Monday, July 06, 2020

Talk to me, Goose.

On July 6, 1415, the pre-Reformer John Huss (also spelled Jan or Johannes Hus) met his gruesome death.

Huss was from Bohemia (now part of the "Czech Republic) and was the master of the University of Prague. He preached in the language of the people (not Latin) at Bethlehem Chapel, at a time when possession of a non-Latin Bible was punishable by death.

His theological views and criticisms of the church were heavily influenced by John Wycliffe, the English pre-Reformer.

Huss, whose name means "goose" in Czech, was among the first to draw the ire of the Roman Catholic church.

He opposed the corruption in the church and was on the "wrong side" with regard to accessibility to the Bible, authority of the pope, and issues of salvation. He spoke against simony (the purchase of church offices) and indulgences (the purchase of forgiveness).

Huss was excommunicated for siding with Pope Alexander (as did the people of Bohemia) instead of the Pope who succeed him (and may have murdered him) and for failure to comply with the order to ban and burn all the works of Wycliffe, and failure to stop preaching. Part of that papal bull of excommunication forbade anyone to give Huss food, drink, salutation, discourse, purchase, sale, or hospitality.

Huss was undaunted:
Huss reminds his friends that Christ himself was excommunicated as a malefactor and crucified. No help was to be derived from the saints. Christ’s example and his salvation are the sufficient sources of consolation and courage. The high priests, scribes, Pharisees, Herod and Pilate condemned the Truth and gave him over to death, but he rose from the tomb and gave in his stead twelve other preachers. So he would do again. What fear, he wrote, "shall part us from God, or what death? What shall we lose if for His sake we forfeit wealth, friends, the world’s honors and our poor life?... It is better to die well than to live badly. We dare not sin to avoid the punishment of death. To end in grace the present life is to be banished from misery. Truth is the last conqueror. He wins who is slain, for no adversity "hurts him if no iniquity has dominion over him." In this strain he wrote again and again. The "bolts of anti-christ," he said, could not terrify him, and should not terrify the "elect of Prag."
-Phillip Scaff, History of the Christian Church, §45.
Even though the Council of Constance had condemned Wycliffe and ordered his writings burned and his bones exhumed, burned, and sprinkled in the river, Huss did not distance himself from Wycliffe.
"I indeed confess that I hold the true opinions propounded by Master John Wycliffe, professor of sacred theology, not because he taught them but because the Scriptures taught them."
-Matthew Spinka, John Hus at the Council of Constance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965), pp. 69-70.
In the face of trumped up charges and imminent death, Huss was able to express joy to Christ while being burned at the stake as a heretic in 1415. As Huss stood before the stake he reportedly said, "In the truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, I die willingly and joyfully today."

584 years after Huss experienced a humiliating and cruel death, Pope John Paul II apologized to the Czech people on December 17th, 1999.
"Today, on the eve of the Great Jubilee, I feel the need to express deep regret for the cruel death inflicted on Jan Hus and for the consequent wound of conflict and division which was thus imposed on the minds and hearts of the Bohemian people."
-The Vatican Information Service (VIS)

Incidentally, Huss proved to be a bit of a prophet at his execution when he said, "You are roasting a poor Bohemian goose, but in 100 years there will arise a swan whom you will neither roast nor boil."

I don't know if any would refer to him as a swan, for Pope Leo called Martin Luther a "wild boar" (i.e., pig) in his papal bull of excommunication, Exsurge Domine. ("Rise up, O Lord, for there is a wild boar loose in your vineyard.")

But, I have every confidence that this "pig" would find kinship with "the goose" and wouldn't hesitate to say, "Ich bin ein Hussite."

"A cantionale, dating from 1572, and preserved in the Prag library, contains a hymn to Huss’ memory and three medallions which well set forth the relation in which Wyclif and Huss stand to the Reformation. The first represents Wyclif striking sparks from a stone. Below it is Huss, kindling a fire from the sparks. In the third medallion, Luther is holding aloft the flaming torch."
-Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, §45.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Well, somebody better explain, or there'll, uh ... there'll be a lot of explaining to do.

Years ago I posted about the perpetuity of the practice of head coverings in the worship of a Christian church, which you may read HERE.

On Sunday the 2nd of July, I preached on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 at Providence Church as part of my expositional series on 1 Corinthians.  As any preacher knows, more could have been said, and better, and more wanted to be said.  The sermon should be available soon on the sermons page of the website.

After reading an article today about the practice no longer being necessary due to the differences in first century Corinth versus 2017 America, I felt inclined to leave a comment, the gist of which follows.  If this is a topic of interest to you, I hope it's helpful.

