Thursday, December 25, 2003

Big Government

Tonight's family devotion was taken from Isaiah 9:7. I focused on the fact that the kingdom of Christ is growing. It's larger than it was a 1,000 years ago, 10 years ago, and just last year. Larger still will it be next year and the years to come.

The kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever. (Rev 11:15)

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. (Hab 2:3)

It is a fact that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea! (Hab 2:14)

Monday, December 22, 2003

Another working-mom

A secretary here returned to work today 6-weeks after her first child. She described how odd if felt to drop off the infant at a day-care with no one she knows. Of course, she was quickly reassured by the other working moms here that what she's feeling is "normal" and what she has done is fine. I doubt her salary even covers the expense of the day-care. I just don't understand.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

An Apology to the Elect yet to be Converted

To those who will one day name the name of Christ for the first time, on behalf of the saints in middle Georgia, I apologize.

I lament what you've seen of the church, especially those that have spent their life in this area. The churches, in general, have done a poor job representing what Christianity is. What you've experienced of American Christianity is more American than it is Christian. This is not the way it should be.

I'm sorry that the church wraps itself so much in the nation's flag; boasting over a president instead of grieving over its own leaders. I regret that all you've seen of its people is contentment in their knowledge of God and complacency with their lifestyles. You have yet to see a "Titus 2" older woman. Or a younger woman who is zealous to raise godly seed. You've yet to see a husband who washes his wife with the Word. You've yet to see youth with an undistracted devotion to the Lord.

But don't give up, not all churches are this way, not even here. Look hard, ask tough questions. While you can't find a healthy church, you can find one that is committed to becoming healthy.

Needless to say, the greatest apology is owed to the Bridegroom. We are blemished, spotted, and wrinkled. O Christ, wash us and make us glorious, for You are worthy of great reward.
And I Quote: "Military Men seldom seem inclined to religion..."

Matthew Henry expressing his surprise that soldiers asked John the Baptist, "What must we do?". (Luke 3:14)

Sunday, December 14, 2003

On Christmas:

Christmas is full of new wonders and insights this year.

Here's a summary of the preached Word from my pastor:
Just as the prophets of old, we should long for Christ. Approach advent from the Older Testament perspective. The prophet's "foreshortening" saw a complete coming of Christ where He fixes all things. We should long for this still. Christmas is as much about sin and judgment as it is about the Babe in the manger.

And from several articles in "Every Thought Captive" of the Highlands Study Center:
To celebrate Christmas only as a memorial is to be guilty in a manner not unlike those who believe the Lord's Supper is just a memorial. We most definitely are engaged in remembering a past event, but at the same time we are declaring that Christ is reigning and ruling now. We look forward with expectancy, hope, comfort and joy to a future event--the consummation of His kingdom.
In Response:

Here's my Pastor's response to Dr. Payton's teachings on the purpose of worship music (See previous post):

One of the items I believe is touched upon very well is the nature of style. Is style neutral or relative? I believe the answer has to be ‘No.’ Payton does a good job pointing this out with the Shine Jesus Shine/Sweet Caroline segment. For the church to be not conformed to the world, which is an explicit command, our music should not be conformed to the world either. It may be that the world would conform to the church’s music, which did happen in much of the baroque and classical period, but the converse must never be true. Unless one can say that there is nothing wrong with the pastor wearing a clown costume to the worship service, he cannot argue that style is neutral.

"Dr. Payton does an excellent job with this subject. It is very easy to criticize work you haven’t done. Still, I feel that something needs to be mentioned. I believe Dr. Payton grants undue weight to the Levitical tradition. I am, after all, a Calvinist, and we Calvinists agree whole-heartedly with Hebrews 7 (especially v. 18), that worship under the law (which was no doubt the Levitical tradition) is “weak and useless”. Maybe Calvin went too far to one direction, but Payton goes too far in the other. He has left Presbyterianism and become a Lutheran (literally), in spite of the fact that there are obvious Christological problems in Lutheran theology. Apparently he feels that historical worship practice is more important than biblical orthodoxy. I believe worship practice must grow out of biblical orthodoxy, not historical practice."

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Why Do We Sing in Church?

Leonard Payton's lectures Worship Music in a Discordant Age was recommended by my pastor.

This was my first exposure to critical thinking about the "why" of worship music.

Dr Payton sheds historical light by pointing out that God's covenantal people were originally led in memorized song by Levitical musicians. They were described as next to Solomon in their wisdom. Music was memorized and used as a means of teaching. Interestingly, the Reformers failed to recover this. Luther did to some degree but it was soon lost. Calvin and Zwingli's cultural situations and backgrounds caused them, and hence the Reformed faith, to minimize worship music. Today neither the "Traditional" or "Contemporary" camps understand the "why" of worship music, but war over the "what" and "how".

He emphasizes that Colossians 3:16 commands us to use song as the way for the Word to dwell richly in us. We should have a core of doctrinally dense, aesthetically sound Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that over time are memorized. These serve to catechize God's covenant people.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thanksgiving Day 2003--Missed Opportunity

This day turned out differently than expected. Due to injury and illness we spent the day at our house without enjoying the company of extended family. Since we're moving out of the area again in the summer, today was an easy opportunity for the children to spend the holiday with family.

My deeper concern is this. Do I want to be with extended family? And vice versa? Are we willing to give up our personal schedules and comforts to get together? On my side of the family there is a weakness in this area. Growing up, the Baileys were not close as an extended family. I think over my childhood and adolescence I've developed an aversion to maintaining long-distance, yet kindred, relationships. I fear the implications this may have upon my children when they're grown.
Partial Vision

Just as I fail to realize how sinful I am but only discern and confess a certain sliver of my depravity while the rest goes on unchecked, so do I only grasp a slice of who God is. Although He has revealed Himself so fully in the Scriptures I'm only able to bring to mind a piece or two of Him at a time. This all affects my joy in Him, for I see Him less than He is.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

We Bare All

Here's a first. A church friend of ours was approached at a home-schooling ballet class that meets in a church by a, get this, female stripper. This lady of a different kind of dance was passing out business cards.

Our friend was disappointed with her reaction to the solicitation, which was disgust, she thought of how Jesus spent time with similarly-employed ladies. But I tend to think that disgust is exactly the right reaction. A woman, presuming she's sane, who can walk around inside a church building and pass out business cards for her stripper serivces is obviously unrepentant--she has no sense of shame whatsoever.

The rebuke must come first, and if repentance follows then you welcome her inside the real church.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Tearing Down Foundations

I can't get away from Bible-belt Christianity. Unbelievers assume that since I'm open about being a Christian that I must also be a tee-totaler prude, a fan of the 700 club, basically a close-minded fundamentalist.

On the other hand, the local Christians assume that because I'm open about being a Christian I must like "Purpose-Drive" this and that, know who's hot on the contemporary Christian music charts, be all for prayer in schools, etc.

In the South, the foundation erected on the cornerstone of Christ has neglected the Apostles and prophets and instead tacked on their own here today, gone tomorrow teachers. I can't compete with the mass of Bible-belt Christians to win the role of defining what Christianity is to the public. What's needed is a demolition crew to teardown the monstrosity that's been cobbled together.

Monday, September 22, 2003


I don't wear "homeschooling" on my sleeve. But when asked about it I enjoy explaining the reasons why we do. The most common reaction from Christian men is that their wife doesn't have the patience to do it. I fear that the
problem is more serious than this.

Many Christian mothers don't seem to have the patience to be with the children period. I understand the important need for a break, husbands should ensure that their wives aren't driven to desperation, but I am beginning to doubt whether women want their children around them more than a couple hours each day. Frequent reliance on school, mother's day out, children's church, etc to provide an escape says something important about our view of motherhood and children.

We're now part of a truly-reformed church; well, at least the pastor is TR and he is making sweeping changes. This is driving me to sort out my reformed beliefs and practices from my "pseudo-reformed" ones.

