Category Archives: Christianity

Saying goodbye to a new friend

Lorena and I attended the funeral of a young (43) woman we had met as a healthy, engaged wife and mother only six months ago. We met her and her little family at our Wednesday night Bible study and knew here as an engaged, thoughtful person who enjoyed life and loved God. She was diagnosed with cancer only a couple of months ago. She was buried this afternoon. The service was uplifting and hopeful. The day was beautiful and sunny. Our mood is melancholic.

It is so sad to see a young life taken in such a way. It is also a timely reminder that life is short with no promises of even one more hour of life. At our stage in life–kids out of the house and successfully making their own way–these kinds of event are a catalyst for healthy reflection on what to do for these later stages of life. Material good do not seem so important. Connections to other people seem more important all the time.

Bible reading: Setting a new goal

A couple of years after we started our homeschool, I decided I needed to read my Bible more systematically. I had never read the Bible straight through. I decided the only way I would be able to do it was if I kept close track of what I was reading. On February 9, 2006, over eleven years ago, I started at Genesis with the idea that I would read one chapter every day (or a stanza when I got to Psalm 119) by reading through the New Testament two times, then reading through the whole Bible from cover to cover. The goal was to complete this sequence three times, then decide what to do next. I kept the record on the Dad’s Bible Reading page of this blog.

It seems kind of crazy that it took me so long, but it feels pretty good that I finally met my goal on November 15, 2017, just a couple of days ago. The other part that feels pretty good is that I started reading more the further I got. I know I still do not read so fast, but now, my minimum goal is to read two chapters per day. I have decided I want to read two or three other versions of the Bible next starting with the English Standard Version and probably finishing with the Reina Valera 1960 Version. I am not sure which one I will read in between. I plan to never quit keeping track. That helped a lot to keep me going.

September 11–Sunrise in Centralia

Rainier sunrise -- just before the sun peaks outThe new header I put up (you can still see it here when I change it again). It seems appropriate that this was the view of the mountain out our window this 16th anniversary of the cowardly murder that took place at the Twin Trade Towers in New York in 2001. The header picture was taken at 6:00 AM and the picture to the left was taken an hour later. It all reminded me of that power of God. I read a factoid yesterday about the power of hurricanes, that an average hurricane expends way more power than the sum of all the man made power in the entire world for an entire year. Looking out the window and reflecting on the understanding that Mt. Ranier thousands of years overdue for an eruption it makes me realize how small and inconsequential is the raging of men. I understand the Mount St. Helens explosion was 1600 times as big as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World Wart II. This coming eruptions of Mt. Ranier is prognosticated to be much bigger than that. It is never too early to get one’s house in order.

All that being said, I think some seemingly inconsequential events are much bigger deals in light of eternity and judgment. I was thinking of what a great thing it was for Kelly to receive the benefit of an amazing and spiritually edifying trip to visit family in Mexico. But, on some levels, even more than that was an after church dinner to which we got invited at Bob and Gena’s house yesterday. We were very grateful to be included in that. I went from there straight home to the computer to work on contract work–good, helpful work that will save lives. I missed the afternoon Gospel meeting because of that and could not get past the thought that seemingly small spiritual things are so much more important and powerful than whatever else is going on in our lives have a greater eternal impact than world events and work. Even these world shaking events like terrorism, hurricanes, volcanoes or the solving of sickle cell disease pale in comparison.

My Bible reading plan–getting close to complete

Reading through the BibleI was pretty bad at consistently reading my Bible up until shortly before we moved from Oregon to North Carolina in 2006 when I started keeping track of my reading (here) on one of my blog pages. I started out with a plan to read a chapter a day until I had read through the entire Bible three times, with a couple of extra readings of the New Testament after each complete pass through the whole Bible for a total of nine individual reads. Here are some notes on how it has gone:

  • The first time I read through the whole Bible, it took me 1363 days or 3 years, 8 months, and 25 days.
  • My last pass through the whole Bible took me 584 days or 1 year, 7 months, and 6 days.
  • My first pass through just the New Testament took me 11 months and 9 days.
  • My most recent pass through the New Testament which I completed today took 127 days or 4 months and 5 days.

I really have only missed a handful of days in this entire time where I did not read and have made up for all the days I have missed to the best of my recollection. The thing that is most interesting to me is that I am not really reading any faster now than I did previously, I am just taking more time. In addition, I am enjoying it more and more every time and find myself “reading ahead” on a fairly regular basis, especially on Sundays.

I have one more read through the new Testament to finish the original plan, then I need to make a new plan. I want to do some topical studies, but I also want to read some other version. My current thinking is that I will do a read through the NASB and the RSV using the same plan as before (one read of the Old Testament and three reads of the New Testament), then switch over to some topical studies. In the meantime, Lorena and I want to read through the Reina Valera (1960) translation together using that same trajectory.

