Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Friday Photo (Early)

*** NOTICE ***

I hate to do this, but I have to be away for several days. I will be unable to "monitor" comments during this time--keeping the idiotic rants deleted on one of the posts that has gotten somewhat out of hand--so effective immediately, comments will be closed. Comments will be re-opened May 7.

Thank you for your patience. Looking forward to your comments next week. In the meantime, here's a "Friday Photo" a couple of days early.

Zoe, Our Jack Russell

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Photos

We spent last Sunday afternoon at Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve near Bartlesville. Woolaroc was established in 1925 as the ranch retreat of oilman Frank Phillips. The ranch is a 3,700 acres.

American Bison

Intricate Beading (Woolaroc Museum)

Pioneer Woman Sculpture

View all Woolaroc pics here. I took more than this, but these are the ones I liked.

Not much else to report this week. Busy at work. Busy at home. Busy at church. Too busy.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Random Thoughts / (Friday) Saturday Photo

God's Sovereignty
Frank Turk from TeamPyro made the following comment (no.46) regarding "the Sovereignty of God:"

One of the real comforts of the Christian faith is that things happen to us on purpose and not because God’s not minding the store. I don’t have to know all the parts of the Rube Goldberg machine to have confidence in the things I don’t see or perhaps could never understand: all I need is the fact that God’s decree is still the principle upon which all things exist, and He is in fact doing good to me.
Actually, the post and comments are pretty good. What was intreresting--from what I read--was the congenial banter (for the most part) between the different camps.

I have a friend who is an Elder in a Restoration Movement Christian Church; I attend --for lack of a better label-- a reformed SBC. He and I disagree on this issue. Dale would most likely see God's sovereignty as "God could control everything, but decides only to influence...God’s sovereignty is self-limited. God could control things, but to preserve human freedom, he will not intervene in the affairs of men to the degree that the human will is decisively bent in one direction or another."¹ (Dale may actually lean some to the left of this statement.)

I would say that "God’s will plays a providential role in causing all things. In other words, all that happens happens because God did in some sense will it, but secondary causes are usually the instrumental cause behind the action. In the case of your socks, you chose them because you decided to, but it was also part of God’s will. God allows evil as it is part of his imperfect will to bring about a perfect end, but he is not the instrumental cause of evil."¹

Although we don't see eye-to-eye on this subject, we enjoy discussing it, questioning each other on the "finer points," and attempting to shoot holes in each other's theology. We are friends, brothers in Christ. We both put our hope in the atoning sacrifice of Christ's death on the cross, the power of His resurrection and the future, physical return of Jesus Christ to this earth to gather His saints. We are both Christians...we just disagree as to how we got to this point. Not a deal breaker as far as friendships go.

I'm writing this post as I sit in McDonalds. It's Saturday morning and everyone at my house sleeps in. I can't stay in bed much past 6:30 AM, so, this morning, I got up, packed my laptop and camera and went out for "breakfast" (I use the term loosely when talking about McD's. REAL breakfast involves eggs, grits, and biscuits-n-gravy. I don't get that kind of breakfast very often, but when I's GOOOOOOOD!)

Anyway, I'm sitting at McD's watching all the people come and go and I'm looking at their logo (on my coffee cup). Pretty simple. Not really that impressive...but it accomplishes exactly what they intended. It identifies them. You know a McD's when you see it--even half a mile away. In fact, you don't even have to be able to read to know it's McD's. Take any three-year-old in America, probably most of the world, and drive down the street and they'll pick out the McD's 10 times out of 10!

A logo is a powerful thing. It tells people who you are. It identifies your company. In less than a second, people associate you with --for example-- "they have food. Coffee. Cold drinks. Hamburgers and french fries. Salads (for the health conscious crowd) and sundaes (for the dessert conscious crowd). Take a look at the following logos. You should be able to identify everyone and know immediately what they sell. Don't tell me marketing/advertising doesn't work.

