Monday, May 30, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - OrthoCuban

Father Ernesto Obregon is an Eastern Orthodox priest who was born in Cuba and decorates his niche in the blogosphere at OrthoCuban.  I first came across Fr. Ernesto at the late Michael Spencer's Internet Monk blog, where he has been a regular commenter and a member of iMonk's "Liturgical Gangstas" group.

One thing that interested me about him is that I knew little about the Eastern Orthodox faith, and one of Spencer's purposes at iMonk was to include others from varying Christian traditions and backgrounds in the fabric of his blog.  Spencer had many issues with modern American evangelicalism, and the inclusion of people from some older traditions was one way to give his evangelical readers the idea that evangelicals did not have a corner on the Christian religion.  Fr. Ernesto has always had a way of bringing insightful observations to any given discussion, and often stated the Eastern Orthodox view on an issue.  I started reading his own blog, and he has been a regular on my blogroll ever since.

On OrthoCuban, Fr. Ernesto discusses many points of doctrine from the E.O. position, and offers a balanced view on many things, including civil and criminal justice as well as politics.  One of the best things about his writings - other than being a good writer - is that he comes to the table without the conservative political views that are often the foundation of the evangelical mindset, and will often offer a good critique of popular evangelical ideas and what its mouthpieces speak publicly.

His own story is an interesting one to be sure, how he came from being born in Cuba to becoming an Eastern Orthodox priest.  He currently lives in Alabama after many years in Florida.  Check out Fr. Ernesto's blog OrthoCuban.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Harold Camping: An Untold Story (4) - Why People Continue To Follow Him

By way of analogy.  Imagine somebody giving you a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle as a gift.  You look at the box, and it has an image of what the completed puzzle will look like.  It is the image of a stunning photograph or a beautiful painting.  The image is amazing, because if it weren't, the puzzle wouldn't sell.  Maybe it's of a beautiful marina in Maine, with hundreds of nearly identical boat masts against a background of choppy blue water.  Or of a field of flowers or a forest of redwood trees.  Since it's the grandest of puzzles, the 1000 piece puzzle, you know its complexity and its mundane-ness will combine to form a good challenge.

You open the box and dump its contents out on a table or other surface.  Now, we've all experienced the dangers of putting a difficult jigsaw puzzle together.  Pieces can be easily lost.  They can fall on the floor, or behind furniture.  Children or pets can carry pieces away.  A shirt sleeve can accidentally knock pieces off and vacuum cleaners can easily suck them up.  The puzzle takes a long time to complete, and often others do your cleaning up for you as the table might be needed for a holiday family get together.  A puzzle fanatic may have several puzzles going or have multiple puzzles in the toy box.  Pieces from one puzzle can find their way into the boxes of other puzzles.  The challenges go beyond the simple putting together of the pieces in the original box.  Often there are numerous sittings required to finish the puzzle and each time the puzzle is alternately brought out and put away.

After dumping the contents out, the strategy follows.  The face-down pieces are turned over.  Maybe you look for the edge pieces, and especially the four corner pieces.  Maybe you group them by color similarity or theme.  You identify the corners, and start a frame, then fill in.  Many of the pieces look exactly the same and you know those will take the greatest amount of time to put together.  Some pieces don't fit with any other piece.  You get stuck and can't find certain pieces.  You begin to doubt if all the pieces are there.  Maybe some of them are lost.  Maybe they weren't all in the box to begin with.  Maybe there are some from another puzzle.  You form doubts and start asking questions.

But...But the one thing we never do is question the picture on the box.  We have unwavering faith in the picture on the box.

And this is why Harold Camping is successful and has followers who continue to follow him despite being wrong.  He has sold himself and his followers the picture on the box.

Now back to being stuck.  There are several ways we get stuck when putting the 1000 piece puzzle together.  One is that we find a piece that fits.  We continue to try to fit other pieces around it, but to no avail.  Then we suddenly see a piece that fits that really doesn't fit.  We see a slight gap between two pieces, then realize that the piece is very slightly crooked.  We put it in where we thought it would fit, the colors and details seem to fit, but we realize it was a very close miss.  The jigsaw cut it with a curve that almost fit the curve of the piece that really goes there.  No wonder all the other pieces wouldn't work until we found the piece that really didn't go there!  Another way we get stuck is when we try to fit a piece with every other piece already in place.  It doesn't work.  Then we try to fit that piece with all the other pieces that haven't been placed yet.  Still no fit.  We try all of it over and over, dozens of times.  We bang our heads against the fireplace bricks.  Then we suddenly realize that the piece, which we thought we identified from the picture on the box, needs to be turned upside down!  And in no time, the piece fits somewhere and, boom, other pieces start fitting together with great speed!

