Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Friday night was especially cool as we honored our military men and women. There was a very touching moment during a testimony by Pastor Mike Crawford, himself a military Chaplin, as he gave his combat patch to Pastor Dan McClure. McClure was the one who first got Mike thinking about the possibility of serving in the Chaplaincy.
Saturday's service were excellent as well and everyone I talk to came away blessed of the Lord!
As always the food at camp was so very good. Friday evening was grilled pork loin, grilled to perfection (if I may say so), baked potato, green beans, apple crisp and ice cream. There was also the return of the best homemade dinner rolls ever created! Thank you Lynnae!!! One of the guys from our Church could not stop talking about how good the rolls were and he was right! Saturday morning was my favorite: scrambled eggs and sausage - there was other stuff but who cares when you got scrambled eggs and sausage. Lunch consisted of all the fix-ins for taco's and taco salad. Good eats all weekend!
There were all kinds of activities to enjoy. My attention was on the trap shoot held at the Ventura Gun Club. We started at 1 PM on Friday afternoon and the shooters were steady in their desire to shoot but there were a lot more free birds than busted birds! Saturday was another good day for shooting and I have the bruises to prove I was there. Saturday I had the privilege of shooting with Ross Charlton, a first time shooter who hammered the birds. I shoot some trap ands also a couple rounds of "5 Stand". What a hoot!
Great weekend retreat, thanks to all who worked so hard for the Glory of God!
Sunday, August 20, 2006
But what if I told you that I recently came across a worship song that contained the same five words not 11 times, not 15 times, and not even 20 times, but 26 times! Can you imagine that? What could possibly be more unbiblical than repeating the same five words a total of 26 times in a single song!
The problem with this heartfelt and sincere concern is that this song happens to be Psalm 136.
That’s right. Psalm 136 contains the words “For His lovingkindness is everlasting” in the second half of each of its 26 verses. That’s the same five words a total of 26 times. Which, among other things, means that some of us need to back off and remove the anathema we’ve attached to repetition in our songs of worship. Repetition is not only acceptable, it is biblical.
At the same time, it is also biblical to avoid the use of “meaningless repetition” in our worship (Matt 6:7). And even though we can sing the best of songs or hymns in a way that violates this warning (it’s all an issue of the heart, isn’t it?), some lyrics seem to encourage meaningless repetition. I remember sitting in church years ago and singing a really catchy worship song entitled something like “In the Morning Hours.” It had to do with worshiping God when you wake up early in the morning—don’t remember exactly. Anyway, at one point in the song, we kept singing the following words over and over again: “In the morning, in the morning, in the morning hours….In the morning, in the morning, in the morning hours.” During this part of the song, I remember saying to myself, “What am I supposed to be thinking about right now?”
This gets at what I think is the real issue. With some repetition, the mind is no longer engaged by the content of the lyrics and the worship almost certainly becomes meaningless. This is repetition as a substitute for substance. Not at all what we’re looking for.
In Hebrew poetry, biblical writers often used repetition for the sake of emphasis, emotional impact, or rhetorical effect. But however they used it, it was deliberate and it had a purpose. In many of today’s praise songs, I get the impression that the songwriters use repetition because they simply can’t think of anything else to say.
On one hand, then, there is the caution not to anathematize the kind of repetition that is modeled in Scripture, and on the other is the challenge to be more purposeful in our use of repetition as we write and sing songs of praise to our God. And somewhere in between is the need for all of us to ask ourselves whether our hearts are fully engaged in worshiping the Lord as we sing, regardless of how old the song is.
(Matt Waymeyer serves as pastor of Community Bible Church in Vista, California. A graduate of The Master's Seminary (M.Div. and Th.M.), Matt is a regular contributor to the blog site "Faith & Practice". Matt enjoys grammar, Baroque Music, and Thai food, but not necessarily all at the same time. He is also an avid Calvin and Hobbes fan, as are most intelligent and well-rounded individuals (or so he says). Matt and his wife, Julie, live in Vista with their four children.)
The heresy in Colosse was an odd mixture. On the one hand, it contained elements of incipient Gnosticism. Apparently the Colossians were talking about Gnostic categories like Sophia, Gnosis, Eons, and the Pleroma. On the other hand, this heresy also contained Judaizing elements, primarily evidenced by an effort to introduce Old Testament forms into the New Testament worship.
Paul wrote to the Colossians in order to refute this heresy. His refutation consisted largely in a focus upon the person and work of Christ. By explaining clearly Who Christ was and what He had done on the cross, Paul was able to cut the ground out from under both the Judaistic and the Gnostic elements of the heresy.
