Monday, July 23, 2007

Steve Green's Pet Good-Byes

Steve Green posted this about ten days ago. It almost made me cry. With typical vulnerability, he showed how God relates to him through everyday things: like pets. Enjoy the read.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I'm preparing for a very busy next couple weeks. During those weeks I may have limited internet access, so I may be scarce for a while. However, I anticipate stimulating study and conversation, so when I return, I'll have exciting things to write.

Tomorrow I will probably post a few things, and maybe a little next week, but the week following I'll definitely be away at camp. Then expect a post by August 5.

Whether the blog is neglected or not, I am happy because I'll be doing what I live for: investing in other people's lives.

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Energy equals Matter times the Speed of Light squared

I'm not a physicist. For years I've tried really hard to understand all this, but I admit I have found my mind going in circles (G.K. Chesterton says that is a sign of insanity). This is the problem when your IQ is only "gifted" and not "genious." My contribution to this subject, then, is only to stimulate thought.

You have very likely heard of Einstein's equation: E=m(c squared) Meaning that energy in the universe equals the product of matter and the speed of light times the speed of light. The speed of light is usually assumed to be constant.

There is some doubt as to whether c (the speed of light) has been the same throughout recorded history. What consequences does this have?

You have very likely heard of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that in a closed system, entropy increases: energy becomes less usable as it is used. A heat-containing system is winding down. This law was discovered by observing our little universe. Why then do some physicists insist that the universe, far from being a closed system, is infinite?

Compared to the geologic clock, the atomic clock is slowing down. (I think this has to do with the electromagnetic force that holds atoms together.) Everything on the atomic level is very small, so the difference is not very relevant presently. What does it mean, though, that an atomic clock is slowing? Then again, if Einstein's Theory of Relativity is true, then we can only ever say something is faster or slower compared to something else. Compared to a clock not changing at all, the geologic clock may be speeding up and the atomic clock the same, or faster but not as fast. Both may be slowing, only with the geologic clock slowing more rapidly (doesn't that sound paradoxical?). The only thing we can know for certain is that the two clocks don't match, and in what relation they are different.

What is the source of the energy (E in the famous equation?) What is the source of the matter (m in the equation)? Who created the light (velocity of light is c in the equation)? See Genesis 1:2 (esp. the Hebrew word for moved: rachaph), Genesis 1:1, and Genesis 1:3. How are these maintained? Colossians 1:16-17

In algebra, if there is an equals sign, and on one side of the equals sign something is happening, it must be happening to the other side. You can multiply both sides by three, or by one half - and the equation is still true. If an equation is a law, like E=mcc, and there is a change in the value one of the letters represents, it affects the other side of the equation. In this case, if c is slowing down, then at least one of the other terms is changing, and possibly both.

The First Law of Thermodynamics indicates that the sum of matter and energy in the universe is constant. Is that true? God is not creating more matter or energy (which are, if you consider the atomic level, very closely related), but is some of it decaying? If light is slowing down, then I propose there is less energy. This loss of energy is reflected in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which turns out to simply be a symptom of a deeper principle.

What can be our conclusions? So much has been done with Einstein's equation, that I leave it to your imagination to consider the consequences on a theoretical application level. If you wish for a few of the applications in physics, I refer you to Barry Setterfield, a biblical physicist who has models of these things, and whose understanding of history and science will blow your socks off. Philosophically, however, a universe that is fundamentally winding down must also be two things, based on our observations: 1) It will have an end, and so had a beginning. 2) It is finite.

Obviously Christians knew from the Bible, and most would agree it is common sense, that the universe had a beginning. It was created by God. Revelation tells us how the universe will end, and how it will be replaced. I ask you: why would God create a world that had no limits? What was His purpose in creating the world? What are the implications of a limited world? How do naturalists deal with this concept?

My brothers and sisters tell me they get headaches when they think of a finite universe. If it has an edge, what is beyond the edge? We are so trapped in space. Eternity gets them likewise. If God is outside of time... usually they can't even figure out how to ask that question.

1 Corinthians 2:9, "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

To God be all glory.

Kindred Blogger

Lady Rael, a frequenter of the Young Ladies Christian Fellowship blog, was so good as to

introduce me to her own blog (by kindly commenting here),

where I found a kindred spirit.

Topics from reading lists (much more extensive than my own) to linguistics to Lord of the Rings and Jane Austen, and dealing also with family (she comes from a "large" homeschool family as well)

all induce me to direct you thither for your enjoyment of the blog: Reflective Beauty.

To God be all glory.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Free Fall

Seven year old Amber climbs one step at a time, reminding herself not to look down. Friends and strangers join her in a vertical line, and she waits on each rung for the next sound of a splash. Gradually the splashes stop getting her wet. The sound is fainter by a slight bit.

At last she is alone at the top of the ladder. Amber knows there are people behind her, but she won't look down. Clinging to the rails, she sees a blue-painted plank extending into space. Empty space. A surge of excitement and pride pries her hands from the rails and she takes a step forward. The board is wider than it looks from the ladder, wide enough for four feet her size to stand side by side. Reason and confidence reassure her. Once on the end of the board, poised above what she knows is a deep pool of water, she looks up, bends her knees, and propels herself forward one more time.

The sensation of falling drops her into slow motion. A thousand thoughts fill each second, each centimeter of movement. She is falling. What has she done? Amber twists, and throws her arms above her head, flailing for a hold. But there is no going back. The freedom is kind of nice. She lets out a squeal of delight just before her feet begin the splashing, and the water covers her head.

The first time I remember feeling it was in high school when I found out my best friend wasn't going with me on my first mission trip. What had I gotten myself into? All the way to North Dakota, and no friend? No one to prod me into action? No one who understood what I meant when I hadn't said anything. A scary new experience without companionship.

Since then, the feeling comes whenever I commit to something important. Fortunately it doesn't come before I volunteer; then I'm usually in a surge of confidence knowing this is exactly what God wants me to do. But afterwards, when I start doing the actual work...

I taught a ladies' Bible study over a year ago. Before we started, when I was writing lessons, I remember telling a friend that I was overwhelmed - not with writing or teaching or responsiblity, but with the need to stay focused on God for such a long time so that I would hear Him when I was teaching and set a good example for everyone else. I realized my volunteering for the teaching job was more than a three hour commitment on Wednesdays. My whole walk was committed as spiritual preparation.

Don't get me wrong. Christians should be faithful to God and avoiding sin whether they're teachers or not. I like the reminder of the need to rely on Him - of having no where else to turn. But like a Amber, I always have that uncomfortable feeling when there is no going back.

Now I have signed up to be a camp counselor. I sent in the application over a month ago. Only now, when camp is two weeks away and I'm hearing more details, am I dragging myself forward, forbidding myself from turning around. A whole week. With teenage girls. Meeting them. Leading them. Counseling. Setting rules. Laughing. Praying. Finding answers. All with little sleep and a rigorous schedule. This is something I know I can't do without God.

