Sunday, January 27, 2013

City On a Hill

Sorry to post two songs right in a row...but this one is so good. I had to share it :)

It's a needed reminder to the Church body today. We have to stand strong together and not let our differences divide us. . . .

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pretty much :)

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes." 



This is a cover of the famous song, "Hallelujah".....with Biblical lyrics written by Marvin Olasky. 

This song now beautifully tells the story of redemption.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Chance At Life.

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade.

They say that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. . .

     Between the years of 1939 and 1945, Adolf Hitler caused the death of over 6 million Jews. They were murdered, starved, beaten, and worked to death simply because they had the "wrong" kind of blood in their veins. They were slaughtered because Hitler (and, therefore, the German people) considered them inferior to the Aryan race. Hitler believed in utilitarian ethics: that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome ----Or in other words, he believed that the end justifies the means; that whatever benefits the majority is a good thing. In the name of greater good, he not only killed Jews (who he considered a menace to society, and a threat to the "pure" blooded race), but he also eliminated old people, young children, and people with deformities or problems----people who weren't quite "normal", or who weren't profitable to the strong, healthy majority. To Hitler, life was not sacred. 

     Between the years of 1970 and 2013 over 50 million babies have been murdered in the United States. That's over 1 million babies killed every year. Over 3,000 babies killed every day. They are poisoned, crushed, pulled, and broken simply because they aren't wanted. Because they are an inconvenience. We seem to believe that it is a benefit to the majority of strong, healthy people to get rid of the unwanted children, and, by doing so, to try to erase their parents's mistakes. In the name of women's choice, we decide that those children will never see the light of day; we decide that every child should be a "wanted child," and we decide that the ones who are not quite "normal" should not even be allowed a chance to live. It seems that to us. . . life is not sacred. 

       Ronald Reagan once said, "I notice that all of the people who support abortion are already born." Abortion - they call it a woman's right to choose; but what about that baby's right to life? Isn't that one of those unalienable rights? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. . . The right to live. It's the most fundamental and undeniable right of all. 

But those millions and millions of little children were never even given a chance at that right. 

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you." Jeremiah 1:5
       All of the many, many people who support abortion - they should all be very thankful that their own mothers did not advocate the murder of unborn infants. 
       All of us here on earth have gotten a chance to live. Some of us have wasted it miserably, but that doesn't mean that we didn't get a fair shot. And, yet, people take that immense blessing for granted. Those women fight for their own lives with all they've got, but they terminate little sparks of life that are growing inside of them, because a child would be inconvenient, or uncomfortable. Or painful. A culture where the mothers kill their own children is decidedly a culture of death.

       And, well, what are we doing to stop this carnage? Apathy is almost worse that siding with evil. It's less dangerous to sit back, mildly, and watch while incredible evils go on right in front of us; right down the street, behind darkened doors. But we know what is happening.

So why don't we act? "Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17) 

        We must pray. We must repent of our lethargy. We must stand up and speak out against the evil. We must choose this day whom we will serve.

        Ours is a culture of darkness. But Christ's followers are supposed to be the light of the world. We are supposed to let our light shine before men, so that, because of what they see in us, they will glorify our Father.

        "The night is nearly over, "Romans 13:12 says. "The day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."


The Island of the World

"We are born, we eat, and learn, and die. We leave a tracery of messages in the lives of others, a little shifting of the soil, a stone moves from here to there, a word uttered, a song, a poem left behind. I was here, each of these declare. I was here."

-Michael O'Brien, The Island of the World

Friday, January 18, 2013

Christmas Party

I meant to post this a while back....but better late than never, I suppose :)

Last weekend, my friend and I had a party to celebrate our birthdays. . . .which both happen to be on the same day, of the same year, exactly one hour apart :)

We decked the room out......
...with tinsel....

...and lights...

...and a Christmas tree...

...and a hot chocolate bar...(which nobody really wanted, because it ended up being so warm outside that day :D)

First off, we played musical chairs. 

It started out calmly...

But that soon changed.

We even had a couple small wrestling matches....:)

AND we have a winner :)

Then, we had a White Elephant gift exchange: 

That was quite entertaining :)

Then, we had a dance:

Toward the end, we had pretty much the longest Virginia Reel ever :P 

All in all, it was such a great party!