While both sides of the heresy relied upon some form of tradition, the Gnostic side was more creative in its forms of worship than the Judaistic side. The Judaizers restricted themselves to importing the Old Testament patterns into the church. The Gnostics, however, simply made up their worship as they went. In order to get the complete picture, one needs to consult the church father Hippolytus, who describes Gnostic rites in more detail than anyone really wants to read. Hippolytus depicts different branches of Gnosticism, some of which went to extremes of asceticism and others of which went to extremes of libertinism. So bizarre are his descriptions that Hippolytus has been accused of fabrication, but the evidence of the Nag Hammadi documents appears to corroborate his testimony. Irenaeus and Tertullian also offer confirming evidence.
The multiple versions of Gnosticism all had one thing in common. Their worship was sheer invention, employing sophisticated and often bizarre rites that were nowhere authorized in the New Testament. Granted that the Colossian heresy represented an early version of Gnosticism, no one doubts that it incorporated at least some of the liturgical inventions that characterized later Gnostic worship.
For the Christians at Colosse, this heresy created a double problem. First, it introduced doctrines that were nowhere authorized in the Scriptures or the apostolic teaching (though these did not always explicitly contradict revealed teaching). Second, it introduced rites of both Judaistic and Gnostic origin that had no basis in the apostles’ doctrine.
Paul opens the second chapter of his epistle to the Colossians by asserting that all the treasures of wisdom (Sophia) and knowledge (gnosis) are found in Christ. Sophia and Gnosis were both code words within the Gnostic heresy; Paul is here co-opting those terms for Christ Himself. With respect to spiritual things, no true wisdom or knowledge can be found outside of Christ. Paul warns the Colossians against being deluded by pithy arguments (v. 4). Furthermore, he commands them to walk in Christ “as you received Him,” in other words, as Christ was announced and taught through the apostolic witness (v. 6).
Verse 8 issues a caution to beware of people who want to carry Christians into spiritual captivity (a clear reference to the heretics of Colosse). This captivation can take three forms. The first is through “philosophy and empty deceit,” by which Paul means philosophical and theological speculations that carry them beyond the warrants of revelation. The second is “human traditions,” or rites, forms, and customs that people have made up for themselves. This is a reference to the Gnostic side of the heresy and its invented liturgies. The third is the “elements of the world,” an expression that is connected in Galatians with the transmission of Judaistic forms into Christian observance. In other words, Paul warns that when doctrine and order go beyond what is revealed, this excess reduces Christians to captivity—whether the imported teachings and customs arise from deceitful speculation, from human invention, or from Judaistic retention.
In verse 9 Paul states his reason for restricting faith and order to what is revealed. The reason is that the entire fullness (pleroma) of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily. This is a direct attack upon the Gnostic system, for which the Pleroma was the series of divine emanations or Eons. Paul asserts that Christ Himself contains the entire Pleroma, and this implies that Christians are complete (the term is pleroma turned into a verb) in Him. In other words, Christians need nothing and can have nothing outside of Christ, Who is the Head of all principality and power (two key Gnostic terms that denote spiritual authorities).
The upshot of Paul’s argument is that all spiritual authority resides in Christ. This fact comes to bear upon the problem of both Gnostic and Judaistic forms of worship. It is not necessary that those forms be directly forbidden within special revelation. Since Christ is the center and sum of spiritual authority, then He alone can authorize the doctrines that Christians must believe and forms that Christians must employ in worship.
In fact, Christ has completely triumphed over every other pretender to spiritual authority (v. 15). This is most likely a reference to the resurrection, and is parallel to the assertion in Ephesians 4 that Christ “led captive a captive multitude.” He has completely vanquished and despoiled every alternative spiritual authority, and His resurrection evidences His complete triumph. No one and nothing can be set alongside Christ as the absolute master of all things spiritual.
What this means for the individual Christian is that no one but Christ has the authority to bind the conscience (vv. 16-17). Only He has the power to forbid or to command. No mere human has authority to establish moral standards for any Christian. Only Christ can do that. Church authority consists only in the announcing of the standards that Christ has revealed.
By the same token, no human has the right to introduce new forms of worship (v. 18). Here Paul mentions specifically the Gnostic habit of humbling one’s self before the eons or angels, rendering veneration to them. We must not suppose, however, that Paul intends merely to forbid this one custom. On the contrary, he bases his exclusion of this custom upon the supremacy of Christ, Who alone has the authority to impose patterns of worship. He notes that humans lack not only the authority, but also the knowledge to specify how they ought to behave in the face of things they have not seen. He implies that a person who supposes that he can please God by introducing new worship on his own initiative is “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” To take such a tack is to reject (fail to hold firmly to) the Head, namely, Christ.