(L to R) (In case you need help): Nike, Target Stores, Radio Shack, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Shell Oil, Pepsi, Citgo, and Audi

Friday (Saturday) Photo

Hot Coffee

¹ For the sake of "full disclosure," the quoted definitions were taken from this blog post.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Clones/Chameleons **Updated**

I ran into a guy I used to go to church with the other day. We hadn't seen each other in over four years, yet he immediatelyl knew me and I immediately knew him. Even more interesting, I immediately knew WHAT he was. But just to comfirm my suspicions, I asked him: "Where are you going to church now?" I wasn't surprised by his response. "LifeChurch!"

LifeChurch is one of those "emergent" type churches that appeals to people that have become disinchanted with "traditional church." They tend to draw younger, 20 to 30 somethings that prefer a more casual worship in styles and content. Music more closely resembles a secular, contemporary style rather than the traditional hymns; preaching is replaced with "talks" or "dialog" and the idea of absolute truth is looked down upon. For a detail critique of the "emerging church," check out The Truth War by John MacArthur, available here.

So what tipped me off? Well, this guy is my age (45-50). When I last saw him he had salt-and-pepper hair, wire-rim glasses and a paunch around the middle. When I saw him today, he had lost some weight, colored his hair with blonde highlights, and was sporting some of those small, rectangular shaped plastic frames. He was also wearing a bland colored shirt opened to show off a small leather necklace with a silver cross. He looked like this guy!

The man in the picture (link in previous paragraph) is Rob Bell. He is the senior pastor of Mars Hill, a church he and his wife founded that is one of, if not THE, models held up as the emergent church success story. So what does he have to do with me meeting my "friend?"

Well, inevitably, when discussing the emergent church with its supporters, at some time the conversation will turn to attire--emergents don't like anything that looks traditional, especially suits and ties. They will usually say something like: "All you talk about is the way we dress! What makes wearing a suit and tie better than a t-shirt and jeans?! Our church isn't about the way we dress!" But--and this brings me back around to my "friend"--if that is the case, why is it that THEY ALL look and dress alike?!

Emergents pride themselves in what they believe are unique, innovative, relevant and new methods of sharing the Gospel/teaching the Bible/reaching the lost. If they have such "new" ideas, how come everyone in their church fellowship¹ is a "clothing clone" of the each other?!

** UPDATE ** : You may be "emergent" if...

¹ Emergents don't like the word "church," either. They prefer "fellowship" or "community." Again, I think THEY think it makes them less conspicious, less offense-sounding within the culture. That's their big thing: melding into the culture to reach the culture. But what usually happens is they just look more like the culture instead of changing it.

Monday, April 14, 2008


My two sons pooled their money and bought themselves a Nintendo Wii. The PS2 just wasn't cuttin' the mustard (I guess). If you're not familiar with the Wii, it's a video game console that attaches to your televsion...but what makes it unique is that it is wireless, i.e. there are no wires attaching the game controllers to the console (the console IS wired to the TV). You have a "motion detector" of sorts that sits on top of the TV that tracks you're movements. This technology opens up all kinds of game play.

The Wii came with several "virtual games" such as bowling, tennis, and baseball. Using one of the game controllers you--if bowling--go through all the motions of bowling while the motion detector tracks your movements and translates them to your television. The result is that you can "virtually" bowl or play tennis or hit a home run without ever leaving you living room. It's virtual exercise without having to really exercise!

I got to thinking, as I was watching the boys "vitually box" and beat the snot out of each other, you could apply this to lots of things. How about virual mowing? Or virtual eating? You could mow your lawn and do it all in the air conditioned comfort of your living room or you could eat the entire "Old 96er" and not gain a pound!

