Thursday, November 30

November's Thanksgiving: Participation

I'm thankful for everyone who participated in this month of thankgiving. It was a real joy to see, every day, what others were thankful for. God's provision for us is an amazing thing, and I'm thankful for all the reminders not to take it all for granted.

Rounding up the last of the thanksgiving posts for this month:
(I put this together last night, and then accidently saved the post as a draft rather than publishing it. That's what happens when I post late at night!)

Thinking About Faith Alone and Christ Alone, Part 3

The first post in this series considered the relationship between faith and Christ's work: what it means that Christ's work is the grounds for our salvation, and that faith is the means by which we receive salvation. The second post looked at why, if salvation is in Christ alone, there is no other instrument but faith that would fit with it as a receptor for it. In this post I want to begin the discussion of incorrect ways of thinking about faith's role in the process of salvation--ideas about faith that move it out of the realm of means only, and right over into the realm of grounds for salvation.

What I've done is collect a few statements about faith, belief, and salvation that I've seen in the recent past--mostly from discussion boards--that, taken at face value, move faith over into the realm of grounds of salvation. I'll be looking at the statements one or two at a time in order to keep the posts of bloggish length.

I understand, as well, that these remarks may be made casually, without the expectation that they would be examined for their technicalities. However, if this is the way someone thinks about salvation, then they are missing out a little by not understanding the completeness--the perfection--of what was accomplished for them by Christ. It can't hurt, then, to look at the statements critically if it helps us think a little more clearly about the role of faith in salvation.

First up, let's look at this one, which is probably the least subtle way of making faith the grounds for our salvation of all the quotes I've collected.
God knew that no one could keep the commandments, so he required faith instead.
In this statement, whatever it is that keeping the commandments is, faith is a simpler version of the same thing. Whatever it is that keeping the law would do (if we could do it), faith does, too. Since keeping the commandments in order to obtain eternal life is meriting eternal life, this statement puts faith in the cubbyhole labeled merit right along with obedience to the law. Believing might be an easier requirement than perfect obedience for us to fulfill, but it's still a requirement that we must fulfill in order to obtain eternal life.

Thought of in this way, faith becomes something that has value in itself, because it meets a condition in order to obtain something--eternal life--from God. The condition of faith replaces the condition of obedience to the law, as a sort of "dumbed down" form of obedience; and faith becomes grounds for salvation in the same way that, under the law system, obedience to the law is the grounds of salvation. When you hear someone say that a certain way of thinking about faith makes faith a work, this may be the sort of thinking they are referring to.

The more correct statement to make, by the way, would be
God knew that no one could keep the law, so he sent Christ to keep the law and bear the penalty of disobedience to the law.
What directly corresponds to the works of the law is not faith, but the work of Christ. It is indeed true that no one can keep the law, but it took something a whole lot bigger than dumbing down the requirement of perfect obedience to solve that problem. In fact, the requirement that people keep the law, being a perfectly just requirement, could not be made easier, so the only solution was Christ himself fulfilling the law on our behalf. The benefits of Christ meeting those requirements come to us through the means of faith, so faith is indeed necessary for salvation, but it is not a requirement we meet in order to obtain it. All the requirements for our salvation were met in Christ alone.

Wednesday, November 29

November's Thanksgiving: Books

On days like today, when I spend so much time waiting for other people, what would I do without books to fill the time? The person with a good book is never bored. Of course books do much than fill time, but today, I'm thankful for their ability to entertain.

Yet more thanksgiving:
What are you thankful for? Their's only one more day of the thankful month left, so I'll wait until tomorrow evening to post my last thanksgiving post. You've got plenty of time to post your thanksgiving, and then send me the link.

Tuesday, November 28

November's Thanksgiving: Electric Lights

Life in the winter in the Yukon would be pretty stinkin' dreary without electric lights. I take them for granted, but there was a time when people waited out winter without them. So I'm thankful for the lights I read by, cook by, clean by, keyboard by, maintain my sanity by.

More thanksgiving:

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Monday, November 27

November's Thanksgiving: The Picture Grace

This seems like an appropriate time to repost this oldie from November of 2004. I'm thankful for this picture, which sits on the living room bookshelves, because it reminds me how important being thankful is.

When I was growing up in the northwoods of Minnesota, it seemed that almost every house had a reproduction of this photograph somewhere on the wall of the kitchen or dining room. I suppose that's not surprising, since the photograph was taken by a fellow northern Minnesotan.

A couple of summers ago I stopped to purchase a print of this photo in the very same studio in the little town of Bovey, MN where the original photograph was taken. I was on my way to Hibbing to pick up my son from his cousins' home, and the highway from Grand Rapids to Hibbing goes right through Bovey, so I thought I'd stop. The studio is in one of those old wooden turn-of-the-century store front buildings butted right up to a sidewalk that is butted right up to the street. It's still a working photography studio--the sort with all the large framed high school graduation and wedding photos lining the walls.

