Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Lord and the Farmer

This is the face I see when I hear J. D. Sumner do the piece recorded on YouTube below. I was named for this man, my grandfather, who spent his entire life farming the same land farmed by his father, grandfather, great grandfather and so on.

He was born a Scots-Irish Presbyterian whose trust was in an all-sovereign God.
In the cold dead of winter, when a cow had a difficult delivery late at night with the wind whipping and the sleet spitting, he carried a sickly, newborn calf striving for every breath into the "sitting room" trying to warm it. He rubbed it with towels, vigorously but still tenderly, trying to coax the next breath from the underdeveloped lungs. His eyes showed he knew the cause was lost but he wasn't giving up until no more effort was possible from the calf.

When the battle was lost, he sighed deeply, and in a deep, rumbling voice, not too different from J. D. Sumner's, said, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

I invite you to click to play the music and story but scroll up and look into this man's face while you listen.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

All In Favor Signify with the Uplifted...uh...Wing

Reach for the Stars

I'd reach for the stars
Climb the highest mountain
Run a million miles
Swim the widest sea
Jump over the moon
That's how much I love you
I'd do anything for you my Lord

What can I say, what can I do?
To show you Jesus that I love you
I give you my heart, I give you my song
Oh Jesus, I want you to know

What do you ask, what should I do?
Please help me Jesus to follow you
I give you my life I give you my will
Oh Jesus, I want you to know

Monday, February 26, 2007

I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief

I believe, help thou my unbelief.
I take the finite risk of trusting as a child.
I believe, help thou my unbelief.
I walk into the unknown trusting all the while.
I long so much to feel the warmth that others seem to know.
But should I never feel a thing, I claim Him even so.
I believe, help thou my unbelief.
I walk into the unknown trusting all the while.

My Master's Face

No pictured likeness of my Lord
I have;
He carved no record
of His ministry
on wood or stone,
He left no sculptured tomb
nor parchment dim
but trusted for all memory of Him
the heart alone.

Who sees the face but sees in part;
Who reads the spirit which it hides,
sees all;
he needs no more

Thy life in my life, Lord,
give Thou to me;
and then, in truth,
I may forever see
my Master's face!
William Hurd Hillyer

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Five Faces of Chronic Illness

Spend 7 minutes with a video from the Today Show of Jan. 26

Another Book Nugget

Most modern life is a studied attempt to avoid ever being alone, faced with the reality of the inner world. Just imagine how a line-artist like (Saul) Steinberg might sketch the day of the average man, beginning with the moment a disc jockey connects with him to awake him in the morning. He may stay wrapped in gentle music while his razor whirrs, and then the news bombardment begins. He gets his breakfast in between skeins of words -- headlines, box scores, political phrases, and a running commentary from his wife probably like a cartoon outside. He drives to work joined to the radio again, and switching over to concentration on a job even requires the help of pipeline music. With lunch his is fed conversation and business problems like spaghetti, and there is only one difference at dinner. He chops the family threads off to change over to TV or perhaps a meeting. Only when he drops into bed, too tired even to dream, do the conscious lines stop radiating, and if he cannot sleep there is the ever present sleeping pill or tranquilizer to remove the necessity of a night-time encounter with silence. The next day the routine starts over, and if there should be any interstices, the picture is quickly finished by simply adding squiggles to the lines and calling them recreation.

This portion struck me like an uppercut to the jaw from an Olympic heavy weight boxer.

My own morning routine began most mornings shortly before 7 a.m. as my wife wakes me on her way out the door to go teach school. I'd usually roll over, grab the TV remote and punch up Don Imus on MSNBC to catch what was on the old curmudgeon's mind. While he is to be respected for his work with kids with cancer at his ranch in Arizona, his work helping raise millions and millions of dollars for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and his work calling attention to the growing problem of autism, the humor on his show can be more than a little course. This was the first thing I was choosing to encounter every morning. After showering with Imus turned up loud enough to hear over the water running, I'd have my first cup of coffee here at the computer. My routine was to open the news and opinion folder in my favorites to click up CNN, then The Washington Post, then The New York Times and The State newspapers. Then, because it is possible I'd missed something "important", it was NPR Morning Edition on the radio in the car for all of the latest news that their editors considered the hottest. As I got to the office, I would start streaming music from as I opened Outlook to check my email and my appointment schedule so I could do God's business down here at the church --- and I would have gone about hour and a half being really busy without even the simplest acknowledgement of the One for whom I claim to be working.

