Pick of the Chix

The Chicken insanity is near an end!! Here are the three finalists for the
mascot logo I've been working on:

all images Copyright 2006 by Sara Hemmeke - not to be reproduced in any manner

(The Dux logo at the bottom is the sister school's logo I did a couple years ago, thrown in just for comparison.)

So, which would you chose for your local school district's logo? Vote now!

In a few days I'll let you know which one the judges picked!

Scripture Credenda/Agenda

Exodus 14 - crossing the Red Sea

Credenda (things to believe):
It's not over until God says its over. Israel thought they were free, as they left Egpyt and camped by the Red Sea, but God had one more hardening of Pharaoh, one more plague for Egypt. And when Israel looked back and SAW the Egpytians drown, then they KNEW they were saved.

Agenda (things to do):
Don't complain prematurely (see Ex 14:11-13). Wait, watch and submit to God's will in my life.

Look back and breathe a sigh of relief. All my enemies, especially the guilt of my sin, have been hurled into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

Look to my baptism and breathe a sigh of relief. This is the picture of my death, the death of my sins and their guilt, in Christ's own death on the cross (Romans 6:3-4).

Look forward to the path through the wilderness of this life, with a resolution to walk according to God's Word (given next to the people at Sinai).

Thinking ahead

"A thriving church can easily assume that it 'has it covered' because its current elders are doing a fine job and its current pastor preaches well and looks healthy. Everyone has trouble imagining what the church will look like in fifty years when none of the current leaders is alive. No one even thinks about it. But Charles de Gaulle put it well when he said that the graveyards are full of indispensable men. That day will come whether we want it to or not. A church that does not think of establishing continuity with the future generations of that same church is, in principle, a church populated by short term and anti-covenantal thinkers."

The Paideia of God, p. 110, Douglas Wilson.

On this day in 1944...

Nazi soldiers arrested Dutch Christian Corrie ten Boom and her family for harboring Jews.

From Christian History, another possible regular feature...

Romans 8:38-39

I came across an account of Jim Boice's last days, which told of his elders coming around his deathbed and singing some of the hymns Boice had written a year or so earlier. What a moving picture! Here was one of the hymns, based on Romans 8:38-39:

What can separate my soul from the God who made me whole;
Who wrote my name on heaven's scroll? Nothing. Hallelujah!

Victors we are ordained to be by the God who set us free.
What can therefore conquer me? Nothing. Hallelujah!

We face death for God each day. What can pluck us from His way?
Let God's people ever say, "Nothing. Hallelujah!"

Monday's Scripture Credenda/Agenda

Mark 16:1-8

Credenda (things to believe):
Jesus is Risen! He is not here. We will see Him. He has gone before us.

Agenda (things to do):
Vs 7: "tell His disciples - and Peter..." Last we heard of Peter, he was weeping bitterly after denying Jesus. Here is a hint of Peter's coming restoration. It is a signal to all who have followed Jesus, and then failed and are deeply remorseful of it, to take heart and go back to Him.

Vs 8: The women "said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." Here is a negative example: what NOT to do. Don't keep the Good News to yourself because you're afraid how people will respond to the incredible news.

(We'll have to deal with the Mark 16:9-20 issue another time...

Death of a Saint

I just learned here that Henry Morris, leading creationist and co-author of The Genesis Flood, has passed into glory.


Room for Who?

If you're in the RCA (Reformed Church in America, the denomination I'm a pastor in), you need to know about this organization.

Is there room for the full inclusion of all, in the RCA?

Is there room for the full inclusion of professing Muslims, who don't believe Jesus is God's Chosen Messiah, our Savior?

Is there room for the full inclusion of a guy who thinks it's perfectly fine to sleep around with as many women as he can, because HE doesn't think the Bible teaches against adultery?

You get the drift.

It is their tolerance for sexual sin and idolatry, their room-for-all-ness, that Jesus holds against the Church of Thyatira (Rev 2:20).

We have membership vows which we use, when "fully including" someone in the life of the church. They contain promises to believe certain things and to do and not do certain things. Full inclusion is restricted to those who promise to believe and do x, y and z. It is only a minor and simple clarification to move from "Scripture is my only rule for faith and life," to "One of the things Scripture says is that homosexuality is a sin I need to be trying to leave behind if I want to be fully included here as a follower of Christ (1 Cor 6:9-11)."

There are two places a person with same-sex attraction could be coming from:

1. They are purposely experimenting with it.
2. They find themselves "naturally" drawn in that direction.

Scripture makes no differentiation, but says that the attraction itself is a perversion of the natural order (Rom 1:24ff). This puts people in the second option in a difficult position, but no more difficult than the single man who is sexually attracted to a woman he will never marry, or the married man who is "naturally drawn" to the cute secretary at work. God often calls us to deny what we're naturally drawn to.

So the church responds to person 1 above by calling them to avoid intentionally dabbling in something God calls sin. And the church responds to person 2 above by calling them, as every believer, to deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus.

The response will be either
1. An attempt to deny self and follow Jesus, in which case the Church obviously has room. Or...

2. An attempt to excuse behavior by re-interpretation of some very obvious texts, in which case the Church may not tolerate such impurity.


Valentine Socks

I may not be an Olympic Knitter, but I managed to knit a pair of socks in just 9 days (not even knitting every day!). May I present to you the Valentine Socks, so named for their color and the holiday:

Since we have no digital camera, I resorted to the "slap it on the scanner" approach to digitizing this "art." I assure you, this sock has a sister. Being large enough to fit my size 10 feet, my scanner bed wouldn't accommodate the pair. They will be a gift to my secret pal (who has equally large feet) when we reveal our identities in March.

The pattern is Limbo and the yarn Moda Dea's Sassy Stripes on 3.25mm dpns. Next time around I'd do the cuff/leg on smaller needles to get more elasticity. This is a quick, easy pattern that I'd recommend it to all first-time sock knitters.


New feature

I'm thinking of adding a regular feature to the blog: Steve's Scripture reading of the day, divided into 2 parts.

