December 18, 2008

humility is truth, pride is lying

We all know that humility is taught in the Bible, but not until I read the quote below did I think so clearly about how only a humble attitude is an attitude based on reality. I am fallible. I am a sinner. It is more than likely that I messed something up, forgot something or just did what I told you not to do.
"We all tend to be infatuated with the idea of strength--but we fail to realize that all true strength is grounded in humility. We still relegate humility to the pale ranks of passive virtues and ornamental graces, whereas, in its legitimate development, it is a stout and soldierly quality. Humility, indeed, is simply a sense of reality and proportion. It is grounded upon a knowledge of the truth about ourselves and about God. 'The reason why God is so great a lover of humility,' says St Vincent de Paul, 'is because He is the great lover of truth. Now humility is nothing but truth, whilst pride is nothing but lying.'"
-E. Herman, as quoted in Elizabeth Elliot's book The Mark of a Man

And yet humility is a trait of Christ (Phil 2)--our all powerful Creator God. "Mild He lays his glory by." May we be forever grateful.

December 17, 2008

"man sees the outward appearance"

One very cold day this weekend, some of us had the opportunity to sing Christmas carols to local hospital residents and staff. I don't tell you this to sound like a good person. Because as I was there, I couldn't help but feel trite and self-centered in offering my well-wishes to people who most likely won't have a joyful Christmas. People whom our society, for the most part, has put away. It felt hollow to suppose that I was doing them some great good by spending a few hours singing before I bustled off to friends, family and Christmas happenings.

In the hospital there is a lady who is burned beyond recognition. A splash of grey hair hangs from a lumpy, rebuilt expanse where her face once was. When I see her, my curious eyes keep turning back to her. My foolish heart, which is so bound up in the physical and visible, experiences repulsion and pity as I judge her value by worldly standards rather than the Lord's.

My little friend Jeremiah, who has recently turned five, was at the hospital with us and saw this lady for the first time. After someone talked to him about her, his response was "But she'll have a new body in Heaven, right?" Yet again, a little child leads me:
in thinking Biblically,
in always hoping,
in having eyes to see the unseen--that which is eternal.

Man sees the outward appearance, but the Lord sees the heart.

December 07, 2008

in one ear and out the other

The book of James is presenting enormous challenges to me. The speaker I'm listening to* (as we study the controversial, important passage of James 2:14-26) suggested substituting the word faith with doctrine (as in "the faith", the objective body of doctrine of Christianity) and works with application, to aid understanding. Perhaps this gives a fresh look at this passage:
James 2:14, 17, 20
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has doctrine but he has no application? Can that doctrine save him? ...doctrine, if it has no application, is dead, being by itself...doctrine without application is useless[.]
Above is a cartoon I drew in church a while back. The church I attend is known to be serious about Bible teaching (doctrine) and that is one reason I chose it. While so many churches trim down the amount of time spent studying the Bible, I've appreciated additional teaching that our church leadership chose to add to the service on Sunday mornings. We're briefly covering a variety of topics, such as Christology. It has been beneficial.

But wait...how beneficial has it really been to me? The point of Bible teaching is not just to get it in our heads, but live in in our lives. Am I applying the doctrine? I confess that too often I consume facts without stopping for personal reflection, application and confession. What good is it for me to have journals full of study notes and bookshelves lined with theology tomes if I am not daily, practically applying it?

Don't misunderstand; I am convinced that we should study the Bible more, not less. But with that studying there must be personal application. So that doctrine doesn't leak out of my ear onto my Sunday clothes. So that I can be saved from the terrible effects of sin in my life as a believer. So I can do those good works by which I am not justified before God (Eph 2:8-9) but for which I was created (Eph 2:10).

*If you've ever puzzled at how salvation is by faith/grace alone in Paul's writings but wondered how James can teach salvation by works, you could really benefit from Jeremy Thomas' studies in this area, all available for free right here [link].

November 27, 2008

peace, perfect peace

A speaker at church on Sunday talked about the hymn Peace, Perfect Peace. The hymn's author, Edward H. Bickersteth wrote these words in 1875 after hearing a sermon on Isaiah 26:3, where the min­is­ter re­lat­ed that the He­brew text used the word peace twice to in­di­cate ab­so­lute per­fect­ion. The lyrics below are somewhat archaic, but the truths are alive. I've used bold italics for those things that might be the cause of our lack of peace and bold for how Christ ministers peace to that area. My soul hasn't been very still lately. This is a timely reminder to me that there is nothing outside the Lord's control or care. My ultimate reality is one of ultimate peace! I am blessed beyond all measure.

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus' bosom naught but calm is found.

Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus' keeping we are safe, and they.

Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.

It is enough: earth's struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to heaven's perfect peace.

November 13, 2008

longing for Him

Sometimes we Christians go about our honourable goal of seeing spiritual growth in believers in a backward fashion. Are we assigning "tasks and work"...ensuring that people look busy...and measuring the spiritual health of the Body of Christ by visible, human standards?

If our emphasis is teaching and modeling a personal knowledge of Christ through the Bible, we may find that we don't have to do so much "assigning." The one who is growing in his knowledge of God's person and Word, and believing it, will long for Him. There is no question of to serve or not to serve for the disciple of Christ (though what that serving looks like will vary from person to person). So let us together "long for the immensity of Christ". Christ will assign the "tasks and work" and empower us for it. The Spirit's promptings will prove more powerful than human pleading.

November 09, 2008

elijah and prayer

An example of praying according to God's will:
1 Kings 18:36-38
'At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. '

Is this just Old Testament talk, or can God still answer prayer?
James 5:17-18
'Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.'

November 08, 2008

Biblical freedom

Lately I've been trying to learn what a Biblical definition for freedom really is. While I realized that in Scripture we are said to be both free and slaves, I had never given much thought to how the two can coexist. Are those words not antithetic? Here are a few of my notes and some interesting quotes I've come across, without much comment. This is a lesson I'm still preaching to myself.