Both of us birthday girls had a wonderful time. And I am quite sure that we both agree that it was one of the best birthdays EVER :)


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Our Heroes

There's been a rather pronounced trend in our media lately. 

I'm sure you've noticed it. . . 

       Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that superhero movies are "bad" or anything like that. (I'm quite sure I'd be run right out of town if I made that claim :D). At the moment, I'm just observing that there's been a whole LOT of them made, and promoted like crazy. Especially recently. And I don't think that it's been an accident. 

       People have always had an admiration for heroes. Even back in the earliest recorded stories of all time, we have tales of brave men rescuing fair maidens in distress, killing the bad guy, getting the reward. Well, in our culture, where real men are becoming as scarce as...well, about as scarce as snowstorms in South Carolina....what do you expect? In our desperate lack of real heroes, we are groping for any remnant of courage that we can get our fingers on. An underdog, or a geek, or the shrimpy dude amazingly transforms himself into the biggest, strongest, smoothest, most attractive, most courageous, richest guy around, and we embrace that, because I think our culture is wishing that is what real life would look like. We are starved for true heroism, and so we stuff ourselves with what looks, to us, like real bravery, in the form of the superheroes.

I think it's perfectly alright to watch superhero movies.

      But, if we, as a culture, start putting more faith in that sort of heroism, instead of the True sort of Heroism. . . .quite honestly, that's not going to cut it.

      People have shunned our Savior from society, and, so, in our desperate need for some sort of hero, they are half-consciously waiting for Superman to show up if they ever happen to need him.

       It's more comfortable for people to put their confidence in this sort of fantasy hero, than in God. Because if there really was a God, and if He really did create us, then He is most likely going to expect us to give an answer for ourselves someday. And that scares some people very much.

      "Superman" isn't like that. The superman cliche swoops in when he's needed, does what's wanted, looks really cool, and then heads off to help somebody else who's having trouble. He doesn't ask anything of us. We do what we want, he does what he wants, therefore everybody's happy. People like that concept. We'd rather have a "god" like that, who minds his own business; one that we don't really have to put any trust in. This type of "religion" doesn't require much thought, much effort, much faith.

       But "all heroes are shadows of Christ," John Piper once said. And whether the kids at the movie theater watching The Avengers know that, or not, it's true. Any hero that has ever been is only a pale and contrived attempt at imitating the true Hero.

     These superhero movies -- they're only a very slight symptom of the problem. There's nothing innately wrong with them. But I think the entire "superhero" notion is only one more little proof that, as a society, we are lost. It's another sign that people are searching everywhere for the answer. . . except in the one place where they would be sure to find it. Our culture stubbornly refuses to acknowledge their Savior, but deep inside of them there is an intrinsic, built-in longing that can never ever be satisfied without Him; a festering hole that only One can fill up and heal.

       They are certain that if they can only just do enough: if they lead an fantastic life, if they go visit exotic places, if they can make themselves stand out from the crowd, if they can claw their way to the top, if they can make themselves the biggest, the best, the strongest, the richest. . . . if they can do all that, then their life will have been well-lived.

       But as Elizabeth Elliot once said, "God is God...I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will."
No matter where people search...or how hard they matter what they matter who their heroes (or idols) are...if they refuse to fall to their knees at the cross, then they will never be fulfilled. In the words of C.S. Lewis "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world."

       That desire which this world cannot satisfy comes from the call of the Savior.

       That Hero - He is one who gave his life up with love. He's the one with scars in His hands. He's the one that death couldn't handle, and the One whom the grave couldn't hold.

"In the world you will have tribulation," He tells us. "But take heart; I have overcome the world."


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rebuilding That House

This is a paper I wrote for Omnibus class. We were reading Dante's Divine Comedy, and this assignment was to explore the path of sanctification. And also to contrast the views of sanctification in Dante and in the Bible.
I know it is long...and it probably gets rather boring in spots...but I decided to post it :)

The young man shivered on the cold stone floor, sleepless and frightened.
His body was covered with welts under the rough, brown monk’s habit. These were welts that he had inflicted on himself with the help of a whip. He knew that he was a great sinner, worthy of damnation. And so he beat his body and starved himself, he slept on the hard floor, or even out in the snow. He confessed his sins at least twenty times every day. All of this, he did to rid himself of his wickedness. But every single day, he would fail himself again and again. No matter how hard he tried to stop, and wanted to stop, he still sinned. He was frustrated with himself, confused, and angry. But mostly, he was terrified of the wrath of God. He knew that he was sinful and he knew that God hates sin. But he didn’t understand why all of his sanctifying was not curing him of his wickedness. How much harder could he be on himself? “What must I do?” he groaned. “What must I do to be saved?”

