Sunday, December 21, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Peace On Earth: What Did Jesus Bring?', a look at what kind of peace Jesus really did bring to the world: a peace between God and man that could only be accomplished by the sacrifice of Jesus Himself.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...actually should be 'Appointing This Morning' as the focus today will be on appointing new elders at the Hickman Mills church. Several months of teaching and preaching have thankfully resulted in three new overseers being selected to serve. We will be blessed with an eldership of eight fine men, for which we are very grateful.

This will be the second elder appointment I have done in 14 months, the last one at Wilsonville, Alabama.

Monday, November 24, 2008


In India's Orissa state, the location of a recent spike of Christian persecution, fundamentalist Hindus are offering a bounty for Christian leaders:
Extremist Hindu groups offered money, food and alcohol to mobs to kill Christians and destroy their homes, according to Christian aid workers in the eastern India state of Orissa.

The U.S.-based head of Good News India, a Christian organization that runs several orphanages in Orissa — one of India’s poorest regions — claims that Christian leaders are being targeted by Hindu militants and carry a price on their heads. "The going price to kill a pastor is $250," said Faiz Rahman, the chairman of Good News India.

A spokesman for the All-India Christian Council said: “People are being offered rewards to kill, and to destroy churches and Christian properties. They are being offered foreign liquor, chicken, mutton and weapons. They are given petrol and kerosene.”

Ram Madhav, a spokesman for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the largest hardline Hindu group, denied the claims. “The accusation is absolutely false,” he said.

Orissa has suffered a series of murders and arson attacks in recent months, with at least 67 Christians killed, according to the Roman Catholic Church. Several thousand homes have been razed and hundreds of places of worship destroyed, and crops are now wasting in the fields.

Such persecution is illegal in India, but it's a matter of local enforcement. If the elected leadership doesn't care they simply look the other way. It's time for the government to step in here.

As I've stated before, Christianity is a convenient scapegoat for the fact that the younger generation are less dedicated Hindus. Their real problem is the rise of education, modernity and 'material agnosticism'. Their children aren't, by and large, becoming Christians, but rather becoming middle class.

[Thanks to Theosebes reader Eric for alerting me to the bounty story.]

Unlike his predecessors, President-elect Barack Obama finds the gym more attractive than church services:
President-elect Barack Obama has yet to attend church services since winning the White House earlier this month, a departure from the example of his two immediate predecessors.

On the three Sundays since his election, Obama has instead used his free time to get in workouts at a Chicago gym.

Asked about the president-elect's decision to not attend church, a transition aide noted that the Obamas valued their faith experience in Chicago but were concerned about the impact their large retinue may have on other parishioners.

"Because they have a great deal of respect for places of worship, they do not want to draw unwelcome or inappropriate attention to a church not used to the attention their attendance would draw," said the aide.

Both President-elect George W. Bush and President-elect Bill Clinton managed to attend church in the weeks after they were elected.

Does that raise the question of whether a messiah should go to church or should the church come to him?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Living For the Will of God' from 1 Peter 4:1-11. As we put aside the ways of the world, we order our life to fulfill the will of God. God directs us to be focused toward serving Him by serving one another just as Jesus Himself showed.

This evening...'James: Brother of Jesus', a biographical look at one who went from skeptic to martyr.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Infuriated by the surprise (to them) rejection of homosexual 'marriage' in three strates on election day, homosexual protesters have been flexing their muscles in California hoping to stop an approved state constitutional amendment:
More than 20,000 protesters spilled into the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and even Modesto on Saturday in mostly peaceful demonstrations over passage of Proposition 8, the statewide ballot measure that bans same-sex marriage.

The unfolding street scenes underscored the racial and religious tensions that have surfaced since Tuesday's vote threw into question the legality of 18,000 marriages of gay and lesbian couples and foreclosed the option for any more.

Police estimated that 12,500 boisterous marchers converged about 6 p.m. at Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards in Silver Lake near the site of the former Black Cat bar, which the city recently designated a historic-cultural monument for its '60s role as home of the local gay rights movement.

Particular targets for protest in California have been churches, particularly Mormon churches and temples. This attempt to silence religious opposition is now including an attempt to silence religious opposition of any kind to homosexuality:
About 100 people stood in front of First Baptist Church of Dallas on Sunday morning to protest Dr. Robert Jeffress' sermon, "Why Gay Is Not O.K."

Carrying signs bearing the words "I'm Gay and It's OK" and "Christ Taught Love Not Hate," the protesters lined both sides of San Jacinto Street in front of the downtown church.

They sang "Jesus Loves Me" and cheered when passing motorists honked their horns and waved in support.

"Most of the people here are Christians, and they're taking offense at the Baptist Church trying to say how Christ's love should be interpreted," said Patrick Hancock, who attended the peaceful protest. It was organized earlier this week when someone noticed the sermon topic on the church marquee.

It sounds like the minister has a good grasp of the issue:
Dr.[Robert] Jeffress said the purpose of his sermon was to "let Christians know what the Bible says about this important topic, and to reaffirm that any and every sin can be forgiven."

Dr. Jeffress addressed what he called two "myths" about homosexuality: that prohibitions exist only in the Old Testament, and that Jesus never condemned this behavior.

During one of his three Sunday morning sermons, he cited New Testament passages that he said condemned homosexuality, including Romans 1:27. It speaks of "men, leaving the natural use of the woman, [who] burned in their lust one toward another."

Dr. Jeffress acknowledged that "Jesus never used the word homosexual." However, he said, Christ condemned homosexuality by affirming Old Testament truths and by upholding God's plan for human sexuality – "one man and one woman in a marriage relationship."