In verses 20-23, Paul is evidently viewing both the Judaistic and Gnostic sides of the heresy together. He presupposes that in Christ believers have died to the elements of the world (probably a reference to the old Jewish rituals). Why, then, would Christians ever subject themselves to decrees that have been authorized by mere human beings?
As we have seen in the context, these decrees work in two ways. Some decrees restrict the individual Christian where Christ does not. Other decrees authorize forms of worship that Christ does not. Paul sees these as two results of the same abysmal heresy. He denounces both results as will-worship, or as the assertion of the depraved human self against the authority of Christ. Such ordinances, he declares, are utterly without spiritual value. There is no redemptive quality to them, however wise they may appear to be.
This passage contains two enduring lessons.
Lesson One: We do not have freedom to make up moral rules for other Christians. If a thing is not revealed in or cannot be soundly inferred from the Word of God, then it cannot be a matter of binding morality.
Lesson Two: We do not have freedom to make up our own worship. If a custom or practice is not revealed in or cannot be soundly inferred from the Word of God, then it must not be introduced as an element of worship.
To reject either of these lessons is to assault directly the Lordship of Christ. Paul does not grant the Colossians permission to retain any elements of Judaistic or Gnostic ritual on their own initiative. On the contrary, he restricts the faith and order of the Colossian church to those doctrines, customs, prescriptions, rites, and elements that are authorized by Christ Himself through the apostolic testimony.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Last week I got another A1C test which checks your blood sugar for the past 3 months. This is the test that tells on you if you've been cheating or not doing your exercise.
When I returned home today I got a message from my doctor that my A1C came back at 6.3%, that is excellent! The normal range for A1C is 4-5.9%, which places me just above the norm.
Needless to say I'm very happy and energized to keep at the stuff so my A1C stays low. I recognize that this is just a small victory in the battle but I'm happy anyway!
Just returned from dropping off Amy at FBBC in Ankeny. She seems fairly excited and is really looking forward to the rest of her friends returning to the school today and tomorrow. She was assigned to one of the older dorm but the upside is the amount of room! These dorm rooms are huge compared to the cubbyholes that the new dorms seem to be. Classes start on Monday but their schedule is packed all weekend with orientation meetings.
I know that some may be wondering how Mom & Dad handled their little girl going off to college; well here are the details ... there are none. Once again, taking one of our kids to FAITH seem so natural as the next step in their spiritual growth and development. I'm not going to kid you WE WILL MISS AMY HERE, but we are also convinced she is right where Gods wants her. Would you pray for her as she continues to seek God's will for her life?
Lest we forget Daniel, he is looking forward to another year in ministry preparation. This will be a tough year for him as he will begin the first of 4 semesters of Greek. He is also looking forward to doing his pastoral internship next summer. Dan is well entrenched at Faith now with lots of friends and one special friend (Maggie). Please continue to pray for Daniel as he prepares for future ministry!
Saturday, August 12, 2006
In June we had Special Camp at the Iowa Regular Baptist Camp where I served as Program Chairman. We served about 85 mentally and physically challenged campers. It was a great week! But no time to rest because the very next week we had our VBS at our church. Again we had a great time of ministry and a very good turn out.
In the midst of all of this, I had the opportunity to begin the process of discipling a new believer. In the process he decided to be baptized and I had the opportunity to eventually baptize 4 and bring a total of 5 into the church membership. What a great blessing and encouragement!
Lynn spent a couple of week at camp as a counselor. Junior Girls Camp and Junior High Camp, as I held down the fort at home. The last thing is June was a flying road trip with some very good friends to the GARBC National Conference held at Lansing, Mi. We departed Ankeny Iowa at 9 PM on Wednesday night and arrived at our overnight destination at 6:30 AM Thursday morning. After a brief sleep we headed out to the GARBC Business Meeting. As soon as the business meeting was over we got a bite to eat at an area Applebee's and then hit the road arriving back in Ankeny at about 3:30 AM Friday morning at which time I drove the hour or so back to Clear Lake arriving home at about 5 AM Friday morning. I learned that I'm not as young as I used to be!
July 4th is always a huge day for us as we attend the parade here in Clear Lake, which is always fun. A cookout at a family in the church and then one of the best fireworks displays in the Midwest! The end of July brings Senior High Camp. This was one of the best weeks of the summer, lots of young people asking Christ to be their Savior, and others surrendering to full time service! God is so good, just to have part in such a week is an honor!
My family and I just wrapped up Family Camp #5. the speakers this week were Missionary John Leonard, Hal Miller & Brian Trainer - Great lineup of speakers, we were truly blessed!
Well in a nutshell that is the short version. I just can't relate to you all that has taken place in the full version, but if you really want more just ask.
Until next time - - - -