Saturday, September 30

A Day's Supply

I told you we eat a lot of carrots. These are the ones I picked yesterday. They are going, going, almost gone.

Carrots are one of the vegies that grow really well in the Yukon. Anyone who plants carrot seed and waters as necessary will have sweet, crisp, tender carrots come fall--guaranteed, unless the neighbor kids raid the garden at night. And once you've tasted Yukon garden carrots, you'll wonder why you ever thought you liked baby carrots from the supermarket.

Enough carrot talk. John Schroeder of Blogotional has a series called Christians and Creation: A Positive Approach, which looks at the relationship Christians should have to the natural world. Here are links to Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. One of his suggestions: everyone should grow a vegie garden.

Update: Kim of Hireath posts photos of her peppers.

Friday, September 29

Harvesting, And Other Fallish News

It's been a long time since we've had an autumn as beautiful as this one. There are still lots of colored leaves on the trees in my section of town, which is unusual for late September in the Yukon; and the weather is good, making outdoor adventures more appealing than indoor activities.

I've been busy cranberry picking and harvesting the garden. There is a large bowl of uncleaned cranberries in the kitchen, waiting to be rolled on a towel to get rid of the debris. Let's just say I love picking them more than I do cleaning them. Or baking with them. Eating them? I'm fine with that, too.

The potatoes are all out of the ground and drying under a tarp in the basement. I don't have a good way to cold store the carrots, so we've been eating lots of them raw as I pick them. The good news is that we are still less yellow than the leaves. I've been freezing some carrots, too, sliced on the diagonal to use in stir fries. There is, as I write this, a big bucket of carrots in the kitchen waiting for cleaning and slicing.

The brussel sprouts are huge, but I don't think it has frosted enough yet to pick them. They're better--sweeter--if they get at least one good frost before they're harvested, but they're also better if they don't get too big. To pick, or not to pick? It's a brussel sprout dilemma.

Youngest son flew out yesterday morning for a volleyball tournament in Vancouver. The kid's done a lot of travelling this year, some with me and some with his sports teams. This is, I think, his fourth trip to Vancouver since January.

Oldest son has moved his blog to Squarespace. (That his photo of leaves, by the way.) He really likes Squarespace, for many reasons. I'm tempted to move, too, but there are downsides to moving. I've collected links and visitors to this site over the years, and it'd probably take a lot of time to build things up again at another URL. Yet another dilemma, this time a blog dilemma.

I'm off now to pick cranberries again. I'm taking the dog along to keep the bears away.

Thursday, September 28

I Would Not, Could Not

Before I went on my holiday in August, I did two posts on phrases used as rebuttals in theological discussions:
Originally I intended to write only those two posts on the subject of standard discussion stoppers. However, a couple of days ago I saw another discussion bomb dropped and I couldn't resist adding one more post to the ridiculous rebuttal collection. This recent argument is one I'd forgotten, probably because until a couple of days ago, I hadn't seen it used for a long time; and that's a good thing, because, like the others, it's a rebuttal that's best avoided.

What is it? It goes something like this: "The God I worship would not _______." You can fill in the blank with whatever it is the other person has been saying God does. Another version of this same objection is, "I could not worship a God who would _______." These remarks are meant to show that whatever the other person has been saying about God is completely off-base because a God like that would be unworthy of worship.

First, let me point out that there are similar phrases to these that can be used legitimately. It is perfectly fine to say, "God, as revealed in scripture, would not _______," as long as you have the clear teaching of scripture to back up your statement. There are indeed many things that God, as revealed to us in scripture, would not do. He won't (and can't) lie, he won't fail to fulfill a promise, and he won't treat someone unjustly. We've been told these things and we can count on them. Banking on these would-nots is letting God define his character for us and trusting God as he defines himself.

Looking again at the original statement, the problem with saying, "I could not worship a God who would..." is that this particular statement places the person making it in a position of judgment of God, since what is really being said is "If God does one thing, then I could worship him; but if he does another, then I could not." Standing in judgment of God is a position that no human being has a right to be in, for God is due our worship, whether we like his actions or not. It's a position no human being has the ability to be in, since we, as his creatures, by definition have less understanding of his intentions and actions than he does.

What's the real difference between the two statements? Boil down the statement "God, as revealed in scripture, would not......", and at the bottom of the pot you find "He's the Judge of the earth, therefore what he does is right." Boil down "I could not worship a God who would...", and you get "I have a right to judge the Judge of the earth."

People arguing against the existence of God often use a form of this objectionable objection. You've seen it: "If there were a God, he would never let _______ happen, and since ______ happens, there is no God; and just in case there is a God, and he lets _______ happen, then there's no way I would worship him." We might expect that of unbelievers, but people professing faith in God also make statements like that: "The God I worship would never do some of those things the Old Testament scriptures say he did; therefore, I don't think you can take those stories too literally."

