Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A glad new year to all on earth


Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient cradle song,
Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given
While angels sing with pious mirth.
A glad new year to all on earth.

-Martin Luther (1483-1546)

(H/T T19)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Break Reading

I went into Christmas Break this year disappointed that there weren't any books high on my reading list. But thankfully, through the kindness of some friends, I have been supplied with some excellent material...

A good friend from Loma Linda has been reading Marsden's biography of Jonathan Edwards and he was kind enough to allow me to borrow it over the break. Marsden is such a great writer that I think I would enjoy reading about almost anything if it were written by him. But in the first third of his detailed and lengthy biography, Marsden has also succeeded in making me a great fan of Jonathan Edwards. It's sad that in our left-wing propaganda infused public schools the only thing most students ever hear of Edwards is his "Sinners in the hands of an angry God," which, by the way, I have heard is a great sermon. Edwards did not downplay God's wrath, as I think many modern preachers are mistaken to do, but he also did not downplay God's amazing goodness and love as seen in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. As I read Marsden's biography I have an idea for a blog-post seemingly every other page so I'm sure I'll write more on it later.

The second thing I've been reading this break was a Christmas present from my friend, Josh Monen, who, on Friday, asked a wonderful girl to marry him. Congratulations Josh. Josh was thoughtful enough to find me a book that you wouldn't find in any bookstore and one that would normally only be owned by a very select population. It covers a subject that I am very interested in though, Apostolic Lutheranism. It is actually the history of a single church in my county, located about six miles from my house in Hockinson. The book also covers a little of the history of the Laestadian movement in general and I was very excited to see that it has a little to say about a part of the history that I am very interested in but have had a hard time finding information on. As with the Edwards' book, I'm sure more blog posts will follow.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Giant Snowman... and an igloo


That's right...
My brother Joey, our friend Bryan and I.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee

Let us then celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God's glory. He does not say: "of our glory", but of God's glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God on the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not on ourselves, but in the Lord. This why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

- St. Augustine of Hippo

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why I'm Stuck in California...

The family farm in Battle Ground, Washington:
"The snowstorm that hit Portland over the weekend was one for the record books. The storm dropped 11-13 inches of snow on the area, the most since January 1980. It is also the biggest December snowstorm for Portland since 1968." -weather.com


Sunday, December 21, 2008

So what?


If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

I was in Barnes and Noble today, trying to pass the time after having my flight home to Portland for Christmas canceled because of the snow and ice there. (I finally got a new flight this evening but won't be able to fly out until Christmas day.) So while I was there I decided to check out the "Christianity" section, always a perilous adventure in a secular bookstore. And of course all of the regular jokers were well represented from the blatantly liberal Anne Lamott, to the unfortunately compromised Brian McLaren to the plain whacky gnostic "Gospel" trash. I worked at Barnes and Noble in Vancouver, Washington for almost three years, by the way, and while I had a great time working there, I eventually had to quit because my conscience would not allow me to sell a lot of the stuff we did.

So back to my story and my point. I was in the Christianity section and I noticed a face-out of two or three hardcovers of what was obviously a new book. I don't remember the title or the author but I could tell right away that it would fit well into the whole "emerging church" genre. I knew I was asking for it when I picked it up and what I found on the back and in the inside front cover was the same tired old refrain that I've heard so many times not only from emerging "Christians" but also from old-school mainline liberal Protestants. And here's the refrain: "secular unchurched people don't like Christians so we must be doing something wrong." The quote, "Lord, save me from your followers," was in large print somewhere on the cover of the book and two or three quotes, assumedly from the non-Christian-man-on-the-street, were also there, apparently to drive the author's point home. These quotes included the usual complaints, "Christians want to convert people," and, "Christians are selectively intolerant against certain groups."

Now, if by intolerance, these non-Christians, whom we are so eager to please, are talking about the likes of Fred Phelps then yes, I agree, we should be trying to counter-act that image. But I don't think we need books and sermons and tours of popular emergent speakers to do it. But the fact is that it is not the intolerance of Fred Phelps that is the problem. It is the intolerance of the Word of God that non-Christians and many Christians can't seem to handle.

The fact is, though, that I am very tolerant if you are defining tolerance the way it has been defined up until the last decade or so. When I say tolerance, I mean that I will live in a civil society with people with whom I disagree. It means that as an officer in the U.S. Army that I will give my life to defend the freedom of those with whom I vehemently disagree. But it does not mean that I affirm a person or their behavior in any way. In fact my attitudes and words and actions may be as far from affirmation as you can get. And thus we have the source of the "intolerance" attributed to Christians. I am the culprit. I must say that while I might not be affirming of many things about a person, I will always affirm that all people are made in the image of God and that God, in His love for people, desires that all would turn from their sin and accept the salvation that is offered only in Christ (1st Tim. 2:4). But I don't think those are necessarily the affirmations that the secular despisers of Christianity are looking for.

Another thing that strikes me as ironic is that these baleful cries of "people not liking us" are coming from the same people who tend to be so critical of schemes that would seem to "market" the church. But they seem to be suggesting that since Christians have a bad reputation we need to get a better advertising campaign going for Jesus. Maybe we'll just downplay all that stuff he said about hell and morality and we'll just portray a hippy-esque "buddy Jesus" à la the film Dogma. The fact is though that the most culturally friendly churches, those being the mainline/old-line Protestants are also the fastest shrinking. Last night I went to a Christmas service at a classmate's church which is part of the Independent Fundamentalist Churches of America. The pastors there went to the über-conservative Master's Seminary of John MacArthur. And this place was crawling with young families. There were more kids and youth there than I've seen at any church in a long time. And yet the liberal mainliners cling to this hope that if they can just be watered-down and progressive-culture-affirming enough then the floodgates of young, successful people will open into their churches. I think many emergents, perhaps subconsciously, have the same hope. I will continue to hope that their hope remains unfulfilled.