1. Credenda: Latin for "things to believe" and learn from Scripture.
2. Agenda: Latin for "things to do" because of the Scripture text I read.

I got the wording idea here.
We'll see how it goes...

Scripture: Exodus 12-13 - the Passover

Credenda (things to learn/know/believe): Ex 12:4
"If the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb."
- A whole lamb is too much for 1-2 people to eat, I'd assume. So God says if you only have a few people in your household, you have to share a lamb with another house. This way, no one has Passover alone. There are big parties, and no one slips through the cracks because we know who is keeping an eye on you. The neighbor living next to you. As Passover approaches, all the neighbors are asking each other: what's your plan? Where will you keep the feast? (See Matt 26:17).

- Also profound: Jesus is our Passover Lamb. He is MUCH too big to eat alone, or with 1-2 others. We have to share Him. He sets a huge wedding banquet. God works with us as households. And if our household is one (we're widowed) or two (empty nesters?), God has a bigger family for us to be a part of.

Agenda (things to do): Ex 12:14 - remember
- "This day will be to you a memorial." It is done to remember the redemption of a nation from slavery. When Jesus says to His disciples, on Passover night, "Do this in remembrance of me," the root word is the same. For a new act of redemption, on the cross, there was a new memorial meal. I must remember the great things God has done for me.

Who's the frau?

Many of you may have the misconception that I (Sara) sleep, eat, and breathe knitting. While I do enjoy the natural and earthy feel of wool and wooden needles in my fingers, there are many other sides to the frau.

Sara has many other interests/hobbies: sewing, quilting (7 years on one quilt, still going), reading, theater, trying to play the cello, gardening... and I've even been known to paint a few wall murals and take ballroom dancing lessons.

Music has played a big role in Sara's life since she met Steve. I've come to appreciate and love the classical composers (Rachmoninov is not only fun to say, but a good listen). The first concert Sara attended with Steve was a bassoon concerto! It made me cry. Sara can have a soft side, too. Ella Fitzgerald is one of my favorite singers, and I secretly aspire to belt it out like she did in that great alto voice.

Sara was a cheerleader (go team!) and directed/acted in high school plays. College days saw her spending too many hours on a drawing horse in a cold, cement room or in the dark room playing with film-developing chemicals. Before her leap into the art world, Sara was determined to be a doctor and can name just about every part of a dissected cat (or chicken, depending on how it's cooked). The dominie prefers not to help me cut up whole chickens for fear of me going into a diatribe about the unique qualities of vertebral arches on the various sections of the spine. I can't wait to teach our kids science and build a backyard trebuchet. Watch out Rover!!

Most days Sara is a mom to 3 very energetic kids, 4, 3 and nearly 2 years old. Child #4 is to arrive the end of July. They often refer to me as "Queen". I guess wearing my wedding tiara on "Qq" day made a bigger impact than I bargained for. I have memorized way too many children's books. Some day I will write and illustrate my own (b/c so many kids books out there are just lame!!). Graem Base is my favorite illustrator. Ludwig Bemelman's rhymes amaze me.

There's a small window to let you know who this crazy knitter is. :) More to come later...


Modern day "flat-earthers"

"There was nothing original in what medieval scientists wrote about the size and shape of the earth [that it was a sphere, not flat] and its continents; they were merely following where the Greeks had led. Originality came in the nineteenth century when historians decided that in the Middle Ages people had been "flat-earthers," probably because they considered that the centuries between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance had been a time of barbarism, superstition and ignorance: the Dark Ages. Even today many people still believe that in the Middle Ages everyone thought the earth was flat; we live in our own age of faith, the faith that "we" are superior, more rational than the superstitious people of the past."

from 1215: The Year of Magna Carta, pg 227


Headline: "General Synod Convicts Jesus of Blasphemy"

Here's the quote of the day:

"I am a presbyterian. I believe in the system of representative government that presbyterianism exhibits. I believe that this form of government (in its essentials) is ancient, going back at least to the time of Moses. I believe that the government of the synagogue was essentially presbyterian. I believe that government by representative elders was not just local, but also including broader assemblies, like the Sanhedrin. If this is the case, and all presbyterians that I know of believe that it is, then we should take care to remember that it was a General Assembly, a presbyterian court, that convicted the Son of God, and demanded His execution. Having the right forms on paper is no protection at all. It is not enough to have righteous governmental blueprints; we must also have righteous men -- men to love the truth because they love the Truth."


Little House lessons

Been a long time since I read Laura Ingalls Wilder, but it's great stuff, and even our 4 and 3 year old get into it. I'd forgotten how abruptly the 2nd book in the series (Little House on the Prairie) ends by Pa packing up and moving the whole family, and leaving everything he had built that year (including the plow!) within 24 hours after hearing the soldiers were coming to move them off of Indian Territory (3 miles southwest of the Verdigris River, into Oklahoma).

Lots of good lessons here about individual initiative, submission to authority, even when you disagree, getting along with people different from you by sacrificing your own wants (letting the Indians have tobacco or food whenever they came in the house and pointed at it).

The kids enjoyed the link between the Lincoln Logs they got for Christmas and Pa building their log house.

Also great lessons of discipline and obedience.

Who are the Palestinians?

From www.persecution.com

A February 14th report from Middle East Concern states the Gaza office of the Palestine Bible Society has been forced to close. The Bible Society received a letter from militants demanding the Bible Society completely close down their operations and not reopen anywhere else in Gaza. They also demanded the landlord evict them from the building by February 28th. The letter warned if these demands were not met, all residents should leave the building because it will be blown up March 1st. A bomb was placed outside the office to reinforce the threat. As a result of the letter, the landlord has demanded the office close, at least for the time being. The building also houses several Muslim families. Palestinian Christians ask us to pray they will trust the Lord’s protection and not give way to these threats.

Pray God will give Palestinian Christians great discernment to do His will in response to this threat. Pray He will protect them as they follow His guidance. Pray the Holy Spirit will move in great power to thwart the plans of radical Muslims in Palestine."

Making a difference

No, not us; God makes the difference.

