Category Archives: Uncategorized

Looking Toward a New Year

Well, 2016 is “in the can” as broadcasters like to say, and whether that can is the film canister ready for shipment or the trash can ready for the dump I will let you decide. For me 2016 had equal parts awesomeness and awfulness, so I am looking forward to 2017 with both fear and fascination.

As for this space, I have optimistically set some writing goals for 2017. The good Lord willing, I will attempt to devote more time to writing in this blog and here are just a few of the topics I will tackle:

  • More devotional thoughts stemming from my daily Bible reading.
  • More thoughts about the current state of Christianity, the Churches of Christ, and my own faith journey.
  • Advice for younger men who are trying to serve as preachers/ministers. I know this topic is kind of silly for me (as if I am any kind of source of wisdom), but having served a number of congregations for 20+ years (with ten years of flying airplanes thrown in there for good measure), I think I have something to share for those who might be willing to hear.
  • Quotations (and comments) from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, my favorite theologian.
  • More book reviews.
  • Who knows what else?

I want to thank each and every one of my followers, readers, and those who take the time to comment on my musings. I hope what I have to say is beneficial – at the very least I hope that what I have to say gets you to think about Jesus, his church, and how we who are his disciples can more faithfully follow him.

Blessings on a great year in 2017, and, as always, thanks for flying in the fog with the ol’ Freightdawg.

New Page Added – Daily Bible Reading Schedule for 2017

SAMSUNG

Dear Gentlereaders, for a few years I have suggested daily Bible reading schedules, but mostly through descriptive posts. I have used two schedules primarily – one from the Moravian fellowship (order through http://www.moravian.org), and one that I kind of developed on my own. I say “kind of” because I cannot really remember how it came to exist – I know I borrowed the general idea from a couple of other sources, but to the best of my memory (poor as it is) I do not think I stole the outline in its entirety.

As nervous as I am about plagiarism, at least I HOPE I did not steal it.

Anyway, this year I decided to see if I could post the reading schedule as a .pdf document, and I think I was successful. With my knowledge of computers, that remains to be seen.

The schedule as posted on the “Daily Bible Reading Schedule – 2017” page will take you through the Bible twice in 2017. I use this schedule for a couple of reasons. First, reading larger sections of Scripture keeps me in the “story” of the Bible. It allows me to keep the larger narrative of the Bible in context. Second, this schedule allows me to read the Bible all the way through in two different translations each year. That way I “hear” the Bible in different voices. I try to use one “literal” or formal translation, and one dynamic (or in Paulese – “loosey-goosey”) translation.

Do not be afraid to modify as you must. For example, I do not try to be too legalistic in following the schedule. When I get to Leviticus, for example, I do not try to parse every single law. When I get to 1 Chronicles, I let myself skim through the genealogies. On days when I cannot seem to concentrate I do the best I can. On those days when I can really dive deep – I dive deep. I’m not always perfect, but I strive for consistency and accept what the day gives me.

For a matter of reference, you should be able to complete the day’s reading in 30-45 minutes, depending on how fast you can read.

(For those who prefer much shorter readings – who like to read for depth and not volume – the Moravian Daily Texts schedule calls for you to read through the Psalms each year, and the entire Bible every two years. I like that approach very much as well, for while it does not emphasize the “story” aspect of the Bible as much as my schedule, there is much to be argued for a slower and more in-depth reading of the Bible.)

Whatever your desire, and whatever your comfort level, I hope you spend more time with the Word of God in 2017.

 

Three Special Requests

To all my wonderful readers out there in the fog –

I have three small requests of you today. You may not personally be able to help with any of them, but if you might know of someone who can help, I would appreciate if you would pass along this site and if you will leave me a comment with some way to reach you, I will contact you privately.

First, I am currently looking for a ministry to relocate to, and so if anyone is aware of a teaching position involving Bible or theology, I would greatly appreciate having that information. Also, if you are aware of a congregation of the Churches of Christ that is looking for a pulpit minister, I would love to have that information as well. In return, you can pass along the information to this site and let them get to know me a little. I guess I should say I am a little more curmudgeonly in writing (a little??) than I am in person, so those of you who know me can pass that along as well.

