Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Who is This Baby in the Manger?

This baby in the manger was the One who lived, talked, and walked among men in Judea and Galilee.

The One who lived, talked, and walked among men in Judea and Galilee, is the One who healed the sick, made the lame to walk, the blind to see, raised the dead, and gave hope to the weary and downtrodden.

The One who healed the sick, made the lame to walk, the blind to see, raised the dead, and gave hope to the weary and downtrodden is the One who was betrayed, condemned and crucified, suffering death upon the cross, and buried in a tomb.

The One who was betrayed, condemned and crucified, suffering death upon the cross, and buried in a tomb is the One who rose from the dead on the third day, conquering death, hell, and all the works of the devil.

The One who rose from the dead on the third day, conquering death, hell, and the works of the devil is the One who ascended up into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.

The One who ascended up into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father is the One who will some day come again as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father.

This is who the baby in the manger is; Emmanuel, God with us.

Come and worship...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Creator & Creation: What Has Man Wrought?

This past week I got to see Tron Legacy at the local Imax.

Amidst the outstanding graphics is a story that touches on fundamental questions of being and existence, creator and creation, love & sacrifice. Though Tron Legacy was not intended to necessarily be philosophical, I found it pretty profound.

This is not at all to say Tron Legacy is "Christian". Any religious allusions are more along the line of an Eastern pantheistic mysticism. But that said, any story dealing with the human condition in whatever setting, fiction, science fiction, or etc, will deal with those fundamental questions of being and existence that cut across all cultural and religious lines.

I could go on at length about the theological implications of the issues and questions inherent in the story this movie tells, but I will leave that for the readers of this short piece to work out when they have seen Tron Legacy for themselves.

For myself, Tron Legacy is a serious contender for my "Best Top Ten Movies of All Time" list.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book & Movie Titles That Never Were

Some friends were over this evening, and we got into this thing of coming up with titles of books and movies, then turning them into creative titles that never were but could have been. Enjoy!

  1. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer Get Stoned

  2. Malice in Wonderland

  3. False Grit

  4. Harry Potter: The Disorder of the Phoenix

  5. A Welcome to Legs ( E. Hemingway)

  6. Little Ado About Everythiing (W. Shakespeare)

  7. Peter Pot

  8. Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde

  9. Scared Old World (A. Huxley)

  10. Your Anthony (W. Cather)

  11. A Tail of Two Cities (C. Dickens)

  12. Nonsense and Insensibility (J. Austen)

  13. Here With the Breeze (M. Mitchall)

  14. The Gizzard of Oz

Now you have the idea. What can you come up with?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Few Odds & Ends

  • My sister Joy passed away in early June. This is the first holiday season when she will not be with us. There is, as it were, "an empty chair at the table". I know other families are also experiencing the "empty chair" at this time of the year. Death is a part of life in a fallen and not yet fully redeemed world. Past generations lived much closer to death then the current secular Western generation I am a part of. Unless the Lord comes first, we will all eventually come face to face with death. That is where the Advent time of year is an encouragement. It not just the babe in the manger, but the whole life He lived, as well as His death, and the overcoming of death through His resurrection that gives us hope beyond death; the hope of eternal life. That is what makes Christmas special.

  • I am compiling on this blog a list of books I have read. The results can be seen at "The Billy Goat Reader" link on the left side of this page.

  • My alma mater, Michigan State University ended up with a share of the Big 10 title in football. Michigan State is in the top ten in the BCS rankings. It's been a good year to be a Spartan fan. In the meantime the Detroit Lions... Well, what can you say...

  • "If evangelical Christianity is about anything, it ought to be about the gospel—that’s the meaning of the term evangelical itself. If so, we must recognize that our mission is to be found in what makes the good news good. We don’t have to be left to our own striving and clawing. And we don’t have to try to be emperor of our own lives, or of those around us. We point instead to a kingdom that overshadows—and knocks down—every rival rule, including our own." ~ Russell Moore as quoted by Kevin DeYoung.

  • On December 1, we got snow and enough that it accumulated on the ground, but not enough that made it hard to clear the roads.

  • Here is one of my all time favorite Christmas songs.


~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, November 22, 2010

Has It Been Forty-Seven Years Already?

It has been a lifetime since those shots rang out on a Dallas street... We still remember... Also, on the same day, writers C.S.Lewis and Aldous Huxley died; President John F. Kennedy the Catholic, C.S. Lewis the Evangelical Anglican (or whatever he really was), and Aldous Huxley the classic skeptical secular humanist.

I've already told the story of that day in a previous post. It was a day that in retrospect marked a distinct turning point in our lives. That day marked the passing of what was left of the innocence of our childhood of the 1950's.

I've learned over the years to mourn the death of all people. If I can not mourn for the life they lived, I mourn for the life they should and could have lived... Even God Himself takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked1...


~ The Billy Goat ~

(1Ezekiel 33:11)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Faithfulness of Christ as a Theme in Paul's Theology Presentation Copy

This presentation by Dr. A.B. Caneday is a bit technical, but if you can follow the thought, you will find it helpful in understanding Paul's letter to the Galations.

Monday, November 08, 2010

God's Intent and Purpose for His Word

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

In the context of Isaiah 55, the section quoted above has to do with God keeping His promises to those He invites to "Come" in verse 1, and "Seek" in verse 6. Verses 10-11 are given as an encouragement to heed the call to repentance that is being presented in the chapter.

The principle enunciated in this passage is that the words that come from God's mouth have a purpose and intent, and that purpose and intent will be achieved. It is on the basis of that principle that the hearers of Isaiah's day could have assurance that God would honor the promises given in the context of Isaiah 55.

Without doubt all of God's Word is given with an intent and purpose. It is our job in studying a particular passage of Scripture to discern what that intent and purpose was and is. The Word accomplishes what He intends and purposes, not what we may intend or purpose.

This means we need to be very careful how we handle and apply the Word of God. We need to make very sure that our intent and purpose in exegeting and applying a passage of Scripture lines up with God's intent and purpose for that passage. We do not have the option of bringing our own agenda into a text or passage of Scripture. This constraint points to several hermeneutic principles we dare not ignore.

A passage or text of Scripture can not be divorced from its immediate and broader context, specifically the place of that text or passage in the unfolding of redemptive history. This also means approaching the text from the perspective of Biblical theology in contrast to bringing our systematic theology into the text.1

The crux of the issue comes in the applications the preacher or teacher makes from the text in hand. We've all seen it done at one time or another. A pastor or teacher takes a passage or text of Scripture, and proceeds to squeeze out of that text or passage every possible application even remotely connected or possible, and that without regard to the original intent and context of the passage. Over time under such preaching and teaching, one begins to suspect the preacher or teacher is more interested in using scripture to promote their own particular agenda or fancy then discerning and focusing on God's intent and purpose.

Does God have more then one intent and purpose for a given text? The answer is a qualified yes... There is the intent and purpose for the original audience and the intent and purpose for those of us who are removed in time from that original audience. But it is my contention that the purpose for us today in the New Covenant is not that far removed from the purpose for the original audience, and that there is an organic connection between the two that should constrain how we make applications from said text or passage to our day and age.

The power of God's Word is realized in our preaching and teaching when our intent and purpose lines up with God's intent and purpose for His Word. We need stay out of the way and let the Word be the Word.


~ The Billy Goat ~

1 "Toward An Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching & Teaching" Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (Baker Books, 1981); pgs 161-162

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Billy Goat Log; October 17,2010

  • In thinking of the Lord's Supper, the question is not, "Is the Lord's table a sacrament?" The question is "How is the Lord's table a sacrament and what is the nature of the grace conveyed in that sacrament?" That there would be an ordnance of worship that is not somehow a means of grace in bringing the worshiper closer to God strikes a discordant note similar to that of a fingernail scratching on a chalk board.

    This week I picked up the book; This is My Body: The Presence of Christ in Reformation Thought by Thomas J. Davis (Baker, 2008). I'm just getting into it. It is a bit on the scholarly side, but traces the development of reformation thought regarding the Eucharist. Stay tuned.

  • In the discussion of young earth/old earth or young universe/old universe there seems to be a missing element on both sides. Time is not constant, but relative. I don't know enough about physics to understand if or how e=mc2 proves time is not a constant. I do have a philosophical rationale argument for saying time is relative based on its measurement being founded in the relationship of mass and motion.

    Has anyone in the young earth camp on the one side, or the theistic evolution camp on the other side, ever discussed the implications of time's relativity on the whole creation question and our understanding of Genesis 1? They may have, and if so, I'd like to see it.

  • Back in May I posted a note here about second and third hand reports of some of the turmoil in the loose association of churches our former church is part of. Recently I came across first hand proof of that turmoil on one of the blogs associated with that movement. The division, (and it is a division), is between the "old path" group and the "Reforming" group. The blog post was defending the old-path side, and it was in the comments that the differences between the two became highlighted as representatives from each side set forth their case.

