Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Post Copenhagen: Is Man-Made Global Warming a Dead Issue?

An openly published scientific peer reviewed article contains findings that contradict the climate change hysteria over CO2 emissions, and in fact predicts a cooling trend over the next 50 years.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ramblings



A few short days and it will be Christmas. One more day of work and I get some time off. Work has been a little hectic lately.

I am finishing Chesterton's Orthodoxy. It was written a hundred years ago, but reads like it was written just last year. I highly recommend it. Yes, I know Chesterton was Roman Catholic. Just read it anyways, and have the audacity to appreciate it.

The so called "Health care Bill: There is nothing healthy or caring about it. The real goal is not health, but power and control. We are being betrayed in the name of "health care" and "compassion" and all the other baloney that politicians use to disguise their true intentions.

We have some really neat young people in our church. You can not help but love them. You can not help but pray for them. I am well aware they are not "perfect", but many of them have their heart in the right place, and that is such an encouragement to see.

How do you pray for a fellow Christian believer who in some shape, fashion, or form, is going through some rough waters? Lately I find myself thinking that if I really love you, I want what God wants for you in your current stress. As such, I find myself being more careful not to pray that the trial be taken away, but that you would be given grace to go through the trial, and come out on the other side more conformed to the image of Christ. If we really love one another, that is what we want for each other; to be conformed to the image of Christ.

For to us a child is born,
  to us a son is given,
  and the government will be on his shoulders.
  And he will be called
  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace
  there will be no end.
  He will reign on David's throne
  and over his kingdom,
  establishing and upholding it
  with justice and righteousness
  from that time on and forever.
  The zeal of the LORD Almighty
  will accomplish this.

(Isaiah 9:6-7)


Peace....

~ The Billy Goat ~

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Cosmic Perspective of Christmas



"Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.

And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."

(Revelation 12)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What Christmas Means to Jesus


"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

(Philippians 2:3-11)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

When They Came...



When they came for the Orthodox I said nothing because I was not Orthodox. When they came for the Catholics I said nothing because I was not Catholic. When they came for the Lutherans I said nothing because I was not Lutheran. Then they came for the Evangelicals and when I spoke up in protest, there was no one left to hear....

The statement above is my response to the controversy in the Reformed and Evangelical camp over The Manhattan Declaration.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I am thankful for...

...a job and a paycheck.
...a warm house.
...more then enough food.
...my wife and children and grandchildren.
...good friends.
...a good church and church family.
...the Bible in my own language.
...God's mercy and salvation.
...the LORD's providential guidance in my life.
...eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

"Hither to has the LORD helped us."

~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Narrative and Proposition



[This post is a continuation of thoughts flowing from the previous post titled The Emergent Failure, and the further extended comments on the blog post from which that previous post was sparked.]

The pictures in my mind go back over 50 years ago when I was a young boy sitting in the Sunday School class at the church we went to. Three faces and names appear in those pictures; Mrs. Eicher, Mrs. Ennis, and Mrs. Ruckman. There may have been others, but these three ladies were the ones who remain in my memory some 50 plus years latter.

It was these ladies who taught me at a very young age the Story; the Narrative if you will. It is from these ladies I learned the story of creation and the fall, the story of Noah and the ark, the stories of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers, the small boy named Samuel, David and Goliath, the birth of Jesus, his ministry, his death and resurrection, the out pouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus and his missionary journeys. They told those stories, illustrating those stories with flannel graph figures placed on the board.

Yes, there were rudimentary propositional truths taught along with the stories. It was those propositional truths that gave the stories and the Story meaning and purpose. What was the meaning of the fall? Why was there a flood? Why all the fuss about a baby in a manger? Why was Jesus killed? Why is His resurrection meaningful? All those are questions that require some form of rudimentary propositional statement for an answer.

There were also ethical teachings that went along with the stories, be nice and kind to people, respect your elders, don't "kill" your little brother, love God and do what He says.

The point is that over 50 years ago Sunday School teachers were presenting Christianity to their students as narrative; narrative that provided the context and content for propositional theological and ethical truth.

Even in the churches I've been in that did not have a formal liturgy based on a church calender, there was the observing of Christmas and Easter; occasions pointing back to specific points of the Narrative and recognition of the importance of those Narrative events.

And that's not just my story.

Over the years since that time in my life I've met other Christians from different traditions and church backgrounds who essentially give the same testimony. Christianity was presented to them as the Story that gives a context and content to theological beliefs and ethical behaviour. The Story was not told as "propositional postulates", but as Narrative that has meaning and purpose. The articulating of that meaning and purpose of necessity brings us to propositional postulates, but those postulates only have meaning and basis in the context of the Narrative. We cannot somehow pit Narrative against postulates, nor postulates against Narrative. They go together, Narrative leading, propositional postulates following, but always together, not ever separate.

I whole heartedly agree with the statement, "Telling this story as propositional postulates isn’t a compelling story to most people in America outside of the church." I would only add that telling the story in that fashion would not be a compelling story for most people inside the church as well. But that said, what I do take issue with is the implication that the churches at large have been and are continuing to tell this story only as propositional postulates. To seperate the two is to truncate the Gospel. There have been over the years some popular Gospel presentations that appear to do that, but even those presuppose the Narrative. Rewrite the Gospel tracts if you must, but in doing so, do not minimize either Narrative or proposition. And don't presume the existence of such tracts is normative or has been normative or all encompassing for how the church has been or is telling the Story.

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Emergent Failure




“God seems to tolerate pretty much all sins…”


The above quote is from a comment made to a posting on another blog. What follows is my response to that comment.

I don’t know what “bible” you are reading. The Bible I read, the one containing the 66 books recognized from ancient times by the whole church. (Catholic and Protestant alike) clearly teaches that God does NOT tolerate ANY sin. It is the lack of tolerance on God’s part towards sin that made a Saviour necessary; which makes the Gospel necessary (I Corinthians 15). The love of God never over rides God’s intolerance for any and all sin. That’s what the Gospel is; God expressing His love, yet in a way that that maintains and affirms His intolerance of all sin. It only takes one sin to go to hell (James 2:10).

God’s providential dealing with us and our sins while we are yet alive in this world is one thing. How He will deal with those sins in the day of judgement is another. Sin will be dealt with; either at the cross of Christ, or before the judgement seat of God in that last day. Of course if you don’t believe sin is “sin”, you can delude yourself that you are off the hook and all is OK…

There is a lot about Biblical Christianity that an unbelieving world finds “odd”. That’s nothing new. On Mars Hill unbelieving Greeks scoffed at the idea of a resurrection from the dead. We’re not here to make the “odd” “not odd” for an unbelieving world. We are here to bear witness to what God has said in time and space, ie- history, in His objective word. If your post-modern mind rebels at the use of the word “objective”, that is nothing more then an example of your post-modern rebellion against the God who created you. Modernity rebelled against that God too. What you have done in your embrace of Post-modern epistemology applied to Christianity and Scripture is to fail to bear witness against the baals of post-modernity in the same way the old liberalism failed to bear witness against the baals of modernity. To embrace the epistemology of either modernity or post-modernity is a failure of Biblical witness and a compromising with the baals of the age. For me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Modernity has its sophistry against which we rightly protest. Post-modernity has just as much sophistry as modernity. The failure of the emergent movement is the failure to protest that sophistry too. In that failure is the failure of the emergent movement to bear authentic Christian witness, and in some cases to put ones self outside of the Christian religion all together.

Kyrie Eleison!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

My Only Hope in Life and Death


Heidelberg Catechism

Question 1. What is your only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"One of the tragedies of the current Christian evangelical scene is the divisive tendencies present in many strands of the community. When the subtradition is more crucial than the Christian tradition, we fragment the unity to which God has called us and for which the Lord intercedes (John 17)......

In our zeal for creedal commitment, we can draw lines to identify our subtradition and forget we share a larger, more fundmental identity. This is not to deny the value of subtraditons or their contribution to the whole body of Christ, but it is to say that the task before the Christian community to reflect the love of Christ and evangelize the world is so vast that no subtradition can do it all by itself. It is also to say that the basic commitments and obligations to which God calls us commit us to the whole of His body, not just the part of it in which we function most easily......"

