Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Success Gives Birth To Depression; Leads to Spiritual Growth

I have had some really great, productive days at work. I actually felt a special leading of the Lord, a prompting in my heart to take my work a certain direction and it worked fantastic. There has been a lot of stir about my success. Instead of feeling joy and satisfaction, I feel depressed and blue. I think jealousy and competition has gotten my heart. There is no need to be jealous of recognition for my work since others helped me get here. I've been translating 1 Corinthians

Those Who Walk in Jealously are Not Spiritual

I am not able brothers to speak to you as spiritual but as those of the flesh, as mere children in Christ. I gave you milk and not solid food; for we were not yet able. And we as still not now able to do so, for still you are of the flesh. For who among you is jealous and contentious, are you not of the flesh, walking according to men? For someone says I am of Paul, and another says I am of Apollos, are they not men?
-- my own translation of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

This really make me take a look at my heart. It makes me turn to him in constant repentance. I praise God that he is pruning me.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Obama: Muslim or Christian as Answered in Christianity Today

Christianity Today has a Question and Answer article with Obama. In it he declares his faith and he takes a position on abortion. Click here for the full article at CT.

From Christianity Today's website

You've talked about your experience walking down the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ, and kneeling beneath the cross, having your sins redeemed, and submitting to God's will. Would you describe that as a conversion? Do you consider yourself born again?

I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn't 'fall out in church' as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn't want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.

There is one thing that I want to mention that I think is important. Part of what we've been seeing during the course this campaign is some scurrilous e-mails that have been sent out, denying my faith, talking about me being a Muslim, suggesting that I got sworn in the U.S. Senate with a Quran in my hand or that I don't pledge allegiance to the flag. I think it's really important for your readers to know that I have been a member of the same church for almost 20 years, and I have never practiced Islam. I am respectful of the religion, but it's not my own. One of the things that's very important in this day and age is that we don't use religion as a political tool and certainly that we don't lie about religion as a way to score political points. I just thought it was important to get that in there to dispel rumors that have been over the Internet. We've done so repeatedly, but obviously it's a political tactic of somebody to try to provide this misinformation.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What is an alter call?

I have had a variety of experiences with different churches. The alter call is not a single thing to a single church. I have found in fact they are quite varied. So here is a little of my journey via the alter call and then a little bit of what I think it ought to be.

Cherry Street Baptist – A place to get SAVED!

When I attended Cherry Street Baptist church in Springfield, MO the alter was a place to go forward to accept Christ. They had young men who were studying for the ministry at Baptist Bible College (BBC) who were recruiting a constant stream of new people into the church. These young ministerial students also were active in bus ministry, teaching Sunday School and developing things like “Friend Sunday” where everyone was supposed to bring a friend. But those other fellows were there at the alter ready to show you what salvation meant from the Bible and pray the sinner's prayer with you. There was probably 20 or 30 people who went forward for salvation or rededication to the Lord every week. The alter call was key, but it rested on a firm foundation of a steady stream of visitors and a sermon geared toward the alter call each and every week.

Revival and Camp Meeting – A place for special seasons of repentance.

When I moved to White Oak Pond Cumberland Presbyterian Church there was an alter call each and every week. Few when forward at the alter call except by exception. Someone new in the church might go forward to become a member by going forward at the end of a service. But then there was seasons where many went forward at an alter call. During a revival service perhaps many would go forward. When we went to church camp there was many who went forward at the camp meeting. There was a lot of emotion at these alter calls. I remember one particularly where there were two pastors who were calling people to come forward to pray and get things right with the Lord during a tremendous thunder storm. The lightening was not quite as loud as the preachers calling the people to repentance. The lightening flashed both from the storm and the preaching. It was a wonderful time of repentance and turning to the Lord.

Pentecostal Style - A place to meet the Lord.

I experimented for a number of years by visiting Pentecostal churches. Each week the alter took on the intensity that I felt at church camp with the storm flashing. But sometimes the intensity came from the spirit of the Lord and sometimes it just seemed manufactured. But one could go to the alter and pray about anything. It was not a special occasion to go to the alter but a part of the worship service.

