Phantom - Her Thoughts

Mulling over this book the past week I had a few thoughts to add to Steve's:

Transitions - the less information the characters (and reader) have about the Opera Ghost leads them to assume some supernatural force is at work. General opera staff assumes it's an evil spiritual being (save the new managers), but Christine believes it to be inherently good at first; her Angel of Music. As the story progresses and the true nature of O.G. is revealed, several characters (Christine, Raoul) and the reader come to understand him as he truly is: wretched and pityable, but very corporeal. This is when he becomes the most dangerous - when fully known as real.

Other seemingly evil spirits are similarily transformed: the demons by the furnaces, the door-shutters, and the rat-catcher. I won't give away the details!

This general spiritual-to-corporeal transition is the opposite of how our culture typically responds to unexplicable events. I was reminded of all the attempts to "explain" various miracles of Jesus, the parting of the Red Sea, the great Flood, etc. And yet our sophisticated scientific culture clings to local town ghost stories! (Boston, Charleston, etc)

As any good author, not all loose ends are neatly tied by the end of the book. There's the shade in the felt hat, the siren in the lake, the phantom's lady who requires a footstool... we are led to understand that the great Opera House, with it's complex structure and inner workings, definitely has a spiritual presence in it. Like our own world.

There's a lot more to think about in "Phantom"; the book was so well written I'm hesitant to see Lloyd Webber's production, esp. after let-downs like Lord of the Rings, Jurrasic Park, and Narnia. I'm afraid Webber's production will be reduced to one great chandelier-crashing moment. Anyone read the book and seen the musical? Comments?


History is closer than you think

On the way home from a meeting preparing to officiate a funeral for a man born in 1910, I learned about Joseph Joachim, the famed violinist who played with and learned from Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, etc. Joachim died in 1920.


The Phantom's Mask

None will ever be a true Parisian who has not learned to wear a mask of gaiety over his sorrow, and one of sadness, boredom or indifference over his inward joy.... our lives are one masked ball" (35).

"I shall snatch off [the phantom's] mask, as I shall snatch off my own; and, this time, we shall look each other in the face, he and I, with no veil and no lies between us; and I shall know whom you love and who loves you!" (124).

"Are people so unhappy when they love?" "Yes, Christine, when they love and are not sure of being loved" (178).

"I [the phantom] tore off my mask... and [Christine] did not run away!... And she did not die!... She remained alive, weeping over me, with me. We cried together. I have tasted all the happiness the world can offer!" (335)

"He [the phantom] had to hide his genius... when, with an ordinary face, he would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind!" (348)

So you can pick up on the mask theme from these quotes. Society makes you put on a show, and not reveal your whole self. If we do, we're sure to be rejected and others repulsed by the walking death that is our lives. And yet, we NEED to reveal ourselves to others. It's how God made us. When Christine takes the phantom's mask off the first time, she practically faints and tries to leave, he's so ugly. But the second time (pg 335, above), she stays and loves him. Others might actually accept us if we let our defenses down and be ourselves. Love changes everything.

The other interesting theme is death and life. At first, the phantom appears to be a shade/zombie. He even tells Christine that he is a walking corpse. But as the book progresses we see more human traits, until, when Christine offers her love, he is fully human, and able to love and give in return. Love really does change everything.

"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25)

Sara is almost done reading, too. She'll have some good insights, too, I'd say. Stay tuned.


Praise Her in the Gates

Here is some of my gorgeous wife's beautiful artwork.
She did these back in her college days, a "Women of the Bible" series for a class project.
Okay, so I'm biased, but don't these take you into Scripture in a uniquely edifiying and imaginative way? Not that I'm fishing for compliments or anything...

Four Part Fugue

While riding home in the van this afternoon we had a cassette of old hymns playing, one child singing along, one child singing a completely different song, one child talking at warp speed about an unknown subject, and another child crying for his feeding. Steve and I actually laughed at all this! What a joy to have a van full of such unique (and noisy) individuals.

Steve's remark was that our family is like one of Bach's fugues: Several complex layers of individual melodies overlapping and playing at the same time. But instead of jumbled chaos, they work together with a synergy that produces a more beautiful song than the separate pieces.



"Your [thinking] ought not to be: 'This is America. I get to do what I want. And you can't find a Bible verse to make me stop.' That's not Christian worldview thinking. You need to think and weigh why you do what you do in everything." - Doug Wilson

Military info

Check out the military history podcast way down on the sidebar. You have to listen to get all the info - about 11 minutes, I think. The latest on Clinton's Haiti action, was actually very informative on military forces in general, and special forces in particular. Great stuff for this mostly-military illiterate guy.

