Archive for March, 2007

British Finally Give Us the Answers We All Need

March 30, 2007


British Teeth. They are the result of socialized dentistry. If you value your chompers, watch out for anyone who wants to give you “free” fluoride treatments. This from The Independent a jolly good British news paper.

The Big Question: Why are there so few NHS
dentists, and is the service getting worse?

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor

Published: 29 March 2007



Why ask this now?

Tony Blair pledged at the Labour Party conference in 1999 that everyone would have access to an NHS dentist. Last week, more than seven years later, the Department of Health slipped out figures showing that 55.7 per cent of adults and 70.5 per cent children had been seen by an NHS dentist in the previous 24 months. Yesterday, a report from the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux revealed that 77 per cent of the 4,000 respondents to their survey said they could not find an NHS dentist prepared to accept them. There is still a very long way to go to meet Tony Blair’s pledge.

Click the heading above to read the whole report… not that you need to.

al sends


A Right Good Rant

March 28, 2007

Okay, so I like Douglas Wilson. I don’t buy everything he says (everything I understand), but I read his books and follow his blog. He’s been trying for a long time to make some things clear vis-a-vis the Federal Vision. Are any of his critics listening? The apparent fact that few if any of them are drove him to go off on a rant about it. It’s a self-confessed and, I think, brilliant rant. Right now he’s doing his darn best to deal with the substance of the issues and respond to critics, but he indulges himself in this rant. And it’s good.

I am reproducing it here in its entirety. Hope it gets some play. Enjoy.

The need of the hour is not to defend the solas of the Reformation the same way F Troop defended the American frontier. We don’t need any more conservatives who don’t conserve anything except their own sense of self-importance. Here we conservatives are in Fort Hapless, and we are surrounded by hordes of seeker-sensitive CEOs, fully credentialed entertainment engineers, and they have recently been reinforced by a bunch of postmodern hooey-mongers from France. Things are looking pretty grim for us, and so, at this critical point in the movie, when the music is really tense, some of our guys decide to start a fight along the ramparts over whether the sole instrument of justification is a living faith or a faith that is living.

Sincerity is not the issue. There may be some who are doing this for cagey political reasons, but I prefer to think that the problem is naivete. For some that naivete is a function of having decided thirty years ago to translate all discussions of theology into the metric system, just to keep life simple. If ten won’t divide into it, then it can’t be a part of the dikai– word group. For others the reason for the naivete is more obvious — graduate school is still a fresh memory. They are just out of the egg with bits of shell on their heads.

We don’t need any more male cheerleaders for the Reformation, chest-bumping in front of the stands. We don’t any more cardboard megaphones of truth, and we don’t need any more slogans instead of argument. We don’t need any more attempts to rouse a bewildered crowd that is proving hard to whip up. “So-LAH, so-LAH, so-LAH!”

The need of the hour is not to try to establish the Reformed faith in America through apostolic signs and blunders. What in the foggy blue morning is this? I feel like somebody locked me up in a Walker Percy novel.

Suppose the apostle Paul had been unable to make the confrontation at Antioch, and had sent some of his seminarians instead. So off they went to confront Peter and Barnabas because they were compromising the truth as it is in Jesus. Suppose they walked up to a group at lunch to rebuke them for withdrawing table fellowship from Gentiles. That group responded with, “Nope. That’s actually a false report, about us at any rate. We have some Gentiles right here at the table — here, meet Nicholas, and Stephen, and Demetrius, and Bob.” The seminarians’ eyes narrow. The confronation had been going so well, and the idea that they may have gotten the wrong table is beyond their ken. “And so now you compound your corruption of the gospel with dishonesty?”

I am a high Calvinist. For almost twenty years, I have been standing here well past the tree line, up amongst the boulders. I am prepared to be rebuked for lots of things, but living in a semi-Pelagian swamp is not one of them. Try something else. Try something plausible.

But never mind. This is all being done because “the truth” is under attack. The foundations of “the truth” are being undermined. The “truth” is precious, and is to be defended at all costs. “Truth” is not relative, elastic, or dependent upon how we wish things were. The “truth” recovered at the Reformation must be preached with power and defended with courage today. The “truth” cannot be reduced to mere slogans. The hell you say.

Hot Post

March 27, 2007

Ok, I really want to post a parable about lamenting the passing of days that did not exist. But as you can tell from that tortured sentence, it is not ready for prime time. So in the interim let me leave you with this link to, which has a list of articles from the New York Times on:


That is in ALL CAPS so you can sense the urgency.

al sends

Hello and Goodbye

March 26, 2007

Last week some of our dearest friends in the world — Erich and Laura Heinz — welcomed their seventh child into the world, Leah Catherine, a beautiful future queen in the earth.

Last week my old friend Dustin Salter died in Ft. Worth, Texas, passing from a coma to waking joy in the same moment. While out for a bike ride with his children last November, Dustin fell and hit his head on the pavement. He never woke up, and died four months later.

I last saw Dustin in about 1991. We lived in the same condo for a summer in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida — that would have been 1989 — and made a lot of memories at a time in my life when I was becoming the man I am today. Once Dustin and I slept in the same twin bed. I learned the meaning of the word “mortify” from him. I called him “D.” He had a scar on his arm from a car accident he was in as a teenager. That arm was shorter than the other and was a bit stiff. The scar looked like plucked chicken skin because it was transplanted from his hip. Dustin was an exceptional basketball player, which immediately bound me to him. I grew up playing ball with guys like Dustin my whole childhood, only Dustin had an integrity and joy that I had never really seen before. Or since for that matter. He seemed to be above everything going on (metaphorically, but also literally — Dustin was about 6’4″), and people instantly respected him. I did.

After that summer in 1989, I visited Dustin at the University of West Alabama, where he went to college. That was the last time I saw him. His picture on the internet shows a slightly more substantial, slightly less hirsute version of the Dustin I remember. He went on to become a Presbyterian campus minister. He left his wife Leigh Anne and three children when he crumpled under death’s grip. I wish I could have shaken his hand one last time.

Though I haven’t seen him in over 15 years, I miss him. Death is a thief.

It is remarkable that on this side of the consummation of all things, birth and death are so yoked together that they pull simultaneously down the crooked corridors of our experience. I want death to die. I hate it. But the tears of death are not the end for Dustin, nor is my remembrance of him. Even now, my memories of him are like what you see out of the corner of your eye, and before long, they will be gone altogether.

But there is One who remembers Him and knows Dustin’s name. He welcomed him, just as we welcomed little Leah Catherine into the world last week.

Rest in peace, D.

Christ at the Center

March 26, 2007

As we come together to worship this morning I would just remind you that the Lord Jesus Christ is at the center of all we do. When we gather, we gather as His body. When we sing, we sing His praises. When we pray, we plead Him as our Mediator. When we confess our sins, we confess in the sure confidence that we are forgiven for His sake. When we hear the Word, we hear as the sheep of Christ eager to hear His voice. When we meditate on the preached Word, by faith we see Christ crucified. When we take bread and wine, we receive the body and blood of Christ by faith. When we receive the benediction, we are blessed by Christ Himself. We approach God to worship in the name of Jesus Christ and by the grace of His cross and for the sake of His glory.

The prophets in the days of the Old Testament saw Christ only dimly through the corridors of time. They saw Christ only through shadows and types. We see Him clearly as the Son of God incarnate, the crucified and risen Son of David, the Messiah who has come, who lives and reigns. We draw near to the Savior by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our worship is nothing less than fellowship with Yahweh God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

Let us not take that lightly. Let us not be halfhearted in our worship, as if our privileges were not great. Let us not let our minds roll with the floating waves of distraction. Let us not take words frivolously on our lips. Let us not treat as contemptuous the holy things of God.

Let us instead realize that Christ is in our midst. His glory is present by the power of the Holy Spirit through the preached Word and the Word spread for us on the table. Let us worship Him in spirit and in truth. Let us draw near because He is gracious, and He gladly receives poor sinners like us so that He can rescue us and bless us and be good to us and extend His kingdom through us and glorify Himself through our delight in Him.

Let us worship with Christ Jesus in our midst.

I want to be Frank Turk

March 21, 2007

Not really… I just want his stats.

Awhile ago Frank had a little contest. As he was approaching 200,000 visitors to his BLOG, he invited us to capture the moment his hit counter rolled over. The visitor who pushed him over the edge and took a screen capture of the momentous occasion would receive a T-shirt from Frank’s pawnshop.

Well, we are about to roll over 1000 visitors.


While this number includes my lovely wife, who visits regularly, we do have several visitors not related to me who stop by our little corner of the blog-o-sphere.

So, if you are visitor 1000. Take a screen capture with the hit counter in it and email it to me. I will provide you with one of three wonderful prizes:

  • If you are my wife you get a foot rub.
  • If you live in the Pensacola area but are not my wife I will buy you lunch.
  • If you live in Arkansas (or some other third world country) I will buy you one of Frank’s T-Shirts.

Boy this is going to bring in the traffic!

al sends

By the way the hit counter on this site is at the bottom of the right hand column.


March 21, 2007

One of the things I enjoy the most about family Bible study is how fresh the text appears to me as I talk it over with my wife and children. If you do not practice this discipline let me urge you to gather your family together regularly to read, study, pray and sing together.

We try to do family worship/Bible reading around the dinner table. The last few nights we have been reading 1 Corinthians. In Chapters 2 and 3 Paul distinguishes between the wisdom of the world, which leads to division, and the wisdom of God, which is the mind of Christ. There two ideas are juxtaposed again and again in a very short space…

1 Cor 2:1 “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.”
1 Cor 2:6 “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”
1 Cor 2:14 “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

And others…

Keeping the wisdom of the world separated from the wisdom of God can be confusing for 10 to 15 year olds (and their father). As we talked about it though, one thing struck me afresh: Christ crucified!

We can spend a lifetime on 1 Cor 2:2 ”For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” The rest of Corinthians is rooted in this wonderful truth.

