Friday, March 29, 2013

May it be so

Once it was I and not Christ; then it was I and Christ; perhaps now it is even Christ and I. But has it come yet to be Christ only, and not I at all?—Hannah Whitall Smith

<idle musing>
May it be so in my life and in yours!
</idle musing>


It may be concluded that this period [Iron II] of an increased number of political crises that affected the ongoing existence of many households increased the perceived need for ritual objects that symbolized characteristics such as power, fertility, and plenty.—Family and Household Religion in Ancient Israel and the Levant, page 175

<idle musing>
The grab for security is nothing new, is it?

What are you grabbing for as security? It probably is an idol, isn't it?!
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cry for help

Help! Anybody know where the lint filter on a Whirlpool washing machine, model LSR6332KQ1 is? The parts list doesn't list one, but there's got to be something holding the lint...


I love cornbread. How in the world did a northern boy come to love cornbread so much? Simple; I spent 1.5 years in Missouri while in first grade. We had it everyday at school lunch and I have loved it ever since. At least that's what my parents tell me : ) My dad was working on his doctorate, and we lived outside Columbia, Missouri while he did his classroom work. The school was rural and I don't remember much about the school lunches except the cornbread.

When we went whole-foods, plant-based, I went looking for a decent recipe that didn't use oil, eggs, and milk. I found one that was tolerable (see here), but not one that I liked enough to make real often. Then, about a month ago, it stopped turning out. Not sure why, but it might be because I changed from honey to unrefined sugar in the recipe. But, when I went back to honey, it still didn't turn out. So, I went looking again...

Not much out, I thought about how in the 1800s, the pioneers would have done it. They usually didn't have eggs or milk, and—at least according to the Little House books—sugar wasn't exactly a common item. They must have done something.

I was mulling it over in my mind and asked the Lord for a bit of insight. I believe it was an answer to prayer, because what I did tastes even better than the original eggs, milk, and oil recipe. Here's what I did:

1 cup whole wheat flour (freshly ground, of course!)
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup water
1/4 cup applesauce (unsweetened and home canned from Jonathan apples—an oil replacement)
3/4 Tablespoon baking powder
1.5 Tablespoons unrefined sugar
1 teaspoon flax meal (freshly ground)
1 Tablespoon water

The flax meal and tablespoon of water are used as an egg replacer. Put them both in a small custard cup and microwave on high for 10-15 seconds, or until it boils. Our microwave takes 12 seconds, but yours might be different (this works well as an egg replacer for other recipes as well)

Turn the oven on to 350°F. Mix the remaining dry ingredients together. Once the oven is preheated, add the applesauce, cup of water, and the flax meal mixture. Mix everything together well, but not too much (you don't want to develop the gluten too much). Pour the batter into a 9x9 glass pan and bake 30 minutes (if you are using metal, increase the temperature to 375°).

For a variation, I sometimes add a small can of chili peppers. You should see the baking powder go nuts when I do that!

Serve warm or cool. We often make a tomato sauce to put over it—1 pint stewed tomatoes, half a small can of tomato paste. Then I take some dried green peppers, dried onions, dried garlic, oregano, basil, grind them all up in a coffee grinder and add it. Add enough water to make it the consistency you like. I add habanero sauce to mine...delicious!

The human project

Saw this on Peter Leithart's blog:
Mocking God, killing righteous men – that is the human project. When a teacher comes with the demand that we do justice and love our neighbors, we betray Him, mock Him, beat Him on the head and crown Him with thorns, before we pack Him off to death on a cross. Naked and bleeding on the cross, Jesus suffers the fate of Jerusalem, and of Troy and Babylon and Carthage and Dresden and of every city that has ever been razed to smoking rubble. The cross exposes us as specialists in destruction. History is a waste of ruins, toppled temples, smoldering cities, corpses heaped for burning. This is what we do. That is the human project.
<idle musing>
Do read the whole thing; he doesn't leave us there—Praise God!—because God doesn't leave us there
</idle musing>

A higher calling

You have brought to Him an enthusiasm of self-surrender that perhaps may disturb and distress the more prudent and moderate Christians around you. Your love makes necessary a separation from the world, which a lower love cannot even conceive of.—Hannah Whitall Smith

Open hands

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:7, 8, 10, 11 NIV)

<idle musing>
Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but this set of verses isn't among the ones the right-wingers quote...pity, that.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Yield, would ya?

