Friday, December 29, 2006

Books vs. Life

"The aged women likewise,
that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness,
not false accusers, not given to much wine,
teachers of good things;
that they may write many books recounting their wisdom
on subjects including soberness, loving husbands, loving children,
discretion, chastity, keeping at home, goodness,
obedience to their own husbands;
hoping that floundering, lonely young women
will decide to buy and read their book."

So Titus 2 doesn't say exactly that. How often in the Bible were men or women encouraged to write something down? Deuteronomy 6 does not instruct fathers to hand textbooks to their children. Jesus does not say, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples: that you write great books about Christian living."

I am, it must be said, a reader. When I read something, I generally understand it. Words engage my mind. Throughout school I learned math, history, science, and most other subjects through reading textbooks. That the Bible is written is significant. God inspired words, lasting through time, to communicate His love and redemption to men.

For Christians, though, our words are not always so impacting as our lives. And our lives can be much less significant if we are not engaged in relationships. God made people to learn from example and to grow from companionship. When people are willing to invest in my life, their opinions matter; their decisions guide mine. What does it say in Titus and Deuteronomy?

Titus 2:3-5
"The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness,
not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
that they may teach the young women to be sober,
to love their husbands, to love their children,
to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home,
good, obedient to their own husbands,
that the word of God be not blasphemed."

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
"And these words, which I command thee this day,
shall be in thine heart:
and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children,
and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house,
and when thou walkest by the way,
and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."

Pastors are encouraged to lead by example:

1 Timothy 4:12-13
"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers,
in word, in conversation, in charity,
in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine."

1 Peter 5:3
"Neither as being lords over God's heritage,
but being ensamples to the flock."

The books about courtship and being content, godly young women are some of my favorites. I devour them. Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot especially has helped me spiritually to focus on God as I mature. But!

But our churches ignore these topics. Whether they think women can just read the book, or if the male leadership does not know how girls struggle at certain ages, or if the Church has forgotten the importance of purity and preparing for marriage, I don't know. Since I've been studying the courtship books and singleness messages for a while, reading blogs like YLCF and Solo Femininity for a while, I have thought of writing a book myself. There are a lot of precious ideas and experiences floating around in my mind about how God takes care of His own little girls, and what it takes to trust Him.

Are books the best way to go about reaching the generation of women (men, too, maybe; I don't actually know)? Or could God use me in my church to disciple girls, sisters in preparing for marriage and serving God whatever the circumstances? Could God use me to encourage other, wiser women to become involved in this as well? Deuteronomy gives some of this responsibility to families, to parents. But not all! Titus 2 entrusts the education of Christian women to all older Christian women. And it does not leave out any young women. Those without mothers, or whose mothers are not Christians, or whose mothers are teaching what they can but have many children to teach are included.

Articles have been written about "empty-nester" Christian women. Why shouldn't they go to work? Their children don't need them anymore. They'll just get bored sitting at home all day. Yes, that is what people argue. I argue that the employment God gives us is one from which we can never retire. Pastors cannot retire from caring for or setting examples for their flocks. Women cannot stop teaching younger women by example. Grandmothers must still be keepers at home, lovers of children, obedient to their own husbands. Without them, the young women falter. We are astray in a wilderness of philosophies, pressures, and impulses.

I am contemplating a ministry to admonishing older women to teach younger women, including those who have not yet been found by a husband. Perhaps as I get older myself I will take on this work more seriously.

Here's another "but." Many young women whom I have met are resistant to input on these matters. They look at me, miss ultra-conservative who's never had a boyfriend, and honestly don't want to be me. Taking my advice, then, taking me as an ensample, does not fit their agenda. For this reason I believe God is building my understanding of His word and my confidence of appropriate applications before I teach. No Christian teacher is allowed to teach on their own authority.

"All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore and teach
all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
teaching them
to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
and, lo, I am with you alway,
even unto the end of the world." - Matthew 28

To God be all glory.

Postscript: The reverse of all these complaints is also true. I am so grateful to the several older women who have truly invested in my life! I won't mention your names just because I'm internet/privacy paranoid, but if you're reading, thank you.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Changing Church Part XI

“Our next step," Pastor Will continued, "was to research any churches in the modern time that had implemented elements of our sketch. Point by point we typed them into an internet search engine. Anne did most of the searching, and would bring all relevant articles to our discussions. Some were exciting. A few had identified that changing this or that in a service had psychological consequences. Positive ones, in our view, for fixing the tendencies toward divorce, immorality, crime, and church abandonment.”

“And the eighty-twenty rule,” Anne added. “Churches that have more than a few select men teaching the congregation each Sunday tend to have more of their congregation involved in ministry throughout the week.”

“Here and there we tweaked our ideas. And understand, we were praying a lot.”

“A lot,” Anne emphasized.

“I brought home a copy of our church constitution and the conference requirements for church structure. We checked our plan one item at a time against both these documents, and we couldn’t find anything that said we had to do church the way everyone is used to.

“At this time, preaching a sermon every Sunday became very difficult. It was a matter of conscience.” Anne nodded her agreement. “I didn’t want to be doing something that wasn’t according to God’s word. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to let my congregation know, once I was sure there was a biblical foundation, the changes necessary to align ourselves with the biblical pattern.”

