You are viewing page 32 of 34.

Got Purpose?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:13 AM

Here's something for those of you participating in the 40 Days of Purpose… My “Got Purpose?” wallpaper, based on the similar design by PurposeDriven and Outreach Marketing for signage. It's on a GNU/Linux (or actually, KDE) art site, but it should work on any OS. It's not terribly fancy, but I thought I'd just mention it — you can get it here.

Simulcast -- Two Thumbs Up

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:19 AM

Well, I wasn't so sure about a 1 1/2 hour simulcast (or actually non-simulcast — getting the satellite feed was too costly, so we opted for the DVD version) that much, but it was very good. Rick Warren was a good enough speaker to make the time go by fast, not bad considering, as the pastor's son said, “it was like five of your sermons.” :-)

Indeed, it sort of was like 5 sermonettes, a preview of the next six weeks worth of sermons. It was interluded with videos as well as several musical performances, including one from Natalie Grant.

It was also nice because we got to watch it in the Southwestern Bell Auditorium at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, our church's next door neighbor. They were kind enough to open their spectacular doors for the evening, allowing us to use the theater and then their main “lobby” (the word doesn't do justice for the size) area afterwards. It comfortably held the 250-300 church members that went.

It was neat to see, considering that the Danforth Plant Science Center is one of the foremost bio-tech research centers in the world. It's a collaboration between Washington University in St. Louis and Monsanto Co. We have at least one Center employee that is a member of our church and a scientist that worked there that attended our church while in the U.S. So, there were a variety of reasons that it was interesting to go into the building that casts it shadow on ours.

But back to the actual point of the night. It was a good start to the 40 Days. For anyone whose church is saving the simulcast for tomorrow — I think you'll really enjoy it.

In case you haven't been here today due to BlogRolling being down, read on to the next post about Christopher's internet small group.

40 Days of Purpose Internet Group

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 3:06 PM

Well, Christopher had a good idea: he started a bulletin board based small group for those away at school that wanted to join in on the 40 Days of Purpose at his church. He was also kind enough to invite any of his blogging friends that might want to join, to do so.

Well, I've joined, and he said I could invite readers to join as well. If you'd like to take part in the 40 Days of Purpose with Christopher's small internet group, you can leave a note in the comments on his site and do so. Just click here.

This could be really interesting. I've often thought an internet small group might be neat (after all, in a slightly larger format, CS-FSLUG's CS-BibleStudy always worked well), but I hadn't thought about one for the 40 Days of Purpose. Why not give it a whirl?

The Demise of the UCC, Part 2: Crisis in the Church

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:45 AM
At one o'clock sharp, the congregation convened to choose what to do with the results of the two-year old Role in the UCC committee's findings on the United Church of Christ. With very little descention voiced, the decision was clear: 92.5% of those attended voted to sever ties with the successor denomination to the one the 155-year old congregation had been affiliated with since the beginning in 1843.

The decision sent shockwaves through the Biblical Witness Fellowship, the UCC renewal organization that St. Paul's had been deeply involved in. With St. Paul's Sr. Pastor Mark Friz on the Fellowship's national board and St. Paul's Spiritual Council serving as the evaluation body for BWF scholarships, those involved with the BWF realized this was a major and serious move.

The disaffiliation process also caught the attention of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which did a half-page story on the subject the next day. St. Paul's was one of the largest churches in the UCC's Missouri Conference, but those watching the event rightly would see this as just one church in a growing trend to escape the collapsing denomination to avoid going down with it.

Heresy Spreads
Last time we worked up to the 80's in UCC History. In 1982, Dr. Theodore L. Trost, Jr., after considering the revision of the UCC's Book of Worship, wrote “Like Marcion of old, I'm afraid the UCC wants to rewrite the Christian faith in terms of here own current, ideological bias. But this is to wander into the sidepaths of Hersey. The tragedy of much that is included in these proposed Services (Book of Worship) is that their content further moves us into the map of sectarian Christianity and thereby destroys the unity of the Church.”1 (emphasis mine.)

By the middle 1980's, what had begun as the 1977 Sexuality Report had ballooned; one department of the UCC had been commissioned to “develop resources on human sexuality for use in local churches” and to “collect and continue to update information about the nature of human sexuality, including variations in sexual orientation and behavior, seeking to provide material appropriate for use with all age groups and making this information available for study by churches.”2

During the General Synod session in 1985, what was already clear to many would be made even clearer. The UCC was abandoning any semblance of Biblical morality, urging congregations to not only be open to, but also to affirm persons of lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientation. The member churches of the UCC were being softened for the onslaught that would occur in the 1990's.

By 1991, the UCC would recognize the “common ground” between its sexuality studies and that of the Unitarian Universalists, and the two groups convened the Human Sexuality Education Taskforce. Within just three decades of its founding, the UCC's views were beginning to take facets of the UU's beliefs, or lack there of.

The UCC's similarities with the UU wouldn't remain merely in the department of sexual morality. 1995 brought on the concept of “Deep Ecumenism,” promoted as the logical successor to the ecumenical movement between the mainline denominations. Deep Ecumenism moves from cooperation and recognition of other denominations into cooperation and recognition of other “faith traditions.”

Dr. Trost's 1982 letter would appear prophetical by this point as the UCC completely removed any attempt at remaining true to its biblical heritage and would now show its true colors in full. In the midst of this, those leading the UCC were warned that their current path would lead to accelerated decline within the denomination, which has lost churches every year since its formation in 1957, but the UCC leadership made it clear that it did not care.

The 90's would yield three immensely controversial and divisive publications: The New Century Hymnal, as well as the Affirming Persons and Our Whole Lives Sunday School materials. Affirming Persons was published in 1994 targeted at every age level of children's' Sunday School.

This material effectively demonstrates the moral decay of the UCC. Here are a few excerpts from the 5-6 grade materials (10-11 year olds), some of this is a bit more graphic than I'd normally post on my site, so you may want to skip over these quotes.

The introduction to the materials for 10-11 year olds:
“This is, in many ways, the pivotal Learning Series of the entire Affirming Persons-Saving Lives curriculum. Children in this age group are on the brink of a dramatic expansion of their world, which promises new experiences, increasing independence and a variety of relationships, possibly including sexual relationships.”

Then here are some excerpts of what the Sunday School teacher is suppose to say and do:
“Tell the children: 'When people talk about 'sex' it can mean a lot of different things. People can have sex with someone else or have sex with themselves.”
“Write the term 'sexual intercourse' on the newsprint. Then say: 'Usually, when people talk about 'having sex' or 'making love,' they are referring to two people being sexual with each other in a way that involves genital contact. This is called 'sexual intercourse.' Sexual intercourse means being sexual with another person in a way that involves the genitals—the penis or the vagina.'

“Forms of Sexual Intercourse: Tell the children '…There are three forms of sexual intercourse.' Write the term 'vaginal intercourse' on the newsprint … Vaginal intercourse means contact between the male penis and the female vagina. This is also the way human beings reproduce and make babies.

“Write the term 'oral intercourse' on the newsprint. Then say: 'another form of sexual intercourse is oral intercourse … Oral refers to the mouth or tongue. So, oral intercourse is contact between the mouth and the genitals. … sexually active people may use their mouths for kissing and for engaging in oral intercourse.' ”

“Write the term 'Anal Intercourse' on the newsprint. Then say: 'Anal intercourse means contact between the penis and the anus or rectum … Both men and women may engage in anal intercourse … some of these behaviors may seem strange to you now, but there are many different ways that two people can express their sexuality with each other. Sexual partners have the right to choose how they will express their sexuality in private.

Keep in mind, this is material targeted at pre-teens and is “Sunday School material.” Of course, this fits with the “whatever feels good” mentality of the secular humanists. I emphasize this is very real material coming out of the UCC and not materials that were just being considered.

Perhaps even more controversial, since it would be hard to miss its impact, whereas some might be unaware that their church had started Affirming Persons, is the New Century Hymnal (NCH), released in 1995. The hymnal project was a large scale production, which was not, to the best of my knowledge, based on any previous E&R or UCC hymnals. In fact, one might even wonder if it was based on any existing hymns — perhaps that's an exaggeration, but not much of one.

Reading the UCC's own description of the NCH makes clear that the intentions of the Hymnal were quite agreeable with the so-called “re-imaging” movement. “The only hymnal released by a Christian church that honors in equal measure both male and female images of God,” the information proudly proclaims. Hmm… why would it be that no other Christian churches have hymnals that honor both male and female images of God? It couldn't possibly be because the Bible clearly illustrates that God is male, could it?

According to the Biblical Witness Fellowship, “We found 304 of the NCH hymns in other hymnals. Often the words were so changed that we could only find them using the tune indexes, not by first line.” The report on the NCH continued, “Of these 304 traditional hymns, 45 were unchanged or virtually unchanged. 259 had significant word changes.”

The BWF report also includes excerpts from some of the hymns. Here are a few of the quotes:

#560 - By Whatever Name We Call You — “By whatever name we call you Fashioner of spheres, you are grander, so much wiser than our minds perceive. Labels limit understanding, God, you have no peers. So, we question - changing, growing - wanting to believe.”
#11 - Bring Many Names — “Strong mother God, working night and day, planning all the wonders of creation, setting each equation, genius at play … .”Old, aching God, grey with endless care, calmly piercing evil's new disguises, glad of good surprises, wiser than despair …”Young, growing God, eager, on the move, saying no to falsehood and unkindness, crying out for justice, giving all you have …”

The BWF also provides a full text comparison of How Great Thou Art and its “replacement” in the New Century Hymnal, known as “O Mighty God, When I Survey in Wonder.” I encourage you to read the mutilation of How Great Thou Art and the rest of the NCH saga on the Biblical Witness Fellowship's web site.

Sadly the UCC's activities are more than just talk and publication. I have heard reports from around the country of terrible heresies taking place in United Church of Christ churches. One person told me that in his former church they invited a Native American “witch doctor” to summon good spirits and the like. A elderly couple at our church came to my church after being kicked out of their UCC church by the pastor for voicing concern over the New Century Hymnal, after attending that church all of their lives.

And then there is the issue I mentioned in passing — re-imaging. The UCC has supported the Re-imaging Conference in the Minnapolis/St. Paul, which promotes goddess worship. UCC sponsored events, including this year's Synod, have had the central theme of worshiping “Mother Nature.” The UCC has taken hold of Sophia worship too, going so far as to have seminars in which communion was replaced with bread and honey, which is more traditional of goddess worship.

This year's synod's symbol was the “Earth Mother” (Gaia). That might have been bad enough, but the order of “worship” for the first day was also arranged to recognize the “feminine” side of God. I feel filthy just writing such blasphemous statements, even if I am only quoting what they are saying. One hymn's words include the reference to “mother earth and father sky” — if the UCC thinks Greek mythology is so great, why don't they just admit it and become Hellenistic polytheists.

The UCC has also promoted and, to the best of my knowledge, fully agrees with the opinions of the infamous Jesus Seminar. Even liberal pastor friends of mine cringe at some of the opinions of the Jesus Seminar!

Yet, this is where the UCC is. Sadly, the UCC is hurdling forward with extreme inclusitivity. In the process, the UCC has become a massive political machine attempting to support and promote the ideology of the far left. The UCC has condemned those who support a ban on partial birth abortion. The UCC compared American troops in Iraq to a Nazi occupation. The UCC is even fighting against using Federal Funds to repair the church were Paul Revere hung his lantern, lest the secularization (oops… I mean separation) of church and state be “damaged.”

While many organizations are pressing against the orthodoxy and even neo-orthodoxy of Christianity, few have done so to the extent of the United Church of Christ. One joke that has circulated among Unitarians suggests that UCC really stands for “Unitarians Considering Christ.” While it is a joke, it is hard not to see the truth in it. As official beliefs go, the UCC's main theological difference with the Unitarians would have to be the remnants of Trinitarian belief. Yet, as the denomination seeks to find new, inclusive language even for the Trinity itself, I wonder how long even that will remain within the beliefs of the UCC.

While I hate to say it, I honestly wonder how long we can continue to consider the UCC Christian rather than classifying with other “almost Christian” faiths such as Mormonism and Russelism (Jehovah's Witnesses). While a big difference that some evangelicals remain in the UCC, at least as far as official positions go, there is increasingly small common ground between the UCC and Biblical Christianity.

The denomination of my youth, I am sad to say, fits all the requirements of a non-Christian cult. While I pray for restoration and reformation, I fear it might be too late. The denomination, or whatever it is now, has become a liability for those evangelicals still in it and for seekers who do not realize its increasingly anti-Christian theology.

That is why 92.5% of the congregation at St. Paul's realized our time in the UCC was over. With that, St. Paul's became the second largest church up to that point to leave the UCC. In my next post I'll consider others who have left and what has formed around them to support such churches.

1 “BWF - 25 Years of Prophetic Witness.” The Witness, 12. Summer 2003.
2 From the UCC Our Whole Lives web site,

No Greater Love

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:40 AM

In sacrificing their lives for the Gospel, these missionaries opened up the door for the eventual entry of the Gospel into the Auca society through Elizabeth Elliot. The Gospel transformed the Aucas dramatically lowering the homicide rate and causing the tribe to get an entirely new focus… on God.

Yet, to do this, these missionaries with their entire life ahead of them, gave their lives. In perhaps a reflection of the dangers he and his team were about to subject themselves to, Jim Elliot stated “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” What a powerful testimony of faith.