As I do this and spend time with the TR-folks, I find one characteristic that I don't want to adopt. It seems there's a tendency to show disproportionate amounts of disgust. You're likely to get as strong of a reaction at the mention of contemporary worship music, like "Majesty", as you are if you bring up Spong's denial of the deity of Christ.

I think it's important to realize that no two people will ever have the exact same set of convictions at the exact same time. We can disagree with everybody about something. Sometimes we disagree over major issues and
that's as it should be. But we need to be gracious over littler differences. We need to decide what things are worthy of public disgust, and what things we should just keep to ourselves.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Staying the Course (Part 1)

Defining your view of "the Good Life" reveals your values.

The typical American Christians' definition of the Good Life can be seen in how they live. Their life consists of a steadily-increasing combination of: two-incomes, one or two conveniently-timed children, school-year freedom for mom, a nicely-appointed home, sleek cars for him and her, a beach-house someday, fashionable-wardrobe, and attendance at the closest "mainstream" church with a focus on The Purpose Driven Life.

Valuing God and the advance of His kingdom more than my personal peace and affluence is not only counter-cultural, it's counter-me. I need like-minded others to help stay the course. Young children limit our personal freedom. Home-schooling tests our patience and perseverance. Our home doesn't resemble "Southern-Living". Duct tape is a critical part on my car. My clothes double as handi-wipes for little hands and mouths. Sadly, our church is 45 minutes away.

I feel the pressure to give-up on our notion of the Good Life and settle for the immediate enjoyment shared by most Christians here. But I won't. Instead I will focus on the long-term. I will think of multiple generations of ever-increasing Baileys living to advance the kingdom of God, finding their enjoyment in our God and each other. I will not trade this Good Life for the world's half-hearted flings.

Friday, September 12, 2003


There are lots of things I naturally respond to negatively without really knowing why. Two stand out this week.

In my workplace a flyer advertising "Golf for Jesus" has been posted by a local Baptist church. For $45 and a day on the links you can support missions. I quickly eschew this as improper means to reach a good end. The fact that it takes the incentive of a round of golf for us to support the spread of the gospel shows how self-centered the modern evangelical is. But last night reading the website of one of my ministry darlings I see they're
sponsoring a sea cruise, which is undoubtedly a means to raise money for the ministry. I don't feel so bad about that because I like this group, but what's the difference between their cruise-ship and the Baptists' countryclub?

Second, I read of the decision to keep a chain of Christian bookstores open on Sundays. I think ha! this is not out of necessity or mercy so my indignation is justified. But then I remember that I like to eat out after church on Sundays, and these restuarants aren't open as acts of mercy or necessity, but I don't feel wrong supporting their decision.

Like others, I'm too quick to condemn others and too quick to justify myself. I still think golfing for Jesus and Sunday business hours are inconsistent with Christian convictions, but before lashing out, I better know why and live by it myself.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Shepherdess of the Family

On their way to the pound to meet with the "puppy-matcher", Kristin and the children picked up a newspaper. They were delighted to find just the type of puppy we have been looking for, a border collie.

Our new and yet-to-be-named pup is fresh from the farm where her parents were expert, lifelong sheep-herders. Just the thing for young children? We hope so!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Explaining Just-War

Today during an Air Command and Staff College Seminar I was surprised to learn that the vocal members of our group deny the possibility of a just war. We weren't talking about our current endeavor in Iraq, but just the possibility of a war ever being just.

Here's how I explained that possibility. A war is just if it is fought as a act of love for an oppressed neighbor. Christ commanded us to love our neighbor, and when asked to define neighbor, He gave us the Good Samaritan. This parable tells us a neighbor isn't limited to just friends, allies, or those that you can benefit from.

So it's not immoral for a nation to protect an oppressed people through sanctions, international pressure or even armed conflict. Coming to the aid of others when your nation has nothing to gain by the intervention is not being the world's "police-force", it's being a good neighbor.

It would actually be immoral (by the good Samaritan ethic) for a nation that has the means to relieve a suffering neighbor to instead stand idly by and do nothing.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Generalist vs. Specialist

At times I view the college years of my life with regret. You'd think holding a degree in Electrical Engineering means you possess some ability relating to electrical work. Ha! Ha! There wasn't room to trifle with courses of such practical purpose. I've worried ever since about my lack of a skill or trade.

But recently I'm wondering if some good didn't come of that education after all. I learned in college to be a generalist by balancing the different responsibilities of those years, never getting bogged down in any one area, so to always be ready for the next demand.

I still occasionally wonder if "generalist" is just an employer's euphemism for "Useful Idiot". But the work pays the bills, or to put it more biblically, provides for my family.

I'd like to be a specialist someday; but I first have to find the one thing I'd enjoy specializing in. Looking back, I'm glad the earlier temptations and disappointments of piloting and pastoring never got off the ground. But perhaps someday soon I'll find the right life's work to pour myself into.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

The Dispute Over The Ten Commandments In Public

"You have exalted above all things, your name and your word." Ps 138:2

Since God values His Name and His Word above all things, so should we. There are many ways to do this. Is a public display of His Name and His Word in the form of a statue a legitimate way?

I think so. All Christians should desire for God's name and word to be exalted in all places. We should support a reverent display of the 10 commandments in public.

The issue for Christians should not be simply whether or not this is constitutional; for the U.S. constitution is not our final authority. Our final authority is God's Word. No knowledge of contemporary jurisprudence is required to know that God desires for the fame of His name to be proclaimed.

However, I do puzzle over all the difficulty in interpreting the U.S. Constitution. What use is a Constitution to its people if it is treated as so unintelligible that it requires a federal judge to decide what's allowed on public display? That only an elite group of judges are qualified to decide how to apply the Constitution to everyday life smacks of pre-Reformational times when the Scriptures could only be interpreted by the Magisterium. Seems to me that many have been fooled into thinking it takes a judge's secret knowledge to understand what is already clear.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Gospel and Fellowship

After 32 worship services, visits with 8 different churches, meals with 6 pastors, and much discussion and prayer we've decided on a church home!

The criteria we used to make the decision matured along the way. Basically the church selection boiled down to two areas: Gospel and Fellowship.

First, how clear is the Gospel message preached and taught? Is this a place where we can come to a fuller understanding of the Gospel?

Second, what is the potential for Fellowship? How likeminded and discipling are they? How deep is the pool of potential friends? This is harder to determine in a short amount of time.

There are many other characteristics of a church worth considering, but it seemed best not to make any of these areas a decisive factor unless there was some egregious problem.

We're ready to move on now; much has been on hold pending our decision: Isaiah's baptism, endorsement of our adoption application, and perhaps communion for Eli.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Confessing Children

About a year ago a friend showed me how to incorporate into our Family Worship memorization of the Lord's Prayer, 10 commandments, and the Apostle's creed in addition to the children's catechism. Now that my little ones have about learned all of these we rotate through them regularly.

This week while reading Operation World, I got the idea to prepare my children for the potential high cost of a confession. For instance Morroco is 10th on the Persecution Index for opposition to Christianity. It's reported that family members will have each other arrested for conversion to Christianity.

So lately, instead of the usual question to my children, "Baileys, what do you believe?", I expand this a little by pretending that we're in Morocco and someone threatens us with imprisonment based on how we answer, "Baileys, what do you believe?". This helps us remember that the Apostle's Creed isn't just a dry recital.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Form and Substance

How much does God care about how His people worship Him? I want to learn more about the importance of "form" in worship. The last several years I've been more involved with the "substance" of worship; mainly the importance of delighting in God. I've been part of a good church that intentionally put substance over form. The worship style was defined by what was likely to cause the worshipper to exalt God. The structure was very simple: call to worship, a series of songs, prayer, and sermon. The sacraments were squeezed in, or done as a separate event, which now seems unfortunate to me.

But after moving here we're spending time in a church that values the form of worship without losing the heart. Here, how we worship God is taken seriously because God is a consuming fire, deserving of reverence and awe, but also worship is delightful because He is our very great reward. The worship is highly structured (compared to my previous experience); but not empty. I leave the service with no doubts that I worshipped God.

