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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Yes, I have been messing with my template. If anyone can point me to the correct bit of code to remove to get the blog title off of my header logo, I would much appreciate it. In the mean time, I have work to do. Have a good day all.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Defacing Graffiti

What's the world coming to? Vandalizing vandalism, the depths of debauchery. What's next? IMG_4522.JPG

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Photos: Hardy Cyclamen

IMG_4486.JPG Ivy-leaved Cyclamen, Cyclamen hedrerifolium is a treat for me this time of year, when few other plants are blooming. The foliage, which is remarkable in its own right, dissapears when spring turns hot. IMG_4496.JPG The Blossoms begin sparingly in October, and then the foliage returns in November. At this time the inverted blossoms, looking earthward with petals pointing backward to the sky, begin to appear more abundantly. They will continue to bloom well into the new year. IMG_4489.JPG Once the flower has been pollinated, the petals fade and fall, and the flower stem begins to curl up so that the "fruit" containing the developing seeds will be in contact with the soil when the seed pod dries and opens in about a month. What can we do with this for a Christian application? Well, as pretty and neat as the Hardy Cyclamen is Christians should not follow its example. We should keep our faces turned upward, toward the Father above, and we should seek to scatter our seeds just a bit farther afield. Don't forget to look at all of the great pics over at the Friday Photo Group. Have a great weekend. This Sunday, worship our great God and Savior with all your heart, mind, and soul.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Alcohol Again

I just received my weekly dose of The White Horse Inn, where the "usual cast of characters were discussing Romans 14 and 15. "The Romans Revolution" has been the topic all this year. If you haven't heard it you need to go back and catch it. It has been a wonderful survey of the book of Romans. The topic this week was on The Weaker Brother, and, among other things, Michael Horton cited some interesting statistics comparing the per-capita instances of alcoholism among various religious groups. Jews, Episcopalians ,Catholics, Lutherans, and Presbyterians have the lowest instances of alcoholism, which all happen to view alcohol as a gift from God. Now for those who view alcohol as a sin: Baptists, Methodists, and Mormons came in with the highest per capita instances of alcoholism. Interesting. The basic thrust of the discussion on the White Horse Inn was that the "weaker brother" who insists that everyone else practice his weakness is really an inverted Pharisee. At one point the discussion got around to the "encyclical" that "we" passed this year at Greensboro. You've got to hear it to realize how silly we really look to just about everybody.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Photos: Chestnuts

There are two totally different kinds of trees commonly called Chestnut. In the genus Castanea are several species that produce edible nuts. Pictured below is a nut, still in the husk, of Castanea mollissima x dentata, a hybrid between Chinese Chestnut and American Chestnut. IMG_4366.JPG In a totally separate genus, Aesculus, is a number of tree species that go by the common name Horse-chestnut, whose nuts are anything but edible. Also known as Red Buckeye, pictured below is a couple of seeds, still in the husk of Aesculus pavia. IMG_4107.JPG While still in their husks, still hanging on the tree, each kind of Chestnut is easily distinguished from the other, but once they have left their context of origin, you have to be very careful. One must look very closely to tell the two apart. It is very important to do so, as eating the wrong nut could do great harm. That is the beauty of the binomial naming system of genus and species, invented by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778). Names mean something, and they mean the same thing today that they did a couple of hundred years ago, and they will still mean the same thing a hundred years hince, if the Lord tarries. Wouldn't it be nice if words held that precise quality in church matters for more than a decade, words like evangelical, fundamentalist, and Calvinism. We think we have a cute device that makes it all work, namely by adding prefixes such as pre-, post-, and hyper-. If the label doesn't fit any more, because the object has changed, you just adjust the label; post-evangelical, for instance. Surely there is a better way. Like when something changes, you call it something else. It is kind of like sufixing every policical scandal in the last thirty years with -gate. Somebody give me some aspirin, my head hurts. Check out all of the really fine photos at the Friday Photo Group.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Luther's 95 Theses, October 31, 1517

