Thursday, December 18, 2008

Almost Done

Just finished Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Wow, was that a bear. But it was also very good. The volume was mostly the letters of Hippolytus several works of Cyprian and some smallish works of Caius and Novation. Most of the writing was from around A.D. 250, from Bishops from N. Africa. Hippolytus spent his latter years in Constantinople. It was many, many hours of slugging away.

This means that I get to take off of my shelf of Greyfriars books to read, the very last volume on the shelf, Peter Craigie commentary on Deuteronomy. It is only about 400 pages and ought to go pretty quickly.

I am also finishing up Calvin's Commentary on Genesis.

Once those last two volumes are complete, I will spend a couple weeks crash reading through the NT several times and making my way through the OT again. And that will do it!

I now have the completion of my Greyfriar's reading in sight. When I get it done, hopefully by the end of the year, I will post a picture with a list of all the books. It has been a formiddable task and one I am glad to have taken on and will be even more glad to have finished.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Always Ready

Just finished Bahnsen's "Always Ready". Great book for getting a handle on pre-suppositional apologetics. Especially helpful is the last five chapters, using the presuppositional method with five real life apologetical issues.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Exhortation- Giving Thanks

This is the week of thanksgiving. In it, we take special note to give thanks to our God and Father for all of His many blessings. But, we of all people, should be practiced in giving thanks. We take a special week and an American Holy Day to highlight our thanksgiving, to acknowledge that all of these blessings are indeed from God. But, we should be doing this continually, regularly, in our homes, in our church, among family, among friends. Giving thanks should be the primary characteristic that marks us out as Christians.

Giving Thanks

We have much for which to thank our God.
For homes and family
And feet that are shod
With the gospel of peace.
We cease to grumble and complain.
He sustains our souls for good.
And this is all from God.
To work is a gift from above.
And love, from spouse and children.
God has given mother and father,
And other friends with joy to win.
Let us see that God is good.
We should rejoice and pray
And say that all is reason to give thanks.
For thanks is gratitude revealed.
It heals and shows that we are God’s children.
So listen to this admonition.
Bow to the Father,
With brother and sister and others.
Thinking of God’s care over everything.
We sing His praises and our hearts are filled with joy unmeasured.
His treasures are our possessions.
Mercy, joy and love
From above are ours from Him. Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nothing New

St. John Chrysostom, commenting on Titus 2, relates various Greek histories of the gods and dramas, pointing out their various perversions. He especially excoriates their love of boys and their perversion in dishonoring women. He exhorts the Christians to not be like this.

"O ye subverters of all decency, who use men, as if they were women, an dlead out women to war as if they were men."

Why do Americans want to go back to what the Lord already rescued us from?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Exhortation-Chopping Down Idols

As we grow in grace, we come to find out many things about ourselves and our God that we did not previously know. We may find that we have many fears and insecurities that keep us from God. We may find that God is not exactly as we had previously thought He was. Perhaps we need to learn to be more serious than silly in His presence. Perhaps we need to learn that He is kind and willing to receive us, instead of shrinking away in fear as we might with our earthly father. Perhaps we are confronted with a God who controls the world and the terrible ramifications of that. Perhaps we have to admit that our little finite brains cannot understand the depths of this, our Creator God.

There is much for us to learn. And we must be about our business of learning. But we must not be always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth. No, we must come to the knowledge of the truth. We must learn what God is like and then we must respond to Him appropriately. That will mean that we need to change because He is not going to change. And the only way for us to really change is to humbly submit to whatever we find out about God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who indwells His people by His Spirit.

Humility starts with confession and repentance. And little by little we will chop down the idol in our mind and the one True God will fully possess us in body and mind. This process will never be complete until the Resurrection but let us take joy in following hard after God and submitting to Him in all that He reveals to us by His Spirit.

Communion Meditation-Father is Good

God’s goodness starts here. If you cannot see that, you are going to have a hard time seeing anything in relation to His goodness. He is not an austere Father, although He can be a hard Father. He has high standards but He is easily pleased with the workings of His children. It’s true, He does not tolerate high-handed sin and rebellion but He has made a way for us through Jesus to come to Him without fear of condemnation. He disciplines us but as we teach our own children, it is because He loves us. If He did not discipline us, it would only show that He was not our real Father.

We have a lot to learn about Father, God. Some of you even have a hard time saying the Word Father in prayer and insist on merely calling Him, God. There are many reasons for this but among them is an inability to see Father as something that is good to the core. But He is our Father and He is good, the best of Fathers. All that was good about your Father, is much more true of our Father in Heaven. All that was truly bad about your Father is not true of your Father in heaven.

But here, now, today, is our Father’s kindness, gentleness and goodness revealed to you. He has called you to a great family meal. He has placed bread and wine before you. He is not angry with you. He is well-pleased with you just as He is with His own Son, Jesus the Christ. Can you not see that God has pulled us into the eternal love of the Trinity? Here is Father and Son, loving, laughing. Here is Holy Spirit, affection, communion, grace, presence. And here we are in the midst of Him, the Three in One. You are welcome. He is filling you with Himself. Here is the goodness of that Father. You must see it here, first and then you will begin to see His goodness all around you.

Exhortation-Men With Chests

I know that many of us have given up on the Republican party as representative of our political views. But the Republican party can teach us something. Already, there are cries from the left leaning and morallyliberal wing of the Republican party to move more in that direction. They lay the blame on conservatives, the Sarah Palin constituency, for polarizing the party. Let us move left and all will be well.

The reason they can teach us something is that we hear this same sort of thing in the Church. We have to be kinder and gentler in the pulpit. We have to downplay sins and speak carefully so we do not offend anyone. We want to appease, rather than prophecy.

This was happening in Jeremiah’s day. He was speaking against the people’s idolatry and for their need to repent of such things. He was issuing dire warnings of what God was going to do if they did not repent. What was their response?

Jer. 44: 17-18 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. 18But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. .

God was judging them for the very thing they thought that they should keep doing and do more.

We do not need more gentleness and understanding in our pulpits, not if that means obscuring the truth and tickling ears. We need boldness to proclaim the Word of God. This means calling sin, sin and proscribing the biblical antidote for sin, repentance and forgiveness. Until we do this well, we should expect to see the same things that are currently happening in the American Church and in the Culture at large. Soft, effeminate men afraid of their shadows and a populace that loves them.

Communion Meditation-Good Father

As we reform our thinking, we hope to reform all of it. One of the striking things that I have been noticing of late, is how far our thoughts about God, the Father, have drifted away from what He is actually like. When we wrongly assume that we know what God is like and then approach Him based upon that assumption, we have unwittingly created some form of an idol. If we also worship the idol that we have created in our minds, it is no wonder that we then begin to look like that idol. After all, we are putting that idol of our creation forth as the ultimate ideal. As fallen human beings, there is no way around this. We are not perfect, so our thoughts about God will not be perfect either. However, we can transform our thoughts by the washing and renewing of our minds by His own Word.

God, our Father, gracious and kind. For many, those words do not easily run together, but they are the biblical revelation of God, the Father. In the beginning He placed Adam in a Paradise with food aplenty and access to the Tree of Life. Is there anything but graciousness and kindness in this act of creation? God fed Adam and Eve and walked with them in the cool of the day. What sweet communion. The Fall has thrown a wrench into this sweet fellowship but Jesus died to restore that which was lost.

God, the Father, has called you here today to walk in His Garden, to eat of the Tree of Life and to hear Him walk pleasantly among you in the cool of the day. We do not hide, for we are not naked and ashamed but rather clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Take, eat, and bask in the glory of your Good Father.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Communion Meditation-Our Good Father

It amazes me that receiving small children to the Lord’s Table is not the norm in every Christian Church because it does seem that every Christian Church understands that the nature of our relationship with God is that He has condescended to minister to us wee little men. It is God’s great gift that such small men as you and me could ever come to be His friends. There is nothing about our relationship to God to commend us in a very high degree. It is all grace, from first to last.

If we can see this cleary, how can we not see that small children come to God on the same basis? It is not because of good in them but rather, because of the goodness of God. He is that kind of God. He is that kind of Father. Have we misunderstood the character of God so much to think that He really does not want the children to come to Him? And how could we have misunderstood Him so greatly when Jesus expressly said let the children come unto me?

But, alas, I am reminded of the fact that men are indeed sinners. Saying that we are not worthy at all to sit at God’s table, except by His grace and mercy, does not keep us from keeping others out who we deem not worthy. Where does this disease come from, if not from sin? We are glad to be received by grace but are not willing to have that same grace cover other unworthy sinners, even the weakest of them, our children.

Our children are the weakest of the weak. They are needy of the grace of God and a touch from Jesus. Jesus came to the earth expressly to heal the sick and to defend the defenseless. Who are we then to keep those from Him who most need Him? This really is an astonishing blindness.

I suppose it causes us to have to be too humble. If we admit that even children, who do not have a real clue about what is going on can come to the Lord’s Table, then maybe we have to admit that it is not necessary to have a clue what is going on and that perhaps even we do not have a clue as to what is going on. I would argue for that case. Of course, we do have some clue and we are trying to clue in to God more and more each week. But the reality is that our understanding of God’s goodness and favor upon us is so small as to occupy a null space in infinity.

Receiving children humbles us all and makes us completely reliant upon the grace and goodness of God. Thank God for His kindness to us and to the smallest and weakest among us.