No one was in the lobby, so I had to ring the little bell on the counter. I waited a few minutes before the photographer came out to tend to me. He fetched my print, carefully rolled it, put rubber bands around it to keep it rolled, gave me a little pamphlet with the story of Grace in it and charged me $12.50.

In 1918, the studio was owned and operated by Eric Enstrom. The man in the photograph is Charles Wilden, who showed up at the studio peddling foot scrapers. From the pamphlet:
"There was something about the old gentleman's face that immediately impressed me. I saw that he had a kind face... there weren't any harsh lines in it," Enstrom said in recalling the 1918 visit of Charles Wilden to his studio.

It happened that Enstrom, at that time, was preparing a portfolio of pictures to take with him to a convention of the Minnesota Photographer's Association. "I wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war they still had much to be thankful for," Enstrom said.

On a small table, Enstrom placed a family book, some spectacles, a bowl of gruel, a loaf of bread, and a knife. Then he had Wilden pose in a manner of prayer... praying with folded hands to his brow before partaking of a meager meal.

To bow his head in prayer seemed to be characteristic of the elderly visitor, Enstrom recalled, for he struck the pose very easily and naturally.
I remember wondering what was in that bowl! I think I can even remember childhood conversations about what was in it. I had always thought it was soup of some kind, but it's even more humble grub than home made soup--it's a simple bowl of oatmeal.

The photo wasn't noticed much at the photographer's convention in 1918, but it became popular as people driving through Bovey discovered the picture in the window of Enstrom's studio and stopped in to purchase it. As soon as one framed print was sold, he'd make another one to take its place in the studio window.

Enstrom always considered this photo to be his very best out of the thousands that he took over the 50 years he worked as a photographer. He thought he had captured something special, something he described like this:
This man doesn't have much of earthly goods, but he has more than most people because he has a thankful heart.
One morning back in 1918 an ordinary man was doing his very ordinary job, selling things door-to-door, when he met another ordinary man doing his ordinary job, and the results were extraordinary.

I've matted and framed my print, and it's leaning on the book shelves in the living room. It reminds me of my childhood; it reminds me that small things done well can have lasting results. It also reminds me to be thankful for all that I have--even my morning oatmeal.
Other thankful hearts:
What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 26

Sunday's Hymn: John Calvin

Not to be outdone by that other hymn writing reformer, I suppose.
I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art

I greet Thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Savior of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
Sustain us by Thy faith and by Thy power,
And give us strength in every trying hour.

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness;
O grant to us the grace we find in Thee,
That we may dwell in perfect unity.

Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure,
That in Thy strength we evermore endure.
(Sung to Toulane, from the Genevan Psalter. Update: You can hear it sung here, courtesy of the Center for Church Music.)
Other hymns, worship songs, etc. posted today:
Have you posted a hymn for 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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November's Thanksgiving: My Childhood

Posting those photos of my childhood has reminded me how many positive things there were about it, and I'm thankful for it.

What are you thankful for?

I'll be continuing the thanksgiving posts until the end of the month, so there's plenty of time left to participate. Tell us something you're thankful for, either in the comments of in a post on your own blog. If you post on your own blog, give me the link and I'll link back to you in the next thanksgiving post.

Saturday, November 25

Saturday's Old Photo

I promise that after this, I'll give you a break from pictures of my childhood. This photo features, once again, my sister and me. My sister is the one hiding right behind the tire swing. In last weeks' photo, I was probably ten or so, and she was seven or eight. In this one, I'd say I'm 14 and, since it looks like it's fall, she's probably just turned 12.

I'm holding my cat Rusty, who'd been hit by a car and lived to tell about it, but as a result, one leg was grotesquely mangled. Perhaps it could have been set properly if he'd seen a vet right away, but he didn't come home until two weeks after his accident. We'd been told of the incident by the woman who hit him. She was pretty sure she'd killed him, and since we couldn't find him anywhere, we assumed he was dead. Then one day, a couple of weeks later, Rusty showed up at home dangling one leg. He managed well on his three good ones, and I loved him all the same, so he spent the rest of his cat years quite happily.

The tree we're standing by was my favorite tree--a huge willow that was perfect for a tire swing and perfect for climbing. I climbed it quite regularly, up as far as the branches would hold my weight, which was high enough that if it were my kid up there, I'd be having a heart attack. I continued to climb it until I was sixteen or so, and then climbed it once later after I was grown just to prove to my future husband that I still could.

But this post is really about the location of the picture. This building next to the tree is Solway Log Chapel in Solway, Minnesota (now called Solway Bible Chapel, and no longer sided with logs), where my father was pastor from the time I was twelve until I graduated from high school. The house you see in the background is the parsonage where we lived. So in this series of photos, you've seen my sister and I together by three different churches, and in each case, we lived in the parsonage next door. Ours was the typical life of the small church pastor's children back in the sixties and seventies, playing all around (but never in!) our church. We knew pretty much everything that went on in the church, not because anyone blabbed to us, but because we lived right next door. Unless we were sick, we were at whatever services were appropriate for us because we lived right next door.



