Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Dodger Reject

I can remember the day I woke up to the reality that I would never play professional baseball.  Admittedly it came rather late in life, but it was a definite point in my personal history.  Many years before that realization I had already turned in my uniform to attend church instead.  Nevertheless, that thought enjoyed lingering in the back of my mind for much too long.

But that's not when the Dodgers rejected me.  No, that was a rejection by the Southern Pacific Railroad municipal league team.  In fact the Dodgers couldn't care less about my baseball skills.  That doesn't break my heart.

What does break my heart is that the Dodgers couldn't care less about my prowess as a Dodger fan.  It is as a devoted, 60 year commitment, blue blooded rooter that I have been rejected by the Dodgers.  I learned to listen to Dodger games

In order to pay obscene salaries to their stars, the Dodgers have contracted with filthy lucre for 4 billion (yes, with a "B") dollars to own their own TV channel, which is exclusively available through Time Warner Cable.  Since I have DirecTV, this is not an option for me.  I found out that about 70% of Southern California has also been cut off from TV access.  If my provider will not contract for exorbitant fees, I'm left out in the cold.

The Dodgers advertise that I should write my provider, asking them to pay the extortion to give me this access.  Even Clayton Kershaw, a beloved Christian brother, has been contracted to be a barker for this sideshow flimflam, beseeching fans to lobby for this service by paying the extraordinary extortion.

When the O'Mally family owned the Dodgers, we were proud of this baseball club.  They developed their own players in a well-developed farm team system.  While other teams were shamelessly out to buy winning teams, we used to take comfort that our Dodgers were still a traditional baseball organization rather than just another multi-million dollar business.  We thought they were a "class act", but now we are forced to admit that they are just another "crass act", trying to buy a World Series trophy.  Did I hear that they are in fact the highest salaried team in baseball?

To see a game fleeces me of $15 to park, $35 for a seat and $5 for a hot dog.  I guess I am able to afford this once or twice a season, but I'm not sure I want to any more.  I feel like a Dodger reject.  They don't want me to follow the progress of the team during the season.  They don't want me to be able to see them play on TV.  So why should I care whether they win or lose?

Loyalty dies hard.  I still care too much how Kershaw pitches this year.  I am pulling for Dee Gordon to hit so well that they dare not send him down.  I desperately want to see Puig learn from his foolish mistakes and childish attitude.  I guess I am doomed to remain a Dodger fan for this year at least, but I am going to try my best to break the habit.

"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction."  (I Timothy 6:9)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

On being grace-minded

No matter how long you've walked with God, there is that remnant nub of works-righteousness hiding in our reborn hearts.

"How can I expect God to bless my day when I so recently sinned against Him?"  

"I need to read a lot of scripture and bring dinner to a needy family before I will feel confident to ask God for anything."

Imagine how David must have felt when he had to flee Jerusalem and the palace because of reports that his rebel son, Absolom, was closing in upon him, stealing the hearts of Israel and seizing the palace.

Samuel records him trudging up Mt. Olivet with his head slumped and tears forcing their way down his rugged cheeks.  How dreadfully he had sinned with Bathsheba, and how miserably he multiplied his guilt by planning the death of her husband.  Though David repented, and though Nathan, the prophet of God, told him his sin was forgiven, there were consequences with which David would be haunted.  One of those consequences was trouble in his own household.  Now it was coming in more dramatic form than David could have guessed.

Shimei threw gravel at David and cursed him from the hill top as David was making his way out of town.  David restrained his faithful companion from wreaking vengeance, saying, "Let him alone, and let him curse for the Lord has told him."  

But David was grace-minded.  He knew God as few people do.  Later God calls him the man after "my own heart".  When God forgives sin, He actually puts it from us as far as the east is from the west.  A forgiven sinner is always a recipient of God's blessings.  He always enjoys direct communication to God.

Fast forward to Psalm 3.  This Psalm specifically identifies itself as being composed on the occasion of David's flight from Absolom.  He bemoans the fact that his enemies are multiplying, and they are saying that God will not help him.  It was tempting to believe those taunts because David was forever aware of his sin.

