Greg Linscott

Some Random Musings…

2013 Family Christmas Letter

As Christians, Christmas is the time we celebrate the Advent of our Savior, Jesus Christ. With the words of Wesley’s hymn, we hope that you too can rejoice in the salvation He provided for us:

Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth. 

2013 is winding down its last days, and we in the Linscott family are thankful for God’s provision to us over the past year.  This February will mark the completion of our 6th year here in Marshall, and we have truly grown to love the place God has planted us in. By the time you read this, Greg should have finished the classwork for a Master’s degree from Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Sumnmit, PA.

Jennifer's hard work has paid off

Jennifer’s hard work has paid off

Jennifer recently completed a dieting process of over 2 years, losing 115 lbs. in the course of that time. The children are developing and maturing. Abby, Kati, and Dori continue their responsibilities delivering papers for the Marshall Independent. Caleb and Emma started wearing glasses. Abby continues her love of drawing, and started Driver’s Education. Kati continues to play her violin with the Southwest Minnesota Orchestra. She and Dori are taking piano lessons, and were joined this year by Reggie taking violin lessons, too. Abby and Kati are accompanying the congregation in hymn singing- Abby on her guitar and clarinet, and Kati on her violin.

Jennifer did some painting with her mom while in Grand Rapids.

Jennifer did some painting with her mom while in Grand Rapids.

January was an interesting month for our family. Reggie and Emma played basketball with the Marshall Community Services programs for their age groups. Jennifer spent a week with her parents in Grand Rapids, following her father’s hip replacement surgery. Dad and the kids survived her absence without any significant problems, though Dad did end up conducting a funeral at the church while she was gone. He also managed to arrange for the family dog to spend a weekend away… something we’ll come back to later…

Abby is in the front row on her clarinet

Just about every day in February had at least one member of the Linscott family down with the flu- the odds of such things increase with 9 family members! With that being said, we still managed to navigate through a month of normal activities, including the annual Grand Prix race at church, and a band concert for the girls. Greg and Jennifer celebrated 18 years of marriage, and Reggie celebrated his 6th birthday.

The most notable event for our family in March was Dori’s decision to follow Jesus in the waters of baptism. She joined 5 other baptism candidates, as well as three others who joined the church on Easter Sunday.

 

The children were also involved in a production of The Pinocchio Show  with other students from the Marshall Area Christian Home Educators Association. In other news, our family dog gave birth to a litter of nine golden retriever puppies, 7 of whom survived and went on to good homes.

April saw plenty of snow throughout the month- enough to warrant canceling church services once or twice, even. Dori and Emma celebrated their 10th and 5th birthdays, respectively. Kati had the opportunity to accompany a men’s choir from Southwest Minnesota State University on her violin, an opportunity we were very grateful for, considering she was only in eighth grade.

In May, the adoption of our son Hayden was finalized, the youngest of the three children we have added into our family. We celebrated with an impromptu trip visiting Mount Rushmore and the Badlands of South Dakota over Memorial Day. The girls resumed their summer horse-riding lesson with Joanne Stoneberg from our church in June. Jennifer and the children were excited to complete another year of school.

We sent the three oldest girls to Camp Shiloh for camp in July, along with several campers from Marshall. Jennifer took the children and some of the girl’s friends to the Mall of America for an adventure-filled day. A highlight of the year included a trip to Michigan for Jennifer’s 20th high school reunion, which included a few extra days visiting with family and a detour to the Creation Museum. August saw us back in Marshall, taking in tomatoes from the garden, and gearing up for another year of home education.CSC_0132

Jennifer’s Class Reunion Picture

Jennifer got to see Charlie and Betty Vander Meer (Uncle Charlie of Children’s Bible Hour) while visiting her home church in Grand Rapids

Greg oversaw the Minnesota Baptist Association’s Men’s Retreat in September. There was a very good turnout for the event, which featured Phil Johnson as speaker. Reggie joined Kati and Dori taking violin lessons. Jennifer and the kids began another year of school, and Greg celebrated his 42nd birthday.

