Sunday, June 30, 2013

Linking up to what others are writing

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

The Affairs of Pastors
How Much Time Do Pastors Spend Preparing a Sermon?
John Piper on gay marriage and the Supreme Court
Need Help Pronouncing Bible Words?
Why the Biblical Languages Matter—Even if You Forget Them
When You Write, Make a Mess
7 “Tricks” to Improve Your Writing Overnight

Explaining away difficult texts

“Christian morality comes from the mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience. Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the gospel in the light of experience. For example, before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation.
“Similarly in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church supported Apartheid because it was biblical and part of the God-given order of creation. No one now supports either slavery or Apartheid. The biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has.” -- Nicholas Holtam, Church of England bishop
When we try to explain away difficult subjects in the Bible, we end up with a new interpretation informed more by our "reasoned experience". We mix in views other than the Bible. What Holtam calls "Christian tradition and our reasoned experience" often is more the current trends of thought in our surrounding society than even "Christian tradition", much less the Bible. Slavery not acceptable? Must not be biblical either. Explain away the difficult texts in the New Testament that regulate rather than abolish it. Not properly, squarely and scripturally dealing with the slavery texts and other such difficult* texts in the New Testament have crippled us when trying to deal with the texts on homosexuality. If slavery was merely an artifact of the past that is now erased by our modern sensibilities, why not divorce, and all gender subjectivity as well? Is this not where we are?

* i.e. not fitting contemporary societal views

Saturday, June 29, 2013

7 political quotes that are slightly cynical

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy." -- Ernest Benn (sometimes attributed to Groucho Marx)

"I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." -- Will Rogers

"Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." -- Mark Twain

"In politics, stupidity is not a handicap." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

"After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it." -- William S. Burroughs

"Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country." -- Ambrose Bierce

"I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born." -- Ronald Reagan

And one more, just for fun...

"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?" -- Abraham Lincoln

Putting sex in its proper place

"Sexual incompatibility, therefore, is a cross that some couples bear, and Christian communities could lighten this burden if we made an effort to put sex in its rightful place. If sex were viewed as a gift that, like everything else in this world, is marred by sin, it may be easier for couples to accept that bad sex is neither a reason for divorce nor an excuse to stop investing in a marriage." 
Rachel Pietka in Christians Are Not Called to Have Amazing Sex

"Christians cannot simply accept or reject 'same-sex marriage' and think we have settled our sexual ethics." 
Andy Crouch in Sex Without Bodies

Friday, June 28, 2013

The ‘god’ of this century

"The ‘god’ of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The ‘god’ who is now talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday school, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible Conferences is the figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form ‘gods’ out of wood and stone, while the millions of heathens inside Christendom manufacture a ‘god’ out of their own carnal mind. In reality, they are but atheists, for there is no other possible alternative between an absolutely supreme God, and no God at all. A ‘god’ whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits naught but contempt." — Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952) in The Sovereignty of God,  Chapter 5

6 statements by 6 men

And one by one woman:

"There is no high like the Most High." -- Beth Moore

"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree." --James Madison

"Whether Edward Snowden is a hero or not history will decide. I do believe his exposing of Prism is heroic." -- Marty Duren

"The Lord informed us of only one religious institution which He would build, that being the Church. I consider the Church as the highest and ONLY ecclesiastical body on earth, thus excluding associational organizations, Sunday schools, etc." -- James F. Poole

"God only ever created two people directly - Adam and Eve. The rest of us came from them. Whatever diversity of bodily appearance there is exists because God placed it within Adam's seed." -- Mark Osgatharp

"Most of us pass through at least some portion of our Christian lives—maybe all of it—envying the New Testament church and its members. To see Jesus teaching on the mount! To wash up on a seashore with Paul! To hear the mighty rushing wind of Pentecost! The irony, of course, is that we long to get back to a time that THEY desperately longed to escape. The early church was profoundly eschatological. We ought to be careful to long for what lies before us more than for what lies behind us." -- Bart Barber

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lots to read; read you must

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

America’s Epidemic of Psychiatric Over-Diagnosis
Current, former officials back secret surveillance
Doing the Work of an Evangelist
E-mail habits to avoid
Ergun Caner Has Sued Witnesses Unto Me
Focusing Your Sermon
His Honor and the Sacred Harp
How to Create a Reading Plan
Jonathan Edwards as Preacher
Need Help Pronouncing Bible Words?
On “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”
Sacred Harp’s “Yodeling Schoolgirl”: The Story of “Little Lorraine”
Supreme Court punts on affirmative-action case
Supreme Court strikes down key part of Voting Rights Act
Why I Like to Read Biographies, and Why You Should too

Certain and uncertain sounds

1 Corinthians 14:7-8  And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
I used to be a soldier, and every morning there was a certain bugle-sound called "reveille," which means "get up quick"; then a certain other sound of the trumpet meant, "saddle up," and a certain other sound meant, "mount," another very lively one meant, "Forward march." "Now," said Paul, "if a man just gets up and blows a noise out of a trumpet that doesn't signify anything, how can anybody prepare himself for battle?" Therefore he says, "I would rather speak five words to the church with my understanding than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." 
B. H. Carroll, from An Interpretation of the English Bible, 1 Corinthians 14.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

5 "clips" about Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden's revelation about NSA surveillance of the American people has drawn a line that many do not know how to walk. It isn't liberal or conservative, and so winds up making some strange bedfellows -- such as Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Meanwhile, Pelosi's defense of NSA surveillance draws boos from liberal "friends".