He is not asking thee, in thy poor weakness, to do it thyself; He only asks thee to yield thyself to Him, that He may work in thee to will and to do by His own mighty power.—Hannah Whitall Smith


When Moses heard this, he fell facedown... But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?...” “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown... (Numbers 16:4, 22, 45 NIV)

<idle musing>
This is where Korah and company rebel; Moses' response to the initial accusation of lording it over the Israelites is to fall facedown in prayer. Eighteen verses later, when God wants to destroy the whole nation because of Korah, his (and Aaron's) response is to fall facedown in prayer. Finally, the next day, when the entire nation rebels, he (and Aaron) falls facedown in prayer.

That, my friends, is the sign of a leader. I was going to qualify that with something like "who loves his people" or "who discerns the heart of God" or "who has the heart of a prophet" or some such. But when I stopped to think about it, no qualification is needed...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

150 years ago

The standard of practical holy living has been so low among Christians that any good degree of real devotedness of life and walk is looked upon with surprise, and even often with disapprobation, by a large portion of the Church. And, for the most part, the professed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are so little like Him in character or in action, that to an outside observer there would not seem to be much harmony between them.—Hannah Whitall Smith

The more things change...

The roles of women were of indisputable importance in family cults, but it must be stressed that women enacted these cults not only for themselves but also for their families; furthermore, in many cases, men as well as women participated in family rituals...—Family and Household Religion in Ancient Israel and the Levant, page 54

<idle musing>
Nothing really has changed in 3000 years—except now some want to exclude women and claim that's the way it used to be...
</idle musing>

Monday, March 25, 2013

What a misnomer

It seems strange that people, whose very name of Believers implies that their one chiefest characteristic is that they believe, should have to confess to such experiences. And yet it is such a universal habit that I feel if the majority of the Church were to be named over again, the only fitting and descriptive name that could be given them would be that of Doubters.—Hannah Whitall Smith

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! Lord, renew your church in our day! May we truly deserve the title of believer.
</idle musing>

Popular religion

...the dichotomous concept of official versus popular religion was not derived from ancient Near Eastern antiquity but, as noted by Vrijhof (1979: 674), from the “institutionalized and codified Christian religion in the western world.” Summarizing this view, Zevit (2003: 226–27) states that “the origin of the distinction lies in the relationship of the Western Church to the indigenous religions of Europe during and after the Middle Ages. Initially, the two were in competition; but when the Church grew in power and authority through its connections with the leading social groups of the emerging nation-states, indigenous religions were denigrated and held to be primitive superstitions.” Later, the division between official and popular religion or Volksfrömmigkeit was taken up by the Volkskunde of the 19th century C.E. and was developed to analyze customs of people in the Christian—mainly Catholic—societies of Europe (Vrijhof 1979: 1–6, 668–704; Ebertz and Schultheis 1986: 11–52). In this context, the term “popular religion” denotes a phenomenon in which laymen took elements of orthodox Catholic beliefs, rites, and symbols and redefined and reused them for their own religious purposes. For example, they erected crosses with the Corpus Christi in fields as apotropaic or fertility symbols. Thus, popular religion in this original sense is a degenerate subtype of official Christian religion. It presupposes the establishment of orthodoxy, a clear stratification between a priestly elite and an unprofessional laity, and a supposed priestly monopoly over all benefits of salvation.—Family and Household Religion in Ancient Israel and the Levant, page 50

<idle musing>
I'm wading through this book right now; it's a monster, but very interesting. Unfortunately, it doesn't lend itself to excerpts very well...

