Sunday, December 28, 2008

Was The Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) The Rich Young Ruler? (3)

Read all posts on this idea here.

After posting part 2 of this series last night, and reviewing comments left by a reader named Chadwick, many new angles to this idea popped into my head and I had a hard time sleeping. After church today I hit up my pastor with a theological question. I occasionally broadside him with something theological out of the blue, so he humorously braced himself. "Is there a reason you know of off the top of your head that prohibits the rich young ruler from being Saul of Tarsus?" His reply floored me. He was just discussing this very thing with his wife last night!

So, here I'm going to outline what I suspect so far as briefly as I can, and I will include my new thoughts. I may save detailed explanations until later. So, here goes...

A few years ago I started wondering about the Apostle Paul's past. Where did he come from and why did he persecute the church so much? Specifically, since he is first mentioned in the bible as Saul of Tarsus who was standing by during the stoning of Stephen, could he have been both alive and in Jerusalem during Christ's ministry? The early happenings in the book of Acts occurred just weeks or months after Christ's death, and revolved around the temple in Jerusalem. If so, would he ever have had occasion to meet Christ? He was after all a Pharisee, and the Pharisees spent much time in Jesus' face as He ministered. Specifically, I wondered (I don't know why) if he could have been the rich young ruler that asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. People just don't wake up one morning and decide to persecute followers of a religion, so Paul would have had a good understanding of Christianity and a fairly large chip on his shoulder to persecute it the way he did.

The rich young ruler encounters Jesus in the passage of Matthew 19, asking him how to inherit eternal life. When Jesus replies that he needed to keep the commandments, he asked which ones. Jesus read the second table and its summary, to love one's neighbor. But he purposely left out the tenth commandment against coveting, which was the rich young ruler's problem. Rather than picking up on this, he used his own keeping of Jesus' list to justify himself. Jesus told him to sell all and give to the poor and follow Him. He left disappointed because he owned much. But after the rich young ruler leaves, Jesus and His disciples continue to talk about him. He is the context for the subsequent conversation.

Jesus said to His disciples that it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. The context here was... the rich young ruler. In fact, it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter. The context here was... the rich young ruler. The disciples asked then who could be saved, if a rich young ruler couldn't. Jesus' reply was "With men this is impossible..." This is in reference to the man who just claimed to have kept all the commandments, the context here being... the rich young ruler. By now you might be noticing a pattern here. Each statement has as its context Jesus' interaction with the rich young ruler. I believe this pattern continues throughout the discussion. Jesus continued with, "...but with God, all things are possible." Now, contrary to many commentaries I've read about the rich young ruler leaving Christ for good, and God never desiring to save him because of his attempt at salvation by law, I'm now convinced that Jesus might be secretly prophesying to His disciples that this young man who they just heard would in fact enter the kingdom. There is grace even for him. So when Jesus said that all things are possible with God, the context was... the rich young ruler.

The reason I believe this is because the very next statement by Peter has, again, as its context... the rich young ruler. He said, "Behold, we have left everything and followed you. What then will there be for us?" Jesus just said the same thing to the rich young ruler, selling everything and following Him; he is still the context. Now for the exciting part. In answering Peter, Jesus told them about the kingdom, " also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Okay, there's a minor glitch here that the disciples didn't know about yet. Only eleven of them would sit upon the thrones. Judas Iscariot would betray Jesus and commit suicide. A substitute apostle would need to be selected (personally by Christ, like the others, and not by men casting lots - sorry, Matthias). Since the context hasn't changed yet, why should we expect it to change right now in the middle of Jesus' discussion? The context would still be... the rich young ruler. Yes, the rich young ruler, whom the disciples just met a few minutes ago, would be the twelfth apostle to sit on the thrones. This apostle would later be recognized as Paul. Jesus then concludes this section of His discussion with something very interesting. "But many who are first will be last; and the last, first." Interesting indeed, if just like throughout the entire discussion so far the context is still... the rich young ruler. This rich young ruler would be the last apostle appointed by Christ, yet in some way would be first. It is necessary to point out that Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles, and wrote the majority of epistles in the New Testament. He is the poster child for persecution and the major player in hashing out major doctrines. He is the key instigator of church planting, and writes extensively about church life and his relationship to the churches in the New Testament. He has become an apostle of first importance.

Now I'd like to back up and discuss how the rich young ruler encountered Christ. Matthew 19:16 says, "And behold, one came to Him and said, 'Teacher...' " But just before this (the first half of Matthew 19), Jesus had an encounter with the Pharisees that ended with, "And after laying His hands on them, He departed from there." It seems most likely to me that the rich young ruler wouldn't have come out of nowhere to meet Christ just after He left the place where He talked to the Pharisees. The rich young ruler would most likely have been one of the Pharisees interacting with Jesus, who then followed Jesus when He left and asked his question shortly thereafter. It is human nature for the most inquisitive among us to follow an authority figure out after his speech to engage in a smaller Q and A session. Saul was a Pharisee, so if he were the rich young ruler, he would fit this account.

More evidence for me that this is true comes from very striking parallels between topics in Matthew 19 and in Paul's writings in Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7. When we encounter several things together in important events in life, we have a tendency to repeat those things together when we tell other stories or make certain points later on in life. First, Jesus pointed out to the rich young ruler that coveting was his problem. Paul mentions in Romans 7 that coveting was his problem. It is the only commandment of the Law that he says that about. Now, if Saul were present at Jesus' discussion in the first part of Matthew 19, he would also have heard Jesus discuss God's Law with respect to marriage and divorce. A discussion of marriage laws followed by a discussion of the law against coveting. How coincidental, then, that in Romans 7 Paul discusses God's law concerning marriage followed by his own struggle with the law against coveting. Paul personalizes coveting, which is what Jesus was pointing out to him. Coincidence? Or is the rich young ruler the one and same as the Apostle Paul? He would be recalling his encounter with Jesus - a life changing one at that - in his writings to others.

Another parallel occurs between Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7. After Jesus discusses marriage according to God's Law, noting that Moses' inclusion of a divorce clause in the Law was only for the purpose of showing grace to those who were burdened with a marriage to heard hearted people, His disciples question whether it would be good to never marry. Jesus' response is mystical and personal. "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given...there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it." Paul was unmarried. Hmmm. In Matthew 19, Jesus combines talk of marriage with talk of remaining single for the sake of the kingdom. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul combines talk of God's law regarding marriage with talk of remaining single for the sake of the kingdom. Jesus' reply to His disciples would also have been a personal message to a listening Saul that Saul would use years later in writing to a church. Additionally, when Paul writes, "But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord..." and, "But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever...", I believe he has his personal encounter with Christ in mind. Jesus gave instructions that divorce shouldn't happen. Paul would have been there to hear this command directly from Jesus. This is why he could say, "...I give instructions, not I, but the Lord" because he was there that day to hear it directly from the Lord's mouth. But, when he says, "But to the rest I say, not the Lord...", he means that Jesus didn't teach that day on what to do in case you are married to an unbeliever. Jesus came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and not to the Gentiles. Marriages that Jesus would have come in contact with would have been between two members of the covenant. He ministered in Judea. Paul now had to deal with Gentile marriages where one became a Christian. He was now proclaiming his authority as an apostle to state that there should still be no divorce if the other party desired to remain.

One last thing. Matthew 20, a continuation of the discussion in Matthew 19, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. Jesus pointed out that the first laborers who were paid last shouldn't be envious because the late comers were paid first. They were simply getting what was agreed to earlier. This could have been a lesson to the eleven to not be envious of Paul who arrived last, thus working fewer hours.

Okay, I'm pretty certain given all this that the rich young ruler was Saul of Tarsus who would later become the Apostle Paul. The coincidences are simply too freaky to me to suggest otherwise. All comments are welcome and especially solicited. More later?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Was The Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) The Rich Young Ruler? (2)

Over the last few years I have compiled a small number of fascinating pieces of circumstantial evidence that suggest that the Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was the rich young ruler spoken to by Jesus in Matthew 19. I've already written short posts about a few pieces of evidence here and here. Take a minute to read them before proceeding.

