Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Cal Thomas: Howard Dean 'finds' Jesus
December 30, 2003

"Democrats have been trying hard in recent years to squeeze God into their politics, perceiving that Republicans have an edge on invoking the Creator to bless their policies. Democrats worry they suffer from a "God gap."

Bill Clinton and Al Gore, with their Southern Baptist backgrounds, were fluent in the language of religion, though not always in its personal application. Who can forget Easter Sunday 1996, when President Clinton emerged from church flashing a Bible for the cameras and later returning to the White House, where Monica Lewinsky got down on her knees to perform an act that did not resemble prayer?

Clinton and Gore often quoted what they said were verses of Scripture, which turned out to be incorrect and/or misapplied. And now Howard Dean will rush in where political angels have feared to tread and try to advance the theological ball down the field to see if he can score votes for his candidacy.

In an interview with the Boston Globe (Dec. 25), Dean announced that he is a "committed believer in Jesus Christ." He told writer Sarah Schweitzer that he plans to include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he campaigns down South. That's the land of Confederate battle flags and pickup trucks Dean so recently disparaged. In the Globe interview, he said Southerners understand religious talk better than his fellow New Englanders...

Dean is from a Congregationalist background, a liberal denomination that does not believe in ministerial authority or church hierarchy. Each Congregationalist believes he is in direct contact with God and is entitled to sort out truth for himself. Dean's wife is Jewish and his two children are being raised Jewish, which is strange at best, considering the two faiths take a distinctly different view of Jesus..."

It's pretty clear that Mr. Dean knows not what fire it is he is playing with. ~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, December 29, 2003

The Preacher's Mandate

Pray as though nothing of eternal value is going to happen unless God does it.

Prepare as giving "my utmost for His highest."

Seek not to "get a message" from the scripture, but seek "the message" of the scripture.

Be satisfied not with producing good content, put with producing good people.

Attend carefully to private and public walk with God, knowing the congregation never rises to a standard higher then that being lived by the preacher.

Be "persuaded that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation."

"Preach the word" - not about the word, not from the word, not with the word - affirming it is only proclamations of God's word that carry God's authority and His promise to bless.

Exalt Christ preeminently, trusting He will then draw people to Himself.

Balance declarations of "salvation by faith alone" with declarations describing the life Christ produces when He sees saving faith: transformed heart, desire to serve the Lord not self, growing affection for His word, increasing obedience, fruit of the Spirit, saltiness in society, maturing Christlikeness.

Depend solely upon God for the translation of spiritual truth into life.

Preach Christ's word in Christ-like demeanor.

Agree it is impossible at one and the same time to impress people with Christ and with oneself.

Allow the preaching to exude the fruit of the Spirit, lest the preaching fail to produce Christ-like lives.

Preach with humble gratitude, as one privileged to be an oracle of God.

Trust God to produce in the hearers His chosen purposes - irrespective of whether the results are readily visible.

(Published by The Cornerstone Trust, Box 1906, Cave Creek, AZ 85327)

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The Seattle Times: Nation & World: 'Excavating Jesus': Some sites mentioned in Gospels yield clues
By Bill Broadway, The Washington Post, Saturday, December 27, 2003

"Many Christians were upset when Israeli antiquities experts recently declared a first-century inscription bearing Jesus' name a fake, seemingly depriving them of the earliest archaeological proof of Jesus' existence.

Those who take such a view misunderstand the point of biblical archaeology, said Craig Evans, professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia and an expert on ossuaries, the small burial boxes like the one on which was carved in Aramaic: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

"Archaeology isn't so much about proving the Bible," said Evans, an evangelical Christian who said he thinks the James inscription ultimately could be proved authentic. The importance of archaeology is that it "clarifies and contextualizes the story of the Bible."

What many people don't realize, Evans and other scholars said, is that archaeologists in recent years have been searching for — and finding — contextual clues to the world inhabited by Jesus and his followers..."

Thursday, December 25, 2003

"Be still and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10

It is Christmas Day. I am getting some much needed time off of work. Things at work have been very hectic this past month, and the pace will not let up soon. It is a time to be quiet and just listen, to listen for that still small voice, to let thoughts and ideas sort themselves out, to ponder the meaning of the events and happenings of this past year.

As part of our church's Christmas Cantata, we sang a song that included the tune and words to an old, and perhaps for many, a forgotten chorus based on the words "Be still and know that I am God." There is a time to be still, a time to listen. How often we are so busy we don't take time to be still and just listen.

We're so busy with the everyday details of life. We think we have to have all the answers instead of humbly admitting we don't. How often the reason we don't have the answer is because we do not stop and listen, but rush headlong down the path of our own agenda instead of waiting to hear what God's agenda is.