“We took a whole week to stop studying this, and to pray. We prayed for our hearts to be right: confident but still humble. And we prayed for the congregation, especially our staff and deacons. Their response was critical. We prayed Will would just have a chance to present the passages of Scripture we had been reading.”

“After this week of prayer we continued to pray, of course. But we went into planning mode. I set a date, a Sunday, when I wanted to begin the changes. And I went through each name on our church attendance books to ponder what objections or questions might be raised. I wanted to be prepared.”

“Our Bibles fell open by this time to those passages, and we read them every day. I was worried he would get hauled off the stage before anything could truly be said.”

“And I had already decided to come down off the stage myself. This would be a heart to heart testimony of what God had been teaching me and laying on my heart.”

To God be all glory.

See index for first and additional chapters.

These are not Old Images!

It's happening again!
I took these pictures tonight. Their low quality could be 1) because I'm a bad photographer or 2) because I was warmly taking them through the windows.

More snow covers the evergreens. (The lights are reflections from my Christmas tree lights. Hey, I thought it was cool.)

The local news anchors said to embrace the snow. My brother took them literally.

Yes, they are predicting another 1-2 feet of snow on top of our mounds from last week.

Denver may be snowed in for the second time in 2 weeks!
But the snow is so beautiful!

To God be all glory!

Ebay Day

Today I went crazy and posted tons of stuff on ebay. Maybe I'll do more tomorrow. I also made a chocolate cheesecake for the first time. If I'm ambitious I'll take pictures.

In the mean time, please take a look at a fun bit of writing I did for one of my ebay posts: a hat my brother made himself. The post explains.

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

John Wycliffe?

This post on Doug Phillips' blog of Vision Forum was just wonderful. I want children like that!

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Scattered Thoughts Remembered

Being the sometimes slow but steadily active person I am, I was bemoaning to myself the lack of blog activity in the world. You'd think with a holiday break people would have time for more important things than family, church, and candy, like blogging. That was before I realized that I have myself been involved in those truly important activities. Catching up is very hard to do when there is a week for everyone to get together, parties, gifts, and blizzards. The blizzard really messed me up!

So I thought I'd hop on over here to Blogger to tell you all about what I've been thinking. Ok, not everything. My friends were all worried there for a minute, knowing how I can go on and on. I mean, look at this introduction to a post.

During the snowstorm I discussed communion/Lord's supper with a friend. Hail YLCF for putting a post about that very subject online this week.

Amy did an after-Christmas post on kids and packaging. She's still funny.

My brother is wrestling with a response to a presentation one of his classmates gave in school arguing for abortion. How do you kindly say that abortion is wrong? I was trying to help by discussing the points with him. Then I played Mark Schultz's new song, Everything To Me.

Why do doctors bother to treat kids dying of cancer? Please don't get me wrong. I'm just exploring the motivations of these selfless people, not telling them to stop. Then again, what is the difference between treating those whom you know are dying and anyone else? Our responsibility to fellow men is the same: love them and preach the gospel to them.

How do you connect large families, the stock market, divorce, abortion, social security, and debt all into the same conversation? Think about it for a while. I'm sure you'll see connections.

I don't want to own a dog. They're so hard to entertain and tend. (I used tend because, uh, I didn't want to end a sentence with a preposition: care for.)

Next year I'm going to remove all internet items from my Christmas list. The last several years I've had to wait for gifts to arrive after Christmas (because our family doesn't even draw names until two weeks before Christmas), and I'm ready to open actual objects under the tree. Nevertheless, my sister (who drew my name) is a genius for wrapping pieces of paper. Really!

If there were no editors deciding which items should be front page news, would the world be worse off?

How should I go about sculpting a business that encourages people to age gracefully and beautifully? What things do elderly people with a commitment to biblical lifestyles need? What about a "write your own memoirs" kit? I myself write an autobiography every two years or so. They're always different, with different emphases.

Finally, I am thinking about a word: deliberate. Take off de- and you get "liberate." De- means opposite. What an idea. One thing about being deliberate is that you're focused, having on undeterrable path. Of your own infliction you are without liberty.

To God be all glory.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas at Longbourn

Aren't Victorian dresses beautiful? This is my excuse for not attending the Civil War Ball in our city: I wore my dress on Christmas, hoops and all.


is my brother who is holding a monkey ornament because he loves monkeys, wearing a blanket because he is always cold, and wearing two hats because that is the way he is. Isn't our Christmas tree wonderful?

To God be all glory.

We Really Got a Blizzard Here!

The site out my front door Friday night.

Looking right. Yes, that's our car!

And looking up at our house - not as impressive in pictures; I'm a bad photographer.

This would be an easy basket!

The angle here is weird, but I tipped the camera up just outside our back door. That overhang is pure snow!

This is my favorite. A piece of the overhang, part of the back yard, and our beautiful maple tree.

To God be all glory.