Here's a paraphrase of the version of this argument I saw most recently, and the one that prompted this post: "Well, yes, the text says that certain people gathered together to do whatever God's plan decided beforehand would happen, but the God I worship would not decide beforehand that certain people would sin. So God's plan had to involve only the events that occured, and not the particular people to carry it out." Let's ignore the other details of this statement--like the question of how it is possible to plan certain events without planning for certain people to carry them out--and just look at the phrase "the God I worship would not...." How does this person know that? Is it because he is only willing to worship the sort of God who would not do this? Is it that he has his own idea of what God could rightly do, and that's the sort of God he is able to worship? That's what it sounds like to me. Of course, it is possible he means to say that the God he sees revealed in scripture, and thus the God he worships, would not decide beforehand that certain people would sin; but he doesn't say that, and he doesn't give any texts from scripture to back this up. His statement, as it stands, makes it seem that the meaning of the texts of scripture must be defined by his own idea of the kind of God he worships, rather than the kind of God it is he worships being defined by the texts of scripture.

While searching for some other info this week, I came across a link to John Sanders' entry in Wikipedia. (John Sanders is a well-known open theist and an acquaintance of mine.) Here's the story, as found in the entry, of the events that pushed Sanders toward open theism.
In The God Who Risks, Sanders tells the story of how he came to be an open theist. The watershed moment was when he, a photographer for the local newspaper, stopped at the scene of a car accident to take some pictures. A semi had hit a motorcyclist, whose body was crushed beneath its tires. As it turned out, the motorcyclist was Sanders’ brother Dick. Sanders went home, sat down at his bedside, and prayed, “God, why did you kill my brother?” His anger at God became the impetus for over twenty years of searching for answers. Over time, he became convinced that his anger was not directed toward God, but toward “a particular model of God”—a God who is the “ultimate cosmic explanation for each and every thing.” Open theists like Clark Pinnock, William Hasker, and Terrence provided Sanders with an alternative model that seemed to absolve God of responsibility.
In other words, John Sanders couldn't worship a God who knew his brother would be killed and didn't prevent it, so he found an alternative model of God--one different from what believers have historically understood to be the God revealed to us in scripture. And yes, I know that Sanders argues that the open theist model of God is the one revealed in scripture, but that's not the point. The point is that it was not scripture that pushed him to search for a different model of God; but rather, he was urged on because he could not worship (or was angry with) the sort of God who could have prevented his brother's accident, but didn't.

Honestly, I don't care what sort of God someone finds they can or cannot worship--and no one else should, either--at least as a statement meant to support the rightness of their view of God, or the wrongness of another view of God. Knowing the kind of God someone can or cannot worship tells us nothing at all about the God who is. We know this because Romans 1 tells us that people, as a rule, do not like to worship the kind of God that the true God is, but instead, prefer to adjust their concept of God from the God-who-is to a kind of god they find easier to worship. Someone's statement, then, about what sort of God they could (or couldn't) worship is worthless for determining what the real God is like and what he does.

As a related aside, a footnote to the Wikipedia article on John Sanders gives us a more recent quote from him:
In the past few years it has become clear to me that presentism itself does not contribute much by way of help in dealing with the question of evil. It seems to me now that early statements of openness overstated its value, for it is correct that, according to openness, God would ‘see’ that something dreadful was going to happen and God has the power to prevent it, so why does God not prevent it?
In a nutshell, the open theistic model of God doesn't solve the problem John Sanders had with the traditional view of God. Even the open theistic model of God makes him the sort of God that Sanders was angry with over the death of his brother. You could say that even this model of God is the sort of God that Sanders, at least in the past, could not worship. So Sanders ends up back where he started, with a choice to either worship a God who could have prevented his brother's accident, but decided not to; or to develop a new model of God, maybe one who doesn't have the power to prevent certain things, for instance.

And some open theists have gone in that direction lately in order to avoid having to say that God could have prevented natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. This shows the problem with determining what sort of God we think we can worship and then going from there. We tend naturally to develop views of God that are less and less like the God who is, and more and more like what we are; and Romans 1 (again) will back that statement up.

So we've come round to this: Wise people don't use the phrase "I could not worship a God who would...."--or any of it's variations--in an argument. Why not? First, because no one should find it a convincing argument. What sort of God someone could worship isn't relevant to any argument about what sort of God there is. And second, because thinking that way--going in that direction--tends to lead people to bad places, since our own judgment in this area is warped because of the sort of people we are.

Tuesday, September 26

Why was our Mediator called Christ?

Our Mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure;[1] and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability,[2] to execute the offices of prophet,[3] priest,[4] and king of his church,[5] in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation.
  1. John 3:34
    For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.
  2. John 6:27
    Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.

    Matt. 28:18-20
    And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
  3. Acts 3:21-22
    . . . whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.

    Luke 4:18, 21
    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed. . ."

    And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

  4. Heb. 4:14-15
    Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
    Heb. 5:7
    In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
  5. Psa. 2:6
    As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.

    Matt. 21:5
    Say to the daughter of Zion,
    ‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’

    Isa. 9:6-7
    For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
    and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
    on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
    with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
    The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

    Phil. 2:8-11
    And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question 42, Westminster Larger Catechism.

