Saturday, November 30, 2002


Paul tells us that the fundamental flaw of the pagan world was that it took God's great act of general revelation--Creation--and turned it on its head. He wrote

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20)

But man turned from that. 'They became futile in their speculations,' Paul wrote. 'Professing to be wise they became fools.'

Ah, but they really like to profess to be wise. Jim Bowen over at No Watermelons Allowed has a couple of great posts (one and two) on Creation and the Big Bang. He writes,

In conclusion, science in general and the big bang theory in particular rely on all manner of unprovable assumptions. That is, upon faith. Just like the creationists' beliefs do. The major difference is that the creationists acknowledge their faith.

Big bang/evolutionist reasoning runs like this:
1) There is no God.
2) We got here somehow.
3) The Big Bang/Evolution theories explains it. Despite the fact that the known laws of science show the vast improbabilities of such a thing occurring, our very existence proves that's the way it happened--we got here somehow, didn't we?
4) Those who believe in Creation by a Divine Being are simply unaware that science has solved the riddle of our existence and are ignorant, Bible-thumpers. They should be ridiculed and then ignored. Science has shown there's no God.
Corollary: We as scientists are also experts on Constitutional law, and any attempt to mention a Deity in schools is an attempt to abrogate the great 'wall of separation between church and state' that Thomas Jefferson wrote with his own hand into the Bill of Rights.

I do disagree with Jim on a couple of points. I have no problem with the Big Bang theory being presented in science classes. In fact I think it ought to be. Students should be aware of major (predominant) scientific theories, although I have no problem with it being limited to, say, high school age. At the same time the very reasonable theory of Intelligent Design ought also to be presented alongside it. As Phillip Johnson says, teach the controversy. Truth never hides from open debate.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

The Jessamine Journal has run my column 'Seeing Too Much'. You may recognize much of it as it began as a post here at theosebes.

I will praise the name of God with song
And magnify Him with thanksgiving. --Psalm 69:30

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I've posted my Sunday sermon on 'Thanksgiving to God' at the Lake Street church site in RealAudio. Enjoy your holiday!

It seems that Yves Saint Laurent (how do you pronounce 'Yves' anyway? GAP is a lot easier to say!) is 'pushing the envelope' (don't they love doing that?) with a new ad campaign for their fragrance M7, 'which features a man wearing nothing but the hair on his skin -- and reclining with his legs spread,' FOX reports. It's okay, though:

'The nudity is meant to show an unconventional attitude that communicates style and confidence,' said Brad Horowitz, VP of marketing at Clarins Fragrance Groups, which distributes the fragrance. 'This man is a little daring but he's not taking himself that seriously. It's an amusing nakedness.'

Well, that's a relief. It would be a different story if his nakedness wasn't 'amusing'. But even Alice Cunejo, San Francisco bureau chief for Advertising Age sees it for what it is, 'You wouldn't have seen this 10 or 20 years ago,' she said. 'It's borderline soft-core porn.'

Last night my brother-in-law Mitch was telling me about an article in the University of Memphis' student paper about a group of female converts to Islam at the school. The women all wear the traditional clothing of a hijab. One of the women commented,

“We do not feel oppressed,” said Eboni Leake, a former U of M student who converted to Islam during her junior year. “We wear the hijab for modesty, and to be respected for who we are. The guys don’t talk in a way that would demean women when I’m around anymore, and if they do, they apologize.”

Now we're looking at two extremes, but which extreme finds women (well, men for that matter) treated with respect? The extremities of Islam are seen by these people as a refuge for those who are rightfully disgusted with our oversexed culture. There's an opportunity here for Christians. More people are open than we think. The fields are white unto harvest--let's see them led to Christ, not Mohammed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002


I once taught a class on Proverbs and as we were discussing 'Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he shall not depart from it,' a older brother interjected 'I don't think that's valid anymore.' Quite frankly, I was at a loss as to what to say. The world's just too bad, he continued--it's impossible to keep them faithful. It always seems that it's that way, but the Preacher wrote, 'Do not say, "Why is it that the former days were better than these?" (Eccl. 7:10) This man had lost his child to the world; his story is not unique. But we can't invalidate the Bible because things didn't work out for us. The Proverbs are general principles, not iron-clad rules. Sometimes children will be unfaithful despite what we do.

Something I don't think this brother wanted to consider, however, was that maybe he really didn't do what he could have for his child. I wasn't there, so I can't say. But I preached at a congregation where almost every single (adult) child of the elderly members there were unfaithful to the Lord. Something had gone wrong somewhere. It doesn't do any good to berate these Christians about it. There's nothing they can do now.