But David knows that God is a friend for forgiven sinners, and He is never a fickle friend.  He says, "But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the One who lifts my head."  Leaving Zion, David's head was bowed, but God lifted that dear head in due time.

"Salvation belongs to the Lord" David shouts at the crescendo of the Psalm.  Only one who is grace-minded can do that in such circumstances.  Sin disqualifies us from the favor of God.  Our shame would take us to the mat and hold us there except for one thing: Salvation belongs to the Lord.  Once He has declared His love for you, there is no way He will change His mind.  After all, He knows the end from the beginning so what could possibly make Him change His mind?  Since salvation is dependent upon what God has done, rather than upon anything you have done, it is secure for now and for eternity.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Running Boards

Just when I thought this term was obsolete I see an advertisement for truck running boards.  It seems to be the latest and coolest accessory for your chic truck.   A running board is a fancy step just under the door of your truck to help you climb into your monster.  Baloney!  I remember when all cars (and trucks) had a running board.  Ecclesiastes is right: there is nothing new under the sun.

I fondly remember my Aunt Rose's model A Ford.  It had a rumble seat (go grab your dictionary for that one), and it had running boards.  It was so cool to stand on her running board and cling to the window frame as she drove slowly down our street.  For a nine year old boy this was such daring fun.  But in  my youthful judgement the ground was not going past me all that fast.  Before my Aunt could stop me I jumped from the running board to the pavement and said, "Bye!" only to discover my running gait was not as quick as I had calculated.  I hit the pavement with a resounding "splat".  Of course Aunt Rose immediately stopped the car to see if I was injured.  When she discovered that it was only my pride that was damaged, she breathed a sigh of relief.  And from that day forward she loved to tell the story, with great dramatic flair, especially with the onomatopoetic "splat" to finish the account.  I was (and I guess I still am) sensitive to the "dissing" of embarrassing stories about me.

Then there was LeRoy Rafner's running board.  He was a high school buddy of mine.  When the "gang" wanted to go to the movies or play a little over-the-line, it was not uncommon for us to help LeRoy deliver papers on his route so we could get going sooner.  He must have had an old Chevy sedan circa 1938, with running boards from which we would toss the papers at his direction.  One of the guys handed a paper out the window to one of us on the running board on either side of the car, depending on which side of the street was the next target house.  To tell the truth I'm not sure we saved all that much time, but we did it because it was fun.

Looking back on these intimate experiences with running boards, I'm wondering how long it will take our nanny government to pass laws against the stuff we did as kids with these new fangled things called "running boards".

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dental Records

Okay, so I watch too many crime dramas.  One of the educational benefits is how to identify bodies burned beyond recognition.  Now we don't have to deal with this issue on a day to day basis, but it is interesting that such identities are usually made by comparing dental records.

The older a person gets he realizes just how unique each person's set of teeth and assisting faux implements might be.

This came to my mind simply because I have recently been rendered in need of repair to these faux implements.  I was innocently chewing on a dried peach when I heard a dreadful "crunch".  At first I feared that I had found a seed in the peach.  But I soon learned that the problem was a broken front bridge when three connected front teeth fell into my lap.

I saved them in a discarded medicine bottle.  But the immediate problem was this was Saturday night, and the next day I was scheduled to minister the Lord's Supper and teach adult class in Sunday School at our church in Costa Mesa.  The thought briefly occurred to me that a little Krazy Glue might create another cute little endorsement story, but I chickened out.

My wife suggested I might get by as long as I don't smile.  You want me to live a day without smiling? That's not going to happen.  I checked out the mirror, and she was right, so I compromised.  During the Lord's Supper I kept the stiff upper lip, and not a soul noticed my problem.  But these are my friends, so when it came time for Sunday School (in this church SS follows worship hour) I just had a little fun explaining my problem, and then turned to the Psalm for study.