Reading through the plagues in Exodus 8-9, this is God's constant theme: I'm doing this to make a difference between the people of Israel and of Egypt.

What is the difference today? What sets you apart from the rest of the world that isn't committed to Jesus Christ, our King, Lord and Savior? Can you be specific, yet not externally superficial in your answers? How long does it take you to figure it out? Are we too focused on blending in? Are we ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us?

The more things change...

...the more they stay the same.

The more I read history, the less I believe the whole thing about the world getting worse and worse as time goes on.

Take this 1215 book I'm reading. Here's a few juicy quotes that sound awfully modern to me:

"The rich and powerful spent far more money on building and decorating houses to live in than on churches to pray in. It is just that the churches survive while their houses do not."

"Probably a majority of the population resented having to pay tithes.... another cause for resentment: the Church's rule against working on Sundays and holy days."

One man's tirade against Sabbath law went thus:

"You clerics have so much time on your hands that you meddle with what's none of your business. You lot grow fat and soft with idleness, you don't have areal job, your life is just a game or a play. You clerics with your everlating useless dirges despise us, though we are the ones who do all the real work. And then you go and bring in some [feast] or other to justify your idleness and to try to stop me doing the job that I need to stay alive..."

Of course, the clerical author reporting this tirade claims the guy fell over dead after he got through...

After fiery guest revival preachers came through town, touting the commands to rest on the Sabbath, people usually "returned to their old ways, holding Sunday markets just as before" (pgs 202-206).


Dialogue on grace and sin

We continue to have intriguing discussions here on grace and sin.

Preggo Perceptions

I just spent some time blogging around the net and was inspired by so many beautiful handknit creations! This has gotten me down in the dumps - you see, being preggo limits the amount of knitting one does for oneself. I have no desire to spend hours doing stocking stitch to wrap around this forever growing belly, and limiting myself to socks and scarves seems really dull and uncreative. And knitting for the kids when spring/summer is so close at hand (read: too warm to wear a handknit item then!) seems silly. At least all the socks I've been knitting lately has allowed me to perfect my kitchener stitch.

So, here are my options:

1) knit for baby #4 (gender yet unknown)
2) knit for Steve (a reluctant recipient)
3) knit accessories (purse, scarves, etc)
4) knit yet another pair of socks
5) put all the knitting away and start something else!!! (after finishing my WIP's, of course)

My rut-hating personality leans towards option #5. Steve is passing out as he reads this!! So what will it be? The sewing machine has been calling, as well as perfecting the art of bread making (Steve's vote). Garden planning creeps into my mind as the days get longer. But I think I will stick with the yarn-a-holic in me and start crocheting again. Hey, it's been awhile and goes a LOT faster than knitting. I'm in the market for an openwork lace shrug pattern (any men still reading here who are unfamiliar with what a shrug is - think something to cover your "shrug"/shoulders). That is something that a preggo can wear, works great for a nursing mom, and will still be a hit post-mommy duties. Now, to buy new yarn or use something from the stash....?

Falwell's "assault ministry"

Thanks to Al Mohler for pointing out this correction by Newsweek

"Corrections - In the Feb. 6 article "Cut, Thrust and Christ," we misquoted Jerry Falwell as using the words "assault ministry." In fact, Falwell was referring to "a salt ministry," a reference to Matthew 5:13 where Jesus says 'ye are the salt of the earth.'"

The actual article is pretty good reading, too...

I love how they put in a dig at Liberty for using "bad sources," then get a quote wrong in the very same article!


I seem to have lost my January 2006 Tabletalk, and I wasn't done reading it!
Great stuff on Pilgrim's Progress, I remember, but alas...

Sorry, just some personal venting through the fingertips on the keyboard

The Note-less Preacher

Well, my preaching nightmare finally came true this past Sunday morning.

I forgot my notes down in my study and didn't realize it until I was started with the Scripture reading just before the message.

I forged ahead, a bit tentatively at first, but it came together, I think.
Afterward I told my small Sunday School class and they said they hadn't noticed. I'm not sure if that's good or bad...

How about my fellow pastor-blogger friends. Have you preached without notes often/ever? The current pastor at the church where I grew up uses no notes pretty much every Sunday am... He says if he can't keep it straight in his head, it's probably too complex for the congregation to absorb.

I might try this again soon, this time intentionally...


Good Spurgeon

"It is reserved for certain Christian churches to degrade themselves by tolerating as their teachers the acknowledged and professed propounders of another gospel, and allowing the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, and the verifies of the faith, to be scoffed at to their faces on the Sabbath-day by their own paid ministers. How long ere this reproach shall be rolled away!"

By the way, that's Charles Haddon Spurgeon on my blogger user profile picture...

Nuts and Bolts of the Church – Elders

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” Acts 20:28.

Last week we looked at the importance of committing to a church by becoming a member, and the need for a membership list for the elders to be able to do their job, delegated to them by Christ when He ordained them to be elders. This week we’ll look more closely at elders’ responsibilities.

“So Yahweh said to Moses: ‘Gather to Me 70 men… whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them…. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.” - Numbers 11:16-17

Elders serve with the minister in pastoring and bearing the burden of the people. Here is how the RCA’s Book of Church Order elaborates on the responsibilities of elders.

“The office of the elder is one of servanthood and service representing Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit. In the local church elders are chosen members of spiritual discernment, exemplary life, charitable spirit, and wisdom grounded in God’s Word. Elders, together with the installed minister serving under a call, are to have supervision of the church entrusted to them. They are set apart for a ministry of watchful and responsible care for all matters relating to the welfare and good order of the church. They are to study God’s Word, to oversee the household of faith, to encourage spiritual growth, to maintain loving discipline, and to provide for the proclamation of the gospel and the celebration of the sacraments. They have oversight over the conduct of the members of the congregation and seek to bring that conduct into conformity with the Word of God, thereby empowering all members to live out their Christian vocation in the world. Elders exercise an oversight over the conduct of one another, and of the deacons, and of the minister. They make certain that what is preached and taught by the minister is in accord with the Holy Scripture. They assist the minister with their good counsel and in the task of visitation. They seek to guard the sacraments of the church from being profaned. An elder may administer the sacraments, if authorized by the board of elders.”