What role does liturgy play in making worship acceptable to God? Can worship be God-centered if its focus is on the heart and intentionally not also on form?

Friday, August 15, 2003

A Theology of Grape Juice
Rev Mark Balthrop recently presented the history of how 19th century Americans changed the cup of blessing from wine to a more pietistic substitute. Surprisingly, it's from that we learn:

In 1869 Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician and dentist by profession, successfully pasteurizes Concord grape juice to produce an "unfermented sacramental wine" for fellow parishioners at his church in Vineland, N.J., where he is communion steward.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Splinter Groups

The number of sub-groups within the already tiny camp of reformed, covenantal Christians is bewildering. Here's a partial list: homeschool-only group; classical-school group; anti-birth control group; mid-wifery group; paedocommunion group; "cultural relevance" group; "separatist" group; "Auburn Avenue Pastor's Conference" group; "AAPC-is-heretical" group; and on and on.

The folks that make up these groups have high degrees of biblical knowledge and a commendable desire to conform to the Word (at least in their particular emphasis areas). While some of these groups are vehemently opposed to each other, some co-exist as curious friends.

But defining a group's identity solely around relatively minor doctrines troubles me. It seems that the splintering can go on almost forever and we'll eventually end up warring between "Big enders" and "Little enders" as in Gullivar's Travels. The tired cliche "Major on the majors, and minor on the minors" fits. Yes, we should take every thought captive, demolish arguments, and watch our doctrine and life closely. So it's wrong to pretend that differences don't exist, and it's wrong to refuse to wrestle over which position is right. But the satirical tone in the volleys between the opposing groups is damaging to larger issues the people in these groups hold in common. It seems like the admonition in Romans 14:22 to keep it to yourself should be considered for the sake of a larger unity within this tiny fold.

On the positive side, while the number of doctrinal decisions to be made is bewildering to me now, it does drive me back to the Word and with thankfulness to Christ, since I am numbered among those many "who are not wise by human standards."

Friday, August 08, 2003

School's In

Our children's neighborhood pals disappeared today. The last few days they've excitedly told of their new backpacks, clothes, and shoes. Kristin adeptly perceived that our children may feel a little left out. So she planned some special family events today that are only possible because they are homeschooled and not "away-schooled".

Over the next couple of years I want to consider the effect of living on a government installation. Most days I never leave the base. The school, church, restaurants, shops, and houses are all government owned and ran. To host a children's Bible club at "my" house this summer required paperwork and approval from two different base agencies. I'm unsure about my family's rights of free speech, assembly, etc.

Kristin is reading Charlotte Mason and realizes that we do not offer much in terms of craft-training compared to previous times. Glue-sticks and paper-plate faces can only last so long and don't equip the children with anything lasting. Fortunately Kristin's mom taught her to sew and cook and this can be passed on. I, on the other hand, possess no manly crafts beyond the push-mower and a love of books. I am concerned about what level of manliness I can inculcate into my sons. Thankfully, my children are still young enough that even a visit to my office cubicle is inspiring to them. But I know the cubicle is no breeding ground for manliness and some day I want my sons to realize that, too.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Hijacking Fellowship

I'm not sure who had the word "fellowship" first, the church or the world. Since the New Testament era it's been chiefly associated with the church, but the world likes the word, too. For instance, the folks at work are advertising an office-wide lunch as an opportunity for "fellowship".

This weekend I saw clearly the difference between what the world calls fellowship (i.e. socialization) and the church's meaning.

On Saturday we hosted a dinner for several friends we knew in college. It was good to catch up after 10 years of going separate ways; but it wasn't a fulfulling time. Our worldviews and values are so different. God-centered conversation would have been unwelcome and foreign to them.

Contrast that to today. After church we were invited for lunch with a like-minded Christian family. The conversation flowed naturally and consisted of a mutual delight in God and the life in Christ.

I'm thankful that the world's empty fellowship isn't all there is.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Physical Training

After 10 years of stationary bike testing, the Air Force has decided to return to a timed run, push-ups, and sit-ups as its measure of fitness. I support the decision, but will be negatively impacted. Ninety minutes every week on the stationary bike gives me a great opportunity to read WORLD magazine and keep my eargate active with Basement tapes, MARS HILLs, Piper sermons, etc.

I think reading while running is probably as dangerous as drinking and driving. And if I get above a trot, my antiquated CD player skips more than my 3-year old daughter.

To be truthful, reading and listening are my motivations for working out. Guess I'll pull-out the old portable tape player. I wish there were a better selection of Christian books on tape or MP-3.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Fear and Trembling

The connection between body and spirit is eerie. A gentle, civil rebuke from a respected acquaintance caused my body temperature to rise and my forehead to bead with perspiration. When in the presence of my Colonel, try as I may, I cannot feel at ease. Perhaps it's a good thing if I'm disembodied when I meet God. How could my body stand before His holy presence?

Monday, July 28, 2003

As I mentioned last week, here's an attempt to capture the essence of Edward's work on God's Glory, The End for Which God Created the World. I appreciate Piper's climactic introduction and clarifying footnotes (see God's Passion for His Glory).


First, consider that we frequently toss around the word "glory" but seldom sufficiently define what glory means. Edwards does. Glory is:
- "weighty", literally translated from the Hebrew and Greek
- the outshining of the internal greatness or excellency of God
- the excellent brightness and fullness of the divinity diffused and overflowing
- the communication of God's fullness
- often implying honor
- often used interchangeably in Scripture with "praise" or "Name"

Why is Man's Chief End to Glorify God?
1. God must necessarily value most that which is supremely valuable
2. God, being infinitely the greatest and best of all Beings, is most valuable; thus He values Himself most of all
3. God, out of highest respect to Himself, exerts Himself to make His glorious attributes known
4. Since God loves His own excellency, it is fitting for Him to value the love others have for His excellency
5. God in seeking His own glory from creatures seeks the good of His creatures; by exalting Himself He displays the one Reality in the universe that can satisfy our souls.
6. Thus our chief end is also our only satisfying source of happiness. Our delight in God is part of God's delight in Himself, and therefore our happiness is also His happiness.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Inter-Racial Reading
As we begin the adoption process we're hit right away with numerous moral and sovereignty issues. Other than not being allowed to adopt a Caucasian child, everything else is our prerogative. Our simple desire is to care for widows and orphans by providing an adoptive option for women who otherwise might turn to abortion. Should we stop here and trust that God will not give us a child that we can't handle? Or would it be wise to consider the type of child that's the best fit for our family and limit our interest to this? Either way, it's very likely that our next child won't look like their blonde, blued-eyed siblings. We'd like to profit from others' wisdom on interracial families. I'm looking for good material, but am striking out so far.
Why Christians Here Think We're Weird:
- We don't have cable TV
- We have more than 2 children and want more
- We homeschool
- We're Reformed, Covenantal Presbyterians
- We're willing to leave town to go to church
- Our children's names
- We don't like the Christian radio stations
- We don't like the Christian bookstores
- We're not a fan of AWANA

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Scrutinizing Small Groups
(Note: Corrected on 29 Jul based on comments from reader)

Most of the churches in my past had small groups. Over the years, I've been part of many at home and at work. The last couple revealed a serious problem of the small group: seldom did anyone come with questions, but instead statements disguised as questions. There's a strong feeling of equality between the leader's (aka teacher) instruction and the rest of the group's (aka students) opinions. This kind of group really has no students, and so no one learns anything of value.

I noticed that small groups are being questioned within part of the reformed community. Ligonier's Tape of the Month includes balanced remarks by R.C. Sproul using James 3:1 to warn that not many should presume to be teachers; his words were aimed right at small groups. The Highlands Study Center site links to an article that is more strongly opposed to them. Small groups need to beware of James 3:1.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

What is the Chief End of Man?

This familiar catechism question tells us that glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is the reason we were made. But how much instruction have you received on God's glory? We know we should do all things to the glory of God, but I suspect that most folks couldn't explain how or why.