    It is not my point to get into the details of those issues. (That's why I'm not linking to that blog post). That blog post and the comments made in response reinforced the conclusions I expressed back in the May posting referenced above.

    Reading that blog post reminded me of why it was that nine years ago we left that church and movement. I am so relieved and thankful we are away from that atmosphere and culture; that we are now beyond all that, and have gone on with our lives. And I'm also thankful the Lord directed our paths to another church that is much more healthy and balanced. "Here to the Lord has helped us."

  • Story line: "The Life and Times of St. Lester the Unbeliever and His Role in the First Intergalactic Ecumenical Synod of 3457 (CEE)1".

    (1 Common Earth Era, formerly designated AD.)

  • Once upon a time, in another lifetime, I graduated from high school. One of the hit songs of 1967 was this rock classic.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Perspective on a Starry Night

“In some far universal Deep
Did He tred Space
And visit worlds beyond our blood-warm dreaming?”
(Christus Apollo)

It was one of those cold, crisp nights. The night sky was clear with the stars shining sharp and bright. The waning moon would not make its brief appearance for another hour or so. The open field was far from the glowing night light of cities and towns.

They stood together looking up into the night sky.

“Sure is beautiful…”

“That it is. I love nights like this…”

They scanned the star studded dome of the night sky. There were the familiar constellations, the pointer stars, those few planets that could be seen with the naked eye, all in the glory of their nightly dance across the darkened sky.

“It is so vast…”

“Yes it is and we don’t see a tenth of it, if even that much… Here… Take the binoculars…”

The father handed his binoculars to his young teenage son. The young man held them up to the night sky, and aiming them toward a familiar constellation, he peered through the lens, twisting a knob to bring the subject in focus.


He pulled the binoculars away, looked at the same spot in the night sky, and then again took another look with the binoculars.

“There is so much more up there then we see with the naked eye.” He remarked.

“True…” replied the father. “Here… Look for a spot in the sky where you don’t see any stars, then look at that same spot with the binoculars.”

The son quickly scanned the night sky and observed a dark area with very few stars about 25 degrees above the horizon to the north. He looked at that area through the binoculars.

Where he had seen nothing with the unaided eye, he now saw a plethora of points of light shining and twinkling.

“It’s so vast…” he said. “We’re just a spot of dust in comparison…”

The father replied, “The stars we see are light years away, and beyond the ones we see are more stars even further away. The light we see originated from the star or galaxy years ago. By the time we see that light here on our planet, it is ancient history, and for many of those stars, an ancient history far more ancient then the known history of this world.”

“Where did it all come from? The universe that is… How did it all get to be what it is?”

“Well, you basically have two choices. The universe came about by random happenstance, or there was a guiding hand and direction behind it.”

“You mean… like… God?”

“Yes, though that begs the question of what we mean by “God”…”

A long “Hum…” was all that came from the young man as he pondered the implications of the thought.

In his mind he remembered some lines memorized in his 3rd year liturgy class when he was a much younger lad. “The starry host of night declares the wonder and awesomeness of God. The vast deep of space declares His handwork and glory.”

Looking towards his father he said soberly, “But look at our world… We circle the sun at an orbital distance that maintains conditions on this planet that makes life here possible, and that all in conjunction with the tilt of our planet’s axis and rotational direction and speed. If any one of those things differed much at all, we couldn’t live here. Can you really say it all happened by accident?”

The father nodded. “You did learn something in that science class after all.” He said teasingly. The young man gave a sheepish “Oh dad” shake of his head.

He proceeded to look up at one of the seasonal constellations that were only visible in that part of the year. This particular constellation would be seen in the lower southern sky for about half the year, and then as the seasons changed, would be hidden once again below the horizon.

Continuing his gaze at the night sky, he asked his father, “Do you think there could be life on other planets someplace?”

“Well… Since we’ve never been to any other planets, we can’t say with certainty either way. We do know that none of the other planets in our own system are able to sustain life… at least life as we know it… But when you look at the sheer size and magnitude of the whole universe, the probability of something being out there is within the realm of some degree of possibility… What’s more improbable though is the chance of our ever finding them, or they finding us… I guess my response to your question has to be one of reverent agnosticism…”

“Hum…” The young man again scanned the great starry host over head. He held up the binoculars and focused it on one of the points of light that he knew to be a planet. He could almost see a slight haze of a ring around the small ball in his lens. Maybe someday he could have a real telescope. It would also be neat to take pictures of the night sky through a telescope. Oh well… So many things to do in life, and so little time and money, he thought.

It was time to go. Morning would come early, and the next day would be plenty filled with school and all the other demands of life.

The young lad thought to himself as they turned to go, “I am a spec of dust on a spec of dust. Here we are on Yrdnes, the fourth planet from the star Cyrstias on the fringe of the Deodratia Galaxy, a mere spec of dust in an obscure corner of the great vastness of the universe.”

He shook his head in vague bewilderment at the magnitude and implication of the thought.

Pausing, he looked once more at that patch of apparently vacant darkness in the north part of the sky. Lifting the binoculars, his peered again at the points of light the naked eye could not see. He focused for a few seconds on one of those points of light, then lowering the binoculars; he turned away to head on to home and bed.

That last point of light he had paused to look at, that faint point of light so many hundreds of light years away in another obscure corner of the universe remained etched in the memory of his mind. And on that far point of light known by its inhabitants as the Milky Way Galaxy, on the outer edge of that galaxy, on the planet Earth, third planet from the star Sol, another young man gazed through his binoculars at a faint point of light in the north part of the night sky, that far away faint point of light known by its inhabitants as the Deodratia Galaxy…

(Copyright © October, 2010. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Christus Apollo (Excerpt)

In some far universal Deep
Did He tred Space
And visit worlds beyond our blood-warm dreaming?
Did He come down on lonely shore by sea
Not unlike Galilee
And are there Mangers on far worlds that know His light?
And Virgins?
Sweet pronouncements?
Annumciations? Visitations from angelic hosts?
nd, shivring vast light among ten billion lights,
Was there some Star much like the star at Bethlehem
That struck the sight with awe and revelation
Upon a cold and most strange morn?

On worlds gone wandering and lost from this
Did Wise Men gather in the dawn
In cloudy steams of Beast
Within a place of straw now quickened to a Shrine
To look upon a stranger Child than ours?

How many stars of Bethlehem burnt bright
Beyond Orion or Centauri's arc?
How many miracles of birth all innocent
Have blessed those worlds?

Excerpt from "Christus Apollo", I Sing The Body Electric by Ray Bradbury (1969)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Billy Goat Log: 09/21/2010, 11:05 PM EDST

  • That Sunday, Pam sang in the choir. She chatted with her friends, and cuddled her grandchild in her arms. I remember saying hi to her in the church lobby. Tuesday morning was her surgery. It was a serious surgery, but all went well. The Doc was ready to close things up. A blood vessel burst. Only 50 years old and she was gone just like that.

    I was shocked when I opened the e-mail from church and read the terse one line statement. Sunday she was living.... How could she be dead? We were casual acquaintances, and Pam and her family were involved members of our church. She sang in the choir and sang in the ladies' trio with her good friends Wendy and Brinda. From the very first time we started attending our church, Pam and her family had always been part of it.

    The next day the news came with details about the visitation and the funeral. One son was in boot camp for the National Guard. He would be coming home to say goodbye to his mom...

    We were not able to make the visitation, but did get to the funeral on Saturday. I went into the church, and the casket was in the foyer, still open. I saw Pam laying there; that dear, dear Christan sister we all loved so well. Seeing her there, I came close to losing it. Then the casket was closed. She was so very much alive when I saw her Sunday. The next time I see her, she is in that casket. She was there, but she was not there. The body was there. The spirit was in the arms of Jesus.

    The service glorified the Lord and Saviour Pam loved and served. On her chair in the choir loft was a choir stole and one rose. Afterwards at the luncheon that was served, we offered our condolences to her husband and children.

    Pam is gone. When we go to church, she will not be there... Someday we will see her again. That body laid in the casket to be put in the grave will be resurrected and reunited with the spirit that had been torn from it in death. Our mourning will finally once and for all be turned to joy.

    In the meantime, we who knew and loved her will miss her. RIP dear sister in Christ...

  • The days are shorter. The leaves are starting to turn. In two days Autumn will officially be here.

  • It took me some time to do the last post on the Lord's table. Things kept coming up, and it was hard to find the concentration of time needed to work on it. At one point I thought it was ready to post, but didn't have time to finish it up. When I got back to it, I found myself rewriting some things because as I had reflected further, I found I was not in full agreement with how I had stated some things. There are some things about the Lord's table I'm still pondering on. There are times when the answers are not as clear cut, or as black and white as we want to think they are.