He notes that there are currently over 1 million soldiers actively stationed in the United States. Seems like a few more than our founding fathers would have countenanced, wouldn't you say? Or am I missing something?

RCA homosexuality dialogue - my 2 cents

Here's a post of mine to an RCA email list.

I'm responding to this - it will be helpful to read it first.

Having spoken briefly with Dr. Stapert at GS, I appreciate his clarity in presenting and mediating this dialogue. He does a good job reminding us that this is OUR problem, not something he's going to solve for us.

However, I believe it is misleading for Dr. Stapert to say the dialogue has 86%endorsement from GS. There was a significant minority (something like 35-45%) that voted to end the dialogue, and then a GS majority voted against its own theology committee's recommendation to keep the process as it is - to not set boundaries on the discussion. But then, with nothing on the floor, GS then voted not to set boundaries to the discussion. So we were schizophrenic, not to mention unfaithful to Scripture. God's word does not allow dialogue within the church over a clear sin (1 Cor 5:1-2, 12-13; Rev 2:20), and the context and players in this dialogue reveal that we ARE questioning, or reconsidering, the sinfulness of homosexual practice, even if liberals and moderates protest that we are not doing so.

While the stated purpose of dialogue is rather benign, it obfuscates the division in the body over how to read Scripture and reduces the whole thing to a let's-all-understand-each-other thing, when there are serious theological divides.

The phrase "miserable 30-year history": who is responsible for causing anxious conflicts and relationships in the last 30 years over this issue? How does the verse go: "warn a contentious brother once or twice - then have nothing to do with him..." (Titus 3:10). It does not say to make sure you have a healthy dialogue process. We are letting the world's standard of being nice trump the Bible's standard of righteousness and purity in the church.

It's interesting to me that we have a psychologist facilitating this dialogue, instead of a theologian. Lowering anxiety seems to be the main theme of the dialogue. As if after the Kansfield trial, the RCA leadership has to say to everybody, "All right, now settle down!" There appears to be a very patronizing assumption currently held among RCA leadership, that everybody's emotions are running too high right now for any reasonable discourse to take place.

I'm not "afraid of dialogue," as some argue. It does not follow logically that if you are against something you must be afraid of it. As a result of this dialogue, I see more liberal slide occuring among conservatives and moderates, and not as much winning of moderates to the Biblical view. The moderates already HAVE a Biblical view of the issue, for the most part, but they aren't willing to discipline those opposing Scripture. A dialogue process isn't likely to get them to see the need for that discipline.

Finally, please try not to get used to (i.e., lower your anxiety over) something that isn't right, just because it is going to happen anyway.

Following Messiah Jesus,
Pastor Steve Hemmeke


Field Trip!

A call for help went out among the Hemmeke brothers to get the straw baled on the farm a few weeks ago. Steve tossed a few bales into the mow (ok, an elevator helped a lot), and the kids and I cheered the workers on.

Owen helped Steve and Grandma stack straw bales, but it was short lived as the baler broke down. You have to understand, that's like predicting snow in January. Steve's brother Ken tried all his mechanical wizardry to make it work again, but to no avail.

Grace pretended to direct the crew on Aunt Emily's cell phone. Or was she ordering pizza?

Isaiah was happy to just revel in all the John Deere glory around him. And he got a candy bar to boot when we visited some relatives who live across the field. You can pick just about any field in the area and we have relatives living by it!

Here's another of Steve's brothers - Cal - with Owen on the tractor "bringing in the sheaves."

And the parting shot of the 5.9 of us - no matter how many bales I tossed, that baby wasn't coming out!!

And what's WORSHIP about?

Al Mohler quotes A.W. Tozer:

"It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend the meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God's professed children are bored with Him for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments."

Al Mohler continues: "The striped candy technique has so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted.... Any objection... is met with the triumphant reply, 'But we are winning them.' And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world's treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total commitment to Christ?"

So what WAS it about?

George Grant relays these words spoken by Ulysses S. Grant, the last Northern General of the Civil War, and a slave-owner until it was illegal:
"If the war had been about slavery,' he [Ulysses] 'would have fought for the South."

George Grant continues:
"Ironically, his greatest on-the-field adversary, Robert E. Lee had stated exactly the opposite sentiment."