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Monday, September 25

Quiz: Answers to Quiz on Words Describing Christ's Work

As promised, here are the answers to last Friday's quiz. Remember that this quiz is about the specific focus of a particular word, so just because an answer is wrong because it's not the focus of the word in the question, that doesn't mean it isn't one of the aspects of Christ's work on the cross.

Question 1:
The word redemption, as used to describe what Christ accomplished on the cross, focuses particularly on
  • a. the averting of God's wrath toward sin.
  • b. the cross being a payment made in order to buy freedom.
  • c. the sinner's natural state as a slave to sin.
  • d. all of the above.
  • e. b and c above.
The correct answer is e. b and c above. Redemption has to do with the buying back (or ransoming) of someone who is a captive or slave. This word, then, as used to describe Christ's cross work, focuses on the sinner's state of captivity to Satan or slavery to sin. Seen from the vantage point of redemption, Christ's work was a ransom payment to buy the sinner's freedom from bondage.

Leon Morris says that the idea of redemption also
brings out the magnitude of the price paid for our salvation. It shows us that the death of Christ was meaningful. It was more than the martyrdom of a good man who was not strong enough to resist the machinations of evil people. Rather it was the outworking of the love of God. It was God's costly way of overcoming evil.[1]
Question 2:
The word reconciliation, as used to describe what Christ accomplished on the cross, emphasises that
  • a. sin is a barrier between the sinner and God.
  • b. sinners are God's enemies.
  • c. Christ's death makes peace between God and sinners.
  • d. all of the above.
  • e. b and c above.
The correct answer is d. all of the above. Reconciliation is the removal of hostilities between two parties, and includes the restoration of their relationship. Used to describe Christ's work, it points to real hostility between God and sinners. Sin alienates us from God, and God from us. Christ's death does the work of reconciliation by removing the barrier of sin and restoring peace between God and the sinner.

Question 3:
The word justification, as used to describe what Christ accomplished on the cross, specifically points to
  • a. the payment of a ransom.
  • b. the idea that sinners must be saved in a way that is right.
  • c. the existence of a just legal penalty for sin.
  • d. all of the above.
  • e. b and c above.
The correct answer is e. b and c above. This one gets a little complicated, but justification is used as a legal term, so the use of this word points to the legal difficulties of the sinner. You may run into arguments against the use of justification as a legal (or forensic) term; however, scripture seems to use the word in a legal context, as in Romans 8:
Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is the one who will condemn?
Bringing a charge against someone is a legal act. So is condemning someone. Wayne Grudem points out that in this context (and others), justify is used as the opposite of condemn, [2] and that would make it a legal term: to condemn is to make a declaration of someone's guilt, so to justify, as used in this context, is to make the declaration that someone is not guilty.

Justification also points to the idea that the sinner's forgiveness must come in a way that is legally right, or that fits with justice. No passage of scripture states this any more strongly than Romans 3:25-26, where Paul tells us that God's leaving sin unpunished required that Christ die on the cross. From Leon Morris again:
The cross demonstrates the righteousness, the justice of God. In the very act by which sin is put away decisively, the death of Christ on the cross, God is seen to be just. It is not the fact that Christ forgives that shows him to be righteous, but the fact that he forgives in a certain way, the way of the cross. It is the cross that shows God to be righteous in the very act of forgiveness. [3]
Question 4:
The word propitiation, as used to describe what Christ accomplished on the cross, concentrates our attention on
  • a. the idea that the sinner deserves to die as a penalty for sin.
  • b. the need that sinners have for divine wrath to be turned away from them.
  • c. the sinner's bondage to sin.
  • d. all of the above.
  • e. b and c above.
The answer b. the need that sinners have for divine wrath to be turned away from them. Propitiation, as the word is used scripturally, has to do with averting God's wrath. In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul builds the case that all people, being sinners, are objects of God's wrath, and then gives Christ's propitiation (Romans 3:25) as the necessary solution to that problem.[4] Justification is the solution to the legal penalty for sin, redemption is the solution to our slavery to sin; and the solution for "the wrath of God that is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" is propitiation. There is much more evidence that can be given for understanding propitiation as turning away God's wrath, but that scripture describes each one of us as under the wrath of God, and then gives Christ's death on the cross as the solution for that problem, is the simplest and--for me, at least--the most convincing argument for understanding the word that way.

[1] Morris, Leon; The Atonement: It's Meaning and Significance; page 130.
[2] Grudem, Wayne; Systematic Theology; page 723.
The Atonement; page 195.
The Atonement; page 169.

Sunday, September 24

Sunday's Hymn: Isaac Watts

Begin, My Tongue, Some Heavenly Theme

Begin, my tongue, some heavenly theme
And speak some boundless thing;
The mighty works, or mightier Name
Of our eternal King.

Tell of His wonderful faithfulness
And sound His power abroad;
Sing the sweet promise of His grace,
And the performing God.

