Thursday, November 30, 2006

Of Proselytizers and Moralists

I want to take this post to air my heart about something that I have found particularly troubling the last several weeks, nearly a month. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a conservative Christian. I believe the Bible. I attempt to temper my knowledge of the Scriptures with humility, a little philosophy and logic, and a keen eye on historic Christianity. This is why I have began to become more than a little disenfranchised with the so-called religious right.

Conservatives have found themselves being very vocal on highly moral issues. Take for instance the consistent vitriol spewed by James Dobson and Richard Land against the homosexual community. Not to mention abortion, though I am adamantly against it, one must remember the fallen world we live in and that we can work to reduce the number of abortions but it will never be abolished altogether. Though I would desperately love to see that happen, this is not a perfect world and I think it would bode much better for the evangelical church to accept that sober fact.

If that were the case, the church could concentrate more on issues of compassion, things that I am convinced consumed much of Jesus’ time while he was here on this earth, rather than issues of morality. Though the church should be concerned with issues of morality, that is not all we should be concerned about. The reason why has been stated eloquently by John Stott in his book Christ the Controversialist. In the seventh chapter, Stott raises an important question about Christians’ responsibility in society, and he draws an applicable conclusion I think the “religious right” and all Christians need to think about.
“But proselytism and evangelism are not the same things. To proselytize is to convert somebody else to our opinions and culture, and to squeeze him into our mould; to evangelize is to proclaim God’s good news about Jesus Christ to the end that people will believe in Him, find life in Him and ultimately be conformed to His image, not ours. The motive behind proselytism is concern for the spread of our own little empire; the concern for evangelism is concern for the true welfare of men and thereby for the name, kingdom, will, and glory of God” [emphasis mine].
The church, the “religious right,” all have gone the way of the moralist, of the proselytizer. Too many Christians think like moralists, that a person should be good, or rather that they should conform to our image, an image that does not offend us nor cause us to expend any energy on them. Because if we did expend any energy, then that might actually make us true disciples, then wouldn’t it?

Jesus said, and you can correct me if I’m getting my Bible wrong, “Go therefore and make disciples.” Honestly, I don’t think the church is in the disciple making business anymore; we are in the moralist making business. You may think I am making a pretty hefty claim. Take this for instance.

Our little Podunk newspaper will occasionally print an AP news item, to confirm that they really are a big-league paper of sorts, and after reading the Wednesday edition, I was throttled; President-Elect of Christian Coalition Declines the Job. The reason he declined the position is telling.
"I wanted to expand the issues from only moral ones—such as opposing abortion and redefining marriage—to include compassion issues such as poverty, justice, and creation care," Hunter said in a statement. "We need to care as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb." Hunter went on to say, “These are issues Jesus would want us to care about.”
This organization that carries the name Christian would not allow Dr. Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, FL, to expand its agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage. Dr. Hunter then stated that the Coalition’s board decided that his view on these things were fine, but that is not who we are. Obviously then, they are just merely political, not that they were not anyway, and are more concerned with promoting their own little empire than the welfare of men.

I made a comment to a guest on my blog a couple of days ago, and I think it bears repeating.
“I guess my point would be that churches have a reputation just like individual people do. Churches sometimes resemble, at least to me, a bunch of teenagers congregating in the hallways at school, each one trying to impress the other, wearing similar clothes, talking in the same vernacular.

When a young person is different, or even odd perhaps, then he is shunned. When you have a true, radical follower of Christ, someone who loves like He loves, sacrifices like He sacrifices, gives like He gives, then that one is shunned. Why? Because he is different from the rest. We say we love like He loves, give, share, sacrifice, etc. But the fact is we don't. And it is rare to find a church, or individual believer that isn't so self-absorbed that these things really matter.

But when you can denounce and decry every going immoral behavior, then you're on to something. You got your popularity to back you up and several other "believers" behind you who "believe" the same way you do. Easily quantifiable and a popularity booster. Do we ever really ask why Christ was so popular? It was not for the same reasons.

Church is more like being like everyone else than being like Jesus. Jesus was certainly a free thinker, a deep thinker; one unafraid to counter the culture, even at the expense of destroying His own popularity.”
Dr. Hunter is different, cut from a different mold. He is a Christian that actually cares about his fellow man and not the promotion of his own agenda. Do I think that the church should decry immoral behavior? Call sin, sin? Absolutely. But as they do I think it is absolutely devoid of the love of Christ. They have gone the way of the moralist, the proselytizer.