Thank you Lord for giving us this time of the year when we can pause, catch our breath, and take time to just listen, not to men's words about You, but Your words to each of us individually as we seek that unique path You have for us personally. Thank You for the baby Jesus, that He grew to be a man, that He pictured You and Your love to us, and died for us that in Him we might live, that He arose from the grave and is now seated at Your right hand and will one day return in glory. We praise and worship You this day with heart's of gratitude and joy. In the precious name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, December 22, 2003

Christian Digest Magazine On-Line
- Families Where Grace Is In Place
Getting free from the burden of pressuring, controlling and manipulating your spouse and children

By Jeff Van Vonderen

Editors comment: When people spend their lives trying to transform or fix their spouses and their kids, the natural result is exhaustion, depression and the hopeless sense of wanting to bail out of it all. Here’s a message about how God’s grace can transform relationships within a marriage and family. The first step is learning the simple difference between God’s job and ours. God’s part is to fix and change. Our responsibility is to depend on the holy Spirit, serve our families and to help equip them to be all they can be. The Christian family’s ultimate goals of harmony, obedience and full potential can be arrived at without using legalistic and manipulative methods. No wonder Bill Hybels called it, "The single best book on the family that I’ve read in recent years."

"Mark was one of the most dedicated Christian men I'd ever met. In the community, he had a sterling reputation as a business and civic leader; in his church, he was a hard working deacon and an excellent Sunday school teacher. In large part, his apparent success at everything he put his hand to came from a "can do" attitude. He often sacrificed his own comfort and needs to help someone else or to work for some higher goal. When problems came up for his wife and kids, Mark directed them to what he always did: "Quit complaining-when you focus on a problem, you become a problem. Just do the right thing. It doesn't matter whether you like it or not. The kingdom of God is not a democracy."

One day, reality gave Mark an alarming wake up call. His wife, Karin, began to suffer symptoms of a breakdown and checked herself into a local health clinic. Mark received the emergency call at work. He rushed to her bedside and, holding her hand, tried to offer comfort. "You can lick this, hon. I don't know what's happening here, but if you'll just call on the Lord"

Karin exploded. "Look at me, Mark! Look at me. Do you see what's happening to me? Have you ever really seen me or what I need? Do you really know the kids, or what they need? I didn’t marry you to have an 'answer man.' And if you tell me one more time, 'Just pray about it,' I'll go over the edge. Stop giving us your mechanical answers, and love us." Tears of frustration that had been building for years-finally choked off her plea.

Two of their three children had come to the clinic with Karin. Their eyes, full of tears, met his-and all Mark could see, suddenly, belatedly, was the depth of pain they carried, pain he'd stifled in them. All he could hear in his mind were the years of Christian principles he'd cited to his family-the standards Christians were supposed to live up to in order to be good Christians. Had he been wrong somehow, even while he was speaking the "right" words? On the other hand, maybe this was just some kind of spiritual attack.

Mark's twelve-year-old daughter was sobbing too hard to speak. But his teenaged son looked him in the eye and, in the most impassioned voice Mark had ever heard, pleaded with him. "Dad, we love you. But you make us feel like we're never going to be good enough. Please listen to what Mom's saying. Help her!"....."
Panel: Religious freedom report shows need for more action - (BP)
Dec 19, 2003, By Tom Strode

"WASHINGTON (BP)--The new U.S. State Department report on international religious freedom demonstrates why a non-partisan commission has been calling on Secretary of State Colin Powell to declare additional countries as severe violators of religious liberty, the panel's chairman said.

In an executive summary of its annual report released Dec. 18, the State Department classified countries where religious adherents and groups are suppressed, discriminated against or discouraged. Few changes were made in the five categories from last year's report.

The report said enough to convince the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom it was correct previously in recommending Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam as "countries of particular concern." CPCs, as designated by the State Department, are regimes that participate in or permit severe and ongoing violations of religious liberty..."

Saturday, December 20, 2003

[Copied from the memorial bulletin for the worship service in honor of God and in celebration of the life of Gladys N. McCully, held on Saturday, December 20, AD 2003, at the First Baptist Church in Saginaw, Michigan.]
Gladys N. McCully
February 26, 1908- December 18, 2003

"Gladys Newcomer McCully was born to the late Guy and Sadie (Gray) Newcomer in Wauseon, Ohio. She married Nathan J. McCully on June 19, 1932 in Waldron, Michigan. He preceded her in death on November 19, 1988.

Gladys was a member of the First Baptist Church of Saginaw, Michigan for over 50 years, a member of the Church Reading Circle, the Ames Retirees and Flint Travel Club, the Historical Society and Museum of Saginaw County, a charter member of Saginaw Bowmen and bowled for many years with the Friday Owls. She received the Life Teacher Certificate from Michigan State Normal College now Eastern Michigan University. She then received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Central Michigan University. She was employed as a teacher with Saginaw High School, retiring in 1973 after 23 years of service.

Gladys spent numerous hours crocheting and knitting for the less fortunate. She enjoyed reading, playing euchre and Tiger Baseball.

Surviving are four daughters: Kay (Larry) Mertz, Saginaw; Doris (Fen) Hicks, Roscoe, 111; Norma Kracko, Clio, Michigan; and Ginny Huff, Saginaw; 12 grandchildren; 26 great grandchildren; one brother, Rex Newcomer and many nieces, nephews and cherished friends. She was preceded in death by three sisters."

