Sunday, November 23, 2014


At this stage of my life, I have absolutely no expectations of the general population, the world's people, those who "are of their father, the Devil."  Their self-righteousness, their selfishness, their hatred, their racism, none of it surprises me, nor does it make me "disappointed in their behavior."

Professing Christians, however, I still have expectations of.  Christians by definition possess the mind of Christ and demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit, compassion, kind-heartedness, forgiveness, empathy with the suffering and struggling people around us.

On paper, anyway.

When one reads the vituperative, vicious, vindictive rantings from professing believers on the subject of "illegal immigrants' in the U.S., he is (I am) hard pressed to attribute those words to a child of God.
The theme is, essentially, 'pack 'em all up and ship 'em back where they came from'--men, women, children....all of '!

The rationale for this drastic action is based on the advocates' view of The Law.  All these undocumented immigrants are in violation of The Law, therefore they must go!
That would be 12 million immigrants shipped back to such places as Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, etc, places which have government by drug-gang and the highest per capita murder rates in the world.

That would be 12 million immigrants many of whom have been here for 10-15-20 years and have families and children.....children who, by the way, are U.S. citizens according to The Law.  Will you tear them from the arms of their children or deport U.S. citizens with their "illegal" parents?

A word or two about The Law:  For one thing, much of what these people are in violation of is not The Law but some administrative regulation or other...some missed deadline or not-properly-filed form......though the anti-immigrant forces generally equate such bureaucratic miscues with murder and mayhem.

And an especial word to Christians about The Law.  You are outstanding in your hypocrisy and pharisaical attitude in applying The Law so selectively.  May I remind you that you have broken The Law?  Not the law of a state or a nation regarding immigration but the greatest Law of all......God's Law.  Yes, you're guilty, but you're not suffering the consequences of your crime against a holy and righteous God because, without any merit or right to it, you received mercy and compassion.

I see this wholesale opposition to all "outsiders" as thinly veiled racism, self-righteous demonstration of superiority to such "lesser beings" coupled with a thin veneer of legal standing based upon The Law.  It is totally lacking in grace, mercy, love, tolerance, empathy, compassion......all that silly, sentimental slop one might find in the Bible.

Of course, the hypocrisy is heightened now that the spokesman for lenient treatment of immigrants is the current President.  I am not naive in political matters.  He is a typical politician and uses veterans, immigrants, etc, for whatever purpose he has on his agenda.  At the same time, the words of his speech the other night had some value.  One commentator said "He sound like Bush (W)"  And he sounded like Reagan.....and when Bush and Reagan said such things, they met with opposition at the time.

But the reaction to the President's intentions in this matter is a new record-high (or low).  The hatred directed toward this man is stunning...and I will restrict myself to that calumny originating with professing Christians.  Shame on you!  Shame on you for the nasty, vulgar, insulting memes and other trash you post on your pages.  Shame on you for your utter disregard for Biblical instruction regarding our correct attitude toward the rulers God has put over us.

The bottom line is born out of the Biblical statement on the nature of sin:  "lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life."  Here we have the pride of life in full feather.  Here we see professing believers acting out their sense of superiority based on where they were born and the color of their skin.  Had Reagan or Bush made that speech, the reaction would be much less intense......they're white.  But to have a Black President advocating for all these non-white interlopers and acting as if we should show them some mercy and compassion.....Pride holds high their banner "The Law," and one day those same proud people will stand before God desiring mercy and compassion for themselves.  "For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy." (James 2:13)

Saturday, July 19, 2014


The thrust of this letter is:  Because you are inactive in this local assembly where you are a member, we infer that you are forsaking the Church and therefore forsaking Christ who is the head of the Church.  Because of your inactivity, you are being removed from the "roll." 

Now, two rolls were specified in the letter:  the Roll of Salvation and the Roll of Service.  Neither of these rolls has any scriptural foundation that I've ever seen.  The only "roll" I've seen in the Bible which would be relevant to such a discussion is the Lamb's Book of which are recorded the names of His people.  It seems to me that this roll was established before the foundation of the world (Ephesian 1:4) and I don't think that refers to any church membership list.

Today's version of the New Testament church is so far removed from the model given in the epistles that it's often hard to recognize.  Man has piled tradition upon tradition for the past 2000 years and made a monster.  The idea of "membership" and the regulation thereof is part of the monstrosity.