Because of that one paragraph from Kelsey, my routine now begins and continues with the Father rather than with Imus. I try listen to Him in the shower and the only sound is that of the water splashing. I spend time with the Good News rather than the world's news over that first cup of coffee. I ride to work with the radio off so I can speak to Him for a few minutes before I check that email and appointment calendar on the office computer. I still stream music off and on during the day but I'm learning to experience silence in the office routine, as well.

You know what? He's really great company!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Prankster Feeds the Homeless

Bump, Bump, Bump...

...the first one bites the dust...

Money raising woes
Among a scad of foes...
so Vilsack goes.
Who's next? Who knows.

Out of the mouths of children...

My friend Randy who works for Wycliffe Bible Translators sent me this story.

Last week, I took my children to a restaurant. My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads he said, "God is good, God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all! Amen!"

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, "That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!"

Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, "Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?"

As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job, and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, "I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer."

"Really?" my son asked.

"Cross my heart," the man replied.

Then, in a theatrical whisper, he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."

Naturally, I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment, and then did something I will remember the rest of my life.

He picked up his sundae and, without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes; and my soul is good already."

Honey, there's a parking place right over there!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Book Nugget

I've been spending time in a book I purchased and read when I was in school at Southern Seminary 20+ years ago. Morton Kelsey was on campus as a guest lecturer in one of the many lecture series held each year. I remember he spent a good deal of time talking about Jung. I didn't really get it but his topic planted a seed of interest and I bought The Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Chistian Meditation. I read it, was intrigued by it, but was still much too immature and inexperienced in life to appreciate the true import and depth of some of his ideas.

There are some great nuggets worth sharing for deeper consideration, such as: (emphasis is added)

Being confronted by love means responding, giving back freely to the Other. And what can we possibly give to God -- that is ours to give -- in return for His love? St. Catherine of Siena was once asked this, and she wrote back that the only thing we can offer God of value to Him is to give our love to people as unworthy of it as we are of His love. Really meeting the God who is love means stepping willingly into the refining fire to be slowly remade and changed into the kind of love that one has confronted.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Conservative Budget??

President Bush's 2008 Budget intends to extend and make permanent most of the tax cuts of his administration and completely repeal the Estate Tax.

Winners and Losers in Bush's budget:

Winners: If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family, the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

Losers: The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.

Winners: The heirs to the Mars candy corporation. If the estate tax goes, they will receive about $11.7 billion in tax breaks.

Losers: That's more than three times the amount Bush wants to cut from the VA budget (3.4 billion) over the same time period.

Winners: Cox family (Cox cable TV) receives $9.7 billion tax break.

Losers: Education gets $1.5 billion in cuts.

Winners: Nordstrom family (Nordstrom dept. stores) receives $826.5 million tax break.

Losers: Community Service Block Grants would be eliminated, a $630 million cut. CSBG provides the infrastructure necessary to deliver services to 15 million of the lowest income people in this country, people who are hungry, people who are homeless, people who are struggling to stay alive.

Winners: Ernest Gallo family receives a $468.4 million tax break.

Losers: LIHEAP (heating oil to poor) gets a $420 million cut. According to the latest available data, 5.4 million senior citizens on fixed incomes and low-income families with children receive help paying their heating bills through this program each and every year. Millions more qualify for this assistance, but don't get anything due to a lack of funding.

Winners: The family of the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Lee Raymond. His family would receive a $164 million tax break. Remember, Exxon-Mobil became the most profitable company in the history of the world on the backs of millions of Americans struggling to pay for gas at the pump. The company awarded Lee Raymond with a $400 million retirement package. And, now the President wants to reward Mr. Raymond by providing his estate with an estimated $164 million tax break from Uncle Sam.

Losers: 480,000 low-income seniors, mothers and newborn children. That's the estimated number of Americans receiving one bag of groceries a month through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Last year, this program received $108 million. But, the President wants to eliminate this program because we don't have enough money. We have enough money to provide a $164 million tax break for Lee Raymond's estate. But, we don't have enough money to provide a $20 bag of groceries to 480,000 of the neediest senior citizens, mothers and newborn children in this country.

