Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Potpourri

The last week of the year:

  • It's New Year's Eve at about 10:30, and I haven't heard a single M-80 go off in our new neighborhood, much less a firecracker.  In our old neighborhood it would be about a 12-block square DIY pyrotechnics show.  Practice for midnight would start in mid-October.  Literally.  And go until about February.
  • Ryan Seacrest tonight, in Times Square in New York City on Dick Clark's New Year's Eve prior to the dropping of the ball proclaimed that it was the biggest party of the year with one million people.  No, it's no bigger than the Giants world series victory parade of one million people.
  • A lot of people are looking forward to tomorrow when it will be 1/1/11.  That's cool, but Mrs. Scott and I are looking forward to 11/11/11, which will be our 11th anniversary.
  • Aside from the usual Lakers/Celtics NBA final, major pro sports had quite a year of champions.  The New Orleans Saints won their first SuperBowl ever.  The Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 61 years and the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series in 56 years.
  • It was a wild ride of a year at From the Pew as well.  I had some serious hindrances in my blogging time and level of material for several reasons.  Several people commented to me that I lost a bit of fire and energy.  I hope to recapture that in 2011. 
  • Michael Spencer, aka the Internet Monk, died in April.  I was going to read his soon to be released book and blog about it here.  I still hope to do that in the upcoming year on From the Pew.
  • It's time to celebrate.  In fact this song was played for years after each Oakland A's baseball game victory.  It applies tonight.  Happy New Year.

Reformedville's Career Student Program

I once knew a girl who was a career college student. She attended a junior college and changed her major at least once a year. She had been a student for years, and had racked up enough units for several degrees, yet the diversity of her courses never added up to a degree in any one field. She had odd part time or babysitting jobs to bring in some pizza and beer money, but beyond that she never concentrated her efforts into doing one thing for a living, other than attending college and having a party lifestyle. She never made the most of her potential, stacking up an education that was never put to use.

In some ways, I think the approach to teaching God's people in Reformed circles has a tendency to resemble the life of the girl I knew, although not intentionally. People in Reformed circles put a great emphasis on doctrine and the teaching of doctrine, with the expectation that the education will pay off someday. But often, so much time is put into teaching that there's no time left over to put that education to work. Then, when it is noticed that nobody is putting their education to work as a result of being over educated (because they have no time), the solution to people doing nothing becomes more education or re-education, resulting in more of nothing being done. A vicious cycle can develop, and a complacency in being educated. We can become mere hearers of the word, and not doers.

I had already started the draft for this post when I came across a short, timely post by Alan Knox titled Learning Before Serving? that illustrates my point. He links to aBowden blog that tells of a men's ministry that dies because the men felt they need more teaching before they can do anything. Please read Alan's short post here.  But, as it goes on to say:

I’ll serve when... I’ve had more teaching... The problem is that there is no perfect time to serve, and if we wait until we have “had enough teaching” we will never serve. After all, when does one know all there is to know about God, and who ever finishes being taught?

I think the solution is quite different. I think the best lessons are learned, not in the classroom, but in the trenches, with sleeves rolled up, hands dirty, and back sore.
I don't have a problem with teaching or doctrine, but when it seems to be an end in itself, or it there is no practical application, just how valuable is it? How many of us are career students?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Problem Behind Julian Assange

Julian Assange is an interesting person and Wikileaks is an interesting organization.  I haven't read too much about the controversy, but what I have read covers a wide spectrum of beliefs.  To some, Assange is a hero.  To others he is the greatest threat to national and world security there is.  I don't know what Assange's motives are nor do I know all of what Wikileaks has published.  It isn't my point.

There is something else going on, and it is going on behind him.  I've read some quite typical, predictable knee-jerk reactions from the usual conservative types that he's a spy and a traitor and whatever else and should be locked up or worse.  But the problem is that Assange isn't the one who witnessed the things that have been published.  You can say what you want about passing on various types of information, and I think each piece of information and how it was handled needs to be judged on its individual merits.  The greater problem is that somebody else is leaking these items to Wikileaks.

There's a difference between a whistle-blower and a snitch.  A whistle-blower reveals systematized injustices and the coverups that accompany them.  A snitch reveals personal issues that are usually nobody else's business outside of the people involved.  Our culture generally sees whistle-blowers as heroes and snitches as slime.  But whether whistle-blowers or snitches, government officials and military leaders have a bigger problem than Julian Assange.  They are employing people that can't keep a secret.  They are placing trust in untrustworthy people.  They need to take better care what they say and what they do.  I'm not sure whether this reflects worse on the story-tellers or on the people who are trusting them.

I find it ironic - and maybe hypocritical as well - that governments and militaries that spy on and collect massive amounts of information about citizens cry foul when citizens and soldiers do the same in the opposite direction.  Many of these people are getting a taste of their own medicine and they don't like it.  That there are the Julian Assanges of the world might mean that enough technology can be used by common people to keep the powerful in check.  This seems like a growing phenomenon.  Even though there might be some bad individual results here and there, I think overall that all this may be a good thing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Incarnation and Life

I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:9-10

Jesus was born into this world, much like everybody else.  He had an earthly mother and people to raise him.  Yes, Jesus came to die for us.  Yes, he came to pay the penalty for our sins.  But he also came that the sheep may have life, and have it abundantly.  The sheep will go in and out and find pasture.  They will forsake many things in this world, but they will follow him and receive many times more good things in this life.  Some of those things are tangible, many are not.  What is this life other than what flows out of the heart to overflowing?  Life is not only what we receive, but it flows out of us to others.  It affects others.  By God's mercy, my life will do the same.  Are you one of his sheep?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Potpourri

A week of Christmas anticipation:

  • I wasn't sure if I had the ability to post tonight, so I decided to write this a day ahead (yesterday) and schedule it for tonight.  But that didn't work, so I'm writing this tonight after all.
  • My kids put out a row of candy cane lights at the edge of the driveway.  They're about 30" high and put out some good light.
  • We went to Sacramento for Christmas Eve with Mrs. Scott's family.  Her family always celebrates on the eve, while my family always does Christmas day.  We never have to choose between families.
  • We stay late in Sacramento, and I get a Starbucks drink for the ride home.  Everybody falls asleep and I drive home with Christmas music on the radio.
  • This Christmas Eve was foggy, just like the song says.  This morning there was fog in the Sacramento Valley in places, but not too thick as to prevent driving.  The same with the way home.  Visibility was maybe a half mile.  That's foggy enough to make it feel like winter.
  • I received a job offer this week for a short intern position, but if that goes well it could result in full time work.  Wahoo!
  • I simply can't think of a better piece to play than this.  Merry Christmas from the Pew.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When Does The Church Sing TO One Another?

...but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,... Ephesians 5:18b-19a

Okay, I know that this verse continues with, "singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;" but I wanted to concentrate on the snip above, as it appears grammatically distinct from the rest of the verse. Paul tells the church at Ephesus to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Does this mean sing to one another? What does it mean to speak to one another using music?

I have contemplated this for a while now, and I came up with a few interesting thoughts about singing to others. Small children love for their parents to sing to them, especially at bedtime. Women want their beau to serenade them. Crooners have gained success because their female audience believes the crooner is singing to them. The elderly love to hear children sing to them. People often enjoy opening their doors to Christmas carolers as they sing to them. Some people love to have "Happy Birthday" sung to them. Rock concert audiences love the group singing to them. Life seems full of examples where people gain emotionally or spiritually from being the target of singing.

Yet, when do we do this in the church? We seem content to sing to God, and seem content that God enjoys when his people sing to him. Yet, the idea of singing to the congregation or to individuals in the congregation or even to one another gets immediately branded as "entertainment," and has no place in the church. Why is this, especially in light of the above passage?

So, I'm asking these questions. Does the verse above teach singing to one another? If so, why don't we do it? And if so, when are we supposed to do it? If not, what does it mean? Anybody have anything they've encountered on this?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Name That You Are Alive - But You Are Dead

I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  - Jesus Christ to the Church at Sardis, Revelation 3:1

These are - or should be - chilling words from the Lord to one of his churches.  Imagine having a name that you are alive.  Everybody knows it.  You are alive.  Your reputation for being alive is widespread and everybody can relay this testimony further on down the line.  But in reality you are dead.  And only Jesus knows you are dead.  And only Jesus tells you so.

His next advice to the church at Sardis is to wake up.  It seems as if they are asleep and are content to live off of their reputation.  They are asleep and their deeds are not complete.  They are unaware of this.

