Friday, March 30, 2007
Yesterday afternoon I had the wonderful privilege of meeting fellow pastor and blogging buddy, Les Puryear. I wish that it could have been under different circumstances that I could have met Les, but I had the privilege of shaking hands with him and hugging his neck nonetheless.
After checking in on Les' blog yesterday morning, I discovered that his dad, Clifton, whom I have been diligently praying for, was in the hospital, potentially not going home, but rather home to heaven. Given that Les and his family were only going to be about forty-five minutes away at Person Memorial Hospital in Roxboro, NC, I made arrangements to see them that afternoon.
Les was exactly what I expected. He was kind, gentle, humble, and compassionate. His attitude and demeanor revealed his great love for Christ, which I knew anyway. Les is the type of guy that when he smiles, his whole face smiles. We had a blessed time talking shop and we concluded our terribly brief time together with a sweet time of prayer for his father. One thing about meeting Les I found rather humorous was I was expecting someone taller...I am short, but I am still curious how Les sees over the pulpit. He must have a brick to stand on. :)
His family were equally a privilege to meet. My prayers, and I would also request that yours as well, dear readers, would be with Clifton Puryear's family during this time of crisis in their lives. May the sweet love of Christ envelop them.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
State chess officials allowed the homeschool students to play as teams for two years because of changing or unclear national rules on the subject, but this year, they ruled team members must come from the same school.The justification of this ruling is curious, in that a homeschooling dad made the disingenuous statement, "If homeschool students were allowed to form teams, he said, it would be like allowing sport teams to take students from any geographical area." This argument seems to be a red herring of the worst kind in that private schools already do this, and their student population tends to be even more exclusive than the number of homeschool kids.
"The tournaments were created and designed for school teams," said Will Wharton, president of the Arizona Chess Federation board. "The problem is their connection is just chess, they're not doing any schooling together."
The point is that the state chess committee felt that homeschoolers were stacking the deck in their favor. Perhaps they are making the same assumption that this particular group of homeschoolers doesn't do anything but sit around and play chess all day, much like a group of homeschoolers that swept the Scripps Spelling Bee about ten years ago.
It seems the homeschooling movement is gaining a full head of steam and is drawing more and more attention.
The bee has come under fire in recent years as a number of students allegedly hired special coaches to help them prepare for the bee, a luxury many spellers cannot afford. Some suggest homeschooled students have an advantage, that they can forgo their studies to prepare for the bee. Homeschoolers respond that, while they do have extra time to devote to spelling practice, such extra time does not come at the expense of their other studies...
(HT: Janine Cate)
Monday, March 26, 2007
Biblical illiteracy is not just a religious problem. It is a civic problem with political consequences. How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment or the environment without knowing something about the Bible? Because they lack biblical literacy, Americans are easily swayed by demagogues on the left or the right who claim — often incorrectly — that the Bible says this about war or that about homosexuality.Prothero's solution to this societal ill is to begin teaching biblical literacy in the classroom. He claims that since the Bible is of foundational importance to Western civilization, that it would serve America well to have it taught from a neutral stance, simply as a cultural document. Because biblical references are commonly used in everyday speech in the public square, with little knowledge of why they are used or their origin, that:
What makes sense is one Bible course for every public high-school student in the U.S. This is not a Christian proposal. It does not serve the political left or the political right. It serves our young people and our public life.So what do I fear? Fretfully, this: should (or could) the Bible be taught simply as a cultural document, for biblical literacy's sake, in public schools? Is that even possible? One thing Mr. Prothero does get right is this:
Yet U.S. citizens know almost nothing about the Bible. Although most regard it as the word of God, few read it anymore. Even evangelicals from the Bible Belt seem more focused on loving Jesus than on learning what he had to say.
Friday, March 23, 2007
If you feel the need to submit your request privately, my email is on the sidebar.
As a young minister, I was asked by a funeral director to hold a graveside service in a new cemetery for a derelict man (with no family or friends) who had died while traveling through the area. The cemetery was way back in the country. This man would be the first to be laid to rest at this new cemetery.
As I was not familiar with the backwoods area, I became lost. Being the typical man I didn't stop for directions. And when I finally arrived an hour late, I saw a crew and a backhoe, but the hearse was nowhere in sight.