Craig A. Blaising & Darrell L. Bock, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition; Baker Academic; (September 1, 2000)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Smashing of the Idols

What follows is a spiritual autobiography. In July 2000, I wrote a letter to a life long friend detailing how I had come to embrace the Evangelical Christian faith. Later I published an edited version of that letter on a now defunct internet site. Over the years this has gone through several edits and updates for publication.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

" "In a age of relativism, orthodoxy is the only possible rebellion left."

~ Peter Kreeft

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t go to church. At that time my parents seldom went, but sent us kids regularly. I had a childhood friend that I invited to church also. Though we learned many things at this church of our youth, there was also, in retrospect, some things that were missed.

I remember one time when we were about 11 years old, we were at a church camp, and my friend and I talked about looking for the Garden of Eden. Indeed we were looking for something back then. Little did we realize what we were to eventually find. Thus it was at that time in our looking, we were baptized; having been taught that in doing so, one became a Christian; the implication was we were earning our way to God’s favor by our own keeping and doing. I still remember the church camp sermon on the steps to heaven; all things we had to do. I don’t remember the word “grace” being used.

In high school my friend began to drift away and started walking on the wilder side of life. At that time my own walk was something of the respectable hypocrite. For some reason I didn't stop going to church. I think in some sense I was seeking something I had yet to find. I could never be an atheist. Growing up on the farm so close to nature made it almost impossible not to believe in something much greater.

I did become a deist of sorts, someone who believes in God, but not sure He is relevant to anything in this world. And I was certainly not at all sure how Jesus fit into the whole thing, if He did at all. My life became one of being "good" enough not to get into bad trouble, but being "bad" enough to get along with the world.

During my high school senior year, there was a New Year Eve's service at the church. A guest speaker was leading the service. He had us write on a piece of paper any concerns, burdens, questions, or etc. we wanted God to take care of in the year to come. He then collected the papers, and putting them into a collection plate, burned them up; a symbolic act of giving those things to God. On my paper I had written, "Are you really there?" Little did I know how, in the next few years, that question was to be answered.

That fall I was off to Michigan State University. I was a relatively larger fish in a real small pond back home. At MSU I was barely at the plankton level. I also quickly realized that for all the amount of intellect at the University, there were still some areas where the Professors, with all their doctoral degrees, learning, and knowledge, really didn't know anymore then the rest of us. Whatever claims they might make, they were only guessing about the meaning and purpose of life, and one guess was as good or bad as another.

In one of my Freshman classes, in a test essay question dealing with Thomas Paine’s virulent attack on the virgin birth of Christ, I found myself defending the virgin birth. After all, Thomas Paine didn’t know anymore about it then anyone else, so why should I believe him? It was in that context I was seeking my own meaning and purpose. I was carving out and sculpting my own idols; those things I thought would give me purpose, meaning, and comfort in life. I believed God existed, but believed He was far away and didn’t have much time or inclination to worry about my life.

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year, my brother got married to his first wife. Even though I had known of and expected my brother's wedding for some months before, the actual event was something of a shock to me. It was hard for me to handle that we had "grown up", and were taking on adult responsibilities. Even back in high school I had felt at times an acute loneliness and emptiness; a loneliness and emptiness that I thought could be filled by the "good life"; finding a special someone to share life with, a good paying job, and a nice house in a nice community. It was in those growing materialistic expectations that I was looking for ultimate purpose and meaning in my life. I realize in looking back, that those things, as legitimate as they can be, were at that time in my life, becoming my idols.

In my sophomore year, the Lord started drawing His net around me. God is a jealous God. He will not put up with us having any other gods in His place. That fall I attended a concert on campus put on by a Christian musical group. There was a gospel presentation. As the salvation prayer was spoken, I remember saying to myself, “That’s something you should do.” I signed a card that had been provided, and promptly forgot about the whole thing.

That winter and spring I thought perhaps I was beginning to find what I was looking for in regard to some of those things that were my idols. But it was a delusion; my feelings and imagination making in my mind something that was not really there. In the spring of that sophomore year, He proceeded to providentially smash those idols. Those idols lay smashed upon the ground, leaving me bewildered and at a loss.

Shortly after these events, I was invited to a meeting of a campus ministry group. I went... I was supposed to get a term paper done, but I couldn't concentrate on it, so I went to the meeting.

After the meeting I talked to the speaker. He went through a Gospel presentation. I knew enough of the Bible to recognize the truth of what he said. I knew I fell far short of living up to what I knew was right. I needed grace, mercy, and the forgiveness of sins. Though I did not fully understand it at the time, I needed to turn from myself and embrace what Christ had done for me in His death, burial, and resurrection. It was then I confessed to the Lord I was the fool, and in so doing acknowledged that He, Jesus Christ, was Lord and God. Somewhat to my surprise, I found I believed. I was surprised by faith...

The skeptic may say, "He got religion on the rebound from a broken heart.” That an understandable response, but it is a rather superficial kind of analysis that misses deeper root issues. The issue was not my seeking solace for a broken heart; though that pain was real enough. The real issue was not “me” centered, but God centered. What was to be the object of my hope and faith for meaning and purpose in life? The object of a person’s hope and faith is what they will worship. My heart was broken because I sought in my idols that which God alone can give. God smashed my idols so I would seek Him, and in Him alone find all I really and truly needed or wanted. Nor does that kind of superficial analysis explain why, after all these years, I keep on believing.

From that point, old things started passing away, and new things came in their place. I went home at the end of that school year a different person then what I had been when that school year had started. Someone gave me a copy of the New Testament in Today's English. That summer I read through it, and the Word of God was alive like it had never been before... I found I wanted to be with God’s people...

There is much more I could probably say about the last 40 plus years since that time. I did marry a really nice Christian lady, was able to have a decent job, and we have a nice home in a nice suburban community. Shortly after we were married, I was baptized in an Evangelical Baptist church. Over the years we have attended and been involved in several local churches. In those churches we have seen both the good and some of the bad of church life, but our confidence is not in any specific church or group of churches, rather it is in Him who is head over all the church.

At one point I thought to enter the ministry, but the Lord providentially led me otherwise. I did take several years of seminary classes and learned enough Greek and Hebrew to be dangerous. More important, I learned more about God Himself and who I am in relation to Him. I learned more fully about His sovereign grace and mercy.

I am a saved sinner. I am a sinner still being saved. One day I will be fully saved. Jesus Christ is my all in all, my only hope in life and in death. Anything I have is a gift of His grace and mercy alone; certainly not at all deserved or earned by anything I could do. All I can do is respond to His love by loving and seeking to serve Him.

For the child of God, nothing is wasted in His sovereign economy. It is from the ashes, broken wreckage, and debris of our lives that He perfects His image in us.

Whatever God's providence brings our way, His promises are true and He remains faithful. The light afflictions of this poor world are nothing in light of the weight of the eternal glory that is waiting for those who love Him.

So it is that I affirm and confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, and that He is my LORD and my Savior.

I believe....

..in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Piliate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from where He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit;

the holy universal Church; the communion of the saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.

AMEN!

(~ The Apostles' Creed ~)

Solo Deo gloria!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If I Could Dance With You Once Again



It was in another lifetime in another world.

You, the girl, would come up to me, the guy, and ask me to ask you to dance. I remember the look in your eyes as you stood there making your request.

Pain. Frustration. A cry for recognition and attention; for validation as a human being with a place of value among the other human beings of the world; for affirmation that you were a woman, and at least one guy in the world valued you as a woman.

It did not bother me to oblige you. My acquiescence was not coerced or given grudgingly, but was willingly and freely given. If I agreed to ask you to dance with me it was because I wanted to; because as I look back, I enjoyed doing so.

And it may be in my acquiescence I also was looking for validation and affirmation.

Then we went our separate ways.

You found love and companionship. Then your whole world fell apart; shattered by bullets in a far off land on the other side of the world.

A year after he was killed you came to me, just as you had done at the high school dances a few short years before. I still see the pain and grief written all over your countenance. You were still deeply mourning. You told me how you had gone to church and had prayed for him, and then he was gone. The implied question being, "Where was God in all of that?"