Interesting Biblical references to freedom
  • Gen 2:16 - Adam and Eve were "free to eat from any tree in the garden" except one. (Freedom is found within a form which is already created by God)
  • Psalm 119:32 - "I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free"; Psalm 119:45 - "I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts"; James 1:25 and 2:12 - "the perfect law that gives freedom"
  • Proverbs 11:21 - The righteous will go free, the wicked will be punished
  • John 8:32 - "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"
  • Romans 6:7-22 - When we were slaves to sin, we were free from the control of righteousness. Believers in Christ have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness and to God. When we offer ourselves to someone to obey them as slaves, we are making ourselves slaves, either to sin (which leads to death) or obedience, which leads to righteousness. We are to offer our bodies in slavery to righteousness, which leads to holiness.
Interesting words and phrases used in conjunction with freedom:
  • stand firm (Gal 5:1)
  • don't indulge, but serve (Gal 5:13)
  • perfect law (that gives freedom, Jas 1:25, 2:12)
  • servants of God (1 Pe 2:16)
  • commandments (Ps 119:32)
  • precepts (Ps 119:45)
  • truth (Jn 8:32)
  • slaves (to righteousness, Ro. 6:18)
Further comments on Biblical freedom
  • Freedom finds its roots in the Bible
  • Freedom from the power of sin, to abundant and eternal life.
  • Freedom comes with responsibilities and consequences.
  • Freedom is not doing our own will, absence of law or anarchy
  • Sin binds. When we don't "do" the truth daily, we are living in slavery.
  • Followers of Christ can have individual freedom no matter the external circumstances. We can be content and peaceful (unconstrained, free to move) even in great disasters and persecution.
The Word of God teaches that the Christian is a free man and should “stand in the freedom which Christ has made him free.” What is meant by Christian freedom? What is freedom in general? We answer: it is not the right and the ability to do as one pleases, but the ability to move without constraint in the sphere for which God made us. Freedom therefore is not inconsistent with limitation and law. The bird is free only when it can move in the air unhindered. A worm is free when it is not prevented from moving in the ground--in a sphere which would mean bondage and death for many other creatures. A locomotive is not free unless its motion is confined to the two rails on which it was made to run. Man was made in the image of God to be like Him and to reflect his holiness. Consequently he is free only when he moves without constraint in the sphere of holiness and obedience to God’s law.
-“Christian Liberty,” in “Report of the Committee on Worldly Amusements,” Agenda: Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, To convene June 13, 1928 at Holland, Mich., p. 22.

"Slavery to God is perfect freedom."
-Augustine
In popular use [freedom] means simply absence of hindrance, confinement, repression. However, that meaning is negative; it defines what freedom is not. But why should we want to be free? Only when we get beyond freedom from restraint and ask about freedom for a purpose can we understand its true meaning. Only then will we understand the basic elements of limitation and responsibility inherent in the nature of freedom itself.
Freedom is a condition in which something can fulfill the purpose for which it is designed. This principle is evident in everyday life. For example, an automobile is designed to run swiftly on a paved road. Yet it is free to do so only as long as it stays on the road. If it seeks greater "freedom" by suddenly turning off into the bushes, the vehicle comes to a grinding halt, possibly injuring or killing its passengers.
We can understand the meaning of human freedom only when we know the purpose for which we were designed. What are we set free for? The Bible portrays humankind created in the image of God for a life of loving obedience to our Creator. We are free to obey God; free to express His love to those around us; free to take care of the earth and its creatures.
--"Managing your Life," Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles E. Hummel, 1997, p28-29

November 05, 2008

"A Savior On Capitol Hill"?

Please overlook the stupid graphics in the YouTube video below (you could always listen to the song with no graphics here [link]), but listen to the lyrics [link]. If you get one line out of this song, let it be this one: we’ve never had a savior on Capitol Hill. Or Parliament Hill.

May thoughts of elections and human leaders cause us to look forward to the coming of the King of Righteousness...with much anticipation!

November 02, 2008

"what is a family?"

I had no idea that Francis Schaeffer's wife Edith was an author until I saw her book What is a Family? in our church library. I haven't read the book yet, but the Table of Contents outlines her answers to the question the title poses. The family is:
  • A changing life mobile
  • And ecologically balanced environment
  • The birthplace of creativity
  • A formation center for human relationships
  • A shelter in the time of storm
  • A perpetual relay of truth
  • An economic unit
  • An educational control
  • A museum of memories
  • A door that has hinges and a lock
  • Blended balances
I was so encouraged to read this list! Family can be the source of great joy...but also of deep pain. Is it worth it? The Bible says it definitely is! Also, as our society redefines terms and the idea of a Biblically-defined family is under attack, take heart! The family was designed by the Creator of the universe. It serves very important purposes. This truth needs to be preserved. Press on!

October 26, 2008

eyes of hope

If you've ever had a regular job, you know that gossip is par for the course. Indeed, I've never had to pay a coworker to give me information about a supervisor. Coworkers have their hobby horses which seem never to go out to pasture. Even between people who work closely, there is bitterness and anger. To someone who wants to follow the royal law of Scripture, this is a challenge.

While I don't want to be too specific about my current situation, like most jobs, there is some discontent among the employees. Both fact and fiction are tossed around the room in the supervisor's absence. If what others sometimes insinuate were true, I would have a petty, unfair boss. When others gossip about my boss, whom God says I am to respect, I have had to try to learn to keep hope in view. Above the haze, I have found a boss who is calm, patient and has a good sense of humour. He is a good teacher and a manager who rewards good work and shows grace. In fact, I've even like working for him. Imagine that!

How can my coworkers and I describe the same man in such disparate ways? Are we really talking about the same man? How often are our circumstances shaped by the perspective we have chosen? I work for a kind boss, they work for a "lazy" one. We work for the same man, but "love always hopes."

Joining in slander is like agreeing to live in a pit of vipers. Bad-mouthers feed one another's discontent and dissension. Why would I align myself with such base behaviour? Not only does it set a negative tone to my life, but I could just as easily be the next smack-talk target. Through this situation, the Lord is teaching me to look up, in hope, and to expect the best. I don't have to live in the pit. "Set your mind on things above, where Christ is seated." He keeps me singing.

While we can't always choose our circumstances in life, we can choose hope. While "detail work" is also needed, sometimes I need to step back and think about "whatever is true" (Phil. 4:8). I need...
To appreciate the godly qualities in my friends' lives, instead of judging them for their shortfalls.
To see the dishes that got washed, and not the ones that got left in the sink.
To dismiss a small frustration with the body of Christ, and count my many blessings.
To choose to live with hope.
To forgive as I've been forgiven.
To refuse to lie down in the mess made by gossip.
To be raised up by Truth.
To live with the big picture in mind.
To choose a divine viewpoint.

That's choosing to see life through eyes of hope.