The saddest part of taking leave from Texas

Gifts from our Wednesday night meetingIt is hard to overstate the importance of the little home church with whom we met every Sunday morning for worship and every Wednesday evening for Bible study. The Wednesday meeting was a little smaller with a group 9-10 regulars; the others from Sunday go to a different Bible study. Wednesdays, we meet at our little apartment every other week while another couple, Gary and Debbie, had it at their house the rest of the time. Which ever place we met, everyone would stick around after the study, sometimes and hour and even more, just to talk and be together.

This Sunday we had an incredible going away potluck (those Texas church potlucks are really something) at the Al and Jill’s home where we meet on Sunday mornings. Last night we might at Gary and Debbie’s place for our last regular Bible study meeting. Gary and I are both fanatical fansGary and Debbie's table of Angel Food cake, so Debbie made one for us and Jill made her mother-in-law’s famous caramel topping. We all shared this same beautiful table for an evening after meeting when Grandma Conchita and remember that night fondly.

THEN, they gave us gifts–a beautiful photograph (from Gary’s Nikon) of the group the meets on Sunday, a great little saying board, “FRIEND–Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart,” a huge box of the special, low calorie popcorn introduced to us by Debbie (I doubt if it makes it all the way to Washington) and a HUGE box of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares (we love them, but could never find them anywhere–we honestly think Debbie was buying and hoarding them all to give to us–we are grateful and doubt they will make it all the way to Washington either).

This group of people is family to us in the very best sense of the word. Of all that took place during our time in Texas, our meetings with these people will be what we remember and cherish the most.

An odd dream

12.0 of 60

All my life, I have had people tell me they dreamed about their parents after they died. I have heard it from people in both Mexico and here in the U.S., pretty much described in the same way. I had an odd dream about my parents last night. I do not know what to think about it. Some describe an über-reality that almost transcends the dream state. I cannot say that was true about my dream, but the content and immediate “in the present” nature of the dream gave me pause. I am not really sure how to process all this, but it has definitely given me food for thought.

A kind gift from our home Bible study meeting

Flowers from our Wednesday night bible study groupLast night was the last scheduled Wednesday night Bible study we will have at our little apartment here in Lewisville. We had it there biweekly, but because we are moving at the end of the month and have the funeral to attend later in the month, it will move to another home for the next time when it would have been with us. It was a great privilege to meet with this little group, we enjoyed it immensely and will miss it very much. The beautiful flowers by the window were kindly sent by the other members of the meeting in condolences for Grandpa Milo and were very much appreciated.

Note to the person who sent the very unhelpful and graceless comment to this blog after Grandpa Milo’s death: Grandpa Milo, Grandma Sarah and all our little family believe now and have always believed that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and not by works. That is the common belief in our fellowship and what has always been preached in our hearing.

Grateful for a father who loved me

Grandp Milo eating oranges in EcuadorGrandpa Milo died January 1. Dad was one of those bigger than life guys who started his life in a migrant farm worker family picking hops, beans and strawberries around the state of Oregon as soon as he was old enough to contribute as a small child, but who went on to all kinds of unique success in business, the military and even in school. He worked physically hard his entire life, even when he no longer needed to. He, like Grandma Sarah, was always a champion of the underdog loving much and doing more than his part in every setting. I do not want to turn this into a eulogy, there will be time for that later, but I wanted to mark his passing with just a few memories and thoughts.

In spite of the fact that I have appeared to be more like my father both in appearance and personality than my other siblings, we were very different from each other in character. It was of great joy to all of us that Aunt Julia is the one who was most like Dad in character and she had a special bond with him because of it. She was the one who had Grandpa Milo’s blond hair and blue eyes, too. Still, each of us kids had a very special and unique bond with Dad. My relationship with him was very, very close. We spoke in person or on the phone several times per week for my entire life–lessening some once I got married and had kids, but never disappearing.

It was one of the great joys of my life to discover that it did not matter that I did not have the same entrepreneurial drive as Grandpa Milo nor great joy in physical labor although I learned to tolerate it a lot more for having been his son. A lot of superficial stuff got in the way of my discovery of that fact. I assumed my success in business, sports, finances and, to a lesser degree, education were important to Dad. My epiphany was that Dad was more interested in my relationship with Jesus, the fulfillment of my responsibilities as a husband, father and member of society and my happiness than any success in following his footsteps with respect to this temporal life–probably in that order.