The equating of salvation, being in The Church (the Body of Christ), and being on the rolls of a local assembly is a perversion of the scriptures, a high-magnitude perversion.  I'm afraid this has evolved out of the man-ipulative impulses of a leadership mentality which pursues control over the lives of the membership.

The dire implications of this letter--that I am being removed from God's "roll" of some kind, something related to my standing with Him and my relationship to Christ--those implications are designed to scare me, to frighten me into obedience to the leadership.  It is, in a word, blackmail.


Friday, July 18, 2014

ODYSSEY, IRONY, AND EXCOMMUNICATION (In the style of the Roman-Baptist Church)

This might prove to be a fluid article, one which is edited and expanded from one day to the next, but I have to start somewhere, sometime.

First:  Odyssey.  When we moved to this area 14 years ago, we eventually settled in at the downtown Southern Baptist congregation....not for any reason of "great preacher" or "beautiful 15 million dollar building" --just a matter of "where else?"  Lots of things on which I could comment but to get to the point, we were soon hearing that "IT" was all about the local church.  Pastor was teaching/preaching thru Ephesians and time and again remarked how the entire epistle was "all about the local church"  When he finished Ephesians and moved to Philippians, it introduced that epistle with the statement that it too is "all about the local church."

There has been for years an element of the Baptist world known as "Landmark Baptists" or "Baptist Bride" who, to put it simply, teach that the local church is The Church and there is no other, no "Universal Church" made up of all believers.  In other words, if a believer is in "the church" he is a member of a local Baptist congregation.  Of course there are degrees of this, variations and permutations, but that's the basic idea.  And it's this school of thought which leads to teaching that Ephesians is "all about the local church" since, in the teacher's mind, there is no other church.

We left that congregation and eventually moved our membership to First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama (now known as Grace Life Church of the Shoals).  It seems like a good idea at the time.  We're credo-baptists with a calvinistic soteriology (quite unwelcome in most SBC circles) and this congregation was led by a man who seemed in line with that, plus it was represented to be a very mission-minded congregation.  The fact that Paul Washer had just moved Heart Cry Missionary Society under the headship of that congregation seemed like a strong recommendation at the time.

In 2010, we stopped attending the services there because of our disintegrating health.  I wrote to the Administrative Pastor and asked to be removed from the rolls under a specific provision of the by-laws which I quoted in my request.  This request was "pooh-pooh-ed" as unnecessary in view of the congregation's desire to continue its "ministry to [us]"  I never pursued the idea and we never returned.

Two weeks ago, I got this letter:

This introduces the "Irony" mentioned in my title.  We moved at least partially to escape the "local church only" view and it appears we never escaped at all.  There's a lot which could be said about the content of this letter, but I want to (at least in the beginning) focus on the theology of the main thesis:  the implication that "forsaking" the local congregation is forsaking Christ the "head of the church"--an implication that this local congregation is indeed the Body of Christ, the Body into which all believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit.  "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit." (I Corinthians 12)

We'll look at this in detail in the second part of this.  I hope those reading this will post their views and comments.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


The scandal du jour in Washington is the apparent book-cooking at the VA Hospital in Phoenix.  This photo-op has brought out from under many rocks all the politicians who want to wave a flag and kiss a veteran (or wave a veteran and kiss the flag...).

Few things infuriate me more than the hypocritical use of veterans as a pawn by the self-serving, greedy, power-hungry politicians who, in truth, don't give a rat's a** for veterans (or hardly anyone else in their constituency).  And, please, please, spare me the "Oh, the Democrats are not like that...." or "Oh, the Republicans are not like that...."  If you believe that your lovely party is really the veterans' friend, then you are naive beyond recovery.  (And I'll stick to "naive" rather than what I really think)

The truth is that veterans are the tissues which did not disappear after use, and we're stuck with them and have to tolerate them and pretend we really care.  We waved a flag and sent them off to die in some third-world country to benefit some institution or another.  Those who died, we waved the flag again, sang a song, and buried them.  The problem is that not all of them died.  Some of us have survived for going on 50 or 60 or 70 years.....and all those teary-eyed promises have come back to haunt the politicians.  We're a great burden but dare not be labeled as such. 

