Friday, January 05, 2007


Well, I'm moving this blog over to Wordpress. Several things have prompted the move. The main reason, however, is when I transferred over to Blogger Beta, I was not happy with the limited control I had over the page layout, so here goes. My new url at the New Plowman is I hope to see you there.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday Photos: Sunsets

This week's Friday Photos is about sunsets. The first sunset was taken from my front yard on Christmas eve. The second sunset was taken this Wednesday from work. Check out a whole raft of other fine photos at the Friday Photo Group. Have a blessed weekend, a happy new year, and May God bless you and yours.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Screwtape Letter #5

"My dear Wormwood,"
(Editor's note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.) Vocabulary: draught: a single act of drinking or inhaling; (a British spelling of the word draft) chalice: A large cup or goblet, usually used for drinking wine, often connected with the Lord's Supper. patriot: a person who vigorously supports and defends his country ardent: enthusiastic or passionate pacifist: the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances temporal: limited by time and space; the physical world barbarous: savagely cruel; exceedingly brutal sophistical: clever but fallacious reasoning unchastity: Lacking self-control, self-restraint, especially in, but not limited to the sexual realm. partisans: A strong supporter of one side. diffused: Spread out over time. bereavement: the state of having been deprived of a loved one, usually through death Lesson: In this letter we will look at the factors of suffering in the life of the Christian, and its effect on his walk of faith. In this letter we find that World War II has begun, and Wormwood is ecstatic because of the various sufferings that it is causing his "patient." Screwtape warns him in this letter not to be overly optimistic because suffering often drives Christians closer to God, not further away. Note first one passage which reveals some incorrect theology: If, on the other hand, by steady and cool-headed application here and now you can finally secure his soul, he will then be yours forever - a brim-full living chalice of despair and horror and astonishment which you can raise to your lips as often as you please. When Jesus comes back to judge the world in righteousness, Satan and the demons will not be rejoicing over the "gains" they had made up to that point. Hell will not be a place where Satan reigns, it will be a place where Jesus reigns. and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:10-15, ESV) The devil's business is to try to shake our faith: So do not allow any temporary excitement to distract you from the real business of undermining faith and preventing the formation of virtues. We have way too many promises in God's word to loose heart when trials come. Let us cling to them in all hope: Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:1-18, ESV) The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20, ESV) Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11, ESV)
"Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Joy to the World

And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, "You shall not eat of it," cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field." (Genesis 3:17, 18, ESV) I know this is not what you expected. You might ask "So what's with a title like Joy to the World, followed by a picture of a hand full of grass burrs, followed by a Scripture passage about the fall" The third verse of this great hymn by Isaac Watts is the key to this post: No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make his blessings flow Far as the curse is found. Let me tell you how far the curse is found on my place. It is found at the foot of a small tree, with a good deal of bark and cambium scraped from its tiny trunk; damag by deer antlers in the middle of the previous night. One big buck had "scraped" a number of our smaller trees, including several small apple trees and the White pine pictured below. The pine had been our Christmas tree three seasons back. When I bent down to get a close shot of the damage, my left hand quickly came up with a hand-full of this curse. And that is where Joy to the World comes in. That is what Christmas is all about. Christ came to put an end to all of that, and though we live in this age of the already but not yet, we have a sure hope that one day sin and sorrow will grow no more, neither will thorns infest the ground. Also, this creation will not strive with it self, so that rutting bucks won't mindlessly try to destroy young trees. Sure, these things are nothing compared to personal sin and misery and estrangement from God, but they are connected and related. So the next time your car breaks down or your co-worker dissapoints you, or you come down with the flu, or a loved one dies; then remember just how far the curse is found, and what great joy it is to this fallen world and all in it, that Christ came to fix all of that. That is what Christmas is all about. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23, ESV) Check out some other blogger's fine Friday Photos over at the Friday Photo Group

