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One Last Move – Well, Let’s Hope So.

Yes, it’s true. After only a few weeks I’m moving The Plowman. I am still with WordPress, but in order to consolidate server space and one, maybe two podcasts, The Plowman will be located at theplowman.org. Please redirect your bookmarks and blogrolls accordingly – all four of you. :-0

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February 11, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pharaoh and Blogging

“The Pharaoh behind the Pharaoh” is a phrase that has captivated my mind for the past week. I heard it used by Dr. Russell Moore in a chapel service at Southern seminary in which he spoke a week ago Thursday (February 1st), in which he was alluding the fact that Pharaoh, the mightiest man in that whole region at that time, nonetheless had a Pharaoh ruling over him. I don’t remember ever hearing Satan referred to in this fashion. When Dr. Moore first used this phrase in the message he quickly moved to the account of Satan entering Judas just prior to his betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Luke 22:3, Matthew 26:15). Later in the week I was thinking of Jesus’ declaration to the Pharisees that their father was the devil by virtue of the fact that they obeyed him rather than God (John 8:44).

We should remind ourselves often that we are not our own. Whether we be a pauper or a Pharaoh, we still have a Pharaoh over us. The question then that begs to be answered is “Who is your Pharaoh?” Is it the one who would require us to make bricks without straw, or is it the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who bids us come unto Him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light (Matthew 11:29,30)? Based on who we listen to and follow, whose sheep are we (John 10:27)?

On a different note, another little feature in Dr. Moore’s message caught my attention as well. Just as Alfred Hitchcock made a habit of appearing in a cameo role in all of the movies he made, it appears that Dr. Moore recently has begun leaving a “signature” reference in his sermons and other academic addresses. I have heard similar references in the last couple of addresses I have heard him give. Here is an example from Dr. Moore’s February 2nd 1st chapel message:

“The problem here is that Egypt doesn’t know the difference between a blessing and a curse, but the real issue here is that neither does Israel. When Israel is brought into the wilderness, they start grumbling, they start griping, they start blogging about it.”

Let’s see if this continues, and if it does, in what ways it manifests itself. It should be fun. It’s nice to be noticed, if not individually, at least corporately. I’m sure a whole lot of cyber-complaining goes on, even among Christians, but if you would like to see what else bloggers do go here, here, and here.

February 11, 2007 Posted by | blogging, preaching | Leave a comment

Screwtape Letter #10

<i>My Dear Wormwood,</i>
My Dear Wormwood,

(Editor’s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. These posts are comprised of study and preparation on my part before class, with discussion that occurred during the class being added afterwords. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)

Vocabulary:
belittling: the act of making someone seem unimportant
vanity: pride in one’s own achievements
exploiting: to make full use of something
urbane: of a person being well refined, well mannered and courteous
mammon: riches, in the sense that it is regarded as an object of worship
bawdy: dealing with sexual matters in a comical way
blasphemy: speaking irreverently or without proper respect in matters relating to God.
priggish: self-righteous, moralistic, holier-than-thou

Lesson:

I was delighted to hear from Triptweeze that your patient has made some very desirable new acquaintances and that you seem to have used this event in a really promising manner.

Very desirable, indeed! Obviously Screwtape doesn’t have the patient’s best interest at heart in this opening statement to letter 10. In this letter we find some of the pitfalls of having non-Christian friends. How is a Christian suppose to navigate in this fallen world? We are told by our Lord to be salt and light (Matthew 5:14-16), and to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). We are also commanded to keep ourselves unstained by the world (James 1:27), and not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). How can we have contact without contamination? After all, we are told that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).

What we have here is a tight-rope act, a walking on the razor’s edge. If we truly love our neighbor as ourselves, then we should long to tell our fellow man about our God and Savior. So how do you befriend those lost whom you work with, go to school with, live next door to? In the course of class discussion, we looked at the following passages:

  • Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV). First of all, we need to be concerned primarily with what God thinks, not man.
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16, ESV). In this passage we learn that we must both study the Bible, so that it will dwell richly; and we must share it freely with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14,15, ESV). We must persevere in the faith, using God’s word to remind us of what we believe, the truth of the Gospel.
  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2, ESV). The battle is ever and always in the head and the heart. We must, by constant vigilance, strive to take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV). Our purpose while here on earth is to reflect the glory of God in our lives. This means living a careful life for Him, not because it saves us, but because we have been saved and redeemed from every lawless deed (Titus 2:14).

