Cool Springs Cemetery

Today the "New Salem Invincibles" sponsored a workday at the old Cool Springs Cemetery. The abandoned cemetery is what is left of the old Cool Springs community in southern Rusk County, Texas. The cemetery had many downed trees that left markers broken and out of place (though before today someone had cut most of them up and removed them). The last burial there took place in 1938.

A church was located there at least as early as 1857, when Cool Springs Baptist Church was among the thirteen churches that met at Mt. Zion Church, Rusk County, Texas, to form the Mt. Zion Baptist Association. The oldest marked grave is of Elizabeth Brown in 1865, but the cemetery is likely older. It is not known exactly when the church ceased to exist. Research in Mt. Zion Association minutes should reveal about the time they quit representing in the association. Cool Springs hosted the Mt. Zion Association in 1881 and 1891; and the church was still meeting in 1903 -- my great-grandfather, M. L. Vaughn, pastored there in 1902-03.

A group of about two dozen folks met to fellowship around shovels, weedeaters, chain saws, rakes, axes and various sorts of clippers. Much progress was made, but much work remains to be done. The group decided to meet again on Saturday May 27 for another workday.

Pictures of Cool Springs Cemetery and headstones

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Your opinion???

I was asked if I would get opinions on something. What do you think of preachers telling jokes in the pulpit? Is it appropriate? Always? Usually? Once in awhile? Never?

I've heard preachers who seem to plan a joke to explain or highlight a point; I've heard some who seem to use the sermon material as something to string their jokes together; I've heard some who didn't plan jokes but thought of them as they were preaching -- anyway, what is your opinion?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

This day in 1863

May 10, 1863: Confederate General Stonewall Jackson died after being accidentally shot by his own troops.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Poor, needy and thirsty

"When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them: I the God of Israel will not forsake them" Isaiah 41:17.

Whatever people may say or preachers teach, no one in this world will ever appreciate the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fullness that there is in Him, till they are brought by the eternal Spirit of God to feel that they are poor and needy.

It is God's way, and has been in ages past, and will be still to the end of time, to teach His people first of all their lost state and condition. Many of God's saints can look back to when they were in deep soul trouble. The beginning with them was sorrow, accompanied with much heart searching, but the end will be peace and eternal glory with their God.

— Excerpt from a sermon preached in 1901 by B. C. Turner, Leicester, England (thanks to W. W. Fulton)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Baptist Accomplishments

John Canne was born sometime around 1590 in England. He was frequently persecuted by his enemies, but very much loved by his friends. Canne organized the Broadmead Church in Bristol, England in 1641, after returning from Holland. The greatest work of Canne's life was his marginal references to the Bible. It was published in Amsterdam in 1637. This monumental work took over twenty years. It was the first English Bible with references throughout. His leading principle was that the Scripture was the best interpreter of Scripture. Canne died in England in 1667.

John Gill was born in Kettering, England in 1697 and died in London in 1771. He was pastor of the Horselydown Church from 1720 through 1771. Gill was almost entirely self-educated, having only a few years of grammar school in Kettering. He left the grammar school rather than be forced to attend the Anglican Church. He taught himself Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. His Commentary on the Whole Bible, which can still be purchased, was published in the years 1746-1768. He is the only individual to comment on every verse of the Bible.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Two Prayers of Paul

II Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: 15 Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. 16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

In this passage of II Timothy, we find a request by the apostle Paul for two groups of people: (1) for Alexander the coppersmith, who was bold and withstood the work of God, Paul asks the Lord requite him according to his evil work; but (2) for those who were weak and failed to stand for the work of God, Paul asks the Lord forgive them. May the Lord bless us to understand the difference.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Baptists afraid of water!

Elder Hastings...had just returned from the ordination of Mr. Whelpley, a baptist minister, in Sandersfield, Mass. This young man was educated at Providence college, as I heard; studied divinity with Dr. Stillman, of Boston, and was quite in clerical fashion. As he had a college education, and was something like the clergy in Connecticut, several of the presbyterian clergy attended. Elder Hastings stated to us that Elder John Leland was appointed to preach the ordination sermon. He said that when the people came together, the meeting-house would not hold them. The people then went to a grove, near the house; erected a stage that the people might hear. Mr. Leland had not spoken long, before it began to rain a little, so that several people went to the meeting-house for a shelter. As they were going, Elder Leland said to old Elder Thomas Morse, "What shall I do, father Morse?" He replied, "Wait a little while; the rain will soon be over, and the people will return." He sat a while; the cloud passed over, and the people returned. After they were all seated, ready to hear, Mr. Leland rose up, and after looking around, as though surprised, and wishing also to sting the clergy severely on account of their infant sprinkling, he said, "My friends, I am astonished to see baptists afraid of water! But when I come to think, it is sprinkling; and I do not wonder that you flee from it." This was a severe stroke upon the Connecticut clergy, and very mortifying to Mr. Whelpley. Mr. Leland having said this, proceeded in his sermon as he had proposed before the shower.

The Life, Conversion, Preachings, Travels, and Sufferings of Elias Smith, pp. 255-56