(Source: Senate floor speech: Congressional Record of February 14, 2007)

Matt Taibbi, a writer for Rolling Stone made the following observation (edited for language, he was apparently very angry):

Even if you're a traditional, Barry Goldwater conservative, the kinds of budgets that Bush has sent to the hill not only this year but this whole century are the worst-case scenario; they increase spending generally while cutting taxes and social programming. They commit taxpayers to giant subsidies of already Croseus-rich energy corporations, pharmaceutical companies and defense manufacturers while simultaneously cutting taxes on those who most directly benefit from those subsidies. Thus you're not cutting spending -- you're just cutting spending on people who actually need the money. (According to the Washington Times, which in a supremely ironic twist of fate did one of the better analyses of the budget, spending will be 1.6 percent of GDP higher in the 2008 budget than in was in 2000, while revenues will be 2.6 percent of GDP lower). This is something different from traditional conservatism and something different from big-government liberalism; this is a new kind of politics that transforms the state into a huge, ever-expanding instrument for converting private savings into corporate profit.

That's not only bad government, it's bad capitalism. It makes legalized bribery and political connections more important factors than performance and competition in the corporate marketplace. Beyond that, it's just plain (expletive deleted) offensive to ordinary people. It's one thing to complain about paying taxes when those taxes are buying a bag of groceries once a month for some struggling single mom in eastern Kentucky. But when your taxes are buying a yacht for some (expletive deleted) who hires African eight year-olds to pick cocoa beans for two cents an hour ... I sure
don't remember reading an excuse for that anywhere in the Federalist Papers.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mark 10:17-21

Pretty Bold for an Old Blind Lady

Master, Thou callest, I gladly obey;
Only direct me, and I'll find Thy way.
Teach me the mission appointed for me,
What is my labor, and where it shall be.
Master, Thou callest, and this I reply,
"Ready and willing, Lord, here am I."

Willing, my Savior, to take up the cross;
Willing to suffer reproaches and loss.
Willing to follow, if Thou wilt but lead;
Only support me with grace in my need.
Master, Thou callest, and this I reply,
"Ready and willing, Lord, here am I."

Living or dying I still would be Thine;
Yet I am mortal while Thou art divine.
Pardon whenever I turn from the right;
Pity and bring me again to the light.
Master, Thou callest, and this I reply,
"Ready and willing, Lord, here am I."

Fanny Crosby

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Psalm 78:4b-7

...we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. Click, listen and worship.

Psalm 5:3

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Stops along the way today

Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics, shares a word of hope for "bleeding heart pinko liberals" like me.

Internet Monk links to Drew Marshall, a Christian radio talk show host in Canada who holds nothing back about how he feels about the institutional church in North America.

I am planning on setting aside some time over the next couple of weeks to hear leading theological thinkers share from the 37th Trinity Institute National Theological Conference on the topic, God's Unfinished Future: Why It Matters Now.

There's a sermon illustration somewhere in this story.

There was a dust up in the White House briefing room last week between Ed Henry of CNN and Tony Snow. Evidently General Pace didn't get the talking points memo.

Chris Wallace of Fox News calls attention to a(nother) misrepresentation by a former Bush administration official.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

So much of the broohaha of Baptist blog world is the perceived battle between conservatism and liberalism. From where I sit, the true conflict is between authoritarianism and autonomy.

Authoritarianism is rooted in a belief that only a few are sufficiently competent to make decisions and wield power for the good of the few or for the good of the many. Autonomy is rooted in the competency and responsibility of the many to make good decisions.

Authoritarianism in the context of a liberal philosphy results in an organizational structure akin to communism. Communism is system in which an authoritarian power claims to make progress toward a higher order in which all benefits are equally shared.

Authoritarianism in the context of a conservative philosophy results in an organizational structure akin to fascism. Fascism is a system in which an authoritarian power exerts stringent controls, and suppresses opposition through belligerence and censorship.

I have been accused of using inflammatory language when writing of fascism when making this point in the past. It is not my aim to be inflammatory. I simply am saying that I hear a duck quacking, the thing quacking looks like a duck, too. Is it a duck I'm seeing?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Psalm 90:1-2

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Psalm 28:7

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Click, listen and worship.

Many thanks to Jennifer Haycraft at OneThingSongs.

Blogitch Award for Creative Scratching

Contestant Category: Canine

I Wish I'd Said This

Actually, I've often said something like this just not nearly as well as Internet Monk.

