Monday, December 27, 2004

From My Christmas Stocking

...being an account of some of the things I got for Christmas this year...

Luther The DVD. With Joseph Fieness as Martin Luther and Sir Peter Ustinov as Sir Frederick.

Heaven by Randy Alcorn. After reading Alcorn's novel Deadline, and hearing he had written a more theological work on Heaven, this was added to my Christmas list, and consequently found in my "stocking". Will it be that once and for all a faulty Neo-Platonism will be exorcised from the Christian view of heaven? There is a C.S. Lewis influence in Alcorn's writings. Yes Dorothy, we can expect to see Toto in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Even with Pseudo-Puritan Neo-Platonism to the contrary.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Now I have my own copy. Make sure you read Mitch Albom's dedication of this book to his Uncle Edward before preceding with the story.

The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. The sequel to My Name is Asher Lev... See previous posts regarding Chaim Potok.

Admiral Hornblower In The West Indies the 11th in chronological order of the eleven book Horatio Hornblower series by C. S. Forester. Now I have the whole set; Midshipman to Admiral. Though the Forester series is fiction, it gives a very realistic portrayl of life in the British Navy. If you enjoyed Master and Commander, you will probably enjoy the Hornblower series.

Money... to spend on more books and at least one more DVD, The Passion of the Christ. We already got the extended version of The Return of the King as a family Christmas present to ourselves.

But of all the Christmas gifts from over all the years, there is the one best gift I have ever received... Jesus Himself... (John 3:16)

Sola Christo,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, December 24, 2004

Prayer needed for Ukraine

The following letter is from a missionary in the Ukraine who is supported by our church. ~ The Billy Goat ~

"Dear praying friends,

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."..... Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests." Luke 2:10, 11,13

Urgent! We ask that you remember to pray for God's peace and guidance for these precious people of Ukraine as we pass through difficult days.

Here in Odessa, there are few signs that Christmas is even approaching. Part of that is due to the fact that Ukrainians do not exchange gifts until New Year's Day, then celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Another reason is that Ukrainians are heading to the polls for the third time in two months, and the tension is felt everywhere.

While you celebrate this Christmas season, we would again ask you to pray for the country of Ukraine as we head into elections on Sunday, Dec.26 (appropriately named "Boxing" Day in Canada). The stakes have never been higher in this country of 48 million.

The Supreme Court nullified the results of the second round of presidential elections, citing massive and systematic fraud in favour of the government-backed candidate, who had been declared the winner by a narrow margin. Since then, measures have been taken to avoid government interference in the public media, and the laws have been changed to assure more honest elections. A record number of international observers are descending upon Ukraine to assure that the elections are fair. All of this is being hailed as a victory by the millions of supporters of the "orange revolution" in favour of the opposition candidate.

There are fears and rumours that the government is planning violent incidents if the election does not go their way, which could bring Ukraine into a state of emergency and a return to the previous president. There are also fears that if the government-backed candidate wins, the "orange revolution" will intensify and lead to an economic crisis. Please pray for calm and a peaceful resolution on and after Dec.26th.

Pray also for God's moral will to be done in the selection of a new president. The result will significantly impact our ministry in many ways:

- freedom of religion
- relationship with the West
- economic level of the country, which could enable or hurt Ukrainian churches in becoming self-supporting
- reforms that would facilitate or hinder the development of businesses

Thank you praying, and we wish you all a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour and Lord!"

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas is Coming

Immanuel, God with us...

Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins...

"A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel"
(Luke 2:32)

"..Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."
(Isaiah 9:6)

"...the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
(John 1:29)

Merry Christmas to all....

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Brooklyn Crucifixion: The Cross as Universal Suffering

In the novel, My Name is Asher Lev, Asher, the orthodox Jewish artist, paints two pictures using a crucifixion symbol to portray suffering. The pictures are labeled The Brooklyn Crucifixion,and it is those pictures that enstrange the artist from his immediate Jewish community. It did not help that in the novel, Asher Lev also pictured his parents and himself along with the crucifix theme. For Asher Lev the artist, the crucifix was an artistic symbol of suffering, and thus a legitimate symbol to portray the suffering he had seen in his mother's life. The firestorm of controversy surrounding those paintings came from all sides, Jewish, Christian, and critics.

What may not be known is that Chiam Potok, the author of My Name is Asher Lev, was an artist as well as a writer, and he actually painted a picture called The Brooklyn Crucifixion. David duChemin at Fearfully Human has a posted a Jewish passion which includes an image of Potok's The Brooklyn Crucifixion. (Click here for a view of that image.) Here is a brief quote from duChemin's post:
"...The painting is an extraordinary one, not only because of the subject, but because of the context. In his novel My Name is Asher Lev, Potok writes lucidly about the often painful relationship between art and faith. He also seems to imply that for the Jewish Asher Lev, at least, an understanding of the crucifixion is, well, crucial.

The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth may be different things to different people, and it's representation in art - including the recent Passion film by Mel Gibson - may stir deeply, but it is at it's most elemental a picture of the plight of man..."

In Isaiah 53, the Prophet sets forth a word picture of the suffering of Messiah. For 2,000 years the cross has represented to Christians the suffering of that Messiah. But Yeshua of Nazareth was not the only person to be executed by crucifixion. Neither was he the only Jew to be crucified by the gentile Romans.

Those of us who believe he is Messiah, also believe that on that cross He took upon Himself the suffering of the world. It is for those out of every kindred, tribe, and tongue, and nation that He suffered (Revelation 5). So it is fitting that crucifixion is a symbol of the suffering of all humanity; the concentration camps, the killing fields of Cambodia, the gulags of the former USSR, the kids in Africa orphaned by Aids and carrying the virus themselves, the starvation in the Sudan, the carnage of war, and on and on it goes.... Suffering... A universal human condition....

"...and God Himself shall be among them. And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain... (Revelation 21)

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, December 13, 2004

Chiam Potok: 1929 - 2002

There is a paradox of sorts in the above title to this post; a Jewish Rabbi's life is counted in those years that I call "the year of our Lord", but which his people call the "Common Era". That paradox in some ways exhibits the novels of Chiam Potok.

My first introduction to Potok was several years ago when I read The Chosen, and its sequel The Promise. In this past month I had occasion to read My Name is Asher Lev. Its sequel The Gift of Asher Lev is on my Christmas wish list.

Again as I type this, I am hit with the irony of positioning a book written by a Jew and about Jews in the context of my Christian celebration of the advent of a Jewish baby boy to a Jewish young mother some 2,000 years ago.

There is a psychological intensity in Chiam Potok's novels that is gripping. It is hard to put one of his books down. I devoured all 369 pages of My Name is Asher Lev in a two day period.

Take the tensions and conflicts of the musical Fiddler on a Roof without the humor and music that tended to shade and mitigate the reality, and add to that the grimness of the 1969 movie release The Fixer which was the story of a Jew in Tsarist Russia passing himself off as a "goy". You will then have an approximation of what Chiam Potok portrays, but only an approximation. There are probably some people who would find Potok's novels hard to read because of the same psychological intensity that I found so compelling.

Potok's heros struggle to maintain their Orthodox Jewish identities in a world that is changing. That change challenges their identification with their community as they seek to maintain their own self-integrity within the bounds of the community's tradition. In that respect, it is the same kind of challenge Tevye faces in Fiddler.

As an Evangelical Christian, I see a number of positive values in Potok's writing that not just Christians, but humanity at large should and can relate to; things that C. S. Lewis would call the "Tao". To balance self-integrity with community responsibilities is something all mankind to one degree or another wrestles with. To embrace change without bankrupting tradition is a struggle that cuts across all cultures and communities. In writing these novels, Chiam Potok has allowed us as gentiles a peek into the struggles in his community, culture, and tradition. Such a peek is a privilege not to be dismissed or taken lightly, but one to be respected.


~ The Billy Goat ~
The Joyful Christian
127 Readings from the writings of C. S. Lewis

The 127 excerpts gathered together in The Joyful Christian give an excellent introduction to the scope and range of C. S. Lewis' thought. The bibliography and list of sources in the back of this book are a panoramic picture of the legacy Lewis has left us.