Dressing in animal costumes for Kids 4 Truth at church

DSC06810

October saw Abby’s 15th birthday, Kati’s first concert of the season with the Southwest Minnesota Orchestra, and our first snow of the season. Dori played volleyball with the team from Marshall Area Christian School. We also enjoyed watching the Boston Red Sox march on to their third World Series title in 10 years (well, at least watching Dad watch the games and shaking the whole house when they did something exciting….).

The 2013 Red Sox postseason was memorable at our house

The 2013 Red Sox postseason was memorable at our house

Thanksgiving dinner at the church

Kati turned 14, Caleb turned 4, and Jennifer… had a birthday in November, too! We had a wonderful month of family celebrations. We enjoyed a Thanksgiving celebration with several people from our church, including several Karen refugees from Burma- in all, there were 60 of us who enjoyed the meal and celebration together.  Greg got an 8 point buck deer hunting with the men from church, to help put some food in our freezer for the winter.

Kati at 14, Abby at 15

We’re looking forward to an eventful December. We will celebrate our 2nd Christmas together as a family, as well as Hayden’s second birthday. On the church front, we plan to celebrate our 6th annual Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols service.

Hayden is nearly 2, Caleb just turned 4.

We wish you all a joyous Christmas season, and a prosperous 2014 as you are faithful to the commands of Christ.

Love from Greg, Jennifer, Abby, Kati, Dori, Reggie, Emma, Caleb, and Hayden

Working with the Karen- An Interlude

UPDATE (12/1)- A congregational song from this morning’s service:

This isn’t a full-blown entry, but is related to the last article.

There was a nice article published in a local free newspaper about our Karen friends here.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with many of our Karen families (and a couple “native” families)- 60 people total. You can see some pictures here.

Sorry For The Delay…

I have not forgotten about blogging. Things have been a little busy, lately… I’m finishing up an online course through Baptist Bible Seminary, participated in a couple of installation services for pastor friends in nearby congregations, and spending some time out deer hunting with the men of our church. I am hopeful that blogging will resume shortly, though!

Working With The Karen, Part 1

In the summer of 2010, the HR director at Turkey Valley Farms dropped in for an unannounced visit. I remember distinctly that I had been working pulling weeds in our garden plot behind the church building. He said that they were actively recruiting workers from the S’Gaw Karen refugee community in St. Paul. However, if they were coming here, there needed to be some measure of community support and stability for them, and for many of them, it was important that they find that in a local church, and more specifically, a Baptist church.

At that point, I was not especially familiar with who the Karen were, but as I began to put some of the pieces together in my mind, I remembered hearing about them before. One of my favorite biographies I read as a boy was To The Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson. It tells the story of Adoniram Judson, the pioneer missionary to Burma. It was Judson’s labors that ultimately led to the introduction of Christianity to the Karen tribe.

That day, I remember expressing a willingness to accommodate these people however we could. I had no idea what the Lord had in store for us all.

Impromptu Service at the Linscott’s During a Blizzard, February 2011

The first group came about a month later toward the end of August. That first Sunday, we had 10-15 Karen people, most of whom were from a church in Worthington and had been here in the USA for a few years, and were helping the initial Marshall residents get settled. Our first group was a core of anywhere from 3 to 7 people, with a few others who attended more sporadically. Those numbers grew quickly, however, and 6 months later, we were seeing numbers of 15-20 Karen each week, and 8-10 children and teens in our Wednesday youth programs.

First Karen SS Class, October 2011

First Karen SS Class, October 2011

To be continued…

A Day To Remember

April 2013

One of the most radical life changes our family has experienced began in in 2011, when Jennifer and I became certified foster parents with the state of Minnesota.  Jennifer had wanted to adopt children since she was a child herself, and I was certainly not opposed to the idea. Leading up to this moment, Jennifer and I had been discussing the idea of adoption, and even looked into the agency route. We found the costs to be rather intimidating, though, and while we didn’t rule it out, we were somewhat skeptical that we would be able to fund an agency adoption without disrupting our family’s financial stability.