What irritates me about this is that there are no other voices out there speaking up for those who cannot defend themselves, and then when somebody does, they are castigated like they have done something wrong and for not conforming to the popular image of righteous Christianity. Is it not at all revealing that Dr. Hunter chose to step down? Perhaps he saw it as a fight not worth fighting.

Why are all the “official” talking heads of Christianity not speaking out on the tough issues, issues that matter for human survival? Another recent AP report stated that last year four out of ten babies are born out of wedlock. What an enormous opportunity to show the love and grace of Christ to someone who desperately needs to know it, yet the church cannot get up off its sanctimonious posterior and stop finger-wagging long enough to notice that a young girl down the street desperately needs to know that someone loves her.

The Associated Press concluded the story about Dr. Hunter’s resignation as a “set back” for the once-powerful group. You will forgive me a little chuckle on that one; the poetic justice there is just too ironic.

The church I serve is involved each year in a joint Thanksgiving service. We join with two other Baptist churches, a Methodist, and a Presbyterian. Two years ago I was invited to preach and it was the Methodist church’s turn to be the host church. As Brother Don and I made plans for the service, he decided that we would simply worship and in lieu of enjoying refreshments after the service, we would receive an offering for world hunger. I told him I was fine with his decision though a little trepidacious because I anticipated the outcry that we wouldn’t “fellowship.” I prepared an appropriate message from 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, “Putting the Giving Back into Thanksgiving.” The core verse was verse fifteen, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

The next year, at the same annual service, it was at one of the Baptist churches. We received an offering for the local cancer society; we had refreshments after the service (at one of the Baptist churches, mind you). This year, the same happened. This question is not rhetorical; are we missing the point?


Links: CNN, The Roanoke Times

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

President Bush is a Liberal?

Or at least that's what a recent Baylor study says.
According to his [Paul Froese, assistant professor of sociology], released Oct. 25, 40 percent of evangelicals who support George W. Bush actually emerged as “liberal” on economic issues, specifically in beliefs about wealth distribution and economic justice.
I'm not sure I really know what that means...The study also revealed some other strange notions, especially in conservative circles. 76 percent of evangelicals believe the government should do more to protect the environment. This is one where conservatives have typically been on the wrong side. 74 percent of evangelicals believe it is “very important” to seek social and economic justice; yet again, there is no conservative voice where these issues are concerned.

This quote really caught my eye:
Conversely, some voters not classified as evangelicals revealed surprising opinions on some traditionally “liberal” causes. According to Baylor researchers, 61 percent of “nonevangelicals” think religious groups should be allowed to display religious symbols in public spaces. And a whopping 64 percent of nonevangelicals think the government should allow prayer in public schools.
Politicos nationwide would do well to take note of the twist in voter consciousness,Byron Johnson, co-director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, said in the report, “Such findings should not go unnoticed by Republican officials,” he said.
The mid-term elections didn't really do the trick so maybe this study will. And this story is just plain tragic. Ridculously, the ABP ran this story with a link on the sidebar on their website; NC Pastor Spent Church Money on Viagra. The full story documents this pastor's reprehensible behavior and the ED issue is addressed in only a minor key: "Walker used his church's credit card to pay for erectile dysfunction medication..." Talk about integrity in journalism.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dr. Dobson Said What?

Dr. James Dobson was a guest on Larry King Live this past Thanksgiving eve. The interview was a farcical embarrassment on both sides and several fellow bloggers have already picked apart the interview. I share Spunky’s incredulity about Larry King’s ignorance regarding basic American history. He is not alone in believing that the separation of church and state is somewhere in the Constitution when in fact it is not a Constitutional provision. The phrase is found in an obscure letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in 1802 in response to an appeal that their religious liberties were not seen as immutable rights by their local legislature.

Larry King could only reply, “I'm going to check my history.” Good idea, Larry.

Crooks and Liars uncovered Dr. Dobson’s shamelessness in bailing out on Ted Haggard after promising to assist in the restoration process, whatever that means.
Dr. Dobson said, “…three men, now will oversee discipline punishment—if there is any, therapy, his behavior, his money, his future and will lead him if he is willing to cooperate, and apparently he is—through a restoration process. "
And Streak, always challenging and insightful, pointed out that with friends like those you don’t need enemies. I have to agree there.
Dr. Dobson said, “I talked to him the day that the news broke and I have not talked to him since then.”
Ouch. And Larry King even said that Haggard and Dobson were close friends.