I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do. I look back at that time as a time of failure; a time when I let you down. You may have expected more from me then what was reasonable given my inexperience with life and youthful immaturity. I couldn't help you, and the burden of that failure has stayed with me over the lifetime that has since intervened.

If I could dance with you once again, just one more time, this is what I would say.

"You are a human being. You have worth and value as a human being created in the image of the God you may or may not believe in. Your life has a purpose. That purpose is found in bringing glory to this God who made you."

There is much more that would need to be said to more fully explain this brief summery. And how much help such conversation would be to you as we dance across the floor I do not pretend to know.

It could be that at the end of the dance, once more you would walk away feeling and thinking it was no help at all, just words containing no relevance to what you believe is the reality of your life.

But then again, just maybe possibly, you would find Him, and in finding Him you truly would indeed "live happily ever after".

For you see, over all the lifetime that has gone by since those days in another lifetime in another world, that has been my prayer for you; that you would truly indeed live "happily ever after".

Thank you for the dance...

Peace...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Of This and That



  • Of Matches and Autumn Fires: I'm losing my touch. Tonight I went to light a fire in our portable outdoor fireplace and it took me about 6 or plus matches to get the fire going. That's a little humbling to me because I've taken pride in being able to start such fires with just one match. The kindling would not cooperate. That was my fault for not being more careful about the material I was using for kindling. I finally got a steady flame going, and in the end it was a really nice fire. It was a beautiful crisp Fall night for having a fire. I enjoyed just sitting out on the patio and watching the flames dancing and flickering.

  • Revisiting Hemingway: Back at the first of this year I picked up and read Hemingway's For Whom The Bells Toll. In my mind, Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, and For Whom The Bells Toll constitute a Hemingway trilogy of sorts. It is the two war novels that give the setting and context for understanding the rampant anomie found in the story being told in The Sun Also Rises. The generation that fought in WW-I (Farewell To Arms) is the "lost generation" of The Sun Also Rises. And if that was not enough, we then have the disillusionment that came out of the horrors and atrocities of the Spanish Civil War (For Whom The Bells Toll). Someday I want to develop this perspective into a full blown essay with the premise that these three Hemingway novels taken together, give us a picture of the birth and development of post-modernity in the early 20th Century.

  • I love "the Church". Yes, the church that is represented by institutions known as local congregations. It is because of the church, universal and institutional, that I have the Bible in my own language. It was this church that supported the college and university Gospel outreach that a Sovereign God used to bring me to Himself. (Rest in peace Mr. Bill Bright.) It has been the "Doctors" of this church that honed and worked out from that Bible the theology that helps me understand and make sense of what the Christian life is about. It is the Pastors of that church that faithfully explain the Word of God and feed my soul. It is in the fellowship of that church where I find encouragement and friendship with those in whom I see the image of Christ being formed.

    I know this church is not perfect. I know it's not always as authentic as it should be. Yes, there have even been times when some in this church have let me down, or even betrayed me. I'm not perfect either.

    I love the church. I love the church because I love Jesus Christ. Because I love Him, I also love the bride He loves. The church is not perfect, but one day it will be. I am not perfect, but by the grace of God, one day I will be.

    I love the Church.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Calvin on External Discipline and Ceremonies



[I separated and underlined the part of this quote I wanted to focus on. I'm including all of section 30 and 31 so that part can be seen in the context in which Calvin wrote it. ~ The Billy Goat ~]

From: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book Four, Chapter 10

30. But as there is here a danger, on the one hand, lest false bishops should thence derive a pretext for their impious and tyrannical laws, and, on the other, lest some, too apt to take alarm, should, from fear of the above evils, leave no place for laws, however holy, it may here be proper to declare, that I approve of those human constitutions only which are founded on the authority of God, and derived from Scripture, and are therefore altogether divine. Let us take, for example, the bending of the knee which is made in public prayer. It is asked, whether this is a human tradition, which any one is at liberty to repudiate or neglect? I say, that it is human, and that at the same time it is divine. It is of God, inasmuch as it is a part of that decency, the care and observance of which is recommended by the apostle; and it is of men, inasmuch as it specially determines what was indicated in general, rather than expounded. From this one example, we may judge what is to be thought of the whole class—viz. that the whole sum of righteousness, and all the parts of divine worship, and everything necessary to salvation, the Lord has faithfully comprehended, and clearly unfolded, in his sacred oracles, so that in them he alone is the only Master to be heard.

But as in external discipline and ceremonies, he has not been pleased to prescribe every particular that we ought to observe (he foresaw that this depended on the nature of the times, and that one form would not suit all ages), in them we must have recourse to the general rules which he has given, employing them to test whatever the necessity of the Church may require to be enjoined for order and decency. Lastly, as he has not delivered any express command, because things of this nature are not necessary to salvation, and, for the edification of the Church, should be accommodated to the varying circumstances of each age and nation, it will be proper, as the interest of the Church may require, to change and abrogate the old, as well as to introduce new forms. I confess, indeed, that we are not to innovate rashly or incessantly, or for trivial causes. Charity is the best judge of what tends to hurt or to edify: if we allow her to be guide, all things will be safe.

31. Things which have been appointed according to this rule, it is the duty of the Christian people to observe with a free conscience indeed, and without superstition, but also with a pious and ready inclination to obey. They are not to hold them in contempt, nor pass them by with careless indifference, far less openly to violate them in pride and contumacy. You will ask, What liberty of conscience will there be in such cautious observances? Nay, this liberty will admirably appear when we shall hold that these are not fixed and perpetual obligations to which we are astricted, but external rudiments for human infirmity, which, though we do not all need, we, however, all use, because we are bound to cherish mutual charity towards each other. This we may recognise in the examples given above. What? Is religion placed in a woman’s bonnet, so that it is unlawful for her to go out with her head uncovered? Is her silence fixed by a decree which cannot be violated without the greatest wickedness? Is there any mystery in bending the knee, or in burying a dead body, which cannot be omitted without a crime? By no means. For should a woman require to make such haste in assisting a neighbour that she has not time to cover her head, she sins not in running out with her head uncovered. And there are some occasions on which it is not less seasonable for her to speak than on others to be silent. Nothing, moreover, forbids him who, from disease, cannot bend his knees, to pray standing. In fine, it is better to bury a dead man quickly, than from want of grave-clothes, or the absence of those who should attend the funeral, to wait till it rot away unburied. Nevertheless, in those matters the custom and institutions 2437of the country, in short, humanity and the rules of modesty itself, declare what is to be done or avoided. Here, if any error is committed through imprudence or forgetfulness, no crime is perpetrated; but if this is done from contempt, such contumacy must be disapproved. In like manner, it is of no consequence what the days and hours are, what the nature of the edifices, and what psalms are sung on each day. But it is proper that there should be certain days and stated hours, and a place fit for receiving all, if any regard is had to the preservation of peace. For what a seed-bed of quarrels will confusion in such matters be, if every one is allowed at pleasure to alter what pertains to common order? All will not be satisfied with the same course if matters, placed as it were on debatable ground, are left to the determination of individuals. But if any one here becomes clamorous, and would be wiser than he ought, let him consider how he will approve his moroseness to the Lord. Paul’s answer ought to satisfy us, “If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We All Believe in One True God


By: Tobias Clausnitzer

We all believe in one true God,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Ever present help in need,
Praised by all the heavenly host;
All he made his love enfolds,
All creation he upholds.

We all believe in Jesus Christ,
Son of God and Mary’s son,
Who descended from his throne
And for us salvation won;
By whose cross and death are we
Rescued from all misery.

We all confess the Holy Ghost,
Who from both in truth proceeds,
Who sustains and comforts us
In all trials, fears and needs.
Blest and holy Trinity,
Praise forever yours shall be.

Hymn # 212 from Lutheran Worship
Author: Kirchengesangbuch
Tune: Wir Glauben All An Einen Gott
1st Published in: 1699


Amen!!!

~ The Billy Goat ~

In the following video, the above hymn is sung in German with the English translation scolling on the screen.