And we can be assured that there will be no end to this expanded assault on religion:
"The No on 8 people didn't want us to use the word 'bigots.' But that's what they are, bigots, bigots, bigots," Tyler said, bringing a round of cheers from the growing crowd. "We will never be made invisible again. Never again will we let them define who we are."

This is now turning into a struggle for religious liberty itself. The homosexual movement is going on the offensive, and they see Christians as the obstacle blocking their goal.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'The Hope That Is In You' from 1 Peter 3:8-22. Through the resurrection of Christ we are to be a humble people of fearless hope. As an appeal to a good conscience before God, we submit ourselves to the saving waters of baptism that we might, like Noah, be separated from sin and death.

This evening...'The Handwriting On the Wall' from Daniel 5. Belshazzar learned not to mock the God of heaven. No matter how impregnable the walls around us seem, nothing can protect us from the judgment of God.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


In what would seem to be a counter-intuitive result considering Tuesday's overall election returns homosexual marriage was defeated in three states, two of which went for Obama:
In California, where same-sex marriage had been performed since June, the ban had more than 52 percent of the vote, according to figures by the secretary of state, and was projected to win by several Californian news media outlets. Opponents of same-sex marriage won by even bigger margins in Arizona and Florida. Just two years ago, Arizona rejected a similar ban.
Of particular interest is who supported the bans:

Exit polls in California found that 70 percent of black voters backed the ban. Slightly more than half of Latino voters, who made up almost 20 percent of voters, favored the ban, while 53 percent of whites opposed it.

Apparently minorities aren't buying homosexual marriage as a so-called civil rights issue, while whites are happy to go along with it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Having switched over to the ESV from the NASB as my default translation earlier in the year I figured, hey, I need new Bibles--right? Right. Work with me here. It happened along about that time that I became a regular reader of Mark Bertrand's fine (yet very, very dangerous) weblog Bible Design and Binding. It turned out to be a costly confluence of events. As a result I am now three ESV Bibles richer, yet much cash poorer.

Earlier, I reviewed my ESV from Allan in tan highland goatskin. Yesterday my Cambridge Pitt Minion in brown goatskin arrived. I've not had much time to spend with it, but here are some early impressions and pictures.

The first thing that jumps out is how small the Pitt Minion is. It's a palm sized Bible, and will be great for stuffing in a coat pocket or briefcase. I can see that this one will be used a lot when I need to grab a Bible and run. The text pages are a bit more refined in their design than the Allan's, a better balance of margins. The text also seems to pop out on the page better on the Pitt Minion, which is good since the type is relatively small.

Of course, Allan uses a pre-done text block so the real comparison between the two comes at the binding. The cover on the Pitt Minion has a nice feel, and the brown color is elegantly understated. But the feel of the leather is like night and day compared to the Allan's. While the Allan's is supple and buttery, the Pitt Minion has a slight roughness to it, the spine is tighter and the cover is stiffer out of the box. The Allan's has a leather backing to the cover while the Pitt Minion uses what appears to be vinyl. I think it comes down to the fact that as nice as the Pitt Minion is (and it is nice--don't get me wrong!), it still seems like a factory Bible while the Allan seems more handcrafted. Of course, you'll pay twice as much (or close to it) for the Allan.

But they are different Bibles for different purposes. And one shouldn't hold against the Pitt Minion what it is not. What it is is a very well executed Bible that is quite handsome, and likely will be more versatile for me than the Allan's is. I think with use and time much of the stiffness will work itself out as well. Perhaps I can check back in with it in a year. One last quibble: I'd love it if the Pitt Minion had two ribbon markers rather than one. Ribbon markers are so useful, and they have to be cheap to add.

Before the pictures, a dream Bible: Pitt Minion size in single-column format and bound by R.L. Allan in their tan goatskin with raised bands thrown in for good measure (and three ribbon markers, of course).

Back to reality, here is the Bible that is:

ESV Pitt Minion

ESV Pitt Minion

ESV Pitt Minion

ESV Pitt Minion text

Pitt Minion-R.L. Allan mini-stack:
Pitt Minion with Allan's

Pitt Minion with Allan's

Sunday, November 02, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Drinking Dangers: The Christian & Alcohol'-- Proverbs 20:1 tells us, 'Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.'

This evening, 'The King Who Ate Grass', from Daniel 4. God is at work in our world and ultimately will humble those who do not acknowledge Him.

Friday, October 31, 2008


My old boss conservative historian and cultural critic Russell Kirk loved Halloween. It was his favorite holiday. During the the Halloween I spent there the day was a major event. Dr. Kirk would dress up and the foyer to the Kirk home would be transformed into a spooky chamber. A wide-eyed boy looked around the room and asked Dr. Kirk, 'Do you live here?' Without missing a beat Dr. Kirk replied to the innocent, 'When we were alive we did.'

Dr. Kirk was an award winning writer of ghostly fiction, and his best known story was 'There's a Long, Long Trail A-Winding'. Through the magic of the Internet, a reading of it by Dr. Kirk is available in streaming audio.

He would be pleased that he reads it to us beyond the grave. One of his favorite quotes came from his friend T.S. Eliot's poem 'Little Gidding': "the communication / Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And maybe there was a King David after all

Writing on a shard dating from the time of David has been unearthed from a fortress overlooking the valley where David slew Goliath:
Archaeologists in Israel said on Thursday they had unearthed the oldest Hebrew text ever found, while excavating a fortress city overlooking a valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath....

Archaeologists from the Hebrew University said they found five lines of text written in black ink on a shard of pottery dug up at a five-acre (two-hectare) site called Elah Fortress, or Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Experts have not yet been able to decipher the text fully, but carbon dating of artifacts found at the site indicates the Hebrew inscription was written about 3,000 years ago, predating the Dead Sea Scrolls by 1,000 years, the archaeologists said.