These 127 excerpts also illustrate the cohesiveness of Lewis' thought. An excerpt from Surprised By Joy is consistent with what is found in The Abolition of Man. Other readings from Christian Reflections are consistent with what you would expect from the author of the Narnia and Perlandra series.

Most of the excerpts are relatively short. One or even two readings can be completed in a relatively short time. A "daily reading" approach allows time for cogitation and meditation on the thoughts presented.

C. S. Lewis remains one of the most influential Christian writers coming out of the 20th century, and rightly so. His influence reaches beyond our theological boxes, nor can his thought be constrained by those boxes. This collection is an excellent representation of the breadth of his philosophical and theological thought.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, December 11, 2004

This is Compassionate Calvinism
by Aaron at Grace and peace to you!

"...This is compassionate Calvinism: to get a handle on the core values of Christ, the God-man. To zero-in on the crux of what it means to be godly: worshipping God and loving your neighbor. To subordinate all theology to the aim of love which issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

This is compassionate Calvinism: not to obliterate a man’s house of mind and leave it unsupported, but rather to gently, gradually, lovingly supply a better foundation. One conversation at a time. This new foundation is to be Biblical, solid, God-honoring, and man-humbling. It is to inspire acts of unseen love and obedience and prayer, all to the glory of God...." (Complete post found here.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Five People You Meet In Heaven - The ABC TV Special

Recently ABC presented The Five People as a made for TV movie. In cogitating on the book and the TV movie, it is in my mind to write a "chapter 2" of the review of The Five People I posted last week.

There is a complexity involved in presenting, in visual movie screen format, scenes from three different places, in this case, the present on earth, Eddie's present in heaven after his death, and the past which focused mostly, but not exclusively, on Eddie's past. A real physical wooden door in Eddie's past opens onto a scene in heaven... Effective if you've read the book and know the story. I'll never know if I would have been able to follow the movie's story line if I had not read the book first.

As a made for TV movie, it was done as well as any, given the nature of the subject matter. The movie stuck pretty close to the book as much or more then any movie ever does. But I'm not so concerned about reviewing the cinematic technology and quality of the ABC Special as such.

In "Chapter 1" of this review, I commented on the shared values Christians could connect with in The Five People. I qualified that by acknowledging that Mitch Albom was writing from a background in the Judeo-Christian tradition, though not from an Evangelical Christian perspective. In that sense, Albom is in the tradition of Frank Capra and It's A Wonderful Life. We enjoy our annual December viewing of It's A Wonderful Life,and we'll always remember James Stewart as "George Bailey". But as the video tape is rewinding after Clarence gets his wings, we know it is apocryphal.

Where is God in stories like It's A wonderful Life and The Five People? What kind of God is He in these stories?

All the time we see Eddie in heaven, he never actually stands before and meets God. At one point he asks, "Does God even know I'm here?" To which the answer is "Yes". But God Himself is always in the background, distant and unseen.

Then there are the five different parts of "heaven" where he meets each of the five people. The Blue man finds "heaven" at Ruby Pier where he was happiest in life. So it is each of the five are in a heaven that is heaven to them... And happy and content... Again I ask the question, where is God?

It is a Biblical truth that the chief end of each and every human being is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. Ultimate enjoyment and contentment is found in the Creator, not in the things created. It is true that in the New Heavens and New Earth there will be those created things that we will enjoy and delight in. (See Heaven Is A Place On Earth by Mike Wittmer.) But our greatest joy and our greatest delight will be in the Creator and Giver of those gifts.

It is at this point that stories like It's A Wonderful Life and The Five People depart from a Biblical view of heaven. In the Biblical view God is personally interested in and involved in the lives of His creatures. In Jesus Christ, it's not angels who come to earth to help out the George Baileys of the world, it is Emmanuel Himself... God with us.... And that is the true story of Christmas...

~ The Billy Goat ~

PS: .. I know I have not even got to the soteriological issues regarding how salvation is pictured in these stories... That part you should be able to figure out for yourself... (John 3:16)

Saturday, December 04, 2004

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Movies I Remember

My daughter, the one known as Elfstone, just introduced me to the All Posters on-line gallery. She wanted to order some Lord of The Rings stuff.

I started browsing the movie poster gallery, doing lookups on movies I remember from long ago and not so long ago. If I had enough wall space, these are some of the movie posters from All Posters I'd hang on that wall. (Listed in no particular order.)

To Kill A Mockingbird :
I think I was about ten years old if that. We went to the theater in Arcbold, Ohio with some of our cousins to see this. Gregory Peck will always be "Atticus Finch" in my mind. The best black and white movie I ever saw on a big screen. How The West Was Won We went as a family to Toledo, Ohio to see this. I think mom wanted us to get a sense of the history behind this. The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. I took some friends to the drive in theater in Hillsdale, Michigan to see this. During the intermission the guy in the car behind us came up and politely asked me to take my foot off the brake. I'd unconsciously rested my foot on the car brake, and he and his family were getting my rear brake lights in their face... Not cool... What was cool was to see Moses parting the Red Sea on the gigantic screen. Spartacus My childhood friend Jim invited me to go with him and his family to see this at the theater in Morenci, Michigan. What an epic story. Some years latter I found out there really had been a Spartacus, and he really had led a slave revolt against the Roman Empire. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly The big screens in those days were the big screens at the drive in movies. Those big screens were well suited for the big movies. I saw this movie two times. Both times were at the drive in movie at Bryan, Ohio. This was my first introduction to the "Spaghetti Western" and Clint Eastwood. True Grit This remains my favorite John Wayne Western. I saw this at the old movie theater in Hillsdale, Michigan. Sitting on a horse... Reins in his teeth... Both hands holding a six shooter... Just classic... The Graduate OK.. I know Anne Brancoft seduces Dustin Hoffman. I was a freshman at Michigan State University, and went to see this three times at an East Lansing theater. One of the big draws for me was the Simon & Garfunkel sound track. Looking back, I see that The Graduate was anticipating and on the edge of Post-modernism... I am also pretty sure my wife would not let me keep this poster on the wall. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones Of the two Star Wars movies I've seen in the theater, this is my favorite because it's where Yoda gets to really strut his stuff. This poster is for the IMAX version. I didn't see Episode II at the IMAX, but this is the only poster with Yoda on it... I took my daughter and a few of her friends to Celebration Cinima in Grand Rapids, Michigan to see Episode II. We saw Episode I at the same place, but that didn't stick with me like Episode II. 2001: A Space Odyssey I saw this at the old Hillsdale, Michigan theater. Now 2001 has come an gone... Yes, I saw the 2010 sequal on vidio... Now we know HAL was doublecrossed...

~ The Billy Goat ~

Who Is John Stott?
By David Brooks, November 30, 2004 (The New York Times)

"...This is why so many people are so misinformed about evangelical Christians. There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them. Falwell and Pat Robertson are held up as spokesmen for evangelicals, which is ridiculous. Meanwhile people like John Stott, who are actually important, get ignored...

...There's been a lot of twaddle written recently about the supposed opposition between faith and reason. To read Stott is to see someone practicing "thoughtful allegiance" to scripture. For him, Christianity means probing the mysteries of Christ. He is always exploring paradoxes. Jesus teaches humility, so why does he talk about himself so much? What does it mean to gain power through weakness, or freedom through obedience? In many cases the truth is not found in the middle of apparent opposites, but on both extremes simultaneously.

Stott is so embracing it's always a bit of a shock - especially if you're a Jew like me - when you come across something on which he will not compromise. It's like being in "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," except he has a backbone of steel. He does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle, and of course he believes in evangelizing among nonbelievers. He is pro-life and pro-death penalty, even though he is not a political conservative on most issues.

Most important, he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed.....(Complete article found here.)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Review of Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven

So how should an Evangelical Christian view The Five People You Meet in Heaven?

An essay on eschatology? Though this book has an eschatology, I came away with the sense that any "eschatology" so called, was really secondary to the main story, and in fact was only a tool used to convey the more primary message.

It may be more accurate to view The Five People as a parabolic story designed to convey some fundamental thoughts concerning values and human worth. It is in those fundamental truths and values that a Christian can connect with this book.