My intrigue was stepped up after having read the full transcript of the interview, and in light of the recent conversation I was involved in over at Les’ blog, I found that Dr. Dobson has a somewhat confusing view on the origin of homosexuality. As if arguing coherently against homosexuality as genetic predisposition is not difficult enough, Dr. Dobson proposes that it may be related to very early childhood development.
DOBSON: I don't believe that. Neither do I believe it's genetic. I said that...

KING: Then what is it?

DOBSON: I said that on your program one time and both of us got a lot of mail for it. I don't blame homosexuals for being angry when people say they've made a choice to be gay because they don't.

It usually comes out of very, very early childhood, and this is very controversial, but this is what I believe and many other people believe, that is has to do with an identity crisis that occurs to early to remember it, where a boy is born with an attachment to his mother and she is everything to him for about 18 months, and between 18 months and five years, he needs to detach from her and to reattach to his father.

It's a very important developmental task and if his dad is gone or abusive or disinterested or maybe there's just not a good fit there. What's he going to do? He remains bonded to his mother and...
At this point, Larry interrupts with another question.

Conservative Christians are suffering from a major disconnect when it comes to ministering to those with same-sex attractions and Dr. Dobson has not bridged that divide, and if anything he has widened that gap considerably with his consistent bromides against the homosexual community. I am not an expert in psychology and I don’t think you need a Ph.D. in the discipline to understand that most folks don’t remember anything from when they were eighteen months old, even up to as late as three years old. I am not as erudite as Dr. Dobson, but my earliest childhood memories are about four years old, and those are scant and unreliable at best.

However, is it just me or do most psychologists try to blame every aberrant behavior in a person’s life to a dysfunction in their early childhood years? The fact is that most homosexuals do not attribute their homosexuality to a maladjusted home life, though some do. My personal experience with ministering to those with same-sex attractions has shown that it is a chosen tendency and has nothing to do with heredity.

Clinical studies can oftentimes be slanted to reflect the observer’s particular bias and results are often skewed to prove the point that is sought.
Dr. Dobson said, “It usually comes out of very, very early childhood, and this is very controversial, but this is what I believe and many other people believe, that i[t] has to do with an identity crisis that occurs [too] early to remember” [emphasis mine].
Again, I am not a Ph.D. in psychology, but aren’t clinical studies meant to prove the basic behavior being tested in the clinical subjects and are not meant to be taken as universal proof? I have scoured Dr. Dobson’s website and can find nothing further explaining this “controversial view.” If anyone out there can direct me to this source I would be grateful.

In dealing with homosexual behavior, it is due to a multiplicity of reasons. Just as alcoholics and drug addicts tend to beget alcoholics and drug addicts, so those parents with gay proclivities sometimes beget children with gay proclivities. As the Bible teaches, sin tends to be generational (Exodus 34:7). Occasionally it is due to sordid home lives. Most often it is due to a choice, which the Bible teaches that it is a choice. It seems however, that an attachment problem at eighteen months of age or thereabouts would be even more difficult to document with substantial proof. In addition, conclusive evidence has yet to be presented proving that homosexual tendencies are due to a “gay” gene. Moreover, labeling homosexuality as an attachment problem doesn’t seem to stand up to the biblical evidence either.

A plain and simple point I tried to make at Les’ blog was that homosexuality is a choice. Because if homosexuality is reduced to a genetic predisposition or as Dr. Dobson claims, an attachment problem at about eighteen months, where he himself asserts, “I don't blame homosexuals for being angry when people say they've made a choice to be gay because they don't,” it erases responsibility before God and that person is in their mind no longer accountable to God for his sin.

Don Schmierer is a Christian counselor with forty years of experience and has written a useful book entitled, An Ounce of Prevention. He says this about genetic predisposition (pp.59-60):
"Homosexual feelings are developed by a complex group of circumstances in life, set up over a period of time from birth to one’s early years. Later in life, these feelings play a role in choices one makes involving sexual relations with others. Because all sexual behavior is learned behavior, a person may be inclined, because of feelings, to homosexual behavior. The choice may, in addition, be motivated by social rejection, physical or emotional disabilities, hormonal imbalances, sexual abuse, or poor role modeling. Just as people with a tendency for alcoholism must be responsible for their drinking choices, so people with a tendency toward homosexual behavior should be responsible for their sexual choices" [emphasis mine].
Dr. Dobson did redeem himself somewhat when he stated, " usually is related to a sexual identity crisis."