The Laboring Man

The Laboring Man

The laboring man works hard with his hands.
An honest day’s wages for an honest day’s work.
His pains are rewarded with weariness and food.
Some call this poverty, He calls it good.
The labor of man is hard work with hands.
Sleep is God’s gift to those that will work.
He falls into bed without a care in his head
And sleeps as if dead.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Proverbia 2

Proverbs of Virgil

Sadness dwells alone
But encouragement has many friends.

Sadness has a way of rolling itselp up into a shell. Think of a potatoe bug. He is very sad. Aloneness, perhaps even more than loneliness, seems to be the domain of sadness. This is most especially true of there are not others in the immediate vicinty sharing the same sadness. If they are, then sorrow does have friends as well. Shared sorrows are a comfort.

Encouragement, on the other hand, makes many friends. Encouragement often fails in its aim to make one feel better, to move towards joy and happiness. The sad one is beyond being encouraged. The sorrow is too deep. The depressions is too far advanced. But encouragment still makes friends. When the sadness fades again into joy, the friendship of encouragement remains.

Exhortation-Civic Duty, Too

Our national election is this Tuesday, November 4. The talking heads have been reminding us now for nearly two years that this is the most important election that you have ever voted in. They continue on with various points as to why this is the most important election that you have ever voted in. Are they right? Is this the most important election that you have ever voted in?

Well, yes it is and why is this the case? It is the case because this is the duty that stands before you now. You cannot go back to the good old days. You cannot move ahead to the good days to come. You have your duty facing you right now and the duty that is facing you right now is always the most important thing that you can do.

Will the outcome of this election change the world that we live in? Perhaps. If the wrong man gets elected, will the free world cease to exist? No, not at all. Might God use this election to send us more chastisement? Likely, but that, too, would be a good thing. We all need regular chastening to remind us to be faithful, to be thankful and to be diligent in doing good.

So, what are the most important issues facing us today, tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday?

Today? Worship, love God and humble yourselves before Him. Enjoy Him now in practice for enjoying Him forever.

Tomorrow? Arise in the goodness of the Lord and get about your duties to Him, to your spouse, to your children and to your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Tuesday? The same as every other day, and do your civic duty, too.

Wednesday? To give thanks to the Lord, to pray for the President elect, to live quiet and peacable lives, working with your hands that you might have something to share with your brothers. Hoist a nice tankard of ale in thanksgiving to God that He has won the victory, again.

Elections, kings, presidents, come and go but the Word of the Lord and His Kingdom abide forever. Let us not fear man but submit ourselves to the One who really controls all of these things and means to use them to the glory of Christ in expanding His Kingdom to the utter end of the earth.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Communion Meditation-Imago Dei

John 17:20-23 20Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

The life of the Spirit is the life of community. This life of the community is the image of God. We were created in the image of God and that image, among other things, is the ability to have communion with God and with one another. To the extent that we have disunity with Him and with other human beings is the extent to which the image of God is marred in our midst.

Jesus prayed that we would display God’s image in our midst. This is the remaking of the world from that which was lost. Even in the garden, we see the fall of man and immediate disunion. Adam and Eve are hiding from God. They begin to blame others for their sins. Their son is at enmity with his brother. Discord and disunion become the paradigm of the life of man with man.

In the Trinity is perfect unity and diversity. In fallen man, diversity always creates disunity. Only in Christ can we once again find harmony and unity in diversity. This is what we do here in this meal. We are many, from many backgrounds, with many pre-conceived notions about God, about ourselves, the Church, worship, music, marriage, children and a host of other things. We are very different. But we celebrate that difference in Christ because to love others who differ with us is the exact thing that Jesus came to set right. Remember, I say, love them in Christ, because unity alone is not the goal. We cannot be unified outside of Christ and to be unified in Christ means to do what He says, obeying His Word.

We are many and we are one. This is God’s gift to us in Jesus and this is the truth that overcomes the world, even our faith in Christ and our love for one another.

Signs of the Times

Judging from the signs in my neighborhood, Obama will win in a landslide. His signs outnumber McCain five to one. But I don't think people always put their vote in the front yard.

Can't exactly remember the last time I put a politcal sign in my yard. I think it was when my friend, Paul Kimmel, was running for county commissioner in Idaho. He won.

I recently put a McCain/Palin sign in my yard. Republican headquarters did not have any Palin/McCain signs. I asked. I thought about putting the sign upside down with Palin at the top of the ticket but I figured my Obama loving neighbors might think I was trying to say 'down' with the ticket. So, I reluctantly put up my sign for McCain. I asked the Republicans if they had any Pro-life signs so I could make my choice of McCain/Palin more clear but in consistent cowardice, they didn't have any.

My sign disappeared last night. I found it down at the end of my walkway, torn in half and thrown in a pile of leaves. So, I went down to the Republican HQ and got two more. I suspect the angry Obama supporter to return, so I'll only put out one sign at a time. I'll tape by torn sign together and put it out, too. By the way, the signs are free now. They had been charging $2 for them.

The last few days before the election, I'll put up all the signs I have left just to give my bitter Obama loving neighbor a chance to work out their frustration on my signs.

I've heard some doom and gloom already from Christians, lamenting the sure retribution of an Obama victory. I intend to not particiapte in it, at all. I hope Obama does not win. But if he does so, I'll hoist a nice tankard of Ale to my commander in Cheif, the Lord Jesus Christ. I'll have a smile on my face and hope in my heart. He is able to lead us well. Of His Kingdom and Government, there shall be no end. Obama will come and go but the Word of the Lord will abide forever.

Palin and Guilt

I have tried to state clearly why I am voting for the Republican candidate for the first time since I voted for Ronald Reagan. The only answer is Sarah Palin. I know, we should vote for the man at the top of the ticket. And some of you are angry that we third party reform types would go weak in the knees at the threat of the Obamanation and vote for the Elephant. Well, wait a minute! Let me explain again.

I have no delusions that the Republicans will represent a Christian or even much of a Conservative cause. Economically, they cave too easily. While warning against the recent market meltdown, they did nothing significant to help educate America as to the folly of such policies employed to make Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae the dangers that they have become. At best, it seems, they put in a few words so that at the next election they could say that it wasn't their fault. But leading is more than getting elected. Now, in the midst of the meltdown, they offer the same sad solutions that the liberals offer, without standing on their own conservative principles. After all, you might here them thinking, there is an election going on.

On the moral issues, there are more Republicans than Democrats who oppose abortion and the homosexual agenda. We know that because these issues are now pretty much litmus tests for Democrats and you cannot get funded and elected without supporting the status quo. But the Republicans have acquiesced in the fight against these two immoral positions. They have been silenced in a culture where any dissent from the politically correct version is seen as hostile, intolerant, racist and neandrathral. But to stand against immorality is none of these things. Where are the Christian men and women Congressmen with backbones and hearts who still care about the truth?

Along comes Sarah. Why do they hate her so? No one has the guts to even say it. She gave birth to Trig. What does THAT say about an America that wants its women to act like men, including refusing to be responsible for the children that are created through their sexual acts? She represents principle, responsibility and life. Life, life for babies, life for Down's babies, life for children. THAT is what matters most, Christians!

We, too, have been silenced. We have been told that it is uneducated and a mark of a religious zealot to be a one issue voter. By whose standard! The liberals know that this one issue is the most important political demarcation between even HAVING a standard and not having one. We do have a standard. God hates abortion and He will not stand by idly while we continue to ravage our nation by killing millions of babies in the womb. National Review writer Kevin Burke has a great article on this point of natioanl guilt and the response to Palin here.

I am not arguing for Sarah so that we can get Roe v. Wade overturned in this next administration. That probably will not happen. What we do need,though, is revival in the hearts of American citizens. Sarah wakes up that realization. Some are very angry at her for it. Others mock her on other fronts because they will not even allow America's conscience to wake up to the fact that it has blood on it. They keep deflecting the issue, hoping it won't really be the issue. We need a moral rebirth. I take her candidacy as a blessing from a loving Father to show us our follies so that we might repent of them. Will we? Probably not, but I pray that we do so before God's mercy dries up and His exhoratations to repentance cease. Then we are really in for it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The New Creation

I hope by now it is very clear to us that we are in the new creation. We have in some way been inaugurated into the last days where the Lord Jesus is reigning until all His enemies are subdued beneath His feet. Of course, we do not yet see all things in subjection to Him, so we are going about the work of the kingdom until every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. It also seems clear that this kingdom work will not be done until the last of the last days when the Lord comes again to make the new heavens and the new earth perfect in the resurrection, revealing His bride without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

Adam was in the garden and failed in his responsibility to adequately care for God’s creation. This had ramifications for all of us. One of the premiere and immediately recognizable ramifications was strife in the brotherhood. It began with Adam and Eve, themselves, as they began to make excuses before God, laying blame on others, pointing fingers. It was her, it was the snake.

And then it passed on to Adam’s children, Cain killing Abel, because he was envious of his brother. So, in due time, when God chose a people for His own, it was necessary for God to mark them out, to put a sign on them that they belonged to Him. And we see this in the days of Abraham, in the sign of circumcision.

Some argue that now we should not give the covenant sign to small children because they have not chosen to be God’s disciples in Christ. But was it ever so? Yes, for strangers. They could join themselves to the people of God through circumcision. But for the people of God, the sign was applied to all their infant boys at eight days old. They did not get to choose to be included in the people of God.