The workmen were eating lunch. I apologized for my tardiness, but the workers just looked puzzled. I stepped to the side of the open grave, to find the vault lid already in place. I assured the workers I would not hold them long, but this was the proper thing to do. As the workers gathered around, still eating their lunch, I poured out my heart and soul. As I preached, the workers began to say "Amen," "Praise the Lord," and "Preach it, brother!" (They must have all been Baptists.)
I preached and I preached, like I'd never preached before. I began in Genesis and worked all the way to Revelation. I preached for 45 minutes. Finally, I closed in prayer and it was finished. As I was walking to my car, I felt that I had done my duty and I would leave with a renewed sense of purpose and dedication, in spite of my tardiness.
As I was opening the door and taking off my coat, I overheard one of the workers saying to another, "Ya know, I've been putting in septic tanks for 20 years, but I ain't never seen anything like that before."
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Then again, the Republicans are fielding a motley crew right now: if you count Newt Gingrich, who'll probably join the fray in the fall, the four leading candidates have had nine marriages among them: Giuliani three, Gingrich three, McCain two and Romney one.Greg Sargent draws an interesting point:
If you think about it, the entire field of Dems deemed credible boasts fewer divorces than Rudy Giuliani alone!Among the Democratic hopefuls, Obama has been married to the same woman for fifteen years, Edwards faithfully to Elizabeth since 1977, Richardson, thirty-three years to the same woman, and Biden's first wife was killed in a car accident in 1972. He has been married to his second wife for nearly thirty years.
The top four GOP candidates have divorced a total of five times, while the top four liberal candidates have a total of zero divorces among them. And the whole field of Dems seen to have a credible shot at winning has gotten fewer total divorces than the current GOP frontrunner.
Some claim that a candidate's family life, as well as a nationally elected leader's, is none of the public's business. I am of the opinion however that a nationally elected leader's home life is of substantial importance. I do not think they should be forced into a fish bowl, but if a leader has multiple marriages or is practicing "serial monogamy," then that is a cause for concern. As conservatives who typically vote Republican, should we take this issue into account and if so, to what degree?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
"We cannot keep God's commandments perfectly, but we can keep them purposefully. We can rise each day with longing in our heart to do what is in accordance with God's will. We can pray, 'Lord, not my will but thy will be done. Shape me today by the Word that thou hast spoken, even in a world that repudiates thee.'"-Dr. Joel Beeke
Monday, March 19, 2007
And so it ends. Spurning an offer for prayer and without even a backward glance she left my office and overturned her marriage vows. The reason? Irreconcilable differences.
This has got to be the most heartbreaking few moments of a pastor's life when a congregant stiff-arms God, rejecting the free offer of divine grace. Grace cannot speak to my need. Grace cannot help in my circumstances. Grace cannot undo what has been done. Grace cannot...grace cannot...grace cannot...
It almost causes me to fall to pieces when in the lives of born-again Christians that the same grace that miraculously saves cannot providentially sustain. Why is it so many Christians have no difficulty at all whatsoever trusting their eternal soul to God for salvation but cannot turn over to Him a relationship? Or a marriage? Or a job? Or a financial responsibility? Or an unruly child? Or anything of any temporal significance?
More often than not I have found among God's people that grace is insufficient. We hear a lot about trouble, but little about victories. We see much selfishness, but precious little sacrifice. We readily accept defeat but practically never celebrate having conquered through Christ. My conjecture is that we fail to see things that are temporal as having eternal significance.
"Tony, God wants me to be happy." I have heard that stated so matter-of-factly that even I am almost brought to believe it. Each time I have gently and lovingly responded, "No, God wants you to be obedient."
And this is the crux of the matter. Obedience costs. It crimps style. It gets in the way. It denies you of what you may want. However, it always gives you what you need. Rather than choose obedience, we would stiff-arm God. As He stands open-armed, ready to receive, we race by with arm out-stretched, side-stepping His free offer of grace and mercy to help in our time of need. Why? Because grace cannot...
Being brought to the place of obedience is not easy. King David attempted to stiff-arm God, but a prophet got in the way. We are all familiar with King David's sin, but forgive a preacher a few moments of Scriptural reflection.