October 17, 2008

teaching the books of the Bible to kids

Recently I had the opportunity to teach the books of the Bible to some sweet kids... Two good resources I found for this venture:

Books of the Bible Song [link]
(I played the song for them straight from You Tube on my laptop. The kids really liked the song and would sing it even when it wasn't playing...this reminded me of the power of teaching truth through music. Unfortunately, there's a weird portion of the song between the Old and New Testaments; we didn't learn that part.)

Books of the Bible flashcards [link]
(I got these free flashcards printed on thicker stock and these were a great resource. We had relays and races to see who could put the books in order first, played memory, etc.) We learned the "sections" of the Bible, which I termed
OT: laws, history, poems, prophecy, and
NT: history, letters and Revelation
Partly due to an oversight of mine, I don't think the kids learned the epistles ("letters") very well, but overall they did a great job. We mostly studied a little bit about the books and their sections and played related games, although one time we drew one or two illustrations for each section of the Bible. Again, the kids were were great: Job (Poems section) had empty animal pens around him and Joshua (OT History section), a wild wilderness dog. :)

October 09, 2008

"hopitality seeks to serve"

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend here in Canada, I hope you will be either showing or enjoying hospitality. Let's keep the right perspective.

A Karen Mains quote from her Open Heart, Open Home via Jess' Making Home:
"Entertaining has little to do with real hospitality. Secular entertaining is a terrible bondage. Its source is human pride. Demanding perfecting, fostering the urge to impress, it is a rigorous taskmaster that enslaves. In contrast, scriptural hospitality is a freedom that liberates.

Entertaining says, 'I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking.' Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, 'This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am His servant, and I use it as He desires. Hospitality does not try to impress but to serve."
It is amazing how a human perspective can so skew something that is seemingly "neutral" (there is no neutrality!). So let's be hospitable, as unto Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.

September 27, 2008

Costume or precious jewelry?

A few months ago I stumbled across a short article from In Word Adorning. Basically, she compares young women to either cheap costume jewelry or fine jewels. I had never heard this analogy, but thought it was very effective. I list some of her points below. As I have never really bought fine jewels, I'm taking her word for how it works.

FINE JEWELS
  • The wise jeweler is a good steward of his merchandise.
  • Potential buyers look, but don't touch.
  • If the potential buyer wants a closer look, the jeweler will open the glass case take out the jewelry, place it on a black velvet cloth, and remain present.
  • Some gems and stones are so priceless and rare they are not displayed at all. They are viewed by appointment for only the wealthy.
COSTUME JEWELRY
  • Available abundance in Wal-mart and Dollar stores in every town.
  • No money or intent to purchase needed to view it, handle it or walk around the story with it.
  • Less guarded and more easily stolen.
She goes on to say:
This is how I explain dating and courtship to my girls. They are our precious gems. They will not be cheap costume dates. Picked up carried off, never purchased and put back down. No man will come and sample them, try them out, or take them from our presence. If he comes he must come rich--very rich--in character and good intentions, he must come willing and able to pay any price.... He will honor her purity as much as we do.
My point is not to discuss dating or courtship. I know that the world in which I operate daily encourages me to be cheap, immodest and live for the present. Rather, I think this might be helpful to you as you either:
  • help young ladies understand the value of purity, or
  • seek to maintain purity for yourself.
Often I think that Christian girls are told to dress modestly because "if you don't, you cause boys to stumble." It is certainly good for girls to be aware of this problem.* What if we taught not only physical, sexual purity but modesty in clothing and demeanour as part of the gift we are saving for the one man whom we may marry someday? Many women I have met give free "samples" of their sexuality to men all the time. Fleeting pleasure says flaunt what you got. Some brides have a custom of giving their husband a gift on their wedding day. What could be more precious to him than the knowledge that, ever since the Lord opened her eyes to these truths, his bride has saved not only her sexual purity, but her physical charm, for the man who "pays a high price" for her? In the words of King Lemuel, this woman is not not just fine jewelry, she is worth far more than rubies.

*I think Christian boys often lack teaching in this area though. Put on some clothes/some looser clothes!

September 21, 2008

autumn light

i love being in my kitchen in the morning when the sun's yellow light is beating through our east window. the photo above is simple, but it captures what i saw this morning. it is too bad that moment can't last all day...but if it did, it wouldn't be so special. the sun is waking up later here and i won't get to see bright mornings in my kitchen for much longer. fall is definitely here. bright yellow leaves are floating down from the trees on my street, piling in crunchy drifts on the sidewalks and getting stuck in my windshield wipers. it is so beautiful.

in the morning i also love to read Tozer's Renewed Day by Day while I eat breakfast, when i'm not in a big rush. here's something from today:
Before the Word of God can mean anything inside of me there must be obedience to the Word. Truth will not give itself to a rebel. Truth will not impart life to a man who will not obey the light. If you are disobeying Jesus Christ you cannot expect to be enlightened spiritually.... I can know about God: that is the body of truth. But I cannot know God, the soul of truth, unless I am ready to be obedient. True discipleship is...doing what [Jesus Christ] tells you to do..."
last week i started an evening course at a local university. there is something quietly surreal about fall in that historic section of our city, as the late afternoon sun filters through the trees which are dropping swirls of leaves. like a new morning, a new school year seems to speak of a new opportunity. a new textbook, a new sheet of looseleaf, a new pen. there is so much to learn, to do, to see and to experience...but for a few moments, it is delicious to get silent. to lose yourself in the splendour of God's current artwork. to watch the games light plays. happy autumn!

July 26, 2008

good...is not good enough

This is one of my draft posts I had previously mentioned. I am not completely sure how to best express myself, but this is a topic that weighs heavily on me. I hope this doesn't come across as criticism, but as concern. May you learn these lessons more quickly than I am learning them. I have so far to go.

We all have typical phrases we say to someone who is leaving us, like "Drive safe!" or "Have fun!" When I began living with my brother, I would often dismiss him with "Be good!" Finally I stopped saying that to him, because I hate implying that his being "good" is my main concern for him. If I define "being good" as most would, I set the standard far too low.* As if being good would save souls or get us into heaven. I realized that when I said "be good" to him it was just a cop-out. I was trying to sound more normal when my insides saying something like: I want you to reflect Jesus out there. But I guess that sounds too spiritual for a regular Christian conversation, right? Like, tone it down!

If you have spent long in North American Christian circles, you probably have heard it said that someone is "not walking with the Lord." That is Christianese for someone who has made a profession of saving faith in Christ but is living in a visibly worldly fashion (read: not going to church). In a recent conversation with a Christian lady, she mentioned her son, who is not walking with the Lord and some church kids, whom she described as good kids. Yes, evangelical churches are often full of good kids. My concern is the great overlap between the two categories: many good church kids find themselves not walking with the Lord.