It is a Biblical truth that we do not exist in isolation. Our lives interweave, and everyday, in the mundane habits of ordinary life, we touch the lives of many, many people, some we are aware of, but many more that we are not aware of. So Eddie finds his life had touched more lives then he ever realized. In Scripture we face that God who interweaves Himself into history, and into our lives.

Along the way of life we encounter sacrifice, our own sacrifice and the sacrifices of others. Eddie finds out about sacrifices made for him that again he was not aware of. In Scripture we encounter that Great Sacrifice, and faced with that example, we see Love personified.

In The Five People Eddie sees the love he had in his life. For we who are Christians, there is no greater love then "For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life..."

Forgiving and being forgiven... Eddie learns both sides of the forgiveness coin. So, even as we have been forgiven, we are to forgive others.

I'm under no illusion that Albom is writing from an Evangelical Christian perspective, but he is writing from a view influenced by a Judeo-Christian culture. He is not writing primarily an eschatological theology, but he has written a philosophy grounded in values to which Christians can relate and connect.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

DVD review: Luther
by Gene Edward Veith (World Magazine)

"The movie Luther, which saw limited release last year and was a surprise hit in secularized Germany, is out on video and DVD.

Most notable in this vivid re-creation of Reformation history is the high-powered cast. Joseph Fiennes makes a fine young Luther, and Peter Ustinov, in his final role before his death, steals his scenes as the thoughtful, wily head of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, who becomes Luther's protector against the pope and emperor.

The film was shot on some actual historical locations, and for the most part is historically accurate. Luther's disillusioning trip to Rome, the financial scheme that led to the indulgence sale, Cardinal Cajetan's attempt to silence Luther, Carlstadt's change from being his scholastic theology professor to being a follower to being an enemy from the other extreme, the peasant rebellion—it is all there. The movie ends with the princes' confession of faith before the emperor at Augsburg. Luther had once stood alone before..." (Complete review found here.)

I had the privilage of seeing Luther, when it was shown in our area. I've been eagerly waiting for the DVD release. I highly recommend this movie. Peter Ustinov as Frederick the Wise was espicially outstanding... See Veith's full review for his assesment of the accuracy of the historical content. This DVD is on my Christmas Wish List....

Semper Reformanda,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, November 29, 2004

A Brief Study of the Greek New Testament use of the word “PATHOS”

Bauer, Arndt, & Gingrich say pathos as it is used in the New Testament, means “passion”. Passion is defined as that which involves powerful or compelling emotions. (Merriam-Webster)


Romans 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, (NASB)

Colossians 3:5
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (NASB)

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; (NASB)


Acts 14:14-15a
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God… (NASB)

Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God... (KJV)

James 5:17
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. (NASB)

Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. (KJV)


Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (NASB)

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (KJV)

I hope this brief study gives you some idea of what it means for us to be encouraged to pray, given the example of Elijah. The focus of James is not that Elijah is different from us in his prophetic office, but we share with him a common humanity.

Perhaps more wonderful is how Jesus Christ can understand "the feeling of our infirmities"... Glory be to God and to the Lamb...

~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, November 26, 2004

Breaking news from Ukraine - pray now!

The following are excerpts from an e-mail just received from a missionary in the Ukraine who is supported by our church. Due to the sensitivity and volatility of the situation in the Ukraine, the missionary's name and the mission he is associated with will remain confidential for purposes of this post. The e-mail is dated 11/26/04.. ~The Billy Goat ~

"...Just about everyone in Ukraine today is talking about the current political crisis. The Sunday presidential elections were widely deemed to be the most significant elections in the history of independent Ukraine. Although the official government results show the current prime minister victorious by a small margin (less than 3 percent), the opposition candidate has claimed mass election fraud and called for a general strike to protest the results. Western-sponsored exit polls had placed the opposition candidate ahead by 11 percent, and independent election observers have reported 11,000 violations to internationally recognized standards.

Yesterday, the Ukrainian supreme court barred the election commission from publishing the results pending an investigation into these allegations. Hundreds of thousands throughout Ukraine have taken to the streets to protest, and to overturn what they deem to be a corrupt regime. Many are worried that the protests could erupt into violence. We are asking that each of you join us in praying for Ukraine, that God's name would be glorified in spite of the outcome. Pray for the protection of these people that we love so dearly, and that their hearts would be turned to God during this tumultuous time..

I have copied below excerpts from a prayer update from [name deleted ], our teammate living in the capital city of Kyiv. I hope that it will highlight the larger battle that is underway for the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people...

<<< A young lady adorned with 20 orange ribbons in her hair, a young punk rocker shivering in the cold in his leather clothes, a peasant woman in her seventies who says she has never been more alive than she is this week, a grandfather speaking to his 11 year old grandson at his side, saying, "Remember this day your entire life. Today Ukraine was reborn, and you were here." What do all these people have in common? They're all part of the over 1,000,000 people who have descended upon Independence Square this week in Kyiv, Ukraine, to support freedom and a fair election.

The atmosphere here is half surreal military-esque, half Mardi Gras, and sometimes a mixture of the two. On the one hand several planes of special forces from Russia have been flown in. Buses and buses of supporters of the government's candidate for president have been bused in from other regions of the country. Hundreds of riot police stand at attention with crowd control metal shields forming a phalanx to protect government buildings. Even some artillery has been brought into the city and positioned at strategic points.

Yet on the other hand, elderly ladies come up and put roses in the holes of the shields of the riot police, others come up and pray for them, then the entire crowd begins chanting, "Brothers, lay down your shields." It doesn't sound like much in English, but in Ukrainian it rhymes, and it has a powerful effect. The riot police are antsy. They're prepared for battle, but not this kind of battle. They look around nervously. Then, after over a half hour of this Mexican stand-off, they slowly, slowly lay down their shields, to the roar of the crowd.

We've been down on Independence Square every day this week, and among the hundreds of thousands of people we've seen there ourselves, not once have we seen a drunk person. That would be a minor miracle any time, but when you consider the incredible pressures on people here at this time, its absolutely incredible. There's no doubt God is hearing and answering prayers of His people from all around the world.

We're caught up in this whirlwind of events ourselves. As I write this note, our apartment has been overrun by about 12 people. You can't even get into the bathroom, because in one two people are peeling potatoes, and in the other another person is feverishly cutting small advertisements of our church to put into bags with sandwiches. In the kitchen our stove is about to go into hyperdrive, with large pots on every burner, warming up gallons and gallons of broth, while others make large containers of mashed potatoes. In the hallway yet others are packing sandwiches into bags with Christian tracts and literature about our church.

Why all the activity? Because it's Thanksgiving? No. It's our church's response to what's happening in our city and country. We asked the question, How would Jesus have us respond to current events, and this is our answer. We're about to leave for Independence Square, to pass out food, both physical and spiritual, to those there. Some have been there 4 days straight, in chilling cold and snow, supporting freedom and fairness in the election.

We did the same yesterday, giving out food for both body and soul, and God gave some phenomenal opportunities to share the love of Christ and the gospel with people. Several even said, "We don't need hot food or drink. Give us something spiritual to read." This from people standing outside in 25 degree weather, with snow swirling about and already standing 4 inches deep on the ground. These people realize something is happening they can't control or even fully understand, and it makes them think.

It's been an awesome opportunity for our church members to see raw ministry up close and personal. Tonight we'll be opening our church to people from out-of-town to stay overnight. We have no idea who these people will be, but it'll be yet one more opportunity to show God's love and concern for both their physical well-being and their spiritual well-being.

Here's two comments from church members over the last hour alone. "I'll clean the church after anyone who stays there," said by a person who has battled a bad attitude toward specifically cleaning the church for several years (no kidding). "How can I help?," said by another person who's been on the sidelines for over a year, not wanting to get involved in any substantive way, even though we've been reaching out to him and working on that area specifically. Today he's tripping over himself to help any way he can.

Recent events here have really galvanized our church and turned our attention to eternal issues and priorities, and helped turn us into a lean mean (in a good sense) ministry machine. What a privilege to be the light of the world at such a time as this! This is the best Thanksgiving I can ever remember.