Friday, November 24

Pretty Maids All In A Row

It's the sort of weather to stay at home by the fire, so I took advantage of the down time and finally gathered all the Yukon wildflower posts from last summer together and linked them under Previous Series in the sidebar. Here they are:



Thinking About Faith Alone and Christ Alone, Part 2

The previous post in this series considered the relationship between faith and Christ's work: what it means that Christ's work is the grounds for our salvation, and that faith is the means by which we receive salvation. In this post, I want to explore faith's unique suitability as the instrument through which salvation, grounded as it is in Christ's work alone, is received. We're looking at why, if salvation is in Christ alone, there is no other instrument but faith that would fit with it as a receptor for it. In other words, it's all about the reason that in Christ alone necessitates by faith alone.

In Christ alone is the refomation slogan that points to Christ's work as the sole grounds for the salvation of sinners. When we talk about grounds or cause, we are introducing the idea of something being earned or deserved, either by merit or demerit. If a worker does a job for someone for an agreed upon price, they have grounds for demanding a paycheck once the work is done. The job well done merits the wage paid. When we talk of grounds for a lawsuit, we're speaking of something done wrong by the person being sued that justifies the demand for some sort of recompense. In this case, it's a matter of demerit or harm done, rather than merit or good accomplished, that comprises the grounds. Grounds are what justifies what we get; grounds are what earns for us what we are owed. So when we say that the only grounds for our salvation is Christ's work, that means that our salvation is merited by Christ's obedience, death and resurrection, and not by anything meritorious that exists within us, nor by anything meritorious that we produce. Christ alone means that our salvation is not earned by us, but wholly by Christ. The entire basis of--or reason for--our salvation is Christ and his work; there is nothing (and no one) else.

And if that's the case--that salvation is unmerited by us, but wholly merited by Christ--Scripture tells us that the only means by which it is possible to receive those saving benefits is by faith. Romans 4:16 says that justification "is by faith so that it may be by grace." In other words, justification is by faith, because justification is God's gift, and as you can probably figure out, if it's a gift, then it is not earned by us or owed to us. Justification being by faith, then, preserves Christ's work as the sole grounds for justification, and keeps any question of our own merit off the table. You might say that faith alone is the perfect fit--and the only fit--meanswise, for Christ alone.

Can you see why that would be? Isn't true faith--saving faith--an acknowledgment of our dependence on Christ alone for salvation? Isn't the cry of faith, "I have nothing; I can do nothing; you alone are my only hope!"? Faith places it's hope, it's grounds for salvation, squarely on the only grounds there are: the obedience, death and resurrection of Christ. It is, at it's core, the negation of personal merit or work, and trust in the merit and work of Christ. The eyes of faith see Christ's work as the center of salvation, the hinge on which it all turns.

I want to quote Herman Ridderbos from Paul: An Outline of His Theology, but first, let me give you fair warning. This book was originally written in Dutch, and translated into English for us, so it doesn't read the same as a book written first in everyday English. It can be a difficult slog--like a long trudge through a deep bog--and this quote is typical of the book as a whole. But your slogging will all be worth it, I promise. So buck up, soldier. Put on your thinking cap and it's forward, ho!

Ridderbos says that the purpose of the phrases regarding the relationship of faith to justification, salvation, or righteousness in Paul's letters, like by faith, through faith, from faith to faith,
is none other than to designate the object of faith as the ground of justification. Faith does not justify because of that which it is in itself, but because of that to which it is directed, in which it rests. For this reason, the exclusive emphasis with which faith is here placed over against works has a negative significance insofar as it speaks of man and his share in justification. Man is justified not on the grounds of what he is himself or has or achieves, but precisely on the grounds of that which he does not possess and which he in himself does not have at his disposal, but which he must receive, obtain, by faith. Faith here stands over against works as that which which is absolutely receptive and dependent, over against that which is productive, which is able to assert itself (page 172).
Did you follow that? Faith does not justify because it is a kind of merit, but because it rests in merit outside of itself. In this way, as the means of justification, faith stand in direct contrast to works or merit*, because justification by faith implies that human beings have no "share in justification", whereas justification by works implies that human beings participate in their own justification by providing at least some of the grounds for it. If justification were by works, then a person would be justified (at least in part) on the grounds of what he possesses or produces; yet since it's by faith, it's the opposite: a person is justified on the grounds of something he doesn't possess or produce, but rather receives. While works produce, faith receives, and it's the receptive nature of faith that makes it the only means by which we can be justified entirely on the grounds of Christ's merit, or solus Christus.

That "by faith" points directly to the work of Christ alone does away with any claim human beings might have that the righteousness that comes to them by faith is of themselves. The "principle of faith" excludes all human boasting, something a principle of works or merit would not do.
Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! (Romans 3:27 NET)
Because salvation is by the principle of faith, all the glory for it goes to God (Soli Deo Gloria) who gave us grounds for salvation by sending his Son to merit it for us.