God is just as outraged, offended and wrathful at my pettiness, pride, laziness, lying, lust and gluttony as he is at my friend’s same sex relationship (if there is one.) The problem is, I LIKE my sins. Not as sin, but as behaviors that WORK for me just fine.

The whole article is here: Tim Hardaway and the Sin We Love To Hate

Friday, February 16, 2007

Psalm 4:8

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative synagogues, wrote a widely distributed prayer of petition that several readers cited. It says, in part:

A Prayer for Our Soldiers

God of love, God of peace. Out of the depths of despair, we call to You. Our ears ring with the words "Do not fear." But our stomachs churn with the acid of doubt. Determined to preserve our shared world from the tyranny of terrorism, we turn to You for answers, for values, for strengths.

We stand before You with respect and concern for those who have been summoned to protect and secure our nation, our world. Give them the courage to meet the chilling stare of death...Return them safely to fulfill dreams unrealized so that they may bless Your name through the lives they live. May their efforts further the cause of peace throughout the world and bring us closer to the day when "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn of war anymore." Amen.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Never confuse 'em with the facts!

Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

And the Beat Goes On

One of my recent objurgations about a subtle change in the language of the Baptist Faith and Message was entitled First Step Down a Slippery Slope. I notice today that weblog sage, Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, has some wise thoughts on the subject.

An Amen Moment

The names Barth, Tillich, Schleiermacher, et. al. used to make my eyes glaze over. However, nearly 20 years after finishing seminary, I'm finding that study and discussion of the product of such folks through the lens of practical experience of ministry to be, dare I say, stimulating. At, Dr. Mark DeVine of Midwestern Seminary shares his insight in the form of blog articles and downloadable papers. In the final paragraphs of a paper entitled Friendship and the Cradle of Liberalism: Revisiting the Moravian Roots of Schleiermacher's Theology (an energizing, galvanizing, innervating, motivating title, no?) we find the following observation:

Once Christian reflection lets itself become distracted from the one object of its witness, namely God revealed in Jesus Christ, the intrusion of alien norms becomes inevitable. It matters not whether new tests of theological viability issue from current psychological fads, postmodern hankering for community or fascination with market techniques and managerial theory. Once Christian proclamation begins to take its epistemological cues from outside the norma normans of Holy Scripture as the witness to God's revelation, a lack of confidence in the possibility of theology itself is already exposed.

The result, too often, as Barth warned, is a Feuerbachian projection of human dreams, hopes, and fantasies into the metaphysical realm. When this occurs, anthropology replaces theology and, as Sidney Cave has put it so well, we "make our poor experience the measure of what God is."

By the way, that striking figure in the picture is Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schliermacher.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Matthew 6:26

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Click here to listen and worship. (The link will open in another patient for the download.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Stops that have made...

...a tough MS treatment day a little bit better:

Chris Hedges on The Colbert Report

Breakfast food for thought

Wade Burleson's post for this morning entitled I'm Not In It To Win It: I'm In It To Resist It began with a quote from Charles Spurgeon that was great breakfast food for thought.

There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men; to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God. C. H. Spurgeon
One phrase from the Spurgeon quote leapt off the screen for me. "endure...with serenity"

Loving words as I do, I decided to savor the idea of serenity by looking at the colors of its synonyms: calmness, composure, cool, patience, peace, peacefulness, placidity, quietness, quietude, stillness, tranquility.

It's hard for me to consider that list for very long without my mind leaping to Galatians 5:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, aiithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Note that Spurgeon qualifies the context for that serenity by saying - "I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God."

Galatians 5 contains a reminder that can help us feel clear in conscience before God. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

A final thought from Galatians confirms once again that the word of God is living and active as it cries out to me and all others in the Christian blogging world:

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Friday, February 09, 2007

This is NOT good bedtime reading

Derivation - from the Latin fasces, which means a bundle of rods with a projecting axe. Fasces – the symbol of authority in ancient Rome.

First known use of the term: 1919 by an Italian anti-socialist militia, Fascio di Combattrimento. Benito Mussolini adopted the term for his movement after his rise to power in 1922.

A fascist system founds its success on:

  1. a strong bellicose leader

  2. a nostalgic vision of the past

  3. an authoritarian control apparatus

  4. managed and directed discontent rooted in prejudice against a selected marginal group or groups

  5. emotive slogans

  6. comprehensive control of the flow of information i.e. secrecy, secrecy, secrecy.