We trust you have a blessed Thanksgiving. Please also continue praying for people here, both believers and unbelievers, for God to show Himself mighty in events as they continue to unfold. >>>

Thank you for joining with us in prayer for Ukraine. While the world's eyes are focused on this country of 48 million people, let's appeal to God to bring a spiritual revival, and see His name chanted throughout the country, bringing praise and glory to His name.

Your partners for the harvest in Ukraine,

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Day After Thanksgiving

 Posted by Hello

Thanksgiving Day, November, 2004. Near Ada, MIchigan USA. About seven to ten inches of snow fell on Thanksgiving Eve. Our first snow, and first major snow storm of the season. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

An Anniversary of Sorts

You may notice the archives for this blog are now grouped by the month instead of the week. In doing that reformatting, I realized ~ The Billy Goat Blog ~ is now one year old. Has it been that long already? Time does fly by.

Of all the internet publishing I've done over the past ten years, blogging has been the most enjoyable. It's interesting to click on the site meter and see if anyone is actually looking at these pages. Along the way I've been delighted to run into some kindred spirits of sorts. A very few of you have even left comments on a few of the articles.. Thank you!

If the Lord tarries, and so wills, we'll see what another year will bring. I believe that blogging will continue, though it was also keep changing, especially on the tech side.

Did you hear the one about Dan Rather getting "blogged" down on his way to the presidential election? (Ouch!) Better close for now...

~ The Billy Goat ~
Of The 1st Snow, and Snow Storms

We usually get our first snowfall in November. A few flakes will come down, just enough to put a little cover on the ground, then it usually quickly melts away. This year November has really been pretty mild for our part of the country. That is until today.

We started seeing the flakes early this afternoon. Ah.. First snow! We knew it was coming eventually. But then it kept coming... And coming... And coming... All seven to ten inches worth...

This was no light dusting like first snows usually are. Local radio reported cars in the ditches all over the place. Traffic slowed to a crawl and during rush hour was bumper to bumper. A usual 10 minute trip took an hour. And here on Thanksgiving Eve, church was canceled. And did I mention the travelers stranded at the local airport as flights were delayed or cancelled?

On the way home from work I gassed up the car, bought a couple cans of dry gas, and stopped at the hardware store for sidewalk salt. At home the snowblower traded places with the lawn mower. Tomorrow, on Thanksgiving morning, I get to fire up the snowblower and clear the driveway. So it is that we not only got our first snow of the year, but also our first major snow storm.

I intend to see about taking some digital shots of the snow tomorrow, and may post a picture or two for the enjoyment of those of you from more wimpy climates... :)

Praise be to Him, who being Lord of all, is Lord of the snowflake.

In His joy,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, November 22, 2004

Sunset near Ada, Michigan USA. November 22, 2004  Posted by Hello

The above picture was taken with the Oregon Scientific 1.3 Mega Pixels digital camera that was the subject of my 11/20/2004 post. I took about 8 pictures in all of this sunset. This was with the flash locked off. I experimented with using the forced flash on some pictures, but the flash washed out the colors. Lesson learned... This photo was taken as a vertical shot, and it turned out to be the best picture of the 8 taken. As you can see, I also signed up for a Photo Blogger account at We'll see how that works...
"The heavens declare the glory of God..." (Psalm 19:1a)

To His glory,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Billy Goat's "Toy" of the Week

The Oregon Scientific 1.3 Mega Pixels digital camera: No bells and whistles on this one.

This digital camera was my selection from this year's edition of the Christmas Gift Catalog we receive each year from the company I work for. No turkeys... No hams... Not even a fruitcake... But a Gift Catalog with a variety of selections. I've wanted a digital camera for some time, and this was my opportunity to get one, though not the one I would have gone out to buy if money was more free flowing in our household...

The resolution is not all I would desire. The "best" fine grain setting gives a 1280 X 1024 resolution. There is suppose to be a 2X zoom feature that I've not played with yet. And there was no memory card with the package, although the camera has a compact flash card slot. Without the flash card, the camera only holds 4 "best" resolution pictures.

That's not a lot so I went to Circuit City and picked up a SanDisk 128 MG compact flash card. I know I could have got it much cheaper on line, but sometimes I am willing to pay for immediate gratification. I popped the card in and... Shazaam! Now I have room for 477 fine grade resolution pictures... Life is good...

Which reminds of the little ditty my brother-inlaw likes to sing.

Hush little luxury...
Don't you cry...
You'll become a necessity
By and by...
Happy holidays!

~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, November 19, 2004

Our Neighbor's New Fence

For the last sixteen years that we have lived in our current home, we have enjoyed the extended wooded undeveloped area behind our house. Though private property, it was unfenced and not posted. We in the neighborhood were able to enjoy that extended area as a kind of "commons". Trails were worn through different parts of the acreage. Deer and other wild animals made the area their home. Our children enjoyed playing in that part of the woods immediately behind the house.

In the back of our minds we knew it probably would not stay undeveloped forever. After all it was privately owned land, but we also knew that the owners of that extended tract were a local well to do family that had a concern for how these areas in the township would be developed. That was part of the reason they bought the land so many years ago. Even so, we kind of expected that someday we would probably see another subdivision going in there.

I think it was the first of this year that we learned that this property was going to be developed as an estate for a new home for one of the family members. The appropriate notices were sent to those adjoining property owners that would have a vested interest in how the land was used. Surveyors went though the property, marking out property lines and ect.

Then the building and landscaping started. The home and out-buildings are being erected in that side of the land opposite of the end we are next to. It looks like our part of the woods will be for the most part undisturbed.

Except for the fence. This past week workers came along the edge of the property erecting a fence. It's not an ugly chain link fence, but with wood posts with cross boards against which woven fence is stapled. It's actually positioned a number of feet inside their property line, so an outside access strip remains between the fence and the actual property line. The appearance fits in very well with the woods. It is a high fence that deer will find difficult to jump, and the weave of the wire portion is such that our dog will not be squeezing his way through it.

So it is our "commons" will no longer be open to us. And there is some sense of loss at that thought. But there is also some sense that in erecting that fence, something hopefully will be preserved. After all, we had expected a subdivision. Now we have a fenced off estate with the prospect that this portion will be preserved as much as possible "as is".

It is our new neighbors' property to do with as they will within the boundaries of the law. Their right to use their property as such is also my right to use my little less then half acre as such. There is also a sense that the new estate will preserve our property's value. If we ever sell, any buyer will know what is going to be beyond the backyard, and it will not be another subdivision.

So it is we have to give up something, but we also gain a little in return. Things change. Change happens. And so it will be until the end of this world. The only un-changing things in existence are God and His Word. He is the Solid Rock.

"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand"
(Edward Mote 1797 - 1874)

Sola Deo Gloria!

~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Secular Apocalyptic

A mega-earthquake hits the American west coast resulting in a major portion of California spliting off to become a large island. Mega-death and destruction.

An mega-asteroid comes perilously close to earth and the mega-gravitational effect sends a mega-tidal wave that floods the Ohio River basin. Mega-death and destruction.

A mega-hurricane from the Gulf of Mexico comes hurling north across the United States to collide with a mega-Arctic storm from the north at a point on the southern shore of Lake Michigan where Chicago happens to be located, and just as a computer hacker brings down the Chicago power grid. Mega-death and destruction.

A mega-freak weather pattern brings a sudden and unexpected ice age. More mega-death and destruction.

Scenes from the Left Behind series?

No... These are all scenes from secular Hollywood that have appeared in the past year as made for TV movies, or theater release. And the troubling aspect is they are fun to watch... You know nobody is REALLY getting killed, and it's not REAL buildings falling down... Aren't those special effects just so neat? WOW!

Why is that I get the feeling that the same people who made these secular apocalyptics would have hissy snit if Mel Gibson made a movie based on the Biblical book of Revelation?

The answer of course has to do with the world view such a movie would be based on... A loving God would actually bring judgment on the earth? That assumes there is a God who takes an active personal interest in the world He created, and that He holds mankind morally accountable... And that He will hold me individually personally accountable! Didn't that view of life become defunct with the death of Modernism? After all, the father of Post-modernism told us God was dead...

