Thursday, September 27, 2007

Born Again

Some years ago a friend of mine recommended to me the C.S. Lewis "Space Trilogy". Being the great guy that he is, he loaned me his copies. That was like three years or so ago. Being the lousy guy I am, I'm just now finishing up the third book in the series (and so should be getting them back to him fairly soon).

I think perhaps I'm not as enamored of Lewis' fictional writing as is my friend. Still, I just read a passage that resonated with me.

In "That Hideous Strength", one of the main characters, Mark, has lived his life with no regard for religion or real morality or love, but rather by chasing after the shallow baubles and trinkets of Life that many people never realize are nothing but empty promises.

Upon facing what he thinks is the premature end of his life at the end of a hangman's noose, he begins to reflect on his life and begins to realize how empty his life's pursuits have been.
He himself did not understand why all this, which was now so clear, had never previously crossed his mind. He was unaware that such thoughts had often knocked for entrance, but had always been excluded for the very good reason that if they were once entertained it involved ripping up the whole web of his life, cancelling almost every decision his will had ever made, and really beginning over again as though he were an infant. The indistinct mass of problems which would have to be faced if he admitted such thoughts, the innumerable "somethings" about which "something" would have to be done, had deterred him from ever raising these questions. What had now taken the blinkers off was the fact that nothing could be done. They were going to hang him. His story was at an end. There was no harm in ripping up the web now for he was not going to use it any more; there was no bill to be paid (in the shape of arduous decisions and reconstruction) for truth. It was a result of the approach of death which the [bad guys] had possibly not foreseen.

There were no moral considerations at this moment in Mark's mind. He looked back on his life not with shame, but with a kind of disgust at its dreariness.
It seems to me that this passage speaks more fully of being "born again" than do most Christian sermons on the topic. Most sermons I've heard have tended to focus on the aspect of immersion in water (which Biblically seems to be the "official" "signing of the contract" point of the re-birth process -- Rom 6:3-4 and others) than they have on a spiritual change. This passage in Lewis' book, however, drives home the reality of the internal change which is likened unto being born again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Point of Interest

I was reading Exodus 1:15-16 the other night, where Pharoah is telling the midwives to kill any boy babies born to the Hebrew women. The literal wording rendered by the footnote in my Bible was interesting to me:
Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you help the Hebrew women give birth, look at the stones. If the child is a son, kill him, but if it's a daughter, she may live."
"Look at the stones". What a hoot!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Proposal for a New Federal Tax Plan

-- The Basic Plan --
Flat Tax Rate of 20% on all income. An individual doing nothing more than the Basic Plan would see 20% taken out of his gross pay.

-- Modifications to the Basic Plan --

- Retirement Deduction -
For every 2% of income put into a qualified retirement plan (401K, etc), up to a maximum of 10%, 1% will be removed from the Basic Plan's Flat Tax Rate.

So, an individual can save up to 10% of his income for retirement, and pay 15% to the Federal Income Tax, thus seeing 25% taken out of his gross pay.

- Charity Deduction -
For every 2% of income put into a qualified charity (churches, Goodwill, etc – 61% of the charity organization's income must be earmarked specifically for charity work, not for salaries, office needs, overhead, etc), up to a maximum of 10%, 1% will be removed from the Basic Plan's Flat Tax Rate.

So, an individual can give up to 10% of his income to charity, and pay 15% to the Federal Income Tax, thus seeing 25% taken out of his gross pay.

- Combined Reduction/Charity Deduction -
Combining the two deductions, an individual can save up to 10% of his income for retirement, give up to 10% of his income to charity, and pay 10% to the Federal Income Tax, thus seeing 30% taken out of his gross pay.

  • Many Americans are already paying 28% or so to the Federal Tax, along with another 10% to their church, along with 5% or so to retirement, for a rough total of 43%, so these Americans get the immediate benefit of more take-home, and they see more personal benefit (more retirement, less tax), and they have more control of their money.
  • Those Americans who don't care to give to charity or save up for their retirement get the immediate benefit of more take-home.
  • Much of the role of charity work is shifted from the Federal Government to private local control, which generally provides more bang for the buck, and reduces the expenses of the Federal Government.
  • The tax laws are vastly simplified, reducing costs to both the government and to individuals, benefiting every one.