Linkin Park- In The End




Friday, October 02, 2009

The Pending Death of Geocities.com


"GEOCITIES IS CLOSING ON OCTOBER 26, 2009.
New GeoCities accounts are no longer available."


Geocities was a free web-page hosting community absorbed into the Yahoo conglomerate a few years back. Yahoo is going to shut it down by the end of this month, and all the individual web-page accounts that have accumulated over the years will die with it. One of those accounts that will be terminating is mine.

For a fee I can move my Geocites site to a Yahoo web hosting site, but the bottom line is that the free pages are going to be history. I choose not to spend the money. I have salvaged from my Geocites site the stuff I want to save, and have found other homes on the net for those items; (homes that are still at no cost to myself).

What this pending demise of Geocities proves is that immortality will not be found on the Internet. I have from time to time pondered what would happen to all my different WWW page accounts if I was to die;(and someday, God knows when, I will).

I confess that at an early point in my Internet history, I had some vague notion that after I was gone, my WWW pages would just stay there into perpetuity; an on-going memorial to the fact I once existed in this world order; my thoughts and logic to endure and to inspire future generations ages after I'm gone.

Of course all of that is sheer poppycock and nonsense. The pending demise of Geocities underscores how illusionary that kind of thought is.

Immortality and meaning is not found in the idol of the Internet. The Internet will not bring in the Age of Aquarius or the millennium or utopia or any such thing.

God reserves that prerogative for Himself. He alone is the source for immortality and for meaning and purpose.

Someday Blogspot will die and "The Billy Goat Blog" will die with it. Facebook will die along with deviantArt and all the rest. This world order will pass away. A New Heavens and New Earth will come.

Then we will know true shalom. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, September 18, 2009

Like an Ill-fitting Shirt



I've been pondering lately how it is some theological constructions or systems are like ill-fitting shirts. You may be able to put such a shirt on, but there is always something about it that doesn't fit that well; a certain amount of discomfort across the chest, or in the armpits, or overly long floppy sleeves that get in the way or to much shirt tail to tuck in or not enough shirt tail to remain tucked in..

I thought I might make a list of some of those "ill-fitting shirts":

Traditional Dispensationalism

Covenant Theology: Yes, both of these systems are ill-fitting.

New Covenant Theology: Doesn't really fit that much better then the other two shirts. Any theological system we construct is going to have it's weaknesses and no theological system, including Reformed theology, is equal to the Gospel Itself. Do we have the Christian humility to recognize and accept that?

Amillianalism I tried wearing this shirt for a number of years, then I figured out where that tightness across the chest was coming from.

Premillinialism: I hold a historic pre-mill position, but am not afraid to admit it doesn't answer all the questions. It does however fit somewhat better then the amill shirt does. To bad some amill folks don't realize their position doesn't answer all the questions either.

Postmillinialism This shirt is one I could never get into at all since one arm sleeve is in the middle of the collar, and the other arm sleeve is in the middle of the lower back.

By now I'm sure I probably stepped on a number of sacred cows. Sorry, but I don't feel your pain nor do I really care at all about your pontifical outrage.

To conclude I will step on a few more toes by saying that each of the theological constructs and systems named above have to some degree or another contributed positively to Evangelical understanding and thought. But with that said, though some of these shirts may be relatively more comfortable then others, none of them are a perfect fit.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I Can't Help It


I can't help that you have some realities you are not able to face and name. I understand why facing those realities is so difficult when they involve matters very close to your heart.

You don't want me to get close to you. You don't want me to say some of the things I've been conscience bound to say. You say I am being harsh in saying them.

I am sorry you feel that way, but in conscience I have to deny the charge. There is no way to deny the hard reality of what happened nor the complicity of those involved in minimising and hiding that reality to cover their own culpability.

What bothers me is that in denying that reality and facing it squarely, you set yourself up for continuing anger and bitterness. You are not able to really let the past go and move on with the rest of your life. As a result the very ones you are trying to get away from and avoid are still controlling your life.

I'm not going to allow you to put that baggage on me.

I can not help that you will not get counseling and help from a qualified counselor who would be in a position to give you impartial advice and counsel in working through all the crap you had to deal with.

I can't help it, and as a result, I can't help you; not that you would ask for my help anyways. All I can do is pray.

Someday it's going to all blow up. You will see what really happened and where the culpability really is. All hell will break loose. Maybe I'll be there to help. More probably not.

I can't help it, and as things stand now, I can't help you. I can only pray,

"Kyrie Eleison..."

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Other Side of the River


I grew up on a farm in Michigan, just a few miles from the border with Ohio. A stream runs through that farm; a small river entering the land at the NE corner and cutting a diagonal across to the SW as it flows on to it’s appointed place; that another story in itself. A sizable part of our cropland was on the other side of that river. We would drive our farm equipment through a shallow fording place in the river to get to that other side.

I have found through the years that often in one’s sleep, we dream of places we use to know, but though in our dreams we recognize the place, in our dreams the place is often much different, yet the same. Over the years I’ve had a few dreams like that involving this part of the farm that was across the river. One of those occassions was in February, 2001, and at that time, in another context, I first penned these words.

In my dream, that area across the river was much more vast. It was a wheat field, the wheat ripe for harvest. As the dream started I was walking along the riverbank in a part of the field yet to be harvested. Then I came to a part that had been harvested; the short cut off straw stems standing up exposed to the blue sky and shining sun, white clouds here and there also in the sky. What I remember is the very real sense of tranquility and peace. No hustle and bustle, no scurrying here and there. So I walked on in the familiar yet unfamiliar field across the river.

Then in the dream I came to a road, and the dream ended. As lay there in my bed, I had a sense as though for a very brief second the curtain of time had been opened a slight crack, and I had a very brief glimpse of an eternity yet to be.

"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it enterd into the hearts of man what God has in store for those who love him." (I Corinthians 2:9)


~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Of Halos and Such



Prologue:

Back in December of 2001, I went to a concert at a local church. Afterwards I had occasion to say “howdy” to one of the young people I knew from there.

“Hey there! How you doing? Been staying out of trouble?” I joked.

“Sure I have. Don’t you see my halo?” she replied also in a joking manner.

It was not the first time I heard her joke about her “halo”. I could only sense there was a meaning behind those words that suggested that in reality all was not well despite the perfunctory assertions such as we all make in social settings where to really bare the soul is not possible. Over the next few days I pondered those words and as I prayed, found myself writing the letter upon which what follows is based. This letter is edited and rewritten for publication to preserve the privacy of the young person to whom it was written.


The Letter:

From: The Billy Goat
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2001
To: my dear young friend
Subject: of halos and such

Hi there,

Pardon my presumption asking you the following question.

Do you find that your halo weighs a little heavy on your head?

Please understand that I am not at all taking issue with the lighthearted context in which you speak of it... That does not offend me at all. But I am somewhat serious in asking the question... I find myself sensing there maybe a little more behind that remark then what's on the surface. If I am being presumptuous in writing this at all please forgive me...

I remember as a teenager feeling the pressure of the expectations others had of me... At times that was a burden I found hard to carry. I was not a Christian then, I was good enough to stay out of serious trouble and maintain my reputation with the "church" folks, but just "bad" enough to get along comfortably with the world.

As a Christian I've had to deal with the same kind of thing, the expectations of others regarding what to them it means for me to say I am a Christian. Though redeemed, I am still a sinner, and will carry the remnants of sin to my grave. I've also had to sort out what are God's expectations of me in contrast to what even Christian people expect of me. Those are not always the same. In the context of those two things I inevitably will "disappoint" somebody. And how all to often I disappoint myself with my failure to live up to what God is really asking of me.

What has helped me retain some semblance of sanity over the years is to keep going back to the truth that my acceptance before God is ultimately not on the basis of anything I do or do not do, but on what Christ in the light of His sovereign grace and mercy has done for me. When God looks at me, He sees me through the person of Jesus Christ and in Christ He accepts me. It is in response to that acceptance that I want to live in a way that images the Lord Jesus. Obedience becomes a response to grace and mercy, not an attempt to somehow as a Christian merit more grace and mercy.