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenburg, Germany on this day in 1517, it probably wouldn't have amounted to very much if it were not for his students. Still considered a marvel for its day, the 95 Theses were translated by Luther's students into the German language and distributed to every hamlet in the country within a couple of weeks. That is what set the forrest on fire. Thanks to Luther even we Baptists are not crossing ourselves and saying the Ave Maria today. Be warned, if you don't think so, you may be a Landmarker, regardless what Dr. Moore says. Every year at this time I love to pull up a copy of the 95 in Latin. I'm very rusty, but I still love to try to piece them together. Many, even in the reformed tradition, don't know much about the contents of Luther's 95. Guess what? The five sola's aren't in there. Neither are the five points of Calvinism. It's mostly about the authority and sufficiency of Scripture alone. Hmm, sounds just like the problems we're having in the SBC right now. Thanks to Project Wittenberg, Here's Luther's 95 Theses in Latin:
"Disputatio pro Declaratione Virtutis Indulgentiarum." Martin Luther

Amore et studio elucidande veritatis hec subscripta disputabuntur Wittenberge, Presidente R. P. Martino Lutther, Artium et S. Theologie Magistro eiusdemque ibidem lectore Ordinario. Quare petit, ut qui non possunt verbis presentes nobiscum disceptare agant id literis absentes. In nomine domini nostri Hiesu Christi. Amen.

1. Dominus et magister noster Iesus Christus dicendo `Penitentiam agite &c.' omnem vitam fidelium penitentiam esse voluit.

2. Quod verbum de penitentia sacramentali (id est confessionis et satisfactionis, que sacerdotum ministerio celebratur) non potest intelligi. 3. Non tamen solam intendit interiorem, immo interior nulla est, nisi foris operetur varias carnis mortificationes. 4. Manet itaque pena, donec manet odium sui (id est penitentia vera intus), scilicet usque ad introitum regni celorum. 5. Papa non vult nec potest ullas penas remittere preter eas, quas arbitrio vel suo vel canonum imposuit. 6. Papa non potest remittere ullam culpam nisi declarando, et approbando remissam a deo Aut certe remittendo casus reservatos sibi, quibus contemptis culpa prorsus remaneret. 7. Nulli prorus remittit deus culpam, quin simul eum subiiciat humiliatum in omnibus sacerdoti suo vicario. 8. Canones penitentiales solum viventibus sunt impositi nihilque morituris secundum eosdem debet imponi.