For all the costs involved in maintaining the image of a "veteran-loving" nation, the pols have to extract some they take vets out of mothballs and wave them around whenever there's a political point to be made.  We're like a flag, a slightly fat and greying flag......And the pols really hope the moment passes quickly so we can be put back into storage--out of sight and out of mind.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014



Within the 21st century world of "reformed theology" there is a growing number of young men who couple their doctrinal position with some external evidences:  primarily their beards......but there are secondary features including tattoos, beer-guzzling and cigar-smoking.

The beard thing is almost cultic.  They have websites like "Bearded Gospel Men" and so forth.  One would like to think the attitude is tongue-in-cheek (and perhaps it is for some), but as time goes on, it looks more and more serious, more of a shibboleth for this subset of what was once referred to as the "young, restless, and reformed"

Many of the bearded bunch associate themselves with Spurgeon....who indeed sported a beard and reportedly enjoyed his cigars.  I've seen one fanatic styling himself to resemble (as much as possible) Spurgeon.  Of course, Spurgeon was also a total abstainer from alcohol and encouraged his flock to follow that example.  The imitators often skip that part of his character.  Spurgeon was also overweight......and I see a number of good imitations of that in this crowd.  So, Spurgeon smoked cigars and was overweight, and was in very poor health for years, died at age 58.  The beard probably did not contribute to his health problems, but the other stuff......

I have no problems with Spurgeon's theology (or very minor ones) and would encourage any young Christian to read his works.  My own theology is a bit of a mix of Spurgeon, Pink, and for a modern example, John MacArthur (clean-shaven, teetotal).  Also, I have a beard.  Had a beard before these fellows were born; had one continuously for the past 20 years and for 80% of the past 45 years (since I got out of the military).  So, this is not an anti-beard rant.

My point is that I had a beard as an atheist, a vociferous Bible-denying, God-hating heathen.  I had a beard as a young convert and was subjected to severe criticism for it by the "church."  I had a beard as a young preacher and cannot count the times I heard "We'd like to have you preach for us, brother, if you'd just get rid of that beard"

So, what is this drive to associate beard-wearing with "reformed" theology?  I do not know.  It's an affectation and like all affectations, in speech or walk or other mannerisms, it's off-putting.  You want a beard?  Fine.  You want to shave?  Fine.  Don't try to associate yourself with Spurgeon via a beard.  Any (male) moron can grow a beard.  You want to stand out in your crowd?  I suggest you follow the Biblical principles which lead to holiness and Christ-likeness.  That result will make you a stand-out in this modern "church."

I'm afraid that in many cases it's a way of rationalizing a desire to be like the world in which we dwell.  The beards, the tattoos, the beer-swilling, cigar-puffing world has some appeal to many young folks.....and they don't want to miss out on the fun just because they're Christians.  It's a way of having "the best of both worlds."

Today we have web sites promoting "calvinist brews" and "Christian tattoos"--I'm expecting a "Christian" porn site within a few years.

Think about the perception of those around you.  What is your witness to the world, even before you open your mouth?  They see just another young, bearded, tattooed punk with a cigar stuffed in his mouth.  You think that image inspires them to listen to you when you broach the subject of the Gospel?

"Judgmental" you say?  Yep.  If I walked into a new congregation and saw such a person step into the pulpit, I'd leave.  Not interested.  You don't need the $1500. suit and military haircut but you need a statement of attitude other than that which says to me:  I love this aspect of the world and I'm keeping it in the forefront of my "ministry"
The Author
Bearded, but
finding no spiritual advantage
in so being

No Cigar
No Tatts
No Beer,
and finding that 
the absence of those 
worldly devices is
not a hindrance

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


...or, at least his spirit is--alive and flourishing in the "Christian" world, perhaps a bit more subtle than the Westboro brand but equally disturbing.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6)

"There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers."
(Proverbs 6)

I want to make two points here:

1.  One can make no objection to preaching against sin, or even preaching against specific sins if the text leads in that direction.  What I see as objectionable is the single-minded focus on homosexuality and the resultant neglect of other sins which are even more prevalent in our culture.

Note the passage of scripture quoted above which enumerates specific sins, including homosexuality--Now I ask you: Where is the outrage against general sexual immorality (such as we are entertained by regularly via television and Hollywood)?...against drunkenness, greed, thieving and swindling....all of which are far more wide-spread than homosexuality.  Public opinion polls often indicate that people think 25% of the population is homosexual, but scientific studies show the number to be far lower--4%-8% range.  One does not need a "scientific study" to know that 100% of the population is guilty of sexual immorality, thieving, lying, and so forth.