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Screwtape Letter #4

"My dear Wormwood,"
Vocabulary supplication: To ask or beg for something earnestly or humbly. superficial: not thorough, deep, or complete subtle: so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe cynical: distrustful of human sincerity or integrity luminosity: being filled with light, so as to shine from within puerile: childishly silly and trivial subjective: based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions Lesson 1. "The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether." A. Most Christians have this long-standing common belief that standard, or prepared prayers are not real, as in prayers memorized and "said" in childhood. Prayers read out of a book cannot be genuine. Is this true? B. The flip side of this is to opt for "something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularised", thinking this style is somehow more real, more sincere. Is this true? C. Screwtape says that we are animals and "whatever [our] bodies do affects [our] souls." How does this relate to praying with eyes closed, head bowed, and/or on our knees? Does it really make a difference.? 2. When our prayers attend to someone other than God there is a misdirection of our prayers. With this approach our prayers are really aimed inwardly, as we attempt to pray in such a way so as to produce a desired feeling or emotion. Feelings and emotions are very much subject to a multitude of external factors such as health, rest, and stress, just to name a few. So when we pray we need to be careful to pray with God in mind, with his interests at heart - namely, to and for His glory and honor, and not our own. How do we do this? 3. "Whenever there is prayer, there is danger of His own immediate action He is cynically indifferent to the dignity of His position, and ours, as pure spirits, and to human animals on their knees He pours out self-knowledge in a quite shameless fashion." God is indeed generous and gracious when we come to Him humbly and in sincerity. How do we pray to God in this manner? For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him. (2 Chronicles 30:9, ESV) But he gives more grace. Therefore it says,“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, ESV) 4. "You must keep him praying to it - to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him." We have a bad habit of making God in our own image, or praying to an idol of our own making, and thus our prayers go as far as the ceiling, and no further. It could be that our view of God contains too much of the incarnation of Jesus, and not enough of the exaltation of Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father. How do we pray "to the Person who has made [us]", and not just "the thing [we have] made"? Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in* blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16, ESV) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, ESV)
"Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Screwtape Letter #3

"My dear Wormwood,"
Vocabulary expurgated: to remove something that is thought to be objectionable or unsuitable. innocuous: not harmful or offensive. rheumatism: a disease marked by pain and swelling in the joints. domestic: relating to the running of a home or to family relations. utterances: a spoken word or statement, or vocal sound. piqued: a feeling of irritation or resentment because one has been slighted. Lesson The whole third chapter of James is devoted to the general topic of how we sin with the tongue.What are some specific ways that we sin with our tongues? The two that immediately come to mind are lying and verbal abuse, but there is a much lesser known, subtle way in which we sin with our speech. In letter three of The Screwtape Letters, we find ourselves dealing with the subject of Christian conduct in close community. It seems that the closer the relationship is, the more prone we are to sin with our mouth. Why is it that we are the most careless with those whom we claim to care the most about? When this lesson from letter three took place several weeks ago, every student read a portion of the letter, and then we discussed ways that we sin with our mouth, and ways that we can fight those tendencies. The following points are just an outline of that discussion. 1. "The Enemy will be working from the centre outwards, gradually bringing more and more of the patient's conduct under the new standard," We can be thankful that "He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world" and He won't let it rest with us. God's Spirit is in us working out God's good pleasure in us, fitting us to wage war with remaining sin. Jesus is Lord over our whole being, even our speech. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12,13, ESV) And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.(2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV) 2. Screwtape reminds Wormwood to "Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones." Here again as in previous lessons, we see that the mind plays a key role in the Christian's walk of faith. We can never drop our guard, even for a second. We must be constantly vigilant. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, ESV) This portion of letter three also reminds us that the Christian walk is simple. It may not be easy, but it certainly is simple. All of our Christian life can be boiled down to "Trust and Obey". There really is no such thing as advanced and spiritual duties. It all comes down to trusting in Christ alone for your salvation, and seeking to reflect the love of Christ as you live and walk among others. 3. "Make sure that . . . he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism." I think what is going on in this section is the concept of religion that is confined to the spiritual and never reaches the physical. We should pray for someones soul, but we should also be concerned about their physical needs as well. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17, ESV) 4. "When two humans have lived together for many years, it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other." How easy it is to expect the worst from others. When we are already aggravated with some one, then it is even easier to build a case against someone with the even the slightest look or tone. A Christian should never be a cynic. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV) The best way to avoid feeling like this is to communicate. Ask the person what he meant by that expression or look, or tone. Whenever possible, try to put the best possible face on someone else's behavior. 5. "In civilised life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper. . ." At this point the discussion of our use of language is pointed straight back on each one of us. We have a responsibility to be fair in estimating other people's motives when speaking to us, but we have an even greater responsibility to speak to others with honesty. We have a responsibility not only to be honest with our words, but also to be honest with the way we use those words. Communication is such a complex art. Words and sentences have meaning, but with the use of analogous and equivocal language, sentences can carry quite a number of meanings. With the use of tone, inflection, volume, emphasis of certain words, and facial expressions, many more meanings can be carried with the use of the same words. When dealing with the tongue, a Christians responsibility goes far beyond what he says. Let's close with this declaration and warning from our Lord: For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, (Matthew 12:34b-36, ESV)
"Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape"

