Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stealing a Moment from Mr. Time

Always liked "Mr. Time" by Alan Parsons. It's off of his 1990s-era release called "Try Anything Once." But that's not actually the subject of this brief post—the second one today, which is unusual for me.

I've been doing this blog now for several years. Early on, I was quite prolific. But as time went on and personal family/job responsibilities increased, my blogging has proceeded in fits and starts. Sometimes I've been tempted to just chuck it and hang it up, but I really don't want to do that. Sometimes I just have to have a rant. ;)

Seriously, I was reading once that many writers (and yes, that includes Christian writers, pastors and teachers) often read things they wrote years ago and wince, wishing sometimes they hadn't written them. Some have even wanted to yank old books off the market because they no longer agreed with what they had written earlier. Or, even if they remained foundationally the same in philosophy, they might have expressed themselves in a more polished or careful fashion in an effort to be heard and understood by a broader audience. In other words, some might knee-jerk and reject what they had to say because they said it too baldly or bluntly. They should have softened it with velvet instead of trying to take off a layer of hide.

For myself, I can say that I'm pretty much the same person I've always been, but hopefully with age and time, more close to the Lord in my words and actions, as least as much as that is possible while living in a fallen world and clothed "in flesh." I have a lot of growing and learning yet to do.

I imagine the time will come when I will look at old posts on this blog and wish I hadn't made some of them, or perhaps had worded them differently to more carefully express the heart of the matter as I intended. But I don't believe in the Orwellian "memory hole," i.e. trying to erase all evidence of past thoughts and writings etc. I think that is cowardice.

To me, if anything, leaving this blog up will provide a small trail of history—the history of how one little man in a certain place and at a certain time thinks, looks, changes, mulls, considers, judges, reacts etc. over a lifetime. I began this blog when I was well past youth and into middle age. Today, at nearly 52, I'm not quite ancient but I'm not able to go out and run a triathlon either. A gentle trundle or occasional fast trot is about as good as it gets.

Things may look a bit different at the end of my journey than they do now. No doubt the world will have changed even if I have largely not. At the end, I trust I will keep the faith, keep the wry, dry sense of humor, keep the pointed, direct manner of communication, and hopefully - keep my wits. And that's no credit to me. All the credit, glory and honor go to Another. The One Who keeps me and has promised to complete the work He began in me so long ago.

And hopefully without having to do too much of what politicians do when they get caught up in an error or gaffe . . . having to "revise and extend my remarks."

Dr. Mohler on Chick-Fil-A

You've already seen my thoughts on this subject. In this CNN contribution, Dr. Al Mohler expresses it much better than I did.

The point cannot be stressed enough. This is not an American business being penalized over discrimination. This is an American business and owner being hounded and penalized over expressing his personal freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

The tolerance police ought to think about that one for a while.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's Not About Chick-fil-A!

You know, folks, this whole Chick-Fil-A flap is beginning to sadden me. A lot. If you've been watching the news or reading the papers/blogs, you know what I'm talking about. 

Chick-Fil-A is owned by the Cathy family—dedicated, Bible-believing Christians by all accounts. Mr. Cathy stated boldly and publicly that he—in accordance with his faith in Christ and Scriptural authority—believes in and supports the traditional family and believes homosexuality is sin. The nationwide uproar fanned by Hollywood and the media ensued shortly afterward, and now you have cities showing their tolerance for diversity in opinion by wanting to run Chick-fil-A out of their towns (Boston and Chicago, can you hear me?) The Chicago situation is particularly funny and outrageous. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is quoted as saying that Chick-Fil-A's values "are not Chicago values." I would be very reticent before I would make a statement like that, considering the legendary political and moral corruption that has gone on among Chicago pols for a century or more. 

Arguments over public accommodation/discrimination aside, I really believe that this is ultimately an attack on the church, and not just a Christian businessman or business owned by a Christian family. Let's get this straight. Disagreement based on moral/religious principles is NOT hate or bigotry. Sexual sin is just one of many sins, and sin is something we're ALL guilty of. The wonderful message of Christianity is that we have a Savior who came to set us free from our sins, and through Him, we can have forgiveness and restored fellowship with Him. But the very foundational (and confrontational) proposition that we ARE sinners who sin is enough to send people into paroxysms of rage.