Proclaim “salvation from the Lord
For wretched, dying men”;
His hand has writ the sacred Word
With an immortal pen.

Engraved as in eternal brass
The mighty promise shines;
Nor can the powers of darkness ‘rase
Those everlasting lines.

He that can dash whole worlds to death,
And make them when He please,
He speaks, and that almighty breath
Fulfils His great decrees.

His every word of grace is strong
As that which built the skies;
The voice that rolls the stars along
Speaks all the promises.

He said, “Let the wide heav’n be spread,”
And heav’n was stretched abroad:
“Abram, I’ll be thy God,” He said,
And He was Abram’s God.

O might I hear Thy heavenly tongue
But whisper, “Thou art Mine!”
Those gentle words shall raise my song
To notes almost divine.

How would my leaping heart rejoice,
And think my heav’n secure!
I trust the all creating voice,
And faith desires no more.

Other hymns, worship songs, etc. posted this Sunday
Have you posted a hymn this Sunday and I missed it? Let me know by leaving a link in the comments or by emailing me at the address in the sidebar, and I'll add your post to the list.

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Friday, September 22

Provisions: Wild Cranberries

a.k.a lingonberries or lowbush cranberries.

Food in Due Season

. . . you give it to them, they gather it up;
. . . you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
(Psalm 104:27-28)

Quiz: Christ's Work

A little quiz on the biblical words used to describe the work of Christ. In each case, the question is asking about the particular emphasis of a word--what aspects of Christ's atoning work does this specific word bring out, in contrast to other words used in scripture to describe other aspects of the atonement.

1. The word redemption, as used to describe what Christ accomplished on the cross, focuses particularly on
  • a. the averting of God's wrath toward sin.
  • b. the cross being a payment made in order to buy freedom.
  • c. the sinner's natural state as a slave to sin.
  • d. all of the above.
  • e. b and c above.
2. The word reconciliation, as used to describe what Christ accomplished on the cross, emphasises that
  • a. sin is a barrier between the sinner and God.
  • b. sinners are God's enemies.
  • c. Christ's death makes peace between God and sinners.
  • d. all of the above.
  • e. b and c above.
3. The word justification, as used to describe what Christ accomplished on the cross, specifically points to
  • a. the payment of a ransom.
  • b. the idea that sinners must be saved in a way that is right.
  • c. the existence of a just legal penalty for sin.
  • d. all of the above.
  • e. b and c above.
4. The word propitiation, as used to describe what Christ accomplished on the cross, concentrates our attention on
  • a. the idea that the sinner deserves to die as a penalty for sin.
  • b. the need that sinners have for divine wrath to be turned away from them.
  • c. the sinner's bondage to sin.
  • d. all of the above.
  • e. b and c above.
Not sure of the answers? Look for the answers with explanations on Monday.
The Atonement: It's Meaning and Significance, Leon Morris.
Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, John M. Frame.
Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem.


Thursday, September 21

Family Photos, Outdoor Toilets, and Hollow Children

When I was visiting my dad, I went through a lot of old family photos and picked a few to borrow so I could scan them. Oldest son has been scanning them, fixing up some of them in the process.

This one is of my aunt Katie and her two daughters. This photo would have been taken in the early 1960s; Aunt Katie would have been around 90 years old, if I remember right. Aunt Katie wasn't really my aunt, but, as far as I can figure, was my grandmother's cousin. I'll let you figure out what that makes her in relation to me.

I hadn't thought about Aunt Katie in years, until I had little conversation with Julana of Life in the Slow Lane about outdoor toilets. When I was a small girl (six-or-sevenish), my family visited Aunt Katie a couple of times. I don't remember a whole lot about those visits. I know that Aunt Katie lived on the grounds of the Mount Carmel Home, which was a Brethren in Christ orphanage in Illinois. I think she had worked there when she was younger--or perhaps it was her daughters who worked there. See? I don't remember many of the really important details, but I do remember what seemed most important to me as a young girl: Aunt Katie had an indoor outdoor toilet. Yep, attached directly to her little home--you see a corner of the home in the photo--was a little shed roofed outhouse. A two-seater, it was, and you entered from inside the house, right off the dining area.

Our visits to Aunt Katie were also my first exposures to children who didn't live in families. I remember the orphanage as bleak and spare, without softness or brightness or warmth. The children's beds were lined up dormitory style--rows of metal beds, each with a thin mattress covered with white sheets and a thin wool blanket. Even though I was only six or seven, I understood that there was something different about the children I'd met there. I remember thinking in the car on the way home that they had been "hollow children", as if nothing would ever be able to fill them up. I also remember being really thankful that I had a family.

Waiting for the big point to this post? There isn't one. Writing this, however, I was reminded that the oddest things can make lasting impressions on children, and that life-long lessons come from ordinary experiences, like a visit to an elderly aunt. And one more thing: quiet children in the back seat may be thinking deep thoughts, even if they never articulate them.

Wednesday, September 20

Round the Sphere Again

Christian Carnival
Current Events

Tuesday, September 19

Why was our Mediator called Jesus?