  • Recent reading: I revisited I Sing the Body Electric! by Ray Bradbury. There is a lengthy poem at the end of the book called "Christus Apollo" which has a distinct Christan motif. That poem may be worth doing a review on sometime in the future. Bradbury has a way of writing sci-fi that makes the humanity of the characters more the story then the sci-fi setting of the story. Human needs don't change that much no matter what the technology.

  • And my alma mater, Michigan State University, beat Notre Dame by using a fake field goal in overtime this past Saturday night. And it was good... :)

    Detroit Lions lose again... (Sigh...)

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The κοινωνία of the Table of the Lord

"14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. 21 You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?"

(I Corinthians 10:14-22)

I have had occasion over the past several months to think about the meaning and purpose of the Lord's table,(also called the Lord's Supper). As I wrestled with the questions and issues surrounding the Lord's table, I sensed that there are some clues in this I Corinthians 10 passage that can guide us to a fuller understanding of the meaning of our participation as Christian believers in the Lord's Supper.

The key operating word the Apostle Paul uses in this passage is the noun κοινωνία (koinonia) which in the above quote from the ESV is twice translated participation in verse 16, and participants in verse 18 and 20. Other nuances of the meaning of Koinonia include the idea of communion, association, partnership, and fellowship.

Paul's immediate purpose in this passage is to address the issue of eating meat offered to idols. In the development of his argument, our participation (koinonia) in the Lord's Supper is set in a contrasting parallel with eating food offered to idols. He uses the example of Israel to make that comparison. "Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants (koinonoi) in the altar?"

The Apostle is referring to those occasions where a sacrifice was to be brought to the appointed place of worship and the worshiper as well as the priest would eat of the animal that was sacrificed (Leviticus 7:11-34, Deuteronomy 12:11-28). "The altar furnishes the table at which Jehovah's guests enjoy their covenant fellowship in the gifts of His salvation." (EGT,"First Epistle to the Corinthians", G.G. Findlay)

Paul then brings the application to the issue in hand with the words, "I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants (koinonous) with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons."

The assumption of Paul's discourse is that in religious observance, pagan or Jewish, there is a sacrifice made, and there is a participation or sharing in the sacrifice by the worshipers involving the eating of a portion of the sacrifice.

"Greek literature uses the word "table" also of pagan altars. The thought behind that was that the offerer pictured himself as sitting at a table with the idols during the sacrificial meal. A view different from this is one which conceived of the idols partaking of the flesh which was offered. The Corinthians were familiar with such views, which makes Paul's argument a very strong one."

(NIC, "Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians", F.W. Grosheide)

Those ideas very familiar to the first century Corinthians are hardly familiar at all to those of us living in a 21st century Western secular culture where the idea of religious animal sacrifice is something that we view as archaic, or even barbaric. When was the last time you watched the sacrifice of an animal on an altar? It is that cultural disconnect that perhaps keeps many Western Evangelical Christians from understanding and appreciating the full meaning and place of the Lord's Supper in Christian worship.

In the New Covenant, the concept of participation in eating the sacrifice becomes problematic since Jesus Christ Himself is our sacrifice. With the sacramental view of the cup and bread, the problem is resolved because the sacramental view sees the bread and cup as either literally Christ's blood and body, or, in some fashion, mystically Christ's blood and body.

It is not my point here to debate the issues surrounding a sacramental view of the Lord's Supper. What I want to do is dig deeper into what participation (koinonia) in the sacrifice means for how we understand the context of the Lord's Table in the worship services of the Christian church.

In pagan or Jewish worship, when the participant sits down to partake of the sacrifice, the sacrifice has already been made. The animal to be sacrificed has been slain. The blood has been smeared on the altar. The portions of the sacrifice that are to be burned on the altar have already been burned. Whatever priestly absolution was included in the rite has already been announced. The deity has been appeased. The deity's attitude toward the worshiper is now one of peace and acceptance. The worshiper can now, as the deity's guest, safely eat at the deity's table and partake of the deity's food.

It is this understanding that sets the context for what Paul says in the next chapter of 1 Corinthians regarding the Lord's Supper.

"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world." (I Corinthians 11:23-32)

The issue in this passage is "discerning the body" which in the immediate context is "the body and blood of the Lord".


When we as Christian believers partake of the Lord's Supper by eating the bread and drinking from the cup, emblems of the body and blood of Christ our sacrifice, that sacrifice has already been made, and that "once for all" (Hebrews 7:27). The blood has been spilled. The body has been broken. The high priestly absolution has already been announced. God's wrath has been appeased. God's attitude toward the Christian worshiper is now one of peace and acceptance (Romans 5:1-2). The Christian worshiper can now, as the Lord's guest, safely eat at the Lord's table and partake of the Lord's food in the emblems of that sacrifice. And in doing so we "proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes."

And not only is there koinonia with the Lord at the Lord's table, there is also koinonia with all of the other guests gathered at the table. That's the point of Paul's words in chapter 10, "we who are many are one body...".

The Lord's table is not just a bare memorial rite, but when rightly understood, an evangelical gospel proclamation. That is why the use of the Word of God is a vital part of the Lord's Supper. It is the Word of God that provides the context and informs the worshiper's mind as to the meaning of the observance so the result is that "discerning the body" vital to the partaking of the ordinance. It is in connection with that Word that the Lord's Supper becomes a means of grace to the believer.

Nor is the Lord's table a place for grieving and mourning. Yes, we grieve and mourn that our sin was the occasion of the sacrificial death of Christ, but we also rejoice in the forgiveness of sins and the restored fellowship (koinonia) we have with God. That is the meaning of our participation at the table. Can you imagine feasting at a table with Jesus Christ and mourning and grieving? May it not be! Such a feast is a time of joy and gladness.

I have seen the Lord's Supper observed in a number of ways over the years I've been a Christian. In some cases the observance has had the air of a perfunctory rite to be hurried through at some point in the regular worship service. In another church, the Lord's table was never allowed to disrupt the pattern of the regular worship service (which was already an hour and a half long), but was added on at the end as another, almost separate service, when your mental and spiritual energy, and even your physical energy was already mostly exhausted.

It is when the Lord's table is woven into and made an integral part of the full service, and has a prominent focal point in the service, that I have found it most meaningful and spiritually refreshing. Not the sermon meditation dominating over the Lord's Supper, nor the Lord's Supper dominating over the meditation on the Word, but both equally together interwoven as one. Then I most fully find the Lord's Supper being the Gospel proclamation and the means of grace to my soul it was intended to be.

EGT - The Expositer's Greek Testament
NIC - The New International Commentary on the New Testament

Monday, August 23, 2010

That Pale Blue Dot

"This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed 'Pale Blue Dot', is a part of the first ever 'portrait' of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. From Voyager's great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Coincidentally, Earth lies right in the center of one of the scattered light rays resulting from taking the image so close to the sun. This blown-up image of the Earth was taken through three color filters -- violet, blue and green -- and recombined to produce the color image. The background features in the image are artifacts resulting from the magnification."

Image Credit: NASA/JPL

"Earth is the dot in the middle of the bright streak." Earth: The Lone Pale Blue Dot?

So, do you still think Earth is the center of the universe? You and I are specks of dust on a speck of dust on the outer edge of the Milky Way Galaxy in an obscure corner of the universe. In the vastness of the universe we are as nothing.

And yet the God who created it all takes an interest in our little speck of dust and in the even smaller specks of dust that live on that speck of dust; an interest centered in His own glory in creating us in His own image.

And we've not even yet touched on our moral rebellion against that Creator God.

Redemption is not primarily about us. Redemption is primarily about the glory of God, and only secondarily about us.

So it is the Infinite Almighty Creator God condescended in Jesus Christ to become a tiny speck of dust on that speck of dust on the outer edge of the Milky Way Galaxy in an obscure corner of the universe.

Amazing grace! Amazing love! An amazing and awsome God!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

We Are One

Coral Ridge Church has taken a huge step forward in breaking down barriers that were keeping believers apart. You might be suprised at what that barrier was. In the article linked to above, Coral Ridge Pastor Tullian Tchividjian explains the what and why.

An appealing, engaging Gospel

Fr. Ernesto Obregon has an interesting post at OrthoCuban regarding the place of suffering in the Christian life. He even takes notice of John Bunyan and C.S. Lewis in discussion of the concept of the "dark night of the soul". You may not agree with all he says, but a lot of what is said will strike a responsive chord in the sensitive evangelical heart. Suffering in a fallen world is indeed universal.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Billy Goat Log: 08/21/2010, 9:33 PM EDST

  • So I have not posted in a while. The last few weeks have been somewhat hectic and in some ways emotionally draining.