In other words, elders are co-shepherds with the pastor. They take an interest in the lives of their flock, looking to encourage and model healthy spiritual growth, and to gently correct when they see problems. They protect the flock by warning them about false teaching and worldly temptations. They provide for the congregation’s spiritual nourishment, arranging for a minister to preach the Word and celebrate the sacraments.

The New Testament (in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9) has the most to say about what kind of man can be an elder. It assumes we know what elders do, and instead lists qualities that men must have to be considered as an elder. We should prayerfully consider these passages as we nominate elders to consistory each year.

Please pray for your elders, and ask your care group elder what you can do to make their calling more enjoyable and less burdensome (Hebrews 13:17).

Nuts and Bolts of the Church – Membership

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” – Hebrews 13:17.

So last week we began this series, noting that the Church is the Body of Christ, who is the Head. The Church is the Bride of Christ, who is the Groom. It’s important for the Church to function smoothly with its many members – as important as it is for the organs in your body to work together to keep you healthy.

But it’s one thing to read 1 Corinthians 12 and talk about being members of one body. It’s quite another thing to have a system of church membership, where leaders keep track of who is a member and who isn’t, whether they are here or not. Why do we do this? Because of verses like Acts 20:28 and Hebrews 13:17, at the top of this page.

Hebrews is written to a congregation, and the writer assumes some things.
1. They have leaders who have authority over the rest.
2. Those leaders will give an account for the flock they lead, so they have to watch over the congregation.

Now, if an accountant has to account for the money in his company, he keeps pretty close records. How much more will church leaders keep before them the flock they have to answer for on the last day?

We have membership rolls because we don’t want to rely on our faulty memories or wind up giving preferential treatment toward those in the congregation we know and remember best. We have to care for everybody who comes to us.

A few months ago, a book came out with the title, Stop Dating the Church. The point was to stop church-shopping, to “get married” to one church congregation and get involved there. Becoming a church member is “getting married.” Until a couple goes through with a wedding ceremony, there is not an actual commitment expressed. She can break up with him up to the moment she makes a vow before God to be with him. Once she makes the vow, though, she has taken on some responsibilities (and some joys!) unique to marriage.

So it is with the Church. There are adherents who “date” (attend) the church but never admit the responsibilities of the relationship. (We have about 10). There are baptized members (we have 60) who haven’t ratified their baptism with a public profession of faith (Rom 10:9). Either they are too young yet, or they never chose to commit to the relationship. There are professing members who have taken such a step (also called Communicant members, because in our congregation it is they who are admitted to the Lord’s Table for Communion). We have 128.

This is how elders look at things at their meetings, discussing pastoral issues of baptized and professing members, because that is the flock they are accountable for.

Nuts and Bolts of the Church - Introduction

This series first appeared in our church newsletter...

This month, we begin a series in this space, looking at how the Church works. We’ll learn a ton about one another as we review the responsibilities of church members, elders, deacons, ministry teams, ministers and more! Scripture and lots of documents from the Reformed Church in America (RCA), our denomination, guide our thoughts and practice all the time.

Paul writes that “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:40). We need tools to get along as we sort through different opinions of what to do as the Body of Christ. Jesus prays that His Church “may be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent Me and have loved them” (John 17:23). This isn’t just something that would be nice to do, if we had the time. Knowing the nuts and bolts of church life helps us live together in harmony – and that’s something JESUS prays for, for US!

Knowing what we’re all working towards together, and what our part is, helps us function effectively. For instance, a primary part of my role as pastor is preparing you for serving God (Ephesians 4:12). When we know more what’s going on around here, you are better prepared to serve God here!

There are times when disunity and strife become embarrassingly obvious in the Church; disagreements arise and people are alienated, sometimes so much so that they leave a church. They get to the point where reconciliation is deemed impossible, or too embarrassing. But before we get there, and to prevent that, know that there is a way to work through problems to agreement, while keeping everyone on board and committed to loving one another. But we can’t do that without knowing these nuts and bolts.

Above all, we have to keep in mind that the Church bride “works” because her Groom gives her strength to be faithful to the vows she makes. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, and “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Ephesians 4:7). We are Christ’s Body, His possession, serving Him and being sustained by Him. All glory to our risen Savior!

Random thoughts - part VII

Here are some responses to an old acquaintance, asking about my views as a Christian and a pastor. Some of it might not make sense, as it's just my side of the conversation...

Secular and religious
I, too, know how I would like things to be, but am aware that it's hard to get there without having buy-in from a vast majority. Steve Forbes took a lot of flak when he ran for president for refusing to commit to changing abortion laws (to outlaw more) when he got into office. His defense was that we need to change the culture before changing the laws, and I agree with him. The public square and the religious life are both outward expressions of the convictions of the heart. In an ideal world there wouldn't be any discontinuity between the two, but in a world where many are conciously rejecting morality, it's hard to do that. The only practical option that's working seems to be the Golden Rule, Natural Law route - defending a moral law on the books like stealing on practical grounds, rather than as being wrong inherently. This is insufficient in my book. There was no legislature in the Old Testament government of Israel, because God had given all the laws already. Romans 13:1-7 refers to the government as "God's minister to you for good." Their job is to enforce moral law: "If you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil." Again, this makes sense when it's murder or stealing or perjury/slander. But what about Sabbath, profanity, worshiping only Yahweh, adultery, coveting - the rest of the 10 commandments? And in Jamestown, Virginia recently, touring the settlement of 1607, the guide said that if you skipped church the government flogged you, so we can't say that America is all about the separation of church and state in an absolute way. But each of these does have their spheres of influence. The church shouldn't be telling the government what to do; the government shouldn't be interfering with its citizens' expressions of their faith.

Random thoughts - part VI

Here are some responses to an old acquaintance, asking about my views as a Christian and a pastor. Some of it might not make sense, as it's just my side of the conversation...

