Tag Archives: Leroy Garrett

Issue 342 – When Friends Pass Away

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Issue 342  –  October 18, 2016

Ever notice how life seems to “pile stuff on to you” and at the most unexpected and most inconvenient times?  I remember driving back home to Edmond, Oklahoma from my job a few miles south of Oklahoma City. There were already four inches of snow on the ground and it was still coming down . . . and I was hitting the big Internet interchange in the middle of the rush hour with bumper-to-bumper. I remember thinking, “Oh, I just hope I can get past this bottle neck okay.”

I didn’t. My car, creeping along at maybe 10 mph, coughed two or three times and stopped. And I couldn’t get it restarted. And impatient folks began to honk their horns and to give me that ol’ single-digit salute. Fortunately, within five minutes a Oklahoma Highway Patrolman drove up behind me and quickly pushed me across the three lanes of traffic and onto a shoulder of a road. Then he gave me a short ride to a convenience store, where I was on my own. I got home that night, but my car didn’t.

Life is like that. And sometimes those events are much more serious. Like the death of a relative or an old classmate or of a dear, dear friend. And too often those traumatic losses seem to hit way too close together.

That’s how I feel right now after losing — in just a few weeks — a former high school teacher of mine, a former high school classmate, a close former co-worker and Christian friend, a cousin of mine who just seems to always have been in my life over the years, and a man I’ve eaten meals with and had coffee with and  prayed with and worshipped with and “picked and grinned” with on a regular basis for over three years. Each of them represent a nitch in my own life, a nitch which now is missing a memorable part of my life.

But enough of that. Let me tell you about each one of them. 

Virgil R. Trout

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Reggie Cauthen

Reggie Cauthen was a first-cousin of mine, the son of my mom’s brother Sidney Cauthen and his wife Thelma. Over the years, and I played together, fished in lakes and swam in creeks, and ate a lot of watermelon and home-made ice cream. Out time together became less and less as Peggy and I lived in distant places and his life in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and then in east Texas got complicated. Whenever we were able to get together, though, he always had a wide smile and a Texas-sized hug for us. He worked most of his adult life for the U.S. Post Office.

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Ralph Rees

NOTE:   In 1955, my parents moved us to Tulsa, Oklahoma and we lived near my mom’s parents and two brothers and a sister. That only lasted one year, and in the summer of 1956 we moved back to southern California. My dad got a job farming orange trees with the Edward’s Ranch about 1 mile west of Piru, Calif., and they provided a small house for us. That fall my late sister, Roberta Paregien Loffswold Fournier, and I began school eight miles west at Fillmore, Calif. I was a sophomore. And one of my teachers that year — both for drafting and for print shop — was a kind, patient teacher named Ralph Rees. I don’t think I ever saw him again after I graduated in 1959, but he became a solid citizen there over the years and died there 59 years after I was in his classes.

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“Ralph Rees –beloved father, husband, brother, grandpa and friend–has gone home to be with Jesus. He passed away at midnight on Saturday, September 3, 2016 at home, after a long struggle with cancer, with his family by his side.

“He is survived by his loving wife of sixty six years, Patricia (Young) Rees, his sister Roberta (Rees) Gragg, his children Janine (Bill Faith) Rees, Wendy Rees, Robin Rees, Jason (Bethann Buddenbaum) Rees, and Brady (Ina Rosales) Rees, his grandchildren Luke, Hannah, Nathan, Tara, Nora, Claire, Emma and Fiona, and five great- grandchildren.

“Ralph was born on Feb. 17, 1926 in Taft, CA to Helen (Allison) Rees and Ralph Winfield Rees. He is preceded in death by his sisters Joy (Rees) Hanrihan and Geraldine (Rees) Schwocho. Ralph spend his boyhood in Oildale and Bakersfield, CA, where his early interests included carpentry, Boy Scouting, hiking and fishing in the Sierras with his father and friends, and playing the saxophone. He continued to pursue these interests throughout his life.

“Ralph served in the US Navy towards the end of the WWII conflict. He later went on to earn a teaching degree from Cal State Santa Barbara under the GI Bill. After marrying his college sweetheart, Patricia Lucille Young in 1950, he started teaching in Mendota, CA. In 1953 he moved to Fillmore Union High School where he taught Industrial Arts until 1989. Ralph also earned a Master’s Degree in Industrial Arts Education. For the rest of his life Mr. Rees received compliments from many former students, grateful for the part he played in their lives.

“After retirement Ralph became a local “handy guy”. He was most proud of a project restoring a historic carriage for Rancho Camulos Museum in Piru, CA, where he volunteered until shortly before he died.

“Of primary importance in Ralph’s life was his relationship with God, which began when he joined the Boy Scouts at the age of 12. He was born again on January 8, 1976, and remained committed to his faith.

“His family will always be grateful for teaching them that they can do anything and to keep learning. He daily demonstrated his devotion to his wife, his love for his God and family, and his Boy Scout sense of decency.

“His funeral Service was held at Heritage Valley Bible Church, 461 Central Ave., Fillmore, CA on Friday, September 9 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am. Graveside Service were held immediately following at Bardsdale Cemetery, 1698 S Sespe Street, Fillmore, CA.”

Clay Landes

Oct 7, 1943 – Oct 2, 2016

Clayton Guy Landes, 72, of Sarasota, FL., died on Sunday, Oct 2, 2016, in a hospice facility. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer about a year ago.

 A “Celebration of Life” service was held at 10: 00 am on Saturday, Oct 8, 2016 at Central Church of Christ, 6221 Proctor Rd., in Sarasota, FL. Clay had served as an Elder of the congregation for many years and was active in it up until just a few weeks before his death. His frequent word of encouragement to others was, “Keep the faith.”

 Being originally from Indiana, he was an enthusiastic basketball player and fan virtually all of his life. He attended some 20 or so of the national basketball “final four” play-off events over the years.

Clay was survived by his wife Pat. They had celebrated their 50th year of marriage just a year or so ago. He was also survived by their daughter and two sons, and by numerous grandchildren.

The funeral arrangements were carried out by The Good Earth Crematory.

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Daryl Duane Muth

Ron Golson, my friend from Piru who lives in Idaho . . . . and was a mutual friend with Daryl Muth, was kind enough to pass along this email from Jeff Muth, one of Daryl and Vickie’s sons:

“My Father passed away Tuesday Morning (October 11, 2016) after a long fight with Parkinson’s Disease.

“Dad was in a rest home this last year and had to be hand fed as he could no longer feed himself… Sometime Friday, he was not eating or drinking anymore. I think he just could not swallow anything. Saturday we brought him home and he was on Hospice. Many friends and family stopped by to pay their last respect to him.

“We are going to have a service at Joseph P. Reardon Funeral Home in Ventura, Friday 21, 2016, at 1:00 PM. The address is, 757 East Main Street, Ventura, Ca. 93001. There will be a reception afterwards at Mom & Dads house  — 2289 Woodland Ave. Ojai, Ca. 93023”

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Stan Paregien’s reflections:

Daryl Muth and his older brother Garold and younger brother Kirk for several years lived high on a mountain behind Piru, Calif. On a clear day they could actually see the ocean from there. I remember one time that I was up there with Daryl and we found an abandoned oil well site. There were several old connecting rods, maybe 10 to 12 feet long as I recall. We had fun dropping them down that open well hole and listening to them  rumble as they fell thousands of feet, but we never could hear any hit the bottom.

On another occasion, Daryl and I were riding with Garold in his ’49 or ’50 Chevy, heading up the winding oilfield road to their house. Around the single lane road came a car heading down about as fast as we were going up. We had a meeting of the minds, with Garold’s car getting the worst of it. When the dust settled, we had been pushed close to the edge of the road and could see several hundred feet down into the canyon.

In about 1958, Garold and Daryl and I “triple dated” (maybe the only time I ever did that). My date was Susie Warring, a cute blond classmate who lived with her parents in the historic “Warring Mansion” on the hill in Piru. Sorry, but 58 years after the fact I cannot recall the names of the girls that Garold and Daryl dated. I do remember, though, that we went to the drive-in theater in Santa Paula. And then we parked in that popular romantic spot – Kenny’s Grove park – for a steamy hour or so.

Ah, . . . those were the good old days. 

 

 

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What Jesus Said About Death

by Dr. Leroy Garrett

Soldier On! (An Occasional Essay #188 on Oct. 24, 207)

 

The old Bibles with the words of Jesus printed in red seem to be a thing of the past. The implication was that the words in red — those uttered by Jesus himself — are more important and deserve more respect and closer attention. I agree with this. While all truths are equally true, all truths are not equally important.

We accept as inspired Scripture what the prophets and apostles wrote, and highly treasure them, but we might rightly elevate what our Lord himself said to a category all its own. We might argue with Paul, even disagree with some of his conclusions, but we are reluctant to question anything our Lord said.

The odd thing in all this is that some of Jesus most remarkable sayings are tucked away in Scripture and virtually ignored, even if printed in red — or they are at least given little relevance to the living of these days.

This is particularly true of things our Lord said about death. The world might justly accuse the church of not really believing them. They are so overwhelming in their import that it convenient not to take them seriously. I want to call three or four of these sayings to your attention.

 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56).

The New Jerusalem Bible puts it this way: Your father Abraham rejoiced to think that he would see my Day; and he saw it and was glad.”This is a most remarkable statement. Our Lord seems to be saying that Abraham — “dead” for centuries — is not only alive and conscious, but he is a witness to the advent of the Christ into human history. Some scholars think this refers to Abraham seeing by prophetic faith the Christ when he looked upon Isaac, the child of promise; but the context suggests that Jesus is saying that Abraham is now alive in heaven and sees what is happening on planet earth — that the day of Christ has come.

