For Memorial Day

After listening to a couple videos by David Barton on the founding of America, I have a mixed response.

On the one hand, Barton does us a great service, reminding us of the pervasive influence and motivating force that Christianity had upon our founding fathers. He has gathered many quotations from these men, demonstrating that the Triune God of the Bible, not a generic and Deist god, was the Deity to whom they looked throughout the revolution. They saw (as do I) God’s providence at many points in the war, such as discovering Arnold’s treason or the weather at the Delaware River crossing. The most compelling evidence of Christian influence in the colonies is the requirements for civil office that some states had early on: faith in the Trinity and belief in the inspiration of Scripture. America’s founders for the most part did not use religion cynically to advance their cause. See Morris’ “The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States,” published by American Vision for more on this. On this Memorial Day, we honor those who have risked and given their lives for our nation, which was colonized and founded largely with the intent of bring the Gospel of Christ to heathens, setting up a city on a hill for the nations, and preserving liberty against the onslaught of human tyranny.

On the other hand, Barton does some exaggerated or lop-sided reporting as well. To call America the first official Christian nation in history as Barton does is a bit much. What about Christian emperors of Rome? King Alfred? Bzyantium? Germany with Lutheran rulers? Puritan England and Scotland? The laws of most of these incorporated more of the Ten Commandments than our laws do. This assertion doesn’t work, unless you define Christian as having an American conception of liberty, which is self-justifying. This point was American exceptionalism (“we’re the best”) run amuck.

Also, Barton ignores Enlightenment and Deist thought which was just making inroads into the founders’ intellectual world at this time. There is no mention of Jefferson’s rejection of Christianity, only that “most” of the signers of the Declaration were Christians. War atrocity reporting was especially lop-sided. Barton appeals to the Americans’ intent to avoid such atrocities, while criticizing the British for what they actually did. But what did the Americans do, and what was the British stated intent? We never hear.

There is much good in Barton’s material worth seeing and recovering as a culture, and I applaud Barton for his work. As with almost anything, Wallbuilders is edifying and also has some potential pitfalls. (See Morris, above, and “The Theme is Freedom” by M. Stanton Evans for a similar perspective with less pitfalls, in my humble opinion.) While seeking to honor the religious heritage of our nation, which we should do, we can easily wind up with these unhelpful thoughts:

America is the best nation ever.”

While I'm grateful to God to live in this prosperous and free land, let’s appreciate our whole Christian heritage, which extends back well beyond 1776. See “Trial and Triumph” by Richard Hannula for more.

“My country, right or wrong.” If we cannot be self-critical personally or about our own nation, we cannot obey Matthew 7:1-5.

“God favors America now (or, we are His chosen nation, or God has a special place in His heart for America) because of how faithfully we were founded.”

No, that nation was Israel in Scripture, and God judged even them for their disobedience, which bears remarkable resemblance to America’s today. “Do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you” – Romans 11:18.

“America is the world’s last, best hope.”

No, Jesus is. God does use earthly means to disciple the nations to His Son, and I believe He has done so through many American servicemen and missionaries throughout our history, and we honor for them for that especially today. But let us reserve ultimate glory, credit and honor for the One who sets up and tears down the nations at His pleasure. Soli Deo Gloria!


Glenn Beck

From Tim Bayly, emphasis added is mine.

Two days ago I had an hours drive in the middle of the day and turned on the radio. I'd read of Glenn Beck once a while back, picking up from the article that he's the first serious contender for the throne long occupied by Rush Limbaugh, but this was the first time I'd actually heard him.

Beck was opposing something he called "social justice," saying all the liberals in Christian and Jewish and Moslem churches had mounted an attack against him. But all of them are socialists, he said, and they're using talk of "social justice" to rid America of her precious liberties.

Parts of it set my teeth on edge. Yes, generally, the social justice rap is bad karma. And yet, do I really want a conservative talk show host sending his troops into churches to root out any doctrinal commitments their hero disapproves of? Later, brother David told me Beck is Mormon. It figures.


Federal Vision - a brief conversation

What exactly is "Federal Vision"? The way I see it, "Federal Vision" basically emphasizes God's covenantal promises as well as our covenantal responsibilities.

Yes, that's part of it.

"Federal Vision" also seems to say that sacraments are not merely symbols, but a means of grace.

Yes, but all Reformed Presbyterians following Calvin hold to this, as he did. FV people are concerned with how many Reformed folks are losing this view for a more baptist (merely symbols) understanding of sacraments.

"Federal Vision" also seems to say that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, but faith without works is dead and therefore such "faith" is not of the saving kind. Does that about sum it up?

