Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Reformation Day!


For those who are scratching their heads, Halloween is not the only holiday celebrated on October 31st. Today is also Reformation Day, as a few calendars still note. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famed 95-Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg. This act was the catalyst for what became known as The Protestant Reformation.

I was rather disappointed when I recently mentioned this fact to a group of friends and I was met with blank stares. They were discussing plans for a Halloween Party, and I countered by
inviting them to my exclusive (think "me, myself, and I") Reformation Party instead. I got puzzled looks, like "Oh, here Susan goes again. Another one of her soapboxes. . ."

I have in the past trick-or-treated and attended "Fall Festivals" (a euphemism for Halloween Parties hosted by churches and schools, for those unfamiliar with the term). Tonight I won't be doing either, no surprise since I am a little old for such events. But then, I also don't plan on participating in these events with my own (hypothetical) children. Why may you ask would I deprive my own children of that rite of childhood? Don't I want them to have a good life? As R.C. Sproul Jr. would say, "yes, but not the world's definition of 'the good life'".

As I set forward in my previous post on Christian Culture, Christians are to establish a separate and distinct culture in the world, as they are conformed more to Christ's image and as they fulfill the dominion mandate. Participating in a pagan holiday like Halloween certainly does not jive with this mandate of cultivating a separate culture for Christ; instead it merges the world's culture with the church. We are to replace the world's culture, not merely "Christianize" it.

Evangelical Christianity has adopted the philosophy of taking aspects of the world's culture and "Christianizing" them. Take a look at evangelical music, fiction books, clothing, movies, and other forms of entertainment for a sampling. Often we spend so much time "Christianizing" perversion that we would be better served by discarding it instead. The movie editing industry is a good example of this.

I admire those who take great pains to edit perverted movies for profanity, sex, nudity, and violence, but in all honesty a lot of the movies that are edited are just not worth watching even with the editing. I could pick on many movies, but I'll choose Titanic. My applause for editers that removed graphic sex, nudity, and profanity from the film, but they were still left with a movie brimming with an ungodly message. They would have done better to ignore the movie altogether or make a new film on the Titanic that was historically accurate and morally upright.

Christians have likewise tried to clean up Halloween by removing mentions of witches, even moving a celebration of the holiday to the previous Saturday and calling it a "Fall Festival" instead, thus seeking to make the celebration "neutral." We leave the candy, the costumes, many of the same terms, but leave our witch costumes at homes. Is the holiday neutral, though?

Not for a high priestess of Wicca that our local paper interviewed. As she said, for her and other witches, Halloween is a sacred time. Fall Festivals? Fine with her:

Zoeller [the witch] doesn't mind that some schools hold "fall festivals] instead
of Halloween carnvials because of pagan associations. As long as people are
celebrating the harvest and the change of seasons, they're celebrating
important facets of Wicca, she says. "That's the important thing, no matter
what they call it.

I've never been to a Fall Festival that resembled the meeting of a coven, but as this witch notes, even a "neutral" festival for Halloween celebrates important facets of Wicca. I'm not talking about any gathering that takes place in fall. I'm specifically talking about events that are meant to be "alternatives" to Halloween by "cleaning up" the holiday.

If we've managed to remove all pagan aspects of Halloween from our "Fall Festival" celebration, then what reason do we have left to celebrate? The reason left to celebrate, sometimes unspoken but usually admitted, is to fit in with the secular American culture. After all, who wants to be labeled a wacko for not celebrating a holiday, even if it is a pagan one? We're not supposed to be different from the world. A city on a hill is a bit much, after all. . .

Now tell me whether the seed of the woman or the seed of the devil is ahead in this culture war.

The Second Corinthians passage on being unequally yoked with unbelievers is most often cited in reference to marriage, but the original intent was likely much broader and I think applicable to issues like the celebration of Halloween. The following passage underscores the importance of the antithesis, as it was established in the Garden of Eden and carried throughout the Old Testament and then through the New Testament:

14Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has
righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
15What accord has Christ with Belial?
Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16What agreement has
the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God
said,

"I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I
will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Therefore go out from their
midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord,and touch no unclean thing; then
I will welcome you, 18and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and
daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

On October 31st, rather than yoking with unbelievers and participating in a pagan holiday - whether the unedited or edited version - Christians can instead celebrate a genuinely Christian holiday - Reformation Day. As I mentioned, October 31st is the day Martin Luther posted his 95-Theses and launched what became known as the Protestant Reformation. The general ignorance and apathy of reformation history is truly saddening to me. Every Christian should take the opportunity to learn about the great men who came before us, purging a very corrupt Christendom from heresy and paving the way for the religious freedom and clarity we enjoy today.