Christmas Sunrise

The sky was past pinkness when God woke me to share sunrise with Him
this Christmas morning,
the settled paleness just before dawn.
One spot beneath a cloud was lit with burning intensity
to mark the place the sun would break the horizon.
All at once I whispered to my sister,
“There it is; there it is!”
and I would have clutched her arm and dragged her toward it
if we hadn’t been sitting.
A tiny fragment of blazing light too bright to watch steadily
was engulfing the trunk of an evergreen just below the cloud.
As if in worship of the God who created sunrises,
an icicle on our roof let go one tiny drop into the drift below.
For only a breath, the sunlight touched treetops.
Then the glow was advancing.
I could watch it move towards me.
Indeed, I was watching the trees and ground
because by now to look at the sun was unbearable.
Unlike the dusk, which simply falls as soon as the day has set,
morning advances as if in ranks,
as if kissing each object before it moves to the next.
At last the light peeked above our fence and around trees
to set the blanket of snow covering our yard on fire,
reflecting light onto my own face and hair.
I thought of clouds of glory, those in which Jesus will return.
Today I could not see that.
Through sunrise I saw the message of Till We Have Faces.
Only resurrected eyes and new faces can see the glory that accompanies God.
Until then, though, I am delighted to watch it
fall like raindrops on my days
or dance like moonbeams through my life.
To God be all glory!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Snowed In

The last few days I've been snowed in at a friend's house, far from my computer. Nevertheless, it was fun and beautiful. We have over 30 inches of snow! Our blizzard just wouldn't go away, dumping 1-2 inches of snow every hour for over 24 hours! This is why many people live in Colorado, and despite the hassle, most people are enjoying the process of digging out cars and houses and daring the streets. I'm just sad so many people's Christmas travel plans were disrupted.

To God be all glory.

Giant Squid Video

I've beaten Dr. Paleo to science news! This morning on TV I found that a giant squid had been video-taped and captured. Unfortunately the specimen was only 24 feet long (which is still what, four and a half times my height?). Click on the link to see the video!

To God be all glory.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The History of Father Christmas

There is a debate in the conservative Christian Church that would surprise the more mainstream Christians. Some have pointed to the pagan origins of many Christmas traditions. I am fascinated by history and the origins of words and phrases and expressions, and therefore eschew them. The pagan origins of celebrating on December 25, for example, and using a Christmas tree, and countless other things don't really bother me personally. My brother calls it the orange juice syndrome.

If a group of bad people decides to define their club by the fact that everyone drinks orange juice, will that and should that stop you from drinking orange juice? Don't let bad people hijack innocent things. Evergreen trees and candles and the solstices are not inherently evil. Only be careful you are not worshiping the customs. You can even use the evergreen branches to represent God's faithfulness or Christ as the Life.

Still, it is very interesting to look up the history of mistle-toe, wassailing or caroling, and Santa Claus. Tonight in particular I looked for the origin of Father Christmas. The study was interesting. I'm so Victorian that the image of an old man with a kind face, dressed all in fur and velvet, with long white hair and a beard is very *romantic*.

Study the truth and decide for yourself. I would recommend you don't practice deceit in your Christmas traditions, whatever you do. Tell your children the truth about characters like St. Nicholas.

To God be all glory.

Biblical Benevolence

I've been pondering recently. The Bible says that women are to be keepers at home. In several passages from the Old and New Testaments God's Word defines a woman's role. Also given are instructions for how the Church is to use its money. The two primary "budget line items" as we would say in my church are support of teaching elders and missionaries, and gifts to the poor, including widows. Why did widows especially need the Church's monetary assistance? Women were not income-garnering workers. Their ministries were to the Church as much as pastors' were.

At the churches I have attended or about which I've heard, benevolence is usually a one-time activity. We couldn't possibly only make a one-time gift to the pianist or treasurer. Yet the poor, hard-working members are suffering in near-despair, going into debt, and sending or keeping the women at work because our congregation does not prioritize benevolence. In addition, there is a philosophy among those with the checkbook and others that only those proving they are worthy should receive benevolence, and that it would be wrong for them to become dependent.

In the prayer requests it is not uncommon to hear these prayer requests from women:
I'm having a hard time with situations and relationships at work. Pray for wisdom. Pray for a new job.
I need a full time job and affordable childcare for my kids.
I have an interview for a job. Pray I get a full time job so I can support myself.

As a praying member of the church, I find it hard to give these to God. Am I betraying the women by praying they don't get jobs, don't find childcare, and instead of resolving the conflicts at work, that they get the hint that they are better suited to the home? What can I do?

This summer was the first time I was exposed to Christians who take God's commands to care for widows and other Christians seriously. They literally do all they can to enable women in their churches to stay home and homeschool their children. In addition Doug Phillips gave the evening address, on the Role of Women in the Local Church, the first night of our homeschool conference. The point I most appreciate from his presentation is that the Church is suffering because its women are missing. Who is caring for the poor, organizing meals and help for new mothers, preparing other ministries of the Church? How often have I mourned the fact that all the women not attending a Bible study were too busy with soccer practices or work or their own school to babysit?

In conclusion, women should be given the option, at least, to remain home, to dedicate themselves to the things described in 1 Timothy 5 and Titus 2. Those responsible for enabling this are male heads of households and the Church.

"Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work."

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."

To God be all glory.

One of the Biblical Middle Eastern Empires

Last night my brother and I were discussing the following story about King Hezekiah of Judah, and noticing similarities between this ancient Middle East conquest and the current conflicts involving that region. It's a two-chapter study from Isaiah.