9. Inde bene nobis facit spiritus sanctus in papa excipiendo in suis decretis semper articulum mortis et necessitatis. 10. Indocte et male faciunt sacerdotes ii, qui morituris penitentias canonicas in purgatorium reservant. 11. Zizania illa de mutanda pena Canonica in penam purgatorii videntur certe dormientibus episcopis seminata. 12. Olim pene canonice non post, sed ante absolutionem imponebantur tanquam tentamenta vere contritionis. 13. Morituri per mortem omnia solvunt et legibus canonum mortui iam sunt, habentes iure earum relaxationem. 14. Imperfecta sanitas seu charitas morituri necessario secum fert magnum timorem, tantoque maiorem, quanto minor fuerit ipsa. 15. Hic timor et horror satis est se solo (ut alia taceam) facere penam purgatorii, cum sit proximus desperationis horrori. 16. Videntur infernus, purgaturium, celum differre, sicut desperatio, prope desperatio, securitas differunt. 17. Necessarium videtur animabus in purgatorio sicut minni horrorem ita augeri charitatem. 18. Nec probatum videtur ullis aut rationibus aut scripturis, quod sint extra statum meriti seu augende charitatis. 19. Nec hoc probatum esse videtur, quod sint de sua beatitudine certe et secure, saltem omnes, licet nos certissimi simus. 20. Igitur papa per remissionem plenariam omnium penarum non simpliciter omnium intelligit, sed a seipso tantummodo impositarum. 21. Errant itaque indulgentiarum predicatores ii, qui dicunt per pape indulgentias hominem ab omni pena solvi et salvari. 22. Quin nullam remittit animabus in purgatorio, quam in hac vita debuissent secundum Canones solvere. 23. Si remissio ulla omnium omnino penarum potest alicui dari, certum est eam non nisi perfectissimis, i.e. paucissimis, dari. 24. Falli ob id necesse est maiorem partem populi per indifferentem illam et magnificam pene solute promissionem. 25. Qualem potestatem habet papa in purgatorium generaliter, talem habet quilibet Episcopus et Curatus in sua diocesi et parochia specialiter. 1. [26] Optime facit papa, quod non potestate clavis (quam nullam habet) sed per modum suffragii dat animabus remissionem. 2. [27] Hominem predicant, qui statim ut iactus nummus in cistam tinnierit evolare dicunt animam. 3. [28] Certum est, nummo in cistam tinniente augeri questum et avariciam posse: suffragium autem ecclesie est in arbitrio dei solius. 4. [29] Quis scit, si omnes anime in purgatorio velint redimi, sicut de s. Severino et Paschali factum narratur. 5. [30] Nullus securus est de veritate sue contritionis, multominus de consecutione plenarie remissionis. 6. [31] Quam rarus est vere penitens, tam rarus est vere indulgentias redimens, i. e. rarissimus. 7. [32] Damnabuntur ineternum cum suis magistris, qui per literas veniarum securos sese credunt de sua salute. 8. [33] Cavendi sunt nimis, qui dicunt venias illas Pape donum esse illud dei inestimabile, quo reconciliatur homo deo. 9. [34] Gratie enim ille veniales tantum respiciunt penas satisfactionis sacramentalis ab homine constitutas. 10. [35] Non christiana predicant, qui docent, quod redempturis animas vel confessionalia non sit necessaria contritio. 11. [36] Quilibet christianus vere compunctus habet remissionem plenariam a pena et culpa etiam sine literis veniarum sibi debitam. 12. [37] Quilibet versus christianus, sive vivus sive mortuus, habet participationem omnium bonorum Christi et Ecclesie etiam sine literis veniarum a deo sibi datam. 13. [38] Remissio tamen et participatio Pape nullo modo est contemnenda, quia (ut dixi) est declaratio remissionis divine. 14. [39] Difficillimum est etiam doctissimis Theologis simul extollere veniarum largitatem et contritionis veritatem coram populo. 15. [40] Contritionis veritas penas querit et amat, Veniarum autem largitas relaxat et odisse facit, saltem occasione. 16. [41] Caute sunt venie apostolice predicande, ne populus false intelligat eas preferri ceteris bonis operibus charitatis. 17. [42] Docendi sunt christiani, quod Pape mens non est, redemptionem veniarum ulla ex parte comparandam esse operibus misericordie. 18. [43] Docendi sunt christiani, quod dans pauperi aut mutuans egenti melius facit quam si venias redimereet. 19. [44] Quia per opus charitatis crescit charitas et fit homo melior, sed per venias non fit melior sed tantummodo a pena liberior. 20. [45] Docendi sunt christiani, quod, qui videt egenum et neglecto eo dat pro veniis, non idulgentias Pape sed indignationem dei sibi vendicat. 21. [46] Docendi sunt christiani, quod nisi superfluis abundent necessaria tenentur domui sue retinere et nequaquam propter venias effundere.

