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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blue Bell Ice Cream

Sunday, one of the ladies in the church gave me a little article about Blue Bell ice cream. Now, I know some of you will not know anything about Blue Bell and you are to be pitied.

Here are some interesting facts:

Blue Bell is a Texas icon. This year Blue Bell is 100 years old. When the little creamery in Brenham started making ice cream they ate all they could and sold the rest!

Although Blue Bell is available in just 20 percent of the nation's supermarkets, it ranks as one of the top three best selling ice cream brands in the country.

Blue Bell products are sold in 17 states. I am very sorry if you live in a state that is not thusly privileged.

The companies best selling flavor is Homemade Vanilla. And boy is it good! It is best selling for a reason.

Blue Bell started out as Brenham Creamery Company. It made butter from excess cream brought in by area farmers. It started making ice cream a few years later, and in 1930, the name changed to Blue Bell, in honor of a Texas wildflower.

It takes between 40,000 and 50,000 cows to make the milk Blue Bell uses on a daily basis.

Because ice cream can go through what's called "heat shock" if it doesn't stay at a constant temperature, Blue Bell is particular about how the ice cream is handled from the time it leaves the creamery to the time it reaches the grocery store. The ice cream is actually put on store shelves by a Blue Bell employee, to make sure it stays at a constant temperature.

For more delicious information see their website.

Somebody get the bowls and spoons!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Treasury Of Divine Knowledge

The following is from Thomas Watson's message "The Christian Soldier" preached in 1669.

What an infinite mercy it is, that God has blessed us with the Scriptures! The barbarous Indians have their golden mines--but not the Scriptures, which are 'more to be desired than much fine gold.'

Our Savior bids us 'search the Scriptures'. We must not read these holy lines carelessly, as if they did not concern us, or run over them hastily--but peruse them with reverence and seriousness. The noble Bereans 'searched the Scriptures daily.' The Scripture is the treasury of divine knowledge; it is the rule and touchstone of truth; out of this well--we draw the water of life.

Read the Word as a book made by God Himself. Other books may be written by holy men--but this book is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is the library of the Holy Spirit!

Read the Word as the perfect rule of faith; it contains all things essential to salvation. The Word teaches us how to please God; and how to order our lives in the world. It instructs us in all things that belong either to prudence or piety, and is 'able to make us wise unto salvation.'

When you read the Word, look on it as a soul-enriching treasury. Search it as for 'hidden treasure!' In this Word are scattered many divine sayings--gather them up as so many jewels! This blessed book will enrich you--it fills your head with divine knowledge, and your heart with divine grace! In this field, the Pearl of price is hidden! What are all the world's riches compared to these? Islands of spices, coasts of pearl, rocks of diamonds? These are but the riches which reprobates may have--but the Word gives us those riches which angels have!

Look upon the Word as a spiritual armory, out of which you fetch all your weapons to fight against sin and Satan.

Here are weapons to fight against SIN. The Word of God is a holy sword, which cuts asunder the lusts of the heart! When pride begins to lift up itself, the sword of the Spirit destroys this sin! When passion vents itself, the Word of God, like Hercules' club, beats down this angry fury! When lust boils, the Word of God cools that intemperate passion!

Here are weapons to fight against SATAN. When the devil tempted Christ, He wounded the old serpent three times with the sword of the Spirit--"It is written!" Satan soon foils that Christian when he is unarmed, and without Scripture weapons.

Look upon the Word as a spiritual looking-glass to dress yourselves by! It is a mirror for the blind, 'The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes!' In other mirrors you may see your faces; in this mirror you may see your hearts! This mirror of the Word clearly represents Christ. He is . . .
most precious;
altogether lovely;
a wonder of beauty;
a paradise of delight!

Look upon the Word as a shop of spiritual antidotes and remedies. If you find yourself dead in duty--here is a medicine. If you find your heart hard--the Word will soften and mollify it. If you are poisoned with sin--here is an herb to expel it.

Look upon the Word as a sovereign elixir to comfort you in distress. It comforts you against all your sins, temptations, and afflictions. What are the promises--but divine cordials to revive fainting souls.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Menace of Warrenism

The deacon in our church brought to my attention an interview that was conducted with Rick Warren on Nightline. Having addressed a few weeks back some of the dangers of Rick Warren's ministry philosophy he thought I might have an interest in trying to find the interview on the Internet. The interview was available on the Nightline's Website and I watched and listened with interest to him and another pastor defending their positions of compromise and worldliness. You too might find the interview interesting. (I had to take the link out because it was not going to the right video. I will try to figure out why later......maybe....but if your interested you can look it up)

To be honest, I believe the ministry philosophy of Rick Warren pastor of the Saddleback church in California will the the undoing of sound doctrine in many Baptist Churches. It was several years ago when I began to see a shift in the nature of ministry particularly worship in many churches. The mood increasingly was a laid-back, casual approach to worship. Hymns were abandoned for a more contemporary sound (pop, rock, etc. . . . ). Instead of a song leader you have a praise team. Emphasis is heavy on music and light on message. People began to dress down when attending church when people use to dress up, they thought going to church to worship the God of heaven and earth was a big deal that merited the best clothing one could obtain. In the old days it was "sunday-go-to-meetin'-clothes".

Much of this philosophy has been introduced through youth groups. In fact I attended a conference a few years back in the Dallas area and quite frankly I was appalled at the nature of the youth ministry that was taking place during that week. When one would go by the room where youth ministry was being conducted there were black lights and fluorescent posters, music that could not be differentiated from the world's music, it looked like a nightclub. In short it was an abomination. I have not been back and will not likely go back for I do not want to be even remotely associated with that. I now know that this kind of thing is from the Rick Warren philosophy.

