Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Girl Who Saved His Ministry

All pastors have bad days. Things can get mighty lonely and discouraging. Sometimes Mondays are the worst. One Monday morning early in Joe’s ministry he decided he could not take it any longer. He got a sheet of church stationary out of his desk drawer and wrote out his resignation as pastor. He was absolutely sincere. He was not going to put up with things as they were any longer. He folded it and put it back in the desk drawer. He would read it to the church the next Wednesday night.

Feeling pretty low, he went to his car and began driving around the community. He drove behind the church where Duff Lane ended in the back church parking lot. As he drove slowly down Duff Lane, he saw a group of girls playing in one of the yards. He heard one little girl call to him, “Brother Joe, please stop.” After he stopped, the little girl ran to the car and said, “Hi, Brother Joe, how are you today?” He answered, “Fine” but later confessed that he lied! Then the little girl said, “I wanted my friends to meet you. I’ve been telling them how you told me about Jesus and I got saved and then how you ‘baba-tized’ me. Brother Joe, thank you for telling me about Jesus. Thank you for ‘baba-tizing’ me.” She then introduced her friends each by name. They all went back to their playing.

Joe returned to his office, took out his letter of resignation, and tore it into little bits. He later said, “No one could have gotten me to resign for anything. That little girl did not realize it, but she may have saved my ministry.” God began to work there as never before. The next year more than 100 were baptized at Doverside Baptist Church.

-from The Wit and Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow, hannibalbooks.com, p. 108.
Available at Hannibal Booksamazon, or order from your local Christian Bookstore.
Or order from: David Brumbelow, P.O. Box 300, Lake Jackson, TX 77566 USA; $12.95.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, October 26, AD 2010.

Wit And Wisdom Of My Dad (Wit & Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow, the book)
Other articles in lower right hand margin under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Calvinism and Being Dead in Sins

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. -Ephesians 2:1 

Many Calvinists emphasize the lost person is dead in their sins and can’t respond in any way. After all, a dead man, a dead body, is lifeless and can do nothing. So a lost person can’t respond to the Gospel in faith. He can’t do anything. Some even go to the point of saying a person is saved or regenerated before faith, since they think a lost person cannot have faith or accept salvation.

If this view of the spiritually dead is true we could go one step further. A dead man can’t sin. A dead man can’t walk and talk and hear. But the unsaved do these things on a regular basis. The very next verse to the one above (Ephesians 2:2) says those dead in their sins “walked.”

This view is rather extreme and has an improper view of death. Death in Scripture does not mean annihilation or ceasing to exist. Death means separation. James 2:26 tells us, “For as the body without the spirit is dead...”

Spiritual death is when a person is separated from God. Physical death is when the soul, spirit, the real you, is separated from the physical body. So at a funeral, the departed is not lying in the casket. If they knew Jesus as Lord and Savior, they are in Heaven with Him. Only their body, where they used to live, is in the casket.

Dead in your sins simply means your sins have separated you from a holy God. Isaiah put it, “your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2).

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they immediately became spiritually dead. But they could still walk, talk, hear and respond to God (Genesis 3:10).

Even though he is spiritually “dead,” the unsaved man can perceive the truth of God. In Romans, Paul declares emphatically that God’s truth is “clearly seen” by them so that they are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

“Dead” is only one of many figures of speech used to describe the fallen state. It is also depicted as “sickness,” which does not imply the person had no ability to hear and respond to God (Matthew 9:12). Depravity involves the corruption of life but not its destruction. The image of God in fallen humans is effaced but not erased. Even unsaved people are said to be in God’s image (Genesis 9:6). The image is marred but not eradicated by sin (cf. James 3:9).

If spiritually “dead” amounts to a kind of spiritual annihilation, rather than separation, then the “second death” (Revelation 20:10) would be eternal annihilation - a doctrine certainly not taught in Scripture. A spiritually dead person, then, is in need of spiritual life from God. But he does exist, and he can know and choose. His faculties that make up the image of God are not absent; they are simply incapable of initiating or attaining their own salvation. Like a drowning person, a fallen person can reach out and accept the lifeline even though he cannot make it to safety on his own.