In order to get the piece to fit, we need to turn it upside down.  Harold Camping needs to turn the "no man knows the day or hour" pieces upside down to get them to fit the picture on the box; the picture in which he and his followers have unwavering faith.

Each failed end-of-the-world prediction by Harold Camping is simply pieces of the puzzle not fitting together quite right.  To him and his followers, it is simply a matter of tweaking and trying new pieces until they all fit together to result in the picture on the box.  Because they have unwavering faith in the picture on the box, they are completely unable to realize that it is a false picture.  They continue to successfully add more pieces that really seem to fit together, even taking wrong pieces out and replacing them with new ones; thus they can mark their progress, but never coming to completion.  Harold Camping's view of the end times is a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle that he and his closest friends are putting together.  What they don't realize is that the 1000 pieces from the bible dumped out on to the table won't result in his picture on the box.  They have placed their faith in the picture on the box, and not in the pieces inside the box.  People who have faith in the picture on the box will follow Harold Camping.

Read Part 3

Read entire series here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 12)

This is a re-post of the 12th part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


Quite often in the typical church service we're admonished to check our worldly cares and problems at the door on Sunday morning. This is supposedly so we can worship God with more focus and purity. But more than this it guarantees that our cares and problems will greet us at the door on the way out unchanged.

Wouldn't it be great if there could be some measure of edification from other members of the body while the church meets that could be more tailored to people's needs?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

Enough for a week:

  • My last final in Process Technology was this week, having now completed three semesters of coursework.  Incidentally, or maybe coincidentally, I start a temporary job next week in a lab at a chemical plant.  It will be nice to work for a while until I get that full-time career job...I hope.  This long period of time has taken its toll and we all hope it's over.
  • From here.  Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway takes exception to a Colorado punk rock band with the name "Elway."  His lawyer asked the band to change its name.  The band's reply was choice: "We have no intention of changing the name again. We love the name, regardless of what connotations are inferred by the listener. Surely, if the Dead Kennedys could become one of punk's most popular bands without incurring litigation, Elway can keep their moniker and continue making so-so music for our dozens of fans to enjoy."  I guess all press really is good press after all.
  • My six year old loves Trader Joe's roasted seaweed snacks, and I do too.  So, I was driving by and decided to drop in.  Mmmm.  I love the peanut butter cups, too.
  • Well, the world didn't end and the rapture didn't happen.  Buster Posey was injured in a terrible collision.  Tornadoes hit California.  I got a job offer.  Oh, and the garden hose sprung a leak.
  • It's been about the coldest May I can remember.  Not even close to a 100 degree day, and few 90 degree days if any at all.  Maybe a couple.  Wonder what this summer will be like.
  • Maybe we can do the painting project this summer that we wanted to do for a year.  We've got the colors picked out already, and bought matching towels.  The towels might wear out before we get around to it, so maybe we should just set those towels aside.  I love to paint the house.
  • It just doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 11)

This is a re-post of the 11th part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


In Part 7, I noted that the 1 Corinthians passage showed all the members of the assembly involved in edifying the whole body. The typical American church model, though, has one person - or very few - doing all the work on Sunday. This is made odd when a good deal of preaching is in telling the church attenders that they are a bunch of pew sitters that don't do much, and should get involved in helping the body.

So, a very many church people are hindered from doing the work of building up the body, then condemned for not doing the work of building up the body. I can see why so many people want to leave church.

Harold Camping: An Untold Story (3) - What He Actually Predicted

There has been a decent amount of confusion over Harold Camping's various rapture/end of world predictions.  He has made many predictions, and has changed some of his predictions before, during, and after they didn't or weren't occurring.  I'm not going to go into his math calculations or how he arrived at his conclusions, but I'm going to give a point by point list of his various predictions - the ones I remember anyway.  I'm also not going into his reactions to his failed predictions here, but will save those gems for a later post in this series.