Furthermore, what was going on from the beginning, in the garden? Can we imagine what might have happened if Adam and Eve had not sinned? Would it have been necessary for God to mark out His own through circumcision? Likely not. All the children born of Adam and Eve would have walked in faith before the Father. All children would have been His and it would have been unnecessary to mark them in the foreskin of their flesh. This becomes clearer in the New Testament, when the requirement of circumcision is dropped and subsumed in the requirement of water baptism.

We should also keep in mind the normative pattern that was established in the creation and picked up in the covenant with Abraham and made explicitly clear in the New Covenant. We are children of our Father and this places obligations of faith and obedience upon us.

In the unfallen creation, Adam and Eve’s children would have grown up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They would not have rebelled, nor had a reason to be kept from the trees of life. They would have had direct access to God, just as their unfallen parents did. Since they fell, the line of faithful children became suspect, mankind was in rebellion, and God had to step in to re-establish His covenant with man and delineate between who was His and who was not His. Once again, He created through water, separating the waters from the waters and revealing a new humanity in Noah and his family. Eventually, an earthly family that is to rule the world is revealed and promised in Abraham. That promise remained unfulfilled until the Lord Jesus was resurrected to rule the world with His innumerable host, the family of God, the Church.

Since God created the world through water, it is fitting that we are recreated through water, as well. The normative pattern is still working. Adam was to raise his children in the Lord. Abraham was to raise his children in the Lord and we are to raise our children in the Lord. In fact, in the Lord Jesus, the reversal of the fall makes this point all the more emphatic. As Adam’s unrebellious children would have perfectly followed God, so we would expect that the children of the new Adam would perfectly follow God. In an unfallen world, we would expect a one hundred percent success ratio in child rearing. All the children would love the Lord.

Christ is our second Adam, renewing, restoring and revealing the Kingdom of God on the earth. Jesus is the new Adam, the perfect Adam, the unfallen Adam. Remember that Adam, A-dam, means man, mankind. Jesus is the New Adam, the new mankind. He is remaking all that fell apart when Adam sinned. He is recreating mankind. He is restoring all things to the creation order. But He does this little by little, just as He revealed in the Scriptures. It is not accomplished all at once. So, it should not be problematic for us to see, for instance, that all the children of believers do not love the Lord. There are some exceptions. Some children fall away because the world is still a world in which sin dwells. Until the final resurrection, we will struggle with sin and the wars of our members. This will also be revealed in our children. But we should also expect God to be reshaping the world and the way that we think about and live in the world. The normative pattern of raising up our children in the Lord that was in the creation, lost in Adam, restored in Abraham and solidified forever in Jesus Christ, ought to be the way that we think about the world.

But I can anticipate an objection to this. If Christ is restoring that which Adam lost, someone might come to the conclusion that water baptism of babies and even of professing adults is unnecessary. Or perhaps simply unnecessary to the children of believers. They may come to this conclusion since we have no clear covenant sign between God and Adam. We do have a covenant meal with Adam but no clear covenant initiation rite.

Two possible initial covenant signs are the fact that man was birthed from the waters as the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters. And all children born from Eve and her children would subsequently be born through the waters of the womb. The second possibility is that man was formed from the dust of the earth. Man’s very nature as human, as dust men, may have been enough to covenant them to God. The third sign was the breath of man, having come from the breath of God. But all of these signs were normative signs, they were inherent in created living man, without the need for an additional external sign. Man was righteous in the beginning from the inside out. This image bearing nature was marred in the fall and restored in Jesus Christ. And now it is necessary for man to be renewed in his whole nature, so it is fitting that we can see this from the outward sign, circumcision or now baptism, and inwardly as the Spirit fills the man, making him a new creature in Christ.

But regardless of whether there was a clear covenant sign on Adam in the beginning, we have explicit language of the need of the covenant sign in the New Covenant. In fact, even when the Spirit falls upon believers in the New Testament, the response is not what modern evangelicals sometimes argue. Modern evangelicals might argue, “Why baptize them with water when they are already baptized with the Holy Spirit.” But in the Bible, the argument is “Who can refuse water the waters of baptism to such as the Spirit has chosen to fall upon?” Water baptism is necessary to mark the sons of the living God and the normative pattern in the Scriptures of both the creation and the covenant is that the children partake of it.

Thus, we gladly receive those that God has chosen and their children and we join hands with the Lord Jesus as He inaugurates a new humanity in the earth, bringing the little ones to Jesus that He might lay His hands upon them and bless them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Election Day Prayer of Repentance

Our Father in heaven, we come to You to confess our sins. Our election of President is coming soon and our President will represent us. Father, forgive us that we are unable to place a godly choice before Your sovereign throne. May Your will be done.

We pray for Your mercy to our land. Remember Your saints, O God, and grant that we may live quiet and peacable lives in this land. Lead us to repentance in our homes and churches, forsaking our cowardly ways, comprising the word of God and not protecting Your people from false prophets and false shepherds. Renew Your people in their churches through faithful worship, the primacy of preaching and the authority of the Word of God. Make us boldly unapologetic for everything that You have said, for Your Word, Your Christ and Your Spirit are every bit true, though every man be found a liar.

Grant us repentance in the churches, the bloody churches, the effeminate churches, the compromised churches, the immature churches, the haughty churches and where we in this church fit into any of those groups, Father, grant us repentance.

We, in this church, are all Americans, and so, as citizens of this great and God blessed land, we are certainly guilty before You of forgetting that the Lord Jesus is King of the United States. We repent of this and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom as the rightful ruler of these United States. America truly is great and this has been true by Your blessing. So, to the extent that we can do so, we humble ourselves and our nation before You, so that You can lift us up on high as a light set on a hill. Revive us, O Lord, in Christ’s Holy Name. Amen.

Exhortation-Election Day

Election Day is upon us. On November 4th, hopefully all of you that are eligible will cast your ballot. It is important for us to think about this correctly. What is our civic duty? How shall we act as citizens in voting and in submitting to the eventual outcome.

Do we deserve these candidates? Well, yes, most of them. I think we don’t deserve one of them and that is why I am voting for her. We live in a society that is full of itself. We have taught our children to be self-centered to the extreme for many generations now. We have taught them to be impatient, wanting the fruit of their rewards before they put in the hard work of their labors. To this extent, we have got in our leaders exactly what we have become in our homes and churches. The welfare state is merely what we have been demanding from our own parents for several generations. This should be no surprise. Spoiled citizens come from spoiled children. We really do need to put an end to both. And in this election, it seems that there is no candidate that will help us do that.

We must remember what more is at stake in this election. We have heard nothing about abortion in this election. We have heard nothing about the Sodomite agenda in this election. Why is that? It is because those who push these ungodly agendas have for the most part won the day. Conservative politicians and Christians have been shamed into silence. We must stop this cowardice at once.

Our current economic crisis is a fair warning from our Father in heaven that He hears the cries of the weak from the killing fields of the abortion clinics. He hears the lies of the homo-agenda-loving priests and pastors who call evil good and good evil. God hates these things and such men. And we should hate such wickedness in our land, as well.

I don’t know how you will vote. Certainly, voting for those who would positively promote the killing of children is directly contrary to Scripture. It is a sin. Don't do that.

I am imminently thankful to our God for putting Sarah Palin in a position where America is faced with the beauty, goodness and truth of embracing the life of a Down’s baby, baby Trig, and of helping her daughter embrace the child of an unplanned pregnancy that is immensely embarrassing and troublesome. In my opinion, this is more fair warning from God to America about doing what is good and right. I don’t think you have to cast a vote for the Republicans to be thankful to God for this. However, I am personally glad to vote for her and keep her in front of the remaining conscience of America and the world for as long as possible.

What we do need to do before this election day, is repent. Let us repent of our idolatries. Let us repent of our compliance and compromise in sin. Let us repent of our cowardice in speaking the truth, being fearful of men rather than fearing God. Let us ask for God’s mercy in this election and barring His mercy there, let us ask Him to bring repentance upon our land as we suffer under His chastisement.

Exhortation-Baptized Members

Today, we have the joy and privilege of a happy and important duty. We are receiving two households as members of Providence Church and we are baptizing seven children from four households. This is a most grand and exciting Lord’s Day.

In the exhortation to you on baptisms, I often tell you to remember your own baptisms as I baptize the child. What do I mean by this?

First of all, that you ARE baptized. You belong to the Lord. Furthermore, you must remember that God is your Father, the Lord Jesus is your King, the Holy Spirit is your teacher. Mixed in to all of this is a host of blessings and responsibilities. Think about them. Remember them. Where you have forgotten or been disloyal, repent and lay hold of Father, Son and Spirit as a true and faithful disciple.

Today, we also receive the Fergusons and Heids as members of Providence Church. I say to you, also, remember your own membership. You have promised to be good and faithful members of Providence, supporting the elders and deacons in their work, loving your fellow saints, esteeming them higher than yourself, sacrificing for them, committed to them by a solemn bond and oath before the living God and witnesses.

Again, if you have fallen in these oaths, having spoken ill of pastor, elders and deacons, having divided the body with complaining and grumbling, then stop that now. Repent of these false deeds. Renew your vows to the Lord in this church.

God is pleased to lavish His favor upon us. We rejoice with these families and these children. Let us commit ourselves to God and to them as we confess our sins before Him so that we might all stand before Him spotless in Jesus Christ.

