A God Without Wrath

I heard this quote by H. Richard Niebuhr many years ago and have tried to remember it correctly, so when I saw it in Timothy George’s article entitle No Squishy Love, I had to snag it and post it here. Here is George’s first paragraph to his article:

In his 1934 book, The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr depicted the creed of liberal Protestant theology, which was called “modernism” in those days, in these famous words: “A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” Niebuhr was no fundamentalist, but he knew what he was talking about. So did Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he named the kind of mainline religion he encountered in 1930s America: Protestantismus ohne Reformation, “Protestantism without the Reformation.”

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Where There is No Vision Statement, the People Cast off Restraint; But Happy is He who Keeps the Vision Statement

I came across an article stating 5 Signs You’re Part of an Unhealthy Church, and naturally I had to read it. But not for long. The very first statement the writer made showed me clearly there was no point in continuing my reading. The first statement:

1. Leadership Does Not Have Clear Vision. The author used Proverbs 29:18 for her proof text. Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Sarcasm Alert) Now we know! This is the reason the church has been so messed up for 2,000 years! The church failed to come up with a vision statement! Yes, the apostles failed in giving us what we needed for the church to succeed: a vision statement. O, how the apostle Paul misled us. We could have been so much better off disregarding sound doctrine, if he had just told us we need a vision statement. That is the silver bullet the church needs.

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Why do younger evangelicals put happiness and popularity over morality and truth?

I know, two “reblogs” in one day. But alas, both are worth my audience reading them.

WINTERY KNIGHT

Here’s an interesting post by Mark Tooley in the American Spectator.

Excerpt:

A new generation of evangelical elites is imploring evangelicals to step back from the culture wars. Mostly they want to escape polarizing strong stances on same-sex marriage and abortion, and perhaps also contentious church-state issues, like the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.

Purportedly the evangelical church is failing to reach young, upwardly mobile professionals because evangelicals, who now broadly comprise perhaps one third of all Americans, are seen as reactionary and hateful. On their college campuses, at their coffee shops, and in their yoga classes, among other venues, some outspoken hip young evangelicals want a new public image for their faith.

[…]A popular young evangelical blogger echoing Merritt’s theme is Rachel Evans, who conveniently grew up in the Tennessee small town famous for the Scopes Monkey Trial. Her 2010 book was Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew…

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Niceness or Love?

Posted with Jody in mind. Please don’t confuse why I’m posting this. Jody is NOT a card-carrying member of the “niceness police” but a victim of the “niceness police.”

Green Baggins

Among members of the PCA, there is a huge dissatisfaction with how blogs are run today. Lack of love, harshness, unfounded accusations, and many like things are par for the course, they say. There is certainly an element of truth to this. Many people do not exercise self-control in what they say on the internet, because it is more anonymous. They say things to another person or about another person, which they would probably not say if that person were standing there in front of them. This is a large problem on blogs, and I certainly cannot claim that my blog (including my own statements) has been immune from this problem.

However, there is another side to this question, that raised by the title of the post. Most of the people I have seen talk about this issue are confusing niceness and love. By the former term, I mean never…

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Don’t Preach Guilt

The story goes that a homeless man entered the back of a rather large, affluent church. He went up to person after person asking for change so he could get some food. The people at the church were in their best, Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and wanted nothing to do with him. Finally, after no one welcomed him, helped him, or even spoke to him, the man sat down in one of the pews and just waited.

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Letter to My Friends? Never Mind…

Every pastor needs a Jody in their congregation. Who is Jody? He is one of the members of Redeemer Christian Fellowship who took the time to get to know me and tell me that there are times when I was wrong. The elders did this too, but Jody’s expertise in it, is that he was never nice. I say that lovingly, because he would say it to me. “Nice is not a fruit of the Spirit.” That is how he would put it.

But alas, back to my point. My earlier post was a Letter to My Friends, inviting them to move to Brenham so we could start a church here. He lovingly pointed out that I really don’t have the personality to do that. In other words, I don’t have the Joel Osteen-like charisma (not of the Spirit), that attracts so many people to his pablum. In other words, Osteen can tell people week after week that they really don’t need Christ, and they lap it up like a parched dog in August.