22. [47] Docendi sunt christiani, quod redemptio veniarum est libera, non precepta. 23. [48] Docendi sunt christiani, quod Papa sicut magis eget ita magis optat in veniis dandis pro se devotam orationem quam promptam pecuniam. 24. [49] Docendi sunt christiani, quod venie Pape sunt utiles, si non in cas confidant, Sed nocentissime, si timorem dei per eas amittant. 25. [50] Docendi sunt christiani, quod si Papa nosset exactiones venialium predicatorum, mallet Basilicam s. Petri in cineres ire quam edificari cute, carne et ossibus ovium suarum. 1. [51] Docendi sunt christiani, quod Papa sicut debet ita vellet, etiam vendita (si opus sit) Basilicam s. Petri, de suis pecuniis dare illis, a quorum plurimis quidam concionatores veniarum pecuniam eliciunt. 2. [52] Vana est fiducia salutis per literas veniarum, etiam si Commissarius, immo Papa ipse suam animam pro illis impigneraret. 3. [53] Hostes Christi et Pape sunt ii, qui propter venias predicandas verbum dei in aliis ecclesiis penitus silere iubent. 4. [54] Iniuria fit verbo dei, dum in eodem sermone equale vel longius tempus impenditur veniis quam illi. 5. [55] Mens Pape necessario est, quod, si venie (quod minimum est) una campana, unis pompis et ceremoniis celebrantur, Euangelium (quod maximum est) centum campanis, centum pompis, centum ceremoniis predicetur. 6. [56] Thesauri ecclesie, unde Pape dat indulgentias, neque satis nominati sunt neque cogniti apud populum Christi. 7. [57] Temporales certe non esse patet, quod non tam facile eos profundunt, sed tantummodo colligunt multi concionatorum. 8. [58] Nec sunt merita Christi et sanctorum, quia hec semper sine Papa operantur gratiam hominis interioris et crucem, mortem infernumque exterioris. 9. [59] Thesauros ecclesie s. Laurentius dixit esse pauperes ecclesie, sed locutus est usu vocabuli suo tempore. 10. [60] Sine temeritate dicimus claves ecclesie (merito Christi donatas) esse thesaurum istum. 11. [61] Clarum est enim, quod ad remissionem penarum et casuum sola sufficit potestas Pape. 12. [62] Verus thesaurus ecclesie est sacrosanctum euangelium glorie et gratie dei. 13. [63] Hic autem est merito odiosissimus, quia ex primis facit novissimos. 14. [64] Thesaurus autem indulgentiarum merito est gratissimus, quia ex novissimis facit primos. 15. [65] Igitur thesauri Euangelici rhetia sunt, quibus olim piscabantur viros divitiarum. 16. [66] Thesauri indulgentiarum rhetia sunt, quibus nunc piscantur divitias virorum. 17. [67] Indulgentie, quas concionatores vociferantur maximas gratias, intelliguntur vere tales quoad questum promovendum. 18. [68] Sunt tamen re vera minime ad gratiam dei et crucis pietatem comparate. 19. [69] Tenentur Episcopi et Curati veniarum apostolicarum Commissarios cum omni reverentia admittere. 20. [70] Sed magis tenentur omnibus oculis intendere, omnibus auribus advertere, ne pro commissione Pape sua illi somnia predicent. 21. [71] Contra veniarum apostolicarum veritatem qui loquitur, sit ille anathema et maledictus. 22. [72] Qui vero, contra libidinem ac licentiam verborum Concionatoris veniarum curam agit, sit ille benedictus. 23. [73] Sicut Papa iuste fulminat eos, qui in fraudem negocii veniarum quacunque arte machinantur, 24. [74] Multomagnis fulminare intendit eos, qui per veniarum pretextum in fraudem sancte charitatis et veritatis machinantur, 25. [75] Opinari venias papales tantas esse, ut solvere possint hominem, etiam si quis per impossibile dei genitricem violasset, Est insanire.

1. [76] Dicimus contra, quod venie papales nec minimum venialium peccatorum tollere possint quo ad culpam. 2. [77] Quod dicitur, nec si s. Petrus modo Papa esset maiores gratias donare posset, est blasphemia in sanctum Petrum et Papam. 3. [78] Dicimus contra, quod etiam iste et quilibet papa maiores habet, scilicet Euangelium, virtutes, gratias, curationum &c. ut 1. Co. XII. 4. [79] Dicere, Crucem armis papalibus insigniter erectam cruci Christi equivalere, blasphemia est. 5. [80] Rationem reddent Episcopi, Curati et Theologi, Qui tales sermones in populum licere sinunt. 6. [81] Facit hec licentiosa veniarum predicatio, ut nec reverentiam Pape facile sit etiam doctis viris redimere a calumniis aut certe argutis questionibus laicorm. 7. [82] Scilicet. Cur Papa non evacuat purgatorium propter sanctissimam charitatem et summam animarum necessitatem ut causam omnium iustissimam, Si infinitas animas redimit propter pecuniam funestissimam ad structuram Basilice ut causam levissimam? 8. [83] Item. Cur permanent exequie et anniversaria defunctorum et non reddit aut recipi permittit beneficia pro illis instituta, cum iam sit iniuria pro redemptis orare? 9. [84] Item. Que illa nova pietas Dei et Pape, quod impio et inimico propter pecuniam concedunt animam piam et amicam dei redimere, Et tamen propter necessitatem ipsius met pie et dilecte anime non redimunt eam gratuita charitate? 10. [85] Item. Cur Canones penitentiales re ipsa et non usu iam diu in semet abrogati et mortui adhuc tamen pecuniis redimuntur per concessionem indulgentiarum tanquam vivacissimi? 11. [86] Item. Cur Papa, cuius opes hodie sunt opulentissimis Crassis crassiores, non de suis pecuniis magis quam pauperum fidelium struit unam tantummodo Basilicam sancti Petri? 12. [87] Item. Quid remittit aut participat Papa iis, qui per contritionem perfectam ius habent plenarie remissionis et participationis? 13. [88] Item. Quid adderetur ecclesie boni maioris, Si Papa, sicut semel facit, ita centies in die cuilibet fidelium has remissiones et participationes tribueret? 14. [89] Ex quo Papa salutem querit animarum per venias magis quam pecunias, Cur suspendit literas et venias iam olim concessas, cum sint eque efficaces? 15. [90] Hec scrupulosissima laicorum argumenta sola potestate compescere nec reddita ratione diluere, Est ecclesiam et Papam hostibus ridendos exponere et infelices christianos facere. 16. [91] Si ergo venie secundum spiritum et mentem Pape predicarentur, facile illa omnia solverentur, immo non essent. 17. [92] Valeant itaque omnes illi prophete, qui dicunt populo Christi `Pax pax,' et non est pax. 18. [93] Bene agant omnes illi prophete, qui dicunt populo Christi `Crux crux,' et non est crux. 19. [94] Exhortandi sunt Christiani, ut caput suum Christum per penas, mortes infernosque sequi studeant, 20. [95] Ac sic magis per multas tribulationes intrare celum quam per securitatem pacis confidant. M.D.Xvii.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sunday School: Catching Up