To Tithe or Not To Tithe

I've always felt guilty that I don't give ten percent of my income at church. (We've never called it a "tithe" in my church culture, as tithing was part of the "Old Law", and in the new covenant we just freely give, "although, ahem, ten percent is a good number to shoot for".)

But in the past couple of years or so I've realized a few things:

1) the Mosaic tithe was both a religious contribution and a federal government "tax" (since in ancient Israel church and state were the same thing). Today, our federal government already takes out 28% (or more) of our income, almost three times that of the Mosaic tithe. And then there's all the other taxes and fees in our modern world. I'm not sure that the Mosaic tithe is appropriate in our modern economy.

2) giving consistently is important. It's better to give $5 a week consistently than it is to plan on giving $100 a week and only meet that commitment seven times a year. (Yes, the church gets more with the occasional $100, but it does more good to the giver to be consistent.) God has strong words to say about not keeping a commitment, like Eccl. 5:4 - " When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow." Better to give less than a tithe and be honest in your giving than to vow more than you'll fulfill.

3) Although funding for preachers and missionaries and staff, etc, is Biblical (1 Tim 5:17-18, Luke 10:7), most of the emphasis on giving in the New Testament is for the feeding and care of the poor, elderly, orphans, displaced, etc. Currently most church budgets are more about paying off the building debt and paying the ministers' salaries. (This is not a blanket condemnation of all churches, especially since these are needful things.)

4) Being in debt is, more or less, anti-Biblical ("owe no man anything, but to love one another" - Rom. 13:8, etc), and I've been in debt for all my adult life. In the past couple of years I've been working to rectify that. But in the meanwhile, it seems that the New Testament indicates that taking care of your family's needs comes first when it comes to finances, then comes taking care of your debts (your vows), then taking care of others. In other words, you should not give money to the church if that means your kids go hungry or your grandmum doesn't get her prescription filled or you default on a bank loan, cheating the bank of their money. (But you also should avoid that bank loan to begin with (or credit card, more likely); I now see that living beyond your means is a sin (in most cases in America, (because of big-screen TV purchases, etc), but not all, and especially not for many in third-world countries, where you do what's needed to survive) -- we've failed, both as a church and as a nation, to teach these principles to our kids (or more accurately, our parents failed to teach them to us, and we learned the lesson (or not, in many cases) the hard way).

5) That oft-quoted passage in Malachi 9, which I've heard all my life, to test God by bringing in the tithe and see if he doesn't in return "pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it", is a promise to the nation; it's not a promise to individuals, which is the way it's usually presented from the pulpit. I believe that what God is saying through Malachi is that if a nation does right by providing the tithe to God, "A rising tide raises all boats", and everybody benefits from the healthy economy. He is not saying that if Joe Schmoe tithes, he'll have plenty of money for his family's expenses. (So next time Brother Delbert on TV-For-The-Lord says that God has promised to bless you if you'll just send $50 to his ministry, be skeptical.)

So I don't give 10%, and I'm not feeling guilty about it. But I am, for the first time in my life, giving consistently, even if it's a very piddly amount.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Pity Party

To my friend:

The things you wrote so long ago
Assure me that you love me.
They say I am a closest friend
And that you think I'm of great worth.

But since I dirtied up our love
There's nothing I can do
To repair the damage or the trust.
From here, it's up to you.

But it's been a year since I've heard your voice.
It's been almost that since you've written.
I tried to keep up my end of the conversation
But the silence was deafening.

I eventually gave up, for the most part.
I try a random attempt now and again.
But my inner psyche knows, or fears,
That I'm just not on your mind.

I wonder if you think ill of me.
I wonder if you think of me with fondness.
I wonder if your thoughts of me fill you with repulsion.
I wonder if you think of me at all.

I wish I could hear your voice.

To God:

The things you wrote so long ago
Assure me that you love me.
They say you count the hairs I have.
And that you think I'm of great worth.