This morning I finished John Piper's God's Passion for His Glory which essentially is a long preface by Piper and then Jonathan Edward's The End for Which God Created the World. I find Edwards always exhaustive to read, largely due to his slow, methodical way of making his propositions. But this tendency becomes a strength when he grapples with the glory of God. I plan to post some of the book's highlights here within the next week.

But my question today is since we know glorifying God is so important, indeed ultimate, why do we hear so little teaching on glory? The most I can recall over years of sermons, radio programs, books, etc is that glory means weighty. That's not much to build your life around. Edwards gives us a marvelous trove of insight into this supreme passion of God.
New Neighbors

Several of the houses around us are vacant. My wife and I are praying for good neighbors. We certainly welcome unbelievers that are ripe for the gospel, but it'd be nice to have some Christians, too! The more like-minded the better.

When I saw a moving-truck unloading at a house down the street, I headed over to welcome the new family and was stunned to find out I know this guy! We were stationed at Scott AFB together where he showed a strong Christian witness in the workplace. I don't know much about his wife, but she stays at home and they have four young children.

The odds of getting new neighbors you already know is staggering; and clearly points to Providence. I'm excited to see what He has in store!

Friday, July 18, 2003

Blood on My Head

As I read through Acts, it's obvious that Paul shares the prophet Ezekiel's burden (see Ez 33:4-6) to be guiltless of other's condemnation by declaring God's word to them. In Acts 20:26 notice that if Paul even hesitates to proclaim the whole will of God, or as the ESV states "anything that is profitable", then the people's blood will be upon his head when he stands before God.

On one hand, there is reason enough to evangelize since Jesus is worthy of the full reward of His suffering and the honor due His name; but I must also consider the other motives for spreading His name. First, He commands it of me. Second, Paul shows that the office of watchman didn't end with Ezekiel. It is required of me to declare whatever is profitable to others lest their blood be upon my head.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Plastic Jesus

We cubicle-dwellers tend to decorate our cubes like college kids adorn their dorm rooms. Cube-decor presents a desired image to the watching world. Most people go for a mix of levity (Dilbert, cheap toys, etc), family (children's photos) and success (award plaques and the like). But, a lot of people also add a religious touch. For instance, the guy down the hall has a "Jesus loves you" screen-saver.

When my cube was in San Antonio, the religious knick-knacks we're mostly of the Catholic variety; statuettes of saints and the Virgin Mary were the standard. Here in the cubes of the Bible Belt, Jesus is nearly omnipresent. But more than just the smile on these images is plastic. The religion in this region brings God down to more "useful" level. Many love God just for His gifts; and nothing keeps them from these gifts except Satan and their wavering faith. Their view of man is too high, too deserving of blessing. Regrettably, this seems to be the dominant strain in the "black churches" in this area. Sadly, the typical faith of the local white folk never goes beyond a Vacation Bible School level of knowledge concerning God. There's no desire to know God more, and therefore no real desire or delight in God.

What is my role in a region saturated with "gospel-lite"? Is it that of prophet; facing persecution from God's people for calling them back to a deeper understanding of God and themselves?

Monday, July 14, 2003

Lunch with the Like-Minded

Kristin and I were invited to lunch with two couples after church. After months of arid relationships it was refreshing to break bread with people that are like-minded. What's even better is that I see in these couples a possible answer to our prayer for someone to disciple us.

Consider for instance what this reformed, homeschooling couple did years ago when they decided that caring for "widows and orphans" must go beyond occasional financial support. They opened their home to numbers of racially diverse children and unwanted babies. A large collage of foster children posted in their kitchen testify that their faith is not without works.

Kristin and I are now looking into how we can "go and do likewise".

Friday, July 11, 2003

The "Greatest Generation"?

One of the local reformed churches we've been attending held a "Men of the Covenant" meeting last night. I was excited and looked forward to getting to know the men better. I was disappointed.

I arrived on-time and walked into the meeting where the average age was in the 70s! I was hoping to get to know some of the senior generation (which have been largely absent in my past churches) but also expected some men more my age. There were none.

I sat at a table with a few of the gentlemen and my respect quickly soared upon learning they had been farmers and served in WWII. But my respect quickly plummeted when their talk soon turned to "n*ggers" and lingered there! And to a lesser degree, the loose women of their military youth.

As ludicrous as this sounds after dinner we sang "Jesus loves me" and "Jesus loves the little children" and a couple of hymns from an old worn Armenian hymnal. This all felt awkward. Then we ended with a brief devotion (by the way I was the only man that brought his Bible). I was already in dismay at this time, and nothing in the devotion really changed my opinion about this group.

Is this a racist church? Is this an Armenian church? I don't think so on either count. But it appears the church leadership permits inconsistency to run unchecked among its base of senior members. It would be difficult to admonish 70 year old men that have had a life-long problem with race and doctrine. Their love for Christ hasn't penetrated the core of who they are. But the church's love for Christ demands that His Bride be spotless.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Capt Mom Goes Off to War

The journalist in this great article from the Washington Times (July 4, 2003) perceives what so many contemporary women are missing--motherhood is supremely valuable.

Capt. Mom Goes To War
By Maggie Gallagher

Perhaps in honor of the Fourth of July, Family Circle in its current issue
tells the story of Capt. Mom going to war.

Melody Charles not only had a 1-year-old, but also was eight months pregnant when the Twin Towers fell. "My officer in charge told me he would try to give me as much time with the baby as he could," Melody said, "but I had to be ready to go by spring."

The Army is in the business of fighting and killing, not nurturing. Women as
well as men who join are naturally well-drilled in putting first things first. As a captain married to a major, Melody was required to file plans about who would take care of the kids if both she and her husband were called to serve. Fortunately, her country did not ask that sacrifice, this time.

So this is what her children sacrificed for you and me: At 9 months old,
Jonah was too young to comprehend his mother's absence, according to the
story. But 2-year-old Jacob understood perfectly well when Mommy told him
she was leaving.

"He ran out of the bedroom screaming, 'No, Daddy. No, Daddy.'" husband Mike

Mom and Dad held him all night. The next morning, when Jacob woke up, Mommy
was gone. He walked into the bathroom with his blanket and lay down on the
rug she stands on when getting ready for work.

For two days, Jacob threw up after every meal. Every day he asked, "Where's
Mama?" "Mama's in the war," Daddy replied.

For Mama in the war, it was also hard, of course. In her Uzbekistan base
camp, Melody cried herself to sleep every night.

"It helped knowing that other people with children were in just as much
agony," Melody says now. "You get through it because one day, it's your turn
to cry and the next day it's someone else's."

Melody chose this way of life. Plus, Melody had the consolation of a whole
Army of people telling her she was doing the right thing: "If I'm not
willing to fight to protect our nation and our way of life, it won't be
there for my children. So by going, I'm really caring for them."

After six months, Capt. Mom returned home.

"My baby didn't recognize me," Melody recalls. "He wouldn't let me pick him
up that first day." Jacob did remember her, and reacted by alternating
between "being overly needy and pushing her away."

Today family life is back to normal: Capt. Mom, Maj. Dad and kids are
close-knit and loving, deeply appreciative of the time they have together,
aware that simple togetherness cannot, for a military Mom and Dad, be taken
for granted.

A happy story of noble sentiments, patriotic sacrifice and family love,
right? Why else would it appear in a magazine called Family Circle?
Yes, it is a story of all these things, but something more, too. It is an
ongoing story about the process of convincing women there are other, more
important bonds than the one we have with our babies. Any mother cannot help
noticing what a horror story lies at the heart of this patriotic, upbeat

No, you cannot blame the Army. It is doing its job, based on policies set by
civilians. Nor can you blame Melody for following through on her vow to
serve her country in time of war.

So I hope the upbeat ending is true - that Jacob and baby Jonah do not
suffer any permanent damage from Mommy's mysterious six-month disappearance.

I know the Army, as it persuades young women to sign up and re-enlist, has
no clue whether this is true. But surely for Jacob and Jonah, a six-month
sentence of suffering is more than enough.