Several words, including "judge," "slave" and "king," could be identified and the experts said they hoped the text would shed light on how alphabetic scripts developed.

In a finding that could have symbolic value for Israel, the archaeologists said other items discovered at the fortress dig indicated there was most likely a strong king and central government in Jerusalem during the period scholars believe that David ruled the holy city and ancient Israel.
It will be interesting to see what the text actually has to say, however the additional finds that point to a strong king and central government during the time of David would be devastating to the so-called 'Biblical minimalists' who deny that thre was any such person as David, and he is simply a later mytholigical construct to promote Hebrew nationalism.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Highly Recommended Viewing

Does anyone not love Ben Stein? Well, I'm sure there are quite a few in the Academy and on the pro-Evolution side of things who don't now.

This year Ben Stein released his documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed on the balkanization of science and the crushing of free discourse on the topic of evolution. It is now out on DVD, and after (finally!) watching it last night I can only say: go rent it now! Our local Redbox had it, so your outlay can be as low as $1 (+ tax).

Stein interviews both pro-Intelligent Design scientists and Darwinists, asking the questions no one else wants to ask. He exposes the arrogance of the Darwinist Establishment and their blacklist tactics. Stein does an amazing job of connecting the dots between Darwinism, atheism and its worldview-political implications. Your jaw will drop at what he is able to get evolutionists to admit to, including their own thoughts about the possibility of Intelligent Design.

The documentary presents a similar argument to what Phillip E. Johnson uses in books like Darwin on Trial. But Stein does so in an easily digestable and highly entertaining (and hilarious!) way. Using resources and a production level rarely available to those who seek to express a view so unacceptable to the Left.

See it. Thank me later.

Here's the trailer:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'I Am...the Resurrection and the Life' from a series on the 'I Am' statements of Jesus in the gospel of John. Why did Jesus weep although He knew He was going to raise His friend Lazarus? Not only for His love for Lazarus, but because of the terrible power of sin and death that He came to defeat. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life--all life comes from Him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Christian Persecution in India

Christian persecution, or at least the reporting of it, is on the rise in India's Orissa state:
The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.

They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.

“ ‘Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,’ ” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “ ‘Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.’ ”

The violence seems to be systematic and growing:
Here in Kandhamal, the district that has seen the greatest violence, more than 30 people have been killed, 3,000 homes burned and over 130 churches destroyed, including the tin-roofed Baptist prayer hall where the Digals worshiped. Today it is a heap of rubble on an empty field, where cows blithely graze.

Across this ghastly terrain lie the singed remains of mud-and-thatch homes. Christian-owned businesses have been systematically attacked. Orange flags (orange is the sacred color of Hinduism) flutter triumphantly above the rooftops of houses and storefronts.

All very troubling, of course. The intense oppression does seem to be geographically focused, but the frenzy that leads to it can easily spread.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Finding Biblical Leaders'. As Hickman Mills continues its elder nomination process, a look at some of the men God used as effective leaders of His people: Moses, Nehemiah and Peter. All overcame obstacles, including self-doubt, prior commitments and past mistakes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Due to the baleful influence of Mark Bertrand's Bible Design & Binding blog I was introduced to the existence of R.L. Allan Bibles from Scotland. Now, I had lived my life in bliss without knowing about Allan's, but can happiness be complete without a Bible bound in tan highland goatskin? No reasonable person could argue 'no'.

Allan takes sewn text blocks and then gives them luxurious bindings in leathers of the highest quality. Since my recent conversion to using the English Standard Version (ESV) I, of course, needed (yes, I did) to acquire some actual copies for pulpit, office and home (yes, I did). So I placed my order for the then upcoming R.L. Allan ESV from (a recommended source) and waited. Then waited. And waited some more. Hey, it's tough to catch those goats in the Highlands!

Yesterday, the awaited tome appeared on my doorstep. It was, as they say, worth the wait. The leather is incredibly soft. Incredibly soft. It doesn't feel delicate, though. The Bible flows in your hands, with almost no stiffness at all right out of the box. There is no problem with it opening flat, a testament (ha!) to both the sewn text, but also to the quality of the binding job. Without question, this is the nicest Bible I've ever owned.

Now for a couple of quibbles, which is all these are. Some raised bands on the spine would have pushed the cover into even further heights. The visual appeal of the text would have been increased with just the slightest bit of wider margins (not wide margins--I'm talking 1/8" here), particularly at the bottom of the page and in the gutter. Clearly, compactness is a premium here, so I understand that the margins are first to go. However, when you're putting highland goatskin around in, bumping up the margins can add just a little more luxury.

The print (or would that be binding?) runs on these are limited, so if you want one best to order quickly. There's also black (but who wants black when you can have tan?!). And worth considering as a 'budget' option is the new Cambridge ESV Pitt Minion, which also looks fantastic in the preview pictures.

Here are a few quick pictures of my Allan's that arrived yesterday.

R.L. Allan ESV in Tan Highland Goatskin
You can see the leather texture well here.
Allan's ESV in Tan Highland Goatskin

Allan's ESV in Tan Highland Goatskin

Allan's ESV in Tan Highland Goatskin

Allan's ESV Cover Interior

Allan's ESV Text

Monday, October 06, 2008

THE SUPREME COURT HAS REFUSED to hear the Lucero vs. Texas jury Bible case:
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider a murder case in which a jury foreman read passages of the Bible to hold-out jurors who subsequently voted to impose the death penalty.

Without comment, the justices declined to consider whether the jury foreman's conduct violated the rights of Jimmie Lucero, an Amarillo, Texas, man sentenced to death after being convicted in the shotgun slayings of three neighbors at their home in 2003....