On the heels of all this we learn that the FBI has received aviation clearance for at least four domestic drone operations and that "Congress has directed the FAA to open domestic airspace to drones by 2015."
In a Washington Post transcript of Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss defending the NSA phone records program, Senator Chambliss, Republican from the state of Georgia and the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made the following claim a couple of weeks ago: "To my knowledge, we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information."

Seriously? Well, just in case, here is an "Open letter" to Senator Saxby Chambliss:

Dear Senator Chambliss,

Just in case you still have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information:

1. I am a citizen of the United States of America.
2. I am registering a complaint relative to the gathering of this information.

Thanks for listening, if you are listening.
Mark Shields points out Washington Snobbery in their attempts to smear Edward Snowden: "What we do know is that Edward Snowden has been relentlessly attacked by Washington pundits and politicians for one, unforgivable offense: He did not graduate from high school." Shields then gives us a quick list of some highly accomplished American high school dropouts: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Florence Nightingale, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Rosa Parks, Milton Hershey, Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln.
"...candidate Obama has been shown as opposing president Obama. The straight-face with which his administration claims transparency while prosecuting whistleblowers would be Comedy Central gold if not so serious." -- Marty Duren in Edward Snowden does matter. Really, he does.
But remember, President Obama and NSA are doing exactly what many Americans wanted after September 11, 2001, and what Congress authorized via the Patriot Act.

Americans need to have a serious discussion about the valid intersection of security and privacy. (And as one op-ed columnist pointed out, we will never be able to return to an 1980's kind of vision of privacy in the digital age in which we live.)

2 Supreme Court decisions released today

The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in United States v. Windsor strikes down the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA applied to the federal government and prohibited it from recognizing same-sex marriages -- even in states that had legalized it. 

The decision in Hollingsworth et al. v. Perry et al. has the effect of killing California's Proposition 8, which had amended the California State Constitution to define marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. The state officials would not defend this initiative/amendment in court, so the original petitioners chose to do so. The SCOTUS ruled that these petitioners did not have the legal standing to defend Prop 8's constitutionality. Therefore, the former ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional stands without the SCOTUS actually ruling on that matter directly.

Somebody said that?

"Initially I was very encouraged." -- Edward Snowden

"People who think they are important are not usually as important as they think." -- copied

"Legislation is always, inescapably moral. The real question, therefore, is not whether we should legislate morality but rather whose morality we should legislate." -- Trevin Wax

"As a sinner, nothing has ever happened to me of which I did not deserve far worse." -- Ken Hamrick

"God can take the worst moment of your life and make it the first line in your testimony." -- Mike Glenn

“If you want me to speak for two minutes, it will take me three weeks of preparation. If you want me to speak for thirty minutes, it will take me a week to prepare. If you want me to speak for an hour, I am ready now.” -- Winston Churchill

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tongues, Cessation and the Holy Spirit

Back in May of 2007, I put together a series of posts on the subject of tongues and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The topic of tongues, personal prayer language, cessationism and continuationism has recently resurfaced on SBC Voices. Because of that, I decided to post links to these posts for ease of access to anyone who might be interested.

Tongues and the baptism of the Holy Ghost
Testimony on tongues -- history in the book of Acts
Testimony on tongues -- the filling of the Spirit
Testimony on tongues -- the baptism of the Holy Ghost
Testimony on tongues -- direct Scripture references
Testimony on tongues -- Biblical evidence of true disciples
Tongues -- an evangelistic tool?

In 2009 I published the introduction, 5 main posts and two appendices in booklet form. I tweaked, edited expanded and updated at that time, but the above links are as originally posted.

2 food statements

"The 'food police' -- all those folks who want to take all the fun and goodness out of eating -- are on a mission to stamp out almost all dishes that taste good...I am sure most of them are well-meaning, and trying to promote healthy eating, but I think some them are just grumpy most of the time -- probably because they go around eating sprouts, dandelions and other plants that at one time we mowed instead of ate." -- Scott Sosebee in "The great hamburger debate"

"In our world of chain restaurants, franchise churches, cookie-cutter suburban neighborhoods, Big Government, and Big Business, I increasingly find the simpler path–the little way–to be very appealing." -- Nathan Finn

Monday, June 24, 2013

13 hours to prepare a sermon?

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of the SBC's LifeWay Resources, surveyed* pastors on How Much Time Do Pastors Spend Preparing a Sermon?

The question Rainer asked was about the amount of preparation time for one sermon. He gives a breakdown of the poll by three-hour increments (see above link). He states that in this poll the median time for sermon preparation is 13 hours.** He also broke it down this way -- "70% of pastors’ sermon preparation time is the narrow range of 10 to 18 hours per sermon."

The point of Rainer's post is that pastors spend many hours, often unknown to their congregations, in sermon preparation and that this is a very important job. I took something a little different away from it.

If a preacher takes 13 hours to prepare one sermon, does he take 39 hours to prepare three sermons? Or does the prep time for other sermons decrease in length and importance? Is there any reason to spend 13 hours on one sermon? Does this really suggest their great importance? Or does it suggest American pastors have a weird concept of what a sermon is? If a pastor spends 39 hours preparing sermons, how much time does he spend otherwise studying the Bible and praying for his own learning and edification?

I am afraid that much of what this reveals is that the average pastor really views sermonizing as mostly an academic and oratorical pursuit. He must primp and paint and polish his sermon until he gets it "just right". Maybe if we spent 40 hours just studying the Bible instead of preparing sermons, we'd actually have more to preach!