With Paul alive at the time of Christ's ministry, and asking Him what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus' reply to keep the commandments wouldn't have needed to include the first table of the law. Paul, being a Hebrew of Hebrews and a Pharisee, blameless in the keeping of the law (or at least the letter of the law) wouldn't need to be told to love God as a summary of the first table. When Saul asked which commandments to keep, Jesus replied with the list of commandments in the second table - all except one - and the summary of the table, to love one's neighbor as himself. Jesus left out the tenth commandment against coveting. Saul, being a ruler, would have known the law well. He surely would have noticed that Jesus left one commandment out. At this point, Jesus was helping him out by leaving that commandment out. Saul should have replied, "Hey, you left one commandment out, thou shalt not cov... Oh, I see. Coveting is my problem!"

But coveting was the rich young ruler's problem. It seems that he sought to justify himself by refusing to acknowledge the missing commandment, and instead confirming that he kept all the others that Jesus mentioned. It became obvious that coveting was Jesus' point, since He asked him to sell all his possessions and follow Him. The interesting tie-in with the Apostle Paul is that Paul singles out this very commandment in Romans 7 about coveting. "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'Thou shalt not covet.' ...and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me..." Romans 7:7, 10. [emphasis mine]

If Paul were the rich young ruler, his encounter with Jesus would have driven him away in sorrow, because he owned much property. He would have then used this tragic encounter to persecute Christ's followers. His coveting would have been too important to him to follow Jesus. But the Law would have convicted him of the magnitude of his problem, the pinnacle of conviction taking place on the Damascus road. That he would have allowed himself to persecute Christ Himself because of his coveting is why he could refer to himself as the chief of sinners. More circumstantial evidence to come in future posts. Read all posts on this topic here.

Friday Night Potpourri

Okay, it's early Saturday morning, but I'm still awake. It's still Friday night. Here are some odds and ends; random thoughts.

  • Having a liquid Christmas. I received an assortment set of winter beers from my "Secret Santa." (* indicates it's empty) *Spaten Optimator malt liquor; Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale; Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Ale; Mendocino Brewing Company's Blackhawk Stout; *Sierra Nevada Porter; Pyramid Snow Cap Ale; Warsteiner Dunkel; Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale; Mactarnahan's Blackwatch Cream Porter and Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA.
  • "Where is the church, that I might find it?" I read an interesting bio (fairly long) on RJ Rushdoony's early ministry to an Indian tribe in Nevada in the 40's, and how his depression turned to optimism.
  • It's 3am and the whole family was just awake. The two youngest played musical chairs sleeping places, rotating beds, cribs, chairs, sofas, and in bed with Mrs. Scott. All the crying woke up our oldest. Yawn.
  • Our seeded back lawn area is growing in, but it will be a while before it is up to normal use.
  • Our middle son is a baseball fanatic, and he received a self-pitch hitting machine for Christmas. He loves it. But it's cold out on the back patio, even in the sun.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

No holiday dinner would be complete without at least one child wearing his or her olives. This was at our third Christmas in 24 hours. We have at least four each year. Mrs. Scott's family (mom + sisters' families) traditionally have Christmas on the 24th, our "nuclear" family on Christmas morning, my family on Christmas day, and Mrs. Scott's dad's family in January. Tonight we had olives for dinner.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


"...and the women said, 'Is this Naomi?' And she said to them, 'Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." Ruth 1:19b-20

Naomi's name meant "pleasant." Mara meant "bitter." Naomi had ventured into Moab with her husband, Elimelech because of a famine. Both her husband and two sons died there. She returned to Israel with only one daughter-in-law, Ruth. The other stayed behind with her gods. Both of Naomi's sons married Moabite women, and it appears from the passage that they did not worship Yahweh.

What was the cause of Naomi's bitterness? Was it her fault that she found herself in that situation, having lost everything? Was it Elimelech's fault? Her sons'? The passage doesn't say. Yet, she knew that God had dealt bitterly with her. Or did He really? Was that simply her perception? God turned the situation into a part of Jesus' genealogy. Ruth married Boaz and was David's great grandmother.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Did Jesus Go To Hell? An Explanation

The Apostle's Creed states that Jesus descended into hell. I've read less common alternate versions that say that he descended into hades, or descended to the dead. But did Jesus go to hell? I've never really heard an adequate explanation of this. I've read several books on the creed, with scores of comments and reference verses for every statement in the creed - except this one. I've also never seen any reference to it in the most important book of all, the bible.

I recently posted my concern on John Armstrong's blog as a comment, with one reply. Just today Andrew Sandlin posted this question with a letter reply to somebody who asked him, giving a different reply than the one on John's blog. Whatever the answer, something was lost in history, and the answer to this isn't cut and dried like the other statements in the creed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 5) - If I Miss Church Am I Missed At Church?

Read the entire series here.

And the eye cannot sat to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it us much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:21-25

My family has missed a lot of church over the last six months or so. We had some issues in our family - some that were church related in a way - that were extremely difficult, and it left us physically, emotionally and spiritually drained. We decided to take a month off from church because we simply needed the extra day of rest. We were also out of town maybe a couple of weekends, and we've all been hit with nasty colds and flu between some or all of us so that we've missed a number of more Sundays at church. Sometimes, we've stayed home with sick kids, or brought sick kids with us (not letting them attend, but sat with them outside). We may have missed more than a third of Sundays during this time; I can't count now.

In light of the above quote from the bible on the church meeting, I'm asking a question. If I miss church, am I missed at church? Does my presence matter? The passage makes it seem so. But is this the case only if abundant honor is bestowed upon me? Let's say, oh, about 238 people meet in the service on Sunday. If I'm missing, let's say, oh, about 237 people meet. Given the structure of the service - sitting down, standing up, singing, listening to the preaching, singing, listening to a prayer, going home - does one person missing make a difference? If I'm not there, does the rest of the congregation notice? Is one less voice during singing going to make a difference? Are two fewer ears listening to the sermon a big difference? Will somebody notice and say, "Hey, your presence was direly missed last week, and it affected our meeting. We really want to encourage you to be here next week, because we desperately need your caring, your gifts and your help"? If my experience is any clue, I doubt it. If my experience is reality, then, uhm, no.

As was pointed out in part 3 of this series, most people who attend church are passive. The pastor, the choir and maybe a few others do all the work, and the rest just sit there. Okay, there is singing, but like I asked above, is the difference between 238 and 237 going to make or break the worship of God? The pew sitters, it would seem from the passage I referenced at the top of this post, being less seemly in a great way, would have some kind of abundant honor bestowed upon them. But is this the case? I think not.

What is the difference between having your absence from church going completely unnoticed and some other member saying to you, "I have no need of you"? as is the case in the text? I can't see any difference. The passage claims that the minor players are cherished. Experience tells me that they are ignored or even dismissed. How did such a difference between God's word and reality come about? I'll discuss this more in upcoming parts to this series.

Part 4 . . . . . . . . Part 6

Monday, December 15, 2008

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 4) - Disconnectedness

Read the entire series here.

It is possible to feel loneliness, disconnectedness and a sense of helplessness in a large crowd of people. Many who live in the big city can attest to this. Some even find anonymity in large crowds. When one is in a group of people where they are supposed to be intimately connected - and yet aren't - the disconnectedness can be amplified. A bad marriage can be an example of this. Or a marriage where the two simply go through the motions. The marriage is supposed to be a close relationship, and when it isn't, it is much more obvious than if the two were mere roommates.

So it is with church. We are supposed to love one another, to bear one another's burdens, to fellowship with one another, to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. When this doesn't happen, the feeling of loss is increased. Something big should be happening here but it isn't. Like Solomon said, "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.

Part 3> . . . . . . . . Part 5

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Dense Fog

For the last week or so we've had some very dense fog, especially at night. I love the fog and the feeling of being socked in. Fog is peaceful and dampens noise. I've had the pleasure of jogging in the foggy morning several days this week and I could hear the fog horn at the marina in the distance. Okay, it can be less than fun to drive in, but I'm not always driving. Typically in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco and the coast get fog in the summer (higher fog) and inland areas get ground fog in the winter.

I always had first period PE class in high school, so we had many foggy mornings. The coach would send us out to run laps, and some would venture out only as far as the coach could see, then join the rest of the runners back on the way in, feigning being out of breath. I grew up between two ridges of hills, so the fog would settle in between. I had many experiences of sticking my head out of an open driver's door to see the dashed line on the road as the only way to navigate.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 3)

Read the entire series here.

