God-glorifying Music at the Library

So we got to the library yesterday and today. Only 5 minutes away, like in our last town, we found a great selection again of children's books and classical music at our disposal.

In the first category we found this gem, which really got Owen goin' (rhymes nicely, eh?) A classic fairy tale, with lots of Gospel symbolism if you think about it. For a guy who listens to these guys, that's not hard to find. I even reminded the kids of Adam's disobedience in the Garden based on the plot of a PD Eastman children's book, "A Fish out of Water." Anyway...

In the classical music category, I decided to just go through alphabetically what I found interesting, so found myself starting with some of JS Bach's English Suites: asdf

There was a great line of Bach's in the booklet that came with it that started me doing this post. "The ultimate end and aim of thoroughbass [composition] should only be the glorification of God and the recreation of the mind. Where these are not kept in view, there can be no real music - only infernal jingling and bellowing."

Been there and back - the DMV

Steve and I went to get our vehicles and drivers licenses transferred from Michigan to Virginia today. We came armed with all the basics: old licenses, passports, birth certificates, bill from our cable company here in Yorktown, titles, registrations, even had my fingerprints on me (I carry them where ever I go).

Everything went smoothly until I (Sara) tried to get my VA driver's license. You need to show proof of residence at your new address in the form of a bill or old bank statement addressed to you at your new address. The problem is the DMV doesn't recognize the "head of household" concept. Nevermind my husband and baby next to me, nevermind the same addresses on our old MI licenses, the wedding rings on our fingers... they just don't believe we're living together! Ha! Having all your bills under your hubby's name doesn't cut it at the DMV! So I can't vote either (because I don't exist in VA) until I gain independence. But somehow I think they'd still let me pay taxes by filing jointly! And let me tell you, you can't sweet talk those folks at the DMV to massage the system. They are some tough nuts to crack!

The library had no problem giving me a card today.

Steve did some dumpster diving and found our forwarding address form from the Post Office, so tomorrow I go back to the DMV to declare my existance. Now the question is what to wear for my new license photo? Would they have a sense of humor if I wore a Halloween mask?


Good Books

Just got my latest P&R catalog (Presbyterian and Reformed publishers), and have these books on my "to buy or read sometime" list.


Getting things in order around the house, we found pictures to scan. Our new home is number 4 for Sara and me. This farmhouse, stop number 2, was easily the quietest of the 4. Sifting through our stuff, we found old journals of ours from when we were dating, when we dreamed of living in a farmhouse on a quiet road, with big trees and a hammock. We attained our dream early, and have now moved on to other things.

And here is daddy working on his next sermon...

Here is Isaiah with a new present one spring. Note his flawless stance and hand position on the bat. Yep, he's a lefty.

Dad and Owen absorbed in a book. Like father, like son.

This was just before the move, daddy wiped out from packing boxes.

One of my favorite pictures - this is the old church building I grew up in - torn down a few years back for more space. These are the college days of soul-searching, changing majors, etc.


Personality tests

I ran across some of these just now, and thought I would do the interesting ones. They are very short - from 1 to 10 questions - and I thought it might be one way for our new congregation to get to know me a little. I just put the summary of several tests into this one post.

1. What's Your Personality Type?

The Duty Fulfiller

You are responsible, reliable, and hardworking - you get the job done.
You prefer productive hobbies, like woodworking or knittings.
Quiet and serious, you are well prepared for whatever life hands you.
Conservative and down-to-earth, you hardly ever do anything crazy.

You would make a great business executive, accountant, or lawyer.

2. How You Live Your Life

You seem to be straight forward, but you keep a lot inside.
You're laid back and chill, but sometimes you care too much about what others think.
You tend to have one best friend you hang with, as opposed to many aquaintences.
You tend to dream big, but you worry that your dreams aren't attainable.

3. How do you communicate?

You Communicate With Your Ears

You love conversations, both as a listener and a talker.
What people say is important to you, and you're often most affected by words, not actions.
You love to hear complements from others. And when you're upset, you often talk to yourself.
Music is very important to you. It's difficult to find you without your iPod.