  • There is a church in our metropolitan area that does a "home make-over" once a year. This year my married daughter and family were nominated for the home make-over, and the church picked their house to work on. The work was done last weekend. A whole bunch of volunteers from the church, a number of businesses providing materials and etc, and Sunday afternoon my daughter, son-in law, and grandchildren returned to a refurbished and redecorated house. I was personally overwhelmed by all the work this group had done. My daughter's family is on the upper edge of the "working poor" blue collar class. It has been a real struggle for them, and what the church did in fixing up the house will be a real help. We are humbled and thankful for this kind providence. God was very gracious and kind to us as a family.

  • While their house was being worked on, they put the family up in a local motel, and had a number of special things planned for them. One of the events was to go to watch our local minor league baseball team play a home game. My wife and I got to go along also. It was really nice.

    I don't get out to watch our local team play that often, but every time I've gone to the local baseball park to watch them, I've really enjoyed it. I realized how much I enjoy watching a live baseball game. One of the things on my retirement "to do" list will be to get to more baseball games. and yes, our local team won the game, and we enjoyed the fireworks afterwards.

    Did I mention my oldest grandson got to throw out one of the "first pitches"? That was pretty neat!

  • I recently opened a page at Scribd. I published some previous material there, and have been encouraged by the response. I realize I need to come up with some new, never before published material.

  • Summer is winding down. The days are shorter and the nights cooler. This fall I plan on doing some more splitting/transplanting in the flower gardens. There is something about getting out of the house and putzing around in the yard, looking after the perennial flowers we have there. I get some sense of what it may have been like for Adam to tend the garden of Eden; as though in that yard and garden work I touch root with Eden itself...

  • We were at a Christian bookstore today. I didn't buy anything. As I wandered through the aisles, I really wondered if there was much there that really met people where they really needed to be met, and how much of it was just so much fluff and vapor. I tend to be cynical, but it would not be at all fair for me to pass wholesale judgement on books I have not read. But then I don't feel compelled to have to read whatever "latest and greatest" just came out either. The only "must read" for the Christian is the Bible itself. Other books can be helpful, and I myself have been helped along the way by other books, but when you get down to the very root of the matter, there is only one book absolutely needful.

  • The relationship of Isreal and the church, the degree of continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments, suprasessionism or "replacement theology" vs. dispinsationalism: I'm not convinced anyone has really come up with a Biblicaly satisfactory answer. The answers I've seen from all camps are at some point or another less then so.

  • Jesus Christ is LORD...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Future of Evangelicalism

The folks over at Patheos are having a discussion on the future of Evangelicalism. The discussion is on-going through the week and covers a wide range of topics relating to the theme. Some intersting and challanging reading here...

Monday, August 02, 2010

Of This & That

  • It seems I get ideas of things to write about, but then when I do have some time to sit down and write, the energy is not there... Another reason retirement looks better all the time.

  • I've been doing some thinking on the Lord's Supper and sense there is perhaps an aspect of the Lord's Supper that tends to get over looked by those who, on the one side, hold a sacramental view of the ordinance, as well as those on the other side who hold a memorial view of the ordinance. I need to pull some notes together and do some further study.

  • What if what we have is an old universe, but a young biosphere? Both secular and theistic evolutionists accept "survival of the fittest" as the driver of evolutionary process. But what if instead of the survival of the fittest, the driver of evolutionary process before the fall was a benign benevolent purpose centered on creating bio-diversity in a way that did not involve death? Does the recent young-earth creationism movement read into Genesis 1 more then Genesis 1 really says?

    Do you want to tell someone they have to give up their belief in evolution, theistic or otherwise, before they can be saved and become a Christian? Are you ready to use the process of church discipline on someone who holds to theistic evolution? Would someone who holds that view be allowed to join your church and participate in its ministries? Do we really want to make young earth creationism a sine qua non of orthodoxy along with the deity of Christ and the trinitarian being of God?

    Can we evangelize in a way that the offense of the Gospel is the cross, and not the issue of creationism versus evolution?

    My sympathy and leaning is towards the recent-creation view. That said, I do not find I can clinch that view as tightly in my hand as some seem to insist we must.

  • August 1914, ninety-six years ago. The world went insane... Strident nationalism and militarism overrode reason and prudence. Ninety-six years latter and not a lot has changed. All it will take is another "assassination" of some "archduke" and madness will again plunge the world into darkness.

  • Reading books about war can really be depressing. I think this year I've read more then enough about war for a while, and "We Were Soldiers Once and Young" will have to wait. I have seen the movie, though I'm not sure I could watch it again because the memories it invokes stir a deeper grief each time they come flooding back into the conscience.

  • In my last post I linked to a blog post by Dr. Russell Moore regarding a question about Robert E. Lee. (See the link in the post just below this one.) Sad to say, but not totally unexpected, one of the replys to Dr. Moore's post gives a classic example of the cultic nature of the "Lost cause" mythology regarding the Civil War.

  • It is that time of Summer where the colors of leaves and plants get a sort of washed out tired look. The frenzy of bright and vibrant colors begains to dissipate in anticipation of the autumn days that will shortly be upon us. The days are noticably shorter.

  • Jesus Christ is LORD...


~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is It Wrong to Display a Picture of Robert E. Lee? My Response

Dr. Russell Moore, who grew up in Mississippi, has published a very thoughtful and well balanced response to a question he received concerning Robert E. Lee.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

August 1914 Aftermath

"When at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one dominiant one transcending all others: disillusion. "All the great words were cancelled out for that generation." wrote D. H. Lawrence in simple summary for his contemporaries. If any of them remembered, with a twinge of pain, like Emile Verhaeren, "the man I use to be," it was because he knew the great words and beliefs of the time before 1914 could never be restored.

After the Marne the war grew and spread until it drew in the nations of both hemispheres and entangled them in a pattern of conflict no peace treaty couold dissolve. The Battle of the Marne was one of the decisive battles of the world not because it determined that Germany would ultimatly lose or the Allies ultimatly win the war but because it determined that the war would go on. There was no looking back, Joffe told the soldiers on the eve. Afterward there was no turning back. The nations were caught in a trap, a trap made during the first thirty days out of battles that failed to be decisive, a trap from which there was, and has been no exit."

(The Guns of August; Barbara W. Tuchman; (1962, Bantam Books edition, 1976); (Page 489)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To him who overcomes: The Promises of Revelation 2 -3

(The following material is a refinement and expansion of some notes prepared for a Sunday School class I recently taught.)

Introduction & Context

  • Brief Outline of the Structure of Revelation; “The Book of Sevens” :

    • 7 Churches, 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets, 7 Bowls of Wrath

    • One Other group of 7: The 7 Thunders (10:1-4) between the 6th and 7th Trumpets. Lesson of the 7 Thunders = We don’t have the full story...

  • The Letters to the Seven Churches (Chapter 2 - 3)

    • Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea

    • “I know...” 2:2, 2:9, 2:13, 2:19, 3:1, 3:8, 3:15

    • Indictment & Warning: “But I have...” (Exception of Smyrna & Philadelphia)

    • Exhortation: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

    • A Promise to him who overcomes.

The Promises to him who Overcomes:

  • The one receiving the promises: “To him who overcomes (νικῶντι)...” conquers, being victorious, one who wins.. (I John 2: 13 - 14, 5:4-5) (Persus identifies νικῶντι as the 3rd pl pres ind act of νικάω.)

    John uses the the same verb, νικάω, in his first epistle. In I John 5:4-5, we are told that the mark of our being one who overcomes is our faith.

    "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"

    Faith is a vital element of what it means to overcome.

    (In I John 2:13-14, while addressing the young men, “overcome “ is in the perfect tense, speaking of one who “has overcome and continues to overcome”. The “overcomes” in Rev. 2-3 is present tense, with focus on “the one who is overcoming...”.)

  • All the things promised in the seven letters to the seven churches to the one who overcomes are pointing to different aspects of the one main overarching thing that is the central focus of these promises; eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth. Each of the things promised point to some specific aspect of what that eternal life will be like. (Kudos to my friend Mark Evans for pointing this out.)

  • Ephesus (2:7) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.' - Genesis 2:15, 3:22-23

    As a consequence of the fall, in Genesis 3:22-23 mankind is barred from access to the tree of life.
    "Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—" therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life."

    The promise is that in the consummation, the overcoming one will no longer be denied access to the tree of life. The redeemed humanity will be allowed to partake of its benefits (Revelation 22:1-2).

  • Smyrna (2:11) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death."

    The phrase “Second death” is found only in Revelation: 20:6, 20:14, 21:8 The second death is clearly identified as the lake of fire. This promise reiterates the specific promise in vs. 10 regarding the crown of life, and expands the scope of the promise beyond the specific believers in Smyrna who are the focus of vs. 10.