Second, the ministry where I am currently serving, the Greyhounds for Christ at Eastern New Mexico University, is in need of some short and long term financial support (NOT the reason why I am leaving – just passing along a special need!) This is a wonderful ministry with a GREAT group of college students, and due to the confluence of a number of reasons, we could use some one-time contributions and also some long-term supporters. If you, or someone you know, is looking for a mission point then please put them in contact with me and I would love to visit with them about this opportunity.

Finally, the leaders here will be looking to fill the campus ministry position here, hopefully by the first of August. Did I mention this is a GREAT place to minister with a really great group of college students? I can recommend this position, the leadership here, and the ENMU students 100%. If you know of a young man who has a special love for, and understanding of, college students, please let me know about him, and once again you can put him in touch with me.

Well, thanks for the brief commercial break, and I promise to return you to our irregularly scheduled meanderings through the fog here shortly. Until then, please remain in your seats with your tray tables in the upright position . . .

Update on Dissertation Publishing

A few weeks ago I posted that I was raising funds to help me publish my doctoral dissertation. Well, the “crowdfunding” group that I chose to work with did not fully reveal everything about their program, so I discontinued that particular effort. Note: I am not accusing the group that I signed up with of being particularly deceptive, but let’s just say they were not 100% forthcoming.

So, I’m really back to square one when it comes to trying to get the work published. The main reason I want the book in a public format is so that when (if?) I get to travel and present this material in a seminar-type situation, I would have the entire study available for anyone to have. I have no grand illusions of getting rich – I would be happy if I just broke even.

I thank everyone for the kind words and thoughts, but until further notice I am not soliciting, nor am I accepting, any funds. If, however, you know of someone who publishes books or who might be interested in helping me publish the book, please contact me and I will respond to you asap.

 

Why Joe the Plumber is (dead) Wrong

Joe the Plumber, the ignorant red-neck hillbilly that earned his 15 minutes of fame a long time ago, has crawled back out of his hole to attack the parents of the victims of the mass killing in California. In his “Open Letter” he flatly stated that “your dead kids do not trump my constitutional rights.”

Well, here is why Joe the Plumber is dead wrong.

The Painting entitled "Jesus Blessing the...

The Painting entitled “Jesus Blessing the Children” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1)  All innocent human life trumps any worthless piece of paper. This is even more true when the victims are innocent bystanders, young people just beginning their lives as adults.

2)  The Constitution is a dead relic of a time that has long past. If he (or anyone else) disagrees, then he (or they) must admit that the Constitution is a living document, and if a living document, then is subject to re-interpretation and improvement. If the constitution is subject to re-interpretation then it is well past time to eliminate the 2nd Amendment, a clause that was written in the day of flintlock black-powder muskets.

3)  As a Christian my allegiance is not to some ink-stained piece of parchment anyway. God will accept no idol in his name, and that includes any fallible human contract for governance.

4)  Jesus died for all people of every nation and for every time. Greeks, Romans, Scandinavians, Germans, Spaniards, Canadians, French, Mexicans, Chinese – every people from every tribe under heaven. The cross was not just for Americans and when I realize that I can put the US Constitution in its proper context. When we say “Jesus is Lord” that is as much or more of a political statement than it is a religious one. And Jesus did not die for the Constitution of the United States.

5)  We all have the right to “free speech,” and yet the Supreme Court has ruled emphatically there are times, places and situations in which certain types of speech are illegal. You cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater and incite a riot. You cannot incite the physical harm of someone else. And, when your “right”  to own weapons and ammunition whose only purpose is to kill and maim human beings results in the deaths of hundreds of innocent children (and adults) every year, then, sir, I respectfully submit that yes –

THE LIFE OF MY CHILD, AND THE LIVES OF THE CHILDREN WHOM I LOVE, MOST CERTAINLY DO “TRUMP” YOUR WORTHLESS RIGHT TO OWN A GUN.

 

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What Will Never Change – Regardless of the Debates

Bible believing Christ-centered Worldview

Bible believing Christ-centered Worldview (Photo credit: Chris Yarzab)

Over the past several days I have had some wonderful conversations regarding the recent Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate over the science of creation. I have also read some wonderful blogs as the bloggers offered their two cents worth.

The biggest takeaway from the debate – nothing significant is going to change intellectually unless there is an underlying change of heart.