So in the end I say, "so what?," to the fact that a lot of people don't like Christians. I'd be more concerned if Christians were simply known as uncontroversial do-gooders. The message of the cross is supremely controversial and Christians also should inspire strong feelings and controversy. I was recently talking with the same classmate with whom I attended the Christmas service about a biography of Charles Spurgeon he recently read. He told me that Spurgeon was so persecuted on all sides that his wife hung a banner in his bedroom with Matthew 5:11-12 on it, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." I think we should be expecting the hatred and persecution which a great Christian and preacher like Spurgeon earned because of his faithfulness to God and not the favor with non-Christians that liberals and emergents seem so strongly to desire.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Random Update #3

It's strange how I get into these periods where I don't want to write. Sometimes I feel like I've figured something out or God has shown me something and I really want to write about it. Other times I'm more introspective. It has to do with a lot of things: the time of year, my busyness, my mood, etc. But I always start to get this sense of guilt when I haven't written for a long time. I imagine someone out there who just started reading my blog, and then the writer on this blog never posts and they never come back. It's probably never happened but I imagine it anyway.

So an update...

1. I'm about to enter exams. It's a very stressful time of year. I shouldn't even be writing this now.

2. According to weather.com it's supposed to get very cold and snow back home in Washington this week. I wish I was there for it.

3. I haven't surfed or hiked or done anything interesting for at least three weeks.

4. I rejoice at the formation of the Anglican Church of North America. I am happy to be a confirmed member of the new denomination where Scripture is our ultimate authority and where Christ is proclaimed as our only hope for salvation.

5. I'm going back to Washington next Sunday. I'll probably blog more over the break.

Happy Advent.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Will We Even Care?

I've been reading John Piper's Desiring God, which I've really enjoyed and it has brought me back to a place of desiring to delight in God for who He is and worship Him for who He is. These things might seem very obvious to people better than myself but I often fall into praising God for things He's done for me and not just praising Him because He deserves all glory, honor and praise for ever and ever. And there is no doubt in my mind that the most joyful, the most ecstatic experiences I've ever had were the times when the reality of who God is has penetrated a little deeper into my mind or heart and I have just worshipped God for being God.

So I was thinking about these realities and pondering heaven the other night. What I imagined was just seeing God's beauty and gaining an ever greater understanding of His beauty and greatness and the fact that this increasing understanding and our response of worship and praise could last for eternity because God is infinitely great and glorious. There can be no end to being amazed and mesmerized by God because He is infinitely wonderful and beautiful. We won't worship Him for a thousand, or a million or a trillion years and then get bored. That isn't possible with our God.

So in light of this I was thinking of how we often see heaven as this place where we'll get a nice mansion and be re-united with loved ones. But when I thought of the joy of having an eternal mansion or even the joy of being united with a loved-one it must be basically nothing compared to the joy of seeing and worshipping God in His tangible presence. Maybe I don't love people enough or something but I can't imagine getting to heaven and wanting to go see my mother, or father or brother first and then getting around to scheduling an appointment with Jesus later.

So I got kind of a mental picture of what it might be like to be in heaven and it relates to my recent surfing escapades. I'm still not very good at it but I seriously love surfing. I've never experienced anything so exhilarating as standing up on a surfboard on a wave, short of those rare moments I described earlier of really being able to worship God for who He is. There have been a couple of times when I've stood up on the same wave as one of my surfing-buddies. And when this has happened I've been able to give one of them this short glance with this big goofy smile on my face because it feels so wonderful to be on a wave. They have the same look because they love it just as much. So I was thinking of being in heaven, mesmerized by God's glory, worshipping him, and shooting a glance at a loved-one, and they look at me and they are just as overjoyed as I am to be worhipping our God and for a brief moment we share each-other's joy but it is all because of who God is and all focused on God.

So it sounds weird even to me, but I ask, will we even care who else is in heaven? Considering God's greatness and how we will enjoy Him forever, it seems hard to imagine how.

When we've been there ten-thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
As when we first begun.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Southland Burning

This afternoon I drove home to Loma Linda with a classmate after surfing at Huntington Beach. We happened to drive into the thick of what is now being called the Freeway Complex Fire. At one point, with thick smoke on one side of the freeway and large flames on the other we could feel the intense heat coming through the car windows. My car now smells like a campfire. Pray for the firefighters and those who have lost their homes.

I snapped these photos on the freeway with my iPhone.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Apostolic Lutheran Life


The following is a testimony of a man's life which was posted as a comment in one of my old posts on Apostolic Lutheranism. I was impressed when I read it and wanted to post it as a regular blog post. Thank you to whomever took the time to keep this record of your ancestor and to write it on my blog. It is a testimony to God's saving grace.

Johan Oberg was born June 24, 1862 in Rautalampi (Finland), the son of a sawmill worker Kalle Oberg. The forefather of the family had moved from Sweden several generations earlier. The family moved when Johan was 5 years old to work at the Saura Iron Factory in Karttula . There Johan had to begin working for wages at 8 years of age. People moved there from all over Finland to work at the factory and bad habits were common in their midst. Godly people were rare. Among them was Oberg’s mother whose maiden name was Maria Laulainen of Rautalampi. The mother was devoted to reading the Word of God and singing for she had a good voice and an ear for music. She often spoke to her children the Word of God and rebuked them of sin. The influence of his mother developed in Juho a sensitive conscience already in his childhood, but the mother could not lead her son any further. He grew in church piety, lacking the light of the Holy Spirit.

Nineteen year old Juho had to leave home not knowing where he would find employment. With tears, the mother saw her son off. His plan was to first go to his brother’s place in Taipalsaari. His brother had written that he had repented and was now a believer. From this, his family had gotten the impression that he had gone into some wild false doctrine and that Juho had reason to go and set him straight. While staying with his brother, Johan came into contact with the Laestadian movement. Listening to there preaching, he became convicted in his conscience that he also needed repentance or he was headed for hell. But this was not easy for the young man and an inward struggle went on from week to week. He had no peace at night or day. In 1884, a preacher named Manne Välikangas, was shot to death in Savitaipale. This touched Oberg’s heart so that he wanted to step in his place among the persecuted Christians even though he would lose his life because of the name of Jesus. He received strength to humble himself in repentance and receive the blessing of the forgiveness of his sins in Jesus Name and Blood. Then his soul was able to taste the power of the life to come and enjoy hidden manna. Several days after that, he saw the bloody wounds of the Son of God before his eyes. It went as a sword through his heart. He received power to confess his faith to the young and old. He was then asked to preach which he did in Finland for several years.