  • Pergamum (2:17) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

    The reference to manna brings to mind the imagery of Exodus 16 and how God fed the children of Israel in the wilderness. In John’s Gospel account, Jesus makes reference to that account in his Bread of Life discourse in John 6.

    The best understanding of the white stone has reference to an athletic event. The victors would be given a white stone with their name on it . This white stone was their ticket to the athletic banquet held after the competition (MacArthur, Thomas). This is rather striking imagery when considered in the eschatological context of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

  • Thyatira (2:26-29) “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

    Psalm 2, “the morning star” Isaiah 14:12, 2 Peter 1:19, Revelation 22:16

    The imagery of this promise immediately points us to the Messianic features of Psalm 2.

  • Sardis (3:5-6) “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

    "the book of life" - Philippians 4:3, Revelation 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27

  • Philadelphia (3:12-13) “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 21:1-4, 21:9-10

    The placing of someones name on another was a sign of ownership. The placing of these three names on the one who overcomes is the assurance that they belong to Christ.

  • Laodicea (3:21-22) “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

    Hebrews 8:1, 12:2 Revelation 12:5,


On what basis do we overcome? From Romans 8:31 - 39, verse 37 states that we are “overwhelming conquerors” through him who loved us.

In I John 2, it is our faith that overcomes. In Romans 8:37, the same word is used as the root word for a compound verb form. The prefix used in this compound construction carries the meaning of overflowing, or overwhelming, above and beyond. In this Roman passage, our overwhelming overcoming is based on “him who loved us...”

Putting together these two thoughts from I John 2 and Romans 8, we overcome by faith in “him who loved us...”; faith in Jesus Christ, faith in His word, faith in His promises.

The promises found in Revelation 2 - 3 are for all those who overcome through faith in Jesus Christ and His promises.


Bible (ESV, NASB, KJV)

The New Greek - English Interlinear New Testament; (Nestle/Aland Greek text); (Tyndale House, 1990)

Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary; Robert L. Thomas; (Moody Press, 1995)

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11; John MacArthur Jr.; (Moody Press, 1999)

The Perseus Digital Library

Friday, July 02, 2010

A Broader Vision of Ministry

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matthew 9:36-38)

We live very close to a metropolitan area with a population estimated to be over 775,000 people. Within a 10 mile radius from where we live there are about 218 churches, and that includes all denominations; Catholic, Lutheran, other mainline Protestant denominations, and so forth. Do the math and we have approximately 1 church for every 3,500 people in the metro area.

Now lets include a plus/minus for other factors involved in where people in the area might go to church, if they go at all. For that plus/minus, lets go as high as 30%. Why 30%? Because that's the number I pulled off the top of my head. (I'm not claiming this is scientifically precise.) Our range is now 4,550 - 2,540 per church. Even if my estimate for the number of churches in the area is off by plus/minus 30%, the ratio of the total population to the number of churches is pretty high. And it should be clear that if we divided the area's population by only the number of Evangelical churches in the area, the ratio goes up even higher. Let me ask a question.

Is this area "over-churched"?

I think not...

So what do we do? One of the things we do is pray for laborers to enter into the harvest, but do we recognize them when we see them? Do we recognize the answer to our own prayers?

A brother has a vision for the need. He wants to do something about it. He even has the audacity to believe there is a need to start another church in the area. How do we respond? Do we encourage him? I'm not talking about a man who is a novice, new to the faith. I'm talking about a man that has a relative level of spiritual maturity, and has even had some level of ministerial and theological training.

One of the objections we might hear is, "But he's not qualified..."

Oh really?

Maybe for your church and tradition he isn't. And maybe he doesn't fit your ecclesiastical circle, but do you really want to write him out of all ministry whatsoever because he doesn't cross all your "t"'s and dot all your "i"'s? You really want to claim that your tradition alone has the market on the what and how of the Timothy and Titus passages on the qualifications for ministry? Oh really?

What would happen if instead you said, "Brother! I thank God for your vision and desire. I'm not sure how well you fit our tradition and our way of doing things, but if you can find some group that you fit better with, and they are willing to help you, then go in peace with our blessing, and we will pray God uses you to start that church and that it will be able to reach some of those in our desperately needy metropolitan area that we are not able to reach."

To say such a thing and really mean it would require humility in several areas.

We would need to be humble enough to realize we in our particular Christian tradition are not Lord of "the call".

We would need to be humble enough to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in building Christ's church is not limited to our particular Christian tradition or ecclesiastical group.

We would need to be humble enough to look beyond our own particular tradition and ecclesiastical circles and actively embrace and pray for God's work outside our limited boundaries. To do so requires the humility to admit that the churches of my own particular tradition or ecclesiastical circle cannot meet the massive overwhelming need in our metropolitan area by ourselves.

Over the past few months I've become aware of two separate situations of men with a vision of the desperate needs in our metropolitan area and a God given desire to do something about it. All tradition and ecclesiastical circles aside, here is my response.

"Brothers! God bless you! May He use you to reach some of those desperately needy people in our metro area that the rest of us are not reaching. God bless you! Go in peace! May He guide and direct you in all you do to His honor and glory alone! Amen!"

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Comfort of the Gospel

"People need to hear the comfort of the gospel again and again. They need to be reminded of who they are in Christ and what they have received in his life, death, and ressurection. It is not safe to assume that a Christian that attends a good church understands this. People often live with huge gaps in their understanding of the gospel. One gap is in understanding how the comfort of the gospel radically changes our approach to life in the here and now. Daily confession of sin is essential to a gospel-driven lifestyle. It makes no sense to rationalize, blame-shift, or rewritre history to make myself look better. Self-examination and confession flows out of a deep confidence that Christ's work is effective for me today. I come to him confident that he forgives me."

(Instruments In The Redeemer's Hands; Paul David Tripp; (P&R Publishing, 2002); pg. 215)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Of This and That

  • I am in the final pages of H. C. Willmontt's "coffee table" edition of World War I(Dorling Kindersley, 2006). Though all war is depressing, WW-I was one of the most depressing wars of all. The reasons it started, the expectations versus the reality, the slaughter of trench warfare, the self-serving political maneuverings on both sides; utterly tragic.

    This "coffee table" book has "tons" of photographs, side-bars, and informative insets. I'm not entirely confident about some of the assertions Willmott makes regarding some of the events. For one example, I'm a little skeptical of the devaluing of the U.S. Army's offense in the Argonne Forest in relation to the ultimate collapse of the Hindenburg Line and the German defeat. That said, this is another good resource for gaining an understanding of World War I.

  • Death is inconvenient. It upsets the pattern and flow of life. Back on June 2, I was at work when I got the call that my sister Joy had died. After hanging up the phone, I felt all other concerns for work and the other press of life drain away. I was going to take a timeout from the world for a few days. The world would have to just get along without me. And it did... A week latter, after the funeral I was back at work, picking up and going on with my life in this world. Death be not proud... Death is an enemy, and one day death will be put to death...

  • I have concluded that Covenant Theology has just as much bologna in it as Dispinsationalism does. God did not speak out of both sides of His mouth...

  • We watched the DVD version of The Blind Side. It was pretty good. Unfortunately the best line from that movie is not one you want to repeat without careful consideration of who will be hearing you quote it. It would be well though if many a momma would say the same thing to their college bound son.

  • The year I started kindergarten, this was one of the top hit songs of the time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

On Personal Ministry

"Personal ministry is not about always knowing what to say. It is not about fixing everything in sight that is broken. Personal ministry is about connecting people with Christ so that they are able to think as he would have them to think, desire what he says is best, and do what he calls them to do even if their circumstances never get "fixed". It involves exposing hurt, lost, and confused people to God's glory, so that they give up their pursuit of their own glory and live for his. It is about so throughly embedding people's personal stories in the larger story of redemption that they approach every situation and relatinship with a "God's story" mentality. We need to be filled with awe at what the Lord has called us to participate in!"

(Instruments In The Redeemer's Hands ; Paul David Tripp; (P&R Publishing, 2002); pg. 184)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Neukomment Files: She had a "Baby" Brother

My oldest sister died last week. The above link will take you to my family blog where I have a post about it.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rattling Your Theological Tradition's Sensibilities

Let's face it. I'm a conservative Evangelical who happens to go to a Baptist church. Over the past few year I've come to appreciate that "tradition" and value it much more then I once did.

I'm not talking about cultural evangelicalism; that culture which at times makes me want to just puke. I'm talking about a solid theological Evangelicalism and the expressions of that evangelical theology worked out in the lives of those who hold to it. It is in that sense I speak of the the Evangelical church as my mother. It was that Evangelicalism working through a campus ministry that the Sovereign God used to effectually call me unto Himself.

