5.31.2011

Ink on His Fingers

Ink on His Fingers (Louise a. Vernon Historical Fiction Series, 12)Ink on His Fingers by Louise A. Vernon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A short and sensational tale about Johann Gutenburg's struggle to successfully market the printing press and print an aesthetically pleasing Bible. I'm not a fan of Vernon's style. A bit clipped, the time jumps can be jarring, and too much psychological focus on side characters rubbing shoulders with the historical character. Still, it brings to life the difficulty of bringing a new invention like this into the public eye.


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Carry on, Mr. Bowditch

Carry On, Mr. BowditchCarry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr Bowditch lives in colonial America, is a math whiz, and wants to go to Harvard. But due to family hardship he is indentured as a servant in a shipyard for 9 nine years. He "carries on" and prospers, learning Latin, French besides doing the books for his employer. He becomes a valued crew member, with his ship knowledge and navigation expertise, and interpreter abilities. His voyages excite the reader, while the news from home breaks the heart several times.

Nathaniel persistently teaches and trains others in his craft, besides filling notebooks with his own thoughts, rising them above their current station, out of trouble, and into better prospects. His pursuit of excellence and truth leads him to rise above the standards of the day, and his superiors respect him for it, recognize the value of his work (after some time), and call on him to "carry on."

This is an edifying tale of how diligence in your vocation, and persistence in hardship, pay off in the end. While this is meant for younger readers, the 17-21 year old young man seeking his way in the world would profit by it.


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Chestnuts

The Chestnut King (100 Cupboards Series #3) by N. D. Wilson: Book Cover
A rollicking good time, filled with plots that mesh with the Biblical story, and that's on purpose, I'm sure. This trilogy gets you to love righteousness. My 8 year old son was cheering for Henry at the end, rejoicing at the demise of the witch, and at the courage and strength of Henry and his family. An excellent Shakespearean twist at the end.

I was expecting the Richard character to develop more, but in the end he was mere comedy relief - a little disappointing. Some of the evil depicted was intense, but it wasn't overdone or gratuitous. Overall, highly recommended. Get it here.

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5.27.2011

What a thorough apology looks like

5.26.2011

Read about the Gospel

The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism
Great little book on the Heidelberg Catechism for a song, while supplies last

5.25.2011

Comfort needed after sin is dealt with

When Jesus tells the disciples to not let their heart be troubled, it's right after He predicts Peter's denial of Him.

It is not for the general afflictions and trials of this world that Jesus comforts us, with many mansions prepared for us in His Father's house. It is in the face of our deepest sins and betrayals of Christ that He comforts us: you believe in God. Believe Me, too.

Enter in!

After preaching Matthew 19, on entering the kingdom, at the Lord's Table:


This table is for those who have entered the kingdom. It defines who belongs to Christ by acting out receiving bread and wine from Him. He seeks to bless all those who receive Him. You are in His house, His temple. You have washed at the basin of baptism. You have offered up sacrifices of repentance for sin and sacrifices offering your whole self to God as you sang, prayed and heard God’s Word. Now comes the peace offering, where you have part of your sacrifice returned to you to eat before the Lord, so you know His good favor and fellowship with you. Jesus is the sacrifice. He offered himself up to God for your sin, and He is now given back to you to take hold of in faith. Join with Him. Partake of Him. Enter His kingdom.


2/20/11 

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Don't make good things god

1 Timothy 6:6-10
"Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."



Sometimes Satan tempts us with a direct suggestion to disobey what we know is right. But his preferred strategy is distraction. Shift our main focus from honoring Christ, to some less good thing. Finances. Family. Vocation. Home repair. He is a master of getting us so wrapped up in these things that we forget the Lord. Lesser desires, say for wealth, supplant primary desires to trust and obey God.


2/20/11

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"Humility comes before honor"

Proverbs 15:33

5.24.2011

Loving the Little Years

Loving the Little Years

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches
By Rachel Jankovic

This little book of little chapters about little people was more than a little helpful. While dishing up some juicy ones about nursing twins while the ever helpful husband sleepwalks, and the like, the author encourages and points to important principles.

The encouragement is to take heart that your labor is not in vain. Rejoicing in the task before you is possible! You can be in the trenches (and the author knows them in depth), and not be overwhelmingly frazzled and frustrated.