But as a parent of a 2 year old and a 3 month old I want to learn from their mistakes. My wife and I see our primary goal as parents as raising godly children. Yesterday my daughter brought me Just In Case You Ever Wonder, by Max Lucado (yes, Lucado gets on my nerves, too, but this is a very good children's book) and said, 'Will you read to me about going to heaven?' Now that will just make your heart melt. We talked about being in heaven together with Jesus. At two year's old she very much wants to be there. At 22 and 82 I still want her to have that same desire. But how do I do that?

Kevin Young has some good insights on about raising faith-filled kids. He puts his finger on the common mistake, the mistake that is causing us to lose our children rather than win them for the Lord:

I used to think that if my kids attended Sunday school, memorized enough verses, and sat up straight and tall during family devotions, we would produce in them extraordinary faith.

For many it's worse than that. Far too many are convinced if their children show up to Bible class a couple of times a week (or month) that exposure to Biblical teaching will somehow inoculate them against the world and its powerful forces. It won't. Churches can--must--assist in training children, but parents, not churches, are the ones who are going to do the important training. They're going to set the tone and the priorities. Our 2 year old who wanted to go to heaven yesterday also said Sunday morning, 'I don't want to go to Bible class.' We talked to her about it some, trying to convince her that she did. She still didn't. She went anyway. Parents who would never think of letting children miss arithmetic class will all too readily heed their child's reluctance to go to Bible class. Which is more important to them? I can tell you this, God's not going to make them pass a math test before they can get into heaven.

Monday, November 25, 2002


The What Would Jesus Drive silliness has reopened debate about the entire WWJD idea; the original WWJD--What Would Jesus Do? Is the latter a valid question?

I think that reaction against the faddishness of it all is quite healthy. Any time religion becomes a fashion statement we're missing the point, whether it's a WWJD bracelet, a crucifix dangling furtively above decolletage or the latest religious logo-spoof t-shirt. WWJD was hip, but these days it's lost some of its hep factor. The kids have moved on.

A friend of mine told me once 'What Would Jesus Do?' isn't the the right question, but rather 'What Jesus Did', i.e., what He accomplished on the cross. I certainly agree that everything rests on what was accomplished on the cross. If Jesus hadn't died for my sins and raised again on the third day what He taught and did would be of no concern to me.

In regard to the WWJD question, Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping (link above) writes:

It is impossible for me to live's Christ's life, nor can I meaningfully imagine Jesus leading my life . At best, I can hope to live a Christly life. But that makes the question not, WWJD, but "WWJHMD" - what would Jesus have me do?

There's quite a bit of truth there, I think. But just as Thomas a Kempis titled his book The Imitation of Christ, I do think that imitation of Christ--what would He do?--is relevant. Jesus said, 'If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.' (John 14:15) But the very life Jesus led was an example of perfect living. It is to be emulated.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.' Matthew 16:24

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. --1 Cor. 11:1

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.... --1 Peter 2:21

I think 'what would Jesus do?' is a legitimate question in our lives. But I certainly understand the problems with What Would Jesus Do?

We'll all sleep a little safer tonight after a successful Rally For a Hate-Free Lexington protected us from the kooky forces of Kansas preacher/protester Fred Phelps. Phelps showed up with his minions of ten people to protest the recent christening by a Catholic priest of quadruplets being raised by a Lexington homosexual couple. The Hate-Free crowd responded by killing a flea with a hammer. The local tv news led with the story and ran with it for seven minutes, an eternity in a 30 minute news program. I'm glad there's no agenda there.

Is Phelps nutty? Without a doubt.

Is a homosexual couple raising children a good idea? No it's not.

Should the Catholic church baptize the homosexual couple's children? The children aren't sinners (well, I don't think they are, the Catholic church does or they wouldn't 'baptize' them), so if the Catholics are going to baptize infants I don't know why these should be excluded. My problem is with the practice of infant baptism. Of course, the priest went beyond the baptism and 'blessed' the couple. If I was a Catholic I would have a problem with that.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Okay, I couldn't resist...

"Sin is incurable by the strength of man, nor does free will have any validity here,
so that even the saints say: 'The evil which I do not wish, this I do.' 'You are not doing the
things which you wish.' 'Since my loins are filled with illusions,' etc."

You are Martin Luther!