4. Who's your inner European?

Your Inner European is Italian!

Passionate and colorful.
You show the world what culture really is.

5. Your Social Anxiety Level: 56%

You have moderate social anxiety. It's possible that you have a serious social anxiety problem. But it's also likely that you can help yourself, by getting out more and trying new, scary activities. No one's secretly judging you. So be yourself, and if you screw up, just laugh.

6. This one was only 3 questions!
Your Personality Is: Rational

You are both logical and creative. You are full of ideas.
You are so rational that you analyze everything. This drives people a little crazy!

Intelligence is important to you. You always like to be around smart people.
In fact, you're often a little short with people who don't impress you mentally.

You seem distant to some - but it's usually because you're deep in thought.
Those who understand you best are fellow Rationals.

In love, you tend to approach things with logic. You seek a compatible mate - who is also very intelligent.

At work, you tend to gravitate toward idea building careers - like programming, medicine, or academia.

With others, you are very honest and direct. People often can't take your criticism well.

As far as your looks go, you're coasting on what you were born with. You think fashion is silly.

On weekends, you spend most of your time thinking, experimenting with new ideas, or learning new things


Storage Spaces

We need storage help! As we unload our boxes and move into our home, we're discovering less cabinet and closet space than we're used to.

So post a comment to share some hints or tips on how you store and organize items in your home (especially kitchen goods/china dishes, toys, bath essentials, etc).


We've Arrived!

We moved into our new home in Yorktown, VA today. The trip went better than expected, and there were so many helping hands ready to unload boxes waiting for our arrival. Thanks so much to all who helped us - from selecting/renting a home, getting it cleaned up and ready, carrying in boxes and boxes and boxes.... and they didn't stop there! We enjoyed a great dinner with everyone after about a hundred boxes were opened and unpacked! The prayers from so many people have been answered and felt by us during this entire process.

We ask for continued prayers from our friends and family:
- for a quick unpacking process (no more boxes!)
- Owen and Isaiah to get used to sharing a bed
- re-established routines/return to normalcy
- adjustment for all 6 of us to a new area/community

Thanks again to everyone in Michigan and Virginia who helped us to get here!


Felt needs?

A great article here on the current inadequate method of attracting people by meeting felt needs, then giving them the Gospel of Jesus.


His Church

Well, there we were, worshiping with the congregation where I was born and raised, going to church one last time before moving to Virginia. And, lo and behold, the message was on Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus promises to build His Church. And it IS His. Many churches are known by the pastor’s name, we heard in the sermon this morning – oh, that’s Rev. Jones’ church. No, people, it is not his church. No, pastor, it is not your church. For myself, I’ve found it the custom where I grew up for pastors talking shop with each other to refer to church leaders as “my elders and deacons.” Sorry, it may be a verbal short-hand, but please go out of your way to avoid putting it that way! It is God’s church, given to His Son Jesus Christ as an inheritance and reward, a people purchased for Himself, by His own dear blood. And hell itself won’t shake her foundations.

My friend and mentor who was preaching also had an insight I hadn’t heard before: Roman Catholics use this verse to defend the Pope – you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church…” Yet the very next thing that happens is Peter making a mistake and Jesus calling him Satan! So much for papal infallibility…

Whitefield sermon

I read my first George Whitefield sermon this morning: “The Method of Grace” on Jeremiah 6:16: "They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace."

