Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Choose Your Battles

Last night I chose a battle I will have with my children if they should ever bring it up. And a thought struck me: so many people defend themselves, "You have to choose your battles." But they've never decided how many they are able to fight. So they leave all but the most important (or easily won) battles in their eyes to the whims of their adversary.

My future-Marine brother was present, and we proposed a more military scenario. Suppose you are trying to conquer an archipelago in the middle of the ocean, and you decided to take a stand on only two of hundreds of islands. You are thrilled to have won the two battles, but you could have used your forces better and made more progress toward your goal. As it is, with hundreds of islands remaining in enemy hands, even though some are very small, you have lost the war.

How much more tragic to decide there are only a few battles to fight with your children. You take a stand against violence but let them play video games for long periods of time. You take a stand against fornication but give in on what they wear. You take a stand against hanging out with 'really bad' friends, but you let them gossip. In the end, you have a subversively wicked child who has no respect for you, but who looks remarkably like... the rest of the culture.

So the battle I chose yesterday is on teasing. My little boys will know that teasing little girls is a serious offense. Why? Because taunting is so opposite of what a girl needs from a boy. She looks to him for leadership and defense and courtesy - especially emotional, since girls are such inherently emotional creatures. By choosing this battle my children will be on the path to understanding each other, a skill needed for many things later in life (like getting married and building a marriage).

To God be all glory.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Thoughts on the Emergent Church

In case you haven't determined from my other posts, especially those about "Changing Church," I have some serious concerns about the evangelical Christian Church in America. A year ago I led a Bible study. And it is a symptom of the problems with evangelicalism that I must clarify: that means we took passages of the Bible and studied them. We figured out what the words meant, how the passages were connected with other parts of Scripture, and how to apply them. The topic was spiritual gifts. One of the primary passages on spiritual gifts in the Bible is 1 Corinthians. Typically a theologian would point you to select verses in chapter 12. However, spiritual gifts are the topic throughout 12, 13, and 14. This information fits because, in context, we saw that spiritual gifts are (this is so obvious) part of Church structure and purpose. Our group ended up discussing and discovering a lot about how the Church was intended to "run."

"from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." - Ephesians 4:16

Ephesians 4, also a defining passage for the Church, is another chapter describing spiritual gifts. There are also passages in Romans and 1 Peter. In none of these do we see church buildings. The four-point sermon is not described, nor the "invitation." Come to think of it, a weekly offering wasn't part of the instructions. There is no gift for "treasury," though there is one for "giving."

To some extent, I am still trying to figure out what the Bible teaches about the design for the Church. What did Paul tell Timothy the Church should look like? How should the assemblies go? Who should assemble; when; where; how often? Is it like a network of small groups that interact and overlap? How do elders fit in? What does an elder do? How many elders did God plan for churches? Do they need to be formally ordained? Does a teacher have to be an elder? Does an elder have to teach? If they do, is it every week?

*Deep breath* I have a lot of questions. And I have some ideas I'm exploring. Some might ask how relevant my search is to real life. Occasionally God reminds me He is more important than a completely worked-out theology. He'll teach me what I need to know. Mostly I need to know I should trust Him.

So I read up on these things. And I try to have an application-oriented study. But I'm not pragmatic. Truth is more important to me than success. I won't take a group that "does it right" without believing the right thing. I'd rather not be part of a church that is high on creeds and low on follow-through. For one thing, that is my tendency, and I need influences to counter my laziness.

I'm not alone in my dissatisfaction with the Church. A lot of people my age leave, and I can't entirely blame them. For one thing, my friends and I want challenged. We want examples. We need interaction across generations that is generally unavailable to us at traditional churches. Some who leave their childhood churches gather with others craving spiritual experiences though they were raised outside of church. An overall term for these gatherings is the "emergent church."

This church and its leaders tend to have embraced a unique philosophy/theology. It is unitarian, communal, experiential: meaning respectively that there could be many roads to salvation and a relationship with God, evangelism and the Christian life should be more about serving the poor and building real there-for-you relationships, and worship must be a multi-sensory encounter.

One of the most frequent things I hear is an emphasis, almost a demand, for "alternative worship." There is also contemplative prayer. The idea that conversion is a process can be found. In a book I am currently reading, a missionary is encouraging Muslim converts to keep the Koran, keep the the mosques, and be "Messianic Muslims."

Here's the thing. Most of these emergent believers and former evangelicals (and some others: family-integrated church members, some house churches, other conservative "fundamentalist" movements) are identifying real problems in the Church. The difference is the source of their solution.

I am searching for a back-to-the-Bible approach such as advocated by the New Testament Reformation Fellowship. The other options would be slight reform (as explained in the Purpose Driven Church and other such books) or theological abdication for what works. These alternatives are man-centered, offering either that which appeals and entertains men, or that which men think will work, borrowing "truth" from "wherever it can be found," including pagan religions, popular psychology, New Age spirituality, Hollywood, and ancient mysticism.

Back to the topic of spiritual gifts, one oft-overlooked and even supressed gift is that of discernment. "Discerning of spirits," can mean telling whether a spirit (message or soul) is from God or not. John MacArthur has compiled an entire book on the subject for contemporary issues, entitled Fool's Gold. There are websites like Let Us Reason, Apprising Ministries, and the Christian Research Net. I believe this is one of my gifts as well as a topic I believe to be vital to the Church.

So I feel obligated to warn you about reliance on The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Brennan Manning's writings, Rick Warren's writings, anything Emergent Church or "Christian mysticism." The argument that one must have read a book to denounce it, or have met a person to know that they are false teachers is invalid. The spiritual gift of discernment comes from God, and is primarily a testing of spirits against the pure, absolutely true Word of God. For specifics of why these people, books, movements, and ideas are unbiblical, please consult the links above. I have personally had exposure to each of these, but not immersion. However, the links provided do go into detail, with quotes and point-by-point refutations.

To summarize: the Church has problems. The solution to these problems can be found in the Bible, and the cause in how we have sold out to our culture and human philosophies rather than believing the instructions God gave. Some people who recognize these same problems and are very insightful in how they are related to each other and to statistics coming out about the Church have resorted to unbiblical "solutions," which will cause more harm than good. Christians must be on their guard against these philosophies and practices. This is done by being solidly grounded in the Bible, and testing every movement against it.

Colossians 2:6-8, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."

To God be all glory.

Iowa State University Astronomer Denied Tenure

In further intelligent design supression news, I just found this article by Ken Connor concerning an Iowa State professor who was denied tenure due to, according to available information, his belief in (not teaching of) intelligent design. His peer-reviewed papers, which are required for tenure consideration, did not deal with the intelligent design premises. He is a published author, writing on the evidence for design he discovered in his field of astronomy. The book is titled Privileged Planet.