During deliberations, the foreman read aloud from Romans 13:1-6, which states that everyone must submit to authority and that those who do wrong should be afraid, for a ruler is "God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment to the wrongdoer."
It was all a tempest in a teapot, grasing at straws to set a murder of three people free. If reading the Bible leads to more convictions I'm all for it.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Duties of Elders & the Church' in view of an elder appointment process that is being initiated today.

This evening 'The Fiery Furnace' from Daniel 3. Like Daniel's three friends, we must be ready to stand by our commitment to God regardless of the consequences, knowing that He will never forsake us.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Tensions are rising in India as Christians are under attack from Hindu fundamentalists, particularly in the state of Orissa:
Attacks on nuns, churches and Christian refugees across India are stoking fears that Hindu extremists are planning to target minority communities as the country prepares for a general election.

The worst anti-Christian violence in India since independence 60 years ago came in Kandhamal district, in the state of Orissa, in recent weeks. Hindu fanatics attempted to poison water sources at relief camps holding at least 15,000 people displaced by mob violence, local activists alleged. Hundreds of Christian refugees in the region were told not to return to their homes unless they converted to Hinduism.

In Chattisgarh, central India, two nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa, were beaten by a mob when they took four orphans to an adoption centre.

Christians can be a convenient target of Hindu fundamentalists who may not want to risk a confrontation with Muslims. Christians are a relatively small and peaceful minority group. Some officials find it politically expedient to look the other way, as well. Still, as I have pointed out before, on my trips to India I have never felt in any immediate danger. But one hopes the authorities will not tolerate this sort of treatment, regardless of how localized it might be.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I have long had an interest in printing and binding (even trying my hand at it in years past). Add that to old Bibles and you have my attention. I just discovered this slideshow of early Scottish binding, mostly of Bibles. It's beautiful work.

I wonder if I can get one of those in an ESV?

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Archaeologists have uncovered a Jerusalem wall dating to the Second Temple period:
The remains of the southern wall of Jerusalem that was built by the Hasmonean kings during the time of the Second Temple have been uncovered on Mount Zion, the Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.

The 2,100-year-old wall, which was destroyed during the Great Revolt against the Romans that began in 66 CE, is located just outside the present-day walls of the Old City and abuts the Catholic cemetery built in the last century where Righteous Gentile Oskar Schindler is buried.

The sturdy wall, which is believed to have run 6 km. around Jerusalem, was previously exposed by an American archeologist at the end of the 19th century, the state run archeological body said.

The wall will be part of a new promenade open to tourists:
He voiced the hope that the First Temple wall would be uncovered next.

The excavation was initiated as part of a plan to build a promenade along the southern side of Mount Zion.

The promenade, which is expected to become a major tourist attraction when it is completed in the next few years, will run alongside parts of the newly exposed ancient wall.

It's amazing to think of all the great men and women--and the greatest Man of all--who would have walked past that wall without giving it a second thought.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


It's like Bible MTV. Tullian Tchividjian's hair is even reminiscent of A Flock of Seagulls. The Bible looks great, though. I want one!

Thanks to Mark Bertrand at the Bible Design & Binding Blog for the link.

We passed this Missouri church on our recent travels. The focus of the sign amused me, I must admit.

I don't guess they'll be picking up the new ESV Study Bible.

For those of you who have been wondering about the radical libertarian policial economy of David Lipscomb this essay is for you. The author, Edward P. Stringham, ties Lipscomb's pacifist and non-participatory approach to government to modern libertarian economic theory. Yes, I know most of you have already have eyes glazed over, but there are a few of you out there who think that's interesting, too.

Thanks to friend of theosebes Wild Bill for the link.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


A great deal of hay has been made in the news about the devaluing of the statistical worth of a human life by the EPA, now down to $6.9 million. Since it's the EPA the obvious area of application has been to environmental regulation. However, there seems to me another way of looking at it.

If the government values a human life at around $7 million, then what is annual financial loss to the US caused by the yearly 1.3 million abortions that are performed domestically?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Luke Chandler is back from his most recent trip to Colombia. You can read all about it on his travel blog. The Chandlers and those who have traveled with them over the years have done excellent work there as churches continue to grow.

Over the weekend the press jumped on the latest sensational challenge to Christianity. A stone tablet called 'Gabriel's Revelation' apparently undermines the uniqueness of the Christian story:
[Prof. Israel] Knohl told the [International Herald] Tribune that he interprets the tablet to tell of a messianic figure named Simon, whose death was recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus. The tablet, Knohl contends, was likely written by Simon's followers and demonstrates that messianic followers even before Jesus looked to their leaders rising again, thus nullifying the frequent claim that Jesus' resurrection was a uniquely developed story.

If Knohl's interpretation of "Gabriel's Revelation" is correct, it would lend evidence to his previous theories, published in his 2002 book, "The Messiah before Jesus." Knohl is one of several scholars who suggest Jesus may not have been unique in his claim to face suffering, death and resurrection, but that sources, like this tablet, suggest a common messianic story that New Testament writers may have merely been copying.

"This should shake our basic view of Christianity," Knohl told the Tribune. "Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story."

Despite this blow to my worldview I still find that I am able to function and type. Two problems spring to mind despite all the hoopla. First is that not only migh Knohl's interpretation of the meaning of the scroll not be correct, but it is damaged in such a way that no one is exactly sure what it says in the first place.

The second is the idea that a resurrected Messiah was something cooked up by first century Christians. When those on the Emmaus road expressed surprise at the resurrection of Jesus to (unbeknownst to them) Jesus, Luke records: "And he said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:25-27)

That some expected a resurrected Messiah is not a blow to Jesus or Christianity at all, but rather a confirmation that it was possible to understand the Old Testament Scriptures correctly.