When he moved to America in 1892, he first settled in Calumet MI, but soon moved to Superior, WI, where he was for over a year and then moved to Cromwell, MN. In both places he was asked to speak at services and he also made preaching trips to other places which resulted in many people turning through repentance and faith from darkness to light. After 19 years in Cromwell, Oberg moved with his family to Cokato in 1912, and served as a pastor there for 8 years. There his wife, Maria (Mononen) Oberg from Lappeenranta, died. Oberg returned to Cromwell with his children. In 1921, he married Maria Carlson (Niemi). In 1929 he received a call from Laurium, MI, to be the pastor of the recently established congregation. He had already been voted to be the first chairman of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America Federation. He served in this capacity to the general satisfaction of the people until 1942, when he requested retirement from the chairmanship and pastorate due to his high age and health issues. He was called to his eternal home on January 29, 1946.

Throughout his life, Oberg was a representative of Raattamaa’s evangelical Christian view, in which he had come to faith. He was a humble servant of God who spread the gospel lovingly and faithfully. He resisted, during his leadership, all religious concepts and principles which deviated from those of the Raattamaa era, whether they were toward a legalistic spirit or toward extreme evangelicalism. He also resisted efforts to limit God’s Kingdom to a certain faction. He had no aspirations and apparently no inclination to be a “leader” who demanded allegiance to himself. He did not seek the chairmanship but received it as from the hand of God and took care of the tasks belonging to his office to the best of his ability, allowing the general decisions of the “Christians” to guide him in his work.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jonathan Edwards and Positive Agency

dsMany of my friends here at Loma Linda are big fans of the well-known writer and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, John Piper. One them gave me some of his sermons on a CD last year and I was quite impressed by what I heard. Since then I've been a somewhat regular reader of Piper's blog and have enjoyed what I've read there. My introduction at Loma Linda was not my first to Piper though. When I was at Asbury, Piper was one of "those Calvinists," with whom we loved to disagree. Even at Asbury, the little I knew about Piper caused me to respect him in the same way I respected Al Mohler. I knew I had some serious disagreements and I was convinced that they would probably see my form of Christianity as deficient but I respected them both as bold defenders of Biblical Christianity.

On Sunday, after a week of midterms I was at Barnes and Noble to get a book on surfing but I also decided to browse the Christian section. Piper's Desiring God, a book I've wanted to check out for a while, stood out to me on the shelf so I decided to pick that up also. I've read the first two chapters so far and especially appreciated his chapter on Conversion where he takes on the idea that you can just say a little prayer, and experience no repentance or change in your life and yet somehow that makes you a Christian. But as I've read I've also struggled with a Calvinistic idea that I find very problematic: the complete and utter determinism by God of all events in history that Calvin seems to imply in his Institutes and that Calvinist leaders like Piper seem to embrace today. This blog post is not going to be any sort of in-depth exploration of the matter as I don't have the time to spend on it. But I was impressed by something I read in one of the appendices to Piper's Desiring God yesterday.

The appendix is entitled, "Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained That Evil Be?" And the section that I found helpful is called, "Is God the Author of Sin?" Piper quotes Jonathan Edwards quite a bit in this section and adds in some of his own analysis:

Is God the author of sin?

Edwards answers, "If by 'the author of sin,' be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing. . .it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin." But he argues, willing that sin exist in the world is not the same as sinning. God does not commit sin in willing that there be sin. God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God's permission, but not by His "positive agency."

God is, Edwards says, "the permitter. . .of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted. . .will most certainly and infallibly follow."

He uses the analogy of the way the sun brings about light and warmth by its essential nature, but brings about dark and cold by dropping below the horizon. "If the sun were the proper cause of cold and darkness," he says, "it would be the fountain of these things, as it is the fountain of light and heat: and then something might be argued from the nature of cold and darkness, to a likeness in the nature in the sun." In other words, "sin is not the fruit of any positive agency or influence of the most High, but on the contrary, arises from the withholding of his action and energy, and under certain circumstances, necessarily follows on the want of his influence.
I have no disagreement with the way Edwards presents sin here and how sin relates to God's "positive agency." It is the idea that God has "positive agency" in the real moral evil of this world that causes me to have serious doubts about what I have understood to be the Calvinist position. Piper frequently reminds us in Desiring God that we should have a God-centered and not a man-centered view of the universe. With this I completely agree but I think part of having this God-centered view is not embracing a theology which in any way infringes upon an important attribute of God, His goodness. And I realize that as sinful humans we have a deficient understanding of what real goodness is but at the same time when we call God "good" that idea of "goodness" must have a strong relation to what we would normally think of as "goodness" or else it is completely meaningless to say that God is good. I know that many of the things that might seem evil to us in this world are really a blessing or a judgment from God but at the same time I don't believe that there is anything in Scripture which would ever cause me to believe that God has any "positive agency" in the horrendous moral evils committed by free creatures in the universe.

I look forward to continuing on in Desiring God, a book which one of my housemates called the most influential book in his life, second only to the Bible. I also expect more theological conversations with my classmates and more posts like this one as a result of my reading.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Chicken Controversy

As we enter this contentious day of elections and ballot measures I was happy to read about the latest controversy in my own hometown in a letter to the editor entitled, "Battle Ground Short-sited to Ban Chickens." Made me a little homesick. Happy voting.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Assurance

Lately I've been going on long runs with one of my classmates and during our jogs we like to talk theology. Last night we ran 10.5 miles, making a loop and going from the middle of Loma Linda to downtown Redlands. I've really enjoyed our conversations. We've talked about a wide variety of things, from the problems of liberalism creeping into the Church to the debate between Arminians and Calvinists. My running buddy, by the way, is a hardcore Calvinist. But yesterday one thing that came up was assurance of salvation. We talked about how we had both struggled with it at times and I admitted that on bad days a frequent prayer of mine is still, "Lord, save me." I don't think that there is anything wrong with that prayer depending on what assumptions are going into it. But assurance is something I've thought a lot about and what I said was that what assures me the most of my salvation, aside from the plain testimony of Scripture, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," is the experience of God calling me back to Himself even as I have tried to run away. When I look back on my life, both before and after I asked Christ to save me from my sins, I see such providence from God in people, in books and especially in some of the hardest things I've experienced that have caused me to cry out to Him. God has changed me and freed me from sins that once bound me but the more compelling evidence to me is that during those times when I was farthest from God in my thoughts and actions, I can look and see that He was actively reminding me of His existence and His goodness.