The feeling usually has good results. It drives me into praying a lot, so I end up depending utterly on God's strength and not on my own at all. When I am weak, then He is strong.

Amber climbed out of the pool and walked as quickly as she could back to the line for the high dive.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Prescriptive Versus Descriptive Interpretation of the Bible

Romans 15:4,

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,

that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."

If it's in the Bible, it is written for a reason.

James 5:10,

"Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord,

for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience."

1 Corinthians 10:11,

"Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples:

and they are written for our admonition,

upon whom the ends of the world are come."

2 Timothy 3:16,

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,

for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"

Is the narrative part of Scripture prescriptive for our lives today, then, or is it descriptive? Can it be a mix? By what rule do you mix? Obviously we aren't supposed to be like the Israelites as described in 1 Corinthians 10. Does the fact that they were generally "good guys" in the Bible mean that we should imitate all they do?

  • Example 1: Church assemblies. Acts is descriptive, telling when and where the Church met (daily from house to house), and some of what they did (continuing in doctrine and fellowship, breaking bread, prayers). Ephesians, 1 Timothy, and 1 Corinthians give instructive doctrines on how the Church is to assemble. Ephesians deals with the theology of the church, but addresses prayer and relationships. 1 Timothy, written to a pastor, gives a lot of instruction on leadership. And 1 Corinthians 11-14 addresses the Lord's Supper, women in church, spiritual gifts and unity, love, and teaching/prophecy/tongues in the meetings.

  • Example 2: Unmarried daughters. There is a pattern, when daughters are mentioned, of daughters living at home until married, and of women submitting to fathers. This is descriptive. 1 Corinthians 7, Exodus 20 (Fifth Commandment), and Ephesians 6 give prescriptive instructions on how single people and especially children are to live. Since Scripture is interpreted in light of Scripture, clear instruction always supercedes observations, so honoring my father is preeminent.

  • Example 3: Lying to save a life. The Hebrew midwives are accused of lying to Pharaoh to defend themselves against his instruction to abort Jewish babies as they were being born. God established them, as a reward of their disobedience to Pharaoh, with "houses" of their own. Rahab, the pagan woman in Jericho, hid the two Israelite spies and lied to the soldiers about them. She is mentioned several times in the New Testament as an example of faith. Exodus 20 (Ninth commandment) prohibits bearing false witness. Job 27:4; Psalm 101:7, 119:29, 119:163; Proverbs 6:16-17, 12:17, 12:19, 12:22, 13:5, 14:5; Ephesians 4:25; and Colossians 3:9 all command against lying, an abomination to the Lord. Again, clear instruction is the more important. It guides our interpretation of the rest.

To God be all glory.

Shaping of Things to Come Part 5

From page 41 of The Shaping of Things to Come: “The church bids people to come and hear the gospel in the holy confines of the church and its community. This seems so natural to us after seventeen centuries of Christendom, but at what price and to what avail have we allowed it to continue? If our actions imply that God is really only present in official church activities…”

This reminds me of St. Elmo and Edna. St. Elmo had rejected church as representing all that betrayed him as well as all he was before. But though he knew Edna was religious, he was curious enough to, on a touch-and-go investigational basis, pay attention to her. The fact that she lived her faith in everything is what won him. Her religion wasn’t just a set of phony rules. When he became convinced of her faithfulness, then was St. Elmo willing to enter a church and submit to instruction from a pastor. The church could never have reached him, for no amount of inviting and prodding ever got him there. He was set against it until he changed.

Along the same lines, [in traditional churches,] “Evangelism therefore is primarily about mobilizing church members to attract unbelievers into church where they can experience God.” Exactly. This is what frustrates me about “evangelism” at my church. They either go do a mission trip in which they participate only in the first stages of a more incarnational ministry, or they are door-to-door tract-givers. (In fact there are businesses that will, for a price, mail tracts to people in your area in your church's name.) The average Christian is admonished in church to share their faith, which they happily interpret as inviting a person each year to church and being a good person.

The Shaping of Things to Come - and the Bible - advocate not "sharing your faith," but "preaching the gospel" and "making disciples." "Preach the word." "Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you."

To God be all glory.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Two Verses on My Mind Tonight

I spent some time with some young friends last night. (We love parties and fellowship and manage to convince our parents to let us get together fairly often. To give you an idea of how much we like being around each other, two of the girls are going with their youth group for a week mission trip to Mexico, and we are not sure how we'll make it without seeing them. I think we'll all be praying for them a lot.) Being young, most of us are in some stage of the important decision-making for life process.

Some have already gone away. Others are moving on soon. Most are still in high school, wondering where to go to college if they should go to college. Or maybe it should be a term doing missions. Where is Prince Charming for all of the waiting princesses? Questions like that aren't often discussed until decisions are made, but while we're pondering the questions, we're thinking of our friends.

What have they meant to us? How will we go on when one leaves? How would we ever make it without any of them - if we left? Can we plan a reunion? What about matchmaking? Could we ever end up related to almost everyone? (This was my plan in high school; didn't work.)

So one of my friends said that the other day she realized that in 90 years, we'll all be in the same place. And that puts life right now in perspective. As I prepared for Sunday school, I found this verse in 2 Peter: "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness...?"

We were working on the application point of this verse last night as well. With all the fellowship we wonder about our speech. At a summer camp several of our party attended earlier this year, a talk was given on "cutting remarks." There was some rule, some dire consequence enforced if you were caught making a "cutting remark." Now it is the standing comment made to warn anyone present against being unkind. Sometimes it is a joke, willfully misinterpreting someone. Many times, though, it is that gentle (in a bold, playful way) reminder of Ephesians 4:20: "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it miay impart grace to the hearers."

To God be all glory.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Treasure in Earthen Vessels

How exciting to grasp something in the original language! I hear that some scholars learn Greek better while others are more apt to Hebrew. Regardless of the language, I always understand the Bible better, grasp a richer meaning, when I study the original language. If I were to study the actual English words I may have a more nuanced comprehension as well, but there is something casual about reading one’s own language that leaves you with a flat sense of meaning. I assume I know what a word means, and I proceed.

J.R.R. Tolkien had so studied language and etymology that when he wrote, the words he wrote flooded his head with all their varied associations. Words to him conjured entire landscapes of meaning. He then wove his paragraphs into a country of overlapping and corresponding landscapes, leaving us with a richness in his books that we feel but cannot grasp.

Today, while studying 2 Corinthians 4 in the Greek, I discovered a fascinating old word. We see it in our English words phantom and phenomenon. The Greek word phaneroo is translated "manifest" in my Bible. It means "to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to make actual and visible, realized."

Usually when we think of phantoms, we think of things that aren’t there. A ghost. A flash of light. Even in our lazy English usage it is used to mean imagined sounds or thoughts or ideas. The word refers to something like a ghost, but not the concept of ghosts. It refers to what you see: a specter, a vision.