By the way, I'm not a fan of the Left Behind series, nor do I wish to see even a devout Christian try to make a movie based on Revelation. Biblical prophecy is to serious a matter to be left to our finite and sin impacted imagination.

But why the secular apocalyptic? Is it because even post-modern man still has a semblance of conscience and right and wrong? How can big business corporate executives who are screwing up the environment for filthy lucre be "evil" in a post-modern world? For you see in the secular apocalyptic there is usually the villain corporate executive, or some kind of villain even if the villain is mankind itself... Hummmm.... Yes, there is usually some kind of "social message" in these secular apocalyptics...

Though I have little use for a lot of popular Christian apocalpticism, I do believe there will be a judgment, and as part of that judgment a great tribulation. It's not going to be a fun time... Now please don't start asking me if I'm pre-, mid-, or post-trib... That's not the point... The point is that even the secular mind, alienated from God and His Word, to some degree or another has a sense of apocalyptic judgment... The remnents of a conscience that can not totally deny its Creator, but suppresses that truth in unrighteousness... (Romans 1:16-25) Sola Deo Gloria!

~ The Billy Goat ~
More on being "Post-Reformed"

Cartee Bales has joined in on the Post-Reformed discussion with an article entitled That is SO 1516!, posted at his One Denarius blog. Here are some excerpts.

"...When we think we have it all figured out, when we have God in a "box" where we can understand Him and have thick systematics and long histories that enable our perfectly-fitted knowledge of God, it is we who are in the box. Whether it is 1517 or 2004, or 790BC, this attitude ignores God's active presence in our lives, transforming us into the image of Christ (2 Co 3:18). It can also lead us into some really goofy logical deductions that become accepted theological formulations (i.e., if God wants to save people in Nepal, He can do it Himself). In other words, this attitude drives us right out of the arms of God and back to our own self-sufficiency, and our own errors, which is idolatry.

Post-reformed -- to my mind -- is a heart that gets "out of the box" and into the fresh wind of God's Spirit and the truth of His word. It is a heart that says, "I cannot know God fully here, and am therefore open to understanding my faith in the light of Scripture (Sola Scriptura), with the help of the Spirit, in conversation on the way with others on the way." It does not ignore the Reformation by any means, but it takes its best understanding and its earnest desire to return to the living God. It is a heart that gets me over myself, my biases, my presuppositions, my recalcitrant positions, my own sinfulness, and brings me square into the "...light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Co 4:6). Nothing less. It is a heart that is willing to say -- and to listen to -- "let's talk."..." (Complete article found here. )

This article echos and expresses a number of my own thoughts. I have long come to the conclusion that if being "Reformed" means what some so called "Reformed" people say it means, then I am not "Reformed", nor do not want to be "Reformed". In getting "out of the box", I've found the fresh wind to be spiritually invigorating. Sola Deo Gloria!

~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Radiator Venison

In Michigan the deer bow hunting season started about a month ago. Now this coming Monday gun season will start. The opening day of gun season for deer has been called the "Michigan National Holiday". I am not a hunter, but I am not at all against hunting or hunters. I am against poachers though, but I'll save that rant for another time.

The only deer I ever got was with a 71 Maverick. So I tell my deer hunting friends I'd rather they kill a deer with their bow or gun so I don't end up killing one with my Olds or Transport.

That's no small issue when we live in a county that has the highest number of car/deer accidents of all the counties in Michigan. Unfortunately we see the vulture cuisine along our road sides all to frequently. It's not pretty unless your a buzzard. You quickly learn not to go speeding down the country roads at night. If your doing over 50 MPH, you will not have a chance.

I sometimes question if our DNR has any real idea at all how large the deer herd in Michigan is. Over the past few years the number of permits have been expanded, and one hunter through a combination of permits can end up with several deer in his/her freezer.

We almost snagged some "radiator venison" on the way to church Sunday evening. The main road we take to church runs along a portion of the Grand River, and along the hills that define the Grand River Valley; lots of wooded areas along with open fields. It was at dusk, and I had the headlights on low-beam. Coming over a slight rise, I saw three deer running across the road about 100 feet ahead of me. I stepped on the brakes, and the three deer bounded into the ditch. It was then the fourth deer decided to cross the road. If I had not already braked, it would have been splat! Radiator venison... No thank you... I'll pass... I like my van without the front crumpled in...

We are told in the Bible that it was through man's sin that death came into the creation. Romans 8 speaks of the whole creation groaning as it waits for the consummation that will bring in the restoration of creation to what it was to originally be and more; that new heavens and new earth in which will dwell righteousness, and the deer and the radiator will meet no more (Revelation 21-22).

~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Reality. Issue 20: Postmodernity
by Jeff Fountain (Reality Magazine)

"Like a slow-moving weather front gradually blanketing the horizon, a radical shift in the way young people view reality is bringing permanent change to the world's spiritual climate. The global forecast is both threatening and promising.

Postmodernity, as this mood-change is becoming known, is not a rational, consistent, philosophy. It is not a cohesive, logical mindset. It is a soup of contradictory ideas. Yet it is as radical a change as that triggered by the Enlightenment, when 'Pre-modern' thought gave way to the 'Modern' view of life.

This climate-shift is bringing major change to our daily lives. And it carries major challenges (and opportunities) concerning the way we present and demonstrate the Gospel today and tomorrow. Our evangelistic methods and approaches developed for the 'Modern' world will be irrelevant for a 'Postmodern' generation. Our local church life also needs total evaluation in the light of these changes..." (Complete article found here.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Beginnings of a Post-Reformed Manifesto

Tim Etherington is continuing to develope his thoughts on what it means to be "Post-Reformed". In this latest cogitation he begins to look at the Reformation "Sola"'s. Here is an excerpt. ~ The Billy Goat ~

"The Post-Reformed understanding of semper reformanda is that we must consistently check our understanding against scripture and be willing to adjust when and where necessary. The Reformation didn't end in the 1600s and the Westminster Confession is not inerrant and infallible. This necessarily requires that we continue dialoging with various theological positions within orthodoxy. It does not mean that we can suspend the solas in order to accomplish that. We must discuss our theology from the Scriptures, in faith, with grace, in a Christian manner, and to God's glory (not our own)...." (Complete article found here.)

Friday, November 05, 2004

Is the Vietnam War Finally "Over"?

05 November 2004, Federalist Patriot No. 04-44/45, Friday Digest

"The Vietnam War is finally over ... and we finally won. The Patriot is convinced that the one demographic completely overlooked in this election was the Vietnam-Era veterans.

Those millions of unsung heroes and faithful servants finally had their say last night. We finally put a stake through the heart of the cowards, the liberals, the leftists, and the Hollywood and major media co-conspirators who sold this nation a sack of lies about the Vietnam War and its veterans. So emboldened were the Democrats that they had the audacity to put a willing enemy collaborator on the ticket to oppose President Bush. Well, they had their chance, and the American people sent them a loud and clear message on 2 November 2004, a day we now propose as Vietnam War Victory Day! (How 'bout a Bury the '60's Day, too?)

Their lies about unparalleled U.S. atrocities, war crimes, and defeat on the battle field were finally put to the electorate last night. Just as in their war, our Vietnam Era veterans once again put nearly everything on the line to save our country and to keep the light of truth alive. The Swiftees, the SOG vets, and the producers and authors of books like Stolen Valor and Stolen Honor -- none of them would be silenced. We don't know of any exit polls that can validate this belief, but we know that those untold millions of veterans overwhelmingly sent a message to Lt. Kerry and company. No more lies, no more phony apologies, no more pandering to the UN and the world's socialist elite. We wouldn't let you steal the only thing that many of us have left, our honor and the truth.

The Patriot salutes all those veterans and thanks them for securing yet another victory for America."

There is a lot in the above I agree and sympathise with. And it may indeed be true that the Vietnam War will no longer factor into a Presidential election like it did in 2004. But is it really over? I'm not so sure. I did not serve in the military and am not a veteran. But I suspect the Vietnam War will never "really" be over until the last surviving Vietnam veteran lays down his or her head in the Bivouac of the Dead... Rest in peace Ronnie...

