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2006 Family Christmas Letter

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

"I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." So proclaimed the angel to the shepherds on the night of the birth of Jesus. As we reflect on this season, we are again thankful for the "good tidings" - the good news of God's gift of Jesus Christ to pay the price of our sins.

2006 has been a busy year for the Sansone family, but we are thankful for what God is doing in and through us and we are thankful to family and friends who support us, pray for us and love us.

On the family front, Josiah turned 10 in November and is in 4th grade, Christina turned 7 in April and is in 2ndgrade, and Rebekah turned two last January and is growing like a weed. (We won't bother to mention how old Missy and Frank are, but will hint that Missy will be having a new first digit next year that many would use to indicate she is no longer young.)

We are thankful for our children and enjoy watching them grow and learn - although we wish there was a way to slow down the process at times. It is hard to believe how quickly the time flies. Josiah and Christina are taking piano lessons - and Chrissy tries to teach Daddy what she has learned. Josiah has been playing soccer this year and Daddy has been his coach. We had a good outdoor season (we finished 8-4 and Josiah led the team in assists) and we are three games into our indoor season.

Missy is still working as a labor and delivery nurse at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury. She has also learned how to quilt and is working on her first quilt. In addition to serving as Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, Frank enjoys coaching Josiah and working on things on the computer. He has a personal blog (http://athinkingmansthoughts.blogspot.com) that he posts on regularly and a Pastoral blog for our church and a blog called Soccer Scribbles that he maintains for the soccer team. He also wrote an article on The Da Vinci Code that got published as an FFBC Spotlight article and distributed to many churches around the country.

On the ministry front, this has been a very busy year. In the beginning of the year, we were able to purchase a building and move out of our location next to the Red Door Sub Shop. In April, we celebrated God's provision for a new building with our Building Dedication Service. We also changed our name from Messiah Baptist Fellowship to Fellowship Baptist Church and began many new adventures, including our first Father-Son Camp Out, our first Vacation Bible School, Baptisms down at the Nanticoke River, and our first Youth Activities. In October, we began Sunday School and God has been working greatly through the Sunday School ministry.

In November, Frank's Mom was very sick and in ICU in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. God preserved her in a situation where both the heart and lung doctors thought she would not make it. I know that many of you prayed for her during this time, and we greatly appreciate your prayers for Frank's Mom. While the visit to Illinois was not for a fun purpose, Frank did enjoy seeing some family members that he has not seen in a long time.

As we celebrated the birth of our Savior, we rejoice in God's goodness to us for another year and look forward to what God is going to do in and through us in the next year. We pray that this year and this season has been a time of blessing and reflection upon the King of Kings. May God grant you a prosperous new year, as well.

In Christ,


Pastor Frank and Missy Sansone
Josiah, Christina, and Rebekah

Join us at Bible Community Church

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

UPDATE: The College and Career Retreat has been canceled. I will, however, be preaching at Bible Community Church in Painesville, Ohio on Sunday, December 31, although I imagine most of my readers already have a regular church that they attend.

Blogger Andy Rupert from Isle Kerguelen has directed the College and Career Winter Retreat at Peniel Bible Camp for a few years and will be directing the camp again this year.

I have the great privilege of preaching for this retreat and I am looking forward to being with the good folks at Peniel Bible Camp and with the College and Career aged young people that come.

The following quote was stolen from the Retreat Web-Site.

“Where are you going?” is our theme this year. Many young adults are making important decisions but will they be going the way God wants them to? We will consider this important topic as Pastor Frank Sansone speaks to us from God’s Word.

This year’s camp is scheduled for a Friday–Saturday combo, December 29–30, 2006. We will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Friday and will finish up at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.


This retreat is open to any "single adult who has completed high school, has never been married, and is under thirty years of age."

The cost of the retreat is only $45 and it should be a good time of fun and fellowship. I am looking forward to meeting some of you there.

Check out the Winter Retreat Web-site for more information - including some pictures from previous years.

I have heard many good things about Camp Peniel over the years and I am excited to be able to preach there. Even if you can't make the retreat, please pray that God would use His Word and this retreat in the lives of all of us who are there.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

2006 Church Christmas Letter

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dear Church Family,

Many years ago, the angel of the Lord told Joseph, "She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The message of salvation that the angel proclaimed to Joseph is the same message of salvation that we must proclaim today. Jesus has come to save people from their sins. What a glorious truth to proclaim at this Christmas season!