The picture with this post is of Dad in his mid-70’s. Alzheimer’s disease must have already been working on Dad when this was taken, but no one could tell yet. We like to think it was because of his ever ebullient spirit. He and one of our ministers who had labored in Ecuador for many years stopped on a several mile hike at over 10,000 feet of altitude to eat some oranges that grow there ubiquitously. He did not talk at all about how onerous it must have been–it is hard to breath at 10,000 feet when you live close to sea level, especially when you are over 70 and on an uphill hike. Rather, he reveled in the amazing amount of juice in the oranges and the beauty of the scenery. That was so typical of him. He was not there because he wanted an adventure although he reveled in that, too. He was there to take a friend who could not have made the trip on his own to see his twin brother, one of our ministers who works in the Philippines and was on a trip to preach in South America.

Succinct list of a few reasons why Earth is special

I follow a blog called Dangerous Idea that often has interesting comment conversations on a range of topics, many of them dealing with God and Christianity. One comment provides a list of some reasons why Earth, the only planet know to us that supports life, is very special indeed. I list the first five below, but you can read the rest here.

1. A star not in the central galactic bulge (most of which are “metal poor”, meaning they are incapable of spawning Earthlike worlds) – ours in nicely tucked away in a spiral arm.
2. A star not in the path of sprays of lethal Gamma radiation from the galaxy’s central black hole (which disqualifies maybe 1/5th of the stars in the Milky Way)
3. A non-variable star (the majority of stars are variable).
4. A planetary system capable of supporting stable orbits (most aren’t).
5. A planetary system with no worlds of Jupiter mass near to the star (Most of the discovered systems have such worlds. Ours is a rarity in that it does not.).
6. …

Getting closer to my Bible reading goal

open bibleOver ten years ago (starting in February 2006), I decided I would try to be more consistent in my reading of the Bible. One thing that helps me stay on track with that kind of thing is setting a goal and keeping a record. I set what I thought was a modest goal of just reading one chapter per day until I had read through the entire Bible three times and for each time I read through the whole Bible, I would try to read through the New Testament an additional two times for a total of three times through the Old Testament and nine times through the New Testament.

Today, I finished my third read through the Old Testament which leaves with three reads through the New Testament to complete my goal. I had been faithful both in reading and keeping track for quite awhile, but sometime last year I found myself reading more than one chapter per day. Actually, when I got to the Psalms, I generally read more than one chapter per day the whole time, but the amount of time I spend in the Bible now is surely more than double what I did previously.

The great thing about all this is that my level of enjoyment and benefit in reading has increased over time, too. I know a lot more about the entire flow of the Bible than I did when I started this. I highly recommend setting some goals and keeping a reading record for people with a mindset like my own (I am an engineer at the core of my vocational being). When I hit my goal, Lord willing, I hope to set some new goals, probably starting with a read through a couple additional translations (probably NASB and ESV). Then, I want to find a systematic way to do some topical studies.

The results of this effort are joy, a firmer grasp on a great, overarching plan set into motion by the God who has our best interests at heart even when we ourselves do not.

Update: Our friend David K. made some nice comments about this post and it dawned on me that I had not mentioned that my entire reading history for this goal has been in the KJV. I love the KJV and I cannot imagine a time when it will not be my favorite. That being said, after learning Spanish, the Reina Valera 1960 version of the Bible is way up there on my list of translations and has no need to apologize in any way to the KJV. Really, reading the Bible in Spanish has changed the way I think about translations of the Bible.

Support and tolerance of evil behavior are not ok

The shibboleth of Christian fundamentalism is way past its expiration date. It is the go-to straw man for the unthinking pop-culture, pseudo-intellectual intelligentsia that make up the mainstream media, the vast bulk of academia (primary, secondary and post-secondary), the political class, and large swaths of the rest of America. It is almost impossible to talk about objective morality, abortion, traditional marriage, origins, euthanasia or any other topic of moral import without a self-righteous demand to account for the actions and thought of extremists who make up less than one percent of those who call themselves Christian.

I am through with making caveats. I am no more responsible for the abject immoral behavior of people who call themselves Christians but act otherwise than I am for the evils perpetuated on innocents by the likes of Planned Parenthood, New Atheists, Code Pink, PETA and the Democrat Party. Don’t ask me to account for any of that. I have my own sins to account for but these are not them. And do not expect me to just go along either. I hate ALL of this stuff because it is evil. Tolerance of evil is not a virtue.

This rant was partially motivated by my recent reads through Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It does not seem like their situation was a whole lot different from that of thinking Christians today. At any rate, thanks for reading my rant; it was actually quite cathartic.

The evidence for the reliability of the scriptures just keeps piling up

It is amazing to me that in our day and age, new physical evidence continues to accumulate that shows the Biblical scripture did not change in any meaningful way from what was originally written. An article came out yesterday about technological advancements that allow previously unreadable scrolls from the first century AD to be read reliably. That in conjunction with the relatively new ability to recover Biblical text from, of all things, mummies masks that also go back to the first century. There was little doubt before we had these new confirmations that the Bible we read today is very, very close to what was initially written–nothing of any doctrinal consequence with respect to the foundation truths of Christianity was ever in question. Still, it is nice to have them.