But since I dirtied up our love
There's nothing I can do
To repair the damage or the trust.
From here, it's up to you.

But it's been a very long time since I've heard your voice.
It's been 2000 years since you've written.
I've tried to keep up my end of the conversation.
But the silence is deafening.

I often feel like giving up.
But I try, often without hope, again and again.
But my inner spirit fears
That I'm just not on your mind.

I wonder if you think ill of me.
I wonder if you think of me with fondness.
I wonder if your thoughts of me fill you with repulsion.
I wonder if you think of me at all.

I wish I could hear your voice.

Monday, September 17, 2007

To Ding-Dong

Well, I had a Ding-Dong yesterday. It wasn't that good (although it wasn't bad). It's not that I loved Ding-Dongs in the past so much as it was that they were a very quick and easy sate-the-munchies snack.

As I contemplated sating my breakfast-munchies yesterday morning with a Ding-Dong (see previous blog entry for the background on this Ding-Dong issue), I prayed and asked God if I should or shouldn't. Perhaps as a response, perhaps as my own internal logic fell into place (which also is a gift of God - Praise Yah!), the thought coalesced that "All foods are created by God" (kind of a mish-mash of Mark 7:19 and I Tim 4:3). (Then came the thought, "Even junk like Ding-Dongs?") Then came the thought that whatever significance is attached to eating Ding-Dongs is placed there by myself, so ultimately the decision is mine. I then thought that a year was a sufficient "honor" to the person for whom I stopped eating Ding-Dongs, and decided that although I would not become a one-or-two-Ding-Dong-a-day person again, neither was I going to turn my avoidance of Ding-Dongs into a rule. (I have one such rule, and that is to avoid alcohol. Alcohol is stupidity in a bottle, just itching to make a fool out of you.)

So I had a Ding-Dong. It was anti-climatic, and the flavor was just slightly unappealing (wouldn't a ripe black plum have been good?).

Just one more step in "letting it go" (thanks for the song, Treecee!).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

To Ding-Dong, or Not to Ding-Dong

More than a year ago I gave up the elevator in favor of stairs for fewer than three floors. I don't know that I completely thought through all my reasons, but at least one motivation that has cycled consistently through my brain was that it was somehow tied into making a very small improvement in myself for someone I cared for a great deal.

About one year ago, along the same vein, I stopped eating Ding-Dongs and cupcakes. It was a small thing -- I haven't made any kind of all-out effort to lose weight or to eat right or to exercise. But seeing as I was pretty much a one-or-two-Ding-Dong-a-day guy for years, it seemed significant to me, in a middle-aged desperate stalking loser sort of way --the entire motivation for this revolved around this woman for whom I cared.

Alas, within days of making that decision, there was no longer any reason for me to keep this motivation. And yet, I've honored the commitment for a year.

It's now been a year, and I find myself facing the question of how I'm going to treat Ding-Dongs and cupcakes now. For the past couple of weeks I've thought about it. I haven't particularly wanted a cupcake or Ding-Dong, but I also have no reason any more to avoid them (well, unless you count "eating healthy" a reason to avoid junk food -- bah!). But today, visiting at my parents, there's an unopened box of Ding-Dongs, and Mom announces that she's bought them for me. (She was unaware of my decision a year ago.) I'm unsure what to make of this "coincidence".

I've had a friend suggest that I grab a box of Ding-Dongs and some Big Red (I haven't given those up - what, are you crazy?) and go have a celebratory feast with them while riding an elevator all day.

It's a stupid little meaningless conundrum instigated by a stupid infatuation a long time ago. But it's my conundrum, and I'll ride if I want to.

Evolution Requires New Genetic Information

I often point out how evolution requires the creation of new genetic information, from the non-existence of information in a rock to the minimal information in an amoeba to the very complex genetic information in a human. For example, I said this just recently in the second half of my last blog entry.