At prayer meeting, we often pray for a few young men have quit attending church. I realize that those are the people that it is easiest to pray for aloud, because we all agree that they are not doing as they should. But I wonder if those who pray realize how many of us good church kids continue to warm stacking chairs in the sanctuary, but have minds that are far, far from the Lord.

The problem is not so much that we do good things, but that we're willing to stop at just acting good. I think that in most people's eyes, I'd look like a "good church kid." Let me give you a good church kid checklist. (Reminder: these are the good church kids, not every church kid).
  • Go to church at least once a week.
  • Don't have premarital sex.
  • Read your Bible.
  • Hang out with Christian friends.
  • Don't curse.
  • Give money to the church.
We know that these things don't get us into Heaven, but we take them as indicators of whether another Christian has their essential ducks in a row. But when we go past appearances...

We go to church. (...but what sorts of conversations do I initiate as we stand in the foyer? I heard about a man who, after his sermons, would sit on the podium and weep. "Listen to their conversations!" he would say. It broke his heart to preach the Word of God, only to have the congregation walk out of church talking about last night's football game. When I hear that someone is struggling with something, do I say I'll pray, but then forget? Do I take ten minutes to call them that week, or do I seek to avoid the "uncomfortable" or "socially awkward" people in order to talk to the cool crowd?)

We don't have premarital sex.
(...but God wants "not even a hint of sexual immorality". Do crude jokes repulse me like they repulse the Father of Lights? How can I watch movies that are impure, with the knowledge that the Spirit of God lives in me? Do my trendy church clothes cause other people in the pews to stumble?)

We read our Bibles. (...we can quote some verses and give devotionals. But we're busy, and more often than not we don't really study God's Word as well as we should. Isn't that just for people who preach and teach publicly? Sometimes the day slips away on me and while I let the world influence me for hour after hour, I give God ten minutes and I can hardly concentrate, because I'm tired. It is no wonder that we fall prey to worldly life philosophies, since our knowledge of the Scriptures remains so shallow although we've grown up in church. If someone does study God's Word in a serious sort of way, they are almost considered a rarity, a super-saint or radical...when this should be the average Christian).

We hang out with Christian friends. (...and we don't drink, smoke or have sex. We talk about the weather, sports, work, school, friends...but I know my tongue is so slow to go to the deeper issues, like What is the Lord teaching you right now? How can I pray for you? A Christian friend of mine told me that in her 25+ years growing up the church, she has never been asked to share what the Lord is teaching her. Why is talking about the Lord at any length or spontaneously praying together so foreign to many Christians? Do we save that for when we're camp counselors or Sunday school teachers? Another friend has told me how difficult it can be to tell a Christian friend that she don't feel comfortable watching a movie they want to watch. Do we consistently encourage each other to spend time, conversation and money on frivolous things? Some nights I know I need to go home and do some Bible study, but it sounds holier-than-thou to say I need to go read my Bible. My fear of what my "good Christian friends" think helps me excuse my sin of settling for the status quo. Instead of listening to the Holy Spirit, I was to justify my activities by the fact that Christian friends are doing the same things. The Lord wants us to "press onward toward the high calling". Why do I better resemble a vacationer than a soldier?)

We give money to the church.(...but what do I know of sacrificial giving? I give out of my excess and still have money left for entertainment or things I don't need. As if missionaries aren't needing money for flights, radio programs, bicycles...food. As if most of this world won't go hungry today.)

We don't curse. (...but as I've already said, the conversations I initiate often lack any substance. I'm using language, but not using it responsibly. I like gossip more than I'd care to admit.)

I have spent most of my life comparing myself to other Christians, when my standard should be Christ. Therefore, I continue to fall into the "good church kid" category. Others might think I seem good. But my pride is slain when I compare myself to Christ: My haughtiness compared to His humility. My fallen thoughts next to His holy ones. When Isaiah saw the Lord, he cried that he was "undone" due to his uncleanness and the uncleanness of his people. Job hated himself. Daniel weak and sorrowful, Daniel, Paul and John all fell to the ground. When I stand bare before the One "to whom we must give account," my goodness looks filthy.

In conclusion, it takes some work to be good. But at some point, things level out for the good person. Life reaches normalcy, and you are maintaining but not advancing. As long as the outside looks good, you think you're OK, because you're living for the praise of man. But the life Christ calls each believer to is alive and dynamic. To cease to advance is to fall back. In many matters no one else can tell me what is right or wrong for me. I must know the Lord intimately if I am to know His mind in each matter. You and I stand accountable before the Lord--and will not the judge of all the earth do what is right? May the gracious Christ be our measuring rod:
"till we all come in the unity of the faith,
and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to a perfect man,
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ"
(Ephesians 4:13).

*I know that the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 6) includes "goodness", and that we are taught to be "good", but I think you'll see my point as I continue.

July 19, 2008

salvation in isaiah

i am still intermittently studying Isaiah. last year when i chose to start on Isaiah, i wanted to do some digging and chewing, and i have. sometimes this study is tough going: the gap between Isaiah and I (culture, language, era, background, etc.) is so great and so new that it seems like i'm plugging away at "insignificant" details of seemingly little spiritual relevance (like trying understand the reference to "wine on the lees" in 25:6). at times i do a lot of digging, only to come up with information that seems un-revolutionary. i want to
(1) objectively understand the original intent of the author (this is first and hardest), but i know that i also need to
(2) personally (subjectively) apply spiritual truths to my life.
i try to both use some pre-chewed materials (commentaries, study Bible) as well as a concordance to try to help me bridge the gaps and understand the text, i also try to do some serious observing of the text and cross referencing (if possible!) without a lot of leads.it is easy to lose sight of the big picture (especially since i'm slowly acquiring it and quick to forget it--such is life!). the other night i stepped back and looked at one of the grand themes of the entire prophecy, salvation. here are a few stage 1 objective facts:
  • the theme of Isaiah is "salvation is of Jehovah/the Lord". this is also what Isaiah's name means.
  • Isaiah's prophecy mentions the word "salvation" 26x while all the other Biblical prophets together only use the word 6x
  • the term salvation is used much more in the second portion if Isaiah, chapters 40-66, where the theme is comfort (whereas the first portion of Isaiah deals more with judgment). it has been suggested that Isaiah's two sections could be called man's need for salvation and God's gracious provision of salvation.
  • God is closely linked with salvation (12:2, 25:9, 49:6, 56:1)
  • often the word salvation is closely accompanied by the word righteousness (51:5-8, 56:1, 59:9-11, 60:17-18, 61:10, 62:1-2) or the idea of strength (12:2, 17:10, 26:1, 33:6, 63:5-6)
the way two believers apply those same truths to their lives (stage 2) could be very different, although they observed the same text.

i need to learn a good balance between what i am broadly terming the two stages. moving too quickly to stage two results in incorrect understanding and application. this is dangerous, because if we think incorrectly we will act incorrectly. conversely, if i never move on to stage 2, i commit spiritual abortion. the living and active Word cannot just be academic: it needs to bear fruit in the way i live. as i try to persevere through the harder parts of the text, the Lord blesses me with new understanding. may my living also be new.