  • His first prediction (or set of them if you will) he held from the early 70's to the late 80's.  He predicted the "final tribulation" period to be the 2300 days (book of Daniel) from May 21, 1988 (Jewish Pentecost) to September 6, 1994 (Jewish Rosh Hashana).  This great tribulation would not be filled with an anti-Christ and global nuclear war, no, but something far, far worse: nobody would be saved.  God's salvation plan was finished and Family Radio would be a "comfort ministry" to true believers who were waiting for the end.  On Sept. 6, "immediately after the tribulation of those days" the sun would be dark, the moon would turn to blood and the stars would fall from the sky.  Massive earthquakes, tidal waves, and a complete upsetting of the laws of physics would terrorize the unbelievers still living on earth.  This would continue until somewhere between September 15 (Jewish day of Atonement) and Sept 22, 7 days later.  Christ would then appear on the clouds of glory (Camping long held to Reformed amillennialism), separate the sheep from the goats, cast the wicked into hell, receive the true believers to himself, destroy and recreate the earth (end of the world), and initiate the eternal state. [Update: I forgot the resurrection of the dead]
  • Not long after his May 1988 date for the ending of salvation, Camping noticed that people were still apparently hearing the gospel, repenting and becoming saved.  So he adjusted his tribulation ideas to hold that salvation would still be possible, but it would decrease greatly until Sept 6, 1994, which was now the new date for the end of salvation.  His predictions were private and he refrained from making them public.  Until September of 1992, when he announced his end times plan to the world over his radio program.
  • Nothing happened on Sept 6, and that evening on his call-in radio program he - after working all day on his calculations - figured out that he slightly misunderstood the Greek word "immediately" that I referenced above.  He read it literally and expected it to happen at sundown the night before (ancient Jewish start of a day) Jerusalem time.  He now suggested that everything would be the same, except that the apocalypse would start sometime before Sept. 15, and his original prediction for the end of the world would still happen.
  • When nothing happened again, he took to his calculator and shifted his prediction to October 15, 1994 for the end of the world.
  • When nothing happened again, he took to his calculator and shifted his prediction to December 25, 1994.
  • When nothing happened again, he took to his calculator and shifted his prediction to sometime in February, 1995.  I apologize for not remembering a specific date, but it might have been the Jewish day of Purim.
  • Then nothing happened yet again.  He then figured out that it was still the day of salvation and that he was very happy about that.
  • He then made another prediction for the end, this time to occur sometime in early 1996.  I forget that exact date, too, and it might have been the Jewish Purim date I mentioned about his 1995 failed prediction.
  • In the late 90's and early 2000's, Camping - to my knowledge anyway - left off on the predictions.  Instead, he had new theology brewing in his basement.  With nothing but a bible (ahem!) he figured that September 6, 1994 would also be the date for the end of the church age - or, wait, was that May 21, 1988?  In either case, God was now done with his church and Satan had taken it over.  All true believers were to leave their churches and gather in informal fellowships (with no baptism or Lord's Supper) and support Family Radio, of course.  All church leaders, i.e. pastors, elders and deacons were now under the direct control of Satan and were not to be trusted.  Ironically, this revelation of his retroactively applied to Camping himself, as he was a church elder until he announced that God was done with the church.  Self-fulfilling prophesy?
  • Then a few years ago, Camping went public again with a new prediction for the end of the world.  What he originally thought was a 2300 day final tribulation was now a 23 year tribulation in his re-worked scheme.  This would put Judgment Day and the end of the world sometime in the year 2011, but he somehow didn't know a date.  [Editor: This was truly strange, as he usually does know the date that Christ returns]
  • Later on, he revealed that May 21, 2011 would be the end of the world.  Or at least I remember it that way.  He had no October 21, 2011 date yet.  [If anybody has more info on this, I'd like to hear.]
  • Then later, he predicted that the May 21, 2011 date would be for a "rapture" of true believers out of this world, with apocalyptic catastrophe occurring on the earth until the October 21, 2011 date which would be the end of the world and Christ's return to earth.
  •  When nothing happened on May 21, 2011, within 48 hours Camping announced that he didn't know why nothing happened, but that October 21, 2011 would still be the end of the world, just as predicted.  The "bible absolutely guarantees it" after all.
I hope this helps anybody interested in this to get a bit of the Harold Camping prediction timeline.  If anybody has anything to add, or if I missed something, or if you want to make a correction, feel free in the comments.

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

Read entire series here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - Northern Gleaner

Gene Redlin blogs at a piece of e-real estate known as Northern Gleaner. Gene was one of the earlier blog connections that I had when I started blogging, and has become a friend.  One thing about Gene is that he's quite unique and doesn't fit "the box."  Whatever box that is.