Other passages: 1 Timothy 4, 1 Corinthians 15, the Proverbs.

<i>Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape</i>
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

February 9, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment

Net Finney is Funny

You have got to read this satire about filtering out Calvinism on the internet. It is better not to describe it further. Just go read it. And laugh (if you are a Calvinist) if you have a sense of humor. I bet Patterson, Caner, and Yarnell will be trying to find the product. Look out, all of you queen makers, this guy has a serrated blade.

February 3, 2007 Posted by | Humor | Leave a comment

Screwtape Letter #9

<i>My Dear Wormwood,</i>
My Dear Wormwood,

(Editor’s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)

Vocabulary
exploited: to take full advantage of, but in an unfair, selfish way
innocuous: not harmful; perfectly harmless
drab: dull; lacking any quality to invoke interest
perversions: to alter something from its original meaning or use
concomitants: a phenomenon that naturally accompanies or follows something
anodyne: a pain-killing drug or medicine
expansive: free of speech, very willing to talk openly
redolent: strongly reminiscent or suggestive of something
ardours: enthusiasm or passion; (British spelling)
desponding: to become dejected and lose confidence
acquiesce: to accept something reluctantly but without protest
proposition: a statement or assertion that expresses a judgment or opinion
patronising: to treat someone with kindness, but with an obvious air of superiority
antithesis: a contrast or opposition between two things
adolescent: that age or development between a child and an adult

Lesson
Last week in letter eight, Screwtape explains and defines the law of undulation. As we look at letter nine today, Screwtape instructs his nephew on techniques to exploit the “Trough” periods that take place in this undulation of the human soul. He begins letter nine by declaring that these low times “provide excellent opportunity for all sensual temptations, particularly those of sex.“; the reasoning being that, first, his powers of resistance are low, and, secondly because his “whole inner world is drab and cold and empty.” This last reasoning implies that man feels that he has a right constantly to be entertained, constantly to be on an adventure. The problem runs much deeper, as we discover later in this letter.

Screwtape makes an interesting observation about human pleasures: “Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we, are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.” Paul tells Timothy that God richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), and so we must realize that this world is not inherently evil. What makes it evil is what sinful mankind does with it, which is usually make the good things in the world to be our gods, which amounts to idolatry.

In addition to a lowered resistance during these low times, Screwtape points out several other avenues of exploitation. They all have their root in the reoccurring theme of keeping the patient from thinking too much: As always, the first step is to keep knowledge out of his mind. So it doesn’t matter, in the final sense if the low times lead you to despair, or to think that Christianity was just a phase you were going through, or to cause you to accept mediocrity as the norm for living the Christian life. The devil has won the battle from the very start if you fail to use your mind, and the means to grace that involve the mind, such as prayer and meditation and study on the word of God. As is the case in so many of these letters, their aim is to make us use our minds. That is what God’s word is for; to remind us of the promises of God (Acts 2:21, Hebrews 7:25), that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20); of the commands of God, to love Him with all our hearts (Matthew 22:37); to see the story of redemption, especially the price that was paid for our great salvation (Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 2:5-11).

<i>Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape</i>
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

February 2, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment

Friday Photos: Henryetta, and the Airport

IMG_5619.JPG

Last Saturday we went down to help my wife’s folks out a bit. Three weeks ago Oklahoma had a fierce ice storm, and they needed some help getting some tree branches off their roof. They live on a hill overlooking the town of Henryetta. I took this photo looking east and a bit south. The blue building and the complex around it was the glass plant where my wife’s grandfather, “Bampa” worked for forty-four years. In those days it was owned by Pittsburg Plate Glass (PPG), but for the past couple of decades it has been owned by Anchor Hocking, and it has been retooled to make jars and bottles.