Then one day, Jennifer and I noticed a flyer on our refrigerator, promoting an event held by our local social services agency to recruit potential foster parents. When we asked our three girls about it, they readily confessed and almost demanded that we attend, though neither Jennifer or I had mentioned our interest in adoption to them. We couldn’t  help but smile at their enthusiasm, and before too long we were signed up to take the required training needed to secure foster parent certification.

Our expressed intent from the beginning was to pursue foster-to-adopt. Our first placement took place in October, when we took a little girl directly home from the hospital. We loved little Z, and were certain that she would always be our little girl. Two weeks later, however, the agency informed us that the birth parents had gotten things together enough to regain custody of their daughter. We remembered that “reunification is always the goal” of the foster system, but somehow that didn’t make the tears and sense of loss any more tolerable.

A couple of weeks later, we were asked to do respite care for a couple of severely autistic children (respite care is essentially giving the regular foster parents a weekend off). The children had left their blankets with their foster parents, though, so one of their neighbors, also foster parents (we had taken training sessions together) agreed to deliver them to us. They brought their foster children with them to deliver the blankets, and that ended up being the first time we would meet Emma and Caleb.

They left an unmistakable impression the first time we met them. The autistic children we were watching were very calm, and were pretty much content to sit by themselves with a single toy, singing quietly to themselves. When Emma and Caleb came over, it was like a tornado had been unleashed in our home! One of the first things they did was find our game closet, and literally began taking the contents and slinging them over their shoulders onto the floor behind them. As disruptive as they seemed at first, though, they also had an enthusiasm that was infectious. It also made us smile that they immediately started calling us “Mom” and “Dad.”

Shortly after that, the agency asked us if we could consider taking them in, as well as their yet-unborn brother, due in December. Initially, we were hesitant, because we had originally thought that we could handle one, maybe two- but three? Again, the Lord used our girls. When they found out that we had been asked about Emma and Caleb, they immediately begged us to take them.

November 2011

So, in November of 2011, Emma and Caleb began their time in our home with a foster care placement. They fit in quickly, as did their brother, Hayden. From that point on, there was never any question in my mind… these were my kids!

December 2011

Still, like many things, you had to wait for paperwork. The filing process moved along slowly, but in October of 2012, we received noticed of our court date to finalize the procedure. Being the sentimental guy that I am, I compared it to getting the title in the mail after we’d already driven the car off the lot several months before… :) but it was truly a day I will never forget, when they finally took my name as their own.

October 2012

I won’t pretend that it has always been “they all lived happily ever after.” There have been moments where we all have had to adjust. Tempers sometimes flare. Patience wears thin. Then again, those things were true with our own offspring (and still are!). Having 7 children has its moments (especially for Jennifer, who home educates the lot pretty much single-handedly). However, if you asked any one of us, we are convinced that God knew exactly what he was doing when he placed us all together, and we are profoundly grateful that he did so.

Happy Adoption Day to my beloved daughter Emma and son Caleb. I am so thankful to be called your father!

Interesting Pairing…

In reviewing the copy of the S’Gaw Karen hymnal I have, I discovered that they paired the lyrics of Isaac Watts’ “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” with the tune WOODWORTH, which most of us would associate with the song “Just As I Am.”

Reflections, Part 5- Why Did We?

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

I have tried to address the objections to why we invited Phil. What I’d like to finish with is a post on the more positive aspects behind the invitation…

Emphasis on the Word. To me, this was key. If a speaker isn’t going to present and apply the Scriptures, what makes our event a Christian one? Phil has a well-earned reputation in being a sound expositor of the Scriptures, and his working partnership with John MacArthur does nothing but enhance that.

