Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Short Hiatus

I will be away and out of the Area of Operations (AO) for a couple of weeks due to much needed Rest & Recovery (R&R). (Recuperation? Restoration? Renewal? Rehabilitation? One of those "R" words, anyway!)

In my absence, which unfortunately for you will probably be accompanied by a total void of new posts or updates -- No posts for YOU! -- may I humbly suggest sampling my Blogroll, and in particular I recommend:

Mudville Gazette: Greyhawk and Mrs. Greyhawk, to whom all MILBLOGGERS owe a tremendous debvt of gratitude, do a fantastic job. Link to other MILBLOGGERS, or check out Mrs. Greyhawk's Dawn Patrol, that daily samples the best the MILBLOGGERS have to offer!

Blogotional: John does an excellent job sampling the current dialogs within the Christian Community, and he tracks the goings on of our deployed Military, too!

Winds of Change: John Roggio of The Fourth Rail joined recently, which adds to an already impressive cast of contributors. Like Chrenkoff, excellent source of news from Iraq and other points of tension.

Chrenkoff: Arthur is, of course, the best source of Good News in the battlespaces of Global War on Terror.

Ragged Edges: Ella's Dad posts some great work on various Christian, cultural, and political issues of the day. He also designed the new look, which I very much appreciate!

Lileks: James Lileks and His Bleat, Screedblog, and amusing etcetera, as always, the best writer on the web.

Enjoy, see you in sometime in July!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A New Dadmanly!

There's a new Dadmanly!

My friend and fellow Christian blogger Ella's Dad of Ragged Edges offered to create a masthead and new design look for me. I am delighted I took him up on his very kind offer. For regular visitors, don't you think?!

For those who have not yet met him online, I might suggest by way of introduction Ella's Dad's excellent two part True Lies posts here and here.

And if you have a chance, drop him a comment and let him know what you think!

Christian Carnival is Up!

This week's Christian Carnival has been posted at In the Spirit of Grace.

Both Gladmanly and Dadmanly have posts entered in the Carnival this week.

A Call to Obedience reminds us that when we hear the word of God and don’t respond with Obedience, we are as the children of Israel. We consume that which does not satisfy, and seek after gain that does not enrich.

Mrs. Dadmanly shares her own series of "growth experiences" for readers who read Dadmanly's accounts of the tragedy we experienced.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A Call to Obedience

(Via Evangelical Outpost)

David Mobley, posting at A Physicist's Perspective, presents a brief but important post expanding on Psalm 119:33-34, "Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law, and obey it with my whole heart."

Mobley concludes:
As I study God's word, read theology, and read various books, this is something I have to constantly remind myself: It's not enough to understand the truth as it's revealed in God's Word, or even to be able to debate about it. It will do me no good unless I really believe it and then put it into practice. A true understanding of God's Word will always affect my life. If I grow in "knowledge" but not in obedience, it will only increase my guilt.

So let's apply our minds to understanding, but not for the sake of understanding alone, or for the sake of pride. Let's apply our minds to understanding God's Word so that we may believe and obey it.
I was very taken with Mobley's challenge. I find myself struggling more with what charge (order, instruction) might be placed upon me in God's word, more than how I am to understand.

I happened to dig through some notes for future posts, and came upon some brief notes on Isaiah 55, which I herewith expand.

His Call and Covenant - Isaiah 55:1-5
1 "Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
2Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
3Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you--
The sure mercies of David.
4Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people,
A leader and commander for the people.
5Surely you shall call a nation you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you,
Because of the LORD your God,
And the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you."
When we hear the word of God and don’t respond with Obedience, we are as the children of Israel. We consume that which does not satisfy, and seek after gain that does not enrich. We muster up the wrong resources, we follow wrong desires, we apply our attentions to the wrong goals. What God offers comes at a price, but the coin of His realm is not an Earthly lucre. It is our mind and heart set in rightful attentiveness.

He points us in the right direction. He gives us all the tools we need. He sends us other caring people and creative circumstances to gain our attention and win our allegiance. From the beginning of the world, He has set his creativity in motion, and as He reveals His wisdom, He continually reinforces His eternal nature.

And yet, we hesitate, we stall. Too often, we avert our gaze. In the very moment of our greatest desire to respond, we allow ourselves to be diverted. We may even publicly dedicate ourselves to pursuit of Him and His purposes, but somehow we sidestep on the path He so clearly sets before us.

Do we not yearn for that which truly satisfies? Then why do we resist Him so? Does not our soul desire to delight itself in abundance? So why do we walk away with treasures left unclaimed?