Gene lives in the Chicago area and is originally from North Dakota, and has a special heart for the prairie.  He has an interesting church background with a bit Lutheran and some charismatic influences.  Gene proclaims himself to be a prophet.  I've been in exclusively "cessationist" churches (that all sign and related gifts are no longer being used by God), so my friends that have that view might not understand what Gene means by the prophetic.  Gene has strong opinions on many things and it shows in his writing.  His friendship in my own navigation of things church has been invaluable.  Read Gene at Northern Gleaner.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Harold Camping: An Untold Story (2) - Camping vs. Family Radio

There's a reason I titled this post "Camping vs. Family Radio."  It's because they're not the same thing and they don't necessarily believe the same thing.  There have been quite a few people pointing out the hypocrisy of Harold Camping/Family Radio's end of the world prediction for May 21, 2011, yet at the same time signing operations and advertising contracts that extend beyond the end of the world.  Why not put your money where your mouth is?  Then there are the people who say, "Wow, Family Radio has such great Christian programming.  Outside of that nutjob Harold Camping, that is.  I listen to everything but him."  Then there are the self-appointed theology police among the Campingites who wonder how Camping allows such obvious doctrinal error on his station from the other programming.

I'm not an expert on Family Radio, and haven't paid much attention to them over the last ten years.  But I do know that it started out as a partnership long before Camping developed his peculiar brand of theology.  Yes, Camping is the president of Family Radio, and a co-founder, but he's not dictator.  It's a corporation and there's a board of directors.  There is a significant percentage of people who have worked at Family Radio over the years that do not follow Camping or his teachings, including some decision makers.  I'm not privy to all the give-and-take or checks and balances at Family Radio, but I have personally known many people who have worked there.  So, there are people there who knew the world wouldn't end and who knew their operating and advertising budget would need to continue next week and in the years to come.  Many of these non-Campingites have had to endure the embarrassment of Camping's foolishness.  So when you read some stories about Family Radio and have some quotes from employees who say they don't believe Camping and have never been pressured to do so, I believe them.

There have been people of other theology systems who work there.  Calvinists who don't believe Camping, Arminians, charismatics, Roman Catholics, homosexuals.  There are normal Christians who want to work in radio and want to play traditional music, or operate short wave, etc.  Camping has a great control over his own programming, and thus can use Family Radio name to do it, but he doesn't own the whole ball of wax.  And for that we can be thankful.

In my time at his church, I talked quite a bit with people who did or had worked at FR.  Many of them had reservations about the spirituality or even salvation of the non-Campingites who worked there and wished Camping had more control over things.  Anyway, this is just to say that Harold Camping and Family Radio aren't totally synonymous.  More to come...

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

Read entire series here.

Harold Camping: An Untold Story

Now that it's no longer 6pm on May 21 anywhere on earth, Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, has once again proved through another false and failed end-of-the-world prediction that he is a false and failed teacher of Christianity.  I've thought about writing a series of posts on Camping given that I have a very personal and experiential tie to him.

You see, I was converted to Christianity through his gospel ministry, attended his church many years ago, sat for a bible study every Tuesday night in his living room, and experienced first hand the terrible fallout of his first failed end-of-the-world prediction back in 1994.  I also figured out where he went wrong in his prediction and personally confronted him...or tried to anyway.  And he would have none of it.  I repented of Harold Camping.

In some ways I am embarrassed to admit that I have had such a bad camping trip (ahem!), but in other ways I am glad that I have been able to some degree in helping others (including myself) avoid such bad teaching.  And his bad teaching hasn't been limited to end times predictions.

What I hope to accomplish in this series is to give additional information on Camping and his teachings that are little known, to correct some misunderstandings and common factual errors believed about his teachings, to show some of his errors and how his end times beliefs evolved over time, to offer some insight as to what it was like to be on the inside back in 1994, and to increase my blog site traffic.

First, before I get into the end of the world junk, let me just say that once upon a time, Harold Camping preached the real, true Christian gospel and had many very solid, biblical beliefs about Christianity.  It is because of this that I converted to Christianity.  And it is in spite of his many false teachings that I continued in the Christian religion the way that I did.  And the first thing I want to mention is that holding to false beliefs and being caught up in things one ought not be caught up in can lead to the ignoring of responsibility.  I heard the gospel from him, attended his church, and told many there of my conversion.  But he and his group were so caught up in his prediction that they failed to baptize me.  I'm not saying that the following passage is talking about being saved by baptism, but being baptized is part of the Christian religion.  More to come in another post.

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned."  Mark 16:15-16


Read Part 2 here.