We who knew and loved her will miss her... ~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, December 19, 2003

Reflections on finally seeing "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

If a theater release is so awesome, what will the extended version be like? After seeing such an epic movie like this, how will any other movies even come close? They can not but pale in comparison. "If Return of the King" doesn't get a whole bunch of Oscar's, the Academy Award judges will forfeit any credibility and respect they might yet retain. "Return of the King" is simply the best movie I've seen in my life. Kudos and thanks to Peter Jackson and all involved.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Book Review - Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church
Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000. pp. 255.
Reviewed by Michael J. Vlach

"In his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C., sets forth what he believes to be the marks of a healthy church. The book, itself, is based on a series of sermons that Dever, a Southern Baptist minister, preached to his church....

...Mark one of a healthy church is expositional preaching. According to Dever, expositional preaching is "that preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture" (26). Dever believes that expositional preaching is "far and away the most important" of all the marks (25). In fact, he asserts that if churches would get this first mark right, all of the other marks he mentions would naturally follow..."

"..the point of a particular passage of Scripture"... Instead of ones own agenda or scholastic pet peeve? YES! AMEN! Such expositional preaching would hedge the preacher in to the Word Itself; a safe place for preacher and congregation to be. Let the passage speak for itself instead of bringing your egotistical self-serving agenda to it. Now I understand why some preachers don't like the constraints of expostional preaching... It cramps their abusive gentile leadership style!
~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Complicit Guilt, Explicit Healing - Christianity Today Magazine
Men involved in abortion are starting to find help.
By John W. Kennedy | posted 10/27/2003

"...Although pregnancy care centers began providing post-abortion syndrome counseling for women soon after Roe v. Wade became law, spiritual and psychological healing for men remains rare. Warren L. Williams has counseled 250 post-abortive men in the past 25 years as founder of Fathers & Brothers Ministries International in Boulder, Colorado. Williams estimates that only 4,000 American men in the past decade have gone through any kind of study about how abortion has affected them.

"Culturally, it has been swept under the rug," Williams said..."

WORLD December 20, 2003: Merry 'winter festival'?
The exclusive claims of Christ make even the name of a popular holiday offensive to many
By Gene Edward Veith

"WHAT DOES CONTEMPORARY CULTURE HAVE against Jesus? Even non-Christians used to pay tribute to the author of the Sermon on the Mount, even as they tried to remake Him in their image. Muslims considered Jesus to be a nondivine prophet. Humanists hailed Him as a nice-guy philanthropist. Left-wing radicals presented Him as a political revolutionary. Today, though, secularists are recoiling at the name of Jesus like Dracula before a crucifix.

Even in the holiday that celebrates His birth, acknowledging Jesus is no longer politically correct..."

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Christmas, Children, & Church

His students were really put out. Their teacher was a busy man with a full schedule of ministry; preaching engagements, church conferences, counseling sessions, church planting, and the all important seminary teaching he was giving to a select group to prepare them for ministry also. The days were long and full as the teacher's reputation continued to grow, and great crowds would come to see him. Things were so hectic that there were times when the teacher had no time even to eat a decent meal.

Now in the midst of all of that hectic activity, some parents had the audacity to bring their young children to the teacher, requesting that he would take valuable time out of an already filled schedule, and pray for those children and bless them!

That was the last straw! Don't these parents know there is important Kingdom work to be done, and that the teachers time was valuable, and there were much more important things for him to be doing then spending time with some little kids? Where was their sense of Kingdom priority? How could these parents be so selfish and petty?

"... Some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." And after laying His hands on them, He departed... " (Matthew 19:13-15)

At church tonight we had the Children's Christmas program. It was a nice time, cute little children, enthusiastic singing, and all the rest. From the mouth of babes as it were, praise was given to our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel was presented, and perhaps for a few who would not normally go to a regular church service, they heard that gospel message for the first time. I rejoice that we attend a church that loves children and clearly demonstrates that love to them.

As I sat there listening, I thought back to a conversation I had a few years ago with one of the pastors of our former church. He told me children were not part of the church family until they joined the church, (which they were not allowed to do until the latter teen years). In that church there was no vision of children being a part of a wider local church family extending beyond the actual membership. There was no active church outreach to children and young people. Any outreach there was, was done by parents, but was not a "church" outreach. It was as if children were to be seen and not heard. (Now you know one of the reasons we no longer attend that church.)

Children as young as 3 or 4 years old were expected to learn to sit through the 1 1/2 hour worship service listening to preaching way over their heads and by men whose preaching would regularly include angry yelling, scolding, and berating. (Yes, I have specific examples in mind, but will spare you.) God only knows how many of those children grew up dreading Sunday mornings. One mark in many of the families that left and are now attending other churches is that the children now look forward to going to church instead of dreading it.

Of all the children that have grown up in that former church, less then 5% of those remain in that church or in a similar sister church in another place. The grown children that left did not all defect to the world. A good majority of them are active members in other evangelical churches, but will have little or nothing to do with the church they grew up in or the movement with which it is associated.

If Jesus willingly made it a priority to minister specifically to children, and He did, how much more should His bride, the church, reflect that love and ministry to those children within the wider scope of the church community as well as outside that community. In that light, flimsy excuses based on a scholastic overbearing application of a miss-applied regulative principle seem shallow and self-serving indeed.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Black leaders see no parallel between homosexual, civil rights - (BP)
(Baptist Press News, Dec 12, 2003, By Michael Foust )

"NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--If all blacks share the view of Maryland pastor Thann Young, then the movement to legalize same-sex "marriage" will be a tough sell.