I am currently enjoying a biography on Martin Luther. It has taken me a great deal of time to read through it, as I have not been diligent in my reading of late and I am trying to savor it, rather than speed through it. There are so many weighty quotes to record for future ponderance. It was eye-opening to experience through Luther the newfound truths of the gospel, as he shed the shackles of Catholicism for a salvation by faith alone. It made me so thankful for men like him who established and nurtured the true gospel. His own hunger for truth was used of God to change the world.

What Karl Barth said of his own unexpected emergence as a reformer could be said
equally of Luther, that he was like a man climbing in the darkness a winding
staircase in the steeple of an ancient cathedral. In the blackness he reached
out to steady himself, and his hand laid hold of a rope. He was startled to hear
the clanging of a bell.

We owe to men like Luther the championing of the five great Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria, Solo Christo, Sola Gratia, and Sola Fide - the scripture alone is standard, to God alone be the glory, salvation is by Christ's work alone, salvation is by grace alone, justification is by faith alone. These are truths that most protestants take for granted, yet they were major issues in Luther's day. The reformers risked their lives that we may know these truths and be freely taught them today.

Who can hear the bold words of Luther at his hearing at the Diet of Worms without being moved?
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the
authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my
conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant
anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help
me. Amen.

I encourage you to take the time sometime soon to study the men who risked their lives so that you might worship God today in spirit and in truth. Study Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others and be thankful for the undeniable influence they have had on Christianity. We are reaping the rewards of their dedication several hundred years ago.

Tonight, while most of Americans are dressing up in costumes and participating in a holiday of pagan origins, this reformed girl will be finishing her biography on Martin Luther and thanking God for the events that He orchestrated from one seemingly insignificant act that happened on this day almost 500 years ago. . .

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, October 28, 2005

Christian Culture

A month ago I had the privilege of attending a conference on Christian Culture, given by R.C. Sproul Jr. My intention was to blog on the conference earlier this month, but it never happened. As I began to draft a separate post that I plan on posting early next week, I felt it would be good to precede that post with one on Christian Culture.

The conference I attended was so eye-opening and refreshing. I had heard much of the material before, but never all presented at once in such a synthesized format. We started the weekend "In the Beginning. . . " and had moved to Revelation by the end of the conference.

In the garden, man was created to exercise dominion over the earth and cultivate it. After the fall an antithesis was put in place between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. From that point on that antithesis is an overarching theme in the Bible. The theme of antithesis continues throughout all of scripture as a very real spiritual battle fought between God's people and the Devil's people.

R.C. Sproul's outline of the Bible:
I. Genesis 1 & 2 - Creation
II. Genesis 3 - Fall of Man
III. Genesis 4 thru Revelation 22 - Trying to get back to Genesis 1 & 2, only better

The focus of the conference was simplifying our goals and responsibilities as Christians, not being so totally distracted by the world around us. To put it simply, "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (Westminster Shorter Catechism). As R.C. put it, live simply, separately, and deliberately. Simply, meaning with one goal and one master. Separately, meaning the church is a chosen, called out people, a city set on a hill - our culture should be unique from the world. Deliberately, meaning purposely living our lives for the glory of God and the building of His kingdom on earth.

I liked the definition R.C. gave for culture (which I've heard other places): "Culture is religion externalized." Ponder that for a while. . .

The New Testament word for the church was ekklesia - "the called out." If the church of Christ does not look, act, and live differently than the world, how will we cultivate the earth for God's glory? I am not talking about dressing in first century clothing or living in separate communities here, nor was R.C. Sproul Jr., so please don't misunderstand. But if we, as Christians, are living so much like the world that there is virtually no distinction, than we are ignoring the antithesis.

I believe our society has forgotten the five great Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria, Solo Christo, Sola Gratia, and Sola Fide. Most notably has the first been cast aside: Sola Scriptura - the scripture alone is standard, also known as the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture. Aptly put by Doug Phillips: If you were stranded on a desert island with only the scripture as a guide, would you come to the conclusion that ___________ was a sin?

The evangelical church today has largely accepted "middle-class morality" as her standard for living, rather than the inspired Word of God. Christianity is not about trying to be just moral enough to be accepted in our society, or being as good (or just better) than the person sitting next to you in church or than your neighbor next door. As a Christian, my goal should be to slowly, by the grace of God, be molded more like Christ. I was saved, I am being saved, and someday I will be saved - justification, sanctification, and glorification. Christianity is a life-long sanctifying process, not an isolated "decision" for God. As Martin Luther put it, "We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith."