Compassion, judgment
It's difficult to contrast compassion and judgment when it comes to Jesus, because these are two of His most prevalent teachings in the Gospels! People like to ignore the judgment parts, and Jesus certainly had compassion on the crowds and healed many. But a quick reading of Mark 9 or Matthew 23 will show that Jesus had the most to say about hell of anyone in the New Testament, and that He was hardest on those who thought they had it all together and thought they were OK in God's sight because of how good they were.

Jesus: "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched - where 'Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched' (Isaiah 66:24)" (Mark 9:43-44). He repeats this 2 more times in the next 4 verses, the modern equivalent of bolding, underlining, and making the font size bigger, to emphasize it.

Random thoughts - part V

Here are some responses to an old acquaintance, asking about my views as a Christian and a pastor. Some of it might not make sense, as it's just my side of the conversation...

Pastoring the Homosexual issue
I believe homosexuals are created and loved by God, with equal dignity as any other person. As a pastor of a person struggling with same-sex desires and wondering about it, I would point out the Scripture that regards this as sin, remind them that I, too, struggle with sexual temptation and must resist it, and ask them to pray to God about what's going on in their desires. I believe God can give them the strength, self-restraint and grace for them to either come to desire a spouse of the other sex, or remain single and chaste for the rest of their lives.

The government should not give homosexuals any less or any more rights than any other people, as individuals. However, the church and the state both have a responsibility to define what marriage is, which is the couple's identity, so the state HAS to take a position, even if it ends up moving away from the church's position. Notice that there is no neutral ground morally for the state. There is no way to not offend someone. As with prayer in school, laws against abortion, nativity scenes on public property, etc., if such things are upheld people against religion will be opposed, and if such things are taken away, religious people will be opposed. It doesn't work logically to say that we can't have ANY religious expression in public, because that itself is a religion (secular humanism), besides being against the first amendment. I'm getting off field here; coming back... The government will either support and endorse what Scripture says on this issue, or it will support the humanist idea that we can make what we want to make of life, since there is no rulebook. Giving the same rights to same sex couples, even if calling it a different name besides marriage, endorses the latter view, against Scripture. Ministers of the state that do that will be held accountable to God for it, in the end.

I would not say that simply holding to a mistaken view (according to God) on one issue like this would make you deserving of death. What makes us deserve death is our running from God, rejecting the Savior He provided for us. I think there are many with a weak faith in the church, who place more weight on what the world says and so go along with same sex marriage, who may be saved in the end. It is very dangerously sectarian to say that if you don't agree with me about any certain issue, then you're going to hell. Hell is for those who refuse to come to Jesus Christ, lay their sins before Him, confess them, and ask Him to cover them in God's sight.

Random thoughts - part IV

Here are some responses to an old acquaintance, asking about my views as a Christian and a pastor. Some of it might not make sense, as it's just my side of the conversation...

I read the Bible as a literal document. That is to say, as any literary work, it's important to take author, intent, context, genre, etc. into account when reading it. That is NOT to say that when Revelation talks about large grasshoppers coming (Rev 9:1-11) at the end times, that I think there will be physical grasshoppers. The genre of Revelation prevents me from reading it literalistically, as many fundamentalists do. But something will happen, of which the grasshoppers are a symbol. Because of this framework, I do end up reading the Bible as a guide for my life, because its expressed authorship and intent (above in 2 Timothy 3:16) is God telling us what we need to know to know and serve Him. God's dealings with His people in the Old Testament apply to me in many ways, though ritual laws and details do not, having been fulfilled by Jesus. The New Testament was written to the Church to tell the story of Jesus' life and death, and explain what it means for us. This applies very directly.

Random thoughts - part III

Here are some responses to an old acquaintance, asking about my views as a Christian and a pastor. Some of it might not make sense, as it's just my side of the conversation


My perspective would be - of stories that don't fit the Bible's theological or moral grid - not that we may not read it at all, but just that we shouldn't take any guidance from it. It's not that we can't read it. I would then use an evangelistic grid to filter whether I should read it: is this going to be a wise use of my time in better understanding other faiths, to talk with them more knowledgeably? This is something Christians are often guilty of - maybe any social group. Just doing your own things and seldom hearing the other voices. Fosters misunderstanding, lack of trust, wrong perceptions, etc. If I were heading to be a missionary in Iran, I would spend a lot more time reading the Koran than I do now...

Random thoughts - part II

Here are some responses to an old acquaintance, asking about my views as a Christian and a pastor. Some of it might not make sense, as it's just my side of the conversation...

I would agree that postmodernism basically says: "The world doesn't make much sense." Or, "We don't have many answers to our problems." It's part of my understanding as a Christian that this is only natural. The world won't make sense, unless people take their Creator into account. We have tried to build so much in the past 200 years or so, in the name of humanity. Thomas Paine's Rights of Man comes to mind. The French Revolution, Marxist/Socialist Revolutions all over the world, especially Stalin and Pol Pot. So I would dispute slightly the inference that violence is largely due to conflicting religious convictions, unless we include secular humanism as a religion (which I think we should! It takes just as much faith to believe there is no God as to believe there is.). Middle East situations are the result of sin, of people failing to live up to their religious beliefs, not of living them out as they are meant. Jesus taught us to "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you." This was sinfully distorted in history by the Crusades, for example. So yes, there is disillusionment with truth claims, but only because some of them haven't really been tried yet.

My interest in postmodernism is how some of it fits with Christianity and some of it doesn't. It makes sense that the world won't make sense, not taking God into account. But it doesn't fit, in other ways: God has given us the meta-narrative in Scripture - a sure hope, contrary to the post-mod's skepticism. "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19). Or 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, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Random thoughts - part I

Here are some responses to an old acquaintance, asking about my views as a Christian and a pastor. Some of it might not make sense, as it's just my side of the conversation...