Yeah, you have a way of letting everyone know how you
feel, usually with Bible quotes attached, and will think your way through the issues, although
sometimes you make no sense! You aren't always sure of yourself, and you can change your mind about
things, something you actually consider a strength. You can take solitude, especially with some music.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson


The James Ossuary is undergoing intense scrutiny at a Biblical scholars conference in Toronto where the bone box is on display. That's a good thing. I hope the box is genuine, but if it's not I don't want to be misled. The very fact that the box is there shows the confidence those associated with it have. This is the sort of thing that needs to be debated by supporters and skeptics alike. Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaelogy Review, sums up much of the oppostition: “There’s a kind of resistance. We don’t want to believe it.”

Being cheap I don't actually buy a Sunday paper; I just read it online. But my friend Sean Busick (Ph.D., South Carolina) sent me an email about Marilyn vos Savant's column in Parade Magazine. Sean writes,

Someone asks: how would you teach morality to someone who doesn't believe in God or the hereafter? She replies that religion is not necessary to teaching morality. "The way children are taught to love, honor, respect--and sometimes fear--God, they also can be taught to love, honor, respect and fear mankind itself. Such teachings would guide human behavior: Any reasonable adult who desired the approval of his fellow man and woman would be motivated to do the right thing."

[Edmund] Burke would have recognized such nonsense as the revolutionary foundation of tyranny. Followers of such a moral code as she describes all too frequently trample individual men and women while acting out of love for mankind as a whole.

Just so, as Russell Kirk would have said. Sean has hit the nail on the head. All the great materialistic ideologies of 20th Century claimed to be for the good of 'mankind', yet were responsible for the slaughter of millions. All were also Godless ideologies. Again as Russell Kirk--Burke's greatest disciple and expositor--wrote, ideologies are inverted religions.

Professing to be wise, they became fools.

Saturday, November 23, 2002


Some interesting thoughts on the Transfiguration over at JoyfulChristian, particularly on the role of John as 'Elijah', and why there was to be an Elijah figure to precede the Messiah.

Moses and Elijah appeared on the mount and spoke with Jesus. What were they talking about? Luke records, they 'were speaking of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.' (10:32) Jesus stood transfigured before the selected apostles--they viewed Him as He truly was. And Peter--not realizing what he was saying (how typical of Peter--and us!)--offered to build tents (or tabernacles) for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. God was not satisfied with Peter's solution: 'This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!' (vs. 35) It was now time for authority to reside in the Person of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2), not the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). The old wineskins would no longer suffice.

The Evangelical Theological Society--a group of academics--is attempting to expel members for adherence to a theological position known as 'Open Theism'. I admit I was not previously aware of that term or exactly what the tenets of it are. The ETS seems to think that it's an issue of 'innerancy' and limitation of God's omniscience. The Christianity Today article states,

Open theists emphasize God's self-limitation in dealing with humans. Because God desires people's free response, openness theologians say, he neither predetermines nor foreknows their moral choices. In the Bible, they say, God changes his mind, or "repents," in response to human actions.

That this is true seems pretty obvious Scripturally. What came immediately to my mind was the descent of Moses from Sinai only to discover Israel worshipping the golden calf. God says,

The LORD said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you (i.e., Moses) a great nation.' --Exodus 32:9-10, NASB-u

In response to that decision, Moses 'entreated' the LORD that He would spare them. Verse 14 records, 'So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.' Now you want to talk about 'innerancy', either what the text says happened happened, or God lied to Moses or the account itself is fictitious. Only the first of those options is consistent with an innerant view. And that position flies in the face of the ETS's deterministic Calvinism.

It seems Open Theism is simply a restating of the Biblical notion of free-will.

A question that is raised is how comfortable those ETS members associated with the Stone-Campbell Restorationist churches will be with this. A recently published book by IntervarsityPress, Evangelicalism & the Stone Campbell Movement, has its editor and several of the essayists falling over themselves to rush under the 'evangelical' label. I'd say to a man they also believe in a free will generally consistent with the Open Theism position.

As we always see, any attempt to leave the simply Bible name of Christian will only lead to trouble.

The Lexington homosexual couple who have made national headlines by having quadruplets using the services of a surrogate mother have have earned the ire of traveling homosexual protester Fred Phelps of Kansas. Apparently the last straw was the recent christening of the children by a Catholic priest who also blessed the two men as parents. Phelps has a protest planned for tomorrow. From what I've seen of Phelps and his congregation their tactics aren't very Christlike, holding signs like 'God Hates Fags'. But the homosexual couple have been playing the local and national media on this for months now. They seem shocked (shocked!) by the negative reaction after rubbing everyone's face in their sinful behavior.