Ah well, good try, anyway. More shocking and foundation shattering discoveries are on the horizon, I'm sure.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Freedom In Christ'. Who was free, Herod--consumed by guilt and fear--or John the Baptist, in prison yet ready to speak the truth without fear of consequences? Is true freedom simply being able to do whatever we desire?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

'PUT SOME GOD IN YOUR POD' the catchy tagline at There you can download for free the English Standard Version New Testament for your iPod. I just discovered this and will be attempting it tonight.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


A 2000 year old date palm seed has successfully produced--you guessed it!--a date palm:
The little tree was sprouted in 2005 from a seed recovered from Masada, where rebelling Jews committed suicide rather than surrender to Roman attackers.

Radiocarbon dating of seed fragments clinging to its root, as well as other seeds found with it that didn't sprout, indicate they were about 2,000 years old — the oldest seed known to have been sprouted and grown....

[Dr. Sarah Sallon] hopes there's a chance to use it to restore the extinct Judean date palm, once prized not only for its fruit but also for medicinal uses.

What an amazing thing. A seed from the time when the Temple was still standing and apostles still lived and wrote. May Methuselah do well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Archaeologists in Jordan have found an ancient church they argue is the oldest of them all:
"We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33 AD to 70 AD," the head of Jordan's Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies, Abdul Qader al-Husan, said.

He said it was uncovered under Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to 230 AD, in Rihab in northern Jordan near the Syrian border.

"We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the early Christians -- the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ," Husan said.

These Christians, who are described in a mosaic as "the 70 beloved by God and Divine," are said to have fled persecution in Jerusalem and founded churches in northern Jordan, Husan added.

I'm skeptical of the 'oldest' claim, but it clearly is ancient. It will be interesting to see what they turn up.

Everyone knows Daniel: the fiery furnace, the lion's den, handwriting on the wall. Great stuff. It's those later chapters that can be a little trickier delving as they do into apocalyptic writing. As with New Testament apocalyptic book Revelation this has led to a lot of wild eyed speculation devolving into commonly accepted premillennial dispensationalism, an approach I reject.

On the other end of the spectrum are the standard commentaries that do reject the dispensational approach. Why not just get a couple of those, you might ask. Daniel is a prophetic book, one that is pretty explicit about its prophecies. So explicit, in fact, that many modern commentators reject outright that it could have been written during the period of the exile at all. Instead, they argue, the book was written later after the events it 'prophesies' as a retrospective. In short, these commentaries do not take Daniel as a historical figure seriously nor the early (ie, exile) date of the book seriously. As someone who does believe that the book was written by the prophet Daniel during the exile these commentaries are also of little use to me.

So what is a non-dispensational Biblical conservative to do as I seek to sail between Scylla and Charybdis?

Friday, May 30, 2008


The news cycle is abuzz about renegade Catholic priest Michael Pfleger's 'sermon' at Barack Obama's Trinity United Church. It has led to a somewhat predictable Obama apology. This after Obama's spring troubles over Jeremiah Wright. Also at the link is a video clip of Pfleger's bizarre one man drama. Not only is he giving his political commentary from the pulpit, but is also doing it in the verbal equivalent of 'black face', using a stereotypical black-preacher-voice for the entire diatribe. The audience clearly eats it up. I've not seen anyone comment on this guy who looks to be the whitest man on earth trying to sound like Al Sharpton.

Theosebes will refrain from commenting on the politics per se of it all. But aren't these people supposed to be having church? Shouldn't there be some concern about God rather than mocking Hillary's tears? I can't imagine the reaction from the congregants at any church I've ever attended if something like that started from the pulpit. And we wonder why the IRS is starting to sniff around certain churches. If they're going to do that they clearly need to start with Trinity United.

Addendum: By the way, who are these 'ministers' who use profanity from the pulpit? And who are these 'churches' that tolerate it?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Globetrotter Ferrell Jenkins has just returned from another of his Bible land jaunts. You can keep up with those at his Travel Blog. A couple of posts particularly caught my eye. The first, and most recent, is about the Rylands fragment of the Gospel of John. The fragment was a key find in refuting those who sought a late date for the writing of the gospel. Also take a look at his post on Maps & Geography in Bible Study.

I always welcome comments to my posts--well, almost always--but I noticed that I've not been receiving notices of comments in order to approve them for publishing. This has led to an often several day wait until I happen to discover they're there. This seems to be a problem related to my recent move and email address transfer. I believe the problem now to be fixed. All past comments should be approved, and I hope to be able to react more quickly to them in the future.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Yes, an odd combination without question. But I noticed years ago that eating raw carrots tended to give me hiccups. It's one of those things that you dismiss at first. But last night we had carrots for supper. Usually cooked carrots aren't an issue, but this time they hit me. Must have been cooked too lightly. So today I did what any self-respecting person would do. I Googled it. After some poking around I found no answer to the condition, but did find a lot of other people have it. I also found the new website Alas, there's not too much there yet, but perhaps soon we can have our own certified medical condition.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


In an apparent upswing of Christian persecution in Israel, a group of Orthodox Jews collected New Testaments for a public burning:
Orthodox Jews set fire to hundreds of copies of the New Testament in the latest act of violence against Christian missionaries in the Holy Land.

Or Yehuda Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon said missionaries recently entered a neighborhood in the predominantly religious town of 34,000 in central Israel, distributing hundreds of New Testaments and missionary material.

After receiving complaints, Aharon said, he got into a loudspeaker car last Thursday and drove through the neighborhood, urging people to turn over the material to Jewish religious students who went door to door to collect it.