So, while the point of this series was to consider the relationship between sole fide and solus Christus, we've touched on their intertwining relationships with two of the other solas as well. If salvation is grounded only in Christ's work (solus Christus), it cannot be earned by us (sola gratia); and therefore must be received by means of faith in the work of Christ (sole fide), so that the all human boasting--or any claim that we produce something obtains justification for us--is excluded (Soli Deo Gloria). It all fits together in a tidy little logical package, based in and gleaned from the other sola: sola scriptura.

In the next post, I plan to consider some incorrect ways of thinking about faith's role in the process of salvation--ideas about faith that move it out of the realm of means only, and move it over into the realm of grounds for salvation by making faith a virtue by which we merit salvation, or a requirement that we meet in order to obtain salvation--and then move on to some other wrong ways of thinking about the process of salvation that base it in still other grounds besides faith, instead of entirely in Christ's work.

*This is not to suggest that faith stand in direct contrast to works in every way, but as a means of justification, they stand opposite to each other.



November's Thanksgiving: For the Glory of the Skies

Winter skies have their own glory, as you can see from oldest son's recent photo of the northern winter sky above. Yesterday morning I noticed striking rainbow coloured sun dogs on both sides of the sun, and then last night, as I went out to plug my car in, there were northern lights streaking across the sky. (The northern light photo linked is oldest son's, too.) So while the weather is miserable, the skies are beautiful, and I'm thankful for that.

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 23

November's Thanksgiving: Cell Phones and Heater Fans

I've been doing a lot of chauffering lately since the heater fan in our second car went kaput. That means I've really appreciated our cell phones. I don't have to sit around waiting for the call for a ride home, and I don't have to worry that someone's stranded without a way to get a hold of me. So I'm thankful for cell phones because they've made my life a whole lot easier and much more worry free.

I'm also thankful that the new fan is now installed in the second car and I'll be doing less chauffering from here on out. I'm thankful that oldest son can fix so much of what goes wrong with the vehicles, and that he spent time in the cold yesterday installing that fan.

Other thanksgiving posts:
What are you thankful for? Post in the comments here or on your own blog. If you send me the link, I'll add your thankful thought to the list.

Wednesday, November 22

For Your Amusement

I've had more traffic than usual here today. From perusing the referrals, I've attributed the spike to searches for "Thanksgiving toast." Yep, people want to copy someone else's toast rather than come up with their own.

I'm so glad I can be of help.

Update, November 23: The traffic jam continues today. Eight out of the last twenty hits have been from searches for "Thanksgiving toast/s".

How did Christ humble himself in his conception and birth?

Christ humbled himself in his conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, he was pleased in the fulness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her; with divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement.[1]
  1. John 1:14, 18
    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

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

    Luke 2:7
    And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Question 47, Westminster Larger Catechism.

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November's Thanksgiving: My Kids

I can't say too much about them, since I have a policy never to blog about them unless they give me permission, and two of them have given me a blanket prohibition. (We live in a small town, you know, and this blog is pretty public.) But they're pretty interesting people, if I say so myself, and the sort that can be counted on when they're needed. So today, I'm thankful for my kids.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 21

How to Dress for Cold, with Weird Winter-Wear Words Explained.

In September I received an email from a reader in Phoenix or Switzerland (I can't remember which of those closely related locations)asking me to post something on what people in the Yukon wear when they have to be outside for a long time during -40° weather. It was still nice out when I got the email, and I wasn't in the mood to think about warm clothing for cold weather back then, but now my son has provided me with a photo of typical Yukon cold weather clothing, so I'm posting the answer to the question.

Here is a picture of my son and his caribou hunting partners. It was cold up there on the Dempster Highway, they had to be out for hours at a time, and this is what they wore. Should you need to inspect things a little closer, you clan click on the photo for the larger view.

As you can see--and I bet you've heard this before--the key to warmth is layers. Pile them on. They're wearing nothing unusual, at least nothing unusual for people who live where they have winter; they're just wearing more of it: tuque or belaclava (the knit or fleece hat or facemask, for those who don't know the language), mitts or gloves, scarf, hood, sweaters or polar fleece tops, long johns, parka. On the bottom half that you can't see they probably have some sort of pants with a water and wind resistant outer shell, and a large cold-weather boot, like Sorels with warm liners.

Do you want to see what I wear for my everyday cold weather activities? That's me, in the background on the left, wearing my Yukon parka. Yukon parkas used to be made right here in the Yukon, but unfortunately, you can't get them anymore. What you see there is made of heavy blanket wool with a satin liner, and fur trim (or ruff) around the hood and bottom. There's an outer liner, too, that I'm not wearing, made of heavy water resistant fabric. That outer liner is called a duffel, while the underneath, warmer wool part (what you see me wearing in the photo) is called the stroud. These were the original two piece-three way coat system that you see all the big outdoorsy brands copying now. I like my Yukon parka because I can stay warm without looking like a marshmallow--like a mini-marshmallow, maybe, but certainly not the larger, campfire roasting sort. (See more northen-made parka styles. My personal favorite is the Mother Hubbard, another two-piece system.)

