Monday, May 25, 2009

great memorial day action

Just found out that my mother -- along with the many female WW2 pilots -- are now eligible to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

parental pride

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17)

Last night we had the Gravitate study at our home with about fifteen 20-somethings in attendance. Great cookout & then discussion on Matthew 3 & 4. The passage above struck me in a new way.

It's wonderful to hear parents speaking this way of their children. It's part of our love for them, and we see it at the soccer field or recital: "that's my son and I'm so proud of him" ...or, "that's my daughter, isn't she fantastic?" But, it's so... human. We are accustomed to people speaking this way. But God?

If we were to make up the gospel story, would we think to put in such a thing... that God the Father -- and on more than one occasion -- should speak directly and verbally from heaven (not through angels or prophets), saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Would we think this is something God would do?

It is something that only a loving Dad would do... and yet the Almighty God, the eternal Creator and Sustainer of all, that he should speak this way! Simply amazing! It tells us what a wonderful Father God is, and what a surpassingly excellent Savior we have.

A postscript... I must ask myself regularly: do I so delight in the Son? Am I well-pleased with him? Do I trust his Sacrifice alone, do I believe his word, do I obey? Do I clearly speak out -- like the Father -- this is God's Son with whom I am well pleased?

journalling this week

with a Bexley 802. This is a modern American-made fountain pen. Filled with Noodlers Borealis Black ink. Very sweet.

Monday, May 18, 2009

view from the pulpit

I like this sheep photo. The sheep are very attentive, even apprehensive. Then I notice their long wool, and the sheepdog in the top left of the picture. Aha, I bet it's shearing day...

Parker 21 mark II

Took the day off and caught up on stuff. Made a trip out for errands and stopped by an antique store I visit regularly. Made a serendipitous purchase ($10) of a Parker 21, Mark II model with trough-style clip. This began production in 1951, and went through the mid-60s. It features a hooded octanium nib, a more popular-level (=economical) than the very popular Parker 51, of which I have two. This pen has a blue barrel, and a lustreloy cap. I needed to adjust and smooth the nib, then gave a good cleaning, and polished the barrel and cap. It's now writing beautifully!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

task of an elder

Jack Arnold on the work of an elder:

The first, the primary, and the most important task of an elder is to shepherd the flock. This may be done in many ways, so an elder has a many-faceted ministry. He is to have charge over the flock. “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thess. 5:12). He is to teach the flock (1 Tim. 5:17). He is to admonish the flock (1 Thess. 5:12). He is to labor among the flock (1 Thess. 5:12), and lead the flock. “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the outcome of their way of life, imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7). He is to oversee (supervise) the flock (Acts 20:28). The elder is to watch for the souls of the flock. “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account” (Heb. 13:17). He is to protect the flock. “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). He is to manage the flock. “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 2:4-5).
From the Clear Theology website.

Kinds of service

"...shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:2-3 ESV)

Richard Foster in his Celebration of Discipline (25th anniversary edition) made a comparison between "self-righteous" service and "true" service (pp 128-130 in the 1998 edition). Paul Robbins in Leadership Journal, 1988, p 146, summarized these characteristics and cast them as "self-focused" and "Christ-focused" service. In paraphrased form, this becomes a most helpful evaluation for us...

Self-focused service is concerned with impressive gains. It enjoys serving when the service is titanic or growing in that direction. Christ-focused service doesn’t distinguish between small and large. It indiscriminately welcomes all opportunities to serve.

Self-focused service requires external reward, appreciation, and applause. Christ-focused service rests content in hiddenness. The divine nod of approval is sufficient.

Self-focused service is highly concerned about results. It becomes disillusioned when results fall below expectations. Christ-focused service is free of the need to calculate results; it delights only in service.

Self-focused service is affected by feelings. Christ-focused service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need. The service disciplines the feelings.