Isaiah 36-37 -
"And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish
to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army.
And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field.
Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah's son, which was over the house,
and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph's son, the recorder.
And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah,
Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria,
What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?
I say, sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war:
now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?
Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt;
whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it:
so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.
But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God:
is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away,
and said to Judah and to Jerusalem,
Ye shall worship before this altar?
Now therefore give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria,
and I will give thee two thousand horses,
if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.
How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants,
and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?"

Compare to the current situation of America. Is this not the same argument the enemies of our country use? You can't win. We can't be beaten. Are you trusting in these other countries to be your allies? They will desert you. You'll be much better if you give up. Be our friends. Buy our oil. And always let us do whatever we want.

"...And am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it?
the LORD said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it."

The messenger of Assyria is certainly lying. So do our enemies claim that God is on their side. The god who would destroy Israel is no god at all. If God was telling the king of Assyria to destroy Israel, why would the king be willing to negotiate? It is a feint. Compare to Iran today, the land of ancient Assyria.

"...Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh,
Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it:
and speak not to us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall.
But Rabshakeh said,
Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words?
hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall..."

Hear the wisdom of these counselors, and the cunning of the invaders. I heard it said this week that the war in Iraq is the first war in American history in which the American people got their news from the enemy. Many of our stories are received through the Middle Eastern news networks. In Judah, these counselors wanted to protect the people from the propaganda of their enemies lest it cause dissent and disunity and doubt.

At this point the Rabsakelah disregards the emissaries' request and continues in Hebrew to offer the people release from the siege, good food, and relocation to a land "like" their own.

"...But they held their peace, and answered him not a word:
for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not."

Here is how the Israelites were different from Americans. The newspapers in our country refuse the leader's request that they not publish information.

"...Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household,
and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder,
to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh."
And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe,
and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth,
unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.
And they said unto him,
Thus saith Hezekiah,
This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy:
for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.
It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh,
whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God,
and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard:
wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left."

What was the ruler's reaction to a threat? First: he recognized the motivation. The spiritual assault here was that Assyria was reproaching the living God of Israel.

"...So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.
And Isaiah said unto them,
Thus shall ye say unto your master,
Thus saith the LORD,
Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard,
wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.
Behold, I will send a blast upon him,
and he shall hear a rumour,
and return to his own land;
and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land."

God's favor brings confidence. In a sermon preached in England before the American revolution, the preacher worried that no matter how just the cause of the English, if the Americans were sheltering under the protection and favor of God, not even the mighty armies of England would prevail.

"...So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah:
for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.
And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia,
He is come forth to make war with thee."

I want to point out the massive scale of Assyria's military campaigns. Part of the army is in Israel. Another portion is just finishing a war in Libnah (in Africa?), and the worried king of Ethiopia declares a defensive war against the empire-making conqueror.

"...And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah,
saying, Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying,
Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee,
saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.
Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands
by destroying them utterly;
and shalt thou be delivered?
Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed,
as Gozan,
and Haran,
and Rezeph,
and the children of Eden which were in Telassar?
Where is the king of Hamath,
and the king of Arphad,
and the king of the city of Sepharvaim,
and Ivah?"

The Assyrians have to go fight another battle, but they send a threatening note "Don't think you're off the hook. We'll be back, and you won't have a chance." What does Hezekiah do?

"...And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it:
and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD,
and spread it before the LORD.
And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying,
O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims,
thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth:
thou hast made heaven and earth.
Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear;
open thine eyes, O LORD, and see:
and hear all the words of Sennacherib,
which hath sent to reproach the living God.
Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations,
and their countries,
And have cast their gods into the fire:
for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone:
therefore they have destroyed them.
Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand,
that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD,
even thou only."

Hezekiah still worries, because his enemies have a mighty army that has already laid waste to much of Judah and taken a lot of Israelites captive. BUT, he recognizes who is the God whom he serves.

"...Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying,
Thus saith the LORD God of Israel,
Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria:
This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him;
The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn;
the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed?
and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice,
and lifted up thine eyes on high?
even against the Holy One of Israel.
By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord,
and hast said,
By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains,
to the sides of Lebanon;
and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof,
and the choice fir trees thereof:
and I will enter into the height of his border,
and the forest of his Carmel.
I have digged, and drunk water;
and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places.
Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it;
and of ancient times, that I have formed it?
now have I brought it to pass,
that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps.
Therefore their inhabitants were of small power,
they were dismayed and confounded:
they were as the grass of the field,
and as the green herb,
as the grass on the housetops,
and as corn blasted before it be grown up.
But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in,
and thy rage against me.
Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears,
therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips,
and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.
And this shall be a sign unto thee,
Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself;
and the second year that which springeth of the same:
and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.
And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah
shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward:
For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant,
and they that escape out of mount Zion:
the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.
Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria,
He shall not come into this city,
nor shoot an arrow there,
nor come before it with shields,
nor cast a bank against it.
By the way that he came,
by the same shall he return,
and shall not come into this city,
saith the LORD.
For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake,
and for my servant David's sake."

Doom, doom. Sennacherib is in trouble. His victories have been easy because God, who created the land ages ago, enabled him to conquer. Now since the king of Assyria has made vocal his hatred for God, God is ending his winning streak at Jerusalem, and taking his life in short order.

"...Then the angel of the LORD went forth,
and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand:
and when they arose early in the morning,
behold, they were all dead corpses."