"God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid." Isaiah 12:2

July 05, 2008

recommended reading

A few months back I asked some of you for suggestions of good children's books for our church library. Thanks to those of you who gave me ideas. I wanted to share the list of new books that was put in our church bulletin. Also below is a list of new adult (or teen) books that were purchased. I cannot endorse every book on my lists 100% as I haven't read them all, but I wouldn't have purchased them if I didn't expect good things....

I was happy to pick up The Jesus Storybook Bible--Every story whispers His name (Jones/Jago) and The Big Picture Story Bible (Helm/Schoonmaker). They present the Bible as one big story. The illustrations are cute, but the text follows in that path, tending to paraphrase facts almost a little too childishly. Both in illustration and content these books are less serious than The Lamb and the gospel is not as clear. All this said, these books are still neat Bible-overview resources that would make good gifts (for kids who already have The Lamb, of course :) ).

Kids' books
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible – Every Story whispers His name (Jones/Jago)
  • The Big Picture Story Bible (Helm/Schoonmaker)
  • The Lamb (Cross/Mastin)
  • The Memory Bible (Elkins/Cameron/Semple) Includes music CDs
  • Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers — The Trinity (Allen)
  • Seven Special Days (Gambil/Gillett--Happy Day Books)
  • The First Brothers (Curren/Eitzen -- Arch Books)
  • The True Story of Noah’s Ark (Dooley/Looney)
  • Life in the Great Ice Age (Oard/Snellenberger)
  • The Tower of Babel (Taylor) Pop-up book
  • Zerubbabel Rebuilds the Temple (Burgdorf/Eitzen)
  • A Parable about the King (B. Moore/Warren)
  • Barabbas Goes Free (Rottman/Kitchel)
  • Mommy, Why Don’t We Celebrate Halloween? (Winwood/Berg)
  • Bombus Finds a Friend (Larson/Haidle)
  • God’s Wisdom for Little Girls – Virtues and Fun from Proverbs 31 (E. George/Luenebrink)
  • Heroes for Young Readers - A series of 16 books about various “Christian heroes” such as Gladys Aylward, Nate Saint, Amy Carmichael and Jim Elliot
Adults' books
  • Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and their Mothers (Randy Alcorn)
  • The Truth about Same-Sex Marriage (Erwin W. Lutzer) “There is a battle is raging for marriage. The implications for society are profound. Yet many people are asking: Is it really that big a deal?”
  • Yoga and the Body of Christ - What Position should Christians Hold? (Dave Hunt)
  • Running Against the Wind - The Transformation of a New Age Medium and His Message to the Church (Brian Flynn) “A crucial warning against New Age and Eastern spirituality being introduced into the Christian church as forms of legitimate...spirituality”
  • A Time of Departing - How Ancient Mystical Practices are Uniting Christians with the World’s Religions (Ray Yungen)
  • The Exemplary Husband - A Biblical Perspective (Stuart Scott) “The strength of this book is its high view of God and theological foundation”
  • The Excellent Wife - A Biblical Perspective (Martha Peace) “A Scripturally based, systematic and practical work for today’s women”
  • Damsels in Distress - Biblical Solutions for Problems Women Face (Martha Peace)
  • When People are Big and God is Small — Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency and the Fear of Man (Edward T. Welch)**
  • The Journals of Jim Elliot (Edited by Elizabeth Elliot) “Jim’s journals reveal the inner struggles and victories that he experienced before his untimely death.”
Especially for Young Women/Young People
  • Secret Keeper - The Delicate Power of Modesty (Dannah Gresh)
  • And the Bride Wore White Seven Secrets to Sexual Purity (Dannah Gresh)
  • Lies Young Women Believe and the truth that sets them free (N. L. DeMoss & Dannah Gresh)
  • Stop Dating the Church — Fall in Love with the Family of God (Joshua Harris) “We’re not into commitment – we only want to date the church. Loving Jesus Christ involves a passionate commitment to His church – around the world and down the street.”
**I'm looking forward to reading this one, sounds very applicable!

May 31, 2008

burma's tragedy

After the recent cyclone in Burma, Maclean's May 26 magazine published a heart-breaking photo essay. The most striking image was that of a Buddhist temple's wreckage, above. My thoughts were: I am thankful that my God is neither visible (to be seen in such a state) nor helpless. But then I remembered that, for a short time, he was both visible and "helpless". I thought of whimpers coming from a manger and a loud call from the cross: My God...why have you forsaken me? But my God chose helplessness; he was no victim of the weather conditions. The real tragedy in Burma is the many thousands of people who left this life believing in a god who can't even stop a cyclone. My God triumphed through helplessness, saving the dying. The Burmese serve a god who can't even lift itself out of the wreckage, lose that serene look and do something helpful. What of the immortal, invisible God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes?

May 30, 2008

the prayer / humility connection

prayer: what a way to get our eyes off ourselves and onto our Lord and others! some of my recurring sins are selfishness/pride and lack of prayer. these go hand-in-hand. years ago i told someone that i am consistently too self-centered/always want to talk about myself. his solution was so simple, but so Biblical: he suggested that i ask the people around me how i could pray for them and then be faithful in praying for their concerns. this would direct my focus first to the Lord and then to others.

my pride is evidenced in the fact that i think that i can do just fine without prayer. it takes humility to say that "without Him i can do nothing" or to recognize that fifteen minutes of prayer could do far more good than fifteen minutes of all my other best efforts. i give my Lord some on-the-go prayer, but i believe He wants those still, quiet prayers, too. but alone-in-my-closet prayers don't seem to make a dent in the pile of papers on my desk, so prayer is left for those last few incoherent moments before i fall asleep. alone-in-my-closet prayers take time, time that could be spent...looking busy and spiritual in the eyes of all the church people. it is difficult for me to even get up five minutes earlier to pray. and somehow, the days slip by with unconfessed sins, and praise and problems not brought to my Maker.

did you know that James, the New Testament author, prayed so much that he was known as "camel knees"? James knew humility too, to recognize that his earthly brother, Jesus, was Lord of all. if you know a who saint is faithful in prayer, they likely also know humility.