Our Mediator was called Jesus, because he saveth his people from their sins.[1]
  1. Matt. 1:21
    She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Question 41, Westminster Larger Catechism.

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Monday, September 18

My Dad Was A Cowboy

When my sons were little, they wanted to be pirates or superheroes. When my dad was little, his dream was to be a cowboy. My boys dressed up as pirates and superheroes; my dad dressed up as a cowboy. You'll notice in the photo that he's got the lasso, the bandana, and the chaps. All that's missing is the hat, and maybe the boots. Doesn't he look pleased with himself?

My boys haven't grown up to be pirates or superheroes--and that's not a bad thing--but my dad did grow up to live out the dream he had as a little boy living on a farm in western Kansas. After he served in the military, he worked as a cowboy in Kit Carson, Colorado. He loved his work riding the range and he didn't plan to ever be anything but a cowboy.

But sometimes other dreams take you by surprise. One day my cowboy dad was listening to the radio. I don't remember the name of the program he was listening to, but it included a presentation of the gospel. The Spirit "blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes", and that day the Spirit blew across the open range of Colorado and a cowboy was reborn.

And that was that. Before long, the cowboy had a different dream, and he became a student at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennesee. Next he was a pastor of a little church in Belleview, Idaho; then a student again (this time at Wheaton College in Illinois); and then a pastor and professor in northern Minnesota. He's now retired from teaching, but he still lives in Minnesota, where he co-pastors a little country church.

What happened to the cowboy dream? The interest didn't die--at least not completely. My dad bought a horse in Minnesota, but once the horse was thoroughly trained, the fun went out of it for him. My family sometimes went to Idaho in the summer so my dad could help out on my uncle's ranch; but while I'd say he really loved those breaks from his work and study, the cowboy life wasn't his dream anymore. He had a new dream--not to be a cowboy, but a servant--and that's a dream he's still living out.

I wonder what the Spirit can make of former pirates and superheroes?

Speaking of gospel radio, Tim Challies named Way of the Master Radio his latest King for a Week.

Sunday, September 17

Sunday's Hymn: Isaac Watts

Another hymn from Isaac Watts, one that goes well with yesterday's post on Natural Revelation.
I Sing the Mighty Power of God

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.

Other hymns, worship songs, etc. posted this Sunday
Have you posted a hymn this Sunday and I missed it? Let me know by leaving a link in the comments or by emailing me at the address in the sidebar, and I'll add your post to the list.

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Friday, September 15

Natural Revelation

This photo is telling you something. If you don't hear the message from this smaller version, you can click on it for a larger view. Did you hear it?
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.
There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth;
its words carry to the distant horizon. (Psalm 19:1-4a NET)
The photo has a message; and so does what you see, wherever you are, when you look out your window or up at the sky at night. The natural world declares God's glory because it is a display of his handiwork. You might call it God's art, because it's something beautiful created by him in order to communicate something. The created order, not only by it's overwhelming size, beauty, and complexity, but also by its continued existence in cycles of days, seasons, and years, expresses the greatness and glory of God. We can know that greatness and glory are aspects of God's character from the witness of the natural world.

But wait! There's more.
  • The created order tells us about God's ability.
    Oh, Lord God, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you! (Jeremiah 32:17 NET)
    The vastness and complexity of the universe tells us that the one who created it has great power--power so extensive that this creator God can accomplish anything. You might call power like that omnipotence.

  • Having the sort of power that is able to create and sustain the universe puts God in a class of his own.
    You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, along with all their multitude of stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You impart life to them all, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. (Nehemiah 9:6 NET)
    The creation is evidence of the "otherness" of God. No one else is like him. That means that the natural world gives witness that there is only one God--the one who created everything.

  • So far, we've seen that creation reveals a God who is the only God there is--big, powerful, glorious, and distinct from anything or anyone else. But you can't take a walk outdoors without noticing something else (that is, if you are looking): the God who created the universe and sustains it is a good God--a God who is intimately (or personally) involved with his creation, who benevolently provides for the things he has made.
    All of your creatures wait for you
    to provide them with food on a regular basis.
    You give food to them and they receive it;
    you open your hand and they are filled with food. (Psalm 104:27-28 NET)

    He covers the sky with clouds,
    provides the earth with rain,
    and causes grass to grow on the hillsides.
    He gives food to the animals,
    and to the young ravens when they chirp. (Psalm 147:8-9 NET)

    Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (Matthew 6:26 NET)

    . . .yet he did not leave himself without a witness by doing good, by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying you with food and your hearts with joy. (Acts 14:17 NET)

  • There's at least one more thing we know from the witness of the natural world: a God who has the characteristics that creation makes plain to humankind is a God who ought to be worshipped.
    . . .what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks. . . . (Romans 1:19-20 NET)
    We know a few things about God's characteristics from what we can see around us; we also know what is the right and proper response to that knowledge. That God is great and glorious and omnipotent and other means that we ought to worship him, and that he is a benevolent provider means that we ought to give him thanks. The natural world, then, tells us that we ought to respond to the creator God like this:
    You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
    since you created all things,
    and because of your will they existed and were created! (Revelation 4:11 NET)
See what you can get from one piece of art work, if you just pay attention!