Does this mean Christians are perfect? By no means! I am a stinkin', sinful, fallen human being saved by the blood of Christ alone. One need not be perfect to be a Christian, but as Christians we need to recognize our sin based on the principles outlined in the Bible, not based on middle-class morality. Evangelical Christians are used to asking the question, "Is this expressly forbidden in scripture?" or "Is this considered moral in our society?" rather than "Is this God's best?" or "Am I going against clear patterns in scripture?"

Do you know what the difference between a fundamentalist and an evangelical is? They have the same core beliefs, but an evangelical is a fundamentalist who wants a modernist to like him.

Do you know what was the most frequent sin of Israel recorded in the Old Testament? It wasn't dancing, it wasn't drinking, it wasn't even mixed bathing. It was idolatry, pure and simple. The greatest downfall of the Israelites was their idolatry, their exaltation of other things above God. They fell into the idolatry of the cultures around them, often trying to synthesize idolatry with the worship of God.

Our American society doesn't have many literal golden idols that tempt Christians today. But I believe that the American society is more rank with idolatry than many of the cultures in the Old Testament. The spirit of this age is personal peace and affluence - the focus on pleasing man rather than God, and the need for more, more, more. American Christians have fallen into this trap of personal peace and affluence, replacing their chief end of glorifying God with a new set of goals: graduate college, get a good job with benefits, along the way raise a few kids who make "decisions for Jesus," and eventually retire comfortably. Make sure you tithe, get involved in church activities, and don't offend anyone else along the way, and you've led a good life.

It is time for the the evangelical church in America to get out of the rut of normality and middle-class morality, and to seek to truly cultivate a culture for Christ. Take dominion! As the church of Christ grows and fills the earth like the parable of the mustard seed, we should see a more and more distinct contrast between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Sadly this is not what is currently happening in America.

As a body of believers we must rise up in this spiritual battle of the antithesis, using the weapons of truth, goodness, and beauty to set up a city set upon a hill, a light that will draw the world to Christ. Let us rise out of the slums and head for the highlands.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sibling Rivalry

This morning we found an AIM from my brother on the computer, simply saying, "My number wins." Mystery solved when I checked my e-mail and found a comment notification for my blog.

Ben claims that 8128 tops 144. Wow, what an ambitious claim. To see his reasons, refer to my original post on 144 and the ensuing comments. I good-naturedly responded with a concession, but my sister refuses to concede; moreover she is now miffed at me because I am not "loyally standing by 144". I tried to explain to her the difference between admitting a win and continuing loyalty, but she is still disappointed in me.

Now granted, I still consider my favorite rational number to be 144, but I must admit to Ben that 8128 is quite possibly cooler, even if it is not the 12th Fibonacci number. I hope Hannah will someday forgive me. . .

My family is fun :-). Growing up, like most children we had bedtime stories. But we also had bedtime math problems - "Hannah, if you have 10 bunnies and you give me 3, how many bunnies will you have left?" Then there was the dark and stormy night with no electricity, when the 5 of us sat in all possible 120 permutations on our living room couch. Ah, the good old days :).

I don't know why my friend Ashley recently referred to us as those weird math people.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

For those who thought my hairstyle was weird. . .

. . . check out my sister's latest "new do." At least my hairdo would have been appropriate in a past era. Hannah's hairstyle belongs on StarWars or something of that sort.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Autumn, Nature, and the Changing of the Seasons

Autumn is my favorite season of the year. There are so many things I love about fall: a light breeze tickling my face, the crisp, invigorating air, the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet, the beauty of autumn colors as a vastness of greenery is turned into a pallet of orange, red, and yellow. Of course that deliciously light breeze is liable to whip into a gust, leaving my formerly orderly hair flying. . .

Autumn is such an invigorating season, especially in Georgia after a long, hot, humid summer. I avoid the outdoors during the summer in Georgia because of the stifling weather and the ever-present sun - after all, I must keep up my ghostly-pale complexion ;). I am going to have great skin when I'm 50 and everyone else my age is all wrinkly and leathery. I've offered to deliver an untold-number of eulogies for my friends when they die of skin cancer, leaving their poor spouses with several little ones to raise alone. But I digress. . .

The change in weather is usually rather sudden here in Georgia. It will be stiflingly hot the week before and the days leading up to the Autumnal Equinox and then, whammo! On that day, or perhaps a day or two before, all of a sudden the air will become lighter and deliciously crisp. No longer will I leave the house with a sigh, wishing for a quick return to modern air conditioning. With the change of the season I delight in spending time outdoors. Autumn is the season when I most yearn to live in the countryside.