​ This young monk’s name was Martin Luther. During all of his spiritual turmoil and attempted self-redemption, young Luther was trying to do good, but, at the same time, he was lacking the most important thing: he was not loving God. “Love God?” he reflected later in life. “No, I hated Him!” Luther tried, in early life, to cleanse himself of his sin, but that’s not the way sanctification works. We cannot clean ourselves. The stain is too deep and dark. In John 15:5, Jesus clearly tells us that, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, but apart from me you can do nothing.” We were “dead in our sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We are unable to do anything good on our own. But this is definitely not to say that we should merely sit back and watch the show, either. We do have a major role to play in our sanctification. But it is the role of accepting our trials; it’s about what attitude we have when we meet adversity; it’s being clay in the hands of the Potter, being willing to be who ever, and whatever, He makes us. And it’s also resisting the Devil and his temptations. But we cannot do that on our own. We need Christ and that’s what makes the difference.

​ Guilt is primarily what drives us to seek redemption. And pride is often what drives us to self-redemption. We want to do it on our own. It’s so hard to admit that something is out of our hands; that we are incapable. Or, if it’s not pride, it’s often a misplaced sense of duty: that I messed something up and I have to fix it. The protagonist, Ben Thomas, in the
movie Seven Pounds is a perfect example of this sort of “sanctification”. Ben says at the beginning of the movie, “In seven days, God created the world. And in seven seconds, I shattered mine.” He was driving with his wife, and was checking an email on his phone. In that moment, he swerved and hit a van full of people. His wife, and every person in that van died. But Ben lived. Now, he cannot, will not forgive himself. So, he tries to redeem sanctify, clean himself. He wants to wash all that blood off of his hands. And so, he decides to change the circumstances of seven strangers; strangers that he believes deserve a second chance in life. By helping these people, Ben believes that he will be atoning for his sin. He thinks that his good works will somehow scrub away his mistakes, or at least cover them up.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That right there is what both Martin Luther, and Ben Thomas, and countless other men and women have missed. They know they are sinful and dirty. They want to be cleaned, but they try to clean themselves, instead of asking Christ to wash them. The first step in sanctification is confession: we have to be truly repentant; we need to desire forgiveness. As soon as we honestly confess, then Jesus forgives us and washes away our sin. This is not at all to say that we will be perfect now. No, now comes the hard part. We have to war against our sinful nature, because as soon as we let our guard down a little bit, Satan will be there, ready to enter in. Christianity is active, not passive. In contrast to the verse from 1 John, Dante in his Purgatory tells us of a level on Mount Purgatory where the ones who delayed their repentance must stay for a lifetime: “If it is true that any soul who has delayed repentance to the last must wait down there before he can ascend, the same amount of time he lived on earth (unless he’s helped by efficacious prayer) - then how has he arrived so fast up here?” (XI 127-132). This doesn’t seem Biblical. “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that there will be an intermediate place where you will be disciplined and, ultimately, sanctified. What we must do, is believe and confess, because if we have true faith, then good works will inevitably spring forth, just as a good tree inevitably grows delicious fruit.

On another note, I will quote Dante again: “But Reader when I tell you how God wills His penitents should pay their debts, do not abandon your intention to repent.” (Canto X, lines 106-108). This line implies that we will perform some sort of restitution for our sins in Purgatory, in addition to our repentance. On the contrary, I know that my Redeemer has atoned for all my sins. “Jesus paid it all,” the old hymn says. “All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.” When we say that we must atone for our sins in order to be sanctified, we are being unappreciative, as well as conceited. The Bible says that Jesus has washed our sins away. Who are we to doubt that and to take matters into our own hands? Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” We are completely taking Christ’s “single offering” for granted if we say that God requires even more compensation for our wickedness.

