Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gay marriage

The great debate here in California is whether or not to redefine the concept of marriage. It is not a case of discrimination against a minority. Gays already have the right of domestic partnership. If there are some insurance and tax advantages they miss in that category, this "left coast" state will gladly give it to them. But that is not what this debate is all about. How shall we define marriage? Proposition 8, which the populace itself passed, defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. This did not surprise anyone. That has been the understood meaning of marriage since time began. Even our liberal culture knows the definition of marriage, and that is why the proposition passed. Gays are NOT prohibited from getting married. Using the heretofore universal definition of the term they simply do not want to be married, that is, to a member of the opposite gender.

Changing the definition of marriage is not a simple measure. It is a cultural paradigm shift. If--by definition--marriage includes same sex couples, then we will be shifting the foundation of culture itself. It will necessarily require a revamping of our educational system. Sex education is not the only subject that will have to be revised. The assumed definition of marriage creeps into many disciplines, literature is an obvious example.

It is not gay coupling that produces a family. "Families" with two mothers or two fathers must always be artificially contrived. Nature itself teaches us that it takes a male and a female to propagate the race.

In spite of recent propaganda for "unisex" rearing of children, those who have actually done it know full well that boys are wired differently than girls. Men from Mars and women from Venus stuff strikes a responsive chord in all of us. Boys like trucks, dirt and daredevil tricks. Girls like Barbies, tea parties and shopping. My point is simply this: the most favorable couple to raise a child is
a loving heterosexual couple. To cite a dysfunctional home as proof for either side is sloppy logic. Anecdotal cases are not a scientific sampling. In the very nature of the case it is only the heterosexual couple who are able to supply a fully rounded milieu. So for begetting children or for raising them, it requires a mom and dad. That's why marriage, by definition, is a male/female relationship.

I live on the left coast of a pagan nation. The Christian memory of our culture is quickly fading away during my lifetime. And for some it can't come a moment too soon. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not want to shove my moral standard down anyone's throat. That is why I have written this post without appealing to biblical teaching. I believe God finds homosexual acts an abomination in His sight for reasons which are discernible to all of us in nature itself. If gays want to enter a committed domestic relationship, it is not against California law even as we speak.

If you do not love Jesus first and best, if you do not trust Him alone to wash away your sin and govern your life, you are headed for eternal damnation. Whether or not you adopt a homosexual life style will not change that. A homosexual life is just symptomatic of a heart that does not submit to Christ. Heterosexual fornication is also a symptom of the rebel heart. This is not gay bashing. To accuse me of that is just a lot of political sympathy mongering.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sequoia revisited

I love Sequoia National Park. We camped there several times, usually for a week at a time. That was in the old days when we could still get down on our hands and knees and crawl into a pup tent. The hardship was getting up and down. The pup tent was not a hardship. We had a three inch foam mattress that covered the entire floor of the tent. With a double sleeping bag we were cuddly and quite warm. The very large drawback and the actual reason we stopped camping at Sequoia (or anywhere else) was Barbara's allergies. She went to an allergist, who gave her the test, and when her whole arm turned white and hot he said, "You are allergic to every tree God made." So I composed this poem from her perspective. She disdains it as doggerel, but I think it is encapsulated truth.

I love to see these giant trees
If only for a day.
They aggravate my allergies
And so I cannot stay.

The storm brought heavy thunder
The rain came steady down.
The clouds of moist congestion
Brought pain and forced a frown.

For though the sun is shining
And skies are clear and blue,
The raging tumult in my head
Drones on without a clue.

Some day the clouds will dissipate.
Some day the rain will stop.
But now my nose precipitates.
My head swears it will pop.

Fresno is so flat and hot!
Who’d ever choose this place?
But wait, my sinuses unstop.
A painless smile now forms my face.

That world is worth a photograph
A periodic visit to revel,
But I was made to live and laugh
In cities at sea level.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pastor's Study

There was a time when I took seriously the motto that the OPC stands for the "only perfect church". But I quickly learned that the only perfect church is the church triumphant in glory. But in my early days I enjoyed a fierce denominational loyalty that created in me an attitude of condescension toward others. It is a healthy thing to learn existentially that the holy catholic (universal) church is so much wider than the OPC.