So, the question remains-- Why the emphasis on one sin?  Some of the efforts to justify this pattern of preaching falls into the "God hates homosexuality more than other sins......" category.  We get the "Sodom and Gomorrah" reference.  No one can deny that God hates sin, God hates homosexuality....but there's no evidence that He hates it more than He hates other sexual sins for example.  Note the passage I quoted from Proverbs:  That's not an exclusive list of things God abominates, I'm sure, but I will point out that homosexuality did not make the list.  Some of those other items on there maybe should get some "air time" from American pulpits.

If we were to "stick to the text" there would be far more preaching across the spectrum against all sins rather than this selective, agenda-driven crusade against homosexuality.  Which brings me to my second point:

2.  Why is this happening?  What prompts the "church" in its monomaniacal crusade against homosexuality?......This from a church which, by omission, diminishes the consequences of other sins which Biblically are just as damning.

For one thing, I think we all, in whatever vestiges of self-righteousness remain with our flesh, we all love to find someone "worse" than we are.  We're proud that we're not like those sinners!  Yes, we're proud......

In our hearts, we know we're guilty of sexual immorality, theft, lying, gluttony, greed, etc, etc, etc......but we're not queer!  Good for us!  We can preach freely on that subject when all the other sins seem to be slightly less appealing subjects for a pulpit rant...with that conscience pricking us all the time we rave about adulterers and liars and thieves.  So, let's stick to a target where we suffer no wounds.

On a larger scale, however, I think this whole anti-homosexual movement is born out of something other than God's hatred of sin.  I think its true foundation is not Biblical at all.  It's getting a veneer of Bible gloss and, indeed, it is a sin, and it is contrary to God's word, but that may be merely a convenience for the Movement.

This Movement is the effort to save our culture.  People see the increasing presence, yea prominence, of homosexuals as a detriment to Western culture (and rightly argument).  Historically, there is evidence that sexual debauchery, including homosexual practices, is a harbinger of a culture's demise.
I'm not here to elaborate on that Movement except to say that it's the driving force in this fracas, not the Bible.  That's why we see very little to none of the Biblical attitudes expected in a confrontation with sinners.  A friend told the story of Bob Jones University's response to a bunch of pro-gay pickets--rather than getting in their faces and having a shouting match, the school sent out box lunches with Gospel tracts.  That response is the exception rather than the rule these days.  Genuine Christians recognize their own sin and realize that apart from God's restraining grace, we'd all have gone to the extremes of our depravity and done every sinful thing possible.  Genuine Christians also know that homosexuals will not be converted by argument, debate, or by shaming them, or by hating them, but by the only possible way:  the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit bringing them to spiritual life.

If we don't have the love of Christ compelling us to take the Gospel to sinners of all stripes, we need to examine ourselves regarding the validity of our "faith"  Those who are more concerned about the cultural/political agenda of "defeating" the homosexual agenda than they are about proclaiming Christ to a lost and dying world need to be honest about their motives.  Do not claim your agenda to be God's agenda.  Christ came to seek and to save the lost.  Believers are commissioned to take that Good News to the spiritually blind ...take it with a loving heart and a prayer that God will save those sinners for His glory.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

"OLD PEOPLE" In the Church

A Rant

First of all, this is qualified as a "rant" because it's based on anecdotal evidence, personal experience, and limited examples.  I am not writing a book on the subject; I am not researching it; I am not making any effort to establish statistically-reliable analysis relevant to all churches.  So, if you like, this is an unscientific, subjective, emotional reaction--hence, "rant."

I was prompted to this line of thought initially by a Facebook group ostensibly purposed for discussion of calvinism and digital fellowship among those who hold to that theological viewpoint.  This particular group is heavily populated by a subset of calvinists sometimes identified as "young, restless, and reformed"--which I translate "young, arrogant, and rude."  Many of these Thirty-somethings or younger are actually in pastoral ministry, frightening as the thought might be.  Time and again I read their posts and comments which were replete with condemnation of the "old people" in their congregations who were proving to be obstacles to "progress," hindrances to the implementation of the Youthful Leader's agenda.  It seems that the very redemption of the world and the implementation of the Kingdom of God was at the mercy of this bunch of old fuddy-duddies who stood in the path of Progress as defined by Youth.  This bunch of geriatrics proved so frustrating to several of the anointed ones that they all but called for euthanasia as a solution to their problem.