The word phantasm, though often a close synonym for phantom, in Platonic philosophy meant "objective reality as perceived and distorted by the five senses." It comes through the Greek phantazein “to make visible, display.” This word is very old, since it is guessed as part of the Proto-Indo-European base *bha- “to shine” (see Sanskrit – we’re talking really old here! – bhati “shines, glitters” and Old Irish ban “white, light, ray of light.”)

Get this. The word pant even comes from this root, in an interesting tradition. (This is the panting a dog does.) Apparently it was originally French pantaisier, which came from the Latin for a nightmare that wakes you breathless. Literally it meant "to have visions, to be subject to hallucinations."

Deep breath. Phase, as in phase of the moon, is also from this root. I’m sure by now you’re guessing why. It means “to show or make appear.” The moon is of course showing part of itself from behind the earth’s shadow in its different phases. That was the original use of the word. Now we have transferred the application of “short but inevitable time,” for each of the moon’s phases are relatively short, but also inevitable, to other things like, “Your teenager is just going through a phase.”

In the context of 2 Corinthians 4, phaneroo means the before-your-very-eyes visible, witnessable sacrifice of Jesus, since our bodies through suffering bear fellowship with Jesus’ dying. The purpose is, as always, to bring glory to God. (The word glory, doxa, comes from the idea of others judging you favorably, esteeming you. It requires witnesses.) What proves that the glory goes to God is that this incredible treasure, of experiencing Jesus’ death, in a way, also allows us to experience Jesus’ life: the power of God who raised Him will raise us. It does raise us, even though we are but weak, sinful, mortal earthen vessels.

To God be all glory.

Good Temper

You have, I expect, heard of ill temper. More commonly in America we call it a bad mood. For calling something what it is, I prefer ill temper. Temper reminds me of anger, of a tantrum, of something that ought to be controlled. Mood makes the person with a bad one a victim, not responsible for their unpleasantness.

There are many words to describe pleasant feelings. We might say good-tempered, good-humored, in a good mood, happy, content, joyful, ecstatic, pleased, delighted, thrilled, elated, cheerful, blissful, in good spirits, jolly, merry, or jovial. Some are more an emotional reaction, a feeling. Others bring to mind expression, action, or a way of life.

Dennis Prager, a radio talk show host, authored a book titled Happiness is a Serious Problem. I confess I’ve never read it, though I have heard his basic thoughts on the subject by catching pieces of his radio program. Every Friday he devotes an hour to some happiness-related topic. Some days the advice is good, offering perspective on the petty things that keep us from being happy. Other days his focus is disgustingly selfish.

The point at which I would take issue with Dennis Prager is when he argues for making choices to procure one’s own happiness. Being happy is not selfish; in fact it is good for the world around you. But to make choices with the motive of happiness is selfish. It disregards others. To base decisions on happiness leaves you victim to warring claims for happiness. Which type of happiness would you prefer if one is set against another? And whatever happened to all those biblical examples of men who denied themselves to serve God, to do what is right?

I thought of Dennis Prager as I read an essay by C.S. Lewis today. In this little-known essay by the darling author of modern Christianity, C.S. Lewis deals with happiness, joy, and good temper. He did not, I would guess, set out to compare and contrast any of these, to rank them in value, or to tell you how to enjoy one or the other. Nevertheless, in a narrative way, that is what he did. Hedonics is what I consider the best treatment of happiness.

My favorite of his points (which coincides with Dennis Prager’s) is that all those things: happiness, joy, and good temper, are choices. In every situation there is what C.S. Lewis describes as the ghost railway compartment you see out the window of your train, but which you can ignore if you like. From this discardable world you can receive joy and pain, but only if you heed it. The sensible, grown-up realist in you would argue for disregarding those irrational feelings. Listening to this sensible side, the Jailer, as C.S. Lewis calls him, won’t make you a better person. Being, rather, happy is not selfish. In one light, giving into joy – and also to sorrow – is being alive.

C.S. Lewis writes that he was on a certain trip, and by an unidentified sense, invited to be happy, “like a delicious faint wind on your face which you can easily ignore. One was invited to surrender to it.” The joy he describes is not given to illusion or wishful thinking. The hills, which are green, look blue from a distance, and if one is happy to see blue hills, he should not stop being happy because he knows they are green. The story related in Hedonics is of a trip to the suburbs of London – Lewis’ first – and the strange joy of seeing something unfamiliar as someone else’s home. He insists he was not deceived into imagining that the suburbs were a utopia. “I knew quite well that perhaps not ten percent of the homes they [commuters] were returning to would be free, even for that one night, from ill temper, jealousy, weariness, sorrow or anxiety, and yet…”

When the average suburban home was described, I heard a challenge. Less than ten percent were havens of good temper. What is the difference? Were ninety percent just cursed? If so, it is not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the essay. How might one guard against ill temper, jealousy, weariness, sorrow, and anxiety – so leaving the home free to be happy? Men might stop considering it their right to be miserable when happiness is not forced upon them, and instead they should choose to be joyful.

The list of what the homes he was visiting likely were not experiencing comprise a sort of opposite of happiness. Ill temper, bad humor, discontent, anxiety, sorrow… But those people were home. And if they could only see their homes through the visitor’s eyes, perhaps they would have joy at the sight. Perhaps, even though home held nothing of forced happiness, some of the commuters chose to be relieved at the sight of the familiar.

How interesting, then the second definition of Hedonics from the American Heritage Dictionary:

1. The branch of psychology that studies pleasant and unpleasant sensations and states of mind.
2. Philosophy The branch of ethics that deals with the relation of pleasure to duty.

Pleasure may be contrasted with duty. It may coincide with duty. It may spring from fulfilling one's duty. Pleasure may be a duty.

To God be all glory.

Iraq is not Lost; Don't Bring Troops Home until We've Won

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and candidate for president 2008, was on the Sean Hannity radio show Wednesday. I don't know a lot about him except for a mental note that I haven't ruled him out for my vote yet. When asked about the situation in Iraq, he made resounding sense. We have to fight. We have to win. We cannot hide in America and expect to be safe. Our world is too small, technology too advanced to ignore threats beyond our borders.

A scan of articles published this week on, however - a website for conservative voices - shows me startling evidence that the Republicans are more opposed to the war than ever. I cannot understand our Republican congressmen, or our commentators for that matter. Haven't they studied history? Wars take time. Wars cost lives. Sadaam did have weapons capable of inflicting grave harm on large numbers of people. He did harbor terrorists. His government was oppressive to his people, and had blatantly disobeyed UN resolutions implemented to reign in Sadaam's rogue tendencies after the first Gulf War. To leave now would abandon tens of thousands to brutal civil war, leaving a power gap into which al-Qaeda and Iran could step, claiming even more influence over the Islamic world.

The articles I scanned said that the Republicans as well as Democrats are dismayed at mounting casualties in Iraq and recent car-bomb attacks in that country. So they want to withdraw troops as soon as possible. Weren't these men taught even in elementary school that running when a bully throws more punches does not discourage the bully? It emboldens him!