We are excited about what God has been doing at Fellowship Baptist Church this year. When we take some time to look back over the year, it is with great awe that I echo the words of the Psalmist when he said, "O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever" (Psalm 30:12).

While I do not have the space here to highlight many of God's blessings this year, I am reminded of great things He hath done.

* In January, we took a building fund offering and the Lord blessed with $20,000 to help us complete the purchase of our new building.

* In February, we moved into our new facilities at 1308 Robins Avenue, but had to continue praying as there was some complications with the purchase.

* In March, we finally closed on the new building and began to get it ready for the building dedication.

* In April, we had our Building Dedication Sunday and over 100 people visited us for this special day as Pastor Mark Franklin and Pastor Steve Wagner preached the Word.

* In the summer, we had our first Father-Son Camp-out and our first Vacation Bible School.

* In September, we had our church picnic and baptisms in the Nanticoke River at the Insley's.

* In October, we began our Sunday School program with a great percentage of our people - both children and adults - coming out to study God's Word in Sunday School.

* In November, we had our second annual Pie N Praise service on Thanksgiving Eve.

This month, we are anticipating another good month of ministry and fellowship here at FBC and we pray that you will be a part of it.

On Saturday, December 16 at 6:00 p.m., we will meet at the church to go Christmas caroling and have a time of fellowship at our house after the caroling. There is also a ladies cookie exchange at 5:00 p.m. at the church before the caroling begins.

On Sunday, December 24, we will have a children's Christmas program as part of our morning service and a special Candlelight Christmas Communion for our Christmas Eve service.

On Sunday, December 31, Dr. William Woodhall will be our guest speaker during the morning service and we will be using our projector to watch a special film presentation during the evening service.

May Jesus Christ be exalted as we remember His birth.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

The Whereabouts of Pastor Jim Schettler

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

During the NBA Playoffs, I made a post entitled, "?Dave Doran to Replace Jim Schettler as the Pastor of the Campus Church?" The point of this post was to highlight what I thought was a humorous conversation going on at Chris Anderson's blog - My Two Cents. In that conversation, Chris (Pastor of Tri-County Baptist Church in the Cleveland area of Ohio and a fellow former team captain for the Minutemen Evangelistic Team) was bragging, er, being happy about the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers were putting up a good fight against the mighty Detroit Pistons. In the comments that followed, Dr. Doran (a Pistons fan) made a joke about submitting his resume to Dr. Horton at PCC to replace Pastor Schettler if Cleveland actually won the series. As the series wore on, Cleveland started to do even better and it looked like they may actually win the series and other comments that I thought were humorous were made on the thread, so I highlighted the thread.

Since then, it has been a very common thing for my sitemeter to register multiple hits to my page each day as a result of people finding my page while searching for information about Jim Schettler and Pensacola Christian College and the Campus Church. The last couple of days, this traffic has increased (I assume because of the fact that PCC has apparently named Lloyd Streeter and Neal Jackson as Pastor and Co-Pastor and people are now wondering again about Pastor Schettler.)

As a service to all of you who happen to find your way to my blog looking for information about Pastor Schettler and PCC/The Campus Church, etc., I have tracked down what I can find out.

Regarding Jim Schettler

My understanding is that Pastor Jim Schettler has accepted a call to become the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Santa Maria, California. I cannot find a church web-site, but I did call the church to confirm that he was coming to be the Pastor. The lady who answered the phone confirmed for me that the rumor I had heard was accurate. (By the way, I used to live "on the mesa" between Santa Maria and Arroyo Grande, California when I was in 10th grade and I am pretty sure that I had at least one camper from this church when I served as a counselor at Ironwood Christian Camp in Newberry Springs, California many years ago.)

UPDATE: The church now has a website: http://www.firstbaptistsantamaria.org (HT: MGROOP and KellyC from the comments section of my blog.)

Regarding the Pensacola Christian College Campus Church

ShaperIron has posted a letter from PCC to the Alumni that explains that Lloyd Streeter and Neal Jackson will be the Pastor and Co-Pastor. Further details can be found by following this link.


(For the record, I am not commenting one way or the other on either the ministry of Pastor Schettler or of PCC in this post, I am simply trying to help all the people who are looking for this information who keep getting directed to my blog by the various search engines.)