Just now I came across a blog entry over at Evolution News and Views which has a YouTube video clip of the most popular living atheist, Richard Dawkins, stumbling and failing to answer this issue of where new genetic information comes from. Here's a portion of a quote from the article, which in turn quotes what Phillip Johnson had to say about this clip:
Phillip Johnson described this interview as follows: "In response to the question, Dawkins hesitated for at least eleven seconds, an agonizingly long time in the context of a video interview, before he finally gave a completely irrelevant reply about the transition between fish and amphibians. The creationists were ecstatic. As they saw it, Richard Dawkins--the world's most prominent Darwinist--was so completely flummoxed by their most important question that he had to duck it." (Phillip Johnson, The Wedge of Truth, pgs. 39-40)
The short three-paragraph article is worth reading; go do so now. You can watch the 2-minute video clip there, or here:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Different Strokes, Part II

As I was reading last night, I found Genesis 25:27 to strike me as fascinating:
When the boys grew up, Esau became an expert hunter, an outdoorsman, but Jacob was a quiet man who stayed at home.
As you may recall, these brothers were twins, born from the same womb at the same time, sired by the same father.

Yet they had totally different natures.

I'm sometimes discouraged that I'm not the outdoorsy, hard-working, energetic man my father is, so that I could be of more help to him around his house. I'm pretty confident that I disappoint him in this regard.

Reading this passage from Genesis helps to soothe my ruffled feathers about this issue though, as it's clear that God has given each of us our own nature.

I remember hearing someone once explain that the famous passage in Proverbs 22:6 actually means "train up a child according to his bent", and I see that the Amplified Version thus renders it:
Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Again, the implication here is that we each have our own nature; some of us are born to be athletes; some are born to be musicians; some are born to be thinkers.

I would love to be more helpful to my dad around the house, but it's just not my nature, any more than it was Jacob's nature. (But unlike Jacob, I don't cook, nor do I swindle my siblings out of their birthright.)

One more point before leaving this passage: here's another Biblical example of "variation on a theme". Very often in discussions with evolutionists I find that they don't get the difference between "Evolution" and "variation on a theme".

"Variation on a theme" is Biblical; you can see it in this passage, and in the whole story of the earth's population in all its colors and sizes descending from Noah and his three sons, and in the passage just a bit farther in Genesis when Jacob does selective breeding.

Variation on a theme is the idea that a pair of ancestral dogs got off the ark and then "evolved" into jackals and dingoes and wolves and foxes and Chihuahas and St. Bernards, but this variation comes about by loss or rearrangement of existing genetic information.

"Evolution", as in "microbe-to-Man", requires new genetic information to come into existence.

Yet when evolutionists are asked for evidence of Evolution, they inevitably trot out examples of "variation on a theme", such as microbes becoming resistant to antibiotics (caused by a loss of the ability to process a certain protein) or light moths "evolving" into dark moths (a mere rearranging in the "popularity" of one set of genetic information over another), or fruit-flies irradiated in the lab developing a second set of wings (a mere duplication of already-existing genetic information).

What evolutionists need to demonstrate is the development of new, never-before-existing genetic information (and lots of it!); otherwise their inadequate examples of Evolution makes Evolutionists of even the staunchest Creationists, for Creationists believe in this type of "micro-evolution", or more aptly, "variation on a theme".

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Bible vs My Comfort-Zone, aka Intersections, Part IV

In previous posts I've mentioned how I prayed a prayer recently at church that turned out to be beyond the comfort-zone of some in that church, and expressed that we should welcome those things that are Biblical, even if they challenge our comfort zones.

Ever since the issue was raised by some who were not comfortable with my prayer, I've been praying that those folks would have their eyes opened to this notion that we should give preference to Biblical activities over those which are merely traditional. I've also prayed, alongside that request, that I would have my eyes opened if my blindnesses are causing me to be in error. I didn't think I was in error; didn't even see how I could possibly be in error - after all, my prayer was taken straight out of the New Testament, having been written by Paul, and having been recorded at God's direction. What could be wrong with it?

However, it seems that God has indeed, just this morning, opened my eyes to at least one aspect in which I'm in error.

One of the people I talked to earlier, who was bothered by my prayer, mentioned the possibility of someone laying prostrate in church during a prayer. Not much emphasis was put on the comment, and it didn't really register in my consciousness at the time.