Reading this in context, one sees that the Pharisees had just affirmed that “Abraham is dead,” twice in fact. Abraham is dead as are all the prophets, they insisted, so how could Jesus speak of death the way he did — as if the dead are not really dead? Since they claimed to be sons of Abraham and were yet rejecting Jesus, the Lord is telling them that the father of their faith is not only not dead, but that he now sees the reality of what he had hoped to see when he was on earth. When the Christ came into the world to reconcile human kind to God, father Abraham was among the “cloud of witnesses” that saw it, and rejoiced.

That the dead are not really dead was paramount in Jesus’ teaching. In Luke 20:37 he refers to the story of Moses and the burning bush and saw it as teaching “the resurrection of the dead” — apparently all the dead. He tells how God is there described as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Jesus then says, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him” (Luke 20:38).

That the dead are as much alive and conscious as the living, only in a different dimension, is so overwhelming that it may be beyond our comprehension. But it is basic to our Lord’s view of death, and so we can accept by faith, If not by sight, that our honored dead are actually alive and conscious somewhere in God’s vast eternity.

Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 24:43).

This stunning and surprising promise — uttered in agony to a condemned thief — says something significant about Jesus view of death. To him death was but the door to the Paradise of God, and he was taking a despised thief with him, and that very day!

That a lowly thief would at one moment be dying ignominiously on a cross would at the next moment be with the glorious Christ in Paradise is mind-boggling grace. And is not death here a mere transition from here to there, and apparently instantaneous? That makes death next to nothing!

Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he shall never taste death (John 8:51).

This liberating declaration delivers us from what we most dread, death. It promises that if we are believers we will never taste of death. This preposterous claim, as the Pharisees saw it, is what led them to charge Jesus with having a demon. Something has to be wrong with someone who claims that some people will not die. Even father Abraham died, and all the prophets died, they pointed out.

And we could add that [Martin] Luther, [John] Calvin, [John] Knox, and [Alexander] Campbell all died. And our parents. No, Jesus says, they are all alive unto God. Of course they “die” in the sense of leaving the body and departing from planet earth, but they are still persons and are conscious of what is going on.

What matters here is that there is no cut-off point in our relationship with God. Death is no obstacle or detour. It is in fact the door that leads home. At any moment in the days of our flesh we are but a heartbeat from glory. Unless in an illness we are temporarily unconscious or in a coma, we are never unconscious, and are never for a moment separated from God’s presence. We might well be aware that we are departing from our body, and may see it as we leave it behind.

This is why I do not want my body laid out as a corpse in a coffin for friends and loved ones to look upon. I want them to see life, not death. As Paul put it, when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Being absent from the body we will no longer be in need of it. It is only the house we lived in for a time. If possible let it be used in some way for the common good, and then disposed of expeditiously.

That is why I have willed my body to the Southwestern Medical School in Dallas [Texas]. They are only a phone call away. I have long told Ouida, that all she needs to do when the time comes is to pick up the phone and make a call. They do the rest, down to at last cremating the remains and placing the ashes in their own memory garden, anonymously. No big deal. No sweat. No visits to a funeral home. No expense.

I make these choices because I believe what our Lord said about death. I will not really “die” at all, but simply fly away home. If there is a service it can be a homegoing celebration rather than a funeral, with no signs of death present.

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End of this issue.

 

 

Issue 332 – Stan Paregien’s 15 eBooks Online

The Paregien Journal  –  Issue 332  –  May 4, 2016  –  Stan Paregien Sr., Editor

Periodically I need to stop and introduce my newer internet friends to some of the other things I have written over the years. So what follows here are thumbnail descriptions of the fifteen (15) eBooks of mine which are currently for sale online in a variety of popular formats.

I hope to have another eBook finished by the end of the summer, this one a non-fiction book with loads of photos and information about places and people in our recently adopted state, Florida. When that one is complete, I plan to start the most challenging non-fiction book of my entire career. Can’t tell you much about it, except that it will probably take a year or two for me to complete it. And I hope it will be my best and most-widely received.

After those two very serious projects end, I’ll ease off the keyboard and chip away at my “bucket list” of over 15 more writing projects. Do you know the story of Mrs. Winchester of the famed, odd-ball “Winchester House” in San Jose, California? Well, her hubby invented the Winchester brand rifle. He made a king-sized fortune on the manufacture of his guns and ammunition. After his death, Mrs. Winchester began listening way too much to a gypsy fortuneteller who convinced her that she would not die as long as there were carpenters at work on her house. So this dear lady with deep pockets kept crews of carpenters busy 24-hours of every day for years. So her house had doors and stairways that led nowhere and rooms that had been remodeled dozens of times. But, bless this mislead lady, her heart stopped way before the hammers and saws would have.

Unlike Mrs. Winchester, I really am not working away at my eBooks under some similar delusion that as long as I’m working on a manuscript I will not die. I’m a realist in the awareness that I may not even finish this page, let alone another manuscript, before the Good Lord calls me  to that Writers Retirement Home in the Sky. God knows I’m ready when He is, but I just don’t want to get on the Gospel Train today if it can be helped. So I keep writing.

In the meantime, please read through this information about what I have already done.

 

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There you have it, friends. My blog for today. I really do appreciate you stopping by once in a while to catch up on what is going on in my corner of the world. I am absolutely amazed at the fact we get visits from people in so many countries around the world. Even a few that I’m gonna have to look on a map and find out where they’re located.

From January 1 to May4, 2016, we had visitors from an amazing 64 countries in the world. Here is the list in order of frequency, with the visitors from the United States being 20 times as many as the next country:

(1) United States, (2) France, (3) German, (4) United Kingdom, (5) Columbia, (6) Brazil, (7) Spain, (8) Netherlands, (9) India, (10) South Africa, (11) Hungary, (12) (13) Australia, (14) Jamaica, (15) Norway, (16) Italy, (17) Ghana, (18) Switzerland, (19) Finland, and (20) Sweden.

Also:  Ireland, Poland, European Union, Thailand, Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Chech Republic, Venezuala, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, Trinidad & Tobago, Belgium, Israel, Chile, Mexico, Twaiwon, Serbia, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Jordan, Ukraine, Russia, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, Iceland, Lebanon, Peru, Mayotte, Turkey, Kuwait, Greece, Sri Lanka, Georgia (Russia), Morocco, British Virgin Islands, Ecuador, Romania, and Vatican City.

What? Vatican City. Yep, Vatican City. Hmmm. Wonder if one of them was the Pope?

That wide and semi-permanent exposure of my thoughts to others in other cultures is another reason I keep on writing. 

See ya next time.  

 — Stan                Stan Paregien, Storyteller -- 01--D   300 dpi

P.S. The above logo was designed for me by my late sister, Roberta Paregien Fournier, who died in 2015. I miss my littl’ sister a whole bunch almost every day.

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Issue 321, The Spiritual Life

The Paregien Journal   –  Issue 321  –  February 2, 2016

Stan Paregien, Editor

 

The Spiritual Life

Welcome, friends, to another issue of The Paregien Journal. This blog falls into the “eclectic” category I suppose, reflecting my personal interest in a whole range of topics. And on this occasion I have gathered a collection of diverse essays under the heading of “The Spiritual Life.”

Spiritual life

These materials are worthy of your consideration no matter what the status of your personal spiritual life. You may be an agnostic, an atheist, a Buddist, a Muslem, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian or a Hindu. The thoughtful person is always aware of his intellectual short-comings and holds firmly onto what he knows now, pending further information or investigation. That is an honest and commendable way to live.

I would simply ask you to take off your critic’s hat as you read these materials. Read as a open-minded searcher for the kind of truths which can make each of us a wiser, happier and better person. Afterward, you may want to meditate for a while on what applications this material has to your own life. And then decide what ethical, moral and theological concepts go beyond probable and good to that which is clearly best for your spiritual life. 

 

No One-Dimensional People

by Edward Fudge

When I was a child, there was a man at the other end of the block whom we kids named “Grouchy Grubbs.” Whether he disliked boys and girls in general or only those who were his neighbors we did not know, but he certainly did not like little Fudges, Dunnavants, Chandlers, Kuykendalls, Chumleys, Rollingses, Curtises or Williamses–the families with children growing up on Chandler Drive. He was a one-dimensional man with a single attribute. He was grouchy. His grouchiness contrasted sharply with the sparkling wit of a young widower named Clinton, to whom we bestowed the nickname “Mr. Candy-man.”

Most of our families attended the same church, where for many years Clinton was the primary song leader and also served as church treasurer. He loved children, whom he also loved to tease. Every Sunday when the final “Amen” had been said, Clinton distributed hard candies to all the little tykes found assembled in our midst. This would certainly be a better world, we concluded, if there were no Grouchy Grubbses and if there were many more Clintons.

I do not know what became of Grouchy Grubbs, except in general — as we children grew up, he grew old. One day he retired. Eventually he died, as did his wife. Turns out he had a normal family with normal blessings and normal problems. In fact, he probably was no more grouchy than normal. Mr Candy-man continued passing out the sweets and teasing the children, leading the singing, and counting the offering–a one-man job since our church was so small.

Then one day he was gone, leaving to his motherless only child the pretty new house he had been building for several years, as he got the money. There was only one problem with this picture: the more money Clinton got, the less money the church seemed to have. The elders discovered this problem and confronted Clinton. He agreed to meet with them after the weekend and explain everything. But before the day arrived for that meeting, he used his gun to end it all.

There are no one-dimensional people, just one-dimensional thinking. I am neither all good or all bad, and neither are you, nor is anyone either of us will ever meet. We all have specks of gold mixed with our earthly clay, and problems and weaknesses and sins. We all struggle with burdens, carry loads that weigh us down, cherish aspirations and ambitions and goals.

