View from the Gulkana Airport near Glennallen, Alaska, USA, December 26, 2016.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve.
Another year is winding down. A year of change in so many ways. The following quote from he Lord of the Rings movie sums up my thoughts on this year:
"The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it." ~ Galadriel
I did not vote for Trump or Clinton. I voted for a 3rd party candidate and am waiting to play the "I told you so..." card. Contrary to all the Trump naysayers otherwise, my 3rd party vote was not "wasted", nor was it a "vote for Clinton". That is simply mathematically and statistically not true and never was true even philosophically.
In the Republican primaries, we voted for other candidates because, if we frankly admit it, Trump scared us. After he tied up the Republican nomination the over all line of thought was "Who do you fear more?" Many who opposed Trump in the primaries voted for him in the general election because they feared Clinton more.
OK.... But one thing has not changed. You feared Trump... Yes, you feared Clinton more, but the fact remains you feared Trump and there has not been a lot other than wishful thinking to change your reasons for that fear.
So now what? Talk to me a year from now after Trump has been in office for most of a year.
What are you going to do do if and when a President Trump does something that really goes over the top as well as far across the line; something you feared?
Yes, Clinton would have been even more egregious, but the point is Trump will be egregious. And when his time is done, the damage will be done and there will be little to none chance of going back and fixing it. And you voted for him...
My reply to you will be I told you so... Don't blame me. I didn't vote for either one of them. God judges nations and America is not immune from that judgement.
"Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."
Thus, we are comforted each and every moment that our high priest ministers for us in the Holy of Holies. The prosecuting attorney is ejected from the courtroom. The case against us is dismissed because our sentence was executed on our high priest himself. But we are not only exonerated, we are actually declared "righteous," as if we had lived perfectly before God. And so we have only a defense attorney before the throne of God. He pleads our case, and the Father accepts his meritorious intercession as sufficient for our right to enjoy his eternal presence forever. "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess (Heb. 4:14 NIV).
There are no candles to light, no buttons to push, no aisles to walk, no rededications or resolutions to do better. Nothing will suffice but the intercession of the high priest whose ministry is far superior to that of Moses. For Moses brought us to Mount Sinai where God appeared in terror, clad in lightning and surrounded by peals of thunder. "But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:22-24 NIV).
"We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostles Creed", Michael Horton, (Word Publishing, 1998), pages 143-144
A young friend of mine posted this on his Facebook page today. Josh has found the words and analogy to express the sentiments of a number of my Evangelical friends as well as myself. He has given me permission to re-post his words here. Note the above title is mine, but though it is a declaration of independence from the bondage of men, it is also a declaration of dependence on Almighty God. It is to God Himself we commit our lives and cause.
For me this election has been the moment when I escaped from the abusive, alcoholic husband that is the GOP. For the past twenty years of my adult life, I’ve put up with his cycles of verbal and physical abuse, lies, broken promises, and promiscuity clinging to the hope that he can and will change and at least he puts a roof over my head and feeds me. This year is the last straw. The arrogant, self-assured bravado with which the party threatens me has no hold over me anymore. Yes, I know the alternative is to live on the street. Yes, I know I may have some very bad times. But I do it from my own free will. It is my choice for once. I can and will find people just like me who have broken away and do what I can with them. And, ultimately, my home is in heaven, not this hell of codependency and clutching at the false specters of unrequited and unearned hope in the corrupt politics of man.
So, I have broken free. My conscience is clear. When the ‘greater’ of two evils wins in three weeks, do not come to me blaming me for the outcome. You as a codependent enabler of the bloated corpse of the GOP are as much to blame as me… at least according to your logic. At least my conscience is clear. My vote matters, and I will now withhold it from those who in NO WISE deserve it.
That’s my political statement. My spiritual statement is this: Brace yourselves Christian. Persecution is here. We have been given a rare respite from it in comparison to the historical mean. Buckle up and stand firm on Christ. Love one another.
~ Josh Hall
Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon.
Going to the candidates' debate.
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose.