I believe it was Albert Mohler who made the case the most specific and convincing. Bill Nye and Ken Ham approached the subject of evolution/divine creation from two vastly different worldviews. The difference, at least as Mohler interpreted the event, was that Ham was fully up-front about his world-view orientation while Bill Nye seemed to project that he did not even have a world-view, he was just looking at the facts and reading them like this morning’s newspaper. Therein lies the problem and until there is a recognition of that fact there will be no significant change in the minds of those who reject God as the source of our universe.

We (as believers) can make all the arguments we want to – and there are very real and scientific reasons to believe that this world was created by a Divine Being – but as long as a person is committed to a secular world-view that evidence will simply be dismissed out of hand. As I am told Ken Ham pointed out in one of his speeches, we are looking at the same evidence, the same rocks and the same fossils, but we are interpreting the evidence through profoundly different lenses. A totally committed secular lens is just not capable of seeing God, whereas a world-view that allows for a Divine creator can accept and work within a scientific arena. What it refuses to do is accept the dogma of scientism, the humanistic idea that man is master of his own past and future, and that science is the solution to all of man’s problems.

As the old saying goes – a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

What does this all mean? Does it mean we give up with our study of science and our logical arguments? No. We must never do that.

But what it does point out is that a person will never change intellectually until there is a change in the soul as well. The heart and the intellect are far more inter-connected than we as “logical” debaters seem to think. We get sucked into the idea that all we have to do is present a logical, scientific answer and everyone MUST accept our position. I wish that were true. But the fact is the heart must be touched sometimes before, and sometimes at the same time, as the mind is being challenged.

So – let us keep up with our study of geology and astronomy and physics and biology and every other kind of -ology. But, as we do so let us also pray that God opens the hearts and the ears of those we are trying to teach. I do not just want to win a debate. I want to bring someone to Christ. And the only way for that to happen is if our creator God works either before or during our words to soften the heart of those we are teaching.

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Hitting the Target, Or Rewarding Our Mistakes

(Warning – long post. Sorry, got a little wordy today.)

The joke is told in various forms. A city slicker is driving through the country and begins to notice a number of bull’s eye targets painted on the sides of buildings, fence posts, trees – just about anything that could hold one. In the center of every single target was a single bullet hole. The city slicker was amazed by the incredible accuracy of the anonymous marksman. When he pulled into the nearest town for a cup of coffee he struck up a conversation with a local sitting alone at a table. “I could not help but notice the astonishing accuracy of a local shooter,” started the visitor. “Every target for miles around here has a bullet hole perfectly placed right in the center of the target.” “Oh, that,” said the local. “Them’s from my grandson. He loves to shoot his gun and wants to feel good about himself, so whenever he shoots and hits somethin’ I come along behind him with a can of white paint and draw a bull’s eye around the hole.”

Bull's-eye

Bull’s-eye (Photo credit: GravitysAppleNZ)

What does that story have to do with theology, you ask? I’m glad you did.

I fear we have created (or perhaps been sucked into) a culture of theological reflection in which we shoot our gun, and if we happen to hit something, we run over and paint a target around the hole and then congratulate ourselves for having achieved perfect execution.

I have been accused (perhaps rightly so) of being hyperbolic, excessive, crass – snarky even. I hope I can avoid those descriptions and pose some questions to those who feel we must overturn hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of years of traditional understandings of Scripture just because our culture has been able to hit a new “target” of inclusivity and egalitarianism. My immediate focus is on those who have decided that male spiritual leadership has somehow become oppressive and spiritually demeaning to females; but my questions should also have validity to anyone who seeks to “re-imagine” or “re-invent” church as we know it. I have three questions that I believe deserve serious reflection.

1.  What is your view of Scripture? It has become meaningless to say one has a “high” view of Scripture if the definition of “high” is not further explained. Do you view one passage as being more “spiritual” than others? Do you view some passages as being “spiritual” or authoritative by virtue of their being generic or “timeless,” and other texts as no longer having any kind of authority because of their specificity or “cultural” baggage? Do you attempt to take one passage of Scripture as being authoritative, and then measure other texts according to that one “meta” text? Or do you believe that within all of the concreteness and “givenness” of any text there are eternal principles that can be learned from these “situational” texts? Do you intentionally seek to find unity among the written texts, or is it more advantageous for you to discover “disunity” and therefore contradictions among the writings of Scripture, which then allows you to place these texts on a sliding scale of authoritative on one end descending down to purely situational and cultural on the other end?