As we enter the new year 2016, let us resolve to be merciful, to show compassion, to think the best of others, and to be quick to share a word of encouragement or a helping hand. Life is too short to do otherwise. We have God’s forgiveness, his Spirit, his promises, and his Presence. Let us remember who we are and whose we are — and live accordingly. Be blessed–and be a blessing!

[Found in Edward Fudge’s GracEmail newsletter dated Dec. 27, 2015.]

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Two Essays on Mormonism

by Dr. Leroy Garrett

Written in his Soldier On! newsletter in 2006.

 Essay 1: “A Mormon Funeral”

When it comes to Mormons it seems that “I’ve been there and done that.” I have attended the services of all four wards (congregations) that meet in the two chapels in my home town, as they call their churches. I even went through the Mormon temple in Dallas when it first opened, which a “Gentile” could do before it was dedicated. I have studied their history and doctrine, talked to their missionaries, and enjoyed their friendship, including the only two doctors, beloved physicians indeed, that I have had during my 44 years in Denton. Both Mormons!

But I had never been to a Mormon funeral. When the son/grandson of a prominent Denton business family drowned in a river accident in Idaho, I decided to attend his funeral, not only out of respect for the family, but for a new Mormon experience.You might call it an ecumenical urge.

The deceased, a handsome chap who died a few days short of turning 21, was in his second year at Brigham Young University. Already an elder in the church, he was scheduled to begin his two-year mission-ary assignment in December.

There was the usual viewing at the chapel the evening before the funeral, which I did not attend. I was one of the first to arrive for the service, but the chapel, now with extra chairs, was soon filled, upwards of 600. A ward usually has around 300 members. For this funeral there must have been many non-Mormons present. Organ music began some 20 minutes before the service.

Since it was a funeral and not a memorial service, I supposed there would be the casket at front center. There was no casket, and but a select number of standing floral pieces. The casket was still in a side room with the family gathered around it. As in other churches, we stood as the large family filed in to the central area reserved for them. It was then that the casket was rolled in, but it was placed not at front center, but to the right side, rather unobtrusive and of course unopened. The deceased, if he has advanced to priesthood, will usually be buried in white, with a priestly sash around a shoulder.

The president of the stake (a group of wards) presided, while the bishop of the ward (equal to the pastor in a Protestant church) was the conductor. The prayers were led by family members, the eulogy was given by a family friend, a woman; and the message was given by an uncle of the deceased. Another woman, also a family member, sang “O That I Were An Angel,” with piano accompaniment.

The Order of Service had a picture of Jesus on the first page, along with a quotation from 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon – a scripture that is also in the Bible. A substantial part of the Book of Mormon is taken from the Bible. The oddity is that while the Book of Mormon was supposedly written hundreds of years before Christ, there are quotations from the King James Version, which was not produced until 1611!

Book of Morman -- Another Testament of Jesus

On the inside cover were two of the deceased’s favorite scriptures, one from the Book of Mormon and one from Doctrine and Covenants. But the Bible was used in other parts of the service. On the back side was a colorful picture of the deceased – a smiling, charming young man.

 Even though both hymns that were sung were uniquely Mormon, the church’s hymnal, published in Salt Lake City, does have many of the great hymns of the church universal, sung by all Christians.

The first hymn could have been sung only by Mormons, and I noticed that those seated near me seemed to know it by heart. The first line reads We have been born, as Nephi of old/ To godly parents who love the Lord. A line from the chorus has We are the army of Helaman/ We have been taught in our youth. Nephi and Helaman are heroes in the Book of Mormon.

The bishop’s presentation was consistent with my understanding of Mormonism with its emphasis on good works. He quoted with emphasis from James – “Show me your faith without your works, and I will by my works show you my faith.” He emphasized obeying the commandments, and the Mormons have thousands. No reference to Paul in Romans, and no reference to grace.

Some Mormon-watchers refer to this as “the Mormon dilemma” – prodded to keep commandments they cannot keep, to be “worthy” when by nature, like all of us, they are unworthy. As Jesus himself tells us: “When you have done all things commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants’” (Lk. 17:10). Our Lord never promised that our good works would sustain us, but he did say “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9).

The Mormons pay a high price for their works-oriented religion. Some insist – with statistics in hand — that this explains why Utah, predominately Mormon, has far more than its share of mental illness, depression, child (sexual) abuse, teenage pregnancy, divorces, suicide (especially teen suicide).

The “Mormon woman” is named as particularly oppressed, with ongoing depression common. She is to be subservient to her husband, both for time and eternity. She is destined to be “eternally pregnant,” bearing children – along with other of his wives – for her god-husband, who will have his own planet to populate. She must also depend on him for her resurrection from the dead. He is to call her from the grave – using the secret name known only to them, given to them when they married for eternity in the temple. If he doesn’t call, she is without hope. Mormon women might find John 5:25 liberating: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.”

But the message given by the deceased’s uncle was as Christian as one would hear in any evangelical church. He lifted up Christ as the only Savior and our only hope, and as sufficient for all our needs. No reference to The Prophet, to the Book of Mormon, or to “the restored gospel.” Jesus is the only gospel we need!

I found myself wanting to ask him how he could believe what he said and yet believe that one has to be a Mormon to be a true Christian and belong to the true church. How can one believe in the sufficiency of Christ and yet believe in the essentiality of the unique claims of Mormonism? The Mormons do not believe that The Prophet is Savior, but they do believe that he has to deem them worthy before they can go to heaven. Is that faith in Christ as the only Savior?

Christ-centeredness! It was a good way to end the funeral. But I was left with a question that evangelical Christians are asking, Are Mormons Christians?

In response to a cover story about Mormons in Newsweek, a Protestant minister wrote: “The Mormons are not Christians, they are Mormons.” And a Newsweek editor raised the problem faced by Mit Romney, governor of Massachusetts, who might be a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2008. But Romney is a Mormon.

The editor reminded his readers that it was evangelical Christians who put the last three Republican Presidents in the White House, and that no Republican can be elected without the evangelical vote. He ventured that the evangelicals would vote for Hillary Clinton before they would vote for a Mormon.

What is the basis of the evangelical complaint against Mormons? It must be serious if they would vote for Hillary, whom they can’t abide, before they would vote for a Mormon, any Mormon, however attractive he might be otherwise. While in this essay I may have already hinted as some of those reasons, in my next I will spell out some of those reasons in detail. And I will let you decide for yourself. I do not propose to be a judge on this issue,  Are Mormons Christians?  but that is the subject of the next essay.

[Published in Dr. Leroy Garrett’s emailed newsletter, Soldier On!, Essay 133 dated July 27, 2006 ]

 

 Essay 2:  “Are Mormons Christians?”

by Dr. Leroy Garrett

I have an uneasiness about this subject. Who am I to say who is or who is not a Christian? The Lord knows those who are his, as Scripture says, not I. But in my last essay I referred to a Newsweek article in which evangelical Christians were described as not believing that Mormons are Christians – a view that may well be held by Christians generally. I promised that in this essay I would explain why they feel this way.

The Mormons certainly see themselves as Christians, and they are understandably offended when accused of not being. But it is such a commonly held view that on Larry King Live,  Larry — who is married to a Mormon — asked the current president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whom he was interviewing, if Mormons were Christians. The authoritative voice of the Mormon church replied – a bit impatiently I detected – “Certainly we are Christians!”

This suspicion of Mormons takes different forms. Years ago when I was back at Princeton Seminary (Presbyterian) I happened to sit at the alumni banquet with a renowned professor, with whom I had studied decades earlier. He told me he had recently been to Brigham Young University to lecture for the Mormons, and he expressed surprise that they invited him. Thinking it appropriate to say something positive, I mentioned that the Mormons make good neighbors and upstanding citizens. To which he replied, “Yes, if they didn’t have to believe so many crazy things.”

That is the way many Christians see them – they believe and practice a lot of crazy things. But some translate that into They are not Christians, insisting that what is wrong is not just “crazy” but grossly anti-biblical and anti-Christian.

Most Mormons – perhaps the president and prophet himself – might be surprised to learn that no less an authority than Brigham Young insisted that Mormons were not Christians, for they were more than Christians. “We are a special people of God,” he said. That appears to be how they see themselves – their prophet Joseph Smith is the greatest of all prophets; their Scriptures are superior and more reliable than the Bible; and while all other churches are apostate, their church is the only true church.

When critics – some of them ex-elite “Temple Mormons” — accuse Mormons of not being Christians what charges do they make? After considerable reading on this subject, I list here the most significant accusations – which are always documented from Mormon sources.

  1. The Mormon God is not the Christian God.

 This is the severest test for any religion. If it is wrong about God, little else matters. C. S. Lewis observed that there are only two kinds of religions – those which believe in the one, eternal God of the universe, such as the Judeo-Christian faith, and those that believe in many gods, such as Hinduism and paganism.

Mormonism is in the second category in that it teaches that every male Mormon can become a god. Women may become goddesses, but not gods. The essence of Mormonism is to make an infinite number of gods for an infinite universe. Their critics have thus called them “the God Makers.” Already they have made millions of gods, as they see it.

God himself was once a man like the rest of us who proved himself so “worthy” – a key word in Mormonism – that over aeons of self-exaltation he at last became Yahweh God. When the Bible describes God as infinite, eternal, immortal, and immutable it is not describing the Mormon God.

  1. The Mormon Jesus is not the Jesus of Christians.

The Mormon Jesus is not “the Word became flesh.” – or God who became man — but, like God, a man who by being “worthy” became Christ. God, who is polygamous with his many wives, had intercourse with Mary, one of his wives, and Jesus was born. God had other children, one being Lucifer – so Lucifer, who became the prince of devils, and Jesus were brothers. This was in their pre-mortal state.

Moreover, the Mormon Jesus was polygamous while on earth, and he lived to see several of his children. They have Jesus getting married one more time at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.