Anyway, this is a classic example of taking modern, present day society and superimposing it on the past. It will inevitably lead to skewed results. This is a problem for ANE studies as much as it is for biblical studies...
</idle musing>

Friday, March 22, 2013

Direct word?

...Jewish tradition is also quite relaxed about whether the predominant idea is 'that prophecy is conditioned by the personality and the capacity of the prophet.' Indeed, prophets were understood to be free to translate the vision or words they heard, befitting their audience and their individual style.”— The Bible and the Believer, page 55

Thought for a Friday

We are not preaching a state, but a walk. The highway of holiness is not a place, but a way. Sanctification is not a thing to be picked up at a certain stage of our experience, and forever after possessed, but it is a life to be lived day by day, and hour by hour.—Hannah Whitall Smith

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thought for today

Our one great motto is throughout, “We are nothing, Christ is all.” And always and everywhere we have started out to stand, and walk, and overcome, and live by faith. We have discovered our own utter helplessness, and know that we cannot do anything for ourselves.—Hannah Whitall Smith

Freedom of expression?

But how and when one presents archaeological discoveries to the public is virtually unregulated. Who gets to tell the story about a site’s importance is a critical step that often leaves out the excavators and the historians and brings other individuals into the picture; and often those other individuals have a very different agenda altogether from that of the excavation team and thus a very different story to tell. Indeed, that story sometimes comes as a complete surprise to the excavators. How projects are funded—that is, where the funding comes from—often has a profound impact on how the story is told.—Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media page 202

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stating the obvious

If Satan prefaced each temptation with the words, “I am Satan, your relentless enemy; I have come to make you sin,” I suppose we would hardly feel any desire at all to yield to his suggestions. He has to hide himself in order to make his baits attractive.—Hannah Whitall Smith

<idle musing>
This is one of my favorite quotations from her book. Wouldn't it be easier if he did it that way? Of course, then we wouldn't need to rely on the Lord, would we?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

But that is so backwards...

True humility can bear to see its own utter weakness and foolishness revealed, because it never expected anything from itself, and knows that its only hope and expectation must be in God. Therefore, instead of discouraging the soul from trusting, it drives it to a deeper and more utter trust.—Hannah Whitall Smith

Pretty straight forward, really

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (Leviticus 20:13 NIV)

<idle musing>
Can't get more obvious than that, can it? Jesus said he didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, so don't claim it no longer applies.

So, does that mean I think that gays should be killed? No more than I think people who commit adultery should be! They are in need of the saving grace of Jesus just as much as anyone else—no more and no less. But, just as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery in John 8, “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (Yes, I believe John 7:53-8:11 is an authentic event in Jesus' life—I just don't believe it is Johannine.)

And, because I believe that we are new creations in Christ, I believe they can leave their life of sin. I also believe that the sexually addicted, chemically dependent, etc., are called—and enabled by the presence of the Holy Spirit—to live a life free from sin.

A good summary of the sexual life of a Christian should be celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in a monogamous, heterosexual, lifelong marriage. Anything else is a compromise and sub-Christian. That goes for adultery, divorce, and homosexuality. There is no distinction between them; they are all less than God's ideal.

Yes, there is forgiveness and restoration, so don't think I am being judgmental here. I know there are situations where divorce is the least of a set of evils, but it is still not God's ideal. I believe that is what Jesus was saying when he said Moses allowed divorce; both parties need to be willing to forgive, repent (that means transformation, not just feeling sorry), and live in love. That doesn't always happen...
</idle musing>

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday's thought

I believe the lack of a will thus surrendered lies at the root of many of our difficulties; and next to this lies the want of faith in any real Divine guidance. God’s children are amazingly skeptical here. They read the promises and they feel the need, but somehow they cannot seem to believe the guidance will be given to them; as if God should want us to obey His voice, but did not know how to make us hear and understand Him.—Hannah Whitall Smith

Be holy...

“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” (Leviticus 20:7-8 NIV)

<idle musing>
The recurring theme in Leviticus is to be holy; that's a tall order, isn't it? Actually, that's an impossible task in ourselves. I'm glad verse 8 follows; God is the one who makes us holy.