Now it is also true we can and do get in a rut in whatever Christian "tradition" we find ourselves at home in. That's why it is good to occasionally get outside of that tradition and expose yourself to something that, though orthodox, yet is different enough to really rattle the sensibilities of your own tradition.

You know in your head that the work of the Holy Spirit is not limited by the boundaries of your particular Christian tradition. But if you want to make that idea more then theoretical, then once in a while you need to go see for yourself.

I had a chance to rattle my Evangelical Baptist sensibilities today when we visited an orthodox Anglican church.

Today was Trinity Sunday and the focus of the worship was the Trinity. Ancient songs such as St. Patrick's Prayer were mixed with contemporary songs such as "How Great is Our God". The sermon was about the Trinity, and the preaching was articulate and orthodox. A recitation of the Nicene Creed was also part of the liturgy along with the Scripture readings from the Old Testament, Gospels, and Epistles.

Then there was the communion. The orthodox Anglicans hold a more sacramental view of the Lord's Supper. This raises the question of what is meant by the real presence of our Lord in the communion. At the same time, even though visitors from another Christian tradition, we were welcome to partake in the communion.

It was very clear that this church was very orthodox on the issues of the Trinity and on Jesus as both God and man. The same God I as an Evangelical Baptist worship was being worshipped in this Anglican church. It is also clear from the conversations we have had with family members who go to this church, that the Holy Spirit is working in the life of the church corporately, and in the lives of members of the church individually.

Yes Virginia, the Holy Spirit is at work in Christian traditions other then my own conservative Evangelical tradition. Frankly I think that's just fantastic, and I thank God for it... I love it when in a good way, my sensibilities are rattled like that.

Will I ever be an Anglican? Very probably not for all the reasons I first mentioned. I did find myself pondering the question of the real presence, and I may do some more study and wrestling with that.

I also found myself thinking of the Evangelical Baptist liturgy used at our church. I found I did appreciate it; that in its essence God is honored and worshipped and the Holy Spirit is working through the ministry of the church in the life of the church corporately and in the lives of the members individually.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Real Meaning of a Word

It was recently mentioned to me, second or third hand, how a certain somewhat loosely associated group of churches were going through some degree of turmoil. The division was labeled as being between "traditionalists" and "progressives".

It is not at all my purpose to comment on the issues between the two sides. I have no direct connection to these events or the issues at hand. That said, I do have some familiarity with the history of this particular movement. It was that knowledge that prompted me to question what was meant by "progressive".

"Progressive" is a relative word. To be progressive is to, at some level, move from a base reference point towards a point away from that base; and in doing so, make the new point the base of reference. Opinion may vary as to that movement being "progressive" or "regressive", but my point is that either term is relative to that original base reference point.

In the case in question, I might look at the progressives and say that, relatively speaking, they are making what I believe is positive movement, but at the same time believe the movement made, while progressive, has not progressed far enough to get those involved to where they really need to be. It all goes back to where that original starting point is.

In thinking of this I was again reminded of examples I have observed in the past of how necessary Biblical change is sometimes resisted.

"We don't want to over react." This statement gives a certain level of recognition that we may be imbalanced, but no plan ever comes forward for how we should react, and we end up not reacting at all, thus the status quo is maintained.

Related to this is the saying, "If we have to err, we should err on the side of (fill in the blank)." The Bible doesn't give us the option of erring on either side. The ethical demand of the Bible is that we get it precisely right. Now thankfully the Bible is more then just ethical demands, and forgiveness and redemption are also a major part of the story. The point is we should not allow this statement to give us false comfort, nor allow it to feed our sense of self-righteous complacency. If we know we err to one side or another in a matter, we need to hold out both arms, and with our hands, firmly grasp both extremes.

Then there is the "slippery slope" argument; known in debate as the slippery slope fallacy. The argument is that once we take that step in the other direction, it will be the first step in a series that leads to a very bad end. The problem with that argument is that if the Bible is telling us we need to move, then we need to move period. To use the slippery slope fallacy to avoid that movement results in sin based in fear; fear that in spite of its appearance of holiness and doctrinal zeal, is often rooted in a failure to more fully trust the promises of God.

All of that said, I confess I have to make a conscious effort to avoid sinful cynicism. It is not for me to say the Holy Spirit can't or will not work in the hearts of those involved in any particular movement of churches. In this particular situation, I welcome any degree of true Biblical progressive movement, and thank God for it.


~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Inevitable Event

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." (John 11:23-27)

My older sister is dying. My younger sister called last night with the news that hospice has been called in. It's only a matter of time.

We have known it was coming. She has been in poor health for sometime. The complications of diabetes and liver failure started taking their physical toll on her body for the better part of a year.

The irony is that she will very likely die before our 90 plus year old parents will. In the normal course of providence in a fallen world, we eventually all end up as orphans. Not so with my sister. Providence is dictating otherwise.

She never married, so she will not be leaving any children motherless. Eight nieces and nephews will be bereft of a beloved aunt. Her three siblings will lose a sister. Her aged parents will lose their oldest child. It would take a miricle indeed to reverse the inevitable impact of the fall on her physical body.

That's just what Jesus promises; a total reversal of death. Martha understood that, and in the broader context of the passage, she may have had a better grasp on that then Mary did.

My dying sister is a beleiver. Martha's hope is her hope also. Isaiah 53 says that by His stripes we will be healed, and the day will come when that healing will be total.

Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." She didn't have to wait that long. I know that my sister will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. I am already starting to grieve, but not as those who have no hope.

"I am the resurrection and the life..." ~ Jesus

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, May 01, 2010

What They Want...

Trautman: John where are you going?

Rambo: I don't know.

Trautman: You get a second medal of honor for this.

[Rambo looks over at the rescued POWs]

Rambo: You should give it to them. They deserve it more.

Trautman: You don't belong here why don't you come back with me?

Rambo: Back to what? My friends died here, let me die here.

Trautman: The war, the whole conflict may have been wrong but damn it don't hate your country for it.

Rambo: Hate? I'd die for it.

Trautman: Then what is it you want?

Rambo: I want, what they want, and every other guy who came over here and spilled his guts and gave everything he had, wants! For our country to love us as much as we love it! That's what I want!

(First Blood: Part II (1985))

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Of This and That

  • So some people are taking issue with John Piper inviting Rick Warren to a conference. What would these same people have said about Spurgeon inviting D. L. Moody to preach at the Tabernacle?

  • I am slowly reading through H. P. Willmott's World War I. This is one of those "coffee table" kind of books with lots of pictures and side notes along with the main text. It is interesting and yet I can only read so much at a time because of all the wars to read about, reading about World War I is the most depressing. Given the reasons behind, and how it started, it was so totally unnecessary, and yet to this day we still live with the results of that colossal blunder.

  • I recently led a men's Bible study session on the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 52 - 53. As a result I had a few preliminary ideas on a Biblical theology of that passage. We so often go to the suffering Servant passage bringing all of our New Testament perspective with us. How often do we ask how a believing Jew of Isaiah's time would have understood that passage? The images of the temple sacrificial system would have been pretty key to how it was understood.

  • We've been keeping an eye on the Detroit Red Wings playoff games with Arizona. The series will be decided in game seven. In the meantime baseball has started and I've enjoyed catching a little bit of some of the Tigers games on TV.

  • I'm told that the day I was born this was the number one pop song at that time.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Requiem for Ronnie

[I thought I had already published this on The Billy Goat Blog in the past, but realize I haven't. So here it is...]

They lived down the road from us. Ron, his two brothers and three sisters and I with my brother and two sisters would get together and play; play in the woods by their house; play back by the river that was on our farm. There were the times of hanging May Baskets on one another’s door in celebration of the coming of that month when winter’s blast was finally a memory.There were the games played and little plays acted out. There was the time one of Ron’s sisters had a serious illness, I believe it was Rheumatic Fever, and she had to stay in bed along time, and we were finally able to briefly visit her and give her a little get well gift. There were the “Daniel Boone” and “Lewis and Clark” expeditions back along the river and in the woods. Yes, the romps and play of childhood, a happy and an innocent time of life in that decade of the 1950’s.

On Sunday, our church had an early service. Their church’s service was a later service. Often as we came home from our church service, we would pass Ron and his family as they were going to their church’s service. That passing of one another became a rite in itself: a familiar cycle and pattern of our lives from week to week giving a sense of comfort and stability.

For a few years Ron's father worked the farm right across the road from ours. When they were working there, my brother and I would sometimes go over to visit and lend a hand if needed. Sometimes my dad would do custom farm work for his dad; opening a field of corn, combining a field of barley. So it was we grew up together, and in that small rural community, being neighbors meant you were friends.

Eventually Ron's father got out of farming, and they moved to town. A number of neighbors came together to help with the move. When they moved out of the immediate neighborhood, contact with the family was diminished.