Another thing we talked about though was the propensity of many Evangelical pastors only to try to give assurance of salvation, that is, the tendency to downplay any parishioner's fears that perhaps they are not in Christ. We both agreed that this is wrong. It isn't bad to wrestle with whether or not you are saved. Many who have gone forward at one time and prayed the "Sinner's Prayer" have perhaps not really given over their lives to Christ. Many have not realized the gravity of their own sin and what Jesus is actually saving them from. For these people it isn't a bad thing to wrestle with whether or not they are saved because by the grace of God and the action of the Holy Spirit they will be made aware of the true nature of their sin and the true nature of Christ's death on the cross. Even if they are already saved this can only have a good effect on their faith. Of course there are individual believers who struggle inordinately with the fear that they are not saved and these people most likely do need reassuring words from their pastor. But in the American Church I believe that the opposite is what is usually true, that too much assurance is given, not allowing people to work out their salvation, "with fear and trembling," and come to a deeper understanding of the cross or a saving faith in Jesus Christ for the first time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Like a little boy on Christmas morning...

I arrived home after a long day of studying to find a package with my name on it at home. I knew right away that my new ESV Study Bible had arrived. I've been looking forward to getting this Bible for at least six months now and I thought the earliest I would get it would be tomorrow (the 15th) which was listed as the release date on the website. I felt like a little boy on Christmas morning as I tore apart the packaging and began to get to know my new best friend. My trusty NIV Study Bible, given to me by my grandparents who have since passed away, has been my companion for over a decade now and is seriously falling apart. My new ESV Study Bible will replace it and my venerable, marked-up NIV will take a place of respect high on my bookshelf.
One of the things that made me so excited about this Bible are the theologians who worked on it and some of the pastors who recommended it. John Piper said, The ESV is a dream come true for me. The rightful heir to a great line of historic translations, it provides the continuity and modern accuracy I longed for. Now the scope and theological faithfulness of the ESV Study Bible study notes is breathtaking. Oh how precious is the written Word of God.” And Mark Driscoll, "The ESV Study Bible is the most important resource that has been given to the emerging generation of Bible students and teachers. The ESV Study Bible is the best. Period.” I've cracked it open and have liked what I've seen so far. I'll look forward to another decade or two of meeting God through this Bible. Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary was the general editor and the Anglican theologian, J.I. Packer was the theological editor.

Monday, October 13, 2008

...and you're sittin' on top of the world.

On Saturday I checked off one of the goals I set for myself when I moved to Southern California to go to medical school. The goal was to try surfing and when I finally got around to it I was not disappointed with the experience. I headed down early in the morning with two of my classmates, one with some surfing experience and the other a first-timer like me. We went to Huntington Beach, put on our wetsuits and walked down to the ocean's roar. The biggest obstacle for me was overcoming my fear of the ocean. I'm not the strongest swimmer and growing up my grandparents, who lived on the Washington coast, constantly hammered the dangers of the ocean into me. I know that their words were wise ones but they didn't exactly help me to paddle out into the surf my first few couple of times. I slowly became more comfortable though with being thrashed around by waves and then getting back on my surfboard after a little time spent out at sea. The conditions were pretty choppy on Saturday but I was still able to ride a couple of good waves on my belly. The one time I tried to get up I ended up driving the nose of my board down into the water and then going head first over my board. Overall it was a great experience though and I plan on trying to make a habit of it and becoming somewhat decent.
The two classmates I went with both catching a wave.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nude Hippies

... or the hike to Deep Creek Hot Springs.

So last night, after our Christian Medical and Dental Association meeting, some of my housemates and I decided to go for a hike on Saturday. We took out the trail book I had recently purchased and located a nearby hike that looked interesting. The hike was to Deep Creek Hot Springs outside of Hesperia, California. The drive up was interesting and involved a good amount of time on dirt roads. The first thing that made this hike interesting was that the trailhead was on private property. We arrived at the "ranch" payed a fee to park and got a free trail map. The weather was perfect for a hike to hot springs, being sunny but also breezy and cool. As we began the hike through the desert populated with agaves, ephedra and ocotillo, I began to think about some of my preconceived notions about the kind of people who hang-out at hot springs. The only other hot spring I had ever been were on the Owyhee River outside of Ontario, Oregon. At that time it had just been my family so I don't really know how I had come of formulate these preconceived notions short of reading about Esalen in Big Sur, Calif. So I had to laugh when we came into view of the springs and what is the first thing that I see? A big naked hippie.

The springs were actually very nice and are located right next to Deep Creek which is a sizable stream for the middle of a desert. When we got to the springs we were lucky to find that the top pool, above the few other people there, was free so three of us jumped in. The water was about the same temperature as your average hot tub and only smelled very faintly of sulfur. To make the conformity with my preconceptions complete, we smelled the scent of a certain herb being smoked down below as we enjoyed our time in the pool. Overall it was a very interesting hike and I was not disappointed by the hot spring. Here are some nudity-free pictures for your enjoyment:

Deep Creek, near the hot springs.

This is the top pool we found and hung out at for a while.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tradition Bound

Last night I was reading my Bible and I came to a passage where it seemed strange to me that the word "God" in my NIV was not capitalized. I have a wide selection of Bibles in my room and I happened to pull my John MacArthur Study Bible off the shelf. This John MacArthur Bible was given to me by a customer with whom I had become friends at a bookstore I worked at a few years ago. After I had looked up the passage in question, I decided to flip to 1st Corinthians 14 to see what MacArthur had to say about that. I had just read the 14th chapter of 1st Corinthians the night before and I was curious to see what MacArthur, a strong Cessationist, would do with the passage. I was disappointed by what I saw. In my opinion MacArthur had to seriously twist the clear meaning of Scripture to deny that there is a God-given form of tongues which is not any intelligible human language, and to argue that even tongues, as the ability to speak a real language unknown to the speaker, had ceased. His arguments were weak and they involved assuming that Paul was speaking "sarcastically" over a good portion of the passage and that the singular "tongue" had a different meaning from the plural "tongues." I'm always very skeptical when I hear someone give an interpretation of Scripture where the writer is interpreted to be speaking in a joking or sarcastic manner. I think it is often a way of just avoiding whatever truth is being expressed there.

But on a deeper level, seeing MacArthur's commentary on 1st Corinthians showed me that MacArthur is just as tradition bound as any other Christian. His tradition is American Fundamentalism and in many ways I respect his tradition. I am thankful for the stress that the Fundamentalists place on the authority of Scripture, and the need for repentance and faith in Christ for salvation. I like the fact that Fundamentalists are about as far as you can get from post-modernism and relativism. But Fundamentalism is still a tradition that must twist Scripture here and there to hold on to some of its assumptions, especially its cessationist assumption.