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10:23-25.

It is interesting that this verse is quite often used as a biblical command to go to church. Is this what it says? Going to church is not even the context of the passage. The immediate context is loving one another. Stimulating one another to 1) love, 2) good deeds, and, 3) encouraging one another are the three actions that form the immediate context. The context requires community, or "one another." Forsaking assembly with others doesn't foster love towards others. For some, this was a habit that shouldn't be a habit. Assembling with one another seems to be a secondary thought to loving one another in this passage.

So, if this verse is used as a proof text for the command to go to church, and the greater context is stimulating one another to love, stimulating one another to good deeds and encouraging one another, doesn't it follow that these three things should be very prominent in the church meeting? As my friend Bruce asks on his blog: [Update: link is no longer available]

The above mentioned text gives three reasons for meeting together:
* Stir up one another to love
* Stir up one another to good works
* Encouraging one another
Pray tell me how going to a building to watch a paid religious worker perform even comes close to these three reasons for meeting together?

Most people who attend Church are passive. The staff does the work and they sit in the pew judging the performance based on their own personal feelings and preferences.
Maybe if the Sunday Church Service were much more geared toward Christians loving one another, fewer problems would exist in the church. Loving one another always seems to be expected outside of church, outside of the church meeting where meeting with one another is more difficult.

Part 2 . . . . . . . . Part 4

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 2)

Read the entire series here.

I'm going to take Part 2 of this series to tell why I chose the series title I did. Simply, "The Sunday Church Service" is what most of us can relate to. As my friend Bruce points out in his post What Hebrews 10:25 Doesn't Say, [Update: this link is no longer available] much of our own personal experience or ecclesiastical opinion is read back into the text. I'm the first one to point out that the Greek word ekklesia, most often [mis]translated into English as the word "church", has as its root meaning "assembly" or even "congregation." I'm providing two links that deal with this issue here and here. I'm not claiming to agree with everything said in both of these links, but if the good Protestants in my theological past can use this definition of ekklesia against the structure and teachings of the Roman Catholic church, I can surely use them against the structure and teachings of the Protestant church who have adopted nearly the same things over the centuries.

Most of us are accustomed to the Sunday Church Service (or "worship" service). Meeting on Sunday is nowhere forbidden in the New Testament. Neither is meeting in a building, with a cross. Neither is meeting at the same time every week. Neither is stained glass. Neither are chairs instead of pews. Neither is preaching, nor a sign outside telling passersby what is being preached. Neither is a choir or making tapes of the sermon or pastors, elders and deacons or fellowship meals in the basement. I'm not saying, either, that structures other than the ones most of us are familiar with are wrong. I'm just going to focus on what most of us know and address the possibility of reforming it from within. I'm going to address what I think is a lack of application of Scripture that results in a lack of real community, a lack of a sense of belonging and a lack of a sense of being useful.

Part 1 . . . . . . . . Part 3

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 1)

In this new series I will look at some things I think are ailing churches in America today. And have been for quite some time. Many people are leaving churches because they find no difference in church than they do outside of it. They either don't fit in, or if they do, they don't see a difference church makes in their lives. They see a lack of community in church.

I'm not going to talk about the obvious absurdities like mud wrestling pastors to increase attendance. Nor am I going to talk about music and which instruments are appropriate for church; nor about what women should wear on their heads or whether Calvinism is better than Arminianism. I'm going to look at problems in churches whose theology is fairly decent; churches that have had a rich tradition and history. I will touch on liturgy, but not as a main topic.

I will focus primarily on relationships within the church, most specifically the actual Sunday church meeting itself. These relationships are described by the bible. I will write about the relationships between God to man, and man to man.

A main area of focus will be this:

Has our American church tradition so focused on the worship of God - loving God according to the first great commandment - that we have neglected the second greatest commandment - loving our neighbor as ourselves - when we gather on Sunday?

I'm still sorting out things in both my own experience and in what the bible says about our relationships, so this series will develop over time. Hope you enjoy it, and as always, comments are welcome.

Part 2 .

Read the entire series here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

John Elway's Great Last Minute Comeback

John Elway was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He is probably most famous for his last-minute comeback victories. He has more come from behind victories than any other quarterback ever. Joe Montana is in second place and isn't even close. What is perhaps Elway's greatest last minute comeback isn't even remembered by most people. He was confronted by tremendous odds and circumstances.

It came in the last minute of the last game of his senior year of college. He was faced with a 4th down and 17 yards to go from his own 13 with less than a minute to play and down by 2 points. It was his school's rivalry game (I was in my freshman year at this rival school!). It is one of the ten biggest rivalries in college football, and the ninth oldest. A win would guarantee them a bowl game. A loss would keep them home on New Year's day. A win might give him the Heisman Trophy. He drove his team 87 yards in five plays taking 45 seconds. They scored. The drive was simply amazing.

But... Elway might have made the biggest blunder in history as he called their last time out before looking at the clock. Even though he pulled off a miracle, nobody remembers because of his mistake. Watch his amazing last minute drive by clicking here. Keep watching after they score to find out why nobody remembers his great feat. It will be obvious.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Line Between Faith and Stupidity

There is a line between faith and stupidity. Where is it? We've all done stupid things. Some were done "in faith", or so we thought at the time. Radical things are done. Sometimes those things are successful, sometimes not. Abraham left Ur and the disciples followed Christ. But these things were directly from God. David took on Goliath, in "faith", without direct urging from God. It could have been a disaster. He took a risk.

I've known Christians that have done wild, risky things, only to have God use those things greatly. I'm included in that group. Other things are failures and in hindsight they look really, really stupid. I'm included in that group. Where's the line? I don't know. I guess if we knew, then it really wouldn't be faith. Would it?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Busy With Other Stuff

I've been busy with other stuff and haven't been able to blog regularly this last week. Hopefully I'll be back this week to a regular amount of blogging.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dial "1" For Long Distance

For about a year and a half, I've been receiving voicemails on my cell phone from somebody in the medical field. They contain extremely personal, confidential, detailed and in some cases embarrassing medical information meant exclusively for the patient. A typical call might be outlined by the following: "Hello, X, we have a dose of Y for your problem Z. We need to fill out the insurance form A by Tuesday so you don't end up with a B that will require a C." On and on. These calls don't come every day so I'm not completely insane, but they come often enough that it's annoying. They always come when I'm not connected to my cell phone for some reason.

I've called the medical lady back several times telling of the wrong number. I even talked directly to her once saying that she keeps calling even though I've left messages before and to update her records. Well, today we played phone tag with me explaining yet again the wrong number problem. Finally, she called when I could answer. I diagnosed the problem while we were on the phone. All this time she has been calling a real number in a different area code without first dialing a "1".

Back when cell phones were gaining popularity, the phone companies decided to use what used to be exclusively area codes as the new cell phone prefixes so they wouldn't run out of numbers. A long distance call would now require a "1". But if somebody calls a long distance (123) 456-7890 without first dialing a "1", the local number 123-4567 will be reached, with the last three numbers making no difference. My prefix is also an area code so my number is the first seven of their ten digit long distance number. So, I hope she knows to dial a "1" now, or if the number was programmed somewhere maybe she can fix it. I hope nobody I know ever has to deal with X, Y and Z and have it end up in somebody else's voicemail.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Happened To The 80's?

When I was growing up back in the 70's, nostalgia with remembering the 50's was in. Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley and Grease were popular. Everybody dressed like Fonzie. T-shirts and blue jeans, '57 Chevys. Fifties dances at school, etc. America seems to look back on its childhood about twenty years removed. In the 80's there was a nostalgic return to the 60's. Woodstock era music, tie dye, Berkeley demonstrations. Radio stations played psychedelic and others 60's music. In the 90's, flared pants, choker necklaces, Marsha Brady hairstyles, Greg Brady sideburns came back in and were all the rage. Avocado refrigerators and lava lamps. BTO, Thin Lizzy and other 70's arena rock music was everywhere. That 70's show appeared on TV.