This at the same time that the British Isles have faced two victimless, but frightfully narrowly avoided, terrorist attacks. The US has uncovered several plots in the past year. Intelligence reports just starting to come out say that al-Qaeda is pushing for more operatives to come to the United States, that they are almost ready (and intending, of course) to carry out major attacks in our country again. The borders remain disturbingly porous in more ways than one. Now is not a good time to stop fighting.

Even today General Petraeus reported about the troop surge that was so hotly contested by the Democrats. At the midway point of the strategy, half of the goals have been met (I actually heard Katie Couric reporting the facts this morning, before they went into Democrat propaganda, ahem, political review). Violence is down in the areas where the surge is focused. Our American troops are stabilizing Iraq, rooting out terrorists, and continuing the liberation of the Iraqi people while at the same time training native troops to defend their own nation. Please. Give them a chance. Don't despair. Be patient. This is how war is.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hairpin Happenings

I didn't know this could happen. No one told me this could happen. I heard of weird things happening, but not this. Today was not a good day for this to happen.

After a long day at work, I went out to my car. With a sigh I swung my backpack and purse into the passenger seat, and after one more breath of the cool humid air that still somehow smelled of summer, I closed the door. A plastic chocolate bar clinked against my keys as I pushed them toward the ignition. I would say put them in the ignition, except that isn't what happened.

The key wouldn't go in. Once this happened. Mom had moved my car and left the steering wheel turned too much. Today my steering wheel was level. Once my key wouldn't come out after I turned it off. That was because I forgot to put my car in park. And once before the key wouldn't go in without jiggling it. Today I jiggled. I turned the key around. I tried different angles. I pushed harder. I pushed easier. I turned the steering wheel. I dropped my keys on the floor and sat there.

Sneak approach. Without warning, I nonchalantly tried inserting the key. Nothing. In the middle of all this Mom called to see where I was (I got off work late). "When will you be home?" she asked. "If I can get my key in the ignition I'll be home in fifteen minutes." She may have thought I was being a smart-alec. I wasn't. A few minutes later I called back to let her know the key wasn't in the ignition and to see if she had any suggestions.

Creativity is not my thing. I don't construct lines to solve geometry proofs. But I can problem solve, working with what I have. And my brain was in gear as much as a tired brain can be trying to think how the ignition works and what could have happened. While Mom told me her plan to call Dad and see how close he was to be able to rescue me, I was remembering bobby pins in my hair. I never wear bobby pins except for really fancy styles. This morning, however, nothing else would do to keep the little bun in place. Sister Steve used bobby pins to pick locks all the time (Father Dowling mysteries). I wonder if you can get electrocuted by sticking plain metal into an ignition. Such were my thoughts.

I hung up, removed one pin, and stuck it in. Earlier I had looked into the ignition for a clue. This was not much help to a girl who has never before looked into an ignition. I don't know what one is supposed to look like. Nevertheless, when the pin slid some metal piece out of the way making more of a key-sized opening, I knew that was a good sign. First removing the bobby pin, then trying the key again, I was one blessed girl. Bobby pins. Who knew.

While I called Mom back to tell her the damsel was no longer in distress, I replaced the bobby pin and checked my hair in the mirror. Being a girl does have its benefits.

To God be all glory.


The last several weeks I've been thinking about Elijah. He was in my Sunday school class. And he visited my mom's 4 and 5 year old class, too. As I studied for my lesson, I was caught by how the message at the end of 1 Kings 19 is the same as the beginning. In the beginning (verses 6-8), God provided food for him in a miraculous way, taking care of the physical needs Elijah was ignoring. God didn't just give instructions for the mighty deeds. He provided a cake and water. The Lord is my shepherd. He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Give us this day our daily bread. Simple things.

The climax of the passage is when God reveals Himself to Elijah. The story is famous. I don't know why preachers and Sunday school teachers are so fascinated with the still small voice. (Ok, when I was a child in Sunday school maybe the teachers just wanted us to be quiet, so they told us God talks in a quiet voice?) No one ever pointed out that the still small voice goes right along with the simple meal. God isn't just to be found in earthquakes or tornados, or in miraculous mountaintop experiences (1 Kings 18). God is part of our lives. He is interested, Lord over, everything. He is God of the small things. And He gives good gifts.

Finally, after God has revealed Himself (which however quiet, is never insignificant), He goes on to give Elijah some simple, everyday (for Elijah) instructions. Anoint this guy. Anoint such and such as king. Pick a replacement prophet. Little things. No more massive confrontations. No more raising children from the dead. God's will was accomplished just as much through the little things as through the big.

Which reminds me - side note here - of Esther. I'm reading Esther right now for my devotions, and looking for how God was at work even though He isn't mentioned. Do you see all that happens that brings about God's plan? Especially vivid in application to me is that Esther found favor wherever she went. She submitted to Mordechai. She followed advice. She was good. And the culmination of all her little acts of obedience and kindness and wisdom is that she was queen, in a position to be used of God to deliver Israel. Or was that just another little obedience like all the others she had trained herself to do?

Back to Elijah. Mom was saying that her class has studied two times when Elijah was fed by God. When first the drought was declared against Ahab and his country, Elijah was fed by ravens and watered by a mountain brook. Then when the stream inevitably dried up (though think of this, God was bringing him food by ravens; what was to keep God from providing water to fill the stream?), God sent Elijah to a widow with a son. She had a handful of flour and some oil. In rational wisdom, this was all she had, she had no hope of more, and so she would die with her starving child. God maintained a continuous supply of flour and oil, however, to feed not only the woman and her boy for many days, but also Elijah as their guest. Finally, God provided for Elijah again at the end of the drought, in the story I recounted above (chapter 19).

God called Elijah to ministry. Elijah didn't have to worry about his meals. Even in the bleakest circumstances (when almost no one had food or water), God was able to provide. So Elijah could go wherever he was sent, keep going on the faith journeys (in other words blind journeys, not knowing where or why) without stopping to earn a living as a farmer or tentmaker.

So if God asks me or you to do something, if He calls us to unconventional lives and choices, we can trust Him. We don't have to worry even about sensible concerns. When Jesus said all that about sparrows and the lilies of the field, and God giving us what we need just like a father who gives his son bread... when Jesus said those things, He wasn't just expressing sweet metaphorical sentiment. He knew. His audience should have known. If we really believe that Elijah lived, that God sent Him, that God took care of Him, that his God is our God, that God sends us... Why can't we take the final step and believe God will take care of us as well?

I'm not saying we should sit at home praying and wait for the milk truck to break down outside our door (like George Mueller's famous orphan story) - wouldn't work, hardly any milk trucks now days. At least one of the times God provided for Elijah, the prophet had to go somewhere, do something, talk to someone. God told him how to get food. So God may tell you to get a job here or there. He may guide you to the best supermarket deal. Or it might be extreme, like calling you to move. He might send you to an orphanage in Haiti or the underground church in China, and He can provide for you there, too.