However, this morning, I realized that if someone came in and was asked to lead a prayer, and commenced doing so by first lying prostrate on the ground, my gut reaction would be to think, "Wow, this guy is weird. Is he just doing that for show?"

In other words, I would react toward this guy exactly the way these other brethren of mine reacted toward me. If they have any "guilt" in their reaction, I am just as guilty as they.

Is it wrong for this guy to pray while laying prostrate because it's too weird, while I'm in the right because I'm only a little weird? Or is it wrong for this guy, but right for me, because "I'm right and he's not"? What a hypocrite I turned out to be.

So what is the solution? Should we stick to our traditions and shun those things that challenge our comfort zones, even if they are Biblical? Or should we endeavor to challenge our comfort zones on a regular basis as "exercise" in preparation for when the challenges come, as suggested in my last post? Or what?

At this point, I'm leaning toward accepting those things which are Biblical, even if they challenge our comfort zones. But I definitely need to look to my own eye-located planks before trying to clean out the speck of sawdust in the eyes of my brothers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Bible vs Your Comfort-Zone

We're all guilty of it; we grow up with certain traditions, and never question the Biblicality of those traditions, and we assume that traditions with which we're unfamiliar are unBiblical.

For example, in my church background, the collection (or contribution) has always been taken up after the bread and cup of the Lord's Supper was served. Sometimes it's mentioned that the collection is not part of the Lord's Supper, but since all the "servers" are in place, it's just a convenient time to pass the plate. No problem with that. But I suspect that if, at such a church, the collection was taken just before the passing of the bread and cup, quite a few folks would have a cow. (And we know beef is not authorized as part of the Lord's Supper....)

Another example, again from my church background. The singing has always been led by a man standing at the front of the auditorium (usually in front of a microphone), and there's basically been a pattern of 2 songs, a prayer, another song, the Lord's Supper, a song, the sermon, an invitation song, final announcements, and a closing song followed by a closing prayer. (There are minor variations on this pattern, but most in the churches of Christ would recognize this pattern.) What would happen if instead of following this pattern, the preacher gave his sermon first thing, and then came the singing uninterrupted by other activities, led not by a man standing at a microphone in the front of the crowd but by a man sitting with a microphone, essentially invisible to the congregrants, followed by the remainder of normal procedures to close out? I think again, people would take offense, and try to maneuver this change as unBiblical, or perhaps just disruptive and therefore wrong, or perhaps just as change for the sake of change and therefore wrong on that count.

Heaven forbid that the preacher sit while preaching his sermon, as Jesus did on at least one occasion (Luke 4:20).

My point is that it's human nature to allow our traditions to become doctrines, even to the point of shunning what would otherwise be a Biblical practice (sitting while teaching - Luke 4:20, lifting of hands in prayer - 1 Tim 2:8, women covering their heads when praying - 1 Cor 11:5ff, fasting as a church - Acts 13:2,3, etc).

Note that I'm not necessarily advocating these things; I'm just saying they're Biblical, and should therefore be acceptable in any church belonging to Christ, even if they're beyond our normal comfort zone. I also am suggesting that our failure to regularly challenge our comfort zones has made us weak, resulting in a tenacious clinging to our traditions, in essence making them commandments of men.

Would love to hear your comments.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Different Strokes ...

Over the past few months I've come to a realization: People are different.

I don't care much for art, or classical music, or sports. Other people live for those things.

I tend to enjoy relatively quiet spaces, with friends and good conversations. Other people thrive on flashing lights and deafening music and throngs of people moving and jostling.

Different strokes for different folks.

The same is true of church personalities. One church might have a "liberal" feel, while another has a "strict" feel, while another is somewhere in between.

I tend to need something in between, and have thought this is the healthy condition of a church, and therefore is the condition we should aim for. By extension, I thought that a church too liberal or too strict is unhealthy.

But people are different. The church I attend is exactly what some people need. If that church were to change its personality, those people would no longer have a place to attend.

Wanting to spur growth in a church is good. But sometimes such growth might change the personality of the church, eliminating it as a refuge for those people who needed it to have its original personality. Has the change then done more good, or more damage?