IMG_5632.JPG
This shot was taken a couple of nights ago out at Tulsa International Airport. I just love watching the deice crew do their thing. That is the only thing that I enjoy about cold, icy weather. Obviously, we were hit with another winter storm this week, though not as bad as a few weeks ago when the ice storm came through that brought branches down on my wife’s parents’ house. Praise be to God, travel to and from, and during work has been safe for me and my co-workers.
If you love snow or winter, there is still time to repent.

Catch all of the other extra fine photos over at the Friday Photo Group, where you will find some real quality photos from around Christian blogdom.

February 2, 2007 Posted by | Friday Photos | Leave a comment

Screwtape Letter #8

<i>My Dear Wormwood,</i>
My Dear Wormwood,

(Editor’s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)
Vocabulary:
hybrid: a thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.
phenomenon: a fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen.
propaganda: information of a biased or misleading nature used to advance a point of view.
appalling: awful or terrible.
loathsome: causing hatred or disgust.
ignoble: not honorable in character or purpose.
incentives: a thing that motivates or encourages one to do something.

Lesson:
Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?” In this first of a twin-letter set, Screwtape defines and explains the law of Undulation to his young nephew, Wormwood. In letter nine, he will proceed to show Wormwood how to take advantage of this most curious phenomenon, “which“, he says here in letter eight, “will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

Screwtape defines the law of Undulation in the following sentence: “As long as he lives on earth, periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty.” Isn’t this true of every one of us. This emotional roller coaster has many causes, most of which can be attributed to sin. Each of us crave all kinds of things most of the time, as James points out in James 4:1, 2. If we have to, we bite and devour to get what we want. When we cannot obtain what we crave, then we become dejected. Even if we do get what we sinfully crave, it fails to satisfy for any length of time, and that too brings us down. This is not a picture only of the lost, but of God’s people too. It is only by God’s graciously wooing us that we return to Him for full and lasting satisfaction and contentment.

The bulk of our class time was spent discussing ways Christians can minimize this “law of Undulation”, as Lewis puts it. Here are some of the Scripture passages around which the discussion revolved:

  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV)
  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, ESV)
  • Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:1-4, ESV)
<i>Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape</i>
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

January 25, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment

Friday Photos: Cuttin’ and Weldin’

I really do love working with cutting torches and welders. It is still amazing to me how you can make two pieces of metal become one.

I spent the whole day two Saturdays ago (01/06/07) building a couple of drive-through gates for our entry way. Here I have just finished cutting the saddles on each end of the front four pieces of pipe, which will form the tops and bottoms of the frame.

Here’s a close-up of the saddle cuts. A little patients (oops) patience here, getting a close fit, will make weld-up much easier and smoother looking.

Here’s how one of the corners welded up. Nice.

My project was far from finished on that Saturday, and last weekend we were socked in with a massive ice storm here in eastern Oklahoma, so that we didn’t set foot outside of the house until I went to work last Monday afternoon. Early tomorrow another major snow storm is set to move in. The gate project will have to wait at least one more week.

You can check out the rest of my project pictures on my Flickr page. Check out the making gates set there. The first six photos in that set are from a previous gate project, but they are interesting too.

Don’t miss all of the other fine Friday Photos at the Friday Photo Group.

January 19, 2007 Posted by | Friday Photos | Leave a comment

Screwtape Letter #7

<i>My Dear Wormwood,</i>
My Dear Wormwood,

Vocabulary:
dilemma: a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made
sceptic (skeptic): someone who doubts all that is standard and accepted.
Psychoanalysis: a system of psychological theory aimed to treat mental disorders by bringing the sub-conscience to the surface.
patriot: someone who vigorously supports and is willing to defend their country.
pacifist: someone who believes that any form of violence for any reason is unacceptable.
complacent: self satisfied.
coterie: a small exclusive group of people with shared interests.
faction: a small organized dissenting group within a larger group.
sect: a group of people with somewhat differing views from the larger group they are a part of.
temporal: relating to worldly rather than spiritual matters; having to do with time and space.

Lesson:

This week’s lesson from Screwtape letter #7 focuses on four questions, which were the basis for discussion:
1. What is the difference between forces and spirits? This opening paragraph to letter seven illustrates what the author points out in his preface, that there are two equal and opposite errors that we fall into. The first is that we do not believe in the devils, and the second is that we do and place too much interest in them. The Bible tells us that Satan and the demons are real. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7, ESV)

2. What are the effects of divisiveness in the Church? Screwtape states that the “subordinate factions within [the Church] have often produced admirable results”. How do denominations, and even strife within denominations limit the effectiveness of the Church’s purpose on earth?