Like you, I also had older siblings. Older siblings sometimes have a way of making it hard on the younger, not deliberately or maliciously, but sometimes other people expect the younger to live up to the achievements and standards set by the older siblings. But we are not all wired the same way, and not all walk to the same drumbeat.

I sense a war is raging. A war for your soul… Things cannot be measured from the surface. It is the heart where the real story is told. Oh my dear young friend, I do not ask you to live up to any expectations I might have for you... What I desire much more then anything in my longings for you is that your heart is right with God. If that is the case everything else will in His good time work itself out. Do not look at the rules and expectations my dear young friend. Look to Jesus alone... I do not expect you to be perfect, but Oh that you long for and desire God. All the things you think you may want in this world, let them be swallowed up in the greater want to see God and know His happiness. His perfect love casts out fear. Do you have fears? Seek His love... God IS Love, my dear young friend... He's not all judgment and wrath and rules and laws... He loves you far more then I or anyone else in the world can. Look to that Love... Embrace it... Hang on to it... Never ever let it go... It is a love freely and graciously given. It is a love that has its foundations not in our doings but in His grace and mercy.

All of that to say my dear young friend, look to Christ and let Him carry your halo for you. Again I recognize I may be way off the mark in what I've said in this note, but please know that I have and do pray for you just as much as I have and do for your siblings, and you also share in that love I have for them. It is my prayer you may find some encouragement in these few and weak words...

I have to look on from afar, not always at all seeing clearly what is really going on in your life, and being shut up to crying out to Him who knows you and your situation more perfectly then you yourself know.

In the bonds and love of Christ with prayer, I am.

Your servant,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, August 21, 2009

On the Book of Revelation being revelation.



The last book of the Bible is not unnecessary. You can not put the book of Revelation all together from the other 65 books of the Bible. The other 65 books do inform the book of Revelation, BUT the book of Revelation ALSO informs the other 65 books. If it does not, then it does not stand on an equal level with those other 65 books.

Believing that the book of Revelation is necessary, and God's revelation in Scripture would be incomplete without the book of Revelation, we are then faced with some basic foundational questions as we approach this last book of the Bible.

What is the purpose of the book of Revelation in relation to the totality of the revelation we have in the other 65 books? What does the book of Revelation give us that was not found in the other 65 books, but was needed to complete God’s revelation in Scripture?

It is at this point the amillennialists insistence that they are interpreting the book of Revelation according to the "analogy of Scripture", with the implied assumption and allegation that premillinialists ignore the "analogy of Scripture" is exposed for the hollow argument it is. As another has put it:

“Use the clear texts interpret the difficult ones.” I don’t remember where I learned that but I do remember learning it and using it. It stuck with me for a long time. Then I took a class with Grant Osborne and he made a great point about this approach. He said, in effect, that what is a difficult text for you may not be a difficult text for someone else. Grant is an Arminian and so the texts that he finds clear can be troublesome for Calvinists. And visa versa. You have to include the “difficult” texts in the formulation of your theology. If you ignore them till the end and then make them fit, you’re in danger of misreading them. Wise words! Probably the very best thing I learned in his class...

I don’t want to oversimplify the complexities of handling the Book of Revelation but I don’t want to treat it as second class revelation either....

("The Saints and the Millennium"
By Tim Etherington | August 18, 2009
)


To which I reply, "Neither do I."

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, August 17, 2009

The 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets, & 7 Bowls of Revelation




("Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary"; Robert L. Thomas; (Moody Press, 1995) page 543)


This diagram by Robert Thomas has been very helpful to me in understanding the structure and flow of the book of Revelation.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sheer Joy



We will race through the streets of gold,
Running for the sheer joy and delight.
We will romp and play in the meadows of grass in the garden of God,
Playing tag among the trees of life by the river of the water of life.
We will laugh for joy, being little children once again;
Un-wearied in our play.

Quiet times there will be too.
Just sitting and contemplating the glory of all,
Communing in soul and spirit
With looks of the heart, understanding one another
In perfect peace and communion.

In seeing our delight and joy,
Our peace and happiness,
His smile will be upon us;
We, His children in whom He delights and joys.
We will love Him perfectly with heart and soul,
And the imperfect love we have here for one another
Will be perfected there forever;
A joy unspeakable and full of glory.

( May 13, 2000, copyright (c) May 2000 all rights reserved.)

Monday, August 03, 2009

What is the Gospel?

By Andy Parker


1 Corinthians 15:1-4 "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you- unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,"


The Event

What is the gospel? The gospel simply means “good news.” The question that then presents itself is, “what is news?” News is the telling of an event. Christ Jesus died, was buried, and was raised the third day. This is a fact, it happened at a specific time in a specific place – this is the news that was reported. What makes this news “good” and worthy to be proclaimed throughout the ages is the meaning behind the events that actually happened.

It’s Meaning

In the beginning God created everything good. Man was created in the image of God and was obligated to obey everything that God had spoken. Adam (who was to represent mankind) disobeyed God who is infinitely perfect, holy, just, good, wise, loving, and merciful. Any sin (disobedience in nature, attitude, or action) against a just and infinite God must be punished infinitely. Because man sinned, he must pay the penalty for sin. However, God who is also rich in mercy promised our first parents that there would come a day when He Himself would come into human history and would save man from the bondage of Satan, sin, and death. This could only be accomplished by One who is fully God (infinite) and fully man, thus paying the penalty for man’s sin. Therefore, Jesus Christ came into the world (fulfilling all of the Old Testament prophesies about Him) to take upon Himself the wrath of God thereby atoning (paying) for the sins of those who believe in Him.

Upon the cross, Jesus suffered the penalty for sin and endured the wrath of God so that all who believe in Him would not have to. Therefore, God is just in that He does not wink at sin, but rather He punishes it. However, for all of those who see Christ as their Lord and Savior, God is also merciful to forgive them because Christ had paid the penalty for their sins. Thus, God is not only just, but the justifier of unrighteous sinners.

Jesus Christ died in our place paying the penalty we deserved to pay. He rose on the third day to conquer Satan, sin, and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life. This is a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others, but to those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Through Christ, man is saved from any empty, vain form of religion and spirituality and is free to worship, serve, love and proclaim the one true God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This news truly is good and is to be proclaimed to every tribe, tongue and nation.

To Christ alone be the glory forever – Amen.

(The above essay was written by Andy Parker ("faithbp(at)sbcglobal.net") and is published here with his permission.)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ghosts


They haunt the edges of memory;
Images floating through the mind,
Far back from long ago.
Some no longer breath.
If others do,
I do not know.

They lived and breathed
In my life at one time;
Passing acquaintances,
For a brief or longer moment
Our lives were once in-twined.

Then our separate ways we went,
By death or living providence;
Only memory to remain;
The ghosts of my life
Floating through my mind.


(Copyright © July 2009. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sycamore Tree Trunk


Sycamore Tree Trunk II, originally uploaded by neukomment.

I'm getting into a photography mood these days. This is the trunk of the Sycamore tree in our back yard. Sycamore bark is scaly and the Sycamore tree easily sheds bark. God's creation has a way of making it's own art which is seen in the design you see here.

Really awsome when you think about it.

Solo Deo Gloria!

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, July 27, 2009

Froggy


Froggy in the Garden., originally uploaded by neukomment.

I was dusting off my low end (cheap) digital camera and seeing what I could come up with in our back yard. Froggy was just sitting there waiting for me to take his picture. For you photo die hards, I uploaded the pics to Flicker and used the Fliker editing function to crop, ajust exposure, sharpen, and etc... This is an example of the final results.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bishop John Hooper’s Letter of January 21, 1555


[Note from The Billy Goat: John Hooper was burned at the stake on February 9, 1555, in Gloucester, England. This was at the time of the reign of the Roman Catholic, Queen Mary, who ascended the throne of England in 1553, after the death of the Protestant King Edward VI. His words are a challenge to the Church of Jesus Christ at it enters the 21st century.

I would entreat any Roman Catholic friends who came across this post, to not take quick offense at some of Bishop Hooper’s words, but to read the whole of his letter, and seriously consider in the light of these words, what it should mean for anyone who says they are a "Christian", to be a Christian.