Communion Meditation-Christ's Body

Each Lord’s Day we partake of the Lord’s Supper. We call the bread the body of Christ, thinking of Jesus’s body and we also call the Church the body of Christ, thinking of the bread as the one loaf that is the Church. Is this just a slovenly usage of language or does it reflect an actual reality? Certainly, we can see that those of us gathered here are not really the loaf that is laying on the communion table. Right? We think of the loaf as representing us just as we think of Christ being represented in the loaf.

In both cases, there is a reality that we must consider. The Church is the body of Christ and so the bread is both the church and the body of Christ. While all the parts are not equally interchangeable, the words DO reflect an important truth. Christ is the head of the Church, so He is part of the Church. The Church is the body of Christ, so she is one with Him. The body that is the Church is not separate from the head, nor is the head that is Christ separate from the body. Together, they are the body of Christ.

The Head and Body together make up the body of Christ. It is something more than simply saying that we are in Him and He is in us. In a very real way, we, as the Church, become Christ on the earth. That may make us a bit uncomfortable but it is both a glory and an immense obligation. God incarnated a man in Jesus and Jesus incarnates Himself in His Church, by His Spirit, in us.

There is a sense in which the very life of the Godhead is manifested in us, particularly made clear in the Eucharistic meal. The loaf is broken and eaten. The wine is poured and we drink it. So, the life of Christ is eaten by us and poured into us. While this is metaphor, it is more than that. This is a meal that we partake of by faith. And as we do so, we are exhibiting our faith in Christ to give us life, to animate us to the work that He has called us to do.

So, when we partake of this meal, we expressly do the Lord’s will. Doing the Lord’s will is our food just as it was the food of the Lord Jesus. In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

So, just as Jesus fed on doing the Father’s will, so, too, do we feed on doing His will. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, the Lord enables us to accomplish His tasks. We are joined to Him as those who believe His promises and proclaim His Lordship. We are also joined together as those who partake of the Lord’s will in community. This is very much more powerful than simply taking part with the Lord individually. In fact, the fact that we eat this meal as a community is a representation of and the actual presence of God’s Spirit in our midst. Our community, our communion reveals God the Holy Spirit in our midst. And revealing God in our midst, manifesting God on the earth and to the world, is the very task of the Church.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Time of Peace

A Time of Peace

At the table, in our home.
With the Lord and at His throne.
Fighting over; wrangles finished.
Rage and anger all diminished.

A time of peace; a time of love
No place for war; no place for hate.

In the assembly of the just;
No division, no unrest.
Favor others, step aside.
In this time of peace abide.

A time of peace; a time of love
No place for war; no place for hate.

Who holds his brother in derision,
The Church has split through his division.
One Lord; one faith.
Let fights abate.

A time of peace; a time of love.
No place for war; no place for hate.

Eat the bread and drink the wine.
The body, blood; the man divine.
Jesus died and we in Him.
In Christ renewed; birthed again.

A time of peace; a time of love.
No place for war; no place for hate.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Who is Your Savior?

We are in uncertain times. We daily endure more reports of banks and insurance companies in trouble. Many conservative minds are now saying that the economic situation is dire. Our President, Congressman and Senators are all warning of potentially calamitous events. Businessmen to the likes of Warren Buffet warn that even a $700 Billion government bailout may not be enough to keep back the economic Tsunami that is engulfing us.

Conservatives have been saying for a long time that these difficult times would come. We politically conservative Christians often nodded along with them, hoping for some wisdom to be applied to the government's never ending escalation of spending. But times were good and we, along with the rest of America, grew fat and sassy.

Certainly, America has been a wildly successful nation. We have been the most productive country in the history of the world. But we have also forsaken our first love. We like our things, our wealth, our ease. And we Christians are far richer and far more influenced by our affluence than we like to admit.

Maybe we will end up in a disaster. Recession? Who cares? But what if we end up in a 1930’s like depression or worse? Or perhaps this will simply turn out to be a big and needed market correction and we will simply have to get by with a reduced retirement plan.

But one thing is for certain, we need a correction. We need perspective. We need to love God more than our money. We need a Savior and it is not the Government, or Wall Street. Our Savior is Jesus and His Kingdom and His government is going to survive all the fuss just fine.
Let us confess succumbing to the fear mongers around us and let us place our hope in the only place where hope should be placed, in our God and His Son and resting in the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Palin- Same Old?

Okay, having said Palin, Yeah! and Now, Palin-Same Old, which is it?

Sarah Palin has energized more than just the McCain base. I'm sure McCain has a base but it must be one of very little energy. Could we possibly have had a 'more of the same' run for the Presidency, at least on the Republican side, than this one? Talk about yawns and glassed over eyes!

But then comes along a surprise, a Sarah Palin surprise and a politician even pleasing to the eyes. Boring McCain seems to be smart enough to fix his real weakness, photographic unfriendliness.

Well, maybe he fixed more than that. He wanted to pick up Hillary swing voters and maybe throw in an evangelical or two. Polls are already showing his biggest pickup may be in men who are tired of looking at grumpy old men and manly looking women politicians.

But the third party candidaters, like myself, are another trump in the deck, in my opinion. This group of people are in that camp for a few reasons. We are pro-life to the teeth. We are small government types, dreaming for a reduction of the Federal Government budget and wanting America to get back to minding its own business. Imagine Ron Paul for President and you get a good glimpse of the kind of voter I am talking about. Also, imagine a goodly number of folks in this camp who are so dropped out of politics that even Ron Paul didn't wake them up.

Now, comes along Sarah Palin. What is her appeal? She is a woman, a real one, feminine, strong, articulate. A mother. A real mother. A wife. In short, a woman not like all the other women in politics that we have seen. Men in skirts.

And this got the base, and more, energized. Even us third party folks felt the excitement and appeal of Sarah. For many, though, the excitement has waned as Sarah has begun to drone the McCain philosophy, lining up neatly in the Republican row. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

What shall we make of this? Should we still be excited about Sarah? In my opinion, absolutely and unreservedly, yes! Yeah, Palin!

Why? Pretty easy answer. Live babies.

Sarah Palin will line up with McCain. It's her job. Same Old. But Sarah Palin had a Downs baby at 44. In God's Providence, in a messy, sinful situation, Bristol Palin got pregnant fooling around with a hunk of a hockey player. Bristol is going to have a baby and, let us hope and pray, that with faith in Jesus and a lot of family support, Levi, Bristol and the baby will make a good showing in life.

For all of this, Sarah Yeah! I am already very thankful to our God for bringing this woman on center stage. The culture of death has taken a tremendous blow. Can she change Roe v. Wade? Doubtful. Will she appoint Supreme Court justices? Unlikely. Will she convince Congress to grow a backbone? Almost certainly not. Will she get us out of 130 countries? Are you kidding?! Same old stuff. Right?

Wrong! Sarah had a baby and all the world can see that THAT is what a woman does.

God be praised and by His grace may we see a lot more of Sarah, perhaps for four more, or even twelve more years!

Palin Yeah!

That's it.

Palin Yeah!

Is Christianity Good for the World-Hitchens/Wilson Debate

Just finished the short book, Is Christianity Good For The World over a long cup of coffee. Thoroughly enjoyed both. Atheists and Christians, alike, will enjoy this debate between Wilson and Hitchens. However, Hitchens' cheerleaders will be tempted to dribble little bits of their morning coffee all over the book. That, say, as opposed to throwing little bits of wadded up paper at a televised debate. Their champion, while eloquent, is clearly not up to the task of taking down his straw man opponent. I say that because Hitchens seems to want to attack what is worst in Christianity but cannot give an adequate answer for what is best in Atheism.

Wilson repeatedly asks Hitchens to offer support for why Atheism is a worthy alternative to Christianity. Or put more in Wilson's formula, What is the basis of any authority for Atheism? Why ought we to listen to you, Mr. Hitchens?

Hitchens seem completely flummoxed by this line of questioning. Other than a very vague response to this question, say "We evolved authority", Hitchens, and atheism for that matter, cannot offer up any compelling reason for us to listen to them. Wilson's answer is that Christianity is good for the world becuase Christianity offers us a way to answer questions about good and evil. Hitchens can still accuse men of committing evil but he has no steam in his engine to justify his accusation.

Wilson asks Hitchens to justify himself and he is still waiting for an answer.

You will enjoy this book. I sincerely hope many atheists buy this book with the intent of doing a better job than Hitchens of answering the question. Or, they may see their Goliath fall and be forced to hie it on out of there with the rout of the Davidsons on their heels.

Proverbia 1

Proverbia 1
Virgil's proverbs #1

Sorrow is the friend of wisdom
And suffering abides with understanding.

As mentioned sometime ago, I would like to flesh out my life Proverbs a little bit. This one was posted on April 10, so it has been a while since I got around to following up. There has been a lot of water under the bridge in the meantime and maybe some of that will come out in due course.

It is not surprising that sorrow is the friend of wisdom. I suppose I had always known this, at least from an Academic distance. But God is kind and He takes us through various sorrows so that we can get an up close dose.

It is clear to me that sorrow both brings wisdom and reveals wisdom. This is why we often go from sorrow to sorrow, with interludes of peace and safety in between. Sorrow requires wisdom to get through to the other side and wisdom accompanies sorrow in its grief. They work together spurring one another on to higher, or perhaps more appropriately, deeper destinations.

But sorrow and wisdom are indeed friends, often together and in need of one another. And without sorrow, wisdom is a fair weather friend at best. Sorrows develop wisdom because they give us understanding, compassion, and mercy. It is strange that in sorrows, in suffering, the sorrowful and suffering is often the one extending grace. They are needy of grace but God in His wisdom, dispenses grace from them. We watch and we learn from those who suffer and endure and we find that endurance, too, is wisdom.