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I recently purchased Bluegrass Mountain Revival, a 2-CD set of music focusing on the Gospel side of Bluegrass. I highly recommend it. It's upbeat, well-produced, and has a range of sound from fiddle to mouth harp to banjo. Christian Book Distributers ( has it on sale for $9.99

Monday, July 07, 2003

Loving God for His Gifts

Jesus' popularity peaked after healing and feeding multitudes. The crowd of followers quickly dwindled to just a few after He spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

In a sense am I like the multitude that turned away? I'm in with the Lord for all the plainly good things He promises. But when faced with a difficult teaching do I turn away? Rather than grapple to understand what He says through the Apostles do I prefer to just stay in the fog and not follow Him in the tough sayings?

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I must be a Glory-Hound

Each time the military re-assigns me I go through a period of depression. Not clinical depression, but just a feeling of general dissatisfaction. I think I've figured out why. During each assignment I've found some way to be significant, either at work or church. But then every two to three years the military moves me and I'm "nobody" again. So the root of the depression seems to be a longing for the glory I once had. Sick man that I am! Instead of desiring my own glory in this life, I must learn to long for God's glory.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Doctrinal Diversity in the PCA
While talking with a new friend here, I've come to realize the vast differences that exist within the PCA. I can identify three distinct groups.

At one end of the spectrum are the "Church Growth" PCAers. To reach more people (or at least non-Presbyterians) they often do things like drop the name Presbyterian from their church name. Here you'll find the drum set and yuppie-casual attire. I was discipled within this camp and it's just recently struck me as strange that one of the 7 books in the canon for elder training was a Peter Wagner book on Church Growth.

Then there are the "traditional" PCAers. You can spot them by the hymn duets on piano and organ. Kristin was raised in this tradition and I think she's still the most comfortable here.

And then way on the other end of the spectrum are the TRs. I'm not sure if the 'T' stands for Truly or Thoroughly; it's some descriptor of that sort, describing their commitment to the Reformed faith (the 'R'). I hope to visit my first quasi-TR church this Sunday (it's rare indeed to achieve the full TR status). I'm not too familiar with all their distinctives (they are legion) but I think it's fair to say they're anti-revivalist and perhaps the most doctrinally like the Puritans of lore.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Our trip to Ocean Isle, N.C.
Here are a couple vacation recommendations. Go out of your way to visit family and friends. By adding a couple of hours to our travel time we were able to see my mom, aunt, uncle, cousin, plus friends we haven't seen for 7 years. And once at the beach we stayed with friends that have children about the same age as ours. Our rental house was not on the beach but instead on a salt marsh. Surprisingly, this added a lot to our stay. The children used chicken-necks and twine to catch more than 20 crabs (3 varieties) right off the dock. Once cooked, we taught them how to eat their catch. Some locals used their net to shrimp behind our unit and gave us a bag full of their catch. We watched pelicans and bitterns circle and then plunge for fish each evening. Plus the little town put on a free blue-grass concert on our last night there!

Piper's Preaching
I finished listening to a recent Founder's conference. John Piper's message on the purpose of glorification both hit hard and filled me with awe. It's a sermon worth hearing many times and I can't express his message nearly as articulately as he did yet, but I want to mention two of his points. The first is about heaven and why we're wrong to think of it as boring. In heaven we'll still be finite beings, God is the only infinite Person. So our finite but sinless self will experience ever-increasing joy and ever-mounting ecstasy as we discover more and more of the goodness and fullness of God. His mercies will indeed be new every morning! The second point hit hard and showed that most teaching on glorification is man-centered. Since we know what joy lies ahead, we should remember that to die is gain. We should be willing to show that our love for Christ has penetrated our entire being so that we're undeterred by persecution, trouble, poverty, sickness in this life. We fail to show that our love for Christ is more than our love for this life.

My family presented me with a nice guitar for Father's Day. I underestimated the difficulty in fingering the chords. One millimeter of placement makes a significant difference. It's going to take a lot of practice to build up flexibility in my fingers to hit the right spots.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Traveling through June. Last night I returned from an East Coast trip to Maryland, New York, and Rhode Island and tomorrow we're off to North Carolina with a stop to see family in SC along the way. Then it's immediately off to New Mexico. No posts for a while.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Side-by-Side Comparison of Baptism Positions. I've read enough now from both the Reformed Baptist and Paedobaptist positions to complete a short summary of their arguments. I've attempted to keep it free of bias and present each view with strength. I've formatted the document in a way that makes it easy to compare the different positions on such matters as covenant theology, children of believers, etc. I plan to finish it by next weekend. If you're interested in a copy, drop me an e-mail at

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Temptations Common to a Boy. Our 5-year old son, Eli, entered a new phase of childhood. Once we were in high demand during play-time. But now his new neighborhood friends have replaced us. He cannot get enough time with them. I vaguely remember boyhood memories and how fast the summer days slipped by. Now it's Eli's friends who are constantly on his mind and tongue. The situation was exacerbated this week when he outgrew the need for training wheels on his bike. His friends and he treat our quiet neighborhood like a large park. Every inch of ground is now a bike trail. The problem is that his new found freedom and increased independence is a challenge in self-control that he often fails. There are scuffmarks across our front yard from dragging him inside for a meal or schoolwork. I'm excited to see him blossom into a full-fledged (and muddy) boy, but to quote the best line from the Spiderman movie, "with power comes responsibility".

Monday, June 02, 2003

Doctrine and Life.

As we look for a church in this area I've boiled down my "evaluation criteria" to just three: Stated Doctrine, Doctrine lived out in the leadership, Doctrine lived out in the laity.

We've gotten to know four churches in this area pretty well. Two PCA churches get very high marks in the first category--on paper we're likeminded. But they both fall woefully short in one or both of the other categories. So their overall "scores" suffer.

The other two churches are Reformed Baptist bodies; so for us they get lower marks in doctrine due to our differences in covenantal theology. But both are stronger in the "lived out" categories. And the one we visited this Sunday was most impressive of all.

I'm also wondering if there's another angle to the stated-doctrine vs. lived-out-doctrine relationship. It's obviously true that many churches deny their stated-doctrine with their lifestyles. For instance, few Presbyterians actually raise their children covenantally although they affirm they are "covenant children" by applying the sign. So couldn't it also be true that some churches live out doctrine that on paper they flatly deny? Should I be surprised that a Reformed Baptist church may actually raise their children as if they were "covenant children", even while they deny that their children are in the covenant?

We've got a few more stones to look under--we've visited 4 of the 7 reformed churches within 30 minutes. The remaining three are PCA churches; what will we find?

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

A visit to a "Word-of-Faith" church

A friend invited me to a lunch-time sermon at his church. I thought it might be part of the word-of-faith movement but decided to attend for a few reasons:
1. Hear the teaching for myself
2. Show desire for unity with Christians of another ethnicity
3. Respect for my friend

The 40-minute sermon had the stereotypical ring: "Words that you speak are creative power". "Speak what you want to have it in your life". Etc.

There was repeated and strong emphasis upon the need for studying God's word and having faith during trials. But their problem lies in why we should have faith in God's Word. Rather than delighting in God Himself regardless of your life's situation, the pastor focused on delighting in the things God promises those with faith: "Success". "Destiny". And other undefined but appealing terms. The teaching makes much of ME and, in effect, little of God, although He is invoked often enough. God is esteemed, but for the wrong reason. His power, His Word, His future plans, all exist for your personal benefit. The riches of Christ are slyly changed to "riches" from Christ. God's ultimate purpose is to bless ME. This is dangerous teaching that is sure to disappoint.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Affluence Obscures Your Need for God. Think of how many people make around $50K a year or more. On this mostly civilian base (more than 10,000 civilians) I've learned that most do. This seems to be a sufficient amount of money to make you comfortable enough to not see a need for God in your life. In today's affluent America, the only time the cultural majority turn to God is either during a national crisis (think "9/11') or a personal crisis (e.g. death of a loved one). The rest of the time, which is nearly all the time, life is too busy and comfortable to consider the reality of hell and whether you're ready to meet your Maker.