Read entire series here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 10)

This is a re-post of the tenth part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


Alan Knox on his Assembling of the Church blog posts about a new website called Participatory Church Gatherings by Andrew Wilson (read the introduction here). [Update: blog link no longer available.]  Wilson quotes D. Martin Lloyd-Jones on questioning the sit-on-our-hands-while-two-or-three-people-do-everything model of church. I'll be following this site as it moves forward with its ideas.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

The end:

  • It looks like I may be starting to work pretty soon.  Stay tuned...
  • Today I was in an industrial area, driving on a gravel road, about to park in an odd parking lot, when all of a sudden a cargo ship went by just a couple hundred yards in front of me.  I guess I was a lot closer to the water than I thought.  Strange sight to see a ship go by on "dry land."
  • Looks like Family Radio's website is down.  I'm wondering why.
  • Mud, mud, mud.  Our three year old found the hose at the same time he found a pot full of soil.  We had a very earthy sidewalk for a half hour.
  • What's the difference between a frog and a toad?  An alligator and crocodile?  A rabbit and hare?  I've lived this long and I don't know.  I'm sure there are many others I can come up with if I think hard enough.
  • Yesterday was one of those reading program things for kids where if you read a certain amount you get to go to an Oakland A's baseball game.  My third grader was there with many from his class and I was along as well.  And so were 11,000 kids from all over.  In case you're interested, a game crowd sounds much, much different with 11,000 kids there.
  • Okay, yeah it's over eleven minutes, but what's that compared to eternity?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 9)

This is a re-post of the ninth part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


In keeping with Part 8 where I was writing about all the members in the church service involved in edifying the whole body, Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church posts about spiritual gifts in the assembled church. To quote:

Scripture only gives two requirements for someone to exercise their gift when the church is assembled: whatever they do must be motivated by love (1 Cor. 13) and must edify the church (1 Cor. 14:26). No gifts should be refused, and no gifts should be elevated above the others - as long as the gifts are used to edify other people. Similarly, the people should be given the opportunity to use their gifts when the church is assembled, and they should be reminded that God holds them responsible for this. In other words, if someone is in charge of the meeting time, that person should make sure that others are given opportunity to edify the church. And, the people gathered should be reminded that God wants them to participate and expects them to participate in building up the body.

Giving all the people an opportunity to edify others, in the context of the church meeting, when the entire church is together, is a good example of "power to the people." Leave it to God to design such a thing. Those who are "nobodies" in the eyes of the world can have great power in Christ's church. No wonder so many poor people throughout history have become Christians.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - Commandments of Men

Lewis Wells has created somewhat of a stir on the web with his blog Commandments of Men.  To use his own words, Lewis provides "Editorial and commentary on the dark, hyper-fundamentalist side of the Christian faith, including movements such as Patriarchy, Quiverfull, Courtship - and the dangerous hold those teachings are taking over the Christian Homeschooling movement and industry - Family Integrated Churches, the Religious Right, and more" as stated in his current blog subtitle.  His blog, in such a short time, has been responsible for a good percentage of site traffic on my own blog.

The main catalyst for Wells' blog was a failed relationship he had with a woman.  It failed because of her family's involvement in the relationship - a family that practiced ideals within a movement known as Patriarchy.  He looks at many of the beliefs in this movement and similar other movements, such as the courtship movement.

I'm not a stranger to the ideas of the Patriarchy and courtship movements, and had some terrible experiences when I was single with trying to put Joshua Harris's book "Why I Kissed Dating Goodbye" into practice.  I've been part of churches and circles and have had friends that have had ties with or endorsed some of the views that Wells examines, and have heard stories from friends that were just as wacky and bizarre as Wells describes from his own experience.  What it all boils down to is that many of the beliefs in these movements are simply commandments of men rather than true biblical commands for living.  Hence his blog title.

My favorite quote Wells uses, and shows on his blog, is from CS Lewis: "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under live robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."  I'm extremely experienced with what can happen when men add their own ideas to God's and promote the product as godly.  What I'll do, instead of taking up the fight in this blog post, is to point you to Lewis Wells' blog Commandments of Men so you can read and decide for yourself. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blog Series List and Description

In the tabs section of my blog header, under the "Blog Series" tab, I have now given a list of my blog series here at From the Pew.  These series are major writing themes of mine that have been broken down into smaller posts, and gathered together as series.  In this tab I also describe each series and include links for your convenience.