In other words, Lee would have said yes when the North asked him to lead them, if Lee thought the war was about slavery.


A fourth blessing

Zachariah Amadeus Hemmeke was born to Sara and me at 4:02pm, Monday July 17.
8 lbs, 3 oz., 20 inches long, he'll be an equal match for Grace (4), Owen (3), and Isaiah (2) in a few years!

Zachariah is Hebrew, meaning "God remembers."
Amadeus is Latin, meaning "lover of God."


Valued heritage or crusty tradition?

Jeff Meyers is an interesting mix of old and new. While in the conservative Reformed tradition (PCA), he is quite critical of it at certain points. He’s getting in trouble for saying this:

“The sixteenth- and seventeenth-century confessions and catechisms are no longer sufficient guides for the modern church.”

But then, he clarifies that his concern is one of engaging present culture, not revising those confessions’ interpretation of Scripture.

“I fear that many Reformed men escape into the past…. We love the Puritans more than we love our own generation, and it often seems more than we love digging into the Bible for fresh, relevant answers to modern problems…. If we want to be an enclave of ecclesiastical romantics living in the 17th century, a tribe of irrelevant theologues, then by all means let’s continue to multiply conferences and books on the glory of Westminster. Let’s continue to demand subscription to every jot and tittle of our precious unreformable tradition. Let’s attack anyone who suggests updates and changes. If, however, we desire to minister to people in our world, we need to stand on the shoulders of our glorious forefathers in the faith and do what they did—preach, write, and formulate answers from the Bible for the people of our generation!"


More right Wright

"For [Paul], being 'in Christ'... means 'belonging to the people of God as redefined around the Messiah.'... a specifically covenantal way of speaking" (pg 152).

"The Gospel reveals... God's covenant faithfulness" (153).

"The Gospel is not... a set of techniques for making people Christians.... The Gospel is the announcement that Jesus is Lord - Lord of the world, Lord of the cosmos, Lord of the earth, of the ozone layer, of whales and waterfalls, of trees and tortoises.... we cannot make that announcement without seeking to bring that Lordship to bear over every aspect of the world.... there is no area of existence or life... that is exempt from the summons to allegiance. Perhaps one reason why some have shied away from seeing Jesus' Messiahship as a central part of Paul's Gospel has been the tacit recognition that it is much easier to turn Christianity into... a private system of piety which doesn't impinge on the public world." (153-4).

"This is not a matter... of 'bringing politics into religion.' It is bringing the whole world under the Lordship of Christ" (155).

"[The Gospel] is not a take-it-or-leave-it thing. No herald in the ancient world would say, 'Tiberius Caesar has become Emperor: accept him if it suits you.' The Gospel is, then, the announcement about Jesus, not in itself the offer of a new experience. Whatever new experiences result from giving one's allegiance to Jesus are just that, a bunch of new experiences" (157).

It seems Wright's main concern is avoiding the relegating of spirituality to a ghetto irrelevant to public life, which happens a lot in the evangelical world. He isn't saying the offer of the Gospel, or the resulting experiences are unimportant; he just wants to accent the public announcement of Jesus being Lord.

This was interesting to read right after finishing Lord of the Rings, where the hobbits scour the Shire by announcing the downfall of Sauron and Saruman. That announcement had lots of effect on how the shire turned out. Frodo and Sam didn't just go to church more often.

Wright's concern is the public impact of the Gospel, I think.

Baby Blitz

What does a 8.75 month pregnant woman do on the hottest weekend of the year (95 degrees)? She spends hours sitting under a quilt!! I started sewing a baby quilt for Hemmeke #4 on Thursday and plan to finish it tonight. Crazy, eh? Wait... it gets better.

I also finished my Hot Lava Cardigan which is made of bulky weight 100% baby alpaca wool. So when I haven't been under a quilt, a nice warm wool sweater has been in my lap. I'm not sure if the sweater fits me or not - I had to guess at what size I'll be, pretty sure that I'll be smaller than I am now! The entire thing might get frogged if it's not just right - this yarn is too dreamy to waste on an ill-fitting cardi.

And if that's not enough, yesterday I started knitting a pair of wee little socks for Jr. to wear in the hospital. One down, one to go. Grandma VO doesn't think they're big enough to get on his little piggies, but I remember how scrawny baby ankles are! Babies are cute, but their feet are ugly, so a sweet pair of socks to cover up will get baby going in this world in style. OK, with 90 degree weather, he'll most likely outgrow them before he ever wears them, in which case they get turned into his first Christmas tree ornament.