One will notice that manhood is the doorway to godhood – first a man, then perhaps a god. So with God, so with Jesus. So with all who become gods. This is the rationale for polygamy – all the yet unborn spirits must become human, so they in turn can through good works become gods. And god-making goes on eternally, with the goddesses eternally pregnant. Mormonism potentially has more gods even than Hinduism, whose gods are innumerable.

This is why Mormonism rejects “the fall of man” or original sin. Brigham Young said man fell upwards. The so-called “fall” was a blessing in disguise, Young said, for in it man began to learn how to become a god. Man is basically good, an “embryonic god” in fact.

This is also why Mormonism has little or no doctrine of the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit has apparently never become a man – and so is not God. You can now understand the Mormon adage “As man now is God once was, as God is man may become.” But is it Christian?

 3.  Mormonism is a cult, and so cannot be truly Christian.

If this charge is true and comes to be generally understood, it could have a devastating effect on Mormonism. For the general public – not just the religious — abhors cults. It even fears them.

A cult may be defined as:

(1)  Formed around a charismatic leader who is esteemed as a spokesman for God, who has unquestioned authority over them, demands absolute obedience, and has a hyper ego;

(2)  Having its own ongoing revelations from God, which may take the form of extra-biblical scriptures;

(3)  Having weird and bizarre doctrines and practices, often expressed in secret rituals,

(4)  Seeing itself as a special, superior people of God, it judges others as inferior, apostate, abominable.

 

Mormonism appears to qualify as a cult

 on every point listed above, such as

(numbers below correspond to numbers above):

(1)  Joseph Smith is the unique, charismatic figure of Mormonism, who was no ordinary prophet. He restored the true church of Jesus Christ, apart from which there is no salvation. Even the most devout Christian, biblically baptized, must accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and be baptized into the Mormon church to be saved. The Prophet and The Brethren who are his successors have absolute authority and are not to be questioned. As they themselves put it, “When The Brethren speak, the thinking has already been done.”

(2) The Mormons have at least three “Bibles” of their own — the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Since they see the Bible as corrupted through the centuries, the Mormon scriptures are superior. Besides, they have twelve apostles, one of whom is president and prophet – successor to Joseph Smith – who receives revelations and speaks for God.

In 1870 – after the Supreme Court ruled against polygamy – the sitting prophet received a revelation that was to end polygamy, though it did not actually condemn the practice, for that would have contradicted their scriptures, which make polygamy “a divine law.” And in 1978 – after 150 years of being racist – the church through its prophet received a revelation that gave equal rights to blacks, even though the Book of Mormon still makes dark skin a curse of God.

(3)  What is more weird and bizarre than what goes on in the scores of Mormon temples around the world? There are secret rituals and oaths (revealed only at pain of death), a secret handshake, and secret under garments with markings like those of the Masons (the Prophet was a Mason).

Couples are “sealed” in marriage to each other for eternity; each receives a secret name, which the man uses to call his wife from the grave. When a wife dies a veil is placed over her face in the coffin, where it is to stay until her husband calls. But he is to have other wives in heaven, all of whom will be eternally bearing children so as to populate their god-husband’s own universe.

But the temples are more for the dead than for the living. They are awesome to the average Mormon. Yet 70% never enter one due to being unworthy, which makes “Temple Mormons” the elite. The dead of all human history may still be saved – multiplied billions of them. Their spirits gather in the temples, begging to be saved. They can still believe “the restored gospel” of Joseph Smith and be baptized, except a living Mormon is actually baptized for each of them.

 But the dead must first be identified and authenticated as having lived, with appropriate data recorded. And so the Mormons are also genealogists with a depository of millions, if not billions, of names in a mountain vault near Salt Lake City. The point is to be baptized for them. Some Mormons have been baptized for hundreds, even  thousands, who may have lived centuries in the past. “A church for the dead,” they are called. They see themselves as the saviors of all humankind, the dead of ages past as well as the living.

 (4)  Salvation is only in the Mormon church, which has all the truth of God, a claim common to all cults.

 While Christians in general base their salvation not on their own worthiness or good works but upon the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, the Mormon church offers salvation only in “the one true church” and by being “worthy” through good works.

That contradicts the great truth of the Christian faith. If one can be saved by his own worthiness, then the sacrifice of Christ was unnecessary. As the Bible puts it –- “Not by any works of righteousness which we have done ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5). Man is a sinner before God, not an embryonic god. We were not created to be gods, but to be human beings conformed to the image of Christ, both in this world and in the world to come (Philippians 3:20-21).

In the light of all this it is understandable that many Mormon watchers do not see them as Christians. The fact remains, however, that they often act like Christians, and impressively so.They will point out to you that theirs is virtually the only church with “Jesus Christ” in its name. If you attend their services you will never hear them pray except in the name of Christ. They glorify Christ in praise and song. They acknowledge him as the risen Lord, and do good works in his name.

The issue before us raises a question that I don’t know the answer to – How wrong might one be and still be a Christian?

The church in Corinth had many things amiss, but Paul still saw them as the body of Christ. Admittedly, the line has to be drawn somewhere. We can probably agree that to be a Christian one’s heart has to be right – a heart for Christ. And only God knows the heart.

The answer we seek might be different if we asked about Mormonism itself rather than the individual Mormon – Is Mormonism Christian?

It would be like asking if Calvinism is Christian (Thomas Jefferson said Calvin’s God is a demon) rather than asking if Presbyterians are Christians.

Many Mormons – perhaps most – do not know about the “crazy,” cultish things revealed above. The missionaries do not reveal them in conversion, and The Brethren reveal them to the initiated only gradually. Mormon history is one of lying and deceit. Even Joseph Smith with his plurality of wives (27 according to a Mormon historian’s count; 46 by ex-Mormon Faun Brody’s listing, with some as young as 13) denied he was a polygamist up to his dying day!

You have to give him credit – it is not every man who can keep 46 wives under cover. No pun intended! But it was generally known, and it was one more reason why a mob stormed the jail in Carthage, Mo. in 1844 – where he was held for treason – and murdered him. He was earlier jailed for fraud in reference to deals related to digging for money. And yet he placed himself a close second to Christ himself!

But typical Mormons do not know these stories. The Mormon church is a good family church with high moral values, as they see it. They go to church – well, half do, half don’t (“Jack Mormons” are what they call their folks who don’t go to church). They work hard to be good Christians. Some of them know what Mormonism teaches, and do not believe it. But where do they go since all other churches are also false? They accept the good and try to ignore the bad.

Sound familiar?

When we ask whether others are Christians, it is just as well to turn the question on ourselves, Are we Christians?

Some of us are probably more Christian than some of our dogmas. That may be where at least some Mormons are.

[Published in Dr. Leroy Garrett’s emailed newsletter, Soldier On!, Essay 134 dated August 4, 2006 ]

Dr. Garrett died in 2015. He was a prolific writer up until a few weeks before his death. You will find many, if not most, of his writings posted at:

http://www.leroygarrett.org/

____________________

Psalm 23 For the Work Place

Author Unknown

Workers

The Lord is my real boss, and I shall not want.
He gives me peace, when chaos is all around me.
He gently reminds me to pray and do all things
without murmuring and complaining.

He reminds me that he is my source and not my job.
He restores my sanity everyday and guides my decisions
that I might honor him in all that I do.

Even though I face absurd amounts of e-mails, system
crashes, unrealistic deadlines, budget cutbacks, gossiping
co-workers, discriminating supervisors and an aging
body that doesn’t cooperate every morning, I still will not
stop—for He is with me! His presence, His peace,
and His power will see me through.

He raises me up, even when they fail to promote me.
He claims me as His own, even when the company
threatens to let me go.
His Faithfulness and love is better than any
bonus check.

His retirement plan beats every 401k there is.
When it’s all said and done, I’ll be working for Him
a whole lot longer and for that, I bless his name.

Spiritual life  --  02

____________________________________________

The Paradox of Dying to Live:

Considering the Intent of Romans 6:7

by Al Maxey*

In his epistle to the Roman brethren, Paul makes a statement that has caused some degree of speculation, the understanding (or misunderstanding) of which has also led to doctrines and dogmas boldly proclaimed and perpetuated by a number of disciples of Christ. That statement is found in Romans 6:7, which reads, “For he that is dead is freed from sin” (KJV).

The question that has arisen in the minds of many is: What is meant by the term “dead” in this passage? We will come back to that, but first we discover from the text that the result of this death is the blessing of being “freed from sin.” The Greek word here translated as “freed” is “dikaioo,” which means “to be acquitted, cleared, freed, vindicated; to be declared just and righteous; to stand approved and accepted.”

The point Paul makes to his brothers and sisters in Christ is that they have been cleared of sin and freed from its power over them. They are now regarded by the Father as just and righteous, and thereby accepted by Him into an intimate relationship with Him. This Greek word in Romans 6:7 is a perfect passive indicative, which means the person stands having been set free, based on a past act, from the power, guilt and consequence of sin.

Dr. A.T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, makes note of this Greek construction and says this term means “to stand justified; set free from.” That past act, that secures our freedom, is stated in the text to be DEATH. Because one has died, that one is now free. This, in fact, is one of the primary teachings of Paul in this chapter (as well as throughout this epistle).

Notice the following two paragraphs from Reflections #617 (“Reenacting Our Redemptive Reality”):

Look at the context of Romans 6. Read it carefully. What is Paul talking about in this passage? Is he building a theology around baptism in water? Is he declaring this rite to be THE precise point of contact with the blood of Jesus Christ? Is this passage from the pen of Paul, as some claim, about baptism?! Far from it.