The African Methodist Episcopal minister sees no comparison between the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s and the so-called homosexual rights movement of today. In fact, he is quite offended by such parallels.

"As an African-American I really believe that this is probably one the greatest insults you can offer to the African-American struggle," he told Baptist Press. "... It tends to minimize or even cheapen the struggle that African-Americans have experienced in this country by comparing it in this manner." ..."

Friday, December 12, 2003

Theological Studies - The 9 Most Important Issues Facing the Evangelical Church by Michael J. Vlach

"At we have grabbed our binoculars and have surveyed the state of the evangelical church. Nine issues stand out to us as ones that are of special importance: ... "
FT December 2003: Opinion: Johnny of the Cross Peter M. Candler, Jr

"...Yet his life cannot be reduced to a metaphor. It was more than just one of noble ambition or grandeur of design; Johnny’s virtues were just as hard-fought as his vices. In life Johnny Cash struggled for and against the God whose grip on him was so frustratingly and thankfully relentless that it was able to absorb all that fierce rage and all those addictions. Johnny could sing about murder and God in the same song and with the same voice because to do otherwise would have been dishonest. At the same time, he let that despair, agony, and rejection stand on their own—he lent them integrity. There was no serious salvation unless there was first some serious sin. Cash echoed St. Paul: “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” But there is at least one thing that Cash never was, and that is a moralist. He did not chalk doubt up to a misunderstanding. Rather, Cash showed that doubt is itself proper to faith. A God who could not stomach the darkest moments of His creation was not worth our worship, much less a song..."

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Dispensationalism's Development

by James R. Mook, Th.D.

Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology

Capital Bible Seminary

"In 1958 C. Norman Kraus said that "Dispensationalist scholars show little historical self-awareness." He asserted as evidence that "no attempt has been made to write a definitive history of the movement." (Dispensationalism in America: Its Rise and Development (John Knox Press, 1958) p. 71) Today, forty years later, there still is no fully developed definitive history of Dispensationalism. But in the last three decades there has been a greater attempt of self-awareness as the movement has developed.... "

[This article gives a brief overview of the history of Dispensationalism. Of interest is this comment on Progressive Dispensationalism (PD). ~ The Billy Goat ~]

"Developments within a theological tradition usually result in a mainstream that attains the balance between honoring prior theologians within the tradition, carrying on common central distinctives from these thinkers, and yet articulating those distinctives in newer forms. Whether PD is truly a new development within the Dispensationalist tradition can be assessed by asking three questions: 1) Does PD consciously respect prior theologians in the Dispensationalist tradition? 2) Does PD positively seek to continue the common central theological distinctives of these prior theologians in the tradition? 3) Are PD's distinctive new tenets really central traditional teachings in new forms, or are they departures from the central distinctive beliefs of the tradition?"
WORLD December 20, 2003: 'Baptized imagination'
By Andrew Coffin

"The creative men and women behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy didn't always accept or understand Tolkien's themes, but his worldview still comes through powerfully in the films. The result is a profoundly Christian vision for the postmodern world..."

Amen to that! ~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Carl F.H. Henry, Theologian and First Editor of Christianity Today, Dies at 90 - Christianity Today Magazine (Posted 12/08/2003)

"Theologian, journalist, and evangelical leader Carl F.H. Henry died Sunday, December 7, at age 90 in his longtime home of Watertown, Wisconsin. Henry made it his life's work to present biblical Christianity as intellectually credible and historically true. On the battlefields of modern theological thought, spanning seminaries, denominations, and media, Henry shaped the defenses of evangelicalism with two goals in mind: preserving truth and attracting nonbelievers...."

Monday, December 08, 2003

"Rings" director wants to film "Hobbit"
Mon 8 December, 2003 16:27

By Emma Thomasson

"BERLIN (Reuters) - New Zealand film director Peter Jackson, tipped to win an Oscar for his "The Lord of the Rings" epic, says he would like to make "The Hobbit" prequel to the trilogy and work with some of the same actors again....."

Yes! Go for it Peter!

~ The Billy Goat ~

Sunday, December 07, 2003

The Chariots of God

I was walking along a road. It was dark but not so dark that I couldn't make out the images around me. As I looked over my left shoulder, I saw them. Whirling pillers formed like tornados... They were in an even row equally spaced apart, and I sensed, though I did not actually see them, that there were others of these whirling tornado like pillers on my right as well. I was not afraid and continued walking. At the point where the funnels were touching the ground there were sparks flying, like you see when grinding metal... The night sky was somewaht hazy but I could make out that the stars were there, though not clear.

At some point it hit me what the whirlling pillers actually were.. "ANGELS!". I shouted. "They're Angels!" I have no idea who I was saying that to for it seemed I was alone.

All of a sudden the whirling pillers rushed by and I felt myself being carried up. I could see the stars clearly, but they started to blur like they do in a Star Wars movie when you hit warp. I was shooting through the universe. Stars were streaking by...

I was awake. I turned over in my bed.... I wondered, "Was what it was like for Elijah?"

~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Thoughts On the Nature of Hell

There is a real hell; an existence without God. There are those who don't want to be answerable to the God who created them. They want to be God in His place. They sing songs about "I did it MY way."

