Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

Hang out with the old preacher by browsing my blogs.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Names that have history

As we traveled today we noticed some names of remote places. The one that stuck in my craw was "Horse thief Gulch". There is a sign for the turnoff to reach this infamous spot right along the highway somewhere in Arizona. To scan the horizon is useless. There is no town there. There is no landmark there. In fact, as far as we could tell from the highway, there is absolutely nothing there. But it is a location and it bears this name, and I figure there must be a reason. Was this the gulch in which a wild west bad guy committed his dastardly deed of purloining another man's essential transportation? Maybe he got away and was never caught, and that is why he is just known as a "horse thief". Perhaps before the turn of the 20th century, this gulch was the natural corral for a herd of horses filched by a gang of iniquitous cowboys who later became the forebears of modern day owners of a chain of used car sales lots. Or maybe this was the spot when wild western justice saw a mob of vigilantes string up a local yokel for the unforgivable crime of pilfering a cowboy's most valuable possession. No, no. You know what? The most likely scenario is simply a few old duffers who live in the vicinity made up the name out of thin air. They like to lean their chairs back near the old pot bellied stove at the general store and spin yarns to entertain one another and mystify the children and city slickers who may have stopped by for directions. I sense the evolution of a myth in the over active imaginations of a few crusty cowboys who have long since moseyed over to that great corral in the sky. Yeah, that's gotta be it. At any rate, the sign along the highway does it's work. Just the name itself conjures up the most bizarre thoughts just when a driver is tempted to be bored with a long day's drive. Thank you, Arizona, for all those interesting stories launched by posting this most intriguing name for a local spot on the map.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Trees and My wife

I thought it only fair to publish some of my doggerel from Barbara's point of view, so after my blog on Sequoia I also put this one out.  The experience was uncanny, as we drove down the mountain and into the city of Fresno, I could hear her head clear.

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.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Infant Baptism?

I was fairly new to the reformed church scene when I went off to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, presumably to become a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  During my middler year, something wonderful and dramatic happened.  My wife gave birth to my firstborn son.  I couldn't stop grinning.  I was a daddy, and I thought that was so amazing.

I told Professor Clowney that I needed to delay my hermeneutics sermon because I was not able to study due to the birth of my son.  I thought he would understand (after all, he was a family man), but he didn't.  "Oh no, you're scheduled to preach, and you will preach."  I preached, and it wasn't what I would call eloquent.  Fact is, the 3 he gave me was a gracious gift.

But the story I wanted to share with you is how I was faced with an important decision while my wife was in labor.  Barbara was in labor for 24 hours with our firstborn, Philip.  In the old days dad was relegated to the fathers' waiting room, far away from the action.  It wasn't 'til my fourth child was born that I became part of the team in the delivery room.  But that's another story.  I realized that the question of infant baptism was no longer academic.  Was I going to seek baptism for my new baby, or would my reluctance carry the day?  So I read John Murray's book, "Baptism".

When a man is awaiting the arrival of his first child, it is rather near impossible for him to think straight or deep.  And John Murray is not an easy writer to read.  There were times I read the same sentence a second and even a third time.  Needless to say, I was forced to read it again following Philip's birth.

I was fully convinced that the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 was fulfilled in the church (Hebrews 8).  I knew that the sacraments of the old covenant were paralleled in the New Testament with non-bloody sacraments, namely baptism and the Lord's Supper, replacing circumcision and Passover.  So far, so good.  But what gave me deep reservations was the fact that baptism very clearly is designed for believers.  After disciples confessed their faith they were "initiated" into the church with the sign of baptism.  My little baby was incapable of doing that, and so shouldn't he be ineligible for baptism?  Weren't the Baptists right in declaring "believers baptism"?

It was while pondering this question that the apostle Paul knocked the pins out from under me.  I was rendered speechless by the clear implications of Romans 4:11.  This verse refers to circumcision as both a sign and a seal.  This is true of all sacraments.  Of what was it a seal?  Paul teaches us that it is a seal of the righteousness which Abraham had by faith.  First he believed, then righteousness was imputed to him, and then he was circumcised as the seal of this saving faith.  That is not just parallel to baptism, that is exactly what baptism is.  First we believe, then we are accounted as righteous, and then we receive the sign and seal of baptism.

This sounds like an argument for the baptist position.  But wait a minute.  Even though circumcision was specifically designed as a sacrament for believers, God specifically commanded Abraham to circumcise his children when they were eight days old (Genesis 17).  The sign of the covenant was a sign for believers--AND their children.  The New covenant replacement for circumcision was baptism, and though it too is a sign for believers, it too includes the children of believers.  There are a few household baptisms recorded in scripture to confirm this (I Cor. 1:16; Acts 16:15, 33).  No one can argue against baptizing babies on the basis of the fact that they aren't able to believe unless he can also explain why God commanded Abraham to circumcise his babies.

So as soon as mother and son came home from the hospital, we scheduled him for baptism.  I hope this may help someone wrestling with the same reservations.