But now it's the 2000's. Where's the 80's? Leg warmers? Top siders? Sweaters tied around the waste? Parachute pants, Izod polo shirts, hair metal bands, video games? Did I miss something, or did a retro decade pass us by for the first time in 30 years?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Beautiful Fall Day

The weather was beautiful today. Late this afternoon I looked out the back window of our office. The shadows were long and the light was crisp. Somehow in the fall and winter the long shadows provide more contrast and sharper images. I just love it. Mornings are colder and blankets are part of sleeping. Getting up is harder because it's cozy inside those blankets.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What Would Jesus Brew?

Greg Qualls at The Beerean reflects on a great CNN question: What would Jesus brew? He links to CNN's article.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Voting No For President

Just like for many of California's ballot propositions, I'll be voting "no" for president. I don't like either candidate, so I think I should vote no. Maybe that should be an option. If a majority of the people don't like either candidate (or any of the other party's candidates) we should have the right to vote no on a president. No president would be elected, none would take office. All bills passed by Congress would sit unsigned and would never pass. Neither major party would be able to shaft the people. Maybe I can start a trend on Tuesday. Pass it on. Vote No for president.

According To Yahoo, You're A Spammer

Here's how Blogger works. Every time somebody leaves a comment on my blog, Blogger sends an email to me at a previously designated email address. This would be a Yahoo account of mine. Suddenly, and without any reason, Yahoo has decided that all comments sent to me from Blogger are spam and sends them to the spam folder. Then I have to go in and read them and tell Yahoo they are not spam, placing them in the inbox. Supposedly, by marking all this email as "not spam" it will help Yahoo in its filtering of my email. Anyway, keep commenting.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I Love Geography

I've always loved geography. I've looked at maps and globes my whole life, and now with Google Maps and Satellite, I can discover many new things at the click of a mouse. Highways, items of interest, people's houses. What was going on that day the satellite took the photo? Google recently updated their satellite photo of our house. The ugly dog house of the previous owner is gone, and our brick patio can now be seen.

I'm always amazed at how large the western US is compared to the east. Atlanta and Cincinnati are the same distance apart as from my house in the San Francisco Bay Area to Disneyland. And we're a six hour drive south of the Oregon state line. Metropolitan areas back east are so close together. Boston, New York, Philly, Baltimore and DC (four of the seven largest metro areas in the US) are all within the driving distance from San Fran to San Diego. Denver is seen as a western city, yet it is almost half way across the country from here.

If you head due south from Detroit, Canada is the first country you will hit. The county I live in, one of the smaller ones in California, is as big as Rhode Island. And when the big earthquake hits California, it will be the rest of the country that will fall off into the Atlantic Ocean.

World Serious

It's World Series time, and I love to watch. Of course, my Giants are absent, as usual, but I still watch. After three games, this one is turning out to be a good one. I hear that it is going to have the lowest TV ratings ever. I don't understand why. But those who don't watch are missing out. The Fall Classic always have something to remember.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Leaves A-Changin'

I've been really slow this year to notice fall arrive in all its color. I've felt the weather change, but this last week as I was out driving, there were bunches of trees that had already turned red. How did I miss all that? I even slacked on noticing our own silver maple turn. About a third of the leaves have started turning red, with most of those being only partially red. A few more weeks and we'll need to rake. This means jumping in the pile for the kids, an annual ritual at our house.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Childhood Memories

I still remember a great many things from my childhood. We never moved, and my folks still live in the house I was born into. We lived on a cul de sac on a private street. There were many kids close to my age, most of them boys. I still recall distinctly each parents' call of their kids to dinner. Both mother and father. I can still hear each door closing. Front doors, garage doors, screen doors. My next door neighbor's radio in his garage was one of the old wood boxes, tube operated, that had its own tonal quality. I can still hear, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog!" streaming out.

We played touch football between all the mailboxes and driveways. Telephone wires were goal posts for kicking field goals. We painted our own baseball diamond in the turn around. We had open hills behind us, where subdivisions now stand. Every year a grass fire came over the hill and headed down toward our houses. Neighbors scrambled and connected garden hoses together to soak shake roofs before the fire department showed up. A father and son down the street raced sprint cars for a hobby that was closer to a living. Their garage was their workshop.

Eleven houses grew to fourteen. Only two original families remain, but most were there for decades. It was a great place to grow up.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Blessed Are The Readers

Our oldest, now seven, came over to the other side of the table to sit next to me before I read the bible just after dinner. He wanted to read along. He's learning how to read so all the words wouldn't be familiar, and I was reading out loud faster than he could read, but he picked out a word here and there. I read the beatitudes. Every now and then something sparks and he is interested in reading. It's great to see enthusiasm like this. It will be great to see him read on his own. I wonder if he'll be a book worm, or just a boy who likes to play outside.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Internet Monk Link Added

I'm surprised I didn't already do this, but I'm adding a link to my blogroll for the Internet Monk, or iMonk for short. Michael Spencer is the Internet Monk, a "Southern Baptist" preacher, evangelist, thinker, apologist, etc. He lives in southern Kentucky. I put the term "Southern Baptist" in quotes because although he is a Southern Baptist, he often seriously questions many things that the SBC does and has become. I like him because he stirs the pot and even if I sharply disagree with him, at least he gets people thinking about things and welcomes differing views.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Affliction and Confirmation

Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, and the years we have seen evil. Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, and Thy majesty to their children. And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands. Psalm 90:15-17

This Psalm was penned by Moses near the end of his life. Our pastor preached using this Psalm on Sunday. Years of affliction and evil were Moses' experience. God's people wandered in the wilderness 40 years.

Oftentimes I think of affliction in the world today; even in my life. I hate the news. It is a continual reminder of how bad some things are. I refuse to watch it anymore. I wonder how I've contributed to affliction, and constantly feel it upon me. Sometimes it seems like the harder one works, the less effective that work is. I long for confirmation of the work of my hands. Most often I don't see how God could - or better yet, would - confirm it. I think sometimes that would be a miracle in itself.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quitting Church

Andrew Sandlin links to a Wall Street Journal book review of "Quitting Church", written by Julia Duin, a Washington Times religion reporter. Duin's point is that many people are leaving evangelical churches, contrary to popular understanding, and for reasons not obvious. To quote:

The faults she points to -- relying on her own reporting and survey data -- are many. They are surprising, too, running counter to the stereotype of evangelicals bonding happily in their churches. She reports, among other things: a lack of a feeling of community among church members, inducing loneliness and boredom; church teaching that fails to go beyond the basics of the faith or to reach members grappling with suffering or unanswered prayer; pastors who are either out of touch with their parishioners or themselves unhappy, or who fail to shepherd their flocks, or who are caught up in scandal, or who try to control the lives of church members in a high-handed way. She claims that many churches have "inefficient leadership models" and that many, preoccupied with the care of families, neglect single people.


Sunday, September 21, 2008


This last week really impressed me with the approach of autumn. It's not only in the sun, but in the air as well. I've left for work with dew on my car windows. It's been cooler at night. The sun has that orange feel to it. Leaves are falling from some trees. Our silver maple has started to change colors, even if just slightly.

Many of our boulevards around here are lined with trees that change brilliant colors in autumn. Each tree has its own timetable for color. There are red trees next to green ones, and some with a rainbow of leave colors. I can't wait.

Autumn is my favorite season of the year. It changes ever so slightly from summer through Indian summer into fall. The Bay Area's summer weather pattern of fog and ocean breeze changes to an offshore flow keeping the cool weather out in the ocean. Then the warm weather eases into crisp, cool days of raking leaves and playing football on the lawn. The World Series is a great time of the year. October is my favorite month. It will be great to share the season with our kids.

Weekend Potpourri

Some random things from this weekend:

  • At the click of a button we went from an exciting finish between the Giants and Dodgers, with the Giants winning 1-0 in 11 innings, to the red carpet parade of stars at the Emmy's. The two events were only a few minutes apart by car.
  • I sat on the front porch with my 14 month old. He waved at his mommy and brother as they left for the store, then he waved at all the neighbors. He sat in a front porch chair just like daddy.
  • I swept the driveway clean of all the gravel from the neighbor's backyard project so all the neighborhood kids that threw the gravel there to begin with could ride their scooters on the driveway.
  • I did a bunch of honey-do's, including hanging pictures. For each of our children, we have a collage of photos in a frame showing their first year. We put our one year old's up this time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What I'm Reading

Unlike many other bloggers, I don't often report on what I'm reading. This is because I'm simply not much of a bibliophile. But my friend Dale, who runs our church's "book table" (it's much larger than a table now, but the name kinda stuck), recommended a book to me. It's called "The Comfortable Pew" and written by Canadian author Pierre Berton in the mid 60's. He was a secular journalist who left the Canadian Anglican church twenty years earlier. He was asked by the Anglican church to write a critique of the church. It was quite controversial and became a Canadian best seller even before it was released.