Here's something to think about.  The church at Sardis was greatly fortunate to have Christ himself explain their situation to them.  He wrote them a letter from heaven.  What can we say about churches today?  Churches today don't have Jesus writing them new letters.  We all have his letters to churches that existed in the past.  Are these letters enough?  Most of us would probably say that these letters in the bible are enough for churches today to learn their own situations.  We can use them to examine ourselves.  But what if nobody does?  What if nobody is allowed to?  What if there are no eyes in the body, or those eyes don't function?  What if those who do examine the church come to realize a problem, but those people are silenced for saying so?  What then?

The letters to the churches in the book of Revelation have always scared me for just these reasons.  How do we know what Christ thinks of us?  How do we know when Christ is about to remove a lampstand or come in judgment?  How do we know when he is going to bless?  We won't.  And that's scary.

More Abundant Honor?

But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say 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 is 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 less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  1 Corinthians 12:20-25

Paul here is talking to the Corinthians about the members in Christ's body.  Notice how he places the weakest and least presentable members in a place of honor.  We, the other members of the body, bestow more abundant honor upon these weaker ones.  That is if we are the ones that are more presentable.  This way, the less presentable become much more presentable.

It is little wonder why the poor throughout history have been attracted to Christianity more so than the rich.  But is this description by Paul really the way we operate in our American churches?  I have to wonder.  The weak, the hurting, the despised, the poor, the outcast, the common, the talentless, the awkward, the shy, the unclean, the visibly scarred.  Are these the ones front and center?  Or are the beautiful people who have everything together the ones lofted up?  What does Jesus think of how we view his own body?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Experiencing Bad Doctrine

I'm a firm believer that doctrines and teachings have fruits.  Good or bad.  What I mean by this is that people putting doctrines into practice has far reaching affects on both themselves and other people.  Others can be greatly blessed or greatly harmed as teaching reaches its logical conclusion.  Sometimes doctrines are not known to be bad until these fruits are experienced by others.

We have all experienced the result of doctrines and teachings.  I've experienced some bad results of bad doctrine, and one of the problems with this can be that those who hold to bad doctrine most affectionately simply refuse to believe that bad results are the result of their doctrines.  They place the blame on those who experience the bad things rather than on themselves who cause them.  Or, they place heavy loads on those who will ultimately be affected, without helping them deal with the results.  I'm spurred to write this post after reading this from PlainJane, a guest poster at Lewis Wells' Commandments of Men.  She writes about the doctrine of submission within the Patriarchy movement and how it ended up biting her after getting tossed out of her home by her husband who wanted another woman.  The lack of compassion from her church - and even their placing blame on her - toward somebody obviously wounded shows just how destructive certain ideas can be.

The lessons learned from bad doctrine can be hard, and sometimes the only way to know this is to experience the bad.  I wish it weren't so, and I wish Christians were more open to looking at how their ideas affect people.  But when you're right, those bad things don't happen, do they?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

A week of diverted attention from it being a week:

  • Last week of school means finals, special days for the kids and Christmas prep.
  • You know it's Christmas because at Trader Joe's the only blank space in the juice aisle is the spiced cider.
  • In the mornings, my car windows of late have been either fogged, wet, frosted or iced.  The kids love to write and draw on them with their fingers until I get the squeegee out of the trunk.
  • We haven't seen any turtles in the duck pond lately.  I wonder if turtles have a special seasonal routine like hibernation or crawling south for the winter.
  • I think for the first time since living in our current house the street cleaner came by when my car was gone.  All the leaves pasted to the curb and gutter were gone and there's no slightly muddy swerving pattern on the pavement around my parking spot.  This is definitely a feeling of fulfillment.
  • Tonight I bumped into my landlord in the cooking oil aisle of the grocery store.  We had an interesting discussion about things catching on fire and exploding.  We both have connections to large industrial accidents that were in the news lately, so it made for good grocery store conversation.  I wonder what other people thought.  Maybe it was as interesting as my cell phone conversation with Mrs. Scott about vegetable shortening in the same aisle just prior.  Among other things I also bought mild southwest flavored salsa and broccoli crowns.
  • 'Tis the season, so here's a Christmas classic.

Monday, December 13, 2010

If Iron Sharpens Iron, Then Why Is The Reformed Drawer So Full Of Dull, Rusty Knives?

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

A good surgeon will use only the sharpest of knives. Why? It's because the sharper the knife, the cleaner the cut it makes. And the cleaner the cut, the closer the two sides match each other. The closer the two sides match each other, the easier it is for them to come together again in the healing process. Dull knives and chain saws make for hack jobs; the ripping up of flesh so that the two sides don't match each other. Healing is made much more difficult if not impossible. The word of God is spoken of as sharper than any two edged sword.

The irony of many Christians who hold to "doctrinal purity," and require the strictest adherence to doctrinal minutiae for fellowship, church membership, ministry leadership or pastoral candidacy is that they don't seem to understand how iron sharpens iron. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Ephesians 4:3, "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace", interpreted as, "you must agree with every doctrinal position of the elders/church/by-laws, etc." Disagreement in any form can be shunned.

But iron sharpens iron precisely because each piece is rough. They grate against each other and the friction caused by the imperfections is what eliminates the imperfections, resulting in a sharp knife or sword. When surgery is needed, success results. When roughness in beliefs is disallowed, and everybody in a particular group is required to believe the same exact thing, no sharpening can occur. The result is, ironically, the exact thing that is not allowed. What the doctrinal purists who distance themselves from others who disagree are in effect saying, is, "I will not be sharpened by another piece of iron." And so they exist as drawers full of dull, rusty knives. When surgery is needed, a hack job results, and the one in need of surgery is not healed, but rather wounded even more.

Re-posted from 09-19-06

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

Another week, another FNP:

  • Christmas decorations are up.  The kids really like the candy cane lights up the driveway.
  • Went downtown tonight, window shopping.  Mrs. Scott and I dropped into a number of shops, and several of them were playing the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.  Now I know it's Christmas season.
  • Two jokers were driving side by side on a road that went over a large hill between two cities I frequent.  They kept pace with each other at about 10-15 miles under the speed limit for about 5-6 miles, with occasional spurts of drag racing.  It was wet from raining, too.  Traffic was backed up for a half mile behind these clowns.  As I passed them much later on, they were both talking on cell phones.  Maybe to each other.  Hmmm.  What to make of such people, and would driving up behind them and tapping their bumpers cause any problems?  Machine gun under the hood like Batman?
  • The next city over put up a giant Christmas tree in the middle of the fountain in the usual plaza.  It's never been there before.
  • I was in the CD section of a book store trying to listen to CD's with those sampler stations - head phones that allow you to listen to clips of each song simply scanning the bar code under the laser.  I couldn't get the thing to work, then I noticed that every CD I tried was a Beatles CD.  They got something against listening stations?
  • I went out this morning to find my five year old sweeping the driveway before school.  Now that's cool!
  • I was only a few years old when this was recorded.  I didn't remember it until much later in life.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Protestant Traditions Not Found In The Bible

I'm revisiting this from a while ago, so I'm posting the following again.  This should include comments as well.

Here is a list of Protestant traditions that I don't remember finding in the bible. I may be mistaken about some of these, and these are off the top of my head, in no particular order other than the order that I thought them in, so if I have goofed up this list, please let me know! I'm not suggesting any of these things are wrong in and of themselves. It's simply a list. [Update: Please add, subtract, comment or correct. I'd love to hear your input. I'd like to keep this running as long as anybody is interested. Any additions of my own or from your comments I'll add in red type.]

  • Sunday School
  • The pulpit
  • Preaching of the gospel in church - isn't every example in the NT of preaching the gospel outside of the church and to unbelievers?
  • Bringing people to church to hear the gospel
  • Grape juice used for Lord's Supper instead of wine
  • Christmas
  • Church buildings
  • Stained glass
  • The Sunday meeting being called a "worship service"
  • Choir
  • Tithing to the church instead of in ministry to others
  • Sunday meeting of the church without a meal
  • Sunday meeting of the church without Lord's supper being part of that meal
  • "Personal quiet time"
  • A Sunday church meeting without considering how to stimulate one another to love, or how to stimulate one another to good deeds, or the encouraging of one another.
  • Bringing your own bible to church
  • Pews
  • Giving a personal testimony at a baptism
  • Church bulletins
  • Ushers in the church meeting
  • Dressing up for church
  • Congregational voting

Sunday, December 05, 2010

On-Line Communion and Cyber Church Just A Small Step Away

My friend John Armstrong wrote a blog post yesterday about a cyber church doing worship services via Facebook.  He also asks, quite seriously, about communion and baptism:

I also wonder how the church does communion and baptism? Do you serve wine and bread to yourself and do you baptize yourself?
Well, actually, I read an article a few months ago posted by a conservative Christian on his blog - one of the most widely read Christian sites on the net - about just such a church.  It did the Lord's Supper on-line.  People in that church were on-line at the same time and connected to the church's streaming video service, and served communion to themselves.  The blogger and his commenting readers were aghast at the idea.  What is this world coming to?  What an utter lack of regard for the Lord Jesus and his ordinance of communion!  What kind of blasphemous wackos could be attending such a church?