Friday, December 08, 2006

Driscoll and the Devil

(Photo, courtesy of Timmy Brister.) You might, and you might not be comfortable at Mar's Hill church, pastored by the fire-brand preacher Mark Driscoll. From what I can gather, Mar's Hill is a bit on the edge as regards worship style. You can't get past that preaching, though. I do enjoy Driscoll's preaching, because he preaches the plain Gospel with no apologies. His style seems to cut through the fluff and do what the preaching of God's word is suppose to do: give glory and honor to God, through the person of Jesus Christ. I thank God he is where he is and is doing what he is doing. I'm not sure exactly how to express this, but I am fairly convinced that Driscoll has captured, at least in part, something that has gone largely missing in "church" for quite some time now. Let's describe it as a quality, and let's call that quality masculinity. Some call Driscoll's style nothing more than taxi-cab-driver crudity, but I believe there is something more there. Now before you turn me off, hear me out. I am not saying that he has this quality down to a science by any stretch, but after I got over the initial shock of Driscoll's graphic approach to preaching, I detected in him a sincere love for two things. Hopefully you will see it coming through too, if you get over your prejudices and just listen to his preaching. Those two passions that I detected in all of his preaching I have heard so far were a love for the lost in Seattle and around the world, and a love for Jesus Christ. I hear a radically different style, to say the least, but I have also heard the Gospel, crystal clear in every message of his I have heard to this point. If I am not mistaken, this is what is called contextualization, or cultural relevance, without loosing the message. His ministry is reaching many people in the largely unreached Northwest, many people who have been hostile to our parents' and grandparents' styles and methods of evangelism and worship. And to all of that I say praise be to God! A good bit of what is contained in the previous two paragraphs has been sitting in my future-posts folder for months. Impressed with the pastor who calls himself a "jack hammer for Jesus", among other things, I thought it would be neat to write something about him. I had never even heard of Mark Driscoll six months ago. The name kept popping up here and there this summer on the blogs, so one day, seeing a link for a sermon by Driscoll, I downloaded it and listened. It was edgy, harsh at points, even shocking, but refreshing. My next encounter with Driscoll was in connection with the recent Desiring God conference, where Driscoll was a scheduled speaker. I realized more fully Driscoll was a bit of a controversial figure in the larger evangelical arena when I heard comments by Piper and others in one of the two Q&A audios released from the conference. You can listen or download all of the audio from that conference, including both Q&A sessions from the web site at Desiring God. The topic I thought I would concentrate on at the time I first decided to post on him was his attire, his lack of a sense of dressing for the occasion, as that was alluded to once or twice in the afore-mentioned audios at the Desiring God conference. I was going to say something about whether he might consider dressing up for a daughter's wedding, say in a dozen years or so. I was going to be largely positive, recommending you listen to some of his messages, with the petty caveat on appearances and special occasions. My focus on Mark Driscoll all changed last week when, thanks to a post by Pastor Art Rogers, I downloaded and listened to a bit of audio featuring a Q&A session by Dr. Paige Patterson in chapel on November 28 at Southwestern Seminary. The very first question came from a professor at Southwestern, Jason Lee, who quoted from Mark Driscoll's book, The Radical Reformission. In the chapter titled The Sin of Lite Beer, Driscoll makes the case that women's suffrage and prohibition were both movements which were the result of the feminization of the Church around the turn of the 20th century. Professor Lee went on to read a section from the book:
"Prohibition is a pitiful result of syncretism and sectarianism. It matters because alcohol is a very real example of the pitfalls of syncretism and sectarianism. Prohibition began as a syncronistic liberalism that took away alcohol and the Christian freedom to drink. This happened because churches aligned themselves with a non-christian feminism that attempted to eliminate the pub as a gathering place for men to do theology, politics, and business. This syncretism undermined the clear teachings of Scripture, in an effort to fabricate a theology that supported its cultural form of morality."
Professor Lee then asked Dr. Patterson if he agreed with Driscoll's assessment or not, and why. Dr. Patterson's reply was the most slick, subtle, ad hominem argument I have ever heard. Without giving any evidence for his objection to the position whatsoever, Dr. Patterson moved on with his worn out rendition of why alcohol is not "the best" for the Christian, with a bad joke thrown in for good measure. Here's Dr. Patterson's response. You have got to see it to appreciate it:
"Well, first of all, let me begin by saying Driscoll is an individual that I think that you would be well to read some of. He is a very provocative thinker, and had some great suggestions along the way. This is probably not one of them. I would say in this regard that he has made himself relatively famous, or infamous, as the case may be, as a proponent of the consumption of beverage alcohol. I find his linking of feminization of the church with prohibition to be a very unlikely scenario, to say the least. The two things I would say is that I do not believe there is a precise passage of Scripture that says you will not drink, what the Bible is very clear about is statements like this. Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosovever is deceived thereby is not wise. Now very interestingly we've got a situation that exists right now in church life in America where people are saying "well, it's fine to drink, you just shouldn't get drunk. Drunkenness is wrong." Well that fails to observe that drunkenness is largely the result of drinking. In the second place it's very interesting that in Proverbs 20:1 nothing is said about drunkenness at all. What it says is that Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. Now if Brother Driscoll or anybody else wants to be in the category of the not-wise, then that's their privilege. I'm going to come down in the area of the wise, at least on this one, and I'm going to say that there is every reason in the world why a Christian ought to leave alone anything that enslaves him.
Wow! What can you say to that? To begin with, I could be wrong, but I don't remember anywhere Mark Driscoll being "famous, or infamous, as the case may be" concerning alcohol. I know his preaching style and way of saying some things, along with his shabby dress, has gotten him in some hot water, but I haven't heard anyone comment on Driscoll's views on beverage alcohol. So, this sounds a bit like misrepresentation on the part of Dr. Patterson. Then there is the poor handling of Proverbs 20:1. It embarrasses me to hear someone in the position of Dr. Patterson abusing the hermeneutical tools of the literal principle and the analogy of Scripture (or perhaps, the absence of the use of these tools). That sets the stage for a negative way of calling a brother in Christ a fool. Dr. Patterson should be reminded of our Lord's warnings against such talk, found in Matthew 5:22. Probably least of all in this whole ramble by Dr. Patterson is the fact that he never gets around to actually refuting Mark Driscoll's assertion. Nothing like that good-ol-boy charm from Arkansas, and a bad joke to cloud the issue, and make everybody think you just made a slam dunk. It doesn't really matter if Driscoll was correct in his assesment, Dr. Patterson didn't prove him wrong, not in the least. Later on in the Q&A, a student asks Dr. Patterson what can the current generation do to continue the reforms in the SBC which were only begun at the Conservative Resurgence. Here is a portion of Dr. Patterson's response, beginning about 25:24 into the audio:
"Every generation must fight its battles. . . The way to understand this, I think is something that my colleagues will instantly agree with here, and will say this is easy to do. And here it is. Imagine that I were the devil . . . what would I do? Would I be worried about what's going on in the brothel? Unh-uh, wouldn't even show up. It's all going my way. Would I be worried about what's going on where ever Mark Driscoll is in a bar somewhere? No, I wouldn't worry about that. Got that going my way. What I would worry about is what's going on at Southwestern seminary. . .
Well this last little dig was the capstone for me. What an arrogant, disrespectful treatment of a brother in Christ. What un-charitable, un-christlike behavior. Earlier, in this same Q&A session Patterson declared that we need to "get our people back to the simple business of witnessing." And then, here he is, almost in the same breath, making sport of the pastor of a church that is the fifteenth fastest growing church in America, in the least-churched metro area in America. If I were in any way associated with Southwestern, I would be ashamed. What bothers me even more, is the fact that I have found nothing in over a week on the Internet to indicate any outrage among our own denomination over such un-christian behavior. I guess the SBC is too busy fighting the big battles over Patterson, Rankin, and the IMB. After all, Driscoll isn't even a Southern Baptist. He's probably a heretic any way, because he doesn't dot his i's and cross his t's the way we do. Just a few days ago I listened to a sermon by Pastor Mark Driscoll titled Why Should We Worship Jesus?, dated November 21. In it he comments on his view on drink and how it relates to worship. For Driscoll, even beverage alcohol is a part of his 24/7 view of worship. You should listen to it. You can listen to the audio or watch the video. Just look in the sidebar on the right for "Why should we worship Jesus?" If you wonder about his passion for a lost world, you should listen to his message titled Loving the City, dated October 3. Don't let someone who doesn't know influence you against this fine servant of our Lord and Savior. This leads me to say something that is probably going to anger many, but that's too bad: I'm sick to my stomach of Southern Baptists - Not the simple man in the pew, that Dr. Patterson and so many others brag about being the backbone of the SBC, and not all of those faithful pastors and missionaries around the world - I'm sick of all of the stuffed shirts, most of them above the rank of humble pastor, those who hold some position of prominence on a state or national level. Any time they get around a microphone all they carry on about is Southern Baptist distinctives, as if we are God's gift to the world, and ever other denomination, Christian though they may be, are just second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. If you haven't figured this out yet, let me tell you, God doesn't need our 5,000 missionaries, or the biggest missionary machine in the world. God can pick up any old crooked stick and draw a straight line with it. God is working through many other denominations in small, quiet ways, that very few ever hear about. And maybe, just maybe, they are being more faithful, more effectual for eternity than we can even begin to realize. I'm also sick of hearing "How many baptisms did they have last year?" or some variation thereof. What I hear far too little of in the upper muckety-muck of the SBC is "Are we being faithful?" and "Are we honoring God?" I think we should all repent on our faces before God.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Screwtape Letter #2