Baptism  --  07  baptism by immersion -  beliver's baptism

Indeed, the rite of baptism in water is entirely incidental to his primary message; it is only mentioned in passing. Paul’s point is: “you have been set free from sin” (vs. 18, 22); “we died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (vs. 2). “Our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (vs. 6-7). “Count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin…” (vs. 11-13). “Sin shall not be your master” (vs. 14).

As those who have been set free in Christ Jesus; as those who are washed in His blood; as those who are cleansed — we are now called to reflect that reality in our daily lives. As recipients of His grace we are to be reflectors of His holiness. Returning to a life of sin should be unthinkable to those who are now set free from it. Thus, in this chapter, Paul twice asks: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (vs. 1-2). “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (vs. 15).

By virtue of His grace and through our faith, we have received the blessing of being united with Him in the likeness of His death and resurrection (vs. 5). “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (vs. 3). What is the significance of this death? Paul gives us the answer: “The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God” (vs. 10). In our spiritual union with our Savior, we also have died to sin that we might live “in newness of life” — i.e., lives of purity and holiness, reflecting His nature rather than our own.

Paul is reminding the disciples in Rome that their baptism symbolizes this great reality, and they need to be conducting themselves according to the Great Reality they reflected in that rite. In their immersion they validated their faith in our Lord’s death, burial (entombment) and resurrection, and all that His act signifies; now, in their daily lives, they need to continually reflect this reality in a visible manner to the world about them. They are ambassadors of grace, children of God, and they need to behave as such. “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (vs. 4).

Paul is nowhere in this chapter saying that baptism in water SAVES us; nor does he even suggest that we “contact the blood” of the Savior in the baptistery. In our baptism we have publicly committed ourselves, in a visible profession of faith, to living lives “dead to sin” and devoted to righteousness and holiness. Baptism is an act of faith, but it is also, in some ways, a vow. In this act of faith in what He has done for us, we vow, in a very public, visible manner, to die to self and live for Him.

Baptism  --  a covenant -- 01

Don’t we also do the same in the wedding ceremony? A man and woman, in a very public manner, vow to die to self and live for the other! Is that ceremony (or some precise point within it) what unites this man and women in a covenant with one another before their God? Covenant takes place IN THE HEART, and that covenant was entered into before they “walked down the aisle.” Yes, this public profession is important and has a place as a “point of public remembrance,” but it reflects and represents a reality already present within the hearts of this man and woman prior to this ceremony. It is the same with baptism (although this statement will not sit well with the sacramentalists).

Romans 6:7 teaches us that if we are to experience the blessing of being freed from sin and regarded by the Lord as justified, if we are to be accepted by Him into a life affirming relationship, a death must occur. This is not a reference to the death of Jesus (at least not directly, although His death is certainly in the mind of the one dying), nor is it a reference to our physical death. Rather, it is a spiritual death of the old nature so that we might live in newness of life (a life in which we are Spirit filled and led). But, again, we come to the question: What is this death we are to experience, and when does it take place?

Many within my own faith-heritage believe this “death” that frees us from sin occurs at the point of baptism in water. They teach that baptism itself is the precise point of our cleansing and freeing from sin, thus investing it with a sacramental power.

Notice the comments of Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann on this passage from the pen of Paul: “We Christians, by virtue of our Baptism, are dead unto sin and live unto God, because the new life of God is planted into our hearts in Baptism” [Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 2, p. 32]. He goes on: “In Baptism the believer dies with Christ. . . . The new spiritual life which he has received in Baptism. . . . Crucified with Christ in Baptism. . .. By virtue of our Baptism, sin is removed. … Salvation: this our Baptism has worked, effected, in us. Because the old Adam, in Baptism, has been killed. … That is the wonderful blessing and benefit of Baptism” [ibid, p. 31]. The author always uses the upper case “B” in writing this word, for he regards this act as a holy sacrament: i.e., by this act itself one receives salvation, justification, and release from sin. Baptism itself, therefore, according to Dr. Kretzmann’s view, is HOLY, for IT is what effects our union with the Lord.

The apostle Paul, however, is not elevating baptism in water, or any other human act, to the status of a salvific sacrament. Baptism is not the “death” of which Paul speaks, but merely a visible and symbolic representation of that death. If we are to benefit from the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, then we too must die. Although baptism in water is a reenactment of HIS death, burial and resurrection, it is not the death of which Paul speaks in Romans 6:7. Thus, the question remains: What is that death, and when does it take place?

Ephesians 2 v8  --  Salvation by faith  --  01

The teaching of Paul, and of all Scripture, is that we embrace grace by faith! When I finally come to perceive the spiritual significance of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and when I put my complete trust in HIS act on my behalf, by that faith I die to self and lift Him up as Lord and Savior. I do indeed reflect that faith by repentance and confession, and even by a reenactment of HIS act (by being immersed in water), but it was BY FAITH that I died to self so as to live in/for Him. All else merely reflects that inner reality.

Thus, by faith I die with Him, and by faith I receive the benefit of HIS death, burial and resurrection, which is a freeing from the effects of sin. I am free; I am liberated; I am accepted, I am justified. And yes, I will SHOW this reality of salvation by grace through faith every day in countless ways, one of which is the visible reenactment in baptism of HIS redeeming act.

Adam Clarke rightly observed, “Does not this simply mean: the man who has received Christ Jesus by faith, and has been, through believing, made a partaker of the Holy Spirit, has had his old man, all his evil propensities, destroyed; so that he is not only justified freely from all sin, but wholly sanctified unto God? The context shows that this is the meaning” [Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 77].

The Greek scholar Dr. Kenneth Wuest concurs, pointing out that the word “dead” in our text “is aorist tense in the Greek text, namely, ‘he who died,’ referring to the historical fact of a believing sinner being identified with Christ in His death on the cross” [Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek NT, Vol. 1, p. 102].

David Lipscomb wrote, “The old man that followed sin was crucified through faith in Jesus” [A Commentary on the NT Epistles, Vol. 1, p. 117]. He then quotes the apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). Earlier in that same chapter, Paul wrote, “We have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ” (Galatians 2:16). In our text (Romans 6:7), Paul indicated that we are freed/justified as a result of a “death.” We died to the old man BY FAITH, and we received His declaration of freedom from sin by our faith in His redemptive act. We evidence that faith in a number of ways, one of which is baptism.

“This annulling of the power of sin is based on a recognized principle: death settles all claims. Our union with Christ in His death, which was designed to deal with sin once for all, means that we are free from the hold of sin. Its mastery is broken” [The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, p. 70].

“Death annuls all obligations, breaks all ties, cancels all old scores” [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. 2, p. 633].

The ancient Jewish rabbis stated in their writings, “When one is dead he is free from commands.”

We are dead to law; we are dead to legislation; we are dead to command-keeping; we are dead to sin. We are liberated; we are free. By faith we have cast off the old man of our sinful nature, and we are made alive with Christ Jesus. Paul, following his statement in Romans 6:7, spends much of the remainder of the chapter discussing the practical aspects (as seen in daily living) of this death to our old nature resulting in freedom from sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

Does this mean we are now perfect, and that we never sin? Of course not. In the latter part of the very next chapter (Romans 7:14f), Paul details his continuing struggle with sin. We daily stumble in our walk, but we are no longer slaves to sin, but merely victims of sin, with the good news being that we are sinners saved by grace, and in our inner man we have died to sin, even though in our flesh there is still weakness which far too often evidences itself in sinful ways. Yet, thanks be to God, for “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:1-2). By faith we die; by faith we live! Thank God for His grace!

**********

 Maxey, Al -- Church of Christ -- date unknown 2

 Al Maxey is the author of several books on religious topics and he has defended his theological views in a number of debates. His “Reflections” newsletter, widely read  . . . and often criticized, is free for the asking. This essay was posted in Issue 676, for Sept. 25, 2015. Al preaches for the Cuba Avenue Church of Christ in Alamogordo, New Mexico and is one of the congregation’s shepherds as well. See his web site for back issues of his writings and for listings of his books and CDs and/or to sign up to receive his free newsletter:    http://www.zianet.com/maxey/

 ____________________ 

Bible -- CS Lewis on not using Scriptures as weapons

Knowing So Much
But So Little

by Edward Fudge
Copyrighted Jan. 3, 2016

The second year of high school found me enrolled in a vocational class in commercial printing. A loud, smelly machine called a Linotype made a “line o’ type” from melted lead. The printing “press” inked the type with hard rubber rollers and “pressed” paper sheets against the type like a giant rubber stamp. My first assignment was to clean the rollers with gasoline and a large cloth. I saw what looked like six or eight large ink rollers, scrubbed them with a vengeance, then asked the boss to check my work. A quick look later he turned the big flywheel that moved the rollers, bringing up from somewhere in the depths a second set of rollers badly in need of a good cleaning. I thought I knew what to do and how to do it. Instead, to my embarrassment, I discovered how very, very little I knew.

That is much the way I feel these days, as I seek to retain and regain control over a damaged body and mind that play havoc with moods and emotions, randomly ignore or distort operating orders from the brain, create a variety of pains in both legs and feet, and make up new rules as we go along. Two culprits have joined forces to cause this mischief. First is Parkinson’s Disease (PD), with whom many of you are all too familiar as either caregiver or patient. My diagnosis was 13 years ago but the disease remained largely invisible for another decade until repeated back surgeries stirred it into action. The second culprit is a disease process known as “severe sensory-motor polyneuropathy,” recognizable by physical weakness and disability and by chronic pain.

As stated above, I am rapidly learning how little I know about things I thought I knew. After all, I have been a preacher/teacher for 50+ years and a lawyer for nearly 30. In both professions others looked to me as an “answer-man” concerning things in heaven and on earth respectively. But regardless of the number or the nature of the questions we have answered, I suspect that none of us, when assaulted by misfortune and called to suffer, will ever fully understand the answers to the big questions we all find ourselves asking–questions such as “Why?” and “Why me?”