Yes, that's part of it, too. Also...
Paedocommunion is a big part of it. That the covenant is objective, and our children are included. Rituals like baptism convey meaning and grace to the elect, and should be esteemed like wedding ceremonies are, not denigrated by thinking of infant baptism as nothing more than a wet dedication. God is doing something to us and for us in the sacraments. We readily believe this for the bad, for judgment, in the case of communion, but don't have an equally strong belief that He works for our /good/ in the sacraments. We trust God that we and our children are elect, based on His covenant promises to us. Looking at the sacraments, the church, and our children with covenantal (federal) eyes, instead of trying to filter all that through God's eternal and invisible decrees. Deut 29:29 - “The secret things [decrees] belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed [covenant] belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."

There is more, but that's a rough answer.

Objections to Sola Scriptura

How can we know the Bible is God's Word unless someone (the Church) tells us it is?
The church testifies that Scripture's 66 books are authoritative, but it does not make them so. Scripture is self-authenticating (2 Tim 3:16), and does not need an external authority to make them authoritative. A minister doesn't make a wedding by his authority, he announces that it happened and is now true; same with the church speaking of Scripture.

Doesn't the apostles' verbal or oral-tradition authority continue in the Church? See 2 Thessalonians 2:15 - "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter."
Apostolic authority continues only in Scripture, with the close of the canon, not with oral traditions as well. When the apostles died, they did not pass on authority to heal or to make verbal pronouncements equal to scripture - this is inferred from 2 Cor 12:12. The signs that marked apostles are not done by the pope or by supposed miracle workers today. (God certainly heals today, but no longer gives certain individuals the gift of healing, as he gave apostles.)

"Protestants told me that losing Sola Scriptura would destroy my love for the Scriptures. I have found the exact opposite."
That a Roman Catholic can love the Scriptures doesn't disprove sola scriptura.

Which is the ultimate authority: the Bible, or the Church?
Protestants say the Bible. Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy say the Church.

Avoiding the Appearance of Evil

"Abstain from every form of evil" - 1 Thessalonians 5:22 - New King James Version
"Abstain from all appearance of evil" - 1 Thessalonians 5:22 - King James Version

The Greek word "pantos" can always be translated as either "all' or "every", depending on English grammar needs. In this case, it doesn't matter. There is only a difference if you add other words, like "once," to every or all, which 1 Thess 5:22 doesn't do. ("Every so often," or "every once in a while," both very different from "all the time," or "in every case," which mean the same thing.)

The word "eidous" is the key word, and can mean form, outward appearance, kind - basically, things you see.
The KJV misleads a bit with the English "appearance." The idea isn't to avoid people thinking you are doing evil, or to avoid doing what looks evil, but to avoid every kind of evil that you know/see. NKJV and NIV and ESV use "form" or "kind," instead, and rightly. The KJV leads us to think the meaning of eidous is outward only, going beyond the inward (as used in 1 Sam 16:7 - man looks at the outward appearance), when eidous actually means for us to avoid every kind (or all kinds) of real evil that we see. 1 Sam 16:7 and John 7:24 use a different Greek word (opsis) for the meaning of outward only, not (or going beyond) inward.

This idea of avoiding the appearance of evil gets abused, so that people are thinking more of what others think of them, than of avoiding actual evil. This can lead to declaring things off limits that actually aren't, and being more concerned with what others think instead of with what God thinks. It is good to avoid people thinking you are doing evil, so as not to stumble them (Rom 14:19-21; 1 Cor 8:9). But you don't have to swear off things that aren't actually sinful, either (Rom 14:22).

Any interpretation and even translation of Scripture is fallible. Holding to any one translation as the only right one is unhealthy, though some are better than others.


Table Grace

Sermon text

1 Samuel 9 - on David bringing Mephibosheth to his table

Matt 26:19: “I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Jesus makes clear that this Table is connected with His Father’s Kingdom. This table shows us many things about that Kingdom. It shows the unity and fellowship we have restored to us with God. It shows we are adopted into His family, to sit at His family table. It shows the sacrifice Jesus made to make all this happen, in broken body and shed blood. It shows we are dependents of His, for our food and drink. It shows He is dependable, as we come week after week, and He always provides. It shows the kindness and provision of a tender Father. It shows the expectation we have of the fulfilled kingdom, like expecting a meal when you’re really hungry, and smelling the aromas wafting over from the kitchen – so does Jesus long to drink with us anew in His renewed kingdom.

This table shows us many things. Like David, Jesus wants to show us God’s kindness. And here it is.