So David's anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!" Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!"God was not concerned one iota about David's happiness. God wanted him in the place of obedience. If anyone had seen the marvelous hand of God's grace move it was David. The unfavored son, small and insignificant, was chosen by a sovereign God to rule all Israel. When he was but a boy, he took up a sling and amidst the taunts of those whom he loved but with the power of God, he slew a giant. Pursued relentlessly by a crazed lunatic, he overcame and was anointed king; his adversary dead by his own sword. Yet in the heat of the moment, having given way to the lusts of passion, he stiff-armed God. David's happiness became his ultimate goal. In his heart, he conceded, "Grace cannot..." David, having been the recipient of grace unmatched except only in the life of the Lord Jesus Himself, was unable to allow grace to help him overcome a moment's temptation.
So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." 2 Samuel 11:5, 7, 13
But isn't that what grace is all about? To overcome in life moment by moment? The temporal things do matter. My smile is vaguely temporary; but the smile of God is eternal.
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory...2 Corinthians 4:16-17
Friday, March 16, 2007
It is amazing that someone with that much clout could abandon that to become a political pundit essentially known for hate speech, but the last sentence is key; its all about celebrity status and wealth. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will by loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).
It's hard to imagine why a single conservative would still cling to this "political pundit." She stopped talking real politics long ago. She had true qualifications for political commentary, having graduated with honors from Cornell University School of Arts & Sciences, and received her J.D. from University of Michigan Law School, where she was an editor of The Michigan Law Review. She practiced law in New York, worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and later became a litigator with the Center For Individual Rights in Washington, D.C., a public interest law firm dedicated to the defense of individual rights with particular emphasis on freedom of speech, civil rights and the free exercise of religion.But then she was seduced by her own celebrity and being famous became more important than saying anything of substance.
What I find even more disturbing is shallow Christians who still prescribe to her type of rhetoric and endorse her vitriolic views. Coulter is certainly within her right to spew her bromides and to be amply paid for them. But I also have the right to plug my ears.
Thus far, eight newspapers and fifteen advertisers have abandoned her column, up from the three from my last post. My fear though, like a pastor fired from his bully pulpit, such will only embolden her to spew more venom. Until those whom she claims to represent make their true and sincere views known, she will continue to be as one reporter aptly put it, "like a teenage child running rampant. Somebody’s got to give her serious consequences to deal with — serious economic consequences.”
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, the world’s largest ministry to people recovering from homosexual behavior, said Coulter’s type of political and social discourse is hurtful and should not be tolerated by conservatives.Its about time someone blew the whistle on her irreverent behavior. Read the entire story here.
“Used in any context, this hurtful word is used to demean an individual who is valuable to God,” Chambers said in a March 7 news release. “There is nothing to be gained by denigrating others with crude slurs. In doing so, we disgrace ourselves and discredit the truths we seek to publicly elevate.”
Three newspapers -- The Mountain Press in Sevierville, Tenn., The Oakland Press in Mich., and the Lancaster New Era in Penn. -- said they would stop running Coulter’s syndicated column because of the Edwards comment, Reuters reported March 7.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Consider this illustration from LifeWay's Spring 2007 Life Answers Sunday School quarterly:
In high school I had a friend named Brock. He was what we called back then a "motorhead." All Brock talked about was working on cars and dirt bikes. He would show up for school in grease-stained clothes, long unkempt hair, and usually was bumming money for lunch. His grades were poor and his wallet was poorer. If there had been a "most likely to be a failure" category in the yearbook, he would have won by unanimous vote.OK, what was wrong with Brock? Why did he need to change? How does Brock serve as an illustration of radical change, a real and valid experience with Christ? He was bedraggled, poor, obviously didn't own a comb, and enjoyed tinkering on cars. This makes him a viable candidate not for the transforming power of the Gospel, but rather Extreme Makeover. The implication here is that being transformed into the likeness of Christ means you have a bulging wallet, a fat bank account, and you walk in the upper echelon of society. Evolving from welfare to faring well is the essence of the Gospel.
I didn't see Brock again until our 20th class reunion. When I saw him, I couldn't believe my eyes. Standing before me was a successful businessman, straight out of GQ. His expensive suit and well-groomed appearance were such a departure from the last time I saw him that it was hard to believe. I learned later that he had started his own company, and it had assets above one million dollars.