Pics of all finished objects (FOs) - human and not - to come soon!

Milton Friedman

Got my latest Imprimis today, an interview with the great free-market economist Milton Friedman. Here are excerpts:

"the first step following the 2003 invasion of Iraq should have been the privatization of the oil fields. If the government had given every individual over 21 years of age equal shares in a corporation that had the right and responsibility to make appropriate arrangements with foreign oil companies for the purpose of discovering and developing Iraq's oil reserves, the oil income would have flowed in the form of dividends to the people—the shareholders—rather than into government coffers. This would have provided an income to the whole people of Iraq and thereby prevented the current disputes over oil between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, because oil income would have been distributed on an individual rather than a group basis.

"We have a socialist-communist system of distributing medical care. Instead of letting people hire their own physicians and pay them, no one pays his or her own medical bills. Instead, there's a third party payment system. It is a communist system and it has a communist result. Despite this, we've had numerous miracles in medical science. From the discovery of penicillin, to new surgical techniques, to MRIs and CAT scans, the last 30 or 40 years have been a period of miraculous change in medical science. On the other hand, we've seen costs skyrocket. Nobody is happy: physicians don't like it, patients don't like it. Why? Because none of them are responsible for themselves. You no longer have a situation in which a patient chooses a physician, receives a service, gets charged, and pays for it. There is no direct relation between the patient and the physician. The physician is an employee of an insurance company or an employee of the government. Today, a third party pays the bills. As a result, no one who visits the doctor asks what the charge is going to be—somebody else is going to take care of that. The end result is third party payment and, worst of all, third party treatment.

"The economic situation during the past 20 years has been unprecedented in the history of the world. You will find no other 20-year period in which prices have been as stable—relatively speaking—in which there has been as little variability in price levels, in which inflation has been so well-controlled, and in which output has gone up as regularly. You hear all this talk about economic difficulties, when the fact is we are at the absolute peak of prosperity in the history of the world. Never before have so many people had as much as they do today. I believe a large part of that is to be attributed to better monetary policy. The improved policy is a result of the acceptance of the view that inflation is a monetary phenomenon, not a real phenomenon. We have accepted the view that central banks are primarily responsible for maintaining stable prices and nothing else.

"Unfortunately, it is still the case that if you ask people what caused the Great Depression, nine out of ten will probably tell you it was a failure of business. But it's absolutely clear that the Depression was a failure of government and not a failure of business.

"Before government had any involvement in education, the majority of youngsters were schooled, literate, and able to learn. It is a disgrace that in a country like the United States, 30 percent of youngsters never graduate from high school.

"The 1994 Contract with America called for the elimination of the Department of Education. Since then, the budget for the Department of Education has tripled. This trend must be reversed. Next, education ought to be a parental matter. The responsibility for educating children is with parents. But in order to make it a parental matter, we must have a situation in which parents are Free to Choose the schools their children attend.

"self-interest is what the individual wants. Mother Teresa, to take one example, operated on a completely self-interested basis. Self-interest does not mean narrow self-interest. Self-interest does not mean monetary self-interest. Self-interest means pursuing those things that are valuable to you but which you can also persuade others to value. Such things very often go beyond immediate material interest."

The Limitations of Preaching

"Preaching at its best helps us worship, inspires, informs and motivates us for discipleship. Unfortunately, too many settle for the performace of preaching without engaging the content of preaching. People rate preaching as they would a movie. Even when they appreciate what is said at the time, they quickly forget or ignore what has been preached, with little personal response."

Ron Geschwendt, Sunday School Guide, July 2, 2006


To the 10th Generation

These days I look forward to my issue of Tabletalk for the articles by Warren Gage, of Knox Seminary. His typology in history is always amazing. Gage's article in the July issue has a great insight on division within the family of God.

When Abraham and Lot divided, the Ammonites and Moabites came from Lot. Later, the law excludes them from the assembly for 10 generations (Deuteronomy 23:3). But guess who is the 10th generation from Abraham? A certain man name Boaz. And who did he happen to marry? A Moabite named Ruth. This is a foretaste of the perfect unity God will bring to His family at the end.

Come, Lord Jesus.


Whoa, wait a minute...

You're still at the Hemmeke blog - we somehow lost our template we raided from another site. So I welcome you to the new temporary look you'll find here in the next few days. All the goodies are lost from the sidebar, but we'll work on getting those back up (and trimming them down) for your navigational ease.