Sorrow also tries wisdom. It is in testing times that we get to see what we are made of. Often, what we see is none too good. We cringe at our own frailties and it is only with hindsight that we can see the good, see the growth. But this, too, leads to wisdom, shows us that God was faithful in the midst of trial, when we thought that we had failed or even if we thought that He had failed.

When I said, "Suffering abides with understanding", I wasn't so much referring to my understanding of my own situation. That almost never happens in the midst of trial. Trials are characterized by misunderstanding more than they are by understanding. I meant that those who suffer begin to understand others, especially those weak others who often suffer and are misunderstood. Suffering enables us to relate to those that we may have not been able to relate to before. Relating to them in an understanding way also helps us to love them as we should.

Our own suffering reveals our own misunderstanding and our own lack of love. This revelation in suffering leads to a better understanding. Who would not call this a good thing?


I am preaching through Ecclesiastes. This is most appropriate given the year that we, our family and our church, just went through. We have seen the vaporous nature of the world and have therefore come to more fully appreciate those things that do indeed endure.

One of my resources for Ecclesiastes is Jeffrey Myers' Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Through New Eyes, A Table in the Mist.

There is much to be said and you can listen to the sermons at, if you so desire.

In his conclusions related to 'a threefold cord is not easily broken' Myers says that two is good but three is a Community.

He goes on, "Statistics show that if new members of churches do not find genuine companionship within a year, they will leave. Of course, it works both ways. Personally, and as a layman and then a pastor, I have noticecd in church after church that too many of those people that leave have made no effort themselves to find friendship. We may think good preaching or exalting worship is what draws us to a church. Our culture may train us not to consider the issue of alienation and fellowship. When we do not become genuine members of a real fellowship, we will grow restless and dissatisfied. Solomon's wisdom should raise our awareness of the importance of communion with the body of Christ and the foolishness of 'not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near'." (Heb. 10:25)

This is really important. We must see the need of being in community with one another. Those 'one anothers' are simply all over the New Testament. We must reach out to the needy but we must also not insist on being the needy. Do not separate yourself from the body of Christ, whether on Sunday morning or from the outside the church building life of the body and then wonder why you do not have close friendships. Give what you can of yourself and then receive the blessing of the body. Those who give always get a great deal in return. Those who refuse to give, never get enough.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Graduation Funnies

And this was the back of the bulletin. Certain members of my family thought this was very funny, laughing hilariously. Others simply smiled, barely, and said it was very funny.

Here you go.

Bulletin, Page 4.

Dinner Reception Following our Ceremony- For your opportunity to mill around and network, maybe pick up some important contacts, speak to the Valedictorian, or simply snatch some free food and drink, we invite you stay after the ceremony and join us for food, fun and frivolity.

Rebecca is glad that you made the effort to see her off to her new beginning.

For those of you with small children, please make sure their lives are as full of joy as Rebecca. This do and thou shalt prosper.

When you are sad, think of Rebecca, and smile.

Graduation gifts are not expected, nor are they refused. It is cold in Moscow, even Idaho, so if you have a ratty old jacket, you can keep it, and simply contribute to the “Keep Rebecca Warm Without Jump Starting Global Warming Fund.” Envelopes will be provided in the burger line.

Rebecca is an expert on Polly Pockets. If you have any girls thinking about investing in this worthwhile purchase, please contact her ASAP. This is vitally important, the ASAP part, because her plane leaves on Tuesday, and if you have to make a purchase, the decision-making process is quite arduous indeed.

Moscow, Idaho is Mosc with a long-o. Moscow, Russia is Moss with a cow. That makes N. Idaho seem like a Muslim land and Russia seem like a farmyard. Not sure Russia has many Moscs but I’m pretty sure N. Idaho has a lot of cows.

NSA students read a lot of books. This makes them really smart. It also does a great deal of damage to their eyes. After all, it gets dark at 4:30pm in Idaho in the winter and since that part of the country has not yet received electricity, the lamp reading is really tough.

I am sure a goodly number of young chappies, as Rebecca might say, will be looking her way, even before their eyes are damaged. May her reading then, improve her vision, and not make her look back with dimness of eyes.

Rebecca’s brothers and sisters would like to send her a loving fare thee well. They are sad that she will not be at dinner table but they, of the silver lining disposition, are very much looking forward to a 1/8 increase in the overall amount of available dinner-time nourishment.

If the good life is a bowl of peaches, then we have had a Georgia orchard full with our blessed years with Rebecca. We love you.

Graduation Bulletin

And just so you get the real feel, here's the bulletin.

Hurt Academy

Anno Domini August 8, 2008

“All Beginnings Testify of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Commencement Ceremony
Hurt Academy 2008

Graduating Class
Rebecca Hurt

Rebecca Hurt

Class Speech
Rebecca Hurt

College Bound
Rebecca Hurt
To New Saint Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho

Commencement Ceremony
Hurt Academy 2008

Opening Prayer

Psalm 63- O, Lord My God Most Earnestly, P. 92

Commencement Address
Virgil Hurt, Father of THE Graduate

Psalm 127, Except the Lord Build the House, P. 163

Presentation of the Diploma

Valedictorian Speech
Rebecca Hurt-THE Graduate

O God of Earth and Altar, P. 369

Closing Prayer

THE Graduate Speaks

Thought I'd post Rebecca's graduation speech.

Here it is.

Graduation Speech
Rebecca Hurt

Good evening:

Now, I could say that I’m going to keep it short today, but I have been to enough events that my heart sank within me as the speaker announced he was going to “keep it short”, that I’ll just say I’m going to brief you, kinda like they do in the CIA, on a couple highlights of my primary and high school education.

I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read, or even write for that matter, though I have seen proof of my early dyslexia, my name being written right to left with all the letters backwards. I can’t even remember teaching Elizabeth how to read, though they say I did. I do remember trying to read Robinson Crusoe when I was six, but even though I tried to do it multiple times, I never got past the first page. But it was such a cute little red book.

My first real memories of school are the excitement that came with new pencils and shiny plastic pencil boxes and in writing in awkward print, H.A.M., Hurt Academy of Muchkins. I was pretty psyched that my school had a name.

A particular happening that mom wanted me to insert was that for a home school project fair we participated in yearly, I chose to put together a project on Virginia, surprisingly prophetic. My memory from the fair though, was looking at Gresham Schlect’s model of a Greek galley ship, and then dejectedly looking back at my hand drawn, deformed cardinal and dogwood tree.
Being homeschooled, there are strange things that end up being the exciting school events, like testing. After we moved to Virginia, we started taking the California Achievement Tests, and that was the highlight of the school year. Even the SAT was fascinating, taking place in a real live, cold and sterile public school.

When I hit 7th grade, I started the Omnibus reading program, on my own initiative. I think I have always had a habit of coming up with extra school subjects for myself, and this looked like a great idea.

There were some hard times with Omnibus, and I can in no ways say that I always finished my reading, or grasped all the philosophy, but it taught me really how to read. I found that if I struggled through Plato, I could pick up Tolstoy and find it pleasant reading.

I think the craziest thing I did with Omnibus was read the 2nd half of Mein Kampf, even though it wasn’t required, just to say I did. What ever.

Other than reading, high school was full of Latin, sprinkled with French and a smidgen of Greek. With my love of throwing in extra subjects, I picked up Arabic, which went well with what remnants of dyslexia I had stuck in my head, with its writing right to left, which comes naturally to me.

Cross country added some physical education. I ran for the home school cross country team all four years, which I always found shocking, seeing how tortuous I found it. But it was good for me

Math was pursued through high school, but with tears.

Now I am moving on, or so you might say. For really, learning at New Saint Andrews will be much the same as it’s been for the past several years: lots of Latin, though there it is taught as a spoken language; reading the greats from Homer to my love, Dostoyevsky, and there are even rumors of reading most of City of God in one night; math, though I am hopeful from the title “Philosophy of Math” that we might be doing something other than the trig I struggled with; and intense theology, though of course I have been blessed to learn much in my home and church here.

In closing, (I was informed in my public speaking class at CVCC this past semester that this was the proper way to end a speech) I want to thank first my amazing parents, without whom I would know nothing. And thank you all so much for coming this evening, and for being such a lovely church to be a member of, that makes me so happy when I look around at communion , and for being such good friends. I will truly miss you all. God speed and I’ll see you at Christmas time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Graduation Day

Well, it's been a while since I last posted. I have good reasons and I hope to state some of those soon. The main one is that I have been on Sabbatical all summer. I mean, really on Sabbatical. But more on that later.

My daughter just graduated from our Home School High School. She is headed off tomorrow to New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. We are happy for her and will greatly miss her.

We had her commencement ceremony last Friday night on 8/8/8. Here is the commencement address that I gave on that occasion.

Commencement Address 2008
Rebecca Hurt
Hurt Academy

This occasion finds me a happy man. Not just happy for this particular occasion but happy as a description of my person. I am happy. I am content. I am overflowing with gratitude. Why does this matter? What does this have to do with a commencement address? Well, only everything.

Many people take up the task of educating their children. This is true of those who hire educators to teach their children as well as those who embrace the task themselves as home schoolers. We have done both but in Rebecca’s case, we were pretty much exclusively home schoolers. That means that Rebeccas was a home schooled child for all of her 18 year sojourn in our home.