One other thing we need to remember. God, as Creator, is sovereign over His creation and has the absolute right to determine the rules for His creation, including defining right and wrong. He is the ultimate definer. Yet much of mankind persists in rebellion, and for that rebellion, there will be a severe consequence. But there is still time to repent. How much time? I don't know. I wouldn't risk waiting very long. For some of us, eternity might well begin tonight or tomorrow. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

No Fail Pie Crust

Wow. Talk about a diversion in terms of topic for The Seventh Sola! How to make pie!

Seriously, I feel generous this evening, and I'd like to share a pie crust recipe to help those who have struggled with trying to make a pie. It truly is a "no fail" if you follow the instructions.

Most pie crust recipes you see in cookbooks call for you to use lard, shortening and cold water. This is different. It is a hot water crust. The photo you see to your right is a pie that I just threw together tonight out of fresh peaches. But any fresh fruit filling will do. Whatever you do, if you want a good pie, do NOT use canned pie filling. You might as well use papier mache or wallpaper paste. Yuck.

Here is the crust recipe:

2 cups flour
2/3 cup of butter-flavored Crisco (shortening). If you live in a part of the world where this is not available, not sure what you can do. But the butter flavor Crisco seems to make all the difference in the world in terms of flavor and flakiness.

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 cup of boiling hot water

2 tablespoons of milk.

Take the flour, add the salt and cut the shortening into the flour and salt mixture until the texture resembles corn meal. Add the boiling water and the two tablespoons of milk. Stir at first with a fork, then get your hands in it and knead until all is well blended.

Then, take your fruit, whatever the fruit is. Apples, peaches, cherries, etc. Mix a cup of sugar with at least two tablespoons of corn starch to thicken whatever juices come out of the fruit. That will help your pie not boil over as much. I usually add a bit of extract for flavoring, i.e. rum or almond extract for peaches, rum for apple, vanilla for cherries etc. But have fun with it. And only a few drops. Extracts can be overpowering.

Once the crust is mixed, roll it out in a circle large enough to cover the bottom, and then the top of the pie. You will have some crust left over, and that is great when spread out on another pie tin, spread with butter and covered with cinnamon and sugar. An extra snack!

When the filling is in the pie and the pie is sealed and fluted around the edges, take some milk and pour it into your hand, then spread it over the top of the pie. Then sprinkle sugar over the top of the pie, which will aid in browning the pie. Set the oven at 350 degrees, and then bake until nice and brown.

Then gain weight at your pleasure!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Examining Church Discipline.

In a few weeks, I am going to be teaching on the subject of church discipline in my Sunday school class. It is not a very popular subject these days, especially in American churches where our spirituality is often a mile wide and an inch deep. 

We see situations today where people join a church, and agree to follow the requirements of membership, but then when they get into sinful situations and fall under the need for church discipline, they get mad, leave the church, and even file lawsuits. I've seen this happen where people are in public ministry of some sort (choir and music for example), and are found to be living in sin with a boyfriend or girlfriend, having sex outside of marriage. When they get confronted about it, they get mad, leave and/or sue if they get removed from public ministry, and then badmouth the church. What they should have done is repent of their sin and obey Scripture, AND obey their church leadership. 

Below are a few of the Scriptures that will form the basis of the lessons:

Ps 50:17 “For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you.

Pr 3:11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof,

Pr 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life

Pr 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid.

Pr 13:1 A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

Pr 13:18 Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, But he who regards reproof will be honored.

Pr 13:24 He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

Pr 15:5 A fool rejects his father’s discipline, But he who regards reproof is sensible.

Pr 15:32 He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.

Heb 12:5* and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

Heb 12:7* It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Heb 12:8* But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Heb 12:9* Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

Heb 12:11* All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Re 3:19* ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

There is one other very important verse regarding church leadership and their role in overseeing discipline:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17). 