"The books were dumped into a pile and set afire in a lot near a synagogue," he said.

To some this raises the specter of the holocaust:
Israeli authorities and Orthodox Jews frown on missionary activity aimed at Jews, though in most cases it is not illegal. Still, the concept of a Jew burning books is abhorrent to many in Israel because of the association with Nazis torching piles of Jewish books during the Holocaust of World War II.

So much for inter-faith dialogue, I guess.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Sometimes when you read a book you're just sad to see it end. I finally got around to reading Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand, finishing it yesterday. I wished I didn't have to finish it. If you've seen the movie--itself quite good--the book really allows you to connect with these long dead figures. Seabiscuit is history well told, history that you want to read with no agenda other than allowing you to look through a window into a bygone era. We can read about people simply living their lives without any idea that someone might write a book about them, yet refusing to quit despite the odds.

We live in a historically myopic era that is cut off from its own past. There are many implications to this, both cultural and policital. There are also religious implications. Our modern age pushes us towards an atomistic approach to life in which we are cut off from not only history, but also family and community, church and God. We can imagine ourselves accountable to no one, able to operate as our own standard. The Bible itself is history, inspired history, certainly. It is the history of God's redemption of man, but also the history of individual men and women who lived real lives and had real struggles. One of Scriptures great messages is that despite clear defeat persevering in God will bring us ultimate victory. What history will you write with your life?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Honor Your Mother'. Not only is Mother's Day a national holiday, but giving due honor to our mothers is an expectation of God.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

PREACHING THIS Hickman Mills, 'Turning the World Upside Down' from the words expressed by the angered Thessalonians in Acts 17. I have preached some version of that sermon on the first Sunday at each church I've worked with.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

PREACHING THIS final sermon at Wilsonville, 'Joshua's Farewell'. No, I'm not Joshua, but since I can't improve on his message to Israel I'm basing my lesson on what he had to say: be strong in doing and keeping God's word, cling to the Lord and love Him knowing that He is always faithful in all that He has promised.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


My grandmother passed away last night, April 16. She was 90 years old. Granny had been in a care facility for the last few months, a situation she was certainly not happy with, but she was unable to function without assistance. As a 16 year old she married my grandfather Oliver in 1934. They had four children together and were married for 57 years until his death in 1991. She was a faithful Christian and has gone to be with her Lord.

As the preacher in the family I've been asked to do the funeral, which is an honor, but also a challenge. Keep us in your prayers.
THE ESV STUDY BIBLE has been announced for October 15 release. There's even an ESV Study Bible website. It looks to be an impressive endeavor. I particularly like the single column format. More about my interest in the ESV soon.

(Thanks to J. Mark Bertrand at the Bible Design & Binding blog for the link.)

Monday, April 14, 2008


A new study has found that women who drink, even in light to moderate amounts, increase their risk of breast cancer significantly:
Women who had less than one drink per day were found to have a 7 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared with those who didn't drink. Those who drank one to two drinks had a 32 percent greater risk; those who drank three or more drinks had up to a 51 percent increased risk. A woman's risk was similar whether she drank beer, wine, or spirits, researchers reported.
This strikes a strong blow to the movement in recent years to promote drinking alcohol, particularly red wine, because of its health benefits. While the health benefits may be real, the risks far outweight any benefit. And as we've discussed here before, drinking grape juice gives one the same heart benefits as drinking red wine without the dangers of alcohol consumption.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


While poking around the books at a thrift store yesterday I rescued these volumes from oblivion for about a dollar each. There were other volumes of the International Critical Commentary there but they had suffered water damage so I left them. One often finds odd and interesting things while thrifting. Some of them are even useful.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I know many of you are likely as interested in a beautifully bound Bible as I am. To explore the possibilities bookmark Mark Betrand's wonderfully addictive Bible Design & Binding blog. About a year and a half ago I had some email correspondance with Mark about a Testament that was coming apart on me. I ended up shipping it off to have it rebound. I finally sent Mark some pictures and a write-up about the process, which he has posted today: NASB NT Rebound by McSpadden Book Bindery.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


When Tony Blair was British Prime Minister his press secretary stated 'We don't do God.' There was even the episode when Blair was asked if he had prayed with President Bush. Blair has now outed himself as religious and decided to start a foundation. Well, what else do former heads of government do?
“People will think this is a piece of spin, but,” he said, “I’ve always been as interested in religion as in politics.” Then, for good measure, he adds: “I see this over time as the rest of my life’s work.”

But while Blair now is officially religious, he at least remains respectfully so. That is, one can be religious but not take it too far:
Though he intends to engage others in questions of faith, he seems awkward about some aspects of his beliefs and wants to avoid an evangelical posture. For example, when asked whether he thought a person would be better off believing that Jesus was the Son of God, he said: “I believe in and I hold the doctrines of the Christian faith. But I think that when you start to engage in that type of thing — that actually you’d be better off if you converted to my faith — if you’re not incredibly careful about how you approach that conversation — that’s actually what leads to a lot of confrontation and difficulty.”

This answer tells you something important about his Faith Foundation. While Mr Blair may have changed the subject to talk about religion, he remains to his fingertips a politician. He knows that, while the fact of his religious faith is essential to making his initiative work, the content of it might get in the way.

Yes, for that content--the crucified and risen Son of God--has gotten in the way for centuries. But the Times more than hints--well, Blair more than hints--it all might simply be positioning:
Then comes more of that Blair instinct for a political position to occupy. Al Gore has global warming sewn up. Bill Gates is sorting out a cure for malaria. Resolving interfaith conflict is crying out for a standard-bearer and he realises the position is vacant.