May 27, 2008

Quotes: Tozer & Chafer

"Every pastor knows...the plain people who have nothing to recommend them but their deep devotion to their Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they all unconsciously display. These are the first to come forward when there is work to be done and the last to go home when there is prayer to be made.... When they die they leave behind them a fragrance of Christ that lingers long after the cheap celebrities of the day are forgotten. We extend this tribute to Christian brothers and sisters in spite of the fact that in our world there is not supposed to be anything dramatic in faithfulness or newsworthy in goodness!"
- A. W. Tozer in Renewed Day by Day, May 25

"For those who attempt to explain the truth of God to others, there is need of a constant consideration of the measureless responsibility which accompanies any presentation of the gospel. No amount of attention or painstaking study will be too great for the adequate preparation of a gospel messenger. In the light of eternal issues it would be better that tongue should be stilled in death rather than to voice misstatements concerning the way of salvation through Christ...It is deplorable that Christian sentiment is not aroused to greater appreciation of the responsibility which is assumed by those who dare to preach, or to direct the steps of the lost. Good intentions and zeal cannot be substituted for the accurate knowledge of the exact facts which enter into the divine way of salvation by grace alone. The commission is given to every Christian and with it both the appeal for painstaking study, and the warning as to the terrible consequences for the misstatement of the gospel.
- Lewis Sperry Chafer, "GRACE - An Exposition of God's Marvelous Gifts", pp 257-259, copyright 1922

April 13, 2008

the mystery of modesty

I found the following quote by Barbara Bova via Old Fashioned Lady (any emphasis is mine). It is especially interesting to note that this comes from a secular source.
"...These days girls or young women (the title of lady has gone out with the word modesty) are inclined to wear clothes that are barely there. Common sense has been exchanged for the political correctness nonsense that says women are free to wear whatever they want. That women have turned to looking like hookers and Lolitas just ignores the nature of men...

Here in the U.S., women are free to show it all. Some apparently think this makes them more attractive. Instead, they have tossed out the mystery and allure females once possessed when they had some modesty.... A woman doesn’t have to wear a chador to be safe here but those who play enticing games to attract male attention should be ready for some nasty things to happen...."

April 09, 2008

how do i speak?

I'm doing a little studying this week about sibling/family relationships in the Bible. I set out to prepare a lesson for others, but the sword has divided my own heart also. I thought I'd share something I noticed about speech in the account of Joseph in Genesis:
  • Joseph's brothers "could not speak peaceably to him" (Genesis 37:4). This is recorded near the beginning of Joseph's story.
  • In spite of all his brothers did to him, near the end of Joseph's story he "comforted [his brothers] and spoke kindly to them"(50:21).
Joseph is a living testimony to the message of the book of James. Perhaps in early days he didn't use his tongue so wisely (when he aggravated his brothers by telling his dreams, Genesis 37), but at some point God taught him about the power of the tongue. Joseph's kind speech in return for unkind speech/deeds was only possibly because Joseph viewed his situation from the Lord's viewpoint (45:5, 9). This is how James teaches us to see our trials (chapter 1). Joseph had also learned the power of harnessing the tongue for good (James 3). Specifically, the tongue has enormous power to make or break our family relationships (or relationships with the people with whom we spend a lot of time). Our everyday talk seems unimportant, but (like a ship's rudder) it directs the course of our entire lives.
"Because our communication leargely takes place in the inconsequential moments of everyday life, it is easy to underestimate its significance... What sets the course of a person's life are the ways he responds to the little moments...Every day, your words give your relationships their tone." (Tripp/Lane, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, p69)
What kind of a tone am I setting with each word?
Negative? (envying, seeking what's best for me, boasting,
lying, criticizing,
gossiping, complaining, nagging)
Or positive? (showing purity, peaceableness, gentleness, willingness to yield,
mercy, impartiality, sincerity, graciousness, kindness, thankfulness, prayerfulness)


It is much easier to see the negative effects of the speech of people around me (coworkers, acquaintances, family, friends) than to see the negative effects of my own talk. How I need the Lord...

March 21, 2008

The Best Friday

Good Friday is upon us. Or, as I called it last year, the best Friday. Again I am reminded--as I often am--of how foreign the cross is to the everyday North American. I don't mean that they've never heard of Christ, the church or the cross. They've heard of these things...but they've counted them foolish. What does it all mean to me? And if I believe what I say, does my lifestyle reflect it?

It was a year ago, around this time: the room was quiet and my companion and I sat at our computers. We’d been talking. Somehow animals rights had worked their way into our conversation, and I asked my friend who gives rights to people or animals. At some point, she said “The Almighty! The one whose son was on that cross!” and then, speaking of the cross, she said words I have not yet forgotten: “...That is the part that I don’t understand.”

"Why do you believe that Jesus died on the cross?" This question was posed to me by my co-worker, who had just found out that I was "religious". She had grown up in a Catholic school and to the best of her understanding, Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins. This didn't inhibit her from living with her boyfriend or getting hammered. In her estimation, if there was a Jesus, he apparently knew she'd sin, and he'd forgive her anyway.

Why don't these girls understand the cross? Doesn't their calendar have a Good Friday on it? Aren't there Gideon Bibles in most hotel rooms and crosses on steeples in most towns across Canada? A friend of mine who sold jewelry told me that the most popular items were the cross pendants. It is my guess that most people who have been raised in Canadian cities have heard something about Jesus and the cross. But most would say with these girls "Why? I don’t understand.”

There are certain parts of the Bible that one doesn’t need to understand to be saved from the penalty for sin, but the cross is not one of those parts. Paul was clear in 1 Cor. 1:23 that as believers “we preach Christ crucified” (see also 1 Cor. 2:2). That is core to our message. We've got street preachers, tracts and billboards about Jesus dying. Why don't people get it?