California Style – A place to find out what your needs are and address them

In California my wife and I attended a Calvary Chapel. The alter call was one where you could go forward to pray, but there was an assumption that it was time for counseling as well as prayer. They did not count how many came forward, but they had people available for counseling and prayer. It was usually elders, elders' wives and other spiritually mature people. So the time at the alter was informal and often it was a place to seek counsel from a brother or sister in the Lord.

My Thoughts

My current experience is that alter calls are rejected as being a part of the “other side”, Baptists and Pentecostals. But I see it as a healthy thing that can give people a chance to address their needs. It is a way to take care of small counseling issues without an office call to the pastor's desk. It is a way that people can talk to someone without making a big deal of it. I see alter calls should be done each week. No coercion present. Focus on counseling and prayer, not notches in the belt. Ensure that both men and women are available to pray with the people who come forward. They should be trained to know when a problem is larger than one little prayer after the worship has concluded. They should also know when to call in help from someone more capable. An alter call is one tool that is just giving people a chance to pray and talk.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My Relative the Pioneer, Doug Griffin

I used to feel that I was related to everyone in Laclede county. That is largely because of this patriarch of the family. His family moved from Illinois after the family suffered financial crisis after their barn burned. As I understand it, he was a dedicated Cumberland Presbyterian. He, in more than one sense, is why I am presbyterian.

Meet Anderson Douglas "Doug" Griffin.

Birth: Aug. 30, 1854
Scott County
Illinois, USA
Death: Jan. 25, 1933
Laclede County
Missouri, USA

Funeral Services Held Today for
Pioneer of Laclede County
Anderson Douglas Griffin, a resident of Laclede County for 70 years, died at his home here at 12:30 o'clock Tuesday night as a result of a paralytic stroke he suffered two weeks ago. He was 78 years old.
Funeral services were held at 1 o'clock this afternoon at the White Oak Pond church, of which he had been a member for many years. The services were conducted by the Rev. J. A. Russell of Phillipsburg. Burial was in the cemetery there.
Acting as pallbearers were six grandsons, Harvey, Herschel, Harold and Ross Griffin, Qris O'Quinn and Earl Scott.
"Uncle Doug," as he was familiarly known, was born in Winchester, Illinois, and came to this county with his parents Mr. and Mrs. Richard Griffin, when he was a small boy. The family settled on Brush Creek, 10 miles south of Lebanon, and Mr. Griffin spent his life in that neighborhood until he retired from active farming 15 years ago and moved to Lebanon.
He is survived by his wife, five sons and three daughters. They are: A. A. , Homer, Elmer, Fred and Vester Griffin, Mrs. Charles Wagoner, Mrs. Maude Scott and Mrs. Alma O'Quinn all residing in Laclede County. Also surviving are 27 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, and two brothers, John and Charles Griffin, residing near Lebanon.
Attending the funeral from a distance were Houston Brown and Mrs. Cora Bryan, both of Oklahoma City, Mr. and Mrs. John Massey of Percy, Iowa, and Mr. and Mrs. Jeff McWhirter, Mrs. Mary Fritts and Mrs. Remmer all of Aurora, Missouri.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Own Personal Time Machine

I have my very own private time machine. It really isn't like Dr. Brown's DeLorean in Back to the Future. Rather, growing up I knew four of my great grand parents; Fred, Ola, Bert and Roberta. That is right, these were my mother's grandparents. They were all born just before or just after the turn of the 20th century. Their world in the rural Missouri Ozarks started as one without cars, without electricity, or even in door plumbing. Theirs was a world where people were named things like Tink or Suttie. Come visit a little while with me as I introduce you to Gramp, Granny, Grandpa Bert and Granny Bert, who are my connections to a distant past. Perhaps this will help you in developing your own personal time machine.