Where I think this technology could really be useful is church. You could have your own "virtual congregation" complete with virtual choir (or not), pass the virtual offering plate and listen to a virtual sermon...all controlled by you! Don't like "fire and brimstone" preaching? No problem, just select your sermon intensity with your wireless controller. Need a little less condemnation and a little more affirmation? How about a little more modern music? Casual atmosphere or "high church?" Shorter service? Less talk about hell and more talk about how to live a better (best) life now? Not a problem!!! Just make your WiiChurch style selections, sit back in your Lazy-Boy (you can even do that in your jammies if you want) and be blessed by a service created for you, BY YOU!

Boy, if this would catch on in...wait a minute, I think it already has. And all without the Wii. Guess I'm a little too late with a great idea.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Telemarketers / Friday Photos

The caller ID said: "Unknown Name, Unknown Number." Normally I wouldn't answer the call, but my parents live out of state and sometimes their number doesn't show up. It was late in the evening, and my dad's health isn't all that great--it might be mom calling. Phone calls late at night are sometimes bad news--not that I'm looking for bad news, but you never know. On top of that, my mom has had some surgery recently, so I figured I'd better take the call...just in case.

[Muffled talking in background]
"Hello" (again).
"Uh, Mr. Whitfield?"
"Mr. Whitfield, I'm calling about your wireless service. Could you answer just a few questions for me this evening?"
"I suppose so." And the monotenous questions began.

What was supposed to be "just a few questions" turned into endless "How would you rate your wireless service? Very satisfactory. Somewhat satisfactory. Sorta satisfactory. Just satisfactory. Sometimes satisfactory. Satisfactory. Rarely satisfactory. Never satisfactory. OR, I hate it so bad I could scream?"
"What was the third one?"

I finally stopped the guy and asked: "How many more questions do you have. Honestly, I was just trying to be nice, but I really don't have time for much more of this."

"Oh, it'll only be about five more minutes," he replied. FIVE MORE MINUTES?! I hung up. I don't care if my wireless service knows what I think about them. Actually, they already do know--I've called them four times in the past three months and told how bad they are. Lot of good it will do. My contract doesn't end until December 2023, or something like that.

Friday Photos

High Water


Alex and His Guitar

Saturday, April 05, 2008

What's In A Church Name?

We usually drive when we go to my parent's home in Florida. They live in the Florida panhandle, so it's about a 14-15 hour drive when the whole family goes. I made it in approx 13 hours once when I went by myself--not nearly as many potty stops. Anyhooo, along the route we go (Tulsa-Arkansas-corner of Louisiana-Mississippi-panhandle of Alabama-Florida), we pass through some pretty small towns; some of them REALLY small. What's interesting is to see some of the names of the churches in those small towns. Like any good small town, there are always at least two churches--one for each corner.

There is the usual First [Second, and even Third] Baptist, First [United] Medodist, First Assembly of God. There are quite a few A.M.E. churches along the way, especially in the lower parts of Arkansas. Some of the church names are a little more creative or out of the ordinary than others. Mt. Zion Baptist Church seems to be pretty popular. Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church is another good one. There's Morning Star Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul AME churches (I hope one is not robbing one to pay the other). I even heard of one church in Arkansas called Lily of the Valley Church of God in Christ--that pretty much covers it! One of my favorite church names is King Solomon Baptist Church. I don't know, but I just have an aversion to naming a church after a known womanizer.

So what does the name of a church say about its congregants? What does it say about the church's doctrine or beliefs. The Baptist, Methodist, AG, or AME churches should be pretty easy. But what about the more obscure names. The trend lately seems to be finding a name that still sorta says "church," but doesn't really commit to any one system of theology/doctrine. I'm talking about churches named "Woodlake-A Christian Community" or "Compass Pointe Fellowship." There's one church named "Oak Leaf Church" (they went ahead and used the "C" word); I heard they refer to the church as "The Leaf." Hmmm. I wonder if I can find a church named "The Bark" or "The Stone" or...I digress.