This is wonderful material. Whitefield is said to be the greatest preacher of the 17th century. To summarize, he says that false prophets heal wounds lightly, making light of sin to make their parishioners feel better right away. They cover over wounds that need deep cleaning, causing them to fester and not bringing God’s peace to the soul. Here is a sample:

“I am grieved with the loose walk of those that are Christians…. There is so little difference betwixt them and other people, that I scarce know which is the true Christian. Christians are afraid to speak for God – they run down with the stream; if they come into worldly company, they will talk of the world as if they were in their element; this you would not do when you had the first discoveries of Christ’s love; you could talk then of Christ’s love for ever…. But now you can go into company and hear others speaking about the world bold enough, and you are afraid of being laughed at if you speak for Jesus Christ. A great many people have grown conformists now in the worst sense of the word; they will cry out against the ceremonies of the church, as they may justly do; but then you are mighty fond of ceremonies in your behavior; you will conform to the world, which is a great deal worse…. Christians should be singularly good, bold for their Lord, that all who are with you many take notice that you have been with Jesus. I would exhort you to come to a settlement in Jesus Christ, so as to have a continual abiding of God in your heart.”

(Select Sermons of George Whitefield, Banner of Truth, 1958, Pages 88-89.)


Empty Nest

The contents of my house as of 10:55 am are:
1. vacuum
2. toolbox
3. computer
4. piano
5. microwave
6. baby (sleeping through everything - an answered prayer!)

I'll spare you more teary-eyed remarks about parting, but I must say that the gathering we had with Steve's (and mine) life-long Overisel friends was very meaningful and memorable. We spent hours remembering good times. One couple lived in Australia for 2 years and spent time in Indonesia, and they had many helpful (and humerous) insights for us. We're still not sure why one member of our group wanted to know how far out into Lake Michigan you had to be to dump dead bodies...

Thanks to the Overiselite buddies for many great years of movie nights, book clubs, stupid farm stunts, sharing child rearing tips, and general hanging out. You're irreplaceable! We look forward to our proposed camp out next summer (Pokagon?)

And thanks most of all for the prayers you offered for us last night. Keep praying for us as we travel and get settled into a new home and community.


Packing Pictures

Big truck; little truck

Where's this one go, mom?

We considered transporting them this way for a while...

Notice who's doing all the work on this next one -
Just kidding! Dear friends with loving, servant hearts will be missed.


Boxes and 'Byes

We've been saying a lot of good byes lately, and a bunch of "see you laters" as well. It's been a tough week, but a good one.

Last weekend my parents hosted a farewell open house for my side of the family. Nearly all my relatives showed up (which really isn't that many!) but we shared lots of laughs and lots of cake. It was particularly difficult parting with my only sibling and sister, Emily.

The next day was our last Sunday at North Blendon. Many more goodbyes were said after a tearful service, followed by a potluck and more cake for all.

And last night I said "see you later" to my best friend of 18 years. We reminisced and prayed together over dinner, remembering our first year together in 6th grade (where I tied her to a swingset with her scarf - sorry!), years co-directing our high school theater productions, then living together for 2 year in college. We then said "adios" to each other for 5 years while she was teaching in Nicaragua, but to my joy she returned two years ago. Now it's my turn to say "hasta luego." Rachel: sorry if I teased you about your Southern drawl when you moved to MI - I guess it's my turn to develop a drawl now! :)

And now as nearly everything in our home is in a box (Steve's dismantling the computer as I type!), we're getting close to saying good bye to our home and Michigan. We'll miss the sounds of old rusty tractors, smell of cow manure, and sunsets over the lake, but look forward to discovering what the busy life on the east coast is like. And we are excited about making many more friends who we hope will become near and dear to us!


Psalm 119

I'm reading this chapter for my devotions the last few days, and it is a veritable gold-mine for the heart well-tuned to long for God.

As is my custom, here are some nuggets that connect with the New Testament:

a) Verse 103 - "your words are sweeter than honey to my mouth." See Revelation 10:9, where John eats the scroll that is like honey to his mouth.

b) Verse 115 - "depart from me, you workers of iniquity." See Matthew 7:23, where Jesus says many will assume they can enter, but God will say He never knew them, and also say, "depart from me, you workers of iniquity."

c) Verse 122 - "Be surety for Your servant for good." See Hebrews 7:22: "Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant."

d) Verse 133 - "let no iniquity have dominion over me." See Romans 6:12, 14 - "do not let sin reign over your mortal body..."