We aim to please - any useful ideas to share to make this blog more user-friendly?

Wright, again

Wright's argument is stronger when he comes to Romans. He looks at 3:21-26, 10:2-4, and 1:16-17, and his distinction comes into clearer focus - that is, Wright's distinction between God's own righteousness (His being true to His word and His ruling justly) and the righteousness by which we are cleared of guilt and can come before God. Romans 3:25-26 makes this point very clearly - that Paul is talking about the former, not the latter, righteousness - God's own. Jesus' death on the cross clears a shadow on God's reputation as a just judge. He had left so much sin unpunished, Israel was beginning to wonder. But now it's all clear: ALL have sinned (Israel too) and are made righteous through Jesus' sacrifice.

Wright wants to emphasize God's own righteousness, because he wants to avoid seeing our salvation as a merely forensic and legal transaction. This obscures the love of God, which drove Christ to the cross in the first place. And I agree completely, as long as we don't end up denying that to be spared God's wrath, we must have a righteousness not our own, reckoned (imputed) to our account. But absolutely, love motivates the transaction.

D.M. Lloyd-Jones makes the exact same point in a Banner of Truth booklet, "The Cross: The Vindication of God," more than 40 years ago. There's nothing new here.

So Wright's point is that Paul's phrase "righteousness of God" doesn't refer to our acceptable standing before God, but to God's own righteousness. But when he comes to Romans 1:17, I think I have a problem. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just [righteous] shall live by faith.” Wright makes a strong distinction between God's righteousness and our own. Paul talks most about the former, Wright says. But this strong distinction misses something here in 1:16-17. Vs 16, I agree, Paul is talking about God's own righteousness, but then he elaborates on it by quoting Hab 2:4, which appears to me to refer to the righteousness of God's people, not God's own righteousness. In other words, Paul uses righteousness in two different ways in these two verses, and uses one way to explain what he meant by the other way! That doesn't sound like a very strong distinction to me.

The whole point of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ was to bring holiness back to men, and that only God could do that. We are called to bear God's image, to be like Him. So, remembering obvious Creator-creature distinctions, the righteousness of God should be blurred a bit, as people begin to see Jesus through the mirror of our lives.


The Righteousness of God

Well, here it comes. Wright thinks this phrase, a trademark of Paul, means God's own righteousness, His acting justly, and not a righteousness that He gives to us to make us acceptable before Him. I disagree, not seeing the need for an either/or here. I think Wright is on to something when he brings into our reading of Paul the Jewish understanding of God's covenant faithfulness to Israel. But there is no need to reject the Reformation's hallmark view of justification and imputed righteousness in order to grasp it.

Objections to Wright, affirming imputed righteousness often point to passages like 2 Corinthians 5:21: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Wright answers by maintaining that (a)Paul is referring to the apostles' own ministry of reconciliation - that they are embodying God's righteousness, not to a general imputation principle; and that (b)if it refers to imputation then it doesn't fit with the rest of the chapter. But if Wright is right about (a), then who did God make Jesus sin FOR? Who is the "we" in verse 21? Only Paul or the apostles? And (b) doesn't make sense, because vs 19 refers directly to imputation of sin. The entire substance of the ministry of reconciliation is the imputation of God's righteousness to us, so that we CAN be reconciled!

Wright has yet to deal with Romans; maybe he'll convince me there. And I don't want to underestimate the validity of the "New Perspective" of Paul's Jewish roots and God's faithfulness to Israel, seen in His resurrection of His Messiah, the redeemer of Israel.


Laughing at ourselves

We come from Dutch roots, as do many people in west Michigan (hence town names like Holland, Vriesland, Drenthe, Zeeland). As with every ethnicity, there are quirks that are easily stereotyped. My sister passed this along to me and I had to say "yah" at how true some of these are!


  • You have a two volume address book, Volume I: A-U Volume II: V-Z.
  • You have never skipped church to watch the Super bowl.
  • Your main contribution to gender equality was the switch from King to Wilhelmina brand peppermints.
  • Your church attendance record is not disrupted by childbirth.
  • Your Sunday routine resembles: church, coffee, roast beef, jello salad, snooze, and church.
  • You have a living room but never sit in it.
  • All your cookies taste like almonds.
  • You make the bed in your hotel room.
  • You can sing "eere zij God" even though you can't speak Dutch.
  • Seeing raised hands during worship causes you to look around for a stick up man.
  • You are still trying to justify owning a dishwasher.
  • You have attended worship services at a campground amphitheater.
  • You know what an afghan is.
  • You have lace on your windows but not on your underwear.
  • All of your recipes are adapted to fit a 9 x 13 pan.
  • You can't imagine a funeral reception without ham buns.