I'm thinking about all this church name stuff because I recently encountered a church--whose privacy I will respect because they obviously WANT to remain anonymous (you'll see in a minute)--that exercises an interesting "method" regarding their name. It all started when I stumbled upon this church's website. They were planning a big Easter service, complete with easter egg hunt for the kiddos AND a motorcycle to be given away to one lucky adult attendee! The church name, [-----] Christian Church, implied the congregation was part of what is known as the Restoration Movement (Christian Church/Churches of Christ) churches. I recognized that several of the staff had attend CC colleges. When I checked out their "what we believe" page, I noticed a couple of things that appeared to be missing.

If you know anything about CC's, you know that they refer to themselves as New Testament churches or sometimes Bible Churches. They have no national governing body and no national convention where they "vote" on resolutions, etc. A couple of things they do believe is that baptism is not only an integral part of salvation, it is THE point and time in which one receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, you rarely hear of someone being "saved" in a CC; they are "baptized." The words are used interchangably because they believe baptism is the point and time one IS saved. They also believe that an individual can lose their salvation. I've heard some refer to it as "divorcing" God--simply deciding one does not want to be saved any longer. Neither of these things were mentioned on the website. (Just for the record, I attended a CC for 16 years; even served as an Elder before leaving four years ago. I never believed either of these doctrines. I just attended the church because it was the one my wife was raised in. I eventually grew weary of their infatuation with Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.)

So I contacted the church and asked if they were indeed affiliated with the Restoration Churches and if so, was the omission of the two "doctrines" I mentioned above intentional. Their response? "Yes, are a Restoration Movement church and yes, those doctrines were purposely omitted from the website." Why? "Several of our staff lean more toward 'Baptist' doctrines/beliefs.'"

My question is: How can you say you're part of a church/organization, but are not willing to publicly align yourself with their historically accepted doctrines? The answer: contextualization. It's all about making yourself as appealing as possible so that you don't offend or scare anybody off. It obviously works.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Contextualization / Big Oil / Friday Photos

It is not the business of the church to adapt Christ to men, but men to Christ.-- Dorothy Sayers

Lately, there have been several blogs devoting space to the topic of "contextualization," specifically contextualization of the Gospel. In many cases, the subject was/is prompted by comments John MacArthur made during this year's Shepherds' Conference:

I believe that byword has become a curse. “We have to change the way wedress, look, sing, in order to ‘contextualize,’ to connect with people at the level of their exposure to broader culture...”

He states a little later--"...Some people ask, why do I wear a tie? Because I have respect for this responsibility. I wear a suit because this is a more elevated experience for people. I’m trying to convey what people convey at a wedding: this is more serious than any normal activity. This is the most serious occasion anyone will attend in their life: the preaching of the Word of God."

The "suit" comment really set some people off. People like Tim Reed and Michael Spencer1 decried MacArthur's comment, insinuating he was condemning any other dress code than that of a suit and tie. I was there--at the conference--and that was not the tone or the point. The point was that the Bible doesn't need to be changed to adapt to its readers. We don't need to dumb it down for people to understand it. And we certainly don't need to make the Bible more entertaining or palatable.

Church/preaching of God's Word is serious business and shouldn't be approached lightly. God certainly didn't mince any words in His instructions to Moses as to how the Levites should not only present themselves, but carry out their duties. MacArthur wasn't saying "you HAVE to dress a certain way to come to church." He's smart enough to understand that everyone doesn't own a suit. The crux of his statement was about attitude, honoring God in the way we approach Him and worship Him. (NOTE: I do find it interesting that the same people that would scream and holler over a dress code--for lack of a better phrase--think nothing of showing up at church in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, but they will go to the trouble to wear their best clothes to a funeral or wedding.)

Phil Johnson--in his presentation at the SC--defined contextualization as the "practice of altering either the terminology or the content of our message in order to employ the language, the cultural tokens, the styles, the values, the preoccupations of the culture or sub-culture we're trying to reach." He goes on to state the obvious, paraphrased, we understand the necessity of translating the Scriptures in such a way as to make them understandable to the audience, i.e. verses referring to "sheep" won't make much sense to Eskimoes that have never been around or seen sheep! (The same idea goes for phrases such as "whiter than snow." Pretty hard to press the point for someone that's never seen snow!) What we are speaking against is utilizing crude language--for instance--to present the Gospel to people, simply because "that's the way they talk."