Yes, I have read Rick Warren's book, Purpose Driven Church. I have it on my shelf. More importantly I have seen the fruit of the philosophy and it is difficult to characterize it as fruit of the Spirit. I am amazed at the number and prominence of some of the men in my circles who have shown no discernment concerning this wholesale introduction of worldliness into their churches.

I have asked myself why has this happened? Let me give you my thoughts on the subject. The first problem is the emphasis on numbers. The more people the more success. This would be a wonderful criteria if it were only Biblical. Once you get beyond the first few chapters of Acts there is no reference to numbers. How many were in the church at Corinth, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Rome, Phillippi, etc. . . . We do not know. It was not important. What was important is that those churches were standing for the truth. They were continually exhorted to contend for sound doctrine and to censor the false prophets and false doctrine. They were continually exhorted to holy living and to refrain from worldly, fleshly, carnal living. When the emphasis is on numbers then inevitably there is a greater tendency to compromise important things to achieve the goal. Of course it will first be concluded that those things are no longer important, and thus can be abandoned without so much as a twinge of conscience.

I am convinced that our focus should be proclaiming the truth and calling the culture to repentance. Our first responsibility to is to remain true to sound doctrine and minister from that context. Instead of calling the culture to save themselves from this untoward generation we are saying, "Hey, look at us, Christianity isn't that bad. You don't have to change that much. You can still have your style of music, and dress, and you don't have to get bogged down with outdated theological terms." Going to church can be 'cool'. The days of substantive hymns has given way to shallow repetitious choruses. Now music is the method of choice for reaching people instead of a sermon. Preaching has given way to praise. While the message of the Bible remains the same, "Repent, and be converted!"

Of course this dangerous philosophy has found fertile ground, so there must be a reason. I think it is in part because there has been a slow surrender of some significant truths. The doctrine of repentance has been slowly surrendered. The come as you are philosophy is actually a stay as you are philosophy! There has been a slow surrender of personal separation. No longer is it emphasised in many pulpits that God's people are to be a peculiar people because the Bible says so. Preacher with the courage to instruct their people in righteousness are now few and far between. Separation has been largely abandoned as a doctrine! The surrender of the King James Bible. I have heard with my own two ears preachers who publicly have stated their confidence in the King James Bible but in private make disparaging remarks. They are hypocrites! Their view of the Bible is sure to impact the zeal of their preaching.

Because of the surrender of these things and possibly some others as well, we have been left with powerless ministries. We often have unbelievers sitting in the pew because they have never repented, therefore they have no spiritual discernment and continue to have an appetite for the things of the world. We have carnal believers sitting in the pews. Having not been challenged to live a life of piety and holiness, separation, and godliness they keep migrating toward the world in their tastes for music, dress, entertainment. So now they are watching R rated movies on Saturday evening and coming to worship on Sunday morning. They have little appetite for spiritual things and spiritual exercises like memorizing scripture, sitting through an hour or longer sermon, going to the trouble of becoming a theologian and Biblical scholar. They simply want Sunday to be a continuation of the entertainment week. Then we have powerless people sitting in the pew. People who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. They go through the motions but there is no zeal, there is no excitement about the things of God. After all I am missing part of the football game!?

Consequently the stage has been set for a pervasive and poisonous revolution. Enter Rick Warren and Purpose Driven Church instead of returning to the old paths wherein dwelleth righteousness. Rick Warren is Southern Baptist but the word Baptist does not even appear in their material. Consequently like so many Southern Baptist Churches they are in reality non-denominational in doctrine and practice, having thoroughly embrace the ecumenical spirit of the age.

His book is a trap. He begins with some fairly reasonable assertions and there are others scattered throughout his book, for instance the importance of having clean bathrooms. But as the book goes along he introduces more and more of his radical, revolutionary philosophy. The unsuspecting and undiscerning end up buying into many if not all of his conclusions and applications. It is terribly fearful to see the appalling lack of discernment by those Baptist who embrace his revolution.

Consider the following quotes: Italics are my commentary.

"There is no correct style of worship." Then there is no wrong style of worship. Anything goes.

"God expects us to be sensitive to the fears, hang-ups and needs of unbelievers when they are present in our worship services." Actually the services of a church are not to be primarily evangelistic but for the edification of the saints. Evangelism is to be taking place primarily outside the church not inside. That said, of course there are unbelievers in our services at times. With this in mind is his statement true? I don't think he can support it with Scripture, and he does not. He simply makes the pronouncement. Of course many fall for it because it sounds "nice". But is it right? No! If you embrace this philosophy then you find yourself in a continual pursuit of what will make goats feel comfortable in what is supposed to be a sheepfold. The Bible says sinners will not stand in the congregation of the saints. He takes the principle of showing ourselves friendly and takes it to another level that will ultimately spell disaster for the truth.

"A worship service does not have to be shallow to be seeker sensitive. The message doesn’t have to be compromised, just understandable." He is already defensive about the implementation of the policy. There is legitimate concern about the service becoming shallow and the message becoming compromised. It sounds like an unintended admission of the first rank.