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Letter To My Friends

Dear Friends, all of you,

As I received comments over my last post I realized that many of you have experienced the same anguish I am experienced in trying to find a good church in which to worship. Notice, I didn’t say “perfect” or “great” church, but simply a good one in which to worship.

Therefore, I’ve decided to invite all my friends who are struggling to find a good church in which to worship to move to Brenham, TX, where we will start a good Reformed Presbyterian church in which to worship. I know that some of you are Baptist, and I promise you that if you stick it out long enough with our new church here in Brenham, you will get over this as I have.

I know many of you have jobs where you are. But don’t worry, this is Texas. There are lots of jobs in the area for people with any level of skill (apparently of which I lack). So come, let us build the LORD’s church, where the preaching is solid, biblical and most importantly, guided by His Spirit. There will be calls to worship that give you reason to think, prayers that are filled with thought, communion that is never repetitive, baptism filled with joy, singing which is based on well, theologically accurate truth and a fellowship filled with the Spirit.

I know this may be difficult at first, since so many of you have family in other parts of the country, or where you live, but I have a solution to this problem as well: bring them too!

See, once all of you start arriving, we can start our worship services on the Lord’s day, and rejoice at how God will provide for all of us. Now I know some of you are thinking that I don’t mean you, but you are exactly who I am thinking of in my invitation. Yes, you will have to leave your lovely states where you reside, but look at the bright side, Texas is equally beautiful in it’s own right (see the picture above in the banner). So pack up your goods like Ma and Pa of the Beverly Hillbillies and head on down to Brenham.

I’ll leave the light on for you… and preach about HIM once you arrive.

Wishfully Sincere,

Timothy

The Death of Reverence, The Death of Holiness

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I sat on the pew outside the sanctuary and began to weep. I was crushed at what I was hearing and what I was experiencing. “Was I such an anomaly that finding a place to worship God with reverence and holiness was asking too much?” I literally felt like there would be no place for me to worship, no place to confess sin, no place to hear from Christ, no place that honored our LORD in thought, word and deed.

The church was an Acts 29 church, so I thought it would be solid in some ways. But I was disappointed the moment I saw the “band.” I know, I’m a relic, a has-been, a wash out, therefore I should just get “with it” and the “world” and worship like the rest of the world worships God. But I can’t do it. To me the “band” lacks reverence for a holy and just God. It is the world’s invention, thrust upon the body of Christ by those who supposedly “know better.”

If you were to tell the believers in the 1960s and 1970s that by 2010, if you really wanted to lead people in worshipping God then you would have to adopt the concert hall, the bar room, the disco in order to worship, they would have quit sharing the gospel at that moment out of reverence for His holiness.

“You mean the body of Christ is going to become the world, in order to save the world?”

I think the apostle John had something to say about that. 1 John 2:5 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the loveof the Father is not in him.

But John was “o-so first century! What did he know?” (Read: Open Letter to Praise Bands).

Instead of reverence, corporate prayer, corporate confession of sin, meditation, reading of Scripture, we are given the barroom with the latest act “leading” us? in worship. The leading act was so loud, it hurt my ears. That was the initial reason I left the sanctuary. I’ve had enough ear damage from my days of debauchery, I have no real desire to damage them some more in worldly worship.

The “band” even sang one of my favorite songs, Amazing Grace. But I wasn’t inspired to sing. Why should I? No one would have heard anyone over her voice and the congregation knew that as well. No one but the leader of the “band” was singing. John Newton would surely weep if he knew his song was being treated in such a manner.

This was not corporate worship. Corporate worship, which is prescribed in the Bible for the church to do, is for the entire body to do, not just a lead singer. Corporate worship was one of the marks of the Reformation. The Reformers were seeking to put worship back into the hands of the people.