Please note that in the original, what are the first two large paragraphs as presented here, was one paragraph in the original as transcribed by Ryle.]



A letter which Master Hooper did write out of prison to certain of his friends, three weeks before his cruel burning at Gloucester.

The grace of God be with you. Amen.

I did write unto you of late, and told you what extremity the Parliament had concluded upon concerning religion, suppressing the truth, and setting forth the untruth, intending to cause all men by extremity to forswear themselves, and to take again for the head of the Church him that is neither head nor member of it, but a very enemy, as the Word of God and all ancient writers do record: and for lack of law and authority, they will use force and extremity, which have been the arguments to defend the Pope and Popery since this authority first began in the world.

But now is the time of trial, to see whether we fear God or man. It was an easy thing to hold with Christ while the Prince and world held with Him; but now the world hateth Him, it is the true trial who be His. Wherefore, in the name and in the virtue, strength, and power of His Holy Spirit, prepare yourselves in any case to adversity and constancy. Let us not run away when it is most time to fight. Remember, none shall be crowned but such as fight manfully; and he that endureth to the end shall be saved. You must now turn all your cogitations from the peril you see, and mark the felicity that followeth the peril—either victory in this world of your enemies, or else a surrender of this life to inherit the everlasting kingdom. Beware of beholding too much the felicity or misery of this world; for the consideration and too earnest love or fear of either of them draweth from God. Wherefore think with yourselves, as touching the felicity of the world, it is good; but yet none otherwise than it standeth with the favour of God. It is to be kept; but yet so far forth, as by keeping of it we lose not God. It is good abiding and tarrying still among our friends here; but yet so, that we tarry not therewithal in God’s displeasure, and hereafter dwell with the devils in fire everlasting. There is nothing under God but may be kept, so that God, being above all things we have, be not lost.

Of adversity judge the same. Imprisonment is painful; but yet liberty upon evil conditions is more painful. The prisons stink, but yet not so much as sweet houses where the fear and true honour of God lacketh. I must be alone and solitary; it is better so to be, and have God with me, than to be in company with the wicked. Loss of goods is great; but loss of God’s grace and favour is greater....It is better to make answer before the pomp and pride of wicked men than to stand naked in the sight of all heaven and earth before the just God at the latter day. I shall die by the hands of the cruel man: he is blessed that loseth this life, full of mortal miseries, and findeth the life full of eternal joys. It is pain and grief to depart from goods and friends; but yet not so much as to depart from grace and heaven itself. Wherefore there is neither felicity nor adversity of this world that can appear to be great, if it be weighed with the joys or pains of the world to come.

I can do no more but pray for you; do the same for me, for God’s sake. For my part (I thank the heavenly Father), I have made mine accounts, and appointed myself unto the will of the heavenly Father; as He will, so I will, by His grace. For God’s sake, as soon as ye can, send my poor wife and children some letter from you; and my letter also, which I sent of late to D. As it was told me, she never had letter from me, since the coming of M.S. unto her; the more to blame the messengers, for I have written divers times. The Lord comfort them, and provide for them; for I am able to do nothing in worldly things. She is a godly and wise woman. If my meaning had been accomplished, she should have had necessary things; but what I meant God can perform, to whom I commend both her and you all. I am a precious jewel now, and daintily kept, never so daintily; for neither mine own man, nor any of the servants of the house, may come to me, but my keeper alone—a simple, rude man, God knoweth; but I am nothing careful thereof. Fare you well.

The 21st of January, 1555.

Your bounden,

JOHN HOOPER


John Hooper’s Letter was taken from the transcription used by J. C. Ryle in his book Light From Old Times.

Light From Old Times: or Protestant Facts And Men ; J.C. Ryle; (1890); Reprinted by Charles Nolan Publishers, Moscow, Idaho; (2000)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We Hardly Got to Know Him


(There are some losses in life that you do not recognize until much latter. This is a story about such a loss. This was originally written in August 2004, but remained unpublished until December 2007 when it was edited and first published on Facebook. In recent days, I have thought it well to publish it here also.)


When the muse is upon you what else can you do? You write the story that flows from the memories of time, penning words that paint the pictures you see in your mind so well as though it was only yesterday, but in reality was ages ago; in this case, a whole lifetime.

When your years add up past the half-century mark, how is it memories can go so far back; memories that seem as fresh as yesterday, though so very long ago? What tides of history have come and gone since those early days of our lives. The Berlin wall was yet to be built, but is now battered to dust. Wars were to be fought and lost or won. Mankind had not yet gone into outer space and walked on the moon. The Internet and personal computers were the stuff of science fiction, not the reality they are today

Such were the days of that school year of 1955 - 1956. As you came into the sleepy little rural town from the north, you would have seen the site where work was just commencing on the new high school building. Turn left at the main four corners, and a few blocks east you would see the then red brick school building setting on the north side of the street next to the Wesleyan Methodist church building. Behind the church, on the side street was Martin’s feed mill, abutting on the school property. To the east of the school was a house, then another feed mill, after that the railroad tracks and the local grain elevator.

The school building was a two-story brick affair, typical of many local rural school systems in the early part of the 20th century. A gymnasium at the back was connected to the main structure by a hallway to which also was attached two classrooms.

It was in one of those classrooms where we who were fresh out of kindergarten, now sat in first grade as Miss Laser began teaching us those beginning basic reading and writing skills that were to be the foundation of our entire academic endeavour over those next twelve years of our life.

Many of us had been in the same Kindergarten class the year before. Of that particular class, eight of us would go all the way, K through 12, graduating together in 1967. There was another elementary school in a little town about five miles north. Another first grade class was there, and in the seventh grade our two classes would become one as we came together at the new high school building. Many in that other Elementary class would also go though all their school life together. Over those years, in that inevitable camaraderie and shared experience, we together would forge a life long common bond with one another; becoming as it were, a band of brothers and sisters.

Of most of those who started with us, but did not finish with us, the reason was pretty simple. For whatever reason a family would move out of the area, and the one who had been our classmate would be gone, starting life in another town and school system. Over the years from time to time you might see this one or that one, but the shared experience and the resulting common bond was not there like it was with those still there. So over the years, here and there, we would lose a classmate, and usually another would move into the area from another school and take their place.

In all of that inevitable and understandable loss and gain, there was one loss of a very different nature. It was a very early loss in our first grade year; a loss that remains embedded in memory a half century latter. It is of this loss I would now speak.

They lived out on the Territorial Rd. south of town, just down the road from Shanour’s apple orchard. His name was Jack. He had an older sister whose name now escapes me even as Jack’s last name fails to come to mind. I have it in mind he had been with us the year before in Kindergarten. Yet for all that, there is so much that I do not remember about him.

At only six years of age, we were still developing our social relationship skills. Though acquaintances, we had yet to develop the deeper relationships of friendship that would come later with growing maturity and age. For whatever reason, in my six-year-old mind I was wary of Jack. I had not got to a point where I was comfortable with him. It was though we were still sorting each other out, and needed more time to figure out how we related one to another, and what our individual place would be in each other’s life.

One time, someone sharpened a crayon in the pencil sharpener. That was a real “no-no”. I was asked if I had done it In reality I was the “guilty” party, but had in the moment, not realized what I had done. I sought to shift the blame to Jack, who rightfully denied it, and testified that I was the culprit. Thankfully, Miss Laser didn’t “whoop” me, or get all over my case for messing up the pencil sharpener. I know now that a primary prerequisite for being a first grade teacher is a great deal of patience and forbearance. That’s why at that time Miss Laser was such a good one.

Almost fifty years later, I wonder what would have happened between us as we grew older and moved on in to the upper grades. Would he and his family have stayed in the area? Would we have become friends? Very possible when you are at an age and place where most everyone was to some degree or another a friend. What things might we have done together? What parts of our lives might we have shared with one another, if not as close friends, at least as friendly acquaintances forging that common bond of shared experience as we went through our school years together? But such was not to be. What the answers may have been, only God Almighty knows.

I do not remember very well exactly when it happened. I am pretty sure it was in the late fall. We were on the bus on our way to school. From somewhere, from someone the story came. Jack had been playing in the basement. He had lit some candles or something and there was a fire. He was burned badly and was in the hospital. His sister had run down into the basement and somehow had put out the flames that had been seeking to devour her little brother.