It's not surprising to me at all.  In fact, I think it is only a small step away from how most of us are used to doing church already.  It's a relatively small stride from the giant leap we've already made from how the New Testament describes the Lord's Table.  The NT describes the Lord's Supper as a meal, not something smaller than a snack.  It was in the context of a feast.  There was enough food to fill people and enough wine to make some drunk.  It was eaten right after this feast meal.  Bread was broken amongst them, as people together.  Most of us today are used to a time of somber introspection, as opposed to a feast.  We have fingernail sized stale wafers, often getting stuck in the molars, and a half thimble of grape juice, not real wine.  Not enough for a meal, and not even with a meal.  Bread for many of us is already broken in some factory somewhere, and the cup is also pre-divided into small portions.  We sit in silence and have no interaction with the others around us, contrary to what is done in a feast.  Each of us partakes alone, even though we might be in the presence of those we are not interacting with.  There is little, if any, celebration in "celebrating" the Lord's Supper.

I think the problem with the idea of having communion on-line is not that we've suddenly radically changed the way we view the Lord's Supper.  There was something wrong all along, so that in going cyber with it, no ill affects have been recognized.  The same would be true of doing cyber church itself.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

A week before a weekend:

  • Today I saw a Google Street camera car.  My five year old said, "Dad, what car is that?"  It was a small car with a large red ball on top of a pole attached to the roof.  The red ball had maybe a dozen or so camera lenses sticking out all over.  It looked really sci-fi.  I'll have to look up my location sometime to see if I can see myself on Google Street.  I wonder how long it will take for them to upload?
  • What a beautiful day to work in the yard last weekend.  It was a really cool, crisp autumn day.  Working up a bit of a sweat isn't bad because it isn't totally hot like in summer, and it's not cold enough to freeze like in the winter.  Mowing and raking in the long shadows, I just love it.
  • Well, I guess it's time to put up some Christmas decorations, huh?
  • With the cold weather, I suddenly find myself short on socks, and those long sleeve shirts hadn't been worn in over six months.
  • December is the one month of the year that is really hard to believe when it gets here.  There's so much seasonal stuff that goes with it, it catches me by surprise every year.
  • Our three year old loves to have my look up cars on Google Images.  Sometimes it's red Mustangs, sometimes big trucks, sometimes it's Camaros.  "Daddy, can we look at some cars on the computer?"  How about vans?  Only if there are spoilers on the back.
  • I can't believe how many cover versions this (original) song has.  The original might be the best in this case.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What, Me - a Pastor - Worry?

In a recent blog post, Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church notes some worries that other pastors have written about.  He discusses these worries and describes why these aren't worries for him (he's a pastor).  It has to do with how his church is structured.  Here are some highlights:

  • I don’t worry about getting fired...because I was never hired.
  • I also don’t worry about what I’m going to “preach” each week.
  • I don’t worry about getting someone to “fill in” for me when I’m sick or when I’m out of town.
  • I don’t worry about money and budget issues.
  • I don’t have to worry about recruiting people to fill ministry program slots.
  • I don’t have to worry about how much money people give.
These are some interesting concepts.  With this list, there's a lot not to worry about.  His post is fairly short, so give it a read.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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] traveler 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.

Originally posted 06/08 and 12/09.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Elder Rule and Control vs. Example

One time I was talking with a church elder about certain matters, and he described to me his function within his church.  He told me about the measures he took in "overseeing" all the activities there.  He and the other elders interjected themselves in the lives of other people when they saw something they didn't think was right.  They took painstaking steps to keep a tight watch on all that was being taught there, and he had a herculean task in protecting all the church people in deciding what literature and ideas they were exposed to, and what avenues were appropriate for the people discussing God's word.  It was like a large censorship committee.

I think this man may have been trying to impress me somewhat with just how time consuming and grave a matter it was in being an elder.  But as his descriptions of his duties unfolded, I was struck with just how much it sounded like he and his peers were trying to control the church.  His job wasn't so much about shepherding the sheep and endeavoring to bring God's people to maturity in Christ.  It was about preventive damage control.  It was more about making sure the electric fence had enough zap in it so that no sheep would escape and stray than it was about feeding and watering and leading.  My suggestion that elders that had such a grip on their church were practicing overlording rather than leading by example didn't sit well with this man.

I knew he learned all his leadership ideas from well practiced systems that other men had widely taught.  It was clear to me that people who thought for themselves and tried to make a difference with their own faith might have a problem under these men's watchful eyes.  But where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  Too bad men like this are so suspicious of other Christians that they feel the need to control them.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

Another week, supposedly short:

  • Many of the red trees are thinning out due to leaf loss.
  • There's a maple over our back fence that makes the carpet look red because of the light coming in the window.
  • I had class the night before Thanksgiving.  It was supposed to go until 10pm, but we were let out early.  It's a good thing we got all our food shopping done.
  • A good way to save a few bucks is to get the next largest can for garbage service.  Although, the next one down is 2/3 the size.
  • I've been wondering whether I should learn HTML.
  • Got a rash of 800 calls this week.  I don't know what any of them are about, as I keep hanging up.
  • The power, the passion, the sound.  One of my all-time favorites.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Overlording: Usurping God Himself

In reply to the mother of the sons of Zebedee, who wanted her precious two to have political power in Jesus' kingdom, Jesus gives a lesson for all his followers:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:25-28

Sin is often described as rebellion against God, or to think that one's self is God in place of God. The self gets to determine what's right and wrong. One major problem with sin is that in order to be God, one necessarily must lord it over God's creatures. God is sovereign over his creation, and man asserts his sovereignty over God's creation in sin. A logical result of this is to lord it over other people. This is why Jesus points out how the Gentiles' systems of government include overlording.

In the ancient world, kings asserted themselves as deity and were worshipped as deity. Today it's the same, with variations on forms of government. But lording it over others is not part of Jesus' plan. His solution, as he exemplified it himself here on earth as a man, is to serve instead of to rule over. This applies to both politics and religion.

Israel's cry to God for a king like the other nations meant they wanted to worship man and to have man in control. They wanted to usurp God. Saul was the sad result. Today, we want the rule of man over man with our systems of government, both in church and state. And it isn't Christian. Jesus said so.
*28 - originally posted 01-28-10

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

I almost forgot about Friday Night Potpourri:

  • While running my usual errands, there's a street in an upper-yuppie nimby neighborhood with a permanent radar speed readout on a pole.  It looks solar powered, and it clocks every car that goes by.  Only one problem.  It is deceptive.  For each car that passes, the first reading is a minimum of 5 mph higher than the true speed.  Only then does it lower its reading to what you're actually going.  I wonder how many people have been duped?  I also wonder if it's not creating a danger in giving a false reading because the natural tendency once I learn that I'm "speeding" is to take my eyes off the road and look at my speedometer to figure out how I got to going so fast.
  • It's raining outside.  Or was.  Supposed to be a big storm this weekend.  I feel like I should water the lawn like I normally do.
  • When our three year old falls asleep in the car on the way home from somewhere, I back into the driveway, open the garage door, and back slightly in.  Then it's easy to just let him nap in the car.
  • There are big trucks on the road now.  A few weeks and months ago it was bright colored Mustangs.  I wonder if our youngest is changing.
  • I've got to bring a water sample to class tomorrow for lab testing.  I'm wondering how dirty creek water will do.  Or maybe it would be good to test our own tap water for sodium and conductivity.
  • A big hawk landed on our back fence yesterday.  I ran and got the camera.  I was only 15 feet from it, but it didn't seem to care.  It swooped down, snatched a mouse, then flew across the yard and pulled up just over the fence out into the creek.  How cool was that?
  • Bummer of a theme, but a really upbeat song from the late 70's.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Indoctrination vs. Teaching

Lewis Wells at Commandments of Men shows the difference between teaching and indoctrination, and shows how he sees it fleshing itself out in the environment of patriarchy.  Read his post here.  Although he specifically ties this difference to patriarchy, the definitions fit for almost any type of belief system.  Aberrant views can be indoctrinated, but truthful ones can be as well.  One can be a mindless fundamentalist with the truth.