“I think that the areas to do with climate change, and Make Poverty History, where there’s a well-trodden piece of ground there, and actually I have interest in both of those things. But in respect of faith, there is a burgeoning interest in it now.”

Ah, well, I suppose religion has been needing a saviour.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'The Last Verse In the Bible'. The Bible concludes with grace for all and the Lordship of Jesus.

CHARLTON HESTON has passed away, RIP.

Friday, April 04, 2008


"I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of Him."
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Ted Turner--the Mouth of the South--has decided the world has too many people.

I think he confirms there's at least one too many.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Marriage rates are at their lowest in England and Wales since records began over 150 years ago:
Marriage rates in England and Wales have plunged to their lowest rate since records began almost 150 years ago, according to the latest official figures.

Only a fraction more than two per cent of woman and 2.28 per cent of men over the age of 16 chose to get married in 2006.

The number of marriages for the whole year was just 236,980, a fall of four per cent on the previous year and lowest proportion of marriages since they were first recorded in 1862.

It is also the lowest number of marriages since 1895, when 228,204 tied the knot.

This is simply an outgrowth of the decline of Christianity in England and Western Europe. The cultural consequences will be devastating in the long term, and ultimately will result in the collapse of Western Civilization as we know it. Currently we are living off the built up cultural capital of the past centuries, but we ourselves are running a vast cultural deficit.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


You may (or may not!) have noticed that things have been a little slim on the posting side around here. It's not just March Madness, but I am also in the process of moving Theosebes HQ from Alabama to Kansas City. Beginning in May I will begin working with the Hickman Mills congregation. We're excited about the move although leaving here is hard. The process necessarily means packing up all of one's earthly possessions and can be pretty distracting. I'll try to give Theosebes attention as I can, but for the next few weeks I'm not sure how often that will be.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Long considered to be the most thorough theological treatise in the Bible, Paul's epistle to the Romans has now been relegated to obscurity by Barack Obama. Speaking on the issue of homosexual marriage, the Democrat Presidential candidate said,
I will tell you that I don't believe in gay marriage, but I do think that people who are gay and lesbian should be treated with dignity and respect and that the state should not discriminate against them. So, I believe in civil unions that allow a same-sex couple to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other. I don't think it should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.

Well, if we do push aside Paul's more obscure writings like Romans I wonder if Jesus had anything to say about marriage (er, 'unions', nudge, nudge, wink, wink). In the very same gospel as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus quotes Genesis in Matthew 19:4-5 and said,
"Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (emphasis added, nac)
In that passage Jesus affirms the intent of marriage and of sexual relations. They are to be within marriage and between a man and a wife. And since Jesus also said in the gospel of Matthew (15:19-20) that
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man..."
it seems that Mr. Obama will find that the thing he condones is condemned even in non-obscure books like Matthew.

Friday, February 29, 2008


Well, I'm looking forward to the new movie this summer, but Tudor Parfitt has gone one step further. He claims to have found the Ark of the Covenant, and he's written a book about it. You can read an excerpt at MSNBC.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


After church member and Presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke at a United Church of Christ convention the IRS is threatening to strip the denomination of its tax exempt status. However, the mayor of Hartford, Connecticut has asked elected officials to intervenes:
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez asked Congress today to investigate the IRS' threat to strip the United Church of Christ of its tax-exempt status over Barack Obama's speech to a church convention in Hartford in 2007.

"If the IRS is successful, every church synagogue and mosque that invites an elected official to speak on issues such as the war in Iraq, abortion, the environment, labor and other issues of social justice could fear loss of their non-profit status," Perez said.

He is asking U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman and U.S. Rep. John B. Larson to intervene.

"This IRS action should outrage members of both parties and people of faith throughout the country," Perez said.

A letter from the IRS to the church says candidates are permitted to speak at church functions, but if a candidate is speaking "in his or her capacity as a candidate, then other candidates running for the same office must also be invited."

The church says Obama, a UCC member, was one of 60 speakers from many fields invited to talk about the intersection of their faiths and vocations. He was invited a year before becoming a presidential candidate.

It seems to me the IRS doesn't really have a leg to stand on. Obama is a member of the UCC, and he was invited well before he became a candidate. All political office holders are perpetual candidates anyway. Now certainly churches do not need to become simply political arms of either party, which can be a real danger, but this seems to be a tempest in a teapot.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Conservative commentator and founder of National Review William F. Buckley, Jr. has died at age 82. I read his God & Man at Yale in college and it proved to be a gateway into intellectual conservatism for me. I was able to interview WFB for my senior thesis in college at the National Review offices, a truly wonderful experience.

Without his founding of National Review magazine the American political and cultural landscape would have been far different, and likely would not have included Ronald Reagan as President.

He was a towering figure and will be missed.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Honor the King' from 1 Peter 2:11-17 in a series from the epistle. Peter explains that although we are aliens and strangers we still must show deference to human institutions. If Peter could tell us that during the time of Nero surely we can honor the candidates we have been given for office regardless of how challenging that may seem at times.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Archaelogists have discovered a 2500 year old city in eastern India that may have had a population of 25,000:
The remains have been discovered at Sisupalgarh near Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern state of Orissa.

Researchers say the items found during the excavation point to a highly developed urban settlement.

The population of the city could have been in the region of 20,000 to 25,000, the archaeologists claim....

RK Mohanty of the department of archaeology, Deccan College, Pune, who is one of the two researchers involved in the excavations.

"The significance of this ancient city becomes clear when one bears in mind the fact that the population of classical Athens was barely 10,000," he said.

Not all are convinced by the theories surrounding the findings, however:
But some historians and archaeologists in Orissa have expressed reservations about the claim of the two researchers.

"At best, it is a guesswork. Without excavating the entire area of the fortified city, it is not possible to determine its population or periodicity," said BK Rath, former director of the state archaeology department.