That was all we ever knew. A few days later his sister was back at school; both hands and wrists in bandages. In my simple six-year-old mind, I was expecting Jack to soon be out of the hospital and back in class. But the weeks turned into a month, then another month. Around Christmas time I was with my parents at a store in Hillsdale. I overheard a lady in the store say she wanted to buy a toy for the little boy in the hospital who was badly burned. I thought of Jack. Was he the boy she was speaking of?

As his classmates, we had no idea how badly hurt he was. I do not remember that Miss Laser ever talked to us about what had happened to him. I think that was an honest decision on her part. She probably thought we were to young to understand, and it would be better not to bring it up or dwell on it. And who is to say she was not right in that judgment? I’m sure there must have been some stories in the local newspaper about Jack’s accident, but we were far from being at an age and reading level to peruse the newspaper.

Back then there were not the medical advances that would in future years bring about specialized burn units, skin grafts, and all the other advances in medical care and pain management from over the past fifty years that have saved lives that once could not be saved.

We as a class continued on with our studies. As I remember, it was sometime around early March. Once again from somewhere, from someone we heard that Jack had died. A few days later a substitute teacher came into the room so Miss Laser could go to Jack’s funeral.

That was it. Jack was gone. He didn’t come back. If we had been older, perhaps we would have gone to the funeral too. But our impressionable and perhaps fragile six-year-old minds were not exposed at that time to that reality we would later face and grapple with in other circumstances of our life. I doubt any of us at that young age really understood the full meaning of what it meant to say, “Jack died.” We did not know enough to really miss him and mourn his loss.

We went on through school. As the years rolled on, I do not know if those of us who had known him gave much thought to him; perhaps a fleeting memory here and there. And from time to time after I graduated from the high school and left the area to go to college and the rest of my life, I would occasionally remember Jack; the vague picture in my mind.

Jack was the only classmate we lost by death during all our years of school. One classmate later lost his little brother to congestive heart failure. While in high school, a younger junior high student was killed in an automobile accident. One of our married high school classmates lost her husband in Vietnam. But of all of the Class of 1967, Jack was the only one so taken from us. We hardly got to know him…

How did any of us survive our childhood and teen years? How many naïve innocent risks we took. Add to those the calculated risks we took, along with the absolutely stupid risks we sometimes took, and all of that along with the normal risk of ordinary everyday life. We survived. We lived. Jack died. Why?

Miss Laser eventually retired from teaching. Over the years she taught, hundreds of kids got their start in reading and writing from her. Her legacy will be passed on in the lives of those of her students who went on to be teachers, lawyers, engineers, nurses, farmers, housewives, factory workers, and etc. She eventually passed away, her long journey of life completed. I have to believe that over the years, from time to time, she probably thought about that little six-year-old boy she once had in her class; the little boy whose journey through life was so tragically brief.

I have a picture in my mind. Yes, it is an apocryphal picture, but it is a picture that will not easily go away, if ever. In that picture is a beautiful place where the sky is blue, the sun shines softly, a gentle breeze brushes the leaves of a green tree, and green grass provides a gentle turf. There is a school desk in the shade of the tree. A little boy sets at the desk, pencil in hand, working through his writing workbook. His teacher stands besides the desk watching, smiling, and encouraging him. There is joyous contentment in the faces of both student and teacher. Those lessons, abruptly interrupted so long ago, are resumed once more…

R.I.P.


August, A.D. 2004
Copyright (C) August 2004. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What the Confederates Were Really Fighting For


[Some time ago I originally posted this on Facebook. I thought it good to publish it here, with some editing and expansion, to tie in with some other posts I have here regarding the Civil War.]

Cornerstone Speech by Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, March 21, 1861 Savannah, Georgia

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.


From the Mississippi Declaration of Secession:

"..Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. "


Texas:

"...was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery - the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits - a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time."


Georgia:

"..For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery."


South Carolinia:

"The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right."


Alabama Secession Speech: Speech of E. S. Dargan, in the Convention of Alabama, Jan. 11, 1861

I feel impelled, Mr. President, to vote for this Ordinance by an overruling necessity. Years ago I was convinced that the Southern States would be compelled either to separate from the North, by dissolving the Federal Government, or they would be compelled to abolish the institution of African Slavery. This, in my judgment, was the only alternative; and I foresaw that the South would be compelled, at some day, to make her selection. The day is now come, and Alabama must make her selection, either to secede from the Union, and assume the position of a sovereign, independent State, or she must submit to a system of policy on the part of the Federal Government that, in a short time, will compel her to abolish African Slavery.



Confederate Constitution:

"No bill of attainder or ex post facto law [, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves] shall be passed."


Jefferson Davis:

".. the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable.."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Life of Faith: Anna Margaret (Clarke) Spade


[ Anna Margaret (Clarke) Spade was my great-great-great grandmother on my mothers side. She was born November 20, 1822, and died October 23, 1890. She and her husband Christopher are buried in West Franklin Cemetary, Fulton County, Ohio. The following was transcribed from Bavin Beginnings: A History of the Charles Bavin Family compiled by Carol Newcomer-Cox and Mary Byrne (August 1994).]

Obituary of Anna Margaret (Clarke) Spade
By her Pastor, J. W. Lilly


Anna Margaret Spade, nee Clarke departed this life near West Unity, Ohio, Oct. 23rd, 1890, aged 67 years, 11 months and 3 days. The funeral service occured from the family residence, Saturday afternoon conducted by the writer.

Sister Spade was born in Cumberland County, Penn. With her parents she removed to Richland County, Ohio, where in the fall of 1842 she was united in marriage with Christopher Spade, who died two years ago. In the spring of 1843 they located to Williams County, Ohio. The country was new, but the hardships and inconveniences of a pioneer life was patiently shared with her husband, and right well did she perform her part. For forty-six years she resided on the farm about three miles northeast of West Unity. She was converted when but thirteen years of age, and united with the Church of God. In a few years she became identified with the church of the United Brethren in Christ of which she was a member nearly fifty years. She had a clear experience, and the strength of her faith in the Lord, was indicated by her ever Christian life. She was highly esteemed in the community where she live, and exerted a wide influence for good. Always interested in the salvation of others, and the welfare of her own family. Her last moments were spent in prayer and her last words were, "Children I must leave you."

She leaves seven children, twelve grand-children, one great grandchild, one sister, one brother, a large number of near relatives and many warm friends to mourn her departure. The triumphant death of this sainted mother, should be a solace to the sorrowing ones; her hallowed influence a benediction upon their lives, and an inspiration to meet her in heaven.

J. W. Lilly


(Transcribed and edited by Bill Newcomer, great-great-great grandson of Anna Margaret (Clark) Spade, December, 1996.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Contrasts


They died in the same week.

The one's death was heralded in news headlines across the country.

The other's death went larger unnoticed except for the family and friends who had known and loved her.

The one lived most of his life in the public eye; for better or worse, a cultural icon and entertainment idol.

She lived her life in relative obscurity, content in loving her husband, children, and grand children, and great-grand children. Content to serve her God, her family, and others.

He was cut off at a relatively young age. The full facts of what happened to him are not yet publicly known, and maybe never will be known.

She lived to a ripe old age and as her end neared, she was ready to "go home"; trusting her Lord and Saviour, giving Him all the praise and glory, her family around her, loving her, singing hymns with her, and being with her at the very end as she slipped from this life.

Which one of the two's legacy will endure the passing of time and the generations to come? Which of the two was truly happy? Which of the two lived a life truly worth living?

I did not know him nor did I spend much time following or evaluating his career. The death of any person, great or small, is a serious matter, and a reminder that the existence of death is a consequence of the fall. For better or worse this man has gone to meet his Maker.

I did get a glimpse of her life, and in that glimpse saw the image of Christ being formed. The spiritual legacy she received from her grandfather when a young child has been passed on to her children, grand children, and is now in the process of being inculcated in the lives of her great-grand children.

Who's legacy will endure and have the most meaning? Who really lived a life worth living?