God promised great things to His people. His covenant promises are eternal, He is everpresent in our time and need and worry. He set in motion a legacy in David that was fulfilled in the person of the Christ. His witness is all around us, throughout time and space, and yet we are reluctant. Do we hesitate because His promise is more than we can bear? Do we allow our shame to slam us down as unworthy of His promise, or do we still not trust that what He has to offer will really be what we want?
6Seek the LORD while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
9"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
God doesn't even ask for us to understand Him or His ways -- He knows full well how impossible that would be. No, it is us in our hubris (an elemental character of our humanity I think), who overmuch first seek understanding. Yet God in His word says, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you."

We are to attend to Him, call upon Him and seek His will. Don't expect to understand all that is in His intent, nor can we expect to even see the endstate of our obedience. He has a greater glory, a promise to fulfill that goes beyond our ability to imagine or our capacity to divine. It is His promise, in His time, through His purposes, with His instruments, according to His will. How pitiably often we miss the movement of His spirit as we attend to our questions and concerns.
10"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
12"For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the LORD for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
And what a set of promises He makes!

As reliable as the change in seasons, as certain as new growth, as steady as His creation are His words of encouragement to us. Joy and peace may be ours. The very mountains and the hills will break forth in singing as He join Him at work around us.

In obedience to Him and His words, we shall be part of that fruit, that substance with which His words return to Him. Like the fruit that follows the leaves which follows the sprout which follows the seed. He has set His purpose in motion, that we might see, belief, and obey.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Christian Carnival is Up!

This week's Christian Carnival has been posted at Daddypundit.

Both Gladmanly and Dadmanly have posts entered in the Carnival this week.

In Paul's Apostleship I reflect on Romans 1:1-7 and how it relates to recent events while serving in Iraq.

I also share my struggles with despair and sadness and how God used them to set up a divine appointment for me in a post entitled It is Well With My Soul.

And lots of other good posts at the carnival, including more from Ella's Dad at Ragged Edges, A Physicist's Perspective with important thoughts on Psalms 119, and Mark Olson at Pseuso-Polymath, who poses an important ethical query that could use some answers.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Christian Carnival LXXIII is Up!

Christian Carnival LXXIII is up at Reformed Politics. Gladmanly has a post featured, but there is much more at the Carnival to enjoy as well!

Paul's Apostleship

By way of confirming my safety and well-being, and to give God the glory, I thought I would share what I just finishing writing when our communications with the outside world came back.

(The Division my Battalion belongs to lost two Soldiers yesterday in a rocket attack. Commanders in Iraq impose phone and internet communications blackouts when there are casualties at a base. All of us in our Battalion are fine, nor were we in any danger during the attack.)

Please pray for the health and well-being of Division Soldiers, for peace and comfort for the grieving survivors of these men, and for direction for me and the other leaders to model appropriate grief, while at the same time offer encouragement. Such a meaningful word, as I think on it. En-courage. To create or establish or generate courage, which after all is really a confidence of purpose.

Many of you will remember my previously frequent reflections on Proverbs with a friend. He and I desire to resume this practice, and I wanted to share my first effort. I think God can use these tragic events in our lives to remind us of His abiding love, and the strength that only He can provide. I decided to start in Paul's letter to the Roman fellowship.

To start right in, (forgive any errors, I didn’t have my handy “Bible Gateway” online tonight, so it was the old manual keystroke method for me).

Romans 1:1-7 (New King James)
1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I find Paul’s declaratives fascinating in this introduction to Romans. What he says about Jesus, what he says about himself, and what he says about his Roman brothers in Christ.

Paul describes himself first and foremost as a servant of Jesus. He serves Jesus, and he cannot mean by this that he was a servant of Jesus when he walked the earth, because of course Paul doesn’t have his Damascus Road experience until after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return to the Father. No, he means that he serves Jesus as he continues his earthly ministry. He doesn’t just follow Jesus, he doesn’t “work” for Jesus, he is a servant of Jesus. He is captive to Jesus, he is under bond.

He then declares that he has been called to be an apostle, and in calling himself both servant and apostle in two short phrases says something essential about both. To be an apostle is to be a servant.

He goes one step further, by then asserting that he has been separated to the “gospel of God,” a gospel which he instructs God has promised before through His prophets in scripture. God’s good news or gospel is the fulfillment of an ancient set of promises, promises of covenant, fulfilled for all time in the person of the Messiah. And Paul rightly finds himself not just accepting the fulfillment of these promises, not just observing them, but in some fundamental way separated to this gospel of fulfilled covenant. Paul is only starting to scratch the surface here in Romans, but separated for this gospel he shall surely be, until his death and the individual satisfaction of God’s promise to believers.