I was born in urbia (Indianapolis), but have lived since an infant in suburbia - Metro Atlanta to be specific. There is green space 'round here, but not the miles and miles of open space I would love. I do not think one can fully comprehend the amount of open space in the United States until one has traveled through the West - mile after mile of absolutely nothing. Everyone that did not want to live out West apparently chose Metro Atlanta as their nesting place. During most of the year I handle my city existence pretty well, but come fall every year I feel ready to just take a napsack and head up to a mountain cabin for a few months.

My sister and I had talked for weeks of finding an obliging local field and enjoying an afternoon picnic. Yesterday's scheme of an afternoon picnic was stunted by the overwhelming urge by one of us for a Sunday afternoon nap, so the picnic never did materialize. However we still wished to spend some time in a real field (the sports field at a local park does not count) even sans picnic, so later in the afternoon we coaxed my dad into tramping with us through some woods in our neighborhood to larger woods and a field behind. It was so freeing to get away for a little bit from the endless sight of houses and cars that is metro Atlanta. It was the perfect weather for the walk, cool enough to be refreshing, yet warm enough so I was not chilled. It was so still back in the woods, so natural and unmarred by construction and activity. Just beautiful.

After we returned from our woodland jaunt, we decided to drive over to a local park that we had never before visited. I'm so glad we did. The park was obviously specifically designed with natural aesthetics in mind, as the usual overwhelming presence of metal fences, plastic playgrounds, metal swings, and numerous ballfields were noticably absent. Instead the park consisted of two walking/running trails, each two miles long, one paved, the other wood-chipped. There was a real wood playground and a delightful wooden fence surrounding it. The ugly metal and plastic that is so prevelant in most other parks was replaced with natural wood materials. It was truly beautiful with an abundance of trees. My mom, dad, sister, and I took a short walk around the path, and then my sister and I enjoyed a relaxing time on a delightful wooden swing that was beautifully crafted in an old-fashioned style - so much prettier than the ugly modern monstrosities that populate the typical county park. It was so relaxing and refreshing, almost like living out in the country ;). Hannah and I hope to return to the park soon, perhaps next Sunday afternoon. When the leaves start changing I'm sure the park will be breathtaking. I do not think there is any natural sight more beautiful than a wood full of autumn colors.

I'm so thankful that God gave us a beautiful world, not one void of color or texture. God could have created a 2-D, dichromatic world without seasons, but he did not. To fully display his glory he delighted to create a world with a full spectrum of colors, dimension, and texture. He then added the seasons by the tilt and orbit of our planet to give us such a wide variety of weathers to experience. I'm very thankful that on earth it is not "always winter, but never Christmas."

Thank you, Lord, for the miracle of Spring, the bounty of Summer, the beauty of Autumn, and the cosyness of Winter. Thank you, Lord, for seasons.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, October 20, 2005

144

I don't mean to make two posts in a row geeky, but I was so inspired tonight to write about a very cool (er, square) number.

144 is my favorite rational number. BTW, phi is my favorite irrational number for anyone dying of curiosity. But back to 144.

Why do I think 144 is such a neat number? Well. . .

(1) 144 is a perfect square - 12x12, a dozen dozens, a gross
(2) The digits of 144 are 1 and 4, also both perfect squares
(3) Add the digits of 144 - 1 + 4 + 4 = 9 - also a perfect square
(4) Multiply the digits of 144 - 1x4x4 = 16 - also a perfect square
(5) Flip around 144 to get 441, also a perfect square - 21x21 = 441
(6) 4 and 36 are both perfect squares and 4x36 = 144
(7) 9 and 16 are both perfect squares and 9x16 = 144

There you have it! Isn't 144 a very cool (er, square) number?

Yes, I admit that I am a math geek. Note I said "math geek", not "math nerd", or "math dork." The latter two do not make sense. A pity the terms nerd, geek, and dork are so often misused. . .

I have to blame my obsession with 144 on my dear sister Hannah. She has explained the intricacies of that fine number to untold numbers of poor captive victims. Few of her friends have not had to sit through a "144 talk." :) I love my sister.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Long Hair is Fun :)





It is so fun to play with long hair :).

My dad thought this looked like a secant graph :).