“Making a service comfortable for the unchurched doesn’t mean changing your theology, it means changing the environment of the service. Changing the environment could be done through the way you greet visitors, the style of music you use, the Bible translation you preach from, and the kind of announcements you make in the service.” Maybe it does not mean changing your theology in this generation but will it in the next?? And if we have taught a whole generation to make the unbeliever comfortable in the congregation of the saints then whose to say they will not take it the next step. Of course his dangerous and truth threatening suggestions come between two rather innocuous suggestions, "the way you greet visitors" and the "kind of announcements you make in services". Both of these are things at which you can legitimately take a look. But between these two things are a couple of issues that are of much more importance. "The style of music you use, and the Bible translation you use." These are areas that are infinitely more important than how you greet visitors and the nature of the announcement you make. Yet, merely by lumping them all together he place them all on the same level.

“Being seeker sensitive does not limit what you say, but it does affect how you say it.” The difference between these two things is so narrow that to embrace the one is to move toward the others. And the fact is, if you read his book and listen to the interview he does suggest limiting what you say. Theological terms are out. Sin is out. Hell is out.

“A few churches still advertise a Sunday evening evangelistic service, although it’s doubtful that many unbelievers show up. Even believers don’t like to attend Sunday evenings! They’ve been voting with their feet on that issue for decades.” The implication is that if they don't attend then you have justification to do away with the service. It is never an option to instruct people concerning the importance of not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is but so much the more as you see the day approaching. Many churches have done away with Sunday evening services. There was a time when Baptist churches had two services in the evening. A Bible training service and a worship service. Most have abandoned that. I believe all the Southern Baptist churches in my town have discontinued their Sunday evening services.

“When an unbeliever attends a seeker service with a friend who has been witnessing to him, he sees the crowd and thinks, Hey, there are a lot of other people who believe this. There must be something to it.” This is not a proper motive for believing the truth. Truth is not determined in the context of a democracy. Well, if a lot of people believe it there must be something to it. The fact is if no one believed it there would be something to it.

"It takes unselfish, mature believers to offer a seeker sensitive service." This is the attempt to marginalize anyone who disagrees or seeks to discredit the revolution. According to Mr. Warren's definition I am selfish and an immature believer. Why, because I disagree with his unscriptural philosophy! The tables are easily turned in this kind of exchange. Those who embrace Mr. Warren's ideas are compromising with the world and have little or no discernment. It is a subtle attempt to silence the opposition.

“Offering a seeker service means intentionally tipping the scales in the opposite direction, toward unbelievers. It requires members who are willing to create a safe environment for unbelievers at the expense of their own preferences, traditions, and comfort.” In other words abandon the old paths and take up with the new. What he is proposing could not be any more foreign to the Bible. Let us move toward the world in our preferences, traditions and producing a comfortable environment. No, no a thousand times no! Let us lift up our voices and call the culture to repentance. To turn from their evil ways and live. To save themselves from this untoward generation. To be converted. To forsake the world and embrace Christ.

"Offer children’s Sunday school simultaneously with the service." So that families are never worshipping together. So that the adults do not have to trouble themselves with the little fruits of the womb that is his reward.

"Improve the pace and flow of the service. Look for ways to save time in your services.” We don't want to expect people to stay too long. We don't want to require a length of time that will cramp their style. We want to condition people to come to church with the anticipation of getting out of church.

“Our services usually last about seventy minutes.” I usually preach a sermon for seventy minutes. We just don't want to require anything of people. We don't want to stretch them.

Chapter 15 – Selecting your music. The whole chapter is spent encouraging and defending contemporary Christian music.

“I reject the idea that music styles can be judged as either “good” or “bad” music.” He would! Just because he rejects it does not mean it should be rejected. He is arguing for not exercising any discernment in relation to music. Unfortunately he has convinced many others of this very thing. Even men that I would have anticiapted having better discernment.

“Read scripture from a newer translation. . . . . there is no legitimate reason for complicating the Good News with four-hundred year old English. Using the King James Version creates an unnecessary cultural barrier. . . . . Clarity is more important than poetry.” If he thinks the King James Bible is simply an issue of poetry then he fails to understand the issue. I really don't think that is the case. I am inclined to believe he understand the issue and instead of addressing it on the basis of inspiration, preservation, texts, manuscript evidence, etc. he simply discounts the whole thing as a matter of poetry.

“We also like to use the passages that show the benefits of knowing Christ.” The point is that instead of warning people to flee the wrath to come, he prefers the "God has a wonderful plan for your life" approach. In other words he does not like to use the passages that show the peril of not knowing Christ.

Proverbs 24:21,22 - My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change: For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?

1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 - Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Colossians 2:8 - Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

1 John 4:1 - Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

1 Timoth 4"1 - Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Thessalonians 2:15 - Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

Malachi 3:6 - For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

James 1:17 - Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

2 Timothy 1:13 - Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 4:7 - I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Jeremiah 6:16 - Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Some Thoughts On Calvinism

A regular reader asked a few days back if I could share some thoughts on the issue of Calvinism. Since that is such a non-controversial topic I decided to oblige. Actually I have had trouble determining exactly where to start.

Calvinism simply stated is the proposition that God exercises his sovereignty in such a way that he determines who goes to hell and who goes to heaven, that is some are predestined to heaven while others are predestined to hell.

Calvinism is embraced in varying degrees of severity. There are primarily five positions that are assumed in the theological context of Calvinism.