I was recently reading Reality by Art Katz, a Messianic Jew (now deceased) and he pointed out that in Genesis 17:1, where before God commands Abraham to “walk before me faithfully and be blameless.” (TNIV), God inttroduces himself as El Shaddai for the first time. Here's his thought about it:

Having just introduced Himself as God Almighty [NASB translation of El Shaddai], He goes on to say in the same breath, “Walk before Me, and be blameless.” The coupling of these two phrases is perfectly logical, reasonable and necessary. To call anyone to perfection and to a walk before God requires from that one who is called a complete confidence that the God who has invited him will also supply every necessary means. That is why His almightiness is so important.—pages 119-120
Food for thought, isn't it?
</idle musing>


Too often, the media, having become the main purveyor of “archaeology” to the nonacademic community, trumpet our reasoned conclusions—guarded by caveats and hedging—beyond the halls of academia as “assured results.” Shorn of their academic context, archaeological data then become props in modern political and social debates remaking the past as it is wished to be, not as it was.—Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media, page 189

Friday, March 15, 2013

Knock or hammer?

It is never a sign of a Divine leading when the Christian insists on opening his own way, and riding rough-shod over all opposing things. If the Lord “goes before” us, He will open all doors for us, and we shall not need ourselves to hammer them down.—Hannah Whitall Smith


“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”(Leviticus 19:33, 34 NIV)

<idle musing>
Hmmm...wonder why the theocratically inclined never cite this reference??? Can you say selective memory? Or, maybe it's a case of "canon within the canon." I suspect a bit of both...
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Years ago I came across this sentence in an old book: “Never indulge, at the close of an action, in any self-reflective acts of any kind, whether of self-congratulation or of self-despair. Forget the things that are behind, the moment they are past, leaving them with God.” It has been of unspeakable value to me. When the temptation comes, as it always does, to indulge in these reflections, either of one sort or the other, I turn from them at once, and positively refuse to think about my work at all, leaving it with the Lord to overrule the mistakes, and to bless it as He chooses.—Hannah Whitall Smith

Crows in the corn

I've been reading quite a few gardening books of late. I'm trying to find things that will grow in the shorter, cooler summers here in Grand Marais. This endeavor has lead me to look more at heirloom, open pollenated varieties than I ever have before. The mainstream varieties offered by most seed companies today are geared more for longer seasons; they have to make a profit to stay in business—and Grand Marais and such aren't exactly huge markets : )

Anyway, they know me by sight now at the library. I walk in and they automatically go to the interlibrary loan shelf : ) One of the books, now out of print (but offered in electronic format by Mother Earth News) is Heirloom Vegetable Gardening. I find it delightful and informative. Much of it is oriented to warmer climates, but there are some real gems in it. This one seemed too good not to share. Try this is the crows are getting your corn crop before you:

"Soak a few quarts of dried corn in whiskey, and scatter it over the fields for the crows. After partaking of one such meal and getting pretty thoroughly corned, they will never return to it again."—Farmer's Almanac, 1864, cited in Weavers, page 141

<idle musing>
Apparently crows have more sense than humans...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

His responsibility

To grow in grace is opposed to all self-dependence, to all self-effort, to all legality of every kind. It is to put our growing, as well as everything else, into the hands of the Lord, and leave it with Him. —Hannah Whitall Smith

Messy, stinky, real

If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. You are to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting. You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (Leviticus 1:3-9 NIV)

<idle musing>
Check out the pronouns in those verses! "You" occurs most of the time, not the priest. You bring it (no surprise); you lay your hands on it (again, no surprise). You slaughter it—messy job! You skin it—another messy job! You wash the internal organs—a stinky, messy job!