If you wonder what these series are or why they would be a good read, simply click on the "Blog Series" tab at the top of my blog just under the title, or simply click here.  A list of blog series can also be found in the lower parts of the right margin.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 8)

This is a re-post of the eighth part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


In Part 7, I noted that the 1 Corinthians passage showed all the members of the assembly involved in edifying the whole body. It would be interesting to know how many people were there in Corinth. Although I see no limit placed on the number of people in an assembly, I think it might be rather difficult to do this in the context of a 10,000 member mega-church. Does this say anything about the size of a church? Maybe it does. But there are successful large churches who claim to succeed by breaking down into much smaller groups at other times during the week for more personal interaction. Are large churches that don't break down into smaller groups as successful? Can edification take place in these smaller groups? Is there an advantage to doing things this way? Could we call these smaller groups "church"? Questions, questions, questions.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

A week that went by far too fast, but I'm not complaining:

  • Trying to get some major work done on my car and getting the local community college auto shop class just might do the trick for a lot less.
  • One of the kids trimmed the bushes out front with a pair of scissors.  Art.
  • I saw a pretty cool 1954 Chevy yesterday.  I guessed it to be a '54, then saw the license plate ring that confirmed it.  They don't make them like that anymore.
  • My ten year anniversary clock from my previous career is several minutes slow.  I adjust it every couple of months.  I wonder if it being slow means anything.
  • 409.  It's a catch-all cleaner around our house.  Bathrooms, kitchens, floors.  We should buy stock.
  • It's a bit strange, but my school's cafeteria makes a pretty good burrito.  Not expected, but when I feel the need, it's a good one.  And they carry my favorite hot sauce, Tapatio.
  • This is like next week, huh?  Will we ever make it?

Blogger Is Back Up, I Guess

It looks like Blogger is back up.  I was able to re-post my Wednesday's post Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 7) before Blogger re-posted all the removed posts.  I don't know what effect this will have on anything, but hopefully Blogger has the bugs worked out.

Blogger is Down

Apparently Blogger has been down for a few days now and in order to fix it, they had to remove all posts created since early Wednesday morning.  Hopefully all will be back to normal soon with new posts up.  Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 7)

This is a re-post of the seventh part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


In Part 6, I concluded that the passage found in 1 Corinthians 11:17 through chapter 14 was in the context of the church meeting. I also noted how many people were involved in the church meeting, and this can be seen by the following:

  • "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (12:7)
  • "For to one is given...and to another... and to another...and to another...and to another...and to another...and to another...and to another...and to another..." (12:8-10)
  • "...but that the members may have the same care one for another" (12:25)
  • "...but if all prophesy..." (14:24)
  • "...when you assemble, each one has a..." (14:26)
  • "For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;..." (14:31)
It seems here, whatever the interpretation of Paul's exhortation that the women shouldn't speak, that either all members of the assembly speak and contribute to the edification of all, or at the very least, all the men do this. All of the members are active in the edification of all the others? This isn't the modern American model at all.
This isn't, either, a primer for charismatic church services. If the biblical model has everybody doing the task of edification, and the sign gifts of tongues and prophesy (whatever that was in the NT era) have since ceased, then does that necessitate the complete abandonment of the "everybody involved" so that only the preacher and choir do edifying things? Wouldn't we still follow this model (even without tongues of prophesying) that includes everybody edifying everybody?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - Heidelblog

Well, I wanted to highlight another certain blog this week that is on my "don't always agree" list, but lo and behold it has been taken down by the blog author.  That would be the Heidelblog by R. Scott Clark.  Now I want to assure everybody that my decision to highlight his blog just prior to his taking it down is a mere coincidence, and I don't want any conspiracy theorists to run with this.  Also, I didn't cause it, either.
Clark is a Reformed pastor and is the Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California.  Clark is an adherent to what is known as Reformed Confessionalism, which is the taking of the standard (or what Reformed Confessionalists consider to the the standard) confessions of the children of the Protestant Reformation, and putting them into serious force as grounds for the doctrines and practices of the church.  Of course, to Reformed Confessionalists, anything outside of the Reformed confessions are at least suspect if not downright wrong.  To put it another way, it's making an "ism" out of the Reformed Confessions.  Clark's blog has been a way for me to keep a pulse of the Westminster folks and how they deal with today's theological issues from a Reformed standpoint.

I've tangled it up with Clark on my blog over the subject of baptism, and I have the knack of collecting blog and Facebook friends who have histories of arguing with him over various issues, people who have seemingly little other in common.  Nevertheless, I'm highlighting Heidelblog in case Clark ever starts his blog again.

End of World Talk Heating Up

Well, Harold Camping's group is more in the news lately, as his latest in a long string of false end-of-the-world predictions is set for Judgment Day next Saturday, May 21.  Camping groupies are putting up billboard and bus bench advertisements all over the country, including here in the San Francisco Bay Area where Camping operates.  It has garnered enough attention that SF rock station KFOG morning DJ's are asking what songs to play on the radio to commemorate the end.