Remarkably, she was able to do this without catching that dreadful disease that manifests itself in formless jumpers, nervously misplaced laughs, long-faces and abject fear in crowds, especially if there are public school children about. I speak of home school syndrome. Be careful, some of your kids may catch it if they do not build up enough immunities early on in life.

What I want to talk to you about today is the anti-dote to this dreadful disease. And while I cannot absolutely guarantee a full-proof immunization, I must say that our success ratio thus far in our home has been fairly high. So, I want to tie in my first paragraph, dealing with happiness as an anti-dote to home school disease. You’ve all seen that disease, right? It looks different in different homes but has a certain set of common characteristics.

I suppose the most notable symptom is the harried mother. While this is not, in itself, the cause of the disease, it is an indicator that the disease is lurking and a breakout may occur at any moment. Given the degree of the harriedness, it may indicate that a breakout has already occurred and is running rampantly through the family. The exasperated mother tends to push harder in the home when the need of the day is to stop pushing. The children resist the force applied and the result is an epic battle between mother and child resulting in a tense environment adversely conducive to learning. I am thankful to God and to my wife, to say that I rarely saw a harried mother in our home. Learning at home was and is a happy and peaceful endeavor in our home. And I think this is the key ingredient to joyful learning, the goal of education.

Now, while I wholeheartedly embrace rigor in a school, it must be a particular kind of rigor. I am not of the school of thought that teaches that all education must be fun. There are many jobs that are merely work and enjoyment and fun ought not to be easily confused. One man’s work may be intensely rigorous, with a great deal of blood, sweat and tears, while at the same time be enormously fulfilling to him. He may feel intense joy and even a giddy happiness about this intensive labor. Another man may have such a job that other men envy only to find it tedious and boring. What is the difference between the two men? Is it the job? Or the man? Obvious answer, I think.

So, how does this relate to our topic at hand? Just this way. The goal of education is to produce a learner. That is pretty much it. Once you have accomplished this goal, you can stop being harried. And once you stop being harried, the home becomes a joyful place where all the cherub children simply sit around and produce happy feelings for the successful mother. Well, not exactly, but close.

The goal of producing a learner is different than simply home schooling or sending your kid to a rigorous academic Christian and classical school. When we confuse the two, we run the risk of raising a child with home school syndrome, an active episode away from ruining all your hard work at educating. When we confuse the two, our Classical School Students develop an angst for the very kind of education that ought to produce happy feet. When the educators see their jobs as delivering a packaged product of education, facts and figures, units and lessons, subjects and solutions, then the child is in grave danger of being seethed in its mother’s milk. The very thing that ought to produce life and health and peace begins to produce death and sickness and discord.

This ought not to be the case! So, how do we remedy this situation? Is it with books and drills and lessons? Not really. Since the goal of education is to produce learners, we have to aim in the right direction. If we aim at lessons and curriculums, books and units, we really miss the mark altogether. We want to produce a learner. We are not trying to instill a bunch of facts, although we are not opposed to facts. But we would much prefer that our students eat their alphabet soup willingly rather than have us shove it down their throats through pursed lips and clenched teeth, one horrible spoonful at a time. And that is precisely what many parents do. Thus, guaranteeing that their children will have an eternal disdain for this wonderful gift of learning.

If you aim at the developing the right kind of student, then you begin to understand what is the need of the day.

How do you do this?

First of all, Love to learn yourself. Read books, not because you have to but because you want to. Learn from the books. Change. Teach your children what you are learning. Talk about it around your dinner table. Get animated when you learn something you had never thought of before. Reveal your ignorance and rejoice at having left a piece of it behind. Be glad when the children learn something you didn’t know. Do not compete with your children. Encourage them to teach you things and then get excited with them as they pass you up in various ways and in various areas.

Read the right kinds of books. Make sure your children read the right kinds of books. And from that, I don’t mean merely Christian biographies, apologetics, and history textbooks. Don’t be a squeamish book marm. There is probably not a quicker way to the dreaded disease than taking this route. These bits of granola are appropriate in their time and place but a steady diet of them, will develop a bulimic student given enough time. Eventually, such an academic bulimic may give up this sort of food altogether and simply waste away into an anorexic heart attack.

I know, I know, some of you like granola. Or at least, you feel like you have to say that you do, because you think it is healthy. It may be, but granola does not three square meals make.

Feed with novels, good ones and classic, but also other genres that interest the student and feed the soul. Lead them with the interests that God has given them. When they want to read a book, you have educated them! So, let them read. There will plenty of time for more strict history, philosophy and such meaty portions. But first, let’s work up a hearty appetite. Fill your home with good and interesting reading materials. Read the children exciting and thought-provoking imaginative literature. This will pay huge dividends down the road when the children become interested in many other areas and move onto the philosophical approach to life that sets in later in the teens and twenties.

By God’s grace, our sweet Rebecca has been an engaged learner for many years. She has an appetite for learning, from reading books about Middle East history, to a great love for G.K. Chesterton and Lewis, to the cultured side of Jane Austin, Tolstoy and Dostoyevski. She is interested in just about everything and because this is true, getting her to study is not a problem. She does not come to the subject with pursed lips and clenched teeth. O contrare, she is wanting more, more. And she is just now beginning to realize, that as much as she has eaten, there is always more, more. There is always time enough to eat but never enough time to eat enough. And this becomes rather an intensely humbling realization.

And I am glad that as she continues to learn, having already read much of the Western mind, she is also learning how little, in fact, she really knows. And why does this make my heart glad? Simply because I see that, aiming at the person, we, my wife and I, hit the mark of education. We have developed a learner. And not simply a learner who’s voracious appetite has made her fat and lazy. Far from it.

Her veracious appetite has revealed her truly anemic and unnourished reality. She is but a babe in the world of wisdom. Which, I might add, is the second and deeper goal of education. Many there are who set down this path and few that find it. In fact, the very process of learning is often the culprit for not attaining the goal. Having got education, knowledge running over, the learner becomes convinced that he is either not in need of a greater and deeper wisdom, or shamefully, that he already possesses it. But humility in learning produces wisdom.

And so, while my dear daughter has not yet attained a mature version of this wisdom, I hope and pray and trust, that by God’s grace, she will pursue knowledge in such a humble way, that she will be blessed with that adornment from above, lovely wisdom.

And now, we are proud to say that we are at a wonderful crossroads in life. Our first child is graduating from High School and heading off to college. In fact, we leave for the airport Monday and she flies away on Tuesday. Is this a sad time? Far from it. We will miss her. Sure. But this parting is nearing the endgame of all that we have put our hands to these eighteen years. It is with great parental pride that we look upon our lovely firstborn. We had a baby and raised a woman. We couldn’t be more pleased. We commend her to God and to God be the glory. Amen.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Proverbia-No More Muses

The muses have grown silent and the proverbs have ceased to speak. Perhaps soon they shall reappear.

Until they do so, my intent is to go back through the posted proverbs and explain them from my perspective. I hope this proves profitable.

Proverbia 19

Virgil's proverbs #19

Fools grow wise in their own estimation.
Wise men grow foolish in their own estimation.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Proverbia 18

Virgil's proverbs #18

Fasting is easy on a full stomach.

I'm sure this one has probably been stated many times by many people. But, it's true, none-the-less and I did think of it apart from having read the quote by somebody else. Come to think of it, truisms have probably all been stated before. Just rearrange the words and give it another go.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Proverbia 17

Virgil's proverbs #17

Empathy and compassion are healers of deep wounds.

Proverbia 16

Virgil's proverbs #16

Incessant drizzle is an impediment to the soul.
A downpour fills the spirit.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Proverbia 15

Virgil's proverbs #15

A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A lying pastor does his sheep no good.
Bold are the words of the wise.
Tepid are the words of fools and hirelings.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Proverbia 14

Virgil's proverbs #14

A good wife is hard to find.
Do not despise her in the day of trouble.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Proverbia 13

Virgil's proverbs #13

Fools grow wise in their own estimation
And even the wise are tempted to folly.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Proverbia 12

Virgil's proverbs #12

Humility learns;
Pride spurns.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Exhordium-Proverbs 1:10-33

We have been pursuing wisdom. We have realized that wisdom is not far from us and something that can and ought to be grasped. Every Christian should be wise. Wisdom should be our possession. But then we run up against an apparent contradiction. We are pursuing wisdom, following hard after her, only to find that she seems to be toying with us. She calls out. We follow. She retreats. And our pursuit of wisdom seems to us another lesson in futility. We seek her but we cannot find her. At least that represents how we often feel.

But we need to have a bit of reality check. What is really happening? Is wisdom really fleeing from us? Can she never be grasped? Are we destined to our folly, able only to glimpse lady wisdom but never to have her for our own?

Think about any hard task that you have accomplished. How did you do it? Perhaps you have run a difficult race, a marathon. How do you get to marathon distance? Do you go out one day and just decide to run 26.2 miles? (You can’t forget that .2, you know.) No, you don’t. You train, for a long time, for several months. You run a few miles,then add a mile, then another and another, until one day, you realize that you have become a distance runner. But you don’t feel like a marathoner because you have not done that yet. But you are doing the things that marathoners do. You are putting in the miles. You are finishing longer and longer races and you are making headway towards your goal. And then, one day, the race arrives and you finish, you make it, you’re a marathoner.