Intersections, Part III

A few entries ago I mentioned praying a prayer at church that I was afraid might disturb some folks, and was surprised that no one questioned me about it.

I have since learned that some people thought I looked like Elvis, going down on one knee, mic stand in hand, and it seems that some folks got the idea I was trying to be showy.

As mentioned in my previous blog entry:
It was definitely difficult to do, but as soon as I read that passage weeks ago, I felt compelled to do this. I'm thankful that God gave me the opportunity and the guts to carry through.
If this were a showy "Look at me" thing", I don't think it would be difficult, nor would I be needing guts to do it.

I remember being in junior high or high school years ago and an old man kneeled once while leading a public prayer. That made a big impression on me. And it's never crossed my mind that he was doing it as a "Look at me" thing. Rather, I learned that day to question my normal way of doing things (I've never been an expert at applying this lesson, but I hold it dear to my heart). Whatever educational "shock value" I may have intended was more of a "Hey. This is Biblical. Open your eyes" (figuratively about the eye opening, although a literal opening of the eyes in prayer is Biblical also).

It's regrettable that I appeared Elvis-like in my action and left the impression with some that I was trying to be showy.

Quite a few folks were bothered that I left off from my prayer the phrase "In Jesus' name". This I did because Paul left it out of his prayer. That's all it was.

Nevertheless, some got the impression that I was intentionally trying to cause a disturbance when they read this blurb from my earlier blog entry:
So I read a prayer instead of coming up with my own; I kneeled; and I did not use the formulaic "In Jesus' name, Amen".

I really expected that it might disturb some folks, but no one said anything....
That was bad wording on my part. What I intended was, "I was nervous that one or more of these 'oddities' might disturb some folks...", not that it was my intention to disturb them.

My intention was to pray a Biblical prayer and in the process to show my brethren that the New Testament allows more freedom than our traditions sometimes allow. It was not my intention to disturb people, but neither was I averse to poking them in the ribs and saying, "Pay attention; this is Biblical".

It has since been pointed out to me that although eating of meats is okay, it's not okay when it offends a brother. The implication is that I should not be poking brethren in the ribs for educational purposes. I'm not entirely sure I agree that applies here, but I'm not sure it doesn't apply either. So in deference to these brethren, I'll be using the phrase "In Jesus' name" in future public prayers at church.

Some hours later after the discussion, I think the main thought in my head is this:
A prayer written by the Apostle Paul, and recorded by God for the benefit of his church, is unacceptable to some brethren if prayed as written.
I have to admit, that bothers me a great deal.

We all parted on friendly and brotherly terms. I'm sure I'll be looked at with some suspicion, and that's okay. As long as I can be true to God and my understanding of the scriptures, even if I have to be somewhat quiet about those things (which is Biblical - Rom 14:22), being "suspect" is acceptable.

I pray that God is made to look good through all of this, and that we all grow as a result. And whatever growth and praise to God results, it's by the power of Jesus Christ.

The comment lines are open.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My New Bible

I finished reading "The Message" about a month ago, and had the hardest time finding a new Bible version to start reading. I finally settled on the Holman Illustrated Study Bible (

Here's what I wrote about it to a friend:

The new Bible draws me; I haven't had as much time to read it as I'd like; I've only gotten through Gen. 11 so far. But I pretty much like it so far. I've been irritated to find three typos in the accompanying material (Introduction, captions on pictures, etc), but I haven't seen any in the Bible text itself. But those typos create in my deep psyche the idea that the workmanship on this Bible is shoddy. Another part of me thinks the workmanship on this Bible is very good. But very many more typos and that deeper psyche part may get stronger; it's a definite negative for me.