You see, all of this matters, and matters significantly. If I can take a text, decide on totally extraneous criteria that it only has meaning in one “cultural” context, and therefore I am free to ignore, or at least to significantly modify it, then I have made myself the arbiter of the truth of Scripture. I do not stand under the text, I stand over the text as master and judge. I no longer have a “high” view of Scripture, no matter how valuable that description might be in my current work environment.

2.  What is your view of mankind (humanity)? Consider the difference between a geocentric and an heliocentric view of our solar system. The geocentric view has certain positive values: for one it is the most easily observable and explainable. The sun clearly does appear to rotate around the earth. We even have texts in Scripture that refer to the rising and setting of the sun. But, as any 9th grade science student (and hopefully younger) has learned, the earth does indeed rotate around the sun, as do all the other planets in our solar system. The explanation is more complex, and deserves a longer answer than just “go outside and watch the sun,” but the fact is that truth is sometimes more complicated than a 30 second sound-bit will admit. So, as with the solar system as with man. Is man (generic, not a male) the master or servant of this world? Is man the created, or the creator? Is man the judge, the jury, or the accused?

Solar system

Once again, the answer to this question is critical. If in a theologian’s view mankind is the focus of the debate, then the answer will of necessity place mankind as the answer to all the questions. If, however, God is the focus of the debate, then any answer that suggests that mankind as the answer will be unacceptable. The center of the theological universe is not man – it is God. When we try to answer theological questions by positing a humanistic answer we will fail just as positing a geocentric explanation of the movement of the planets will fail. In scientific terms, I do not study my theology to explain and justify my anthropology. I use my anthropology to enlighten and serve my theology. If I worship God so that He will bless my humanistic conclusions, I have created an idol.

3.  What is your view of sin, the “fall” of mankind, and of redemption/salvation? Is the ultimate definition of sin the broken relationship of human to human, or is sin the broken relationship of human to God? The anthropological view says we sinned against each other (male against female) and therefore fell from a relationship with God. Restore the relationship between the genders and the relationship with God will be healed. The theological view (brilliantly exposited by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I might add) is that humans sinned against God and therefore we lost our relationship with each other (including, but not limited to, gender differences). The only way to fully restore the broken relationship among humans is to completely heal the relationship with God. This will, in one sense, never be possible; as created beings we constantly fall short of the glory of God. However, in another sense the breech has been healed but not in the full sense of the original creation! In the garden male was created first, and was given the spiritual protection of the female. This has never changed. The fall did not change those relationships. What changed was that after the fall all humanity was affected, and we became seekers of self instead of participants in communion with God and each other! It was not just the difference between the genders that was broken; our relationship with all things was broken, both created things and the divine Creator. What has changed by the blood of Christ is that all humanity (regardless of nationality, gender or socio/economic background) has a path of forgiveness and reconciliation with God (Gal. 3!). If we look at the Genesis story theologically we can see this – if we look at the Genesis story only through the eyes of anthropology all we see is the battle of the races, sexes, and economics/politics. And, if we get the question wrong, we have no hope of getting the answer right.

In my mind this discussion inevitably flows back to the question of the serpent in the Garden, “Did God really say…” Of course God said it, but did he really mean it? Or did he have some subterfuge in mind that you as humans can overcome by expanding your knowledge of good and evil?

Realistically, we can shoot at anything, and assuming we hit something, can run over and paint a target around it and then give ourselves an award for outstanding marksmanship. We can do this with theology just as easily as with firearms.

But, is that hitting our target, or rewarding our (possibly sinful?)  mistakes?

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Children’s Church, the Entertainment Culture, and the Story of God

I have been interacting with others related to this subject. The author of this post is Todd Hall, and it appears on Scott Elliott’s blog “Resurrected Living.” This has been reblogged by permission.

Shout Out To WordPress!

I have always enjoyed my blogging experience with WordPress. But they recently updated their program and now I can say it really rocks!

From an improved Dashboard, to an easier to use tool bar – everything just looks better and cleaner and, for this blogger, just way better. And it was great to begin with.

So, if you are unhappy with your current blogging site, or if you are interested in starting your own blog – Fly with WordPress. Everyone else is just trying to catch up.

Tweetable Advice For Preachers and Congregations (#3)

For both – “Once a job is first begun, never finish ’til it’s done; whether the job be great or small, do it well or not at all.”

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