The fact is that all Christians are in some way "tradition bound." I've always said that if a person could show me any place where the Tradition I am a part of, Anglicanism, conflicts with Scripture in any way, that I will leave that belief or practice behind. And I think that is the spirit of the English Reformation and the attitude all Christians should have. That where the Tradition conflicts with Scripture we will remove that aspect from our belief and practice. But where there is no conflict, where Scripture is silent, we will allow freedom. Personally, I am thankful for the kind of Tradition that doesn't conflict with Scripture. I believe that much of this Tradition, like the liturgy, is a gift from the Holy Spirit to the Church. If I am going to have any Tradition I want it to be the Ancient Tradition, accepted by all Christians before the division between East and West and confirmed as good and true by centuries of Christians.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Wonderful Exchange

I live in a house with five other med students, all of whom are Christians, and lately the topic of the Eucharist has come up in our conversations. My housemates strongly take the typically Protestant "Symbolic" view while I've tried to argue for what would probably be described as a more Lutheran view, the Presence of Christ being spiritually, "with the bread, in the bread, and under the bread." So last night to take a break from studying I cracked open John Calvin's Institutes to look at his view on the Eucharist once again. It's not that I haven't looked at it before. When I was at Asbury Seminary I wrote a paper on it but Calvin's view was confusing enough for me that I felt the need to refresh my memory. This post really isn't about the Eucharist though because I simply wanted to post a wonderful sentence from Calvin that I came across while I was reviewing his theology of the Sacrament. So here it is:

This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.
- John Calvin, Institutes 4.17.2

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Jenks Lake to Dollar Lake Saddle

Today I enjoyed a beautiful hike in the San Gorgonio Mountains. I went with a friend from Christ's Church, Frank, who has hiked the area extensively and suggested this trail. We had planned on a short eight mile hike but the day was so beautiful that eight turned into sixteen, eight in, eight out. We gained about 3500 feet of elevation and ended up at just about 10,000 feet at the Dollar Lake Saddle about five miles from the summit of San Gorgonio. After today's hike I am even more determined to summit San Gorgonio as soon as possible. As I hiked I ran through the list of pharmaceuticals I'm about to be tested on but I also enjoyed conversation concerning our faith with a fellow Anglican and brother in Christ. The scenery was much more beautiful on today's hike compared to last week's summit of Old Baldy. Here are some of the pictures:

Looking up at the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio, highest point in Southern California.


That's me at the saddle looking to the southwest. Behind me, in the haze, is the Inland Empire, where I go to school and where I'm currently writing this blog.

Frank and I at the saddle.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Old Baldy - Mt. San Antonio

Today I climbed Mt. San Antonio, the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains. At 10,064 feet it is also the highest point in Los Angeles County. I was lucky enough to find a classmate to take a break from studying and climb with me. It was an easy climb with a few steep areas and a round trip of about ten miles. Jon brought his Bible up so we took a break at one point and took turns reading out loud some of our favorite Psalms. We ended up reading the 1st, 23rd, 51st, 104th and 139th Psalms. As usual it was wonderful to be reminded of God's goodness and majesty in the beauty of the mountains. Here are some pictures from the hike:
Summit of Mt. San Antonio, looking West.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

What Real Anglicans Believe About Scripture

If there were any word of God beside the Scripture, we could never be certain of God's Word; and if we be uncertain of God's Word, the devil might bring in among us a new word, a new doctrine, a new faith, a new church, a new god, yea himself to be a god. If the Church and the Christian faith did not stay itself upon the Word of God certain, as upon a sure and strong foundation, no man could know whether he had a right faith, and whether he were in the true Church of Christ, or a synagogue of Satan.
- Thomas Cranmer, leader of the English Reformation

H/T Northern Plains Anglicans

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Defeat on Mt. Adams/Victory on Piker's Peak

On Tuesday I attempted to reach the summit of 12,256 ft. Mt. Adams for the 12th time in the last 11 years. Climbing Mt. Adams began as a tradition for me my senior year of high school when I climbed it with my younger brother Joey and my friend from Germany, Alex Jaeger. Since 1998 I've made it up every summer, doing a two-day hike up the mountain. The South Climb, the easiest way up the mountain, starts at Cold Springs Campground at about 5600 ft. and ends at the summit. After climbing this mountain 11 times in a variety of conditions, I thought I knew it well but on Tuesday I was proved wrong. I have always climbed between late June and the first weekend of August. This year was almost a month later than my latest ever climb and in that month this mountain morphed into a beast I could hardy recognize. On the way up to Piker's Peak, the false summit, the metamorphosis was caused by the lack of snow which normally gives a climber a nice, 2000 ft stairway of deep icy footprints from the Lunch Counter up to the top of Piker's. Instead of the stairway, I had an assent up a couple of thousand feet of loose rock. It was pretty miserable but I was determined not to let the mountain beat me. My determination to summit for the twelfth time was strongest when I reached the false summit, Piker's Peak, at about 1:45PM. It was extremely windy and quite cold up there but the summit was in sight and most certainly in reach, or so I thought. After a short break and some pictures at the false summit I headed toward the snowfield that one must cross to begin the last ascent up the summit. With my first step on the snowfield, I was flat on my back. I was afraid I might keep sliding on what had always been a field of deep snow before but was now a sheet of 2 inch thick ice. I did some walking around up there but the snow field was impassible. I have never taken crampons with me on Adams but this is the first year they might have come in handy. I think even with crampons though, the hike across the snowfield would have been a bit perilous. Even with the apparent defeat of not making the summit, I was still able to view the day as a victory. We normally do the climb in two days but this time we attempted it in one. I had an elevation gain of around 6,000 ft from Cold Springs Camp to above the false summit in six hours. I can certainly see that as a victory. It was a miserable day but I always enjoy a good test of endurance and for that I am thankful. Being home in Washington for this month has been made all the more wonderful by the amazing backpacking/camping/climbing adventures of which I have been able to partake. It's going to be hard to go back to California in two days.
Marker stone at Piker's Peak. Reads: (Aug. 27, 1923) You are a Piker if you stop on this summit. Don't crab, the Mountain was here first. Arthur Jones. Well, I guess that makes me a Piker.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Favorite Photos from the Wonderland Trail



And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Random Update #2...