That revelation hit me hardest while I was in Westminster Seminary. You must understand that when I attended Westminster (Philadelphia was the only location of a seminary by that name) the institution was virtually an OPC seminary. Almost every professor was a minister in the OPC (Young, VanTil, Stonehouse, Wooley, Clowney), and that fact tended to encourage my loyalty. It was the student body that opened my eyes to honestly respect other denominations as part of the great body of Christ. My buddy, Rex Boda, was just as loyal as I, but to his denomination, The Christian Missionary Alliance. I found him to be every bit as reformed in his theology as any minister in the OPC. He had a good heart, and a godly walk. Another very intelligent, godly man was in the Mennonite church. Another guy was a Baptist, of all things. They were all good guys with reformed convictions. This experience took the wind out of my sails, the sails that had been full of the wind of denominational snobbery.

Later in life, I joined the Minister's Fellowship in locations where the Lord had placed me. Again I have met good men who shared my convictions about the sovereign grace of God. This is always refreshing and encouraging, but it was far too infrequent.

Have you ever heard a "sermon" that was a series of cute stories, awkwardly tied together with scripture verses? It is no accident of spontaneity. It is calculated. The Minister's Fellowship visited one pastor's study and observed his desk with book holders that propped up the most recent work of his research. I was startled to discover two of them were joke books! You have to know that a Westminster graduate expects to see in-depth reference works and commentaries on a pastor's desk, so you can imagine how jarring this discovery was for me.

I remember the time (early in my ministry) that I had been wrestling with an Old Testament text, and some OPC ministers happened to visit my study during a Presbytery meeting. When they saw a Hebrew Bible and Hebrew lexicon among my books on the desk, I was accused of deliberately setting it up for display. I was insulted. I thought every OPC minister might be found with a similar study condition. I must admit that those books are less frequently found on top of my desk, but then again I have a much smaller desk, and most of it is cluttered with stuff to put away some day. These days, if you know where to go on the web, you can find the Hebrew text and get a lexical reference to the words.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Masked Killers

Pastor Dan preached from Psalm 120 last Sunday night, and brought to light how hostile is this surrounding culture. And, of course, according to the Bible we are aliens living in a pagan culture until we get to glory. I guess we all know that, but the problem is that when a semblance of what Francis Schaeffer called a "Christian memory" lingers in our culture, we easily get lulled into thinking we are among friends. Then every once in a while we are shocked by our American culture's easy adoption of blatant immorality (abortion or fornication, for example). Then it is time to let theology inform our alien walk here below.

My friend, Chuck McIlhenny recently experienced just that. Of all people, he knows this experience all too personally. (Read his book, "When the Wicked Seize a City".) He has been working as a hospital chaplain. Isn't it great that our society still sanctions chaplains? Whether it is in war or at a hospital bedside, what is more important than offering the hope that only comes from our Savior and His promises? But wait a minute, that is the one thing a chaplain in our pagan culture is not allowed to do! If you happen to be ministering to someone who already believes in Jesus Christ, and if he wants you to do this, only then is the gospel sanctioned by the powers that be. Chuck is a little bold for Jesus, and doesn't mind stepping over the lines of sanction in order to save a soul from eternal damnation. But the chaplain's office has actually called him on the carpet for this very thing! He has been severely restricted for this. Like cold water in the face, we realize once again, this is not a Christian country. As Isaac Watts said in one of his great hymns: "Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?"

Didn't our Savior warn us that this world hated Him, and it would hate us too? Isn't it still the culture of the world, the same one that killed our Master? When they smile and agree with us over the rising price of gasoline, or the shame of politicians on the take, we forget that it is a mask they are wearing. They hate our Jesus, and when we identify with the gospel, they hate us too. They are masked killers. Jesus said we must love them and pray for them, but he also warned us to beware of wolves in sheep's' clothing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

High tension day

Okay, here's another one from the archives of our family memories. In fact is was New Year's eve, 1975 when I took the young people to the mountains for fun in the snow. I brought my belly sled, and when we climbed the hill for a whack at the sledding path, I volunteered to take the first trial run just to make sure it was safe for the kids. Actually it was my sled and I was the sponsoring adult and felt responsible for the safety of these kids. So my word was law. The sled path had a bend, and we were not able to see the bottom of the hill from where we stood at the top. What we had not calculated was the fact that this was a frosty morning which followed a slushy evening the night before. It seems that someone had used this run for tobogganing the day ahead of us, and in the slushy snow, the rounded front of a toboggan had left several scooped indentations in the slush, which had now turned to solid ice. So when I flopped onto my sled and began to fly down the hill, I was just beginning to enjoy my breakneck speed when I turned the bend only to see these walls of ice the toboggan had created. The last thing I remember was pondering whether or not I could make it between a wall of ice and the trees just to the left of it.