Let me translate. God made a point by smiting (killing) 185,000 of the Assyrian army.

"...So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed,
and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.
And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god,
that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword;
and they escaped into the land of Armenia:"

The land of Armenia is north of western Iran, covering the hill- and mountain- country of Ararat. A good cover for assassins and terrorists.

"...and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead."

Why a pair of brothers would murder their father so another brother could reign and they could leave - I can't figure out. In any case Assyria never recovered the greatness they had under Sennacherib. Babylon soon took over the world scene.

To God be all glory.

Changing Church Part X

“I took her aside after we finished a study we had been doing together, and I said we were going to start from scratch. I wanted to throw out anything about church that was not taught in the Bible. So we set about studying.” Will looked at his wife.

“Our main books were Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, and Titus. But we cross-referenced a lot,” said Anne.

“There is a big push about worship in the evangelical community these days. We have studied worship from a New Testament perspective, and in some ways we’re getting closer. I’m the first to admit, though, that the church tends to pick and choose which verses to which they want to adhere. It was hard for us not to do that.” A faint smile flickered across Will’s face.

Anne’s wide, welcoming smile remained the same. “Finally we worked out a rough sketch, based on what we could learn from the Bible, of what church looked like in the New Testament era.”

“I did some research on what synagogues were like just before Christ and His ministry. This was the model of church that the new Christians had to reference. Then when we realized how different our sketch was from practically every church we’d ever heard of, I went back to church history and studied how we got church as we think of it.”

“You know,” Anne elaborated, “church where you walk into a building with a cross and a steeple. A man in a suit, or Hawaiian shirt these days, hands you a pre-printed agenda. Then you sit in neat rows of pews or chairs. Opening prayer. About five songs led by anywhere from one man in front to a praise team to a choir. Then a sermon usually from the senior pastor lasting about thirty-five minutes. Invitation in most churches, offertory, prayer, and usually a benedictory song. And you’re free.”

Their audience nodded their heads at the familiar scene. Of course. Anyone could describe church services. They were the same, week after week. If a pastor or worship leader got brave, they might switch around the offertory. That’s about it.

To God be all glory.

See index for first and additional chapters.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Read: Feats of the Forefathers

Sorry my posting has been so infrequent. I sprained my wrist, and have been icing it. Typing is hard one (left)-handed. Today it is feeling much better. Since I'll be out until Sunday I thought I'd check in.

While you're mourning the lack of posts here on Lady of Longbourn, the Rebelution has some good reading material. Peruse (in the true sense) their article on Feats of the Forefathers. I loved their thought-provoking point that adolescence was not and is not some mystical stage that has no affect on the rest of our lives.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of Changing Church. Look for it Sunday or Monday.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jingle Bells & Merry Christmas

Have you ever wondered about the word "upsot" in Jingle Bells? A few months ago (yes, way before Christmas), I was thinking about it because that's what I do. I concluded that if the author meant upset as in angry, he would have left upset. If he meant upset as in thrown out of the sleigh, then to say "upset" simply doesn't communicate. "Upsat" has a harsh ring. The word for which he sought certainly wasn't "upsit." Finally, with perfect simplicity, he rhymed, and got "upsot."

Another Christmas word-query: Why do we only say "merry" at Christmas? In England they tend to say "Happy Christmas," anyway. "Merry" means celebration and happiness. Why does "Merry Easter" or "Merry Fourth of July" not sound right? When did we start using "merry"? The answer is to be found on Wikipedia, that wealth of web knowledge:
Though Christmas has been celebrated since the 4th century AD, the first
known usage of any Christmastime greeting, "Merry Christmas and a Happy New
Year" (thus incorporating two greetings) was in an informal letter written by an English
admiral in 1699. The same phrase appeared in the first Christmas card, produced in England in 1843. The then relatively new term "Merry Christmas" figured prominently in Charles Dickens'
A Christmas Carol in 1843.

Also from Wikipedia, Queen Elizabeth II in England believes that "merry" means slightly intoxicated, so she officially prefers "Happy Christmas."

To God be all glory.

Ornament Hangers

I don't know about your household, but every year we have certain Christmas traditions involving the Christmas tree. We pick one out from a tree lot. Then we fit it into our van, cram it through our door, and debate which angle is straightest. Mom puts on the lights. Each kid has an ornament from each Christmas they've been alive (approximately). The music that plays in the background: Bing Crosby and Evie mostly has been the same year after year.

Usually I sit at some point patiently detangling our ornament hangers. We have quite the collection of sizes and colors, bent into different variations on the hook theme. In January they get stripped from the tree and stuffed in a plastic bag. Entropy sets in so that a lot of work is required to get them in working order in December.

This year I was thinking about life. At Christmas we sort out life, think through the year past, and remember years past. School stops. Vacation comes. We remember our priorities. Jesus came to earth. Immanuel changes everything. He is our reason for the season and every season. So life gets detangled, if only long enough to say "Merry Christmas" to the people we love.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Changing Church Part IX

Will’s car was heard in the driveway. The committee exited the library and filed into the living room, where they sat in a most imposing circle. Anne opened the door to welcome her husband. He squeezed her hand and kissed her forehead before looking up at his guests. “Good evening,” he nodded respectfully. Anne took his things to the bedroom. In a minute she returned with his Bible. She placed it deliberately in the center of the visitors, on the coffee table.