I can't remember the name of the graph type for a hanging piece of string or rope. I know it is not a parabola. Of course strictly speaking, the drape of the braids would not be that type unless we are in an Elementary Physics Course where all circumstances are ideal. Ah yes, the perfect world of elementary physics, where there is a closed system, no friction, no wind, a negligible weight, and no interference from nosy neighbors. . . That was random. I like my neighbors, by the way.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Feminine Apparel

Anonymous said... I would love to hear your thoughts on dating/courtship ( I am
saving my first kiss for my husband!) and on how women should dress.
I have already given my perspectives on dating/courtship, and will now turn my attention to feminine apparel. I realized after my last post - in which I mentioned that I am known as "that girl who wears skirts all the time" - that I should address this topic now, rather than later, before anyone concludes that I would advocate a bonfire for women's pants :).

It is true that I wear skirts/dresses almost exclusively, with rare exceptions. I wear loose shorts or culottes when I swim or on other rare occasions. I finally got rid of my last pair of pants a few months ago, after it lay unused in my drawer for a few years :). It is natural, given these statements, for one to draw the conclusion that I would advocate a bonfire for women's pants (I have heard of such events). I do not, however, believe that a blanket statement can be made that women should never wear pants or shorts for any reason. Allow me to expound.

A short summary of my own history: I grew up wearing pants or shorts regularly, reserving skirts/dresses for dress-up or more formal events. As I grew older I began to appreciate skirts both for their beauty and feminine appeal, and also for modesty's sake. About three years ago I began to wear skirts/dresses on a regular basis and have never looked back. I truly find them to be more comfortable than pants or shorts. They are actually more practical in the winter, as well, as skirts are easily layered for warmth :).

I began wearing skirts regularly the summer after I started college. I was working as a cashier at a grocery store, having to wear pants everyday at work. I hated the role I was having to play, as a college girl who was trying to work her way up the ranks, and having to wear pants made it worse. I felt I was losing my identity as a young lady who desired to someday be a keeper at home, instead playing a man in both apparel and role. I began to wear skirts mainly to emphasize my identity as a woman.

I also began wearing skirts for modesty's sake. Gracefully loose (read "not frumpy or excessively baggy") skirts are beautiful without drawing unnecessary attention to certain areas of a woman's body. I trust that my readers will catch my drift. While pants can certainly be worn loosely, I still feel that they draw more undesirable attention to a woman's figure than do loose skirts; hence, I avoid wearing them. I drew this conclusion after much study and attention to the appearance of myself and other ladies, and after much reading and prayer. I do not believe skirts are exclusively modest, rather in most cases more modest. In saying this I am not trying to set up a religious hierarchy of "holy," "holier," and "holiest."

At the time I chose to switch to skirts, all of the info I had read on the "women's pants controversy" had come across to me as so judgmental and accusatory - all about rules and not the heart attitude - and I was turned off to the idea of choosing skirts as a conviction because of what I had read, although I admitted to myself that I would not feel "right" going back to pants - not that I wanted to go back! I continued to surf the web for info regarding women and modesty, and I am so thankful to God for bringing me to Ladies Against Feminism! All the issues which I had been struggling with and trying to bring to focus made so much more sense when I started visiting LAF's website. Here was a group of ladies that focused more on their personal convictions (rather than a set of rules), while still challenging others in a gracious way to seek to be more feminine and modest!

As I sought for answers, through LAF and other sites, I realized that the real problem is not "skirts v. pants," but feminism v. Biblical womanhood. That is the real battle we are fighting. I also started realizing the connection between women starting to wear pants, the feminist revolution, and women entering the workforce. Historically worldwide, cultures have always had differences in apparel (not necessarily pants v. skirts) for men and women, that is until the past century or so, with the explosion of feminism. It was considered a shame to cross-dress until the lines between the sexes were blurred in the last century. This, coupled with my belief that in most cases skirts really are more modest, is my personal reason for wearing skirts. As skirts are still recognized in our culture as female apparel (for the most part), and as skirts eliminate undue attention to my figure, skirts seemed the natural solution to a problem of feminist making.

I do not believe an absolute case can be made for the exclusive wearing of skirts by women; however I do believe the principles of modesty, femininity, and gender distinction in appearance are clearly outlined in the Bible. As loose, graceful skirts fit the aformentioned principles, I have chosen to wear skirts. I do not consider skirts to be the boundary for Godly female apparel, rather I consider loose, graceful skirts to be within the boundaries for Godly female apparel.

Ultimately, I think the issue of female apparel is one that must be decided by each woman, with the council of her father or husband, and with much prayer and contemplation.