I've often seen the allusions to the problems inherent in the Corinthian culture as the rationale behind Paul’s admonitions. However, the research is more scant that such authors often let on.  Historiography is a challenge, of course, anytime you have great distance chronologically from the event. But in this case there’s just not that much to go on, especially with any reliability.

But, this also raises a question about the sufficiency of Scripture.  Is Scripture sufficient on its own or is something else necessary to understand how we are to believe and behave (e.g., science, archeology, historiography, etc.)?  I think we’d affirm those things can be helpful, but they’re not necessary for us to understand and apply the text.

That being said, as one who at one time personally set aside the practice as unnecessary for us, due to it being only for their culture, I’d now say that even if authors are correct that the situation was such and such in Corinth, that still doesn’t mean they can read Paul’s mind as to why he said and/or did the things he did. Even if you grant that wives were throwing off their head coverings as a sign of promiscuity in Paul’s day, why would he not insist on head coverings at all times and in all places public?

Seems he’s only interested in when the church comes together, as he’s dealing with two apostolic ordinances, one in which he commends them (11:2), but with further instruction needed as to the the why, more so than the how, and the other where he does not commend them (11:17).

Yet, tthe thing that most convinced me was that cultural arguments were grounded in this line of reasoning: The reason Paul tells the wives to have a symbol of authority on their heads is X, with that X being extra biblical.  But, Paul doesn’t leave us guessing as to why he would insist that a wife have a symbol of authority on her head. He tells us plainly why he insists on it, and those things have nothing to do with culture, or anything that could change. He mentions the order of creation, pre fall. He mentions the angels. He mentions nature itself. 
“The reason why our sisters appear in the house of God with their heads covered is ‘because of the angels’.” ~Charles Spurgeon
The author of the article wrote: “Needless to say, what the head-covering meant for women in first-century Corinth* is not what it would mean or communicate today." I don’t disagree regarding 2017 in America.  But why is that? Could it be the influence of 1st and 2nd wave feminism that decimated this practice in the 1960s, a practice that was pretty much universal in the history of the church throughout the globe up to that point? I'm convinced there's more than coincidence here.
“The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the church?” ~R. C. Sproul
Also, COULD it mean what it meant back then, not necessarily in America, but in the church? In churches where some still practice head coverings, I’d suggest it does.

Honestly, when I read such culture arguments against the perpetuity of the practice it really just sounds to me like someone has come to the text with a preconceived notion that it is NOT something they are going to do, so then they look for reasons to justify not doing it. In other words, I don’t think there would be many who read the text and then practice head coverings, but after further research into the life and times of Corinth decide it’s no longer necessary, after which they either keep doing it out of habit and tradition or cease.

And, what’s worse, the arguments sound eerily similar to what we’d consider liberal perspectives on the text that also try to negate certain unpopular aspects of the Bible as being only culturally bound (e.g., homosexuality, women teaching men and being elders, etc.).  They’ll tell us, for example, that "in Paul’s day women weren’t educated or respected enough in to serve as elders in the church.  But, in our culture women are educated and regarded with respect, so they can be elders.  Our culture and time are different."
“The argument that a real head covering is in view and that such is applicable today is, in some respects, the easiest view to defend exegetically and the hardest to swallow practically.” ~Dan Wallace
I can understand not wanting to practice this, wearing a symbol of authority and submission on one's head, but then again, submission really only means something when it's something you don't really want to do.

As an aside, I understand the need to be sure we're not doing our righteous deeds to be seen by others, to impress them (Matthew 6:1).  The answer to that, of course, is NOT that we refrain from doing that which the Bible commands, but that we continually check our motives. But, at the same time, this IS a practice that is communicating to others, including the angels, so we must remain aware of the temptation to only win the approval of others and not God.

We live in an era where attacks on biblical values and practices and even definitions (e.g., gender, marriage) are plentiful. So, when the mere thought of a woman ever being in submission to a man is already often anathema, it's not surprising that a symbol of a wife's submission to her husband's authority would not be popular.

Toward those with whom disagree, I hold no malice or disdain or even condescension. I only hope they will prayerfully study this topic.  I don't think it's an essential issue nor one over which to break fellowship.  Yet, just because an issue is not one over which to divide, doesn't mean it's unimportant.

If I'm wrong, then my wife has been unnecessarily covering her head in church and I've been unnecessarily keeping mine uncovered. But the stakes are indeed higher to be wrong on the other side, disobeying an apostolic ordinance for God's people, if I could take a page out of Pascal's book.

*It's important to note two things: (1) Paul was commending them for their practices regarding head coverings, rather than the supposed rebuke for not doing it, which is what people often assume. (2) Paul's apostolic ordinances (cf. 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6) on head coverings and the Lord's Supper were not just for the church in Corinth, as is seen in 1 Corinthians 1:2 and 11:16.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Don't eat the car! Not the car!