Looking back on my posts, I realize I haven't posted anything "Sunday school" since late August. Back then we were going through The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and I was posting some semblance of what I was teaching in class each week. In an attempt to begin again posting weekly what we are doing in class now, I thought I would write a (not so) brief catch-you-up-with-what-we-are-doing type of post. We had gotten to article 14, and were having very good and profitable class dicussion when a couple of things occurred: The new class year started, and my computer did a hard crash. I thought I was safely backing up all of my data, but due to a misunderstanding of the way my back-up software worked, I had not. I finished out the class year with hand-written notes. When the new class year started in Sept. we lost about four seniors, so I stopped the BFM lessons with article 14: The Christian and the Social Order. Actually we wrapped the last four articles all into one lesson, explaining that the first part of the document lays out what we believe, and that the latter articles define how we act in the world as a result of what we believe. In the future I plan to go through the BF&M 2000, article by article, about every other year. With a new group I wanted to start with something fresh, but I didn't have the material I was looking for, so we looked at church music for about six weeks. This was something I was wanting to do anyway. It was a very informal Q & A format where we talked mostly about the contents of lyrics, but also about music style. We talked a bit about preferring one another in love by understanding that the older folks liked a certian style of music too. We touched on how the communion of saints touched on singing music from every age. We covered the contrasting categories of objective/subjective, God-centered/man-centered, and then we disucssed the concepts of trinitarian hymns and psalter-style hymns. We had alot of fun discussing music in general as well as the music we sang the previous Sunday morning. I would send them into the morning service with 3x5 cards and have them critique the music service for the presence or absence of what we had been discussing during the class. I am convinced that these exercises have improved their understanding of worship in music. You should never underestimate kids. They are bright, you just need to give them something so they can show you just how bright they are. If you are teaching youth in Sunday school, I would heartily recommend you spend some time going over these concepts in music. It will improve their understanding and practice of worship in church. We are currently in our third week looking at The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis, trying to glean a better understanding of the nature of sin, temptation, and man. One reason I waited to begin the class, was that I was trying to save a buck or two, gathering up used copies hither and yon. The general lot of kids seem to be interested, and several of them are quite active in Q & A. The best part is no parents have cornered me yet wanting to know why I'm teaching their child about demons. My plan is to read one letter each week and then draw out lessons from them, and then ask questions to try to draw the students into the process. As always, anybody with suggestions or questions, please drop me a comment. I need all the help I can get.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I forgot to include a couple of juicy quotes from the message I highlighted in my previous post. After you read these, you will have to listen the audio, just to find out how these quotes fit into the message.
  • "She can be as plain as a mud fence."
  • "Neither one of us had the gift of tongues."
You have a great week end, and when you get to church on Sunday, worship God with all that is within you.

The Church: Why? and What?