I do not seek out opportunities to preach my conviction to others, although I do feel strongly about this personally. I am also not saying I will never ever wear pants again for any reason, but I think I can safely predict that I will never wear them again on a regular basis. To me, my choice to wear skirts everyday is my testimony to others that I am happy in my role as a woman, it is my gift to my brothers in Christ as I help them to protect their purity by not drawing impure attention to my body, and it is my thankfulness to God for making me female!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lasting Impressions

On a message board I frequent, one young lady posted the following:

What would people remember about you and how would they describe you if they'd only met you once in a public place, or were an acquaintance that didn't know you personally? These can be things you do, things you are known for, things you are, physical appearance, etc.

I replied with the following:

I'm most often labelled as "that tall girl with the really long, really blond hair" or
"that girl who wears skirts all the time." Also, I'm "that girl who is ghostly pale and offered to do my eulogy when I die of skin cancer." I'm also "that girl who is obsessed with math" or "that girl who wants to live in the 19th century." Also "That girl who wants 12 kids."
Now, my answers were amusing (and quite true), but after reading my reply and the replies of the others on the board, I could not help but think that something was lacking.

If the most lasting impression I leave with someone is the fact that I am really pale or that I want 12 kids, then have I not missed my purpose in life? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q1). If I am truly walking in the ancient paths (not merely the 19th century paths :)), then the main thing that people should remember about me is that I love the Lord with all my heart, mind, and strength, and my neighbor as myself. All other impressions should be secondary and linked to the primary one. For example, if people remember that I want 12 kids because I desire to train them to serve the Lord and take dominion over the earth, then such a lasting impression is not entirely fruitless. Even with such an impression, though, the focus is still on me, and what I have done or would like to do. I should leave people pondering the wonderful things God has done.

It is a hard thing to do, to leave people with this most-important-of-impressions. I have met very few people in my life who truly leave me with this single impression, especially after only a slight acquaintance, and I know I do not come close to this goal. It is so easy, especially in our self-centered society, to turn the attention on myself, rather than the God that created and redeemed me. One girl I met at UGA truly did radiate with the joy of her Savior, and she could not have a conversation that was religiously neutral, not because she overbearingly fit God into every conversation, but because she could not separate her faith from the rest of her life. After spending time with her, I would leave being challenged to seek more heartily after the Lord, not just to immitate her. She truly gave the glory and attention to God, not herself.

How often do I seek to impress others with my knowledge or pious efforts?

Lord, forgive my self-centeredness, and help me to turn the focus on you, who alone deserve all glory, honor, and praise. May I seek to make your name, not mine, famous through all the earth. Amen.
Will You Love Jesus More?

I feel quite sure if I did my best
I could maybe impress you
With tender words and harmony
A clever rhyme or two

But if all I've done in the time we've shared
Is turn your eyes on me
Then I've failed at what I've been called to do
There's someone else I want you to see

(Chorus)
Will you love Jesus more
When we go our different ways
When this moment is a memory
Will you remember His face
Will you look back and realize
You sensed His love more than you did before
I pray for nothing less than for you to love Jesus more

I'd like to keep these memories
In frames of gold and silver
And reminisce a year from now
About the smiles we've shared

But above all else I hope you will come
To know the Father's love
And when you see
the Lord face to face
You'll hear Him say "well done"

(Repeat chorus)

- Words and music by Shawn Craig and John Mandeville

Friday, October 07, 2005

How shall I know this? How can this be?

A few weeks ago I was reading through the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke for perhaps the zillionth time in my life (Zillionth is the ordinal number precisely between gabillionth and kajillionth). It is amazing how I can read the same passage of scripture a zillion times (a zillion is the cardinal number precisely between gabillion and kajillion) and still see new things. It is so easy to skim right over well-known passages. In this instance I was attempting to look at Luke from the fresh eyes of a new "seeker" to Christianity. I know, not a reformed term - fellow reformed folk please forgive my theologically incorrect terminology. I was starting Luke again due to a novel I had recently read in which a non-Christian character reads Luke and evaluates the validity, historicity, and believability of the Gospel.

In this particular instance what struck me as I read was the similarities of the angelic encounters with Zechariah and Mary, and the contrast of the outcomes.

Turn with me to The Gospel According to Luke, the first chapter (ESV):

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

11And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of
the altar of incense. 12And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear
fell upon him. 13But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for
your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you
shall call his name John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will
rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not
drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even
from his mother's womb. 16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the
Lord their God, 17and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the
wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."