The Power of the Dog by Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--'ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

All I've ever wanted was an honest week's pay for an honest day's work.

The Tax System Explained in Beer 
by Dan Mitchell (HT Chia)

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this…

  • The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. 
  • The fifth would pay $1. 
  • The sixth would pay $3. 
  • The seventh would pay $7. 
  • The eighth would pay $12. 
  • The ninth would pay $18. 
  • The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59. 

So, that’s what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.″

Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

The bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

  • And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving). 
  • The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving). 
  • The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving). 
  • The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving). 
  • The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving). 
  • The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving). 

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.

  • “I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving,” declared the sixth man. 
  • He pointed to the tenth man, ”but he got $10!” 
  • “Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar too. It’s unfair that he got ten times (10x) more benefit than me!” 
  • “That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back, when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!” 
  • “Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!” 

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Monday, January 27, 2014

There's a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up.

Chaplain Galyon posted his All-Time Favorite Military Movies.

He's a better man than I in various and sundry ways.  His discipline to limit his list to 10 is just another example of that reality.

My Top 20 Favorite Military* Movies:
  • Forrest Gump ... "We was always taking long walks and we was always looking for a guy named Charlie."
  • Stripes ... "Lighten up, Francis."
  • Taps ... "They want us to be good little boys now so we can fight some war for them in the future. Some war they'll decide on. We'd rather fight our own war right now."
  • Dances with Wolves ... "My place is with you. I go where you go."
  • Top Gun ... "Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full."
  • Heartbreak Ridge ... "This is the AK-47 assault rifle, the preferred weapon of your enemy; and it makes a distinctive sound when fired at you, so remember it.
  • The Final Countdown ... "I'm talking about the classic paradox of time."
  • Rambo ... "I want, what they want, and every other guy who came over here and spilled his guts and gave everything he had, wants! For our country to love us as much as we love it!"
  • An Officer and a Gentleman ... "I want your D.O.R!"
  • Taking Chance ... "You are his witness now. Without a witness, they just disappear."
  • Platoon ... "New meat! You dudes gonna love the Nam."
  • We Were Soldiers ... "We who have seen war, will never stop seeing it."
  • Braveheart ... "Every man dies, not every man really lives."
  • Saving Private Ryan ... "Well, from my way of thinking, sir, this entire mission is a serious misallocation of valuable military resources."
  • Apocalypse Now ... "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."
  • Patton ... "All real Americans love the sting of battle."
  • Full Metal Jacket ... "A jelly donut?!"
  • A Few Good Men ... "You can't handle the truth!"
  • Outlaw Josey Wales ... "Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy."
  • Sergeant York ... "Folks back home used to say I could shoot a rifle before I was weaned, but they was exaggeratin' some."

*Previously, I'd offered a list of 10 Favorite WAR Movies.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

I always like to say a prayer and drink to world peace.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Not "Show YOU the money"; "Show ME the money!"

What would you think of a family with following financial situation?
  • Annual Income: $24,500
  • Annual Spending: $35,370
  • NEW Credit Card Debt: $10,870
  • Existing Credit Card Balance: $167,600

You might think such people fiscally foolish at best.  And you'd be right.  Sadly, some in America are just like that when it comes to money.

What's worse? They are fiscally foolish with YOUR money.

Just add eight (8) zeros and you'll see.

  • Revenue: $2,450,000,000,000
  • Spending: $3,537,000,000,000
  • Deficit: $1,087,000,000,000
  • Debt: $16,760,000,000,000

"But make no mistake: As people my age retire and demand Medicare, America will eventually go broke."
~John Stossel
Source: "The Austerity Myth"

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I'd never want another.

How to be more like Jesus in the new year, 3 simple steps:

1. Join the church within driving distance most faithful to the Scriptures. If there isn't one that qualifies, move closer to one that does.

2. Ask the leadership for tasks/chores/duties nobody else wants to do.

3. Serve faithfully even though the following be true:
  • You are un(der)appreciated.
  • Your value isn't recognized by those you serve.

Related Scriptures:
  • Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

  • Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

  • Philippians 2:3-11 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

You have to ask yourself one question, "Do I feel lucky?"

The following are diagnostic questions* I came up with to help us take precautions regarding the destructive nature of our communication within the body of Christ.
  • Q1: Have I been involved in gossip at Providence Church, teller or hearer?
  • Q2: Have I lied about a brother or sister?
  • Q3: Have I said things that were true, but not with love? (Eph 4:15)
  • Q4: Has my anger revealed my unrighteous heart? (James 1:19-20)
  • Q5: Have my words injured someone, tearing down rather than building up? (Eph 4:29)
  • Q6: If I answered, “Yes,” to any of those 5 questions, what should my repentance look like? (e.g., confession, restitution, asking forgiveness, etc.)
*I shared these diagnostic questions at Providence Church during Sunday's sermon, "Sticks and Stones." 