My thoughts are:
  1. Censoring professors for a legitimate scientific conclusion at an educational institution is disturbing. Are they teaching students objective thinking or dogma?
  2. If the evolutionary establishment is so concerned about the threat to their theory from intelligent design that they cannot allow a believer in it to enter their privileged ranks, what does that say about the confidence they have in their own conclusions?
  3. I must acknowledge, however, that as it is illogical to believe in a theory without true supporting evidence, a coherent definition, or consistency - it would be unfair to expect these believers to act logically toward a colleague.

We most hope reason will shine through (the evolutionists will see the evidence for design) and justice will prevail (the professor will be esteemed and rewarded for his intelligence and hard work).

Meanwhile, Dr. Paleo has informed the blog world that the Institute for Creation Research will be launching a scientific journal soon, in which exiled members of the scientific community can engage in intellectually honest productive research sharing for the benefit of our world.

To God be all glory.

For Memorial Day

I want to remind you to remember what we Memorialize. Don't just barbecue and play and shop. This is a costly holiday, bought with men's years, their blood, and their lives.

A long time ago I wrote a little story about the choices made by soldiers. I posted it on When the Pen Flows if you're interested.

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Neat Skirts!

Crystal linked to a modest online clothing store (mostly skirts) this week. I just visited the site, and I want almost every one of their skirts. There's a beautiful denim one... Anyway, unlike many 'modest' clothing sites, these skirts don't look only prairie or Amish. They're stylish, graceful, and fun. Crystal calls them reasonably priced. I figure they look like the prices you'd pay for a non-sale item like it at Target. Thrift stores really mess up my sense of value!

Called New Creation Women's Apparel, if you're in that category, I recommend you at least go look at the pretty styles.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Changing Church Part XXI

“I have a question my family came across this week,” began a middle-aged businessman whose wife worked at a bank and left their daughter and son at daycare during the week. “We’re very busy and this hour is the only one we can make during the week here at church. We count on it being a time for our kids to learn Bible stories. What are we supposed to do?”

Will refused either to stand on man’s opinion or to back away when he knew what the Bible said. After all, as Paul wrote, whom was he trying to please? “God doesn’t leave room for excuses. First, He has given the responsibility of children’s spiritual training to parents, not Sunday school teachers. Second, perhaps you might look at what things are keeping you from fellowship with God’s people and ask whether they are the priorities God would have you embrace. Anne and I have agreed that we will teach our children the Bible at home, as well as expecting them to pay attention in church as soon as they are able.

“If we teach kids that church and God are an hour on Sundays, we’re failing them. They won’t see the point. I don’t see the point. Jesus died to redeem our whole lives, to give us life. We owe Him. We owe each other. Owe no man anything but to love one another.”

The man and his wife were clearly offended. Will watched them steadily, unwilling to give the impression that he was ashamed of the truths he had spoken.

A young man still in college tried to ease the tension by speaking himself. “I have a question. In classes where there is a lot of discussion at school, there tend to be times when everything breaks down into debate or argument. How do we prevent that?”

Anne marveled at the real questions being asked. The young man was sincere. No one was challenging the format. They were curious. Will was gathering his thoughts to move on from his last answer. A deacon stood up before he could begin. “Love. Are we not commanded to love? Let our words be gracious? If we really want to know and practice the truth, and for others’ sakes want them to do the same, that should guard at least the atmosphere of debate.” His wife gave him a go-ahead look. “We have been struggling with that in our home. We like to complain about how things are done: at church, at work, to each other at home. Discussion needs to happen for things to change. This week, we decided to try Pastor Will’s recommendation and do family devotions. My wife, Bette, suggested we spend a week on 1 Corinthians 13. It has been awesome. Let me read it. ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…’ “ He read the whole chapter. Then he continued, “We have by no means arrived, but Bette and I and our family have committed to transforming our attitudes. The motives behind what we speak must demonstrably be love. Love defined like this. Seeks not her own. Is not rude. Things like that.”

“Our family as well,” a young dad continued. “Except we were studying Philippians. Chapter 2 just says it, about how we’re supposed to do everything selflessly, like Jesus did. There’s no complaining then, or grumbling. And then we shine as lights in this world. No one argues this world needs light.”

Will sat back in his seat and borrowed Anne’s pen. He wrote out a one-word note to her. “Wow.” Their heads turned in sync, watching the testimonies and instruction.

To God be all glory.

See the index for first and additional chapters.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

When the Pen Flows

Announcing a new website, initiated by me, at the moment very young and lacking in posts. It is called When the Pen Flows, and is, as the site will itself explain, a forum for mine and my friends' short stories to be published. If your interested in some varied narrative, head over occasionally to see the newest chapters and tales.

Don't forget to comment over there if you visit!

To God be all glory.

Made for the Tropics

Genesis 2:6-8, "But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed."

I tend to be cold often. Some say it is because there is no fat on my bones. It could be that I do almost no cardiovascular conditioning. Blankets are some of my favorite things to collect. Quilts, throws, soft, warm - I have stacks in my room. If I were in charge of the thermostat, it would stay above 75 degrees Farenheit. And a summer day is very pleasant if it lingers around 80 degrees.

My theory for this is taken from the verses above. In the beginning the earth, creation scientists speculate, was entirely tropical. The climate was high-pressure, humid, warm, and stable. In this world, God planted a pleasant garden. The word paradise is an ancient Persian word meaning "enclosed garden." Into this place, God put man. There He created woman.

After Adam and Eve's sin, they were banished from the garden. But the world, covered in a layer of water vapor, functioned still like a greenhouse, leaving the whole world a place to be happily inhabited. Yet the wickedness of man grew, and God unleashed the fountains of the great deep, rained down the water vapor canopy, and left us with the broken climate, atmospheric conditions changing from place to place and over time.

Now there are few regions in which the climate is tropical. These are places I, at least, avoid due to the renowned bugs and diseases present. (The dangers of these bugs and diseases were also caused by the Curse on Adam for his sin.) So I live in Colorado, where the temperature ranges from 10 below zero to the low 100's. And I am cold a lot of days.

But I have a good excuse. As our souls were created for immortality, so our bodies were created for the tropics.

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

History of Israel

The history of the chosen people and their nation is so long I wouldn't think of troubling you with the whole thing in one blog post. I do, however, advise you to acquaint yourself with the history. Read the Bible. Familiarize yourself with intertestamental history and through Jesus' resurrection and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Then at least study the 20th century, so that you can understand the gathering of the Jews back to the Promised Land, and the wars they waged defending their existence. With this you'll have a grasp on international politics, prophecy, the Middle East, and even terrorism. Israel is the expert on terrorism from the victim standpoint; they've experienced it since even before their independence.