Photo by oldest son.

Thursday, September 14

Fall Fireweed and More

Remember fireweed? This (in the forground) is what it looks like in the fall. You can click on the photo for a closer look. This picture was taken by oldest son on one of his exploring adventures. This trip was to the village of Upper Laberge, which is a heritage site up the Long Lake road, on the back side of Lake Laberge. Notice, along with the abandoned cabin, are abandoned raspberry and rhubarb plants.

Maybe sometime, when he's not working so hard, oldest son will blog about his Upper Laberge trip. Meanwhile, Tony's written about the trip, and linked to more photos.

Interested in more northern links? TamaraLyn has a video--with sound--of her dogs waiting to be hooked up for a run.

Wednesday, September 13

Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?

It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us,[1] as the works of the whole person.[2]
  1. Matt. 1:21, 23
    She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

    “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

    (which means, God with us).

    Matt. 3:17
    . . . and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, [1] with whom I am well pleased.”

    Heb. 9:14
    . . . how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

  2. I Peter 2:6
    For it stands in Scripture:

    “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
    and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Question 40, Westminster Larger Catechism.

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Tuesday, September 12

List: Pet Punctuation Peeves

All you persnickety proofreaders, please participate!

Ready for another cooperative list? This one is a list of common punctuation annoyances. If you aren't as uptight about punctuation as I am, you can call them mistakes, if you prefer. I'll start; you add your peevish items in the comments and I'll put them on the list.
  1. Possessives. Why do they cause so many problems? My mother's pet possessive peeve had to do with surname signs. A sign for our home, for instance, ought to say The Starks, not The Stark's. It's the Starks (plural) who live here, not the Stark's (possessive).

    In the same vein, just this morning I saw a possessive mistake in the caption to a photo on the home page for a radio station. Over a photo of a young woman, it read, "This young ladies name is Jen." That's the plural form of lady, when what was needed was a possessive--lady's--since the name belongs to the young lady. (Here's a fun test of your plural and possessive skills. Update: Jeremy points out a mistake in this test. I was so focused on getting the plurals and possessives right, I didn't notice.)

  2. Ian McKenzie adds more apostrophe peeves: it's instead of its, or their instead of they're.

  3. Tom Gilson and Kim in ON don't like the overuse of commas. To quote Tom, "One thing that bothers me is, too many commas."

  4. Amy's biggest peeve is using too many exclamation points.
    I was taught to use them sparingly, and sometimes I feel like the person is "screaming" at me through their writing.

  5. Waterfall seconds the misuse of possessives as a pet peeve, and says she once saw a bathroom sign that read "LADIE'S".

  6. Comma splices also annoy Waterfall. (A comma splice is when two complete sentences are joined with only a comma.)

  7. She also hates when people use hyphens when they should use dashes. (American dash usage, by the way, varies from usage in other English speaking countries.)

  8. Peppering writing with ellipses is another of Waterfall's peeves. Rey misspells ellipses as elipses, and then casts a stone at himself.

  9. Amanda lists run-on sentences as a punctuation error that bothers her.

  10. Scott McClare adds a few:
    My two biggest pet peeves not already mentioned (in addition to, the misuse of commas and apostrophe's):

    1. Why do so many people not end questions with a question mark.

    2. The overuse of ellipses.........with no good reason.......drives me batty.

  11. Scott is also driven batty by North Americans who use single quotation marks. (I'm not sure I understand this one, so maybe he'll come back and explain for us. Update: His response is here. Read it and learn something.)

  12. Rosemary adds a produce market mistake that drives her crazy: the apostrophe in signs like Apple's for Sale.

  13. Jeremy Pierce adds run-on sentences, one of the things that annoys him most when reading students' papers, and gives the specific example of putting two sentences together with only a comma between them. (Item 6 deals with this, too.)

  14. Waterfall is back with more: using quotation marks for emphasis.

  15. Kim of Hireath point out a problem with the usage of ellipses.
    Ellipses are formed using three "dots" unless the ellipse is at the end of the sentence and then there are four, the first being the period to end the sentence. There should be a space between the dots of an ellipse.
    Oops, this is one I do wrong!

  16. Candyinsierras adds the usage of less instead of fewer as one of her peeves:
    "less carbs" rather than "fewer carbs" or "less calories" rather than "fewer calories"
    It's not a punctuation peeve, but it's one of my grammer annoyances, too. It's fewer carbs, but less fat.

Now I'm feeling the need to explain that I am not perfect in the punctuation department. Noop, I make careless mistakes all the time, and I hate them, because bad punctuation looks unprofessional. When you see punctuation mistakes on this here blog, feel free to point them out, because the only thing that I hate more than making mistakes in the first place is leaving them there in perpetuity.

Okay, now it's your turn.