Moral of the story? Dealing with sin is a messy, stinky job! You can't pass it off to someone else; you have to deal with it yourself&mash;with the Lord, of course; you can't make atonement for yourself! And you can't just drop a check in the offering plate or the mail.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thought for the day

I was once urging upon a company of Christians the privileges and rest of an immediate and definite step into the land of promise, when a lady of great intelligence interrupted me, with what she evidently felt to be a complete rebuttal of all I had been saying, exclaiming, “Ah! but, my dear friend, I believe in growing in grace.” “How long have you been growing?” I asked. “About twenty-five years,” was her answer. “And how much more unworldly and devoted to the Lord are you now than when you began your Christian life?” I continued. “Alas!” was the answer, “I fear I am not nearly so much so”; and with this answer her eyes were opened to see that at all events her way of growing had not been successful, but quite the reverse.—Hannah Whitall Smith

More on the house

This house is full of blessings from God (Debbie calls them “kisses”). There are two very large picture windows (54” x 36” inches) in the kitchen; one faces east and the other faces south. You can see the lake from both of them. A picture doesn't do it justice, so I won't even try. I bring a stool into the kitchen, pull out the cutting board (the kitchen counter has a recessed oak cutting board) as a table, and sit there for breakfast. The sun shining through with the lake alternately freezing or being blown open makes a great background for sitting there and reading scripture in the morning.

I can't think of a better way to start the day!

Legalism defined

Scot McKnight has a great definition and discussion of legalism, judgmentalism, and our freedom in Christ. Here's snippet to whet your appetite, but do read the whole thing:
Legalism is any practice or belief that is added to the gospel that compromises the sufficiency of Christ as Savior and jeopardizes the adequacy of the Spirit in moral guidance. Secondarily, then, legalism demands that one adopt a group’s special markers in order to be fully acceptable to God.

Legalism then is the charge against you or me, often sensed at the deepest level, that we are not accepted by God in Christ and indwellt by the Holy Spirit.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Thought for the day

Our abandonment must be to God, not to man, and our trust must be in Him, not in any arm of flesh, or we shall fail at the first trial.—Hannah Whitall Smith


I love Narnia. I've read the books well over 20 times, maybe over 30 times. In college and grad school, I would read through them at the end of the semester or quarter to unwind (I also read a lot of kid's classics, too, but that's another story). When the kids were young, we read them at the supper table together out loud. I will find myself using examples of things from the books as illustrations fairly frequently.

Well, one of the surprises in the house here is the entryway closet

Yep, a hidden access to Narnia! It even has a lamp (OK, it's outside of Narnia, but hey, it's close enough!)

I suspect it was built around 1999 as a “Y2K refuge” or some such, you can see that it used to be accessed from a bedroom

It's fairly spacious inside. One of the first times the grandkids came over (we weren't even fully moved in yet), they all wanted to bring stools into it, sit on them, and play. We decided it would be fun, so we painted the walls and are going to allow them to post their artwork. We thought about letting them paint the walls, but decided artwork done elsewhere and posted was safer : )

Friday, March 08, 2013

Emotions don't have to rule

The transaction with God is as real, where only your will acts, as when every emotion coincides. It does not seem as real to you; but in God’s sight it is as real. And when you have got hold of this secret, and have discovered that you need not attend to your emotions, but simply to the state of your will, all the Scripture commands, to yield yourself to God, to present yourself a living sacrifice to Him, to abide in Christ, to walk in the light, to die to self, become possible to you; for you are conscious that, in all these, your will can act, and can take God’s side: whereas, if it had been your emotions that must do it, you would sink down in despair, knowing them to be utterly uncontrollable.—Hannah Whitall Smith

Life in Grand Marais

It's been a while since I gave an update of what's happening in our lives—probably since November. That's quite a while ago now. So, here's a whirlwind update on the last 3-4 months.

In October, Dave put the cabins up for sale. We had moved into an apartment in town, about ¾ mile from the cabins, in September; winterizing one of the cabins was too much work—plus if the place sold, where would that leave us? Anyway, throughout September and early October, until the cabins closed, I would ride my bike over every day and take care of things.