Teaching, changing assumptions, sociology
Yes, I find people very upset when you challenge the idea that if they dream it they can do it. I take it as an inherent self-ishness built into us. "Who are you to tell me I can't..." When in reality we are very much creatures of habit and routine, and when we lose too much certainty in life, we basically go crazy. I relate that to being creatures of God. He has made us with limits, though very capable of growth, too. But we are generally quite frail. Look at the increased suicides in New Orleans, as an example. We don't realize how much of God's sustaining power and grace it takes just to keep us sane and stable, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and relationally.


Winter "Wonder"-land

There's a saying us Michigan folk have regarding the weather: "If you don't like the weather now, wait 24 hours - it will be completely different!"

The past 24 hrs have been no exception. We awoke yesterday to freshly fallen snow, by the afternoon thunderstorms moved in, complete with rain showers and 1/2" hail, which gave way to sleet. Today offered sunshine and blue skies, with strong bitter north winds this evening. Tomorrow promises temps near zero and windchills down to -20 degrees.

Anyone want to come visit us?? Bring your sense of humor!


Bad Calvinist humor


AIDS and sex

Ever heard from some celebrity that sex has nothing to do with AIDS, that AIDS is everyone's problem because anyone can get it? Try telling it to a Red Cross worker.

We're having a blood drive at our church today. Here's a quote from their required reading before you donate:

"You are at risk for getting infected [with AIDS] if you
1- have ever used needles to take drugs, steroids, or anything not prescribed by your doctor
2- are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977
3- have ever taken money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977
4- have had sexual contact in the past 12 months with anyone described above
5- received clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia
6- were born in, or lived in, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger, or Nigeria, since 1977
7- since 1977, received a blood transfusion or medical treatment with a blood product in any of these countries, or
8- had sex with anyone who, since 1977, was born in or lived in any of these countries."

Now, counting #6-8 are there because AIDS is so prevalent there. But why is it prevalent there? Because of #1-4 (I doubt they have medicine as advanced as clotting factor concentrates in most parts of these countries.

So, 4 of the 5 possibilities for getting AIDS are due to an immoral lifestyle.

Postscript: their definition of "sexual activity" includes the phrase, "whether or not a condom or other protection was used." Oh, so condoms aren't the answer anymore?

If the Red Cross won't take such risks with other people's blood, shouldn't people know the risks to themselves for certain practices, instead of touting "safe sex with the partner of your choice"?

It really is simple...

Found this on line a while back, and thought I'd pass it on.

Our task is to communicate to the homosexual that they are loved, but that what they are doing is wrong. That they are accepted as people, but their behavior is not acceptable at all. We should want and work for their salvation, but show them that this is something they must forsake if they want to know God.

I really don't like getting into the science of the whole thing, because at the end of the day that is irrelevant. I am genetically geared to desire women, but looking at one to lust after her is a sin. Homosexuals are genetically geared to desire one of their sex, then even looking at one to lust after her/him is a sin. Yes, this means homosexuals have a heavier burden - they cannot fulfill their desires in a marriage relationship. Other people face different above-average burdens in life, some of which are inherently sinful, some of which are not - mentally handicapped children, weakness for heterosexual lust, disease ridden bodies, not getting married when you really want to, living in a city that gets hit by storms over and over - the list is long, and homosexuals are not alone in having an extra-heavy cross to bear. We are called to compassion as we teach this to them, but not to excusing sin because we feel sorry for them.


Rolling, rolling, rolling

My like-minded friend is on an RCA roll...

Good resource

I'm using S.G. De Graaf's "Promise and Deliverance" 4 vol. commentary set on Scripture as I preach on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - VERY GOOD STUFF. Written first in Dutch, it emphasizes God's activity more than man's response, covenant, and telling the story of the Bible. An early 20th century writer, he was a student of an associate of Abraham Kuyper.

Hard to find and pricey, but very profitable to the OT preacher!
Check out the used book sites and it's there

Cool commercial

Got it from World Magazine's blog, which sees some good theology in it. It seems to be an insurance commercial: how's your eternal life portfolio doing?

(You won't get me if you follow up on these link contacts. I'm not personally connected with them - just happened across them recently.)

Informal poll

So, everybody weigh in... were the guards at Jesus' tomb Jewish or Roman?
I make the case here that they're Jewish, but I'm open to correction...


Looking for Holiness or Sin?

Interesting discussion over here on responding to sin in the church.
Homosexuality is the unspoken elephant lurking in the back of the room, but the discussion applies to many issues, I'd say.

Where's the Church?

Or, "Let's stop dissing the visible Church"

OK, so this seldom works, to take a great, but rather long post, and try to pull out the salient points and make a coherent quote, so just go read the whole thing if you have time. It's great - on Hebrews 6. (Another possible title: "How does a Calvinist deal with the Bible saying, 'If you fall away from grace you can't come back'"?)

"this passage does not teach that one of the decreed elect can fall from their election.

"While the distinction between the visible and invisible church communicates an important truth (one which I affirm), it can lead to misunderstandings and problems if it is affirmed as the only category for understanding the Church. For example, given these "two" churches, which is the real one? Because evangelicals have answered (naturally) that the invisible church is the real one, this has led to the assumption that the visible church is, in some sense, unreal. This has led, in turn, to a disparagement of the visible church. Since the roster of names for the invisible church (the elect) differs from the roster of names for the visible church (all the church directories in the history of the world), then we would obviously give preference to the list that names of the elect, in distinction from the list that includes Bishop Spong,... and the BTK killer.

"when someone is guilty of apostasy, they are falling away from the true Church of Christ, of which he was genuinely a member. He was a genuine member, but not a permanent member.... Always remember that apostasy is a real sin committed by real people who fall away from a real, visible Church. The Church they fall away from is the body of Christ, not an earthly attempt to approximate the body of Christ. The churches we worship in on the Lord's Day are the body of Christ.

"Either we hold to the eternal security and perseverance passages, and twist the covenant warning passages (as many Calvinists do), or we hold to the covenant warning passages, and twist the eternal security passages (as the Arminians do). But all the Bible belongs to all Christians. If we come to understand the doctrines of God's sovereignty over salvation, and the reality of Christ's covenant with the Church, we can take all the Scriptures on these subjects at face value.