It's as though God lets such people have what they want. They want to live forever without Him in their lives so He says to such people, "OK, Here it is. You can have it."

Existence without God. Cut off from the true source and origin of all life. Alone with one's self. All restraint gone. No grace or goodness. Left to be consumed by selfishness, bitterness, and unrepentant pride.

Yes, there is a hell. and I'm not convinced it ends in some kind of annihilation...

It's not so much about fire and endless smoke, whatever horrible reality those images point to. It's about life apart from God. Seperated from the source of all love and goodness and kindness and mercy. It's about choosing to live that life apart from God and worshiping the idol of "self".

And I'm not going to get into debate about non-believers who never had a chance to hear the Gospel or any of that. And I don't pretend to know who specifically will nessecarily end up in hell. God can worry about that without my help... He's better at that then I am anyhow. But this I know and believe; there is a hell.

I want to be with God. I want to live with Him. I want to see the face of Jesus and fall on my face before Him. One look at Him... That's all I want. One look at Him... and nothing else will matter... There are times I can hardly wait...

~ The Billy Goat~

Recommended Reading: "The Great Divorce" by C. S. Lewis and "Deadline" by Randy Alcorn

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Recovering from Legalism-Quiz
"You might be a legalist if....

1) You feel you have to meet everyone's expectations and win the approval of your friends and family.

2) You are convinced that all moral and ethical issues are cut and dried -- gray areas are for people who are soft headed and soft hearted.

3) God's love depends on what you do.

4) You think that all of your problems are caused by your sins.

5) You think that you fall short because you didn't have enough faith, because your faith is not strong enough, because you haven't prayed enough, or because you need to be a better person.

6) You are convinced that God is predisposed to be angry with you, and that your main goal in life is to try to keep God happy by doing things that will impress him.

7) Your spiritual life is defined and determined by an authoritative, charismatic leader or by a controlling physical organization, church, or group rather than a personal and direct relationship with God.

8) You tell your children not to do something in church or around church families that you allow in your home.

9) You believe that you are a member of the one true church and that all other Christians are sincere, but sincerely wrong and deceived.

10) You think a person's character can be determined by their clothing, hairstyle, piercings or tattoos.

11) You worry that people might be taking advantage of grace if it's preached "too much"—and then those people might do anything they want.

12) You feel guilty if you didn't attend every service and activity of your church."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

It's late and I really should be in bed. We did some Christmas shopping tonight. I really enjoy the Advent time of the year even though it gets hectic. I'm thankful for belonging to a church that enjoys it also and is not afraid to whole heartedly celebrate the glorious truth the season points to. God came to earth as a man (Philippians 2). Immanuel - God with us. And His name is Jesus, that is "one who saves". What wonderous love this is indeed! Blessed be the Name of the Lord! May you know His presence, love, and peace.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, December 01, 2003

Theology Constrained

How can we fully know You?
Though what we know is truth,
Being glimpses You let us see of You.
Beyond our finite measure,
Unbound by feeble mind of man,
Reasoning and logic fail
The whole of You to unveil.

In eternal glory
When freed from curse and sin,
We finite still will be
In light of Your infinity,
As we bow in humility
With reverent awe and love.

Now dimly through a glass we see,
One day we’ll see more perfectly,
Yet in all of eternity
We’ll never fathom all of Thee
For You alone are God.

Copyright © March 10, AD 2003,
All rights reserved.

` The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, November 29, 2003

The Lingering Influence of Collective Totalitarianism

The 20th century has been described as the age of Totalitarianism as marked by the rise of communism and the national socialism of the Nazi or Fascist variety. The ideological struggles that came to climax with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Empire were a struggle between the all inclusive demands of the state on the individual versus basic fundamental individual freedoms. It’s not my purpose in making this connection to make any kind of a “political” statement. What I want to do is share some thoughts regarding how this can relate to spiritual abuse in the Christian church.

In our former church, one of the pastors who was involved in helping sister churches in our western states, commented several times regarding how the concept of rugged individualism "infected" those churches in the west. As I see it now, people in those churches asked questions and expressed their opinions on things in a way that went against the concept of what “elder rule” had come to mean in a large part of this particular movement. That pastor’s comments need to be seen in light of the fact that Western republican democracy was not totally immune from the collective mentality that dominated the ideological struggle of the 20th century. (Again, my point is not to make a political statement, but a comparison and link.)

The rise of principled individualism had its roots in Christianity and the Bible. The 1st century was faced with a religion teaching there was no difference in God’s eyes between Greek and Jew, male and female, rich or poor. This religion also taught there were times when the demands of individual conscience before God had priority over community concerns. With the Reformation came the emphasis on education so people could read, and in so doing, could read the Bible for themselves. This implied the concept of private judgment, that each person individually was to search the Scriptures to see and be convinced of the truth in their own heart.

It is in that light that Christian churches ought to be the one place where community demands are balanced with individuality in a way that enhances both without detriment to either. I believe the theological underpinning of that is found in the concept of the priesthood of all believers.