Actual church bulletin announcements

Barbara C. remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.

The 'Over 60s Choir' will be disbanded for the summer with the thanks of the entire church.

Missionary from Africa speaking at ... church. Name Bertha Belch. Announcement: "Come tonight to hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa."

Word study: Inheritance

God inherits the nation of Israel
- Isa 19:25; Psalm 94:14; 74:2; 28:9

Jesus inherits ALL the nations - Psalm 2:8; 82:8

Abraham/Israel inherits the land/world
- Gen 15:7; Hebrews 11:8; Romans 4:13; Matthew 5:5; Psalm 37:11

Levites inherit God Himself, instead of land with Israel - Joshua 13:33

Christians inherit:
a - inclusion in the body of Christ,
b - adoption as God's children,
c - salvation
- Ephesians 1:13-14; Colossians 1:12; Hebrews 6:12; 9:15; 1 Peter 1:3-4

Christians inherit a part of the Kingdom of God, as a reward for faithfulness
- Ephesians 5:5; Matthew 19:29; 25:34; Colossians 3:24; Revelation 21:7

Children inherit financially from parents
- Proverbs 13:22; 17:2; 19:14; 2 Corinthians 12:14

NT Wright

So far, this is an excellent book. The subtitle reveals an academic, and less-than-orthodox, audience, but Wright is actually on target on the doctrinal essentials.

His forte is summarizing past Pauline scholarship, clearing away the debris, and looking at what Paul was saying. Paul believed Jesus' death and resurrection and ascension fulfilled God's promises to redeem Israel, which meant it was now time to bring in the Gentiles, which was intended all along (Gen 12:3). So Paul went to the Gentiles with a Jewish message: the God of the Jews made all things and His redemption of the world has now reached you through Jesus, the true Lord (not Caesar) of all lords.

The justification chapters are next. Some of you are worried about those, I know. Going in, I believe the confessional understandings of justification are true to Scripture, but that there may be more that Paul said in the NT regarding this, than what the Westminster divines, e.g., summarized. See Vern Poythress' book, Symphonic Theology, to realize that the melody of confessional justification might be adorned and enhanced, not violated or altered, by various counter-melodies going on in Scripture. I expect to find those counter-melodies in Wright.

The Reformation was all about going ad fontes, back to the sources. Remember that the sources are Scripture, and only secondarily our confessions. We must define our theological terms using Scripture as our primary standard, not confessions or traditional language. Of course, we should also respect the great wisdom found in our forefather betters who wrote those confessions, and not readily accept new teachings opposing them, either.

Joke of the day

Good joke from Terri:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says: "Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: "OK, now what?"

A stroll around the links

George Grant does a concise write-up of John Calvin, with some great quotes.

Tight pants for Christ? An interesting response to my modesty post a bit ago -
should women wear these?

Al Mohler revisits the devastation of liberalism within the church.

My Scribe friend discusses the lukewarm RCA, and an ordained woman who has seen the light.


Count Down Time

20 days and counting until the ETA of Hemmeke baby #4. I'm a smart girl and have figured out that sitting on my laurels watching the clock spin is one of the worst ways to wait for something exciting, so I've been busy the past few weeks. Here's what I've been up to:

Cherries: Don't blink or you'll miss.... oops, too late. Rumors around here say that sweet cherry season lasted for about 2-3 days in W. Michigan! I did not go picking, but a generous church member stopped by and shared what she had picked. I tried my hand at canning ALL BY MYSELF for the first time - and had success! Cherry jam should be tasty, but I'll remember to buy a cherry pitter for next summer! My fingers are still stained black from the juice!

Gardens: the veggies are growing nicely and I've picked a few green peppers already. Basil pesto is in the queue for this weekend. The zucchini blooms are open, so we'll be flooded with the "green plague" in a week or two. The flowers around the house are gorgeous and just blooming: hollyhocks, shasta daisies, globe thistles, daylilies, sedum, purple coneflowers, purple petunias, black eyed susans and more. Have you ever seen the flowers that hens and chicks send up? Strange creations! I love watching things grow.