Men dead in trespasses and sins can respond. That is one reason we are commanded to go into all the world and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Further information on total depravity and being dead in trespasses and sins:
Trouble With the Tulip by Frank S. Page; Riverstone.
Chosen But Free by Norman Geisler; Bethany House.
Whosoever Will by David Allen & Steve Lemke; Broadman & Holman.
Salvation and Sovereignty by Kenneth Keathley; Broadman & Holman.
Calvinistic Paths Retraced by Samuel Fisk; Biblical Evangelism Press.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, October 11, AD 2010.

Books on Calvinism, Predestination
Dr. Robert Wring on Baptists and Elder Rule
Adrian Rogers on Predestination, Calvinism
Paige Patterson on Calvinism

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times

Editorial note in Biblical Evangelist:
Last year we published a strong message from the pen of a Texas pastor, David Brumbelow, dealing with so-called social drinking, “The Bible Speaks on Alcohol.” David did his undergraduate work at East Texas Baptist University and then earned a Master of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

In this issue we are presenting a follow-up as he explodes a long-held criticism against prohibition that “the ancients had no way of preserving grape juice” (the Welches hadn’t been born yet). He gives a fine scholarly answer to this myth, showing that they did, indeed, know how. -Editor R. L. Sumner


A Christian speaks against alcohol and explains how the biblical words for wine were used to refer to nonalcoholic, as well as alcoholic wine. A scholar replies, “But it was impossible to keep wine from fermenting in the ancient world. No one could do this until Louis Pasteur and Welch’s in the late 1800s.”

He adds for good measure, “The Passover wine had to be fermented because it was in the Spring, long after the Fall grape harvest.” That seems an unanswerable argument.

Those who use this argument think they are rightly interpreting Scripture. Instead, they are taking their own ignorance and projecting it onto the Bible and the ancient world. To argue that the ancients could not preserve un-intoxicating wine is wrong factually, scientifically, and historically. Actually, fermented wine was more difficult to make and preserve, than unfermented wine.

Unfermented wine could easily be preserved without electricity, refrigeration, or pasteurization. Following are several examples.

Reduce Its Consistency

One way is to boil fresh expressed wine down to about a third or fifth of its consistency. This thick, strong wine or syrup would keep without fermentation. When ready to drink, it would just be mixed with water. This was also done with cider and other fruit.

Patrick E. McGovern is a pro-drinking secular authority on ancient and modern wine. He said, “Concentrating grape juice down by heating is still used to make the popular shireh of modern Iran and was known to the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia as well as the Greeks and Romans. It enables fruit to be preserved, and, diluted with water, it produces a refreshing, nonalcoholic beverage.” (Ancient Wine: The Search For The Origins Of Viniculture by Patrick E. McGovern, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2003).

Tischendorf wrote of a visit to Coptic monasteries in Egypt in 1845, “Instead of wine they use a thick juice of the grape, which I at first mistook for oil.”

Aristotle said the wine of Arcadia was so thick it was necessary to scrape it from the wineskins and dissolve it in water (Patton, Bible Wines).

Length of the Grape Harvest

The grape harvest lasted six months. This was done by planting different varieties of grapes, and planting them in different microclimates. Ancient writers testified of the vast number of varieties of grapes; some said they were innumerable. Grape vines and cuttings were transported throughout the Roman world.

Israel was at the crossroads of the world. Agriculture was their life. Some vines bear an early harvest, some midseason, some late. The first grapes can be picked as early as July, the latest in December. Some vines ripen all their grapes at once; others over a long period of time. Some grapes bore two crops a year. Grapes right off the vine were available for half the year.