At the very heart of the Gospel is the concept of change. When Jesus enters into your heart and begins changing you into His likeness, the change is so dramatic that the people around you can't help but say, "You're a different person." And this is how it should be. radical change can serve as a signpost to us that our experience with Christ is real and valid (p. 15).
Perhaps I am nit-picking this Sunday School quarterly, but sowing seeds such as these can only bear bitter fruit. The prosperity message is the single greatest heresy plaguing American Christianity right now and such errant teaching should not even be entertained. Too many believers are led astray thinking that God wants them to prosper financially when the Word of God teaches purely contradictory to the prosperity message.
The prosperity teachings rob churches of their evangelistic effectiveness, squelches missionary endeavor, and mints shallow believers, believers more concerned with their wardrobes than the plight of the poor. I do not consider this a wholesale endorsement by LifeWay of the health and wealth teachings, but to sow the wind reaps a whirlwind. Taking baby steps like these can still move you in the general direction of disaster.
Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing, you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, blind, and naked." Revelation 3:17
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Morbidity aside, death ministry is very significant, not just in the life of a rural church, but at any church. After having been at the current church I serve less than three weeks, I was called upon to do a funeral. The lady was slightly mentally deficient, lived in a nursing home, and only had a sister surviving her. However, probably half the church turned out for the funeral. Looking back, I know why.
Funerals are important in the life of the church and mean a great deal to God's people. A minister who handles a funeral and the ministry that follows well, cements his relationship with his people and opens significant opportunities to later serve.
People are especially open and vulnerable during the loss of a loved one. The heart is fertile soil, receptive to the Gospel and the love of Christ. One valuable lesson I have learned during death ministry is not necessarily what you say but that you are there. Presence means more than anything; it is more tangible than any words that could be spoken. Later, folks will remember and say something like, "Well, my pastor was there when my husband died."
Follow-up is also key. I tend to make personal contact every day for at least three days, depending on the severity of the situation. From that point, I go once a week for a month and then once a month after that. I know it sounds overly practical and I don't always follow that simple plan. I tend to see the family of a deceased loved one more than that!
I also mark in my calendar the date of death and then I visit the deceased's family on the anniversary of their loved one's death. I have always gotten looks of incredulity upon arrival because I make the visit unannounced. The individual will always be grieving that day; I have not seen otherwise. A special visit on that day ministers to that person's heart in ways you cannot imagine.
I am never in a hurry during death ministry. For the deceased's family, time is standing still. For just a few moments, the pastor's watch can stop. Stumbling in out of breath, disheveled, clumsy, and altogether "not with it" communicates to the family a grave lack of care and concern. Christ is our Rock, our Refuge and Strength, and for a brief few moments, the family needs their pastor to be the same. However, do not be afraid to cry along with your people. Remember, Jesus wept.
And prayer is of utmost importance. Always pray. Every opportunity God gives, take advantage of it and pray with the family. They will be looking for some modicum of comfort and the wise pastor reassures his church family that there is a balm in Gilead.
I also have key Scripture passages memorized. Not only does it make the funeral service itself easier but it also serves as a timely word of comfort to a grieving family. Psalms 23, 121:1-2, John 11:25-26, and 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 are all appropriate. Through Scripture, God's people hear the audible voice of God speaking joy, comfort, and encouragement to them. Through it they can be reminded that God is familiar with death yet He is the One that by His own power overcame it.
Oftentimes, life's most dreaded nightmares become harsh realities. Death always causes more questions to be raised than answered and we will never have all of the answers. But we do know the One who does.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The Bratz manufacturers confess that they are aimed at sale toward pre-teen girls. To regular readers of The RP, there are no surprises that Disney has contributed to the problem. The Telegraph continues to report:
A generation of very young girls is being psychologically damaged by inappropriate "sexy" clothing, toys and images in the media that are corrupting childhood, leading psychologists warn today.
They say marketing takes unfair advantage of children's desire for affection and the need to conform, leading to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.
Apart from clothing for five- and six-year-olds, with old-fashioned frilly frocks replaced by mini skirts, plunging necklines and sequined crop tops, the report specifically criticises "Bratz dolls".
These outsell Barbie dolls in Britain by two to one and come dressed in miniskirts, fishnet stockings and feather boas.