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perseverance of the saints

Total depravity - depending on how this is defined I would embrace the concept. I would assent to the fact that man is incapable of doing any good apart from redeeming grace. We have no capacity to do anything to merit the favor of God. Faith does not merit us God's favor, Christ does. Our faith is not meritorious the work of Christ on our behalf is. Faith is not a work.
Romans 4:16 - Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; . . .
Romans 11:6 - And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Unconditional election - I'm not sure about this one?? Salvation is not unconditional. It requires repentance and faith. Of course many Calvinist would contend that one can not repent and believe unless God enables them. I would contend that the ability to repent and believe is something for which all men have the capacity and that both of these heart responses are the result of exercising the will. Of course the Calvinist would argue that the will is in bondage and it cannot respond to God. This is one of Luther's primary arguments in his book Bondage Of The Will, which was written as a rebuttal to Erasmus' tract challenging Calvinist doctrine. I have read Luther's book and while he made some interesting arguments I was not convinced. I also was very turned off by the tone of Luther's writing. He was very vindictive and condescending.

Limited atonement - This is the most offensive of the five points in my estimation. It is the position that Christ only died for the elect, that he did not die for the whole world. This, in the face of many verses that surely indicate he loved the whole world and died for the whole world. He died for sinners. That means that if you are a sinner then Christ died for you. He died for the wicked. That means if you are wicked then Christ died for you. He died for the transgressor. That means if you are a transgressor then Christ died for you. Since every one is a wicked, transgressing, sinner then I am compelled to confess that Christ died for everyone and his atonement is unlimited in its offer and only limited in its application (those that repent and believe the gospel).
1John 2:2 - And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
For the Calvinist the word all does not mean all, it means the elect.

Irresistible grace - If I understand correctly Calvinist believe that the call of God to salvation is effectual and that there is no resisting it. If you can resist it then it was not the call of God they would have us believe. I cannot accept this premise. To do so, in my mind, would make much of the Scripture a sham. The many places where we are told that people did resist God.
Proverbs 1:24,25 - Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.

Perseverance of the saints - I too believe that true saints will persevere to the end.
Matthew 10:22 - And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Matthew 24:13 - But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Mark 13:13 - And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
They persevere because they are saved, not in order to be saved. That subtle difference is key.

Much of the controversy concerning Calvinism is rooted in the sovereignty of God and how that sovereignty is exercised. I think we must be careful that we do not dictate to God how his sovereignty must be exercised. I believe the Calvinist err at this point.

Psalms 115:3 - But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
Psalms 135:6 - Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
Isaiah 46:10,11 - Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.

I had a Calvinist once present me with a whole list of verses similar to the ones above and he asked me what I thought about them. I said I believed them and he took offence. I don't know that we disagree that the Lord can do what he wants. That is not in dispute to my knowledge. The question is what does he want to do? It is important that we remember that he is in heaven and we are upon earth. We cannot always know what he wants to do. When it comes to the exercise of his sovereignty in the saving of men I think some things should be noted.

None of us deserve to be saved.

He could choose to save whoever he wanted upon what ever basis he determined. Had he chosen to save everyone over 5'10" no one would have a right to complain. He is showing mercy. And as God he can show mercy to whomsoever he will. If he chose to show mercy only on tall people we would have no basis upon which to question the exercise of his sovereignty.

Romans 9:15,16 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Romans 9:20-22 - Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, . . . .

We do not question that he saves who he wants. The question becomes who does he choose to save? I think the Bible make it quite clear that he chooses to save those who repent and believe the gospel.

I think the Calvinist see the doctrine of man being a free moral agent as a threat to the sovereignty of God. In my estimation this is a weak view of God. God does not have to determine every act and thought of man in order to secure his sovereign control over his creation. He can allow man the absolute and unfettered ability to exercise his will and even in that context ultimately have his will done. The Calvinists want to place in conflict the sovereignty of God with the teaching that man is a free moral agent. In doing so, one or the other must of necessity give way. For the Calvinist it is the ability of man to exercise his will that is sacrificed to sustain the sovereignty of God. It is my view that neither need be sacrificed. I have a God that is big enough and wise enough and sovereign enough to let man exercise complete freedom of will and still ultimately have his will done. The Calvinist set up the same dilemma that is arranged in the question, "Can God create a rock he cannot move?" The Calvinist's question is just a little different. Can God create man a free moral agent and still be soverign?

For the Calvinist to say that God predestines some to hell raises some eyebrows when we read things like:
2Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
God desire is that all men be saved, that none should perish. But because some will refuse and not regard his offer of salvation he determines to use them as vessels fitted for destruction that he might show his wrath and make his power known. So that ultimately his will is done in both the vessels of mercy and the vessels of destruction.

Then of course there are other realities, things that we do know, that cause us to stand back and say this is beyond my feeble attempt to grasp.

Isa 57:15 - For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
I am fond of saying that God lives in the eternal time zone. He does not live in the Central time zone, or the Eastern time zone, or the Mountain time zone. Everything is in the present with God. The omniscience of God is not simply that he knows everything. He knows everything at the same time, all the time.

Thus when I take a little time to reflect on Him and that he is in heaven and I am upon earth I am forced to say with Job, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth."

When dealing with high and lofty things I often fall back on the words of Abraham, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

I believe he will!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

George Washington's Farewell Address

This speech was given by Washington to his cabinet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 17, 1796. He had the address printed in the Philadelphia Daily American Advertiser on September 19 so that it could reach a large segment of the population. He believed what he had to say in his farewell address was important for the nation.

". . . . Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle . . . ."

George Washington's First Inaugural Address

This address was given at Federal Hall In New York, New York on April 30, 1789.

". . . . that the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; . . . .

I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness - between duty and advantage - between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the external rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."

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A statue of George Washington at Federal Hall in New York City.

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Michele and I standing with a New York City police officer at the steps of Federal Hall in New York City. This was after 9/11 and just before the last Presidential election. He was a really nice guy and was glad to see we were wearing our buttons in support of Bush/Cheney!