I've written about this previously and expressed my feelings about the media fawning. But as I said in my sermon on the issue, homosexuality is wrong but showing personal hostility toward these men is not the proper route. There were those in the Corinthian church who had been involved in homosexual behavior, but Paul told them 'you were washed, were sanctified, were justified.' (1 Cor. 6:9-11) The best course of action is to refuse to normalize their behavior, but pray that they would turn away from it.

Ben Witherington, a professor at nearby Asbury Seminary, is involved in writing a book on the James Ossuary with Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks. The Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader talks to him today about the bone box, the upcoming book and the media attention he is receiving on it. I loved this quote:

As an expert on the New Testament, Witherington is used to being quoted in Christianity Today and other national publications.

But he's never experienced anything like the media buzz surrounding this story.

"They're calling from anywhere," Witherington said recently. "You've got a media out there that is basically biblically illiterate, so they're desperate to get some handholds on what the significance of this is."

Heh heh heh.

Look for the book around Easter.

Friday, November 22, 2002


That's right, What Would Mohammed Like? Well apparently not the Miss World pageant according to the actions of rioters in Kaduna, Nigeria where more than 100 people were killed and 500 injured after a newspaper suggested Mohammed would have liked the pageant. CNN reports:

Angry mobs in the mainly-Muslim city 600 kilometres (375 miles) northwest of Lagos burnt Christian churches and rampaged through the streets stabbing, bludgeoning and burning bystanders to death....

Schools and shops hurriedly closed as hordes of young men, shouting "Allahu Akhbar," or "God is great," ignited makeshift street barricades made of tires and garbage, sending plumes of black smoke rising above the city. Others were heard chanting, "Down with beauty" and "Miss World is sin."

Well, now it may be. But so is dragging people from cars, stabbing them and then igniting a tire around their necks. As is looting and pillaging. Not to mention outright murder. One has a hard time taking seriously the religious sensitivities of people who resort to mass rioting over a newspaper article.

'Christian youths' are also now reported to have retaliated. You like to see their dedication to Jesus's injunction to 'turn the other cheek'.

My wife and I went out for a movie last night for the first time since our new daughter Molly Katherine was born three months ago (thanks to my sister Laurel and her husband Scott for the babysitting!). So off we went to the current big movie Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. We had seen the first one last year and it spurred me to try the book, which I read with some skepticism. My skepticism mainly grew from the whole 'phenomenon' of it; it was just a little too popular to be entirely trusted.

Now compared to a truly great work like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings--or even The Hobbit--Potter can't really compete. But the first book impressed me with its ability to keep my interest. I went on to read the other three books, and now so has my wife.

I'll make a confession--I like Harry Potter.

The Potter series is something I would have absolutely loved when I was a kid. It's an exciting world of make-believe with hidden passages, ancient books and likeable characters...

...and magic, wizards and witches. Is Potter repackaged Satanism attempting to sneak past our defenses in order to plant the seeds of witchcraft into young minds who will then grow up to join a Wiccan cult? Or is it harmless fun--a good story with a strong, positive moral message to kids? Despite the wide-ranging views, I'm going to side with the latter. Will Harry Potter lead anyone to Christ? No. Rowling's world is a secular one, by and large, despite some attempts to show an innate gospel message in it. I think it boils down to harmless fun. (My favorite criticism of the Potter books/movies is how we don't want children to admire characters who break school rules--oh please!)

I have a number of Christian friends (adults) who have read and liked the books: my wife Traci, my two sisters, my friends Dave & Mary Ann, Jennifer (despite her husband Sean's misgivings!) and Judy R. all immediately come to mind. Of course, none of us have a problem with Halloween, either. I just have serious doubts that there are large numbers of young readers being led down the path of witchcraft following the Pied Piper of Hogwarts.

Should parents be concerned what their children are exposed to? By all means, yes! My wife and I are very restrictive about that with our older daughter (just ask others who think we're very odd). But quite frankly I'd rather let her watch (and later read) Harry Potter than watch Sesame Street.

I loved reading about King Arthur and Merlin as a child (I still do). I devoured Lloyd Alexander's Prydain's Chronicles. I read fairy tales to my children. As my old boss the late Russell Kirk--a great fantasy and ghost story writer himself--said, children need fantasy and imagination, not 'see Jane run'. And if Harry Potter is not on a level with the greats, I don't believe it will do our children any harm. Read on!