"The actual area excavated so far is only a minuscule part of the city. How does one determine the size of the average family in a period about which very little historical literature or evidence is available?"

Such disagreements are what often help produce the fruit of truth in such situations. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the find.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails...

Friday, February 08, 2008

NEW LEADERSHIP for the Mormon and Greek Orthodox churches.
NUNS AND MONKS are on the decline the Catholic Church is finding.

Archaeologists have found evidence of pre-Greek worship of a god on site long associated with Zeus worship:
But archaeologists say they have now found the ashes, bones and other evidence of animal sacrifices to some pre-Zeus deity on the summit of Mount Lykaion, in the region of Greece known as Arcadia. The remains were uncovered last summer at an altar later devoted to Zeus.

Fragments of a coarse, undecorated pottery in the debris indicated that the sacrifices might have been made as early as 3000 B.C., the archaeologists concluded. That was about 900 years before Greek-speaking people arrived, probably from the north in the Balkans, and brought their religion with them.

The excavators were astonished. They were digging in a sanctuary to Zeus, in Greek mythology the father of gods and goddesses. From texts in Linear B, an ancient form of Greek writing, Zeus is attested as a pre-eminent god as early as 1400 B.C. By some accounts, the birthplace of Zeus was on the heights of Lykaion.

After reviewing the findings of pottery experts, geologists and other archaeologists, David Gilman Romano of the University of Pennsylvania concluded that material at the Lykaion altar “suggests that the tradition of devotion to some divinity on that spot is very ancient” and “very likely predates the introduction of Zeus in the Greek world.”

SOME ACTUAL SCIENCE applied to the millennarian agitation over so-called global warming. It looks like global cooling is on its way instead.

Monday, February 04, 2008


but with these options I think I'll have to go with Firewood.

(Apologies for leading Theosebes into politics per se, but when I saw these signs while driving through Macon, Georgia, I couldn't resist.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'The First Verse In the Bible', first of a 30,442 part series. (Okay, I'm just joking about that last bit.) The first verse of the Bible lays a foundation of the existence of God, His pre-existence and His immense power. The Bible takes the thread of Creation to demonstrate our need to give God honor and obedience as well as to lead us to the One for whom and by whom the universe was created: Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 28, 2008


ESPN's Dana Jacobson has learned the hard way to be careful about drunken rants about Jesus:
Jacobson, co-host of "First Take" on ESPN2, went on an expletive-filled rant about Notre Dame University during her turn at the podium to roast the ESPN Radio hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. According to The Press' review by At The Shore Editor Scott Cronick, Jacobson approached the podium drinking vodka straight from the bottle, and spent her time in the spotlight mumbling and repeatedly cursing....

The controversy surrounding Jacobson's choice of words has continued to grow, and some religious groups continue to insist that more must be done. Today, the Christian Defense Coalition will lead a public demonstration and prayer vigil outside the ESPN offices in Connecticut. The group wants Jacobson fired.

"By publicly saying, 'F--k Jesus,' while representing ESPN, Dana Jacobson has crossed a very well-defined line," reads a statement from the coalition. "Her comments are so outrageous and inflammatory that the only proper response for ESPN is to immediately release her."

Jacobson has been suspended by ESPN. She just better be glad she didn't say anything bad about Mohammed then she really could have been in trouble!
MORMON CHURCH PRESIDENT Gordon Hinckley has died at age 97.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The Wall Street Journal seems shocked--shocked!--that the age old (and might I add, biblical) practice of church discipline is rearing its head. Of course the article starts off with a 71 year old Bible class teacher being led from church property in handcuffs, but rather than being a return of the Inquisition it can be a sign of a healthy church:
Her story reflects a growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline, an ancient practice in which suspected sinners are privately confronted and then publicly castigated and excommunicated if they refuse to repent. While many Christians find such practices outdated, pastors in large and small churches across the country are expelling members for offenses ranging from adultery and theft to gossiping, skipping service and criticizing church leaders.

The revival is part of a broader movement to restore churches to their traditional role as moral enforcers, Christian leaders say. Some say that contemporary churches have grown soft on sinners, citing the rise of suburban megachurches where pastors preach self-affirming messages rather than focusing on sin and redemption. Others point to a passage in the gospel of Matthew that says unrepentant sinners must be shunned.

The article paints the practice as the capricious prerogative of a threatened leadership. Obviously, any leadership worth its salt can stand honest and open questions. Church discipline is not to be used as a tool of intimidation, but rather as a means to remove the leaven from the lump (ie, an unrepentant bad influence on the congregation) and to impress upon the one being disciplined the seriousness of his spiritual condition.

Contrary to some opinions, discipline exercised by a church has no bearing on the disciplined member's status before God:
The process can be messy, says Al Jackson, pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala., which began disciplining members in the 1990s. Once, when the congregation voted out an adulterer who refused to repent, an older woman was confused and thought the church had voted to send the man to hell.
Neither I nor anyone else can send someone to hell. One's status before God will be a reflection of one's own attitude and actions, not those of someone else. But that does not mean that congregations do not have a God-given responsibility to discipline members when it is called for, while still treating the errant member as a brother, not an enemy. That means if someone is not actively disruptive to the proceedings at hand, I would think worship is exactly where the unrepentant member needs to be in hopes he will be encouraged in the right direction. Dragging little old ladies away in handcuffs tends not to be the way to go.

The real problem many churches face is that without proper leadership, ie, scripturally appointed elders, the process of discipline is very hard to initiate and even harder to carry out effectively. And once again we return to the problem of a lack of strong leadership among churches being our greatest crisis.

[Thanks to Wild Bill for the article]