Here's one final thing. Elijah in 1 Kings 19 was so self-focused that he wanted God to just let him die. The reverse can be true. God doesn't promise any of His followers easy or immortal life. Many have suffered for their faith. There have been martyrs throughout history. And other Christians have just endured hardship like drought or political instability. God doesn't promise to always provide. Christians can starve to death. But what a God-centered Elijah would have recognized is that God has the right to provide for us. He will do what is best for us. He can be trusted. And He ought to be worshiped because of that. ...our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us... but if not, be it known... that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image... Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.

To God be all glory.

PS: About ten years ago Charles Swindoll was writing a series of biographies of Bible characters, and the last one was about Elijah. I read a few, but not that one. Did anyone read it?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Doctrine which is according to Godliness

There are two long-standing fallacies in the Church concerning its focus. One is Doctrine-centered. The other is Action-centered. The Doctrine people will spend every Christian moment getting their theology systematic and comprehensive. They will debate with others who differ on penumbras of theology. Action people will forget all doctrine except the fact that God is love. They'll do good to all and be good people. They're all about showing God's love to the world.

I tend toward Doctrine, myself. I believe that men were saved in Acts not so much by relationship evangelism or good-deed-doing as by the clear proclamation of Truth. The Word of God is able to make us wise for salvation. It is also the Word of God, inspired and preserved for us for God's purpose. There is truth, and it is worth discovering.

1 Timothy 6 warns against the Doctrine fallacy. Don't get caught up in debates about petty things. (verse 4) Those who dote about questions and strifes of words will produce a behavior. They say that godliness shouldn't be the focus. That might be legalistic. What we need to do is get everyone to agree on these strifes of words. But Christians will behave in one way or another. When one is not pursuing godliness (verse 11), the behavior is that described in verses 4 and 5.

The action people are all about legalism. They may not have a list of do's and don't's. The subtle legalism is that which says "Because I am a good person, I am going to heaven. God accepts good people." I don't understand who they think they're evangelizing, but they do believe that good deeds will give the world a favorable impression of God. Some legalists do have a list. "Keep every law of kosher and every feast, and don't work on the Sabbath, and tithe exactly ten percent, and you'll get to heaven." Others have "Confess all your sins to a fellow believer. Take communion once a week. Pray Our Father every day. Add all this to believing in Jesus, and you'll definitely make it to heaven after purgatory."

The truth in 1 Timothy is that true doctrine promotes godliness, and godliness in its forms: h. We can't shirk away from proclaiming the need for godliness in our churches. Youth groups are afraid of setting dress codes lest it turn people away. Yet even as they neglect the pursuit of godliness, those whom they already have must behave some way, and without being taught goodness, their behavior will be bad. The same for the whole church. They will be men of envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputers, destitute of the truth, and proud. They suppose gain counts for godliness. Getting theology right will produce godly people, they say.

What is the solution? We can't just promote doctrine. We can't just promote action. We have to promote godliness. And we have to preach the doctrine which is according to godliness. Our churches must not be destitute of the truth.

The truth is (verse 3) wholesome words, the words of our Lord Jesus (which said a lot about behavior - see Sermon on the Mount in Matthew), and the good profession (verse 12). Give attention, Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:13, to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. In 2 Timothy Paul focuses more on what the doctrine ought to be. Chapter 3 says that the holy Scriptures are able to make wise unto salvation, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. Therefore (2 Timothy 4:2), Preach the word... reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

To God be all glory.

Thanks to Snapshots of Joy for the graphics.

Lordship Salvation

At my church there is a tiny debate going. I say tiny because I only heard about it from one person. I trust the debate isn't getting out of hand. First let me say that my church is a congregation brought together by keeping the main thing the main thing. Whenever individuals forget that, our differences are highlighted. From the family values to what we think about church to worship styles to even doctrine, our church holds a variety of opinions. That's the Baptist joke; whenever you have five baptists together, you'll have ten opinions on a subject.

The recent disagreement has had me thinking, though. Since we got a new pastor at the beginning of the year, there have been changes to our weekly bulletin. It still has contact information for the church, announcements, and the schedule for the week. An addition was made of the gospel on the back. It is a four point tract, using Scripture prominently. I read it once just to see what was being said. Apparently some who read it want there to be a fifth point.

Number 4 currently reads "Pray and receive Christ by personally inviting Him into your life." And then it quotes John 1:12: "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

Why do my brothers and sisters at church object? They believe it is important to let potential believers know what they're getting into. The doctrine "missing" is that of lordship. It is necessary for a person to acknowledge God as lord, or boss, at the decision for conversion as well. That's what they say, and that's what some of the leadership in our church teaches.

My first explanation for the lordship doctrine is that truly trusting Jesus' sacrifice to save you from hell, entrusting God with the end of your life, cannot be separated from - goes necessarily along with - the idea that God is entrusted with your life now. If one is really accepting God's grace for eternity, is he going to turn down grace right away? If a man recognizes that sin is evil, will he want to keep sinning? Is not repentance, a turning from sin, part of seeing your need for a Savior?

Secondly, Ephesians talks about salvation in the present tense. Every human since Adam and Eve have been born spiritually dead. Belief in Christ quickens the spirit, gives it life it never had before. The spirit is made alive immediately at salvation. It doesn't remain dead until the body dies. Christianity, salvation, is about a relationship with God, a life everlasting, not so much about a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Third, and most recent, I have contemplated my own testimony in light of the question. As a six year old, no one told me that Jesus had to be the boss of my life for me to trust Him. I knew I was a sinner. I knew Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins. So I decided to ask Him to forgive me and make me His child. As I grew, with the Holy Spirit indwelling me, I gained understanding of what Jesus did, of what my sin meant, and of how to live now. The more you know God, the more you hate sin. The more you spend time with God, the more you mourn when your sin separates you from fellowship with Him.

So what I'm saying is that we don't see a formula for the gospel in the Bible. The tract on my bulletin has verses from two books of the Bible, four different places in those books. Different accounts in Acts of people becoming saved are expressed different ways. Depending on their level of understanding, the missionary picked up and told them the facts. The only requirement was an affirmative response. Accept the gift.

Theologians for centuries have studied the Bible for what is going on spiritually, and on God's part, when someone gets saved. The Holy Spirit is preparing the heart, wooing it to God. It is not the missionary's excellent evangelism that wins a sinner's heart. In Romans there are much-debated verses about calling and predestination and election. Whatever the case, when a person is making a sincere decision for the truth, the Holy Spirit is active in their lives. He is convicting the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. God's is the power that saves.

Is Jesus Lord? In truth, God is the boss of everyone saved and unsaved, and nothing I do or say can make Him more so. Would anyone at my church tell me that I wasn't saved because I didn't ask Jesus to be my boss when I prayed the sinner's prayer? I knew I needed God's forgiveness through Jesus' atonement. God knew that He was the boss. He had every intention of teaching me the fact.

To insist that a non-believer give God the rights to his life in order to receive salvation detracts from grace. Salvation is a FREE gift. Nothing we can do or feel, no amount of sincerity, can save us. But God gives it to those who accept it. If you believe, in fact, that you are giving to God your life in exchange for eternal life in heaven, it isn't grace. Whoever loses his life will find it. For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

To God be all glory.

Job 13:15

"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:
but I will maintain mine own ways before him."
- Job 13:15

This is one of my favorite verses. Job declares unconditional trust in God. Though He slay me, says Job, I will trust Him still.

The next part has always troubled me. (I would often just not quote it; I know, shame on me.) What does absolute faith have to do with defending himself, with continuing the argument? What I think Job is saying is this.

  • Everyone back then agreed that some men just deserved to die. They had committed horrible crimes, and justice demanded their execution.
  • Most would allow that since God is so perfect, He might take someone's life if they were bad, but not so bad as those human courts would assign death sentences.
  • Job says here that even though he can prove that he has done "nothing" wrong, God has the right to slay him. Job's life belongs to God, and God can do as He pleases with it.

When I say "nothing" wrong, I mean everyone has sinned. Job knew that. But he had repented, and as best as possible in those days, atoned for his sins. There was nothing of which he could be convicted, nothing the world would see as just cause for God to punish him so.

At the end of Job, the hero had learned that his complaints meant nothing at all. Not only did God have the rights to his life; his life was not central in God's plan for history. Not only was Job an upright man, but compared to God, even perfect humanity would be nothing.

This is how Job finally answers God: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." - Job 42:5-6

To God be all glory.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Wishful Thinking

You know how women's clothing sizes start at about 4? And some juniors' clothes go down to size 1. But, though it is not normally considered healthy, what if someone is smaller than that? Do they do half or quarter sizes? Negative?

When posing this question at a party last night, my brother cleverly described negative sizes as "It's amazing. My right side is over here on my left, and my left side is on my right."

A friend replied, "No, that's what you call wishful thinking."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Why Don't Vegetables Taste Good?

Second to
Why did You create mosquitoes?

in the list of questions to ask God is
Why does nutritious food taste bad and delicious food is unhealthy?

This morning while listening to the infomercials that play on my local talk radio station, I came up with a theory. No, not about mosquitoes - about food.

The vitamin-pitchman was explaining how even the natural, unprocessed foods we eat are depleted in minerals because our farmers do not practice the sabbath year for their fields. Ok, he didn't blame it on that, but he said since farmers plant the same crops over and over on the same fields year after year, the only way to even get things to grow is to artificially fertilize them, which is so much worse than doing things naturally. If the minerals are depleted in the ground, they aren't getting into the plants, and the fruits and grains we eat are almost as mineral-deficient as we are. Aside from the consequent health problems, I wonder if that does not affect the taste of our fruits, vegetables, and grains. Is it possible that a nutrient-rich soil would yield tastier, healthier produce?

Just a theory.

To God be all glory.

When the Pen Flows

I've just been thinking about the website I started a few months ago called When the Pen Flows. There have been a few contributions, and I am excited to have at least some people reading my old stories. My writing has been encouraged, as well.

The idea of the title comes from those moments when writers get an idea, and they can't eat, sleep, or do anything else. If they must put the pen down, they pick it back up at the first opportunity so that they can finish getting the story on paper before they forget. Maybe math geniuses like those in Proof experience the same urgency.

Inevitably, the pen will stop flowing. The idea will hit a wall, and the writer can rest. In my experience, many of those great ideas were bursts, windows into a world of a story that I can never visit. Another window will catch my attention, and I'll put it onto paper. The glimpses are no less beautiful than the whole. Is it lazy to stop when you hit the wall?

Writers need practice. I can see this in the folders and journals full of my old stories. The oldest are the worst. They reflect the limited education and experience and imagination I had at the time. And lack of practice putting images onto paper using words.

That means that the later ones are better. Putting the little windows onto paper, rather than ignoring them forever in search of the one idea that will be a complete novel, is important. Without that practice, when the book plot hits our imaginations, our skills will be unequal to the task.

Michael Card, in his book Scribbling in the Sand, writes that creativity flows from community. I have noticed that when I read a good book, I become inspired. So the dream I have for When the Pen Flows is that it would be a community of aspiring authors (whether they aspire to be better at expressing themselves or if they dream of being published) who read each others' little works, and share their own, in order to benefit from the shared genius.

Let us hope that the world will be bettered by noble-minded people equipped to share their ideas with it, through training and practice, encouragement, criticism, and inspiration.

I close quoting Mansfield Park on the topic of communication: "The subject of reading aloud was farther discussed. The two young men were the only talkers, but they, standing by the fire, talked over the too common neglect of the qualification, the total inattention to it, in the ordinary school-system for boys, the consequently natural - yet in some instances almost unnatural degree of ignorance and uncouthness of men, of sensible and well-informed men, when suddenly called to the necessity of reading aloud, which had fallen within their notice, giving instances of blunders, and failures with their secondary causes, the want of management of the voice, of proper modulation and emphasis, of foresight and judgment, all proceeding from the first cause, want of early attention and habit; and Fanny was listening again with great entertainment."

To God be all glory.
Thanks to Snapshots of Joy for the graphics.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Wicked Winks

"A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord"
- Proverbs 6:12-14

"Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but a babbling fool will come to ruin."
- Proverbs 10:10

"Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things; he who purses his lips brings evil to pass."
- Proverbs 16:30

I find the concept behind winking related to my post on honesty and openness in relationships.

To add, I was with a friend the other day, and we both agreed that when our mothers talk to people we don't know, like in the grocery store - even if our mothers know them, we are uncomfortable. Call us old-fashioned, but there is something to the custom employed in Jane Austen's day of being introduced before communicating. Any other communication would be perceived as impertinent, impersonal, or that of a servant carrying a message.

Later, during the Victorian era, if a person moved to a new city, they would leave cards at houses of desirable acquaintances. If the card was repaid with a visit (or a responding calling card), a friendship was established and visiting could comfortably take place. In this way, one could cut back on (but, of course, not entirely eliminate) unfavorable relationships. There would always be the faults of progressing relationships that become unpleasant, and family (which you cannot avoid without bringing shame on yourself or them).

Perhaps our social habits are too exclusive. However I differentiate between being kind and loving toward people in our lives and having them as intimate friends. In Wives and Daughters, Mrs. Gibson made a point of saying, "Yes, but Osbourne may come whenever he pleases; we are so much more intimate with him," to indicate a preference for him as a potential husband for her daughter. But, as I said before, one should never assume. She assumed most incorrectly that he was even eligible for marriage.

Pride and Prejudice promises a scene in which Mrs. Bennett finds herself denying a wink she gave her daughter - because a wink would have been seen as rude and intending to communicate in someone's presence without his awareness of what was being said, and because she had intended something embarassing by her facial gesture.

Another example. Jo March is reeling from the crudeness of the new society into which she has jumped when she first arrives at New York. When Winona Ryder, portraying Jo, encounters a row of young men entering the boarding house, the last winks at her in a most unsettling way.

Finally, though it has more to do with honesty than winking, I reference Joan of Arcadia. A character, Lily, is a former nun. She's very edgy, but everyone likes her. Why? Even though she grates, she tells the blunt truth. In one episode, she explains how she revealed a secret. "I thought she was onto us, and I blurted." So often that is me. I am concerned that people know the truth rather than form the wrong idea. More surprisingly, I wish I was more like Lily. Like I said, she is repellantly attractive.

Make sure that you don't wink. Don't use your body language to communicate deceit or intentions for which you ought to be ashamed. Be honest in all your dealings and speech. For the sake of honesty, I'll confess: I have trouble avoiding stating the moral of the story.

To God be all glory.

Curious about Congressmen

Something happened recently in our country that got me excited:

The people spoke. Calls flooded the Washington D.C. Senate offices until the phone system crashed.

And the people won. A mass of unread, misunderstood, falsely advertised legislation was beaten down in the dust, despite initial appearances of almost universal support. Most Senators, Republican and Democrat, were going to vote for this bill.

Inspired as I am, I can't help but feel curious what has been going through the minds of the Senators, especially those who "switched sides." Surely before all the phone calls they could check the polls that told them the American people wanted something different to deal with illegal immigration. The bill would have been so expensive and so unproductive to anyone except the illegal aliens themselves that men of principle should easily have seen how wrong it was.

If there's one rule to decision-making in the US Congress these days, it is do what is popular. Make statements and cast votes that will get you or your party reelected. For some reason this rule did not apply to illegal immigration.

If there's a rule for Democrats, it is to refuse to side with President Bush on anything. Again, President Bush was for this bill, yet it was supported and even presented by leading Democrats.

My conclusion is that some of the Republican senators were duped into believing this law was the will of the people. So I wonder now how they feel, having heard the truth from the people themselves.

Speculation has been made that this effective outcry from the people has galvanized the American citizens. Perhaps it has changed the course of Congress as well.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Kindred Tolkien-Lover

When I was in 9th grade I thought I would be best friends with any person who loved Tolkien's works. At that point I had only read Lord of the Rings about 6 times. Now I've read more, appreciate the depths of his writing more. I know what Celebrindal means, not just how to pronounce it. I know what language it is. And I know which of the Elvish peoples spoke that language.

Three major motion pictures were the much-hailed wonder of Hollywood, especially since they were made all at once at incredible expense in New Zealand. Everyone heard of Lord of the Rings. I would say everyone even knew what hobbits and elves and dwarves were, but I went to buy a copy of Two Towers on ebay and someone had described the cover has sporting a dwarf and a leprechaun. Many more people read the books because Orlando Bloom or Elijah Wood was on the cover.

I've met more people, and I found out that a lot of people whom I would have respected when I was in 9th grade are irresponsible jerks. Reading Lord of the Rings had no affect on them. They don't understand why Eowyn is anti-feminist. They have no idea why the word wraith or the name Sackville-Baggins is so important. They, perhaps like Peter Jackson, find the heroes too heroic and the ending too simple. Lord of the Rings, to them, is about epic battles, gore, and maybe good versus evil. Even the actors who so excellently entered into the characters seem to have missed the point.

Tolkien wrote about immortality. He wrote about sacrifice. The quest of Frodo proves that something will accomplish good even when heroes fail.

I will never forget the nightmares I had after reading A Knife in the Dark, or when Smaug came after me. Deep, wall-shaking drums will pound in my ears every time I read through the Mines of Moria. Lorien will glitter golden. I will thrill with the battle of Helm's Deep, and weep with Eowyn's despair. If Frodo and Sam could endure the bitter wastes of Mordor beyond strength and sanity, I can go on through pain. Trees walk on the borders of the Shire; dwarves produce the most magical toys, and every time I see fireworks I imagine Gandalf's. The Grey Havens encompasses every sad rainy day I live.

Maybe just those who can tell the story of the Silmarillion with an appropriate sprinkle of Quenya, Sindarin, and poetry can be my automatic friends. Maybe not. I don't want to risk being classed with those fanatics who go to conventions, who can watch all three extended movies in one day, who practice their tengwar, and own rubber elf ears. I don't eat, drink, and sleep Middle Earth.

Alliterative verse (especially in prose, as almost the entire chapter Battle of the Pelennor Fields is written) moves me. Latin and Greek based words infiltrating my language bothers me. Etymology sparks my curiosity. Variations between languages, their unique beauties, enchant me. I like long movies. No one will convince me that Fairy Tales are only for children, or that children ought to be read silly stories written at their level. I read long books with lots of characters. I enjoy history. The people in the Bible are alive to me, with motives and burdens and joys (applicably embodied in characters like Gandalf, Aragorn, and Faramir).

Some say fantasy is wicked, or an escape from reality. Some day some one may ask me to give up Lord of the Rings, and for the right person I would set aside all my large but not notable collection of memorabilia. There are more important things than J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpieces. I have been formed, however, by Tolkien's world and philosophy since I was a child. That is irrevocable. The road goes ever on and on...

To God be all glory.

Independence, Liberty, Freedom, Private Property

Yesterday my family joined two other families for a Fourth of July picnic. While some were swinging, some testing their skills at stilts, others tossing frisbees, and others seeing how high they could climb on the playground some of the less energetic adults were discussing politics. We got onto the subject of property and discovered the following:

  • if you own a rental, the government tells you you must rent without discriminating based on character
  • if you own a rental in which your tenants commit a certain kind of crime (the result of that lack of good character), your property may be forfeit
  • you have to pay taxes on your property to keep your property
  • if at any time the government feels it would generate more revenue to confiscate your property and sell it to someone else, they will give you a "fair market compensation" and take your property
  • in my city there are restrictions on water usage, including the fact that we are forbidden to use our dish or bath water to water our plants, or to catch the rain off our roof. Apparently the city jealously owns the water that goes down our drains.

We wonder if soon there will be no-knock warrants to inspect our drains. This is on the way to being possible because in my state,

  • you can be pulled over to see if you are wearing your seatbelt in your car, which is required by law
  • And you are required to have insurance for said car
  • To drive which you need to have a government-issued license (that you paid for)

The comment was made,

And what are we celebrating today?

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

If you need ideas for celebrations, or patriotic media, let me recommend:

  • 1776 by David McCullough

  • Great Escape movie (movie starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, and James Garner about a World War II prisoner of war camp)

  • Yankee Doodle Dandy movie (story of George M. Cohan, played by James Cagney - a musical)

  • The Happiest Millionaire movie (includes pictures of immigration, the American dream, and lots of good music)

  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington movie (a dramatic story of a little guy making a difference in Congress)

  • The Talk of the Town movie (starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Ronald Colman - deals with justice and the Supreme Court)

  • Gods and Generals movie (a long story of the different sides and their strong faith and values during the Civil War)

  • National Treasure movie (Nicholas Cage follows a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence using clues from early American history)

  • Let's Roll by Lisa Beamer (biography of Todd Beamer, hero of September 11)

  • All four verses of The Star Spangled Banner

  • The Declaration of Independence

  • Patrick Henry's Give Me Liberty speech.

  • Sean Hannity's Let Freedom Ring

Those are the things I own. Yankee Doodle Dandy is on the to-do list for me today. And fireworks and picnics and wearing one of those t-shirts they sell for $5 at department stores this time of year with flags or "America" on them. (Hint: they usually go half off right after the holiday.)

What are your suggestions and plans? (or what did you do, if you're reading this after Independence Day)

To God be all glory.

Least Given Answer

In the strain of the answers to what I'm doing with my life, I found this article by Lydia, a guest-blogger on YLCF, to be a good read. We have to remember that God did not leave us on earth (rather than taking Christians immediately to heaven) to rack up points and resumes. We're not here to be powerful or millionaires or even to have large families or to do a lot of community service. Life is not even about having a great blog. Those things might happen along the way, but ultimately our existence is about bringing glory to God and showing His glorious love to others.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Shaping of Things to Come Part 4

From pages 12-13 of The Shaping of Things to Come:

“How could a bunch of Christians running a pub in Bradford be a church? … They don’t always meet in the same room on a Sunday for church services, but they are worshipping God, building Christian community, and serving their world. They meet the biblical criteria for a church, but they don’t often look like church as we are used to thinking of it. A helpful way of looking at the post-Christendom church is to see not disorder but a diaspora.”

My argument has been for some time that Awana and some Bible studies were more accurately ‘church’ than the Sunday morning services/congregation. The "parachurch ministries" themselves deny this, encouraging you to attend a traditional church as well. Perhaps they, while recognizing the need to be more New-Testament, have failed to shake off the Christendom custom-entrenched mindset.

Also, I like the imagery and associations of describing the missional church as diaspora. Right after the start of the church in Acts, persecution began with the martyrdom of Stephen. The immediate result was that the disciples of Christ dispersed and carried the gospel with them wherever they went. Is something similar happening again? Is this new house-church movement one of evangelism?

My friend who recommended this book to me was chatting with me the other day, and we wonder why we call the Sunday morning meetings "worship services." There is more going on in these Sunday morning meetings than just the "worship" part. There is usually preaching, which when biblical is usually evangelistic. In our contexts sermons are styled as teaching, just not in a mode described frequently in the New Testament. We're supposed to be worshiping God everywhere and always, and praise is only part. The songs we sing are about praise, and this is more the instruction in the Bible than to be worshiping in our congregations. And a lot of the songs we sing, besides the praise hymns and choruses, are testimonial or inspirational or prayerful. So what should the meetings be called?

To God be all glory.

Jane Austen Character Quiz

Because I had nothing better to do (like finish reading Mansfield Park, or write Sunday school lessons, or rest, or watch the long Pride and Prejudice again)...

You scored as Elinor Dashwood, As Marianne's older sister, Elinor lives at the other end of the emotional spectrum. She rarely reveals her intense feelings and is more concerned with being honest and loyal than having what she deserves. Even though her intentions are pure, she sets herself up for loss by constantly placing other people before her own needs. Overall, Elinor is gentle and rational but is just as capable of radical emotions (despite her withholding them) as her sister.

Elinor Dashwood


Elizabeth Bennet


Charlotte Lucas


Emma Woodhouse


Jane Bennet


Marianne Dashwood


Lady Catherine


Which Jane Austen Character are You? (For Females) Long Quiz!!!
created with

You scored as Elizabeth Bennet, You are ELIZABETH BENNET from Pride and Prejudice. Few people find you disagreeable. You are often described as intelligent, clever, and quite worth looking at. You are the best of company, though your family may not be.

Elinor Dashwood


Elizabeth Bennet


Mr. Darcy


Marianne Dashwood


Emma Woodhouse


Mr. Knightly


Which Jane austen Character are you?
created with

You scored as Elinor Dashwood, You're Elinor Dashwood, the "sense" of Sense & Sensibility! You tend to hide your emotions, but you feel deeply. You also feel obligated to carry the burden of keeping everyone in your family under control.

Elinor Dashwood


Elizabeth Bennet


Marianne Dashwood


Fanny Price


Anne Elliot


Catherine Morland


Emma Woodhouse


Which Jane Austen heroine are you?
created with

You scored as Elizabeth Bennet, You are a person of great wit and judgement, though you do not always conform to the standards of others. You may have a bit of a rebellious streak in you and sometimes offend others. Though your first opinions may not be correct, you are quick to detect the intentions of others and change your opinions accordingly, if necessary. Most people enjoy your lively personality and your many talents.

Elizabeth Bennet


Fanny Price


Elinor Dashwood


Emma Woodhouse


Anne Elliot


Marianne Dashwood


Catherine Morland


Jane Austen Leading Ladies
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You scored as Susan Price, You are Susan Price, Fanny's beloved younger sister from Mansfield Park. Very well-rounded, you are adaptable, eager, and very helpful. While others settle for a bad situation, you are always striving to improve matters. Your good instincts will take you a long way.

Susan Price


Charlotte Lucas


Eleanor Tilney


Jane Fairfax


The Musgrove Sisters (Henrietta and Louisa)


Harriet Smith


Jane Bennet


Georgiana Darcy


Which Jane Austen Female Sidekick Are You?
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(To be fair, I'm not sure this character is in the book. I think it is a brother in the book.)

I took multiple quizzes on which character I am, and I conclude that I am exactly between Elinor Dashwood and Elizabeth Bennett. And there is a bit of Fanny Price in me which doesn't show up because I refuse to accept their stereotypes of her character. They always consider her high morals a fault. But I am not as persuadable as she. My opinions are decided. Actually I don't think she's an option in this quiz.

Do you think Jane Austen got it wrong, though, because I think Mr. Knightley is the best hero? I mean I like Mr. Darcy, and he's probably next on my list, I really enjoy the selfless superiority Mr. Knightley has to Emma. And Henry Tilney is clever, witty, and kind as well. I think he benefits from being seen beside all the silly people in Northanger Abbey, though.

You scored as Knightley, Your ideal hero is most like Mr. Knightley of Emma! He probably gives you kind lectures to help you in certain matters, though he does these out of true devotion and in your best interests. Others look to him for his wisdom and good sense. He is generous and steadfast, though not afraid to politely argue with you. The two of you enjoy a challenging, sweet partnership and are most likely very active in your community.



Captain Wentworth




Col. Brandon


Edmund Bertram


Edward Ferrars




Who is Your Jane Austen Boyfriend/Husband?
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Depending on the day I can't even decide which book I like best. Also depending on the day, I wouldn't be surprise if my answers were sufficiently different to alter the top contenders in the results of the quizzes.

You scored as Pride and Prejudice, You love books with unconventional heros and just like Elizabeth Bennet you tend to fall for people that at first you dislike!

Pride and Prejudice


Northanger Abbey




Sense and Sensibility


Mansfield Park




Which Jane Austen novel should you read?
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If you ladies take the quizzes, do let me know what results you got.

By the way, is anyone else out there counting down the weeks until we can see the new Masterpiece Theater Jane Austen movies?

To God be all glory.