I also didn't like their "How to be saved" page, which was very, for lack of another term, "Baptist-y". I know the majority of Christians in America believe one is saved by praying the "Sinner's Prayer" (perhaps you do also), but I just don't find the "Sinner's Prayer" in the New Testament, anywhere. I believe the New Testament teaches that one is saved by God's grace through the process of a person turning to and committing to Jesus as The Way, but that it's "made official" by the "signing on the dotted line" at immersion (traditionally (and wrongly, in my estimation) rendered "baptism"). It's at that point that one is buried to the old dead life, and then raised into a newness of life, according to Romans 6:3ff. It is after immersion that the Ethiopian eunuch "went on his way rejoicing", not before (Acts 8:39). It is at the point of immersion that one's sins are forgiven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit is given (Acts 2:38). It is at the point of immersion that one is added to the church (Acts 2:41,47). As Peter puts it, "baptism ... now saves you", but it's not the physical act of getting dunked that saves; Peter continues: "[it's] not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God" (1 Peter 3:21). So as I understand it, immersion is the "signing of the contract", the pledge made official. That's not to say that God can't make exceptions as he sees fit; I think he's more interested in the heart of a person than in the technical legalities (and besides, Jesus was immersed, not because he needed it, but so that he could fulfill the technical legalities for us -- "to fulfill all right-ness" (Matt. 3:15), which right-ness he gives to us as a free gift). But I think it's a dangerous thing for humans to preach a method of salvation that can't even be found in the New Testament. I think perhaps the people who preach this doctrine have never paid attention to the conversions recorded in the book of Acts, all of which include immersion as an integral part of salvation. If the Apostles were to attend a modern day "Gospel Meeting", I think they'd be stunned that no one was getting immersed; the Apostles always immersed their converts at their "Gospel Meetings". I tend to think we should tend to do things Biblically rather than inventing our own methods.

(I realize that the differences in culture necessitate some invention on our part, and prevent the exact duplication of Biblical methods, but I think that adhering to Biblical methods should be our general course of action.)

I also realize that other people place more emphasis on "being led by the Spirit" (perhaps such as the "Charismatics"), and other people place more emphasis on tradition (perhaps such as Catholics, relying on church tradition), but I believe the black-and-white of the text indicates that we should stick with the black-and-white of the text, as indicated by Paul when he wrote, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:8)

Again, let me make it clear that I'm not saying anyone who has failed to be immersed in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins is unsaved -- I believe God can save who he wants when he wants based on his criteria, and that he seems to place greater emphasis on the heart than on the outward technicalities. But what I am saying is that we humans have no business ignoring the first century examples of conversion in favor of something that's not even found in the New Testament.

Some people claim that the thief on the cross gave us an example of the "Sinner's Prayer", but there's at least three flaws in this thinking: 1) This was before Jesus' command to make disciples, immersing them. 2) Jesus has the right to make exceptions to his rules anyway; we don't. 3) There's a good chance that the thief was immersed (Matt 3:5-6), which would invalidate the claim that he was saved before/without immersion.

All that to say, I don't like my new Bible's page on "How to be saved"; I believe it's unBiblical.

But I think this Bible as a whole has a lot of great potential. I was surprised last night to find that when it's talking about the people in Babel all having one language in Gen 11:1, the literal phrase is "one lip and the same words". Not that this is important; I just found it interesting. And as I was reading the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, it really helped to have a map on the same page that was color-coded to the three sons' families, along with many of the city names mentioned. I have a better grip on the dispersal of the human race across EuroAsia than I've ever had. There have been several little things like that.

As mentioned, I haven't really gotten into it far enough to really know for sure how well I like it, or if I'd recommend it. But so far, yeah, I think I like it pretty well.

W00t! I'm Famous!

The preacher at a local church asked the congregants to list their favorite song-writers. Someone in the group thought more highly of a family member than she did of the "professionals", and the result is that my name is now listed in the middle of some big names in the music biz at the preacher's blog:

It's rather meaningless, really, but wow; it sure is an ego boost.

I Am Too a Grouch!

A friend and I were talking about our "Signature Personality Strengths" we learned several years ago from taking an online test. He stated that he couldn't remember his, and I stated, in jest, that the only ones I could remember were that I was Grouchy and Lazy.

He responded that he's never associated "grouchy" with me.

So I suggested "whiny". (I have been accused of this - see last post as an example of my whinyness.) He thought for a second, shook his head, and said, "No-o-o, not whiny either."

Wow. Cool.

But notice, he didn't dispute my "lazy" characteristic. D'oh!