Ever since I began blogging about a 18 months ago I have tried to get my pastor, Rod Harris, to join me on The Plowman and write a post every once in a while. He is the one who got me started reading web logs in the first place. I know he is a voracious reader of blogs, and remembers everything he reads. I often hear things in his messages, that I have read the previous week or two on someone's blog. He has a very keen wit, so I know he would be interesting to read. We discuss often what we read on the blogs about SBC life, so I know he is very knowledgeable of the machinery of the state and national conventions. I just can't seem to get him to write anything for me. Listening to his Wednesday message earlier today made me realize that he does his blogging from behind the pulpit. As some of you may know, I record, edit, and post pastor Rod's sermons on a podcast called Bulldogs and Piggies. As I listened to this Wednesday's message, getting it ready for publication, I realized how relevant it was to what is going on in SBC life. Simply titled The Church: Why? and What?, pastor Rod first discusses why the believer needs the Church, what is the Church, and what makes a church. It was so clear and succinct, and the application at the end was brief, but to the point. By way of application he laid out three things that the Church needs to do in a rapidly changing world:
  • We need to make sure we live out the truth we profess.
  • We need to work on incarnating the gospel daily, making the gospel flesh and bone as we meet people.
  • We just need to be the Church, who God called us to be. Easily said, but difficult to carry out. I figure as long as he is going to preach like that, then I am going to comment here, and try to provide a simple outline. Maybe two things will happen: You'll be curious enough to follow the sermon or podcast link in the right margin, so as to benefit from this sage's vast knowledge and insight. And hopefully someday I will irritate my pastor enough to cause him to jump in there and represent himself on The Plowman, or on his own blog.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Photos: Fall Landscape

IMG_4390.JPG, originally uploaded by Wayne Hatcher.

Well fall has finally finally hit here in Oklahoma. Most of the trees are starting to turn a bit now. These Sassafras trees are really beginning to turn. My wife Suzan slipped out and took these shots while I wasn't looking (actually, I was asleep).

IMG_4395.JPG, originally uploaded by Wayne Hatcher.
Here is a close-up of a holly she also took. It had rained in the night, and by mid-morning, drops still hung to the leaves. Be sure to catch all of the other wonderful photos at the Friday Photo Group.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Preaching at My Church

Well, pastor Rod returned from his well-deserved vacation to give an interesting message last Wednesday evening that he titled "I Did Not Know Chico Was a Baptist." My assistant recorded this so I haven't yet heard the entire audio, so I am just as curious as you are to know what "Chico" and "Baptist" has to do with this message, but while editing the audio for publishing, but I think it has something to do with all of us being ministers in the church and not just the pastor. If you are curious about this and the two messages delivered this Sunday, click the "Bulldogs and Piggies" link in the right margin. In this Sunday-morning message, from Matthew 7:21-27, pastor Rod focused on the problem of false professions, of assent without faith, profession without possession, of "salvation" without lordship. Pastor concentrated on two indicators of this fatal problem: 1. Verses 21-23 clearly reveal that a mere verbal profession of faith accomplishes nothing. There are many who are confident that they are saved, but it is a false confidence. Right doctrine with out a right relationship to God in Christ is of no value. Luther, Whitfield, and Wesley were all examples of men who knew the truth, had right doctrine, long before they were saved. We also see that good deeds aren't enough either. The issue is relationship. The issue is being rightly 2. Verses 24-27 point out that mere intellectual knowledge falls short of saving faith. The real issue is what is your life built upon? A set of facts you have agreed to? Or have you acted upon those facts by putting saving faith in Jesus Christ. See the analogy of the two houses built on different foundations. Saving faith goes one more step beyond assent to the facts, to acting on those facts. Are you willing to live the faith you say you believe? No one but God alone can tell whether you are savingly trusting in Christ alone. Salvation is a gracious gift of God, but there is a cost in believing, namely dying to self and living for God. It's not a perfect life, but a struggling life giving glory to God. What does the future hod for you. This Sunday evening, pastor Rod is nearing the end our study of the book of Joshua, covering the first 28 verses of the last chapter. I suspect the last message in this series will take place next Sunday evening. This passage probably contains the most famous quotation in the whole book: "And choose this day whom you will serve, . . .But as for me and my house. we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15, ESV). It is hard to live as light, when everything around us is geared for darkness. It is hard to be faithful, when all we ever see is unfaithfulness. In chapter 24, Joshua, at 110, on the threshold of eternity, challenges the children of Israel to a life of faithfulness to God. In this passage, when Joshua calls the children of Israel to a life of faithfulness, he is also calling us to a life of faithfulness. 1. In verses 2-13 we see that a lifestyle of genuine faithfulness demands a remembering of what God has already done in our lives. The central theme in this passage is what God had done in the past. This is something each of us need to do from time to time. We need to stop and reflect where we would be if God hadn't stooped 2. In verse 15 is that famous line mentioned above which points out that a lifestyle of genuine faithfulness demands a persistent determined choosing. Showing your reverence to God by serving Him faithfully in sincerity. In this passage Joshua is charging the children of Israel to get off the fence and whole-hartedly choose one or the other, God or the idols. This call to choose is not a point-in-time choosing, but a continual, ongoing choosing; choosing today, tomorrow, and every day that follows. This concept goes hand in hand with this morning's message, in that salvation involves this same concept. Salvation is not just a point-in-time decision, but an ongoing process, in one sense. It's not just "Who did you trust in way back then?", but "Who are you trusting in today, and every day?" 3. In verses 16-28 there is a call to vigilant watchfulness in a lifestyle of genuine faithfulness. Joshua warns the people to put away the idols that were already in their midst, and to incline their hearts toward God. May we also be found faithful. Everybody have a good work week. Listen to a sermon or two online this week. I do.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Faith Healing