In our small rural school you pretty well knew who everybody was. So what words do you use to describe the relationships you have with people in a place like that? In high school I got to know Marilyn. She was older, and in my brother’s class. We worked on the high school newspaper, we were casual friends, and her younger sister was the first of several girls that would break my heart. She was intelligent, capable of seeing through my naïve intellectual presumptions, and at times telling me so. Marilyn had a reddish tint to her hair and a hint of freckles that gave her a more subtle kind of attractiveness. Those features apparently were inherited from her Irish mother. While in high school, Marilyn’s mother died from cancer. She shouldered responsibility for her father and two younger sisters.

A few times at the high school dances, she would ask me to ask her to dance. I can still see in my mind’s picture, the look in her eyes, the turmoil of fear, pain, and frustration; the fear of being “left out”; or of being left behind in life. Most of the guys were probably intimidated by her intelligence. Only a few would ever dance with her. It did not bother me to oblige her request at those times. I struggled with my own feelings of not quite “fitting in”. It was as if in those times together on the dance floor, for a few brief moments we affirmed one another’s existence and worth.

Ron and Marilyn were in my older brother's class. Ron was not an outstanding academic student, though he was intelligent enough, and did graduate from high school. On the other hand, Marilyn was the class' s valedictorian. Somewhere along the line they began to date. At first glance, it was kind of an odd match. Ron came across as a simple kind of guy, but Marilyn saw some of those good things under that quiet exterior that others might tend to overlook. I don’t know that Ron ever dated any other girl before he dated Marilyn, or that she ever dated any other guy before Ron. In either case they had each other and were no longer “alone”.


The war. It was increasingly in the news. It increasingly became a part of our conversation. More and more it came to loom in the back of our minds; a dark cloud off on the horizon that keep drawing nearer and dominating the horizon of our thoughts; that war going on in a small Southeast Asian nation called Vietnam. We didn't understand it. Why didn't we just go in and clean up on those guys and get it over with? We thought of it in terms of the conventional kind of war fought by our fathers’ generation only a very short time before. We thought we were right being there, but people were getting killed over there, and there were anti war protests. How could this be? It was very bewildering.

There was in the school an older teacher whose son was in college. His son visited the school one day. He wore insignia clearly indicating he was against the war. There was some uproar by some of the students against his wearing that insignia in the school. Some of us found ourselves torn between our patriotism and our firm commitment to free speech issues. The stable, comforting world we had known was starting to un-ravel.

The first local Vietnam fatality occurred; a guy recently graduated from the high school and married to a girl in my class who was still in school. Our whole class went to the funeral, and afterwards to the cemetery for the burial. It was a clear cool day; the sun shining, the sky blue with a few white clouds here and there, the young widow weeping.

Guys were continuing to be drafted right and left. If you didn't get a college deferment or some other deferment, you were in. A lot of guys ended up going in. I had a deferment for college. There I would sign up for the required ROTC classes.

Ron was drafted into the Marine Corps. I think it was after boot camp he and Marilyn were married. One night, shortly after they were married, a few of the family and friends got together and we shivareed them. Ron had to haul Marilyn in a wheelbarrow the short distance down to the main four corners of town. Marilyn had to haul him back in the same. The rest of us accompanied them, beating on pots, pans, old farm tools, and whatever, making all sorts of noise and racket.

That fall I left for college. Back home I had been a relatively larger fish in a very small pond. In going to a major state university campus, I barely registered at the plankton level. It was a strange new world to me. The culture shock was at times almost overwhelming. It is only in looking back that I see how provincial my view of the world had been up to that point. Eventually I settled in best I could, and managed to get passing grades in my courses.

I didn't hear much news from back home. I knew Ron was in 'Nam. Then in May 1968, the news came. Ron had been killed: a casualty of "hostile small arms fire". Being away at college, I wasn't there for the funeral. It seemed un-real to me. It didn't sink in as to what it really meant. I was becoming caught up in my own bewildering emotional turmoil of what it meant to grow up and become an adult. With all that focus in my mind, what happened to Ron seemed as far away as Vietnam or the moon.

In my sophomore year of school, I was finally able to come to grips with much of the emotional turmoil of the year before. The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I was back home, working at the local factory. It was then that Marilyn came back into my life.

Why did she come to see me? To this day I’m not entirely sure. Marilyn came by the shop when I had my lunch breaks. She looked terrible, real thin, having lost weight, grief and pain written all over her face. She wanted to talk. I was very new in my faith. I tried to help best I could, but felt totally inadequate. I didn't know really how to help her, but in looking back, I wonder if she was really just looking for someone to listen. Could it be that in the pain of her face and words, there was once again that fear of being alone?

She told about going to church, and praying Ron would safely return. But then he was dead. Her unspoken question being, “Where was God in all of that?” Even now, so many years latter, I am not entirely sure how I would answer such a question. In the space of a few years she had lost two very close people in her life, her mother and her husband. I could only in a very inept way tell her what God had done for me. From her verbal and facial response, I realized I was far from making any apparent connection to where she was in her grief and pain.

After a few of those lunch time visits, she stopped coming. I never saw her again. I heard a few years latter she had re-married and had several children. Apparently, somehow, she had been able to go on with life. Later, her father passed away. One time, when visiting, I saw her youngest sister singing in the choir at a local church. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her. She had been youngest of the three sisters, and I’d never really got to know her. That was the last time I saw any one from Marilyn’s family. From time to time through the years, I wondered how Marilyn was doing: if she had come to knew some measure of happiness and joy in life.

Early my junior year the draft was being changed to a lottery system. If your birthday was drawn with the short number you could kiss your college days goodbye, and plan on forwarding your mail to Vietnam. On our dorm floor we all put a bit of money in the kitty. The guy ending up with the lowest number would take it all.

I don’t remember his name. He was one of the boys from Flint. A group of those Flint boys had kind of ended up living in the same dorm floor. This guy had just gone through a hassle with his local draft board regarding his student deferment. He had just had that deferment restored. We gathered together to watch the drawing as it was broadcast on TV. When that first lottery drawing was over, he had the lowest number of any of us. He got the kitty. I can still picture his dropping shoulders, the dejected look of dismay on his face. My own number was one of the highest of those on the floor. He’d be going. I’d be staying. What could I say to him?

In the spring of my junior year at college, the Kent State shootings happened. Since I was attending a major state university, it was no surprise when the campus erupted with anti-war demonstrations. When passing by one rally, I saw the demonstrators handing out posters with the names of the men from Michigan killed in Vietnam. I looked for Ronnie's name. I had the idea in my head that if l saw anyone with it, I was going to take it away from them even if it met a fight. After all, I was the one who had known Ronnie, and in my mind there was something profane and obscene about his name being used in such a manner by a total stranger. I never did see the placard with his name.

I sat with one of my friends on a low hill along the main street running along side of the campus. The marchers went by, led by the acting University President who has just gave a speech declaring his opposition to the War. They marched by carrying their banners and signs. How many of them I know not, but clearly a number in the thousands. It was the high point of the protest movement, the apex of the radicalism of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the “Age of Aquarius” with its false hopes and empty dreams.


I graduated from college, and the years began to roll by. When down home, from time to time I'd visit the local cemetery. There were the gravestones standing silently in rows arranged amidst the neatly cut grass; monuments to the remnants of the memory of lives lived; people who had lived and breathed, worked, loved, and at the end of their days, had been laid beneath the sod to await the Great Day of all days. People I use to know were there, older people including my grandma, people who had been alive and I had known when growing up as a child. And back in the center of the new section was Ron's grave, marked by the bronze plaque.

One time I was there for a Memorial Day ceremony. There were the usual appropriate comments and rituals; the sober faces of those there to remember fallen loved ones. There was the familiar sound of the bugle playing the familiar notes making up the Taps. Ron’s sister was there... I think she was crying, but couldn't tell for sure... If she was not crying, she sure looked like she wanted to. It was in those years I started to hate that war, that miserable war. Nixon had resigned... Saigon fell...What was it all for?

I have visited the Gettysburg Battlefield, and stood at the place of Picket's Charge. I have stood on the battlefield at Antietam where blood had flowed like a river. I have visited the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia, and could only begin to imagine the horror that had raged among that now quiet and peaceful wooded land. Whatever else war is or is not, it is indeed "hell".

The years continued to roll on. In the last part of 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait. It was said that Hussein had gas and a whole bunch of nasty things. As the year turned to 1991, it became clear there was probably going to be some kind of military action. As civilians, we had no idea what lay ahead. I had visions of body bags all over the place, and I very much feared it would be another Vietnam all over again...

Wednesday, January 16, 1991, the Gulf War started. For some reason I started to think about Ronnie... The memory pictures of those long ago years played across the screen of my mind. I found myself weeping, weeping for Ronnie and all the guys who died and were going to die. ...I hated war... There have been and will be wars that need to be fought, but nevertheless, to this day I hate war.