Book Review - Storm Over The Land

If you notice in my sidebar the books I am presently reading have changed. I did not read all of A History of Western Civilization. I never really intended to although if the book had been compelling I would have finished it. I did read through the Medieval time period which was the part of the history that I wanted to acquaint myself with. I think at a later time I may do some more reading on the Peloponesian War if I can find a good narrative history about that time period. The book will now go to the shelf as a reference book.

I also did not finish reading Eusebius' Church History. I read over a hundred pages of it and found it to be boring. There were a few interesting things along the way but I had other things I would rather be I am! The book will go to the shelf for reference purposes.

We should finish John Wesley Servant Of God this week in family devotions. We just read a short portion at devotions, not even a chapter, the chapters are medium length. We are in the last chapter. It has been an interesting book chronicling the origins of the Methodist church. The Wesley's were clearly very influential in England and America. We all found his romantic life to be somewhat of a mockery, filled with uncertainty and drawn to very unstable women. Next week we will begin a book I found on Ebay entitled, Fighters For Freedom by Austen Kennedy de Blois. The subtitle is Heroes Of The Baptist Challenge. It was published in 1929 by the Judson Press. It is basically a compendium of brief biographical histories of 17 Baptist men. I am looking forward to starting the book.

I am also reading a book of Great American Speeches. I anticipate reading two to four of them a week. I will be sharing some of what I read there as the days go by.

I just started last night Mornings On Horseback by David McCullough. This will be my sixth David McCollough book. He, much to my regret, only has two more. I have them both. Mornings On Horseback is about the early life of Theodore Roosevelt.

Today I want to review a book I finished yesterday, Storm Over The Land by Carl Sandburg. The book is 429 pages long and is actually a condensed version of Sandburg's larger four volume work, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. If you make it a habit of perusing the history sections of used book stores you have probably seen the four volume work. Four volumes are a little overwhelming, even for an area where I have interest. But after reading the book I may try to get the expanded version at some point if I can find it at a reasonable price.

It is a book dealing with the war between the states. I find that epic event to be beyond interesting. It certainly was a watershed moment for our republic in which the character of our nation was dramatically changed forever. Some of the change was good (removal of the curse of slavery) some of the change was bad (increased centralization of power at the Federal level).

One reason too I am intrigued by the event is because there is more to it than meets the eye. In our government schools we are given an overly simplified view of what happened. The train of thought usually runs something like this: The South was bad because it embraced slavery, the North was good because it was against slavery, thus the South fought to maintain slavery and the North fought to abolish slavery. While there is a sense in which this is true these simplified conclusions do not do justice to all of the realities that existed in the mid 1800's. The whole issue of the war between the States could rightly be characterized as a national enigma.

The events are as complex as the people who shaped them. The war between the states is a national event that begs second guessing and asking the question what if???

What if Lee had accepted the commission from President Lincoln to be the top general of the Union Forces? The war would have ended much sooner, possibly.

What if Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan had been placed at the top of the armies from the beginning? The war would no doubt have ended sooner, no???

If the war had ended sooner would the slaves had been freed? The Emancipation Proclamation was an instrument of war, those who would take the time to read the document would know that. The slaves were only freed in the states that were in rebellion. Slavery was maintained in the border states that had not left the Union. Slavery did not come to an end until the war was over. The Proclamation had no force unless the Union was victorious. The Proclamation was a shrewd and calculated political move by Abraham Lincoln to win the sympathies of Europe. It was a bold move and one that should have been made. Of course it outraged the South and caused them for a time to fight even more zealously. It seems that Abraham Lincoln made it clear on numerous occasions that the primary reason for the armed conflict was to preserve the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation was simply a tool to effect that end.

People say if only Jackson had lived?? Well, he didn't being shot by friendly fire. But even had Jackson lived who unquestionably was a great warrior and invaluable to Lee's army of Northern Virginia the South would not have won. It could not win. Sam Houston of Texas knew this and tried to warn his fellow Texans to no avail.

The North had more manpower, they could win by simple attrition, and they did. The North actually lost 100,000 men more than the South and they had plenty more where they came from.

The North was the industrial section of the country, the South was the agricultural section. You could not make guns, cannon, gunpowder, etc, from cotton! The South's only hope was to be able to import these necessary items from Europe. In fact Jefferson Davis took to calling England the mother country. The problem here is that the North has a vastly superior navy and consequently all throughout the war tightened the noose around the South with an ever more effective blockade of Southern ports.

The South could not win. The South should not have won. The issue (slavery) they had staked their claim on undermined their principle (state's rights).

The book although a condensed version of a much larger work is well done. This is the result of some rewriting on the part of Sandburg to give the story continuity and direction. It is a narrative history thus easier to read. It is like a story and a compelling one at that. Mr. Sandburg, in my estimation, does a wonderful job of giving us a clear picture of the major players. Lincoln, McClellan, Grant, Sherman, Davis, Lee, Jackson and others. When the characters are introduced you are given a good, concise overview of who they are and why.

Mr. Sandburg also does a good job of describing the major battles again in concise form. All the different battles are difficult to track, at least for me! Again this is an area where most people have very little knowledge, including myself. But there was a western theater of action, a southern theater of action and then a northern theater of action. Most people are slightly aware of the action that took place between the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia. Some people are aware of Sherman's march to the sea through Georgia, the burning of Atlanta and then through South Carolina that hotbed of rebellion where secession began.