Principles:
The author often assumes the reader understands these principles, and has learned them elsewhere. One place to go is “Shepherding a Child’s Heart,” by Tedd Tripp.

Guide your children out of sin, don’t simply stomp on them for sinning. I’m big on being careful not to over-correct when you see a problem. Many in the church today see sin taken lightly, and attempt to correct that with excessive discipline for their children’s sin. This is a recipe for exasperating children, which Scripture forbids. Spanking is not the silver bullet. Jankovic leans the other way. Often the best way to shepherd away from sin is to show them the freedom and joy of obedience, rather than merely punishing bad behavior.

Shepherd the heart. Don’t simply react to behavior. Show the deeper problem you’re rejecting. If they can’t share a toy, they are putting it before loving their neighbor. Keep it simple like that – no “who had it first?” “How long did you have it?” gymnastics, which only obscure the issue. Have few behavioral rules, to make mental space for the principles.

The power of personal example, and unintended consequences. If you only engage with your children when they sin, they learn things from that. If you grab their toy away and tell them not to grab toys, your direction is not clear. If you don’t repent of obvious harshness, and tell them to say they’re sorry for the slightest things, they are learning a lesson. A bad one, but they are learning. The darkness of little people sinning cannot overcome the light in the long run (John 1:5). It can do so in mom’s spirit, though. The victory of the light begins in mom’s attitude, when faced with sin. Parent with faith that God will use you to get them out of the sin. Be not dismayed at it. Disappointed, yes. Resolved to change it, yes. But not cast down.

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Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Book Cover

In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte spins a web of trial, self-denial, respect, and the need for true love.

This review contains spoilers. Go read the book first, if you’re going to! And my general rule with classics is to see the movie AFTER the book, if at all. Often after reading a classic I decide it was so good I’m not going to ruin it with a Hollywood rendition, anyway.

Anyway, the main theme here is maintaining one’s dignity by insisting upon just treatment for one’s station. The strong can exploit orphans, governesses, and women who need to marry, and often do. How should the weak respond? Jane Eyre shows us how. She works within the system to bring dignity and respect to others wherever she can, insisting upon the same for herself when others ask too much of her. She does this without being a railing modern-day feminist, making a scene over it, but she rightly rejects those who take advantage of or degrade her.

Such sins are atoned for, in some cases – not in others. Jane is willing to sit with the very aunt who despised her, at her deathbed. Rochester is purified through fire, but not without the partial loss of hand and eye (Matthew 5:29-30). Brocklehurst, the hypocritical orphanage superintendent, is never heard from again, though. What I appreciate about this is what we have lost in modern life: the ability to reject the wrongs found in religion without rejecting the religion outright. Yes, St. John was a jerk for what he expected of Jane in God’s name. But Jane still knew God expected certain things of her. Her years of self-denial before this encounter made her rejection of him perfectly legitimate.

So we see that institutional exploitation is not the final word. Personal exertion and self-denial can give the strength to resist further exploitation, where that denial is directed by God’s law.

Jane Eyre affirms the twin marital virtues of loving affection in the marriage relationship, and the outward boundaries that protect it (one man, one woman, till death do you part). To violate either strikes at the heart of marriage. She refuses to be Mr. Rochester’s mistress or second wife, outside the God-ordained bounds of the institution of marriage. She refuses to be St. John’s work-horse, missionary wife within those bounds, where love and affection are lacking. Blanche Ingraham could have married Mr Rochester and both would have benefitted materially, but affection and an intellectual matching was lacking.

This novel depicts the maturing of a girl in hardship, into a young woman still vulnerable but aware of what she seeks, and finally a woman who can be a true helper to a loving husband. Our revolutionary world wants to remove all hardship from our children, and give young people what they want now without any denial needed. But what we need is to count it all joy when we fall into various trials, knowing that they produce patience and maturity (James 1:2-4).

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5.20.2011

God follows Matthew 18, then forgives

Matthew 18 is about the Gospel story. We have sinned and we often think we are the greatest. God came to us as He came to Israel, showing them their fault, with the Law and the Prophets. He sent many prophets, one after another, many witnesses against our sin, but we refused to hear them. But instead of taking that last step and treating us as heathens, He put on tender mercies. He sent His son to us. Now, we should have been thrown in the sea with a heavy rock tied to us, but Jesus jumped in, instead. He is bearing with us and forgiving us. We owed His Father a huge debt, and if we come and beg for mercy, He will give mercy. He releases the whole debt.