But what would happen if during your training you are trying to figure out if you are a marathoner, or not? Are you a marathoner when you run 10 miles? 17? 24? No, not until you finish. But each step in your training takes you one step closer to achieving your goal. The steps are beneficial. They are money in the bank. You are gaining on your goal, even if you cannot really feel it as you are slogging through the miles. But something is happening in you both physiologically and mentally. You are becoming a marathoner, even before you have made the distance.

While the analogy is not perfect, I think of wisdom this way. We are seeking wisdom. We are trying to be wise. We know the goal is achievable because the Bible tells us so. But the longer we train for the task, the further away the finish lines seems. But that is NOT the case. The finish is getting closer. The miles are accumulating, wisdom is drawing closer. And at any given point in the pursuit of wisdom, when you look back, you realize that you have come a lot farther than you ever thought possible. Certainly a lot farther than you would have if you had never started training. And then when you look forward to pursue wisdom again, she is off and running and you are chasing. But the chase is the goal. The chase is the point.

In marathon training, there are some key check points to see if you are making headway. You first make it 10 miles, then 15, then 20 and maybe even 22 or so. When you do 20, you know that you can do 26. But that is not true when you do 15. You do a long-run of 15 miles and barely make it and realize that a marathon is 11 more miles. So, it is important in pursuing the goal to have some checkpoints that help you understand that the goal is achievable.

Pursing wisdom also has checkpoints. What have we done so far? What are our basick checkpoints? What are some other checkpoints? If we hit those, are we making it towards our goal of attaining wisdom?
1. Fearing God.
2. Honoring and Obeying Parents.
3. Friends- This is a broad category. First of all, it fits within the context of loving God and honoring your parents. If you do this, you will have the kind of friends that God and your parents would want you to have. You can see how if you get the first two priorities right, loving God, honoring parents, that wisdom will be close. But as you move up the continuum towards wisdom, the checkpoints become clearer. If you love God and love parents, what kind of friends ought you to have?

First of all, your friends should be friends of God. Although you CAN go wrong with these kinds of friends, it is less likely than if your friends are those who hate God. Secondly, you should have friends that your parents would be glad for you to be friends with. Again, you CAN go wrong with these kinds of friends but it is less likely than if your friends are those your parents would not want you hanging out with.

Who is a friend and who is a neighbor? Some children object to their parents having a say in their friends. Perhaps they even try to put a guilt trip on the parents. Mom, how are they ever going to learn what is right and wrong if they don’t have good Christian friends like me.

Well, that answer is fairly easy. Who is being influenced in the relationship? You ought to be a neighbor to those outside the church, those in need, even those in prisons. But that is not the same thing as being their friend and companion. And if you are following friends in poor choices, then you need new friends to follow. If you are the strong one and leading friends in good choices, then that is a good place to be. But you should not evaluate this yourself. If you are a child, then your parents should evaluate this for you. If you are a husband, your wife ought to be able to evaluate it better than you. If you are a wife, then your husband is probably a better judge of your friends than you are.

Communion Meditation-Friends

We have spoken today about friends. This is a fitting topic for communion. It is at this place that we clearly see that we are friends of God. He is making promises of faithfulness to us and we are returning that pledge to Him.

Furthermore, we look around and see who His friends are and want to have those same kinds of friends. We want friends that we can take to Jesus’s house and have supper with Him and them, all in sweet communion. Of course, we ought to declare to some of Jesus’s enemies that they can become His friends and when they do so, they become our friends. For the time being, we can call them neighbors. But our friends, our close associates, our brothers and sisters, ought not to be those who are enemies of our Lord, of our elder brother, Jesus.

This is why we look around. We are in the company of friends. Not everyone here is an equally close or even an equally good friend. But we do need friends like these, either the ones specifically in this church, or friends like them who love Jesus and His people. To not do so, is to be a fool.

So, part of what is represented as we eat together with friends is another checkpoint of wisdom. We are here at mile 20. We know we can make the marathon because we have Jesus and we have His friends with us. So, we are wise to be here. We have much more to learn but God has blessed us and we now know that wisdom is our friend, too.



Wisdom is not far from any of us. But, like the simple ones that we are, we sometimes court folly and produce the offspring of unintended consequences. But God is merciful and kind.

We have spoken about proper priorities, loving God first, loving His people second. If we do this, wisdom is very near to us. If we do this consistently, wisdom must be near to us, for God will be near us and His people will be near us.

Today, we will talk some about friends, the source of wisdom and folly. And even a good friend will not always be wise. But a foolish friend will rarely be wise.

Wisdom is a good chooser of friends; folly has no discretion. I know that many of you here have good friends because you are friends with one another. But what about your other friends? Do you enjoy being around your less than rustic friends at work? Do you ladies like to hear the gossip from ladies from outside your circle? Or, is there a circle here at this church, that are perhaps bad friends, leading into a way of folly? You get to pick your friends. Pick wisely. And do not indulge yourself with bad friends so that you get to blame them for your own foolishness. You do not.

If your friends have led you into sin, then you need new friends AND you need to learn how to lead them away from sin. But if you like to be led away, you will pay a large price at some point in the future. And this is true for all of you at any age, young children, teenagers, young adults, men and women.

This is a relatively easy area to be wise. Choose wisdom.

Proverbia 11

Virgil's proverbs #11

Strength is displayed in the knowledge of youth;
Wisdom, in the weakness of age.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Proverbia 10

Virgil's proverbs #10

To acquire knowledge is the pride of youth.
Wisdom is the gift of the aged.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Proverbia-The Naked Soul 3

One final thought on this topic. No one would think it odd if I posted that my wife had recently been diagnosed with cancer and I was soliciting prayers. However, folks would be perplexed if I posted that she had been recently diagnosed as an alcoholic. And the difficulty here is that many Christians think of Depression or similar other mental disorders as more like the alcoholic than cancer.

An alcoholic, in biblical terms, is a drunkard. He has a self-inflicted wound. While there may be a host of pastoral issues that need to be dealt with, at the end of the day, it is he, himself, that pours down the booze. It is primarily a spiritual problem, even granting that certain people are more susceptible to this particular problem than other people. I think that is true of all spiritual problems. We are unique and our besetting sins are unique.

But when one contracts cancer, we see this as simply a result of dwelling in a fallen world. We give sympathy, care concern. We recognize that it is not their fault. We look for answers from whatever corner we can find them, pastoral, prayer, medical, alternativie, experimental. We know we are in the presence of something that is powerful and it is fairly easy for us to admit our frailty in dealing with the issue.

I am saying that Major Depression is more like cancer than alcoholism. In fact, I don't think it is like alcoholism, at all. The mind is complex, and the chemical reactions in the brain are also complex. Relatively little is known about this. We need to be wise both in the way we think about it, judge others about these things, and the way we treat it.

People with cancer also have a difficult time dealing with life. Many, even Christians, begin to despair of life to rid them of their suffering.

Let us have equal care and compassion for those who suffer in their mind. If there are easy pastoral cures, then Amen. But if we are in over our head and need to admit it, then let us do so and pursue help that is really helpful. When the depressed person begins to make some basic headway on the physiological issues, then it makes sense to jump in with pastoral care, particularly trying to help them make sense of their trial in light of God's Word and sovereignty over all things.

Proverbia-The Naked Soul-2

I'm a bit nervous about this post as it is very personal. However, one of things that we are learning in our current trial, is that God wants to use us to help other people. In order to do that, we need to experience suffering in such a way that both humbles us and makes us empathetic to the cause of those who suffer.

Our current suffering involves my wife, again, which is another reason to be leery of posting. The last reason to be nervous about the post is the nature of the trial. My wife is depressed. She is not exactly sad about the various trials that she has encountered. She is depressed. It is Major Depression or Clinical Depression, as the diagnosis goes. I wish they called it something else because most people do not understand what you mean when you say Depression. They assume you are having a rough go of it and need to snap out of it. Or, they assume that you are in an emotional funk related to specific causes, say the death of a loved one. And my wife's father did die this last October. And, I do believe that his death has a great deal to do with where my wife is at right now. It, along with several other highly stressful issues, caused her to tip over into this thing we call Depression.

But the thing itself, Depression, is not sadness. It is not grief. If those emotional states were her problem, it would make sense and be treatable with basic pastoral care. Incidentally, that is how we intitially pursued this. However, it became increasingly evident to me that I was unable to address the core issues of what was going on in my wife's brain. And I think the word Brain here, is appropriate, as opposed to the word Mind. We associate Brain activity with physiological reactions. We tend to think of Mind as the arena of the soul. So, we think if someone is having mental (Mind) trouble, they are automatically having soul trouble. But that is clearly NOT the case.

However, the body and the soul ARE closely related. The soul, at least on this earth, cannot be healthy without a certain basic level of health to the body. This is why Jesus tells us to feed and clothe the hungry, not just send them away with a blessing. So, when a Depressed person does not have a minimum level of Happy Chemicals, they cannot relate to the world in a proper emotional state. This is not simply the same thing that occurs when you are bummed out. When you are bummed out, say about the test, about the job interview, about the death of a loved one; that all makes sense. Depression is not having the emotions to feel that way nor to be happy about pleasant events. It is a creeping hopelessness and despair which obscures reality.

We've all known pessimists, they see the glass half empty. A depressed person sees everything that way. There is no joy in Muddville, even if mighty Casey has hit a homerun. Ya great, we won, so what? I should be happy but I'm a miserable wretch.