Yet in this frustrated world groaning for redemption we can improve our perspective and learn to ask instead, “Why not me?” And we can always work on learning how better to wait (Romans 8:18-22). Meanwhile, the best knowledge we can gain is not “book-knowledge” as such, but relational knowledge born of experience in applying biblical principles to life as we encounter it together day by day (Colossians 1:9- 11).

On this subject, the simplest truths are often the most profound, and we can sum them up as faith, hope and love. The most important truth is that God loves us in spite of ourselves, which means we can trust him whatever the present appearances. The final chapter to our story is not yet written, making hope possible, necessary, and very relevant. And when all is said and done, and there is nothing more we can say or do to help, we again confess to God that he is all we have and that we are in his hands to stay. It just might be that the little we do know turns out to be very much indeed.

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* Edward Fudge is a lawyer, a preacher, and an author of several popular religious books. This copyrighted essay was published online on Jan. 3, 2016. You may contact him at his web site and sign up to receive his free GracEmail newsletter: http://edwardfudge.com/

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AA  Fair Use Disclaimer - 01 -- designed on by Stan Paregien Sr on 2016-02-01

End of This Issue

Issue 304 — Focusing on Jesus

Issue 304    —    The Paregien Journal    —    July 25, 2015

Focusing on Jesus 

by Stan Paregien Sr

I have chosen to devote this page today to some issues with our religious thinking and behavior. The articles which I have selected highlight the fact that, through Christian history, our God’s desire has been for us to focus our faith on loving Him and pleasing Him by loving others and caring for the needy and downtrodden.

Where we have all hit road bumps is in such areas as (1) erroneously equating Bible knowledge with personal knowledge of Him and His Son, Jesus; (2) creating creeds, rules and rituals and then dividing from any believer who doesn’t accept that package; and, (3) focusing our faith on our performance-based and knowledge-based religion.” That is, believing we are always “right” (and others always “wrong”) on understanding the Bible, on doctrinal clarity and correctness, and on moral perfection.

Religion  --  knowledge-based, cartoon 'You Might Be Wrong'

This evil spirit of sectarianism and arrogance has dishonored God. It also has divided believers into hundreds of narrow-minded groups who believe they, alone, are God’s people. And It has kept honest searchers for God confused and discouraged.

However, all is not lost. We must confess our failures and give up our do-it-yourself religion, and focus our faith on Jesus Christ as the only way to God’s salvation. Please keep these concepts in mind as you read the rest of this material. 

–SP

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Can Jesus Survive Religion’s Failures?

by Dr. Rubel Shelly

One of the great strengths of the Christian faith has been its ability to endure, accommodate, and use the cultural shifts across the centuries without losing its essence. Even in its most misguided forms, the Christian religion has continued to pass along its central message about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

People in the most abysmal of churches in the most corrupt of cultures still have been counted among the redeemed. There were people in a church Jesus pronounced “dead” whose names were still in his Book of Life (cf. Revelation 3:1-6). They had been granted divine favor on account of God’s great love and in spite of church inadequacies or their personal failures.

Some who have been kicked out of churches became more vitally engaged in the Kingdom of God for their sufferings – whether Luther or Tyndale or myriad individuals and groups whose names are unknown to us but precious to Christ.

Over the past 500 years, a type of institutional church has functioned variously as a club, nation-state, forensic society, and irrelevance – all too frequently obscuring the presence and activity of God in the world.

It taught the gospel as laws and steps, creedal statements and confessions. There was little tolerance for leaving anything unexplained and even less tolerance for persons who did not hail the explanation offered – contrived as it might have been – as conclusive.

The Christian faith was termed a “system,” and one’s place within that system was determined by an all-or-nothing attitude toward it.

When agreement on some fine point of doctrine was not forthcoming, individuals and groups felt free to break off and further fragment the body for the sake of maintaining doctrinal purity. Thus came the formation of literally hundreds of denominations and non-denominations, with each group believing there could be unity only when others renounced their error and embraced its interpretation.

Catholics have done it, and Protestants have too. Churches of Christ have been bad at it, and so have Baptists and Pentecostals. It’s everywhere! And the marvel of it all is that God has been working through those flawed forms and incoherent formulas to reach people, save people, and transform people.

“So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote of himself and his fellow-preachers, “yet they are always going back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus.”

Religion hasn’t killed what Jesus started. When we cut through the forms and failings of church history and look past our own bungling, Jesus is still there.

[Published online on July 18, 2015 at http://www.gracecentered.com/jesus-survive-religions-failures.htm%5D

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All Human Beings Worship Someone or Something

By Curtis K. Shelburne

Copyrighted on Jan. 16, 20014

 Human beings are inherently religious. We will worship someone or something.

 Of course, some folks claim to believe in no god. Truth be told, the deity they refuse to bow before and direct prayers to is rarely a god of the “to whom the universe may concern” generic variety; it’s almost always the Judeo-Christian “God.” 

 Not even the small capital “G” God of truly off-the-rails “left of left, touchy-feely” religion and aging flower children (denying that wispy cut-rate deity must be as satisfying as denying the existence of a cumulus cloud), the God most atheists deny is the large capital “G” God of Believers, Bible-lovers, Baptists and such. God with a holy name. God who is a Person and not an it. The God they can deny and feel like they’ve accomplished something. The God they can slap in the face and feel like they’ve hit Somebody.

 The God many atheists spend their lives resenting (so much that they let themselves be defined by a resentment of Someone they don’t think exists) is often the God of their parents, or their childhood church, or some other group they think has been overly strict with them, potty-trained them poorly, or otherwise ticked them off. Atheism is payback.

 The God they deny is the God whose standards and rules are as real as the law of gravity, but gravity is confining, and they’ve decided to shake it off. Never mind that ignoring gravity on a globe governed by it is uphill business fraught with bumps and bruises.

 Most atheists are unable to espouse disbelief as quietly, as, say, a person who doesn’t believe in collard greens as food. No matter how sincere he is in his conviction that collard greens are a weed and not a food, he feels no particular need to found an Anti-Collard Green Society or take out a sanctimonious ad in the paper; he just doesn’t eat them, and, if you do, he may look down his nose at you, but it’s no skin off his snout.

 Atheists tend to be testy about disbelief. Agnosticism, a more honorable position I think, may partake of these self-righteous qualities, but is often less militant. In our culture, atheism is often an “in your face,” “up yours,” full-blown religion. Agnosticism is a question; atheism is a statement that seems to require, at the least, a raised eyebrow, a gaze down the nose, a snooty sort of disbelief. 

 But gods we will have, even if we toss out God. The psalmists made unmerciful fun of folks who carved statues carefully so they wouldn’t topple over, then put them on stands and worshiped them. But the god-makers the psalmists lampooned had more sense than modern pagans in business suits who worship only themselves and their 401k’s.

 A few decades ago liberals made fun of conservatives who worshiped a God with rules; now many of the same liberals worship rules with no God. They tack up many more commandments than ten. Lacking belief in an afterlife, they center on constricting this one, all in the name of salvation; it’s just that “salvation” is mostly about saving your body (no trans fat and no cigars ever, and don’t even think about taking a Coke can into a school cafeteria) or saving the earth (you never met a Bible thumper more self-righteous or blindly believing than a devout environmentalist so green his brain has molded).

 Human beings will worship someone or something. We may be sure of that. So . . . who or what will we worship? That’s the question.

[Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.Visit his web site: http://www.curtisshelburne.com ]

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Bad Religion

by Rubel Shelly

The bulk of the finest people I have ever known are devoutly religious. But some of the meanest people I’ve ever known are also among the most religious people I’ve ever encountered. I struggled for a long time to figure it out.

For example, one lady I grew to fear and avoid could quote more Scripture than just about anybody in our church. Little kids had better not touch her, though, or she would screech at them and make them cry. Her husband was a cowering little fellow who hardly ever spoke. I never wondered why.

A preacher whom I recall very distinctly had a withering wit that he turned on people to mimic, mock, or otherwise humiliate them. As I think back on it, the worst thing about that memory is that I sometimes laughed as he did it.

If you think I’m making it up that truly devout religious people can be mean-spirited and evil, just read the online comments made to stories in the New York Times or your local newspaper that speak positively about evolution or homosexuality. The invective is too harsh to reproduce here. Some of the comments even use profanity, assign the “godless evolutionist” to hell, or tell the “shameless perverts” that God will damn them at the Final Judgment.

I’ve read a few of those pieces that made me think the writer would kill somebody if he thought he could do it without getting caught. So is it his religion or his fear of the police that keeps him from doing something evil?

Nobody ever read one of those postings and thought the harsh language and judgment it contained helped them see Jesus. Understand his mission to the lost. Want to be his follower. Or give her a positive impression of his people.

So I think I’ve figured out the mystery: Religion can lead people to do hateful and wicked things to people, but loving and following Jesus never does.

Aren’t “religion” and “following Jesus” one and the same thing? Hardly! Religion is the system of beliefs and institutional loyalties one embraces, while following Jesus is the conscious imitation of the person one learns about in the Gospels. And the only people Jesus ever called names or declared in danger of hell were the most religious people of his time and place. They prayed, made pilgrimages, gave money, worshipped with pious looks on their faces, and quoted Scripture. They had no clue about the loving, compassionate nature of God.

Defending a pattern or system, proving my church is better than yours, or trumping my argument with your counter-argument breeds defensiveness. Makes tempers flare. Alienates friends. Starts wars. Makes people nasty. Breaks God’s heart. Following Jesus produces humility and keeps you from being mean.

Jesus never called us to be religious. He said, “Follow me.”