Let's be clear. I am not advocating a servile, cultic form of church discipline where leaders cannot be challenged or questioned if their actions are violating the Word of God. Pastors and elders are not absolute monarchs. However, all too often, professing believers approach this subject like W.C. Fields—"looking for loopholes." We do this at our peril. Church discipline is necessary for a healthy Bible-preaching, Bible-teaching congregation. And it is to be done in LOVE, and RESTORATION is always supposed to be the goal. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let the Crass Idiocy Begin

I've had family visiting for the past several days, and have not been able to update the blog. They went home yesterday, and instead of resting, I have to wake up to this awful story about another mass shooting, this time in Aurora, Colorado. Truly terrible. Beyond terrible.

But what I find even more grotesque is the predictable yells for gun control and the blame game that begins in the media and on the left. Once again, their "never waste a good crisis" mentality comes to the fore. Rush Limbaugh is being blamed because he commented on what he saw as some political themes in the new Batman movie. ABC News commentators seem very eager to blame the Tea Party. They are all jumping up and down in glee because they've got some new tragedy to use, using the victims of an awful incident as useful political pawns.

Unfortunately for them, as Professor John Lott has demonstrated, gun control only produces the opposite result. But who in the media or on the left these days is truly interested in factual information? Their agenda is ripping the Second Amendment out of the Constitution, and disarming as many law-abiding Americans as possible so that we will all be at the mercy of a government that could go tyrannical at the drop of a hat.

I shouldn't even have to write a post like this so soon after a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers ought to be with the victims instead of trying to see how we can use a tragedy to push a misguided political agenda.

For the first time in the history of The Seventh Sola, I am going to close comments to this post. I am flatly not in the mood to engage in idiotic arguments.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mood Pictures

I know some might be wondering what's up with me of late. More pictures and less commentary on current events. I've had family from out of town visiting this week, so it's busy. That, and I figured I'd probably save a bit of energy given the nastiness of the election season. I'll have plenty to say on that later, no doubt. Plus, there seem to always be issues within the Christian world needing some sort of observation.

In the meantime, the shots below aren't in the usual black and white motif I've had of late. I think some of them are cellphone shots, actually. But I loved the scene at the time, so took advantage of the iPhone camera while I could. Enjoy!

A winter day along the Jane Addams Trail

Sunset on the way home

A shot taken in front of my fireplace/woodburner. Love the starkness. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

And Yet More B&W Pix!

Hopefully you'll continue to indulge me as I continue to enjoy (and share) the glories of black and white film. 

Old Cannon at Cedarville Cemetery

Abandoned Old Farmhouse, Northern IL

The Little Old Church in the Wildwood (Red Oak U. Meth)

In God We Trust

 "Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants."
- William Penn

By Chuck Missler

In the days of yore in America, US coins all bore the face or form of Lady Liberty. Even the Indian Head Cent and the "Mercury" Dime show Liberty's profile; she's just wearing a new hat in each one. During the Civil War, though, there was a rise in religious sentiment. Many Americans were concerned that if the country were torn to pieces, future generations would think the United States had worshipped the goddess Liberty and so honored her on all its coins.  Letters were written. Congress was petitioned. Finally, on April 11, 1864, Congress authorized the coinage of the two-cent piece on which the new motto "In God We Trust" first appeared.

Over 90 years later, on July 11, 1955, Congress mandated that "In God We Trust" appear on all US currency. The phrase was actively in use on all US coins by then, and Congress made sure it would stay that way. In light of the Cold War and the fact that America's primary enemy was an atheistic state, Charles Edward Bennett told the House of Representatives,
"In these days when imperialistic and materialistic Communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, it is proper [to] remind all of us of this self-evident truth [that] as long as this country trusts in God, it will prevail."
The next year, on July 30, 1956, President Eisenhower signed a joint resolution of Congress making "In God We Trust" the United States' national motto.

Why is it important that the United States trust in God?