Wells explains that proper teaching leads one to have one's own moral compass, and gives one the ability to discern.  A good compass in determining whether instruction is one or the other is in how those that do the teaching deal with the conclusions of the taught.  If they are open to differing viewpoints of those they teach, there is a greater likelihood that they truly wanted to teach rather than indoctrinate.  I've had numerous situations in my Christian experience where I've come to different conclusions than those that taught me.  Their reactions to my ideas have been fairly telltale as to what kind of teachers they were.

Good teaching also helps to avoid being intimidated by teachers who think they know the truth in an absolute sense.  One thing I've noticed about teaching is that the humility level of the teacher is quite contagious.

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.  James 3:1

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Night Porpourri

A week in the routinely unroutine:

  • Twilight Zone:  Just Tuesday night in my class - I'm learning operations at industrial plants like refineries, this is my second of three semesters in a career change attempt - we learned about the flare systems in industrial plants, how power outages affect oil refineries, what happens, all about those huge flares that burn up in the air, about the smoke, about the flames, environmental hazards, and how the media covers such incidents.
  • Wednesday night, on my way to my other class, a nearby refinery had a power outage, and had huge flare fires that sent smoke into the air for miles.  Our vicinity had an emergency warning over TV and radio, and Mrs. Scott brought the kids indoors, etc., for possible affects of the release.
  • My Tuesday/Thursday instructor works at that refinery.  Class was cancelled on Thursday, as he was working overtime dealing with the incident that shut down the refinery.  This is bizarre.  We had an object lesson about that very thing the next night at his refinery.  Is Rod Serling still alive?
  • My folks' neighbor sodded his yard and had some rolls left over.  Patch time!
  • Yesterday was my tenth wedding anniversary.  My cancelled class allowed me to be with Mrs. Scott at home.
  • It's football weather, and the kids have taken to playing in the street.  Just like when I was a kid.  It was great to be out there.
  • It was model airplane building week around here.  Mmmm, the smell of glue, model paint and paint thinner.
  • A classic from the 80's, for which Mrs. Scott has a fondness.  Happy anniversary!

Sputtering Along Blog

My blogging on theology here has been sputtering along for quite a few months.  My mind has simply not been engaged in writing about the normal stuff.  I'm wondering if I've run out of things to say on most of the topics I had been writing about.  Or, are things changing?  I've been busy with school and life, so the thinking time necessary has changed.  I still have passion in thinking about most of what makes From the Pew what it is.  It's just not focused on writing.

I have been meaning to rehash and rework some of my old blog series on church membership, Romans 13, etc., and was intending to write some sort of commentary/review on Michael Spencer's Mere Churchianity and John Armstrong's Your Church Is Too Small.  I still hope to get to these books on this blog.  It seems that my Friday Night Potpourri is the most steady of this blog these days.  I have some newer ideas to write about, but I need to figure out an appropriate format and develop the content, which could be a bit touchy.  Whatever the case, I still desire to blog about theology here and challenge the status quo of conservative religious ideology.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Any Exerience with Unitarians?

I've had some dialog with somebody who has a small gathering of people (churchish), most of whom seem to be unitarians.  There is the belief that God is one person (unitarian), not three persons in one godhead (trinitarian).  They believe Jesus was a created being.  Apparently they are not also universalists.

Does anybody have any experience with unitarians?  Any special behaviors, or logical conclusions to unitarianism that are odd?  What is/was the fellowship like?  I know how to deal with it from a point of doctrine, I'm just looking for any others out there who have some history with the beliefs.  I know that trinitarians are not always - nor maybe even most of the time - consistent in their trinitarianism.  They don't follow trinitarianism through to practical conclusions.  I'm just wondering if the same thing exists with regard to unitarians.  Thanks for any help.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

The best week of my sports life:

  • When something completely unbelievable and almost unthinkable happens, and when that thing is a very good thing, it tends to make a person look at everything else a bit differently.
  • It doesn't often happen, but I lost my voice this week.
  • I opened my closet door, and there were no skeletons.  Does this mean that there never will be skeletons again?
  • When the line for train tickets is two hours long, it's really nice to know that the grocery store next door to the train station sells discounted train tickets.  The wait was only five minutes.
  • My previous record for the largest crowd I've ever been in was about 72,000 - at a baseball game in Denver at Mile High Stadium.  This Wednesday, that number shot up to 1 million, as I attended the Giants victory parade.
  • I couldn't help but notice that many of the trees that change with vibrant colors - usually from green through red or plum - have orange leaves right now.
  • This song was a big 70's radio hit, and has been with us ever since, and I think due to the nature of this song, it will be around for a long time.

Harold Camping and the Eternal World Champions

Well, thanks to all the calculations and other figurings by Harold Camping, who discovered that the world will end next year.  You can see his prediction here.  Now, with the world ending next year, that means that this was the last baseball World Series ever played.  My San Francisco Giants will be ETERNAL World Champions!!!  Now, how awesome is that?  I can't wait for heaven.

Monday, November 01, 2010



Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

A week of series and seriousness:

  • There are pine trees along the fence line between us and the next door neighbors.  We swept the driveway today.  Wow, what a pile.
  • How early will Saturday morning come tomorrow?  I've got a strange morning class time.  Coffee to go?
  • Are you supposed to water the yard when it rains?  I'm not sure.  Gene R?
  • Fall.  That wonderful time of year where you clean the gutters and retrieve all the whiffle balls from summer.
  • It's really fun getting the younger kids to follow the changing of the color of the leaves.  Our street is lined with maples that are turning red.
  • I bought something tonight at the dollar store I really should have bought at the hardware store.  I opened the package and tried it out.  It was so flimsy it folded and the main part popped out.  I painstakingly put the part back in, and tried it again.  The second time the strap pulled out of the clasp.  So, I went to the hardware store and bought what I needed there.  I only paid a dollar for the first one, so it wasn't worth my time to return it.  I learned a lesson and it only cost me a dollar.
  • I've already used this song, and back then had no idea it would apply so wonderfully this week.  So, for the first time ever, I'm re-using a song on FNP.

Monday, October 25, 2010

More On The Church Institution

In a recent post, I briefly discussed the ongoing argument over the institutionalized church.  I received a few comments, and some good points were made by those who commented.  First, I'll give general answers to some of the comments.

Yes, I believe the church is an "institution," insofar as it fits the dictionary definition of the word.  Also, I do see a problem with groups that rebel against the idea of institution so much that they make having church in a house a requirement, or similar things.  Sure, there are home churches that stray to extremes, but there are also many of them that are solid and effective.  Many people equate meeting in a building with institution.  I don't believe this is necessarily true.  There are some problems with huge buildings and the gigantic mortgages that go with them, but what if your church building was paid off as it was built 200 years ago?  Not a problem, if you ask me.

Some people equate liturgy with institutionalization.  I don't, necessarily.  Or some type of church government structure.  Okay, there are huge problems here with the American church, but government isn't necessarily the issue, either.  The bible leave many things un-specified.  (I would recommend reading Alan Knox's series on church polity, including all the links he gives here.)

But the best question from the comments, and the one I want to focus on here in this post, is the comment from solarblogger:

So is there a level of institutionalization where the lampstand is automatically removed?

I would answer the question this way. If the structure - or level of institutionalization - of a church prohibits, prevents, hinders or otherwise diminishes the ability to minister, the ability to be ministered to, the ability to obey God for each and every member, then there are problems. Everybody must be able to love God and love their neighbor when the church meets in all the ways the bible sets up for us. If the inability of the body to function the way it should is extreme because of institutionalization, then the problems are severe.

It's interesting that the first church that receives input from Christ in Revelation is the church at Ephesus. Christ threatens them with lampstand removal because they lost their first love. What was their first love? Many people I've heard over the years answer that by saying that, of course, Christ was their first love. But was he? Verse 3 says they endured and persevered for His name's sake. They also couldn't stand evil men, false apostles, and the Nicolaitans. Could it be that the love they lacked, the love that diminished, was a love for one another? If it is, I can only speculate that it is so.