I sit here and I wonder, if God called me to travel to some remote part of the world, would I have the immediate willingness of these men? Would I view my own survival as unimportant if it meant the spread of the Word of God? I'd like to say I would, but I wonder — it is easy to say that typing from the comfort of my computer chair, what if I were in that small yellow biplane heading for the territory of a tribe I thought would probably kill me? Could I really do it?

I'm not sure what kind of conclusion is appropriate. These are just the thoughts that strike me tonight. I know I want to be like those five. It makes me somewhat uncomfortable to wonder whether I would be.

The Slow Demise of the UCC

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:26 AM

First a bit of history. In 1840, the German Evangelical Church was formed in Missouri from Lutheran and Reformed church roots. This hits especially close to my own heritage, with my church forming in 1843 as German United Lutheran-Reformed St. Paul's Church in Central Township. Quite a name! The Lutheran-Reformed merger was somewhat uncomfortable unfortunately, and in our case a splinter church formed — its just a stones throw away even today and is a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (it ended up in a better denomination than we did). But, I'm getting distracted.

The German Evangelical Church eventually became the Evangelical Synod of North America. From there, the Evangelical Synod merged with the Reformed Church in America in 1934. The resulting church was the Evangelical & Reformed Church (E&R). The E&R was a denomination with Reformed leanings and a congregational organizational structure. Things were pretty good.

Unfortunately, things didn't stay that way. In the early fifties, parties met between the E&R and the Congregational Christian Churches about a possible union at Eden Seminary in St. Louis, a seminary of the E&R. By 1957, a deal was agreed to, and the E&R and the more liberal Congregational Christian Churches merged to form the United Church of Christ. Just to be clear, this name does not imply any association with the Churches of Christ. Perhaps they didn't expect it, or even see it, at the time, but the liberalism forming within the Congregational Churches soon spread across the former borders and started to wrest control of the UCC.

By the mid-1970's, the United Church of Christ's Evangelical contingent was shoved out of power to be replaced by what was becoming a liberal majority within the denomination. During the UCC's General Synod in 1977, the Evangelicals voted strongly against the first of many resolutions that would accept, even glorify and encourage, sexual promiscuity in the UCC. The group of delegates voting against the measure was large enough to allow the Evangelicals to unite into an official interest group, but not large enough to stop the approval of the measure.

A Pastor's wife, Barbara Weller, called for return to Biblical principles during the Synod, and a few hundred participants joined her call. In late 1978, the interest group was made permanent and named United Church People for Biblical Witness (UCPBW). The group celebrates its 25 year this year.

Over the next few years the UCPBW would publish numerous documents noting the unbiblical take the UCC had taken on issues of sexuality, but the work culminated in 1983 in Dubuque, Iowa where the official statement of the group was published, the Dubuque Declaration. The Declaration confirmed commitment to the Biblical values held at the formation of the UCC and noted the “erosion” of such values within the church.

In 1984, the group transformed itself in the the Biblical Witness Fellowship, a group that would focus on supporting local churches in addition to attempting to renew the national UCC. Two years later, the BWF launched a Missions Network, which many Bible believing churches within the UCC would divert funds to as the UCC's own missions program abandoned missions work and moved into social and “family planning” services.

It is getting late, so I'll wrap it up for tonight as this seems like a good place to leave off. While the UCC's Human Sexuality: A Preliminary Study, the 1977 report that started the widespread controversy was not only the opening, but also a major, salvo, the real attack was just beginning to emerge. I'll consider that in my next post on the subject.

Sources: I freshened up on my E&R history — especially dates — at this site. Other dates are drawn from the Biblical Witness Fellowship and United Church of Christ web sites.

What about Forgiveness?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:48 AM

Consider the case of President Clinton. There is no getting around it: Clinton made lots of mistakes. He made some of what we tend to think of as “big” sins. He was not really helpful to Christian causes.

But, let's especially focus on that “big” sins thing. My Bible doesn't have a “big” sins category; Jesus blew that concept away. Consider what he said during the Sermon on the Mount. President Clinton committed adultery, yes, but according to Jesus, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) President Clinton lied, but I think I can safely say anyone who said they never lie would have to be lying to say that.

Even if we could avoid falling into the types of sin Mr. Clinton often gets condemned for, we ought to still consider the cost of sin. “[T]he wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), the Apostle Paul reminds us. No, it isn't the wages of the really big, get on national TV sins is death. It is simply the wages of any and all sin. We are all in the same boat.

Indeed, “[a]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) In other words, “[t]here is none Righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) Yes, we are all sinful and dispicably marred by sin in the eyes of God.