In November, I went down to Warsaw (and then to AAR/SBL) for 3 weeks. I wrote about that back then; you can find the first post here. Before I left, Max and Sherri, the people who own the bed and breakfast next door, Macarthur House, had made an offer on the cabins; Dave accepted it. The closing was scheduled to happen sometime in November, while I was in Indiana.

Max approached Debbie and me about continuing to work at the cabins; they wouldn't be able to keep up with all the cabins plus the bed and breakfast. In exchange for the work, we could live in the house. We accepted, but because we had a year lease on the apartment, weren't sure how it would work out. Plus, Dave and Geneva would stay in the house until at least the end of December. So, we tentatively planned on moving into the house in the Spring, paying the rent on the apartment for the last 3 months without living in it.

Max suggested we talk to our landlord, Paul, about breaking the lease. Turns out that they are friends! So, hat-in-hand (so to speak), I approached Paul. He was most gracious, saying that it looked like a great opportunity for both Max and us; he allowed us to break the lease with just the loss of one month's rent. Mind you, this whole thing has been bathed in prayer and seeking the Lord. I hate breaking leases; it strikes me as unfaithful and a bad witness. I don't recall ever breaking one before...

The closing happened while I was in Indiana; Dave and Geneva moved out at the end of December. In January, we started cleaning, painting, and clearing out stuff from the cabins that had accumulated over the 20+ years that Dave and Geneva had owned them.

You'd never know by looking at my desk at Eisenbrauns, but I'm somewhat of a clean freak, as is Debbie. My desk at home is rarely messy; it might have a few open books for a day or so as I work on something, but it never gets out of hand. Anyway, we attacked the place pretty thoroughly. I spent the better part of January and half of February cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, painting, etc. No matter how good a housekeeper you are, living in a place for over 20 years allows dust and dirt to accumulate, so this is not an indictment against Dave or Geneva!

I had a good time mixing and matching the paints left in the basement to paint the walls and floor. I wanted it to be bright and cheery, as that is where the washer and dryers are. I will be spending a good bit of time down there during the summer! I ended up with brown walls for the first 3 feet (to cover the dirt and stuff that will inevitably build up), with yellow, light blue, or dark blue above that. The floor is a dark evergreen or brown. The ceilings are flat white. I like it, anyway. : )

By the middle of February, we were ready to move in...Is anyone keeping track of how many times we've moved in the last 11 months?! We're getting pretty good at it : )

Just in case you are wondering, this is the fifth place we've lived in in those 11 months. We sold the house (1) in March, moved back into “little white” (as Debbie called it) (2) for 2 months, then the cabins (3) for 2 months, followed by the apartment (4) for 6 months, and now the house (5).

We really like it. There is an enclosed backyard that has real potential for a nice garden. I'm hoping to put a hoop house and some cold frames back there. There is also a nice deck for containerized growing. And—get this!—Dave had built a shed that he used as a greenhouse! Yep, a real enclosed one with southern exposure and a real roof. He had modified it over the years to do other things, so I'll need to change it back a bit, but still... I'll try to post about all this as time goes on...

That's enough for now, but stay tuned; I'll have some pictures soon (I hope!)

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Whom do you trust?

Is it possible that you can trust your fellow-men and cannot trust your God? That you can receive the “witness of men,” and cannot receive the “witness of God”? That you can believe man’s records, and cannot believe God’s record? That you can commit your dearest earthly interests to your weak, failing fellow-creatures without a fear, and are afraid to commit your spiritual interests to the blessed Saviour who shed His blood for the very purpose of saving you, and who is declared to be “able to save you to the uttermost”?—Hannah Whitall Smith

Everybody else...

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32 NIV)

<idle musing>
I don't know about you, but ever since I became a Christian (way back in 1972), I've heard Romans 1 used as an escalator of the increasing sinfulness of a culture. The problem with that viewpoint, is that they have to stop at Romans 1:28. But, Paul doesn't stop! He keeps going, making sure that nothing and no one escapes.