[Dr. Rubel Shelly is the chancellor of Rochester College in Rochester Hills, Michigan. He writes a weekly online devotional called, “Good News: The Fax of Life” This essay was published  for the Week of September 29, 2014. A collection of his essays and sermons may be found at:  http://www.rubelshelly.com/default.asp ]

 

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Flowers -- Lavender fields in France - copyrighted by Antony Spencer - aka 'Erasmus T'

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“I’d Like To Try Being Spiritual But Not Religious”

By Curtis K. Shelburne

I’ve thought about it, and I’m pretty sure I’d like to join the cool crowd, the growing numbers of folks in our society who are button-bustin’ proud of being “spiritual but not religious.”

A good friend who reads a lot and, consequently, thinks a lot, pointed me to an interesting book the other day. Written by Lillian Daniel, the book is entitled, When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church.

 It’s strange, she says, that folks who are so “spiritual” they can hardly stand themselves, but proud as punch of never darkening the door of a church, nowadays feel such a burning need to “witness” to out-dated religious folks, particularly ministers, about the weaknesses of church and organized religion.

 Daniels says she’s never felt a particular need to educate every teacher she meets with the knowledge that she’s always hated math, or to inform cooks in her presence that she can’t cook, or to tell clowns she runs across that she’s always thought clowns were scary. But, for some reason, folks lock-stepping along to the popular “spiritual but not religious” tune feel a need to evangelize or poke the unenlightened old-fashioned.

 Well, except that I’d be unemployed, I might like to try joining the “spiritual but not religious” folks. I’ve long wondered if I was religious enough to be a preacher anyway. And I think I could be as practically “spiritual” as any of the popular crowd.

 I like birdies and sunsets. I like lakes and rivers (even more since ours here are all drying up.) I’m particularly fond of mountains and snow and sliding around in snow on sticks. If you want to find me looking “spiritual” and know it’s what passes for the real deal and not just intestinal gas, catch me on top of a mountain in the snow.

 I’m sure I’d like sleeping in a good bit more on Sunday mornings than I get to, which is, sadly, almost never.

 I’m certain I’d like not giving tithes and offerings. I’d be willing to try mentally assenting that all blessings come from God but never being thankful in a way that involved much painful check-writing.

 But I think I’d miss a lot.

I’d miss joining my heart and voice and prayers with others so that faith becomes a river and not just a dried up trickle.

 I’d miss being encouraged alongside others of the centrality of Christ and his cross and what his people have always held most deeply meaningful and true and dear. 

 I’d miss being a genuine part of a fellowship of folks who love me and mine as family and laugh with me, cry with me, live in hope with me.

 I’d miss being part of something bigger than me and the flavor or style I happen to like best at this moment. I’d miss the opportunity to follow a crucified Lord by at times crucifying my own desires so that others in his body might be blessed.

 I’d miss being a real part of a group called to follow an unchanging Lord and his will rather than being led around the nose by society’s latest always-changing opinion polls.

 I’d like to try being spiritual but not religious. I just have a really bad feeling that, the more folks who try it, the more we all lose. Come to think of it, it’s being religious and not just spiritual that forces me to believe a genuinely inconvenient truth: I need to care about how my decisions affect others and not just me.

[ Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice. Visit his website at http://www.curtisshelburne.com ]

 

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No Mexican Jews?

Author Unknown

 

Two old Jewish men, Irv and Abe, are sitting in a Mexican restaurant one day. Irv asks Abe, “Do you know if any people of our ancestry were ever born and raised in Mexico?”

Abe replies, “I don’t know, let’s ask our waiter.” 

When the waiter arrives, Abe asks, “Are there any Mexican Jews?”

The waiter says, “I don’t know senor, I ask the cooks.” He returns from the kitchen after a few minutes and says, “No senor, the cook say no Mexican Jews.”

Abe isn’t satisfied and asks, “Are you absolutely sure?” The waiter, realizing he is dealing with “Gringos” replies, 

“I check once again, senor,” and goes back into the kitchen. While the waiter is away, Irv says, “I find it hard to believe that there are no Jews in Mexico. Our people are scattered everywhere.”

The waiter returns and says, “Senor, the head cook, Manuel, he say there is no Mexican Jews.”

“Are you certain?” Abe asks again. “I just can’t believe there are no Mexican Jews!”

“Senor, I ask EVERYONE,” replies the exasperated waiter.  “All we have is Orange Jews, Grape Jews, Prune Jews, Tomato Jews and Apple Jews, but no Mexican Jews.”

[From Johnnie Benson Ward (Bakersfield, Calif.) on Feb. 14, 2015]

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Bible Study - kids - FAMILY CIRCUS CARTOON  2015

[The copyrighted cartoon, above, is used for educational purposes, only.]

Bible Interpretation--Jesus--Listen up

Reading the Bible in Churches of Christ

 By Patrick A. Mead

 In the churches of my youth the Bible was read several times during each worship period. A passage would be read before communion (usually First Corinthians 11:23ff or a portion of Isaiah 53), another before the sermon (usually a few verses that were part of the text being used by the minister), and during Bible class where we used the text as you would a “Wordsearch” puzzle, finding answers to fill in blanks in our class workbooks.

Scripture was considered holy and perfect. It was a rule book and quite a complex rule book at that, full of hidden laws, man traps, and gotchas for those not schooled properly in how to “rightly divide the Word.” We were certain we had found the proper method of interpreting it and most of us made it through high school with a dozen or so passages etched in our minds – proof texts to keep us on the straight and narrow. All of this was done by well meaning, honest, good hearted people who devoted their lives to serving Jesus the best way they knew how and I will owe them the rest of my life.

But…there were problems, problems we never talked about and were never encouraged to ask about. For me, it all started with lasciviousness and the Moabites. But I’m getting ahead of my story…

We were told that the Bible was dictated by the Holy Spirit, word for word, to holy men who wrote it down just as they were told and then other holy people preserved those words perfectly, exactly for us in our Bibles. One illustration on how God dictated every single word – told to us by more than one preacher – was the story of Balaam and his donkey. The donkey, when beaten by Balaam, turned to the prophet and told him that there is an angel blocking the path. Balaam doesn’t seem to be surprised that his donkey is speaking to him but that isn‘t the point. The preachers told us that God made the donkey talk and gave him the very words he was to speak. “He didn’t just tell the donkey to talk to Balaam and put it in his own words” they said and we all laughed.

The problem came later when some of us read the parts of the Bible we never read in church or Bible class and when others of us studied how the Bible came to be written and then gathered in the first place. While those two items alone were enough to knock us silly and cause us to question what we’d been taught (and which may be why we lose so many of our teens once they leave the nest) we can’t fully explore either of them here. Allow me to give a few illustrations of the problem and a possible solution and then allow you and the Spirit of God to take it from there.

Remember I said that it started with lasciviousness? We were told that God condemned it but we’d never heard the word before. It’s a great word, a wonderful old King James word and we were told it was why we weren’t allowed to dance or go to our prom (even if we refrained from dancing and “just watched”). Tracts – small booklets available in racks in our foyer – told us about the dangers of dancing and each made the point that the word “lasciviousness” meant dancing and since God condemned it, we shouldn’t even want to dance.

When I was 13, I overheard some older teens doubt this wisdom from the elders and I was offended at their questioning of the faith. My father had an extensive library (I’d read over half of it by then. It was a requirement in our family) so I spent a day going through Greek and Hebrew lexicons, thesauruses, and commentaries…and was devastated at what I found. It became plain that one could dance in a lascivious manner but the word most certainly did NOT mean “dance” and, in fact, most dances in the Bible were in honor of God and He didn’t care for anyone who disapproved of them. If I was being lied to about THIS…what else was I being told that wasn’t true? I tried to ask a question about this twice and the fierce reaction I received from my father and, later, a Bible class teacher taught me to never ask questions again.

After spending time in agnosticism, I came back to God because of the intricacies in the human brain (I eventually became a psychotherapist and neuroscientist). I wanted to be a deist but I just wasn’t sure if that was a safe option… So I did something I had never done before: I read the Bible and paid attention. I wasn’t looking for rules or patterns or ways to prove other religions wrong. I just wanted to read it and see what it said.

And here’s the thing: I wasn’t alone. I have since found a very large number of Church of Christ members have been doing the same, many of them for much longer than I. Fact is, I was a bit late to the party.

As a church without a bureaucracy, we can change our direction much faster than other religious tribes. And when the younger generation came up and took its place as leaders, it brought with it an honest look at some scriptures we had never dealt with before (or swept aside with a “things were different back then. Just trust God. He must have had His reasons”). It wasn’t just the young preachers passing on a different way of viewing scripture: we had Cecil Hook, Leroy Garrett, Carl Ketcherside and many others who’d been cast out of fellowship by most of our churches but who kept writing and living lives of faith and love. We read their stuff and it changed everything. At least it did for me.

That’s why I wanted to mention the Moabites. They are merely one of a couple dozen examples I could bring up but since this is a blog and not a book…

If you carefully read the Old Testament you would be excused for being confused about God’s view of Moabites. In Deuteronomy 23:3-6 they (and the Ammonites) are expressly barred from the assembly of God. They are unsaveable and unconvertible – even to the tenth generation. If you had a single Moabite ancestor even nine generations back, you were forbidden from coming into the assembly or worshiping with the Jews. This wasn’t a temporary rule – it is recalled and enforced in Ezra 9, Nehemiah 13 and elsewhere.

God goes after the Moabites again in Isaiah 15-16, Jeremiah 48-49:6, Ezekiel 21 and 25, and Zephaniah 2:8,9.

But then we have the Book of Ruth. And she was a Moabite woman who was not only loved and protected by a Jewish man, he married her and she became the king’s grandmother and a grandmother of Jesus. Whaaa?

