Friday, July 25, 2008

Big Tent Revival?

They meet in converted store fronts, centuries-old stone cathedrals just off of the courthouse square, rented office units, crowded living rooms, large up-to-date campuses, and small clapboard-sided structures. Some of them are unashamedly "free will," while others have points that even Calvin didn't know of. The worship services in some are considered "high church" (I call them Baaahptists), and others use a guitar, a bass, a keyboard, and (dare I say it) a drum set-with nary a hymnal in sight.

What is one thing that unites these different congregations? They are all Southern Baptist churches.

Even the "Southern" part is a misnomer; the convention officially operates in 41 US states and 153 countries. SBC missionaries even work in countries where they are not supposed to operate. I never cease to be amazed at what the convention continues to accomplish and how diverse it is.

For the last two years, I've been involved in a church that is not in the SBC. My frustrations with the SBC were varied, but I have come to some realizations over the last couple of years:
1) Most of the frustrations I had were with particular churches (okay, and particular people too).
2) There really is no perfect denomination (I'm using the term loosely, but you could also use the terms network, organization, association, fellowship, etc.). I know this is obvious, but I've really come to the fresh realization that in every church some issue is going to surface that forces the believer to ask: "Is this a hill I'm willing to fight and die on, should we agree to disagree, or should I just go with the flow?"
3) SBC churches have definitely given me a great deal over the last thirty years. It would be wise for me to proceed prayerfully, carefully, and slowly in any decision in which I might permanently end any association that I have had with the SBC.
4) The Cooperative Program of the SBC continues to be very effective and efficient, despite its size and age. While there are many things it can do better, there are many things is does well.

I've been having a lot of these thoughts against the backdrop of the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis on June 10 and 11. The concern of newly-elected president Johnny Hunt (and others in the convention) is that there is a trend among younger ministers to leave the convention for other, seemingly greener theological and ministerial pastures.

I was talking with a good friend this past weekend. We went to college together, and not many theological issues come up that I don't discuss them with him and seek out his counsel and viewpoint. I shared with him a struggle that I've been having; in particular, I'm wondering if Baptist ministers of our generation are to remain in the convention to bring about change within it, rather than jumping off to find something new. Without a doubt, it is easier to go find a church where the problems we have don’t exist, but is that the right thing to do?

The SBC is indeed a big tent with a diverse group of churches and believers. I’m praying that God will bring a big tent revival, and I’m praying about what my part (if any) should be.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Trust in You

Has is been a month since I wrote that last post? There is no way...

Anyway, I found the words below going through my head Saturday morning at some point. We haven't sang this song in a while at church, and I don't think that I've even let all of the words completely sink in:

O Lord, when all my hopes and plans
Are taken from my hands
And I cannot see the way
I will rest in Your sovereign plan
And bless Your gracious hand
I know Your promise stands
That I’ll see Your goodness in this land

Okay, so I can definitely identify with lines 1-3. It seems I woke up one day and they had all happened overnight. Lines 4 and 5 are ones that I have to strive towards daily. I don't want to rest (where is the balance between rest and action, dang it) and I'm so busy whining to God that I don't have time-and don't have the correct attitude-to bless Him.

Lines 6 and 7 are the ones that give me hope. There are times that I really doubt that God will ever answer my prayers in the affirmative-after all, He doesn't have to, right? I mean, God would be no less glorious if He never gave my wife and I children, or if I never served in vocational ministry again. If I never teach one class, He will still be holy and altogether worthy of more than I can ever give to Him. Eternal communion with Him is more than I deserve; how could I expect that He would give me more than that?

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
-Psalm 27:13-14

I know that God has put desires in my heart that are good. Give me courage, Father. Strengthen me to wait on You.

Oh yeah, by the way, the message at church yesterday was on patience.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thoughts on Worship

Tim Smith, a Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, gave an excellent definition of worship in a sermon that I listened to this week. He defined worship as "our response to God's initiation."

I love that this definition is both simple and profound. I also love that this definition rightly identifies God as the initiator in worship. I can tell you-and those who know me know this to be true-that I don't seek to worship God on my own. Left to my own desires, I seek after what I want, what I think I need. There are times, however, when God reminds me of the grace that He has extended to me in salvation and adoption (did you ever stop to think that God could have saved us without making us children and heirs-wow!), or He extends His grace to me in a particular situation. The only acceptable response to God's grace is worship. How many times I fail in this obligation! How far I fall short of responding to God's initiation!

A third thing I love about this definition is that it does not limit the nature of the response. Sometimes the response should be shouting a song to God with our hands held high (did I say that?). Sometimes our response should be active-something we should do for God. At other times, our only response can be to fall prostrate before a loving Father in adoration.

