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."

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 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.