e) Verse 137 - Righteous are you, O Yahweh, and upright are Your judgments." See Revelation 16:5,7.

f) Verse 139 - "My zeal has consumed me, because my enemies have forgotten Your words." See John 2:17 - how appropriate, hearing Jesus say them in the temple, whip in hand. I also took away a new perspective from the textual note: "also, 'My zeal has put an end to me..." It was

g) Verse 142 - "Your law is truth." See John 17:17.

h) Verse 164 - "7 times a day I praise you." See Luke 17:4, where Jesus calls us to forgive "seven times in a day." I know it's a different context and subject, but I've seen enough of this literal-word connection to wonder if Jesus in Luke 17 is making a connection between forgiving your brother and praising God.

i)Verse 165 - "those who love Your law... nothing causes them to stumble." See 1 John 2:10 - same concept as in h) above, here. Since those loving God's law won't stumble, and since those loving your brother won't stumble, there is probably a connection between loving God's law and loving your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18).

j) Verse 176 - "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant." See Matt 18:12; Luke 15:4; 1 Peter 2:25.

And there are gems like these:

a) Verse 136 - "Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law."

b) Verse 158 - "I see the treacherous, and am disgusted, because they do not keep Your word."

Grace in Applying the Word to Life

Rummaging the back issues of Credenda/Agenda magazine for something else, I came across these great articles. They are so needed for self-consciously conservative Christians who want to react against a loose culture back to Scripture. Written for a woman's world, it is still a great guide for all in how to return to Scripture and stop adapting to the world, while also remaining gracious and charitable with others.

Check 'em out - they're quite short.


Life Changes

Reposting to remind people - we are packing the truck this week, and leaving Monday!
Also check out comments...

As if 4 children 5 and under weren't enough adjustment...

I have accepted a call to pastor Covenant Heritage Reformed Fellowship, in Newport News, Virginia, soon to be a part of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. We will be moving some time in late September, probably.

We have been at North Blendon Reformed Church, part of the Reformed Church in America in which I was born and raised, for nearly 3 years - too short, it would seem, but God has called us to Virginia.

Please pray for us as we are leaving virtually all of our family and friends behind in West Michigan. Neither Sara or I have lived elsewhere for an extended time.

There are theological and lifestyle differences between the two denominations and congregations, and I may post a series on those as time allows in the busy months ahead!


Social Security and Pastors

One last thing that came in the welcome packet was a page-long argument for pastors to not opt-out of Social Security. The IRS allows clergy to do this if "you are conscientiously opposed to public insurance because of your individual religious considerations (not because of your general conscience), or you are opposed because of the principles of your religious denomination," and if you are doing so "for other than economic reasons" (IRS publication 517).

There are several issues involved here.

1. Financial. To submit the governing authorities properly (Romans 13), ministers may not opt out simply because they can do better financially for their retirement outside of Social Securtiy (which is surely true).

2. Political. This clause also does not allow for conservative or libertarian types to opt out, simply because their political beliefs oppose public (government is a more accurate name) insurance. This is what I interpret the phrase "general conscience" to mean, as opposed to religious considerations.

3. Religious worldview. The statement DOES allow clergy to opt out if their denomination teaches against public insurance (only a small number of sects actually do, or if their religious beliefs drive them to oppose government insurance. Let's look at the latter a minute. It is the phrase which I think allows ministers who interpret Scripture properly to opt out of Social Security with integrity.

While we are called to submit to the governing authorities, those authorities have limits, and if they exceed them, or start usurping other God-ordained governing bodies (family or church) they become illegitimate authorities. The case against public insurance from Scripture could go many ways, but I'll leave you with one right now. Paul's discussion of widows in 1 Timothy 5 commands families to provide for parents first, and then, if the family can't, or it isn't there to do so, the church should kick in. Government is nowhere mentioned.

Opposing government insurance with integrity means not accepting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. One would lack integrity to opt out now, but then apply for Medicare at retirement. Most people say that this is not feasible to go without Medicaid, and so they either stay with Social Security or give up some integrity for financial benefit. I, in my youthful idealism think it is feasible to not receive Medicare on retirement. Any thoughts to the contrary for me?