"My dear Wormwood,"
Vocabulary: despair- The complete absence or loss of hope. sojourn- A temporary stay. liturgy- A form to which public church worship is conducted. toga- A loose-flowing outer garment worn in ancient Greek and Roman culture aspiration- A hope or ambition of achieving something. vermin- usually referring to mice or rats, but generally any animal harmful to mankind. hypocrisy- Claiming to have moral standards that one's behavior does not back up. humility-A modest or low view of one's own importance. ledger- A book of financial accounts. condescension- To show feelings of superiority. Questions: 1. Screwtape informs his nephew that "hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy's camp and are now with us." One of the great hallmarks of Baptist belief is the doctrine of The Security of the Believer, or The Perseverance of the Saints. How should we understand Screwtape's statement in light of Scripture? See Romans 8:35-39, John 10:28,29, Luke 8:4-15, and 1 John 2:19. For the warnings of presumption, see 1 Corinthians 10:12, Hebrews 10:26-31. 2. Note how the distractions described in this letter change in nature in the last paragraph. What is the difference between flaws and sins? See Romans 12:3, Romans 14:10-12, and James 4:11,12. 3. Note in this letter, as in the last letter, Screwtape emphasizes the need to keep the patient from thinking: "Handle him properly and it simply won't come into his head." In light of this how do we fight the Christian battle? See Romans 12:1,2. 4. What does Screwtape mean when he says "he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit balance in the Enemy's ledger by allowing himself to be converted,"? Are we guilty of acting as if we are doing God a favor by showing up at church? See Ephesians 2:8-10.
"Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape"

Friday, December 01, 2006

I Hate Winter

There, I've said it. Some time each October my wife and change the exchange of pleasantries from "Good morning, [Sugar]" (several variants are possible.), to "I hate winter!" I use to feel a bit guilty when I said it, thinking it probably was being unthankful or disrespectful to God. Then I thought, "The Garden wasn't this way before the fall, and Heaven won't be this way. I bet the new heavens and the new earth won't be this way. What do you think? IMG_4926.JPG The great snow fall of November 30, 2006, ending in the wee hours of December 1. The tracks are mine. At 12:30 a.m. I had to walk the last quarter mile to my house. After 22 miles driving from my work to the house, I got stuck in a drift climbing the hill just south of our house. IMG_4946.JPG You notice It is a sunny day today. We will be running around in shorts and t-shirts by the weekend. Those of you who enjoy snow, and love winter, you need to repent. One more time: I hate winter! Check out all of the other fabulous photos at the Friday Photo Group