The gloomy fact is that the majority of Christians educate their children so that they, too, can enjoy a job that makes at least $50K a year. Our antipathy for the blue-collar life is so strong, that it causes us to forget the great danger of wealth. It depresses me to see so many Christians living the yuppie life, just like the rest of the world. Gradually, God becomes less and less as their dependence and aspirations turn more and more to the blessings of the almighty dollar.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

A Simple Desire. I desire to be a trusted teacher, an effective evangelist, a powerful preacher, a gifted communicator, a respected theologian, a highly-prized mentor. Gradually, I see that each of these attainments are out of my reach. However, I can be a godly man and raise godly seed. This is doable. And I'm gradually coming to see great contentment in this simple desire.

Friday, May 23, 2003

James River. Last night I returned from Richmond, Virginia where I stayed downtown near the 19th century canals off of the James River. This was the "interstate" of that era, the main export and import traffic system for the town. Surprisingly, the river is quick and treacherous. A prayer for "Traveling Mercies" would be something much more meaningful in that time. How much do our modern comforts and convienences lull us into neglecting the Comforter and the Mercy-Giver?

Also, this month's Ligonier Tape of the Month was better than usual. R.C. covered the judgment of Christ for believers and tied our present obedience to our future rewards. And he didn't forget that God "crowns His own gifts" in us.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Deep Water. Since I last blogged there's been 3 developments concerning choosing a church and baptism position.

Kristin and I enjoyed dinner with Dave Hamlin and family last week. He's a more experienced baptismal-wrestler than I and got me thinking that perhaps neither the RB (Reformed Baptists) or PB (PaedoBaptists) position may be completely correct.

Kristin and I enjojed lunch with an associate pastor from a local PCA church. He got me thinking that there's a danger to a thorough doctrinal study. When you're down in the weeds for a long time it's hard to keep your eyes on Christ. Instead of being Christ-centered and grace-focused, we major on something that is not as major as Christ.

Also I finished the article, "A String of Pearls Unstrung". It's the best I've read so far from the RB position, but still my conscience (Scripture-shaped?) thinks the RBs ignore regeneration in infants ("From my mother's breast you have caused me to trust in You. From the womb You have been my God", etc). If someone is not old enough to confess Christ they're convinced that that person is an unbeliever. The strongest point I saw in the article is an apparent inconsistency in the PB position between particular atonement and New Covenant membership. They ask, if Christ's blood was effectual for the salvation of only the elect, and the New Covenant is administered in His blood, then how can there be any non-elect in the New Covenant? Therefore the sign of the New Covenant, baptism, should be withheld until you have some evidence that this person is elect.

Duane Garner suggests I critique how Baptists (and many Presbyterians) define "elect". I'll add this to my list of things to study--there's much more connected to understanding baptism than meets the eye.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Forgiving my son in light of God's Sovereignty. What happens when you: Borrow a bike with one missing handlebar grip. Ride it in a driveway packed with vehicles. Circle the vehicles so that the missing handlebar grip faces inward. Answer: You get really deep and long scratches down the sides of the vehicle.

This is what Eli did last night to our nice, new van (bought less than 2 months ago). It wasn't vandalism, it wasn't malicious, it just happened. And now the challenge is ours. Do we seethe with anger over our spoiled earthly treasure? Or do we remember the parable of the man who had been forgiven much and store up treasures in heaven?

Many would blame this on bad luck and give woe to the one through whom it came. But the Christian should look for God's hand in it and not murmur against Providence.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Why Bother? Many Christians have this attitude when trying to decide which position is correct on issues like the Doctrines of Grace, Baptism, etc. They think, "If the brightest Christian scholars couldn't agree which is the right position after hundreds of years of argument, why should I try?" And so they don't. And they're suspicious of anyone who tries to teach a certain position; convinced that this nobody couldn't possibly have figured it out when all the somebodys in the Church are still divided.

The problem is that if you ignore all the debates in the Church, you've got little left to believe in. Everything is being debated by people more studied than you are; the Lordship of Christ, what is the gospel, what is a Christian, etc. By choosing to ignore all the issues you box yourself in, unable to grow at all.

Christians must "watch their life and doctrine closely"; this means there's hard work to be done. We must apply ourselves to the Scriptures and evaluate the teachings of men. The reason scholars argue is because these things are important for your life. You will grow as you wrestle. Determine where you stand today on the issues. Ensure the foundation of your conscience is consistent with Scripture. Stand firm where you are, but be willing to admit error and to step to the next level when warranted.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Like Ishmael? When I asked a seminary-trained Reformed Baptist how he views the children of believers, he said "like Ishmael". My jaw continues to drop when I think of that remark. To be fair to him, I'm sure I caught him off guard and given time to think it through he would change his answer.

I continue to think this issue through. I finished Mark Horne's article, Is God the God of the Mature Professing Christian Only? It's a refutation of Greg Welty's critique of paedobaptism which I commented on last week. Here's the basic paedobaptist argument:
- Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant and incorporates you into Christ's body, the Church
- Just like the OT covenants there are elect and non-elect in the New Covenant, but which are elect and which are not is unknowable to man
- The covenant can be broken; unbelieving baptized individuals will be cut out of Christ and should be excommunicated from the church
- Since the elect will possess a persevering faith, by grace, all Covenant Keepers, whether infant or adult, should be considered regenerate
- There is a "special elect" among the children of the elect, and the door of baptism (into the Church) must not be closed to them through the offense that others cause

I will continue to study this topic, but Mark's paper explained Covenant Theology at a low enough level so that I could understand most of it. Some questions remain, but my conscience (hopefully shaped by Scripture) affirms that God must also be the God of my children.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Re-thinking what I look for in a Church. Kristin and I had the pastor of Covenant PCA over for lunch today; he's pastored this flock (currently around 80 folks) since 1979. In addition to respecting his length of service to this body, I also admire this man of almost 60 for homeschooling his children from the start. He was homeschooling before homeschooling was cool. And for the right reasons.

Admittedly, the church has some serious people problems. The gurus in the PCA would probably classify it an ember, not a flame.

But the pastor's admonition about church-shopping hit me pretty hard. "It's unbiblical for Christians to focus on what a church offers. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. God has invested a lot in you; and it's for a reason. He doesn't pour into you, He pours through you for others’ sake". These words don’t deny that the Baileys have legitimate needs; including other like-minded people to spur us on. But my mind has been challenged to wonder, "Is it biblical to reject a church because the laity aren't as strong and healthy as I'd like"?

Monday, May 12, 2003

Wash her with the Word. Men, one way to help your wife grow in grace is to give her a sabbatical. Send her off occassionally for a night in a different place and give her a powerful book and a meaty sound recording. Make sure she brings a craft or two that she never gets to at home because of her family responsibilities. A nice hotel may make the arrangements easy, but you may want to give her a different kind of experience. An agrarian bed and breakfast is probably better for reflection. A night in a Mennonite-like community may also be eye-opening.

Friday, May 09, 2003

"It's too late". Those are the words of a co-worker whose 12 year old daughter just learned from her abstinence class the 'how-to's of oral sex, and various erotic behaviors. The mother, my co-worker, pre-approved her daughter for this class based upon a review of the curriculum, which seemed okay to her. She also watched the class's video. But what she couldn't control were the words the instructor added to the curriculum and video. And how can she prove to the school whether her daughter learned these things from the teacher or from friends? It's too late; never trust a school that considers it their responsibility to teach children how to have sex.
Hangin' with David Brainerd. If you've read the journal of this early American missionary, you'll recall that most of his reflections were depressive. He was constantly beset with difficulties which continually reminded him that he could only find delight in God.

Today I find myself in need of this reminder again. We've had a week of sickness in the home (Isaiah and Kristin). Most depressingly, I've just been informed that a long and godly friend of mine now finds his conscious in conflict with a core doctrine of the Christian faith. I don't feel it's appropriate to elaborate on this in such a public forum, but this is a huge disappointment to me. Another report comes in of persistence in a man-centered gospel at a church that is very dear to me.