Luther's Prayer as a Pastor

With my "welcome to the RCA" packet came a nice paper with Martin Luther's "Sacristy Prayer" on it. This was good to pray, as I go from one congregation to the next. So in a sense, the packet was well-timed, I suppose:

"O Lord God, dear Father in heaven, I am indeed, unworthy of the office and ministry in which I am to make known Thy glory and to nurture and to serve this congregation. But since Thou hast appointed me to be a pastor and teacher, and the people are in need of the teachings and the instructions, O be Thou my helper and let Thy holy angels attend me. Then if Thou art pleased to accomplish anything through me, to Thy glory and not to mine or to the praise of men, grant me, out of Thy pure grace and mercy, a right understanding of Thy Word and that I may, also, diligently perform it. O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Thou Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, send Thy Holy Spirit that He may work with me, yea, that He may work in me to will and to be through Thy divine strength according to Thy good pleasure. Amen."

Christian persecution in Europe

Apparently, it is becoming illegal in Great Britain to believe what the Bible says about homosexuality, and peacefully distribute Biblical tracts to those who will take them. Read more here, but this guy was arrested and charged, after a 4-hour talk at the police station, not for obnoxious behavior, not for flagrant rhetoric from his own mouth or within the tract, but simply because the tract contained quotes from the Bible against homosexuality.

Those who pooh-pooh the idea of present or coming-soon persecution of Christians in the modern world had better wake up. We live in a post-Christian society, which many acknowledge with their lips while not fully grasping all the implications. This means that the majority thinks, and will impose on society, some OTHER worldview opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. That's going to affect us, eventually.

Worship the Lord!

Great stuff on worship here (Sept 8 and 5 posts). Here's the short version:

"How we approach the playing of the organ, piano, guitar, percussion, violin, etc. in worship should not be an unthinking assuming of what “works” for pop, modern, radio, or art music. The purpose and venue is different!....

"In good conscience, I cannot sing text of the death and blood of Christ Jesus to flippant and unthinking music.

"As I have written in other areas, what we may consider to be a sacrifice of praise may be to Yahweh like the stench of Cain’s offering or the “strange fire” of Aaron’s sons because we offer what we want to offer rather than what He requires of us."

Verse for the week

I think the most meaningful goodbye I had in the last few days was with a dear and faithful brother (Col 4:7,9) who shared this verse with me - Deuteronomy 31:8.

"And Yahweh, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

Poem of the Day

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Prepare your soul

I listened to a Sinclair Ferguson sermon on Colossians 3:1-4 on my ipod this morning while packing up my study at church (all done - went surprisingly fast).

He had just heard a documentary saying the average person takes 41 minutes to get themselves, their bodies, ready for the day in the morning.

Ferguson asked - how long do we take to prepare our souls for God each day?


Salvation: all of His grace, or partly of our decision?

Some great quotes from my friend over here:

"It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by the nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me. Were I a Pelagian, or a believer in the doctrine of free-will, I should have to walk centuries all alone. Here and there a heretic, of no honorable character, might rise up to call me brother. But taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren; I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God's own Church."
- Charles H. Spurgeon

"Man is not possessed of free will for good works, unless he be assisted by grace, and that special grace which is bestowed on the elect alone, in regeneration. God declares his election when he regenerates his elect by his Holy Spirit, and thus inscribes them with a certain mark, while they prove the reality of this sonship by the whole course of their lives, and confirm their own adoption."
- John Calvin


You are NOT going to believe this.

Today, the first day technically off-the-job, I went to the office to get packing.
Our secretary walks in with some mail for me. One big envelope is from the RCA's General-Secretary office. Oh oh.

It turns out to be a letter/packet of welcome for new ministers just ordained in the RCA. ID card included: "This certifies that Steve Hemmeke is a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America."