This book makes it clear that Sherman was determined to make the deep South feel the devastation of war, consequently Georgia and South Carolina suffered under his aggressive style of warfare. I'm inclined to believe there are some things that can be learned from Sherman! His army saw to it that the southern people (citizens) suffered. They had voted for secession they would suffer the consequences. Most don't realize that there was a Southern army opposing Sherman. First under the command of Joseph Johnston and then John Bell Hood. They were both ineffective in dealing with the masterful Sherman.

People who know about Sherman's infliction of suffering on the southern population are inclined to think him a monster. This is probably not a fair characterization. He wanted to see the war end. He knew this was the best way to end all suffering North and South. In fact as the war was drawing to a close he expressed sentiments that the South should be dealt with benevolently in peace. Likewise this was the view of Grant and Lincoln. Unfortunately it was not the view of Johnson who would become President upon the assassination of Lincoln.

I never read about Grant at Appomattox without feeling a sense of respect for his treatment of a defeated foe. The terms of surrender were more than generous and of such a nature that the South should have been grateful. Lee was! Others no doubt were bitter and it was a bitterness that they would pass on for generations. Of course the bitterness of defeat was not alleviated by the burdensome Reconstruction requirements laid down by Northern politicians. At the same time the South should have borne patiently the requirements and humiliation. They had taken up arms and lost, humility was required. It just goes to show that humility does not always follow being humbled.

One of the things that always strike me with a sense of awe about the war between the States is the unbelievable courage and bravery of the men in blue and grey. Often when charging an entrenched army they were basically marching to their deaths. This reality leaves me shaking my head at the casualty reports.

Union lost 13,047 in killed, wounded, or missing.
Confederate lost 10, 694

The Seven Day's Battles
Union 16,000
Confederate 20,000

Bull Run Creek
Union 14,000
Confederate 9,000

Union 12,000
Confederate 12,000

Corinth, Mississippi
Union 2,000
Confederate 7,000

Union 11,000
Confederate 10,000

Union 23,000
Confederate 28,000
Joseph Revere was killed here, the grandson of Paul Revere.

Union 16,000
Confederate 18,000

Union 26,815
Confederate did not release information
In this battle one tree of 22 inches diameter and another by two inches less were gnawed and cut down clean by bullet fire. I have actually seen one of these trees in the Smithsonian museum of American History. That is a lot of led flying!

Cold Harbor
Union 7,000
Confederate 12,000 to 15,000

Union 10,000
Confederate 5,000

Battle of Atlanta
Union 29,219
Confederate 25, 341

Union 2,300
Confederate 6,000

All total 620,000 Americans died in the war between the States. From the North 360,000 and from the South 260,000!

The book is well written and provides a great, true story. One that has shaped our national character more than any of us probably realize. I enjoy reading about the war between the States because you always run across bits of information that make you wonder at the event. There are so many inconsistencies, contrasts, comparisons, personalities, ironies, and surprises. This book has it share of them! For example the little piece of trivia that Paul Revere's grandson was killed in the Union army at Gettysburg. Grant owned slaves at one time, Lee never did. Lee was not in favor of secession, he was against slavery, yet he fought on the side of the confederacy because of his loyalty to Virginia. While that (loyalty to one's State) seems inconceivable to us today it was a more understood position in 1861 in the North and South.

In fact this book informs us that Fernando Wood, mayor of New York tried to get the city to secede from the Union and set up as a free city.

For those that have an interest in the Civil War, Storm Over The Land, is a good overview and an easy read.

Rating ****

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Price Of Freedom

This video was on the website of a Houston radio station. I think it is a stirring reminder of the price of liberty and freedom. We should be thankful for those who are making the sacrifices.......and always remember that the United States is the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What kind of grasshopper is this??

This little fella' caught my attention walking down the sidewalk at a rest area on our trip to take our daughter and the grandkids home. This does not look like a grasshopper I would want to mess with???
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Or maybe it was Noah's Flood???

This article from the The Fox News web site was discussing the type of death that a certain kind of dinosaur had experienced. It seems to be a well accepted premise that they likely died in water.

"Some animals found in this posture may have suffocated in ash during a volcanic eruption, consistent with the fact that many fossils are found in ash deposits, Faux and Padian said.
But many other possibilities exist, including disease, brain trauma, severe bleeding, thiamine deficiency or poisoning."

Noah's flood of course cannot even be considered as a possibility.

"Padian acknowledged that many dinosaur fossils show signs that the animal died in water and the current tugged the body into an arched position, but currents cannot explain all the characteristics of an opisthotonic pose."

Acknowledging that many dinosaur fossils show signs that the animal died in water is an amazing acknowledgement. Is there evidence for Noah's flood? Of course there is! Can it be admitted by the secularist? Of course not!

And yes, the dinosaurs did, like all other air breathing creatures, die an agonizing death.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Origins Of Human Nervous System Found In Sea Sponges

This was the title of an article on the Fox News web site. You can read the entire article here.

When you read the article you discover that they did not discover the origins of the human nervous system. Articles that deal with evolution are very dishonest in this respect. The title always states something that has been discovered that purportedly supports evolution but then when you read the article closely and with scrutiny you realize the title was misleading. The title normally reflects what they want to discover, and hope to discover, not what they actually discovered.

But they can claim in the title that they have discovered the origins of the human nervous system and then unthinking people read the article with that bias and see the discovery as evidence of the premise set forth in the title.

"The study found that sponges contain about 25 genes that are very similar to human genes found in the synapses of nerve cells."

This is what they discovered. This is not what the title says they discovered. They are not even the same genes but very similar. Things that are very similar are not the same.