The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is quoted in Imprimus as saying of the holocaust, "So we ask you [the West], if you indeed commited this great crime, why should the oppressed people of Palestine be punished for it? If you committed a crime, you yourselves should pay for it." He shows an ignorance (perhaps willful) of history. All of the West did not perpetrate the holocaust, the occurrence of which he has also denied, but rather Nazi Germany (who was allied with Arabs in British Mandate Palestine, who did and still do want to drive all Jews into the sea). Did I say British Mandate? Indeed I did. Great Britain still owned the land on which Israel and palestine are situated. The English, after the holocaust and World War II, kept a promise given years back to grant the Jewish people a homeland there. So the palestinians were not "paying" for the Jewish people to have their own land.

In fact, there were very few Palestinians when Israel became a nation, and they were not oppressed. Rather, as soon as British troops withdrew, surrounding Arab nations and the indiginous (or recently arrived and settled) Arabs made violent war on the brand new nation. Israel miraculously survived and became established as a country, yea, even a democracy, in the Middle East. Since then there have been more Jews returning to the Promised Land (there is extensive documentation that of living people groups, the Jews have the oldest claim to the land - see the Bible). There have also been more attacks, whether from murderous bombers strapping explosives to themselves in order to simply kill and maim as many innocents as possible, or from neighboring countries like Egypt and her allies in 1967 and the more recent offensives from Lebanon and the palestinian mandate.

Joel Rosenberg has a short history of the Soviet aspect of the Six Day War in 1967 on his blog right now. It sparks my imagination to hear of secret diplomatic threats and negotiations, quiet redirection of troops, and declassified information that Russia was instigating the entire war. Go read it for a fascinating bite of history. You may also read this Charles Krauthammer article about the Six Day War.

And keep reading more. Don't let the media or the Islam-directed propaganda machine tell you the history of the Middle East. Read actual history. Be able to discern the lies. In this way, know whom you can trust. If, for example, the president of Iran is telling you lies about history, what makes you believe that he is telling the truth when he says his country wants nuclear power for peaceful purposes?

You must be educated. You must know history. I'm not saying you have to know every name and date and city. Study the big events and the philosophies or pressures that drove them.

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Quotes: Bible, Alcott, Chesterton, MacDonald...

Just now I found this verse via the view from the juniper tree that struck me as extremely relevant. Don't you wish citizens of the kingdom lived this way, lived like the pilgrims (Hebrews 11:13) they are?

Romans 14:17 "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

This verse is a song that used to play on the radio (before 'contemporary' Christian music moved beyond singing Scripture in a simple, memorable way). The chorus went in a sort of Jamaican rhythm, "Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; that's the kingdom of God. Don't you want to be part of the kingdom... Come on everybody!"

Another verse nearby is my favorite definition of sin (as in most functional and convicting in my life): Romans 14:23, "...for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. "

On a different subject, I found this wonderful advice given by Marmee in Lousia May Alcott's Little Women:

“Leave these things to time; make this home happy, so that you may be fit for homes of your own, if they are offered you, and contented here if they are not. One thing remember, my girls: mother is always ready to be your confidant, father to be your friend; and both of us trust and hope that our daughters, whether married or single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives.”

By the way, I can never decide to which of the March girls I most relate. Meg is the oldest, and her life is described in the quote. Jo loves to write, and finds she doesn't fit in anywhere. Beth likes to stay home, but not to be left behind. Amy likes things, and doesn't like being told what to do; she lets her mind balance her heart.

Moving on to more quotes I encountered recently, this one from G.K. Chesterton:
"Man seems to be capable of great virtues but not of small virtues; capable of defying his torturer but not of keeping his temper."

This one by George MacDonald, "Until we love the Lord so as to do what He tells us, we have no right to have an opinion about what one of those men [writers of the N.T. epistles] meant, for all they wrote about is about things beyond us," reminds me of the newsletter send by the Highland Study Center today, in which R.C. Sproul, Jr. reminds us about John 15's parable of the Vine, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This, and not a laundry list of theological precision is how we ought to be judging ourselves. This, and not a laundry list of wisdom driven lifestyle choices is how we ought to be judging ourselves. Confessional purists who lack peace are in trouble. Head-covering homeschoolers who lack joy are in trouble. Head-covering, homescooling, confessional purists who lack gentleness, like me, are in a heap of trouble. The trouble won’t be solved by finding the right answers to the questions that vex us. It will only be solved by clinging to the Vine. "

This one is another George MacDonald, given me with the explanation by my friend, Christa: "God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy." Like a father extremely pleased with his little son's first step, yet unsatisfied until the stride is strong and confident, God is with us.

To God be all glory

Public Apology: Misdefined

I can't remember how many people I've told the story of Faramir and Eowyn, but I would like to make the best amends possible by publicly making available an apology, a retraction, a correction. The contextual imagery convinced my child's mind years ago that "trothplight" meant marry. It does not. Through some annoying fluke of English, the word is a descriptive synonym of betroth. I don't understand why Faramir and Eowyn would be publicly betrothed after she already said yes, he already kissed her, etc. Nor do I get why her hand was placed in his; that symbolism belongs to marriage. However, it seems inescapable that Tolkien did mean to indicate some courtly formal custom of public engagement rather than a marriage.

I am quite sure (from some appendix or timeline in some editorial posthumous publication) that Faramir and Eowyn were soon thereafter married. Hopefully you are reassured.

If there are any who heard me tell the story differently, based on a false impression of the indication given by the archaic "trothplight," and they do not read this blog, it serves them right. Friends should read friends' blogs. I do promise not to elsewhere perpetuate my misunderstanding any longer, however.

To God be all glory.

Setting my Mind on Things Above

At graduation parties and when catching up with old friends, you're bound to hear, "What's new?" "What are your plans for the future?" "What are you doing these days?" These questions leave little room for my honest self (who loves answering questions) to redirect the conversation to more interesting topics. See, I would much rather answer, "What is God teaching you this week?"

I am, therefore, going to pretend that you just asked me that question. The following is a fairly complete rendition of what I jounaled Sunday morning instead of listening to the sermon introduction.

I'm torn - as in anguished; I am having trouble saying 'Thy will be done.' The temptation is to give in and do things the world's way, and I want to give in. Usually when I face pleasing God, seeking His approval, instead of man's, I am seeing a world of materialistic anti-God masses. But I struggle most to walk by faith when friends don't value the investment of my life. "What have you accomplished?" "What's new?"