Boldness for the Truth. Phil has been willing to address erroneous teaching, behavior, and problems within and facing the American Evangelical scene. Whether “we” agree with the extent of some of the relationships the folks at GCC have established or not, the fact is that Phil, MacArthur and co. have used those relationships as a platform for influence toward what they believe to be the truth. Examples of this would include the aforementioned “Strange Fire” conference,  MacArthur’s “Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillenialist,” or even the video below addressing the excesses of “The New Calvinism”:

I personally appreciated Phil’s comments in this 2012 interview:

“The abuse of the term evangelicalism and the corruption of the evangelical movement really started, I think, with a core of people who included the founder of Christianity Today who wanted a new kind of evangelicalism and that was their term – new evangelicalism… They wanted to do away with certain evangelical distinctives and embrace a kind of ecumenical diversity instead. And slowly and gradually that’s what they did. My argument would be today, these days, you could read Christianity Today, you barely will find any actual theological evangelicalism in the magazine at all…”

“The distinctive of evangelicalism is we as evangelicals believe the Gospel, which means that spiritual redemption is the only true remedy for what ails fallen humanity… The Gospel is about sin, righteousness and judgment, but it’s not politically correct these days to preach about those things and it’s amazing and appalling how few pastors are willing to break those political conventions and go against the spirit of our age. It’s just not fashionable to do that and truly proclaim the Gospel.”

Doctrinal Affinity. One fact often downplayed is Phil’s unapologetic affirmation of the doctrinal principles that define the MBA. In Phil’s own words to me, “I’m a dispensationalist, cessationist, and young-earth creationist.” You can see his signature appended to our current speaker doctrinal/position statement below:

DSC06497Shifting gears a little, I would like to comment on how evident it was that the men benefited from his ministry to them. First of all, the initial response showed that there was a keen interest in what Phil brought to the table. There were over 100 more men in attendance in comparison to the same event last year, representing several churches who had not participated in recent days. While there may have been other factors that also played into the increase (a drop in expenses, and a venue change from a campground to a local church facility in the Twin Cities metro), Phil’s reputation as a preacher was not, I am confident, a neutral factor in the upsurge.

I had several older men approach me afterwards, both pastors and laymen, who spoke well of the benefits they received. One veteran pastor noted “this is one of the best Men’s Fellowships we’ve ever had… perhaps the best.” Another confessed his skepticism of the invitation going in, but said with conviction, “I don’t know how you couldn’t have been blessed and challenged by what we just heard these last 2 days.” One of the most encouraging comments came to me in a feedback survey response:

“This was the most worthwhile Men’s Retreat that I have ever attended. Men of all ages (I’m 67) could relate to Phil Johnson’s message, and grow from his consistent scripture-based teaching.”

DSC06327-001I enjoyed very much the personal time I was able to spend with Phil along the way. We spent nearly 6 hours traveling between Marshall and the Twin Cities, due to Phil speaking at our church on Sunday. The conversation did nothing to reduce the impression that there are many things we would hold in common, and I was actually intrigued to hear of how familiar he was with people and voices in “our circles,” and the high regard he held some of them (even as he observed that there are some of those who didn’t appear to have a high opinion of him).

Conclusion

I don’t pretend to know everything the future holds. In the whole scheme of things, this event may be a mere flash in the pan. I know that for me, it has shown that we have friends we can appreciate and benefit from- and not just nationally known figures like a Phil Johnson, but the pastors and churches who came to hear him. It showed me the need for people to lead. As much as we don’t want the return of a Fundamentalism centered around a centralized, personality-driven leadership, neither is it efficient to be permanently mired in committee doing nothing because we can’t reach a consensus and we are concerned about negative response.  It seems to me that in our (right) emphasis on the separatist nature of the Fundamentalist idea, we have too often neglected and forgotten the “big tent” aspect of Fundamentalist fellowship. I am hopeful that this event will serve as a reminder to others that “not all fellowship is created equal,” and that there can be blessing and benefit in centering around common principles to better accomplish the work God has called us to.

Official MBA Report on the Men’s Fellowship

In light of other posts, the latest edition of the MBA’s official publication, the North Star Update,  might interest some of you. It includes a follow-up article by Phil Johnson to his conference messages.

Reflections, Part 4- The Matter of Music

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

There are few topics potentially more divisive in Fundamental Baptist circles or even American Evangelicalism in general than the topic of music. I have been involved on conversations on the topic enough in the past to understand that I am unlikely to convince anyone of my specific conclusions in a single blog post, and such an attempt is not my purpose here.

Rather, it is my intent to examine it as a possible obstacle to cooperation and fellowship, such as we had when Phil Johnson addressed the Men’s Fellowship of the Minnesota Baptist Association.