Though we must always emphasize Christian love and respect for all people, most Christians are woefully inadequate at expressing the same love they have been shown to those who deal with same-sex attractions. Is the key establishing that homosexuality is not an inborn trait? I don’t think so. Though it is important, I think it comes down to establishing that sin is an inborn trait, and homosexuality like all other sins, can be forgiven and through the same blood that cleanses from sin, so healing and restoration can be found.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother did conceive me. Psalm 51:5

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Blogosphere-wide Word of Gratitude to Les Puryear

In a spirit of thanksgiving, I want to extend a word of heartfelt gratitude to Les Puryear over at Crucified with Christ. Earlier this week, I proposed that he host a discussion on homosexuality after he had posted briefly on a resolution offered by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and their stance on the issue in light of current events. The argument defending homosexuality as permissive based on genetic predisposition has always intrigued me. Moreover, I have been evaluating holding a more Reformed theology, and from a Calvinist perspective I felt it would be a worthwhile discussion.

Les was amenable, and so he made an initial post and off we went. He served as an able moderator as he, Debbie Kaufmann, Big Daddy Weave, volfan007, Streak, and I exchanged volleys. There are at last count, 76 comments in the thread, and we finally had to call it quits (or at least I did).

I think we all agreed that homosexuality is a morally impermissible lifestyle and that it is not genetically predisposed. However, there was a fairly vehement argument regarding our understandings of God's sovereignty, and Les proved an able defender of "evangelical Calvinism," as he calls it.

As always in threads that length, there were concerns that went without address, questions unanswered, arguments poorly presented, (mostly mine), and interpretations questioned (to put it mildly). The debate was spirited and was not without apologies shared. With as many different viewpoints as were represented, you would know there would have to be!

Once again, Les, thanks. You are as I've said before, top drawer in my book. May you be especially blessed and may your ministry grow into its fullness, a blessing unto our great God and heavenly Father, to the praise and glory of His only begotten Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Heartless Gratitude

I read ahead somewhat in the Our Daily Bread devotional for this quarter and out of curiosity I looked at Thanksgiving Day’s entry. After reading it and digesting it for a minute, I came to the conclusion that I disagreed with the main point the writer was trying to say. The writer shared the thoughts of a Washington Post columnist saying that most holidays had been corrupted by American commercialism and with that I agree. When you think that last year we frugal Americans spent around $38 billion dollars on Christmas, the conclusion can readily be drawn that yes, some holidays have become corrupted. In 2004 we spent roughly $10.47 billion just on Easter baskets.

However, the ODB writer led into a remark that the Washington Post columnist made about Thanksgiving. He said, “Thanksgiving Day has retained its intended purpose. This is a very rare day. It is wholly and entirely about gratitude.” In a sense the columnist is right. Thanksgiving probably is the only holiday where we have not really lost our focus on what the holiday is about. However, this is where I disagree with the ODB writer. Christians probably have not corrupted Thanksgiving as much as the other Christian holidays, except maybe that we celebrate gluttony on that day more than any other as one more spoonful of creamed potatoes is ladled onto the plate. I think where we probably fall short is the underlying heart attitude.

As a whole, Christians tend to be a giving lot. Occasionally at the church I serve, we fail to meet weekly budget needs. However, in a couple of short weeks the shortfall is made up. If the church did not meet weekly budget, for at least two years it probably would make no difference, given there is enough in the treasury to financially support the church for that length of time.

I am persuaded that Christians give--and they tend to give liberally; but not always from the right heart. This is what I see. We as a culture, as Americans, have become so blessed, that we think that if we do not have this certain lifestyle, then we just cannot make it. We see giving not as a joy and an opportunity to help someone less fortunate than us but rather as a duty or an obligation. One irritated church member once quipped because the church had had a plethora of benevolence requests one year, "It feels like I have to pay to go to church these days."

This is something else I see. We mistakenly believe that if I have given money, then my duty has been fulfilled. Money is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It begins with finances; it culminates in time, resources, talents, and gifts. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that giving should be a compulsion; it flows out of a heart of love for Christ in that He gave His best for me then I also will give my best for Him. Money is the easiest thing we can give, yet it also comes at a great sacrifice (at times) that to give it we believe that we have done what God expects of us; that and nothing more.