How do you deal with divisive bothers in the Church? Jesus Christ crucified. Want to deal a mortal blow to your pride (4:6-7)? Jesus Christ crucified. Do you suffer? Jesus Christ crucified. Sexual immorality? Jesus Christ crucified. Church discipline issues? Start with the crucifixion. Lord’s Supper? Immodesty? Drunkenness? Power grabbing? The mind of Christ in all these situations is Him crucified.

We are gnostic at heart and the crucifixion was so, so, so time bound. It happened already, get over it! Wisdom to our carnal minds means getting beyond the basics of “Jesus died that I might live,” to the really deep things of God. It must be more difficult than that, right? Come on! I learned that on day one!

But to know Jesus Christ and Him crucified? That is wisdom. That is meat!

al sends

To This Identity Be True

March 18, 2007

Everyone knows how superheroes have a dual identity: publicly they’re the mild-mannered clerk or the humble nerd, but privately they put on the super suit and put their super powers to work to save humanity. Thus, every superhero story is a story of the struggle for identity and transparency.

A temptation that every Christian faces is that of dividing life into two identities. You act as one kind of person privately and another publicly. You put on one face at home and another at school or work. Perhaps you do it to avoid the scorn of being known as a believer in Christ. Perhaps you do it because you are simply conforming yourself to the expectations of others without really holding for yourself to what others expect of you. Perhaps you do it because you don’t really know who you are. Perhaps you do it because you love yourself far too much.

This is to say that a great challenge for every Christian is to live with integrity, to be genuine, to honor the Lord and love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength whether at home or at school, whether in private or in public because your first loyalty lies with Him, because you know that all things will be brought out into the light at the judgment, and you are living coram Deo, in the face of God here and now. Integrity. Being true with all your heart and mind to what your Lord says is true of you, honoring Him in how you think and how you speak and how you behave because what is chief in your heart is His good pleasure, not your own self-expression. The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy.

And all of this is to say that here at the Communion table of your Lord you find your true identity. Here at this table you find a strong defense against hypocrisy, and you find a gracious empowerment to have integrity because here at the table of your Lord He tells you who you really are. You who partake have been baptized into the body of Christ. You are the ones for whom Christ died. Taking up this bread and cup, you are the ones for whom this body was pierced and this blood was spilled. You belong to Him. Your life is not your own because you were bought at a price. You are a Christian. You do not determine who you are. Your Lord does. So you must be true to what He says about you.

Eating this bread and drinking this wine is a public act, in fact the most public of acts, as you eat and drink in community with other Christians, in the face of the world. This public act of eating and drinking is what establishes your identity. So to this identity be true. This is who you are, so be true to what God says about you in both private and in public, at home and at school and at work. There is not a dividing line between worlds for you. If you eat, then you are His, and you must live under the watchful eye of His good pleasure at all times.

So let us all take up this bread and cup thankful for how He marks us out from the world as His own. And let us be true to our Lord as we live in Him by faith.

Come, let’s taste and see that the Lord is good

Tremble and Rejoice

March 18, 2007

I want to exhort us all, as a congregation, to worship this morning with two diametrically opposed thoughts.

The first is this: as we enter into worship we need to beware thinking too highly of ourselves. We are a small church that is part of a small denomination, the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. I did a quick guess-timation and figured that there are no more than 7 or 8,000 people in the churches associated with the CREC. Compare that for a moment to a larger Presbyterian denomination like the Presbyterian Church in America, which has over 330,000 people in their churches. And then compare that to the largest Protestant denomination in America, the Southern Baptist Convention, which (by their own estimation) has around 16 million members. But then consider this: there are, in the smallest province in Western China, more Muslims than there are Southern Baptists in the whole world. The estimate I pulled off the internet this morning was a population of 6,697,120,321 people in the world, all of whom bear the image of God and most of whom have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to take heed not to think too highly of ourselves, not to overestimate our own importance in a very large world where there is a lot going on that is a lot bigger than us.

But then here is my second thought, which is the direct opposite of the first: as we enter into worship we also need to beware thinking too lightly of ourselves. At the very same time that we cultivate humility by considering how small we really are, we need to cultivate humility by considering just how significant we are in the mind and purpose of God. Hebrews 12:22-24 says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” Jesus Christ is building His Church, capital C, and He will not be deterred.

Remember that this is what is going on as you come to worship today. You are the church, the elect of God, the people of Christ marked out with His special favor, who know His presence and are blessed with His Spirit, to fulfill His Great Commission purpose in the world. God has decreed that you and your worship will be His instrument to proclaim His glory in all the earth. That makes our significance all out or proportion to our relative size.

So tremble and rejoice! You are smaller than you think, and yet you are infinitely more important than you think.

Come, let us worship our great God who is three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Catholicity, Baptist Style

March 16, 2007

I found an outstanding address delivered recently by Beeson Divinity School president Timothy George. You can read it here. It stands out because it is such a fine example of the Reformed catholicity that I believe is the hope of the church. This is the most lucid and biblical thinking I have heard from a Southern Baptist on the issue of catholicity in a long, long time — maybe ever. Enjoy and profit.