The images of those we use to know in our younger years are frozen in time. The picture of Marilyn and Ron carried in my mind is the young Marilyn and Ron I knew back in high school. If I passed Marilyn on the street, I probably would not recognize her, or she me. Time takes it’s toll on all of us. Also, a lifetime separates those who once knew one another. How does she remember those days so long ago in light of all she has experienced since? How were the passing years molded in light of the fire she went through back then? That is another story not given to me to write. It may be a story never told. My hope and prayer is that the final chapter of that un-known story will somehow read, “She lived happily ever after…”

I worked on family genealogy for some years. I knew one of our distant cousins had married Ron’s youngest brother. The day came when I received the information on that family. There in the list of the family’s children was the name “Ronald” with the notation he had been named after his Uncle who had been killed in Vietnam. Ron was not forgotten.

Cruising the Internet, I came across the “Virtual Vietnam Memorial”. I did a search and found Ron’s listing. There was a place where those who had known him could leave a note. A Marine comrade had left one note, Dan had left another note: Dan, another neighbor kid who had lived around the corner from Ron and his family and remembered. I added my own note. Ron was not forgotten.

Recently when down home, I visited the local library. A lady with a teenage boy came in. They wanted to use the scanner, and my sister, who is the librarian, asked me to show them how to use it. As we talked, I thought this woman looked vaguely familiar. I asked and she told me her name. She was Ron’s youngest sister, and the young man was the younger of her two sons. I had not known her very well. She had been so much younger then the rest of us. She was scanning pictures of the family to use in making a calendar. I looked at the familiar faces. I thought of this story sitting in my notebook back home. I didn’t say anything to her about it. It just wasn’t the place or time to… the place or time to let her know… to let her know Ron was not forgotten.

Someday I'll go to the Washington, DC and visit "the wall"... I'll look up his name and see it engraved there along with so many others, others I never knew... But I did know Ronnie... I know when I see it; I'll probably cry my fool head off...


(Postscript to a Requiem)

(If I Could Dance With You Once Again)

(Written by J. William Newcomer, Copyright March 2001, J. William Newcomer, all rights reserved. )

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

One November Day

As I remember it, that autumn had been relatively mild. By mid-November most of the corn fields had already been picked. The leaves on the trees had dropped some weeks before. It was a time in that interlude when the high school football season, for better or for worse, was history, but the basketball season was yet to start.

For those of us in our relatively quiet rural Southern Michigan community, it was a time of routine leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. Our community was somewhat off the beaten path; a good hour away from any big cities, and not on any major highways. There was a certain degree of isolation. TV, radio and the newspapers were the vehicles that brought the outside world into our midst. There were the vacations that would occasionally take us outside our normal boundaries. Also from time to time there might be a day trip to Toledo or Jackson, or maybe even Fort Wayne, but for most of us growing up in that rural area, the rest of the world was "out there".

That Friday started off like any other normal Friday. I got up early and went out to do what farm chores needed to be done. Sometime or other in the course of the usual morning ritual, I had breakfast, and got ready for school. Then it was off to school. The morning classes went by, and the lunch hour came. So far it had been a pretty ordinary normal day, one among the many others at that time of our lives.

Sometime around 1 PM or so, I and my fellow high school Freshmen classmates were in our Science class. For some reason our regular teacher was out for the day. Mrs. Welling was filling in as the substitute teacher. Mrs. Welling and her husband were retired teachers. Sometime in her life Mrs. Welling had received a certain amount of musical training. She directed one of the local church choirs, and occasionally sang special numbers. She was a petite slender lady which contributed to the nickname of "Mrs. Canary Legs" which we students sometimes callously called her, but not ever to her face or in the hearing of other adults. In truth she was a pretty nice lady. In all the times she substituted for the teacher in any of my classes, I never remember her saying any unkind words to any student, or ever in any way speaking sharply or roughly to any class at large.

I do not remember what the exact time was. It most probably was around 1:45 PM our local EST. I have no memory of what we were specifically doing in class at that time. Mrs. Welling may have been speaking to some aspect of Science, or we may have been doing some in class study time. We heard the school PA system come on. The PA system was always used for announcements of some kind or another related to school activities. In my mind, that was the expectation at that time. However, what we heard was something much different then anything we had ever heard on that PA system before. We realized the voice we were hearing was not that of the high school Principle, or the Superintendent, or any of the teachers. It was a voice on a radio. I don't remember the exact words, but to the best of my recollection they were:

"......We repeat. President John F. Kennedy has been shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.... At approximately 12:30 PM local time, the President of the United States was shot...."

We sat there as the radio broadcast continued over the PA system. It took several minutes to process the meaning of the words we were hearing. Assassinations are things that only happen in history, such as in the Lincoln assassination. They are not suppose to happen in our United States of America of 1963. How could this be? What was going on? Even then there was a certain detachment from what we were hearing, as though listening to some kind of fictional account.

But it was not fiction. It was real. It was actually happening! Any thought of continuing with the Science class was totally erased from everyone's mind. We just sat there listening. It was about 20 minutes after we first heard the news of the shooting when the voice on the radio announced a news update bulletin had just come in.

"President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1 p.m. Central Standard Time today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain."

We were stunned. Mrs. Welling had tears in her eyes. In the wisdom and perspective of her older years, she much more fully comprehended the meaning, importance, and impact of what we were hearing. She had already in her lifetime witnessed December 7, 1941 when the shocking news came through that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. In contrast, we as students in our youthful inexperience and naivete could hardly comprehend the tragic historic moment we were listening to over that PA system.

At some point the buzzer rang to signal the end of the class session. We left the classroom as in a daze. Any conversations in the hallway were subdued. We were struggling to comprehend what we had heard, what it all meant, and what was going to happen.

My last class of the day was Phys. Ed. We went to the gym, but no one bothered getting ready for gym class. We just sat there on the bleachers or wandered around the gym aimlessly, talking quietly among ourselves. At one point one of my classmates, in a demonstration of youthful folly, made a smart-aleck remark about cancelling school because the President was shot. The Phys. Ed. teacher angrily and curtly told him to just shut up.

Finally the school day ended. We headed home. My mother was a teacher at the school, so she had heard the news in the same way we had. My dad had also heard the news. The normal afternoon TV shows we liked to watch were cancelled. All the TV and radio stations were focused on the assassination. We started hearing the name Lee Harvey Oswald mentioned. He was now in the custody of the Dallas Police Department. President Kennedy's body was being flown back to Washington, DC aboard Air Force 1. Lynden Johnson had taken the oath of office, and was now President of the United States.

Saturday morning dawned. We did our usual farm chores, but I don't remember doing much else that day. The news came that President Kennedy's funeral would be on Monday, and there would be no school that day. Lee Harvey Oswald was still in the custody of the Dallas Police Department. The only thing else I remember about that Saturday was that it was sunny with mostly clear skies.

In looking back at that time, it's the routine details of your life you don't remember. Sunday morning came. I had probably gone to church that morning, but have no memory of it. I would have got back home a little before Noon, our local EST. What I do remember was watching the TV coverage of the assassination, funeral preparations, the public viewing of the closed casket in the rotunda of the Capital building, and all the rest.

Then the network broke away to the coverage in Dallas, Texas where the Dallas police were about to transfer Lee Harvey Oswald from the police headquarters to the county jail. There on the black and white screen in front of me, I saw police officers escorting a man into the basement of the police headquarters. Then another man stepped quickly forward and shots rang out. It was 11:21 am local CST, Sunday, November 24, 1963. As he was about to be taken to the Dallas County Jail, Lee Harvey Oswald was fatally shot before live television cameras in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters by Jack Ruby. I was watching the whole thing on TV. I along with millions of other Americans saw it happen right before our eyes. It was surreal, as if in a dream.

Ruby was immediately taken into custody. What was going on? This stuff happens in fictional movies and TV shows, but this was real life. Two murders in two days! I don't remember watching any more TV that day. I may have, but that scene from the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters remains etched forever in my memory.

Monday November 25, was President John F. Kennedy's funeral. In our part of Michigan, it was another sunny day with mostly clear skies. I may have watched bits and pieces of the funeral on TV, but I remember very little. A few years in the future, in 1969, my college roommate and I would visit Washington, DC. While there, we would cross the Potomac River to the Arlington National Cemetery and visit the grave site where the eternal flame was burning. But that is another story for another time.

After the President's funeral, at some point school resumed. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays came and went. A new year began. We would go on with our lives, but for each of us who lived through that tragic historical time, our lives would never ever be the same after that one tragic fatal November day in 1963.

(J. William Newcomer, Copyright © April 2010. All rights reserved.)