18And Zechariah said to the angel,
"How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced
in years." 19And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the
presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good
news. 20And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day
that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which
will be fulfilled in their time."
My outline of the first passage:
I. Angel appears to Zechariah.
II. Zechariah troubled.
III. Angel says do not be afraid.
IV. Angel foretells birth of Zechariah's son
V. Angel foretells greatness of his son
VI. Zechariah brings up physical impossibility: "How shall I know this? For I am an old man."
VII. Angel rebukes him: "Behold , you will be silent and unable to speak."

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent
from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man
whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.
28And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"
29But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of
greeting this might be. 30And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb
and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will
be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne
of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of
his kingdom there will be no end."

34And
Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"

35And the angel answered her, "The Holy
Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God.
My outline of the second passage:
I. Angel appears to Mary.
II. Mary troubled.
III. Angel says "Do not be afraid."
IV. Angel foretells birth of Mary's son
V. Angel foretells greatness of her son
VI. Mary brings up physical impossibility: "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"
VII. Angel answers: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you. . ."

The two angelic encounters are strikingly similar, to the point of identical wording in many instances. Even the responses that Zechariah and Mary give are quite similar. Both inquire as to the logistics of the prophecy given them, based on their seemingly physical inabilities to beget children. So why did the angels respond to them so differently? The wording of their queries to the angel do not appear to me to be different in tone. Perhaps someone schooled in New Testament Greek could shed some more light on the wording of their challenges to the angels.

I think the difference in the angelic responses were the result of one or both of the following: the outward attitude or the inner attitude of Zechariah and Mary. Original, no? It made me really stop and think, though, because I know I am so guilty of saying the "right" things while my heart and often my attitude portray my true self. I have been challenged by my parents a zillion times when I have asked something out of cynicism or disrespect (whether outwardly portrayed or not), and I have responded with "but I was just asking about. . . " when the real problem was my heart, not my words.

May I seek the attitude of Mary, not merely her words.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Dating/Courtship

Anonymous said... I would love to hear your thoughts on dating/courtship ( I am
saving my first kiss for my husband!) and on how women should dress.

I'm so glad someone asked me about these two topics, as they are both near and dear to my heart! I will answer the part about dating and courtship now and save feminine apparel to answer later this week, Lord willing. I'm not even sure where to begin on the topic of dating and courtship, as I have so much I could say :). I guess I will just share my own story.

Growing up I did at times dream of someday dating in high school and college, but I also recognized many problems with the modern dating system. I remember remarking to my sister when I was around 10 or 12 that it was a shame the practice of buggy rides a la Little House on the Prairie had fallen by the wayside :). I knew the modern dating system had some serious problems, but I did not really see a solution that looked feasible. As a homeschooler I occasionally heard of mysterious alternatives to dating, called "betrothal" or "courtship", but that was just for extremists ;). At the time my family did not know anyone personally who had ever taken that route.

When I was about 13 or 14, NBC Dateline did a special on courtship, following one couple's story through engagement, courtship, and marriage. It was neat for me to see an example of a committed relationship far different than modern dating. While I would not go as far as the featured couple, who did not even touch before marriage, I admired their purity and steadfastness, and especially their commitment to wait until their wedding for their first kiss.

I started reading up on courtship, starting with Josh Harris' now famous book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and around this time I made a commitment to God to save my first kiss until marriage. I knew that when I did ever enter into a romatic relationship, I wanted it to be with a purpose and direction. I did not see the point in spending my teenage years falling in and out of romantic relationships, subjecting myself to unneeded heartbreak and temptation, so I never entered the dating scene in highschool. I was not ready for marriage, so I saw no need to pursue a relationship at that time.

During high school most of my friends (fellow homeschoolers) also did not date, so I never felt that I was missing anything by choosing not to date. My homeschool circle of friends jokingly followed the "6-inch rule" (borrowed from BJU, where one of my friends planned to go to college) that required males and females to remain at least 6" apart. We would sing the "homeschool" version of Kum Ba Yah, swaying and swinging back and forth without touching - hands outstretched, but 6" away from our neighbors - all in good fun :).

Most of my friends were committed to saving their first kiss until marriage, but were not opposed to dating in college. I wanted to wait until I met a young man I was willing to marry before I entered into any kind of romantic relationship. Given that I attended a secular university, it is no shock that I never met a young man in college that I would consider marrying :). I met a few fine Christian young men, but none that I would be willing to marry. I am now 21, recently graduated from college, and have never dated or courted.

My parents never instructed me to practice or abstain from dating in general, but rather encouraged me to wait to consider a romantic relationship until I was old enough to seriously consider marriage. They taught me that dating or courtship is for the purpose of finding a marriage partner, not merely to fit in or satisfy romantic desires. As I believe my father is my spiritual head until I marry, I would want his blessing and permission before entering into any relationship.

