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.