Now, if I were from Phoenix or Switzerland, and I read all that, the first question that would come to my mind is this one: Isn't it really expensive to outfit yourself like that? The answer is yes, if you have to go out and buy all the stuff all at once; but no, if you've accumulated a whole large closet full of winter clothes over twenty plus years. And it's even less expensive if a good portion of what's in your winter closet was purchased at the local Salvation Army thrift store. Thankfully, fashionablility doesn't play into things when you're dressing for forty below, which means your ten year old boots and Salvation Army parka will do just fine, especially if you buy new liners for those boots every once in a while.

The second question I'd have, I think, would be, "Isn't it tiring to walk around with all that stuff on?" The answer to that is "Yes, and you can't run very fast, either."

Do you have any more questions about cold weather wear? Or any other northern-life questions?

November's Thanksgiving: My Car

It gets me where I need to go reliably, at least once we got that faulty block heater issue resolved. With it I can get my kids to work or school when their own vehicles have issues, and I've been doing plenty of that lately. Without my car, we'd be in big trouble.

Other thanksgiving:
What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 19

November's Thanksgiving: Toast

This morning I put meat and vegies for stew in the crockpot. When it came time to make the cornbread to go with the stew, I discovered that the container that holds the cornmeal had about enough to make one corn muffin in it. So we had plain old buttered toast.

And what a hit it was! I could hardly make toast fast enough to meet the demand. So I'm thankful for toast because it was easy to make, it hit the spot, and no one missed the promised corn bread in the least.

That something so simple can be so good is a real blessing.

(Blogger was been misbehaving for me for most of the evening, and now it's late, so I'll add the links to the participating thanksgiving posts tomorrow morning.)

Update: Why don't you tell us what you're thanking God for in the comments to this post; or, better yet, post your thanksgiving on your own blog, and let me know of your post either by email or in the comments here. Then look for a link to your thankful post in the next roundup of thankfulness.

Have you posted a bit of thanksgiving, and I missed it (or forgot about it)? Please feel free to remind me.

Sunday's Hymn: John Newton

Supported By The Word

Supported by the Word,
Though in himself a worm,
The servant of the Lord
Can wondrous acts perform:
Without dismay he boldly treads
Where’er the path of duty leads.

The haughty king in vain,
With fury on his brow,
Believers would constrain
To golden gods to bow:
The furnace could not make them fear,
Because they knew the Lord was near.

As vain was the decree
Which charged them not to pray;
Daniel still bowed his knee,
And worshiped thrice a day:
Trusting in God, he feared not men,
Though threatened with the lion’s den.

Secure they might refuse
Compliance with such laws,
For what had they to lose,
When God espoused their cause?
He made the hungry lions crouch,
Nor durst the fire His children touch.

The Lord is still the same,
A mighty shield and tow’r,
And they who trust His Name
Are guarded by His pow’r:
He can the rage of lions tame,
And bear them harmless through the flame.

Yet we too often shrink
When trials are in view;
Expecting we must sink,
And never can get through.
But could we once believe indeed,
From all these fears we should be freed.

(Illustration by Gustave Dore: Daniel in the Den of Lions)

Other hymns, worship songs, etc. posted today:
Have you posted a hymn for 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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Saturday, November 18

November's Thanksgiving: Old Photos

Kim reminded me in the comments on the last post how wonderful it is to have so many old family photos, so tonight I'm thankful for the photos of times past. It's good to remember our past blessings as well as our present ones.

More thanksgiving:
Why don't you tell us what you're thanking God for in the comments to this post; or, better yet, post your thanksgiving on your own blog, and let me know of your post either by email or in the comments here. Then look for a link to your thankful post in the next day's roundup of thankfulness.

Have you posted a bit of thanksgiving, and I missed it (or forgot about it)? Please feel free to remind me.

Saturday's Old Photo

This photo continues the theme of last week's old photo. It's another glimpse into my childhood. This one is of my sister and me with two of our friends. Can you guess what we're doing?

We're playing wedding with our dress up clothes. My sister and I didn't have many toys, but we did have a collection of dress up clothes that was the envy of all our friends. My mother had access to a "missionary barrel", which had a never ending supply of interesting items for dress up, and she had a real eye for seeing the possibilities in the clothes found there.

The groom in the wedding is me. I'm wearing a cape made from half of an old black quilted circular skirt. The bride is my sister, wearing a made-over white woman's dress and a curtain panel veil. The bridesmaid is my friend Colleen Emery, and she's dressed in a light blue woman's dress remade to fit a young girl. The little girl peeking out from behind me is Dawn Weinert, who was a few years younger than the rest of us. She did not want to dress up that day--I think the whole idea made her uncomfortable--but she wanted to be in the picture.