Jesus Christ is his Lord, He is the Lord of the Roman believers to whom Paul writes. Paul recounts the pedigree of Jesus, in demonstration of the manner in which God fulfills His promise. Jesus, of the seed of David in a fleshly sense, is nevertheless declared divine by the Spirit of holiness. Paul is describing the manner in which God sent His Holy Spirit to anoint Jesus in His ministry, and fulfilled His divine purpose with His resurrection of the dead.

This is the gospel that binds Paul resolutely to the Romans, why he remains committed to their progress and united with them in common purpose. And it is the power of this gospel, of the salvation we are offered through belief and acceptance of this gospel of the risen Christ, that Paul reinforces as the tie that binds. They are all the servants of Jesus.

Paul and his Roman fellow-believers have received grace and apostleship, but it came at the price of obedience. One can’t help but reflect on the costs this will incur for these and their fellow believers. Certainly in Rome, where persecution and carnage awaits not far off, but also throughout the ancient world, as Paul says, “among all nations for His name.” This indeed will be a heavy price to pay, but that is the price and promise of obedience for all those who are called of Jesus Christ.

This is a very sober reminder. Our travails are trivial in comparison to what was asked of believers in Paul’s days. Especially in Rome, at the very heart of the still powerful Roman Empire.

Paul concludes his introduction by describing those who have been called to be saints as beloved by God. He also wishes them grace and peace from both the Father and the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I can imagine how this might have seemed as Paul’s Roman friends read these greetings. Certainly they must have fully accepted His apostleship, else how outrageous would be his presumption to extend greetings as it were from God and Jesus. I’m struck also by how readily and without further explanation Paul can refer to two of the triune persons of God. Would the Romans at this time fully understand or at least accept this mystery? If not, Paul shows no fears for their comprehension. For the Romans, no less for believers today, this totality of the gospel and the mystery of the trinity is an essential feature of God’s character. Jesus is the embodiment of the promise God extended, first by means of the Law to the Jews, and subsequently to all mankind through the atoning sacrifice that Jesus fulfilled once for all.

And I ponder what must have been the atmosphere and tenor of these times in Rome. For it was Rome, not Jerusalem, that was the center of the known Universe in the ancient world. The center of power. The seat of civilization. The sum and total of both the higher aspirations and the utter depravity of humanity. The rock upon which the Christian Church would grow, against all odds, and form the cornerstone of faith for the modern world. And a city and society that Paul determined to conquer, if necessary one believer at a time.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Mountain of the Lord

It is impossible not to be sensible that we are acting for all mankind; that circumstances denied to others, but indulged to us, have imposed on us the duty of proving what is the degree of freedom and self-government in which a society may venture to leave its individual members. (Quote from Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Priestly, 1802, as printed in The Great Experiment by Os Guinness.)
We are acting for all mankind. We have a duty to prove how much freedom and self-government a society may give its citizens. This is not a chance provided to just any nation, but to the one only that has been so indulged by circumstances, greatly providential and beneficial circumstances.

I have meant to spend time with Isaiah, the great prophet from the Old Testament, who by the many revelations he received from the Lord, was greatly indulged himself by God. I came across this passage early in Isaiah Chapter 2:
2Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the LORD's house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.

3Many people shall come and say,
"Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths."
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.
You may read this as a literal Mountain, or as a description of a Holy Temple. Metaphorically, it’s clear that the Lord’s House in this day of prophesy will stand pre-eminent, and with power it is established visibly to the Nations. Teaching of the Word, instruction in the Law will be sought out. Surely this describes a time near the end, when God’s Law is spread throughout the world, and all nations begin to turn towards His authority, under His judgment.

Unlike any time we live on now, Peace will reign. Judgment will be executed, but not in anger nor with the violence of war. Their implements of war and destruction will be redirected and made new in renewal and regeneration. “Neither shall they learn war anymore.”

But without diminishing at all the rightful intent of this scripture, I was struck by a different image, perhaps one not quite so far off from today.

Could this not also describe Freedom and Democracy, as they unleash their power in this world so long consumed by religious hatreds and violence of oppression?

Now, I know that The Kingdom of God is no kingdom of this earth, not in a political or strictly administrative sense. But it need not be seen as that perfect state of the world following Jesus’ second coming, either.