Thursday, November 21, 2002


Yes, What Would Jesus Drive? The Evangelical Environmental Network has begun a campaign to convince us all that Jesus would never have driven a gas-hog SUV or mini-van (trouble for me since we bought one over the summer--where else to put these kids!?). Jesus would have been interested in alternative fuels it seems. The implication seems to be, if you're not so concerned then Jesus will be none too pleased with you.

Well, I think there is an expectation of stewardship. God has given us His Creation to oversee; we need to be responsible with it. But God ultimately is concerned with eternal things, not the transitory. I'm personally uncomfortable with an ad campaign that implies the authority of Jesus on something without some explicit reason for doing so. It makes me think of the 'Jesus was a vegetarian' campaign launched by PETA. Forget the fact Scripture records Him eating meat, and never implies vegetarianism as a lifestyle. We need to show more reverance in throwing the name of Jesus around for our pet causes.

One of the biggest movements in today's religious environment --particularly among evangelicals--is toward 'contemporary' worship, particularly in music. Some (many?) churches have multiple worship services in order to accomodate those who want a 'traditional' service and those who want something hipper. Ironically, folks have let corporate worship--meant to be something that unifies--become something that divides.

Barna Research has issued a new study on the worship wars. I think Barna hits the nail on the head when he says,

"Most of the church people who fight about their musical preference do so because they don't understand the relationship between music, communication, God and worship. Church leaders foster the problem by focusing on how to please people with music or how to offer enough styles of music to meet everyone's tastes rather dealing with the underlying issues of limited interest in, comprehension of, and investment in fervent worship of a holy, deserving God."

When worship boils down simply to people's tastes then we're missing the point. Ultimately worship is to be about what God wants to receive, not what we prefer to give. The account of Cain and Abel illustrates that perfectly. In our consumer environment everybody thinks they ought to have a choice in everything.

The church I attend only practices congregational a capella singing for our music. We do that because that's what we believe is authorized by God--that's what He wants us to do. My wife ran into a man who had visited with us for awhile and whose wife was now attending a more musically with-it church. He said our lack of musical instruments was really a barrier for others. We really ought to think about getting a piano or something.

Well, we won't. That's off the table as far as we're concerned. And it's not based on personal taste, but rather what we think God authorizes. That being said, there are some who think that if a hymn was written within the last 50 years (or 100!) it's suspect. While we need to make sure each hymn is Scripturally expressive in its teaching and praise, I don't know that there was anything particularly special about 19th Century hymn writing. Each generation is equally authorized to express themselves musically in keeping with Scriptural principles. There tends to be a feeling among some that the older the hymn the holier it must be (I think it tends to go along with the liking for lots of 'Thees' and 'Thous').

In the end, corporate worship is meant to be something that unites us under the authority of our Lord. And while it does matter what we get out of it (part of its purpose is to spiritually energize us), it matters a great deal more that God is pleased with what we do.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002


My sister Susanna has a couple of posts of interest to theosebes at cut on the bias. First, she tackles the moral questions raised by abortion, capital punishment and war.

More importantly, she has the best picture you've seen on the web in some time.

We talked about the pornographic culture below, well tonight CBS regales us with a one-hour Victoria's Secret ad. Not only are they showing it, they're showing it during the 'family hour' at 8 PM. Some folks are upset about it and even some affiliates are refusing to carry it. CBS tells us not to worry:

''Despite what the PTC [Parents Television Council] says, this is not pornography,'' CBS spokesman Chris Ender said. ''It's a one-hour fashion show mixed with musical performances and comedy segments.

It would seem that Victoria's Secret ought to look to their own name. I doubt much will still be a secret after this 'fashion show'.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002


I've been meaning to commend David Posey's editorial over at Focus Magazine:

[T]o whom or what do Christian pledge their allegiance? In reading and hearing what some of my brethren are saying, I get the impression that they have pledged at least part of their allegiance to someone or something other than Christ.

By way of disclaimer, the good folks over at Focus have been known to publish various writings of mine. But I'd like David's editorial even if they didn't.

Serge Trifkovic says no. A nice blow to the myth of religious relativism.

The myth of an Islamic Golden Age is needed by Islam’s apologists to save it from being damned by its present squalid condition; to prove, as it were, that there is more to Islam than the terrorism of Bin Laden and the decadence of the oil sheiks. It is, frankly, a confession that if the world judges it by what it is today, it comes up rather short, being a religion that has yet to produce a democratic or prosperous society, or social and cultural forms admired by neutral foreign observers the way anyone can admire American freedom, Japanese order, Israeli courage, or Italian style.