Of course, they'll play REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It," but I'm wondering what other songs will make the list.  Do you have any suggestions?  Feel free to leave them in the comments.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Is Forgiveness Tied to Repentance?

Last year I posted with the following question: Is forgiveness based on repentance?  I just brought up a general question, but have had time to think more about it since then.  Well, today, Lewis Wells who blogs at Commandments of Men blogged a piece called Forgiveness Isn't Always Forgetness.

A passage in Luke (18:1-4) has Jesus talking about a link between forgiveness and repentance:

He said to His disciples, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.  Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

I notice that Jesus doesn't say, "and if he sins against you seven times a day, forgive him anyway."  So the question is, what about those who sin against you and who never repent?  If we rebuke them, and they don't repent, Jesus doesn't require forgiveness from us.  Lewis has a good example of this in his post.

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 6)

This is a re-post of the sixth part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


The apostle Paul describes the church meeting in a large chunk of Scripture, from 1 Corinthians chapters 11 through 14. In a direct context of the entire church meeting together, I'm going to use the following section of Scripture. It's a fairly large chunk to read to get the context for a blog post, but reading it through will help you to understand where I'm coming from and where I'm going. The text is 1 Corinthians 11:17 through chapter 14. Click through to the Bible Gateway passage.

Here, I'm going to point out all of the locations in this text where Paul specifically talks about the church meeting, where all of us gather together. He does so in the following verses:

  • But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 1 Cor. 11:17
  • For in the first place, when you come together as a church... 1 Cor. 11:18
  • Therefore when you meet together... 1 Cor. 11:20
  • So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 1 Cor. 11:33
  • If anybody is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. 1 Cor. 11:34
  • And God has appointed in the church, first apostles,... 1 Cor. 12:28
  • ...however, in the church, I desire to speak... 1 Cor. 14:19
  • Therefore if the whole church assembles together... 1 Cor. 14:23
  • When you assemble, each one has... 1 Cor. 14:26
  • ...but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church... 1 Cor. 14:28
The above Scripture references are merely those verses that deal specifically with the church meeting. It is abundantly clear from reading the whole passage that all the rest of the passage in between all these verses is talking about the same context. This context is the meeting together of the church. Paul speaks much in this passage about the body of Christ, which is the church, and all of its members, how those members relate to each other, what types of gifts each member has, how those gifts are to be used, how all the members are necessary, and how each respective gift of all those members are necessary, what effects the exercise of those gifts have on one another, and not only that, but what effect the exercise of gifts has on unbelievers who happen to be there, different offices that God appoints that have certain gifts, the Lord's Table and how we should relate to one another during it, how many people should speak in church and what the result should be, and that it should all be done orderly. Whew! That's a lot of stuff, and all this is in the context of meeting together as the church.
(I'm not going to address the end of this passage with respect to whether women should be allowed to speak, etc., as this has other issues tied to it, and doesn't affect what I'm trying to point out in this series. I included it just to show that it is still in the context of the meeting of the church.)
It is simply amazing how many members are involved in the church meeting that Paul describes. This passage is quite different from the standard American tradition of church where a very select few (or even one!) actually do anything that affects all the others. For Paul, the goal is edification. With the American model of church, it's amazing to me to that our system hasn't fallen completely apart with so few involved in edifying one another every week. In many cases it has fallen apart, as the number of church closures and people who leave their churches testifies.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

Six days just aren't enough:

  • The rain has left us for very warm, almost summerlike weather.  A few days in the 90's made it shorts weather, even at night.  Today it is very breezy, which is welcome.  Sun, sun, sun.
  • We have achieved fountains!  Duck ponds near where we live have water fountains in the middle of them.  Broken since we've lived here, somebody came out and restored them to glory.  Another cool thing about being a kid.
  • Our nine year old has taught himself how to fish.  In a nearby creek he practices catch and release with some of the small fish.  He fills a container full of creek water and catches about a half dozen, then returns them.  He now knows how to fish.  Can't wait to see what's next.
  • Oh, goody.  English soccer on the Tele.  Or, excuse me, football.  So much more exciting than American soccer, even if the announcers aren't speaking Spanish.  Gooooooooooooal!  I'm waiting for the riot to break out.
  • Memories of the desert.  One of our boys was born in a city in a desert, and today he was asking if there were sand and rattlesnakes.
  • Something that almost never happens.  Our three year old takes a nap on the couch.  How funny.  This one is worth a picture!
  • It's my favorite song from my all time favorite album, but it's not my favorite song.  Dig?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 5)