Well, I feel like I should write something. I haven't felt much desire to blog lately but I have been doing some interesting things. I finished strong at Officer Basic Leadership Course in San Antonio and returned to my hometown of Battle Ground, Washington in late July.

Since then the most interesting thing I've done was to hike most of the way around Mt. Rainier on the Wonderland Trail with two other friends. We spent seven days backpacking and camping and had a great time out in the wilderness.

I've picked up a few books this August which have been interesting and enjoyable. I'm most of the way through What's So Great About America by Dinesh D'Souza. I also picked up D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity and have begun reading that also. David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite has been on my reading list for a while so I finally picked it up and began digging into that recently also.

I went to a revival service being held by a local charismatic ministry in a barn a few miles from my house a few weeks ago and was blessed by that. I might go to another of those revival services this coming Saturday.

I head back down to Loma Linda next Friday, the 29th, to begin my second year of medical school.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bathing? Who needs bathing?

My last eleven days have been at Camp Bullis, Texas in Officer Basic Field Training. I can only try to guess the ways I have been changed during those days. I have become more aware of my own capabilities. I have begun to form friendships with colleagues with whom I will probably work many years hence and I have begun to be formed into a soldier. Our average day started with a formation at about 500 and ended somewhere around 1930. The days were hot and nights short during those eleven days and we took only one shower. I probably sweated more than I have in the past three months.

I wrote a couple of weeks back about some of the negative effects that I think med school has had on me. But I think OBC has been a good antidote for some of those problems. Army discipline doesn't give you time to be self-centered. You are focused on following orders, having the right equipment, being at the right place at the right time and perhaps most importantly, watching out for your battle-buddies.

We did way too many things during our field training experience to write about here. They were eleven days that felt like a couple of months. Some of the highlights for me included some of the leadership exercises, becoming familiar with the M16 rifle and MOUT - which is similar to paintball except you're using your M16 using rounds made of wax.

One line of our "Soldier's Creed" reads, "I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my Warrior tasks and drills." This field training has begun to make those words a reality for us. When I joined the army I thought I would serve my required time and then get out but after the last couple of weeks I've realized that I probably wouldn't mind staying in longer term. That decision is a long way off but the experience here has been a good one.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Next Chapter

I'm sitting in the San Antonio airport, waiting for one of my classmates from Loma Linda to arrive. I spent the last two days driving across the Southwest. As always, I enjoyed the lonely, harsh beauty of the American west. Unfortunately, I was in a bit of a hurry so I couldn't enjoy any side-trips like I usually like to take when I drive cross-country. I arrived at Fort Sam Houston at 11:00AM this morning, to report for six weeks of the Officer Basic Leadership Course. One interesting part of the road-trip was a stop yesterday afternoon in El Paso. I decided to get my hair cut there and stopped at the first barbershop I could find. The barber ended up being part Pima Indian and part Mexican-American. He had some very interesting perspectives about life and philosophy and some interesting stories to tell about his family. He probably would have called himself a Christian, although some of his beliefs were a bit unorthodox. Except for being in a hurry, I enjoyed the conversation though.

As with most of the big transitions I've experienced, I'm both excited and nervous about the next six weeks. I'm excited about the ways this will change me. I think it will be the closest thing I've ever experienced to the stories of monks I've read about who had to be in submission to their elders. Now I will be in submission to the officers above me. My next big test is the physical training test. I have to run two miles in seventeen minutes and do 39 push-ups and 45 sit-ups. I should be able to pass just fine.

With all of this said, I can't wait for August, to be back with friends and family in Battle Ground.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Imagining Christ

On Sunday, after attending church, I went on a tour of some interesting parts of L.A. with some classmates who know the area well. The highlight of the day was certainly the Getty Center, a museum on a hill in Los Angeles. After a tram-ride from the parking structure to the museum, I was first struck by the architecture. I am not usually a fan of modern architecture but the Getty provided a definite exception. I was also struck by the views of the Los Angeles area. From the Getty you can see the mountains to the East, the Pacific with Catalina Island to the West, and the expanse of L.A. with various landmarks such as downtown and the UCLA campus in between. When we arrive we were greeted by a sign advertising an exhibit called "Imagining Christ." I was at first skeptical, thinking that it would be some kind of heretical new-age thing but this exhibit ended up being the most interesting part of the Getty experience for me. The exhibit consists of art picturing Christ from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The majority of the pieces were amazingly detailed illuminated manuscripts. As I looked in awe at these pieces I imagined the monk in the monastery, painstakingly tracing calligraphy and pictures with perfection. I was thankful to these monks who believed in the truth of the stories these manuscripts told and who contributed to the riches of what is Western Civilization.

I was most impressed with an illuminated manuscript of Augustine's City of God depicting the Trinity. I believe it was created around 1400. I expected the language to be Latin but according to the display, it was written in French.
A page from Augustine's City of God depicting the Trinity.

We stayed at the Getty until closing time, wandered around third street in Santa Monica and then got dinner in Hollywood before heading back to Loma Linda. It was a great day and it was good to finally see some of what L.A. has to offer.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Surviving Medical School with Faith intact...

With my first year of med school for the most part finished, I have been reflecting back on the year and having conversations with friends about how this first year has changed us. The most obvious change is, of course, our knowledge of the human body and that is pretty exciting to me. But an experience like medical school changes a person in much deeper ways. When we arrived here we were regularly warned by the deans and by students further along that if we weren't careful many of us would become cynical people who forgot our original altruistic or spiritual reasons for coming to medical school. As usual, I doubted that med school could change me in such a way. But looking back, I think med school has changed my personality and I'm pretty sure that it has not made me a better person. I think that the demands that our coursework puts on our time and energy can encourage a great degree of selfishness to grow in one's personality. I have certainly seen that in myself. Free-time, when I wasn't studying, became so valuable to me that I would rarely think of seeking the Presence of the Lord or of finding ways to serve others. Instead, free-time came to mean watching movies, reading blogs or occasionally working out. I also have thought less about my original ideals that I thought so much about when I entered medical school. Instead of dreaming of a future on the mission-field, I've begun to dream of a higher class rank or the possibility of a more competitive residency. The demands of medical school has encouraged my already perfectionist personality not only to demand more from myself but also to be more critical of those around me.