Well, my little sisters don't want to go to college; they want to be moms who stay home. They see that as an acceptable alternative. My brothers are strong, thoughtful, and considerate. The one and two year olds at church had a safe hour and a half last Sunday, and heard a few books read to them, and got a few hugs. Friday my Awana girls played with me and found out I've never been kissed (and I'm still alive, still laugh, still smile, still plan to get married, still have friends). I shared the gospel (how to be saved from the punishment of sins and have a living relationship with Jesus Christ) here several times. The older Awana kids know me as coach and friend. A few weeks ago I judged a debate tournament, and this week I went to one of their plays. Yesterday morning I looked after a two year old because it served and I love kids. Sunday school lessons and a book are in the works on my computer, but not done yet. Each week I pray with ladies at my church. I read and I work and I clean and think and go to parties.

These are all things I love to do; I don't do them for credit, so I usually wouldn't think of mentioning them if someone asks what I do. (I'm not saying, either, that any of the results above are something I did alone. Independence isn't a big virtue in my philosophy. I'm saying I participate.) They're fun. They're my life. They're simple. The investments are in others, so it's hard to point to my tally of accomplishments.

And while I'm challenged to do more, work harder, make phone calls, send notes, stop by to pray, step forward to express care, boldly speak the gospel in public, dare to live as a sister in Christ and no more - all those are still little things. They're not big and noticeable like earning a degree or having a baby or visiting Australia. That doesn't make them less valuable.

So maybe with all these "burdens," and to use a popular buzz-word, "insecurities," God is telling me to look to Him. Desire Him. Set my mind on things above. Please Him. Cast on Him my cares.

And I'm reminded again, that while I want my life to be an adventure, and I want it to be important, I want it to represent a different set of values, and to defend those before the world - the whole world, even those who already know they ought to be valued.

Romans 12:1-2, "I beseech you therefore, brethren,
by the mercies of God,
that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world:
but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect,
will of God."

(The links are to verses about which I've been thinking recently as well.)

To God be all glory.

PS: God knows my struggles. As if to say that He does value my obedience - He is so gracious to me! - He sent me some thank-you's and some compliments tonight that touched me very deeply. He reminded me that, like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, my life has an impact on other people.

An Applebee's Chocolate Shake

Once upon a time several years ago, I attended an Awana event known variously as Summit, Varsity USA, VUSA, or my favorite, "Chicago." After days of little sleep and lots of stress-laden activity, we were up late for an evening ceremony. Dinner, then, was a nighttime affair, so we headed for Applebee's. Friends, tired laughter, lots of presently popular inside jokes, and a good meal made for great memories. To top off the meal and to splurge on a vacation (that's what you're supposed to do, right?) I bought a chocolate shake to finish my meal. Though I am not a paid endorser, I will tell you Applebees has the best chocolate shakes in the world. The taste is treasured and hallowed in my memory, not to be reengaged except on special occasions. One such was again at the end of the Summit trip this year, when I counseled all of the students at my table to partake of this delight.

Another occasion was yesterday, when we ate at Applebee's for Mother's Day. One bite encapsulated a memory. Another bite and all the memories molded into one happy expression flooded me. Friends, laughter, struggling and conquering, the ecstasy of a well-earned desert at the end of a long day. All in a shake.

All too soon the shake was gone. The memories flitted away, but that's ok. Sometimes the memories are too powerful, too much to handle all at once. They are rich, like the chocolate shake. "But of some delights, I believe sir, a little goes a long way."

To God be all glory.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Changing Church Part XX

A man stood from a seat near the door. His thin white hand gripped a wooden cane. His voice trembled with age, “I can’t stand here and hold a Bible at the same time, so you’ll forgive me for trying from memory…” He recited Psalm 91. It was a long psalm, and several times he had to pause while gaining control of his emotion-conquered voice. At the end he said, “I don’t deserve a love like that. But God is still with me, all the time. I’ve loved that psalm since I was a boy, and through sermons my whole life, I always thought that maybe I would just stand up and yell it out. Seems to be better than some songs or sermons I’ve heard. Anyway, I’m an old man, and I want to testify that those words are true… in the end. In between it may seem like God is doing things way out of sight or over your head or with no reference to you at all. But God has proven that when I couldn’t see what He was doing, He was all I was supposed to see. For good reason. And, well, that’s all.”

Anne wept. His whole life the man had been longing to hear his favorite psalm in church, and he finally had the chance to share it with everyone. It had also been the same Scripture that comforted his heart through the changes to which he was reconciling himself this past week.

Others were clearly affected. Some were emboldened. One of the adult Sunday school teachers stood likewise. “This is something I learned while studying for my lesson this Sunday, but it isn’t really part of it.” He told of the parable of new wine in old wineskins. “I figured out what Jesus meant by it. The gospel of grace is too good, too new, to fit into old habits and laws. It doesn’t just repackage the old, or patch a part that didn’t work so well. It is completely new. Jesus was talking to the Jews about their stubborn hold on following the over-legalized law. But it is similar to Paul talking to the Ephesians, too, about putting on a new man. When we are saved, we’re a new creation. The Spirit of God lives in us in power! Our old habits and attitudes, speech patterns, choices, and whole way of looking at life cannot contain the new life we receive as children of God. So we put off the old man like a snake shedding its too small skin. And we put on a new man, created in righteousness and holiness. Good works prepared for us to do.” He got a few ‘amen’s.

To God be all glory.

See the index for first and additional chapters.

Family Model of Church

In theory one would find my blog by clicking on a link, by being personally invited (by me or word of mouth), or by being so bored and lonely or desperate for information on a topic that one would use Blogger Search ( On days when I am not particularly motivated to read one website or another, or when I am discouraged that no one is reading my blog (at least no one who comments: hint hint), I too use Blogger Search. To puff my sense of self-importance, I type keywords of articles I recently posted. Then I see mine and might come across other bloggers who are interested in the same topics.

One topic I searched tonight was "changing church," obviously the title of my one and only true series so far at Lady of Longbourn. I came across an article entitled simply Family. The description of the church there is biblical and refreshing and - don't you just wish that you could be in a fellowship of Christians who took the Bible seriously and lived like family? I'm inspired.

So far I haven't read much about this man's story. That's a disclaimer of anything beyond the specifically linked article. He was apparently a pastor for some time, but realized like Pastor Will in my story that the church wasn't being the church described in the Bible. So he set out to find one that was.

To give you a taste, I'll quote part of his article that resonated with me: "I have even found Family here in Redding, at Bethel, where I don’t know anyone and no one knows me, but we know we are Family, so we have common ground on which to enjoy whatever time we have together." I am always excited to find strangers in whom Christ is so apparent that we are like family without knowing much about each other yet. The common salvation ties us together.

To God be all glory.