2 Corinthians 9:15: "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" Seldom do Christians see that their blessedness is bestowed upon them not to be a blessing unto others but for the sake of the blessing itself.
"For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened." (Mark 6:52)
The word hardened means calloused, to be covered with a thick skin. I worked for a time at a little restaurant and the man whom I worked for shared with me about another man who worked for him years ago whose hands were so tough he could reach into a 350 degree oven and pull out the pan without getting burned. Something that a normal person would be very sensitive to, he was not. I could not reach into an oven that hot and pull out a pan without really burning my hands. Yet some Christians’ hearts are just that hard, that the things that they ought to feel, they do not.

We give, oh yes, and we give liberally. We above all people in the world have reason to be thankful; yet more often than not we give begrudgingly. And the bottom line is this; when you sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner, you will not sit down hungry. Why—because the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes are yours. Jesus has already worked that miracle for you. Just don't let God's gracious provision for you obscure the ideal that He looks toward in how you use that abundance.

When you live in the land of plenty you don’t hurt for others who are in need. May we this Thanksgiving be reminded that we above all people in the world are especially blessed and that we can help others who need it.

To all my patient readers, Happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you and may you in turn give that blessing unto another.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Discussion about Homosexuality

Is homosexuality genetically predisposed, or a sin? Go over to Les Puryear's blog to see if we can all come to a consensus on this hot-button issue. Doubtful, but the discussion is edifying.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Yet Another Reason... consider homeschooling your children. This is typical of the gay and homosexual propaganda and their efforts to indoctrinate our children with the view that homosexuality is a morally permissible lifestyle. A Friday, November 17th Baptist Press article chronicled how a young mother attempted to express her disgust with a particular library book that her five year-old daughter brought home for her to read, checked out from the elementary school library. The book is another sordid attempt to correlate relationships in the animal kingdom with that of the homosexual lifestyle and that simply because it is OK for animals to act this way then it necessarily follows that it must be OK for humans to participate in this behavior as well. Does anybody else see something wrong with this line of thinking? Does it not at least raise an eyebrow that in order to defend their position on homosexuality, they must resort to emulating animals?

There are a lot of things that animals do that I do not recommend that we as humans should follow suit. Many animals eat their young! The superintendent of education in the St. Louis, MO suburb of Shiloh, IL, Jennifer Filyaw, cunningly said,
"My feeling is that a library is to serve an entire population. It means you represent different families in a society -- different religions, different beliefs. That's the role of a school library."
The young mother, Lilly Del Pinto, attempted to speak with the school librarian and her daughter's teacher regarding the book but was promptly directed to Superintendent Filyaw. To me, this audibly speaks that there is an agenda behind this book remaining on the shelves. If the mother came to the teacher with a concern about Charlotte's Web or a Sandra Boynton board book, I do not think she would have been so quickly referred. In response Filyaw said,
And Tango Makes Three will stay put -- at the advice of the district's attorney, who says moving it might be legally challengeable censorship.
Again, a patent display of a pro-homosexual agenda in which legal means must be resorted to rather than good common sense to defend their views. The book's promotion of homosexuality is blatantly obvious, even from reading Amazon's summary of the book's message.
This tale [is] based on a true story about a charming penguin family living in New York City's Central Park Zoo will capture the hearts of penguin lovers everywhere. Roy and Silo, two male penguins, are "a little bit different." They cuddle and share a nest like the other penguin couples, and when all the others start hatching eggs, they want to be parents, too. Determined and hopeful, they bring an egg-shaped rock back to their nest and proceed to start caring for it. They have little luck, until a watchful zookeeper decides they deserve a chance at having their own family and gives them an egg in need of nurturing. The dedicated and enthusiastic fathers do a great job of hatching their funny and adorable daughter, and the three can still be seen at the zoo today.
Tango is fairly insidious in its approach, and espouses a false innocence. The pictures are warmly drawn, with eye-catching, cutesy penguins, surrounded by soft water colors. The layout would be perfectly appealing to an innocent child, expecting just a simple story about a few comical penguins. Del Pinto, though not definitive in her view of homosexuality, agreed that to remove the book would probably amount to censorship. She did however express my sentiment regarding the homosexuality issue,
"Of course, we know the kids eventually are going to learn about the homosexual lifestyle," she said. “That's not the issue. Please let us decide when our kids are ready. Please let us parent our kids."
Books are an invaluable resource in the life of a learning child as well as your local library. My wife and I carefully screen every book our daughters read, especially our oldest now that she devours chapter books faster than we can provide them. Books such as Tango are becoming more and more prolific, and provide just one more reason, parents, why you need to carefully consider what the public school system is intentionally doing to your children.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Back in the Saddle...Soon

Dear readers,

Apologies to all for the lack of writing lately. It seems that has been the case in several of my cyber-friends' blogs as well. After my brother's graduation from basic training and we made it back to Virginia soil, one thing led to another in ministry, as it often goes, and my time quickly flittered away. I also have taken the chair of our associational missions committee and we have hit the ground running. I wish I had known how much work would have been involved in the work of that committee! Though it poses a great responsibility, I am excited about being involved on an active, worthwhile committee for once.

