Thursday, September 28, 2006

Friday Photos: Storms

A line of thunder storms formed over eastern Oklahoma last Thursday, bringing us much needed moisture, without any of the nasty weather in the mix. The next day, the line reformed about a hundred miles east, over in western Arkansas. This time it was a bit more dicey, but still nothing really severe, just lots of rain. This first shot was taken about 3:45 p.m. from just east of the Port of Catoosa. Yes, Tulsa has a sea port. Later, back in Tulsa, this next shot was taken about 7:20 p.m. at the corner of 51st and Mingo, while I was waiting for the light to change.
He plants His footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.
Have a blessed weekend. Be sure to check out all of the other excellent photos at the Friday Photo Group.

Monday, September 25, 2006

What's Wrong With Southern Baptist Churches?

What do you think? Are Southern Baptists, as a group, "better off or worse", than the larger group in America that we are a part of, known as "Protestant Evangelicals"? How do we Southern Baptists fit into that larger group? Do we set the curve, or are we a part of the curve? When it comes to doctrine, faith, and practice, how do we stack up with the larger group? I just read Tom Ascol's post which discusses the push in the SBC for decisions and baptisms, and how low the retention rate is one year later. He goes on to say "When this is the typical fruit of typical evangelism--the kind that focuses more on getting decisions than making disciples--it is impossible to think of every reported baptism as a person rescued from hell." It looks to me like we are probably no better off than the larger group we are a part of. The following is a sampling of what I have been reading, but mostly listening to, in the past few weeks. Mostly discouraging, it has made me think that the SBC needs to quit quibbling over minor issues, such as alcohol resolutions, private prayer language, and baptism policies in the IMB, and start worrying big time about education, discipleship, and the gospel. I believe that these minor issues are just symptoms of a much larger problem, which is a largely uneducated, undiscipled, and unregenerate church. First, listen to the audio from the September 15th broadcast of the Albert Mohler Radio Program titled Which Comes First: Allegiance To God Or Country?, in which Dr. Mohler discusses a recent study done by the Pew Research Center which indicated that only 62 percent of American Evangelicals said that God came before country. That means that 38 percent polled don't understand that our citizenship is in heaven. I wonder how many of those polled were Southern Baptists. Another podcast that I listen to on a weekly basis, this one from the September 3rd broadcast of the Whitehorse Inn titled Zeal Without Knowledge The following are interesting exerpts from that podcast. The whole program is well worth listening to also:
(Speaking of modern Evangelicals) "The Gospel is gone (Rod Rosenblat)." "The leader of the second Great Awakening, in many ways, was Charles Finney. And he wasn't an Arminian. I don't want to give Arminians a bad name. He was a Pelagian. . . . He said that the church is basically a society of moral and social transformers. Finney gave rise to both liberal activism and conservative activism (Michael Horton)." "Jessie Jackson and Jerry Fallwell both have the same theological father, and it's Charles Finney (Kim Riddlebarger)" "All kinds of different political positions that are identified either with the left-wing side of the aisle, or the right-wing political side of the aisle, were all comprehended in this one revivalistic movement that has now split into liberal Protestantism and conservative Protestantism, but it's all basically moralism (Michael Horton)." "If our hearts are going to be on fire, the way God has made us is that the conduit to the heart is the mind. Mindless zeal has no virtue to it whatsoever . . . I don't know of any issue in the church today that's more grave, more serious, has more lasting consequences than the debate over imputation, a word that most evangelicals don't even know what it means. But there you're talking about the very heart and soul of the gospel itself. . . The term "Evangelical" is a misnomer in this day and age. How can in the world can you be an Evangelical, and never heard the term imputation? . . . The tragedy is that Christians think they know the Cross, but they don't. You remember the theme of the Reformation, post tenebras lux, after darkness light, but now the gospel has receded once more into the darkness. It's eclipsed, even in the so-called Evangelical church. If you ask an ordinary self-proclaimed Evangelical what the gospel is, they're saying "getting purpose for my life", "having Jesus in my heart", "having meaning to my existence", "having a personal relationship with Jesus". Those are all nice things, but that's not the gospel. The gospel has a content of the person and work of Jesus, whose work is appropriated to us by faith, and by faith alone (R. C. Sproul)."
And if that isn't discouraging enough, listen to the September 17th broadcast, also from the Whitehorse Inn titled Pursuing Faith in a “Follow Your Heart” Culture. The second quote is of an audio clip on the program. Here again, the entire audio of this program is worth the listen.
We're talking about the importance of words, and particularly what do you do with a so-called religion of the Book, what do you do with a religion that says "faith comes by hearing the word preached. What do you do with a faith that says you have to be grounded in the teachings of Scripture, a text? What do you do if that is your faith and you live in a culture that says "What are words for?" (Michael Horton) "We see it even in the seminary setting, where we get much of the cream of the crop of the churches of the reformed world. Twenty years ago, when I was the academic dean here at Covenant seminary, the students who came in and took the remedial Bible test, at that time, twenty years ago, one third of the incoming students did not pass the Bible test, two thirds did. Here, twenty years later, it's exactly the opposite. Two thirds of the students do not pass the Bible test, one third do. There's been that large a transition even in a half generation of the Bible knowledge of the best of those coming out of Christian homes, and the most wonderful of our churches. It's the erosion, not only of Biblical knowledge, it's the erosion of family, it's the erosion of church, it's just the way in which our culture has more and more attacked the family as well as the church. (Brian Chappel, President, Covenant seminary, St. Louis, MO)
And coming from Friesville back on September 7th is this disturbing quote from the post Finney's Follies:
You have read what I have stated before, but I’ll say it again, we in the evangelical community have a problem with seeing authentic faith from those who are “converted” in our churches. We experience many, many responses to our “gospel call” when we offer them. We have churches that are baptizing by the hundreds, if not thousands, and yet we find that many, if not the vast majority of these “converts” are falling away from the faith within a short period of time. Ray Comfort has claimed that 80-90% of “converts” fall away from their faith within the first year after their “conversion.” Billy Graham has been known to claim that somewhere in the area of 75% of the church is lost. Jim Elliff makes the claim that the Southern Baptist denomination is, on the whole, unregenerate.
Even yesterday in church my pastor began his message with similar statistics: "Three-quarters of all Americans claim to be Christian. . . If this is so, then where are they, as far as influence in the culture?" So, what do you do? Where do you start? Does any body have a clue? Does anybody even care? Sometimes I wonder. What do you think? I'd like to know.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