~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Kerry Runs Into the Wall of Real Politick

Here are the realities Kerry and krew faced when contemplating how to grab victory from the crushing jaws of defeat in Ohio.

Kerry did not have the popular vote. Even if Ohio had gone his way, there were not enough votes in Ohio to put him ahead in the popular count. So he faced the obstacle of being a minority president if he was to be so at all.

It was clear that both houses of Congress would end up more firmly in Republican control. There was no way Kerry was going to even be able to begin to do all the stuff he had promised.

The votes in Ohio simply were not there. Strike three and Kerry is out, thank God.

So now the eyes of desperte Democrats turn to the junior Senator from New York... Bleeh.......

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Hispanic Democratic group in Fla. rejects Kerry endorsement, citing moral issues - (BP)
By Erin Curry, Oct 29, 2004

"MIAMI (BP)--The Democratic League of Miami-Dade County has announced it does not endorse John Kerry for president, mainly because he is part of the current party leadership that has rejected the moral values and ethical principles of the vast majority of Democrats across the country, according to league chairman Eladio Jose Armesto.

With more than 1,000 members and a reach that expands to 100,000 pro-life, pro-family Democrats in Miami, the Democratic League was chartered by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party in 1989 and is primarily led by Hispanic-American Democrats.

The league released a statement Oct. 27, saying the Democratic presidential candidate stands "at a polar extreme of American public opinion" on certain issues, including same-sex "marriage," partial-birth abortion and human cloning.

"Sen. Kerry's voting record and public statements reveal a candidate who has disqualified himself from receiving the endorsement of pro-faith, pro-freedom, pro-life, pro-family Democrats," the release said. "We believe the Democratic Party is rooted in the values of faith, freedom, family and country. If our party is to once again be a guiding light in America, it must do much, much better than extremists such as John Kerry and John Edwards."

The group listed 10 reasons why they cannot endorse Kerry for president.... (Complete article found here.)

Friday, October 29, 2004

African Bishops Release Joint Response to Windsor Report
Friday, Oct. 29, 2004 The Christian Post

"The bishops who gathered for the first ever African Anglican Bishop's Conference released the long-awaited response to the report on homosexuality and unity in the Anglican Communion.

The 300 bishops who gathered in Lagos, Nigeria for the premier African Anglican Bishop’s Conference, released their first statement regarding the Windsor Report, on Oct. 29, 2004. The response, which offered “preliminary reflections” on the report on homosexuality and the unity of the Anglican Communion, essentially reiterated the conservative stance of the African bishops and called for greater equity in the worldwide Communion.

“We are gathered at an extraordinary and historic meeting of Anglican Bishops from all over Africa. We do so grateful for the Faith once delivered to the saints and the generosity of those who first brought the good news of Jesus Christ to the African continent,” the statement began.

The preliminary reflections began with a note of thanks to the members who drew up the Windsor Report. The report, which was released on Oct. 18, addresses the contentious issues of homosexual clergy and homosexual union blessings, and the consequential divisions that arose in the communion...

“We call on the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada to take seriously the need for “repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ,” they added.

Meanwhile, the African bishops rejected “the moral equivalence” drawn between the Episcopal Church USA and the African churches.

“To call on us to “express regret” and reassert our commitment to the Communion is offensive in light of our earlier statements. If the Episcopal Church USA had not willfully “torn the fabric of our communion at its deepest level” our actions would not have been necessary,” they wrote..." (Full article found here.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Call me "Post-Reformed"

I found some what of a kindred spirit in Tim Etherington who recently declared in his blog, By Farther Steps that he is determined to be "Post-Reformed". Before you haul him out to be burned at the stake, you may want to read the whole article. Here is an excerpt. ~ The Billy Goat ~

"The current philosophy is called "Post-Modern" which means we're longer under Modernity (reason can solve it all) but we don't know exactly where we're going yet. There is the "Emergent Church" which is, in some ways, post-evangelical. They're not evangelical but they aren't sure what they are. Welp, I've determined that I am now "Post-Reformed."

I love Reformed theology, the view is better from here. It is a theology that gives God the most glory and invites the redeemed to draw near with delight. It is the most biblical theology I have seen yet. I just love Reformed theology. What I'm not crazy about is the attitude that all too often accompanies this most holy theology. Calvinist take a maximal view of God's grace and yet many of them show precious little of it to those who formulate it differently. Covenant Theologians take a big view of God's covenant community yet many of them act is if it is really only those who hold to their particular confession and probably only those in their group who actually interpret it correctly..." > The rest of Tim's blog post can be found here.
Excerpt from "Abusive Churches: Leaving Them Behind"
by Pat Zukeran

"Things are changing." That is what we hear from friends who are still going to our former church. Frankly we hope they really are changing, but when asked for specific examples of how things have changed, our friends have to really reach to come up with anything really concrete. The bottom line is that for there to be meaningful change, those changes need to be made in the very foundations of this particular church. This excerpt by Pat Zukeran points out some of those foundational things that need to be addressed. ~ The Billy Goat ~

Can Abusive Churches Change?

"Those who find themselves in authoritarian churches often remain despite the difficulties because there is an underlying hope that the church can change. Even after they leave they often remain keenly interested in the affairs of the former church because they hope restoration will still occur.

Can abusive churches change? Although with God all things are possible, it is my opinion that it is highly unlikely that this will happen. Although a few have, they are the exceptions.

Why is change in these organizations so difficult? One reason is that change usually begins in the leadership. However, the leadership structure is designed so that the leader has control over the personnel. Although there may be a board, the individuals on the board are ultimately selected by the authoritarian leader. He selects men and women loyal to him, who do not question him, or hold him accountable. Therefore, he insulates himself from dealing with difficult issues or addressing his unhealthy practices.

Dysfunctional leaders also resist change because it is an admission of failure. In order for a genuine change of heart, leaders must first acknowledge a problem and repent. However, a leader who considers himself "God's man" or the spokesman for God will rarely humble himself to confess his shortcomings. Spiritual wholeness and renewal cannot be achieved until unhealthy behavior is recognized and dealt with. Unless this behavior is confronted, the likelihood of real change is diminished.

In most cases, the leadership focuses the blame on others. Those who left the church were not committed, were church hoppers, etc. Stephen Arterburn writes, "Anyone who rebels against the system must be personally attacked so people will think the problem is with the person, not the system." It is often useless to point out flaws because an abusive church lives in a world of denial. Many of the leaders are themselves deceived. Although sincere in their efforts, they may have no idea their leadership style is unhealthy and harmful. They are usually so narcissistic or so focused on some great thing they are doing for God that they don't notice the wounds they are inflicting on their followers. These leaders often twist Scripture to justify their unhealthy behavior. Most members will go along with this because they assume their pastors know the Bible better than they do.

Lastly, authoritarian churches make every effort to ensure that a good name and image is preserved. Therefore, the leadership often functions in secrecy. Disagreeing members are threatened and told to remain silent or are quietly dismissed.

For these reasons, it is my opinion that it is best to leave an abusive or unhealthy church. Learn to let go and let God deal with that group. Only He can bring people to repentance. Although painful, leaving an unhealthy church and joining a healthy body of believers will begin the healing process and open new doors of fellowship, worship, and service for you." (Complete article found here.)
Mystery Surrounds Kerry's Navy Discharge
BY THOMAS LIPSCOMB - Special to the New York Sun, October 13, 2004

An official Navy document on Senator Kerry's campaign Web site listed as Mr. Kerry's "Honorable Discharge from the Reserves" opens a door on a well kept secret about his military service.

The document is a form cover letter in the name of the Carter administration's secretary of the Navy, W. Graham Claytor. It describes Mr. Kerry's discharge as being subsequent to the review of "a board of officers." This in it self is unusual. There is nothing about an ordinary honorable discharge action in the Navy that requires a review by a board of officers.