Let me say that lampstand removal is Christ's to do. But if a church has institutionalized itself out of the ability to function like Christ desires, how is it that Christ is still there? In my next post on institutionalization, I'll bring up some examples where God's commands are hindered by the church structure itself.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


The Philadelphia Phillies' dream of being the first team to win three consecutive NL pennants since the 1942-44 Cardinals has been slaughtered by the extreme underdog San Francisco Giants!!!! Juan Uribe hits an 8th inning opposite field home run to put the Giants ahead 3-2. Brian Wilson makes the perfect pitch - a low, backdoor slider - the pitch that awesome slugger Ryan Howard simply cannot hit. Howard was fooled badly, and THE GIANTS WON THE PENNANT! Another extreme form of torture!

The parties are spilling out into the streets! We're going to the World Series! Wahoooo!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

A week of change and waiting:

  • It's really raining outside right now.  Not the first rain of the season, but the first heavy raining.
  • I wore pants today.  Very weird.  It was cold enough today, but with nice weather fading into fall, the string of shorts-wearing days came to an end.  Jeans feel strange.
  • Congratulations to the Texas Rangers on winning their first pennant ever.  Now, c'mon Giants, they're waiting for us.
  • I've been watching some playoffs on national TV while trying to listen on the radio.  Some of these telecasts have like a 20 second delay between what the radio is saying and when it happens on TV.  I remember the NBA finals while walking down the main drag at the beach in San Diego this summer.  I could hear cheers erupt at different times from different bars and restaurants.  Technology?
  • Our nine year old got a book from the library with some stories of comic strip characters in it.  Batman is featured in one section.  I hummed the TV theme from the show, and realized that my kids have never really seen Batman, Bugs Bunny, the Flintstones or the Three Stooges.  Are we bad parents?
  • In a July, 2009 Friday Night Potpourri, I mentioned that I was currently reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  I finally finished it a week and a half ago.  Even though it took me well over a year to read it, I remembered exactly where I was each time I picked up the book.  Thanks to my mother-in-law for giving it to me.
  • An oldie and a goodie, no lyrics needed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Which Church Institution?

Over the years I have often run into arguments over the "institutionalized church," or the "institutional church."  There are those who argue that the church shouldn't be institutionalized at all, and should follow a pattern shown in the New Testament - a more simple approach without all the buildings and programs and hierarchical authority and what have you of contemporary church.  Then there are those within the "institutional" church who like to point out that the people who argue against it don't have an argument, because, after all, the church itself is an institution, established by Christ.

Well, of course the church is an institution, and it is established by Christ.  But from what I read (from the most articulate of the anti-institutionalists), they aren't actually arguing against the idea that the church is an institution.  They are arguing that there are churches (even the majority) that have been institutionalized by man to such a degree that they don't resemble the simple institution established by Christ.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

A week's end is very welcome this week:

  • Very warm weather into mid October.  Nineties and near 100.  I wonder when it will drop down to the 50's
  • We have a small orange tree out front.  Probably two feet high.  It has one flower blossom on it.  I thought flowers were supposed to blossom in the spring.
  • The power went off last night in the middle of the night.  One of the kids stirred, waking us up.  It was eerily silent, as a fan in one of the rooms and the bubbling of the fish tank were not heard.  And, it was very dark.  The glow of the LED's in the clock radios were out, as were the night lights.  No lights on for as far as I could see out a window, including street lights.  Knowing that I would trip over something in the complete dark, I picked up my cell phone and opened it.  It was enough light to walk around the house.
  • That's apparently not the only use of a cell phone, as I've heard people use it instead of Bic lighters at concerts.
  • I had a final exam last night in one of my classes at school.  I got an "A" on the final, and an "A" in the class.  Wahoo!
  • After some problems at the wrong time, I now know how to fix a carriage jam in an HP printer.  Judging from the number of posts about it online, it seems to be a problem for many other people, too.  Overall, our HP printer has been pretty good.
  • Oh, wait.  Another radio staple from the 70's.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Perception in Reading Blogs

Have you ever met somebody who came across a certain way, then after getting to know that person better you realize that they really aren't that way?  That's happened to me many times.  It's true in the blogging world, too.  Or maybe especially.

That's why I try to not place so much emphasis on first impression. This brings me to some tips on reading blogs.  Whether we know it or not, the impression of somebody we receive from reading them has probably as much to do with how we read as it does with how that person writes.  Casual conversation has the advantage of tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.  Writing long, thought out pieces - such as books, articles or papers - has the advantage of putting a lot of thinking into something, as well as personal review and editing from others.  Blogging is at a disadvantage because these things aren't always in the mix.  It is often thinking out loud, like casual conversation, but in written form without the thought process or review.  There are some shortcuts we use to convey emotion, etc., to try to fill in the gaps, but reading a blog cold and jumping to conclusions is really a hasty activity on the part of the reader.

That's why it's a good idea to read somebody's blog for a while before commenting.  Or, read the history of their blog.  There's a better chance of "getting" somebody's sense of humor, writing style, etc.  Interact with the blogger for a while before developing an image of that person.  Many people don't get these things, and it is the reason for so many internet flame wars and harsh criticisms.  Reading in order to understand is a very important thing.  "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him."  Proverbs 18:13  Read well, my friend.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baptism: Another View (Part 5)

Read Part 4:

In this post I'd like to offer my opinion of the effects (or lack thereof) of Christian parents or churches having baptism administered to their children. In other words, just how "effecatious" is infant baptism?

Each side in the Protestant baptism debate has its criticisms of the other with respect to the baptizing of children. Paedo-baptists often make the claim that Baptists' refusal to baptize their children has negative results. Because children are not baptized in Baptist churches, Baptists are sometimes accused of neglecting would-be elect children and are denied the very sign of the covenant itself. The failure to baptize children is then viewed as the worst thing that one could do to them. God's blessings come through obedience to the covenant, so Baptists are cutting blessings off from their children. Because Baptists sometimes view their children as unregenerate until a profession of faith is made, parents are tempted to be lax in their teaching and preaching to children because they're looked at as being not yet in the covenant; in other words the presumption of unregeneration until proven false through profession of the faith takes away from the church's duty to the children. Their churches, the argument goes, are then overrun with worldly people within a generation or two, and apostasy soon results. If this is the case, then it stands to reason that we should see a greater conversion rate of children in paedo-baptist churches.
Baptists, on the other hand, often criticize paedo-baptists for baptizing infants because these infants include all future false professors as church members from birth. Their churches, the argument goes, are then overrun by worldly people within a generation or two, and apostasy soon results. This supposedly explains to some degree the problems with theology in mainline denominations. The conclusion is sometimes that baptizing infants is the worst thing one could do to them. The baptizing of only professing adults (or children old enough), safeguards the church from these problems because the non-professing are never allowed heavy influence in church matters. Also, paedo-baptism can lead to a false assurance of salvation because of the "covenant promise." I've heard from Baptists who happen to have attended paedo-baptist churches (maybe because it's the only good church in the area) that a covenant smugness can take over and parents are tempted to be lax in their teaching and preaching to children because they're looked at as being already in the covenant; in other words the presumption of election until proven false through denying of the faith takes away from the church's duty to the children. If this is the case, then it stands to reason that we should see a greater conversion rate of children in Baptist churches.  The argument each side levels at the other is essentially the same.

But I've had enough experience with both types of churches to know that neither has the corner on their children growing up to be true Christians. Baptists are just as good at placing their children as recipients of the blessings of the covenant, i.e. teaching, bible memorization, church attendance, prayer, education, and the rest, as are paedo-baptists. Paul takes up the argument in Romans 2 that when Gentiles do the law, their uncircumcision is counted as circumcision. "If therefore the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?" Rom. 2:26. Both sides see that their children are to be discipled according to the Great Commission.  So, then, I don't think that whether children are baptized or not is the real issue, but whether the parents and churches raise their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord.

I've certainly heard of many wayward paedo-baptists who were not born again until adulthood, after straying from the faith, give testimony to God's remembering them because of the promise through baptism, because their parents had them baptized. Well, there are many wayward born-again-as-adult Baptists who make the same claim with respect to their parents raising them well in the faith as children. I believe it's about adherence to the New Covenant itself, and not a supposed sign, that God honors.  Not that baptism isn't important, as both sides agree that it is, it's just when children are to be baptized that is closer to the center of the argument.