Disney's Little Mermaid or Pocahontas "which have more cleavage, fewer clothes and are depicted as sexier than characters of yesteryear" are also picked out.Where is the church's voice in these matters? It is strange that the same parents who are ready to pounce on pedophiles and hormonal adolescent boys are the same parents sending their girls to school (and church) dressed like trollops, advertising something they are incapable of selling.
The Telegraph also ran a portion of an interview with Dr. Jean Kilbourne, co-author of a forthcoming book, So Sexy, So Soon, that addresses this direct link between cultural sexual imprinting and the rise in under-age sex.
(HT: Doug Phillips)
Dr. Kilbourne told The Daily Telegraph: "You see these clothes everywhere, tight T-shirts for little girls saying 'so many boys, so little time', that sort of thing.
"Parents think it is clever but they cease to think that when their child becomes sexually active at 12. There is huge pressure on girls to look sexy and dress provocatively at a younger and younger age and boys are getting graphic sexualized messages. But parents can say 'no' and REFUSE TO BUY THIS STUFF [emphasis mine]."
Monday, March 05, 2007
Dr. Dawkins' primary problem, his delusion if you will, is his a priori commitment to naturalism. As Dr. Plantinga observes:
The real problem here, obviously, is Dawkins' naturalism, his belief that there is no such person as God or anyone like God. That is because naturalism implies that evolution is unguided. So a broader conclusion is that one can't rationally accept both naturalism and evolution; naturalism, therefore, is in conflict with a premier doctrine of contemporary science. People like Dawkins hold that there is a conflict between science and religion because they think there is a conflict between evolution and theism; the truth of the matter, however, is that the conflict is between science and naturalism, not between science and belief in God.
Perhaps this is why Dr. Dawkins can claim only one convert to his religion. On page 117, his apparent affection for Douglas Adams, deceased author, is admirable and he refers to him as "possibly his only convert." Prayerfully, it will be his last.
The God Delusion is full of bluster and bombast, but it really doesn't give even the slightest reason for thinking belief in God mistaken, let alone a "delusion."
The naturalism that Dawkins embraces, furthermore, in addition to its intrinsic unloveliness and its dispiriting conclusions about human beings and their place in the universe, is in deep self-referential trouble. There is no reason to believe it; and there is excellent reason to reject it.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
One in the tour group asked the burning question, "Was anyone executed for not going to church?" The guide answered that historical records did not show that anyone was. Such punishments, or at least the threatening of them, were not uncommon for that era's churches, but it raised a question in my mind. Has the pendulum swung in the opposite direction? The moral laxity and unregenerancy of the church of this era calls for a reclamation of a robust understanding of church discipline, a teaching practically abandoned by most modern, and especially Baptist, churches. Perhaps we should not return to execution or scourging, or even threatening it, but at least practice what the Scripture says about church discipline.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Just because a person studies theories that differ from a creationist standpoint does not make that student an automatic proponent of it. A creationist professor can teach theories that differ from his own perspective and vice versa. That is simply scientific faithfulness. However, what if one's beliefs collide with what a scientific institution purports and a student receives a degree that blatantly contradicts deeply held philosophical beliefs? From BP:
Typically, a scientist must follow the guidelines of secular science if he wants to earn an advanced degree in the field from a reputable university. So when Marcus Ross wrote a dissertation to finish a Ph.D. in geosciences from the University of Rhode Island, he had to work within a conventional scientific framework.The New York Times article, Believing Scripture but Playing by Science’s Rules, 12 February 2007, justifies Dr. Ross' actions by "separating paradigms" and that Ross' dates are "entirely appropriate."
Even though he wrote that the earth is more than 65 million years old, he doesn’t really believe it. Ross is a young earth creationist who believes in the Genesis account of creation and is certain the earth is no more than 10,000 years old [emphasis mine].
“For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one ‘paradigm’ for studying the past, and Scripture is another,” The Times reported. “In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, ‘that I am separating the different paradigms.’”The aforementioned quotation illustrates the tension. Can (or should) the paradigms be separated? Should one publish a work that contradicts his deeply held religious beliefs and then use those same credentials to gain employment? Dr. Ross teaches earth sciences from a creationist perspective at Liberty University.