"So," you ask, "what put that bee in your bonnet? Have you been reading up on World War II?"

No, actually, it was the serendipitous (isn't that a great word!) confluence of three eventualities.

First, the book I recently completed: Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean. On February 1, in the course of reading the book, I emailed a blogworld friend whom I have never met face to face that:

Authoritarianism, obsession with secrecy, and a near rabid resistance to standard accountability measures once considered a matter of course are a great and growing pestilence not only in convention institutional structures but in our government and nation. I could relate stories of instances in our state convention operations that echo the existence of a dark side to the work taking place. The problem seems to be more and more pervasive.

I’m having a terribly difficult time differentiating the motives and methods of the "Pattersons" of the convention (national and state) and the "Cheneys" of the government. The parallels are deeply disturbing.

Second, a post from February 7 on Wade Burleson's blog entitled Grace and Truth to You: The Silent Majority.

Third, a post from February 8 on entitled The Rise of Christian Fascism and Its Threat to American Democracy.

I'll end with this quote: Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country (or denomination) to danger. It works the same in any country. Hermann Goering

What happened to my blog plans for this week??

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Proposition vs. Relationship: A Parallel from Music

Originally uploaded by Whte Russian.

Some of you may think I'm going nuts in my recent obsession with propositional faith vs. relational faith. Bear with me while I take a different tack on the same subject.

I have spent decades learning and practicing how to turn the words, dots and lines contained in this picture into this. I began with the basics, the fundamentals, if you will, notes, keys, clefs, markings and signs. Melody, harmony, consonance, dissonance, dynamics. All of these basics have allowed me over my lifetime to make music together with others who know or are learning these same basic rules. This is really all that is required to basically reflect what is printed on the page of music.

Some of us move beyond the basics into theory, form and analysis, counterpoint, music history and musicology. We've followed the puzzle deeper. Our understanding of the building blocks of music is more advanced. We have what it takes to be a music technician. Still, there is a radical difference between those who simply understand music and make music and musicians. That difference is, musicianship.

Musicianship steps beyond basic knowledge and even technical skill. Musicianship brings sensitivity to the performance of music - a sensitivity that is possible only when the musician enters into relationship with the music.

Most people, even non-musical people, can recognize instinctively the difference in the performance of a true musician as opposed to a technician...often without even being able to see the performance. The passion is evident in the ear and in the heart. Somehow, you know that they know what they are presenting. The music comes alive in ways that thrill or sadden, comfort or disturb, chill or warm. Technicians can make the sounds. Musicians bring the sounds to life.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Take a Short Vacation

It'll take 4 minutes and 14 seconds plus download time for 5.82mb. The best thing is you can take this trip anytime you need to!
My thanks to Bill Owen and the Northwest University Concert Choir for their free posting of this mp3, We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace. Listen to the music, "wander through" the picture and have a nice vacation.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Rewrite of History??

My post First Step Down a Slippery Slope generated this response on Grace and Truth from an Oklahoma pastor named Jim Pasley. (I praise his willingness to openly post under his own name. Many who comment strongly like this do so anonymously.)

I am still trying to figure out how a couple of men on the back of a trash truck with a woman smacking a pole has anything to do with the 1963 BF&M or the 2000 version.

What I do know is that seminary professors from Southern and Southeastern refused to sign the 1963 BF&M because they preferred their own Abtract of Principles. Many moderates did not like the phrase "truth without any mixture of error" because they believed there were errors in Scripture. They really didn't like the 1963 version anyway.

Then the SBC had the audacity to include the family admendment in 1998 and the moderates were furious. How dare you quote Paul from Ephesians 5 and God forbid that we state that life was sacred from the womb to the tomb.

Now after the 2000 BF&M is adopted, moderates continue to gripe and ask for a return to the 1963 version. I wonder what doctrinal statement of faith would be satisfactory for those who continue to speak out against the course correction that was needed in 1980s and 1990s.

I for one am tired of those trying to rewrite history within our convention. It wasn't professors who believed in the inspired Word of God that were teaching heresy, it was those who held to a neo-orthodox view of Scripture that created the controversies.

As for us keeping our eyes on the Gospel, can I assume that we would all agree that the Gospel is found in the inspired Word of God and that "there is salvation in one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." If so, count me in!