When I was a kid in the 60's I can remember watching Oral Roberts' preaching and healing services on my grandparents' black-and-white TV set. Always under a tent, he would be strutting up and down the platform, hands a waving, sweating like a politician with his shirt sleeves rolled up, and mopping his brow with a white handkercheif. That was pretty neat stuff for a kid of eight or nine. Oral Roberts turned to building a univrsity in 1963 and a hospital in 1981, each here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Pictured above is the prayer tower, located in the center of the Oral Roberts University campus, where it is told that in 1980, while up in the tower praying, Oral Roberts had a vision of a 900-foot Jesus who told him to build a hospital. The City of Faith hospital lasted only eight years, basically proving too costly to run. Tulsa, with a population of around 200,000 at the time, already had four major hospitals. The City of Faith is now called the Cityplex Towers, with a few floors leased out to a small specialty orthopedic surgery center. Beside some other non-medical businesses leasing space, the facility remains largely unoccupied. The common joke around here in the 80's was "Why would a faith healer need a hospital?" All of the buildings on the ORU campus take on the futuristic architecture similar to the prayer tower and the Cityplex towers. It is an interesting campus, although I can't vouch the academics. Kathie Lee Gifford is an alumni, if that is any indication. Don't forget to see all of the wonderful photos of all of those other "churchy" bloggers around at the Friday Photo Group. Y'all have a good weekend. When you go to church on Sunday, remember, it's not about us, it's all about giving glory to God and to the Lamb.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pulpit Supply This Sunday

Our pastor Harris was out of the pulpit this Sunday on a much needed vacation. In his absence we were treated by the "pulpit supply" of Bowden McElroy. Many of you know Brother McElroy from his web log Interregnum. The message he delivered was entitled "Love Does No Harm", and was taken from Romans 13:8-10. Below you will find a brief outline. You can listen to the mp-3 audio here. Brother McElroy also supplied Trinity's pulpit back in March. You can listen/download those two messages at Trinity's audio site. We are always sad to see pastor Rod absent from the pulpit, but brother McElroy was more than capable in providing a faithful gospel-centered message. Thank you, brother Bowden McElroy.
What makes the church? The church is a body, a group of believers, gathered together in the name of Christ who do this: Leave no debt outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. (Romans 13:8)
  1. Love is an action, a debt to be paid, not a feeling.
  2. Love is ongoing. Love never quits. We can never say "enough".
  3. Love does no harm.
Challenge: Think about what a church is. It is not a building, set of rules, or grouping of tradions. God has called you here to love one another.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Photos: Our Lord's Community Church

These two photos were taken at Our Lord's Community Church, in Oklahoma City, where my wife and I met our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter to hear a couple of lectures by Michael Horton. Although I enjoyed both lectures that I heard, Dr Horton is at his best when he is leading a round-table discussion with his three friends, Kim Riddlebarger, Ken Jones, and Rod Rosembladt on The White Horse Inn. It was still well worth the trip. The OKC Conference on Reformed Theology hosted Dr. Horton during their fifth annual Conference on Reformed Theology. Dr. Horton also spoke at the conference on Friday, but I couldn't get off work to go. The audio from the conference should be available at in the very near future. At least that is what I was told. See all of the other excellent photos from Christian bloggers at the Friday Photo Group