Public Radio and Salem Witch Trials

At the advice of a post at Joe Thorn's blog, I subscribed to the podcast of This American Life, which is a radio journal dealing with odds and ends of interest in American life. The title is evidently pretty much self-defining. What may not be so evident is who's view of This American Life is being put forth. The Chicago-produced program is a product of National Public Radio, which means that their perspective is left of left, pro-gay, pro-abortion, anti-Christian, etc., etc. You get the idea. Listening to my first podcast of This American Life I quickly recalled why I quit listening to anything public radio years ago. The particular program which prompted Pastor Thorn to recommend This American Life revolved around the Tulsa-based Pentecostal pastor "Bishop" Carlton Pearson. Pearson was a big deal here in Tulsa in the 80's and 90's, but fell from favor in a big way when, a few years ago he denied the existence of Hell and embraced Universalism. His racially integrated congregation of five thousand on the affluent south side of Tulsa rapidly shrunk to just a few hundred. And then he was officially declared a heretic for his views by the body of African-American Pentecostal bishops that he was affiliated with. The program was worth listening to, as Pastor Thorn suggested. I found parts of it quite interesting. Living in Tulsa, and knowing a bit about the story I found some of it quite revealing. I found it sad, as did Pastor Thorn, but in a very different way. I too am sad over the personal losses described in this documenting of the rise and fall of a prominent Pentecostal pastor. I am sure Pearson's views came from pure motives, in search of the truth, but the hard fact of life is that there are consequences to ideas. What "breaks my heart" most of all is the fact that public radio did this piece at all. That is one reason, I think, why many are and will be mostly affected by the personal losses, because the program was written to elicit empathy, to paint Carlton Pearson as a brave maverick, become martyr, who stood on his convictions and paid a high price. You know this is the direction the piece is going to go from the very beginning by the tone set in the introduction:
"Every century in our country there have been heresy trials. And people have been cast out of their own communities. It didn't end with Salem witch trials."
It is a shame that this piece will possibly be heard by millions of "spiritual" unbelievers, and this program will even further solidify their moralistic therapeutic deistic spiritual unbelief. I am sure that Joe Thorn's comments in this post were not intended to be a full commentary on the program, so I am not being critical of him in this post. Having a closeness, community-wise, to this story, I felt I needed to say something. What did trouble me a bit about Pastor Thorn's brief comments, and, again I am sure he had more thoughts on the subject than he revealed in his post, was the lack of a sense of anger over the reproach brought upon the Gospel. This man, as Pastor Thorn pointed out, has jettisoned a vital aspect of the Gospel. I can understand sadness over the man's soul, for it is in grave danger, but our love for the Gospel should cause us to rise up as Paul did and say:
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8,9, ESV)
All is not lost, however, in the airing of this piece on Carlton Pearson. God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. There are some positive things to say about this piece:
  • It is encouraging to see that Pentecostals do have a sense of orthodoxy. There are limits to their nonsense, after all. The Word-of-Faith gospel, the Health-and-Prosperity gospel, and the Turn-or-Burn gospel are bad enough, and they are bad, two out of three coming very close to heresy in their own right, but at least most Pentecostals won't go for the gospel of Inclusion.
  • This story is a prime example of the importance of a high view of Scripture. Not far into the program it is made quite evident that in order for Pearson to hold his view on Hell, he had to abandon an inerrant view of Scripture. It is not clear by the story which view fell first, but it is obvious that a high view of Scripture was not a non-negotiable in Pearson's world view.
  • I think it is fair to say that the overall body of Pentecostalism embraces a man-centered Arminian theology. As was pointed out by Ascoll and White in their recent "debate", Universalism is the logical, thinking conclusion of a man-centered Arminian system. Carlton Pearson was simply being consistent. If Jesus died for every soul that has ever lived or ever will live, then no one will go to Hell. The blessed thing about most in the SBC is that their Arminianism is not nearly so man centered in its emphasis, and their theology is largely compartmentalized (non-systematic). Very few Southern Baptists, clergy or lay, ever come to the conclusion of Universalism. Care needs to be taken, however. The conservative resurgence has brought new emphasis on the importance of Scripture, and as time goes by some who are serious to study and try to be systematic in their theology may very well come to embrace Universalism.
  • Hell is real. We need to preach it. I was listening to the White Horse Inn podcast from last week entitled Smooth Talk Flattery, discussing Romans 16, and one of the things they emphasized was that you don't have to quit believing in something to deny it. You just have to quit preaching it. In their discussion the scandal of the cross was the object, but the same principle easily applies to the doctrine of Hell. Again we need to preach on Hell. The good news of the Gospel means nothing apart from the anger, wrath, and righteousness of God, which finds at least part of its expression in the doctrine of Hell. You pastors, preach it, and then preach Christ.
All in all, A Modern-Day Heretic was still a very worthwhile piece to listen to. On the other hand, I wouldn't recommend just anyone to listen to this far-left-leaning piece. If anti-Christian propaganda makes you see red and want to throw things, then don't listen to it. Just one last caution: caveat emptor.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Screwtape Letter: Intro and Letter #1