Self-focused service insists on meeting the need; it demands the opportunity to help. Christ-focused service listens with tenderness and patience. It can serve by waiting in silence.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the work of the Spirit

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." (Romans 8:14-17 ESV)

I'm reading the letters of Jack Miller, former professor at Westminster, pastor, and director of World Harvest Mission. In one letter he writes about "why our hearts resist the work of the Holy Spirit"...

"Why, then, is the Holy Spirit not leading more of us into a maximum Christian life? The answer is that we are letting Him have only a minimal control of our life choices, both as individuals and families. We do not want Him to lead us too far along the paths of righteousness for fear that we may get hurt or someone we love may get hurt. But the concern of the Holy Spirit is contrary to our self-protective agendas. He has a holy passion for glorifying Christ. He wishes to honor Christ for His compete self-giving in His suffering. He also wishes to bring us into partnership with the Lord's work of filling up His sufferings in His disciples.... It is supremely a call to abandon self-protective strategies and awake to the truth that Christ's ascension now defines us and defines our whole universe. Look up, dear brothers and sisters, to Jesus upon the throne. Christ has ascended and in the process taken total control over human history, the world, and our lives. Believe it! Act on it! ... The Holy Spirit has been sent to act as the executive presence of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:20). He is the primary means for Jesus' conquest of ourselves and the universe." (C. John Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller, p. 91-92)

Our unbelief does not hinder God from working in us -- nothing in actuality hinders God -- but this unbelief does in fact become a reason for God to withold the blessing of his power and presence. The Lord honors faith, and specifically a faith which is manifested in what Miller calls "the abandonment of self-protective strategies." This is the kind of faith so clearly demonstrated in Hebrews 11. It is also the ongoing struggle of all Christians, including myself.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

that God is true

"No distrust made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised." (Romans 4:20-21 ESV)

“Let us also remember that we are all in the same condition as Abraham. Our circumstances
are all in opposition to the promises of God. He promises us immortality: yet we are surrounded by mortality and corruption. He declares that he accounts us just: yet we are covered with sins. He testifies that he is propitious and benevolent towards us: yet outward signs threaten his wrath. What then are we to do? We must close our eyes, disregard ourselves and all things connected with us, so that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Romans, Chapter 4:20)

This year is the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth. He was born July 10, 1509.

Friday, May 8, 2009

College town

There's no place like a college town to experience the change of seasons, especially from spring to summer, or summer to fall. They say the two best days in Blacksburg are 1) the day the students arrive, and 2) the day the students leave. We are fast approaching the second of those days.

Our town and church are so closely tied to the university community and its rhythm. There's an amazing slow-down in life that takes place after exams and graduation in May. Less traffic, more parking spaces, shorter lines, relaxed atmosphere in downtown restaurants, more tables available at the coffeeshops. Still a lot of students, but not 27,000 of them. There are wonderful summer programs and concerts, and time to walk around the duck pond or horticulture garden in the evenings...

That's life in a college town -- summer is for the townies.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

NDOP quotes

"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
Whom did he consult, and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust."

(Isaiah 40:12-15 ESV)

Quotes, for this National Day of Prayer:

"God presides over the destinies of nations." (Patrick Henry, American Revolutionist)

"Remember that God is our only sure trust." (Mary Washington, George Washington's mother)

"While we give praise to God, the supreme disposer of all events, for His interposition on our behalf, let us guard against the dangerous error of trusting in, or boasting of, an arm of flesh... If your case is just, if your principles are pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts." (John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence)

"I pray Heaven bestow the best of blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." (John Adams, 2nd U.S. President)

"Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for -- because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything." (Peter Marshall, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate)

"America was founded by people who believed that God was their rock of safety. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it's all right to keep asking if we're on His side." (Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My thoughts exactly

Faith is...