*Rainer calls his poll "an unscientific Twitter poll."
**"That means that half of the respondents gave a number under 13 hours; the other half gave a number greater than 13 hours."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Preaching without notes and prodding the establishment

In the late 1700’s, funds from Virginia state taxes went to support the Episcopalian clergy. Baptists and other non-establishment ministers opposed this practice that wed church and state. An Anglican minister told John Leland, supremely anti-establishment Baptist freedom fighter, that a minister needed state support to compensate them for their time spent preparing sermons.

“Leland answered that he could expound the Scriptures without special preparation, and the Episcopalian challenged him to preach on a text to be provided just before beginning the sermon. Leland went to the pulpit, and as he ascended to the pulpit he was handed a text which proved to be Numbers 22:21, ‘And Balaam saddled his ass.’ Mr. Leland first commented on the account from which the text was taken, and then said he should divide his subject into three parts: 1st, Balaam, as a false prophet, represents a hireling clergy; 2d, the saddle represents their enormous salaries, and 3d, the dumb ass represents the people who will bare such a load. This was a theme he could develop with no difficulty whatever.” -- From Elder John Leland, Jeffersonian Itinerant, Lyman Henry Butterfield, VA: American Antiquarian Society, 1953, pp. 168-69

Saturday, June 22, 2013

From tithe quotes to the sufficiency of Scripture

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

They Sing Of A Heaven

They Sing Of A Heaven is a 15-minute Sacred Harp documentary from 1972, directed by Jerry Stimpfle (University of Mississippi, c1972).

Steven Sabol's and Warren Steel's Sacred Harp and Shape-Note Music Resources describes it as a video that "depicts three distinct styles of class singing, plus other scenes (such as dinner on the grounds) and interviews. The styles are East Mississippi/Alabama Fasola style, North Mississippi white Doremi, and North Mississippi black Doremi."

As I watched this, it grabbed my heart-strings and caused me to shed a joyful tear. Even though I didn't know anyone, I felt like I did. It reminds me of growing up, of old-times that I can't retrieve, and old folks who are no longer here. I liked it for the Sacred Harp documentary element, but I also liked the "folks" element. It feels like "home". Take the time to watch this.

Thanks to David Wright of for pointing us to this documentary.

Friday, June 21, 2013

7 readings about creation & evolution - 6 links and 1 quote

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

15 Questions for Evolutionists
Created or evolved?
Humming for Creation
In Six Days: Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation
Richard Dawkins and a Young Earth Creationist (Interview)
Theistic Evolution vs. Evolutionary Creationists

"I think the Evangelical Christians have really got it right, in a way, in seeing evolution as the enemy. Whereas the more sophisticated theologians are quite happy to live with evolution -- I think they're deluded....There really is a deep incompatibility between evolution and Christianity." -- Richard Dawkins

Are there no foes for me to face?

Back in December 2012 I purchased some prime property, an old farm named The Sacred Harp -- 594 beautiful acres still in surprising shape, that whispers heaven to me. I've finally obtained my Peaceful Shore and my Long Sought Home. Hills such as Primrose, Zion and Haw Ridge grace the rolling landscape. I feel like I have landed in the Highlands of Heaven. Refreshing Showers water the Rose of Sharon which so sweetly perfumes the air. A Sacred Stream gently meanders from my Pleasant Hill down to the Ocean. Once I had a glorious view, I would Return Again and again to see the sweet fields arrayed in living green. Oh, How Wonderful!

But as they say, nothing's perfect. Soon I learned two notorious families -- the Sharps and the Flats -- were squatting just outside the anterior regions of my boundary. Usually there were only a couple of them, but at times more would show up. I resigned myself to make the best of it, and hoped all would be well if they didn't wander off their place near the cliffs of time. It was not to be.

Out for a stroll down the road one day, I discovered that Mr. E. Sharp had encroached sol fa as my northeastern 38 acre section. As I approached him, I realized I must stand fast with sword in hand and fight if I would reign. Fearless now, I cut E. Sharp out of my property with one deep stroke. He fell to rise no more.

I knew the "Castle Doctrine" law covered protecting my Sweet Home, but I wasn't sure about out at the Bower of Prayer. Would I be charged, or would I go free? There was no need to worry. O glory, hallelujah! By Providence the coroner was Dr. A. Davisson, who ruled it an accidental death.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I read it on the web

"Too often we take a 'snapshot' view of things rather than a 'video' view and as a result we wind up with skewed judgments. If you were to take a snapshot of the life of the most spiritual Christian you know and study it in the light of Scripture, you could find thousands of spots and blemishes within the frame because even the holiest person is still stained with sin. But if you put that snapshot into a video over the last twenty years of that person's life, a completely different picture emerges. The trajectory becomes apparent and the present is more easily evaluated in light of the past and the direction one is headed toward the future. The blemishes are still there, but the broader context causes them to be judged in light of the positive changes that have been made over time."
Tom Ascol on the Calvinism Advisory Committee Report

"Commercial surrogacy severs procreation from the one flesh union. Commercial surrogacy also commodifies women and children. There are some things that shouldn’t be for sale, and the womb is one of those things. Women and children aren’t objects to be commercialized, but persons to be respected."
Russell Moore writing on How Should We Think about Surrogacy?

"The private meetings of leaders who are unwilling to discuss things where others can witness and hear their conversations about common problems is cowardly, self-serving, unhelpful, and destructive. And to assail those who are willing to publicly discuss these matters, even if the discussion is sometimes negative, while having their conversations kept secret, is hypocrisy."
William Thornton noting Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Are you ready?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to either have qualifying health coverage or pay a tax penalty. Passed in 2010, it is being implemented in stages. A "biggie" is approaching soon. Beginning January 1, 2014, any person without qualifying health coverage must pay a tax penalty -- either a stipulated flat rate or a certain percentage of the household income, whichever of these two is greater. The flat-rate penalty will be implemented in stages as well. Starting in 2014 it will be $95 per year. It increases to $325 in 2015. In 2016 it will be $695. After 2016, the flat-rate tax penalty will increase annually with a cost-of-living adjustment.