~ Simon & Garfunkel, "Mrs. Robinson"
I just deleted one of the posts from this blog that was originally published back on December 12, 2013. It was somewhat of a popular and a bit controversial post, but I came to the conclusion it really no longer served any positive useful purpose. Yes, I know some thought it never served any positive useful purpose to begin with, but I respectfully disagree with that assessment, and would cite their own protests as proof to the contrary.
My wife and I got back home yesterday after a three week visit to our daughter and family who moved to Alaska back at the end of June. They live in a small town in the interior where "going to town" means a 2 1/2 to 3 hour trip to the Palmer/Wasilla/Anchorage area. Words and pictures are inadequate to describe Alaska. I fell like I just got back from another world; another country. At this point in my life I could not and would not live there year around, but am thankful for the opportunities we have had to visit there. Our last visit before this trip was 16 years ago. It is a beautiful wild wilderness of a country, and I love being there and seeing it.
I have said very little about politics. I have no favor for either of the major party candidates, nor will I allow my conscience to be bound by the specious and mathematically flawed argument that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Hillary Clinton and her goosestepping minions. The electoral college diminishes greatly the influence of any one individual vote, especially in those states where the electoral college vote is allocated on the "winner takes all" basis which the vast majority of the states use. Whoever "wins" God still rules over the affairs of mankind and part of His judgement on a wicked secular materialistic nation wrapped up in its own hubris will be to give that nation the rulers such a nation thinks it wants and let us as a nation bear the consequence thereof.
Current Reading: "We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostles' Creed"; Michael Horton; (Word Publishing, 1998). Good stuff so far. I would encourage you to read it if you have not already.
This video was taken from the Copper River Bluffs near Glennallen Alaska. The Wrangell Mountain range is about 28 miles away from wheere I was standing. For a sense of perspective, Mt. Wrangell reaches a height of 2.4 miles.
For some time I’ve been meaning to sit down and write about my grand-daughter. She was our first grandchild. When we heard some 16 years ago that we had a grand-daughter we were excited. We looked forward expectantly to the Grandparents role with all the assumptions of normalcy; a grand-daughter who I could bounce on my knee, we could buy fancy dolls for, who we would read stories to and all the normal things a Grandfather does with a Grand-daughter.
But our Grand-daughter was not normal. Our daughter, her mother, noticed it when our first grandson came along. He developed differently than his older sister. She was obviously not where she should be in terms of “normal” development. And so we entered the world of autism. Our expectations of “normalcy” in relation to our grand-daughter were shattered. I have grieved and still to some degree grieve what could have been but was not.
We always hear of the "success stories"; the autistic children that respond well to this therapy or that therapy or some "miracle program" and we are happy for them. But as our grand-daughter grew older, hope for "the miracle" has faded considerably. I don't totally rule out a miracle, but neither do I hold my breath waiting and hoping for one.
We observed the strain her autism has been on our daughter’s family as well as ourselves. Her sibling brother at an early age sensed and felt the anxiety and uncertainty autism brought into his family. He too shared the emotional burden and psychological strain. We often were there to provide much needed respite time for her mother. There were some very extremely difficult times, but somehow by the mercy and grace of God we as an extended family pulled through.
Yes I do love her; autism and all. She is very very special. I think she knows I love her, and in her own way has expressed her love for me. If she was on the verbal end of the autism spectrum perhaps it would have been a little easier, but she is on the non-verbal part of the autism spectrum, and though there has been speech therapy and other things, she remains non-verbal. I have never heard her say, “I love you Grandpa…” She has expressed love to me in other ways and for that I am thankful, but I still feel a loss.
I don’t know why this happened. It just is, and despite all, she was created in God’s image and as such, her life has meaning, purpose and value in and of herself as a being created in the image of God. I pray for her just as much as I pray for her two younger “normal” brothers. My hope is that in the resurrection when all things are restored to the fullness of what they were meant to be, that I will finally hear those words I have so longed to hear…
“I love you Grandpa…”
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
~ Jeremiah 17:5-8
We had been driving all day, a good 8 hours from our home in Michigan, and we still had a few hours to go to get to our overnight in Springfield, Missouri. We were taking I-255 to go around the south side of St. Louis. As we passed by on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, there low on the horizon was the St. Louis skyline with the famous St. Louis Arch; way off in the distance across the Mississippi River in Missouri. Though St. Louis beckoned, we could not stop. We hurried on; the road ever beckoning. I had "miles to go before I sleep".
It goes without saying that Western culture continues its slide into moral chaos and darkness. Here in the United States we debate and get all in a frenzy about who gets to use what public bathroom. It is obvious that at many different levels in American culture, Christianity has been minimized and marginalized. There simply is no "moral majority" as it was once defined back in the early 1980's. We see that specifically in the course of our national politics during this current Presidential election year.
The time will soon come and is already knocking at the door when American culture's growing animus and hostility towards Christian faith will flush away the remains and residue of any easy pop "Christianity", and we will find out that to be a Christian and to be faithful to the Gospel is going to cost us those privileges we once thought inviolable. Are you ready to continue giving financially to your church even when you can no longer declare that giving as a charitable deduction on your Federal income tax return? Or what will you do when your church and ministry buildings become subject to local property tax assessments? Those question are just the tip of the iceberg when outright scorn and ridicule and persecution of Christian faith becomes an entrenched part of public policy.
My concern is that amidst the ever growing signs of the approaching whirlwind of God's judgement on a godless secular materialistic narcissistic culture, the church, and the broader evangelical church in particular, will still be caught up in a "we can fix it" mentality where we desperately seek the right incantations to speak and the right rituals to perform that will somehow twist God's arm to the point where He will be forced to take up our "cause".
News flash: God only has one overarching cause, and that one cause is His own glory period. Everything else is subsidiary to His glory.
Our problem in the broader church at large is we have not been brought to the point of utter desperation where all our confidence in our fancy programs and latest evangelical fads and ideas have been stripped away and we are flat on our back with nowhere else to look but up. God will not allow us to claim any glory that rightfully is His alone. We can not make "revival". Revival is the work of the almighty free and sovereign God; the free and sovereign moving of the Holy Spirit working through the proclaimed word of God in the hearts and minds of lost and desperately needy sinners.
We desperately need an outpouring and movement of the Holy Spirit in our own lives, in the lives of our local congregations and our wider local communities, in the church at large, and in an increasingly viciously wicked culture. We can not bring that about by anything of our own saying or doing. It will only happen as a free and sovereign work and moving of God for His own glory. We are left to pleading and begging and desperately crying out that God in sovereign merciful grace for His own glory would grant that outpouring and movement of His Spirit. And in the meantime, revival or not, persecution and distress notwithstanding, we are to remain a faithful remnant; faithful to the Gospel once delivered to the saints.
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
~ Isaiah 64:1-2
Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!
As much as I would rather not, I find I need to say a little something about the recent issues/scandal at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE). The Christianity Today story regarding the Donn Ketcham affair can be found here. As well the ABWE statement regarding this long festering sad tragedy can be found here.
A number of years ago I had providential occasion to see the effect of this sordid affair on one of Donn Ketcham's children. The scars this adult son was carrying were obvious and clearly deeply felt even though at the time I did not know the source of that pain in his life. I also have an acquaintance who was an ABWE MK, and whose family was serving in Bangladesh at the time Ketcham was there engaging in his wicked acts. It is clear that very serious errors in judgement were made by a number of ABWE leaders at several high levels that resulted in justice and righteousness being denied. That said I affirm my personal confidence in the spiritual integrity and honesty of the individual ABWE missionaries around the world that our church currently supports. May God give much grace, mercy and healing to the victims of this obviously evil man who now has had to more fully answer to Christ's church for his wicked actions.
I get angry when I see a church or organization use the "tell it not in Gath" excuse to cover up serious, even criminal wrong doing, or attempt to generalize or minimize such a scandal instead of facilitating fuller public disclosure that would shed light on how deep the actual failure of a particular person, usually a pastor or other "respected" leader was. Inevitably in those cases the victim is victimized again and justice and righteousness is not realized. The result is, as it has been in the ABWE-Ketcham case, the gospel and the work of the gospel is harmed by an even worse scandal.
" Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!"
~ Matthew 18:4-7
"Now, if it is by the sign of the cross and by the faith that is in Christ that death is trampled down, then, if judging by truth,it is none other than Christ himself who shows the trophies and victories against death and renders it fully weakened. And if formerly death was strong, and therefore fearsome, but is now despised, after the sojourn of the Savior and after the death and resurrection of his body, clearly it is by him, the Christ who was raised upon the cross, that death has been destroyed and conquered."
Athanasius, "On the Incarnation", (translated by John Behr)
(Excerpt from a recent lesson I presented to our adult Sunday school classes at my church.)
The Protection of the People of God from the full fury that is coming - Isaiah 26:20-21
Isaiah 26:20: “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.” (ESV)
To the Israelite living in Isaiah's time these words would evoke Passover imagery: The angel of death passing over the houses marked by the blood of the Passover lamb. Those first born who were in the houses with the Passover lamb's blood on the doorposts would be spared. Those who were outside of the marked houses would die.
This imagery reflected in Revelation 18:4-5 – Judgment on “Babylon”:
“Come out of her, my people,lest you take part in her sins,lest you share in her plagues;for her sins are heaped high as heaven,and God has remembered her iniquities."
What is this “fury”?
Isaiah 26:21: “For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.”
The main point of this is not about wondering or arguing if Christians will be preserved "from" the great tribulation or if they will be preserved "through" the great tribulation. It is not about if we hold a pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation view of the end times. It is about what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:1:
“There is therefore now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
True Christian believers, those who are "in Christ Jesus", are NOT nor ever will be under the WRATH of God period! They may suffer tribulation and distress and even death itself. They may experience the loving discipline their heavenly Father exercises toward His wayward children. They may face persecution even unto death for the sake of the name of Christ. But be very sure of this, they will NEVER be recipients of the wrath of God; that wrath they deserved was put on Jesus’ head at the cross, and those who are in Him are forgiven and declared righteous for His sake.
(The complete outline and notes for this lesson are available here.)
"We are not left alone in this frightful world. Into this alien land God has come to us."
Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline; (as quoted by Stanley Hauerwas,With The Grain of the Universe)
So as the Donkey & Elephant Circus leaves town today, the Rube is left contemplating the massive transmission failure that left him in the dust of Brutus Buckeye and the Texas Cactus.
On the other side Maleficent remains stunned by the totally unexpected upstaging of her easy pickings by the Magical Mr. Magoo.
Meanwhile the circus clown, masquerading as the Wizard of Oz, goes merrily on his way having once again deftly maneuvered the smoke and mirrors to avoid detection as the man behind the curtain.
We hope you enjoyed the show. Thank you for coming.
"Homage to Catalonia", George Orwell
“The bloodlust in revolutionary civil wars stems from the apocalyptic nature of such contests, the attempts on each side to create a new society and cultural order, not merely a different political system, totally purged of antagonistic elements. In these conflicts the enemy is perceived not as an ordinary political rival, but as a kind of metaphysical incarnation of evil that must be eradicated before it infects, or imposes the same terror on, one’s own side. A revolutionary civil war is not an ordinary political contest, but a contest of ultimates about society, religion, and culture, perceived to demand a total and uncompromising solution.”
~ Stanley G. Payne, “The Spanish Civil War” (Cambridge University Press, 2012) pg. 103
After my retirement in December 2013, I became involved in a Tuesday morning men's Bible Study at my church; West Cannon Baptist Church in Belmont, Michigan. The Bible study was going through the Epistle of Romans and using Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ detailed multi-volume exposition as the main reference.
Starting in early 2015, I was asked to share teaching responsibilities for the Bible Study in conjunction with my friend Bob who up to this time had been the only teacher. We worked it out that Bob would take a section of the Romans passage we were on, and then I would take the next section of verses.
What I am making available in this Google Drive folder is my notes for those studies I was responsible for. I have not done any editing to put these in more of a publishable or academic style form, but make them available “as is”. See link below.
From time to time in the universe of Internet one may come across some comment or discussion of the possibility or probability of a second American civil war. For some, such comments come from a perspective holding to a romanticized "lost cause" view of the first American Civil War of the 1860's; a view that engages in the vain yearning or perhaps more accurately the vain conceit that the "South" will somehow "rise again..."
For some time now, I have viewed such romantic conceit as totally out of touch with the reality of modern warfare and the changing face of what modern civil war has become. My classic case in point for that assertion is the Spanish Civil War of the mid-1930's. I recently started reading Stanley G. Payne's account of the Spanish Civil War published in 2012 by Cambridge as part of their Cambridge Essential Histories series. The following is an extended quote from Payne's introduction on pages 1-4 in which he deals with how the nature of civil war changed in the 20th century.
"By 1918, civil war had broken out in Finland and Russia, and it was not the traditional kind of civil war in which two contestants engage in a power struggle with equivalent goals and similar values, but a new kind of revolutionary civil war of the sort first essayed in France during the 1790's and in 1871. In the new civil wars, sharply contrasting revolutionary and counterrevolutionary programs vied for power, aiming not merely at political domination, but at imposing totally contrasting programs in society, economics, culture, and even religion--two completely antagonistic ways of life, virtually two different civilizations. These civil conflicts were fought with unprecedented bitterness and violence, extending far beyond the field of battle. Red terror and its counterrevolutionary counterpart during the Russian civil war sought not merely to conquer, but to some extent to eradicate the opposition completely, rooting out antagonists physically as well as politically, as though they represented contending religious or metaphysical principles, forces of absolute good or evil that had not merely to be conquered but completely extirpated. The result was unprecedented political violence in many different parts of the former Tsarist empire, while violent internal conflict also broke out in central and southern Europe..."
"...In this perspective, civil war in Spain was not a complete anomaly, but rather the only massive internal conflict to break out in Western Europe during the 1930's. It would reflect all the tensions, hatreds and ideologies found in these other conflicts, while adding further features of its own, characteristic of Spain and to some extent Europe as a whole during the decade before World War II."
Simply put, a modern civil war in the United States would not look much at all like the Civil War of the 1860's. Further more, we have very ample reason to believe that a modern civil war in the United States would very likely make the first Civil War look like a Sunday school picnic by comparison in terms of the level of violence and terror from both sides of the conflict. Also a modern civil war in America would very likely involve two antagonists of whom both would be repugnant and despicable, but in their extremism, there will be no allowance for any middle ground or moderation. In the Spanish Civil War there was nothing to like in either the Franco party on the one hand or the so called Republicans on the other. Both sides had repudiated the democratic process and both sides engaged in their share of violence and terror.
There may very well come a time in the future when the United States falls again into the scourge of another civil war, but if it does, it will have little or nothing to do with the "South rising again..."
For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God (tou θeoῦ Λὀγoς) comes into our realm, although He was not formerly distant. For no part of creation is left void of Him; while abiding with His own Father, He has filled all things in every place. But now He comes, condescending towards us in His love for human beings and His manifestation. For seeing the rational race perishing, and death reigning over them through corruption, and seeingf also the threat of the transgression giving firm hold to the corruption that was upon us, and that it was absurd for the law to be dissolved before being fulfilled, and seeing the impropriety in what had happened, that the very thing of which He Himself was the Creator were disappearing, and seeing the excessive wickedness of human beings, that they gradually increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves, and seeing the liability of all human beings to death--having mercy upon our race, and having pity upon our weakness, and condescending to our corruption, and not enduring the dominion of death, least what had been created should perish and the work of the Father Himself for human beings should be in vain,He takes for Himself a body and that not foreign to our own.
For He did not wish simply to be in a body, nor did He wish merely to appear, for if He had wished only to appear He could have made His divine manifestation through some other better means. But He takes that which is ours, and that not simply, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, ignorant of man, pure and unmixed with intercourse with men. Although being Himself powerful and the creator of the universe, He prepared for Himself in the Virgin the body as a temple, and made it His own, as an instrument, making Himself known and dwelling in it. And thus taking from ours that which is like, since all were liable to the corruption of death, delivering it over to death on behalf of all, He offered it to the Father, doing this in His love for human beings, so that, on the one hand, with all dying in Him the law concerning corruption in human beings might be undone (its power being fully expended in the lordly body and no longer having any ground against similar human beings), and on the other hand, that as human beings ha d turned towards corruption He might turn them again to incorruptibility and give them life from death, by making the body His own and by the grace of the resurrection banishing death from them as straw from the fire.
St.Athanasius, "On the Incarnation" , (Translation by John Behr)