Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's not every day you get to see the temperature drop 30 degrees in two hours. I went into Wednesday night supper and prayer meeting at 75 degrees and came out at 47 degrees.

It's also not often you get a thunderstorm in the last days of November, but I'm sitting here listening to thunder and watching lightning flash. It is rainy pretty hard.

Of course, sleet is expected later, and tomorrow. Driving to and from work will be tricky.

Then, Friday, it will warm up and we will go on our merry way.

Pretty amazing really. The earth is a complex place. Before turning in, I read a bit in Ecclesiates. The last verse I read said "Stand in awe of God". Good advice, that. I think it will make me sleep better.
There is a James Taylor tribute playing on public television. Taylor looks like a middle aged accountant. He is bald, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and a George Bush blue tie. It is so weird. You really need to close your eyes and just listen. He still sounds like the old J.T.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Whoop!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Christians are mainstream in NYC! There have been 2, count them, 2 Christian singers. First, Sandy Patty (the Baby says: OLD SCHOOL!) and now Natalie Grant.

I wonder if this has any relationship to the creepy clowns?
The music for the parade seems to be all pre-recorded. The Baby noted that none of the guitars were plugged in. Renee Fleming, opera star, was riding the float and doing America the Beautiful. She didn't quite get her mouth open for the last high note, however, and just gave us a big smile. Sort of Ashley Simpson with class.



BRING IN THE CLOWNS

No, this is not a post about the Democrats taking over the House and Senate. Rather, the Baby and I are watching the Macy's Parade. That is, we are watching scattered moments of the parade in between long stretches of commercials.

Anyway, we were looking at the clowns and trying to decide why they have them in parades and circuses. I mean, have you looked at a clown up close? They are creepy! They wear garish make up with exaggerated features and strange clothes. Most little kids are scared of them. The Baby says she is still scared of them and she is 19.

If you have ever taken a child to the circus, you probably experienced this. You know, look Junior, talk to the clown. Junior: Waaaaaaaaa! The clown moves on to terrorize and traumatize another kid.

I wonder if, when you go to clown school, they tell you the Great Clown secret, that clowning is really about fear and not comedy, and the joke is really on the crowds, while the clowns laugh it up to themselves behind their grotesque masks.

Sunday, November 19, 2006



FROM TROAS TO TRIUMPH

2 CORINTHIANS 2:5-17

2::5-11

The word “grief” (“sorrow” in NASB) creates a transition from the last section. Paul had said he did not want to grieve the Corinthians by making another painful visit to them. In this passage, he said someone had grieved them by falling into sin. (Older commentaries took this as a reference to the man who was sexually immoral in 1 Corinthians 5:1, but the new commentators seem to feel it was another, unrecorded event, that happened between Paul’s visits to Corinth.)

Paul said the punishment inflicted by the majority was sufficient. He does not say what the punishment was, but we can infer it was significant, as it was both effective and the cause of some sorrow to the person involved. It may have been an exclusion from the fellowship.

Whatever the punishment was, Paul said it was now time to stop punishing and to forgive and comfort the offender. That is a point for us to remember. We don’t do much formal church discipline these days. But, we are not to punish someone forever. The goal is repentance. Galatians 6:1 says we are to restore the one caught in a trespass. Paul said the church needed to reaffirm their love for him. This may have meant a public act of reinstatement into the fellowship, or may just mean that the church members individually were to take steps to reaffirm their love for this person.

As to himself, Paul said he wrote the previous letter, calling for this discipline, in order to see if the church would be obedient in this difficult matter. However, if the offender has repented, and the congregation has forgiven him, they do not need to worry about Paul, because he forgave the person to, for the sake of the church. In verse 11, he said the reason for this is so Satan cannot outwit them. Harshness or the lack of forgiveness in a fellowship can destroy it, and the person who is the target of it. I remember an event in a small church I attended as a young teenager, when a man got a divorce and the church basically shunned the whole family, including the children. The teenage son of the man was deeply hurt and it drove him from the church. Satan can work through our spitefulness to destroy a fellowship and a fellow believer.