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Saying the Amen

Here is a good post to encourage you to participate in church by saying the amen. Jesus begins a number of statements with "Amen dico vobis. . .", which is "Truly I say to you. . ." in Latin. When we use the word amen, we are affirming the truth of a statement made by another. When Jesus says "I am the way, the truth, and the life. . .", He is, among other things, calling Himself The Amen. We should be careful how we handle one of our Lord's names, but we should use it and mean it, all the same. Just some thoughts on a post about speaking up in church. Let me know what you think about a noisy congregation. Pastors, does it distract, or encourage you?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sunday Notes, October 8

I am going to start posting my notes of the Sunday messages at my church. My hope is that some of you will find the brief outline helpful, and maybe even prompt some of you to go to the download site, or even cause you to subscribe to the podcast and actually listen to the messages my pastor preaches. In any case I hope you will enjoy it. Drop me a comment to let me know what you think. Listen to the audio and find out how well I take notes. Please don't correct my spelling, though; that is why I got married. The links to the podcast, download page, and auto-iTunes subscriber are in the sidebar toward the top. Sunday Morning Message Pastor Harris describes his first pastorate, as he introduces this message on The Demands of the Gospel, from Matthew 7:13-20.
"When we moved from Fort Worth to the metropolis of Masham, Oklahoma, it was an adjustment. We got up and watched every car come down the road. There weren't that many of them. People would say "I went through Masham once, but I missed it. There was a truck parked in front of it.""
1. The truth of the gospel demands a clear-cut choice. Christianity begins with a choice. This passage lists the choices as two, which are two ways to salvation, one true, one false. There is but one way to salvation and life. It is a narrow way. Jesus puts the difficulty at the front of the gospel. That is not the way we evangelize. We make it sound nice and simple and easy, and then make the disclaimers: "Now, the Christian walk is difficult at times." Jesus didn't con anyone into the kingdom. That is the way we need to be. The narrowness of the Gospel lies in the fact that there is only one way to God. That is greatly hated in our pluralistic society. The SBC, some years ago, put out a series of prayer guides showing Christians how to pray for the salvation of peoples of other faiths. This set off a fire storm. We were accused of hate crimes. All we were conveying in this practice was that there is only one way to God, through faith in Christ. I still love the definition of religious liberty given by Donald Gray Barnhouse: "You are absolutely free to go to hell any way you choose, or you can go to heaven God's way." 2. The truth of the gospel demands diligence against false teaching. There are false prophets, on tv and behind pulpits. It doesn't matter how often they quote the bible. We have an obligation to judge every message, and test every word we hear. Here's a test for false prophets: 1) There is more than one way to God. 2) There are no disturbing doctrines in their message. 3) What kind of fruit does it produce? 3. Conclusion: "All have sinned". The road we are naturally on is that wide path. Has there ever been that time that you have gotten on that narrow way? No one just happens by that way. You have to make a choice. God, by his Holy Spirit, has to save you. The narrow road calls us to both embrace and reject. Sunday Evening Message Future Faithfulness, from Joshua 23 1. Future faithfulness is built on a grateful past. To confess that God is sovereign is to say that He providentially works so that what ever goes on around me, God's hand is in it. We should not trust our feelings, but what He has said in His word. Joshua pointed the people back to the things God had done on their behalf to preserve them and in conquering the people around them. Emotions should play a part in our faith, but they should never be the basis of our faith in God. Biblical faith is not a leap in the dark. We have reason to believe because of what God has said in His word. 2. Future faithfulness is established by personal obedience. Because God has blessed, we are obligated to joyfully obey Him. These charges by God were not racial in nature, but rather religious. See in verse 16: "if you . . . go and serve other gods and bow down to them. . ." God was not concerned with mixed marriages, but rather the people of God marrying unbelievers. 3. Future faithfulness is reinforced by a solemn reminder. Joshua reminds the people that God's faithfulness is a two-edged sword. The God who is faithful to bless when you obey, is the same God who is faithful to punish when you disobey. God has called us to faithfulness. May we be found faithful.