"The surprising discovery, detailed in June 6 issue of the open-access journal PLoS ONE, suggests the evolutionary origins of the nervous system are much older than scientists previously thought."

"Suggests" is the word that should stick out in this sentence. Why does it suggest the evolutionary origins of the nervous system are much older than scientists previously thought. It suggests it because they want it to!

"Sponges are the first animals to branch off compared to the rest of animals."

A premise (evolution) that has yet to be proved, but stated as fact proven by empirical science.

"Not only do they have [human synapse genes], they also have this signature that they may be functioning in a similar way in the absence of a nervous system, as they do in the presence of one,"

I suppose then that they may not be functioning in the same way. May be is speculation and the speculation is used to give us the declarative statement found in the title of this article.

"The function of the sponge genes are not clear,"

Then why is the declaration in the title so clear????

"Scientists think the first true neurons and synapses first appeared on Earth more than 600 million years ago in organisms called cnidarians, which today include the hydra, sea anemone and jellyfish."

And of course when scientist think that automatically makes it authoritative! They think, they do not know. But the title suggest that they do know.

"The researchers speculate that the sponge genes were recycled over evolutionary time, with small modifications, to create the nervous systems of later animals."

Evolution is built on speculation. The title of the article does not reflect any speculation. All researchers have to do is speculate and the rest of us are to bow before their superior intellect.

""Evolution can take these ‘off-the-shelf' components and put them together in new and interesting ways," said study leader Kenneth Kosik, a UCSB neuroscientist."

And how does he know this? I can tell you that is is based upon more suggestions, speculation and thinking, but not hard evidence.

"Other genes would also have had to evolve or to have been co-opted to create complex nervous systems, such as our own."

And is there any evidence; not speculation, thinking, and suggestions, but evidence that this has happened.

Scientists think an estimated 77 to 1,000 genes are important for human synaptic communication, Oakley said."

Again scientist are thinking! The fact is they do not know.

Summary: the title of the article reflects that they have discovered something that they have not. The article simply relates what they think, and speculate, and suggest may have happened. It only tells us one thing they know.

"that sponges contain about 25 genes that are very similar to human genes found in the synapses of nerve cells."

From this one piece of evidence they dogmatically conclude in the title that they have discovered the origins of the human nervous system.

Does arrogance and presumption achieve any higher level than among evolutionist??

Monday, June 04, 2007

Alter Calls??

I have over the years developed some serious reservations about alter calls. I grew up in churches that used them sometimes singing what seemed like 100 verses of Just As I Am without one plea? I have even given a few alter calls myself. I have largely abandoned the practice.

I was sitting at a table eating some years back at a Bible conference I was attending and listening to some conversation going on between a couple of other preachers. One of them said in reference to a mutual acquaintance that "he did not even give invitations anymore." The reason given for this was that he had embraced Calvinistic doctrine. Well, I too have moved away from what has become a standard invitation but it has nothing to do with Calvinism.

John 8:30 - As he spake these words, many believed on him.

I am teaching through the gospel of John in the adult Sunday School class and last week I was studying through the passage around John 8:30. This short verse got me to thinking about "invitations," alter calls. What is wrong with simply expecting and even encouraging people to believe as we are speaking these words.

Some things I have come to understand about alter calls.

The typical modern day alter call has no counterpart in the New Testament.
There is an invitation issued in the New Testament but it has nothing to do with walking an isle, or saying a prayer, but simply being called to repentance and faith in Christ.

The modern day alter call was popularized around the turn of the last century by Finney.
So what did people do in the first 1900 years of church history with no isle to walk and no one pleading with them to come to an "old fashioned alter." It may be old fashioned, but it is not New Testament. What is an alter doing in a Baptist church. Has a very papist ring to it if you ask me. I think our preaching needs to have more pleading with sinners to repent and believe on the spot.

Coming down the isle can leave the impression that this is a part of being saved. In fact the way some alter calls are conducted one would be convinced that you cannot be saved with out coming down the isle, taking the preacher by the hand, kneeling at an old fashioned alter and repeating this prayer after me. Certainly makes for a stirring invitation but I am afraid it may also make for a good many false professions. I have taken to addressing people right where they sit. I have taking to exhorting them to believe on Christ right where they sit. Without batting an eyelash, raising a hand, lifting a foot, or walking an isle.

The success of the alter call becomes the gauge of success and the moving of the Spirit.
I would rather see people walk out of the building permanently changed rather than walk down an isle in an emotionally charged invitation. I have ceased to look for full alters but for full hearts. There is not one thing that can be taken care of at the first pew, or in front of the pulpit that can't be taken care of on the fifth, tenth or last pew. Heart work is spiritual work and the location of an individual in the building has no impact one way or another on God's ability to do his spiritual work in the heart.

Alter calls have paved the way for much abuse.
Raise you hands if the Lord has spoken to you tonight. I see that hand, I see that hand, I see that hand. And not a hand one has went up. The use of music to stir the emotions and illicit a response. The idea that one is hindering the Spirit of God if they do not come to the alter while God is dealing with them. Is there anyone here tonight who wants to be saved. I see all those hands. Well if you are sincere then please just say this prayer after me.

Why does anyone have to raise their hand???? Where is the Scriptural precedence for such a practice. Of course every head is to be bowed and every eye closed. Like that really happens. God does not need to see their hands raised so he will know with whom to deal. I do not need to see their hand. All of this is nothing more than emotional manipulation. Preachers use it to varying degrees.