The day after I STOP being an RCA pastor, I get sent a card three YEARS behind schedule welcoming me to the RCA. I'll be shaking my head at this one for years. How long will it be before they get to my letter explaining that I just left, and before they take my name OFF the list of ordained RCA ministers?


We are very busy packing and seeing friends one last time, so posting will be sporadic. But I wanted to write saying thanks to all who have been reading this blog, that I didn't know were reading! So many of you, as we have said good-bye, have mentioned you read this blog. Thank you. We will have to write more carefully...

So, again, thank you.

Yesterday was my last Sunday pastoring here in Michigan, and it was a hard, emotionally-draining, yet very rewarding day. We will miss so many people we've come to know and love.

We've had some cold bugs come through, combined with allergies hitting Sara very hard, has made it a tough few days health-wise, too.

I preached on Colossians 4, finishing a series by asking the congregation to pray for us, and to know that the kingdom of God is greater than any one congregation. Also in the evening from 3 John - send the friends on their way in a manner worthy of God. Greet the friends there by name. The most common greeting in the New Testament is "Grace and peace to you in Christ."

I scored several large boxes for free at the local pack and ship place tonight, so now we have to fill them with our household goods...


It's migratory!

I stood stunned with disbelief: there, in front of my eyes, was a Hokie bird in all its majesty, proudly strutting across the tailgate of a SUV. And across the street were the high school homes of it's distant relatives, the Chix and Dux.

It makes for one goofy-looking fowl family reunion!

Francis Schaeffer on conservative infighting

This book edited by Boice is dynamite! I think it is out of print, it is so old (1978). It was put out by some of the Int'l Council on Biblical Inerrancy people. Here is an excerpt from Francis Schaeffer's foreward:

"In the 1930s, Bible-believing Christians across all denominational lines were united in confessing that the Bible is 'not partly true and partly false, but all true...' as Machen put it. Unhappily the old liberals gained control of the bureacracies and seminaries of most of the old-line denominations.

"At this point a tragedy occurred that is a part of the seedbed of our situation in the 1970s. Most Bible-believing Christians divided into two groups: 1)those who held to the purity of the visible church and felt the various old-line denominations had passed the point of reclamation and left those denominations, and 2)those who either gave up the concept of the purity of the visible church or thought their denominations could be reclaimed.

"I represent the first group.... Many felt that those who stayed in had betrayed them; unhappily they then spent more time fighting... the Bible-believing Christians who stayed in than standing against the liberals. Standing for the Word of God got lost in harshness and looking inward...

"Some who held to the principle of the purity of the visible church put (it seems to me) the chasm at the wrong point. They made absolute division at the point of their distinctives - Reformed theology, believers' baptism, a Lutheran view of the sacraments, etc. - rather than between those who were Bible-believing Christians and those who were not, and then practicign their distinctives carefully on
this side of the chasm."

Pgs 17-18.


Good stuff on Pharisees here.


Reconciling forgiveness

One last quote from Jay Adams:

"One who harbors resentments within, but acts as if nothing were wrong, lies and does not "speak the truth with his neighbor." Signficant communication breaks down because he "has it in for" his neighbor. Communication that coordinates efforts for Christ is impossible, and teh church functions on a minimal superficial level. The eye cannot be angry with the ear, the hand cannot be angry with the foot, without causing poor coordination and giving the Devil an opportunity to cause confusion in the body of Christ....

"Now what does one do when he approaches another after a rift has occurred?... confront the other party and confess any sin.... he is to ask his brother for forgiveness.... When attempting reconciliation, not only is it important to ask specifically for forgiveness, but it is also useful to attempt to get a clear statement of forgiveness like, 'Yes, I will forgive you.' The goal is reconciliation built upon forgiveness. If the forgiveness is uncertain, so is the reconciliation. If forgiveness cannot be obtained, the one taking the initiative has done all that he can do under those circumstances."

Pages 223, 227.

Restoring all things at Cana

I listened to a good lecture from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis (PCA). They have a lot of really good stuff available for free here. As I recall one of you readers sent me here first, when I got my ipod. Well, I'm still listening!

