Monday, January 30, 2012

New singing location in Nacogdoches

We will be singing Sacred Harp in Nacogdoches on Monday night February 6th, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. We will sing this month in a new location, Westminster Presbyterian Church at 903 North Street. North St. is the main north/south street through the heart of Nacogdoches. The church building is located on the corner of North and Powers Streets and there is a stoplight at that intersection. Turn west onto Powers and then park in the big lot behind the church. Singing will be in the fellowship hall – Westminster Hall. The fellowship hall is up the sidewalk and stairs from the parking lot, next to the iron fence and trash cans. Singing will be from the Cooper and Denson Revisions of The Sacred Harp.

For a map and directions, click

Y'all come!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coming to Consensus

In his article Congregational Government is from Satan, James MacDonald asserts that congregational voting is not biblical. Certainly he is correct if we are looking in the New Testament for the traditional motion & second, all in favor and the majority rules; Robert's Rules of Order and all that. But does congregational participation have to look like that? Can it take some other form and that form be found in the Bible? If so, then this strike against congregationalism falls. Does "voting" (congregational decision-making) exist in some other form? Consider the following examples and whether there is "a shred of biblical evidence".

Acts chapter 1. The Lord has ascended to heaven. The church is waiting in an upper room. Peter, a leader and an apostle, posits replacing the suicidal Judas with one who has been with them from the baptism of John. "They" -- the men and brethren to whom he was speaking, the 120 disciples, appointed two to set before God, and "they" (the same group) gave forth their lots. The lot was cast into the lap, and the disposing of it was by God.

Acts chapter 6. A problem had arisen concerning fair distribution to the Grecian widows. The apostles called the multitude (church/congregation) together. They were exhorted to select seven men to appoint over this distribution to see that it was done equably. The "whole multitude" was pleased and they came to an agreement together, choosing seven men to set before the apostles.

Acts chapter 10. Peter was sent of God to preach at the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. He had to be convinced through a vision to go. As he preached the Holy Spirit fell on the hearers, demonstrating God's approval. Though an apostle with authority to baptize, Peter still sought the consensus of those he brought with him, asking, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized..."

Acts chapter 13. The church at Antioch is unified in sending Paul and Barnabas to wherever God called them. They receive the message of the Holy Spirit and act upon it together. They send them forth with spiritual, moral and (sometimes) material support.

Acts chapter 15. First we find a church in Antioch disturbed by a doctrinal deviation. Yet by consensus they send Paul, Barnabas and others to Jerusalem, and even provided for their journey ("brought them on their way"). The church at Jerusalem came together to consider what certain brethren who went out from them (v. 24) were teaching in other places regarding salvation and circumcision. Paul and Barnabas were present from Antioch and testified of Lord's work among the Gentiles. Peter recounted his calling to preach to the Gentiles at Cornelius's house. James offered his counsel. Together "with the whole church" a solution was reached and a statement made.

I Corinthians chapter 5. A wicked act of fornication is reported in the church, and Paul exhorts them to put away this wicked person from their congregation, to be done by consensus "when ye are gathered together." (Cf. Matt. 18:17; II Cor. 2:6-8)

Congregational consensus is found in these places, a process of coming together in agreement by effective communication. Consensus decision-making fits well with the New Testament concepts of unity and one-anothering, regenerate church membership, servant leadership, individual accountability, the church as a body of gifted members, as well as the use of the word "ekklesia," a called-out assembly. The workings of New Testament congregations confirm the example of "congregational government" (i.e. congregational involvement in decision making). This must be understood within its context. Christ in the head of the church, and the church is governed by Him mediated through His word, which is inspired, profitable, and sufficient for faith and practice. The elders are the preachers and teachers of the word, and the church should judge "whether those things are so (Cf. I Cor. 14:23,27-31; Gal. 1:3-10)." In modern practice, congregationalism is sometimes extreme and at odds with the biblical revelation. But extremism should be corrected to the center of God's word, without going to some other extreme.

Within the purview of the congregation we find them involved in exercising discipline (I Cor. 5:3-5), selecting officers (Acts 1:23; 6:5), providing doctrinal and practical clarification (Acts 15:22-29), sending messengers (cf. Acts 11:22; 15:2,22), affirming the call of God (cf. Acts 13:1-3) and receiving Christian itinerants, ministers and members (II John 10; Acts 9:26; Rom. 16:1-2; Gal. 6:1). Sometimes congregations use their idea of "congregationalism" to step outside their purview (or to just revel in the flesh), such as usurping the role of the Spirit in sending His ministers. The churches did not tell Paul and others where to preach. They acknowledged and affirmed the call of God and left them to be guided by the Spirit. They did not tell the apostles and elders what to preach. They preached the Word, the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:2027-28; II Tim. 4:2). They did not tell them how to preach -- they are to teach doctrine, reprove, rebuke, exhort. A congregation has no right to step into the sphere of what the Spirit and Word directs (though they are to use discernment of what is being preached).

There is no need to defend modern practice. Let us abide by New Testament example. Congregationalism that ignores godly leadership, biblical exhortation, wise counsel, and the office of the eldership is only a distant cousin to what is found in the inspired revelation. Church government that consigns congregational consensus to the devil is no cousin at all. A church government model that puts its authority in the "staff" (many of which are not biblical offices) is a model of practicality and expediency rather than orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Some verses are claimed to be at odds with what the New Testament congregations practiced, and so nullify the practice. That is bad interpretation. James and others may think that it is impossible to reconcile congregational decision making with scriptures like Hebrews 13:17 ("Obey them that have the rule over you"). Au contraire. The scriptures reconcile them whether we can figure it out or not. They never needed reconciling! The "at odds" is in our interpretation, not the Bible. The scriptures indicate that those thus commanded also participated in the decision-making process. Go thou, and do likewise.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Readings from Blogdom

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the blogs linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the posts linked.

A Forgotten Text? Why is that, I wonder?
Congregational Government is From Satan*
Does Jesus Hate Religion?
Grace, the Gospel, and Role Expectations in Titus 2
How to Build Unity in Your Church

*Note: My intention is generally to post these links without comment, but be forewarned that this post might make you angry. Nevertheless, it has some points that need to be thought about.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Nazarite Vow

Similarities between Nazarites and priests (cf. esp. Numbers 6 and Leviticus 21) 
Num. 6:2
Separated unto God
Lev. 22:2, Num. 8:14, Deut. 10:8
Num. 6:3-4
Restrictions on their drink
Lev. 10:9
Num. 6:5
Restrictions on their head
Lev. 10:6, 21:5,10
Num. 6:6-9
Restrictions on their touch
Lev. 21:1-4, 11
Num. 6:8
Holy unto the Lord
Lev. 21:6
These similarities gave me these thoughts – not exegesis of scripture, but meditations. The first thought that came to me was priesthood of believers. The priesthood of believers as we know it is a New Testament revelation, as First Peter 2:9 and other passages. Obviously the Nazarites were not priests, but persons under a vow to the Lord. But in their vow and separation they had a little taste of the priestly separation to the Lord. Perhaps that foreshadows a priesthood of all believers?

The Nazarite separated from all products of the grapevine, whereas the priests separated only from wine and strong drink while serving as priests. But both would experience the separation from wine and strong drink. The separation of the Nazarite has strong connections to the previous nomadic lifestyle of their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as their wandering in the wilderness (note Jer. 35 for another connection of the nomadic lifestyle and abstinence from wine). The wandering in the wilderness calls to mind the sustaining power of God when He provided for them through those years though they had “not eaten bread, neither have you drunk wine or strong drink.” (Deut. 29:6) Israel’s existence and prosperity was intimately associated with the grapevine, where every man would dwell “under his vine and under his fig tree” (cf. Micah 4:4 and I Kings 4:25). It was “a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards” (II Kings 18:32). Figuratively the Nazarite gave up his identity, existence and sustenance to God. Projecting forward we might see that New Testament identity, existence and sustenance in our behavior under the power of the Holy Spirit: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

For the period of his vow and separation, the Nazarite could put no razor to the hair of his head, but rather had to allow it to grow. This separated him from the public norm, long hair on women and cut hair on men. The priest did not bear the same restriction as the Nazarite, but had some restrictions regarding his hair and bread. The high priest was to cover his head (Lev. 21:10). The lack of attention to the hair (and especially the beard) could be a sign of trouble or affliction (II Sam. 19:24). The Nazarite bore the reproach of God, as he separated himself from customary grooming. If “a man have long hair” and “it is a shame unto him” (I Cor. 11:14), then there is a sense of bearing shame. May we likewise “go forth” bearing our Lord’s reproach.

Both the priests and the Nazarites were restricted in touching the dead. Touching the dead resulted in ceremonial uncleanness. The priests in service could only become unclean for their very closely kin (father, mother, etc.). The high priest could not at all, neither could the Nazarite during the time of the separation of his vow. This reminds us of putting God first – above father, mother, sister, brother – letting the dead bury the dead and taking up our cross and following Him.

Praise God, our high priest Jesus Christ has touched the dead and made us spiritually alive!

Both the priest and the Nazarite was separated unto God. They were called unto holiness. As spiritual “Nazarites” and a priesthood of believers, let us “come out from among them” and be separate. Let us not touch the unclean thing. Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 20:7).

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy... I Peter 1:15

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Joseph's bones

Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

When my meditating mind wanders to the great faith chapter of the Bible -- Hebrews 11 -- it is likely to survey the "highlights". Perhaps Abel, who offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. Enoch, who did not die. Or Abraham who when called by God went out, though not knowing where he went, or offered up his son Isaac. There's Moses, who chose to suffer the affliction of the people of God rather than the pleasures of sin and Pharaoh's house. But how often do I meditate on a man and his bones?

The man perhaps best known for his coat of many colors lived to the age of 110. In his dying day he gave a curious commandment concerning his bones. The Bible says it was an act of faith.

Joseph was the son of Jacob and Rachel, and first saw the light of day in the land of Haran while Jacob was serving Laban as payment for marrying his daughters. His father came into the land of Canaan, where Joseph lived with his family until he was 17 years old. Because of the preference of Jacob for this son of his preferred bride, the brothers of Joseph sold him into slavery. This resulted in his descent into Egypt, first in bondage as a slave, and then in bondage as a prisoner. Through the providence of God, when Joseph was 30 years old, he was not only released from prison but also exalted to second ruler in Egypt, only beneath the Pharaoh himself. By his God-given wisdom he saved the people of Egypt and strengthened their position among the surrounding nations. After a time in which Joseph's separation from his father and brethren exceeded the length of time he had lived with them, they were reunited. During a world-wide famine, the entire people of Israel (Jacob) came to dwell in Egypt. The days of the lives of Jacob and Joseph (and beyond), they lived and grew and prospered there.

God sent Joseph to Egypt as his ambassador (Gen 45:7-8). Joseph lived all his adult life in Egypt. He got his wife in Egypt. He raised his sons in Egypt. He was respected in Egypt. When he died at age 110, he had spent about 93 years there -- 80 of them as a ruler. Yet when he was dying, he took an oath of his family "ye shall carry up my bones from here." Yes, bury me in a place I know by faith and not by sight!

Soon after his demise, there arose a king that knew not Joseph. Though this king knew not Joseph, when God delivered His people from Egypt the people remembered Joseph! Moses removed his bones, his coffin, for the exodus from Egypt to the promised land. Though many an Israelite fell in the wilderness, their bones to mingle with the dust and sands of the places their feet trod, Joseph's bones continued on, steady, hasting toward the goal. When God had given rest to the people of God in the land of Canaan, Joseph's bones were laid to rest in a piece of land Jacob had bought in Shechem, completing the arduous journey from Canaan to Egypt and back again.

By his commandment, Joseph identified himself with God's people rather than the people of Egypt. 93 years in Egypt and he had not forgotten where he came from! He was "of the stock of Israel, an Hebrew of the Hebrews". He had not forgotten God's covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that was his birthright. Joseph had no superstitious regard for the place of burial. Like Moses, by the grace of God he chose Israel over Egypt and would be identified forever thus.