Screwtape "My dear Wormwood"
Introduction (Editors note: This post is the first in a series of studies of The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis. Our Sunday-school of high-schoolers began this study about six weeks ago. We are taking one letter each Sunday, reading it out loud, and then commenting on it. Our main purpose has been, not to study the devil and his demons, but rather to study our own selves from a biblical perspective. Our emphasis is on the grace and mercy of God in justifying and sanctifying us through Jesus Christ our Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us. Taken into class each Sunday, these lessons are mere outlines. I will make an effort to fill them out a bit before posting them here.) Epigraphs: An epigraph is a quotation put at the beginning of a piece of literature, either at the beginning of a book, or chapter, that sets a tone or introduces a theme. The two epigraphs at the beginning of The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis, are:
  • "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." Luther
  • "The devil . . the prowde spirite . . cannot endure to be mocked." Thomas More
What do you think the tone o this book of "letters" will be? During the middle ages Christians depicted the devil as wearing red suit with horns and a tail, intending to mock him. Parody: Parody is imitating something else usually for satirical (comic) effect. This style of literature's main purpose is to have fun with a topic. Lewis depicts Hell as a parody of Heaven. How does the Bible describe Hell? Background: These "letters" were written in England during the Second World War. The British people suffered greatly due to shortages due to rationing. They also suffered due to nightly bombing raids on English towns and cities by the German "blitzkrieg" or "lightning war". By day the British could watch their airmen do battle with the German Luftwaffe over the skies of Britain in the Battle of Britain The odds were overwhelming with 640 British planes to 2600 German planes. Screwtape Letter: Letter #1 Vocabulary: materialist- Someone who considers material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values, or that nothing exists except matter. naïf (naive)- Showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgement. jargon- Special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand. abominable- something greatly hated, causing moral revulsion. athiest- Someone who does not believe in God. aberrations- That which leaves the accepted norm, that which is unnatural and unwelcome. logic- reasoning using strict rules of truth to prove something true or false, probable, or improbable. Questions: 1. Who is the "Enemy"? 2. Who is the "patient"? 3. What is meant by "...oh, that abominable advantage of the Enemy's!"? 4. What are some realities that we cannot touch and see?
"Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape"
Next week: Screwtape Letter #2

Friday Photos: Community Service

IMG_4594.JPG Last Tuesday evening we went to the community service that our church is involved in through the local "West Side Ministerial Alliance". The Alliance is represented by a variety of church denominations, but not as diverse as we could be. They are all baptistic, mostly Anglo, some charismatic. Our hosting church this year was Red Fork Baptist Church. I always enjoy these community services, held around Thanksgiving, though generally not on account of the Christ-centered emphasis. These community services help me keep things in perspective at my own church. The music at my own church frustrates me at times, but after just a short time at this year's community service I was realizing the far surpassing value of our singing service. We have a better Minister of Music, better hymn book, far heartier congregation of singers, and two angels on piano and organ. On the preaching of the word, my pastor was not slated to preach this year. The pastor of the local AOG church was. I am always curious and eager to hear what any preacher of God's word has to offer, but not because I don't have a faithful pastor at my own church. I just enjoy good preaching. I wasn't dissapointed. After the preacher got up and tried to tell us that doctrine doesn't matter, because it's all about unity after all, after close to a dozen lame jokes, then my pastor got up and prayed the best five-minute message you have ever heard in a closing prayer at a community service. IMG_4601.JPG One thing that surpassed anything I have seen in a church on the West side was their stained glass. The photos pictured here look out over the people as they walk into the sanctuary. There was quite a bit more glass around the building, but this was the only one that was lit up for a decent shot. Apparentely Red Fork Baptist Church is a very missions minded church. Lining the walls of the vestibule and along both sides of the main sanctuary were flags from all of the countries where Southern Baptist missionaries are serving. I had never seen this done before; very interesting, and quite colorful. It seems to be an effective reminder of what the great commission is all about. Don't forget to go see all of the great photos at the Friday Photo Group.