Proper preposition use occasionally puts me in interesting situations grammatically. (I would like to interject that I know how funny, how odd and eccentric the previous sentence sounds.)

For example: today, while I was leaving Target in search of my car, I was chatting with myself about where it could be. "Ah yes, I got a good spot." (That never happens at Target. Something about angles there just discourages me from even seeing or trying to see close parking spots.) I found my car and plotted my course, utilizing crosswalks, heading through unoccupied handicapped places, and carefully avoiding the white car backing out of a spot ahead.

In fact, my car was parked in the spot from next to which the white car had just left. I did a double take. Did I just describe something as "from next to which"? Was that correct? The wording sounded too strange. So my brain went over its options. "Next to from which." No. "Next to which from"? Uh-uh. "From which next to"? Desperation had set in, and I knew with this last attempt that my brain had properly formulated the phraseology at the beginning. "From next to which" is a legitimate English phrase, rarely useful, but extraordinarily fun to say. Try it. Fromnexttowhich. FromNextToWhich. From next to which. Are you laughing?

As a side note, I was also describing to myself (I am pretty sure these are silent observations, not out loud, if that assures you at all.) tonight the origination point of a noise. Is it right to say, "I'm almost sure the sound came hence" if you arrive at the suspected location? Or do you need to say, "from hence"? Words like hence and whence were designed to deprive you of the infinite joy of articulating similar phrases to fromnexttowhich. I forgive them, for the sake of being such lovely typically useless words themselves.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bias in the Media: ABC Case in Point

On ABC World News Tonight there were several stories that caught my attention, not for their inherent interest, but because of a connection I saw flowing through them.

President Bush’s approval rating is reported at 28%, the lowest of any “modern president” since Jimmy Carter’s during the Iran hostage crisis. The network assumes that we all understand, and are gratified, by this survey result. I do not see any explanation for an approval rating so low. Dad says the media has been browbeating the public with lies leading to disapproval of our president. They (and legislators in leadership) say that the war in Iraq is lost, which isn’t true unless our people tire of fighting and simply come home. There were no lies about Iraq or weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons have been found. The US is waging a war against our enemies that involves intelligence obtained in wire-tapping terrorist calls, and interrogating and detaining enemy combatants. Our war is long, pursuing the perpetrators of terror to the ends of the earth. Already the media paints these wicked men in more sympathetic terms than they deserve: they are insurgents, factions in Iraq, helpless against tribal feudalism, freedom-fighters and revolutionaries.

This story led into an analysis of how the Republican presidential candidates are affected by the public hostility toward the current administration. “No republican will win in 2008,” ABC emphasized by still showing the candidates on stage during their debate, before switching to video of Newt Gingrich who continued, “on keeping Washington as it is.” Therefore we are led to believe the case for a Republican president following this one is almost hopeless.

Later on the program, a highlighted story was that new laws force certain types of statistically still-dangerous criminals to live under bridges. This take on the issue grants them sympathy. These men, whom studies show to be more likely to harm the public than to reform, are properly the subject of laws designed to protect the innocent (and in case you needed a reminder, that’s most likely you) by regulating the zones in which shelters for them can be erected. Being a criminal is supposed to have negative consequences. That’s what discourages you from becoming one in the first place.

The coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to America entirely omits the reason for her visit and focuses rather on – get this piece of important news: the President’s wardrobe. First of all, our British neighbor is here to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown colony. Yes, I did say celebrate. However, this memorial occasion is not popular in the willfully history-ignorant media, so they won’t mention it. Secondly, the story presents the important international figure known as the President of the United States of America as a puppet dressed up to meet a glittering star – and that only because the women in his life cutely begged him. Honestly, a woman is interviewed showing his tuxedo.

Finally, a few-days-older story deals with the new push from evangelicals for church members to become foster or adoptive parents. You may say, “What’s wrong with that? How could the media possibly twist this enough for me to complain?” Their tone was grave. There could be problems with so many Christians infiltrating the foster care system. “Generally, foster children can be taken to places of worship unless parents who maintain legal rights say otherwise, but forcing religion on foster children is not allowed.

“ ‘The best practice is to give kids a good, loving home,’ said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York. ‘Some people interpret that to mean a good home as having a strong faith in it. As a parent, I get that. What I'm suggesting is kids not become a tool’ for evangelism.” (emphasis mine) Excuse what is the definition of evangelical? Aren't we the evangelicals allowed to follow that religion? I don’t know how you define ‘forcing religion,’ but I fear that the principle might be taken too far. And I note that the quotes in the second paragraph ended before the ‘for evangelism.’ It might be interesting to know if that is really what Adam Pertman intended. In any case, the movement is seen with suspicion of our proselytizing evangelical community.

Let’s review:
Conservative president is unpopular.
Conservative presidential candidates have little chance of winning unless they distance themselves from the current conservative administration.
Poor convicted criminals are forced into homelessness.
Queen Elizabeth came by to trick the president into wearing a tuxedo, not to celebrate a foundational event in our country’s history.
Danger: Evangelicals want to take over your world by adopting your orphans – and converting them, too!

Do you see a theme, a spin, here?

To God be all glory.

(I had intended to link to the ABC news website, but due to content blatantly shown on their homepage, as well as elements of the article summaries of the news spots I mentioned, being inappropriate, I have decided not to. I would like to, of course, give them credit on the news stories for which I criticize them.)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Burst of Energy

Today at the Super Walmart I was standing in line. The woman ahead of me began unloading her basket. At first I just stared wearily. Then I noticed her items were thumping and pounding onto the conveyor belt. My eyes slipped to her face. She wasn't mad. But the items kept being thrown onto the counter. The cashier didn't seem phased, but she was still working on the customer ahead. The woman ahead of me started leaning across her cart to throw the goods, though there was room at the front and the back. At last an explanation presented itself, when she handed the cashier an empty, slightly dented Red Bull can. Go figure.

To God be all glory.

Books Read in 2007

I saw this idea on another blog, and thought that since I'm so negligent of keeping my own list, I'd try to post for you all what books I read through the year (on this one page) and whether I recommend them. As a matter of fact I have just catalogued all the books in my room like Gretchen and Natalie and YLCF blogged about, and I have over 300 (and a few duplicates to give away!).

This list will be updated as I 1) read more books, and 2) remember more books I already read.

Arena by Karen Hancock (mature scenes, science fiction/allegory, really vivid story)

St. Elmo by Augusta J. Evans (good writing, gripping story, inspiring)

The Shaping of Things to Come (a perspective on how the Church could react to the changing culture; definitely can't endorse all of it; thought-provoking)

The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock (an enthralling - do you know that word means "enslaving"? - fantasy; mature scenes, violent, theological; the first of a four-part series)

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (one of her later books, some familiar characters, but developed into less extreme versions than the other books. To be honest, I didn't like this one nearly as much as her other books, but I did find myself relating to some of the conflicts in the story.)