3. How should we view conscientious objection and the Just War theory? How should we approach military service, and armed conflict. This issue can be complicated, but God’s word can help us as we begin to sort out the issues behind the role of the military, and domestic law enforcement:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7, ESV)

4. What are the effects of combining other things with religion, or confusing other things as a part of, or vital to Christianity? Notice the next to last sentence: “the more “religious” . . . the more securely ours.”What effect does a diluted or absent gospel message have on the purpose of the Church? For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2, ESV) Also read Philippians chapter three.

<i>Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape</i>
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

January 17, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment

ONE GOSPEL: TOWARD A SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONSENSUS

Last week the mailman brought me a copy of One Gospel: Toward a Southern Baptist Consensus, by Dr. David Dockery, president of Union University. I got around to reading the slim 36-page booklet on Monday. I found this a very pleasant read. It was nothing new or novel, but put together well in a direct, precise, yet easy read. It handsomely accomplishes what it sets out to do. Let me give you a brief rundown of its contents.

A Review

As the title implies, this short work by Dr. Dockery is intended to formulate a “proclamation of the gospel” that all Southern Baptists can endorse and rally around. The premise behind this effort is a perception that the SBC is a “disconnected group” made up of many different interests, with Calvinism in the “forefront with the potential for division and confusion.”

One Gospel does beautifully and very well in thirty-six pages what it sets out to do. It is divided into five sections, a preamble, and a conclusion. After a brief preamble, two short historical sections outline the beginnings of Baptists in general and the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in particular. A third section deals with a biblical overview of the tension between God’s initiation of salvation and man’s responsibility to repent and believe and be saved.

The fourth section is a bit more lengthy, dealing with a historical overview of this same tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. The historical overview is divided into five time periods: The Early Church, The Medieval Period, The Reformation, The Post-Reformation Period, and Baptist Thought. In each of the time periods roughly a page is taken in order to give a compact assessment of the essential facts of the era. There is no wasted space here either.

The bulk of the booklet is taken up with the fifth and final section entitled A Theological Exposition. This section is more thorough, since it contains the actual gospel proclamation, giving a theological exposition of the gospel of grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ. You will find no reductionism here, nothing so simple as “Give your heart to Jesus, so you can go to heaven.”

Within this section the broadest, fullest sense of the gospel is handled, with separate paragraphs dealing with the gospel’s various facets, such as creation, sin and the fall, the person and work of Christ, the Church, and the eternal state. In dealing with salvation proper a number of themes and metaphors describing elements of salvation are explored, including regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, forgiveness, and union with Christ. The results of sin and the fall are lined out in six separate sub-sections: Spiritual Death, Physical Death, Alienation and Separation, Without Hope, Sinful Nature, and Depravity.

The conclusion is pretty much just a summation of the body of the work. A source list rounds out the thirty-six page booklet.

My Conclusion

I am sure no one will be surprised to find that I found this booklet as a welcome addition to my library. As I said at the beginning, it contains no new revelation. The value that I find in it is a well-rounded, beautifully written presentation of the gospel of salvation found in Jesus Christ alone. For someone interested in digging into their rich Baptist heritage, sections one and two provide an excellent outline to get them on their way. If you happen to be interested in getting to the bottom of this Calvinism/Arminian debate, then sections three and four will provide the thumbnail sketch for you to start your journey. If you want to better understand salvation- both to better understand the great price that was paid for your soul, and to better share the gospel with your lost neighbors, family, co-workers, and friends- then this small book is just for you.

All this said, it is doubtful if this booklet gains much traction among Southern Baptists. I predict that maybe only ten percent will find it valuable. The reason? It’s too biblical (translate: Calvinistic).

How to Get a Copy

If you don’t have a copy and would like one, you can email Melanie Rickman at mrickman[at]uu[dot]edu at Union University and request one. Obviously you need to put your mailing address in the email, and one will be sent to you shortly.

January 12, 2007 Posted by | Book Reviews | Leave a comment