I told them the story of the guy who was scheduled to be an after dinner speaker, but during dinner he broke his teeth.  In frustration he turned to the man seated next to him and explained his dilemma.  To his surprise the man reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a set of teeth.  He thought his problem was temporarily solved until he discovered the teeth were too large for his mouth.  "Great try, but I'm afraid these won't fit.  Thanks for the effort."  But to his utter shock, the man reached into the other coat pocket and produced another set of teeth.  They fit just well enough for him to deliver his brief message and sit down.  "Wow, am I glad that's over.  And what luck was that for me to sit right next to a dentist!"  "What dentist?" the man said, "I'm an undertaker."

That may have been a tactical error, because it was with difficulty I helped the crowd to give serious minded devotion to the text of Psalm 3 (which, ironically, has the line "you have shattered the teeth of the wicked").

Now the dentist says I have an abscess beneath one of those anchor teeth.  I need to get them extracted, let the swelling subside, and then begin molds for the eventual installation of a removable plate.  This stuff happens when you are the local fossil.  I don't need to be concerned about dying in a fiery crash.  My dentist can identify me as one in a million.

All that dental work will take time, of course, and now I am scheduled to preach in Tucson, AZ on March 2, and my mouth will have no aesthetic improvement between now and then.  As God says to Moses who was "slow of speech": "Who made man's mouth?"  I pray His word will be clear and plain even from my crooked mouth.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Carl Sandberg (not the poet)

If you asked me to list the top 10 most unforgettable characters I've met in my life, Carl Sandberg would certainly be among them.

Carl was a student of theology, and a contemporary of mine.  He finished his undergraduate at the same tiny college I attended, but a year before me.  He told me that he had been a Communist in Chicago, as was his father, when his attention got arrested by the preaching of a street team from a charismatic church.  He began attending this church, where he was subsequently converted.

He became a bit uncomfortable with the emotional antics of this church group, and found his way into a very narrow baptist church: the General Association of Regular Baptists.  For those not acquainted with this church, may I say they are as jealous of orthodoxy as the OPC, and sometimes just as cantankerous.  They seem willing to doubt the orthodoxy of every other denomination, with the possible exception of the OPC.  The reason for this exception was the early association two of these professors had with J. Gresham Machen.

Carl told me that at this point in his life he was drifting more and more into reformed thinking as a result of his study of the Bible.  In fact during Greek class at the Baptist school, he was called upon to translate Acts 9:18 and he read: "and he stood up and was baptized".  Against accusations of misinterpretation, Carl said he merely translated it.

Eventually someone at L. A. Baptist said he ought to be an Orthodox Presbyterian instead of a baptist.  He said, "What's that?"  And that is how he was introduced to the OPC.

Carl always had a controversial point of view, and accompanied his views with a controversial attitude.
Someone who knew Carl better than I said, "As far as personality alone is concerned, he should have remained a Communist."

At Westminster Seminary, following a class taught by Meredith Kline, Carl approached the professor, telling him of a book he read in which the author reconciles the Egyptian dating with that of the Bible.  Dr. Kline seemed fascinated with the idea and so he asked how he does this.  Carl said the author proposed that Egyptian dating was off by several years.  In response Dr. Kline threw back his head, laughed, and announced, "He's out of his mind!"  Then he picked up his bulky brief case and stalked out of the room.  Carl was left with his mouth hanging open.

Speechless was not a frequent posture of Carl.  He had a way of interrogating, rather than questioning, when he raised his hand in class.  Van Til and Clowney were frequent beneficiaries of Carl's whetting encounters.  The major exception was his appreciation of Professor John Murray.  In fact he once wrote me a note during class, saying, "Why don't we hear this good stuff in our home churches?"  I don't know where he attended church, but my home church did teach me good theology.  Immediately after I read the note I found the good professor standing next to me with his hand outstretched.  Into that hand I deposited the aforementioned note, being grateful that it was flattering rather than derogatory.