It sounds interesting, and I'll write about it if I see some parallels with today's American church.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Yet Another Anniversary Of The World Not Ending

Today is the 14th anniversary of the world not ending. Harold Camping's 1992 public prediction that the world would end in September, 1994 didn't come to pass. His claim at the time was that the final tribulation, which started in May 0f 1988 according to him, would end on September 6, 1994, and that the sun would be darkened, the moon would turn to blood, the stars would start falling from heaven and the universe would soon convulse into Christ's return within a few weeks. It didn't happen. He has since revised his calculations and made many more failed end of the world predictions. His next is for October 20, 2011. This poses a problem as it would postpone the 2011 World Series indefinitely.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Wisdom And Grief

" much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain." Ecclesiastes 1:18

This verse resonates with my experience of the last 10 years of viewing the world through the lens of "a Christian world-view." This view can vary depending on what is considered, but maybe I can talk of this through "my" view. I relate the world to myself based on what I know of theology, philosophy, law, various doctrines that are held my men, the human experience, etc. The more I have learned about the world and how it relates to what I think God expects, the more grief and pain I experience. It's not like I only look outward with these things in view, I also grieve at my own life. I should, shouldn't I? It's not like everybody else is to blame for everything, but greatly my own doing. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The more I know about God, the worse the world and myself look.

There is also a realization that as bad as I think things may be, God can work through all this to accomplish great things. As grieved as I am about the current state of things, and as much pain as it causes, still I am optimistic about the future because God directs it. This doesn't always (or most of the time anyway) result in feeling better about my own lot in life because I know I can be a complete failure at everything I do with God still making the world a better place despite my situation. In general, I tend to be optimistic about the kingdom, yet pessimistic about my own life. Short of copy/pasting the entire bible in the comments section, if anybody has a pill to cure this, email me a copy of the pill. I know paradise is a ways off yet, and it will take a resurrection for us to enjoy it in fullness.

Life is full of bitter pills to swallow, yet there is also some joy. I cannot yet exult in my tribulations nor take comfort in my afflictions to any moderate degree. I often wonder if my problems are God's way of making things ultimately good for me or His way of calling down judgment upon me. They seem to fit both categories equally. Are my problems a result of my own stupidity and sin, or are they just part of the landscape of life caused by all sin and apparent random futility? I feel mostly as if I don't have the ability to discern between the two and lack the ability to know where to begin repentance. I often see how I think God meant for things to be and think to myself, "if they only knew." But then, if everybody else only knew, would they do what they knew to be right? It's less of a crime to God to do something wrong in ignorance than to do it with knowledge. Maybe I should be thankful that most people just don't know everything. That way, God can change things on His own terms without people thinking they had a large hand in it. Ignorance just might be bliss. I guess I missed out on that one, huh?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

She Walked Out Of Church And I'm Adding To My Blogroll

Julie Neidlinger lives in North Dakota. A few weeks ago she went to church and was disgusted by the phoniness and trendiness of church. So she walked out. Relating her experience to a cover story by World magazine, she wrote about walking out of church that day on her blog. Take a minute to read it.

What happened next was something she couldn't very well predict. Her blog post made it around the internet and she was flooded with comments and personal email. She was misunderstood, taken out of context, rebuked, questioned. Numerous others linked to her blog. World magazine itself took up the issue and posted an article about it. People questioned her motives, her attitude, her ability to get a date on Friday night (She's single, 34, and wonders about the state of evangelical Christian men today). They took her complaints out of context and used them as a pretext for believing that she was on "their side" of arguments about the state of the church today, and whatever other petty issues were convenient. None of these people even know her.

I was fascinated by this and followed as many rabbit trails as possible trying to get an idea of how people think and react. What is most amazing about all this is that her post was very simple, and simple to understand. Yet many took even second hand comments on remote blogs and painted life pictures of her, like being bitter and dateless, maybe not even a Christian. It's amazing how sketchy misinformation can be used to create such wacky versions of the universe and dismiss people as meaningless.

I like the way Julie writes (her blog is called and has subsections of her blog that I'm interested in, such as blog and studies. I'm adding her to my blogroll. It's also a good time to add Stupid Church People as a link, because it's a blog by a former pastor, I believe, who writes about stupid things church people do in the name of Jesus. It's a good reality check.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Life Blues

I've been feeling lately like writing a series of posts from the standpoint of lamentation. Not about lamentation, but in lamenting. Our family has experienced a number of difficult things in the past two years. Things that go beyond explanation or imagined cure. My theology has also developed to a point of viewing the world in new ways, some not always packaged neatly with bows and ribbons. As joyful as the Christian life can be, there is also much grief, pain and depression. This can be found on the pages of Scripture from many of the most prominent biblical writers. Even Jesus Himself - no, especially Jesus Himself - experienced the suffering of the human condition. I have a hunch I will be able to write about such things only if I am currently in that particular mood. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Six Year Old Installs Google Toolbar

Our six year old son plays video games on the Cartoon Network website and the Lego site. Somehow, he managed to accidentally install the Google toolbar search window to our computer's toolbar section. Somehow. I've been wanting that little box for quite some time because I have it at work. When confronted with this deed, he replied, "What's a Google?"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

King David: Blues Singer [Re-Post]

Originally posted September 30, 2005:

Ever notice how many of the Psalms were written when the author was in anguish over life's terrific problems? The old addage, "you can't sing the blues unless you've lived the blues" applies here. Since the Psalms were all set to music, that would make King David (and maybe Asaph as backup vocals) a blues singer.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Survey: How Long Have You Been A Christian?

If you are a Christian, that is. I'm polling you to find out the length of service of my readership. Leave your answer in the comments section. If you're not a Christian or no longer one, you can answer with relation to your own beliefs. Okay, to make it more informational, maybe I'll add a few more questions:

  1. How long have you been a Christian?
  2. At what age(s) were you baptized? (or you haven't been yet)
  3. What denomination or affiliation do you have? i.e. Methodist, Roman Catholic, Dutch Reformed, Reformed Baptist, Non-denominational, etc. (set aside the stigma of labels for a minute)
  4. Have you read the entire bible?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Vacation

I've been on vacation from work this last week, and I missed about four days of blogging on From The Pew. I fell to the temptation that family was more important than blogging.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Day At The Beach

The Scott family travelled to the beach yesterday and had a great deal of fun. We went to Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, as the coastal highway winds. It was overcast all day, the fog clinging very close to the coast. Sun appeared at about four blocks inland. It was about 65 degrees, just about perfect. The kids built sand castles and tide barricades with other children playing there. Our middle son threw sand into onrushing "waves" all afternoon, gaining endless delight. Our oldest was running in and out of the water as it came in. Our youngest was exploring the sand and discovered that throwing a ball made it roll down the sand incline toward the ocean. Mrs. Scott and I took a lot of photos.

Late in the afternoon we escaped to hunt down some food before the kids fell asleep. We missed by five minutes. So we trekked a great distance toward home while the kids slept. We tried to eat at one of those chain deals. We were told of a 15-30 min wait. Almost an hour later we were told that there were only two tables in front of us so we were close. By that time, the kids had lost it. We had to split, very disappointed. We pulled out a few snacks and made it to Mel's Drive-In (yes, that small chain of restaurants made famous by the movie American Graffiti) and everything was made right. They have a great juke box full of oldies, good food, and waitresses that we see every time we go. They love our kids and have time to chat, so that makes it all the better. A good day of fun.

Autumn In The Light

On Tuesday, I caught a first glimpse at a sign of autumn, a slight orange feel to the sunlight caused by a lower sun in the sky. Summer has a bright sun; so bright that it cancels out the shadows it creates. Winter has long, very sharp and crisp shadows. Autumn has longer shadows than summer, but a slight orange tint to the sunlight. Or at least that's how I see it. Fall is my favorite season of the year. It'll be here before we know it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 26) Christendom And A Dangerous Open-Door Church Policy

Racking my brain over the recent posts (here and here) made at Internet Monk regarding church membership, I'm going here to combine my thoughts with another concept I have yet to write about: the relationship of church to its surrounding culture. This might explain why so many churches today feel the need to resort to so many extra-biblical methods in constructing man-made church membership systems.