Plus, I have not been 100% healthy, as neither has my wife, and all my children have runny noses, they're hacking, coughing, and sputtering. I took my youngest to the doctor this morning for an ear infection (ten days of antibiotics; yippee!).

I have been working on a new post in the Metaphors of the Church series and I hope to have it up soon, maybe by the beginning of next week. Please say a prayer for our family; we would certainly appreciate it. In the meantime, if you have a prayer concern, please feel free to let me know. I would love to pray for you. Feel free to email me directly using the link on the sidebar. I will respond!

Blessings multiplied,


Friday, November 10, 2006

Graduation Report

I have to admit, graduation was spectacular. Fort Jackson graduated 1,113 soldiers ranging in ages from 18, fresh out of high school all the way to 41. Forty-one years old! My stars, I wonder what that guy's story is???

To see all those young men and women standing at attention caused a great swell of pride within me and also a mixed bag of emotions. My mom sat there practically crying; when veterans were recognized and my dad stood, I myself was almost overcome with emotion. My whole family was in attendance as Tim marched past, taking his rightful place as part of the world's finest military. He received high marks in physical fitness, marksmanship, and morale. He can fire an M-16, an RPG launcher, throw live grenades, survive in the wilderness for extended periods, run two miles in under fifteen minutes (top that!), and he wears that uniform with pride.

I must say though, I felt a huge tinge of regret as I watched my younger brother. I was jealous because I never served my country as he will. Some things, as a boy, I was never motivated to do. I never played a team sport, I never played in the band, I never joined the military. I regret all these things and wish I could go back.

My lesson? I will never hold my children back and I will motivate them to do all that they can, all that they want. May God bless my brother and may he find his place serving the finest military outfit in the world and certainly the finest country.

You should have heard 1,113 new soldiers recite The Soldier's Creed at the conclusion of the ceremony.

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

At the end of the recitation, there was a particular emphasis placed on the "I am" of the final phrase, "I am an American Soldier." If that does not make you proud to be an American, nothing can or will.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Reason to be Proud

I will be posting light this week as I am away from my desk. My family and I are currently in Pelion, SC staying with my wife's sister and her family. It gives me a great sense of pride to leave this current post for your consideration because of the reason for which we are in SC.

On Thursday November 9th, my brother Tim will be graduating basic training for the Army out of Fort Jackson. It really is hard to believe; of course, in my correspondence with him, we joked that he never believed I would have gone into the ministry.

One of my funniest memories of Tim was when he was six years old, he hid in the washing machine. He knew mom was getting ready to put in clothes and when she lifted the lid, he jumped out scaring her half to death. Man, that was FUNNY! We still laugh about it and Tim occasionally puts a note on the inside of the lid that says "Boo!"

Now, he is prepared to defend our freedom. You go, little brother! I remember looking out for you as we grew up; now you're looking out for us.

Tim, I love you and I am very proud of you.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Twila Parris, A. W. Pink, & Ted Haggard

Present day conditions call loudly for a reprisal of the sovereignty of God. Does God rule or not? Is He as Twila Parris chimes, “in control?” Many blogs have become bogged down with the weight of prominent evangelical pastor Ted Haggard and his moral indiscretions. Unfortunately this is not uncommon. But with all the hay about personal responsibility and moral accountability, which are all important and should not at all be neglected, let us be reminded of the One that was not caught off guard by this.