Rest in peace dear Christian lady and elder sister in the LORD. Your children rise up and call you blessed. We your friends who knew and loved you will miss you, but in our tears at your leaving is also much joy. Solo Deo Gloria!

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Of This And That

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Micah, a young man I've known from when he was a wee little lad, is home from Iraq. He is now back with his wife and children and that is a very good thing.
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Another young man is facing prison time for sexual misconduct involving some mentally challenged residents of a nursing home. It is right that he face the legal consequences of his choices, but some of the readers' comments on the local news blog go far beyond justice, and beyond the known public facts of the case. It is not a good omen for society when the public is ready to jump to conclusions when not all the facts of a case are publicly known. Why is it not possible to choose to suspend personal judgement on such cases? And by the way, I'm speaking of the same kind of suspension of personal judgement that many of us avoided when we jumped to conclusions about O. J. Simpson's murder trial a number of years ago. Guilt or innocence is not determined by a news poll and neither is such a news poll real "news".
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For the last sixty years the world has avoided a major war; a war of such magnitude that it would rank as World War III. Given the proliferation of nuclear technology in places like North Korea and Iran, one wonders how long such a war can be avoided. With the debate over the American use of atomic bombs on Japan in World War II, one thing gets overlooked. If the US had not dropped those bombs, the world would not have been so vividly aware that we now had the power to destroy ourselves. I am pessimistic and not just because of any particular view of eschatology. I personally think there is a very good probability and it is just a matter of time when we will again see the mushroom cloud unleashed over some city some place on this earth. I sincerely hope I am wrong, and would love to be proven wrong.
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The Anomie of Easy Rider

My daughter and I watched Easy Rider a few nights ago; Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper riding into oblivion on their choppers. It reminded me of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises; a lost generation wandering aimlessly through life without purpose or any real hope except the next high.

The apex of that anomie comes in the scenes in the cemetery when Wyatt and Bill, in the company a couple of prostitutes, are tripping out on acid. In the background of the hallucination scenes we hear recitations of the Apostles Creed and other liturgical recitations. Amidst all of that, in one scene Wyatt holds his fist to the sky, a post-modern Nimrod asserting his freedom from all but self. Then when it's all over and Wyatt and Bill are on the road again, Wyatt tells Bill, "We blew it!"

The ending with the "rednecks" in the pickup truck is tragic and you are not sure who is more tragic, Wyatt and Bill, or the redneck murderers whose miss-placed "purpose" is just as morally empty as Wyatt and Bill's purposelessness. Easy Rider is considered a landmark movie, and insofar as it portrayed the popular cultural angst of the late 1960's and early 1970's, it indeed is.
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~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Comics and the Peter Pan Syndrome


We all suffer to some degree or another from Peter Pan Syndrome; "I don't want to grow up!" But now think about your favorite comic stripes.

Linus, Lucy and Charlie never grow up. Snoopy does not get old and die like old Shep, Lassie, and Duke did. Blondie and Dagwood never get old enough to retire, and their kids never graduate from high school, go to college, and get married. Luann is stuck in perpetual teenage years too. Dilbert’s company never goes bankrupt in spite of all the idiotic decisions the pointy haired boss makes.

Imagine a fifty year old Charlie Brown who still looks like he did when he was eight. Fourteen years is a long life for a dog, and Snoopy has been around for three to four or more dog lifes.

Of course that is the nature of the literary medium of newspaper comic stripes. We recognize that, accept it, and go on through the years and decades enjoying the comic stripes we've been reading for ten, twenty, thirty, forty or more years.

The truth is we don't want our comic stripe friends to "grow up", and that's okay as long as we don't forget real life is not that way.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, May 25, 2009

Postscript to a Requiem


It was Memorial Day weekend. I was remembering things from long ago.

How long ago?

As I thought about it, I realized it was about 41 years ago this very month.

The emotions started to hit me Sunday morning. We were on our way to church and in my remembering the grief came on like a wall of flood water. It was all I could do to control myself and not just break down weeping right there as I was driving the van.

Control was achieved, but my wife could see I was on the emotional edge. We got to the church building and settled into the auditorium for the service. The waves of emotion started to come again as we were singing the hymns. The tears wanted to pour out, but once again I wrestled them under control, and as the service went on, the emotional assault subsided.

Late that afternoon we picked up my married daughter and her two boys, and headed down to the old home town to visit mom and dad. I thought about the cemetery down there where he was buried. I thought about swinging by and once again visiting the grave.

We got to mom and dads and settled in and caught up on things. I glanced at the bulletin from the local church mom and dad go to. In the list of announcements was mention of the early Memorial Day morning ceremony at the cemetery.

Well, why not? Dad wanted to go and we talked about how we'd have to get up a little earlier then we normally would have wanted to if we were indeed going. At 91 dad doesn't get around like he used to, and he mentioned how he used to go to the Memorial Day services but for a number of years had not been able to.

OK... Dad and I would go. I knew I needed to. Dad wanted to, and Lord knows how many more he'll be around for. I also knew Ron's family would probably be there, and... Yes... That would be a good time to see them. Maybe there would be opportunity so say some of the unspoken things to them that I've wanted to say but never could. We all went to bed, and I set the alarm on my cell phone for an early get up.

The wake up call came. I got out of bed, dressed, and went down to the kitchen. My 7 year old grandson Tyrel was already awake, and into the play of the day. It was then that I came up with the idea that Tyrel should go with us. He probably would not understand all that was going on, but in the future he would, and would have a memory of being with his grandpa and great-grandpa at a Memorial Day service.

I got the teakettle going for coffee and found the cereal box. Mom and dad came into the kitchen. I mentioned to Tyrel about him going to the cemetery with us. He was reluctant, but did go to talk to his mom about it. I told her I thought it would be good for him to go, and she agreed. We finished breakfast, and the three of us got ready to go.

As we drove up to the cemetery, we saw a number of people already gathered at the memorial rock. We found a place to park and walked over. The local high school band was assembled to provide the music. The VFW people were assembled, and off to the side a group of VFW men with rifles stood in line in preperation for the traditinal gun salute.

Gary and Bonnie came up and I gave them each a hug. Bonnie was Ron's sister. His brother Don was there also, as well as others of his siblings. We didn't have much time to talk as the ceremony was just beginning.

The band played the Star Spangled Banner. A high school student lead us in the pledge of allegiance, and then read an essay she had written about Memorial Day. A local pastor gave a brief Memorial Day devotion. Another student read the Gettysburg Address. Interspersed somewhere between those things were two other numbers by the band.

When that part was all done, the VFW went through their ceremonial Memorial Day ritual, ending with the gun salute. The VFW commander thanked everyone for coming out and the service concluded.

We didn't rush away. Several people came up to great dad, and I saw and met a few more people I had not seen in a very long time. Eventually we made our way back to the van.

There was just no way I could leave the cemetery without going by the grave. We settled into the van and I drove back in and around to the lane that went by Ron's grave. As I turned up the lane, I saw that Don was over in the general area too.

I had the window of the van rolled down. I drove up by the grave and stopped. There it was; that bronze metal marker, rank, name, branch of service, birth date and death date.

Don came walking over and stood by the van and looked too. The emotions started to roll in again.

"It hardly seems its been forty years.." He said.

" And it doesn't get any easier.." I replied.

"That's for sure..."

I stuck my hand out the window and Don grasped it with his... I gave his hand a good but gentle squeeze. He squeezed back.

I said, "I think about him too....."

We looked on silently for a minute, then bade each other adieu.

© May, 2009, All rights reserved

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Pleasant Providence


It was late yesterday afternoon. It was also supper time. Do we eat at home or go out? There was a somewhat consensus to eat out.

Do we go to Marilyn's or to Noodles & Company? Either one is nice, but after going back and forth, at almost the last minute we opt for Noodles & Company.

Off we go. We arrive and go inside.

That couple looks very familiar... Why it's Jeff and Wendy! We know then from church. We say "howdy" to them, and they invite us to sit with them.

A pleasant meal, pleasant company, and pleasant conversation. We catch up on work, kids, and life... The fellowship is sweet.. It was really nice. Thank you Lord!

~ The Billy Goat ~