Tie-dye: yup, I tie-dyed some baby onesies for myself and a friend. I also threw in a maternity shirt for myself. Too much fun!

Knitting: I'm ready to give up on the Jaywalker socks. I'm trying them toe-up, two socks on one circular needle and am running into problems with the heels. I've never done short row heels and can't seem to make them fit over my big feet. They have been ripped out 3 times already! The next go at the heels I'll try a toe-up heel flap version, but if anyone has suggestions, please share! I'm also working on a bolero/cardigan/shrug type of sweater out of chunky pure alpaca. It's like knitting with clouds. Mmmm. My favorite color, too: red. What else can nursing moms knit for themselves besides cardigans?!

Of course the family has been busy, too. We've been running through the sprinklers, tried swimming with the kids once, and will be touring a dairy farm to see the milking process and how cheese and ice cream are made (with samples!). Owen thinks brown cows give pure chocolate, so we have to straighten him out. Isaiah is learning his colors based on tractors: John Deere green, Ford blue, Masey Ferguson red, Allis Chalmers orange, etc. What fun!


Missions to Mexico

Came across a letter from a hometown acquaintance at the RCA website here.
Take a look at what he's up to.


The Sin of Sodom

"It is true that the sin that was being attempted at Lot’s house was the sin of homosexual rape (Gen. 19:5). Lest any sophists snatch at this and say that the problem was the rape, the Bible also says that it is wrong for men to desire men sexually (Rom. 1:27), as well as for women to desire women (Rom. 1:26). The Scriptures say that individuals who live this way will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9)....

"Our cultural degradation is following the pattern described in the Scriptures, and it is following that pattern exactly. We have refused to honor God as God, and refused to give Him thanks. Therefore, the wrath of God is being exhibited against us. The end result of this is necessarily sodomy in the public square."

Douglas Wilson

Actual church bulletin announcements

The church is glad to have with us today as our guest minister the Rev. Green who has Mrs. Green with him. After the service we request that all remain in the sanctuary for the Hanging of the Greens.

Ushers will eat latecomers.

The peace-making meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict.

The sermon this morning: Jesus Walks on the Water. The sermon tonight: Searching for Jesus.



Great book!

McCullough depicts well the national morale from month to month, makes military maneuvers easy to understand for the normal person, and gives us George Washington's strengths and weaknesses as a military commander.

Every historian has to decide what to leave out, and McCullough doesn't deal much with the Continental Congress. His focus is on the army. Like the revolutionary founders, he knows that the Declaration on paper meant nothing if they couldn't back it up with force, so everything rode on the success (mere survival, early on) of the army. The declaration only gets a few pages, but he makes up for it in quality, showing how the declaration boosted the morale of the army at a much needed time.

He includes several instances where Washington or others attribute fortuitous events to Divine Providence - retreating over a river at night but not completing the move by daylight, thus vulnerable to an attack that would have ended the rebellion, a heavy fog descended to give them more time before the British noticed anything.

We also see how much advantage there is in being underestimated by your enemy. The British command was caught off guard and overconfident throughout the year. But the "rabble in arms" turned out to have a spirit that couldn't be crushed, even by tens of thousands of professional soldiers fighting a small band of half that, during 1776.

Actual church bulletin announcements

The Senior Choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

Weight Watchers will meet at 7pm at the 1st Presbyterian Church. Please use the large double door at the side entrance.

The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, "Break forth into Joy."

Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on Oct 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in school days.

Politics in Church

"There is a difference between separating the Church from partisan politics, which must be done, and separating the world of politics and public decisions from morality (revealed by God, and preached by the Church) which cannot be done."

Douglas Wilson


Great article on modesty in dress and manner over here.
It's rather long, so the highlights I enjoyed are below:

"we should prefer having certain things said in church, so long as it is taken from the Bible, than to have other things routinely done in church, things which are plainly condemned by the Word."

"But we have to be careful not to fight.... with traditional values instead of with holy Scripture. And the reason we do not use Scripture is that God’s Word condemns more than just immodesty—it also condemns many of "our little virtues." But pietism always drags impiety after it. In short, we have to fight immodesty in a scriptural way, and not by means of Victorianism."

"fathers and husbands today are simply not jealous enough."

"If in a particular society, wearing red meant that a woman was a prostitute, it would be immodest for a woman to wear red, even though the Bible says nothing against wearing red in itself."

"When others have an opinion on what you wear, they are not prying into business not their own. Clothes are a public act."