2/13/11

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Don't indulge grudges

Leviticus 19:15-18
"‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17 ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."


It is far easier to indulge yourself with annoyance, grudges and hatred than it is to go talk to someone you've come to begrudge or hate. It is far easier to talk about them to someone else, instead of talking to them directly. It is hard to love, but as the Spirit trains us in His ways we come to see they are ways of peace, delight, and joyful fellowship together in the Lord.


2/13/11

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5.18.2011

Things I missed in Scripture

Saul disobeys God and doesn't kill all the Amalekites (1 Sam 15).
David is anointed and Saul tries to kill him (1 Sam 16-21).
Saul kills all the priests and inhabitants of Nob (1 Sam 22).

When you reject God's anointed, you end up rejecting His people, too.
One way to tell how you are doing with the Lord is to consider how you are treating His people.

We are being changed, thankfully

2 Cor 3:18
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."


As Jesus was transformed and His glory shone out [Transfiguration], so He removes the veil over our minds and hearts as we turn to Him. And now, we see the glory of God in Christ. This means we will be transformed into Christ’s image. The point of our salvation is not just to spare us from punishment for sin. We are to be remade – transfigured - into the image of God. This Table transforms. The two on the road to Emaaus talked with Jesus but did not see Him until they sat at the table and He broke bread. Notice the Bread was not transformed, they were. And so are we. This table is meant to transform us, into the glory of Jesus. It doesn’t happen automatically. It takes trust. So look to Jesus. Seeing Him makes all the difference.


2/6/11

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A strenuous life

1 Cor 9:24-27
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competesfor the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."


As we come to the Lord in the joy of worship, we also know that the Christian life is one of strain and striving. The more godly you try to be the more temptation there is to resist. We must fight it hard, with discipline and temperance. But we tend to redirect our energies away from God’s glory toward more self-serving pursuits. We more zealously guard our time with our spouse than we do our time with God. We delight in Facebook more than God’s Word. Some of us are more intense about our Wii Fit sessions, or the Super Bowl, than we are about following Christ in our family or on the job. Redirect your passion and run the race Christ has set before you.



2/6/11

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5.16.2011

Things I missed in Scripture

1 Samuel 18:25 - "But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines."

I never made the connection: when David kills Uriah by sending him to the front lines in battle, he became like Saul, trying to kill HIM. A definite backward step...

In temptation, say this...

"I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God, sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad - as I am now. Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation, they are for such moments as this - when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth - so I have always believed. And if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane - quite insane, with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations are all I have at this hour to stand by; there I plant my foot."

Jane Eyre, pg 447-448

5.11.2011

The undeserving invited - you

2 Samuel 9:7-8
"So David said to [Mephibosheth], “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.” 8 Then he bowed himself, and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”

Mephibosheth was invited to King David’s table, and he said he was a dead dog. In other words, he didn’t deserve it. We don’t deserve the invitation to the king’s table, either. But that doesn’t stop King David or King Jesus from inviting us. And it didn’t stop the Canaanite woman from asking for crumbs from the table. Why do we have a place at the table? How dare we ask, sit and wait to be served a portion? We do not earn it by following our traditions or rules, by being American, or by having conservative ideals about politics or family. Our place has been gained by Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. This is our only claim to a place at the table, and it satisfies our God. He doesn’t give temporary crumbs, but an eternal scrumptious feast of all you need.


1/30/11

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Hold fast

Col 2:16-23
One way idolatry arises in our lives is when we invite others to judge us according to some outward standard we know we can pass. See, I eat this, or I don’t drink that, or “look how humble I am when I do this.” Verse 19 of Col 2 says we latch on to these regulations, INSTEAD of holding fast to Christ. We look to behavioral rigor to judge us, or to grow us spiritually, instead of holding fast and looking to Christ, our head, who alone causes growth. We try to establish our own righteousness by regulation, instead of trusting Christ’s righteousness to justify us. In our sin, we get defensive and justify ourselves with excuses, instead of repenting and letting God justify us by Christ’s atonement. Of course, Jesus calls us to right behavior, but we tend to make the behavior the center, instead of Christ. Hold fast to Christ. Know your part, and do it. Then look to Him again.