“But who is regulating affairs on this earth today—God, or the devil? Attempt to take a serious and comprehensive view of the world. What a scene of confusion and chaos confronts us on every side! Sin is rampant; lawlessness abounds; evil men and sorcerers are waxing ‘worse and worse’ (2 Tim. 3:13). Today, everything appears to be out of joint. Thrones are creaking and tottering, ancient dynasties are being overturned, nations are in revolt, civilization is a demonstrated failure; half of Christendom was but recently locked together in a death grapple; and now that the titanic conflict is over, instead of the world having been made ‘safe for democracy,’ we have discovered that democracy is very unsafe for the world. Unrest, discontent, and lawlessness are rife everywhere, and none can say how soon another great war will be set in motion. Statesmen are perplexed and staggered. Men’s hearts are ‘failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth’ (Luke 21:26). Do these things look as though God had full control?”

It sounds as if A. W. Pink could have been reading our local papers, but this quote is from his book, The Sovereignty of God, pages 12-13, written in 1928. Of course the answer to Mr. Pink’s open-ended question at the conclusion of the quote is obvious.

Ms. Parris is correct in her assessment of the sovereignty of God; He is still able, He is still sufficient, He still observes, He still reigns, and He is still in control (even if the song smells a little like cheddar).

But the greater question is this; does God have full control over your life? Moral responsibility is one thing, but we must be reminded of the simple truth that God reigns over all His creation, with the exception of the heart that is not truly His.

They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble. Jeremiah 31:9


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Making Allowances

I am the lone pastor in our homeschool group and as such I am often sought out for spiritual advice, to cast vision for our group, and sometimes settle disagreements. At times it is a great blessing, at other times it is the bane of my family’s wider homeschooling endeavor. Our group meets on Tuesday afternoons in a cooperative style, teaching different classes, supplemental to our home curriculums. I am teaching chemistry this year! However, a little over a year ago I had an ugly confrontation with a fellow pastor whose children were meeting with us on Tuesday afternoons.

A problem arose in literature class which was the result of a gross misunderstanding. The pastor’s youngest daughter told her daddy that her teacher was essentially teaching that evolution was true. (Please do not leave any comments desiring to discuss creation and evolution; it is not the point of this post. Suffice it to say I believe special creation, so please stick with me here.) In a discussion of the creation story from Egyptian mythology, the little girl questioned her teacher and she could not answer in the affirmative that she believed in creation as presented in the early chapters of Genesis.

The little lady promptly told her daddy about it and to make a long story short, my brother pastor confronted the teacher and hurt her terribly. There was no humility or grace in his attack; wholly uncharacteristic of a Christian minister. One thing led to another and he called me after several conversations with this lady. Essentially he desired to mount an offensive against her and me being the only other pastor in our group, he thought he would have an instant ally.

I met him for breakfast and he shared his concerns. To prepare myself, and to be fair, I met with the teacher the week before, with another lady present from our homeschool group. Her husband was working, unable to get time off to meet with us. Having her side of the story, I met my brother pastor and I was not shocked to hear a differing tale. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I did the other lady, until he made a bold, underhanded statement.

I could accept defending his children. I accepted the potentiality of false teaching amongst our group. I accepted his right to be upset. After a laborious conversation, I was becoming sickened by false humility. It was then that he finally called the lady’s salvation into question. “Tony,” he said, “if she doesn’t believe Genesis 1-11 there is no way she can be saved.”

I nearly dropped my teeth. It took me a few moments to gather my thoughts. I really could not believe my ears and I am certain the dumbfounded expression betrayed to him my incredulity. “Well, what you are saying then is that I was not saved until just about eight or ten years ago.” I came to Christ in my late teen years and went to college to major in biology. I was really wrestling with my newfound faith and, being a science major, special creation contradicted everything I was being taught at the University of South Carolina at Spartanburg.

I will never forget one of the very first lectures in my baby botany class, which began with a discussion of the primordial ooze. A theory postulated by A. I. Oparin, a primitive “ooze” containing all the necessary elements of life was electrified in some way and behold, life began. I raised my hand and with all the innocence of a baby Christian, asked, “Where did the elements come from?” The professor answered, “They were always there.” That answer never washed with me and it still doesn’t but it was the best she could do. They had to come from somewhere didn’t they?

Nevertheless, when I came to Jesus Christ I understood some simple things. I understood that I was a sinner; a dirty rotten sinner. I felt I was so sinful that I could not be forgiven. (I learned otherwise.) I also understood that Jesus Christ died a horrible, agonizing death for me. The reason why—the wages of sin is death. I literally remember feeling so sinful and so separated from God that I wanted to die; I deserved to die. However, God had other plans for my trivial existence. My good friend, Todd, shared with me that Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay the penalty for my sins; He died so I wouldn’t have to! Now that was good news! Weeping, on my knees in Todd’s bedroom, I called on Jesus Christ to save me from my sins and I was born again. The joy of forgiveness washed over my soul, changing me from the inside out. I finally felt I was right with God.