(The circular skirt morphed into a cape is a something that my mother repeated again and again. One Christmas she gave my oldest daughter a cape made from a very brightly coloured quilted circular skirt, and oldest son's gift was a cape made from a grey wool flannel circular skirt. Oldest daughter put hers on, stood on the coffee table, announced, "I'm a butterfly!" and took a flying leap. Oldest son, not to be outdone, stood on the coffee table wearing his cape and announced, "I'm a moth!")

And what ties today's photo together with the photo from last week? See that sidewalk we're standing on? That's the sidewalk of Northern Bible Church, which is 4 miles north of Bemidji, Minnesota. We're playing on the sidewalk because we lived next door in the parsonage. The church is still there, but the parsonage isn't.



Friday, November 17

November's Thanksgiving: Sleep

Youngest son just returned from his night out and I can finally go to bed now. It's been one of those really long and busy days, and I'm so thankful for sleep.

More thanksgiving:
What are you thankful for?

November's Thanksgiving: Fireplace Insert

I was a very bad girl and did everything else but post my thanksgiving thoughts yesterday. I did think about what I was thankful for, though, and that's the fireplace insert I have in my fireplace. I have an oil furnace, but oil heat can feel hot one minute and chilly the next. Nothing beats the constant warmth of a fire in the fireplace insert, and on cold days, I try to keep a fire going.

And added benefit is that it makes gathering round it as a family the most natural thing in the world.

Still more thanksgiving:
Consider this yesterday's thanksgiving roundup, and I'll post another one that counts for today's this evening. Why don't you tell us what you're thanking God for in the comments to this post; or, better yet, post your thanksgiving on your own blog, and let me know of your post either by email or in the comments here. Then look for a link to your thankful post in the this evening's roundup of thankfulness.

Have you posted a bit of thanksgiving, and I missed it (or forgot about it)? Please feel free to remind me.


Thursday, November 16

Thinking About Faith Alone and Christ Alone, Part 1

A couple of weeks ago I posted something on the Reformation slogan Solus Christus, or "in (or by) Christ alone"--a phrase that is used to refer to the truth that our salvation is accomplished by the work of Christ, and by nothing else instead of or in addition to his work. In other words, the whole grounds for our salvation--or the very reason we can be saved--is the work of Christ; or, to put it yet another way, it is Christ's obedience, death and resurrection on our behalf that justifies our justification. Since then, I've been doing some thinking about the relationship between Solus Christus and another of the five solas: Sole Fide. As you might expect, if I've been thinking it, I will eventually blog it, and this is post one on this subject.

Sole fide means "faith alone." It refers to the truth that our justification, grounded in Christ's work, comes to us through faith alone, and through no other means. There are various ways this is explained. It is said that we lay hold of Christ's work on our behalf through faith alone, that faith is the conduit through which Christ's work comes to us, or that faith is the instrument or vessel which receives God's gift of salvation. I think those are all good descriptions of the role faith plays in our justification.

If we are justified through the means of faith alone, it is certainly right to say that faith is necessary for justification, since it's through faith that we receive it; but at the same time, faith is not the grounds for our justification--the basis upon which we can be justified--since the grounds or basis for our salvation is Christ's work alone, not Christ's work plus our faith. Scripture always speaks of faith, in relation to justification, in language that refer to means only, and never uses the language of grounds in relation to it. That's why thoughtful theologians say salvation is by or through faith, but they don't say it is because of faith: they are being careful to maintain the distinction that faith is the means of salvation, but not the grounds of it.

Are you not sure of the distinction? Here's an example that might help. Imagine a parent punishing a child with good cause. When we use the term "with good cause", we are using the language of grounds. We are saying that there is suitable grounds or sufficient reason for the punishment. The child is punished because he or she did something that needed punishment, and that misdeed is the grounds--or the good cause--for the punishment. Let's say, to expand the illustration, that the punishment was the removal of a certain privilege. Going without the privilege is the way the punishment is received by the child. It's not the grounds of the punishment, which is the misdeed, as discussed above, but the means by which the punishment comes. Going without the privilege is, of course, necessary in order for the child to be punished, but we can't say it's the reason or cause or grounds for the punishment.*

So the answer to the child's question, "Why was I punished?" is not "Because you went without the X-box for a day," but "Because you clobbered your brother over the head with your controller." The answer to the question "How was I punished?" is "By going without the X-box." Because, why, cause, reason, and basis are word in English that speak to grounds; how, by, and through speak of means.

(I know we don't always use language in exactly this way or this precisely. For example, we also use cause to refer to something that brings about an event, which speaks more to agency**, and, of course, that's a right way to use the term. However, in the realm of moral, legal, or theological discussion, the word cause is used frequently as a synonym for reason or grounds, and that's the way I'm using it here. The reason it's so important to think through the terms we use is that when we're speaking about important things--like our salvation, for instance--where much can be gained from understanding the relationships between the necessary elements, precise language helps us understand the concepts without confusion.)