Anyway, I hope this is helpful to those of you who have come here looking for this information.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

The Problems with The DaVinci Code (rerun)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Below is the text for an article that I wrote soon before the movie version of The DaVinci Code was released. With the recent release of the DVD/Video of the movie, a couple people have asked me about this subject again. This article is written based upon the book. It is my understanding that the Robert Langdon character in the movie (played by Tom Hanks) is a little more skeptical in the movie than in the book, but other than that, I have not heard of many differences between the movie and the book.

This was originally written for publication in the FFBC Spotlight and designed to fit as a bulletin insert in church bulletins, so the space was necessarily limited. Dr. Kevin Bauder, Dr. Darrell Bock, and Radio Bible Class (in addition to many others) all have good information and more thorough treatmenst of this topic as well. A .pdf version of this article was supposed to have made it for posting on the FFBC Web-site, but I do not think it ever materialized.


THE DAVINCI CODE by Pastor Frank Sansone

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown has become an international phenomenon. As a hardback book, it has been on the famed "Bestseller List" of The New York Times for over 160 weeks and has been declared to be the "all-time best-selling adult novel." Reports indicate that over forty million copies of the book have been sold and it has been translated into over forty languages. With the recent release of the book in paperback and a movie based on the book starring popular actor Tom Hanks, the conversation around The DaVinci Code may get even louder in the coming days.

The popularity of this book has earned the author a place on Time Magazine's list of "The World's 100 Most Influential People." A quick look reveals that this book has been the catalyst behind a whole range of other books, articles, web-sites, and documentaries which trumpet or expand upon many of the ideas promoted in this book. In addition, there have been a number of books and articles written which have sought to correct the "alternative history" that is presented in The DaVinci Code.

Why has The DaVinci Code warranted such attention? Aren't people - especially Christians - just overreacting to a fictional novel? Does Dan Brown actually hit on some deep, dark secrets that strike at the root of Christianity? Was Jesus really married to Mary Magdalene and did He have children that carried on His blood? Did the early church really think that Jesus was merely a mortal prophet until Constantine got them all together and made up the idea that Jesus was God? How should Christians respond to the claims of The DaVinci Code?

While the length of this article does not allow for a full treatment of all of these issues, it is the desire of this article to highlight some of the issues presented by The DaVinci Code and present some suggested responses for believers.

BOOK OVERVIEW

The plot of the book is rather straightforward. The curator of the Louvre in France is murdered by an albino monk and leaves a coded message for his estranged granddaughter, Sophie. Sophie, who is a police cryptologist joins up with Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor in religious symbology, as they seek to find out the meaning of her grandfather's coded message and escape from the police and others. During their escape, they must break a series of codes and follow secret messages throughout France and Britain. Central to these codes is the idea that the grandfather was the Grand Master of a secret society called the Priory of Sion, whose goal has been to protect the Holy Grail and keep its secrets. The twist ensues, however, when it becomes revealed that the Holy Grail, rather than being the legendary "cup of Christ" that supposedly held the blood of Christ and was sought in the Middle Ages, is instead actually Mary Magdalene, who held the blood of Christ by being the mother of His children.

As the book progresses, a wholly different world of alternative histories promotes as fact the idea that Jesus Christ was merely a mortal prophet, that Mary Magdalene was in reality the wife of Jesus Christ and the mother to His child, that Christ believed in a "sacred feminine" and that a sexual rite is needed for man to experience union with the divine, that there has been a vast cover-up by the Catholic Church and Christians about all of these things and that Constantine basically "made up" Christianity for political purposes in the 4th Century A.D.

If many of these ideas were presented in a non-fiction work, the outlandish nature of these claims would be subjected to critique and exposed as the bad and distorted history that they are. Unfortunately, the way things are presented in the book, it is not as easy to understand what is true and what is false. Mr. Brown gives his main characters an outstanding knowledge of art and history and often has those characters display that knowledge while mixing in the "alternative history" as part of the descriptions. This mixing in of the true history with the untrue "alternative history" is what leads to much of the confusion regarding this book. To add to the apparent credibility of his ideas, on the first page of the novel, Mr. Brown presents some "facts" and claims that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." In doing so, Mr. Brown makes an underlying claim of accuracy and then uses the shield of fiction to present his views, giving these radical view the air of authority by having his "enlightened" characters bring to the forefront his ideas and present those ideas as well-established fact.