Present Concerns by C.S. Lewis (a collection of many short, easy to read essays written by C.S. Lewis for newspapers and magazines and forwards of books, dealing with politics, philosophy, and issues of the day.)

Basic Essentials: Weather Forecasting by Michael Hodgson (an easy to understand crash course in predicting the next 48 hours' weather without all the doppler and satellites and other technology. Using cloud observations, wind velocity, and barometric changes, you can get a feel for what is going to happen in the weather. I'm especially fascinated to know what the different clouds mean, and to discover that there are logical reasons connecting how they look, where they are, and what they do.)

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald (a Christian classic, so I'm told, which influenced both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The story of Diamond, a young boy who learns about faith through his friendship with Lady North Wind.)

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (a friend told me this was the best book of the Anne of Green Gables series. I'm not sure, since I read most of the Anne books long ago. The setting is Prince Edward Island during World War I, and in the respect that it revealed what life was like during those oft-overlooked days of history, I greatly appreciated this tale. It is also a nice story, filled with deep characters, as anyone who has read L.M. Montgomery might expect.)

Journey of the Heart by Jeannie Castleberry (The tale of a girl about my age dealing with feeling left behind by older siblings and friends who have husbands while she doesn't. Through a lot of guidance from practically perfect parents, she learns about her relationship with God and her family, and about not settling for a man about whom God has not given you peace. I have to say that this story is not the best writing I've ever read; sometimes it reads like a bullet-point list of what it means to be committed to courtship.)

Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg (A hard-to-classify book explaining the Ezekiel prophecy, world events, and opinions of experts and world leaders that led Joel Rosenberg to write a series of novels recognized as prophetic. I appreciated the grasp he has on worldwide trends, and his emphasis on taking the Bible as a guide even for real-life decisions like drilling for oil in Israel or taking Bibles to the Middle East.)

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers (a metaphor-charged story of a little girl who, burdened by guilt, turns her village upsidedown looking for someone who, instead of eating her sins once she died, could relieve her of her sins right now. I don't agree with all of the theology, and the village people seemed to have more than their fair share of horrible sins, but the story was really good and well written.)

Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney (a short book reminding me of the gravity of the gospel and the grace remembered when you focus on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross while we were yet sinners.)

I, Isaac Take Thee, Rebekah by Ravi Zacharias (originally I thought this was a book for married people, but since I am preparing a Sunday school lesson series on the Church as the Bride of Christ I decided to read it. That is not the topic of this book. Ravi writes this application of the story of Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis to teach young people to prepare for or be diligent to work on their marriage. A theme is the will behind marriage. One of the most memorable illustrations is that of Ravi's own brother who with his parents and aunt arranged his own marriage.)

Waking Rose by Regina Doman (the third in a series of modern retellings of fairy tales. Based on Sleeping Beauty, experience an exciting tale about waiting for love, about redemption, heroes, and the sanctity of life. With ample references to literature, and a Christian worldview, this approximately 300 page-book with a beautiful cover is a great read. I only need to mention that whereas her prior books were not distractingly Catholic, this book has more Catholic references: Mary, praying the rosary, etc.)

Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (Another great CS Lewis collection of essays. This book has the seeds of most of the ideas you find cunningly presented in his novel. The first one - Weight of Glory, and the last two - Slip of the Tongue and Membership are my favorite, covering the more Christian and less philosophical topics. A good book for underlining.)

Pearl of Beauty compiled by Natalie Nyquist (I read this in one day. It is a collection of classic tales similar to Aesop's fables in that there is a moral - for young women - to every story. Louisa May Alcott and George MacDonald are both represented. I'd recommend this book, not only because the stories are enchanting, but also because of the study/discussion questions Natalie included. I think it's a great resource for raising or mentoring young ladies.)

Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham, Jr. (see full review, recommend)

Love and Freindship (sic) by Jane Austen (see full review)

Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings by Charles H. Hapgood (Focuses on the Piri Re'is map discovered in 1929, but compiled in 1513 by a Turkish sailor. Through a discussion of comparative geography, navigational grids called portolanos, and projection; Professor Hapgood and his team of students and collaborators were able to show that: 1. The map more accurately represented Middle America, Antarctica, and Africa than maps drawn at the time. The existence of an antarctic continent was dismissed during the age of exploration for about three hundred years until it was, apparently, rediscovered. 2. The reason the map was so accurate was because the makers of the map - it was a compilation of many local maps - could accurately compute latitude and longitude, technology absent during the Renaissance and the next couple centuries. 3. The projection(s), or the way the map displayed the continents relative to each other, required trigonometry to account for the spherical surface of the earth. Trigonometry was in use by the Greeks, but not in cartography during the sixteenth century. In second grade I was taught that Columbus discovered the earth was round, and discovered America even though he thought it was India. This book proposes that Columbus had access to an ancient map and was using it to search for land across the Atlantic. He may have even had one identical to the Piri Re'is map, evidenced by a 70 degree tilt in that map of only the islands of the Caribbean. You should read this book, but with a critical mind. The author never considered the Bible as an explanation for his findings, and gives dates for his archaeology and geology inconsistent with the Bible, putting confidence in radioactive dating techniques.)

The Highlander's Last Song by George MacDonald (beautiful descriptions, some good philosophical things to consider, but don't read it if you aren't solid on biblical theology. I love Scotland, and the hero was a wonderful leader. The story shows real progression in each of the characters.)

The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager by Thomas Hine (A history of America centered on people between 10 and 20 years old. Deals with economics, morality, media, and education. I enjoyed a sweeping look at US history as well as perspective on what we consider normal for teenagers and adolescence. The author does not have a biblical worldview; import your own into it for some impressive conclusions. A good book, but for adult readers only.)

The Immortal Game by David Shenk (Brilliantly organized, well-chosen information, at a captivating speed; this book traces the history of the world as associated with chess: Islamic Caliphs, the rise of queens in Europe, and artificial intelligence, among many others.)

To God be all glory.

Iran, Israel, and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

Since I am an unashamed zionist and antiterrorist, the policies pursued by the United States foreign relations led by the brilliant Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice are greatly disturbing me. She urges Israel to push for peace with Palestine, which is always on the terms of the terrorists, weakens Israel, and doesn't last. Now she's unofficially but publicly seeking interaction with Iran.

In the linked article, 'Doing the Bump with Iran," Diana West points out the shame involved for us to be polite to terrorists. Is this fear I hear? Or stupidity? Of course Iran is a neighbor to Iraq, and we want the area to be stable. But we want it to be terrorist free. Remember the war on terror?