If they do not have access to "affordable" coverage from an employer, low and middle income folks can get tax credits to help them pay premiums. Employer-sponsored insurance is deemed not "affordable" if an employee’s share of the premium (i.e., excluding what is paid by the employer) is more than 9.5% of the employee’s household income. When looking at this percentage, the IRS will only consider the cost of coverage for the individual employee. In other words, the cost to insure your family could be 10%, 20%, or 30%, but as long as the cost for the individual employee isn't over 9.5% it is "affordable". If the cost of coverage for the entire family is over 8% of household income, at least uninsured children and/or an uninsured spouse would be exempted from the penalties mentioned above.

In getting ready for what is coming, you might wish to look at this Timeline of What’s Changing and When. If you're a real glutton for punishment, read the full text of the Affordable Care Act. If you do, you'll have done more than the Congress that foisted it on the American people!

Are you ready?

There's a sad day coming, a sad day coming,
There's a sad day coming by and by,
When the citizen shall hear his gloom, "Insurance or pay up."
Are you ready for that day to come?

Are you ready, are you ready,
Are you ready for tax judgment day?
(With apologies to Will Thompson)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Lord that healeth thee

It is good to find the happy medium of biblical teaching on physical healing. On one extreme are those who believe that the only reason Christian's aren't healed is because they don't have enough faith. On the other extreme -- which unfortunately includes many modern Baptists -- are those who reject the unseen hand of God and opt for only medical and scientific "realities".

Steve Ewton, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Appleby, Texas, makes some great points about healing in a handout he prepared called "Praying for God to Heal." I want to highlight some of his main points.

God can heal our diseases. God does heal our diseases. But it is not always God's will to heal. This can be in terms of His will, as in the cases of Elisha (II Kings 13:14) and Paul (II Cor. 2:1-10). In these cases it was not God's will to heal, period. It can also be in terms of God's time, as in the cases of the man born blind (John 9:1-7) and Lazarus (John 11:1-45). In these cases it was not God's will to heal at a particular time, but to do something at a different time. Pastor Ewton also notes that "Trusting God to heal us does not mean that we must abstain from using physicians or medicine."

God promises the church that the prayer of faith shall save the sick, James 5:13-16. Anointing with oil is still a legitimate practice today.

Healing may come immediately through a miracle.
Healing may come gradually over time.
Healing may come eventually in heaven.

Exodus 15:26 "...for I am the Lord that healeth thee."

7 Random Ramblings from the World Wide Web

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

All About Garlic
Discrimination alleged over wedding cake
Illinois school boasts 24 sets of twins
James Leo Garrett on the Future of Baptist Theology
Rand Paul says NSA phone records seizure saps Obama’s ‘moral authority’
The Intinction Debate and the Problem of Presbyterian Scholarship
U.S. government secretly collecting data on millions of Verizon users: Report

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The lion and the gazelle

You've heard it before, but here it is again.

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running.

Attributed to an African proverb in The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman

Children and Church

In general children come into churches much earlier in progressive churches as opposed to primitivistic churches -- and probably earlier in "Arminian" churches as opposed to "Calvinistic" churches. I realize these are very broad generalizations. Whether or not this observation is correct, what do you think about the relationship of children and church, and especially the following specific questions? 

1. What biblical basis is there for children coming into churches at very young ages? (e.g. 4 or 5 years old)
2. If you use believers' church and believers' baptism as a basis, why do you think the apostolic churches did not seem to have any significant outreach to young children? (Or do you think they did?)
3. If children are church members on a equal footing with all other members, how do feel about their equal status in church decision making to mature adult members? 
4. How much actual difference is there between baptizing 3 and 4 year old children who can give the right answers as prompted by parents (or pastors), and baptizing infants whose parents have faith for them? 
5. Why has there been a trend among Baptist churches in America to baptize children at younger and younger ages than our forefathers did? Were they wrong? Are we right?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Seriously? Superman Sermons?

Your congregation enjoying the “Man of Steel” movie too much and your sermons not enough? Here’s relief!

The Man of Steel Ministry Resource Site is pitching its resources and sermon material for the seeker-sensitive, culture-centered preacher. The header ad states, "Here you’ll find everything you need to educate and uplift your congregation: Including Free Videos, Sermon Outlines and Images.” Further down the page we are told “Kids will better appreciate Jesus and his sacrifice through looking at scripture and the parallels in the Man of Steel movie” and that “Superman’s mythical origins are rooted in the timeless reality of a spiritual superhero who also lived a modest life until extraordinary times required a supernatural response.”

Just let us know if you’re stocking up. We’ll be sure to take you off the “sub list” for speakers at our church!

May we set forth the truth plainly, and forcefully renounce handling the word of God deceitfully, neither distorting it for popularity nor gain. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2)

Note (10/22/22): the pressing need to preach Superman sermons has apparently passed. As we near ten years distance, the website now belongs to a metal contractor.

6 quotes from unknown sources

"Children usually repeat the things we shouldn't have said."

"Man shall not live by bread alone -- the Bible contains all the nutrients for spiritual health."

"The lottery is a tax on dreams."

"Thousands of husbands are paying for the sins of their fathers-in-law."

"Life without Christ is like an un-sharpened pencil; it has no point."