The relationship between in Christ alone and through faith alone in our salvation is similar to the relationship between the child's misdeed and the loss of the X-box in our example. It is similar in that the grounds, reason or cause of salvation is Christ alone, and the means through which our salvation comes is faith alone, so that the answer to the question, "Why am I saved?" is "Because of Christ's work on my behalf," rather than "Because I believed." Faith comes in as an answer to the question "How am I saved?"; I am saved "through faith alone."

The distinction between faith as the means of salvation and Christ's work as the grounds of salvation is the background for the rest of what I want to write on this subject. Next up, I'll post on the reason that faith alone as the means of salvation fits so perfectly with Christ alone as the grounds of salvation. After that, I plan to post on some sloppy theological thinking that adds faith to Christ's work as the grounds of salvation.

*This illustration doesn't work perfectly, but it's the best I can think of, so I'm sticking with it for now.
**Faith is not the agent of salvation, either, by the way. But that's a whole nuther discussion.



Wednesday, November 15

Frosty Inukshuk

(click for larger view)

Oldest son is slowly posting his photos from his caribou hunting trip up the Dempster Highway. This photo of an inukshuk was taken at around 4:00pm.

November's Thanksgiving: Learning

I've been working on a post that I'm finding really tricky, but I'm learning a whole lot in the process, so I'm thankful that the hard work of writing it helps me learn.

What are you thankful for?
  • David Fisher says he is thankful for
    the great group of blogging friends who challenge and encourage me in my Christian pilgrimmage!
  • Mrs. J.M. Young comments:
    I am thankful that my morning sickness is not quite so severe.

    I am thankful for my husband who showers me with love and care.

    I am thankful for friends who continually point me to the Lord and remind me that He should be my first priority.

    I am thankful for the Lord that He has protected me and saved me from myself and the consequences from sin I could have experienced from a life of sin. So thankful for His unfailing forgiveness and faithfulness to me.
  • Christa Blakey is thankful for prayer.
  • Amanda is thankful that she had
    such a fun, peaceful, structured, sheltered childhood. I am thankful for happy memories. But, I am even more thankful for salvation, for a gracious Savior who forgives the sins of little girls who are not as innocent as they appear.
  • Julana is thankful she doesn't live in the Yukon.
  • Kim of The Upward Call is thankful that God gave her children musical talent.
  • Lee Ann is thankful for sleep.
Why don't you tell us what you're thanking God for in the comments to this post; or, better yet, post your thanksgiving on your own blog, and let me know of your post either by email or in the comments here. Then look for a link to your thankful post in the next day's roundup of thankfulness.

Have you posted a bit of thanksgiving, and I missed it (or forgot about it)? Please feel free to remind me.

Tuesday, November 14

November's Thanksgiving: Hunter Home Safely

Today I'm thankful that the hunter is safe at home. No caribou, but he had lots of fun and got some good photos. I let him tell you more about it all on his own blog
There are others who are thankful too:
Those are all the thankful posts I've found so far, but I will update again after supper, so you have time to get your thankgiving in today's collection of links. You know the drill, right?

Monday, November 13

November's Thanksgiving: Twenty Below

I'm thankful for -20C temperatures, because it's so much better than what's been predicted in the extended forecast for the last week and a half. Every morning when I listen to the weather report, I hear that there'll be a low of -36C in a couple of days, and every day that prediction gets pushed back a day or two. I'm hopeful that it'll be pushed back all the way to January where it belongs. At that point, it'll okay by me if it comes to town for a day or two, because, goodness knows, we can't have a Yukon winter without some real cold.

As I write this, I'm concerned that this post may sound flippant, but it's not. Every day that we don't have extreme cold is a good gift from a good heavenly Father.

Round-up of other thankful posts and comments:
You know the drill by now. Post your thanksgiving in the comments of this post or in a post on your own blog. Give me the link, and then expect to see your bit of thanksgiving included in tomorrow's thanksgiving post.

Sunday, November 12

November's Thanksgiving: Sundays

I'm thankful for Sundays, for too many reasons to list: for Sunday worship, for Sunday rest, for all the participation in the Sunday's Hymn.

A few more thankful hearts:
Why don't you tell us what you're thanking God for in the comments to this post; or, better yet, post your thanksgiving on your own blog, and let me know of your post either by email or in the comments here. Then look for a link to your thankful post in the next day's roundup of thankfulness.

Have you posted a bit of thanksgiving, and I missed it (or forgot about it)? Please feel free to remind me.

Sunday's Hymn: John Newton

Great Shepherd of Thy Chosen Flock

Great Shepherd of Thy chosen flock,
Thy people’s Shield, their shadowing Rock,
Once more we meet to hear Thy voice,
Once more before Thee to rejoice.

Now may Thy Spirit, by the Word,
Refresh each wearied heart, O Lord,
Wearied of earth’s vain strife and woe,
And longing more Thyself to know.

Thine is the heart our griefs to feel,
And Thine the love each wound to heal;
Home Thou art gone for us to care,
Returning soon to take us there.

---Music by Joseph Mainzer (Listen.)