"Our nation will continue to be steadfast and patient and persistent in the pursuit of two great objectives. First, we will shut down terrorist camps, disrupt terrorist plans, and bring terrorists to justice. And, second, we must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world. (Applause.)"

"Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom." - President George W. Bush January 2002

Since the above State of the Union address, we have allowed radical Iranian leadership to visit our country on diplomatic missions to the United Nations, where his peaceful-sounding speech was well received. "On August 1, only a few weeks before his UN appearance, Ahmadinejad, the "man of peace," delivered a scathing attack on America to a large Tehran mob that was repeatedly punctuated by the unified chant: 'Death to America! Death to America!' " - from an article going in depth into the "evolution" of America's relationship with Iran.

I have another question. We don't recognize Iran as a legitimate government. They are not known for keeping their promises. Why should we accept their help in 'stabilizing' Iraq and the Middle East?

Finally, to address our pressure on Israel to concede to terrorists, let me say that God promised to bless those who blessed Israel. He has also divinely given and preserved Israel's land. They have a legal right to their land, some of which has already been surrendered to deceitful terrorists. We need to take a strong stand for Israel and against her enemies, including Hamas, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and the blustering pro-Palestine Arab propaganda in our own country.

Genesis 12:1-3, "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

Genesis 27:29, "Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee."

Exodus 23:22, "But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries."

Ezekiel 38:16, "And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes."

To God be all glory.

The Material Creation was Very Good

Genesis 1-2 describes the literal creation of the heavens and the earth by God. He formed these elements in six days into land, sea, plants, animals, man and woman not as we know them, but in an innocent state, "very good." Genesis 1:31, "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day."

Even man God had formed the sixth day from the dust of the ground, and he was part of the creation proclaimed 'very good.'

Not until after the sabbath (seventh day) did the creation become corrupt. When the devil deceived Eve through the serpent's wily arguments, and Eve and Adam ate of the forbidden tree, sin infested the world and every child born of man since. God cursed the ground, man, woman, and the serpent, subjecting all creation to groaning. But at the same time He promised redemption. Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."

The redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, the seed of Mary the virgin, who dying on the cross became curse for us (Galatians 3), crushed Satan utterly. The end for him comes. At the end, the already purchased redemption will be consummated with the making of a new heaven and new earth. Those who have placed faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation will be resurrected, given new, incorruptible bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-45).

Romans 8:18-23, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."

And the world will again be good, for: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." (Revelation 21:4-6)

To God be all glory.

Changing Church Part XIX

Families stole into the sanctuary as though they were being hunted. Parents chose seats in the unfamiliar formation of chairs, and gathered their children around them. Younger ones sat on the floor with pillows, paper, books, and crayons. Some adults greeted each other. Most of them maintained the nervous, uncertain looks.

Anne scanned the people with anticipation. Most were not looking her way, as if she might read their thoughts if she could catch their eye long enough to smile. A warm, hospitable smile was fixed on her face. To some extent she was playing a part, being the woman she thought would fit into the type of service they were instituting. Friendly and quiet. Ready to learn and ready to sing. She held a basket of muffins in her lap. The first person to smile at her would receive one, then the next, and so on until they were gone. Hopefully, setting the example of bringing and sharing food would inspire others.

Will was also present, going about to the deacons and leaders in the church. His mission was to discover whether any felt God was calling them to speak. He wore a good-natured smile despite his obvious lack of success. One high point was the number of families who were present. And to see them sitting as families was encouraging.

At the usual start time, Will stood in an odd semi-circular group of chairs to open the meeting in prayer. Then he opened his Bible to Colossians. He introduced it by saying that this week he had found strength in remembering that the God he serves is greater than the traditions of men. Each chapter of Colossians followed, peaking at declarations of God’s nature. Will’s eyes intensified, locked on certain members as he read the lower points, points about legalism, forsaking God’s word, being busy with the things of earth. People shifted in their chairs. Kids looked up from their entertainment when his voice got louder. No one left. Anne sat, caught by the inspired words of the text. So many instructions and truths occurred to her in a new light that as soon as he finished chapter four, she took out her notebook and began scribbling notes so she wouldn’t forget.

“Now is a good time for any men to share what God has been teaching them this week. One at a time.” The last sentence was said half in jest. He meant to instruct them, but he also made it as a joke about the lack of people scrambling to speak. People laughed nervously.

To God be all glory.

See the index for first and additional chapters.


While on the topic of duty, I want to share some verses that describe what we ought to do. Note the references in them to the other characteristics with which I claim duty is associated. I am happy to find that there is some support for my theory in the Bible.

Luke 17:10, "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."

John 13:14, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet."

Romans 15:1, "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves."

2 Corinthians 12:14, "Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children."

Ephesians 5:28, "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself."

1 John 2:6, "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."

1 John 3:16, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

3 John 1:5-8, "Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth."

In these verses, the word "ought" is the same as "duty" in Luke 17. It is the Greek opheilo meaning: to owe, that which is due.

"Due" is the root of "duty."

To God be all glory.

Faramir the Dutiful

One thing I admire about Faramir, something that makes him the hero he is, is his sense of duty. Aragorn urged obedience to duty when he spoke to Eowyn at Dunharrow. She cried out that too often she had heard of duty, and she wished to spend her life as she willed. “Few may do that with honour,” Aragorn told her. The Bible describes what a young man should be in (among other places) Titus 2: "Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded." In my experience the spiritually mature young men are those who are self-controlled and who recognize the serious nature of their choices. Therefore Faramir’s dedication to his responsibility made him a man mature and ready for stewardship in other areas.

Though a man of passionate conviction, who loved truth, Faramir was willing to submit to his father’s will that he be a ‘man of action’ and defend his country in its need. He gave up time, forsaking his own preference for studying lore, to accomplish his tasks. The fact that he is skillful with weapons shows that he has practiced, a diligent habit marking those possessing self-discipline. Without loving war and glory, Faramir risked and dedicated his life to strategy, ambush, and border-raids. In Boromir’s absence, his brother led the armies of Minas Tirith. While conflict heightened, and facing major stakes, it was Faramir who was holding the western shores of Anduin on the night when Boromir’s body floated down the river. Then, as his father’s sanity crumbled, the careful son held together the steward’s counsel and the empire by standing in his brother’s stead on top of his own.

As much influence as duty has on Faramir, it is not his master. There are higher claims, and ultimate responsibility to do what is right. “I should now take you back to Minas Tirith to answer there to Denethor, and my life will justly be forfeit, if I now choose a course that proves ill for my city,” he told Frodo and Sam in Ithilien. Ultimately, he did not do as law and duty would bid, but by his wisdom sent the ringbearer on his way, aided in his mission. The quote above reveals already that he was choosing a course not only based on his perceived duty, but on the basis of what was beneficial to his city.