Before the Reformation, only the clergy were participating in worship. The people just watched. Little did we know that the people really don’t want to worship. Just as the people in Moses’ day rejected being in God’s presence and asked Moses to be the mediator, so too are our congregations rejecting their right to pray, confess and sing to God. We are putting worship back into the hands of the clergy all over again, only this time the “clergy” have guitars and drums. They don’t realize this is what they are doing because while the lead singer belts away on one of their favorite tunes, he give some in the congregation an emotional experience, thereby deluding them into thinking that they have worshipped. They haven’t. I was having an emotional experience, and it was NOT worship.

Worship is more about obedience to God than emotional experiences. It is more about saying what is true of God, back to God. It is recognizing that we are meeting with a holy and just God, not Jay Z.

It means we do all to glorify Him, not that which glorifies the band leader and the guitar player. It means we actually prepare for worship throughout the week and on Sunday morning. We realize that congregational worship is the most important thing we will do all week, when done properly. When it is done properly, then we have met with God in His presence, heard from God through the reading and preaching of His word, been fed by God through reading and preaching of the word, and communion. We have been comforted by the gathering of the saints, both the ones here and the ones worshipping God as the church triumphant. In fact, we are joining with them in the worship that is already taking place in heaven.

But for some reason, we now want our worship to resemble some bad rock concert from the 1970s. Instead of holiness and reverence, we can dance in the aisles like a bunch of drunks.

I decided to leave. No point in staying. By the time the pastor got around to preaching, my heart would have been so upset that it wouldn’t matter what he said. My heart wasn’t right any longer. I knew that church wasn’t for me so I left, went to the car, and wept some more. I knew it would be hard to find a church to get plugged into, but I never realized the emotional toll it would take on me.

I called Babalucy and we talked and prayed.

I then set off for a Lutheran church I had passed the other day. I’m not Lutheran, and I don’t like the fact that going there, I would be considered out of fellowship and denied acceptance at the Lord’s table. I knew all of that, and accepted it in the hopes of solid, biblical preaching and a reverence of God.

Damn! The Lutheran church I found had open communion. That meant they were conviction-less Lutherans. No preaching of the word of God today. However, I did get a helpful lesson in forgiveness, which is what the pastor was preaching. In fact, it was a 12-step program and he was on steps 8 and 9. He even used a bit of Scripture, but was very brief with it. No need for the Bible here! Move along.

The pastor also let us know that he and his wife had tattoos on their backs. For some reason, he felt like we needed to know that. I guess he was trying to show us he had a past… and a present.

While the first church was irreverent in their music and approach before God, the Lutherans were irreverent in the substance of their actions with God. Both were irreverent in their own way. Both failed to take entering into the presence of God with any level of holiness or seriousness. Both treated entering the Holy of Holies as if it were a joke.

(Please note: Not all Lutherans are this way. I was hoping to find the ones who were not. It is just this particular church was. I can accept being barred from the table over theological disagreements if those barring me are reverent before a holy and just God.)

By the time I got free of the Lutherans, I realized I had time to find another place to worship. Someone told me of a church that was non-denominational that was supposed to be really good. I went to that one and as I got out of the car, I could hear the thump-thump bass of the band inside.

“Keep walking,”  I told myself. I did. I noticed others arriving about the same time and then it hit me. No one was carrying a Bible but me. In fact, the two previous churches had the same symptom. No one carried their Bibles. This was not good.

I got to the door and looked inside. I could see the “band” playing at the front of the sanctuary, the lead singer’s face all contorted as he belted out whatever ditty he was singing. The crowd, all on their feet, staring ahead as if he were Jon Bon Jovi rocking away.

I’m NOT going in there!” I turned and went back to my car.

On the way over, I passed a typical Baptist church that had a lot of cars in the parking lot. “Ok, give it a shot.”