The Naked Soul, what's that? It is being laid bare before the Lord and His people. When a healthy body or a healthy mind is taken from you, what is left but the soul? But God is watching over our souls in an intimate way. And, He does, in fact, mean our trials for good, even if we are unable to see it at the time. For His own good reasons and purposes, He reveals us for what we are, naked and helpless humans who are in need of constant care from their Father. We can all see this truth with infants, they're helpless, but then we grow strong and independent. But God would have us all wholly dependent upon Him. While this is humbling and at times difficult beyond our ability to grasp or even hang on, it is God's kindness and mercy to us. It is good for us to realize that in Him we live and move and have our being. We say that, but we can only know it, when all other safety and strength is taken from us. God is still our fortress and rock. Job understood. Where else can you turn?

I can post this about my lovely wife, Katie, because I have a different understanding of these things than I used to have. Well meaning Christians do not understand what is going on here. Some have offered help in the area of dealing with sins, reading the right Bible verses, or even dealing with demonic forces. And while we should do all of these things to some degree and in the right way with various issues, none of them gets to the core of the nature of this problem of Depression. Something has tipped in the brain and it needs to be healed and restored. This can be helped with some medications, although the pharmecutical route is also very much a trial and error process. But we are thankful if the medications deal with some symptoms. The problem here is that there are also many troubling side effects. In my mind, this route should be viewed as a temporary solution.

The main healer of the mind seems to be rest and time. Perhaps there are also some other avenues to pursue that may prove helpful in the long-term. There are vitamin supplements that help brain function and mood. There is growing evidence that these supplements are more helpful and safer than pharmaceuticals. This is all new to me but we are pursuing every possible helpful option.

Part of the reason this is difficult to express is that many Christians simply view depression as a spiritual problem. Easy answer, consult Job's friends. Part of the reason that I have chosen to blog about this is that we have been very open and frank with our church about this as well as numerous friends in the community. The word is out and we are not trying to hide anything. We trust that the Lord will bring Katie through this and as a result we will be able to help other people who have suffered a similar situation. In fact, that is already happening.

Finally, my wife has had several good days in a row, about five. That might be as many good days as she has had in the last six months. So, we are hopeful that the tide has turned and that she is on her way up and out of this. We appreciate your prayers. God has been faithful to us through this entire process and we give Him thanks. His ways are inscrutable but in due time, we do see some of the whys. We pray He will continue to reveal His glory through our weakness.

Proverbia 9

Virgil's proverbs #9

Knowledge is worth more than ignorance;
Understanding than knowledge;
Wisdom than understanding.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Proverbia-The Naked Soul-1

A call from a friend reminded me that my post on Suffering-Again may have been too obscure. So, you say, what constitutes suffering?

When I said, suffering again, I was referring, firstly, to past deep trials. Those trials involved a series of difficult times immediately following my beginning to study for the ministry. All of these things happened in about a 24 month span.

I was accused and sued unjustly, twice in a year. My wife lost a full-term baby, our son Luke, four days before the due date. The baby died on Mother's Day. A few months later, my father died. The next year we lost another baby, Lydia, at 5 1/2 months. My wife's grandmother died. A month or so later, we hastened to southern Idaho to be at the bedside of my wife's stepfather who quite suddenly died of cancer. A month after that we moved to Virginia to start a church. A few months after arriving in Virginia, the workers at my new job rebelled against the fellow brought in to clean up the situation, me, levelling various accusations at their new boss. There was an investigation. After the investigation, human resources was staunchly on my side and I was fully exonerated. The company rewarded me by putting me in a larger store with more responsibility. So, sufferings from within and without. And another lesson to learn?, as another close friend said during this run of trials, "Remind me never to decide to go into ministry."

Much of the suffering in these trials was more acutely felt by my wife. She was suffering greatly but the rest of our family was suffering along with her. It was much more easy to bear my own sufferings than those of my wife. I know the Lord desires to purify my wife as well as me but I often feel as if her sufferings are for my benefit and the benefit of the saints in our church. That seems odd to me. I am sure the Lord knows that she bears up better under it and he can teach me and the rest of us what we need to learn as a result. Suffering is a painfully thorough teacher.

I give you this snapshot to let you know that we really have suffered. In fact, I think that both my wife and I have graduate degrees in suffering. Here's the difficulty. We already had M.A.S, Master's of Arts in Suffering. We do not want a Ph.D.S. But the Lord thinks differently than we do.

I've rambled and am up against the blog reader word count. I'll address our current suffering and the topic of this title, The Naked Soul, in my next post.

Proverbia 8

Virgil's proverbs #8

Knowledge is gained in the books of young men.
Wisdom in the experience of the aged.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Proverbia 7

Virgil's proverbs #7

A young man knows all things.
A wise man knows nothing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Proverbia 6

Virgil's proverbs #6

We thought we knew until we didn't.
True knowing is acknowledged ignorance.

Don't get up in a snicket over this one, just yet. I've got some explaining to do. First, I am not praising ignorance. That's not the point, see. And, second, the key to this one is acknowledged. Chew on it for a while. Maybe it will make sense. I'll explain more next month when I get around to understanding how much less I know than I think I know.

Monday, April 14, 2008


These proverbs came to me recently as a result of preaching in Proverbs as well as enduring various ongoing trials. At first, I thouht it was interesting, perhaps nothing more than a phenomenon of the mind, an association of ideas. Some of the proverbs were trite but some were deep and meaninful, perhaps only to me.

As the days passed, however, I realized that much of what I know, if only a little, is reflected in these proverbs. It was as if many of the important things in my life had been contracted and summarized into these short sayings.

We call proverbs, the sayings of the wise. I make no claim to that. In fact, that is one of the strange factors in penning these proverbs.

In the past, I have considered myself wise, at least to some degree. I have always known that there are numerous others who are more wise, smarter, brighter, more gifted. But I figured that I had a thing or two to offer the world.

However, in the last six months, I have never been more aware of my utter inability to hold onto or claim a personal wisdom. The striking feature of these last six months has been my complete ignorance of and ability to deal with the situation that I am in. I won't say that I am now humble. I hope I have learned better than to say that. However, humiliation and helplessness does indeed do a great work of sanctification. We wouldn't pick it. We want out of it. But God uses it to our good and His glory, none-the-less.

I am not so young as a I used to be nor as old as I will be. And in between folly and wisdom is a school of learning. I am just old enough to no longer be young and young enough to not be old. Youth is fleeing from me and wisdom has not yet visited.

Be that as it may, I hope these sayings of the mid-lifer may be a benefit to some, perhaps those who think they know.

Proverbia 5

Virgil's proverbs #5

Many, there are, who know the answers to riddles;
Few can write them.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Proverbia 4

Virgil's proverbs #4

Hopelessness is the killer of souls
But refreshment comes from the latter rains.

Proverbia 3

Virgil's proverbs #3

Despair is a downward spiral
But hope dwells in the lowliest valley.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Proverbia-Suffering Again

When I mentioned in an earlier post that the Hurts are suffering, again, it was not meant to garner pity or leveled as a complaint against God. However, empathy and compassion are healers of deep wounds. I'll have to number that one, too! I mentioned the point, specifically, because I have come to realize that true wisdom really only comes in the difficult paths. This is a most sobering truth because none of us would willingly tread there. We want the easy rode and when we are on the easy rode we are filled with joy and comfort and proclaim the superabundant generosity of our blessed Lord. We feel really blessed and, if we are thinking right, we give God the glory for it. We are on the high places, our Lord is smiling at us, and we are His blessed saints.

That is all true. But if, like Job's friends, we reverse the logic, we can easily get a most incorrect answer. When we are in the low places, in the valley of decision, the shadow of death, of sorrow, suffering, confusion and perhaps even misery and hopelessness, it is easy to think that God's favor has left us. And, in fact, if particular sins are the reason for the intense trouble, it may actually be the case. You may simply have sowed the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. The breaking of God's laws has real and dire earthly consequences.

But there are other reasons, too. We see great suffering in the lives of many Biblical and extra-Biblical saints. This suffering is often related to their faith, persecution, but is sometimes merely related to the fact that they are human, fallen ones at that. And it is to this category of suffering that I am addressing my concerns.

We must not reason like Job's friends. I have done so often, especially towards others, little comprehending the works of God that are far beyond human telling. The great danger, here, is pride. When we insist on knowing the reasons, or asserting that we do, for another person's suffering, we stand in the place of God. Do not misunderstand me, here. We should seek counsel in our suffering. We should examine our own hearts. We should confess our sins, repent of them and turn to Christ. But having done all of that; having had an honest look at our hearts; having sought Christ with a clear conscience, not of our own making but of His cleansing, what do we then do in our suffering? How ought our friends to view us, then, in our troubles?

Remember Joseph. His brothers meant it for evil but God meant it for good. We have to hold onto the promises, which is tantamount to saying that we must hold on to God. Perhaps, in the midst of suffering, that is the ONLY thing we can do. And, in fact, we cannot even DO that. We are too weak. God cannot be grasped. So, we comfort ourselves with the fact that it is not we who hold onto God but He holds onto us. Are we strong enough to stay in His grasp? No, but we are not holding His hands. He has got us by the wrists and He will not let go.

We have suffered. We have realized these truths, that is to say, they have been made real to us. And we have forgotten. God is reminding us again. So, as Saint Paul said, Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. (Phil 3:13) There is safety in remembering and danger in forgetting. Not danger that we might suffer if we forget but danger that we might forget the Lord if we do not suffer. This is a dark grace and a deep mercy. God is good and kind and His hard providences are a reflection of His goodness and kindness, even if we are unable to see it or even to say so at the time.

Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him.