The influence of the 20th century collectivist spirit is seen when demands of community (church) are emphasized to the detriment of principled individualism (the priesthood of all believers). As I read stories of spiritual abuse, all to often “community demands” are really not legitimate community demands, but really the whims of a leader who uses the language of “community demands” as a cover for their own selfish ambitions. If you want to read a parabolic picture of how that happens, read “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. For you “youngsters”, Animal Farm was written as a parody of the hypocrisy of the totalitarian collectivism of the 20th century. Scary isn’t it?

In absolute monarchies, the King was the state. Caesar was Rome. Henry III was England. Louis V was France. Alexander II was Russia. An attack on their person was an attack on the state.

With the advent of the ideological impulses that drove the majority of the history of the 20th century, the same principle was brought into the Totalitarian regimes. Stalin alone was the heir of “real” Marxist-Leninism” revolutionary thought so Trotsky had to be assassinated as an “enemy of the state”. Hitler embodied the Third Reich. Mao was China. Ideology became the pretext for maintaining party or personal power.

Now, substitute “theology” for ideology. Put it in the context of a church that puts primary emphasis on its distinctive theology, practices, or ministry instead of its common roots with the rest of the Evangelical church. Add a view of leadership that is not servant leadership but “gentile” leadership. The “defense of the faith” becomes the rally cry to protect the abusive leaders. “Submission” to the leader or leaders becomes an issue of submission to the “truth”. Once again we ask where have we seen that before? Again the answer comes, in the collectivist mentality that ravaged the 20th century.

The winds of past or current thought will often find a subltle way to influence the best of us. The answer is in continually striving to maintain the Biblical balance and emphasis on servant leadership set in the midst of the priesthood of all beleivers.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Thanksgiving Eve Musings

Tonight we went to our church's Thanksgiving Praise service. It was a good time for our church family as young and old alike gave their thanks to God. Some who shared had in this past year gone or are even now going through deep waters. Others who had been through deep waters in years past were able to rejoice in God's taking of the ashes of their life and making something beautiful and precious.

I shared how we were thankful as a family for God's goodness to us. This past year has been one of the happiest years ever for us as a family. The reason is that we again know the joy of the Lord in our hearts and life in a way we had not known for many years, and this church had a major part in the restoration of that joy.

I had thought of many things I might post on the blog here tonight; more excerpts from other writing I've done, or things of others I've come across. But it seemed fitting to set those aside for another day and share a few of the many things I'm thankful for such as:

a wife who, second only to Christ, is my best friend;

two dear and precious children along with a good son in-law who we are also proud of;

two darling grand-children who live near by so we see them regularly.

a church where Christ is honored and His Word is preached,

people at that church who love God and opened their herats to us as a family.

that I'm still able to work and have a job to go to...

a warm house with food in the cupboard...

good friends..

a free country where freedom is cherished

for God's Word, the bible, and the many precous promises in it.

the grace, mercy, kindness,and goodness of God

The Lord Jesus Christ who is my only hope in life and in death..

May God bless you and yours this Thanksgiving season.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

[ I regret I do not know the original source for the following. My thanks to "Reg" for posting this on the SA Forum. ~ The Billy Goat ~ ]

Please Listen

"When I ask you to listen to me - and you start giving me advice, - you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me - strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.- Don't talk or do - just hear me.- Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper.

And I can do for myself; I am not helpless. - Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can stop trying to convince you and get about this business of understanding what's behind this irrational feeling.

And when that's clear, the answers are obvious and I don't need advice. - Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what's behind them.

Perhaps that's why prayer works, sometimes, for some people because God is mute,and he doesn't give advice or try to fix things.

God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me. - And if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn and I will listen to you. "

Monday, November 24, 2003

Note from The Federalist Brief:

24 November 2003

Federalist No. 03-48

Monday Brief


"It occurred to me that in our work with secular organizations, the leader shapes the heart and passion of the corporate entity. In our work with non-profit organizations, we have found the same principle to be operative. When it comes to the focus of the organization, the people who serve there tend to take on many of the core personality traits of the leader toward fulfilling the mandate of the organization. If this is true, and most churches seem to lack the fervor and focus for evangelism, is it reasonable to conclude that it may be because of the lack of zeal most pastors have for identifying, befriending, loving and evangelizing non-Christian people?" --George Barna

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Excerpt From a Letter to a Young Friend: November, 1968
(Edited for Publication)

"... It is odd and strange to think that Christ loved us when we were still sinners. He loved us when we were nothing but filthy rags, dead in our trespasses and sin. If He loved us then, can we not believe He loves us now, when we have been given a new heart, and He has given us the Spirit, and calls us His children. You know how much your earthly father loves you. That love of your earthly father is a picture that points to the love your Heavenly Father has for you my dear young friend. And if we know He loves us, then we know everything will be all right. Maybe not the way we think it should be, but it will be all right because God loves us, and has a purpose for us that goes far beyond ourselves and anything we can imagine..."

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Excerpts From a Letter to my Daughter, January, 2002

(Edited for Publication.)

"My Dear Daughter,

... I will not at all pretend that I’ve been the best father I could be. I am very aware of my many shortcomings both as a husband to your mother, and as a father to you as my daughter. I will make no excuses or plead any extenuating circumstances for any of that. Yet whatever my shortcomings and sins have been, my conscience is clear that I have over the years sought as best I could to point you to Jesus Christ as your only hope in life and in death, and that if any of us have any standing before God Almighty at all, it is on the basis of what Christ has done and has nothing at all to do with what we are or have done.