Christmas in May...

Today is the first Sunday of advent, the first Sunday on the Church year calendar. So, happy new year! We have celebrated the harvest, including its spiritual dimension by looking forward to the harvest of souls at the end of time. We give thanks to God for His coming consummation of history. We now begin the saga of redemptive history at page 1, where we are dead in our sins, left out in the cold and the dark, in the bleak mid-winter. We sit in darkness, like every weeknight these days, but we will soon see a great light, the fulfillment of centuries of promises about a coming Messiah to deliver us. Our culture gets much wrong about the Christmas season. One thing they get right is the expectation. Advent is about expectation. The whole Old Testament is built pointing to something more coming.

I grew up in a church that was reviving the celebration of advent, but there was a good deal of suspicion of it being too Catholic, or just not Scriptural. Properly done, advent reminds us of our Lord’s first coming, and prepares for His 2nd coming. There is nothing inherently violating Scripture in this, and so we will sing Christmas hymns and carols during advent, and there will be references now and then in the service and sermon. Christmas is our holiday, and we don’t have to give it up just because the world corrupts it.



1 Chronicles 1-10

1 - Adam to Noah. Shem, Ham & Japheth. Abraham, Ishmael & Esau
2 - Jacob/Israel. Judah, Caleb, Boaz, David
3 - David's children. List of kings from Solomon to Jeconiah; his kids
4 - Judah's descendants: Jabez & Caleb among others. Simeon's.
5 - Reuben, Gad, Eastern half of Manasseh; exiled for unfaithfulness
6 - Levites: Gershon, Kohath, Merari. High priest of Kohath. Those put to song service listed separately. Cities given to Levites throughout Israel listed
7 - Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher
8 - Benjamin to Saul
9 - returning exiles listed, especially priests and Levites
10 - Saul's geneology again. Saul's death on Gilboa, "for breach of faith."

An Open Table

Jesus declares how open this Table is. Many will come from outside Israel, to the table first offered to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Anyone can come, when they come with faith in Christ, when they believe that He has authority to heal at a distance, to command the death of those who oppose Him, to pay the blood-guilt price for our redemption from sin. Those found without this faith will be cast out, even if they were raised at this Table. They will drink the wine of God’s wrath.

But many will sit down with Abraham in the kingdom, and drink God’s blessing and joy. This meal is a picture of that coming glory. Christ’s full kingdom come, His will done, on earth, like in heaven. It is His kingdom, His power, His glory.


Progression of sin

Jeremiah 6:13-15 - "from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,” says the Lord."

Our sin brings many problems. It separates us from God and from others. It also eats away at our own character. One of the problems in what sin does to ourselves is that we get used to it. When we don’t repent completely, and go back to it, like a dog to its vomit, we actually get used to such filth. Even though it is garbage, it still feels good to our sinful feelings to covet. Dealing falsely with others, papering over problems gets us by in life, or so we think. It becomes a way of life. Our apathetic repentance can slide into no repentance at all. Then we no longer blush, or renounce sin. Then God gives us over to it. We laze about in a fatal situation, instead of taking action. Let us resolve to set things right. Before God right now we should all be beet red in the face, hot with embarrassment.


On birth control

Contraceptives and children from Canon Wired on Vimeo.


Christmas Sewing in May

Never too early to start sewing for Christmas! I'd like to actually enjoy this small quilt this winter instead of trying to frantically finish it before December. The fabric is Glace by 3 Sisters for Moda, and I will separate the hexagons with a solid - Kona Cotton in khaki. The grey cutting mat and yellow table cloth really make for some eye bugging color with these blocks! I did some log cabins for a swap last fall with the Glace and used the left over strips to piece these hexagons. It is a lovely line!!


A sock, becoming

This must be one of the most disconnected and schizophrenic blogs ever. Bibliophile theology-talking pastor meets fiber-crazy artist woman. Really. This is reality for us, and somehow, it works very well.

Onto more photos of my feet in half finished socks (it's like an unfinished novel, a song paused on the third beat, a breath not exhaled...):

First, a *b*e*a*d*e*d* lace knee sock! oo la la! This sock is so pretty, I tried it on and exclaimed that I felt like an Ice Princess!! Book Man snickered at that.

See the sparkly beads below? Look closely. It's so pretty, but what a PAIN to knit. I'm stringing these teeny beads on one-by-one with dental floss. Ugh. I'm still on the first sock, started April 1st.

Here's a proper sock, knit from the cuff down, just like our great grandmas did. Ah yes, this is much faster than fiddly beads. I knit all this in one day (Mother's Day!). Purple isn't my color, so I'm looking for the right person who would appreciate hand knit lace socks AND remember to hand-wash them.