The latest was an introduction to the Gospel of John.

Chpt 1 - Prologue
Chpt 2-11 - Signs
Chpt 12-20 - Glory
Chpt 21 - Epilogue

Then he went into the first of the signs, Jesus turning water into wine, pointing out that wine is an Old Testament picture of the restoring God's Kingdom by the Messiah. "The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it"(Amos 9:13). Our guide in Israel pointed this out as we stood on Mt. Arbel, overlooking the olive and grape vineyards near Nazareth. It's a powerful image when you look down on all the green, rolling down the hillside. "And in this mountain Yahweh of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees" (Isa 25:6). And so He came, making 120-180 gallons of wine at a wedding feast. The new business of restoring God's presence with a feast replaces the need for ritual cleansing, signified by the 6 stone jars (John 2:6).

One reader points out that Jesus wouldn't make this much fermented wine (6 jars of 20-30 gallons each) - that it would surely lead to drunkenness and sin. Yet, the word used is the same one Paul uses in Eph 5:18 - "Do not be drunk with wine." I don't think we can say Jesus made unfermented wine. Also, from what I know of the way weddings went back then, there were a LOT of people: 400-800 or so. So you're talking, on average (600 people, 150 gallons), 1/4 of a gallon per person, maybe 1 gallon for each adult, if there are 4 kids to each adult. And that is spread over a few days, too. It seems to work out to a decent, moderate amount.

The point is that Jesus provides us with a feast of joy and gladness at His coming, and will replace the old order of things with a new, perfect kingdom of righteousness, begun with a wedding feast for Him and His Bride, the Church (Revelation 19:6-9).

Shepherding the Flock

This was a really good book. I've also read Shepherding God's Flock, The Christian Counselor's Manual, and Ready to Restore by Jay Adams. I like his philosophy. Counseling is designed to change behavior and attitudes, into conformance with Scripture. The focus ought to remain on behavior and actions, since negative feelings of depression, guilt, sickness, or even mental illness, often results from bad behavior.

Adams is quite hard on modern psychology. He sees it as usurping the role of the pastor/elder, based on false assumptions about sin, guilt, and the place of emotions in the self. I basically agree with this, though I think psychology does have some legitimate insight to give us. The problems start when that wisdom is applied in unbiblical ways in counseling. Adams' theme is that any Christian properly versed in Scripture is compentent to counsel another Christian through their problems.

Discussing this with a neighboring pastor, who majored in psychology, I realized that the issue is how much we can trust the wisdom of the world, to what extent we can "plunder the Egyptians" and use that wisdom, and to what extent it needs to be modified so as to not violate Scripture.

Does depression always result from sin? When sick, can you assume it's because there is sin to confess (James 5:14ff)? Not always. Sin is always present somewhere in one's life, and it has consequences that bring people in for counseling. There may be connections to feelings or sickness, and it is wise to look into them. At the same time, you don't want to end up being Job's counselors, who assumed he sinned, since bad things happened to him. I think there are times when depression comes about by a chemical imbalance brought on because the whole creation has been subjected to futility (Romans 8:20), not necessarily because of the individual's sin.

Adams' approach is quite directive and aggressive - counselors need to go after sin. When Scripture commands us to "admonish" each other as believers, it means we must confront others, warning, directing, guiding them back to safer paths of righteousness. I agree, but we don't want to be harping at each other all the time, either. The key is to have relationships of love and respect that are rooted enough to withstand the winds of differing opinions and confrontations, without toppling the whole tree (people walk away angry looking for another church). Those roots must be grounded in our union with Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:6-7; Ephesians 4:1-6).


Not interested

"The old pagans had to choose between a brilliant, jangling, irresponsible, chaotic universe, alive with lawless powers, and the serene and ordered universe of God and law. We modern pagans have to choose between that divine order, and the gray, dead, irresponsible, chaotic universe of atheism. And the tragedy is that we may make that choice without knowing it -- not by clear conviction but by vague drifting, not by denying God, but by losing interest in him."