Sanctification. What does it mean exactly? The dictionary tells us that it means, “set apart and declare as holy; consecrate.” Hebrews 12:10 tells us that, “….he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10). That, in a nutshell, is sanctification. It’s God’s discipline to us, his consecrated and set apart people, so that we will be able to share in his holiness in Heaven. Sanctification is painful. It often means having what we love taken away, so that we love God most. It can mean being alone so we will turn to our one true Friend. It means trials and sadness and pain. We often won’t understand what God is doing. It won’t make sense to our finite minds, because, from where we are standing, we are not able to see the big picture. So our job is to trust that He has a perfect plan and He knows exactly what He’s doing. And sanctification also means spiritual maturity and closeness to our Savior and righteousness. Like toddlers, we clutch onto things that are harmful to us. And the tighter we cling, the more it will hurt when God pries our fingers open and takes those dangerous things away. The process of scrubbing the sin away is difficult, but it leads to purity and righteousness. And we need to desire that. As C.S Lewis once wisely said, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

"Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him...
And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Friday, January 4, 2013

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...

"Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign."

-Christina Rossetti

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...

"The Son of God became a man to
enable men to become the sons of God."

(Mere Christianity)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On the Eighth Day of Christmas...

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay. 
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day. 
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray. 
O, tidings of comfort and joy, 
Comfort and joy. 
O, tidings of comfort and joy. 

       Christmas Day is over. All the hustle-bustle excitement is dying down. There may be a few decorations lingering about the house, a reminder of the all the festivities. But the Christmas trees had all begun drooping weeks ago, their branches crackling and their needles falling off by the hundreds when brushed up against. So, the trees have almost all been removed. And now that corner of the room seems emptier. School and work will begin again soon. Things will be back to the way they always are. The short, miraculous moment of Christmas day is over now. The long awaited Season has come. . . and gone. Heightened expectations have been fulfilled. And now, the old reality of everyday life is setting in. Christmas carols, mistletoe, and eggnog may be giving way to shorter temper and sharper tongues. 

       A new year is beginning. It's often hard to know what to think of that, but there's nothing we can do to change the fact that it is January of 2013; a year that has never been before; a brand-new, un-lived year, like a new page of blank paper that's just waiting to be filled. You can choose to strive toward carefully filling your page with truth, and goodness. You can decide you want your page to be full of beautiful sentences, ones you are proud of. You can write down great words. Or, you can slump down and lazily scrawl out a line here and there, not taking care what goes on your page, filling it up with things you will later be ashamed of, dark blots of ink that mar the clean page, and sentences you will wish you never wrote.  But the pen on that page can't be erased, anymore than the pieces of a dandelion can be gathered up again after you've given it a good blow. 

       But this isn't to discourage you. Rather, the opposite. We have to resolve to trample those cranky tempers. And to bite those irritable tongues. Try to keep your new page clean, and try to make it beautiful. Don't waste your time this new year worrying about all the things that may go wrong, or even the things that are going wrong.  Don't fret about things that we don't have any control of, like our president, or the economy. Think smart, think ahead, make good plans, but don't worry. Just like when you are driving a car --- you keep your eyes on the road, look ahead, pay attention to what is going on around you, prepare for what might happen up ahead, but you don't spend your time stressing. You don't freak out about all the many, many things that might happen. But, what if there's a tree in the road? What if somebody swerves into my lane and hits me? What if my brakes stop working? But, what if....? What if....? If you did that, people wouldn't want to be in the car with you at all. You would only worry them too, as well as, convincing them that you were a very poor driver. And it's the same way with life. 

       "God rest you merry gentlemen", the old hymn says. "Let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray. O, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O, tidings of comfort and joy." That should be our refrain this new year. Christ, our Savior was born as a helpless, human baby into a world of dirt and sin. The ultimate paradox: our Savior stoops to becoming a Character in His own Story. Into a world of darkness and unrest and dismay, a little baby was born of a peasant girl, in a barn, visited by shepherds. Bethlehem slept as the greatest phenomenon in history took place right outside their doors. But the angels knew, and they sang.

God with us

And that truly is tidings of comfort and joy. 

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...

Just a short post to say: Happy New Year to you all!

"Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne."