Matt Postiff's Blog
I found at the church nearly complete sets of 1983-86 typewritten bulletins. They may be of interest particularly to our church family because that was from the five years after the initial planting of the church. It shows attendance, some information on finances, and some about church life.
- 1983 Bulletins, missing several weeks
- 1984 Bulletins, missing April 15
- 1985 Bulletins, missing August
- 1986 Bulletins
Along with the bulletins came 66 typewritten sermon notes that Pastor Raymond Saxe gave as bulletin inserts and from which he preached. Here they are:
At Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary I have just started helping to teach second year Hebrew. That's a task! One of the things we are doing is learning somewhere north of 800 vocabulary words. I have recorded the words as an aid to my study so that as I travel in the car I can review. This is a draft quality, but such as it is...
A great resource for learning a how to pronounce Biblical Hebrew is available at The Academy of Ancient Languages. As that site says, the reader of most of the Hebrew Bible was the late Abraham Shmuelof, a priest born in Jerusalem. Another voice is heard on the recordings as well, but I don't have information on that person.
I often hear about churches calling an ordination council to examine a man as to his call and doctrinal fitness for gospel ministry. This is wise: a church can and must evaluate the man as to his salvation testimony, call to ministry, giftedness, ability to preach and teach, and his character. By calling a council of outside pastors they recognize they need additional objective advice as to whether the man holds to sound doctrine in the entire counsel of God.
What I do not hear about is churches calling a similar council to examine a man who is to be their own next (senior) pastor. I believe it would be wise to have an outside council of like-minded pastors to make sure that the man who is being considered actually holds to the doctrine and practice of the church, is of a temperate spirit so as not to get the church into problems, and is not being recycled from a problematic situation. The church is wise to seek outside objective advice, in order to avoid the "this pastoral search thing is going on too long, let's just get it over with" mentality. Such weariness in finding a good pastor can lead the church to pick "a good available candidate" instead of "the best candidate" for the ministry.
Just wondering, because an ordination often leads to the new pastor going out to minister in another church; a pulpit search brings a new pastor in. If not done carefully, there may be a tough road ahead.
I don't drink alcohol because:
- We are commanded not to be drunk. Drunkenness sets in quite soon after drinking begins. If it doesn’t because you have built up resistance, you already have a serious problem.
- Drinking is not necessary to live, or to enjoy life.
- Drinking only a few beers puts most people into the impaired or intoxicated category.
- Drinking can form a habit and addiction which can be deadly.
- Drinking is potentially destructive of families, in auto accidents, etc.
- Drinking is offensive to many Christians.
- Drinking blurs your testimony to the world.
- Drinking moderately can lead your kids into drinking immoderately.
- Drinking is a waste of money and supports a bad industry.
- Drinking clouds judgment and deadens senses and conscience.
- Drinking is not compatible with Christian ministry, just like it was not compatible with Tabernacle ministry.
- Drinking is not necessary medicinally or to purify drinking water.
- Drinking is not the best or most excellent choice.
- Drinking is often associated with sexual immorality and other sinful lifestyles.
I am concerned about excessive repetition in Christian songs. Some repetition can be helpful, and some is found in Scripture. See Psalm 136 for an example of fairly heavy repetition. The Proverbs and Psalms use poetic synonymous parallelism. Because this is not exact verbal repetition, I do not count it as pure "repetition." But there is a point at which verbal repetition becomes bad (sinful). See Acts 19:34 for a pagan example of repeated chanting. Our Lord warns us against using repeated words to get God to hear our prayers (Matthew 6:7).
I took some examples in our traditional hymnal as well as among some contemporary songs and ranked them according to their repetitiveness. One example I found was the hymn "Worthy is the Lamb" in the Living Hymns hymnal. Once all the repeated lines are eliminated, only 29% of the song remains. I call this percentage the "meaning density" of the song. Meaning density is a measure of how many words in the song express unique meaning. If when you sing a song you utter 100 words, but these words consist of 10 repeated phrases of 10 words each, then you are singing with about 10% meaning. Of course some repetition can be well done and sung to a different melody and manner, but after awhile, all the variations boil down to the same meaning. A song with such low density is what I would call "fluff."
There are three general groupings of hymns and contemporary songs. The first has a meaning density around 35% or less. The second group consists of songs that have a percentage of around 50-75%. The third group is above 75%, and many of the ones I studied have 100% density. That means that they have no repeated phrases in them. Songs like "Amazing Grace" and "His Robes for Mine" rank the highest according to the repetition calculation.
The analysis revealed that certain songs are extremely repetitious. The song I mentioned above, "Worthy is the Lamb" is under 30%. "Jesus Saves" devotes 30% of all the words sung to that two-word phrase. "My Sins are Blotted Out" dedicates 60% of the song to that phrase from the title. "Why Should He Love Me So?" has 50% of the song in those words. The phrase "I Can Only Imagine" takes up 26% of the song by that name; this particular song has an overall meaning density of 35%. The Hallelujah Chorus has a meaning density even less--near 20%! I noted that almost all of the CCM genre songs that I studied fell under the 50% mark in terms of repetition.
Heavy repetition within a song is not necessary or helpful, particularly when you consider that a good song that "gets into your head" will be repeated quite a bit by your thinking of and singing the words over and over.
After this study, I am more resolved than before to select hymns that are not under about 50% of repetition. Are those songs always wrong to use? I don't think so. But as part of the regular worship diet of a church, they are not appropriate.
A lot of objective work could be done in this area (research assistants, please?). Many more songs could be run through my program; the program could be improved; and more characteristics of songs could be distilled. Even more important would be to look at other important aspects of hymn analysis, such as music style, focus on God or man, theological truths or errors contained in the song, the originating theological system, and the quality of the words and music in terms of their majesty and worthiness of our great God.
The script I mentioned is available here and the Powerpoint is available here. To run the program, you will need a Perl interpreter like Strawberry Perl or Perl in the Cygwin package. For a bit more detail, listen to my message here.
After I spent some time talking to someone about the doctrine of sanctification, a strange thought struck me about Arminian soteriology and a certain form of sanctification as contrasted with Calvinistic soteriology and sanctification. Let me over-simplify and summarize it this way:
Some Arminians say this:
1. I can be saved.
2. I cannot be sanctified unless a certain formula is met.
But Calvinists say the opposite in both cases.
3. I cannot be saved.
4. I can indeed be sanctified after I am saved.
To be fair, both sides recognize in soteriology that God must do something to save man. Christ is indispensable in the view of both; some work of God is wrought upon the heart of man, either by rendering him able with prevenient grace, or working a special grace in his heart at the moment of salvation.
But the similarities stop just about there. The Arminian believes, or at least seems to believe, that every person has a fairly unfettered ability to make a choice to respond to the gospel of Christ. The Calvinist denies this and says that people are dead in sin and cannot respond unless a special work of God is wrought upon their hearts.
The curious thing is that some Arminians who believe the unsaved person has such ability in salvation deny the believer's ability in the subsequent work of sanctification. Believers, on their view, are unable to simply obey the commands of God in the Bible. Some sequence of special things has to happen in their lives before they can have victory over sin. For instance, they have to "reckon" themselves to be dead to sin, or they have to consecrate themselves, or be filled with the Spirit, or be "broken," before they can achieve victory over sin.
The Calvinist on the other hand, who denies ability at salvation, rejoices to point out the new found power of the believer after salvation. The Holy Spirit has taken up ministry within the believer; a new nature has been imparted; new desires have been implanted; regeneration has occurred. The believer is a new creature in Christ and can in fact obey the commands of God. True, the commands are not obeyed in mere human power. But they can be obeyed!
I found the swapping of "ability" before and after salvation in these two systems to be a curious thing. Why should any Arminian who believes a person has the ability to initially come to salvation not believe that at least that much ability, and more, is to be found in the believer after salvation?
Arminian: I can get saved, but once I do, I cannot persevere. God may or may not preserve me.
Calvinist: I cannot get saved, but once I do, I have the ability to persevere. God will preserve me.
Arminian: ability becomes inability. Calvinist: inability becomes ability.
To be sure, some will take issue with how I am, perhaps, over-simplifying things. But I think the contrast is worthy of some thought before dismissing it.
Maybe you are new to reading the Bible and aren’t quite sure what it is all about. The Bible is a library of 66 smaller books compiled into one larger book. It describes important events in world history. In it, God also tells us what he wants us to know about ourselves, Himself, and everything that has to do with life and death. This document summarizes what God has said using 11 words that begin with the letter C.
Genesis 1-2 God created everything out of nothing in six days. That is why the week is six days long. The very pinnacle of creation was man and woman, Adam and Eve. God made Adam out of the dust of the ground and made Even out of Adam. They were real people who God directed to keep the Garden of Eden, manage the entire world, and fill it with people. He gave them one prohibition, namely to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 3-5 Whether the fruit of this tree was really an apple or not we do not know. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit. Their disobedience caused a major disturbance in the world. First, Adam and Eve started down the path of physical death: dust began to go back to dust. Second, they were separated from God because they had rebelled against Him. Third, they had to leave the utopian Garden of Eden and fight the elements to win an existence from the ground by farming and tending animals. Fourth, it changed their nature so that they were now ‘sinners’ and their offspring were also sinners. That’s us! We are feeling the effects of that disaster down to the present.
Genesis 6-10 As the population of the world grew, people put their heads together to do evil things on a huge scale. This was distressing to God, so much so that he decided to destroy the world with a flood. Only the man Noah and his family survived by taking refuge in a large boat called the Ark. This flood was a catastrophe that changed the earth’s geography forever. We can see the effects of it today all around us. God promised that he would not judge the world again in this way, and signified that promise with the rainbow.
Genesis 11 After the flood, Noah’s sons and their wives had families and began to multiply the earth’s population. Once again, the people turned their attention to their own pursuits instead of re-filling the earth as God had commanded. So, when they took on a huge building project at a place called Babel, God stirred things up by changing their single language into multiple languages. This divided the people into language groups and they began to move apart and settle into different regions of the world. As they became geographically isolated, they gradually developed identifiable physical and cultural characteristics, such as variations of skin color, shape of eyes, and various religions.
Genesis 12-50 Out of these many people groups, God chose a man named Abraham from a place in the Fertile Crescent called Ur. Abraham was an idol-worshipper to whom God spoke and caused to believe in the true God. God promised Abraham a nation and personal blessing. His descendants are known as the Jews/Hebrews. God’s promise to Abraham extended through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons who became the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. Why did God choose Abraham? Simply because he wanted to do so. There was nothing special or worthy in Abraham or his future descendants that warranted God’s choice. God set his love on them as an illustration of how he chooses the things of the world that are despised, and the things that don’t amount to much, in order to bring honor to God.
Exodus to Malachi In the next four books of the Bible (Exodus through Deuteronomy), the Bible tells us about Jacob’s family that went down to Egypt to avoid starvation in a famine. God turned that family into a nation of hundreds of thousands of people over a period of 400-odd years. The Hebrews left Egypt and God gave them a constitution that we call the Law of Moses. They were to follow this constitution, with God as their king and Moses as their prince. They immediately had trouble with this assignment, showing that man’s sinful nature, inherited from Adam and Eve, continued to be very troublesome. About 1000 years of their history is covered in the remainder of the books of the Old Testament. They often failed and God sent them prophets and priests and some good kings to exhort them to live under the Law of Moses. The story is a sad tale of repeated failure. The Law, including the 10 commandments, could not rescue the people from their sinful condition caused by the corruption of Genesis 3–5.
Matthew to John God then sent his Son to take a human body and nature in order to reveal God to humanity and to stand in our place as a substitute, taking the penalty for our sin. That happened on the cross (next section), but before that occurred, His Son Jesus spent several years doing public teaching and private training of his followers to prepare them to start a new phase in God’s program for the world: the church (see below). Jesus is God-in-the-flesh, truly God and truly man in one Jewish man. Christians call him Lord.
Matthew to John Remember that Adam and Eve began immediately to suffer separation from God and physical degradation that led to death. Apart from God rescuing them out of this terrible predicament, they and we would remain forever separated from him. God’s rescuer is Jesus, who died for our sins to provide forgiveness and life. He asks that we truly turn from our affinity to sin and trust in Him. By so doing, one “believes” in Jesus and is thus saved (from death) and born again to a new life. This rebirth is spiritual, not physical.
Acts to Jude The church was planned to be a distributed, decentralized body that would proclaim the same truths that Jesus did, and encourage people to believe in him and live life with godly character. We can see what this life should look like by reading the teachings of Jesus. These teachings were carried forward by his followers, called apostles, and they wrote the teachings down in the books of the New Testament. Many of their teachings they conveyed in the written form of letters to churches like those of the Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, Romans, and the others. Christians follow these instructions.
Revelation Jesus Christ is coming back a second time. Just before that happens, God will take all Christians, dead and alive, to heaven. Then, there will be a time of difficult tribulation that will consume the entire earth, after which Jesus will return and inaugurate a time of world peace. But even this will be sullied by sin. At the end of this time, God will judge the unsaved dead and consign them to a place called the lake of fire. Sinners and sin will be confined to that place forever, unable to do damage to the rest of God’s creation.
Revelation Finally, God will do a total cleanup of the universe by burning it all up and creating a new heaven and new earth. In this new earth he will take up residence and his people will live there with him in perfect harmony. This is what Christians call “heaven.” It will be a never-ending perfect society with no sickness, pain, or death.The list is expanded from a similar list used by Answers in Genesis.
Thanks to the audio team at First United Methodist Church in Saline, we have the audio of the funeral service for Hayden Smith. There are 26 MP3 files that make up just over 2 hours of audio. Below you can find links to each portion of the service. We are providing these audio recordings in hope that they will remind you of the comfort the community shared around this tragic event. To listen in chronological order, please read the first row from left to right and the following rows in the same order.
Be aware it will take some time to download all 117 MB of these files.
Interlocutor Bob responded to my previous post about abortion.
Bob says the assertion that life begins at conception is an un-evidenced religious position not supported by science or modern philosophy. I am happy to stand against the consensus of both disciplines, because if they so say, then they are wrong in the eyes of God, who has revealed clearly His will on the matter of abortion. Further, I believe that any evidence I adduce for life beginning at conception will be rejected by the pro-abortionist anyway, because of their prior commitments. For example...what does begin at conception? Death? Nothing? It is evident that something is alive. Suppose we found a reproducing set of cells on Mars. Science would proclaim that they had found life on another planet. But they cannot recognize the same thing in the womb of a nearby mother!
Bob says that most pregnancies end before the mother is aware of it. I don't know the statistics on that, but let's suppose he is right. If they end naturally, we ought not be happy about that, but we can accept it as from the hand of God and because of the cursed condition in which we exist.
Bob says that the choice to stop pregnancy before viability is not a moral question for him. But I have to wonder, is getting pregnant a moral issue? Is the particular time of viability a moral issue? Is anything really a moral issue, or just an issue of convenience or cultural convention?
Bob says that a 20-week fetus doesn't even have a heartbeat. Here's where I have to really chastise Bob for a basic lack of knowledge. A quick search online reveals that an institution as highly regarded as the Mayo Clinic says that the heartbeat of a fetus starts in the sixth week. As they point out, the first two weeks of official "pregnancy" happen before fertilization, so are not really part of the life of the new baby. This means the baby's heart is beating 4 weeks after conception. I have to wonder with such a basic lack of knowledge if I should take seriously other things that Bob says. Nevertheless, I will give Bob the benefit of the doubt and consider carefully what he says because this is such a crucial issue.
Bob says that by week 25 a fetus doesn't have a sufficient nervous system control basic bodily functions, and by week 30 it still doesn't have fully developed bones. I respond that anyone who has had a child knows that the nervous system cannot control bathroom functions for quite some time after 40 weeks, and the same goes for bone development. These are not arguments for a position to terminate pregnancy, unless they are also arguments to terminate a baby after it is born.
Bob says that I am close-minded and the one in our conversation who is blinded by immorality. Such is the impasse that the believer comes to in conversations with one who does not believe in Christ. Our lives are built on two totally different foundations. I suppose I am close-minded, since I have carefully investigated the claims of the other side and found them sorely lacking. I see nothing new forthcoming on the horizon that would convince me it is OK to kill babies in the womb. But I would encourage Bob to be open to all the evidence as well. If you discard the Bible and God and Christian truth, you short-change your evidence collection and are doomed to come to some very bad conclusions.
Bob says that he is a nice guy and does good works, and that I should get to know him. I would love to get to know him better. But I am making a case that someone who supports killing babies in the womb is not nice in at least that one regard. It is a bloody business that Planned Parenthood does. Civilized human beings should not be involved in it.