Again there was conflict between his duty and his judgment when Denethor in his madness commissioned his son to retake Osgiliath. His submissive reply to his father was, “Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will go and do what I can in his stead – if you command it.” The test of that moment held another lesson we can learn about duty. Duty shouldn’t make you bitter. Duty requires selflessness. Selflessness by nature is not bitter; it can be grim, but it ought to be joyful and willing. Gandalf counseled Faramir before he rode away, “Do not throw your life away rashly or in bitterness.” That the dutiful son took Gandalf’s advice is evidenced by how he fought for life when wounded.

After his recovery, Faramir took up duty once more, faithfully fulfilling his role as a steward, preparing his city and his country for the long-awaited return of her king. Here as he answered Eowyn do we get another glimpse of his views on duty, “I myself am in the warden’s keeping. Nor have I yet taken up my authority in the City. But had I done so, I should still listen to his counsel, and should not cross his will in matters of his craft, unless in some great need.” On the day of coronation, his duty was recognized with further faith from his king: “That office [of stewardship] is not ended, and it shall be thine and thy heirs’ as long as my line shall last. Do now thy office!”

Performing duty earns trust, and blessing as well. After all, his faithfulness earned Faramir a princedom in Ithilien, purchased peace for his country, and won the heart of the stern shieldmaiden of the Rohirrim.

Luke 17:10, "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."

To God be all glory.

Open Doors, ahem, Literally

A word of advice: when backing out of a driveway, be sure all inhabitants of car not only have their seatbelts buckled, but also have their door closed. If you fail to do so, some heart-stopping effects can be seen in the rear-view mirror.

Fortunately, in my car, no one was hurt, and the process of stopping closed the door. My sister explained that she thought one of our brothers was coming. Hm. Absolutely. I thought he'd jump in like a train robber.

To God be all glory.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Strong Wives for Strong Men

"You asked me the other day why a guy would ever want to marry a strong woman when he could choose instead a sweet and naturally submissive woman...

"When I asked your dad this question, he just snorted with laughter. To him it seems so obvious... 'If a man is going to do hard things, he will probably want a wife who will be a bit spirited, but have real backbone.' "

Thanks to Ladies Against Feminism which linked to this article. I like the point she made that a strong man would seek a strong wife. In fact Proverbs 31 advises a man to seek a woman who is strong, using the Hebrew: chayil meaning "strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army." It is the word translated "man of valour" 37 times in the King James, referring to Gideon, Jepthah, Boaz, David, Jeroboam, and Naaman besides the description of the Proverbs 31 "virtuous woman."

Please read this. Anne's thoughts for her daughter are good for both men and women, married and single. And don't forget that strong is not domineering. Submission to God makes all strength a blessing and brings glory to Him.

It also reminds me of a couple posts from Young Ladies Christian Fellowship, which I actually printed to keep in my journal. The main article was entitled Perfect Strength, Perfect Beauty. That was a compilation of quotes on the Manliness & Femininity article.

"If men were simply strong, and women simply soft, I think we might find ourselves in a very unbalanced society. Think of the strong and courageous women in the Bible. I think they were much more concerned about that than being beautiful. Consider the men who chose a soft response, rather than showing off strength. I think those examples are truly powerful." - from YLCF

"A Godly man will recognize that she is able to do it, but will also have the servant’s heart, strength, and courage to do it for her. It is an attitude of biblical manliness that says, “Christ instructed us men to serve the ladies as Christ served His bride (the church).” This mindset says, “Because I am a man and I recognize my calling of being a Servant-leader let me have the privilege to serve you.” This is why your statement Sarah of “A man's perfect strength, if it exists, inspires me (a naturally strong leader) to follow” is true! It is easier to follow a young man’s leadership, regardless of his age, when he is being a servant-leader as Christ was." - from YLCF

To God be all glory.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

St. Elmo by Augusta J. Evans

So much of life and philosophy is connected. Evolution attacks the entire biblical worldview because to be consistent, evolution requires certain conclusions at odds with the Bible. Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof claims about finding a husband, "There's more to life than that! Don't ask me what?" So in my life I find that I can associate (and often do) almost anything with biblical womanhood (and, ok, finding a husband).

When I was reading Augusta Evans' novel, St. Elmo, today, I was delighted then to encounter this paragraph illustrating the connectedness of facts about culture.

"Statesmen were almost extinct in America - a mere corporal's guard remained, battling desperately to save the stabbed constitution from the howling demagogues and fanatics, who raved and ranted where Washington, Webster, and Calhoun had once swayed a free and happy people. Republicanism was in its death-throes, and would soon be a dishonoured and insulted ghost, hunted out of the land by the steel bayonets of a centralized despotism. The old, venerated barriers and well-guarded outposts which decorum and true womanly modesty had erected on the frontiers of propriety, were swept away in the crevasse of sans souci manners that threatened to inundate the entire land; and latitudinarianism in equality, dangerous to morals and subversive of all chivalric respect for woman.

"A double-faced idol, Fashion and Flirtation, engrossed the homage of the majority of females, while a few misguided ones, weary of the inanity of the mass of womanhood and desiring to effect a reform, mistook the sources of evil, and, rushing to the opposite extreme, demanded power, which, as a privilege, they already possessed, but as a right could never extort."

There is much more in the book that gives an enlightening perspective on a world uncontrolled by feminists. We, having lived all our lives in a world that sees perfect goodness in woman's suffrage, who are contented citizens of the United States that defeated its seceding South, know so little of the way things were - and worked before these facets of our lives were established. Who were the women who clamored in a sisterhood for the equal right to suffrage? How many more good, virtuous women were keeping their homes and excelling in their spheres of true influence while these malcontents wrecked the world unchecked by men whose role it was to, frankly, defy them and keep them out of politics and pulpits? Augusta J. Evans presents a convincing case for why an anti-suffragist's position was the more biblical.

I recommend St. Elmo for though it is horribly saturated with references to classical literature and the philosophies of the day (which are, at least in my education, completely lacking today and therefore make me feel ignorant), the story is dimensioned, convincing, gripping, and vivid. Until the last paragraph I did not know how it would end.

(In defense against my criticism, the authoress addresses our objections in her own book, saying that while the author or speaker appears learned, they have themselves only scratched the surface of all the knowledge to be had and are trying to impart it to you. It may be a speaker's responsibility to supply you with definitions, but, as a character scornfully says in the book, it is not his responsibility to supply brains to understand them.)

To God be all glory.