Now I share that brief testimony to make this point. I did not believe in creation when I was saved. I had never heard of the verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible. I was light years from believing that Scripture is inerrant. It took me a lot of time to come to and hold the convictions that I do now. I did not instantly believe all those things; I had to work out my own salvation, and it has been with fear and trembling.

So, I asked my brother pastor, “Did you believe Genesis 1-11 was literal history when you came to know Christ?” He responded, “Of course I did.” But I said, “Are you not willing to make an allowance in this lady’s case, that she may be working toward that end and that she may also come to that conclusion, that Genesis 1-11 is literal history? Are you not willing to allow her time to formulate her own convictions and not force her into any particular mold?”

Sadly, he answered in the negative, and if I would not stand beside him and fight this thing, then he would find someone who would. He simply wanted her out; no discussion, just a call for her resignation, making no allowances. By the grace of God, no one took up arms and jumped in the foxhole with him, so he and his family quietly left our homeschool group. Their decision saddened me and our group, because they were a sweet family; passionate, committed, homeschoolers, zealous for their children’s welfare.

There is a moral to this story, and it may already be apparent. However, entertain me just a while longer. I have been in the blogosphere for a few months now and have made some great cyber friends. Raborn out at Ray’s X-change and Steve at Theological Musings are passionate simple church advocates. I have had great discussions with both of them. They love the Lord dearly, but we have a few theological differences. If you want to talk SBC politics, then Les Puryear is your man out at Crucified with Christ. Earl Flask is a gentle yet persuasive Calvinist blogger at metaSchema (I don’t know what that means either). He attends a Presbyterian church and he and I have been discussing baptism; need I say more?

If you want pure biblical exposition and heart and soul edification, plus a good laugh every now and then, see Gordon Cloud at Heavenly Heartburn. Tim Blankenship at Fire and Hammer, well, you get the picture. Streak, operating under a blog alias at Streak’s Blog, has the Republicans in a chokehold gasping for breath and they don’t even know it. And then there are homeschool bloggers, Spunky, Homeschrewling, and Why Homeschool? that are all worth your time.

I have been involved in good discussions on all these blogs yet I have also seen some conversations degenerate into ugly firefights totally unbecoming of the Godblogoshere. In a recent discussion, I watched someone call a person’s salvation under question just because he did not agree with his point of view. I understand and I have no problem with anonymity and blog aliases but if you are using these to fly under someone’s radar and make hurtful and snide comments, and believe you are getting away with it, please know and understand this: you do not escape God’s attention and there will be a reckoning.

We are all out here in the blogosphere to learn, be edified and encouraged, discover differing points of view, prove why we believe a certain way, yet never in a derisive fashion. Iron sharpens iron, and yes it does make sparks at times, but this is no excuse to be mean. Be passionate, uphold your convictions, but don’t resort to meanness. There is always room for more humility. Remember, there is a person on the other side of that computer screen that isn’t an argument to be won or a point to be proven.

My brother pastor totally missed the point of his own argument. Though belief in special creation is not a prerequisite for salvation, how much more effective could he have been in her life if he actually was a pastor to her, instead of being so dead-set against her? Convictions do not develop overnight, nor are they formed in a vacuum. We all are and can be part of that great process; imagine what you can miss otherwise. God makes allowances for each one of us to develop convictions; test them, try them, see if they hold up under divine scrutiny. Afford your brother or sister in Christ the same luxury.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What would the Amish, uh...I mean, Jesus do?

After the tragic slayings of five Amish children in Nickel Mines, PA and before their little bodies were even cold in the ground, the Amish did the unthinkable. Not only did they readily forgive Charles Carl Roberts IV for binding, gagging, and cold-heartedly murdering their babies, they established a fund for this man's children. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried this story a few weeks ago, but I have just gotten wind of it.
"These are innocent victims. It's not their fault, it's not their doing and they'll be going through some suffering and grieving," said Elmer Stoltzfus, an Amish bishop from another part of Lancaster County.
This is true evidence of what Jesus would do. When most of us "Christians" sit back wringing our hands wondering at such an atrocity, secretly plotting a revenge in our own hearts and entertaining ridiculous "what-ifs," these people not only forgive; they provide for his children. What a lesson for the church.



(HT: Streak)