Other hymns, worship songs, etc. posted today:
Have you posted a hymn for 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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Saturday, November 11

Saturday's Old Photo

Yes, I know this isn't a very good picture, but I'm using it for a reason. It's the first in a series of three pictures that I plan to post, all of of me with my sister over the years of our childhood. They all sharing a common element--and no, it isn't trikes!--that will tell you something about the sort of childhood we had.

In this one we're tricycling together on the sidewalk of the Presbyterian Church in Belleview, Idaho. (This church, by the way, is mentioned in my very first blog post.) My sister is the one with the smaller trike. She's two and a half years younger than I am, and since we left Belleview when I was 5 years old, she can be no older than three.

We lived in the parsonage next door because my father was pastoring this church. Yes, he was an ordained Baptist minister, but Presbyterian pastors, it would seem, were hard to come by in rural Idaho. In fact, pastors of any sort were hard to come by, and my father preached regularly in another church in Carey, Idaho, a little town 2o miles or so away.

I remember him preaching during the evening in Ketchum, too, but perhaps that was only a one time event and not one of his regular duties. I do remember accompanying him once when he went there, while my mother stayed home with my sister, who was too young for such a late evening. I sat in the front pew by myself while my father led the service. I had a coin for the offering, and at some point I dropped it and it rolled clear across the front of the church; so I tiptoed after it, picked it up when it stopped rolling, and tiptoed back to my seat. I probably wouldn't even remember this incident, except that it pleased my father a great deal that I had proven that I was old enough and well-behaved enough to be counted on to conduct myself properly when left alone in a service.

After we left, this little church in Belleview was eventually supplied with two single women missionaries from Village Missions to run it. Oddly, when I looked up the requirements for pastors/missionaries at the Village Missions site, it looks as if, now, a pastor/missionary must be male, but apparently that wasn't the case back then.



November's Thanksgiving: Freedom and Those Who Fought For It

I'm thankful for those who served in the military to protect our freedom and ensure the freedom of others. I'm thankful for those who are serving right now to preserve and bring freedom and peace. I'm especially thankful for those who have given their lives in that pursuit. I'm thankful for those who have not forgotten what has been done for them in previous generations. I'm thankful to God, who is in control of history and nations and wars and battles.

(I love the poster on the right, which is free for download from Veterans Affairs Canada. I have photos of oldest son and his cousing trying on their grandfather's military uniform, looking very proud.

You can view the Veterans Affairs Remembrance Day Vignette, too, or read the stories, or just listen to the taps.)

Other thankful hearts:
Why don't you tell us what you're thanking God for in the comments to this post; or, better yet, post your thanksgiving on your own blog, and let me know of your post either by email or in the comments here. Then look for a link to your thankful post in the next day's roundup of thankfulness.

Have you posted a bit of thanksgiving, and I missed it (or forgot about it)? Please feel free to remind me.

Friday, November 10

November's Thanksgiving: My Loud Family

I don't know how else to put it, except that we live largely in our home. We are not a quiet family.

I grew up as a quiet youngster in a active household. We were a loud family even though there were only four of us and both children were girls. There were always other people in and out of my home, and my mother, in particular, was not a quiet worker. I often awoke in the morning to the sounds of pots and cupboard doors banging in the kitchen, and my mom calling out with some little message for my dad who was working in another part of the house.

I didn't realize how loud my family was until I became old enough to begin staying overnight at other people's homes. I often found the stillness of my friends' homes a little oppressive. They probably thought of it as peace; I thought of it as gloominess. I remember, while visiting one friend whose family had four children at home, noticing how silently they all slipped around their house--no banging doors, no stomping feet, no laughter, no shouting, not even a television blaring; just nothingness, as if they were all ghosts.

Then I married someone louder than I was, and we had four kids who all took after him in that regard. When my oldest daughter was in high school, she had a friend Ben who used to live up the hill from us. Ben came from a large family (at least 6 kids), and once in a while his mother would send him to the convenience store down the hill from us for this or that, and he would phone my daughter to see if she felt like walking with him from our house to keep him company. Shortly after that, his older sister rented a room in the house next to us, and Ben mentioned to his sister that he had a friend who lived next door to her. "Oh," she said, "You mean the loud family."

I was embarrassed by that remark, but there really wasn't much we could do about it. By then, the habits were engrained, and it was mostly a personality thing, anyway. Also figuring into our loudness was that our home wasn't just the place we came to sleep at night. We lived and played and worked here. It wasn't as if we were blaring stereos or letting our dog bark all the time. We were just living our lives.

Sometimes it's all too much for me, and I have to go to my room to read or iron in order to restore my inner peacefulness. But today, I'm thankful for my loud family, because their loudness is not the loudness of anger, but of activity and enjoyment and love for each other

What are you thanking God for?
Why don't you tell us what you're thankful for in the comments to this post; or, better yet, post your thanksgiving on your own blog, and let me know of your post either by email or in the comments here. Then look for a link to your thankful post in the next day's roundup of thankfulness.

Have you posted a bit of thanksgiving, and I missed it (or forgot about it)? Please feel free to remind me.