All ways can't be equally right.
MORAL DARWINISM is well reviewed by Richard Weikart. Benjamin Wiker in his book seeks to trace 'How We Became Hedonists' and rather than finding Darwinism at the root, he rather sees it as the fruit of a long philosophical tradtion looking back to Epicurus. Weikert finds flaws in the work, but there's no question that Wiker is onto something.
TEACHING TEENS isn't an easy task as anyone who's tried it can attest. At the Annandale lectures David Banning, who works with the South Bumby church in Orlando along with Robert Harkrider, gave a great lecture on teaching teens. David made the excellent point that very often teens make a big transition by going from a female instructor with a more interactive, vibrant teaching style to a male instructor who use the lecture method of teaching. I think he's very right about that. Teens don't like to be lectured to. He's developing a series of lesson books called the 'Get Them Talking' series based on the idea that teens want (need) to learn interactively and playing on the great truth that teens like to talk. I was really impressed with it.

Monday, November 18, 2002

PORNOGRAPHY is virtually inescapable these days. And I'm not talking about a Playboy at the local convenient mart. Our culture constantly is wearing down what once was a much clearer distinction so that simply driving down the road will expose you to a Hooters billboard and worse. My In-box is regularly regaled with spam 'offers' for websites and 'free' passwords. The subject lines are even unrepeatable--yuck! I think many of us can see the truth in the old 'sex sells' maxim, but some folks apparently are into some pretty sick stuff.

My sister's blog (thanks for today's link, by the way) provided a link to a column by Michelle Malkin called 'A generation of skanks' and talking about Christina Aguilera and her new 'song' 'Dirrty'. She's apparently appeared--quite a bit of her, well, pretty much all of her--on the cover of Rolling Stone. Malkin's daughter asks the pertinent question, 'Where's her shirt?' My own 2-year old has asked similar questions of folks on tv before (usually commercials). I've not seen the Rolling Stone cover, but I did see quite a bit more of LeAnn Rimes than I needed to on the cover of some magazine recently.

Yesterday my wife showed me a catalog selling a comforter set for young girls with Britney Spears on it. Britney's face is emblazoned on the shams. And a provocatively posed Britney with hands positioned to accentuate her bosom fills the comforter itself. As Malkin tells us, that's where we get the skanks. I pointed out to my wife recently that all these young girls we see with low pants and midrif bearing tops are constantly tugging their pants up and their shirts down. They want to be stylish, but I don't really think they want to show all they're showing. If they keep wearing it, though, eventually it won't bother them anymore.

Christian Reflection, a journal put out by The Center for Christian Ethics, turns its eye to The Pornographic Culture in the latest issue. I've found Christian Reflection a thoughtful publication. They write,

'Overt sexual imagery saturates our culture. When this imagery is calculated to arouse sexual desires that are inappropriate to a faithful Christian life, and when it distorts the dignity of men’s and women’s bodies, we call it "pornographic."'

Adam and Eve realized upon eating the forbidden fruit that they were naked, and that there was now an inappropriateness to that. What pornography ultimately seeks to do is both normalize public nakedness yet at the same time play on its titillating aspects.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

JAMES OSSUARY is on display in Toronto after beeing repaired. During the repairs curators 'discovered an incised star-circle and minute flecks of red paint on the back of the box, common decorations on ossuaries dating between 50-70 A.D.' The article reports Edward Keall, the museum’s director of Near Eastern and Asian civilizations, as saying

'it was unlikely anyone will ever prove scientifically it held the bones of the brother of Jesus. “It won’t stand up in a court of law,” he said. “Believing is an act of faith.”'

Now I certainly agree that in all likelyhood it won't be possible to prove definitively that the box is the box. And ultimately my faith is not affected one way or another by that--I had faith in Jesus as a historical person and, more importantly, as the Son of God, before the box was ever found. If the ossuary ever is found to be some dime-store forgery that will have no bearing on my faith in Jesus. But are 'faith' and 'things that stand up in a court of law' two irreconcilable things? Is Biblical 'faith' something that I just happen to want to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary or despite a lack of evidence? Or in fact is it a reasonable belief founded upon an accumulation of evidence, primarily the testimony of witnesses as found in the Bible accounts? That's certainly what I intend my faith to be.