Read Part 6.
Read entire series in a single post.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

A short six days this week:

  • Autumn is starting out well.  Cool mornings, having to squeegee the car windows, with warm days.  The leaves are turning red on the maple and liquid amber trees.
  • Our oldest turned nine this week, and he received a model fighter jet from a relative for his birthday.  The parts are smaller and more detailed than anything I ever did as a kid.  This is his first model, and he's picked it up so fast it's amazing.  Hundreds of tiny decals and parts the size of a pinhead.
  • Neighbors are already decorating for Halloween.  One house has about a half dozen spiders on the roof that are about three feet across.  Looks creepy.
  • Took the kids' car seats out of my car for grandma to use.  Perfect time to vacuum what's underneath.  Wow.
  • Seventy four shopping days left until Christmas.  That means that there's seventy three days left until the shopping really begins.
  • It was everywhere ten years ago.  So, here it is again.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Programmed Church - An Institution Unto Itself

John Armstrong posts a short, two minute YouTube clip talking about today's church model, entitled Has the Church Traded Methods for Worship?  I tend to agree with him, and I also think there is a tendency to oppose these same methodologies and programs Armstrong alludes to, while at the same time not knowing that we fall into the same traps ourselves.  I hope to be writing about this more in the near future.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


Congratulations to my San Francisco Giants on winning the National League West on the last day of the season!  It's about time, you guys.  Now go to work on getting that parade down Market Street.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Saturday Night Potpourri

A day late:

  • Speculation as to why my Friday Night Potpourri is a day late...
  • It's not really because the Giants lost last night.  I hurt my knee this last week and it has been really painful at night.
  • The apricot tree was trimmed today.  Yahoo!
  • I tried to reposition some of the scalloped brick driveway trim as some of the kids have been playing with them.  I discovered that tree roots have pushed them up.  This is the reason the kids can play with them.
  • Sitting here day by day waiting for my Giants to clinch a playoff spot.  Will they do it, or will it result in a total collapse?  Time and the devil will tell...
  • Grandma is a really good grandma.  She's 80 and she gets down on her hands and knees to play cars with our three year old.  We love grandma.
  • It's been at least a hundred degrees here all week, and this morning there were rain drops on my car.  I wonder where that came from.  Rainy season doesn't officially start for another two weeks.
  • Wow.  I almost totally forgot about this song from the 70's.  Another clock radio staple.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

There's Something Missing

I'm not often moved by a piece at the following blog, but Frank Turk at Pyromaniacs posted a letter he wrote to the Southern Baptist Convention detailing his family's search for a church after having to move for economic reasons.  After searching for several years, and attending dozens of SBC churches, they settled into one outside of the SBC.  His letter calls attention to a few things missing in the churches he tried out: leadership, ministry, seriousness, community, theology and Jesus Christ.

Focusing for a moment on the section of his letter that deals with lack of community, Frank writes:

Which also brings up another important issue: because our view of leadership is a business-based model, and our view of ministry is both pragmatic and simplistic, and we have traded seriousness and sincere forthrightness for anything else that will hold people’s attention, we have no communities. Isn’t it ironic that we have medium- and large-sized social institutions which we can run with competent ability, but all that competence and professionalism really has put us in a place where the people involved don’t even really know each other?

How tragic.  But of course, Frank's not close to being alone in lamenting these sad situations.  The corporate mentality of bureaucracy and programs have neglected and alienated many Christians.  Many are leaving churches and not returning.  Many are trying different forms of church and community.  Maybe the old wineskins are bursting and God is making new wineskins to hold the new wine.  Whatever the case, searching through old wineskins to find something new is a daunting task.  God help us.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

Methinks it be half a fortnight:

  • That spider in the glass globe I mentioned last month?  It's still there but it hasn't moved in quite a while.
  • Say "yes" to the dress, but "no" to your annoying family.
  • This will be the first fall for raking up leaves in our new house.  I'm not sure what happens with plum and apricot trees, but I'm sure the rock bed in the front won't shed leaves.
  • My favorite old movie line (it appears in many old movies): "Say, what's the big idea?"
  • All the kids went to the store without incident.  Pretty good, and they all wanted to pull items off the shelf and put them into the cart.  Then they wanted to take the stuff out of the cart and place it on the belt.  Works great, except for the heavy stuff.  We just hope this continues through the teenage years...
  • I found an old dusty umbrella in the garage.  It hasn't been used since last winter when it rained.  Dusting off umbrellas is common in California.
  • Is it possible to have a man-crush on a girl?  Mui bueno.

Matthew 18 and Confronting Abusive Church Leaders

Kevin Johnson at Communio Sanctorum writes an interesting piece, titled Principles Not Procedures, about dealing with spiritual abuse coming from church leaders.  One of his points is that the Matthew 18 passage we are all so familiar with isn't necessarily the one we need to follow in addressing church leaders.

No one doubts that Matthew 18 is a relevant passage in dealing with resolving offenses between brothers, but the procedure outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 is set in a very specific context that is often overlooked. In churches where spiritual abuse is occurring particularly at the hands of ministers and pastors who rule by fear, intimidation, and the inordinate and inappropriate use of Scripture–passages like this can become a very powerful weapon to accomplish and maintain abuse instead of legitimate repentance and reconciliation...

...The tragedy is that if you don’t follow a procedure like this in many abusive church environments, you will be called on the carpet for disobeying our Lord’s words, acting against his ministers wrongly, and encouraging division in the covenant community.

Johnson also points out that many abusive methods of leadership are simply learned from others, so appeal to higher authorities within church structures may make no difference.  If you have ever been subject to abuse from church leadership, know somebody who has, or are simply interested in the topic, I urge you to read Johnson's post.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Unable To Hear

Recently I received a call from somebody I wasn't expecting.  Just 20 minutes earlier I was told that somebody from their office would be calling me regarding a number of issues surrounding person X.  I was expecting a call from person A regarding person X.  Well, I received a call from person B regarding person Y, but about all the same issues yet in a different situation.  I wasn't expecting person B or a conversation about Y, and since the syllable structure of B's name was very similar to person A, my mind substituted A for B.  It took a few minutes of talking to realize my mistake.

A couple of classic examples of this from my past came to mind.  Years ago I took a trip to Haiti to visit one of our church missionaries who was working in a medical clinic there.  A few weeks before leaving I bumped into a co-worker in my company's office kitchen and she said, "Steve, I notice your name on the vacation calendar.  Are you going anywhere?"  I replied that I was going to Haiti.  Her face lit up and in an excited tone she said, "Oh, you'll just love Tahiti.  My husband and I went there on our honeymoon, and it was wonderful!"  I corrected her misunderstanding and said it was Haiti, not Tahiti.  Her face contorted into a twisted mass of quickly approaching upset stomach.  She was unable to hear my original word because people simply don't go to Haiti on vacation.  She substituted the best sounding alternative, Tahiti. 

Another time, I was approached by a major TV ratings company to be a participant in their ratings systems.  I was interviewed and asked for a bunch of information.  One question was how many hours of television I watched per week.  Squinting one eye and whispering to myself as I counted on my fingers for the next few moments, I replied "five."  The interviewer, clipboard in hand, said, "Great.  Five times seven is thirty five" as she charted my habit.  "Now, next question.  What do you..."  I interrupted her and said that I was asked the number of hours I watched during a week and I said five.  "Yes," she said, "five hours a day times seven days a week equals 35 hours per week."  I corrected her again, saying that five was the number of hours per week that I watched, which is what she asked, not per day.  She was so dumbfounded that she sat motionless for several minutes, then shuffled through her briefcase for a few more, until finally she asked if she could use the phone.  After the call was over, she said she was sorry, that there was a minimum number of viewing hours necessary to be part of their ratings system.  She was unable to hear my response to her question, because in her experience, an American simply doesn't watch only five hours per week.  Even though I answered her question exactly as she asked it, and even though I corrected her the first time, she still wasn't able to get my answer.

All of this is to point out that we can have the same inability to hear when it comes to what God has given us in the bible.  We can have this inability when discussing things with others.  I think sometimes people disagree not because they understand the other person's argument and refute it.  They simply cannot hear what the one person is saying.  It can be so contrary to their experience, to what they've been taught (over and over) that it simply doesn't register.  Even though that in the three examples I gave above there was an ultimate ability to understand through correction, I'm thinking that there can be things so ingrained in people that the inability to hear something for what is said will always be there.  Short of a work of God, of course.  Sometimes it is useless to explain your side of the story to somebody, because they'll never understand.  They can't.  So, in these situations, learning to let them alone and leave it up to God might be the best thing that can be done.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm A Cross Stream Swimmer

One of the themes that keeps occurring in my life is that I'm not one who goes with the flow.  I'm a cross stream swimmer.  I don't want to dive in and eventually reach the ocean and be swept out to sea.  Rather, I want to reach the other side.  I somehow have to cut through it all to come out alive.