  • Reckoning God's Word to be true.
  • Trusting God and his goodness.
  • Having confidence in his promises.
  • Living in dependence upon his power.
  • Receiving his gifts like a child.
  • Acting in faithfulness upon his commandments.
  • Seeing him who is unseen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Madness in their hearts

We often hear that religion is the cause of much war and brutality. I cannot argue with that, but it involves a very selective editing of the casualties. A fairer reading of the statistics would impress us also with the brutality of secularism:
Adolf Hitler, Germany. Kill tally: Directly responsible for the deaths of over 46 million Europeans as a result of the Second World War.

Benito Mussolini, Italy.
Kill tally: Over 400,000 Italians killed during the Second World War. At least 30,000
Ethiopians killed during Italian occupation of Ethiopia.

Heinrich Himmler, Germany.
Kill tally: Directly responsible for the deaths of six million in German
concentration camps. Collectively responsible for the deaths of over 46 million Europeans as a result of the Second World War.

Joseph Stalin, Russia.
Kill tally: Approximately 20 million, including up to 14.5 million needlessly starved to death.
At least one million executed for political "offences". At least 9.5 million more deported, exiled or imprisoned in work camps, with many of the estimated five million sent to the 'Gulag Archipelago' never returning alive. Other estimates place the number of deported at 28 million, including 18 million sent to the 'Gulag'.

Mao Tse-Tung, China.
Kill tally: 14 to 20 million deaths from starvation during the 'Great Leap Forward'.
Tens of thousands killed and millions of lives ruined during the 'Cultural Revolution'.

Pol Pot, Cambodia.
Kill tally: One to three million (or between a quarter and a third of the country's

Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia.
Kill tally: Up to 230,000 killed and three million displaced.

Ne Win, Burma (now Myanmar)
. Kill tally: No reliable figures, but 3,000-10,000 killed in the 'Rangoon
Spring' uprising of 1988. Tens to possibly hundreds of thousands killed since the 1962 military coup d'├ętat.

Kim Il Sung, North Korea.
Kill tally: About three million killed in the Korean War. Between 600,000 and one
million North Koreans needlessly starved to death due to the economic legacy of Kim's regime. (Some reports claim that as many as three million starved.)

More stats here.
Is there an inherent brutality in religion, and not in the politics of secularism? Could it be as the Preacher said in Ecclesiastes, "The hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead." (9:3) War is part of the fallen human condition, whether religiously or secularly instigated.

Monday, May 4, 2009

church softball

The church soccer team was eliminated first round from the tournament by a team called "black" something. Not sure what to make of that.

Softball was to begin today, but will be cancelled due to rain. Here's my kind of baseball, from a 1960 Peanuts strip...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The God who beautifies

The center of Jonathan Edwards' theology is not God's sovereignty, but God's beauty. His oft-repeated term was the "excellence" of God, which the believer is drawn to. And that drawing involved having a supernatural sight (or taste) of this beauty and weightiness (glory) of God.

One of Edwards' favorite metaphors for God is the fountain. Like bubbling waters God overflows with life and goodness. In a paper presented in Budapest last year, Sang Lee notes that...

"...for Jonathan Edwards, God is not only the most beautiful being but in his nature the beautifying being, one who makes other beings beautiful, and thus, as Edwards says, 'the fountain of all beauty.' According to Edwards, God is a disposition, a power to communicate his beauty to other beings. God is in his essence a beautifying disposition or power. (Yale 13:277-78)" (Sang Hyun Lee, "Edwards and Beauty" in Understanding Jonathan Edwards, Gerald McDermott, ed., Oxford, 2009)

Certainly this is what it means when the Scripture speaks of sharing in Christ's glory, or being made in his image, or partaking of the nature of God. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bear-step & Dad

When we were stationed at the AF Academy in Colorado, 1958-60, my dad studied silversmithing under Dick Spencer, chief of the Cherokee Bear-step clan. I recall his Indian name was Shatka, not Shapka, as cited in this article. We loved visiting his shop, and my dad learned to make silver and turquoise pieces of jewelry, many of which we still retain in the family. Dad, then a major with J/AG, is seen in this photo with Bear-step.