Now then...those who know me well know that I'd have a hard time letting that go without comment. I responded:

I fully understand how cathartic it can be to let folks know what we're "tired of"... I do it fairly often myself.

It is important to note that history is a recording of past events from a particular perspective. It is true that facts are facts but train wrecks viewed from either side of the tracks can be perceived and described very, very differently without either description being a rewrite of anything.

I didn't think it was proper to use Wade's blog to engage the issue futher...that, afterall, is what Blog Itch is for. So I'll continue here as I briefly considered doing over there.

I don't seek to beef about additions to the BF&M 2000 other than the elevation of propositional thinking over relational thinking.

I will use one of the additions to highlight my point, however. Propositionally, I stand in full agreement with the addition of the phrase, "We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death." There is nothing here for me to question. Relationally, because people are people and not propositions, I believe it becomes necessary to ask the question, "In an age when it is possible to supplant God's natural order with medical technology, what does 'natural death' mean any longer?"

I want to throw up bright flags, blow whistles, ring bells and blow horns right here 'cause as my old theology prof. Dr. William Hendricks (may he rest in peace) said quite often, "Listen carefully, because it's bad enough to be understood, much less misunderstood."

I am not asking what natural death means propositionally. I am asking what it means relationally in view of 21st century technology.

Those of you who, like I, have been a caregiver to loved ones in the end stages of terminal illness are primarily qualified to respond to the relational foundation of the question. I'm not sure others would really be able to do anything other than speculate and therefore are likely to end up with a propositional answer. If someone thinks I'm being unfair in that conclusion, I'm openminded to being shown otherwise.

Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
While sipping coffee and browsing Flickr this morning, I happened upon this photo. I've been working with our pastor preparing a worship service centered upon Ephesians 5:8ff. Immediately upon seeing this photo, my mind flashed to Paul's observation in 2 Corinthians. Do you understand why?
Check this while you're at it.

Friday, February 02, 2007

RGBP's! Check this out!

The Migration of Baptist Women to Other Denominations

(Thanks to Bruce Prescott at Mainstream Baptist for the link.)

First Step Down the Slippery Slope

The following is a comment I posted in response to Wade Burleson's lament found here.

Thanks, Wade.

It feels SO MUCH BETTER to laugh even though the point deserves our tears.

You and I both celebrated our 45th birthday this year. I was burbling baby spit bubbles in a Fuller Hall apartment on Southern Seminary's campus just a couple of months before you arrived in the world. We don't remember JFK's assasination but we do remember RFK's and MLK's. I don't know about you but my first influences from TV (black & white - 3 channels to choose from) were laughs from Andy and Barney and the Vietnam casualty reports from Huntley and Brinkley. Both of our fathers are pastors devoted to doing all they can to change the world a little bit at a time by the power of Jesus Christ. Both of us have what my spiritual mentor calls a very high "justice quotient" in our personality. I believe you abhor some of the methods employed in the "Battle for the Bible" that was gaining good steam as we began our college years and gained "holy war" status as we began seminary.

I suspect, however, that we would disagree on the necessity of the battle in the first place. What I wonder is if you would agree with me as to the reason we are seeing doctrinal minutiea or denominational 'rubbish' smother the gospel work.

Please consider:

By the late '90s the "Battle for the Bible" had been won. A process for the orderly succession of "safe" convention presidents was secure. The likelihood of seeing a man or woman who balked at the term inerrant being nominated as a trustee to a convention institution or agency was nil. Seminary presidencies were in the hands of men who would assure the right professors were in and the wrong ones were out and they were virtually finished with that work. Yet for some reason, it was believed to be necessary revise the BF&M to, in effect, attempt to seal the deal.

I believe the first step down the increasingly slippery slope of narrowing parameters was the adoption of the revised introductory statement of the BF&M 2000. A Google search yields several comparative studies of the language. I find the following comparison (found at very compelling:

"The 1963 BFM grounds Baptist faith and practice on “Jesus Christ whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.” The 2000 statement says, “Our living faith is established upon eternal truths.” In the 1963 statement the foundation for our “living faith” is the person of Christ. In the 2000 statement the foundation for our “living faith” is “eternal truths.” This difference should not be understood as two ways ofdescribing the same thing, but rather as two distinct foundations for faith and practice. The 1963 BFM identifies this foundation as Jesus Christ. The 2000 BFM identifies this foundation as eternal truths. The 1963 foundation is a person in whom we believe. The 2000 foundation is a set of truths which we believe. The first foundation is relational; the second is propositional. This foundational difference is manifest at a number of points in subsequent sections, particularly in the following section on scripture. This observation does not imply that the 1963 BFM is not invested in eternal truths which, in fact, are affirmed throughout the text. Rather, the distinction discussed here concerns foundations. In describing Baptist faith and practice, where do we start—with Jesus Christ or with eternal truths? The omission of the 1963 sentence which disavows creedalism supports the creedal authoritarian role the 2000 BFM has now assumed in Southern Baptist life."