Paul knew that the message of the cross evoked different responses. To Jews—those who had the Old Testament Scriptures and knew them—the message of the cross is “a stumbling block”. Jesus wasn’t that Messiah that they’d expected. But to the Gentiles, the cross is just plain “foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23). I believe that the answer to why people don't "get it" is that we live in a Gentile culture. They don't know the Old Testament. They aren't waiting for a Saviour, at least not the one the Old Testament describes. Jayden said to me what Paul said some 2000 years ago: “I am a Gentile. That cross part is foolishness to me.”

Almost every Sunday, I drink grape juice and eat a cube of bread. I have been called, and to me the message of Christ's cross is "power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24). It is no longer foolishness to me. I let that sweet message sink in. But I find in myself a startling lack of urgency to share the good news...and therefore I wonder how much that message has really become a part of me. I know that I live among Gentiles, but yet I don't try as hard as I could to share the Word of God. So how will they come to faith? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God...

This Sunday, after Good Friday, I'll probably have my Welch's again. But I pray that this Sunday, as that juice slides through my singing lips and splashes on my heart of stone, that it will find a groove in which to run, and wear away the hardness.

"these people honour me with their lips
but their hearts are far from me"

March 10, 2008

for me

beaten for me, bruised for me, broken for me
for me? for me. for me!
may not my praise so quiet be
may not my life so silent be
it was, it was, it was for me!

symbols

was Thy flesh like this, O Lord?
cold and clammy, soft and sin
had not marred it, You were
bread without
yeast,
free of all the curses

brought on guilty ones

was Thy blood like this, O Lord?
a tiny cup: shining, strange, sweet
poured and flowing over
my guilt, my shame, my curse

taking all my stains

February 18, 2008

the trinity as a model for human relationships

Relationships are hard. I don't mean relationships as in dating relationships...I mean relationships in general: brother-sister, parent-daughter, boss-employee, friend, etc. The title of Tim Lane and Paul Tripp's book, Relationships - A Mess Worth Making, already captures the essence of relationships to me: very difficult at times, but something you don't want to live without. In the next weeks or months I hope to share various things I learned. Overall, may I just say that I highly recommend this book. I don't know if I'd want to sit under Lane or Tripp's teaching in all areas of Scripture, but this book, which falls in the Biblical counseling arena, was very profitable.

From cover to cover, this book reiterates that
1) sin has caused problems in relationships and
2) the only and wonderful solution to our relational problems is in Christ.
In the authors' words,
"Our aim is that this book will help you look through the shattered glass of our sin to see the glory of a Redeemer who is ever-present, always at work to rescue and change us....We are sinners with the capacity to do great damage to ourselves and our relationships... But we are also God's children, which means that we have great hope and potential...hope that rests in Christ.... our potential is Christ!
In this post I'd just like to make a few brief comments about the Trinity as a model for human unity in relationships. I don't know if I'd ever thought of it in that way, but there are some powerful implications. I love how this shows how important our theology is. I think that many Christians would think that a topic like the Trinity has no real implications in daily living. But it does!
Consider the following points:
  • Christ prays that believers will be one has God is one: their relationship is a model. (John 17:20-26)
  • God is the only properly functioning community in the universe. The Trinity is the only adequate model for human community. Our relationships are marred by sin. God is a model of a loving, cooperative, unified community where diversity is an asset and not a liability.
  • The perfect eternal love relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit was ripped apart to allow us to be reconciled to the Lord and to other people. Community for us came at the cost of temporarily broken community for the Godhead.
We were made by a community-oriented God and made to live in relationships (vertical and horizontal). The rubber of knowing God hits the road...
"Because the Christian God is not a lonely God, but rather a communion of three persons, faith leads human beings into othe divine communio. One cannot, however, have a self-enclosed communion with the Triune God.... Communion with this God is at once also communion with those others who have entrusted themselves in faith to the same God." (Miroslav Volf, p20)

February 11, 2008

integrity

I don't know how many times I've read these verses, but I'm impressed all over again:
At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, "We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God." (Daniel 6:4-5)
What a tremendous thing, for an employees only "fault" to be his or her unswerving devotion to the Lord. These verses were used today in a message about integrity and I was convicted again that I have not given 100% at my job. (Isn't it so easy to give 95% or so, compare yourself to the other employees and think you're doing a good job?)

Recently I was talking with a Christian girl that I had just met. In the course of our conversation, she told me that she was lying to her boss about something. I was taken aback to hear her so frankly admit that she was lying. She didn't even try to justify herself before me. I didn't want to come across as harsh on our first meeting, but I thought If Christians don't tell the truth to their employers, who does? How are we any different than the world? But I am sure that there are areas where the Lord is appalled at my lack of trust in Him. Do I not believe that if I seek to walk uprightly, He will take care of me?

I was encouraged last summer when my friend told me that she was quitting her job because her employer required that she be dishonest. "They think I'm crazy to quit because I don't want to lie. The pay is good." Good jobs can be really hard to come by in Brazil. Quitting her job also meant that she might have to postpone her wedding. But she set the Lord before the promise a steady paycheque. And I didn't have to change the date on her wedding invitation.

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. (Proverbs 11:3)

I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

May our integrity be seen beyond our workplaces and in our whole lives.
Wholeness,
consistency,
reliability,
trustworthiness,
honesty,
openness...may these things mark our lives.

I will walk in my house with blameless heart. (Psalm 101:2)

February 02, 2008

i didn't know i lived in a freezer

I don't listen to the radio much, but last Sunday morning I had it on as I was getting ready for church. A CBC radio announcer voiced a bleak outlook for the week: terrible weather in every corner of our province. I turned off the radio. I'd almost rather live in ignorance of the minus-43C-with-windchill weather conditions. After morning church, my brother and I received about eight offers of rides home. That may be a new record. There's nothing quite like a blizzard to bring those invitations on! By Sunday evening I had already had enough of the arctic wind. But it wasn't done with us yet....

Monday morning I put on my thickest mitts and headed to my bus stop. The bus was late, making me miss my connection and arrive at work about 25 or 30 minutes later than usual. My boss didn't seem to mind, maybe he even enjoyed having a report from one of the underlings of society about how the bus system was faring the weather. When I went to my bus stop that evening, it was gone. It had turned into a small hill with the incline of a black diamond ski slope, and my options were either to stand on the street or to hop up to the ledge someone had made in the snow heap. I opted for the ledge.