Note that Paul said, in verse 10, that he acted “in the sight of Christ”. We should act in these matters as if we are in Christ’s presence. Church discipline is a difficult matter with great consequence for the fellowship and the individuals, whether you discipline or you do not. It is not to be done without a lot of prayer and humility.

2:12-13 The Travelogue

Verse 12 connects to the thought of verses 1-4, where Paul was explaining why he did not come to them and telling where he did go. He had said in verse 1 he did not return to Corinth because he did not want to cause further grief to them. Instead, he went up the coast to Troas to preach. God had opened a door for him there, meaning he had made the people receptive to Paul’s preaching, but Paul had no peace of mind. The reason for his lack of peace was that he did not find Titus in Troas. Paul had thought Titus might be there on the return trip from taking Paul’s letter to Corinth and Paul was anxious to know how it was received, if the church would obey, or if the church would be lost to rebellion. Paul cared deeply about the churches he planted.

Since Paul had no peace of mind, he went to Macedonia, presumably looking for Titus, who would be returning from Corinth via Macedonia to Troas.

Now the next thing you would expect in this passage is a narrative of Paul’s reunion with Titus and the news he received, but instead, Paul breaks off this narrative and launches into a long digression that goes all the way into Chapter 7. This digression will emphasize how God’s grace is sufficient for every situation in our lives. Paul applied it specifically to his missionary work, but it the same principle applies to us.

2:14-17

Paul first says God leads us in triumphant procession in Christ. I think this is an allusion to the parade for the returning victorious Roman armies, who paraded through the streets of Rome showing off the spoils of victory. God leads the church in victory won through the work of Christ. Christians go fight battles, taking the gospel where it is not preached and fighting spiritual warfare. We participate in the victory in Christ.

Paul used this same allusion in Colossians 2:15. There he showed Christ as the victor over all spiritual opposition. [Read this.] Satan and his demons are defeated and Christ made a public spectacle of them through his work on the cross, just as the Romans made a public spectacle of their defeated enemies.

The other thing the Romans did in their victory parades was to burn spices in the street to make it smell good. Paul used this picture as part of his point also.

Believers are the fragrance of the knowledge of God. As the Romans smelled spices in the street, the thought of the victorious general and army and the glory of Rome. Similarly, when people encounter believers, as opposed to smelling them, they should be brought to think of God and the message of the Gospel. Certainly, when you encountered Paul, or thought of him, you immediately thought of the gospel, for he was constantly preaching it and suffering for it. As we go, we should spread the knowledge of God just as a fragrance spreads through a room. A modern image would be the scented candle. The television commercials for it use animation to illustrate the scent spreading from the candle all through the room to be experienced by everyone in the room. Verse 14 says God, through us, spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ.

“Knowledge” does not mean just the intellectual awareness of Christ, but receiving and serving him.

Verse 15 says we, believers, are the aroma of Christ both to those who are being saved and those who are perishing. We know that some will believe the gospel and some will not. But we do not know who will believe, so we witness or preach to everyone.

Verse 16 says to those who are perishing, we are the smell of death. They reject Christ and are subject to death as the wages of their sin. To those who are being saved, however, it is the fragrance of life. A modern analogy might be when a woman gets in an elevator wearing expensive perfume. It spreads through the elevator and is smelled both by those who like perfume and those who don’t. Those who like it breathe it in and appreciate it. Those who don’t, sneeze and are aggravated. Paul used a similar theme in 1 Corinthians 1:18. [Read this.] Peter did too, in 1 Peter 2:6-8. [Read this.]

Next Paul asked a very pointed question: who is equal to such a task? Well, your first thought is “no one”, because you realize what an awesome responsibility it is to be the fragrance of Christ. But, that is not the answer Paul gives.

2:17

Paul’s immediate answer is that he is equal to the task, compared to others who preach for profit. (This is ironic in view of a recent claim by a pastor who sells his sermons on the internet and claims to have made $1.7M last year from them.) Paul’s point is that some false prophets (intentional pun) did preach for the money and, so, were not equal to the task of being the fragrance of Christ. In contrast, Paul said he spoke in Christ and with sincerity. He took seriously the fact that he was sent by God to speak of Christ, and we would always do that only for the spread of the gospel and the glory of God. He has already told us in chapter 1 verse 12 that he conducted himself with holiness and sincerity from God.