According to the secretary of the Navy's document, the "authority of reference" this board was using in considering Mr. Kerry's record was "Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1162 and 1163. "This section refers to the grounds for involuntary separation from the service. What was being reviewed, then, was Mr. Kerry's involuntary separation from the service. And it couldn't have been an honorable discharge, or there would have been no point in any review at all. The review was likely held to improve Mr. Kerry's status of discharge from a less than honorable discharge to an honorable discharge.

A Kerry campaign spokesman, David Wade, was asked whether Mr. Kerry had ever been a victim of an attempt to deny him an honorable discharge. There has been no response to that inquiry.

The document is dated February 16, 1978. But Mr. Kerry's military commitment began with his six-year enlistment contract with the Navy on February 18, 1966. His commitment should have terminated in 1972. It is highly unlikely that either the man who at that time was a Vietnam Veterans Against the War leader, John Kerry, requested or the Navy accepted an additional six year reserve commitment. And the Claytor document indicates proceedings to reverse a less than honorable discharge that took place sometime prior to February 1978....

...The "board of officers" review reported in the Claytor document is even more extraordinary because it came about "by direction of the President." No normal honorable discharge requires the direction of the president. The president at that time was James Carter. This adds another twist to the story of Mr. Kerry's hidden military records.

Mr. Carter's first act as president was a general amnesty for draft dodgers and other war protesters. Less than an hour after his inauguration on January 21, 1977, while still in the Capitol building, Mr. Carter signed Executive Order 4483 empowering it. By the time it became a directive from the Defense Department in March 1977 it had been expanded to include other offenders who may have had general, bad conduct, dishonorable discharges, and any other discharge or sentence with negative effect on military records. In those cases the directive outlined a procedure for appeal on a case by case basis before a board of officers. A satisfactory appeal would result in an improvement of discharge status or an honorable discharge.

Mr. Kerry has repeatedly refused to sign Standard Form 180, which would allow the release of all his military records. And some of his various spokesmen have claimed that all his records are already posted on his Web site. But the Washington Post already noted that the Naval Personnel Office admitted that they were still withholding about 100 pages of files..." (Complete article here.)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

This Hope

Last night we had the joy and privilege of hearing the Christian vocal group This Hope at our church's 90th Anniversary celebration.

This group does a variety of Christian acappella vocals as well as songs with instrumental backup. The acappella numbers are on par with more well known acappella groups such as Glad. Tight harmonies, underscored by an excellent "air bass" done by Tim Inabnit, make for a very enjoyable and worshipful listening experience. Speaking of Tim's "air bass", in one number he did a very excellent "air trombone" with slides and all. You had to see it to appreciate it.

Their music is done in popular Christian style, and based on sound Evangelical theology. Parts of traditional hymns are mixed with original compositions to highlight the grace of God and His awesomeness. If you have a chance to hear them, or to pick up one of their CD's, I highly recommend you give their music a hearing.

More information can be found at their www site: This Hope.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Lord of All The Stars Who is Sara's Lord

She was just a young teen at the time. She was in town visiting her Aunt Ruthy and Uncle Bob who are good friends of ours. We had gone out together someplace or another, probably the Grand Haven Pier, or a Lake Michigan beach. In any event, on our way back home we stopped at Russ's Restaurant for a "little something".

When we came out of the restaurant, it was dark. We were in the parking lot getting ready to say goodbye before we went our separate ways home. It was then I looked up at the sky. We were in area of the parking lot somewhat shaded from the bright street lights and all the other lights that make metropolitan areas glow in the dark. The sky was clear that night and I could see the stars. I don't remember the exact conversation, but it went something like this.

I looked towards the northern sky and said aloud, "There is the Big Dipper."

"Oh really!" Sara responded, "Where?"

I pointed up into the sky where the handle and the sides of the Dipper could be seen. She looked and then recognition came.

"I've heard of the Big Dipper, but have never seen it before." she said. "That's pretty neat!"

It was a little hard for me to imagine going into your teen years without seeing the Big Dipper in the night sky, but then I grew up on a rural farm where the night sky was a familiar companion not shrouded by the man made lights of the our urban areas. Sara had spent most of her life in a large metropolitan area, so in retrospect it was not so surprising. And so it was that I inadvertently added a small moment to Sara's life experience.

It was some years latter I began to grasp the fuller meaning of God's sovereign lordship over specific areas of creation. He is Lord of all, therefore He is Lord of the stars. He orders their dance, and calls them all by name.

Sara is now grown, married, and a mother. He, who being Lord of all is Lord of the stars, is also Sara's Lord. Perhaps there will come a time when she will be out on a crisp clear night with her children. She will look up to the stars, and point out the Big Dipper to her children. And she will tell them again, as she has done so many times, about the One who being Lord of all, is Lord of the stars and Lord of the night sky and Her Lord and God. And in that witness, may the Lord of the stars who is her Lord, become her children's Lord also.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Bible Gateway On-line Search for the word “Grace” in the New Testament
As used in Young's Literal Translation (Edited)

Words in quotes indicate how “charis” or a form of “charis” is translated in the NASB.

Luke 2:40, 6:32-34 “credit”

John 1:14, 1:16, 1:17

Acts 4:33, 11:23, 13:43, 14:3, 14:26, 15:11, 15:40, 18:27, 20:24, 20:32

Romans 1:5, 1:7, 3:24, 4:4 “favor”, 4:16, 5:2, 5:15, 5:17, 5:20, 5:21, 6:1, 6:14, 6:15, 11:5, 11:6, 12:3, 12:6,
15:15, 16:20, 16:24

1 Corinthians 1:3, 1:4, 3:10, 15:10, 16:23

2 Corinthians 1:2, 1:12, 4:15, 6:1, 8:1, 8:7 “gracious work”, 8:9, 9:8, 9:14, 12:9, 13:14

Galatians 1:3, 1:6, 1:15, 2:9, 2:21, 5:4, 6:18

Ephesians 1:2, 1:6, 1:7, 2:5, 2:7, 2:8, 3:2, 3:7, 3:8, 4:7, 4:29, 6:24

Philippians 1:2, 1:7, 4:23

Colossians 1:2, 1:6, 3:16 “chariti – thanksgiving”, 4:6, 4:18

1 Thessalonians 1:1, 5:28

2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1:12, 2:16, 3:18

1 Timothy 1:2, 1:14, 6:21

2 Timothy 1:2, 1:9, 2:1, 4:22

Titus 1:4, 2:11, 3:7, 3:15

Philemon 1:3, 1:25

Hebrews 2:9,4:16, 10:29, 12:15, 12:28 “show gratitude”, 13:9, 13:25

James 4:6

1 Peter 1:2, 1:10, 1:13, 3:7, 4:10, 5:5, 5:10, 5:12

2 Peter 1:2, 3:18

2 John 1:3

Jude 1:4

Revelation 1:4, 22:21

This list was compiled as handout for a men's Bible study on "Grasping Grace". A study of the verses on this list will give you a good grounding in how the Bible uses the word "grace".

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Context and Content of a Concept

This past Wednesday was my turn at teaching the men's Bible study. The topic was "Men at Church Grasp Grace." In my preparation it became clear that grace as a concept has no real meaning unless there is a context and content to the concept.

What do we mean by "grace"? In what context are we to understand that meaning? The same questions could be asked of the concept of "faith" or "revelation" or a whole host of theological terms.

And in this Post-modern age, those are no small questions. In case you have not heard the news, Post-modernity seeks to make everything relative, especially meaning. That's why you can have a President who asks you what "is" is.

So I found it necessary to spend time with the men discussing the meaning and context of the concept of grace. The context of course is the Bible and the progress of redemptive history coming to fruition in the New Testament. The content comes from the Gospel of He who in John 1 is described as the personification of "grace and truth".

Context and content. That's what makes a concept meaningful. It is in that light that grace becomes


In His joy,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Who is this guy "Norm"?

Our young friend is about the same age as our older married daughter. She is a single adult Christian woman pursuing a graduate level degree with the end of entering upon a career. And she is doing so with a sense of God's calling and purpose for her life. No desire to marry. Not even looking for a guy. No Christian singles retreats. No Christian internet dating services or chat rooms for her.