We have God telling the Hebrews to kill everyone in Jericho but they save a prostitute (I am interested in how they ended up at her house but that’s beside the point) who lied to protect them. Later, she married a Jew and she, too, enters the line of Jesus. Seriously? That seems to go against a lot of Deuteronomy and Leviticus…

Then we see Jonah. It isn’t about the fish/whale – it’s about God’s love for people that a lot of His followers hated. They were convinced God wanted the Ninevites and all other foreigners dead or banished. Instead, God sends them a prophet and forgives then when they repent, changing the decree He had made against them earlier.

It seems that God’s dislike/hatred of Moabites was overstated. At a minimum. And that changes the way we read scripture.

Skip to the New Testament and you find Paul saying a couple of things to the church in Corinth and Ephesus that people use to overrule other things he says about women in leadership and teaching. People ignore his conversational remarks and lists of workers, teachers, and leaders and go for what looks like rules and I understand their motivation; that was the way I was told to read scripture, too.

So how do we deal with the fact that Philip’s four daughters preached alongside him or that Junia was an apostle or that Phoebe is the only person in scripture expressly titled a deacon?

I haven’t figured it all out yet but I find one story very helpful: The Trans-figuration. Jesus is praying when Elijah and Moses show up. The apostles are overjoyed – this is their entire Marvel Comic universe showing up, their pantheon of heroes, their fearless leaders! They want to build altars to them but God’s voice thunders and indicates Jesus, NOT the representatives of the law and the prophets. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

I – and a great many in the churches of Christ along with countless others in other religious traditions – now see the Bible as a narrative, not a rulebook. It is our story that points us to Jesus. When I get confused by Deuteronomy or Joshua or Paul or James I remember: go back and listen to Jesus. Hear him.

My path out of deism and into faith in Jesus had many steps but none so important as my decision to read the Gospels over and over for six months. It was easier back then to maintain an electronic-free room but I believe it is still worth the effort to do so. Go in there and read the story of Jesus again and again. Get to know his voice. As Hebrews 1 says, Jesus is what God looks like, sounds like, IS like.

The Bible is a finger pointing to Jesus. I love the Bible but I love Whom it points to even more.We are, after all, the Church of Christ – not the church of those other guys.

[November 17, 2014; from Re-examining How We Read the Bible; found at: http://wineskins.org/2014/11/17/reading-the-bible-in-churches-of-christ/    Dr. Patrick Mead preaches for the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Franklin, Tenn. A scientist by education, he holds doctorates in psychology and psychoneuroimmunology. Patrick he comes to faith by a different path and looks at scripture with a different lens than that used by most ministers. Remaining active in his field, he works with various police agencies as well as federal and international law enforcement agencies as a trainer in ethics, leadership, and avoiding burnout or PTSD. He helps several churches a year restructure their leadership, vision, and programs to better match the world in which they find themselves.]

2015  --  Christian Appeal magazine -- Part 1

To call them “The Legendary Shelburne Brothers” may sound like I’m introducing a country music band or referring to a family in the Texas Mafia. Nope. They are, in fact, highly respected ministers — B. Shelburne, Gene Shelburne, Jim Shelburne and the relative baby of the bunch, Curtis Shelburne. They are the sons of the late preacher and educator, G.B. Shelburne, Jr. I was quite fortunate to have G.B. as my Bible teacher at the Amarillo Bible Training Work over 50 years ago.

Anyway, these four have distinguished themselves in many ways and over the years their respective ministries have blessed thousands of folks around the world. Two of these men, Gene and Curtis, are particularly gifted speakers and writers. And the religious journal shown above, THE CHRISTIAN JOURNAL, is their publication. These two gentlemen, like their esteemed father, work in a very conservative wing of their denomination. Yet they have been steady voices advocating (1) the appreciation of what other belivers in other groups are doing for Christ;  (2) the need to expand our vision of who is a Christian; and (3) the command of Christ that his followers walk in unity.

So I highly recommend that you write to the address below and request your own FREE SUBSCRIPTION. Or as they say in Texas: “It don’t cost nuttin’; it’s plum freeee-ah.” Okay, okay. I exaggerated that accent just a week bit. But it really is free because other people who believe in that ministry provide support for it. Try it, you’ll like it. 

2015  --  Christian Appeal magazine -- Part 3

Oh, hey, also check out the magazine’s new and improved web site at:  http://christianappeal.com .

2015  --  Christian Appeal magazine -- Part 2

2015--03   The Christian Appeal -- Page 2

2015--01--16   Islamic reformer, lashed  -- torrorism, Saudi Arabia

One of the most thoughtful, insightful, influential and loving men I have ever known has stopped writing articles for the first time in some 76 years. Dr. Leroy Garrett, a retired university philosophy professor, is now 96 years of age and his body has just about wore complelely out. I first discovered Dr. Garrett’s soul-companion, W. Carl Ketcherside, and his “MISSION MESSENGER” magazine in 1963 as a ministerial student at Lipscomb University in Nashville. He was an outspoken advocate of Christian unity. I began to correspond with him and, then, discovered a similarly focused magazine, RESTORATION REVIEW, published by Dr. Leroy Garrett. Those two men were God’s instruments to liberate this wet-behind-the-ears, narrow-minded kid from the idea that folks in our little religious group were right and anyone who didn’t agree with us was not only wrong but on a greased slide right to hell. Yikes! Sad, but true. Anyway, I have loved those two men since that time. Carl died decades ago, and Leroy cannot be far behind. 

A mutual friend, Edward Fudge, broke the news about Leroy’s retirement from publishing this way in his email on June 17, 2015:

“LEROY GARRETT SAYS GOODBYE — After many decades of consistent written ministry, Leroy Garrett has said his last goodbye and laid down the pen. The old warrior and iconoclast for Christ, 96, mentor to many of us who came after him, announced in his bulletin for last Friday that fatigue due to “old age” required him to call his bulletin two weeks ago his last.

“‘My fatigue is often so bad that I can hardly get to my bed,’ he wrote, ‘and I feel like I must be dying. If that be the case, so be it. Our time is in His hands, the Psalmist assures us. Among my 485 essays is one on ‘the Abolition of Death,’ one of my favorites and which is a testimony of my faith. ‘I do not like goodbyes,’ Garrett wrote, ‘but I do like farewells, a meaningful felicitude. May you fare well, right into God’s tomorrow.’ Garrett said that he saved his last sentence ‘for the one that matters most: God loves you and I love you.’

Dr. Bob Lewis has put practically all Garrett’s writings online–the menu is found at http://www.leroygarrett.org

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Here is another interesting tidbit, dated June 10th, from Edward Fudge:

“A PLACE IN HISTORY — Finding their Voices: Sermons by Women in the Churches of Christ, edited by D’Esta Love (ACU Press, 2015), 254 pages. This new book not only relates history, it also makes history, preserving sermons of 29 women from Churches of Christ, a new notion during the past 100+ years among this fellowship, although its earliest days saw more than one woman evangelist on the American frontier.

“The editor was Pepperdine University’s first chaplain, and I applaud Pepperdine for leading the way in that regard. A more personal point of interest to me is that four of the 29 women who speak for God here had direct connections with Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, my church family now for 33 years, one of whom is my daughter. I can speak with personal experience from the inside, therefore, in saying that the motivation and rationale for welcoming the word of God from our sisters can be (and for many of us, is) based on long, thorough and prayerful study of scripture. (Perhaps more on that later.) That led us in turn to welcome preaching and teaching based on divine giftedness and not on gender.

“Read these sermons and hear–not just women speaking–but women speaking messages from God, given (as always) to build up bind up, and stir up his sons and daughters alike. To order, go to http://www.acupressbooks.com/ “

Logo  -- Stan's Footnotes from Florida  --  01

We are on our way to becoming a light on a hill here in Bradenton. Okay, that is an insider’s joke because we have no hills here or anywhere in Manatee County. Apparently our County Commissioners never saw a development they didn’t adore. They admit our city street capacity is at least ten years behind the population growth, and the best advice our Transportation Director has is “You better get used to it.” 

While we are not a light on the hill, we may be headed toward underwater lighting. Here’s the deal. A nurseryman-turned-developer is asking approval to convert his 1,300 acres of farm land in . . . the flood plain . . . of southwest Bradenton to a “mixed use community” featuring 6,500 residential units . . . and 1 million square feet of retail space . . . and 2 million square feet of commercial space (which includes the building two hotels with about 250 rooms each). 

I don’t get it on several levels. First, I don’t get in on the sea level. There is precious little “high ground” (i.e., not within flood level) in the Bradenton. We had no clue about elevations when we bought here two years ago, but our community is not within any designated flood zone. That was simply blind, dumb luck on our part. Very few areas in Manatee County are so fortunate.  Most other areas are in danger zones for potential flooding, to one degree or another. We have been here for two years and I have watched with amazement as developers have built homes and businesses on low ground. Amazing.

I also don’t get why County Commissions don’t blow the whistle on development/growth until street, water, sewer and electrical infrastructures catch up. Actually, I suspect the answer is pretty simple: more tax revenue from new homes and businesses, plus the glory of running a hot-growth county. If they would restrict growth for two or three years, and then force the developers to pay for the installation of all such future infrastructure, then it would be headed toward commonsense growth. Right now it is as crazy and wild as living in California during the 1849 gold strike. It’s nuts.

Alzheimer's Disease and Senior Sexuality -- Philadelphia Inquirer -- 2015

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I also edit and publish a new web site called STORYTELLING DIGEST.COM  (http://www.storytellingdigest.com). This last week I’m been tweeking it quite a bit, dealing with some technical issues. I think I’ve got that under control. Please take a look at it. If you would like to contribute a storytelling short article, a storytelling photo or poem or video, please read the “Submissions” page and send a couple of things to me at the email address you’ll find there.

Thanks, friends, for stopping by my little virtual living room. Come back, again.

End.