This is a re-post of the fifth part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 4)

This is a re-post of the fourth part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


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

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

Monday, May 02, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - Pyromaniacs

Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips and Frank Turk co-blog at a site called Pyromaniacs.  "Team Pyro" is an acceptable nickname for the blog, as it is used in their URL and in my labels.  This is one of the blogs in my "I don't always agree" category that I mentioned last week.  A good summary of this blog can be found in its own subtitle, "...Setting the World on Fire."  Team Pyro are in the staunchly conservative, baptistic and Calvinistic strain of the theoblogoshpere.  They are rigid in their beliefs and their certitude is certain.  They don't hesitate to "flame" those with whom they disagree, and it ties in well with the subtitle.  Pyromaniacs is one of the most widely read Christian blogs on the web, and their comments section frequently hits the century mark.

I have read them for a number of years for several reasons.  I keep up with the pulse of John MacArthur type theology which is such a large part of my theological past.  Phil Johnson is MacArthur's right hand man with respect to research and editing MacArthur's books and other written material and I if I remember correctly is a head honcho in MacArthur's radio ministry.  Frank Turk is a longtime Southern Baptist coming from the relatively small Calvinist sector of the SBC, and Dan Phillips, I believe, might be a baptistic type of guy in a Presbyterian(?) environment (somebody please correct me if I'm wrong here.)

In addition to keeping up with the MacArthurite mindset, the many commenters who are pro-MacArthur/pro-Pyro serve as a study in theological phychology for me and are a good reminder of where I used to be.  There are a number of dissenters as well in the comments section, and I have actually blog-befriended several of those who have made well constructed objections to some of their theology.  And vice versa.  Dissenters don't fare very well over there, as one needs to walk a good line to pull it off.  I find dissent at least interesting and at most view-changing.  For me, that is, and most usually not for the Pyros or their supporters.  I occasionally poke the hornets nest when I feel it needs poking, and I also agree with them in the comments section when I feel it needs agreeing with.  One of the more interesting things that happens occasionally over there is the flaming of John Piper upon his inviting of "questionable characters" to speak at one of his conferences.  You know, like Mark Driscoll.  Team Pyro also posts a weekly helping of Charles Spurgeon from his preaching or writing archives from a century ago.

All in all, Pyromaniacs is a necessary link in my blogroll and in my personal reading.

The Christian Response

The Christian Response to the news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US special forces should be one of joyous celebration.   No, wait.  The Christian Response should be one of sadness, since somebody died who is now in hell forever and we should have no joy in such a thing.  No, wait.  The Christian Response should be one of sobriety with a calm satisfaction that God used his own appointed civil magistrate to exact justice upon an evildoer, just like Romans 13 says.  No, wait.  The Christian Response should be one of horrific trembling because it could have just as easily been me who is now burning in hell forever for my sins.  No, wait.  The Christian Response should be one of fear because our unconstitutional involvement in a series of unjust wars based upon lies resulting in the assassination of a terrorist leader will only fuel more terrorist fire.  No, wait.  The Christian Response should be just how I respond, because I am a Christian who is responding even if that response isn't one.

Actually, I have some mixed feelings about the whole thing.  In one way, it is a big news item that caps ten years of big news items.  Of course, that means endless droning on by media and empty talk.  The need to string out a story until I get sick.  The story is already tiring to me.  I turned the boob tube off already.  In another way, it's good to know that such an evil man is no longer functioning at a level of communication between brain waves and fine motor skills that will cause more harm to more people.  In another way, I just yawn because I don't care too much.  As the world turns.  Personally, if he's burning in hell right now the thought doesn't bother me at all.

As this news broke somewhat late in the evening, most of the Christian Responses were of the "unofficial" kinds by people I know on various social media sites, mostly from night owls.  It was really interesting to me to see the wide range of responses.  These are from people I actually know, so I value their thoughts and emotions.  And I actually prefer this type of unofficial discussion to what I know will happen tomorrow... the "official" Christian Responses by official mouthpieces of the religion, telling us according to the bible how we should have responded last night before the official people could type out all their thoughts on their blogs.  So thank you to all my social media friends for your candid, unofficial responses.  Now, I can't wait to see the cell phone videos of Bin Laden leaving the building.  I wonder how long it will take for them to hit the net?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 3)

This is a re-post of the third part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


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

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

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

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

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