Though she has not gone into detail, our young friend has alluded to the kinds of things that are said to her at her home church where she is still a member. You know the comments... "Any young man in your life these days?" "Why don't you go to the Christian singles retreat at blah blah blah..." "God has someone special for you..." And implied in all of that, "Why are you pursuing a career instead of a husband and children?"

A few years ago I had a conversation with one of the pastors at her home church regarding the issue of singles in the church. His comment was to the effect that in the Bible it is the norm for young adult women to marry and if possible, bear children. The context of the conversation and the implication of the statement was to apply that "norm" to specific situations in his pastoral counseling, especially to young single adult Christian women.

Do you see the fallacy in that statement and application? We are not talking about the world's norm for sinful behavior such as drunkenness, cussing, or other obvious sinful behavior patterns. The Bible no where makes the issue of marriage or non-marriage in and of itself a matter of sin. But this pastor is going to take an observable norm for a general population as a whole, and make it law and gospel in a specific situation for specific young people.

Pray tell dear pastor, who anointed you with such a gift of "prophecy", that you know for certain that just because something is a general norm, you can bind the conscience of young Christian single adults as the "norm" for them specifically, and in this case specifically, young single adult Christian women? Since when did any Protestant Christian church elect this guy "Norm" as pope?

This pastors comment is a reflection of a cultural scholasticism that has afflicted his particular church and the particular movement his church is a part of. The expectations in that setting for young single Christian women in particular have more to do with that scholasticism then with honest wrestling with all the Bible has to say about Christian singleness. Yes, the family is an important part of the church, but families are not all there is to the church, and the Bible makes clear that all members of the church, married and unmarried are equally important.

That last statement sums up what Wendy Widder is saying in her recent books, Living Whole Without a Better Half and A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles and the Church Can Live Happily Ever After. Wendy is an adult single Christian woman who was blessed to run into Christian friends who affirmed her in her singleness as opposed to treating it as a temporary aberration to be quickly fled at the first opportunity. But Wendy's books are not just for young adult Christian singles like our young friend. She writes with a vision of the whole body of Christ, married and un-married, and with a reverence for the Scripture as God's authoritative Word.

We gave a copy of A Match Made in Heaven to our young friend, and I would encourage you also to read what Wendy has to say on the whole matter of being Christian and single.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Focusing on Grace

“When you focus on grace in the fullness of it’s meaning, you will keep the law, liberty, and love in their proper relationship to one another. But if you focus on any one of them instead of grace, you will invariably end up in the swamp of legalism or license.” (Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges)

Both legalism and antinomianism (license) share the same basic fundamental flaw. Both are the result of an insufficient view of what the Gospel is, and what the grace of God in the Gospel does. It is a focus on the grace of God in the Gospel that will keep us in the way that leads to life, which will keep our life in Biblical balance, which is the basis of all true Biblical spirituality, and is the essence of what it means for Christians to grasp grace.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, September 13, 2004

Summer's Passing

We are now up to the last week of Summer. My calendar tells me Autumn begins next Wednesday. Once again the year is flying by. My friends who are into that sort of thing are talking about hunting. The football season is in full swing, and I don't mean soccer. The Detroit Lions even won a game on the road, proof that wonders never cease.

The start of school and the coming of Fall also means activities and programs at church are swinging into full gear now that Summer is passing.

Yesterday the choir began a new season of ministry. The piece that we sang had a part where the choir and the congregation together sing "Holy, Holy, Holy". I was doing all right holding down my part in the bass section of the choir, but confess that when the congregation joined in with us, I had to suck it up to keep from losing it emotionally. (The spirit of the prophets is controlled by the prophets.) It was just so awesome... A taste of that worship we will engage in around the throne (Revelation 4-5).

The men's Bible study starts this week. From week to week different men will be leading the study. Lord willing, I will be leading the study on the topic "Men at Church Grasp Grace". It's been a good lesson to prepare for. Jerry Bridges' book Transforming Grace has been an excellent supplement to the study book we are using.

Bridges says a number of things I have thought and come to believe regarding the pre-eminence of grace not only in our initial salvation, but also in our on-going sanctification. Let me end this post by paraphrasing and building on one thought from Transforming Grace.

Both legalism on the one hand, and antinomianism on the other, share a common foundational flaw. Both legalism and antinomianism have a deficient view of what the Gospel is, and what Gospel grace does. More on that some other time...

In His joy,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Sunday, September 05, 2004

A Dramatic Reading of Revelation 4 - 5
(English Standerd Version)

A narrative passage of Scripture lends itself to dramatic reading. Such a dramatic reading can be a useful teaching tool in engaging the class with the passage. Here is an example of how a dramatic reading of a narraitve portion of Scripture can be structured. I used this example in an actual adult Sunday school class.
~ The Billy Goat ~

The Promise: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)

[Chapter 4]

[Narrator] After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said,

[First Voice] "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."

[Narrator] At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

[Four Creatures] "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"

[Narrator] And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

[24 Elders] "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

[Chapter 5]

[Narrator] Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice,

[First Voice] "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?"

[Narrator] And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me,

[Elder] "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

[Narrator] And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

[Four Creatures & 24 Elders] "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

[Narrator] Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

[All] "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

[Narrator] And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

[All] "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"

[Narrator] And the four living creatures said,

[Four Creatures] "Amen!"

[Narrator] And the elders fell down and worshiped.

“And I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals…” (Revelation 6:1a)

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Evangelical Legalism

“We’ve gotten beyond the Galatian brand of legalism today. We haven’t resurrected circumcision as a requirement for salvation, and we’re clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ apart from the keeping of the law. Instead, we have developed another brand of legalism, a brand that is concerned, not with salvation, but with how we live the Christian life. I call this “evangelical legalism”…

...Despite God’s call to be free and His earnest admonition to resist all efforts to curtail it, there is little emphasis in Christian circles today on the importance of Christian freedom. Just the opposite seems to be true. Instead of promoting freedom, we stress our rules of conformity. Instead of preaching living by grace, we preach living by performance. Instead of encouraging new believers to be conformed to Christ, we subtly insist that they be conformed to our particular style of Christian culture. We do not intend to do this and would earnestly deny we are. Yet that’s the “bottom line” effect of most of our emphases in Christian circles today…

…We are much more concerned about someone abusing his freedom then we are about his guarding it. We are more afraid of indulging the sinful nature then we are of falling into legalism. Yet legalism does indulge the sinful nature because it fosters self-righteousness and religious pride. It also diverts us from the real issues of the Christian life by focusing on externals and sometimes trivial rules…

…We build fences to keep ourselves from committing certain sins. Soon these fences – instead of the sins they were designed to guard against- become the issue. We elevate our rules to the level of God’s commandments. “

From Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love by Jerry Bridges

Monday, August 23, 2004

Spiritual Abuse in the Pulpit and the Pew
by Dale O. Wolery, (Spiritual Abuse Recovery Resources)

"Pastors should be the last people to perpetrate abuse. The idea is disconcerting and repulsive, but God’s people sometimes do God’s work in destructive ways. Surely not every clergyperson is an abuser, and yet many thoughtful observers believe that spiritual abuse, intentional or not, has become the norm for modern pastors.

Any ministerial behavior, mine or someone else’s, that damages someone’s relationship with God is spiritual abuse..." (complete article...)

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Faith Matters to Public Life

By Charlotte Allen, to the source, August 4, 2004

"...Religion, by nature, is a public thing, because it acknowledges a reality that is outside the private realm of the inner heart. Individuals' faith and religious experiences are private matters, but religion itself, whether it be Wicca, Buddhism or Roman Catholicism, is shared and communal. Those who would banish religion to the realm of the strictly private in effect contend that religion has no relevance to public life. This notion fatally trivializes religion by treating it as essentially meaningless.

More important, religion recognizes there is inherent meaning, order and purpose in the universe. It thus induces humility; a recognition that our puny ideas about how things are and ought to be may not be the final word. The horror of 20th century totalitarianism was the insistence of atheistic, militantly secularist intellectuals, from Germany to Russia to China to Cuba, that they had a right to impose their pet utopian schemes at the point of a gun or threat of the gulag. Professing "allegiance … to a higher authority," as Robert Reich, secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration puts it, is a check on such murderous egotism..." (Read more here.)