"Hell is un-cool."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

4 times to honour your father (and mother)

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

First, notice that the Bible defines who are parents. 
"This explains who parents are..." (John Gill) After exhorting children to obey parents, Paul says "Honour thy father and mother." In days when the definition of parents becomes very creative and substandard, we do well to accept this correction and remember the ideal.

Second, let us ask and answer the question "What is honour?"
Most often we associate the verb honour with respect, admiration, high esteem, and even veneration or reverence. These are all on the mark in regard to honouring father and mother. The word entered the English language through the Anglo-French  and Old French from the Latin honos/honorem, meaning esteem, dignity or renown. The Greek time/timao incorporates a similar semantic range and points us to something of value and to fixing the value of something. In his commentary on Matthew 15, John Gill speaks of "high esteem," "respectful language...towards them," "cheerful obedience" and that it includes "honouring them with their substance, feeding, clothing, and supplying them with the necessaries of life, when they stand in need thereof; which is but their reasonable service, for all the care, expense, and trouble they have been at, in bringing them up in the world..." Children are to honour their parents, husbands their wives, churches their widows and their elders, slaves their masters, subjects their kings, any to any to whom honour is due, and creatures should honour their Creator.

Romans 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Next, consider three reasons to honour our fathers and mothers.
1. Because of God's command. Some may think that they are excused from honouring father and mother because "they don't deserve it". No doubt some parents are better parents when compared to other parents. Clearly, some parents may be neglectful, abusive or incompetent. We do not honour these sinful deficiencies, but at some level all parents should receive honour, in whatever small way, simply because they are parents and because it is God's command. Whether or not their actions reflect honour -- we are not responsible for their actions, but our own. We should show honour in our actions toward them -- actions for which we are responsible.
2. Because of God's promise. Paul calls the fifth commandment "the first commandment with promise" because there is a specific promise of blessing associated with it. Initially blessing should be associated with the law and its direct application to the nation of Israel in the land God gave them. But the apostle appropriates the blessing for all obedient children who honor their fathers and mothers. The New Testament application seems to be more on the quality of life than the total number of days, which surely should be the spiritual emphasis.
3. Because it is right. "It is right" directly follows "Children, obey your parents," so we can say obedience is right -- the right thing to do. This is immediately followed with the command to "honour," so it does no damage to understand that "it is right" applies to honour as well as obedience (knowing also that obedience is an expression of that honour). That "it is right" implicates this command to be of a moral nature and is a moral obligation.

Finally, consider 4 periods of time when we should honour our fathers and mothers -- which, in effect, cover the entire period of our lives. We should honour them:
1. In youth, by obedience to them (Deut.21:18; Lev. 19:3). In the period from birth to adulthood children respect, admire, and esteem their parents by obedience to their commands and faithfulness to their instruction. The wise parent understands that through the range of this developmental period the child progresses and should learn and develop responsibility, personal independence, and the ability to make decisions.
2. In our adulthood, by respect for them. As child develops into an adult, changes occur in the nature of the parent/child relationship. But their parents remain parents and honour is still required. Yet that honour takes on new and different expressions.  One of the chief markers of adulthood is marriage. A man "leaves his father and mother and cleaves unto his wife." A new covenant relationship between husband and wife does not sever the parent/child relationship, but it does change it. Obedience of a child required in the home changes to respect of a child shown outside the home. The responsibility to the new husband/wife (and children that will follow) relationship is foremost. Yet these covenanted spouses do not move from "honour thy father and mother" to "dishonour thy father and mother." Rather they must learn how to continue to place value on their parent/child relationship in a new and different way. This can include listening to and heeding their good advice, appreciating them even when the advice is not taken, respecting them even in disagreements, and teaching grandchildren to value of and respect their grandparents.
3. In their old age, by care for them (I Timothy 5:8). When father and mother arrive in old age, the parent/child relationship has come full circle. The parents who gave life to the child, fed and clothed and nurtured it, may now fall into such need themselves through infirmity, illness, and old age. It is "worse than the infidel" to leave parents to fend for themselves. Jesus excoriates those whose pretended religious devotions excused them from parental maintenance -- which he clearly associates with the fifth commandment.  I believe on this count many of us Western Christians stand guilty.
4. After their deaths, by remembering them. Dead parents may yet speak to us, and we may still honour them. We honour them by remembering them fondly, passing on their good instruction, and living up to the words of truth they passed down. In Jeremiah 35 God uses a family faithful to the instructions of their ancestor to shame Israel for refusing to remain faithful to God.

Want to be right, do right, and obey God? Honour your father and mother.

Proverbs 1:8—“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:”

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Read all about it

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

7 Things Pastors Would Like Church Members to Know about Their Children
10 Best Foods for Your Body
Child of lesbian couple speaks out against gay marriage
Genetics and Homosexuality: Are People Born Gay?
The Impact of Mentoring through the Local Church
The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming
Where are the Voices? The Continued Culture of Silence and Protection in American Evangelicalism

Common Meter Extended hymns

In 1982 I wrote a hymn (A Sinner's Meditation on Christ's Death) and tune (Ogilvie), which were published under the title "Sweet Thought" in the 1992 Sacred Harp, Revised Cooper Edition. The words, slightly revised, were printed in 2009 in A Sheaf of Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

1. How sweet to think He died for me,
Upon the cruel tree;
It brings me pain and agony,
And yet it brings me ecstacy--
Just think, He died for me.
2. A wretched sinner, vile am I,
For whom the Lord did die;
He sent His own begotten Son,
Redemption paid and vict'ry won--
Just think, He died for you.

I recently wrote another tune that "takes off" from Ogilvie, has much the same run, but is in minor rather than major. This hymn is in a not so common meter -- (Myron Sauder calls it Common Meter Extended or C.M.E. in his Handbook for Spiritual Hymns). I thought I might write a hymn for this new tune, and did write one stanza. But I also decided to look around and see what other hymns might follow this metrical pattern. I found several, the first stanzas of which I list below. Ultimately, I chose William Bingham Tappan's hymn "There is an hour of peaceful rest."

Below are Tappan's hymn, plus the first stanzas of 8 other hymns that I found written in Common Meter Extended. I do not recommend all of them, but include them as examples of hymns written in, or Common Meter Extended. Do you readers know of others?

1. There is an hour of peaceful rest
To mourning wand'rers giv'n;
There is a joy for souls distrest,
A balm for ev'ry wounded breast:
'Tis found above--in heav'n.
2. There is a home for weary souls,
By sin and sorrow driv'n
When tossed on life's tempestuous shoals,
When storms arise and ocean rolls,
And all is drear--but heav'n.
3. There faith lifts up the tearless eye,
To brighter prospects giv'n,
And views the tempest passing by,
The evening shadows quickly fly,
And all serene--in heav'n.
4. There fragrant flow'rs immortal bloom,
And joys supreme are giv'n;
There rays divine disperse the gloom;
Beyond the confines of the tomb
Appears the dawn of heav'n. 
Words: William Bingham Tappan, 1818

“Be not afraid, ’tis I, ’tis I,
Though the storm rages wild;
In thy sore need I’m passing by,
Off’ring to help thee, hear thy cry—
Be of good cheer, My child.”
Words: Barney E. Warren, pub. 1911

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.
Words: John Greenleaf Whittier, 1872

Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live and look on Thee.
Words: Thomas Binney ca. 1826 (This hymn sometimes appears with the first line "O Thou Who art enrobed in Light")

Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart 
And a discerning mind;
Give, as I play the Christian's part, 
The strength to finish what I start
And act on what I find. 
Words: Thomas Caryl Micklem 1973

I cannot breathe enough of Thee,
O gentle breeze of love;
More fragrant than the myrtle tree
The Henna-flower is to me,
The Balm of Heaven above.
Words: W. Spencer Walton, pub. 1923

O God of hope, your prophets spoke 
of days when war would cease: 
when taught to see each person’s worth,
and faithful stewards of the earth, 
we all would live in peace.
Words: Basil Ernest Bridge

The hush of midnight here below,
the shining stars above,
a night of wonder long ago
when in the stable lantern's glow 
is born God's gift of love.
Words: Timothy Dudley-Smith, 2000

The Saviour gently calls you now 
In accents soft and clear; 
His hand outstretched in tender love 
Will guide you to His home above– 
O come while He is near.
Words: Ken Paginton, 1981

Friday, June 14, 2013

Helen Keller -- 1 poem and 1 anecdote

"Mine to Keep"
They took away what should have been my eyes
(But I remembered Milton's Paradise) 
They took away what should have been my ears
(Beethoven came and wiped away my tears)
They took away what should have been my tongue
(But I had talked with God when I was young).
He would not let them take away my soul:
Possessing that, I still possess the whole.
  By Helen Keller

The following I will call an anecdote, because I have seen the circumstances of it recorded slightly differently. Nevertheless, the two people and content are consistent.

Phillips Brooks is credited with  introducing Helen Keller to Christianity. Later in their continuing relationship, they exchanged letters back and forth.  In one of these letters, Helen told Brooks concerning God, "I always knew He was there, but I didn't know His name!"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

5 Most Searched Words on Google

A few days ago I heard a radio preacher mention the top four searched words on the internet: 1) sex 2) God 3) jobs 4) and professional wrestling. I wondered how accurate that was and did a search for most searched for words. His information apparently came from the most searched words on Google as attributed in The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, a 2005 book by Thomas L. Friedman. This info is probably outdated. I could find only one site that breaks down the most searched for words in a simple chart. Click HERE for the top 100.

The #1 through #5 Most Searched Words on Google are:
1. facebook 3,080,000,000
2. youtube 755,000,000
3. hotmail 414,000,000
4. google 277,000,000
5. yahoo 226,000,000

Nothing to hide?

"Why are you worried about the government spying on you, if you don't have something to hide?"
"If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about."

If I had pulled out a hair every time I heard someone spout these pompous platitudes, I'd be a bald by now. Yes, the smugness and ignorance make me want to pull out my hair! Bruce Schneier calls the "nothing-to-hide argument" the "most common retort against privacy advocates."

These platitudes show grand ignorance of the principles of American government as entrenched in our Constitution -- particularly the fourth amendment.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.*
Our right to be secure in our "persons, houses, papers, and effects" includes our phones and internet service. No warrant to search (or eavesdrop on) any of these should be secured without (1) probable cause, (2) an oath or affirmation confirming that cause, (3) a clear description of what is to be searched, e.g, not indiscriminate retention of everybody's phone records, and (4) what is to be seized by the search. What have been exposed concerning the NSA does not meet this criteria.

These platitudes reveal an ignorance of the difference between private and illegal! "Doing anything wrong" hints at something illegal, immoral or unethical (and there are some things that are immoral or unethical that are not illegal). Many things we prefer to remain private are perfectly good things. If I sit down in my living room and have a conversation with my wife or children, I don't want my government eavesdropping on us, regardless of the subjects we discuss. Maybe someone needs to keep a surprise party secret. How about your passwords or Social Security number? And who but an exhibitionist does not want their sexual activities to remain private? A little thought will unearth hundreds of things that are not illegal we do with an expectation of them being private. To support unwarranted government spying on its people who "have nothing to hide" is shameful, thoughtless and misinformed, and possibly driven by fear.

Finally, these platitudes are poor because, as columnist Steve Chapman puts it, "Innocent people should not be punished in the pursuit of the guilty." Libertarians, liberals and conservatives must unite to bring constitutionality and common sense back to the preservation of both safety and liberty.
Big Brother Really Is Watching Us
Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide'
The Government Might Know You're Reading This

* These are protections for American citizens and do not apply to persons in foreign countries

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Return for thy servant's sake

Return for thy servant's sake.  Isaiah. 63:17. 

1. O our Redeemer, God,
      On Thee Thy people wait;
   We faint beneath Thy chastening rod,
      Thy house is desolate. 
2. Yet are we not Thine own,
      Though now in deep distress?
   Then be to us Thy mercy shown,
      Thy mourning people bless. 
3. Spirit of God, return,
      Thy cheering light impart;
   O may Thy love within us burn,
      And warm each languid heart. 
4. O’er all assembled here
      Assert Thy gracious power;
   And to our friend and kindred dear
      Be this salvation’s hour. 
5. O Lord, our God, descend!
      Our fainting hearts revive:
   On Thee alone our hopes depend,
      For Thou canst make us live.

By Abram M. Poindexter
No. 880 in The Baptist Psalmody

Very Good!

Genesis 1:27,31 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them...And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Genesis 1-2 says the male was incomplete without the female: "It was not good for man to be alone." The woman was created to be a suitable companion for the man. Indeed, as the rabbis were to say later, the woman is seen as the crown of creation--that which not merely completes creation, but prompts the benediction that now finally all was
tov m'od--very good.
Ben Witherington in Was Sodom into Sodomy?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Snowden, the NSA, our safety and our privacy

One of the most talked about people in the last few days is NSA "whisteblower" Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden, NSA files source: 'If they want to get you, in time they will' is part of the Guardian report.

Snowden, working as a contractor, released classified information on top-secret programs, including the PRISM surveillance program. There are lots of mixed feelings about Snowden leaking information about the National Security Agency spying on folks through their phones and e-mail. Interestingly, they opinions don't really break down according to party lines. Many Americans are skeptical of certain national measures conceived under Republican Bush and birthed under Democrat Obama.

The New Yorker says that Edward Snowden is no hero, while a number of folks have started the Pardon Edward Snowden petition that seeks White House response.

I don't have enough information to make extended comments, but my first impression of Snowden is that he is sincere in his desire to warn the American people. He has much more to lose than he can gain personally. I have long thought that our government needs to be reigned in from unwarranted searches and sketchy warrants that skirt constitutionality. We all want to be safe, but a government that secretly violates the Constitution is a government of which we also need to be wary. We shall watch and see how this all plays out.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Open Communion - Open Membership


First, I should define my use of the terms. By open communion I mean opening the communion service (the Lord's supper, the bread and wine) to anyone who professes to be a Christian by faith in Christ, regardless of his or her status concerning baptism or church membership. As far as I have observed, there is no truly "open" or "unrestricted" communion; all churches restrict it in some way. It's just a matter of how much it is restricted. By open membership in Baptist churches, I mean opening the church's membership to persons who have not been baptized by immersion. This varies in actual practice, and, I think, may be demonstrated sometimes as even receiving some who have only infant baptism. Apparently Baptist Union of Great Britain churches practice that, as well as some members of American Baptist Churches in the USA. But I believe most would only apply this in the case of one who received sprinkling or pouring after affirming faith in Christ.

Second, it is my proposition that open communion leads to open membership. I do not propose that every case of open communion leads to open membership, but that the practice of open communion over a period of time will generally lead to open membership. I will post below some evidence of the relationship between the two. If others have such evidence, I encourage you to post it in the comment thread. Those who have some evidence to the contrary should post that as well.

The North Carolina Baptist State Convention had a controversy that was caused by some churches receiving as members those who had not been baptized by immersion as believers, and the reaction of other churches to this. In 1972 the Convention established a committee to report on the problem. The committee asked the "differing" churches to identify themselves. Although over 20 churches were thought to be involved, in 1973 only twelve churches voluntarily identified themselves and eleven of them presented their case to the committee. It can be seen in the churches' defenses of their practices that they definitely had made the connection between open communion and open membership. This is documented in Perspectives in Religious Studies 1977 - Documents Concerning Baptism and Church Membership: A Controversy among North Carolina Baptists (c. 1977 by Association of Baptist Professors of Religion). The cover also carries the heading, Special Studies Series No. 1. It should be noted that all the churches did not have exactly the same practice, and that they did not necessarily acquire it from one another. The general nature of the policies was that "we...accept into membership baptized believers from other Christian groups, whatever the form of their baptism...(p. 8)." And from pages 38 and 39: "Another determining factor for some of these churches moving to their present position was that they considered a discrepancy in the custom of Baptist congregations practicing 'open communion' but 'closed membership'.
What to us was the inconsistency of recognizing the Christian standing of so many while not opening to them the doors of membership was further impressed upon us as we considered our practice concerning the Lord's Supper. For many years we had given explicit recognition to the membership of other Christians in Christ's Body by sharing the Lord's Table with them in worship. If to invite them to the Table was to affirm our belonging to each other in Christ, how could we continue to refuse them membership if and when they sought it?...If we believed, as we did, that the Lord would receive them at His Table, how could we not receive them into our fellowship especially since that fellowship was ours only because we recognized that we were his.
We extend to a Christian from another Christian body the right hand of fellowship as a brother in Christ and welcome him as we welcome any Christian to the Lord's Table.
There is another way we may possibly differ from our fellow Baptist churches. We believe that no one is qualified to participate in the Lord's Supper who has not been baptized. One must be "in Christ" before he may receive Christ into himself as a member of a body of faith. Many Baptist churches across this state, however, practice "open communion" and "closed baptism." This means, in effect, that such churches offer the Lord's Supper to people whom they do not recognize as having been baptized. That may be a not-insignificant heresy. In any event, we know of no church of any denomination, which follows this practice, other than some Baptist churches. It is a practice which we are unable to embrace.
There are only two ordinances of the Christian church - communion and baptism. Some years ago we realized that closed communion was a dividing rather than a unifying element among Christians. And so we took steps to invite all Christians to take holy communion with us. Our present policy regarding baptism tends also to divide rather than unify and the acceptance of this proposed change would tend to encourage unification.
On the day of her organization by the Mecklenburg Baptist Association the proposed Statement of Faith was amended to provide for "Open Communion," the inclusion of all Christians in the observance of the exceedingly profound Ordinance of the Lord's Supper. Across the years we struggled with conscience in the contradictory demand that practicing Christians desiring to transfer from another Christian Church be required to submit to a re-baptism by immersion in order to share our fellowship.
It is interesting especially in the third church quotation that they held that baptism was a prerequisite to communion and thought this was the general belief of all churches except some Baptists. Of course, the discrepancy was resolved in their case by recognizing non-immersions as baptism.