Later one of the kids said I looked like Evel Knievel sailing high over the icy walls of ice. I woke up with a circle of young heads staring down at me. Someone was asking me, "Mr. Keller, are you alright?" I gasped out the honest answer, "I don't know." In a little while I began to struggle to my feet with the help of several strong, young hands. I immediately knew I had broken my collar bone. It felt as though my shoulder was going to slide right off my body and fall on the ground.

The nurse at the ski ER gave me a shot of Demerol and told me to come back for a second one before I left for home. I got the distinct impression that this tough old nurse dispensed drugs as she saw best and whenever the doctor makes his visit to this station he signed approval for those prescriptions.

When I found they were calling an ambulance from Stockton, I told them to call my wife in Modesto. She can make the trip just as quickly from Modesto. So that is what we did. Poor Barbara was preparing for a sleepover for Donna's birthday, which also happens to fall on New Years Eve. The trip was an hour plus, and before we left we stopped at the infirmary for my second shot of Demerol. I need to tell you that I was feeling no pain! My sweet wife, fearing I was blacking out from concussion, kept interrupting her driving to wake me up. I'm sure the ambulance driver would have not been as quick in getting me down from the mountain. At the hospital they asked me why I was there,and I told them I had a broken collar bone. After the x-ray they simply confirmed my own diagnosis, "Yep, you have a broken collar bone." Walking toward the door with a prescription in my hand, the nurse advised me to fill it in their pharmacy before I left. When I told her that I was feeling no pain, she simply asked me, "How many shots of Demerol did you have?" When I told her, she said, "I think you'd better get it filled." As unnecessary as I thought it might be, I had to humor her.

In God's inscrutable plan, that was not yet enough stress for one day. So Jonathan, our youngest, began to show spots on his belly that began to spread over the rest of his body. Chicken pox had also invaded our house. So Barbara had to watch her injured husband, monitor her daughter's sleepover and nurse her first grader with chicken pox all on New Year's Eve. We've had many a memorable New Years Eve to recount, but this one is head and shoulders above the rest.

That night after 11 p.m. all of my elders came to the house to pray with me, and as it turned out, we were praying when the new year arrived. What nobody knew until the next week is that I also fractured and displaced four of my ribs. Little wonder that I felt like I was tearing my back apart every time I tried to raise my body from the bed. One doctor even briefly thought I had punctured a lung. So about the time that our prayer meeting ended, I was VERY glad the nurse had bullied me into filling my prescription.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Something for nothing

My Dad taught me that nobody gets something for nothing unless someone somewhere is getting nothing for something. In Las Vegas this means the house never loses. Gambling games are calculated to guarantee this. Odds are designed to make it impossible for a casino to pay out more money than it takes in. Because human nature is warped as it is, we only want to remember the stories of big winners. They are the ones that brag. Losers go home broke and do not get interviewed by the media. This makes great advertising for the casinos who never claim bankruptcy, but simply keep building bigger and better hotels. When you come away from Vegas with more money than when you arrived, it is simply because several other people lost enough money to pay for your winnings and the casino's enormous profits as well.

I am guessing that you already know this. But my point in bringing it up is to make an analogy to the way government works. The federal government has no money except that which has been collected from each of the states in the union. Without a strong militia, for example, we cannot long exist. This is a national expense, and a legitimate one at that. According to Romans 13:6 this is the very reason we pay taxes.

But when politicians have as their primary goal to be re-elected, queer things begin to happen in congress. They print flyers boasting of their effectiveness to their constituents by claiming that they are able to bring more money into the state than has been taken out. We got more federal funds than that other state out there, and therefore we ought to re-elect senator Jane Moneygrab. She can do more for us than Joe Goodheart. You see where I am going with this. While we are getting something for nothing, someone else is getting nothing for something. They may have poor congressional representation, or they may have morally superior senators. It just might be that they vote for bills that send disproportionate funds to another state because in the nature of the case it is the right thing to do.

How much money can our struggling economy save if we cut out the "earmarks" and "porkbarrel riders" from our legislating process? I am not an economist, nor have I studied political science, but this doesn't take genius to see. I am as sure as I am sitting at this console that no one gets something for nothing unless someone somewhere is getting nothing for something. Am I missing something?