"The modern baptistic mentality which tries to identify the New Covenant as the elect only does not know what to do with these warning passages, except turn them upside down."

- Douglas Wilson

Joseph, Judah and Jesus

(Commentary on Genesis 44:18-34)

Does it mean anything that the last act of Joseph's brothers before he reveals himself to them, is Judah interceding for his brother?

More often than not, to ask the "Is this significant?" question of Scripture is to answer it, "Yes."

After all, it's Judah's Offspring who intercedes for His brothers and gets us off the hook with the Lord. Joseph I think meant to be gracious all along, but he certainly had a way of convicting his brothers of their sin against him. Perhaps the same could be said of God concerning us...

Now read this passage from Hebrews, thinking of Jesus, compared with Judah, interceding for his brother's life.

Hebrews 2:11-18
He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:

“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
[Psalm 22:22]

And again:
“I will put My trust in Him.” [Isaiah 8:17; Psalm 18:2; 2 Sam 22:3]

And again:
“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.” [Isaiah 8:18]

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.


Triple Axle with a Half Twist

I just completed the knitting equivalent to a triple axle with a half twist - knitting a short-row heel on a sock while using the Magic Loop method. For you non-knitters, I know this sounds like Greek, but I'm very proud of myself for figuring this out. I even nailed the landing! While there are more difficult knitting maneuvers, for a novice like myself this was a challenge. These Falling Leaves socks have really stretched my horizons:

  • figure 8 cast on (no grafting of the toe!)
  • lace patterned socks
  • short row heels
  • my first toe-up pair
  • knitting on 2.25mm needles (never again- ugh!)

Now maybe my next challenge will be to take up ice skating... probably not while pregnant, though.



Save the Chickens

Just when you thought the chicken insanity was over, the WorldMag Blog posted this today:

"After she found her brother's exotic chicken, Boo Boo, floating face down in the family's pond, Marian Morris decided to administer "mouth-to-beak" resuscitation on the bird. The retired nurse hadn't practiced CPR in years, but was curious to see if she "still had it.” “I breathed into its beak, and its dad-gum eyes popped open," Morris said. "I breathed into its beak again, and its eyes popped open again. I said, 'I think this chicken's alive now. Keep it warm.'"

Giving philosophy the raspberry

For my philosophy friends:

This is Doug Wilson reviewing Stanley Grenz' book-length review of post-modernism: "A Primer On Postmodernism." Grenz is considered a mainstream evangelical scholar.

"[Rene Descartes - basically the founder of modern philosophy in the 1600s] begins with radical doubt, and discovers that he cannot effectively doubt that he is doubting, and so he must be there to be doubting in the first place, and that he ought to have said, "Dubito ergo sum." This was bad whiskey for a number of reasons, but the first effect of it was that it placed the individual at the conceptual starting point. No longer was the life of the mind to begin in Christ. But Scripture says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. It does not say that the fear of the Lord can be safely set aside in order to conduct our philosophical investigations."

"'To this end, [Immanuel Kant - major philosopher of the late 1700s] proposed a bold hypothesis: the mind is active in the knowing process' (p. 76). Okay, I'll bite. How active? 'He maintained that space and time are not properties that inhere in things but are rather parts of the ordering that the mind imposes on the world it encounters' (p. 76). Whoa. Pretty active. And here, in the confines of my mind (the brain of which weighs a few pounds), I summon up my god-like powers, and bestow on the universe the much needed categories of space and time. Before breakfast."

Maybe these guys have been taken seriously for centuries for other ideas, because these are patently ridiculous to any thinking Christian who believes the Bible, aren't they?


No Roman guards at the Tomb

Everybody throw out your Sunday School papers with the pictures of Roman guards sleeping at the Tomb. They were Jewish guards, not Roman.

Says who? Says Matt 27:57-66; 28:11-15 - the only Gospel accounts of the Burial and Resurrection mentioning the guard detail.

1. Matt 27:60 - a Jew buries Jesus and rolls the stone in front: Joseph of Arimathea, probably with another Jew, Nicodemus. No Romans present. They didn't even know, except for Pilate.

2. Matt 27:64-66 - the Jews ask Pilate to make the tomb secure. Pilate says, "You have a guard." This was an indicative statement, not an imperative. "You've already got a police department. [Which the priests did.] Go ahead and do it." So THEY go and secure it. It may have been a Roman seal on the Tomb. Not important to my point. The Jewish police were given the authority to put it on.

3. Matt 28:11 - after the Breakout, the guards report to the chief priests. Roman guards would not do this; they would go to Pilate.

4. Matt 28:15 - the conspiracy of the lie is a Jewish one, reported among the JEWS. The only Roman involvement was the seal, which God's power broke, too.

Not a major point of doctrine, and not meant anti-Semitically, of course.

OT in Christ's Passion, part 2

"Let this cup pass from Me" - Matt 26:39.
"If this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it..." - Matt 26:42

This passage is greatly enhanced by reading Isaiah 51:17-22, below.

Notice vss 17 and 22 both refer to drinking the cup, and it is the cup of God's wrath in punishment on Israel. But in vs 17 they have drunk and drained it. In vs 22, God takes the cup away, so they don't have to drink it. So Jesus prays for the 2nd option. But that option is only available to Israel as Jesus drinks/takes God's fury at Gethsemane/Golgotha.

And in between Isa 51:17 and 22, a description of Jerusalem in 70AD, when God makes Israel drink His fury for failing to believe in the One who drinks the cup. Verse 18 describes Israel without a Savior - what would have happened if He hadn't drunk the cup of God's wrath on the Cross.

"Awake, awake!
Stand up, O Jerusalem,
You who have drunk at the hand of the Lord
The cup of His fury;
You have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling,
And drained it out.
18 There is no one to guide her
Among all the sons she has brought forth;
Nor is there any who takes her by the hand
Among all the sons she has brought up.
19 These two things have come to you;
Who will be sorry for you?—
Desolation and destruction, famine and sword—
By whom will I comfort you?
20 Your sons have fainted,
They lie at the head of all the streets,
Like an antelope in a net;
They are full of the fury of the Lord,
The rebuke of your God.