... The concern I have is that you need to find your security ultimately in Christ alone. If security were found ultimately in being in a family, we would have had you baptized as an infant in a Presbyterian church. If security were found ultimately in a church, the Reformation would not have happened and we would be Roman Catholic. Ultimate security is in Jesus alone.

In the normal course of life mom and I will pass away and you and your sister will lay us in our graves. Eventually, given a normal life span, we all become orphans. Your grandparents are orphans. It may not be too much longer and your mom and I will be orphans. Someday you and your sister will be orphans. It may be ten, twenty, forty, or maybe even fifty years from now, but that day will come. Ultimate security cannot be found in parents who will die and pass away, but in Him who is described as the God of the widow and the orphan (Psalm 68:5).

Finding security in a church is a precarious matter indeed. People like your cousin find “security” in the cults that have ensnared them. Even in churches that are not cultic, it is possible for the members to be cultic in their adherence to the church. It’s their security and it becomes very difficult for those people to let go of that security even when there is clear need to do so. The result is a fear not founded on a fear of God, but a fear of man. Obvious problems are overlooked and ignored because to face those issues will disturb the security that has been built on a foundation of sand that is quickly swept away when the storms roll in.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” (II Tim 1:7) In this we find the source of courage is in the power of the Holy Spirit living in our lives, the sovereign, unchanging, undeserved, un-conditional love of God in Jesus Christ in our heart and life, and the sound mind that comes with ongoing moment-by-moment communion with Him.

My dear, dear, daughter… Security must ultimately be found in Christ alone. It is founded in His doing and not ours. In all our many failures, assurance is found in Him and in His promises. Our obedience comes not from some twisting of God’s promises to mean we can somehow even as Christians “earn” more favor and grace with God. It is only when our security is based in Christ alone that we can find the courage that is spoken of in II Timothy 1:7. It is in His un-conditional love that we are able to respond to Him with the desire to please Him and serve Him in loving obedience.

... these are some pretty basic things. God has expectations of what it means for someone to say that they are a Christian. Problems arise when other people or a church has expectations of what it means for someone to say they are a Christian, which go beyond the expectations of God. God has clearly stated what fruit He is looking for in Galatians 5:22-24. This fruit is a matter of the heart, not a matter of externals such as dress, music, and a middle class life style, or other external cultural accoutrements that go beyond Scripture. God’s emphasis is on the heart. If the heart is right, God will work His will in that person’s life so all the externals will eventually take care of themselves, not according to the extra-Biblical expectations of men or of churches, but according to His will for that person’s life.

My dear, dear daughter… I am very concerned that you do not find yourselves bound by the expectations of men, but by the expectations of God alone. A corollary to that is that you do not have expectations of others that say they are Christians that go beyond what God expects. Do not let yourself be bound and do not let yourself bind others. It is way to easy to place God in a box. We get to think He only works certain ways and we are closed to how He may in His sovereignty choose to work in others. We then measure the orthodoxy or commitment of others by the limitations of our self-constructed box and fall into spiritual arrogance and sinful pharisaical pride. PLEASE, PLEASE do not ever do that. You will only end up crippling your walk with God and miss much of the breadth of the Christian life. God’s true church is not measured in terms of those who meet together in a particular place. His true church is measured in terms of all those whose heart and soul has been given to Him in response to his great mercy, un-conditional love, and everlasting kindness in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Please do not ever think I do not love you. It is true I may not always know how best to show that love to you, and in seeking to love you will often fail miserably, but I DO LOVE YOU, and whatever you do and wherever you go in life you will ALWAYS be my very own dear daughter who I love so very, very much.

Love and prayers,


~ The Billy Goat ~

Recovery From Spiritual Abuse - Article
How You Can Help

By Sharon Hilderbrant, M.A.

"Churches on the fringe exist in every major metropolitan area as well as in small towns and isolated rural areas. Some are large, "mega-church" organizations, while some may be small house-church gatherings. Most of them look fairly normal to outsiders. That is, until abused persons begin to leave and tell of their experiences.

Getting out of the group is only the beginning of recovery. Recovery involves, according to one survivor, getting "the group out of us." The effects of abuse are long-standing. The following outlines how Christians can help the spiritually abused in their recovery..."

...Many who begin to trust God again have much more difficulty trusting people in any church. It helps to confront the truth about God’s people with statements similar to the following:

• Leaders are not more favored by God over others in the church.

• All struggle spiritually, even leaders.

• All are in various stages of growth (no instant spirituality).

• All make mistakes, none are infallible.

• All can learn to hear God’s voice for themselves—no need to remain spiritual children who must submit to parental leaders.

• All need each other—none are needless.

• All have something to give and are valuable to God.

• All—leaders and lay persons—are called to live by the same standards.

• All need to have their own relationship with God apart from the involvement of other believers—including spouses.

• The church is not just one building or one gathering, but believers

Friday, November 21, 2003

The Foundation of Growing in Grace and Sanctification

" For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. "
Titus 2:11-14

Some months ago one of the Associate Pastors at our current church preached on Titus 2. As he was talking about verses 11 – 14, it hit me that in our former church they would have the passage read, “For the law of God has appeared teaching us to deny ungodliness….” and so on. Paul, of course, says it is the GRACE of God that has appeared bringing us salvation, AND teaching us to deny ungodliness…” and etc… The immediate application from Paul’s words is that it is a focus on the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord that will lead us as Christian believers to live holy lives.

