Saturday, October 31, 2009

Meditations "on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam"

Ever since I first laid eyes on this image several weeks ago, I don't think a day has gone by without me thinking of it at least once.  The ways in which it has reached it's grip into my thoughts of God have been manifold.

I think there is something in every person, when seeing ourselves in this perspective, which will cry out, "Then there can't be a God!"  I hear that voice.  It is the knee jerk utterance of one who can't imagine anything that big, let alone anything that big caring about anything that small.  It is a truly human reaction - a response from human limitations.  It shakes us and shows the inadequacy of the views of God which we hold. It presents to us at least two possibilities, both dreadful: 1) that there is no God, and no meaning in all our joys and anguish, or 2) that there is a God, one to Whom we are at least that small.

Does your view of God take in all of this?  Is your God that big?  Are you that small?

Think about it.

I've decided to commit myself to meditating on this and exploring all the implications which the reality of a God of that magnitude should have on my life and faith.  My goal is to post this series of contemplations here.  Perhaps you would like to meditate with me.

Science Saturday - All Hallows' Eve Edition

First, the obligatory pumpkin video.  May the biggest pumpkin win!

And, in case you were wondering what Martin Luther would think of all this talk about science on his big day - here's a little paper about Luther's views of science.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monday Meanderings

 Perhaps you didn't notice, but I completely forgot to post my Meanderings last week, well, either that, or I didn't have enough of a collection.  I don't remember now.  Welcome to my middle-aged mind, or what's left of it.  But here's my collection for today:

This is an excellent post, helpful and succinct, about how to avoid knee-jerk reactions in discussions of faith.  I think this may be one for the refrigerator.

Perhaps you've heard the explanation of hell (intended, I think, to make it seem not as bad, or at least to make sending them more defensible) as a place people choose to go, and would really prefer to heaven - as in "heaven would be hell to such people". Or maybe you've heard the notion that hell is really a place we make for ourselves, by virtue of our own rottenness.  John Piper explains how hell is not the place we wish it was.

Here's a testimony to the power of those prayers prayed in front of abortion clinics: A Planned Parenthood director has had a dramatic change of heart.

 I know there are plenty of folks out there who don't think they need to be Christians, or who even think they are Christians, simply because they are such decent human beings.  But how many of us Christians are replacing being a decent human being with being a Christian?

Words on the sovereignty of God and suffering from a young man with spina bifida.
(HT goes to Noel Piper.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Charity, the Sum of all Virtues - Part One

Charity and Its Fruits
(This week we continue our reading together of the Jonathan Edwards' classic, Charity and Its Fruits. We have just concluded the reading of the "Doctrine" portion of Lecture 1. We will continue with the "Application" portion of the Lecture in next week's reading. This is the pattern we will be using for the entirety of the reading. My notes here will follow Edwards' own outline directly, with my commentary inserted. I will attempt to make each post edifying even to those who are not reading along with us. Feel free to leave your questions or comments in the form below.)
Lecture I. (Part One)
Charity, or Love, the Sum of All Virtues
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

First, that something is spoken of as of special importance, and as peculiarly essential in Christians, which the apostle calls CHARITY. And this charity, we find, is abundantly insisted on in the New Testament by Christ and his apostles, - more insisted on, indeed, than any other virtue.
"What persons very often mean by 'charity,' in their ordinary conversation, is a disposition to hope and think the best of others, and to put a good construction on their words and behavior; and sometimes the word is used for a disposition to give to the poor. But these things are only certain particular branches, or fruits of that great virtue of charity which is so much insisted on throughout the New Testament. The word properly signifies love, or that disposition or affection whereby one is dear to another....So that by charity here, we are doubtless to understand Christian love in its full extent, and whether it be exercised towards God or our fellow creatures."
Edwards spends some time in this section dealing with the fact that in the King James Version the word for love in the original language "agape" is rendered differently in different places. "Charity in some places, "love" in others. The word "charity" in his day had already come to mean something less than the sum total of love. (It has come to mean even less in our day.)I must say I like the way he handled this problem for his hearers. For whatever reason, he did not appeal to the original Greek. He used Scripture to interpret Scripture, and came up with the same answer one would get by referring to the Greek, that the love here in mind is not the narrow view one might have gotten from the word "charity" but rather the same kind of love we are instructed to have toward God Himself: "agape".

That said, I must admit, my first reaction to the passage above was a bit of horror - because the very thing he was saying was an inadequate definition of love was already more than I had imagined or ever really succeeded in. I also must admit, however, that as I read I knew in my heart, without a shadow of a doubt that what he was saying was true. "a disposition to hope and think the best of others"...this is certainly what I have toward my husband and children...but to others, well, not so much...only those I really love, and even then not all the time. But it is more than that. It is "that disposition or affection whereby one is dear to another." And it is that kind of love I'm supposed to have even for my enemies! God expects that I think of even my enemies as dear to me! Brothers and sisters, I've got a lot of growing to do. Perhaps you do as well. I take some comfort in the fact that I can see the truth and beauty of this Christian love.Christian love is the highest thing I can aspire to in this life, and clearly it will also be the most difficult. 

Secondly, [we observe] what things are mentioned as being in vain without it, viz. the most excellent things that ever belong to natural men; the most excellent privileges, and the most excellent performances.
(“viz.” means “namely”)
  • the most excellent privileges -  Spiritual gifts are vain (empty, worthless, futile) if performed without Christian love.
  • the most excellent performances -  Good works are vain if performed from any other motive than Christian love.
The doctrine taught, then, is this:
"...there is nothing at all that avails* anything without it. Let a man have what he will, and do what he will, it signifies nothing without charity; which surely implies that charity is the great thing, and that everything which has not charity in some way contained or implied in it, is nothing, and that this charity is the life and soul of all religion, without which all things that wear the name of virtues are empty and vain."
* “to avail” here means “to be of use, help, worth, or in accomplishing an end” - in the ultimate and eternal sense. It will not hold any sway before God.
I. I would speak of the nature of a truly Christian love.
1. That all true Christian love is one and the same in its principle.
(Edwards uses the word “principle” here in a very different sense than we tend to, so take careful note of this definition. “the ultimate source, origin, or cause of something”)

Unlike the love of unbelievers, which arises from any number of sources or motives in the heart (ie. greed, self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, natural instinctual affection, etc.), Christian love is "one as to its is from the same spring or fountain in the heart, though it may flow out in different channels and diverse directions..."

Monday Meanderings

Okay, take it from me, you don't have to speak Japanese to love this!


Did you know even lung cancer has a beauty all its own?
"This scanning electron micrograph was also produced by Anne Weston. It shows a single cell grown from a culture of lung cancer cells. The irregular purple bulges are called blebs, a localised decoupling of the cytoskeleton from the plasma membrane caused by the cancer."

For more of the years best science images click here.
(HT to Tim Challies)

Well, they've finally admitted what most of us already intuited: TV won't make your baby smarter. Act now, Disney's offering refunds.

5 untestable yet rational types of knowledge:
(I feel a need here to apologize for the disrespectful title of this clip, even though I am not responsible for it.)

(HT to Abraham Piper)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

With steadfast faith let us take our places...

"Let those who will keep the narrow way keep it, and suffer for their choice; but to hope to follow the broad road at the same time is an absurdity. What communion hath Christ with Belial?
Thus far we come, and pause. Let us, as many as are of one mind, wait upon the Lord to know what Israel ought to do. With steadfast faith let us take our places; not in anger, not in the spirit of suspicion or division, but in watchfulness and resolve. Let us not pretend to a fellowship which we do not feel, nor hide convictions which are burning in our hearts. The times are perilous, and the responsibility of every individual believer is a burden which he must bear, or prove a traitor. What each man's place and course should be the Lord will make clear unto him." - Charles Spurgeon
(This was a quote from amid the Downgrade Controversy.  You can learn more about that event here.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday Science - Flu Season Edition

You can view the informative article which accompanied the video and listen to an interview on the topic of the current flu outbreak here

I've been around my town and visited various businesses over these last couple of weeks. I recall a recent visit to a computer shop where the manager told me half his work force was home with the flu and he was only just recovering. He was a young fellow had never imagined he could be as sick as he had just been, healthy one moment and bedridden just a couple of hours later. My husband stood next to me while this flu-recoverer related his ordeal. Paul has asthma and we are uninsured. I insisted he get his flu shot as soon as they became available, and he did. (Unfortunately the H1N1 shot is not available here yet, so he had to settle for the seasonal flu shot. I did not get a shot, because Paul is also unemployed, and money is tight. We chose him, because he's at higher risk of death from flu.) Yesterday I stood in line at a convenience store. The woman in line ahead of me (a very nice lady, by the way) was turned in my direction when her chest began to rumble. She coughed chunkily, quickly bringing up her elbow to cover her mouth. Despite her good intentions, however, her diaphragm was faster than her left arm. Some of her cough sped over the top of her elbow. Oh well. These things have a way of getting away from us. Germs are not as easy to contain as we'd like to think.

No doubt you've heard we're facing an uncommon sort of flu season this year. On top of our usual variations we've got a newly discovered strain of H1N1 floating around, one which our immune systems are unfamiliar with and is giving us quite a beating. Already the death toll in our country alone has topped 1,000, nearly 100 of them children. At that same time all this is transpiring there are also anecdotal reports surfacing via YouTube of victims of rare disorders which they feel are linked to recent vaccines. I've seen them. One is related to the HPV vaccine, another to seasonal flu, and there are a few more. I've also seen various controversial articles claiming a causal relationship between certain immunizations and autism. And there are concerns remaining from the seventies - Guillain-Barre syndrome, linked, albeit with some uncertainty, to the 1976 swine flu vaccine. All of these reports are troubling, to say the least. I'm familiar with them and understand them but am not deterred by them. I will explain why. (I hope that those of you who do not agree will accept my point of view as just that and refrain from argument.)

It's been a long time since we've lived in a country where mass epidemics routinely endangered the lives of children and adults alike. I have an elderly friend who is crippled from a childhood bout with polio. She is one of the fortunate ones. She survived. Not many of us have ever encountered a man like Alexander Woollcott, who was rendered, in essence, a eunuch due to a case of the mumpsSmallpox, that dreaded plague, has been all but eradicated. Likely none of us have met a survivor of the great flu pandemic of 1918, from which the worldwide death toll has been estimated between 50 and 100 million. The absence of many dreaded diseases in our populace today can be attributed to the mercy of God, of course, and secondarily in many cases to successful vaccination campaigns.

I think the current epidemic of suspicion surrounding vaccination programs is in part attributable, ironically, to the great success of vaccination. We who have not been touched by a deadly pandemic, or the loss of siblings or children to common childhood diseases tend to see the risk as a distant threat, one far removed, one that could never touch us. We've been a very healthy people for a very long time. I think the fear also stems from a distrust of government, and science. (Our attitude as Christians toward government is a topic for a different day, and one I will not get into directly at the moment.) I understand the concern about science, in as much as so much of it seems to be aimed at dis-proving or, at the very least, ignoring or disregarding any evidence of a Creator. But, I'd like to set that aside for the moment as well, or at least to look at it from a different angle. These scientists, in particular the ones for whom disease control and prevention is a life work, if they do not believe in God, have no hope other than what they can accomplish in this world. This world is all they have and where all their hope lies. It is where their legacy will remain. It is in their best interests and those of their species, to which they've devoted themselves, to find cures for these illnesses. It is also entirely unfair to assume that atheists do not love mankind and desire to ease the suffering they see around them. In some ways I think they are even more invested than we Christians are. This IS their world. They do not have another. It is in their nature to love it and want to preserve it for themselves and their posterity. (All that said, it is not fair either to assume all of these scientists are atheists, with no concern for God.)

From the many accounts I've read over the years about the desperate struggle of epidemiologists and others in health care professions I've gained a great deal of respect for them. They race against time and any number of scientific limitations, their progress often impeded by governmental foot-dragging and budgetary constraints, to identify causes of illness and to find a cure knowing that all the while they are searching, people are dying. These are people who, generally speaking, are not going to become rich or famous as a result of any of their hard work. They are in it to save lives.

As for the drug manufacturers, I have no great respect for these companies as they tend to be primarily profit driven behemoths. As I understand it, the number of them willing to produce vaccines is dwindling because it is an expensive process and those who do develop them are expected, required actually, to make them safe and affordable for the masses. So it's bad news/good news on that end. The good news is they are required to make them safe and affordable. The bad news is they are not required to make them, and so many do not. This leads to the potential for insufficient supplies. My point here is, however, vaccines are not big profit makers.

So what is my point in all this? My hope is that you will remove unjustified suspicion from the scales when weighing your decisions regarding vaccinations. Weigh the risk of of death or disability and the likelihood of contracting the illness opposite the risk posed by the vaccination itself. If it is likely not to be a serious illness, and you have the ability to quarantine yourself, you may want to skip the vaccine and stick with hand-washing and elbow-coughing. If it poses a real danger to you or some you may come in contact with, or if you can't afford to miss a day at work, then get vaccinated.

Here are a few more articles and resources which may help you as you weigh these matters:

Here is a link to the Vaccine Safety page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And here is one for the World Health Organization's page which deals specifically with the current strain of H1N1 (swine flu virus).

Slate Magazine has an article written from the perspective of the parent of an immune compromised child on the importance of "herd immunity" to the most vulnerable among us.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Charity and Its Fruits - Why study love?

(This week we begin our reading together of the Jonathan Edwards classic, Charity and Its Fruits. This is the second of two introductory posts. The first was focused on what led Edwards to undertake his study. Today my focus is on what has led me to undertake this study.)

I began this year with a recognition of my need to grow in love and a New Year's resolution to study Scripture to that end. I made a lot of other resolutions which have fallen by the wayside, but my study thus far has shown me that this is one resolution that must be kept. Love, for the Christian, is not optional.

Most of you know that I was raised a Lutheran, went to Lutheran schools, but later spent several years attending various Pentecostal and charismatic churches, even attending an Assemblies of God college for two years. (All this was prior my abandoning church altogether and prior to my conversion, years later, at the age of forty.) Throughout those years I heard quite a bit of discussion of “love” in church circles. The dominant theme I came away with is that Christian love is not what I generally think of as “real” love, at least not like the love you have for your husband, children, or best friends – you know – the kind you really feel. After all, I'd been taught, “we can't control how we feel, but we can control what we do. So God doesn't command our feelings, but our actions.” Love, then, is a “choice”, it's something you “do”. “Love is a verb,” I've heard said on many occasions. I found this convenient. My mind translated it this way, “It doesn't matter how you really feel, just behave as if you love people.” Well I can do that. My husband calls that “the fake it 'til you feel it” philosophy. Now I understand that this is good advice, on a purely practical and social level, when an absence of real feeling exists, meaning - it's better to be kind to someone, when you really feel like being rude, than to go right ahead and be rude. (I also recognize this can sometimes be an expression of a deeper love, that carries through when feelings ebb.) I know, however, from personal experience, that it can often be nothing more than hypocrisy. So often I would end up, rather than faking it till I felt it, just plain old “faking it.” The truth was, often, that I didn't even want to feel it. And, furthermore, the statement that God doesn't command our feelings just isn't true. God commands us to feel things all the time. He commands us to love, to hate, to weep, to mourn, to rejoice, to be sympathetic, to have compassion. These are all feelings, and if we pretend to do them while without genuine emotion, well, that's pretty much the textbook definition of hypocrisy. Others may be fooled, maybe, but God, who sees the heart will not; and so we must not fool ourselves.

Undertaking Jonathan Edwards and Charity and Its Fruits

This week we begin our reading here of Jonathan Edwards' classic, Charity and Its Fruits. By way of introduction I thought it would be very helpful to understand as best we can where Edwards was coming from when he set out to lead his congregation through a study of Christian love, and so I've provided a brief introduction of His life and times. I will not pretend that one blog post is sufficient for such a task. Nor will I pretend to be comprehensive; but I do hope that what I've selectively provided will enrich our future study. I also intend, Lord willing, to provide further posts on aspects of the life and thought of Edwards which I have found intriguing.

Over the last five years I've read much from Jonathan Edwards, and listened to several biographical lectures about him, but the information and direct quotes (in italics) I've provided here have been derived entirely from George M. Marsden's biography, Jonathan Edwards, A Life.

First of all, it's best to remember that Jonathan Edwards was not an American, at least not as we think of Americans. He was born and lived his entire life in the Americas, but was entirely British. He lived and died in a pre-revolutionary, British province. He was also a Puritan, a group of Protestant dissenters from the Anglican church – the official state church of England. (His is the sect which is remembered to this day for the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Edwards was a member of the next generation. In his times there would be discussion of the devil, and the anti-Christ, but mentions of witchcraft and the like would be significantly absent. The lesson learned had been a painful one.) Being both British and Puritan meant that his world and its authority structure was characterized by rather strict hierarchies.
“Eighteenth-century Britons viewed their world as monarchical and controlled by hierarchies of personal relationships. On both these counts, their assumptions were almost opposite of those of most Westerners today, who tend to think of society as in principle egalitarian and in fact controlled by impersonal forces. Eighteenth-century British-American society depended on patriarchy. One's most significant relationships were likely to be vertical rather than horizontal. Fathers had authority over families and households, and were the cornerstones of good order. Women, children, hired servants,indentures, and African slaves were all dependent on persons directly above them. Society was conceived of as an extended household. In this arrangement paternalism was a virtue, not a term of opprobrium. Although British people spoke much of 'liberty,' few had personal freedom in a modern sense. Gentlemen ruled largely through a hierarchical system of patronage extending from the king down. Good order, especially for the lower ranks of society, was enforced by strict surveillance and stern punishments. Ordinary life under any circumstance was often cruel, plagued by epidemics, unrelieved pain, and constant uncertainties about life itself. Many essential tasks were painfully difficult and time-consuming. Personal dependency was one way of dealing with a harsh and insecure world and was often taken as a matter of course.”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Science

If you think the photo above is amazing, to see some of the most beautiful images you can imagine of insects, click here.

(Many thanks to Barry Wallace for this link.)


Planet Talk

So, what's going on with Pluto anyway?  Is it a planet, or isn't it?  Why?  Why not?  Well,  to be fair, I'll provide you with both sides of the story.  (You be fair, too, and listen to both of them...and, if possible, try to leave Disney out of it.)

First, why Pluto is no longer classified as a planet:

Second, why some still think it should be classified as a planet. (Be sure to listen to the audio for the complete explanation.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Meanderings - product reviews and Servetus

Sorry, my meanderings this week have been few - well two - to be exact.  But here's what I've got:

First, and rather important to my blogging friends.  If you review books or products on your blog, you need to check out the new FTA disclosure rules for product endorsers.  I don't find them prohibitive.  In fact I think the rules seem to be in the public's best interest; but whatever you think, rules are rules and you can read about them here.


Secondly, if you've ever heard more than three sentences about John Calvin, likely the fourth sentence you heard was: "And you know, he got Michael Servetus burned at the stake don't you?!"

So, if you've never bothered to check out the facts of that story, here's your chance.  This is a brief article which happens to link to several others as well

Love and the Lord's Supper - what does it mean to "discern the body"

"We shall benefit very much from the Sacrament if this thought is impressed and engraved upon our minds: that none of the brethren can be injured, despised, rejected, abused, or in any way offended by us, without at the same time, injuring, despising, and abusing Christ by the wrongs we do; that we cannot disagree with our brethren without at the same time disagreeing with Christ; that we cannot love Christ without loving him in the brethren; that we ought to take the same care of our brethren's bodies as we take of our own; for they are members of our body; and that, as no part of our body is touched by any feeling of pain which is not spread among all the rest, so we ought not to allow a brother to be affected by any evil, without being touched with compassion for him. Accordingly, Augustine with good reason frequently calls this Sacrament 'the bond of love.'" (Calvin's Institutes, 4.17.38)
When I happened upon this passage from the Institutes, I was reminded again of a message I heard a pastor preach regarding communion many years ago. Though I don't remember the church, or the pastor, I've never forgotten his main point. I ponder it almost every time I receive the Sacrament, and wonder a bit if he was right, always suspecting he was at least partly right. The Scripture he referenced was 1 Corinthians 11:29: "For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself." This pastor's contention was that this "discerning the body", in the larger context of 1 Corinthians, had to do with recognizing that the church is the body of Christ. That interpretation was completely novel to me at the time, and his explanation so compelling, that it's remained in my mind all these years.  Certainly the theme of the Church as the body of Christ is introduced and picked up again repeatedly throughout the epistle.  And, indeed, the passage in question is sandwiched between references to Christians and the Church as the body of Christ:

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?" (6:14)

"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." (10:16-17)

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many....God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body....But God has so composed the body giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together ; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." (12:12-14, 18-19, 24-27)

So, positioned right after the teaching that our bodies are members of Christ, and that each of us Christians, who are partakers in the one Bread, are one body as a result, and right before that famous doctrine that the Church is the body of Christ and each Christian an individual member of it, we find this teaching of the Lord's Supper:
"For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal.  One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  shall I commend you in this?  No, I will not.
"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drink without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another - if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home - so that when you come together it will not be for judgment..." (11:20-34, emphasis mine)
And so we find instruction square in the midst of all this, on how to properly administer the Lord's Supper. Paul first makes it clear that it is not to be taken as an ordinary meal, which apparently was how it was being taken in Corinth. Every meal Christians share is not the Lord's Supper. This meal is to be set apart as a Sacrament - recognized as a participation in the Body of Christ. Paul then utters grave warnings against those who take it in an unworthy manner: "without discerning the body". So the question remains, in this context, what is the meaning of "discerning the body"? How does an individual partake "in an unworthy manner"?

I've found myself all along vacillating between two possible meanings:  one, that the warning has mainly to do with recognizing and respecting the fact that the Lord's Table is indeed no ordinary meal - but a Sacrament - a participation in Christ's sacrifice; or two, that we are to discern that the Church is the Body of Christ and the Sacrament a participation together as one Body in the Body of Christ; and that remembering this we are to honor one another accordingly, because we are the body of Christ of which we are individually partakers together. For years I've drifted back and forth between these two meanings, thinking that it must mean one or the other. But I've become convinced, finally, that it means both. Verses 33-34 serve as a linchpin for me, "So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another - if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home - so that when you come together it will not be for judgment..." as the judgment is there associated directly with mistreatment of fellow believers. But there is one more consideration I'd like to make, this time from the words of Christ himself in Matthew 5:22-24. Here again our partaking in the sacrifice, while unrepentant of sin committed against a brother, is associated with judgment:
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' will liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (emphasis mine)
(If you find my relating "offering your gift at the altar" with the Lord's Table puzzling, please reference 1 Cor. 10:14-21.)

So, upon receiving the Lord's Supper we are called to discern two things: that we are partaking in the body of Christ, and that we are the body of Christ, with each of our brothers and sisters as members.

Before we partake of the Sacrament, if we wish not to fall under the judgment of God, we must examine our hearts. Are we considering of what we are partaking? Are we remembering of Whom we are partaking? Are we remembering the Gospel which we are proclaiming as we partake? Are we remembering that through this partaking we are made one body with those with whom we partake? Are we treating those with whom we are made one body, as we would treat ourselves? If, upon examining ourselves, we find that we are harboring secret hate, jealousy, envy, bitterness, or malice toward one of our fellow members, we must repent before we partake. And if, upon reflection we remember we have outwardly offended or mistreated a brother, in such a way that our secret sin against them has become known to them, we must not partake of the Sacrament until we've gone to them in humble repentance. This is the only proper response to the Gospel which participation in the Lord's Table proclaims.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Charity and Its Fruits - update

Due to circumstances beyond my control (our book order did not go through on time), our study of Jonathan Edwards', Charity and Its Fruits will be postponed by one week. For those of you here in Chico, that means we will have our first meeting at 6:30 on Monday, October 19. For those of you reading along here, it means I will begin with an introductory post on that date, and the reading will begin at that time. Since I am on the west coast, and will be posting in the evening, unless you are in Hawaii, you should probably plan on finding my posts on Tuesday morning.

Saturday Science

This is one you don't want to miss!

And while we're speaking of birds:

Now, here's one that's not for the birds. How about exploring NASA's website solar system exploration! ?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The role of an historian

In preparation for our upcoming study of Jonathan Edwards', Charity and It's Fruits, I've been reading George Marsden's biography, Jonathan Edwards, a Life. I've started to read this book three times in the last year, checking it out from the library on three separate occasions before finally admitting to myself that I'll need to own a copy if I'm ever going to get through it. I'm so glad I did, as I know I'll be referring to it time and time again, and for that reason feel the need to do my share of underlining and margin notation as well.

I bring all this up really as an excuse to share a bit I really like from the author's Introduction. Marsden is explaining that Edwards is an eighteenth century figure and encouraging his readers to be careful to let that context "shape their understanding of him". He goes on then to briefly sum up what he considers to be the role of a responsible historian, words I wish more current historians, with their frequent revisionist tendencies, would take to heart:

"The most fascinating question that framed this book is 'What was it like to live in western New England in the first half of the eighteenth century?' (or 'How was that time different from our own?'). This second version of the questions suggests, of course, a twenty-first-century viewpoint. My task as an historian is to make intelligible the outlook of another time, which demands taking into account the various perspectives of readers and also what has transpired since the eighteenth century. Yet it would be a failure of imagination if we were to start out - as today's histories sometimes do - by simply judging people of the past for having outlooks that are not like our own. Rather, we must first try to enter sympathetically into an earlier world and to understand its people. Once we do that we will be in a far better position both to learn from them and to evaluate their outlooks critically."

It is only right and humble to take into consideration a person's historical, geographical, and religious context when we evaluate their decisions. We must always remember that we, too, are to a certain extent the product of our times and circumstances - and must never engage in criticism without first remembering and acknowledging that we may very well have responded similarly had we been placed by Providence in a similar situation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Meanderings

I happened upon a lot of really interesting stuff this week. I hope you'll enjoy my finds as much as I did.

Jewelry Diplomacy

"In her new book, Read My Pins, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reveals that she used jewelry as a diplomatic tool during her years with the Clinton administration."

Check out the story, and a slide show of some of her pins here.

The value of scholarship in the original Biblical languages

Is the Era of Age Segmentation Over?

A researcher argues that the future of youth ministry will require bringing the generations together. This informative and thought provoking article from Leadership Journal is a must read for all interested in ministry to children and youth.

Imprecatory Psalms

Here are a few thoughts from John Piper on those Psalms that make you cringe.

What's Baby Thinking?

For all you new mommies and mom's to be, here's an interesting discussion about what goes on in the minds of young infants. Though the scientist speaks from an evolutionary presupposition, I've no doubt you'll find the information fascinating nonetheless: WNYC - Radiolab � After Birth

Shared via AddThis

Does One Word Really Impact the Doctrine of God?

Don't be intimidated. A little church history mixed with a little doctrinal discussion makes for an interesting and satisfying dish. Here's some food for thought on the doctrine of the Trinity.

To him who overcomes...

In 1542 a German Catholic, Eustache Knobelsdorf, witnessed the execution of a young Protestant. He preserved his thoughts on the episode in writing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Saturday Science

We'll start with a little music to put you in the mood. Here's They Might Be Giants with their new song Meet the Elements:

I'm trying like crazy to get my hands on their new song about the Sun, in which they retract everything they said about their old song about the Sun. It's clever, honest, and informative. I could get it for you now, but not without also subjecting you to another of their new songs, My Brother the Ape, which, for reasons you can probably guess, I cannot recommend. When I find it singly, you'll find it here.


We're all feeling it - Autumn. The light, the air tell us Summer is past. But we all know that when the fall comes, winter will be coming fast on its heels. And so, I thought I'd set your mind at ease by answering one of your nagging winter questions: Where do bees poop in the winter.

Hope that set your minds at ease.

Now, fall is also the season when "we" prepare our "lawns". Everyone knows, if you want a lovely yard, you must plan ahead. (This explains the condition of mine. I have about 5 years of bulbs in the pantry waiting to be planted, which I never do because if I move someday I'll miss them. I'm not kidding, that's how this mind works. ) This year Paul are considering actually doing that very thing - trying to cultivate our "lawn". Here's a great little interview with some turf experts that might motivate you as well.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Charity and Its Fruits - announcement

I apologize for the dearth of posts this week. It's been a busy week at work and home; and my free time has been consumed by preparations for our church's upcoming ladies' study of Jonathan Edwards, Charity and It's Fruits. Which brings me to the point of this brief notice:

Our class here in Chico will begin meeting at Pastor Pat and Andi's house on Monday, Oct. 12 at 6:30 pm. If you do not have a copy of the book already, you can pick one up then. The first meeting will be introductory and we will begin our readings in the week that follows.

Now, a few of my blog friends have expressed an interest in reading along with our study; and so I would like to extend the invitation to anyone else who might be interested. If you'd like to participate, just obtain a copy of the book. I will be using the Banner of Truth Edition (pictured), but you should have little trouble following along from any other edition. The actual reading will not begin until the twelfth, so that should give you time to acquire a copy. We will not be racing through, but taking a half-chapter a week at most. There's a lot to chew on, and mom's are busy people, so we'll take it as slowly as we need to. My plan is to blog weekly, at the end of each reading. Discussion is not only welcomed, but encouraged.

I'm looking forward with great anticipation to this study, and to seeing the fruit of it in my own life and in the life of the church.