21 Therefore please hear this, you afflicted,
And drunk but not with wine.
22 Thus says your Lord,
The Lord and your God,
Who pleads the cause of His people:
“See, I have taken out of your hand
The cup of trembling,
The dregs of the cup of My fury;
You shall no longer drink it."

OT in Christ's Passion

"For you have the poor with you always" - Mathew 26:11.

Jesus says this, justifying the extravagant and expensive anointing of his feet against the opportunity to use this money for the poor. I always thought He was pooh-poohing the poor here, until I realized Jesus was referencing Deut 15:11 (emphasis mine):

"For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’"

So the point is to be generous to the one who is with you - who is near you - your neighbor. To Jesus, if He is with you. To the poor, if they are with you. And by the way, the poor are always with you, so ALWAYS be generous to them...


Always wanted to be...

OK, so I'm easing back from vacation...

You are Gandalf! This wise, old mage is loyal and brave.
He is known for his counsel and advice to his friends
and allies during tough times. "All you have to do is
decide what to do with the time that is given to you."



















Which LOTR character are you?
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Steve's view of end times

You scored as Amillenialist.
Amillenialism believes that the 1000 year reign is not literal but figurative, and that Christ began to reign at his ascension. People take some prophetic scripture far too literally in your view.





Moltmannian Eschatology






Left Behind




What's your eschatology?
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"Mommie of the Mixing Bowl" - Book Review by Sara

Just finished this biography of Doris Coffin Aldrich. I picked this one up knowing nothing about it or who she was, but was encouraged by the life of this wife and mother. Mrs. Aldrich lived the during the first half of the 1900's in NW United States. As a yound adult and into her twenties, she earnestly sought the Lord and his will for her life. She wholeheartedly served him by reaching out to others through a bible camp which held tent meetings and by furthering her own studies of his Word, even when she didn't really know where He would lead her. Throughout this first half of her life she desired to get married and be a mother, but the Lord didn't plan that for her until she was around 30 years old.

She then married a pastor who became the head of Multnomah Bible school. Her focus shifted from showing the Gospel to others to ministering to her own family. And what a family they had! They had four children in the first four or five years of their marriage, keeping her very busy. I readily identified with this as we will have four in under 5 years this summer! Their children totalled 9, and through all the busyness of childrearing, Mrs. Aldrich found time to write for a regular article entitled "Out of the Mixing Bowl." These were often examples from her own home and children's lives which reminded her of a spiritual truth. Many many women were positively influenced through this and her speaking, which she did the last few years of her life before being tragically killed in a car accident.

Doris Aldrich will never be a very well-known person, nor will this book grace the shelves of most libraries. But it is a very encouraging read for mothers who tend to get bogged down in the day-to-day living of keeping a home and raising children. And for that, I recommend it wholeheartedly to all in that situation or to young women who aspire to be wives and mothers who serve the Lord. It's an honest, touching story that will inspire and encourage its readers.

Chickens and Hokies

For those of you who were utterly confused by the Egg Head post, I'm not a psycho-chicken-obsessed person. Well, most days. Lately I have been only because I'm in the middle of designing the mascot logo for a local high school whose teams are known as the "Chix." Thus the chicken on the brain. I will post the final logo when it is finished and selected by the school. Sorry to keep you waiting!

While on vacation, I discovered that there are stranger mascots than chickens out there - Virginia Tech sports a large turkey. Apparently it is NOT a turkey but a Hokie.... 'nuf said. Still a bird that appears on the dinner table!

We made a few other interesting discoveries while on our trip, the most surprising of which was upon returning to our home. One half of this couple (you guess which) didn't turn the heat down while we were away but instead turned it OFF. So if you think you have a cold back room to sleep in, that's nothing compared to the 45 degree home we slept in last night!!!


Yes, we're back in action, doing post-vacation laundry, gearing up for taxes, finding the groove again. We had a great time with some friends while we were away.

One update for those of you interested in the classis meeting I bloggged about earlier - it's been postponed until late March.

Cleaning out my inbox...

Posted this to our "RCA members for conservative evangelicalism" email list:

Due to regional segregation of our denomination, I'm getting the sense that we have little idea how far from Biblical moorings some have gone, while still trying to couch it all in Scripture so as to stay in the RCA. I have little exposure to anything but SW Michigan RCA. But one pastor who has served on the east coast tells me this issue is a drop in the bucket regarding what's going on. He's confused why we're getting upset over a relatively minor issue (homosexuality), compared to other theological drift issues in the RCA.

We're behind the curve, thinking the ice cream has just been taken out of the freezer: "Somebody put it back in before it melts!" But in reality it's been sitting there for hours. It hasn't gone bad yet, but it's more than a little soft - it's liquid. It's still salvageable, but every decision we take to talk about it instead of put it back in the freezer makes it harder for us next time to actually put it back before it turns, even if our hands get sticky, some of it spills on the floor and is lost.

As for Room For All itself, like everybody else, they think they have the truth, and want the RCA to go their way. We shouldn't be surprised or appalled by this - it's natural.

I would point out that there is NOT room for all in the church on earth. Scripture is very clear on this. Jesus' parable of the man without wedding clothes, the unprepared bridesmaids, Isaiah 66. There wasn't room for the one who won't take up his cross and deny himself, for the one who had to bury his father first. Few find the narrow gate. Heb 10:19-31; 1 Cor 5 - this goes on and on. There is room for any who will agree with God about what sin is and repent of it. But not for the unrepentant, arguing with Scripture and making excuses for their sin. They disqualify themselves.

I would encourage *someone* here to organize a similar group. Our problem as conservatives seems to be in part one of organization and preparedness to have a clear and complete answer for the RCA. I think the majority of us have it individually, but we need leaders to count and speak for the rest of us, especially to the undecideds who can be swayed at synods. Who among us knows General Synod procedure and the people involved well enough to do this? Or is this using sub-Scriptural tactics to get the truth to win the day? Fighting fire with fire is ok, as long as the fire is Christ-like...