1/30/11

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5.10.2011

It's not that important

In a nice short piece on figuring out what's important, RC Sproul, Jr has this zinger:


"Conservative talk radio is a virtual propaganda department for the devil, not because what they teach is wrong, but because it isn’t nearly as important as they make it out to be. Talk radio is a mildly more sophisticated soap opera, as we tune in each day to find out what the villain at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has done this time. And like soap operas, if you tune out for a week or twenty you’ll find the same drama, the same issues are still being addressed with the same hysteria."


It seems the devil's approach when lots of people start latching on to some truth, is to get them to get the priority wrong. Make politics more important than loving your wife or husband or children. Make them think the world will end if the wrong guy is elected. Put your trust in elections and democracy and Republicans, or the Tea Party movement. Or, in the church, take the "right way" to apply Scripture, to nurse babies, court ladies, eat food, or discipline children, and judge people with it so a church is torn apart or defined by such issues. The other way is to shrug when liberals reject plain Scriptural truth like the Trinity, Incarnation or the atonement. I've also come to believe it damages the church to remain silently in a church that okay's homosexual practice or women in the office of elder. We need /more/ church fights over these things, and less fights over politics or methodology questions.


When you discover a new truth, you are in the "cage stage," where because of this getting the priority wrong, you need to be locked up for a while before you're unleashed on the world with it. Don't make major decisions for a year or so, while you assimilate this truth into how you think and interact with the world. Be patient. Don't let your discovery of A be the center of the universe. God has B through Z to teach you, so keep learning in humility.

Civil War

Apparently the 150th anniversary of the Civil War is approaching, and I just read a Breakpoint article by Chuck Colson mentioning it, and then talking about how racial reconciliation is advancing in his prison ministry.

The article didn't have much to do with the civil war, per se, though. It seems people slip very quickly from the Civil War to how white people treat black people. These are two very different issues.

So, on the Civil War itself: it seems there is a lot of demonizing that still goes on. Pro-South folks think the north wanted to destroy their way of life, not just free the slaves. Pro-North folks think it was just about slavery, and why would the south be so blind as to fight to maintain such a horrible evil? Both of these tend to attribute purely malicious motives to the other.

I think the truth is that the north became intent to remove the evil of slavery, while getting pinched economically by competition from the south at the same time. Lincoln and Co. believed that slavery wouldn't be eliminated without a complete economic rearrangement in the south. He really wanted to free the slaves for moral reasons, and this also benefited the north economically.

So there are two lessons to learn.
1. For my Lincoln-hating, pro-south friends, when there are two possible ways to judge a man's motives, and you can't tell, go with the gracious one. There are lots of quotes of Lincoln's that get thrown around, both that he meant to destroy the south economically and that he was grieved at the bane of slavery. How about instead of making him a monster, we charitably say that the "uglier" quotes were a hat tip to political reality of the time, which led him to some damaging actions? Thus, the second lesson:

2. For my family and friends who assume the north was right: when you want a revolution to stop a horrible atrocity (abortion comes to mind), be careful not to force action to stop the present evil. That will cause more problems down the road. Lincoln did this, seems to me. Wilberforce worked over time to end slavery peaceably in England, giving the lie to Lincoln's necessary war. The north assumes we would still have slavery in the south if the north didn't go to war to keep the south from seceding. Why is that so? Only if you demonize the south...

Further helpful discussion on the civil war would ask: was it necessary to hold the union together once states began to secede? Why? When should states expect to exercise sovereignty as is their right, and when should they work together for the good of the union?

5.09.2011

Texting, and your parents

If you are a young adult who texts, please read this.

National antithesis?

So, that took a while to get back to blogging after the beach.
Something about an insanely busy week back, after vacation...


Here's a great paragraph by Doug Wilson, confessing our sins as American Christians:


"Father, we confess that the Church has not thought of herself the way the Scriptures describe us. We confess that we get too easily caught up in the currents of culture and politics, with out [our, sic] identity shaped by forces that are not in accordance with the work of Your Holy Spirit. Help us to see ourselves as Christians in the first instance, and as Christians who understand obedience in the particular stations assigned to us in this nation."


In other words, we let politics or national identity shape us more than the Spirit. We ought not "locate the antithesis between righteousness and unrighteousness in terms of nations."