But nothing is arbitrary--God's purposes shall prevail. He has not changed; He is my rock.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

I heard about this Georgia hallmark during yesterday's newcomer's orientation. President Jimmy Carter draws a crowd for Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church. Each year 10,000 visitors pack the church to get a glimpse of him and perhaps a group photo (see the church's FAQ to learn how). This reminds me of Catholics massing to see a weeping statue or a stain in the shape of the Virgin Mother. Shouldn't this church be concerned that they've exchanged the glory of God for the renown of a semi-famous man? In their attempt to use celebrity to reach many with the gospel, I'm afraid they're exalting the wrong king. Jesus doesn't need the help.
As Dave Hamlin pointed out a while back, when you attempt to study baptism you soon end up trying to understand covenants. Based on my reading of Welty, here is the basic Reformed Baptist argument: "The New Covenant is unbreakable and is made only with the elect. Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant. Therefore only the elect should be baptized." Also, there seems to be a presupposition that a "credible profession of faith" indicates someone is elect. Since infants cannot profess, they are not to be assumed elect and thus mustn't receive the sign of the New Covenant.

Before I can accept or reject any argurments, I need to understand the position. So I plan to read the best I can find from the Reformed Baptist perspective to ensure I correctly represent this position.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

I attended the New Members class at the Reformed Baptist church last night. It was basically Christianity 101, with a well-done (i.e. God-centered) gospel presentation. Even though I was a little dissapointed not to be presented with any specific info about this church, the meeting was interesting in what cultural insights I gained. Several of the families present just moved from nearby towns and decided to change churches, too. The thinking is "let's go to the nearest Baptist church", and there are plenty to choose from here. I suppose this explains why the pastor presented the gospel and nothing else. In the Bible-belt culture you're expected to be active in a church, whether you're a believer or not.

Also, I finished reading Greg Welty's "Critique of Paedobaptism". I can't help but be biased, but I think any decent Bible student could find several leaps and misperceptions in his work; nonetheless he has a couple good points. Now I've started Mark Horne's lengthy critique of Welty's effort. After that I plan to read another reformed baptist article that looks more promising, "A String of Pearls Unstrung".

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Striptease Show Ends on Military Base
Each day at the base fitness center a 30 minute advertisement for "Hollywood's Hottest Nude Scenes" plays. Thinking that "I really don't need anymore temptation to fornication, thank you", I've complained to the gym staff about this but with no real effect. But yesterday God delivered the gym staff into my hands! The base commander hopped on a recumbant bike in front of the right TV during the right time--Providence! Remarkably, he didn't seem to notice the flick, so I waited for him to finish the bike ride and respectfully introduced myself and my complaint. He took care of the gym staff and the show was pulled.

Speaking of immodesty among women, the new "Daughters of Zion" Basement Tape (See "Eargate" for link) is very beneficial. One point they make relating to the theme of this post is that in the past a woman belonged to one man, either Father or Husband. But due to feminism, the women of our culture belong to all men. For example, they dress in a way to get the attention of all men, etc. I doubt the HSC's views are a majority report even in the reformed church, but I find it full of wisdom for the building of the Kingdom.

Monday, May 05, 2003

I developed a new conviction over the weekend--I'm anti-pine. A strong storm cell passed through Friday night, cancelling T-ball for Saturday, and raining down a B-52's worth of pine tree parts and pieces. The oaks and dogwoods in our yard held their own, but the pines seem to enjoy randomly distributing their prickly cones and limbs everywhere at the slightest whiff.

God is also bringing some clarity to our church decision. Sunday found us back at the Reformed Baptist church, where the senior pastor is said to affirm the New Covenant movement. Besides the bapstimal issues I'm already wrestling with, we'll also differ in views of the Lord's Supper and the Sabbath. This may partially explain why the church doesn't take Lord's Supper during the regular worship service, but only once a month during an evening service. Kristin and I discussed last night how most Christians don't worry about these kind of differences so long as you like the people (which we do), but I have to affirm that beliefs have consequences. And I want to join a church unreservedly, one that won't feed my super-human ability to be contrary during corporate worship. To this end, we've added our name to the Family-Integrated Church list as a "seeker" in this area. I doubt anything will come of it, but we'll see.

Friday, May 02, 2003

A Boy and His Frog (and more strange things about Middle Georgia). Eli may have found his calling -- professional frog-catcher. I learned recently that before this was a military base, it used to be a swamp; so frogs, snakes, and gators (allegedly!) still roam the earth. This also explains the regular drive-by shootings (of mosquitoes) done from the back of a pick-up truck--picture a fumigator on wheels. And the neighbor recently rented a machine that bales pine-needles--first one of those I've ever seen. And then there's the squirrels. If it weren't for their fuzzy-tails, you'd think we were living in the midst of a prairie-dog colony. Lots of bait for those gators.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Using Covenant Theology to deny Paedobaptism? This article is the most interesting I've read on the Reformed Baptist's refusal of infant baptism. I still have issues with their position, but I'm pleased that the author at least recognizes the importance of continuity between the Old and New Testaments. If you get a chance, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Brief Review of Vision Forum's Women in Military Articles

Some Christian leaders, realizing silence is consent, are beating the drum about women in the military. They're dismayed that America (and the church) is largely silent about the presence of female soldiers in hostile enemy territory. Caught up in the emotions of Jessica Lynch's quick rescue, America didn't have time to be outraged that she was there. Christians didn't raise an outcry that young mothers were off fighting a war while able-bodied men stayed home.

Their point is not that women can't meet the demands of military life (although they provide the standard rationale for why they can't), but whether or not they belong in the military at all. Their argument is based on Biblical gender roles; women are to be busy at home and men are to protect women.

"Women in the military" is a timely platform for these leaders to voice their more wide-ranging complaint; our culture has neglected motherhood. Sure, with women fighting the wars our military will have more casualties, but the much larger loss is the institution of the family. The raising of godly seed, the building of the kingdom of God, is all tied up with the health of the family. When the majority of women choose career over child rearing, a very weak family and church result. For the unbelieving culture this may not be a concern, but for the servants of Christ it must be.

For my part, their arguments resonate. Regrettably, apart from God's grace Biblical arguments won't convince our apathetic culture about a woman's valuable role. But for Christians it's a call for faithfulness to God's decrees for men, women, and children.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Overreaction? Many of us have seen through the plastic, spineless, unbearable "niceness" that evangelicalism seems to produce. It's as fake as it is revolting. But I'm concerned with how we 'Authentics' react. There's a danger of overcompensating; while attempting to be strong and courageous, we become just plain mean-spirited and rude.
It's so hard to remember that only God will be a consistent source of delight. Promising friendships will prove half-hearted, new vehicles lose their fragrance, new houses soon appear shoddy. Without grace to "delight yourself in the Lord" (Ps 37:4), the let-downs of life result in either depression or cynicism.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Under the Influence: When looking for a new church, I've always optimistically assumed that I can change them and so haven't concerned myself too much with even the obvious spiritual problems present there. I've thought too highly of myself--a hero for the struggling-church, a champion for the underdog assembly. But when I look back, I find that I'm not so influential; actually without fail, the church changes me into what it is. Its weaknesses become mine; its doctrines, passion, too. So now I'm trying to choose between two churches--one that fits doctrinally, but appears to lack passion; and the other that may be passionate but is more baptistic than me. Which do I give up--covenantal doctrine, or passion for God's glory?

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Ear Gate Update. Sinclair Ferguson exhorts those without easy access to a good-fitting church, "Learn to be taught by the whole church of Jesus Christ. Learn that you belong to the church catholic. Learn that God has used more than the teachers alive today to instruct the church."