The first component of a time machine is stories. Stories in the Ozarks are all about telling experiences that one has. The story need not be spectacular, just tell it plane and with earnestness. Granny told me how she came to be raised by her grandma Johnson. When Granny was five years old her mother, Caroline, came down with the flu. Her mother was bed ridden. Granny was outside when she saw four people with white clothes on. They were walking by, each one a little shorter than the previous, as stair steps. Granny went in to tell her mother this. Her mother told her they were the angels coming to get her. The next day her mother died. Her father could not care for his daughters so he asked for the grandparents to do so. He sold his mule and saddle for forty dollars to buy his wife a grave stone. It reads, “She fell by the way side and the angels carried her home”. He traveled to Kansas and hoed corn for 50 cents a day. While this story may sound sad, I think of the photo in my Granny's bedroom of my great, great, grandma Caroline is something, really special. It's still there.

This leads me to the second part of a time machine, which is possessions. My grandpa Fred, who we all called Gramp, survived by farming and always buying more land to farm. He wore overalls with a gold pocket-watch that never stopped. He refused to set it to daylights savings time thinking that to be the invention of politicians in Washington D.C. He was punctual to get up early to milk the cows. He ate breakfast from a great glass chalice. He came in from the fields to eat punctually at noon. He drank ice tea at noon from the great glass chalice. After he milked the cows in the evening, then he ate cornbread and milk every evening from that great glass chalice. He was a man of routine, but a routine that I think he really enjoyed.

That leads me to the last component of our time machine, that is their habits. Not their daily habits, but the annual ones. They grew, harvested and preserved much of their own food. In the spring, my Gramp would dig new potatoes each spring. This was fixed with spring peas. Since this was one of the first harvests from the vegetable garden it was a significant event. My Granny Ola would make gooseberry pie each spring. As I remember it, someone would find the gooseberry and pick them for Granny to make into a pie. Gooseberries are an extremely tart berry that grows wild in the Ozarks. My Granny Bert made hominy each year in the Fall. Hominy is made from dry corn which is processed by soaking it in lye water. Sounds weird, tastes good.

Harvesting and preserving garden vegetables was time spent with my great grandparents. We would work with our hands, breaking beans in the dining room or shucking corn out underneath the shade tree, which would take us back to story telling. We might hear the same story we had heard the year before, or maybe we would hear a new one. We might learn something new about Tink or Suttie. We might just fix roasting ears and Gramp would wash it down with some ice tea from his great glass chalice.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Evangelism versus Apologetics

You may want to check out the link to a Mark Dever article in Christianity Today called What Evangelism Isn't. (Hat Tip: La Shawn Barber's Corner) You may also want to check out this video on You Tube about creation. My wife's blog has an easy to get to copy.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bible Exam

Q: Give a general outline of the Old Testament history from the perspective of the covenant, including key passages.


Covenant of Works with Adam, Genesis 2, Hosea 6:7, and Romans 5.
Covenant with Noah, Genesis 9 and Jeremiah 33:20
Covenant with Abraham, Genesis 12, 15, and 17
Covenant with Israel, Exodus 34 and much of the Old Testament Law
Covenant with David, 2 Samuel 7:12 and 22:57

Friday, January 04, 2008

Most Study Questions for Bible Examination

Q: Name the general divisions of the Old Testament and the books in each.

A: Pentateuch - Gn, Ex, Lv, Nu, Du
History - Jo, Ju, Ru, 1S, 2S, 1K, 2K, Ne, Ezra, Est
Wisdom - Job, Ps, Pv, Ecc, Song of Sol.
Prophets - Is, Jer, Lam, Ezk, Dan, and all the minor prophets

Q: Give a general outline of Old Testament history, including key dates.