Hearkening back to parts 14, 15 and 17 of this series where I commented on Part 2 of Pulpit Magazine's article on church membership where elders at Grace Community Church admit that they don't know who to shepherd, I quote the following:

Elders can shepherd the people and give an account to God for their spiritual well-being only if they know who they are; they can provide oversight only if they know those for whom they are responsible; and they can fulfill their duty to shepherd the flock only if they know who is part of the flock and who is not.
My sense is that many church leaders are simply overwhelmed by the size of their congregations and feel the need to resort to methods that reduce their responsibility to smaller numbers. They make up extra-biblical requirements such as giving ascent to sectarian confessions or making covenants with each other (as if there were anything to covenant about that isn't already included in the New Covenant of Christ's blood). But, looking at several scenarios that describe a church's relation to its culture might shed some light.

Scenario 1: Small churches in a culture hostile to Christianity (such as the first several centuries A.D. in the Roman Empire, or behind Iron Curtain communism of the 20th century, or within communist China or North Korea today, or in any number of Muslim societies) tend to have "closed-door" policies and meet in secret out of fear of persecution. Secret symbols (such as the fish), or sayings are used to denote real Christians before meeting with them. Great care must be taken in not revealing the existence of church meetings simply out of concern for the lives or property of others. Church leaders know who are theirs to disciple, and they know them intimately.

Scenario 2: Churches that exist in societies that are dominated by Christianity, i.e. "Christendom" (such as the middle ages with the Roman church, many post-Reformation protestant regions, Puritan New England or the Antebellum South, or even many regions within America during its first several hundred years, or even the synagogues of ancient Israel) tend to have "open-door" policies and meet in buildings with open doors, completely accessible to the general public. Communities are made up of a majority of professing churchgoers, and everybody knows everybody else's business in general. There is little threat of "outsiders" entering in to cause persecution or other problems since everybody in the community is already "on the inside." Church leaders know who are theirs to disciple, and they know them intimately.

Scenario 3: Many churches today exist in a society increasingly disinterested in Christianity and increasingly hostile to the gospel of Christ. Yet they continue with an "open-door" policy. Communities are made up of wildly varying religious beliefs, and churches are infiltrated by all kinds of strange people with greater freedom of mobility and transient lifestyles. Anybody who is a spy for the government or a foreign religion or a pot-stirrer or divisive fool or atheist or unbeliever can enter the doors anonymously at any time and cause havoc. Church leaders struggle with knowing who are theirs to disciple, and fail as a result of having little legitimate control over their congregations. They complain quite a bit about declining spirituality and faithfulness in churches today, but really bring on their own problems by allowing it all in right through their open doors. They therefore resort to draconian legalisms to define what a disciple is. Real Christians who are real Christians can often fail to measure up to their definitions and exactments, and suffer as a result, and are often the ones blamed by frustrated church leaders for their own inability to deal with their flocks.

I'm wondering whether in today's religious climate churches that fit scenario 3 wouldn't be better off with a "closed-door" policy. Church meetings would be private affairs in private homes or buildings, and those who assemble would consist of only those that the shepherds are currently discipling. New converts would come via evangelists or by lay-ministering, but only those new converts would be invited to church meetings. Evangelism wouldn't happen in church to a great number of unbelievers, but out in the world. Church leaders would know who are theirs to disciple, and they would know them intimately.

Part 25 . . . . . . . . Part 27

Monday, August 11, 2008

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 25) Internet Monk Series

Michael Spencer, aka the Internet Monk, or iMonk for short, has started an at least two post series on church membership. His first post is an interview with Jonathan Leeman with 9 Marks Ministries. I am excited about his series, but am not holding my breath in expectation of something new and refreshing from the evangelical community.

Spencer states a basic concern for his series: "Is the concept of local church membership viable- even essential- today or should it be abandoned?"

My answer to his question would be this: The concept of local church membership as described by the bible is both viable and essential - today and always - and should never be abandoned, but the concept of "formal" church membership as put forth by many churches and their pastors today should be abandoned as quickly as possible.

Part 24 . . . . . . . . Part 26

Friday, August 08, 2008

Baseball and John Armstrong - A Great Day

Over the years I have gained a great friend through the fine pastime of blogging; John Armstrong. John is a minister who lives in Chicago and shares along with me a great love for three things: theology, blogging and... baseball.

John's ministry brought him to the San Francisco area this week and we wanted to catch each other at a Giants game (John is on the right in the photo). Needing to spend time with his ministry supporters, John offered to meet me at the game early and spend an hour and a half together during batting practice, so I bought a single ticket for myself elsewhere, confident that the pre-game time would be cherished. But God answered a previously made "selfish" prayer of mine that I haven't yet revealed to John. Namely that one of the attendees in their group would cancel and I could spend the entire game with John. (John, please forgive me and apologize to him for me!)

And that's what happened. The other two men in the group were Don Broesamle, an elder at the Church of the King, Santa Cruz (Andrew Sandlin's church), and a man named Tyler. These men were a delight, both as Christian men and men who loved baseball. John is a lifelong Braves fan (the Giants played the Braves on Wednesday) so he had so much insight into their team. We shared stories, good natured ribbing (John thought Petco Park in San Diego is a better park than AT&T) and much laughter. Peanuts and intense "digestion-challenged" ballpark food provided for a few good chuckles, too. Don was a gracious man as well, and I'm glad I got to meet him and talk for a few hours. He did chaplain work for the Giants (other Bay Area sports teams, too) back in their "God Squad" days.

I will treasure my memories of this day. Thank you John, Don and Tyler. The Giants beat the Braves on a good pitching performance from Tim Lincecum. Read more about the baseball side of the day over at my From the Bleachers blog.

Monday, August 04, 2008

That God Shaped Void

Every now and then I want to write on a very specific thing I've been thinking about, only to come across somebody else who does first. This in turn triggers my post. Today I came across a post from Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk (aka iMonk), about the idea of the God shaped void. I've heard it said a thousand times in preaching and teaching and in common Christiantalk that there's a God shaped hole in everyone's heart, and that unbelievers fill it with everything else except God. They sense the void, and are extremely unhappy with life. Their gluttonous appetite for superficial things leads them to mask their despair with vain materialism. What I didn't know was that the original idea supposedly came from St. Augustine. The iMonk's post contains a link to his older post on this.

A few months ago I started thinking about this, since I heard the God shaped hole thing somewhere, and I realized that in general, unbelievers were capable of being quite happy and fulfilled with life. Many of them don't live in despair and generally aren't clutching at anything and everything to try to add meaning to their lives. I also saw an unbeliever comment on a Christian's blog somewhere a few months ago about his unbelief or atheism (or whatever), and other Christians' replies to him that he was leading a meaningless life and was depressed about it. He replied with incredulity that others could possibly know this, and their reply was that he was lying to himself because they knew better!

The Scriptures say many things about men's hearts and thoughts, but they also say much about the happiness and contentment of nonbelievers. Luke 16 (the rich man and Lazarus) describes the rich man "gaily living in splendor every day." Gaily living? How was this man living gaily as opposed to in superficial pretense? David opines in Psalm 73 about his witnessing of the wicked being at ease and prospering while he himself is stricken and afflicted. There are many other examples of unbelievers finding joy in earthly things. They trust in money and fame and worldly achievements. Why is it thought that these things can't bring joy? It seems to me that often we don't try to understand those around us and simply rely upon some incomplete interpretation from our pet bible teachers. Unbelievers often see through this and discount our witness, while we think it's all their fault all along why they don't listen to us.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bible Triple Espresso

Some people gain great comfort from reading the bible before going to bed. Some people teach that it is a necessity of life. Not so for me. Reading the bible before bed is sure to induce insomnia. Scripture is the sword of the Spirit and divides soul and body. The bible sets me to passion. Reading it before bed is like a triple espresso that sets my mind on fire. I have a very active, analytical mind and it ponders and churns and constructs. I usually drink [update 08-08-08: I usually drink a beer - didn't want to give the impression that I hit the bottle hard] before I go to bed to dull and numb my mind so as to get any sleep at all.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


666 is the number of the beast, right? Okay, it's also the number of posts I've made on this blog. This is number 666. For those of you religiously stupidstitious people, stop reading this. If you've made it this far, it's too late, though, curse is on you. Curse? Whatever you make it to be. Maybe I'm the antichrist. Bwahaha!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Do You Know Jesus Christ?