All this might raise the question: why do I bother to knit socks when I can buy them for MUCH less at the store?

For many reasons. You can't find socks like this at the store, nor do they last as long, nor do they fit my LARGE feet (unless I buy men's, and they don't usually put beads on men's socks). Second, I really enjoy the art form. But more importantly, there is a connection to our Creator. This is an intimate beauty that might go totally unseen and unnoticed by the public (until I blog photos!). It's creating something lovely for the sake of loveliness, because God is the source of all loveliness. It's bringing heaven to earth, transforming dirty sheep's wool into so much more!

Isn't that a great picture of sanctification, of what's happening to each of us? Yes, we're all becoming socks, each very becoming.


1 Kings 1-4

1 - David's son, Adonijah, sets himself up as king; David heads it off, only at Nathan's initiative, crowning Solomon instead.
2 - On his deathbed, David asks Solomon to do justice he could not: Joab and Shimei, especially. After David dies, Solomon also dispatches Adonijah, and exiles Abiathar, the priest who helped him.
3 - Solomon asks for wisdom. "Give me an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" His wisdom is shown in dealing with the two women who each claim the living child instead of the dead one.
4 - Solomon's government, prosperity and wisdom

2 Samuel 21-24

21 - David avenges the Gibeonites, honors Saul's house, defeats giants
22 - David sings of God's deliverance
23 - David's last words: "when one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, He dawns on them like the morning light..." The deeds of David's mighty men are related
24 - David counts Israel's fighting men, against Joab and God's will
24 - God judges Israel for David's sin; He stays His hand at Jerusalem, at Araunah's threshing floor; David buys that land, and builds an altar there, the future site of the temple




"Conflict has a way of growing from a small snowslide into a full-scale avalanche, and on its way down-hill it can sweep victims into its wake. A conflict has the potential to mar the integrity of combatants on both sides. That happens as each side seeks to garner support for its position - making exaggerated statements, shading the truth, impugning the motives of others" - pg 137.


May the 4th be with you....

Intergalactic Star Wars day - a perfect day for this foursome!! They heartily got into it! Darth Vader may look silly wearing shorts, but considering he's sporting a fleece cape on a day that's over 80 degrees, I think we can excuse the fashion faux pas. Obi Wan traded in the long brown habit for a cooler version as well, and the red-headed Luke Skywalker is fully using the force to create his costume. And then there's Princess Leia - even put on white tights and told me she needed to wear lipstick (uh, sorry honey, I don't think so!).

What government is for

From the latest Imprimis:

"For the 21st century constitutionalist [read liberal], perhaps the greatest virtue of redefining the privileges or immunities clause is the prospect of transforming the Constitution from a guarantor of “negative liberties” into a charter of “affirmative government,” guaranteeing an array of “positive” rights. As President Obama has observed in a radio interview in criticism of the legacy of the Warren Court of the 1950s and 1960s, “[It] never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and . . . more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. . . . [T]he Warren Court . . . wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution. . . that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.”

Heh. Funny. What Obama says as complaint, I say in praise. The government isn't SUPPOSED to be watching out for us as a nanny, making sure we get everything we need. Providing for the general welfare is far from creating a right to health care and other things. Free citizens have a right to pursue these things, and a moral obligation to see that their neighbors are not destitute; we do not have them guaranteed by the government. Government is there to keep the streets safe, and enforce law and order; it is to ensure equality of rights, not of outcomes.



Time for a cordial discussion of patriarchy, if there is such a thing! The word means “father rule,” and going by the technical meaning of the word, it is thoroughly Biblical. “The husband is head of the wife” (Eph 5:23). “If a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5) God has given husbands and fathers the role of leader. He is responsible for what goes on in his family.

In a culture that has given up on God’s social design, we have to seek reform wisely and with maturity. Where a beautiful painting has fallen from the wall, we can be quick to hammer it back up quickly but badly, just so it looks like we are following Scripture. But if we aren’t careful, the sloppy job can make things worse, not better. For instance:

The world despises authority, so we over-emphasize it and become authoritarian. We get wrapped up in the formal authority and forget that it is the frame of the picture, not the content. The authority is really there, and needed, to bring about loving service to others. But we can wind up focusing more on the authority we have than on the person before us who needs love. Now, we need to understand the role we have in relation to our child, spouse, or church member, so that we know how to love the person. But that role is assumed and used for a greater purpose, instead of focused upon for its own sake. This must be true, even in times when we are recovering a good and true patriarchy in a world that rejects it.