As reported by Mark, Jesus began His earthly ministry in Galilee saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Jesus also predicted that this Kingdom would grow from a tiny mustard seed to full grown tree. (Mark 4:30-32)

It has always seemed to me that passages like these in Mark and elsewhere strongly suggest that the Kingdom of God began on Earth with Jesus, and has grown ever since. In Mark, Jesus also likens the Kingdom to how a man scatters seed on the ground, and once spread, God’s creation takes care of itself in miraculous growth.

In Mark 9:1, Jesus goes so far as to promise that some of His disciples would not “taste death” until they “see the Kingdom of God present with power.” And again later in Mark 14:25, Jesus states that He will no longer drink wine, “until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus’ earthly ministry, His death on the cross, by grace the witness and testament of the disciples, all set in motion under God’s hand and providence a movement of His purpose on the Earth that continues to this day.

America’s Founders, raised as first fruits of Puritan faithfulness, but nurtured in this New World of energy and possibility, took God’s word seriously, and saw a momentous turn in human events that allowed for the sudden possibility of Liberty and Freedom.

As a country, we have spread what I believe was a divinely inspired commitment to making a go of this new thing, this Great Experiment in Faith and Freedom. I don’t think it’s an accident of history that America has been the Last Best Hope of Earth to those of the generations of Lincoln, FDR and Churchill, and again today in our Global War on Terror.

I do not think the U.S. has all the answers, I know we make mistakes, and I believe we need to recommit ourselves to traditional values and rediscover our history. But we still embrace the legacy of our birth as we try to plant seeds for others!

We had a Prayer Breakfast that included a kind of Memorial Day service, and at that time the band played as we sang America the Beautiful, by Katharine Lee Bates. I meditated on the lyrics, here are a portion, courtesy of Scout Songs:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!
I am somewhat ashamed to admit, that when I was growing up, I found patriotic songs and patriotism itself embarrassing, or even ridiculous. Recent revelations have reawakened some memories of those times, but among our chief regrets as a nation might be that we cheapened and devalued our own legacy of Freedom.

This began with a government blinded by ambition, led by a man beset by weaknesses all too human, but all too dangerous given free expression in political action. Fueled by sycophants and wayward ideologues, this led to an abasement of authority so severe, that many in our educated elites still can’t overcome the cynical prejudices today that this history creates.

But we may yet choose to walk in His paths, to harken back to Isaiah, and dust off the legacy of our history and reclaim the mantel of our destiny:
We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people – the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. God has predestined, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls. The rest of the nations must soon be in our rear. We are the pioneers of the world; the advance guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the New World that is ours. (Quote from Herman Melville, White-Jacket, 1849, as contained in The Great Experiment by Os Guinness.)

Friday, June 03, 2005

Hebrews 6 and The Assurance of Salvation

David Wayne at JollyBlogger begins a much anticipated series on Hebrews 6 and the Assurance of Salvation.

This series stems from extended debate among some within the Christian Blogging community about the basic question: Can a believer "lose his salvation?"

David Wayne starts from the premise of, "No," but in response to a blog challenge, prepared a sermon on Hebrews 6 that yielded the series he begins here.

His opening theme is an excellent start, that even if you don't think a believer can lose their salvation, this passage isn't intended as letting us "off the hook":
People will often read this passage and go to great lengths to show that it doesn’t mean you can lose your salvation, which it doesn’t, and the effect is to make the readers or hearers wipe the sweat from their brows and say “whew, glad that doesn’t apply to me.” When many people read this passage what they want to hear is that they are in no danger of losing their salvation, so that is all they hear. As I mentioned, they focus on what it doesn't say, and never get around to what it does say.

But I have to tell you that this was not the intention of the original writer. When the original writer put this passage in the letter of Hebrews he wanted his readers to be sweating, not wiping the sweat away from their brows and saying “whew, glad that doesn’t apply to me.”
Because, as Wayne observes at the conclusion of Part 1:
This is a warning passage of Scripture. Warning passages are there for the purpose of calling you to stop and re-examine yourself, not just to skip over lightly assuming it doesn’t apply to you.

II Timothy 3:16-17 says:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

That includes this passage of Scripture. We dare not read it and go through some kind of mental or exegetical gymnastics which cause us to say “oh, that doesn’t apply to me.” We need to read it with the sense that yes it does apply to me, and to ask how it applies.
I very much look forward to the rest of his series.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Christian Carnival is Up!

The Christian Carnival is up at A Physicist's Perspective.

We have a post again this week, but there are lots of other treasures there as well!