Friday, November 15, 2002

ON THE ROAD again. After the morning session at Annandale we'll be heading back to Kentucky. I've got some comments about some of yesterday's lectures and probably today's after I hear them. I'll try to post those tomorrow. If you've never been to the Annandale lectures you really ought to come some year. It's well worth it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

SPLINTERING CHURCHES are always a problem, and the problem seems to be growing. Weldon Warnock told us about a man marooned on an island who finally waved down a passing ship. The man was showing the rescuers his living situation and they came upon three small huts. 'What are these huts?' they asked. 'The first is where I live. The second is where I go to church,' the man answered.

'What's the third one?'

'Oh, that's where I used to go to church.'
SETTING THINGS in order was the subject of Tack Chumbley's lecture yesterday at Annandale. He gave an exposition of Titus pointing out that Titus was literally to make things 'straight'. Paul was concerned with 1) straight leadership, 2) straight speaking, 3) straight living. The point I liked the most was in Chapter 2 where Paul instructs Titus to teach the older men, the older women and the younger men. But note that the older women--not Titus--were ordered to instruct the younger women. Not only are most men at a loss to competently address many problems that younger women might have (into which older women have obvious insight), but Paul's system also protects preachers from the dangers of meeting one-on-one with younger women. Preacher after preacher has fallen victim to sexual sin arising out of just such a situation. Young women seeking counseling are often very vulnerable emotionally. We do them, ourselves, our families and God a great disservice by not taking proper safeguards.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

ON THE ROAD to Annandale, Virginia this week. My family will be attending the preacher training lectureship sponsored by the Annandale Church of Christ. It's always an enjoyable time there; we'll be staying with our friends Bill & Jennifer Wilder (a lawyer and a doctor, but fine folks anyway!). This year's schedule (scroll down) looks good. I'll try to give some reports as the week progresses.
THE JAMES OSSUARY owner has been 'outed' and could be in trouble. Israeli antiquities authorities are attempting to determine exactly when Oded Golan purchased it and from whom. He claims it was in 1976, before current antiquities laws were passed. There is also a picture of the now damaged ossuary, with a crack running through the controversial inscription.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

TOLERANCE is a buzzword these days. The only thing seemingly not tolerated are those who are viewed as intolerant by the arbiters of such things. My brother-in-law Mitch sent me a link to this good column by William Bouknight, a Methodist minister in Memphis, on the topic.There is an increasing movement--particularly among those in the liberal 'mainline' denominations--to ridicule and silence those who would insist upon the uniqueness and necessity of Jesus Christ. We must always proclaim Christ with tact, expressing the 'truth in love', but we can never compromise on the proclamation of the gospel message regardless of how the culture at large chooses to view us.
RUSSIAN VISAS are apparently harder to come by these days for non-Orthodox religious workers and teachers as discussed here. After a decade of openness, the Russians seem to be pulling back from that. I know a number of brethren have been going to Russia and the former Iron Curtain countries during that time with some success. I pray the gospel is still able to penetrate a culture which suffered from state-sponsored atheism for 70 years.Someone was telling me of some brethren planning a trip within in the next few months. Now I've not been to Russia, but I'd think July-August might be a better time to travel there! In the article a man from Dallas, Jeffrey Wollman, says, "Now it looks like the door is shutting." As Paul did, we need to always pray for doors of opportunity to open both here and abroad.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

SUCCESS--what is it? We were talking about this very topic last night in the Ecclesiastes class I'm teaching. The folks over at Barna Research have been asking folks what they think success is. Among their findings:

'The study revealed that different faith groups had significantly divergent views of success. For instance, family health, faith development and making a difference in the world combined to reflect the success factors of nearly nine out of ten evangelicals (86%). That dwarfed the figures associated with non-evangelical born again Christians (47%), self-described Christians who are not born again (40%), atheists (33%), and people aligned with a non-Christian faith (29%). Similarly, about half of all Protestants (49%) and Catholics (47%) indicated that this parcel of factors would fit their concept of life success.

'One clear pattern was that the younger a person is, the less likely they are to identify their spiritual condition as the determinant of success. Baby Busters were only half as likely as Boomers and just one-third as likely as Elders to identify spiritual development as the key to personal success.'

Ecclesiastes tells us 'If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, "Better the miscarriage than he....'(Eccl. 6:3) He's talking about life from the 'under the sun' perspective. If this is all there is, and you didn't enjoy life or even get a decent funeral, then you just missed out buddy!