“Before you ask any questions, I’d like to ask one. What is the specific accusation that brings you here?” Will clasped his hands calmly in his lap.

“A deacon called the association to claim that you were becoming a dictator over your congregation. His words were ‘one-manning it’,” the head of the committee answered.

“Thank you. We will be happy to answer any of your questions.”

The same man looked out the window. He asked, in a nervous way, “What started all this?”

To their surprise, Anne began the explanation. “Will and I have always been people who think. Our greatest struggle is to keep from judging, and our greatest challenge to effect a change when we identify a problem. But over the years we’ve identified more and more things wrong with our culture and the American church. It is very discouraging. Things like divorce, or the rate at which kids leave the church after high school. Theological trends, too, like ‘seeker sensitive’ churches and the acceptance of women in church leadership.”

Will continued. “Once we were married, we discussed all these things. And our number one object, what we believe is our calling, is to take a stand against these things.

“We are both Christians who have a stubborn reliance on the Bible alone for our doctrine and practices. This has been a personal commitment for us. But it suddenly occurred to us that we should look to the Bible to solve these problems in the church as well.”

“Yes,” Anne said. “It became clear that many of these symptoms were connected. We learned as we looked at them and as we began searching the Bible for references to them that they are just symptoms of a culture’s unwillingness to accept God’s plan. People who give high amounts of time and respect to the Bible have more successful ministries.”

To God be all glory.

See index for first and additional chapters.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Link Alert!

My sidebar is getting longer. Tonight in doing some research I was on one of my old stand-by favorites for researching cults. Well, I don't actually research in detail what cults believe and where they meet. But if there is some book, movement, or spiritual group I hear about and I need information on whether they're legit or what's wrong with them, this is the place to go. The website is Let Us Reason. Since it is such a good site, full of Bible-based, evangelical Christian doctrine, I feel pretty confident recommending them.

Let Us Reason is the reason I abandoned my local Christian bookstore. I thought some of the "books of the month" looked a little too flashy, prosperity-gospel, in this to make a buck. Upon checking into some of the books and authors, I'm pretty sure I could be doing better things with my time and money. The Spirit helps us discern, but there's no use spending all our time discerning. Here's my two number-one (is that possible?) clues that a book isn't strongly biblical:

  1. they have ten versions - one for men, women, teens, ethnic groups, grandparents, children...
  2. on the back (or even the front) they promise this book will ____________ (change your life, make you a better person, get you to heaven, make you rich).

Shouldn't the Bible be our primary reading for theology and Christian living? I read Christian books, because they're like written forms of teachers, which the Bible does advocate. Christians with the gift of teaching can teach the Bible to other Christians. Except... some of these books in my local Christian bookstore weren't teaching the Bible. They were teaching tradition, innovation, pop psychology, pragmatism, new-age, mysticism, compromise, tolerance... Seriously, I get more out of a secular novel like Emma than out of those books.

Lots of ellipses. I can ramble (ahem, rant) about this subject a lot. Such a course of action wouldn't be edifying.

Do you know what I find beautiful? How the Bible flows. Read a large portion of it aloud to yourself, even from Psalms or Proverbs - several chapters. Think about how the transitions are made, and similar imagery or themes are tied together. For me this week I've been reading John 14-17. The whole thing is Jesus' last conversation with His disciples and His Father. Note the themes. Note how He turns from what is going to happen to what He expects of His disciples to what they can expect of others to what He requests of God. How sweet and simple. The pure milk of the word is refreshing, isn't it?

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Context Part III

Maintaining or restoring the original culture is essential to the effectiveness of an instruction, in the prior cases: England's fondness for baths, some households' affections for dogs, and America's familiarity with history and the Bible.

My real intention is to say that just as the culture of the late eighteenth century was essential not only to the interpretation, but also to the success of the government instituted for that time, so many parts of the culture of the first century after Christ are essential for the comprehension and effectiveness of the instructions given in the New Testament. I say ‘many parts’ because it is possible that some cultural pieces do not affect the matrix of the whole. Perhaps we would do better to study which of those pieces are essential to the success of the biblical system than to strive for a melted and conformed set of man-manipulated instructions to apply to our modern state of rebellion.

Instead of saying that women were not allowed to speak in church “back then” because of the cultural stigma against women drawing public attention to themselves, and therefore trying to shove meanings into the words of Paul which he did not intend or foresee, we should see whether that piece of their culture contributed to the harmony of the early Christian families and Church. Rather than assuming that our wisdom is more enlightened than the wisdom that God imparted to the apostles and early church, we should study that wisdom and put into practice as much of it as possible.

This is not to deny the eternal relevance of the Bible. It is much more. I intend to picture the live and powerful nature of the Bible, its effectiveness to transform lives and cultures.

The Church needs to remember the context in which the Scriptures were written, not as an excuse to abandon the writings, but as an instruction to understand them. To know that the Jews were horrified that Jesus would say, "Before Abraham was, I am," is to add to our understanding of Scripture: the significance of His claim and the various reactions of Jesus' enemies and followers. When we are familiar with shepherds and vine-tenders, we understand what Jesus meant when He said He is the Door of the sheep, and that His Father is the Vinedresser. Knowing that the Church was under persecution when Paul wrote to Rome instructing the Church there to subject themselves to all governing authorities leaves us without excuse in our subjection to the government of America.