For instance, consider these words from Sir Leigh Teabing, a "former British Royal Historian":
"the early Church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore, any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus' life had to be omitted from the Bible. Unfortunately for the early editors, one particularly troubling earthly theme kept recurring in the gospels. Mary Magdalene." He paused. "More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ."
"I beg your pardon?" Sophie's eyes moved to Langdon and then back to Teabing.
"It's a matter of historical record," Teabing said. (1)

In addition to all the distortions presented as indisputable fact, he also makes a point that "history is written by the ‘winners'" and that therefore we cannot trust the history as recorded because it is biased against the truth that has been covered up and suppressed all these years.

EVALUATION

While Mr. Brown likes to claim that this book is based on fact and well-researched, in reality, Mr. Brown presents a work that is a lopsided presentation built upon faulty documents, personal bias, and inaccurate details.

Faulty documents
Much of the undergirding for the claims in this novel are based upon two sets of faulty documents. The first set is the Gnostic Gospels, in particular those found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Teabing speaks about these records highly, calling them, "the earliest Christian records" and uses them to support his claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.

The reality is that these documents were not even close to being "the earliest Christian records." In fact, they were written well after the Gospel accounts and other books that make up the New Testament. They were rejected by the early church because of their lack of authenticity (e.g. written by people using fake names long after the named author was dead) and their departure from the Christian message as presented by the Apostles and those that followed them.

Another set of faulty documents at the core of this story is the Les Dossiers Secrets. This is the documents that Brown uses to support his list of the Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion - including Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton. This list is referred to a number of times to give a picture of importance to this secret organization. The problem, however, is that these documents which are presented as historically reliable were actually a forgery. Pierre Plantard, the man who supposedly found the documents, admitted under oath to a French judge in 1993 that the documents were forged - yet Brown used these documents and presented them as historically authenticated.

Personal Bias

While it is not my intention to belabor this point, Dan Brown has explained in interviews that he actually believes the underlying views that are expressed in his book. The book therefore becomes a way in which he is able to get his bias towards this view into the mainstream.

Consider these statements from an article in The Washington Post.

"I was skeptical, but after a year and a half of research, I became a believer, " says Brown.
"Do you believe that Jesus was actually married to Magdalene?" "I do," he says. (2)

When Sophie declares that she does not know much about the Bible because she was raised by a man who worshiped Leonardo Da Vinci, Teabing responds, "An enlightened soul. Superb!" (3)

Inaccurate Details

Throughout the book, Robert Langdon and Leigh Teabing are presented as "experts", yet, in a number of cases, the information that they declare to the reader is actually inaccurate information - sometimes completely wrong and other times a distortion of the truth.

Robert Langdon describes the etymology of YHWH (the personal name of God) by explaining it being derived from Jehovah, when in fact Jehovah comes from a mixing of the Hebrew consonants YHWH with the Hebrew vowels for the word Adonai (another word for God or Lord).

Teabing mentions over 80 gospels, when, even with counting the very late ones written centuries after Christ, there were not anywhere close to that many.

Langdon describes Shekinah as God's "powerful female equal" rather than the cloud that represented God's glory.

Teabing claims that the idea of Christ being God came about at the Council of Nicea and was the result of a vote that was "a close vote." The reality is that the earliest Christian documents - including the books that make up our New Testament, clearly declared the deity of Jesus Christ more than two hundred years before the Council of Nicea. While it is true that the Council of Nicea affirmed the deity of Christ and stood against the heretic Arius, even that was not a "close vote" as only three of the over 300 bishops refused to sign the document affirming the deity of Christ that came out of the Council.

Many other instances like these could be pointed out in the writings.

CONCLUSION

There is much that The Da Vinci Code claims that makes for a great conspiracy theory. But, like most conspiracy theories, when confronted with the light of the truth and the facts of history, this great "alternative history" that Dan Brown espouses in the book does not stand up to scrutiny. His personal bias allows him to elevate unreliable documents to a place of primary importance and he weaves many inaccurate details into his writing to try to make his case look much stronger than it is.

As believers, we should be prepared to give an answer of the hope that lies within (I Peter 3:15). The nature of the size of this article does not allow for a full presentation of all the issues contained in The Da Vinci Code to be addressed. For a fuller discussion on these issues and other issues related to The Da Vinci Code, some valuable resources would be the book, Breaking the Da Vinci Code by Darrell L. Bock, a series of articles in the publication Nick of Time written by Dr. Kevin Bauder of Central Baptist Theological Seminary and found online at http://www.centralseminary.edu/index.asp?m=701 and a section devoted to this book on the Radio Bible Class web- site at http://www.rbcdavincicode.org.