In the NIV, the word “sincerity” only appears 6 times, and three of them are in 2 Corinthians. It was important for Paul that his motives are pure and that the churches knew it.

If you do not preach the gospel from pure motives, you will corrupt or pervert the message. If you preach for profit or fame, you will tailor your message to the desires of your audience, not wanting to offend or convict, but to please. Paul contrasted himself to this type of preacher in 1 Thessalonians 2:2-7. Paul also said the day would come when those were the only ones people would want to listen to. In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, he said “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.





3:1-3 The Corinthians: Paul’s Commendation

When preachers or prophets came to a new town, they would bring letters of commendation to the church, so the church would know it was alright to let them speak to the body. However, you can work the system with letters of commendation, getting them only from your friends. Paul told them he did not need letters, for they Corinthians were his commendation. They are the result of his ministry, so the validity of this preaching speaks for itself in the lives of those to whom he has ministered.

3:4-6

Paul finally gets to the real point of his competence. He said it did not come from his own ability. He said he did not claim anything for himself in verse 5. Rather, God has made him competent as a minister. He is, in fact, a minister of the new covenant. He contrasts it with the old covenant, as one of Spirit rather than of letter, and of life rather than death.

Monday, November 13, 2006




I got an email today offering to sell me "Christian Ringtones".

Oh please.



The Preamble to the Texas Constitution: We the People of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God

Saturday, November 11, 2006





"The people who sneer at what is called Calvinism, might as well sneer at Mont Blanc. We are not bound in the least to defend all of Calvin's opinions or actions, but I do not see how any one who really understands the Greek of the Apostle Paul or the Latin of Calvin or Turretin can fail to see that these latter did but interpret and formulate substantially what the former teaches." John Broadus

Yes, the street in front of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is named after him. He was the second president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He baptized Lottie Moon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

TRICK OR TREAT FOR BCGT

While your kids were getting treats on Halloween, you may have been getting tricks if you are a supporter of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The Executive Board met on Halloween to receive a report on an investigation of the misuse of church starting funds between 1999 and 2005 in the Rio Grande Valley.

Here are some of the sickening results. Up to 98 percent of the 258 church starts reported by three pastors no longer exist, if they ever existed. Some definitely never existed. How much of your tithes are we talking? More than $1.3 million in start-up funding plus monthly financial support to those 258 churches.

The report also specifically states that BGCT leaders failed to appropriately investigate thoroughly charges despite the fact that staff members knew about irregularities in the program. As it turns out, three was even an FBI investigation in 2000-2001 regarding allegations of fraud, but BGCT leaders still failed to investigate. Church staffs in Baptist life are well known to cover for their fellows and hush up improprieties. It appears that it extends to denominational life as well. This is borne out by another disturbing part of the report. Try this statement: “It became clear during the investigation that some of the information provided by the BGCT was unreliable. Some of the documents, such as new-church monthly reports, were found to be fabricated.” It sounds like a political party scandal doesn't it? First the wrongdoing, then the cover up. Thank goodness the Executive Board went with an independent investigation.

Evangelicalism continues to take it on the chin, as one scandal after another diminishes the reputation of the church. Those who pretend to lead too often deceive. Those who are called to serve, serve themselves.
This is a lesson evangelicals ought to know from church history. Whenever the church has focused on evangelism and preaching the gospel, her influence has increased. When she has sought power by political, cultural, or military activism, she has damaged or spoiled her testimony. John MacArthur

I thought this would be a good reminder for this night. It appears Republicans are taking a beating. That is not too unusual in mid-term, especially of the last term, but a good deal they have brought on themselves with bad behavior.

Nonetheless, God is sovereign and will continue to work his will and his pleasure. The church in America will continue on if she does what she is supposed to do. No, I don't mean vote Republican. I mean preach the gospel.
Psalm 90:8 (NIV)
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

Here is my take on the Ted Haggard mess. My mom used to say "your sins will find you out". Truly, very little stays secret in the life of a Christian, or a purported Christian. God continually brings sin to life, both for the maturity of the individual and the protection of the church.

Thank God he exposed Ted Haggard's sin. While leading a church of thousands of members, he was living a secretly sinful life that he himself calls dark. He bought drugs. This kind of man cannot lead a church. Some will say the timing was bad, brought about by political enemies. I think that shows God doesn't care as much for the elections as he does for the purity of the church. God will also use a vehicle for his purposes that is not a pure one, such as a homosexual massage therapist that sells drugs. He used Assyria to humble Israel.

Some of his friends are now working on his repentance and restoration. That is good. However, the first question they must answer, without assumption, is: should this man be in the ministry at all. Before trying to figure out how he can be restored, the first question should be answered. How does a man lead a congregation and speak to Americans all over the country about moral and spiritual issues, while having a duplicitous nature? Did he ever have a heart for the gospel, or did he seek fame and glory?

Do we all sin? Sure. That doesn't excuse this pastor. Can he be forgiven? Sure. But it doesn't mean he should pastor.

The continued moral failures of the clergy in America is a bitter pill to swallow for laymen who are looking for guidance and encouragement. They are also reasons the name of God is blasphemed among the non-believers, to paraphrase the Old Testament.

As a final matter, every time this happens, we should all take the time to examine our hearts and pray that God would reveal to us any hidden sins and weaknesses, knowing that Pastor Haggard's heart and ours come from the same spiritual DNA.



We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night
to visit violence on those that would do us harm." - George Orwell

Monday, November 06, 2006



Although much has been said about religious people staying home or supporting the Democrats to protest the Republican Party's management over the last 2 years, it appears that, as the time for actual decision approaches, they are heading back to the Republican Party.

The recent Pew poll shows this. The poll found that Demcrats have lost 14 points among Protestants, traveling downward from a 5 point lead to a 9 point trail. Among non-Hispanic Catholics, they have lost an eight-point lead and now trail by 5 points.

See The Captains Quarters for a detailed analysis.

Saturday, November 04, 2006



2 Corinthians 1

1:1-2 Greeting

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: 2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the second letter included in the New Testament from Paul to the church in Corinth. Paul went to Corinth on his second missionary journey, as is recorded in Acts 18. He spent about 18 months there. After leaving, he heard about immorality in the church and wrote a letter to confront that. That letter was lost. He refers to it in 1 Corinthians 5:9.

While Paul was ministering in Ephesus, he heard of further trouble in the Corinthian church, this time in the form of divisions among the members. The Corinthians also wrote Paul a letter asking for him to address certain issues. Paul wrote the letter we know as 1 Corinthians in response.

Paul sent Timothy to Corinth and stayed in Ephesus. However, he heard bad news, possible from Timothy, including the arrival of false prophets who were attacking his character, so he went to Corinth. He refers to this as the “painful visit” in 2 Corinthians 2:1.

The visit did not go well. Paul returned to Ephesus and wrote the letter he mentions in 2 Corinthians 2:4. He sent that letter to Corinth with Titus.

Paul then left Ephesus because of the riot started by Demetrius, as recorded in Acts 19:23-20:1. Upon leaving Ephesus, he went to find Titus and get news of the response of the Corinthians. When he found Titus, he learned that the Corinthians has repented of their rebellions against him. He wrote them again, and that letter is what we know as 2 Corinthians. The letter was probably written about A.D. 55.

In 55 A. D., Nero had been the emperor of Rome for about a year. He was about 18 years old. The Pax Romana was at its height. Paul’s travels are all within the Roman empire.