Then of course when it comes time for the alter call the preacher issues his most passionate pleas for sinners and backslider to come. His passion should be in his preaching not in seeking to create an emotional response. We want Holy Spirit conviction! We do not want preacher generated responses! If the Holy Spirit is not convicting then I do not want to create anything that would deceive me into thinking that He is. By the way, the evidence that the Spirit has moved in a service is not seen at the alter call. It is seen in the coming days, weeks, and months in the lives of people as they interact with their community. It is seeing lives transformed. I don't need to know during what service it happened. I just need to be content to let the Spirit do his work. I have lost any desire to have a full alter. Instead I have opted for having a church full of people who pursue holiness, love righteousness, care for sinners, and stand up for truth!

I want to pastor people who are changed where and as they sit and listen to God's word.

I don't do alter calls. Sometimes our service simply concludes with prayer. Sometimes we provide a moment of silent reflection usually the piano player selects a hymn and plays softly. Not to create an emotional response but to deaden the impact of any minor distractions. I may have a few final words of exhortation to saints and sinners and then we leave the last few minutes for people to conduct business with God!

Just a few thoughts about alter calls.

I've Been Tagged


How it works:
01. grab the book closest to you
02. open it to page 161
03. find the fifth full sentence
04. post the text of the sentence to your blog
05.don't search around for the coolest book you have, use the one that is really next to you
06. tag five people to do this meme

OK, well the closest book to me is normally in the bedroom where I am reading it at night but since I posted a quote from it yesterday morning it is still laying on my desk along with several other books but it is the closest.

The title of the book is Sin and the Unfolding of Salvation by David Gracey.

"First, there are passages applied to Christ which seem taken clear away from their context."

I'm not sure how helpful that is but that is the fifth complete sentence on page 161 of the book closest to me.

I probably will not tag anyone but if you read this and want to do it then let me know and I will come take a look.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Higher Sentiment Than Gratitude Is Raised

Another Quote from Gracey's book, Sin and the Unfolding of Salvation.

"Not only is the Holy Spirit bestowed, but also the blessings of the Christian life - and chiefly those of which we have been speaking, pardon and justification - are given in such a way that they cannot but promote holiness and loyalty to God in Christ. Bestowed on one side through a godly sorrow, a repentance that needeth not to be repented of, a faith that purifies the heart; they are on the side of God connected inseparably and in every part with what Christ is or had done, or suffered for us. These gifts are so closely and intimately connected with the humiliation and the tremendous griefs of the Son of God, that it is no less an awe than a joy to be forgiven and restored. To be pardoned by an arbirary decision of the Divine Will would bespeak the clemency of God, and evoke our gratitude. To obtain release from sin and its consequences, by any means or in any manner, would be prized as an unspeakable boon by the sinner. But when pardon comes to him by way of the Cross a higher sentiment that gratitude is rasied. The sorrows of the Son of God invest pardon with a sacred preciousness; and every pang, and every tear, and every wound plead with the heart not to misuse what has been so dearly won, nor sin at the expense of such wondrous love, and such amazing grief. A pardon, perfumed with such memories, written with a pierced hand, and sealed with such precious blood, is not only life, but also holiness, and the inspiration of a new devotedness. 'Because we thus judge that is One died for all . . . . . that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again' (2 Corinthians 5:14,15)."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Knowing With Certainty What Is Morally Right

I am reading a book entitled Sin and the Unfolding of Salvation by David Gracey. David Gracey was the theology professor at Spurgeon's College. I doubt that I will do a complete review of this book when finished but I have found it to be very thought provoking. I did find something I read last night very interesting in relation to the law. I want to share this portion here.

"It is now sufficiently apparent what is meant by public righteousness and the satisfaction rendered to it. But at this point we must be careful not to allow ourselves to regard this righteousness in any restricted sense. We must not confine it exclusively to the administrative acts, or even principles, of the Divine Government. It must also include that law which is to men the supreme expression of Divine righteousness in words. It is this law which enable us to know with certainty what is morally right. It is this law which furnishes the perfect standard whereby we can estimate the rectitude of the Divine procedure. It underlies the whole Government of God. In the sublime language of the Psalmist its position is this, "Justice and judgment are the habitation of Thy throne" (Psalms 89:14). In the equally sublime imagery of the Holy of Holies, the tables of the law were enclosed in the Ark of the Covenant, and lay beneath the golden Mercy Seat, where the Shekinah shone between the Cherubim. It is this law that is presented to us by Revelation, and enjoined by the authority of God. Higher than this, when fully interpreted, as it has been by Christ, no righteousness can rise, no holiness can reach. It is the expression of the Divine nature and of the Divine will. Therefore it is in its principles eternal and of universal obligation. For all the changing phases of the Divine Administration, there has been no change in the principle of the law. The expression may have altered, but not the precepts. These have been one and the same both in Eden and outside its guarded gates; the same to the world before the Flood and in Patriarchal times; the same from Sinai to Calvary; the same from Calvary right onward till the Great White Throne appears, and then the same forever. This law, that comes from above, is the true objective counterpart to that which is within the human breast, and is subjective in the conscience. To the meaning of the handwriting of God, the Divine hieroglyphics in the human soul, this is the only and the infallible key. When touched by this, the heart of man discloses its inmost secrets, and admits the authority of the Divine Legislator, bowing before the presence of the Judge of all. This is the law by which we discern the righteousness of the Government of God, the law which forms the constitution of God's Sovereignty, and this we understand to be that law of righteousness whose claims the Saviour satisfied."

Blue Moon

This is a "blue moon". I took this picture last night. I know it does not look blue but that is what it is called. Does anyone know why? As you well know some things only happen once in a "blue moon".
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