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

I say that big talk's worth doodly-squat.

I have no idea how this was omitted from my "pet peeves" list, but after mentioning this in last week's sermon at Providence Church, I felt inclined to immortalize this via the miracle of the Internet.

Quick Communication/Rhetoric Lesson ...

There is a difference between "vocal" and "verbal" as descriptors. In fact, 93% of the time (at least) I heard "verbal" when the person intends to communicate the concept of "vocal." In other words, this is a common faux pas.

Working Definitions:
  • Verbal - of or pertaining to [the use of] words [or symbolic language]; note the Latin verbum for "word"
  • Vocal - of, pertaining to, or uttered with the voice [i.e., audible]
Think back to the SAT. Remember the “Quantitative” and “Verbal” sections? Remember how quiet it was in the room, even during the "Verbal" part of the test? Of course, the subject matter was dealing with words, non-vocal words.

N.B. Verbal and vocal are not mutually exclusive categories.  For opposites, we'd have verbal vs. non-verbal and vocal vs. non-vocal. Thus, some communication can be verbal & vocal or verbal & non-vocal.

Verbal communication includes the use of words to convey a message. Non-Verbal communication includes all the ways we communicate apart from words (e.g., gestures, body language, moviment, or posture, facial expressions, eye contact, voice tone, voice volume, rate, clothing, hairstyles, architecture, etc.)

Some Examples:
  • Verbal & Vocal - Someone speaking the words, "I'm happy."
  • Verbal & Non-Vocal - Someone sending a text, "I'm happy."
  • Non-Verbal & Non-Vocal - Someone smiling when opening gift, communicating happiness.
  • Non-Verbal & Vocal - Someone loudly squealing with delight when opening the perfect gift, which even someone in the other room would recognize as a happy person.
Verbal communication is perceived through either sight or sound.  However, non-verbal communication can occur through any sensory channel, through sight, sound, smell, touch or even taste.

As an aside, the non-verbal and verbal components of communication may be in conflict.  When that occurs, the non-verbal is typically more readily believed than the verbal.  For example, think back to the last time you saw a child who was made to apologize to another child, especially a sibling.  When the words conflict with the eye-rolling or the sigh that precedes the words or the muffled manner in which they are spoken, the real meaning shines through.

In fact, the vast majority of our oral communication is non-verbal (in the categories of vocal and visual). UCLA Professor (emeritus), Dr. Albert Mehrabian's early communication study is often quoted in support of the belief that the actual verbal content of our communication is relatively small compared to the power of the nonverbal. The conclusion of Dr. Mehrabian's classic study looks like this:
  • 7% of meaning is in the actual words spoken (verbal).
  • 38% of meaning is in the way words are spoken, or tone - e.g., volume (vocal NV).
  • 55% of meaning is derived from what we see e.g., facial expressions (visual NV).
  • Ergo, 93% of communication is non-verbal in nature.
From a practical standpoint, this is important to remember because when we talk we tend to put a lot more emphasis on word selection, but when we (or others) listen those other aspects of communication dominate the message.

When I have taught preaching to seminary students I have emphasized this in a lecture dealing with style (word selection and message structure) versus delivery of a message.  How one delivers a sermon, for example, can go a long way to helping or hindering the communication of a message to an audience.

It's been said that one cannot not communicate.  I believe that to be true and I hope we can communicate with precision and with a view toward how our communication (verbal and non-verbal) impacts others, for their good and God's glory.

Okay, I'm done with the soap box.  It's available for anyone else who now needs it.

P.S. I realize that in much of the English speaking world verbal has become synonymous with something spoken as opposed to written down (e.g., "merely a verbal agreement," implying nothing in writing).  I may be the bad Ag, but I have about as much tolerance for that as I do "I could care less" now being synonymous in usage with the correct "I couldn't care less."

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

You have to be prepared for the possibility that God does not like you.

Check out "The Culture Culture", an excellent and convicting post on the prevalent biblical theme of differentiation, or antithesis, between God's people and the world, including contemporary applicability.

An excerpt:
"The difference, the antithesis, between us and the world isn’t that they have sin issues while we do not. The difference is two-fold. First, our sins have already been covered. Jesus died for them, and the Father is not angry with us. Second, we are committed to finding them out, rather than hiding them. Isn’t it gracious of God then to give us the glaring shamelessness of the world to make our own sins more known to us? May He in turn give us eyes to see."  ~R. C. Sproul, Jr.
READ "The Culture Culture"

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Monday, December 03, 2012

I love the smell of commerce in the morning.

I don't usually go to the mall, but when I do I prefer THIS happen.

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