We need forgiveness to fix that problem, and speaking of forgiveness, we are also reminded that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14) and “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

It should strike us as ironic that we, believers in something that revolves around the concept of forgiveness of sin, can't seem to forgive sin. It is fine for us to say “hey, this is wrong — that's sin,” but it is very very wrong for us to go around condemning people and not forgiving them. It may be politically handy to do so, but not Biblically right. Yet, I think President Clinton could come out tomorrow in sack cloth and beg for forgiveness from the nation and it wouldn't do any good at all. (I say all this keeping in mind that I have been as guilty of condemning him and others as anyone else.)

President Clinton has been condemned by Christians for years. Five years after his attempted impeachment we are still busy condemning him and certainly not forgiving him. Why is that? Does God keep condemning us for past sins? Does he take years to forgive us? No! Yet we judge others, such as Clinton, with a holier-than-thou attitude. What kind of example does that present to the world? What kind of testimony does it give when we talk about forgiveness but show nothing of it? Where is that Change?

This is coming out far more jumbled than I had hoped, but I guess what I am trying to say is that it is time to forget what is politically beneficial and worry about what gets the important goal accomplished (bringing more people into a relationship with Christ Jesus). I fear that in our maneuvering to get more votes we may do so at the price of losing souls.

So, it seems to me — to bring this back to where I started — that when President Clinton says something nice, we shouldn't be so quick to start the condemning process again. That just makes us look (and in reality, quite possibly be) hypocritical. We certainly wouldn't want that type of behavior directed toward us. In the recent case, as Kevin pointed out, he didn't have to say anything nice, but he did. We should have said something nice in return… did we?

Need a Bible geek button?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 10:21 PM

I was just thinking, what better way to acknowledge that you consider yourself a Bible geek (small “g”), and thus believe it is a generic term, than to put a button on your blog/site somewhere?

Here's a few to get the ball rolling:

Feel free to include a link to your own Bible geek graphics in the comments section!

I'm a Bible geek.

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 8:44 PM

I can't believe it. As I just found out on Sakamuyo, some guy that goes by the name Bible Geek has trademarked the name and has threatened to sue a Christian blogger that used the same name (see the original post on Cruciform Chronicle). This isn't Christian, and I would suggest it is even dubious trademark — after all, Bible geek is a descriptive term that is quite generic and used by more than just this one fellow.

Imagine if I trademarked the name Linux Geek or Computer Geek? It's really not that different in this case, except that someone claiming to desire seeing the spread of the Gospel has gone against Christian principles and threatened to sue another Christian for claiming to be a Bible geek.

While I won't claim that lawsuits are never acceptable, consider Jesus' words:

“Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” — Luke 12:57-59 (NIV)

And can you guess Paul's stance on the issue?

If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.
— 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 (NIV)

And yet, it would seem the Bible Geek® guy, who seems to fancy himself a Bible Answer Man, oh, oops, Hank probably owns that trademark, is busy threatening a brother in Christ and blogger who has the nickname Bible Geek.

This is a sad day for Christianity.

Standing Still Part II: The Meaning

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:33 AM

Afterall, once you turn the music off, it's gone, right? Well, maybe for some, I won't speak for everyone, but personally have never found that. When I listen to music, it stays with me (my last post demonstrates that). If hearing a song inadvertently can stick with you, and often I think you'll catch someone humming along with the radio and continuing once it is off, perhaps even subconsciously, then just think how much it sticks with you if you purposely listen to it.

Now, before I go any further, if I happen to have any Jewel fans that read my blog, don't fear, I'm not comparing Jewel with Eminem. As far as I know, Jewel Kilcher has never released an album that requires a “Parental Advisory” sticker. That's not my point.

Simply, we are what we listen to (at least to an extent). I personally find that Jewel's music puts me in somewhat of a melancholy mood and that's exactly the mood that having Standing Still stuck in my head gave me. If I listen to Michael W. Smith's Worship for awhile, I might instead find my mood is more upbeat and prone to be thankful to God for things. Before I realized this and began to take music seriously, I would occasionally listen to less tasteful music, such as Alanis Morissette and it would put me in a more aggressive and angry frame of mind without a doubt.

Perhaps all of this is because music is something that requires both the left (analytical) and right (creative) sides of our brain to process it fully. It has the opportunity to reach deeper than just plain text. We also generally listen to it over and over again.

If this is the case with a song, it should be no surprise that it has an impact on us. And once you accept that it does, do you really want that impact to come from music that goes against the very nature of Christianity… like Eminem for instance?

I know I don't.

You are viewing page 32 of 34.