By his commandment, Joseph signified his faith in God's promise. He reminded the people of Jacob, "God will surely visit you." Some of the younger members of the family had never lived in Canaan. Yet their promise lay in the land of promise, not in Egypt. Joseph had no doubt. What God had promised he was able also to perform.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


"BIBLE BELIEVING." This is easy to say, hard to practice. We almost laugh when we see this on numerous church signs. No one ever says, "Here, we DO NOT believe the Bible." That would be too blatant. We had rather craftily say that we do believe it. But, again, is not this false advertising? Does a church have to say that it believes the Bible? Come on. True church = Bible believing! Don't we prove this by what we teach and how we live? Ever seen any restaurant advertise that they have "Bad Food Here"? They may indeed have such, but they always advertise, "Good Food Here." The truthfulness of the statement is only in the eating! So it is with a church. Labels and names mean absolutely nothing. The proof is in the teaching, experience, and practice of the Christian people themselves, not in any thing they advertise. See I John 2:3-6 for "proofs" of true Christian love and character. -- From Deception AKA False Advertisements, by W. F. Bell (October 13, 2006)

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Good read -- Primetime Propaganda

Here's a book you should read. Ben Shapiro takes on (and exposes) the Hollywood establishment in his book Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV.

Promotional blurb:
"In this thoroughly researched and detailed history of the television industry, conservative columnist and author Ben Shapiro argues that left-leaning entertainment kingpins in Los Angeles and New York have leveraged—and continue to use—their positions and power to push liberal messages and promote the Democratic Party while actively discriminating against their opponents on the right. According to Shapiro, television isn't just about entertainment—it's an attempt to convince Americans that the social, economic, and foreign policy shaped by leftism is morally righteous."

A lot of grass roots folks talk about bias in the media. Most often they mean news coverage. But it is there in most every bit of "entertainment" that is available.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

How does the Bible define drunkenness?

The thoughts on this post began with a pastor asking the question, "Would you mind telling me how I as a pastor can know when a member of my flock is guilty of drunkenness?" The Bible-believing Christian must answer this the same way regardless of his or her position on drinking in moderation or abstention. Go to the Bible and find out what it says about drunkenness. We won't find a fine dividing line that we can determine with a breathalyzer. That is a secular and legal approach. In our state we legally define that point with blood alcohol level -- 0.08 blood alcohol concentration (at least while driving).1 BUT the question now before us is how the Bible, our rule of faith and practice, defines it. There we will find guidance. Inspired, inerrant guidance at that!

Please consider the following points from Scripture.

There is a point at which one passes from "drinking wine" to drunkenness; that is, these are two different states. For examples, Genesis 9:21 "And he drank of the wine, and was drunken..." Deuteronomy 29:19 "And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:"

The Bible speaks of "drunken" but also of an exceeding state of that: 1 Samuel 25:36 "And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken" The "very drunken" state is most obvious, but drunken might not be quite as readily observable.

Certain actions, states or physical signs are often associated with drunkenness in the Bible, such as staggering, shaking and vomiting. Psalm 107:27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. (Cf. Jer. 23:9, Isa. 19:14; Prov. 23:29). [We understand other things can also cause these signs, such as sickness.]

Actions or states unrelated to alcohol sometimes are mistaken for drunkenness. 1 Samuel 1:13 "Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken." (Cf. Acts 2:15)

Drunkenness is associated with loss of control of one's senses or actions. Sometimes "loss of control" can be in a good way -- being controlled by the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;" There are also other figures in the Bible that speak of being "drunk" on something other than wine/strong drink that seem to generally share the meaning of not being in control or possession of one's faculties. (Cf. Job 12:24-25; Lam. 4:21; Rev. 17:2)

Drunkenness is caused by an excess of wine. Compare Eph. 5:18 and I Peter 4:3. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

This may be simplistic. Perhaps it does not draw as exact a line as you may want. But looking at these verses are a starting place for a BIBLICAL definition of drunkenness.

1. I'm not sure if it is proper to say this defines drunkenness legally so much as to say it is the point where driving becomes illegal. For example, I don't think BAC has anything to do with "public intoxication" in Texas, which appears to be at a law officer's discretion.