The world despises male leadership, so we over-emphasize it and become chest-thumping male chauvinists. Yes, men should be gentlemen and treat ladies with respect, not just another member of the human species. But neither need we tell them not to worry their pretty little heads about theology or zoology or politics. We get defensive when a woman can articulate her views with clarity and conviction, instead of praising God for this. A woman rightly influences her husband with her wise counsel. He must take it into account, and then decide the matter himself or delegate it to someone else.

The world laughs at the weak, bumbling, imbecile husband, smirking that his wife is really in charge. When she gives him advice on an issue before them, which he should ask for, he does not have to follow it, or be in the doghouse. That dynamic is unbiblical, and a pernicious evil that has neutered countless men in otherwise godly families and churches. But neither does he have to go against his wife to prove he is really leading. That is his own weakness showing itself. He needs to do what he believes is right, and lead his family that way lovingly. In a godly patriarchy, the husband is really in charge, not just appearing to be while his wife or children pull the strings. But he is not tyrannically in charge, making decisions just to prove he can, or making decisions better left delegated to his wife or children.

The astute reader will note that the structure of this essay has not yet risen above reacting to “the world.” We must do so. We must come to start with what God says social roles are for: service (Romans 13:4) and edifying others (Eph 4:11ff). God gives officers and offices in the church, state and family to make love possible among men. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God” (1 John 4:7).

World History

I wrapped this book up last night - no small feat at 777 pages. Bauer does a pretty decent job reviewing a lot of information - from the beginning of time to Constantine, covering China, India, Egpyt, Rome and everyone in between with a written history in that time. She makes a valiant attempt to keep it from being encyclopedic, and sometimes succeeds. It is lively at points, with wry quips here and there. Sadly, some of these have a jaded feminist edge to them, but they don't ruin the flow.

A grand review like this really impresses on one that the more things change the more they stay the same. History is one big arena of power struggle among men with power. Expanding your personal or national territory and influence is a constant human desire. Bauer does well in concisely connecting big picture events to each other, even when a century or four lie between them.

This history was one of military and political high points, just barely touching on the history of ideas, which was disappointing. Jesus gets about half a page; His Gnostic revisionists get a whole page; Buddha gets three. By contrast, Greek thought and history get dozens. Not tht the Greek history is bad. It's very well done. But it could have stood for more interaction of Greek with Jewish ideas, instead of the minutae of Indian and Chinese history, in my view.

Worthy receiving of the Supper

Again these are glorious truths in the catechism. First, in this meal, we are united with Christ and are fed spiritually. Second, we must partake with faith, so we don’t eat and drink judgment on ourselves. There are two easy errors we find ourselves in, that correspond to these two truths. First, Communion is a sacrament that involves giving and receiving bread and wine. Communion doesn’t start when I finish talking and you raise the bread to your lips. Breaking and offering the bread is part of it. You receiving from your neighbor is part of it. Tearing off the bread is part of it. Giving and receiving requires more than one person. Christ is mediated through others, at Communion. The second easy error to make, is to examine yourself to make sure you are worthy, scrambling around in your brain for some pious thoughts, so you feel worthy to partake. But worthy receiving is looking at yourself and seeing nothing worthy to deserve Christ. Worthy receiving looks away from yourself to Christ, not so much to how sincere YOU are, how resolved you are, how faithful you feel now. Worthy receiving gets beyond how worthy or not you are being, to Christ. Set your eyes upon Him.


Stuff as signs

This Supper is a physical sign of a spiritual reality. Christ came in flesh and blood, to redeem us, body and soul, from our sin. God has given physical signs and promises to His people all along, that were pointing to Christ’s coming, washing, feeding and blessing His people. A rainbow, circumcision, a land, descendants, blood of a lamb, Passover feast, unleavened bread, Sabbath, sacrifices, bread, lamps, altar, basin, ark, tabernacle, temple, prophets laying on their side, packing bags, marrying prostitutes, calling down fire; then baptism, miracles like water to wine, Lord’s Supper. Lots of physical signs. And while the reality it points to is primarily spiritual, it is also a physical one. David was told his descendant, from his very loins, would rule forever. And Jesus does so now, as a body and soul. One day your body will be fully restored.

But this happens because of the spiritual reality at work, the covenant. In shedding His blood at the cross, Jesus kept His covenant to redeem us. He was a faithful Son to His Father. His Father kept His covenant to accept us, and to exalt His Son, and give us to Him. He is a faithful Father to His Son, and to us.


Thoughts and words

If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind, give it more thought.

- Dennis Roch