The word "god" is, of course, pretty general. One can find a wide variety of definitions for the word among American theists. But, for the Christian, God is not only the powerful Creator of the universe, but the Savior and Lover of our souls. And not only does He love us, but the God of the Bible is vastly interested in the course of human events. As Israel trusted in God, things went well for the people, and as they turned away from God and trusted in idols, things went badly. God repeatedly rescued Israel out of seriously tight spots when the people trusted Him. We trust in God because we recognize that:
There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
 - Psalm 33:16-18
Yet, God does not concern himself solely with Israel, but with all the nations of the world. The founders of American government believed that.  A majority of the signers of the Constitution were Christian men who recognized that freedom was a God-granted gift.

According to Donald S. Lutz in his book The Origins of American Constitutionalism, the leaders of the Revolution and framers of the US Constitution quoted William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles Secondat de Montesquieu quite significantly. These three men had a massive influence on the formation of American government. Quotes from the Bible, though, outnumbered all the quotes from these men combined. Of 3154 citations from the 1760's - 1805, a full 34 percent were from the Bible. Montesquieu came in second with 8.3 percent of the quotes. It's also important to note 7.9 percent of the quotes were from the great jurist William Blackstone, whoseCommentaries depended on the God of the Bible as the true Giver of law and the One on whom all human law should be based.

"In God We Trust" would have been an appropriate motto for the men who started our nation. It applied to those who turned to God during times of great crisis, from the Civil War to the Cold War. And as we face troubles from high gas prices to global terrorism, we need to continue to trust in God. He is the source of our safety. He is the source of our provision. He is the one who alone can truly bless our nation.

Our job is to make our national motto true - to be a people who make God, and not our money, our refuge. Just as important, we need to be a people whom God can bless; to be a people who - as the psalmist said - fear God (which is reflected in the way we live our lives) and who hope in His mercy.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. - Psalm 20:7

Chuck Missler's website is hyperlinked here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More Glorious Black & White

I've been fascinated for some time with black and white photography. Probably fits, since I like old black and white films from Hollywood's Golden Age the most - especially film noir.

Today, I want to lessen the serious mood I've had on the blog for a while and share some more recent pictures I took with an old 35 mm camera and black & white film. Eventually, what I really want to do is get some pictures during a foggy evening, preferably under a street light or shadowy buildings. I want to try and go for a film noir feel in the photos. But for now, practice!

An old barn near Cedarville, IL

The Pecatonica River in Northern IL near Route 70

Cedarville Cemetery (near Jane Addams' Grave)

Monday, July 09, 2012

Pondering "Decisionism"

Today, I am sharing with you a piece on the subject of "decisionism" as written by J.D. Hall, Montana pastor and author of the Pulpit and Pen blog. I have heard more of this subject in recent years, and hadn't really pondered it all that much. But now it's getting my attention.

I am Reformed in my soteriology, or how we are saved. Salvation is a sovereign act of God as He draws people to Himself in saving faith. But frequently in evangelism, we hear calls for people to "make a decision" for Christ. The blog piece I am linking expresses some grave concerns about the theological foundation of this practice and its impact on biblical soteriology.

I'd like you to read it and comment. I am going to re-read it again before I comment at too much lengh. I understand and can agree with many of Pastor Hall's concerns. But I also want to be careful and not paint with too broad a brush, giving the benefit of the doubt that most (or some) people do not believe the things that are the cause of the concerns. It all depends on what they believe about their salvation and how it came to be.

I remember C.S. Lewis saying once that at his salvation, it appeared that he had made a decision, but he came to understand that it was more like he was "decided upon." It's obvious that some volition has to be made in response to a sovereign work of God, but it begins, originates and is completed by God. Human works and human merit play no role whatsoever in our salvation. Period.

Now, if we think OUR DECISION is the key factor in God saving us, I would say we don't have a clear understanding of salvific doctrine. We are commanded to believe the Gospel and to repent. God draws us to Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the great mystery that is salvation, we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. But we need to understand that we are lost and in need of a Savior. When we hear of God's free gift of salvation, we respond to His love as expressed through the Gospel—and the saving, finished work of Christ on the cross. We respond with brokenness, realizing our fallenness and need of our Savior, and we repent of our sins, placing our trust on what Jesus did on that cross for our behalf.