The terms dating and courting can mean a lot of different things, so I would not say flat out that I am anti-dating. Rather, I am against the general form of dating prevalent in America today, where there is little or no parental guidance and a focus on physical attraction and immediate satisfaction. I happen to like the term courtship, as it is old-fashioned, and naturally communicates a commitment and purity to a relationship, although certainly not all courtships have story-book ends. The important distinction is the attitude and commitment that goes into a relationship, rather than the exact label given.

I do not have a set list of rules that I would follow in a hypothetical relationship, nor do my parents. I would want to limit physical contact and confine "alone time" to daylight activities in public. I am not opposed to male/female physical contact if done in an appropriate manner. I think innocent dancing such as the Virginia Reel or western square dancing are great ways to fellowship with believers.

Until recently I viewed marriage as a means to satisfy my romantic desires, and while that is a wonderful benefit of marriage, I have in recent years revised my reasons for wanting to marry. I now truly desire to marry primarily as a means to extend Christ's kingdom by raising Godly seed and serving the Lord alongside my husband. Given this as my goal, it seems illogical for me to even consider a romantic relationship until an eligible young man arrives on the scene. I am committed to saving myself for my future husband, however long I need wait. If I never marry then I will remain the bride of Christ :). My body belongs to my Heavenly bridegroom, kept in His care to someday give joyfully to my earthly husband - truly a wonderful wedding gift!

Faithfully, I am yours, from now until forever.
Faithfully, I will write, write you a love song with my life
'Cause this kind of love's worth waiting for
No matter how long it takes I am yours
Faithfully

- Eric and Leslie Ludy, Faithfully

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

How Sweet and Awful is the Place

How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

Adrian directed me to the old Isaac Watts hymn How Sweet and Awful is the Place in response to my last post concerning "awesome" and "awful". It is such a beautiful hymn out of the old Trinity Hymnal, and one I had never been exposed to before. So many deep spiritual truths are imbedded in the ancient words, and coupled with an old Irish melody it is truly haunting. How much we miss when we exclude such rich music from our worship!

I was particularly struck by stanzas three and four:

Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?

Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

I never cease to be amazed that the God of the universe reached down from heaven and chose me as His own, saving me in all my wretched ugliness. I am unworthy of his love and mercy.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Awesome or Awful?


I was just typing an e-mail to my sister, and I paused as I typed the word "awesome," contemplating the meaning of this word that is used so frequently in everyday slang. I am not a fan of slang, although I do use it jokingly on occasion.

Have you ever pondered the derivation of the word "awesome." Some-Awe. Most people in today's culture really mean "awe-full" or rather "awful" when they say awesome. If one speaks of something as being awesome, rarely do I think they are referring to being in a state of pseudo-aweness; rather they are indicating that they are full of awe.

As a Christian, I say God is awesome, but God inspires more than just pseudo-awe in me. More correctly, I am full of awe when I ponder Him. Perhaps the words of the praise chorus "Our God is an Awesome God" should be changed to "Our God is an Awful God." I do not mean that in an irreverent sense; our culture has narrowed the definition of awful just as it has the definition of awesome, so it seems irreverent or negative to describe anyone with the adjective "awful."

Dictionary.com lists these three definitions among its entries for the word "awful":

Commanding awe: “this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath” (Herman Melville).

Filled with awe, especially filled with or displaying great reverence.

Formidable in nature or extent: an awful burden; an awful risk.

I wonder how many other English words have hidden meanings that have long been forgotten or changed.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Beginnings

I registered this blog two weeks ago but have delayed posting my first entry. For some reason I have continued putting off starting, although I know once I begin I will enjoy posting. I finally decided tonight to bite the bullet and post. This first post will be rather short, as it mainly serves to get me over the mental block of the ominous "first post." In the coming week I hope to write a few longer and more informative posts on issues I am currently studying.

I like writing and use it as an outlet at times to express my thoughts. We shall see how this blog progresses, but I hope to keep it up. Blogging often is viewed in a negative manner since it is so misused, especially by young folk, as a meaningless way to fritter away their time. However I have been very blessed by a number of blogs over the past few years and find that the problem lies with certain methods and misuses of blogging rather than the actual practice itself. My purpose in starting this blog is to give me an outlet to intelligently express my thoughts and to write basic updates on my life. I pray that I will use this blog for useful purposes in ways that will glorify God as I continually seek the ancient paths.