"With clothing, be mindful of lines of sight. Just as a painting done well draws the eye to a certain focal point, just as a wise architect knows how to draw the eye to certain places on his building, so the lines of clothing can do the same. Examples include unbuttoned blouses, tight jeans, or high slits in dresses. The issue is not what is seen, but rather what is indicated, whether out of sight or not."

"Many young Christian women must learn how to sit, stand, and walk like ladies."

"immodest women dress as though they hadn’t a clue about the effect they have. But other women panic over immodesty as though Christian men will be undone at the sight of a knee. Or two knees."

"When something goes wrong.... Th[e] illegitimate option, so natural to many, is to refuse to cover it in love, and also refuse to confront anyone about it. Instead, these folks go off in a corner and whisper about it critically and at length with all the wrong people. Either you speak to the person, or with those who are appointed to help you speak to the person, or to no one at all."

"women dress the way they do because it gets a desired response, and the young men are responsible for giving that response."

Herding cats

"If in truth you anoint me as king over you, then come and take shelter in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon!" (Judges 9:15).

When sinful people seek a leader, they look for someone they can identify with - someone who is like them. (Abimelech's family supported him because he was family.) People often have the mindset that what they want is a strong figurehead, a face, to present to others, exactly representing who they are. The leader is brought in to change others, not ourselves.

But God usually has something different in mind. When God gave gifts of leadership to the early church (Ephesians 4:11-16), it wasn't so those leaders would bring God's confirmation to them that they were doing great. Joshua ended up circumcising all Israel again. Moses had many killed in the wilderness for idolatry. Gideon sent thousands home scratching their heads, instead of into battle with an enormous enemy army. Young Timothy was expected to rebuke and correct congregations with the inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:16). Part of a leader's role is to get the group to accomplish a needed course-correction. If he doesn't/can't, he probably isn't leading.

The question is, can a people hear God calling them to change through a man whom that people called to lead them? It's sort of like hiring a business consultant to come in and show you where you can improve. Will you pay for advice you might not want to hear? Will you change according to how God is leading you through him? Or will you look for a leader who will say what you want said (2 Timothy 4:3)? "Look, we didn't hire you to..."

Two qualifications to this post:
1. I'm a church leader, so this post may appear self-serving. In response, I can only say I'm concerned for the faithfulness of congregations, not the elevation of the leader.
2. I'm all for presbyterian structured churches, which means a plurality of leadership. A king must be accountable to people; a pastor to elders or other pastors, etc. If one leader in a congregation is calling for radical change, claims it's from God, and no one else is convinced, more discernment is needed, not an immediate submission to the leader, just because he's the leader (note the discernment after God speaks in Acts 13:2-3).

Judges 6-8

God is an accommodating God. He stoops to our weaknesses, meets us where we are and draws us to His purpose. Gideon was weak and scared, but God gave Him many signs to show that He was with him and strengthen his resolve to fight (Judges 6:18-21, 36-40; 7:10-15).

And still, when Gideon succeeded, he slipped (Judges 8:21-28). Just as Isildur strikes down Sauron, but stumbles over his Ring, so Gideon strikes down the Midianites, but stumbles over their jewels and gods. Gideon says the right words (8:23) but doesn't live them out. He knows the right answers, but doesn't have the moral resolve to live it out.

What a vacillating, mixed-bag of blessings were these judges to Israel!


New podcast

I highly recommend this podcast, by the Cato Institute, a libertarian thinktank.
I've been listening for about 2 weeks now. It offers concise and articulate arguments for a small-government perspective on a wide range of political issues.


Independence Day - July 2

"In Philadelphia, the same day as the British landing on Staten Island, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress, in a momentous decision, voted to "dissolve the connection" with Great Britain. The news reached New York four days later, on July 6, and at once spontaneous celebrations broke out. 'The whole choir of our officers... went to a public house to testify our joy at the happy news of Independence. We spent the afternoon merrily,' recorded Isaac Bangs.

"A letter from John Hancock to Washington, as well as the complete text of the Declaration, followed two days later: '[Hancock: That our affairs may take a more favorable turn, the Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve the connection between Great Britain and the American colonies, and to declare them free and independent states...'

"The delegates at Philadelphia had committed treason and embarked on a course from which there could be no turning back."

Pgs 135-136.

RCA woes, part II

Second and final installment of Chalcedon's report on the RCA's problems with, and responses to, liberalism is here.