Monday, September 11

Book Review: God of Promise

Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton.

I'd never read a book written by Michael Horton, although I'd read a few shorter articles and was impressed with them. In addition, this book labels itself as an introduction to Covenant Theology, and understanding Covenant Theology is something I'm particularly interested in, so I was excited to receive this book for reviewing.

My opinion of the book after reading it is mixed. I loved the chapter examining the historical background of the biblical idea of covenant--the treaties and covenants as they existed already in the ancient Near East. I had many "Aha!" moments in this chapter as I recognized the different features of the ancient treaties in the Biblical covenants. Horton does an excellent job of explaining things clearly and simply in this chapter.

I also found the last chapter of the book, the one titled New Covenant Obedience, which considers the proper use of the law under the New Covenant, to be very thought provoking. Horton tackles the question of the usefulness of the law in the life of the believer. Does the law sanctify? Is it a guide for obedience? This chapter, too, was laid out in an understandable way that I found quite helpful.

And that brings me to the main problem I had with God of Promise: although it advertises itself as "introducing Covenant Theology", I would not call this an entry level book, but rather one that's more academically focused. There were large portions of it I had difficulty understanding, and I wouldn't consider myself a novice in my understanding of Covenant Theology. I did a lot of rereading, underlining and outlining as I read--these things were necessary for me to make it through this book--and yet there were places where I simply felt out of my league trying to follow Horton's argument. Perhaps that's because my version of Covenant Theology is more baptistic than Horton's, but I don't think that's the whole of it. Mostly, I think I needed to read a more basic book first (although I'm not sure there is one, either).

So if you're up to doing some real study, then I can recommend this book to you. As far as I know, it may be unique as a contemporary book that goes into depth on the system of Covenant Theology. I just wish it were more of a primer on the subject than it is.

Sunday, September 10

Sunday's Hymn: Isaac Watts

Who Shall the Lord's Elect Condemn?

Who shall the Lord’s elect condemn?
’Tis God that justifies their souls;
And mercy, like a mighty stream,
O’er all their sins divinely rolls.

Who shall adjudge the saints to hell?
’Tis Christ that suffered in their stead;
And, the salvation to fulfill,
Behold Him rising from the dead!

He lives! He lives and sits above,
For ever interceding there:
Who shall divide us from His love?
Or what should tempt us to despair?

Shall persecution, or distress,
Famine, or sword, or nakedness?
He that hath loved us bears us through,
And makes us more than conquerors too.

Faith hath an overcoming power;
It triumphs in the dying hour:
Christ is our life, our joy, our hope,
Nor can we sink with such a prop.

Not all that men on earth can do,
Nor powers on high, nor powers below,
Shall cause His mercy to remove,
Or wean our hearts from Christ our love.

Other hymns, worship songs, etc. posted this Sunday
Have you posted a hymn this Sunday, and I missed it? Let me know by leaving a link in the comments or by emailing me at the address in the sidebar, and I'll add your post to the list.

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Friday, September 8

The Fair State's State Fair

One of the things we did while in Minnesota was visit the state fair. I'd never been to a state fair before, so I didn't know for sure what to expect. I'd visited the county fair many times, and it turns out the state fair is pretty much like the county fair, just a whole lot bigger, and with paved streets between the exhibits.

We went on opening day, which also happened to be a rainy day, so the first stop was at the Northen Tools and Equipment building to buy rain ponchos for $2.oo each. One-time-use rain ponchos, they were - and even that is stretching it - but it's a good thing we had them or we'd have been soaked several times.

The highlights? Well, the free stuff, like pencils, pens, rulers, posters, bags, etc., is always fun, right? The fair is famous for the food, too. You'll find almost any sort of food there: if you have a hankering for it, someone's selling it. Since it's Minnesota, there's a lot of Scandinavian country church dinner food, like turkey dinner with homemade buns and coleslaw, or egg salad sandwiches on homemade buns. What you may not know is that the mining areas of Minnesota had immigrants from all across Europe, so you'll find traditional foods from almost any European group sold at the fair. The cousins were looking forward to the pasties and apple strudel they remembered from previous visits to the fair, and just after my sister-in-law and I discussed the wonderful egg coffee we remembered from church dinners, we came across a Lutheran church booth advertising Swedish Egg Coffee.

The egg coffee was just as I remembered it: pure, delicate, yet full-flavored. Growing up on egg coffee is the reason I don't like Starbucks. Really good coffee doesn't need any extra flavoring, because it's perfect all by itself; and Starbucks coffee, all by itself, is undrinkable.

The most exciting event of the fair, however, wasn't an exhibit, or food, or a giveaway item. Nope, it was the tornado warning that went into effect just as we were leaving. We were directed to wait out the storm with hundreds of other people inside a pole barn where one of the exhibits involved watching real veterinary surgery, which, thankfully, was over for the day. So, as a sheriff's deputy stood at the door to keep anyone from leaving, we stood watching the storm and wondering how a pole barn would fare in a tornado. When it was all over, we headed to the parking lot, wading to the car through several inches of water.