John Armstrong asks this question in the body of his post, "What is a Christian?" :

I think this is the question: Do you know Jesus Christ? Not, "Have you prayed a prayer to accept Jesus into your heart?" And the question is not, "Are you a church member?" Or, "Do you know the Bible?" Or, "Did you get training in theology?" It is not even about the sacraments or holding to the correct creedal understanding of salvation. The question is: Do you know Jesus Christ?

This question has always been a difficult one for me for a number of reasons. Mostly due to the extra-biblical baggage added to it by whatever circle I've been part of. Evangelical types often place importance on whether somebody is a true Christian by the quality and consistency of one's "personal quiet time", how often they "witness", etc. Staunch Calvinists often require that one know all their pet doctrines. Others place special emphasis in knowing Jesus on gushy feelings or other-worldly experiences or formulas for victorious living.

Well, I'm personal quiet time challenged, I'm not an evangelist, and we're saved by God's grace, not by knowing the correct things about God's grace. I'm not "intimate" with God as many people require. I'm not "intimate" with anybody, really. Okay, I am married with children, but I'm not overly emotional and am not a touchy feely type. I don't spew my feelings every five minutes. "Abba" Father is portrayed a bit more intimately than I'm used to in relating to others.

Maybe I really do know Jesus because all the other junk doesn't register with me.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Heat Wave and Warm Summer Nights

We're having a heat wave this week. It reached 109 degrees today, almost 10 degrees above the forecast. The weatherman missed. This summer I have a car with air conditioning. Wahoo! With our six year old out in the back yard in the dark, it's still about 95 degrees outside. He's playing with the neighbor kid over the fence. I remember those care free warm summer evenings of my childhood. To be a kid again.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Theology Subculture Stereotypes

It's amazing how frequently I can read a blog comment and discern the theological (or other ideology) influences of that individual. I'll think, "gee, this argument, the wording, the terminology, the attitude, sound like a, b, c, x and y." I'll click through to their own blog and check their links. Yep. There's the links to a, b, c, x and y.

I also like to like to check other bloggers' links, then the links that those people link to. It's amazing sometimes how linked together in groups people can be. Somebody who links to a, c, d, y and z are likely to have many of the same links by friends of theirs. Hmmm.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 24) - The Fruits of Formal Membership

I happened across a pastor's blog while link surfing, and found a very good example of the logical conclusion of the idea of formal membership. This pastor is a Southern Baptist pastor and he made a couple of posts about a membership problem the SBC is dealing with. (Read his first post, then his second post that links to this one here about the meeting [Update: links no longer in use]). It seems that his denomination has 16 million "members" while only 6 million of these "members" actually attend church on a regular basis. This problem was addressed at an annual meeting, and the discussion had some interesting twists. In trying to tackle the problem, they found it necessary to look at how "church" is defined, then had to look at what constituted an "ordinance." This might not be necessary for a church if it looked at what a member actually is. It is a baptized Christian who assembles. Being tempted to redefine "church" or "ordinance" based on an understanding of "membership" is dangerous, because it looks at the relationship inside out.

There was also talk of purging all non-attending members from the rolls, but an objection was made that this would eliminate their greatest source of "evangelistic prospects." I'm not making this up. All this shows how basing one's idea of membership on things other than what the bible demands of us can lead to huge problems. Human nature (the sinful one) dictates that people will take the "formality" of "formal" membership and run with it. Apparently 10 million SB's think they can be members without assembling. They view "formal membership" as license to, well, do nothing. Membership is found in assembling, not in being formal. The fruits of each of these concepts will always follow.

This is a real life example of what I have said before: "formal" memberships serve mostly to create the very kind of Christians (non-attenders and pew-sitters) that they are designed to prevent.

Read parts 1-10 here, parts 11-20 here, and parts 21-30 here.

Part 23 . . . . . . . . Part 25

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gas, Food and Loading

I'm sure most of us have seen those signs on the highway that read, "Gas, Food and Loading." I love travelling on long trips by car, and I notice things along the highway, including those "gas, food and loading" signs. They're not as common in the middle of the most populated metro areas, as most exits have desired services of motorists, but on the outskirts of town or on the open highway, the "gas, food and loading" signs tell motorists that this next exit has the basic necessities of road trip travel. I've noticed the "gas, food and loading" signs ever since I was old enough to read as a small child. I've seen a million "gas, food and loading" signs and continue to notice them every time I travel.

Quite often, the "gas, food and loading" signs are accompanied by icons of a knife and fork or a gas pump to illustrate to the [supposed illiterate or foreigner] traveller what he can expect at the next exit. I've taken advantage of the "gas, food and loading" signs many times in finding what I need while travelling.

I always wondered what the term "loading" meant on the signs, as I knew what gas and food were. I assumed that those people on the road needed some kind of supplies to continue on their trip, so they would need to "load" supplies in their car. But, whatever needed to be loaded, the next exit was sure to have it.

One day in my mid-thirties I was driving down the highway and saw a "gas, food and loading" sign. Except, I wasn't paying attention to the sign; it just appeared in my vision; I didn't consciously read the sign. Because of this I mis-read the sign. This particular sign didn't say, "gas, food and loading", rather it said, "gas, food and lodging." I did a double take, a triple take, and a long stunned focus. I was absolutely floored at what I read. It took a while, but I realized that I had not mis-read this sign, but I had mis-read all of the previous signs my whole life. The first time I ever read the sign when I was a small child I read it incorrectly, and it stuck with me the rest of my life. Or until my mid-thirties at least. Then I realized what the meaning of this was. The word "loading" wasn't there, as in needing to load up on supplies, but the word "lodging" was there, meaning that there were places to stay the night. It all came clear to me.

I am firmly convinced that most of us read the bible the same way. The first time we read something - or have something explained to us by somebody else - we often get the wrong read, and it continues with us a long time, maybe the rest of our lives. We re-read the same error over and over, convincing ourselves that the error is true, making it all the harder to discover any error at all. Sometimes, God has mercy and reveals the real truth to us. I hope you find the same.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin: Baseball and Football

With George Carlin's passing, I'd like to link to my favorite routine of his, Baseball and Football. It is Baptist friendly because it has no profanity...but that's beside the point.

Today I also viewed for the first time his "7 words" clip, or at least it was one of the many derivatives of it. He showed the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the television elite by comparing several of the seven banned words and showing how the worst of them was actually visually, virtually and imaginatively displayed all the time, yet the least offensive of them was never hinted at in all these years. Food for thought from George Carlin.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why Do We Believe What We Believe?

I just saw an article claiming that drinking even up to six cups of coffee a day has many health benefits. It's all backed by scientific research, of course. This contradicts other articles I have read in the past claiming that coffee is dangerous to one's health; backed by scientific research, of course. Same for alcohol and many other things in life. Why should I believe any of them? Why do I or don't I?

I've never been to England, so why should I believe it exists? Why should I believe Adolph Hitler was a real person who actually lived? Some people claim that the Apollo moon shot was a Hollywood hoax, filmed in a studio. Why should I believe that? Who really shot JFK...if in fact he was really shot in the first place? If in fact he was a real person who was president. "Scientific research" has "proven" some wives' tales to be true, while others are false. Chicken noodle soup actually does help with a cold or flu, while children playing outside in cold weather doesn't actually cause them to catch cold; mothers calling them inside out of fear of catching cold causes them to share their germs because they're all in the house together is what causes them to catch cold. See I told you so. Did not. Did so.

And what about faith? The placebo affect is supposedly documented, that fake medicine can actually help with healing simply because the patient believes that it is going to do so. What about evolution of scientific theory? Each generation seems bent on proving the previous one wrong. Doctors used to pump antibiotics into people with the common cold. Later on, it was discovered that antibiotics don't work on viruses, and all the antibiotic use has created resistant strains of diseases.