Time of the patriarchs
Abraham born 2161 B.C.
Exodus 1445 B.C.
Conquest 1405 B.C.
Time of the Judges
Time of the Kings
King David's Rule 1010 B.C.
Northern Kingdom Exile 722 B.C.
Southern Kingdom Exile
Fall of Jerusalem 586 B.C.
Return from Exile
Rebuild the Temple 515 B.C.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Review of Central Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA

The last Sunday of 2007 I visited with my family the Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. This is a PCUSA Church with a very beautiful building in the middle of Atlanta, thus the name. Parking was under ground a parking garage. That was a first time for me, but it makes sense when real estate is at a premium price to put the parking down under. I think they are able to charge for parking during the week and make it pay for itself. I'm guessing on that. Finding where the nursery for my young relatives was a bit of a hassle. It could have been better dealt with but informing the friendly greeters, who I believe were the church's elders, where the nursery was being held. But it was nice to see the elders take such an active part in greeting people.

The worship was warm and easy to follow. There was no sermon that day but a lot of scripture reading and carol singing. I found it a welcome change to just enjoy song and scripture. The closest thing to a sermon was the children's sermon, which they called 'Young Disciples'. But essentially this was the reading of a story book called the 'Huron Carol', which was based on a carol I was not familiar with but was in the Presbyterian Hymnal used by Central Presbyterian. While I hold the preaching of the Word of God extremely important, because there was a wealth of Scripture reading during the service, I thought it an delightful worship service.

The church was decorated with liturgical hangings which were festive and beautiful. I was told someone in the congregation made them. All churches should have someone as artistically gifted. I was confused by one item though. The liturgical hanging in the front and center of the sanctuary had a picture of Mary and the Christ Child. Other items decorated this scene, two of which confused me; a griffin and a unicorn. If someone understands, or thinks he understands, the meaning of this symbolism, please leave a message in the comments. Perhaps someone with a more liturgical background will know the significance.

The music was especially fantastic because of a guest pianist , David Hawkings of Columbia Theological Seminary played. He combined traditional and jazz styles in the pieces he played. No one felt it necessary to direct the congregation in singing the hymn. In most churches I have visited there is someone directing the congregation as if the congregation is a rehearsed choir. Doing without this unnecessary formality was a welcome change. Mr. Hawkings actually led the tempo and music via his playing. He is quite possibly the best church pianist I have ever heard. (The only one I felt could be considered better is a professor of music at a Bible college I visited once.) Mr. Hawkings not only provided an excellent atmosphere for directing our worship toward God but also a music education in one sitting.

Something that impressed me with the congregation was the warmth of feeling while making announcements of who had prayer concerns. Many in the congregation were senior citizens and it was obvious that the staff honored the needs of the elderly who were suffering the effects of aging. It seemed that the staff took visitation of the sick and dying as a work of love and compassion.

While theologically I would not be completely at home at Central Presbyterian, I found it a refreshing and enjoyable visit.

License Preparation: Bible Content

How many books are in the Bible? Sixty-six
How many books are in the Old Testament? Thirty-nine
How many books are in the New Testament? Twenty-seven

Where in the Old Testament would you find the ten commandments? (Two references) Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5

Where in the New Testament would you find the law summarized?
(Two references)

I can take this question two ways. First is that the Law is summarized by the two commandments to love God with all your heart, soul and might and love your neighbor as yourself. These two summarizations can be found in Mathew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34. But there is another type of summary of the Law that can be found in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain. These are found in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6.

Locate two passages about the revelation of God in nature.
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. -Romans 1:20 (NIV)

Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."
Acts 14:17

Goals for 2008

I love writing out goals. If I was as enthusiastic about actually getting things done as I am about writing goals out I would be a champion indeed.

Goals for 2007

My goals are designed to change my habits and ruts that keep me from growing in the various areas of my life.

Home Repairs – Replace the roof on my house.

Music – Play more saxophone and recorder. Practice and participate, not preform. Perhaps I should read a music book too.

Fitness – I want to run a marathon. My knee has been giving me problems so knee recovery and a training schedule are assumed here.

Ministry – Finish my internship and licensing exam. Use multimedia to train people to correctly interpret the Bible.

Father – I will discuss more issues with my children, especially issues relating to faith and current issues.

Husband – I will regularly take my wife on dates.

Spirituality – Trust God in faith that he is leading me and my job is to listen. Implied to this is that I will constantly read the Bible and pray.