Doing good works and being a nice guy are not sufficient to qualify one as "right" in the sight of God. Only by a transforming work of God through faith in Christ can one be brought into spiritual life and into a mind open to moral truth so that it can truly understand the things I am talking about here.
Bob, I'm thankful we can speak freely to one another, hopefully gain some understanding of each other, and not be jailed or killed for our views. Hopefully that liberal spirit of toleration will prevail in our country for a long time even in the face of strong disagreements such as these. Please consider that Christ died for your sins and rose again from the dead. If you come to acknowledge Him, then we can have this conversation again on a shared foundation, and the outcome will be a lot different.
I just got home from an emotional day of ministry, serving the family of a fine 17-year young man in our church who was killed in an auto accident last week. The last 10 days have been brutal for the family, but they have also brought many blessings and thoughts that might be helpful for you. Writing this will be helpful for me to process what I've just experienced.
Our collective memories cannot remember a tragedy like this in our church's entire history, so this was a brand new experience. Pastors called and said they either had experienced such an event, and offered wise counsel; or they called and said they never had and that they were laboring in prayer for the family and for me to minister. A multitude of Christian people said they were praying for me this week, or all the way through the service. I believe God answered those prayers.
The Smith family has been a fine example of how to handle a trial of the worst sort. I encouraged them that God has not permitted more than He will sustain them through. I exhorted them that they must not take the devil's bait to become bitter against God, or discouraged, depressed, divided, despairing. God can and will uphold them.
The community's support was outstanding. About 600 people visited with the family yesterday, and there were almost 800 people in attendance at the celebration of life service today. It was standing room only. Families brought food for the luncheon, and there was way more than enough.
This time brought ministry opportunities with countless individuals. Events like those of the past week brought out people's concerns--on their own account, or from one family member about another who needs to be saved or to walk with the Lord.
It was reinforced to me that a strong doctrinal foundation is crucial for the real events of life. Sure, your pastor's Sunday's message might not feel precisely relevant for Monday morning. But it should be relevant for the morning when you get the call that your son has just been airlifted to the University Hospital and the local police will be taking you to him as soon as they can arrive at your home. Personal eschatology is relevant when the family faces a young man attached to machines who has no life left in his body and has to decide what to do next. The fact is that the Bible is always relevant, but the pastor may not always be preaching on a subject that suits your immediate fancy. However, the message may just fit a desperate need later.
The issues of life comprise a serious business. I was driving home from the church where the funeral was held, and I was the second car at a red light. Someone two or three cars back honked when the driver in front of me didn't turn right-on-red fast enough. I just shook my head. Wish I could take that person who honked back in time and had them sit through this week with me. Maybe they would then learn that they don't have to hurry on to their death by driving too fast, or think that getting through a red light is such an important thing. How ridiculous are the trivial things we get upset about!
Something else wonderful that happened was the great number of people who consoled me and inquired as to my well being. I lost a loved one too, they said, and I was carrying the burden of the church's grief and care as I ministered. That is all true, but I felt like God allowed us to share the burden together and as such it was lighter and more bearable. God has brought us safe thus far, Smiths and FBC family and Saline Community. So let us thank Him!
More thoughts flood my mind: the precious people who came to the funeral; the tears; the unbelief; the mourners who have hope; those who don't have any hope; the outstanding hospitality of First United Methodist Church in Saline; the funeral procession; the graveside committal service; the music; the memories shared; a decade and a half of precious personal friendship with Hayden's parents. May all bring comfort.
The service went well. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed. The people were called to embrace the faith once for all delivered to the saints. I trust Hayden's memory was properly honored, and that God was glorified.
The Truth Trackers program will be starting on September 2, and we thought we would give you a sampling of what the children do for the year by looking back to the 2014/15 school year. One of our 6-year-olds, Daniel, will recite the memory work that he learned in the Tiny Trackers program, which is the youngest age group of our Truth Trackers club.
There is no sleight of hand here. What happened was that during the school year, the children would learn a key word and a verse to go with it. They would have a story lesson about that word and verse, and then they would be responsible to learn the verse. Parental involvement at home is a very important part of this, as the parents review the verse with the child several times in the following week, and review the previous weeks' verses as well. By repetition, Daniel remembers all thirty weeks of verses, and still retains them now, months later.
Your child can do this too in our Truth Trackers program!