(1) Brown, Dan, The Da Vinci Code, p. 244.
(2) Roberts, Roxanne, "The Da Vinci Code", The Washington Post, Aug. 2, 2003.
(3) Brown, Dan, The Da Vinci Code, p. 230.


File under Culture_War, Christianity_, Book_Reviews

My Case for Michigan

Sunday, December 03, 2006

College Football is a unique sport in that the champion is not determined by a play-off system or by direct competition, but by a voting system instead. In recent years, there has been a half- hearted attempt to adjust this with what is known as the BCS (Bowl Championship Series). I am not a big fan of the BCS. I would have preferred to have kept the original conference tie-ins with the traditional bowls (e.g. Big Ten vs. Pac-10 in Rose Bowl) or to have went directly to a play-off system (although my idea for a playoff system is slightly different from the one that most people propose - something for an upcoming post).

This year, we find ourselves in an interesting position in regards to who will get to play in the Championship Game. The universally recognized number 1 ranked team is unbeaten Ohio State. The only other unbeaten team is Boise State - a school that plays in the very inferior WAC conference and who is generally discounted because they have not had to play very many good teams (in a relatively speaking sort of way).

Anyway, the current debate on this topic is whether Michigan or Florida should play Ohio State in Arizona for this year's College Football National Championship. My vote (if I had one) would be that Michigan has earned the right to have a second shot at Ohio State (sorry Gator and Buckeye fans).

Now, before you get too excited or concerned, I have to make three important notes and then give my reasoning.

3 Important Notes

1. I am not a Michigan fan. I am not a Michigan-hater like my OSU friends, but I am not a UM fan. I am an Arizona State University fan when it comes to college football and have a general Pac-10 bias from my years of growing up out west. My second favorite college football team is probably the University of Illinois, due to the fact that some of my earliest days were spent in Champaign, Illinois and much of my family still live in Illini territory - also, the first college football game I ever attended was a U of I football game.

2. I do not like the current system. I have what I believe to be a much better way, but don't have time to post that tonight.

3. I would not really be opposed to Boise State playing in this game, since they would still have to beat OSU to actually become the National Champions - unlike when BYU was wrongly awarded the National Championship in 1984 just because they were the last undefeated team standing - even though their bowl victory was only a 24-17 win over a 6-5 Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl.


My Case for Michigan

1. Michigan's loss is more forgivable.

Michigan has only lost one game this entire season. So has Florida. However, the loss that Michigan experienced is a more forgivable loss than the loss that Florida experienced. I view Michigan's loss as more forgivable for the following reasons.

a. Michigan's loss was to the better team (OSU is ranked number 1, Auburn is ranked number 11)
b. Michigan's loss was by fewer points (Michigan lost to Ohio State by the score of 42-39, while Florida lost to Auburn by the score of 27-17)
c. It is generally acknowledge that home field advantage is worth approximately 3 points, which means that Michigan's loss to Ohio State would have been a tie on a neutral field, while Florida's loss to Auburn would have still been a 7 point loss.


2. Michigan's wins are more impressive
Michigan beat every opponent but Ohio State by seven points or more, with the only seven point win a road win of 17- 10 over Penn State

Florida has five games that they won by 7 or less points. They only beat Tennessee and South Carolina by one point each (and SC was a home game), beat a pretty weak (4-8) Vanderbilt team by only 6 points and only beat Georgia and Florida State by seven points each (and again,
Georgia was a home game).

3. Michigan did better against the only common opponent.

The two teams only played one common opponent (the aforementioned Vanderbilt). When Florida played Vanderbilt, Florida beat Vanderbilt 25-19. When Michigan played Vanderbilt, Michigan beat Vanderbilt 27-7.

4. The strength of schedule is not that big of a difference.

The main argument that seems to be offered for Florida is that they had the nation's toughest schedule. While it is true that Florida is considered to have the toughest schedule, Michigan had the third toughest schedule according to the same criteria.

Also, I am not as impressed as some regarding Florida's strength of schedule when I consider the fact that two of their twelve wins were against University of Central Florida (4-8 as part of the mighty Conference USA) and Western Carolina (which won only two games playing against the likes of Wofford and The Citadel - and whose losses included a 42-7 loss against Furman and a 21-0 loss against Liberty).


Not that anybody in the sports world actually reads this, but I believe that these facts provide a compelling case that Michigan should get a chance at a re-match with Ohio State on a neutral field for the National Championship rather than Florida receiving that chance.

Just my thoughts,

Frank