Man’s attempts at reforming culture are falling utterly short. In many cases, Christians have surrendered, and have embraced the fallen culture in which they live. It is time to forsake the wisdom of men and return to the wisdom of God, whatever the cost. It is time to ignore the scorn of the world and be different. It is time to take God at His word and see what He will accomplish.

To God be all glory.

Please read Introduction.

Context Part II

In light of current events regarding the use of the Bible at the ceremonies of the United States, I'd like to mention that without a thorough familiarity with the Bible and its teachings, no man can understand the system of government in America. Especially for Congressmen, Judges, and Presidents, who represent and defend that system, to have read the Bible and to respect it would be a great help.

Though I am not suggesting that we exclude in a legal sense potential candidates because they have not read the Bible, voters would do well to recognize that to function in a system you must understand the system and your role. If I am to babysit, I need to understand the responsibilities on me in protecting and entertaining the children as well as details about whom to call in an emergency, where the snacks are, and whether the kids may watch cartoons. Who can be an effective member of our government system without at the very least respecting the Book whose values provided the foundation of our country?

On the contrary, the book that Mr. Ellison wants to have present at his ceremony, while having high value to him, has proven itself as a founding document of other countries' governments to be antithetical to the values Americans hold dear. The very freedom of religion Mr. Ellison attempts to claim in his defense is not to be found in his book, or in countries built in the context of his religion.

Does he know and respect the Bible? Is he acquainted with history? Will he impose the values of his book on a diametrically different system? If his answers are satisfactory, why does he refuse to have the Bible present at his ceremony? His oath of office is:

"I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

To God be all glory.

See Introduction.

Introduction to Context

Yesterday I sat reading one of C.S. Lewis' books, The Four Loves. Which book doesn't really matter for my point today, though. In any of his writings, you will find certain words and references that are very confusing to an American, unless that American has acquainted herself with customs, culture, and dialectical quirks of England, whence Lewis was writing. Even then, some things he said seemed unusual. He talks of gin as though it were common in every household. To draw a bath is a luxury.

C.S. Lewis talked about the love of dogs. My family keeps cats, and dogs with their noisy barking and exuberant running and tail-wagging have from time to time terrorized us. But I know that some of my friends own and love dogs. Having observed this context, I can understand the point C.S. Lewis makes about affection. Without it, I might mistake the meaning of affection to be something more like terror.

In any attempt to understand something written, one must consider the role of cultural context. Without grasping the position from which one is writing, how can you implement the things they write?

Take as another example the US Constitution. The men who debated about, wrote, and signed that document, and the people who finally ratified it, had certain beliefs and experiences which the wording of the document specially suited. Nearly every resident in the new country had witnessed the oppression under King George and the resulting revolution. Not only that: they had been immersed in philosophical and rational defenses of that revolution through the press and official statements such as the Declaration of Independence. There is a Creator, they affirmed, who originally endowed all men with rights. Rights are something the citizens of the new thirteen confederated states understood. Although rights were enumerated in the Bill of Rights after the ratification of the Constitution, they were recognized and fought for during the war. One rally-cry was the right to representation if one was taxed. The Declaration of Independence is a magnificent record of the beliefs at the heart of the revolution and at the establishment of a strong central government several years later.

These men believed rights to be inalienable, unbreachable by any law man could make or any violence man could inflict. The national anthem, in its fourth verse, asserts, “When our cause it is just…” The founders believed in justice. And it was not their belief that established its existence. Justice existed, and they recognized that. They built a life, a country, and a political system on that reality.

When we look at the system we inherit from the illustrious men who wrote the Constitution, we are often at a disadvantage. In our philosophical ignorance, the system does not fit. The constitution does not cover questions that have arisen in the modern culture. Why?

I submit that the Constitution could not plan for a people so given to individual indulgence and so scornful of the absolute laws that govern men and nature, specifically as revealed in the Bible. It was prepared as the governing document of that system. Many statesmen and historians recognized that if the philosophical status quo changed in our country, our government would fail.

Indeed, though the Constitution has been adapted over the years, or in some cases ignored or willfully misinterpreted, it has been unsuccessful in conforming to the new framework of thought in our country. I am skeptical whether any system can hold stability in a nation where absolutes and justice are denied. It is just such a spirit of complete democracy that causes the insurgencies and civil wars in democratic countries in Europe, Africa, and South America. Nevertheless, it is impossible to comprehend the original intent of the framers while denying their fundamental beliefs.

I could go into the ways the original Constitution is misinterpreted and misapplied, but that is outside the scope of this article.

To God be all glory.

Without History, the People Perish

Dennis Prager is the center of a controversy concerning the ceremony in which Congressman-elect Ellison wishes to use the Koran instead of the Bible. Strange that Prager is the center instead of Mr. Ellison. Nevertheless, Mr. Prager, a Jew, has been the most outspoken defender of retaining the Bible at the ceremony as has been the tradition for 200 years. He claims the Bible is a symbol of the values on which the United States was founded. From all over America he has been receiving messages of tolerance and religious freedom, even from "conservatives."