On Tuesday I went to the bus stop 15 minutes early, hoping that I would get to work on time. Instead, I just stood at the bus stop for 20 minutes, and got the same bus as usual. My daily bus stop companion, Woman-Man,* usually paces while he waits for the bus. Tuesday found me pacing too. I was dreaming about hot chocolate, and how they should give it out for free at bus stops on cold days. I don't think I'd ever been so glad to see my bus when it arrived.

A few minutes later, at the terminal, a man poked his head into the shelter and asked if anyone wanted free hot chocolate or coffee, compliments of his radio station. It is a little hard to hold a lidless cup of hot chocolate when you're wearing the puffiest mitts you own, but I sure wasn't complaining. A black lady on my second bus was wearing white socks on her hands. I could hardly believe it--my hands weren't even warm in my puffy mitts. I arrived at work only to have the owner of the print shop open the door for me as I arrived. "She looks pretty chipper for having been riding the bus in this weather," said one of the front office staff. By "pretty chipper," did she mean that my mascara had blotched around my eyes, because of the moisture? Because it had, and I looked somewhat like a cold raccoon.

I arrived home that night to find the walks shoveled. Well, most of them. Moko said he did it in two shifts. I said thank you.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were no-mascara days. (It would save me about $5 a year if I just got used to this and never wore mascara.) I got to work in better time. And at night I mostly stayed inside. My grown-up little brother headed out the door one night with the parting words "If my ears get cold I can just put up my hood." I told him, more than casually, that I had worn "only my hood" home from the bus stop and that my ears were very sore by the time I got to our house, which is only two blocks from the bus stop. Maybe his ears were already partially frozen, because he still didn't take a touque, even after I said that.

Have you ever met one of those people who just isn't very socially understanding or considerate? Unfortunately, I think bus drivers meet those people all the time. A few of those people were on my bus tonight. One was conversing with the bus driver, who told him that she was under a lot of stress with the bad weather and the traffic. He understood. Or he said he did, and then he talked to her much of the rest of the trip. At the next main stop, a man got on and swore at the bus driver for leaving people standing in the cold. What, does he think that she stopped for a spa treatment between terminals? What a horrible way to treat an already-stressed driver.

Last night a friend told me that he is sorry that I have to ride the bus. But I'm sorry that he doesn't get a free reminder of God's grace in his life every morning when he hears the conversations of single, working moms on the bus. I'm sorry he doesn't ever have the chance to sit next to the overweight guy in a down jacket that smells like smoke, to learn gratitude for the Lord's little kindnesses. I'm sorry the Lord didn't drop a cup of free hot chocolate into his mitten and that he doesn't get to see the Lord's goodness in the on-time buses. I'm sorry he didn't get to read Relationships: A Mess Worth Making and let the driver worry about the traffic and the weather. I'm OK with riding the bus. Now could it warm up, please?

*He wears fitted pants and carries a purse-like bag. When his hood is up, it is hard to tell from the back if he is a woman or a man.

January 31, 2008

Three girl-book reviews

Let Me Be a Woman by Elizabeth Elliot
What can I say? Elliot's books are classics. She not only is a talented author but she shares real truth. If you're like me, it is best to buy your own copy so that you can highlight whatever you want. It would be faster than copying down all the good quotes. The book is comprised of letters that Elliot wrote to her daughter before she was married, but the book has truths for women in each stage of life.
"Womanhood is a call. It is a vocation to which we respond under God, glad if it means the literal bearing of children, thankful as well for all that it means in a much wider sense...the unconditional response in Mary the virgin, and the willingness to enter into suffering, to receive, to carry, to give life, to nurture and to care for others. The strength to answer this call is given us as we look up toward the Love that created us, remembering that it was that Love that first, most literally, imagined sexuality, that made us at the very beginning real men and real women. As we conform to that Love's demands we shall become more humble, more dependent--on Him and on one another--and even (dare I say it?) more splendid." (p62)
Who Calls me Beautiful? by Regina Franklin
Another skilled writer, Franklin, who has had years of experience with youth, addresses the topic of female's perception of her own beauty. This book is aimed at single or married ladies, in hopes that they will learn to define beauty the Lord's way and pass it on to the younger ladies around them. I was watching out for "self-esteem" (as opposed to Christ-esteem!) talk, since I imagine that would commonly be discussed in this arena. But for the most part I was quite pleased with Franklin's treatment of the topic. She teaches women to find their beauty in Christ and to listen to the truth of God's Word rather than the lies of the world or even just people who speak carelessly. The following are a few quotes from the text:

“Scripture is the mirror of beauty through which we view ourselves.”

“In worship, false pretenses and artificial longings—our own or those of others— fall away before a holy, awesome God. When I stand and consider the majesty of His name and the works of His hands, my weight, my height, my cup size, and my hairstyle cease to matter.”

“The world is all too ready to plant its philosophies regarding women and beauty in the hearts of young girls.. .the message is...a girl’s sexuality is her beauty. However, it is a message of death. Satan desires to destroy the hearts of young girls through the destruction of their bodies.”


Lady in Waiting by J. Kendall and D. Jones
This book has an excellent premise: Spend your single years developing beautiful, godly character. The characteristics that ladies are encouraged to develop "while they wait" are as follows: reckless abandonment, diligence, faith, virtue, devotion, purity, security, contentment, conviction and patience.

Although they may mention singleness a few time in the book, the book seems to presumes be "You will get married someday. You will marry a prince if you wait on God. So hang on!" I know that some women never marry, and I think it only gets girls' hopes up to suggest that all Christian women will marry...and will marry virtual princes. This book could easily be a book on developing godly character with less emphasis on the fact that you're "waiting". Perhaps one of the reasons that I appreciate Elizabeth Elliot is because she is more serious about the fact that some people will never marry.

This book (journal edition) also promotes the practice of "contemplative prayer", "a lost art in our Western society"...this smacks of eastern thinking.

January 03, 2008

i have told You that You are unfaithful,
when i expect things from You that You haven't given me...
when really it is i who am unfaithful,
running to gods that promise temporal pleasure,
giving up on the spiritual pleasure you offer forever.

i have told You with my actions that You are unloving,
because You haven't always given me what i want...

when really it is i who haven't loved You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength
...for if i did, i would set my mind to remembering Your love.

i have said You don't provide,
because i don't have every material thing i might want...
but Your promise was "every spiritual blessing", not "every material blessing".

i have told you that Your ways are not the best ways
when i've decided to do things my own way, or wished i could live the Egypt lifestyle.

But Your ways
are the best ways.
Forgive me, Lord. Help me to really believe Your Word.