Friday, April 25, 2003

Friends for Money? In today's careerist culture stay-at-home moms (that label is unsatisfactory but it communicates) have a difficult time finding and developing meaningful friendships with other like-minded ladies. This is why I dislike the trend of women becoming proselytizers among their friends for a "home-based" business like Discovery Toys, et al. Marketing your wares to your friends should be only done with great discretion and an appreciation for the sanctity of friendship. I'm not saying all home-based business women develop friendships with personal profit in mind, but there are those that do and it complicates a much-needed relationship.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

After a 10 year absence from the South I had forgotten the importance of identifying poison ivy before doing yard work. I expect to be continually reminded of it for the next couple of weeks. A half-conscious scratch caused it to spread like wildfire. This illustrates the power of sin. A policy of containment will require constant discipline, since the urge is strong, but is the only way to health.

This reminds me of a couple more "sin to body" analogies.

"Sin is like a man's beard. You can shave it today, but it'll be back again tomorrow." - Martin Luther

"The feeling of wearing a hat continues after the hat is removed. This is like the feeling of still being in our sins." - John Bunyan
Routed by the Cubs. My T-Ball team suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Cubbies Tuesday night; one little boy struck out and wept. It was chaos in the infield, and kids who forgot to bring their glove in the outfield. But besides being funny and cute for non-coaching adults to witness; T-ball also teaches children to be responsible. They learn to pay attention lest they get whacked by a ball; they remember to run the bases in a certain way or face the public humiliation of going back to the dug-out; they feel pressure to hit the ball hard and learn how to focus when they're down to a final strike.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

As an able-bodied military man sitting here in middle Georgia, this comment from Mrs. Chastain hits hard. "Something is terribly wrong when the most powerful country on earth is assigning women service members to units where they are subject to capture, rape, torture and death, while able-bodied men are stationed out of harm's way or, worse still, at home in the comfort of their living rooms". In the next week, I hope to provide a review of the series of articles on Women in the Military currently available at the Vision Forum website.
Persecution. This week's WORLD magazine uncovered this startling potentiality,

"Time has been working on a sensational cover piece: the inside story of evangelical "special ops," missionaries working undercover in the Muslim world. Mission agencies don't want the story told: The risk of imprisonment, torture, or death for Christian workers in the Middle East is the reason.

Time editors have sent a four-page e-mail to their reporters worldwide explaining what they want: "We are planning a major piece on the flood of Christian missionaries, most of them evangelical, to Muslim countries. We will touch on all kinds of missionary work ... but we will eventually narrow our focus to a more radical crew of proselytizers: those who proclaim the Gospel of Christ, even if that means risking deportation, imprisonment, or death."

Of special interest to Time: "Often, to avoid detection by authorities, this new breed employs a tactic called 'tentmaking' or 'tunneling.' Essentially, this means doing some kind of other work as a cover or pretext, when [the] real goal is preaching.... How exactly do they get away with preaching in such a hostile climate? (We are fascinated by this secret-agent aspect and would like to hear about it in great detail.)"

Jim Kelly, Time's managing editor, told WORLD he is "sensitive to the consequences that any story has" and that his magazine is "a responsible publication that weighs carefully anything that goes into the pages of the magazine."

This reminds me of John Piper's sentiment that it is God's design to spread the gospel through the persecution of the church. We must plan to be persecuted, but woe to him through whom the persecution comes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

There is a felt "Christian consensus" (Schaeffer's term, I think) in smalltown, Georgia. During the opening ceremonies for the base's baseball season, two prayers were shamelessly offered in Jesus' name. And when Kristin and I attended a passion play at the city civic center it was obviously a major cultural event, performed before a crowd of thousands and requiring traffic police. One humorous line--the actor Jesus proclaiming center-stage, "And if I go and prepare a place I will come back and take ya'll to be with me." (John 14:3, Southern version).

And more importantly, with the Christian consensus there does seem to be a salt-effect. The town and culture is "clean" in general and the assumption is that you go to church. It will be interesting to see the extent of the saltiness--my skeptical nature doubts that it's very deep.
Is it okay to read a scholarly book of theology while eating a corn-dog? Something about it didn't feel right; but it was good. The dog, that is.

Monday, April 21, 2003

The hill, Difficulty. The fog and friction of the move to Georgia is starting to clear a little; I can look around at the hill that we Baileys are climbing. I've had a deep fear building within for sometime now that we are failing at raising godly seed. Our stated desire is to serve the Lord with gladness as we raise our children. But we lack consistency, and see little evidence in our children of any godly heritage. And at the end of the day what little Spirit-fruit I find exercised in my life. My wife, who also seems to feel the same, has a repentant heart and through our prayer-time together I too start to feel the need for more and more genuine confession and dependence.

I'm reminded of Russell Kelfer's statement, roughly, "We want change overnight. But God is not in the business of selling canned fruit. He grows trees."

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Jesus Christ, Superstar. Despite the great canon of Presbyterian teaching, the pastor of a local PCA church here chose to open up Holy Week with the soundtrack of this play. He did give a caveat that some don't care for the way the Lord is referred to as "J.C.", but it didn't seem to bug him. If you're cool, this may be the church for you. We'll keep looking.
Shock and Awe describes the effect my DiamondBack T-ball starting line-up had on their opposers, the Cubs. As coach I took pride in every 12 inch hit, not just my own son's. And God was merciful; for many of the children this was their very first taste of baseball, and none struck out at the T today. D-Backs 7, Cubbies-6.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Drink like a Believer. I just enjoyed a nice Killian's Irish Red. As an unbeliever I would not drink alcohol at all (basically for moral reasons) but as a believer I recently began to enjoy beer. Kinda backwards from most. I guess I finally realized how to drink like a believer and still be different from the world. Find joy in what God has made and freely given.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Ear Gate Update: On the drive down from Illinois I finished up R.C. Sproul Jr.'s When You Rise Up: Biblical Education. It's not as hard-hitting as their first basement tape on homeschooling, but it fleshes out the objective of homeschooling. It should be seen as discipling your children--this will drive your curriculum choices and emphasis on character vs. academics. The three guiding questions of the homeschool are, "Who is God?, What has He done?, What does He require of me?"

Eye Gate Update: Just finished Future Men by Douglas Wilson, which far surpasses Dobson's Bringing up Boys. Wilson defines Biblical masculinity as the objective for boys and emphasizes the need to instill toughness and manners. I especially liked his reasoning on the importance of manners. They teach boys to respect and protect women and are "constant reminders to males--whose lusts when unmortified always degrade women".

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Strange Things about Middle Georgia #1: Kamikaze gnats! Like the dirt-poor orphans of Africa who seemingly don't notice the flies walking about their skin, residents of Middle Georgia acclimate to gnat-hordes persistently air-assaulting the eyes and ears.
Baptism. The Church has made too much out of who, when, and how to baptize. As a church we should yearn for the inner, effectual baptism of the Holy Spirit and allow Christian Liberty in how our families apply the external sign. Encourage a family to study the issue, examine the patterns of Scripture, and follow their prayer-formed conscience.

At one church here in Warner Robins, and I'm convinced this is a faithful church, people with a man-centered gospel can "join" their church, even though the church affirms the doctrines of grace, but if you've never been immersed then you can't be part of the members-only club. Isn't the gospel more deserving of unity than whether one was dunked or sprinkled?

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

We're still looking for a church in our new assignment. Did you know there are 70 churches in Warner Robins, GA. Why? But more importantly, why do churches define themselves to newcomers by their programs? Is this a biblical way to advertise a church?

And why is it that churches who historically affirmed a God-centered view of salvation seem so apathetic about it? I applaud that rare church, which has been historically man-centered, but has made the move to a God-centered view. This takes great courage; and courage when followed through gives birth to joy. And I need more courage-based joy myself.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Stepping onto the wrestling mat for the first time--it feels kinda squishy; that's about right since I'm not sure what this blog will hold. Why open up my musings for the world to see? Am I a heavyweight in Christ? Not in the least. Wrestling alone with the questions of faith wearies me; so I seek other wrestlers that are willing to question everything, not with fallen reason but with infallible revelation. Feel free to step into the circle whenever you're ready.