My friend just pulled her kids out of public school and began homeschooling them. The experience has been challenging and rewarding for her. This past week her oldest struggled with an exam in history. Not only that: he doesn't want to do his history lessons every day. Why? To her surprise, my history-loving friend discovered that in public school, history was barely addressed, let alone treated daily. The history they did receive, in the name of the First Amendment of our federal Constitution, was stripped of most of its religious context. Since so much of history does revolve around religion, particularly Judeo-Christian religion as this world belongs to that God, the history the public school taught them was very minor.

In trying to explain the huge backlash against his stand for the Bible, Dennis Prager speculates that the populace at large does not understand his point. They never learned America's deeply religious beginning, nor the Judeo-Christian foundation for our government and laws, despite that history being documented and true. The outrage is that he is saying something these people, conservative or liberal, have never heard. Such an outcry proves the failure of their education.

Conservatives who are also Christians (or Jews) in some cases feel that the study of history is important. The Bible certainly promotes remembering God's provision and activity in the past, and praising Him for it. Stephen's sermon that got him martyred was filled with history, on which he built his case for Jesus as the Messiah. The founders of America were great historians, and specifically selected a republican form of government because of the successes and failures of the past. The Declaration of Independence (more than the first paragraph, which as a rule is the only part quoted) lists off historical grievances as justification for their revolution.

As a result of this religious emphasis on history, it is the religious who are vocally unhappy with Mr. Ellison's decision. A position belonging primarily to Christians plays right into opponents' hands. "It's a religious thing." "They can't impose their faith on me." "Government cannot legislate morality." Seemingly, the only Christian positions they will accept are those that also benefit themselves. Murder is a moral issue, yet no one claims we should take laws concerning murder off our books.

On the brighter side, Christians can make an impact. Democrat candidates intending to run for president are presenting themselves as religious, because they know what a force Christians have been in the past two presidential elections. Walmart, at least in word, bowed to the pressure of Christians who boycotted their anti-family policies. What effect can Christians and Jews and all others who understand the historical roots of this country have on the Bible at the Congressman's ceremony debate?

To God be all glory.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Longbourn Enterprise

As a slow start to my own home business, I have a new webpage, on which I currently sell some framed photos (take a look). Someday there will be aprons and tote bags and maybe other things, as mentioned on the home page. I'd love feedback or suggestions. Asking for help is good, right?

On the sidebar here I'll leave a link for this new site. The theory here is that I'll learn about as much by just trying business as by taking a college course, and spend even less money. If Crystal can do it, I can at least try!

Besides that, there is the hope that the things I make and sell will be blessings to my customers. I dream to renew a personal shopping experience. So far I've noticed that making business personal goes both ways. A saleswoman can only make conversation so long.

So if I'm ever not blogging, you can imagine me busy doing real work either on my business, or at my church. I may really be partying, but you might as well imagine productive occupations!

To God be all glory.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Changing Church Part VIII

Early Friday afternoon, Anne received a call from Will. The past several nights she had made the visits with him. Today she decided to stay home catching up on the laundry. Will told her that a delegation from the state convention would be coming after dinner to investigate an accusation against him. She agreed to prepare a nice chocolate cake and to have water hot for tea or instant coffee.

The delegation arrived before Will made it home. Anne welcomed them. Four of the five men went into the library to take inventory of her husband’s reading habits. The fifth hovered with her by the door, talking about the last time they had met.

“You remember us?” Anne asked.

“I remember your library.”

“There have been a lot of additions in eight months. Sometimes I think our book budget is as big as our gas allowance. But then we do walk to church quite often. It’s so close.”

“For my part I don’t expect this investigation to be a problem. I remember you two. No one I’ve ever met has been able to answer with such humble confidence.”

“Keep an open mind. It’s your job. I’m a little nervous, but if what we’re doing is wrong, we want to stop.”

“See, that’s what I mean.”

To God be all glory.

See index for first and additional chapters.

Romance's Nuances

Sidenote: this is post 101. I'm so proud.

The many definitions of love are common knowledge. Saying "I love..." can get confusing because it can mean "Pizza is my favorite food," or "I love you like a sister," or "I would do anything for you," or "Being around you gives me butterflies." A similar word is romance.

First of all, there are Romance languages, which does not mean that their nouns have genders, though they do. Romance languages are derived from Latin, the language of Rome.

Second, there is romance, like a good chick-flick or romantic comedy. Like a wedding or great love song. Romance is celebrated on Valentine's Day.

Last, there is romance, the philosophy, more properly called Romanticism. According to Wikipedia, romanticism is "an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in late 18th century Western Europe... a reaction against the rationalization of nature, in art and literature it stressed strong emotion as a source of aesthetic experience... " Thus, to say something is romantic in this sense is to say it is emotional, slightly irrational, and adventurous.

Unfortunately, context is not always apparent in the use of "romantic," so one can easily be misunderstood. Last night I told some friends that pirates are romantic. That does not mean they are French. It does not mean I would marry one. What I meant was that with their swords, their ships, their swagger, and their history, pirates are part of the romantic genre. Typical of this definition is The Princess Bride. True love is part of the story, but only a piece.

Dealing with the other misconception, to say that being a garbage man, for example, is unromantic is not to say that no garbage man can be romantic. Saying a swordsman is romantic doesn't mean that the sweat, blood, and death are attractive.

Now that we've got that cleared up, I wonder if there is a difference between which types of "romance" appeal to different individuals.

To God be all glory.