This picture applies to theology and various circles within Christianity.  I've had my share.  I seem to find something new, immerse myself, but then figure out all the problems with it, glean the best, toss the rest, and move on.  I may be at the "move on" point yet again.  But one way this time is different is that I've already moved on from the individual influences, yet still kept the company of those in the system for a while.  Until recently.

For what it's worth, for a number of years I was a cross stream swimmer in the John MacArthur/ RC Sproul/ John Piper/ DA Carson/ Michael Horton/ Wayne Mack/ Jay Adams/ Tedd Tripp/ Paul Tripp/ Martha Peace/ Johnathan Harris/ CJ Mahaney/ Mark Dever/ Alexander Strauch/ Tim Keller ecosystem.  I reached the other side, and cleaned the algae out from between my toes and the crustaceans from my bum.

I'm not sure what's next on the horizon (and I never am), but I hope it's not the same old stream.  I'd seriously like to hawk some "John Piper said it...I believe it...That settles it" bumper stickers.  They would sell well, I'm sure, but I'm afraid that many of the buyers would buy these bumper stickers out of a sense of seriousness rather than out of a sense of humor.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

Not much to talk about this week:
  • Only a few days left of summer.  It'll be darker longer than lighter just next week.
  • For some reason our youngest has taken to playing in the garage amidst boxes and extra furniture.
  • Time to downsize on the garbage can service to save a few bucks.
  • Some really dumb show is on the TV right now.  I don't have a clue what it's called.  Neither do you.
  • Blank #1
  • Blank #2
  • One of my personal fab four.

Advice on Updating Blogger Template?

I have long desired to update my template on Blogger.  I have one of the ones that was available 5 1/2 years ago.  I have a newer blog (1974 Topps baseball cards) and like the format and ease of use.  But...

I've heard over the years from others that updating to a newer Blogger template can cause some big problems with layout and links and other things.  Does anybody know if this is still the case?  If anybody has experience with this and can offer advice, please let me know in the comments.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reformed Baptist Tyranny

[Originally posted in Dec. 2005]

I came across an interesting article by John Reisinger that explains why Reformed Baptist churches are more at risk of ecclesial tyranny and abuse of elder authority than other Protestant forms of church government. His article can be read here (I found this link courtesy of the "Billy Goat Blog", here). It is the third article in a series of five about the "ekklesia" or "church" of Christ; parts one, two, four and five can be read here and here and here and here.

His premise is that many Reformed Baptists eliminate the concept of checks and balances inherent in both Presbyterian (the presbytery is a check to the session) and congregational (the body is a check to the elders) forms of government, leaving their specific "elder rule" government as autonomous, answering neither to their own body nor to other church bodies. The church leadership, even in the hands of godly men, is positioned as a law unto itself. Tyranny is often the result. Although I disagree with Reisinger on a number of points about the nature and practice of Christ's church, I think he sheds some much needed light on the issue of church government. I've previously held to, and subsequently abandoned, the idea that everything in a Christian's life must be "subject to the authority of the local church."

I believe that all forms of human government, whether self, family, church, state, or any other government, are subject to checks and balances from others. Nobody is their own (or anybody else's) Lord in any area of life. I plan to address this many times in the future.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Selfishness of Singleness

[Posted originally about a year and a half ago]

People who put off marriage and having children mostly do so out of selfishness. They want to satisfy their own desires for a while instead of getting to the work that the Lord would have us do. And nothing, I mean nothing, will cure this selfishness like a spouse and some kids. Diapers, emergency room visits, bedwetting sheet changes in the middle of the night will show you just how selfish you were. Witnesses testified of this fact before I was married, and personal experience ratifies it.


This is a sentiment possessed to some degree by more than a handful of Christians I have known. Recently I had lunch with an old friend - single friend - of mine who has reached a point in his life where he's kind of tired of hearing these things. He's decided that between he and God that he's content being single, and in fact isn't sure he wants to get married. He has nephews and nieces to love, and has no problem loving them, but marriage and kids of his own just isn't on the wishlist.

He also noted something I had not considered before. Yes, I knew some people probably fell into this temptation, but in isolated cases that I never thought could be widespread. But people can be just as selfish in wanting and having children as they can in being single. Consider the pressure in conservative Christian circles. Being known as a bible family with lots of kids can be a temptation. The little pink house with a white picket fence and 2.3 kids too.

I know families with lots of kids who have made things work out quite well, and families that have gone through hell with just one. Mrs. Scott and I were talking about this today - in light of our own family trials - and have both come to realize that there are people who are made to handle certain family situations and some that are not. Let's let each one work out their own life before God. May God give them wisdom in doing so and us wisdom enough to know that God is giving them wisdom that doesn't need our superior attitude. Am I being a bit preachy here? Yeah, why not?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

Backing up my blog posting time to just before midnight to make it appear I hit "publish" on Friday:

  • Our five year old recently gave himself to cleaning up the pine needles that have fallen off the neighbor's tree into the driveway.  The garbage can smells good for once.
  • Wow, are the Texas Rangers in first place in the AL west?  Wow.
  • I almost took out a motorcycle cop this week.  I had just veered into a left turn lane, and was gauging the distance between me and the minivan in front of me as we came to a stop.  I had enough room, but the bike zipped into the small space in between us and I really had to brake hard to avoid stuffing him into the rear compartment of the minivan.  As we turned left, the Christmas tree went on, and he pulled the minivan over into a gas station.  No wonder he was so anxious to crowd me.
  • The spider I wrote about a few weeks ago that got inside the 70's globe light in the bathroom hasn't moved in about two weeks.  I wonder what happened to it?
  • It's September, so I'm guessing Christmas stuff should appear in stores any day now.
  • Here I am blogging and I remember that my first computer was a Commodore Vic 20.
  • So many versions of this came out.  It just drips, oozes and screams 80's.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Escape From Legalism

I've written much over the years here about legalism and my experiences with it.  Some of those things are not currently available, but maybe up for a re-working.

In any case, I have also had a good experience in seeing many people in addition to myself escape systems of legalism.  People that were involved in the same churches or groups of churches I was that no longer are.  People who realized that false doctrine and teaching were destroying their lives.  People who discovered, perhaps for the first time ever, the freshness of God's grace and freedom in Christ.  People who were held in bondage to scrutinizing every minute detail of other people's lives, searching for the tiniest thread of evidence (like the brand of shirt one wore) that could give them reason to question somebody's salvation.  People who were sheepishly terrified of their own shadow, that it might give an appearance of evil by the way it was cast onto the sidewalk.  People who were afraid to laugh because God might think it insobriety.  Or maybe people that just couldn't "measure up" to the rigid systems of man-made rules.

I'm thankful for the great escape, and hope many more find their way out.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Yet Another Anniversary of the World Not Ending

Today, September 6, is the 16th anniversary of the world not ending. Harold Camping declared that September 6, 1994 would be the end of the final tribulation, and that on that date, the sun would become dark, the moon would turn to blood and the stars would fall from the sky. The universe would undergo undulation for a period of a few weeks until Christ returned to end the world and to throw a majority of people who had ever lived into hell.

As far as I know, it didn't happen. Maybe it did and I just missed the 10 o'clock news.

But, oh wait. Harold Camping is at it again.  (And again and again and again)  Sometime in the last couple of years he really nailed it with infallible proof that May 21, 2011 is Judgment Day.  But he condemns himself in saying that the church age has ended and the church has been under the power of Satan since the final tribulation.  Camping was an elder in a church during that time, so he unwittingly (I presume) claims himself to be under Satan's control.  Oh, well.  Just another day at the office for Harold Camping.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Baptism: Another View (Part 4)

Read Part 3.

Shortly after writing my first several posts on another view of baptism a few years ago in a different blog series, it dawned on me just how I should characterize the divergent sectarian views of baptism: as traditions.

These are traditions which don't have enough Scriptural warrant to pass as binding law, but there are many defenders of these traditions that seem to think the bible mandates their view. This has, I think, been my problem. I've been asking this question: "Which view does Scripture mandate?", when I should have been asking, "Does the bible mandate a view at all?" Defenders of each view have taken to proof-texting, polemics, and a vocation of anathematizing their opponents. Confusion is often the dominating industry in the baptism debate with plenty of minimum wage, entry level positions. The following is a mock argument, the type of which I'm all too familiar with: (P=paedo-baptist, B=believer baptist)

P: Baptism is the NT equivalent of OT circumcision, so infants should be baptized.