<rabbit trail>
I was reading this chapter on my iPad, and the line breaks at the verse ending of 29, making gossips stand out. Recently,Ted had a good post that mentioned gossip in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. Tolle! Lege! (That means you should read it, from Augustine's Confessions)
</rabbit trail>

Anyway, what jumped out at me especially was the last indictment, “they mercy.” The Greek is ἀνελεήμονας, an adjective formed from the Greek word for mercy by adding what is called an alpha privative. Huh? Let's see if I can define it...OK, here's what my computer dictionary says “(of an action or state) marked by the absence, removal, or loss of some quality or attribute that is normally present.” Think deprived and you get the idea.

So? What's the big deal about that? Well, the Greek word for mercy (ἔλεος) is the word that the Septuagint uses to translate the Hebrew word חסד (ḥesed), the word for God's faithfulness/mercy/love; most translations translate it as “loving kindness.” Paul, being steeped in the Hebrew Bible would probably be thinking in those terms when he dictated this section. The word is used in one of my favorite summations of the law in Micah 6:8:

He has shown all you people what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
This post is getting a bit long, so I'll cut to the chase...As Christians, we have been shown mercy by God. We are called to show mercy to others in the same way, forgiving them for offenses (real and imagined!. In fact, James says “...judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” (2:13b).

The question of the hour is, how often are we quick to judge others? How little do we show mercy? How often do we justify our own actions and give them a pass, all the while pointing an unmerciful finger at others?

I'm preaching to myself as much as anyone else. Sure, I could list a whole bunch of sects/people who come to mind—but doesn't that prove the very point I'm making?!

Just an
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

We got it backwards

As usual, it puts feeling first and faith second. Now, God’s invariable rule is faith first and feeling second, in everything; and it is striving against the inevitable when we seek to make it different.—Hannah Whitall Smith

When did that get put in there?

Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. (Romans 1:5 NIV)

<idle musing>
Whoa! When did they put obedience in that verse?! I don't remember that! But it makes sense, doesn't it? Obedience flows from faith via Jesus. We obey; he empowers. Again, no transformation, no salvation... Paul starts out Romans with obedience flowing from faith. Neat!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

By faith, first to last

Then we believed that Jesus was our Saviour from the guilt of sin, and according to our faith it was unto us. Now we must believe that He is our Saviour from the power of sin, and according to our faith it shall be unto us. Then we trusted Him for our justification, and it became ours; now we must trust Him for our sanctification, and it shall become ours also. Then we took Him as a Saviour in the future from the penalties of our sins; now we must take Him as a Saviour in the present from the bondage of our sins. Then He was our Redeemer, now He is to be our Life. Then He lifted us out of the pit, now He is to seat us in heavenly places with Himself.—Hannah Whitall Smith

I'll take it my way

As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” (Acts 24:25 NIV)

<idle musing>
Isn't that the version of the gospel most want? They are fine with God-talk until you mention righteousness and self-control. Throw in judgment to come and that's just too much! People don't want to think that there are ramifications or consequences to their actions. When it is convenient for them, then they'll allow you to mention God...
</idle musing>

Friday, March 01, 2013

Works will do it...

But when it comes to living the Christian life, they lose sight of this principle, and think that, having been saved by faith, they are now to live by works and efforts; and instead of continuing to receive, they are now to begin to do. This makes our declaration that the life hid with Christ in God is to be entered by faith, seem perfectly unintelligible to them.—Hannah Whitall Smith

Secret truths

Documentary film makers have increasingly taken on the role of the seemingly righteous crusader who faces danger and ridicule to discover what scholars have hidden. Conspiracies strike a nerve with documentary viewers because our knowledge of human nature suggests the hazy possibility that our received traditions are rooted in lies (Goldberg 2001). Conspiracy theories stimulate the popular imagination and lead some people to believe that the world’s chaos is the byproduct of concealed truths and that recovering these secrets will set things right. They can be powerfully seductive because they validate our suspicion that not all is right in the world. The seductive allure of stories about forgotten manuscripts and artifacts grows out of the popular idea that covert forces have concealed truths that need to be brought to light by the reporter or film maker (Fenster 1999).—Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media, pages 119-120