But what happens if you did get yours; you did get what life offers? Well 'He who loves money will not be satisfied with money' (Eccl. 5:10) we're told. So even if you are successful in worldly material terms you're not going to be happy with it. Vanity of vanities...

Where, then, is true success?

'Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man.' (Eccl. 12:13)

How successful are you?
JAMES OSSUARY skepticism over at Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log. Various links included there.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

PREACHING IS generally a joy to those of us who do it. Working with a local congregation as an evangelist can be a most satisfying job--what could be more important than helping to spread God's message? Over the past few years I've known some young, talented, energetic men leave preaching to pursue secular jobs. They were frustrated and suffered burn-out. I think we've all known that feeling from time to time; when it gets to be one's predominant feeling it certainly is time to leave full-time preaching. We can do more harm than good without the right mindset. But we as Christians need to assess how we view our local preachers and how we treat them. I'm constantly told there is a 'preacher shortage'. I suppose in a larger sense, that's always true (the fields are white unto harvest). But have we made men reluctant to enter preaching? Are we running them off? I don't think it's simply a matter of 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen'. Not everyone is suited for preaching, certainly. But we don't need to make preachers run the gauntlet every week, either. I found an article by preacher's daughter and preacher's wife Jill Slater that has a lot of good things to say on the topic. And may God bless preacher's wives for what we ask them to go through! Note: The article is from Wineskins, something of a liberal publication even among our institutional brethren. As with all articles I link, not everything there is endorsed by me.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

ANOTHER DAY, another James ossuary update. This one comes from TIME magazine. It's the most comprehensive article I've seen. Be sure also to look at the photo essay. Their photograph of the inscription is striking. Is it the real deal?
DISTRACTIONS DURING SERVICES are all too common. John Beukema has a humorous look at the problem. A congregation I'm familiar with (you know who you are!) had a member experience a 'religious swoon' during a sermon. Havoc ensued, the guest speaker's PowerPoint presentation was interrupted and 911 was called before veteran members could tell the callers that there was no medical concern. I don't think he ever did get back to that PowerPoint...

Monday, November 04, 2002

SILENCE IN THE SCRIPTURES...Few things separate religious folks more than their attitude toward silence in the Scriptures--is it restrictive or permissive? A friend (thanks Bill!) recommended this editorial by Stafford North to me. Considering the source--a publication for members of 'institutional' churches of Christ--his conclusion is surprising. But older folks in such churches are starting to realize that they've sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind with their permissive attitude toward God's word.

While you're over there, take a look at their conversation with Ferrell Jenkins.
POLITICS AT CHURCH...Tony Hooker over at Trojan Horseshoes was in for a rude awakening yesterday when he went to services at his United Methodist Church. Have you ever had a Children's Defense Fund flyer in your church bulletin? This is some great insight from inside a 'mainstream' church:

"Why exactly is my church bulletin telling me what political activity I should be taking, and advocating Government programs? If there is something that we need to do to help children, we need to do it ourselves."

Don't miss the comments, either.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

SERMON SEEDS appear everywhere. This article on going into deeper waters contains a number of points useful to putting together a sermon on its base passage, Luke 5:1-11. Sadly, the author really misses the point as he attempts to make various outreaches more Christ-focused. He writes:

'Our church is known for its recreation program.'

Now I'm sorry, but if that's your church's claim to fame there certainly needs to be a reassessment. He continues:

'For the first time in 70 years, the leaders of the recreation program committed themselves to the goal of evangelism and discipleship.'

This reminds me of a story my brother-in-law told me about a school-friend's account of a church run outreach focused on basketball and tutoring. The church believed in 3-5 years they would be able to bring some of the youngsters in the program to Christ. But at first they simply wanted to gain their trust.

I have my doubts that Paul took that model with Timothy, or Barnabas with John Mark.
BIBLE STUDY is one of those things we do too often simply as an afterthought. Take a look at this fine article about devotion to study. I think Greg Laurie covers all the bases on this one:

"Someone once approached a great Bible teacher and told him, 'Sir, I would give the world to know the Bible as you do.'

"The teacher replied, 'And that is exactly what it will cost you.' "

Saturday, November 02, 2002

JAMES OSSUARY update...En route to Toronto for display at a major conference, the ossuary cracked in transit. Now we're talking about a 2,000 year old limestone box--it wasn't designed by the Jerusalem Ossuary Company (yes, I made that up) to travel by plane to Canada. Can you imagine what the ossuary's maker would have thought of such a thing! I was amused by the articles assurance that the new cracks 'would not diminish its overall importance'. No, I didn't think so.