With that bunch in mind, more recently I was introduced to another Facebook group--a gathering of pastors on a page with the intended purpose of "mutual encouragement" -- a handy thing for anyone in pastoral ministry.  Very soon after I started reading thru posts in that group, I came across a thread on the subject of "old people in the church."  I'm going to interrupt myself right here to clarify one thing:  I'm going to use the word "church" in this article in the sense of "local assembly" or "local congregation"  Personally, I do not care for that usage because it often results in confusion with The Church, the Body of Christ....and the conflation of the local assembly and The Church is a serious problem.  But here, "church" is a reference to a local gathering (unless specifically stated otherwise).  So, "old people in the church"--I immediately skimmed through the initial comment, the o.p., and (mistakenly) thought:  This guy is talking about what I'm thinking about.

Well, no....hardly what I was thinking about.  The main commentator in this thread was spouting psycho-babble about how the young people just needed to "get to know" the old crocks and then they would love them.  His methodology includes nice little "show and tell" meetings where my peers can regale the kiddies with our war stories from Vietnam, and other bits of brilliance.

 "When you look at an older man as he describes his experiences in Vietnam as a soldier, you may find yourself thinking differently in regard to him."

Clearly this guy is totally out of touch.....You'll travel a long road before you find (m)any Vietnam vets who want to stand up and regale the crowd with the horrors we faced.  To think that we are surly and cantankerous in the congregation because we don't get to "share our story" is simply pathetic.

Another pastor persistently bemoans the "old people" in his congregation as those who cause the most trouble and are the greatest hindrances to the various ministries he would undertake.

" my experience those over 70 are more concerned with their comfort and holding to the past with an iron grip. In my own church the older adults have an issue with doing anything to bring the Gospel to the heathen God has placed in our community."

I'd really like to tone down my inclination to really rant on and on....Let's see if I can respond to this with two points:

1.  It's wrong-headed to present congregational problems as age-based.  Let's take that 70-year-old man who is "more concerned with [his] comfort rather than "doing anything to bring the Gospel...."--How was he doing at 45?.....60?  He was a faithful, obedient, active worker in his comparative youth, but when he got "old" he woke up stubborn and intransigent? 
No, I thought not.  Those who are unhelpful, undisciplined, and disruptive are not that way because they're "old"--they've always been that way.  And, they're probably that way because they've sat under ineffective, Bible-weak preaching for years, the product of lame leadership in the congregation.

2.  More importantly, much more:  To shove aside, to denigrate, to dismiss with the contempt I see so often, the older members of the congregation is a major sin.  First of all, we are taught in the Bible to honor the aged, to respect them, and to learn from them.  What's happening on such a wide-spread scale is just the opposite of the Biblical model.

The suggestion of that pastor I quoted, the one who wanted "war stories,"...that we have a nice dinner every month or so and a lovely "show and tell" with pictures from ancient history when we were "real people".....I cannot tell you how disgusting I find that sort of condescension.

These young "hot shots" with all the answers, those who want to steam-roll congregations onto the Path To Greatness as outlined by their favorite personality-cult preacher hero, are dismissing centuries of experience jointly held by those congregation members who have walked with the Lord for years and years longer than that preacher has been alive.

Two examples and I'm done (for now).  My wife:  a Christian more than 60 years.  Her exegetical abilities far exceed those of more than half the preachers I know.  But who wants to have some old woman teaching?  At best, she would be assigned to teach the 5 other septuagenarian women in the congregation rather than putting someone like her to work teaching the young women (as we are instructed to do).

Finally, my prison co-laborer.  He'll be 84 this year.  He's been in the same church since his conversion over 60 years ago.  He's taught there for over 50 years.  When they finally convinced him that they had no place for him in these modern times, he started a Bible study in his home during the week.  He traveled to prison meetings faithfully until his body was too worn out to do the necessary walking.  Every conversation I have with this man is a learning experience for me; his insights on Biblical matters incline me to call him rather than reach for a commentary when I have a question.  But......he's one of those "old people"--the up-to-date, cool, relevant "church" does not want to be portrayed by his image....old, grey, frail.  He's not cool.  Maybe he'd like to tell his war stories from Korea?.....go on a nice church bus ride to the lake? at Cracker Barrel?