The same point is made in Hebrews 12:1-3. We are not exhorted in that passage to fix our eyes primarily on law and duty. Unfortunately the result of that kind of focus produces the same thing it produced in the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. But if we want to grow in grace and holiness, it will be by "...fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith,". The Bible clearly teaches that holiness comes not from primarily focusing on law and duty, but from focus on the grace and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we focus on Him, responding to His love and grace, growth and maturity is nurtured. As the law cannot save us, neither can it sanctify us. Only Christ can save and sanctify.

~The Billy Goat~

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

"Resolution on Christ's Leadership: Resolution approved by the messengers of the churches in fellowship with the GARBC, meeting for their 72nd Annual Conference in Riverside, California, June 23-27, 2003 .

"Whereas Christ's leadership was:
  • Authentic in Life - 1 Peter 1:16
  • Compassionate in Care - John 11; Mark 1:41
  • Effective in Communication - John 1:14, Mark 1:22
  • Intercessory in Ministry - John 17
  • Focused in Mission - John 5:19
  • Forgiving in Failure - Matthew 18:21-35
  • Humble in Service - Mark 10:45; John 13
  • International in Vision - Matthew 28:18-20
  • Purposeful in Equipping - Matthew 4:19
  • Resolute in Persecution - Hebrews 11:35-40
Be it therefore resolved that we, the messengers of the churches in fellowship with the GARBC, meeting for our 72nd Annual Conference in Riverside, California, June 23-27, 2003:

Personally strive to develop the characteristics of Christ's leadership and therefore lead as Christ led! (1 Corinthians 11:1)

And whereas Christ characterized His leadership after the models of a servant (Mark 10:45) and a shepherd (John 10:11; Mark 6:34); And whereas the New Testament epistles teach these are to be the basic models for the church today, namely, some church leaders are to be servants (deacons--1 Timothy 3:8-13) and some are to be shepherds (pastors--1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2, 3); And since historically, we as Baptists have made it one of our Biblical distinctives to have our churches function under the leadership of these two offices, namely, servants (deacons) and shepherds (pastors);

Be it further resolved that we, the messengers of the churches in fellowship with the GARBC, meeting for our 72nd Annual Conference in Riverside, California, June 23-27, 2003 . . .

1. . . . realize the need to avoid current or natural tendencies toward a leadership style that is modeled after a dictator of a regime, a president of an organization, or a strategist in a competitive market, but to encourage one another that a commitment to Christ’s pattern of leadership is consistent with Biblical truth and historic Baptist teaching.

2. . . . renew our commitment to the two models of leadership Christ displayed and taught, namely, being servants and shepherds, and educate ourselves and those coming to places of leadership in these models of Biblical leadership. "

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

From "The Ministry of Prayer" by Ivan French

"Over the years men of spiritual stature have made strong statements concerning the importance of prayer in the Christian life and experience.

"The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution in history to world evangelization" (Andrew Murray).

"The man who can get believers to praying would, under God, usher in the greatest revival that the world has ever known" (Leonard Ravenhill).

Many such opinions might be cited. The statement that "the most important activity in which a Christian may be involved is the exercise of prayer" can be defended by several considerations....."

"The Ministry of Prayer" by Ivan French

[ If you ever sat in a class at Grace Theological Seminary taught by Ivan French, I'd like to hear from you. Add your comment below. I was at GTS from 1973 to 1976, but did not finish. ~ The Billy Goat ~ ]
Cogitations on Revelation

Those who want to say that the book of Revelation is to be taken, in the main, symbolically, seem to do so in a way that makes the reality pointed to by the symbolism to be not as terrible as the symbolism itself. By that reasoning the picture of the killing of a third of mankind in Rev. 9:15 is made to be something much less then the horror of the picture drawn in that verse. My contention is that the reality pictured in that verse is not less then the symbol, but is more terrible then what is conveyed in the symbol.

It is on this point that those who want to press for literalism in every detail of the book of Revelation also miss the boat. As my oldest daughter said when I was discussing this with her, if those who press the literal minutia of details understood the real horror of the actual reality being pictured, they would not be so quick to write about those things in the way they do.

So in reading Revelation, I find those given to symbolism on the one hand, and those given to apocalypticism on the other hand equally at fault. But I will still love them, God helping me.

~The Billy Goat~

Francis Schaffer on Christian Leadership
"In a fallen world there is need of organization, and there is also a need of Christian leadership. But the leaders, as office bearers stand in relationship to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the people of God, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as leaders. The Church as a whole, and the officers, are to function consciously on the basis of each one being equal as created in the image of God, and as equal in the sense of being equally sinners redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. In this way, believing in the priesthood of all true believers, believing in the supernaturally restored relationship among those who are brothers in Christ, believing in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each individual Christian -- organization and Christian leadership do not stand in antithesis to true spirituality.........

..... The Church needs to function consciously on the basis of the finished work of Christ and not on the proud basis of any inherent value in itself or assumed inherent superiority......"

(Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality)