Thursday, April 30, 2009

Minivans

So we got a new -- new to us, as it were -- Kia Sedona. We seem to be still in the minivan stage of life. Meanwhile, I'm glancing over at the Honda motorcycle dealership while I'm supposed to be looking at vans. 50-something is such an awkward stage. The mid-sized SUVs, which look far cooler, are still a bit too small for the stuff we do as a family.

Coolness enters into car choices, even when one has a family. The minivan has a certain profile that goes with it. When I was younger -- this was pointed out to me -- we wouldn't have bought a station wagon, since that was our parent's choice of family transportation. (Except the woodies... I had a Falcon for awhile in college & it was the vehicle of choice for our caving expeditions.) But, generally speaking, station wagons are profiled with our parents.

And so our generation was sold the minivan. Station wagons all but disappeared. But what will young, 20 & 30-something parents now drive?? I guess it's the various morphs or hybrids of the SUV. Minivans have become, so... so, soccer mommish, I guess. What goes around comes around.

I am thankful for the good deal we got and the expectation of some problem-free driving, at least for a while. The kids love the new dials and stuff, and one of them said -- and I think this was probably the highest compliment -- that our new van "was like a rental car!"

Meanwhile I'm still looking at motorcycles.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Porches

I am very keen on porches this time of year. Last night after mowing the lawn I got a glass of ice water and sat down on our front porch -- and let me say that there is an important distinction between a front porch and a rear deck -- anyway, I sat on the front porch, and one by one family members came out and sat and listened to the evening sounds of spring... like the wind rustling in new leaves, various birds calling out their end-of-day songs, and a small plane overhead coming in to land at our little airport, at the end of what must have been a great day of flight.

It's like becoming aware of another world. Not of communication or electronics or obligations or worry... but a world of sights and sounds that you miss unless you do a full stop, then watch and listen.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Being Saturday

It was a great day, though I did not do much of what I had originally planned. Slept a little later. My wife had to work. It was a beautiful morning and my daughter and I sat on the porch together -- talked and listened to the birds and did some dove calls. Had breakfast with some young friends up for the InterVarsity reunion this weekend, who spent the night with us last night. Good conversation. They took off for campus, and my kids and I finished watching The Sound of Music, which is one of the all-time best movies ever.

It had really warmed up outside and so my daughter and a friend played in the sprinkler and made a mud field in the front yard. My son and I worked on reformatting a computer and I repaired a fountain pen that has not been working correctly. [See picture.] It's a beautiful green and gold Parker Striped Duofold Major, manufactured sometime betw
een 1942 and 1948. Took the feed off, cleaned it, and adjusted the nib. Now it writes beautifully, as well.

We then took off for town, met my wife, picked up Chinese take-out for dinner, came back home, visited more with one of the couples, and played foursquare with the kids in the driveway.

So... I did not make it to the spring game, nor was the motorcycle ready for riding, nor did we go car shopping... but it was a great, unhurried, puttering, family and friend-style day. No regrets.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bob Bennett


Cliff, who plays bass at church, passed on to me Bob Bennett's remastered First Things First (Maranatha! Music, 1979).

What a joy to listen to a voice I hadn't heard in years, from back when there were, oh, about 20 contemporary Christian artists total in the U.S.


Bob has continued playing his
unadorned style of Christian music over the years. No one plays and sings "My Redeemer Lives" better than Bob Bennett.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Illumination (interior)

This morning we compared the requests of Moses in Exodus 33-34 (to see God's glory), and the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 1:15ff for the "spirit of wisdom and revelation" and the "eyes of the heart enlightened..." Both knew the truths of the respective covenant revelation which they had received (law or gospel), but both sought a deeper sight or experience of the glory of those truths.

Both Moses and Paul wanted to see and experience the weight and glory and goodness of the God of the Word. Here is a good summary quote from J. I. Packer on the doctrine of illumination by the Holy Spirit toward the believer:

The work of the Spirit in imparting this knowledge is called “illumination,” or enlightening. It is not a giving of new revelation, but a work within us that enables us to grasp and to love the revelation that is there before us in the biblical text as heard and read, and as explained by teachers and writers. Sin in our mental and moral system clouds our minds and wills so that we miss and resist the force of Scripture. God seems to us remote to the point of unreality, and in the face of God’s truth we are dull and apathetic. The Spirit, however, opens and unveils our minds and attunes our hearts so that we understand (Eph. 1:17-18; 3:18-19; 2 Cor. 3:14-16; 4:6). As by inspiration he provided Scripture truth for us, so now by illumination he interprets it to us. Illumination is thus the applying of God’s revealed truth to our hearts, so that we grasp as reality for ourselves what the sacred text sets forth. (from Concise Theology)

The important point is that we need to ask the Holy Spirit to make God and his truths real to us. We need to feel the weight and glory of God in his Word.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

1 Peter 3:18-22

Why we should be willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness:

• The example of Jesus who suffered (3:18)
• The certainty of final judgment (3:19-20)
• The patience of God who waits (3:20)
• The place of safety which we have (3:20-21)
• The glory of Jesus who is Lord of all (3:22)

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” (Mark Twain)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The deluge

Deluge (global flood) stories are found in many cultures around the world: Babylonia, Egypt, Persia, Greece, Turkey, China, India, Burma, Viet Nam, Australia (aborigines), New Zealand, Norse, Finland, Iceland, Hottentots (south Africa), Nigeria, Congo, Polynesian, and in the Americas, the Inca, Toltec, Aztec, Algonquin, and Eskimo. And more.

Some of the parallels are very striking: the few number saved, a Noah character, a boat or chest that is used, animals that are brought on, landing on a mountain, a raven or dove sent out, etc. Frederick Filby concludes:


“It remains true that there is no other story of an ancient event in all the world so widely accepted. The cumulative weight of this evidence is that the present human race has spread from one centre and even from one family – a family who themselves experienced the great Deluge of which every story speaks.” (Frederick A. Filby, The Flood Reconsidered)



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

4.16 two years out

April 16, two years later... what have I learned?

1. There's a whole lot about life -- and good and evil -- that we don't understand, even after time passes.

2. Tragedy does not automatically make us more sensitive to good things. It may harden us toward God, or it may soften us. Or it may just feel like nothing at all, like numbness, and all you want to do is forget.

3. Should we expect a spiritual harvest after such events? Not necessarily; there are other considerations.

4. We want grace to be gratuitous, and come to expect it. We don't expect evil to be gratuitous, and we do not expect it.

5. Nightmares can come true, and fear -- once palpably felt -- cannot be lightly dismissed.

6. We need other people, and their presence can be a tremendous comfort. Our common humanity is a
very real thing.

7. Russian authors begin to make sense.

8. Finally, it takes time to heal from trauma, and there are no short cuts. Tragedy affects people physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. There is no quick way, or even a spiritual-only way, to heal all things in this life. The wiping away of every tear awaits Christ's return (Revelation 7:17; 21:4), and the final healing comes only with the physical touch of the nail-pierced hand upon our faces.

Riddles of God

There are so many things I do not understand about life. And so many things I do not have a definitive answer for. No surprise there.

Christianity always points us back to 1) the being and character of God, and 2) the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the defining point of history.

Certainty of hope comes from these. And peace of heart comes from meditating on these truths.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Post-tomb life, on Easter Monday

The challenge, of course, is to get the realizations of Easter Sunday to infect the rest of life.

The tomb of Christ is still empty. Jesus has risen, ascended, and is ruling on high, above every power and authority. He is the glorious Lord over all.

Worship yesterday was so moving, so joyful. I heard the cantata twice, and wept both times.

But the challenge today, being Monday, is not to let circumstances -- namely, my allergies, van in the repair shop, income tax to do, and mowing the lawn -- diminish the joy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Raised on the third day!

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7 ESV)


...set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was
declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord...
(Romans 1:1-4 ESV)

















(This is a first century tomb in Galilee, complete with the stone to cover the entrance. My friend Neil and I explored the inside.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Redemption

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26)

God alone is the one who can rescue us from our guilt, bondage, and lost condition. He is the one who reconciles us to himself and restores the image of God in us again. This is the meaning of redemption.

At the Cross, some of God’s attributes which seem to be contradictory come together. He is righteous and holy, and therefore punishes sin. Jesus his Son suffers for sin, but he does so as our substitute, a sacrifice which satisfies God’s justice (a propitiation). God is loving in that he sent his Son for us. He is merciful in forgiving us through Christ’s work. Since Christ is also eternal God, his suffering and death have infinite value, and we are saved forever. His power is seen in the resurrection of Christ, which shows that sin and death have been defeated once and for all.

This is a salvation that we could not achieve for ourselves. Our condition is so serious that it is only God who can redeem us. It is God – in his power, wisdom, holiness, love – it is God who saves. As Jonah realized in his own helplessness, “Salvation comes from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:9 NIV) God alone is the Redeemer. And this is why he calls us to trust him with complete and childlike faith.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Crucified God

I have often pondered this phrase from Jurgen Moltmann. We must think that God has experienced / experiences grief or pain in some sort, even though he exists in undiminished blessedness. Surely it cannot be that this is so only in the human nature of Christ.

Donald McLeod writes on this topic and concludes...

Calvary was not an isolated moment of pain or pity in the experience of God. Its roots lay in the primaeval and permanent concern of God for his creation. The cross does not inaugurate that concern. But it does show how deep and passionate it is, and how far God was prepared to go.

In the last analysis that concern is triune, shared equally by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, as the history of the cross (involving the Father, the Son and the eternal Spirit) clearly testifies. The agony of each is different, yet equally real. And the resulting understanding of human grief is as much a reality for God the Father and God the Holy Spirit as it is for God the Son. The trinity is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.