Finally-and this is something that I would probably rather not think about-is that God's initiation might not always be what I would see as a "good" thing (and by good I'm thinking words like fun, pleasant, easy, etc.). My response to the initiation of the Sovereign God should be worship-even if that initiation is not fun, pleasant, or easy. Huh.

Father, give me an intense desire to worship you-however and whenever-anytime you initiate that worship.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blogging Again...Maybe

Well, after a long hiatus it looks like I might be getting back into the blogging thing. I'm not going to say for sure though. I've started and stopped so many times that I know better than to make any kind of definitive statement. My wonderfully supportive Bride (thank you, sweetheart!) was the person who suggested that I start blogging once again. As I read over some of my previous posts, I was amused at what I've found to write about over the last couple of years. Don't get me wrong; some of it was worthwhile, but a good bit of it was purposeless ramblings.

So, I've said all of that to say that I'm back (at least for today). I think that it will be good to have some kind of cathartic outlet for all of the things that I think about and am struggling with.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lest We Forget...

May we never forget the conviction and brave action of a man who called the Bride of Christ back to the truth of the gospel. We owe much to Brother Martin, and infinitely more to His Savior who will always preserve a remnant of the faithful and true. Let us rejoice that we have been made saints, not through papal decree, but through the holy sacrifice of Christ Jesus.

by Martin Luther

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.
4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.
7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).
12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.
14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.
15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.
17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.
18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.
19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.
20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by himself.
21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.
22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.
23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.
24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.
25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.
26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.
27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.
29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.
30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.
31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.
32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.
34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.
35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.
36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.
39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.
40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them -- at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.
41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.
42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.
43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.
44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.
45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God's wrath.
46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.
47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.
48 Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.
49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.
52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.
53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.
55. It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.
57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
61. For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.
62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last (Mt. 20:16).
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.
66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.
67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.
68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.
70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.
71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.
72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.
73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.
74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.
75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.
76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Co 12[:28].
79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.
81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.
82. Such as: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.
83. Again, "Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"
84. Again, "What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?"
85. Again, "Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?"
86. Again, "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?"
87. Again, "What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?"
88. Again, "What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?"
89. "Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?"
90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross!
94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

Soli Deo Gloria!
Veritatis Amatori

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Per my Bride's instructions, I'm writing a post to let everyone know that we
are in Athens...I'll write more later. If you know me, you probably know that I'll at least have something to say towards the end of the month. Give you a hint. Start humming "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Rock on, Brother Martin. Rock on.

Friday, July 28, 2006

MiniDisc Mania

The MZ-M10

I’ve had more than one person ask me about my choice of MP3 player. Many people don’t even know about MiniDisc, and many of those who have heard of the format assume that it went the way of Betamax and DIVX (no, not the new one, the old one). Actually, I didn’t know until I started considering a MiniDisc player, but the format still has quite a strong following among musicians who find its features and capabilities suitable to recording concerts and practice sessions.

My introduction to the MiniDisc came sometime around 1994. I saw the Sony MZ-1 at the Incredible Universe at Gwinnett Place Mall (there’s another blast from the recent past for you technophiles). If you don’t remember, Incredible Universe was like Best Buy on crack and anabolic steroids. It was owned by Tandy (of Radio Shack fame, which ain’t doin’ so well itself these days) and was huge-most of them were over 100,000 square feet of electronic bliss. For readers in the area, the location I frequented (when my mom would take me) was where the Dave and Busters is at now over at Gwinnett Place-except Incredible Universe took up the whole building. D & B has only about half of that space leased out now, if that gives you any idea of the scale.

Well, now I’m fellin’ all nostalgic. Have you ever had the feeling when you see something at the store and, even though you can’t use it, you think “Man, I should buy this anyway”? That’s how I felt when I saw the pre-recorded MiniDiscs at Turtles and BestBuy and Circuit City around that time. When you can find them on eBay, they will cost you about fifteen dollars plus shipping-not a bad return on a piece of electronics that cost between nine and fifteen dollars fourteen years ago!

Anyway, the picture above is my model. It’s a “Hi-MD” recorder/player, which means that it accepts a 1GB Hi-MD disc instead of the original 160MB disc. It has a mic input, so I can record analog audio. With USB and digital (“TOSLINK”) interfaces, it also has the ability to record digital audio. It also works really well as a USB data drive. When I got the player (a little over a year ago) 1 GB flash drives were way expensive, and you couldn’t even think about expanding the size of the memory.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I would love to have an “80’s/90’s” room in my house full of technology from that period-a MD deck, a DCC deck and a portable player, a Videodisc player, and of course the game systems from that period. You may think it’s dorky, but that’s just fine with me.