When propositional thinking is elevated above relational thinking, the only result that can be expected is what we are witnessing and mourning today. After all, did not Jesus Christ come in obedience to His Father's will that we be shown that His law was always about relationship, not proposition?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Something else to worry about...

Pictures of Anonymity: The Justifiably Fearful

Most of us have no idea what it is like to live in real fear for our lives. While random acts of violence are all around us and we face varying odds of being the victim of a life ending crime, we generally have confidence that we are basically safe.

There are some, however, who live and work in places around the world where being known as an American or a Christian can be dangerous. On some of the blogs I frequent, some missionaries are forced to comment anonymously for fear that some unknowing slip by someone in the wrong place at the wrong time might lead to their identification as a Christian missionary. If they are lucky enough to live, they almost certainly would be deported, other missionaries in the area might possibly be endangered, and the work of the gospel in a hostile field would be stifled.

Others I have encountered are in the process of rebuilding lives ruined by abusive relationships. Having managed to find the courage to begin again, they tentatively are taking steps to reenter life but still feel threatened by the abuser. In an effort to protect themselves and their children, they post anonymously for fear of being located by one who has proven a desire to do them harm.

More limited in my experience are those who claim to have a phobia about their privacy. I wonder how someone seemingly so worried about privacy conjures up the courage to have a computer connected to the internet. When I've asked, I haven't gotten a satisfactory response.

Recently, I have been in serious blog dialogue over difficult issues with those who are fearful that if it were widely known what they REALLY believe about something, they might lose their job. I took this anonymous person to task and someone called Michael came to "anonymous'" defense, saying:

The number one rule in most jobs is:"don't piss off the one who is in charge of your pay"unfortunately in much of baptist jobs and religous institutions being known as a trouble maker does NOT help you keep that job. Charles, I'm glad you can irritate your boss without worrying about your job. Your one of the few.

I responded rather harshly:

No one should irritate the boss for irritation's sake. But what should we be prepared to risk on behalf of a brother or sister at work who has been wronged? What could we HOPE that they might risk on our behalf if we had been wronged? Have even the Christians in America adopted the Darwinian "survival of the fittest and the fittest don't make waves" philosophy of the culture? Is there ANY injustice great enough to merit you or "anonymous" above risking your job to address? I weep that we send our young men and women to die so that we can remain free to cower in the face of injustice in the land of the free and the home of the used to be brave. I hope our kids follow their grandparents' and great-grandparents' example rather than ours.

I was upset that in a struggle for justice a coworker faces, "anonymous" saw the wrongdoing on the part of the one in authority, knew the one in authority was wrong, yet chose to say or do nothing for fear of losing his/her own job. You see, in the 1960's, I witnessed my father stand up to the local KKK in rural NC when he was tagged a "N-lover" for statements he made from the pulpit. I remember white robed men marching around our church and parsonage. I remember the warning cross they staked in our parsonage yard. I remember my own beloved German Shepherd dog disappearing at the hand of the Klan. Dad's stand in the face of injustice not only threatened our livelihood but our lives, as well. By God's grace, I have not been called upon in my life to stand with such courage in the face of such an imposing (yet ultimately impotent) force. I pray, however, that when called upon, I will stand for justice with the courage of my father.

The will to survive is wired deeply within all of us. We seem to be willing to risk almost anything to preserve our own life, our own livelihood, our own lineage, our own luxury, our own longings.

Those who take the risk of dashing into a burning house in an effort to save a life are lauded as a hero. Even a failed attempt is most often deemed heroic. Look at how we laud the heroes of 9/11 who gave their last best effort to preserve others in the face of an evil act.

The abuse of power in the workplace is an evil act, too. The abuse of a spouse or a child in a neighboring household is an evil act, too. Evil is all around us...and anonymity is impotent to do anything about it.