It was a common practice to squeeze a bunch of grapes by hand directly into a cup and drink that fresh, sweet (fermentation takes away the sweetness) unfermented wine. “Then Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand” (Genesis 40:11). Historian Josephus refers to this. Pharaoh apparently preferred his wine fresh and unfermented.

A stone relief found in the Roman city of Pompeii pictures the god of wine (in sore need of a loincloth), squeezing grapes by hand into a cup (Patton, Bible Wines). Early church writings referred to pressing grapes into a cup for the Lord’s Supper.

Grapes Preserved Fresh

Grapes could be preserved fresh for months. Some will protest their grapes don’t keep long. Let me explain. Any old-time gardener will tell you some fruits and vegetables are “good keepers,” others are not. A good keeper, at room temperature, can remain fresh for months. This was especially well-known in ancient times when such knowledge could mean the difference between going hungry or not, or even prevent starvation.

Characteristics of good “keeping” grapes include a tough skin and adhering well to the cluster. The cluster would be cut from the vine. Any bad grapes would be clipped, not pulled, from the cluster. Pulling a grape leaves a “brush” that can start a molding, decaying process. Grape clusters were loosely packed in straw, cotton, bran, or hung from the ceiling. Periodically they would be inspected and any bad grapes clipped off.

The right varieties of grapes stored in this way would last fresh for months. Leon C. Field, Methodist scholar, said, in 1883, “Niebuhr says that, ‘the Arabs preserve grapes by hanging them up in their cellars, and eat them almost through the whole year.’ Dr. Kerr says, ‘A friend of mine now in Britain not long since unpacked grapes he had received eleven months previously from the continent, finding them fresh and good.’”

Also, “Bernier says grapes were sent from Persia to India, wrapped in cotton, two hundred years ago, and sold there throughout the year.”

An early 1800s recipe book, called “receipts” back then, gives directions that would preserve grapes fresh for 12 months. These grapes could be pressed into a cup at any time of the year (New Family Receipt Book, London; 1820).

Made from Dried Grapes

Wine was also made from dried grapes or raisins. Drying is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. Raisins were rehydrated by soaking or boiling and pressed into wine.

The Talmud (ancient Jewish writings) refers to raisin wine. Polybius (Greek historian c. 100 BC) spoke of un-intoxicating raisin wine. A medieval Arabian writer refers to raisin wine for the Lord’s Supper. Modern day Jews refer to raisin wine.

Sealing “Must”

Seal “must” in amphora (wine container). Roman writer Cato (c. 170 BC) said, “If you would keep must [new unfermented wine] for a year, pour it into an amphora and seal the cork with pitch. Immerse the amphora in cold water for thirty days. Then remove it and the must will be preserved for one year” (De Agri Cultura).

Additionally, olive oil and resin were used to make containers and contents airtight. Filtering was claimed to break the strength of wine. Chemical additives were used. Fermented wine could be boiled to remove the alcohol.

The above methods were widely practiced and provided unfermented wine throughout the year. So, don’t let anyone tell you, scholar or otherwise, that in Bible times they had no choice but to drink fermented wine.

Further study: Alcohol Today, Peter Lumpkins; The Bible and its Wines, Charles Wesley Ewing; Bible Wines, William Patton; Fights I Didn’t Start, And Some I Did, R. L. Sumner; Communion Wine, William M. Thayer; Libertinism: A Baptist and His Booze, Jerry Vines; Oinos, Leon C. Field.

Note:  A new book, Ancient Wine and the Bible: The Case for Abstinence by David R. Brumbelow, contains much more information about Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times

See additional articles on Alcohol under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels) in right margin. 
SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America
Ancient Wine Production and the Bible
Wine for Your Stomach's Sake; 1 Timothy 5:23

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, October 5, AD 2010. 

This article was originally published in the Biblical Evangelist, July-August, 2010.

Subscribe at: The Biblical Evangelist - 5717 Pine Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27606-8947 or biblicalevangelist.org (see Link in right margin).  Subscription is free, they operate on a donation basis.  If you can, send a generous donation!