Paul is with Timothy as he writes. He mentions immediately that he is an apostle and that he is that by the will of God. The Corinthians had at time rebelled against his authority, false prophets had attacked him. But, he claims apostleship and the authority to go with it. An apostle (Greek: apostolos) is one who is sent. Acts 9 records the calling of Paul. The Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:15, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

In Galatians 1:15, Paul said “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”

1:3-7 The God of All Comfort

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Paul first lifts up praise to God, and that is always a good thing to do first. He calls God the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, meaning he is the God of redemption. He loved us and sent his son to redeem us. He deserves our praise and our gratitude. In Romans 15:6, Paul said we should with one voice glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul also calls him the Father of compassion. One of the traits of God’s character is compassion. Psalm 116:5 says “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” Jesus modeled the compassion of the Father. Matthew 9:36 says “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 14:14 says “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 15:32 says “Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way."

Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. When things are going badly for you, you can call out to the Lord and know that he cares about that. He is not removed from your suffering. He sympathizes, he grieves, and he wants to help you. Don’t hesitate to talk to God about your troubles.

Our Heavenly Father is also the God of all comfort. He does this in two ways. First, he often delivers us from evil. Second, he gives us comfort of the mind and emotions, peace of mind, if you will. In Romans 15:13, Paul prayed: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Paul says here that God comforts us in all our troubles. Whatever your troubles are, he is there to bring comfort to you. Psalm 23:4 says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” His guidance and his provision are there to bring us comfort. The sovereign God of all things wants to give you comfort.

Anxiety is rampant in our society. We have a lot to worry about. But, God wants us to trust him and to receive peace of mind from him.

That comfort is a matter of giving as well as receiving. We are comforted not only for our own sake, but to extend that comfort to others. We receive comfort from the Lord and pass it on to others.

Although Paul used the plural “us”, you get the feeling he is talking largely about himself. He had a lot of trouble, and he received comfort from the Lord. The sufferings of Christ had been passed on to Paul.

Jesus suffered. He predicted it to the disciples. In Matthew 16:21, From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. In Matthew 17:12, he said But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." He suffered in his trial and crucifixion.

You could say Paul was called to suffer. Jesus told Ananias in Acts 9:16, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." Paul himself said “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Colossians 1:24. Paul listed those sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11: 24-28: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” Paul experienced the sufferings of Christ. In Romans 8:17, he said we share in his suffering so that we may share in his glory.

I don’t know if you have every said this, but in Philippians 3:10, Paul said “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings….”

Peter tells us, in 1 Peter 4:13, “…rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

But as Paul suffered the sufferings of Christ, he received comfort through Christ. He passed this on to others, including the Corinthians.

1: 8-11 Paul’s Hardships

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our[a] behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Paul suffered severe hardships. He was under great pressure. It was way beyond his own ability to endure. He thought he might die. But he realized that his suffering happened to teach him something. It taught him not to rely on himself, but on God. He was beyond his ability to endure, but God was not beyond his ability to deliver. Indeed God did deliver him and be believed God would continue to do so.

Still, even with his great faith in God, Paul asked for their prayers to help him find deliverance. Paul knew that God would work in answer to prayer, and he sought their help.

We should pray for our missionaries and our pastors, that God would deliver them from evil and protect them.




Katharine Jefferts-Schori is the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. She is going to be a "doozy". I suggest that those Episcopalians who are Christians pull out immediately.

KJS began with a bang, declaring "If we insist that we know the one way to God, we've put God in a very small box." This tells us 3 things about KJS. First, she does not believe the Bible is the word of God. Second, she doesn't understand God. Third, she does not mind letting the whole world know it.

The Bible clearly records Jesus' own words on this matter. John 14:6 records him saying "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." It can't be any plainer than that.

God is sovereign. We do not put him in a box. He decided how he wanted to reconcile human beings to himself. He chose to do it through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus. KJS actually tries to put God in a box by saying she can speak for him and interpret how he wants to do things rather than listen to Him speak for himself.

Now that your church has elected this person, and she has publicly declared her beliefs to be in direct opposition to the Bible and historical, orthodox Christian belief, it seems that believing Episcopalians will have no choice but to withdraw form the American church and seek shelter elsewhere. Several dioceses have already requested this of the Archbiship of Canterbury.

1 John 1:18 says "Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been annointed by the Holy One and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but becaue you know it, and because no lie of of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the son has the father."