Obviously, we had to "decide" or "respond" to the call of God. But that and "decisionism" as I understand it are two different things. Again, I will have to re-read Pastor Hall's comments and prayerfully consider. It is paramount we are preaching a biblical Gospel and a biblical soteriology. I need further education on this issue.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Atheism and Meritocracy

For today's post, I want to link to this thought-provoking article in the American Interest—originally recommended by Brit Hume of Fox News.

Brit is a committed believer, by the way, and that might not be well known in some circles. I can see what he liked about this article, which discusses the American political situation, value system, meritocracy, and the differences that atheism vs. belief will make in ones' life. Especially in holding oneself to account for how we live our lives, and how we serve.

Anyway, worth reading and pondering.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Is Tradition Really So Bad?

I suppose a story like the one I'm going to share (and my position on it) will seem odd for an American. After all, we are getting ready to celebrate Independence Day tomorrow—the anniversary of the day we declared independence from Britain and the end of monarchy on our shores. But with my Welsh extraction, I've always been drawn to British history and can't help having a fondness for the mother country and its dogged determination to hold to tradition.

What am I talking about? Well, for starters, check out this little story in the London Telegraph. It appears that a bit of unpleasantness has broken out over the Queen updating rank in the royal household, and who is supposed to curtsey to whom and when.

Stuff like this drives anti-monarchists and many Americans nuts. You know the usual drill—the monarchy is an anachronism . . . the British royals are supposed to be unsavory in many respects despite the personal integrity of a member or two here and there through English history . . . as an American, you of all people ought not to have sympathy for bending the knee to a king or queen . . . yada yada yada and so on.

That really isn't my angle with this. What is tending to upset me more and more as time goes on is the number of people who are so eager to be iconoclastic. It doesn't have to involve royal families. It can touch any tradition, faith, practice. It can touch anything older than yesterday. The attitude is, whatever smacks of tradition, nobility, time-honored observance, etc. is to be trashed and discarded.

As I get older, I have less and less sympathy with that kind of attitude. Yes, maybe curtseying seems antiquated and old-fashioned. Yes, the royals are human beings who will stand before the Ultimate Monarch, the Lord God, just as we all will stand. But it's tradition and respect. Tradition that goes back 1,000 years or more. Rather than the person beneath the Crown (and by all accounts, the Queen herself is a very good, honorable woman despite the behavior of some of her offspring), it's more what the Crown symbolizes. Stability, authority, and a code of courteous behavior.

In this rather surly, rude, obnoxious, bombastic culture, perhaps a little more tradition is what we need. I plan on celebrating American independence with my fellow patriotic countrymen. But I will also tip my hat to the mother country—our British cousins, along with a nod of respect to Her Majesty as a gesture of friendship.

As an aside, I think Elizabeth II would do a much better job of running the government than our current Commander in Chief. That would no doubt incense him, but he's got it coming. He's made a royal mess.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Lowbrow Vulgarity From Tinseltown

I've pretty much given up on the idea of Hollywood turning out anything resembling decent, wholesome entertainment. This is despite several studies showing that cleaner fare has tended to make more money at the box office. Maybe that's changing, but who knows. I haven't looked it up in a while.

Today, the BBC had this little piece on a new movie called "Ted." I guess the selling point is how this teddy bear has a really bad potty mouth. Wonder how many parents will take their kids to see the cussing teddy bear?

I suppose I could see this kind of flick appealing to Beavis and Butthead types, or the typical unregenerate junior high mindset that thinks flatulence and/or scatological jokes are funny. What is really sad to me is that such a mindset seems to be on the rise in our culture. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see some who identify themselves as Christian going to see it and giving the movie a five-star review. If some pastors can cuss from the pulpit and call it trendy and relevant, why not?

I guess you can tell my sarcasm meter is set on high today. Sorry. I'll shut up and go to bed now.