That all sounds bad, huh? I've told some of my closest friends here, and I really think it's true, that I'm probably in a worse spiritual state than I was back in August. My daily time in the Word and in prayer has shortened and I am less ready than I once was to try to encourage and pray for classmates. But with all of this apparently negative reality, I know that God has provided for me in marvelous ways.

When I told my friends that I thought I was actually in a worse spiritual state now than when I started, I also told them that if it wasn't for the various ministries I'm involved with here, things could have been much worse. The constant accountability and edification I have found in our weekly Christian Medical and Dental Association meetings and in our Men's Group Bible Study meetings have been invaluable. Through those relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ I have been given the opportunity to honestly share struggles, to seek the counsel of my colleagues and their prayers. Having a wonderful church family who I look forward to seeing every Sunday has also been very important.

Another conversation I've had with some of my classmates is a "what if" conversation considering whether we would have gone to some of the more prestigious schools we applied to had we been accepted. And there was a time when I would have said, "yes," that if I had gotten into Harvard or Mayo Clinic that I would have gone there. But looking back on this year and considering things with the eternal perspective of the importance of my soul, I would have to say, "no." Think what you will about Seventh-day Adventist theology, but I have to say that they have founded and nourished an institution where a Christian can become a doctor and where they can be affirmed and encouraged in their faith in Jesus Christ. For this I am very thankful to my Adventist brothers and sisters.

In closing I would say to any Christian entering medical school, do not underestimate the trial that awaits you. Temptations that once may have looked dull because of the vibrancy of your spiritual life may gain a new and enticing luster. But if you can find real Christians to be open and honest with, to pray with and to succeed and fail with, you will make it through with your faith intact.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Joshua Tree

Well, it's been a while. I'm finished with all my exams which means I'm basically finished with my first year of medical school. I am very thankful to God for the multitude of ways that He has provided through this year. For the next three weeks I'm up in the hospital shadowing doctors and then off to Texas for my army training. On Saturday I went to Joshua Tree National Park with two friends from the medical school. Joshua Tree is a beautiful and unique place and hopefully I will return there someday for a camping trip. Here are some photos from the adventure for your enjoyment:
A Joshua Tree - Yucca brevifolia.

Some great rock climbing.

A plain of Joshua trees.

A random lizard.

Aaron, Jon and I on a rock we climbed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bishop Guernsey visits Christ's Church

This Sunday we were honored at Christ's Church to have Bishop John Guernsey preach and celebrate the liturgy with us. Bishop Guernsey spoke of how in many African churches it is customary to hear testimonies before the sermon and he then proceeded to give his own testimony as his sermon. In many ways I could identify with what he had to say. He talked about growing up in a church where conversion and the power of the Holy Spirit were not emphasized. He talked of the belief he had that there must be something more in this relationship with God and how he eventually found this through a woman at a church he was pastoring who had been filled with the Holy Spirit. After preaching, Bishop Guernsey led the congregation in a prayer of recommitment to Christ and of inviting a greater infilling of the Holy Spirit. I was very impressed with what the Bishop had to say and his obvious gift for preaching. The music also seemed especially good today and I got to sing one of my favorite hymns, "Holy, Holy, Holy."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pentecost


But Oh, this power could not be bought. All the money in the world could not have purchased it, but to those who humble themselves in lowliness and in sincerity before the Lord shall the Spirit be given freely without money and without price. Oh, tell me, Peter and Paul, tell me John and James, and all you who received this mighty incoming of the Holy Ghost with its attendant power and glory, may we, in this 20th century, receive this like precious gift, or did the Holy Spirit empty Himself of all His power in the apostolic days? Did you consume all of these supernatural wondrous blessings, or did you leave enough to spare for us today?

"Yes, indeed," they answer in unison. "Heaven is not bankrupt. Heaven's storehouse still is full. The Holy Spirit has never lost his power, the promise is unto them that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Did not our Lord say: 'When He is come, He shall abide with you forever'? Doubt no longer, but with open heart ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain. Remember these words of Joel the prophet: 'It shall come to pass in the last days,' saith God, 'I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh.' Remember, too, that when the high priest went in the Holy of Holies the bells rang, and the high priest came out the bells rang again. When Jesus ascended up on high the bells rang and the people spoke with tongues and magnified God. Now this same Jesus, our high priest, is coming forth again for his waiting church, and on earth the bells are ringing, the latter rain is falling, and again those who have received the old-time power speak with other tongues."

- Aimee Semple McPherson

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Brother's Life Preserved!

Yesterday, when I got back from a jog I had just taken in the Loma Linda Hills, I noticed that I had missed a phone call from my youngest brother. I didn't think much of it and I certainly didn't have that feeling of fear that can go with an unexpected call from family. Later my mom left a message saying that another of my brothers, Joey, had totaled his car after swerving to avoid a dog that ran out in the road. After seeing the pictures, I was as amazed and thankful as the rest of my family that he walked away from the accident with not more than a scratch. It goes without saying that my whole family is thankful to God for the preservation of my brother's life.



O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe;
Protect them wheresoe'er they go:
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

-William Whiting

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ascension

Hail the day that sees Him rise,
Ravished from our wistful eyes!
Christ, awhile to mortals given,
Re-ascends His native heaven.
There the glorious triumph waits,
Lift your heads, eternal gates!
Wide unfold the radiant scene,
Take the King of glory in!

- Charles Wesley


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Coptic Easter

Last night I was honored to be able to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord with a classmate of mine from the medical school. My classmate, Mina, is of Egyptian descent and is a Coptic Christian. I met him near the beginning of the year and after talking a bit about the Coptic Church he invited me to celebrate Pascha at his church. So last night I headed to Covina, to St. John Coptic Orthodox Church. I was blessed by the nearly five hours of beautiful liturgy celebrating the Resurrection. I had a harder time following along than I did last year when I celebrated Pascha at an Orthodox Church in America parish as only about a quarter to a third of the liturgy was in English. As far as I could tell, elements were used from both the liturgies of St. Basil and St. Gregory. The songs and chants of the night had the intonations which one would hear in the calls to prayer coming from minarets in the Muslim world. I think the foreign musical scale made it harder for me to learn some of the hymns that were chanted many times throughout the night. By the end of the night I had begun to pick up one of the hymns and it was very cool to try singing with the Arabic intonations instead of the Western that I have always heard and sung. The homily was first preached by a Coptic bishop either in Arabic or a Coptic dialect and then was read by a deacon in English. I will leave you with the words from the chorus of the Coptic Resurrection hymn, "Very Early Sunday Morning," which we sang many times toward the end of the night:

Resurrection is my song,
Resurrection gave me life,
Resurrection made me strong,
Jesus, my Lord, is alive,
Resurrection made me strong,
Jesus, my Lord, is alive.