A mutual friend of Carl and another student, Alan Wyat, anticipated with apprehension the sparks that might fly when these two fiery personalities finally met.  The occasion, as best I can recall, was the return of a borrowed hauling trailer.  One of the principles offered an outrageous opinion about a current event.  The other countered with a psychiatric evaluation of the speaker, and suddenly the fat was in the fire.  These were now Christian men, in whom the Holy Spirit had begun, but by no means completed, the work of sanctification.  Therefore there were no fisticuffs.  But there were barrages of verbal exchange that raised concern for all in the room.

Neither of these men completed the course of seminary with me.  To the best of my knowledge they both dropped out of Westminster.  Subsequent careers of either man are not known to me.  I read that Carl was a teacher in a Christian school in Virginia, but that exhausts my information.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A singing church

The genius of corporate worship is the reciprocal communication between God and His people.  God speaks to His people and they respond.  When God speaks to us, it is by the reading and preaching of the bible at this point in history.  We have no prophets to give us new revelations of the Spirit.

When the people of God respond corporately it is usually in the singing of a hymn or Psalm or in words we recite together.  That's the idea of it being "corporate" which by definition means: "shared by all the members of a group".

There is the public prayer that should include each worshipper who joins his consent by saying, or thinking "amen".  This is sometimes a written prayer or a memorized prayer (such as the Lord's Prayer) which everyone recites together,  but in corporate worship this is usually done by one leader on behalf of the congregation.

Are you with me?  Okay, today I want to focus attention on the matter of congregational singing.  It is an important way in which worshippers participate in corporate worship.

We emphatically and vociferously deny the entertainment model for public worship.  The pastor or others who may be on the platform are NOT the entertainers, and the congregation is NOT the audience.  As soon as this model is adopted, corporate worship exists no longer.  There might be delightful Christian entertainment.  There might be a fine Christian lecture.  But there is definitely NO corporate worship going on.  This is why no one applauds the choir or other musicians in public worship.

I have an agent who has visited several reformed churches in our area, and he reports that in many of these churches the singing of the congregation is in serious decline.  Special music groups do all the singing.  Or the tunes are new and only the words are printed and no one has learned the tune.

Whatever the reason, more and more reformed worshippers are just standing there as the music is playing.  They have not done anything together.  They have not responded to God for His words to us. They are just standing there until the next item in the order of worship.  This is a dangerous trend.

When a new hymn is introduced to a congregation, it ought to be taught.  Sometimes this is done by adopting a "hymn of the month" which is sung every Sunday for a month.  Sometimes there is another venue (like Sunday School) where it can be introduced and practiced until ready for corporate worship. Sometimes it can be reproduced--with music--and carefully taught during the worship period.

Every congregation member ought to be able to think about the words and join the praise thoughts incorporated in this new hymn, and that just can't be effectively done if he is groping for the note and reading unfamiliar words at the same time.

Whatever the solution, please let us not lose this important element of corporate worship.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A simple errand

Our granddaughter had to fly to South Carolina to pick up her kids who were visiting their father over Christmas vacation.  Stacy figured, "I'll wear flip-flops so they won't make me take off my shoes at security check.  I will just take one extra set of clothes because I want to fly in relative comfort, without having a suitcase to pick up at baggage carousel.  And I should leave my car in short-term parking.  I'm coming right back tomorrow."

Then the storm struck.  A seven hour delay in Huston was bad enough, but on the way home this would be intolerable.  When she arrived in Charlotte, she discovered her return flight was scheduled to stop at O'Hare in Chicago, and nothing was going in or out of O'Hare by this time.

Grandma Christian picked her up to drive her back to her place (2 hours and then some).  Finally negotiations were completed for a return flight that would bring her to Vegas--on Wednesday!  Oh my goodness!  Look at all that snow, and I'm in flip-flops.  We have to stop at Wallmart and get some shoes.

Okay, let's give the kids a bath.  Dad, you take care of little David.  What do you mean he has spots?  He can't have chicken pox, he's had the vaccine.  Oh, you mean there are different types of chicken pox?  By now, of course, both kids are breaking out in full color.  Wait a minute.  These kids are quarantined from public transportation until they are no longer contagious.  That means we can't fly out on Wednesday.

She's crying, and she's laughing.  What next?