“What?” you might ask. “Phil Johnson is a musician?”

Well, not that I know of, anyway.

The issue of music as a hindrance to fellowship, in this case, usually goes to a general principle of what is tolerated in the ministries of Grace Community Church and its related ministries. The most extreme example and often-cited objection typically is the music used in their Resolved conferences, targeted at college students and held from 2005-2012.

The sense that I get is that as is true in many churches, there is not one single school of thought on music shared throughout the congregation. John MacArthur himself has been both critical of the excesses of contemporary worship, and affirmed the historic Christian tradition of hymnody with a list that would pass about any conservative Christian’s immediate evaluation. This message is one that would have many traditional Fundamentalists consulting their chiropractors the next morning because of pain caused by repetitive, vigorous nodding.

I have a long-time friend who serves as the pastor of a small Regular Baptist church in Southern California. He is about as traditional in his music at his church as they come. His perspective on GCC is that for the environment in which they minister, the congregation has a perception of being a proponent and defender of conservative worship and traditional hymnody. He frequently  attends the annual Christmas concert held there, and his perspective is that virtually all of the music performed there would pass muster at most Fundamentalist congregations today (though he did admittedly cringe when he mentioned the rendition of “Little Drummer Boy”).

The question seems to me to be how much should music affect the boundaries of our fellowship and cooperation?

The answer is not as easy as it might strike some of us. I daresay that most of us with conservative music tendencies have active members whose listening habits, at the very least, do not match up neatly with our conclusions and established personal practices. In my own church, I am certain this is the case. This variety would also be true, I suspect, if your congregation’s supported missionaries were placed under scrutiny.

Many of us have, to this point, successfully avoided situations where we have had to actively partner with congregations who use the instrumentation and styles reminiscent of the rock culture on their platforms. But for those of you reading this who belong to the MBA, let me ask you: if one of our churches were to bring in a trapset, or employ a cajón in the course of their corporate worship music, would that in itself be sufficient grounds to expel them from the Association? Should it be?

The fact is, whether we like it or not, we live in a setting where we have been conditioned to accept many musical styles as normal, whether or not we personally would affirm everything about them. I have heard ringtones- ringtones- on the phones of some Christians that would have gotten me suspended from my Christian high school 25-30 years ago (and I’m not kidding about the suspension). You can hardly go into a store or restaurant these days where you don’t hear music that many Christians have found to be objectionable for various reasons (and more often than not, rightfully so). Just as vernacular speech of the day inevitably ends up in our personal conversations (I had to laugh at a dignified PhD friend of mine who employed the word “dude” in casual conversation), it is inevitable that some of these things will influence some Christians. The point is not whether or not this is a desirable or positive development. The point we must contend with is how do we respond when we encounter that influence?

As much as some might like to disfellowship over music at the Association level (something that has not actually happened, so far as I am aware), I have to this point never heard of a congregation placing a member under discipline because they “got their Getty on” (is that even a phrase?). Unless we are prepared to demand complete unanimity on music conclusions in our own congregations and throughout our Association (something I am absolutely certain is not the case in the MBA, anyway), I don’t think we can make the music issue a reason to divide with Phil and company, especially when they would share many of the same struggles and frustrations many of us might have in this matter.

Feel free to pursue this matter further in the comments. I’ll even turn moderation off, if you guys promise to behave… J

I hope to conclude this “Reflections” series next entry by considering why the Phil Johnson ended up being, from my perspective, a very good choice.

Grace Alone: Music By Josh Bauder Available for Pre-Order

Listing on iTunes

Listing on Amazon

Congregational settings are available free of charge at newhopemusic.org

Josh is the son of Kevin Bauder of Central Seminary… but don’t hold that against him…  :)

I am privileged to know Josh, and have worked alongside him a couple of times in camp settings. Josh has played for a few other settings I’ve been involved in, most recently at our MBA Men’s Fellowship. He is someone who loves the Lord, and uses his skills as a musician to magnify Him.

The album will be available October 19. You can listen to previews at the links above.

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