Joy Davidman, wife of CS Lewis, in "Smoke on the Mountain," a commentary on the 10 Commandments.

A British Star Wars

If you know PG Wodehouse, you'll LOVE this.

On reading

"The majority, though they are sometimes frequent readers, do not set much store by reading. They turn to it as a last resource. They abandon it with alacrity as soon as any alternative pastime turns up. It is kept for railway journeys, illnesses, odd moments of enforced solitude, or for the process called reading oneself to sleep.... But literary people are always looking for leisure and silence in which to read and do so with their whole attention. When they are denied such attentive and undisturbed reading even for a few days they feel impoverished."

CS Lewis, "An Experiment in Criticism"
quoted in Tabletalk - Sept 2006, pg 10


Archaeology and the Exodus

Last night we watched a recorded History Channel presentation some friends loaned us about the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The entire program was aimed at proving if and when the exodus occurred through scientific archaeological evidence. Then it went on to explain how the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea could have happened. Hmmm...

The science used in pinpointing the century the exodus occurred and IF there actually was a large number of Hebrew slaves living in Egypt was pretty convincing. Archaeologists dug up several papyrii and inscriptions which referred to the Hebrew people and their God, El. I won't contest their findings here.

The explanation of the 10 plagues is another story. Here's a summary of their theory: immense seismic activity along the several fault lines in the Eastern Mediterranean area caused a concentration of a heavy gas to seep up through the ground. This gas oxidized the iron present in water, turning it deep brown-red (made rust like on your car). This in turn caused all animal life in the waters to die, except the frogs, which could hop out onto land. All the rotting fish resulted in lice, flies, and airborne bacteria which caused painful boils to appear. An incredibly huge volcanic eruption 700 miles north of Egypt occurred from this seismic activity causing an earthquake storm. This means bits of ash flying through the atmosphere serve as a nucleus forming hail, which fall to the ground with the fire from the explosion. Thus the hail of fire and ice. The huge ash cloud accounts for the plague of darkness.

And the death of the firstborn? The same gas mentioned earlier was said to eventually rise out of the water and spread out over the ground at night. The Israelites were not affected by this gas because they were STANDING while eating the Passover feast that night. The Egyptians apparently had the practice of honoring the firstborn males with a low bed to sleep on at night, while all others had to sleep on the roof. Sleeping so close to the ground, the gas would have killed them much like carbon monoxide. By morning the heavy gas would have dissipated into the atmosphere. All this actually happened in Cameroon a few decades ago!

The program quickly explained the parting of the sea as a drop in water level as the crust of the earth rose about a meter in this area as the plates ground against eachother. A resulting tsunami wave rushing back inland neatly did away with Pharoah's army. Oh, and the original words for the Red Sea - Yam Suf - mean Sea of Reeds, so this all happened in a much smaller & shallower nearby lake which would've been a great place for many reeds to grow.

If you know your Bible, you can easily spot some problems with this theory. Namely, how would you explain the Israelites being excluded from the bugs, diseases, darkness, etc.? And the objectivity of the science is to be questioned; many of their archeaological finds seemed to be forced to fit into their pre-drawn conclusions.

So my question is: *IF* all the above is accurate and true, does it make the miracles any less miraculous if God uses the laws of nature to do His work? Should we be surprised to find God using His creation to do His work?

What's at the end of the road?

Getting ready to move to VA has gotten the ol' grey matter fired up a bit, leaving me with some questions....

1. Is there some biological phenomenon which prevents ragweed from growing there? I'd be a much happier girl.

2. What's the person-to-cow ratio? McD's hamburgers don't count.

3. How much snow has to fall to shut down schools/businesses/etc.?

4. Will I be dreaming of a white Christmas?

5. How easy are honey crisp apples to find?

Talking about the rain that Ernesto has brought to the coast has peaked our interest in hurricanes. Our 3 yr. old son overheard our conversation and wisely suggested that we better remember to pack our umbrellas.