B: There's no evidence in the NT of children being baptized.

P: But the households of new converts were, so there must have been children in those households.

B: You're making assumptions. It could just have easily been believers old enough to know.

P: Well history is on our side, because there's archaeological evidence that infant baptism was practiced as early as the second century AD.

B: But no earlier, of course. It was a Roman Catholic doctrine introduced to soothe the fears of parents who wondered if their unbaptized children would go to heaven if they died. The Reformation was a good thing, but they didn't go far enough in dealing with Rome's doctrines.

P: Well, let's just see what the Westminster Confession has to say.

B: Huh? This is a Scriptural issue, so we should limit our conversation to the bible alone and not bring history into it.

P: "XXVIII, IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized."

B: You're off course again.

P: "XXVIII, III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person."

B: Well, you and they both obviously missed the meaning of the Greek word, baptizo, which means literally "to immerse." The writers of the King James bible, through built-in fear of the dominant Catholic church, neglected to translate the word as "immerse," but instead transliterated the word as "baptize." The result is that the English speaking world is in confusion about even the biblical mode of baptism.

P: Say, you're bringing enough of your own history into this as well. You miss all the biblical references to sprinkling in the OT, and how Col. 2:11 ties baptism and circum...
On and on this goes. Jesus had a lot to say about traditions. He really didn't condemn those who held to traditions, but had a problem with those who held tradition equal or above the word of God. I'm afraid many throughout church history have done just this with their arguments about baptism. I know I did. Forgive me, Lord.

Read Part 5.
Read entire series in a single post.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

A very un-potpourri type of week:

  • With study, homework and a test, my mind wasn't in a Potpourri mode.
  • I filled out a number of forms this week using #2 pencils to fill in bubbles.  Having to erase those is kind of a bummer, and you don't know if the scanner will pick up on the correction or not.
  • My kids have the same school mascot as I do: the mustang.
  • On several blogs today I noticed a popup from my local utility showing an image of a shower head.  All the text was in Japanese.  Huh? [Update: it's actually Chinese.  Oops]
  • All the clocks in our house are several minutes off from each other, with a span of about eight.  Time to correct the time.
  • How many cans do you have in your garbage service?  We have three: brown for garbage, blue for recycle, and green for green.  And garbage day in Tuesday.
  • Sloooow blues in the key of C.  A marquee performance if I say so myself.  For best results be sure to use the 480p setting.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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 number of 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. They were confined and closed in.  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 in the center of the playground for the sake of safety. Also, the new arrangement no longer prevented the outside world, with its animals and 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 engineered and 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 fewer 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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

Actually Saturday morning:

  • San Francisco Bay Area's natural air conditioning: fog.  We had a minor heat wave this week.  Temps went from 101 to 108 to 86 to 72, and this morning there's no sun due to overcast.
  • Earlier this week we found a stuffed monkey on our roof.  Uhm, yeah.
  • Back to school for the kids this last week.  We checked school schedules again because we moved this last year, and the cousins from another city have different Easter weeks off.  So much for vacation coordination.
  • When a squeegee is used to try to break a 4x4 post, the squeegee usually breaks.  Someday kids will learn.
  • A rock garden suddenly appeared in front of the garage door two days ago.  I wonder how that got there?
  • This last Monday was the day I first felt autumn in the air.  I don't know what it is, but there's a feeling of fall.  The shadows get longer, the sun is a different color.  It's some kind of sensation and I've never been able to fully understand it.
  • Like wow, man, an AM clock radio flashback.


Political tyrants command obedience by threatening to use the sword.  Religious legalists use the Lake of Fire.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Psychology of the End

A Different Kind of Look at Eschatology

Here's a series I did a while back about the psychology of thinking you know when the world will end.  God doesn't tell us because it will radically affect our behavior...for the worst.

Psychology of the End (Part 1) - A Different Kind of Look at Eschatology

In sports, each team has a game plan. In football it might be to establish the run, then develop the pass, all the while controlling the line of scrimmage, field position and the clock. Following the game plan will result in victory. In baseball it might be to have the starting pitcher go six or seven innings, then turning it over to the bullpen to finish the game. In higher education, the student can have a game plan. Before the semester, he buys all his books. Then he studies hard, does all his homework and uses all of this to become familiar enough with the material to not only pass the midterm and final exams, but to get an "A." Living in a home with a yard might consist of mowing the lawn, painting and general maintenance. A game plan for these things consists of routine, repetition and consistency. But the game plan is best when it is a comprehensive one. One where all the situations are considered and can be addressed when faced. One that will not let small things grow into big problems.

But when the end of a thing is near, game plans and strategies change, sometimes radically. A team that is losing in the last minute of a football game will ditch all of its routine strategies and engage in acts of desperation, doing things it would never do at any other time of the game. With a runner on third early in a baseball game, the defensive team may concede the run to get an out. When it's the winning run in the 9th inning, both the infield and outfield are pulled in in a desperate attempt to get the out at home plate. A basketball team will purposely foul the other team in hopes that it misses the free throws in order to get the ball back. A hockey team will abandon its goalie for an extra offensive player to try to tie the game. A student will suddenly cram for finals. If a house is to be torn down to make way for a bigger project, the lawn won't get mowed. A graphics project with a deadline will result in long hours, plenty of coffee and scraps all over the floor at the last minute. Conversely, a team that is winning at the end of a game will be lazy and slow on purpose, substituting inferior players, etc.

The same things occur in real life with regards to eschatology. If somebody believes the end is really and suddenly near, life will be lived in a completely different manner, even if in desperation or laziness. In my next post, I will deal with this reality.

Psychology of the End (Part 2) - A Different Kind of Look at Eschatology

In my first post, I looked at how people change their behavior - sometimes even radically - when the end of a thing is approaching. Each of the examples I gave was for things where the timing of the end was generally known at the beginning. There are also things for which the end can come suddenly or unexpectedly. In life, we generally are born, go through childhood, become grownups with our own life, engage in a career, plan for retirement, retire, then eventually die. But a diagnosis of a terminal disease part way through life will change somebody's behavior radically. Some people quit their jobs to be with their families. In baseball, rain can threaten to bring the early end of a game. The team that is leading will hurry to get an official game in by completing the 5th inning, while the losing team will delay. Then, once the 5th inning is complete, the teams reverse their roles. Behavior changes with an unexpected facing of the end.

With regards to the end of the world and the return of Christ, Jesus tells us not only that we won't know the day or hour, but that we will not even know the times or seasons. I believe that God is wise enough to know human behavior, and if man knows the time of the end, he will most certainly change his behavior - radically. This is why God doesn't let us know. God has a plan of normal, routine behavior for us, and He wants us to stick to the plan that He laid out. If we know the end (really, if we think we know the end), we will change our behavior accordingly so that in anticipation of the end, we will change our focus from obeying God to obeying what we think about the end. We will have ceased to obey God. We will have changed from walking by faith to walking by sight. Next, I'll look at how this has fleshed its way out in history, including my personal history, and how different eschatological viewpoints affect our behavior.

Psychology of the End (Part 3) - A Different Kind of Look at Eschatology

Many "ends" have come in the history of man. Many groups have predicted the end of the world. Other ends have been postulated, such as Y2K. People's behavior has radically changed as a result. Although Y2K wasn't the "end of the world" per se, many people stockpiled arms in bunkers in Montana or Idaho in waiting for the collapse of the government following the global failure of computer chips. My church gained a few families from a church up the road because their pastor moved his family to a bunker in Montana in mid 1999 and closed down the church. In December, I bought several months of canned goods to protect myself "just in case." In the year 999, people feared the end of the world because it was a thousand years since Christ came to earth.

In 1994, my first church, led by Harold Camping, had quite a shaking up as a result of Camping's end of the world prediction. He first made his prediction public in 1992. Many people did strange things while facing the end. Some people quit jobs, some people cancelled bible studies, some people out of jobs delayed getting new ones, some people gave huge sums of money to Camping's ministry - even entire life savings - to "get the gospel out" at the last minute. Although I wasn't at that church until the week after the prediction date, I heard plenty of stories about odd things. Just two days earlier, their church picnic had people giving tearful goodbyes to one another. Church leaders were up late at night answering phone calls from terrified parishoners. Some people dropped out of life after the end didn't occur.

In the bible, Paul warns Timothy that men named Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching that the resurrection already took place and that it was upsetting the faith of some believers. The end has a powerful affect on people, so it should come as no surprise that one's view of eschatology can greatly affect how people live in the here and now.