Most of what we believe today will be laughed at at some point in the future by people who have proven us wrong. So why should I be judged for believing something contrary to the conventional wisdom of the day when I know it will be proven wrong sometime in the future? Why am I even writing about this?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Car That Runs On Water

I saw a clip of a car created by a Japanese company that runs on plain water. Somehow, electrons from the hydrogen atoms in water molecules are harnessed to create electricity. I wonder how expensive this is and how easy it might be to put cars like this into production. Peak oil? See it here:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blog Additions

A couple of blog updates: I have added my series on adoption to the left margin under "Ongoing Blog Series." I have also added Greg Qualls' blog about Christians who love beer called TheBeerean to my blogroll, the name being a takeoff on the term "Berean."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Psalm 23

Our kindergartner is reading Psalm 23 by himself from a bible, to his mom, as I type. He is memorizing it in his class at school and has been learning to read this year. It is wonderful to see him and hear him do this. "Was I reading?" Yes, you were.

A Nation Of Laws

A great quote from James Leroy Wilson at Independent Country:

"The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced." - Frank Zappa

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Beerean: A Christian Who Loves Beer

Just found this site called Greg Qualls links beer drinking with Christianity and is searching for likeminded web sites. Hat tip to Bruce for the link.


Gene Redlin at Northern Gleaner posts this great quote:

"Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their jobs done." ~ Peter Drucker

Friday, May 30, 2008

I Love Travelling To San Diego

I flew to San Diego yesterday on business. I had several meetings at our firm's San Diego office and some other work to do. It was a down-and-up trip, not overnight. I love San Diego, and so does Mrs. Scott. We took our honeymoon there and until multiple children hit, we used to vacation there every year, staying in Little Italy. We also travelled there many times each before getting married.

Just walking out of the airport into the ocean aired breeze was wonderful. There's both a certain smell and certain feel to the air. The beaches are great, and the freeway signs for I-8 westbound simply say "Beaches." Only in San Diego. On the way back to the car rental place the commute traffic was light, so I drove through Little Italy which is only a few blocks away from the airport. Just feels like home in some way.

The flight between Oakland and San Diego hugs the coast all the way down, so there are many landmarks that can be seen from the air. I saw Monterey, downtown LA and our Little Italy hotel which is just a hundred yards off the landing path or so. I also saw three baseball parks (read about it at my baseball blog), and miles of beach. I have a fear of flying, although I love flight and aviation. I get freaked out at little bumps and any change in engine thrust.

All in all, I was up at 5:30am and arrived home at about 10:30pm. A long day, but fun in many ways.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 23) - Member For A Day

In previous posts in this series I've made the point that the church is an assembly of the body, and those who assemble (i.e. baptized Christians) are therefore members. Some of the objections to this idea from those who advocate formal membership center on the idea that those who they wouldn't deem members, but I would, might have some influence on the way a church operates. A formal membership, then, to them, is a safeguard against unwanted "drop-by" type of influence.

What about voting privileges? What about selecting a pastor? What about involvement in a building program? What about serving in the choir or nursery? If people that just drop in or only attend occasionally voice their views on important matters, it would have a negative affect on our church.

I think a problem with these kind of objections is that they are based on the idea that the church is much more than an assembly of Christ's body. It is viewed also as a building, a bureaucratic institution, a certain form of government. I don't think this is what the New Testament had in mind. These are secondary issues that shouldn't take precedent over the core idea of church. These things are outside of the idea of assembly. They are traditions of men. Jesus warned of placing traditions of men on par or above the Word of God.

I've visited dozens of churches in my life. Each time, I have submitted to whatever liturgy was followed, whatever a leader asked of the assembly. I called upon the name of the Lord just like everybody else, prayed just like everybody else, sang just like everybody else, listened to the preaching just like everybody else. Many times I fellowshipped with others there, just like everybody else, and encouraged others (and received encouragement) just like everybody else. I was a member for a day.

Read parts 1-10 here, parts 11-20 here, and parts 21-30 here.

Part 22 . . . . . . . . Part 24

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Family Camp

This weekend we went away to (choose one) our church's "family camp", aka "all-church retreat", aka "family retreat", aka I'm sure there are others. From late Friday through mid-day Sunday on this weekend each year we stay at a campground nestled in the redwood forest in the Santa Cruz mountains near the Pacific Ocean. Each cabin has bunks with a full bath (showers, sinks, running water, electricity), so it's not camping in the pitch-a-tent sense.

There's no smell quite like a redwood forest. It is amazing. Calm, soothing and fresh. There's a clear cut space in the middle of camp with a grass field for playing, but the dense forest and very tall trees limits the sunshine. Near the coast it's cool. This weekend saw a heatwave in the Bay Area with temps in the upper 100's. It cooled down to about 90 at the coast (extremely hot for them). We (my family) always spend Friday at the beach town of Capitola. Our ten month old loved the sand, and our other kids loved the ocean waves. We ate dinner at the beach before driving up into the mountains to the camp.

We have five or six sessions of teaching/preaching during the weekend from a guest speaker and take the Lord's Supper on Sunday just before lunch. This year saw thick swarms of lady bugs filling the air in the early afternoons. The kids went nuts. Our three year old stunned the entire church with his amazing ability to hit the ball and run around the bases. The kids slept all through both nights so we were blessed exceedingly.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Busy Week, Few Posts, Family Camp

It's been a very busy week with late nights and such. I haven't been able to blog at all. Now, we're leaving for family camp all weekend with our church. I hope to be back on Monday. Thanks for tuning in. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Boundaries and Freedom (2)

In my first post, I noted that boundaries, properly placed, actually promote freedom for man, rather than hinder it. God places boundaries for man that promote the greatest freedom for us. This shouldn't be a surprise, because God knows everything about human nature, and He also knows the entire history and future of the world and everybody in it, so His boundaries are the best ones.

Some boundaries that God gives are absolute. "Thou shalt not commit murder." Others are a bit vague, like, "Do not get drunk with wine." (Ephesians 5:18) What does it mean to get drunk? One drink? Two? Twelve? Any alcohol at all? Boundaries like this require work on our part. They also might require work on other people's part for us. God gives us the responsibility of knowing ourselves well enough to know our own limits. Other people can know these things, too, and hold us to those limits because they love us. If God gives us a boundary, but lets us establish exactly within a range where that boundary goes, then He isn't going to be very harsh in letting us stumble a few times during the process of establishing that boundary.

Jesus said that if our hand causes us to stumble, cut it off, and if our eye causes us to stumble, pluck it out. It's interesting that He's instructing us in this with the understanding that we already know something causes us to stumble. He's not condemning us for having stumbled, but only if we repeat the stumbling with full knowledge of our stumbling. This is merciful. He's not an overly protective mother that doesn't allow her child to learn from his mistakes, but knows that the cuts and bruises of having stumbled will have a greater affect on our growing. Many boundaries that God gives us are to be set by us ourselves; He doesn't have a "one size fits all" set of rules.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Boundaries That Promote Freedom

"But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does." James 1:25

A few years ago I read a story about a school where the administrators determined that the fence around the playground was too limiting to the children. It was a hindrance to their freedom. So they had the fence removed. To their surprise, the children afterward voluntarily played in a much smaller area than what had originally been allowed by the fence. They suddenly had no boundary and weren't able to figure out how to limit themselves, so they stuck together for the sake of safety. Also, the new arrangement no longer prevented the outside world, such as strangers, from getting in.

The lesson here is that the fence, properly placed, actually promoted freedom for the children. They could play right up to the fence without facing danger. The playground was large enough for them to play in comfortably, and the fence kept them in and strangers out. This is how God's law works. He provides the proper boundaries for us to promote our maximum freedom. Another example of this would be the barrier on the observation deck of the Empire State Building or the railing at the rim of the Grand Canyon. People can go right to the edge and even lean against the boundary because the boundary was constructed to allow leaning against it. Now imagine these railings suddenly being removed. How many people would venture to the edge of the top floor and look down? Far less than with a boundary.

An opposite example would be Hal, the super computer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hal arranged for Dave, the astronaut, to float out into space in order to take control of things himself. Dave was now free of any and every obligation to family, country, mother-in-law. He was even free from the law of gravity. But he was doomed to death because of his limitless freedom. God's law allows us freedom to live within his creation, but prevents us from killing ourselves.