The following is copied and pasted from the Baptist Union website. It would indicate that some BU churches will accept persons without further baptism beyond infant baptism. What if I were baptised as a child? Many people who turn to Christ have already been baptised as a small child. If this applies to you, be baptised again as a believer. Baptists believe that baptism without faith is not the baptism of the Bible. What if I have been confirmed? If at your confirmation service you meaningfully confirmed the promise made on your behalf by your godparents, then some Baptist churches will welcome you on your profession of faith. 

The bold emphasis is mine to show the point I want all to notice. I have not found specific quotes to show the BU churches' connection of thought between open communion and open membership. The quote above is just to substantiate the claim I made about the Baptist Union in the first post. It appears that at the point in time the BU is consistent in its view of open communion and open membership.

Excerpts from the following article by Rowland Croucher discuss Open Membership in Australian Baptist Churches. I have given his categories of membership, as well as his "further reading," in which one may find interesting material on the subject. Croucher sees the open/closed communion/membership questions as being related.

(Paper presented to the School of Ministry, Whitley College Melbourne, July, 1992. A 2010 update may be found HERE.)
...The relationship of a person's faith-to-baptism-to-church membership is one of the most complex issues in contemporary Baptist faith and practice. Most Australian Baptists have resolved the closed/open communion issue (in favour of open communion), but only a minority of our churches have moved to an open membership position...The key question: 'Why is it possible to be accepted into the family of God but not into the family of a Baptist church?' Baptists have given many answers, which can roughly be summarized into six broad categories:  [1] HARD CLOSED: Here members are only those baptized by someone with authority in one's own Baptist denomination. Many U.S. Southern Baptists, for example, will re-baptize other Baptists.  [2] SOFT CLOSED: These churches will not re-baptize someone already immersed as a believer, unless the baptism took place in a sectarian group.  [3] MODIFIED CLOSED: This - with the 'soft closed' position - is the stance of most Australian Baptist churches. Here a believer who is unbaptized, or was baptized as an infant, is given 'associate' status, and may vote on secondary matters in church meetings, and generally will not be eligible for the office of deacon or elder.  [4] MODIFIED OPEN: In these churches only those who are baptized can be members, provided the individual regards their baptism - of whatever kind - as valid for them. This is the position of about 70-80 of our Australian churches.  [5] PLURALIST OPEN: These churches (eg. in parts of the UK and in North India) go one step further and allow options for either infant or adult baptism, choosing sprinkling, effusion or immersion.  [6] WIDER OPEN: This position allows the individual, in consultation and prayer within the community of faith, to reach a conclusion about baptism that is valid for them, but may be a full member of the church during this process.  Further reading: T. Bergsten, 'Baptism and the Church', The Baptist Quarterly, Vol 18 nos. 3 & 4 (1959), pp. 125-131, 159-171.  D. Bridge and D. Phypers, The Water that Divides, IVP, 1977.  A. Gilmore, Baptism and Christian Unity, Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1966, pp. 58-74.  Thorwald Lorenzen, 'Baptism and Church Membership: Some Baptist Positions and their Ecumenical Implications', J. Ecumenical Studies, 18:4, Fall 1981, pp. 561 ff.
The following represents the membership views of one Arkansas church in the ABCUSA:
 Membership Information Membership at Judson is open to baptized believers of all Christian denominations. Our baptism should unite, not divide us. When we baptize, we practice immersion. We welcome as Associate Members those who wish to continue membership in their home church. Our members come from many denominations and our communion table is open to all believers. A welcoming class is held for all who desire membership in Judson American Baptist Church.
The church web site may be viewed here. [This baptism information was copied in January 2002, but is no longer available.]

This is from an ABCUSA church in Colorado:
Calvary has open membership. In other words, if you have been baptized (regardless of the form) you are received openly as a member of this congregation based on your Christian experience. If you have been baptized as an infant and would find it meaningful to be immersed as an adult, you are encouraged to do so. Please talk to one of the ministers. Pastor’s classes are available for all ages.
Their web site is here. [This was copied in January 2002, but is no longer available.]