Free stuff, good food, and a big storm. A perfect day at the fair, I'd say.

Wednesday, September 6


I'm still too unfocused to manage a serious blog post--although I did update David Brainerd's blog a little--so here's yet another meme post. This one's a pet meme, and the instructions are to list 5 weird tricks or characteristics that your pet does or has. I was tagged by Kim of Hiraeth to do this meme.

I've chosen the cat, Leroy, for this meme, instead of Taffy, the dog, but it wasn't an easy decisions for someone as fuzzy brained as I've been lately.

1. He manages to be huge and skinny at the same time. He weighs 15 lbs, which is a lot for a cat, but as you can see, he's not overweight.

2. He runs out to greet visitors when he hears the doorbell. Mostly he's just hoping they'll accidently let him outside.

3. There's wool rug in the dining room that he loves, so I've more or less turned it over to him. He plays with it, running toward it and leaping on it so that it slides across the floor a bit. He also bunches it up and rearranges it until it's just perfect for lounging on, or for use as a fortress to hide behind as he attacks his real or imaginary enemies, like the legs of people passing by.

4. He chases large dogs out of the yard. The big black dog two houses down is terrified of him.

5. He loves all plastic bags, except the cheap, stiff-and-crackly-sort, like Walmart bags. He loves plastic bags because he knows that they carry all sorts of interesting things into the house, and he has to check out the contents of each bag, even if it means sticking his head right down inside. He hates the crackly ones because he once got one caught on himself while trying to climb inside to check things out. He climbed through the handle instead of into the bag, and he ended up running through the house in a panic with the bag flying like a sail behind him, making a most horrible scratchy crackling sound. To this day, if you want to see him run away in a panic, just crackle a plastic bag.

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Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?

It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature,[1] perform obedience to the law,[2] suffer and make intercession for us in our nature,[3] have a fellow feeling of our infirmities;[4] that we might receive the adoption of sons,[5] and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.[6]
  1. Heb. 2:16
    For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

  2. Gal. 4:4
    But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law...

  3. Heb. 2:14
    Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil...

    Heb. 7:24-25
    ...but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

  4. Heb. 4:15
    For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

  5. Gal. 4:5 redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

  6. Heb. 4:16
    Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Question 39, Westminster Larger Catechism.

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Tuesday, September 5

I'm Touched

...or is that tagged? It's a tap on the shoulder from John of Blogotional, who has a meme he thinks I should do. It seems like an easy way to get back in the blogging groove after three weeks off, so I'm going to cooperate.

1. Are you craving anything and if so, what?

Hmm...I wouldn't mind a big juicy charcoal grilled hamburger right now. One with cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickles and ketchup on a freshly baked bun. Accompanied by homemade baked beans. And homemade potato salad. Corn on the cob, too, except I'm allergic. (But then that doesn't mean I can't crave it, does it?) Ooh...with fresh peach pie and vanilla ice cream for desert.

2. What is the weather outside, and do you wish it would change?

It's a sunny morning, 11 degrees C, with 15 predicted for this afternoon. That's a high of 60ish, for those who don't do Celsius. Do I wish it would change? Nah, that's about as nice as an early fall day gets here.

3. What two websites do you think you will go to next after you are finished here?

Over to see what's new in my Bloglines subscriptions, for sure. And then maybe I'll check the headlines at the BBC.

4. Do you wish you were somewhere else and if so, where?

Not right now. I'm glad to be home. Whenever I'm away for more than a few days, I begin to long for my own home. So I can be as traveling spoilsport, although I try to be a good sport and keep my longings to myself.

5. Do you wish you were someone else, and if so, who?

Nope. Never. Although right now I wish I was me without a sinus infection.

Tagging: Anyone named Kim - like you and you, for instance. (Update: Or this Kim, who just introduced herself, and who has her answers to the meme posted here.) Or Amy - and yes, that's you and you. If your name is Kim or Amy and I missed you, feel free to participate and leave your link in the comments and I'll add a link to you in this post.

(Update 2: Kim and Kim have participated, too.)

(Update 3: Amy gives her answers, and Amy S. gives her answers in the comments.)

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Not the First Day of School

Youngest son doesn't start school until Thursday. I'm not sure why that is, but it's just as well, since it's a beautiful day today; and if Yukoners know one thing, it's that beautiful weather is not to be squandered by spending it indoors.

It's still summer in my backyard. The raspberries plants continue to produce a quart of beautiful berries per day, and the leaves on the trees behind the garden haven't begun to turn yet. We're still picking peas, carrots, lettuce, and potatoes from the garden, but the cauliflower and broccoli, etc. are gone, consumed by the son and daughter who stayed behind and watched over the place while youngest son and I were gone to Minnesota.

Away from my backyard, however - like up the Klondike Highway, for instance - autumn is in full color, and oldest son has the photos to prove it.

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Monday, September 4

I'm Back

....but tired and a little sick. Regular posting will resume soon.

And it feels good to hear that I was missed.