Amen.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Random Update...

So I get online at my local Starbucks, which is really my home away from home, and I look at my forlorn blog with its increasingly infrequent posts and I feel like I'm somehow abnegating some responsibility. I just haven't had anything I've felt strongly enough about to write about lately. School is starting to get crazy with two and a half weeks of exams coming up at the beginning of May. I went to the Army base at Los Alamitos yesterday and got ACU's, boots, rank and various other things I'll need for my Army training in Texas this summer. I also got my hair buzzed off so I could get my military identification. On the home-front I'm hoping to move into a house with four other guys from the med school next year so we checked out a great house in Loma Linda a few days ago. Church is going great as usual. There's a men's retreat coming up in a few weeks where Archbishop Orombi will be preaching. I had hoped to attend but my exams will unfortunately not allow for that. I finally checked out an Adventist church here in Loma Linda. It's a charismatic church so it's not really a taste of traditional Adventism but I liked it and had a wonderful time there worshiping my Lord. I read a book recently that my mom gave to me. It was interesting and good although I was slightly uncomfortable with certain parts of it. Maybe I'll write a blog about it later. On the lighter side, I was happy to catch my first episode of The Office in a long time a few days ago. Well, there you go. If you actually read through this blather I apologize. Until my next procrastination episode I bid you all Lebe wohl.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

I was reading Romans the other day, through a passage I have read many times, and a short instruction from the Apostle Paul jumped out at me. This instruction was, “mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15b)” I guess part of the reason it jumped out at me was because of a recent conversation I had with a friend. This friend has been dealing with some hard times lately and he’s been grappling with depression. He is also a friend who helped get me through a battle with depression a few years ago. We both realized that part of what we appreciated about each other’s friendship was the fact that neither of us just tried to solve the other’s problem. Instead we actually “mourned with those who mourn.”

It’s not that it’s never right to try to solve someone’s problems. But the reality is that often there is no easy solution to the problems and struggles a person faces. Maybe a person doesn't even have a good reason to "mourn" yet they seem unable to find joy in life. I think that there is a common assumption in our Western, modern culture which is that there is a solution to every problem if only we are intelligent enough, or perhaps from the Christian point of view, only if we know our Bible well enough or if we’re close enough to God. If this is your point of view, then a person who mourns and who cannot be easily consoled will only seem like a problem to you. Perhaps you will get frustrated with the person and avoid being around them because their mourning depresses you. But this is not obedience to the words of the Holy Spirit written down by the Apostle Paul. In Ecclesiastes, we see it affirmed that there can be a season for mourning. If we are to allow for “seasons” of mourning instead of thinking we can quickly solve every problem, and if we are seeking to love those who mourn, I think we must be obedient to the words of Paul and mourn with those who mourn.

Monday, March 31, 2008

98604

Having spent a wonderful four days in Kentucky, I finished out my spring break among friends and family in Battle Ground, Washington. I love going home. I love the town I grew up in. While I was home I lounged around my parent's house, I went out to eat with friends and family, I watched a friend's ice hockey game and I went to a wedding.
As I did these things I thought of a conversation I had with a friend at Asbury Seminary a couple of years ago. We were talking about Tolkien and the philosophy behind his The Lord of the Rings. I liked what my friend, Daniel, had to say about it. He said that the point of The Lord of the Rings was not the adventure. It was not about being out in the world, achieving notoriety or personal greatness. The point was that The Shire was worth fighting and dying for. Those simple Hobbits, going about their simple tasks, living their ordinary lives was the real point of Middle Earth, not the slaying of dragons or taking the Ring to Mt. Doom. The older I get, the more I come to embrace this kind of thinking. It's not that the adventure doesn't appeal to me. But if I didn't have a place to call home. If I didn't have a hometown filled with people I love and people I have a hard time loving, filled with the best and worst memories of my life, filled with all kinds of broken people who God died for, the adventure would be meaningless. So maybe I don't completely agree with Daniel that adventure is not at all the point of The Lord of the Rings. But without the Shire, I think the adventure would have been empty and selfish.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Glories of Asbury

Well, I spent a wonderful first half of spring break in Wilmore, Kentucky with possibly the coolest group of people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. It was great being back on my old stomping grounds of Asbury Seminary's campus, seeing many familiar and many not-so-familiar faces. I got to meet with my old professor, Dr. Jerry Walls who was kind enough to give me a CD he produced of Charles Wesley hymns done in various genres in honor of Wesley's 300th birthday. I got to attend chapel in Estes on Tuesday and hear Asbury's president, Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas, preach an Easter sermon. One of my favorite things at Asbury was hymn-singing in Estes Chapel as Albin Whitworth played the pipe organ. I was not disappointed on Tuesday as we sang "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," and "Up From the Grave He Arose."
I was in a Bible study with these guys during my two years at Asbury.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A White Easter

He is Risen! For the first half of my spring break from Loma Linda I've returned to my home-away-from-home in Wilmore, Kentucky where I spent two years at Asbury Theological Seminary. I spent a blessed Easter with old friends at my old church, St. Patrick's Anglican. It was a wonderful service with a baptism the way a baptism should be. I especially enjoyed the preaching from Father Peter Matthews. It was a short message but it was one that confronted the reality of death with the stronger reality of the Resurrection. The day became even more interesting when last night it began snowing hard here in the Bluegrass of Kentucky. It only snowed for a while and there wasn't much more than a trace of accumulation but it was the first "white Easter" I had ever seen.

In his message Fr. Matthews talked about the unnaturalness of death. He talked about how the very center of our beings cry out against this reality we all must face. Fr. Matthews didn't preach that we should somehow embrace death as a natural part of life. He said that there is a reason why death seems so wrong to us. That is, we were not made for death but for life. In his message he quoted this poem from Dylan Thomas:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.


Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.


Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Which Cross do you believe in?

The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.
–A. W. Tozer
HT - T19