Turns out, the Baptist church was letting another Luther church use their sanctuary during the early hour. They were all leaving when I got there, and there were only about 50 of us left in the sanctuary that held about 250. I stayed simply out of empathy for the pastor. I know what he must feel to look at all those empty pews. I could see the budget shortfall reported in the bulletin. I knew his staff was way too big, but because of tradition, he was bound to keep the associate pastor, the organist, the church secretary, etc., even though the church had no need for all that.

They were desperate for growth and I felt that desperation. Literally. They had me introduce myself and gave me a form to fill out so they could contact me. And IF I gave that form back to the pastor at the end of the church, they would give me a special gift. That wreaks of desperation. I know. I’ve done all those things before. Desperation never works. I’m an expert at it. I know.

But I was polite and put my name on the form. I sang the songs presented, and listened to the explanation of Acts 14. It was OK. It wasn’t offensive. It was a decent message and he didn’t act like Jesus was his BFF.

I left without giving the form back to the pastor, but the associate pastor chased me down in order to give me my gift! It was a bag with a coffee cup, some Hershey’s Kisses, a New Testament, a pen and a pack of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate.

While the Acts 29 church was trying to woo me with Starbucks-like coffee, a rock band and donuts, the Baptist tried to win my heart with Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate.

Neither worked. I want calls to worship, benedictions, corporate prayer. I want corporate confessions of sin, and corporate assurances of pardons. I want singing where I can hear the congregation, and songs that are theologically accurate and Christ centered. I want good, solid Biblical preaching where the pastor strives to preach the full counsel of God. I want communion where the table is fenced and non-believers know that partaking of the communion in an unworthy manner is to drink judgment upon oneself. I want benedictions, and pastoral prayers, and the reading of Scripture.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want Reformed worship… and another pastorate.

Top 5 Blue Bell Ice Creams and the Blue Bell Tour

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Last week, I finally got the opportunity to take the boys to the home of Blue Bell Creameries here in Brenham, TX for the tour. It was my first time to visit, which is odd, because I lived in and been around, and driven past the Creameries for the past 25 years or so, given that my father lives in the area.

Having two boys who love ice cream pushed me over the edge, I broke down for the tour and shelled out the $14 it cost to take the 30 minute tour. Normally, I would balk at shelling out $14 for a 30 minute tour, but this one had the promise that no other tour guide in history can offer: Blue Bell ice cream at the end of the tour. For my boys, the 30 minute tour was almost too long! After looking at assorted machines dispensing ice cream, ice cream sandwiches and Great Divide bars, Joey kept asking, “can we have some ice cream now?

That is the cumulative effect of the tour. Never mind that we are peeking into the secret halls where that yummy, precious Homemade Vanilla is produced, all day, every day that the factory is open (no cameras allowed!). Never mind the fact that the tour-guide told us it was their number one selling ice cream hands down. Never mind that you can find Homemade Vanilla at every Outback Steakhouse across the nation. Never mind that Blue Bell is not yet nation wide, but should be. Never mind that they introduce 16 new flavors every year, while removing 16 other flavors every year, therefore if you like a flavor, buy a lot so that they keep it on the production list! All these facts and figures never seem to sink into the grey matter until we actually get some ice cream!

We did get our ice cream. There is an entire ice cream shop at the end of the tour complete with gift shop and plenty of ice cream. You get a ticket for free ice cream with your purchase of a tour ticket, and that gets you a good helping of ice cream to sample.

It was there that I came up with the following rule for my boys: “Sons, if Daddy doesn’t like what you are picking out, you can get it.”

That may sound harsh. But Joey selected his ice cream based on it’s color, not flavor. It was like a sherbet orange and lime of some kind. He didn’t like it and I ended up eating it and gave him my Rockside Brownie ice cream (NOTE: new flavor, very good, buy lots!). His was still good, but it wasn’t chocolate. Therefore, I don’t let him buy food or candy unless I like it too.

Now, what some of you have been waiting for. Here are the Top 5 selling Blue Bell Ice Creams. This is not my opinion, but their list compiled by a capitalistic system known as supply and DEMAND! They supply these flavors and the public keeps DEMANDING them! Which leads to the reminder, if you like a flavor, buy lots and demand more. Here are the top 5 selling flavors:

1. Homemade Vanilla — This should be logical because you can take vanilla and add anything you want to it and it will be great. I like to add chocolate syrup… well, to all my Blue Bell flavors.