All the Way My Savior Leads Me

Our minister of music, Jim Davis (pictured left), surprised us this Sunday morning with special guests and special music. Pictured beside Jim is Noel Kaiser and his wife Phoebe. Listen to Jim, Noel and Phoebe's offering of All the Way My Savior Leads Me. Phoebe accompanied at the piano. Jim's fourty-plus years in music has benefited him with many such friends in Christian music. He never misses an opportunity to invite them to Trinity when they are in town and available. We are blessed. Thank you, Jim. Editor's revision, Sept 26: I made a terrible mistake. Although Jim knows the Kaisers through the Singing Churchmen, it was Ed and Betty Roseborough who made the contact initially to invite Noel and Phoebe to Trinity this past Sunday. Thank you, Ed and Betty.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Photos: Plumb Lines

This small decorative sandstone wall was probably not built with a plumb line, because it is only about five feet tall, but the plumb line clearly shows that the wall has begun to lean due to an inadequate footing. Because the weight at the end of the string is constantly drawn to the center of the earth, it is impossible for a plumb line to "lie", it is definitely the wall that does not measure up. God's law acts in the same way, showing each and every one of us that we have missed the mark (Romans 3:23) and need a different foundation, which is Christ (Matthew 7:24; 16:18).This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” (Amos 7:7-9, ESV) Be sure to check out the photos of other excellent Friday-Photo Bloggers at the Friday Photo Group on Flickr.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ten indicators that you might not belong in the SBC

1. The message you preached/heard last Sunday had more quotations from Presbyterians than from Baptists. 2. Most of the blogs you read are named after taverns. 3. You have a hard time finding something worth singing in the Baptist Hymnal. 4. Your Sunday-school class decides to build a piƱata for an upcoming class party, and everybody brings the state Baptist newspaper for building material. You wish Baptist Press came in hard copy too. 5. You try to spell words without using c's and p's. 6. You are considering names for your next child so that his initials will be R. C. 7. You suggest to your Sunday-school class that they use the Heidelberg Catechism for their next quarter's study material. 8. You own and have read every book John Piper has ever written. 9. An Advent wreath is the centerpiece on your dining-room table during the holidays. 10. You realize that now that your children are all grown, infant baptism isn't such an issue any more. (Mark Dever makes the point that at least one reason that the PCA is presently one of the fastest growing denominations in America is that Southern Baptists are joining it in droves. (By Whose Authority?; 9Marks; Washington, DC; page 26)) Bonus indicator: You have a hard time deciding wether to name your new family pet Bobby, or Paige.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Friday Photos

The Biltmore Estate: Home of George Vanderbilt On our way back from Greensboro this spring, we stopped and toured the Biltmore Estate, home of George Vanderbilt, grandson of the railroad tycoon Cornelius Vandebilt. When I first started walking through this fabulous house, located in Asheville, North Carolina, the first thing I thought of was "What extravagance!" After all, with a grand staircase at least ten or fifteen feet wide, and a giant wrought-iron chandelier within its spiral hanging from fourty feet above, what else can you think. Don't get me wrong, I'm not jealous. I have a nice five-bedroom house on four acres in the country, but the square footage of the magnificant Biltmore castle equals 175,000 square feet. That's equal to four acres! You can imagine my other thoughts. "Couldn't the money been put to better use? How much house does one family need?" Our tour began on the ground floor, where everything was big; big rooms, big halls, big stairs, a huge library, big windows, big everything. Working our way up everything became progressively smaller. When you got to the servants quarters on the fourth floor, two people could hardly walk side-by-side up the back stairs or down the halls. The bedrooms were just adequate, no more. And then it dawned on me; these bedrooms, halls, staircases, and even windows were larger than anything in my own home. How marvelous it must have been to have been a cook, or a chamber maid, or the butler in this place. From the fourth floor, the view was breathtaking. There was no lack of food, clothing, or shelter for anyone in the economy of this household. I am sure that the entire staff of this magnificent project benefitted from the wealth of the master of the house. For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84:10 ESV) In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2 ESV) But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV) Be sure to check out all of the other Friday Photos at the Friday Photo Group on Flickr.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Photos, Last Year's Labor-Day Vacation

The Mackinac bridge, Labor Day, 2005
Sunrise over Lake Huron, Labor Day, 2005
These photos were taken last Labor Day at the annual Mackinack bridge walk. We were staying with our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter, who lived near by. They have since moved, and now live in Oklahoma City, where there is more sunshine, warmer winters, and many more opportunities for my wife and I to get to see our "Jelly Bean". The five of us walked across (Well, the little one was strolled across.) in a couple of hours. With Lake Michigan on your right, and Lake Ontario on your left, the walk begins on the upper peninsula end of the bridge and ends in the lower portion of Michigan. This Labor-Day walk has been going on for a ton of years, and I am told that it symbolizes the migration of all of the sane folk back to civilization before winter sets in. Be sure and check out the Friday Photos Group posted on Flickr. The group has grown to 39 members, and many of your favorite bloggers post photos there.