Contextualization today, according to Johnson—and I agree—involves “flout[ing] as many taboos as possible, unlike Paul who wanted to avoid anything that was considered impolite or uncouth so that the Gospel could be heard without unnecessary distractions. The contextualizers of today actually want to maximize the ‘shock and awe’ effect, thinking that’s going gain them a better hearing with the ‘Southpark Generation.’"

What we have here folks is a gang of potty-mouthed pastors/bloggers (and I use the term "pastor" loosely) that believe it's their duty and right to assimilate into society in order to be a more effective witness, when the Bible clearly teaches the opposite.

I may have more to say on this topic later. In the meantime, here's a couple of links that I DO endorse:

Big Oil
Well, it seems that Congress is upset with the "Big Oil Companies" for posting some hefty profits in recent months, so they've sat them down and told them "what for." Idiots! The government, in large part, has caused the mess we're in re: our dependence on foreign oil. The oil companies/refineries have been hamstrung from building any new refineries in the past 20 years or from drilling in "protected areaa" where we KNOW there are massive amounts of oil just laying there for the taking!

We can drill without disturbing the environment; we have the technology. There are other processes aside from refining crude oil that we could use, if we were allowed to expand and build new/newer facilities. Coal-to-fuel technology (look up "Fischer-Tropsch") is just one of those processes that could wean us off our dependence on foreign oil. Hitler used this same process to keep his air force going during WWII.

Frankly, I'm trying to figure out where multi-millionairs get off telling oil comany CEOs how much profit is TOO MUCH! Hillary Clinton received a multi-MILLION dollar advance for her memoirs, and yet she says things like:

The other day the oil companies recorded the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits. And I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy, alternatives and technologies that will actually begin to move us in the direction of independence.
I'm all for "alternative smart energy," but were in the world does she get off talking about TAKING profits from companies?! Tell you what--take the profits, take away the tax breaks, etc. and you are in for one BIG shock at the pump my friends.

Believe it or not, like it or not, the price of gasoline is STILL a good deal. Gasoline really begins to look like a bargin when we compare it to other liquids we buy on a regular basis. Consider the "per gallon price" of the following:
  • 2% Milk = $3.99
  • Minute Maid Orange Juice = $6.99
  • Propel Fitness Water = 7.68
  • Dawn Dish Detergent = $11.43
  • Starbucks Frappuccino Iced Coffee = $20.48
  • Ragu Pizza Sauce = $30.17
  • Krazy Glue = $2322.29

Friday Photos

Fill 'er Up?!

Middle C

1Tim Reed is a pastor and blogger that seems to take exception to pretty much ANYTHING MacArthur says. He did not attend the Shepherds' Conference, so he relies on the blogs and statements of others to support his diatribe against MacArthur. He also appears to have no problem with himself or others using crass, filthy language to express themselves under the guise of "relating" to his audience--exactly the thing that MacArthur, Phil Johnson and other speakers at the conference were addressing.

Spencer, aka the "Internet Monk" (from what little I've read) seems be of the same ilk as Reed. The Monk, responding to MacArthur's statments (the Monk wasn't at the conference either) stated: "That suit keeps all kinds of men from ever entering a church. Probably less than 3 [percent] of the men in my county have ever had on a tie, much less a suit. Where do I stop them and say it’s Biblical and 'serious' to wear a suit? It would be completely OUTSIDE of the Gospel for me to do so." He missed the point and would rather focus on the "suit" than the actually point: you don't dumb-down Scripture to make people feel more comfortable about church.

I'm not providing links to either of their blogs. I'm not in the habit of making up quotes, etc. so you can believe me or not. I just can't bring myself to send any more traffic their way.