2. Cookies and Cream — I had to get an ice-cream sandwich of this yesterday while swimming at the Blue Bell Aquatic Center with my boys. It reminded me why Cookies and Cream is so popular. The other ice cream sandwich they sell a lot of is Homemade Vanilla.

3. Chocolate — This would have been my number one on the list, but again, this list is based on sales, not opinion. If you want to see an GREAT list of Blue Bell ice creams according to me, click here. That is a list of MY Top 10 Blue Bell Ice Creams as compiled by the research team of Timothy & Timothy.

4. The Great Divide — Why not? An ice cream of their best flavor, Homemade Vanilla and Chocolate.

5. Ultimate Neapolitan — I don’t like this one because I’m not a fan of strawberry. But I do like 2/3 of this one. Can you guess which ones?

Other Interesting FACTS: I have Orange Swirl and Red Velvet Cake in my freezer right now. Both are July rotational flavors and Orange Swirl is new. I like it even though it’s not chocolate. And, I have yet to add chocolate syrup to it, but I’m sure it would be delightful.

When the ice cream is put into the cartons, the cartons are spun so that the ice cream doesn’t have bubbles. This is true for all ice creams except those like the Ultimate Neapolitan and the Great Divide. Not sure how they keep the bubbles out of those.

It takes 60,000 cows to produce enough milk for a days worth of production. That is a lot of milk. They also test every batch of milk in order to maintain their high standards.

They shut down production at the end of every day and are only open Monday through Friday. Kudos to Blue Bell on this! They know the importance of family and time off.

They truly do eat all they can and sell the rest. In the employee break room, the ice cream in the freezers is free to all employees.

PHOTO ABOVE: I think that is there first delivery truck. Andy wanted to climb on it, even though the sign says not to. Beside Joey and Andy are their cousins, Jackson and Maddie.

Top 10 Apocalyptic Movies of All Time

When I started to do this list, I thought it would be something I would throw together in a Sunday afternoon and have some fun while doing so. But then, my mind drew a blank on the number of apocalyptic movies that I have actually seen that I had to refer to Anthony, our church movie expert. He is a movie expert because he is majoring in screen writing at the local community college. You might think: can you major in screen writing? Apparently you can, but the first line of every screen play written at the local community college is: “Would you like fries with that?”

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Monsters University, Where’s Waldo and Rain

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We got a quarter inch of rain today and praised The Lord for it. This area has been in a drought for about ten years. You can see from the photo how low my father’s front pond is. The water line is well below the damn. We need quite a bit more to break the drought.

Since it was raining I took the boys to see Monsters University. No patience to type a review. All three of us liked the movie.

Afterward we went to Independence Coffee to get a pound of coffee ground up since mine is in storage. The store manager got both boys involved in the downtown Where’s Waldo game. We spent the next two hours looking for Waldo in the participating merchants and had a blast. However much fun we had, it didn’t lead to the sales of any Where’s Waldo merchandise.

Texas Bound!

Lord willing, this time tomorrow I will be loading up the U-Haul truck with all my worldly goods and possessions in order to head back to Texas. Given that, this is my last post for a while unless I can figure out that app on my iPhone and use it to post while in the hotel tomorrow night.

The over all point is that the number of posts that I make for the next few weeks will probably diminish. Here a few photos of my destination. This little cottage is where I will be living for the next few months.

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Spring River Golf Course Finally Gets a River!

For the first time in my 18 months of Golfing at the Spring River Golf Course, the river actually had water in it, and two of my golf balls! I’ve hit golf balls in the river before, but given that there is no water there 99.9 percent of the time, it’s not a problem. After an inch of rain, it has water! Golfers beware, the water hazard is now… for the next few days, a true water hazard.

SpringRiver