Crazy coincidences and strange challenges

I am about to turn 61. A lot of funny little things, and I emphasize the word little, because they are of almost no importance, have been going on in my life. On that birthday theme, I found out today a guy that I have been helping get a business started in Kansas was born the day before me–the day before, the same year. In addition and very randomly, through Facebook, we learned that his daughters roommate in California is the first cousin of one of my daughter’s best friends in Seattle. There was no connection whatsoever between the two, we just found out about it after the fact. There are a couple of other non-coincidences like that about which I really do not have license to speak, but it surely seems odd that things work out serendipitously for great good for no material reason.

The other thing that just seems very random in my life is that the guy in the office next to me is one of those autodidact guys who claims he is an atheist. I called him on it–I really know of no rational person who claims they are atheist. He backed off of his statement. You would have had to been there to understand the context because my calling him on it was not really a heavy handed thing, but an outgrowth of a (relatively) thoughtful conversation. It was about as thoughtful a conversation as one could have with someone who absurdly claims, “No one has given me any good reason to believe there is a God.” That has always seemed to be a profoundly irrational claim, especially in light of the fairly recent, but very clear understanding that nothing existed–literally nothing, not even a quantum vacuum, no time, no space, nothing–then something started to exist. At the very least, that calls for some level of agnosticism. Really, there is no good reason to think there is not a God–much more so than that there is not one.

Life just seems a little surreal right now, but that is not a bad thing, just a little disorienting.

Impossible People

Impossible People by Os GuinnessOs Guinness wrote a book titled Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization about what Christians should do in a world that has changed dramatically and mostly for the worse. Eric Metaxas lays it all out in an article to describe the change and why Guinness used the term Impossible People. He starts out by saying this:

In the opening scene of the 2001 film adaptation of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel whispers hauntingly, “The world has changed. I can 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.”

Western Christians in 2016 can relate. Something has shifted. The world we inhabit seems to have become disenchanted, and so many of those around us have entered a state in some ways worse than atheism—a state of indifference toward God and the supernatural.

Then he goes on to explain in brief what Christians can, and I would say must, do. The answer is a refusal to conform and I think that is exactly right. The eleventh century stand taken by a fellow named Peter Damian is worthy of emulation and a very interesting read. What is required is not comfortable, but it is required if we want to both be right and have any hope for cultural redemption.

Update: I guess I should not be amazed that Marvin Olasky wrote an article a week back that could be a companion to the one written by Metaxas. It gives another example of what to do when caught in a culture that is diametrically opposed to your world view in very bad ways. You can read it here.

Why America cannot be fixed through government/politics

Book: Hillbilly EulogyI just read a short review of a book that tells a specific story about the helplessness and hopelessness of growing up poor in rural America with a drug-addicted, single mother. The book titled A Hillbilly Eulogy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance sounds like it is a painful but truly enlightening read. This post is not about the book–it is now on my reading list, but I have not read it yet. It was something that was said in the review that captured a truth of which many people with a similar world view to my own have been reminded due to the trajectory of culture, politics and government today in America. It is about the source of our current problems and the direction from which the only hope for a solution can come:

The book demonstrates in spades that there is no simple statist solution to the so-called “plight of the working poor.” Vance’s experience shows that the problems in these communities lie far beyond the reach of the nanny state. Rather, broken people produce broken cultures and social pathologies. The only way to fix the culture and eliminate the pathologies is to fix the people. And that is the primary conflict of the book. Can people really change? Indeed, Vance’s own doubt about whether he himself could truly escape the demons of his past is one of the most poignant aspects of this story. It is clear that the problems he describes are primarily moral/spiritual in nature, and therefore so are the solutions.

The article has motivated me to make the effort to read a book that is sure to be a painful but worthy exercise. The review article will give you a sense for what you might be getting yourself into.

Chronological snobbery and biblical archeology

"House of David" inscriptionJust a day after I wrote a post on The Veracity of the Bible which included links to articles about fairly recent archaeological discoveries that confirm the biblical record, Eric Metaxas wrote an article that describes the blinders worn by much of academia when they evaluate these kinds of new evidences. In the article, titled A Flood of Evidence, Chronological Snobbery and Archeology, he describes a concept using terms first coined by C.S. Lewis. The article starts out like this:

In his conversion story, “Surprised by Joy,” C. S. Lewis explains how his close friend, Owen Barfield, demolished his “chronological snobbery.” Lewis defined chronological snobbery as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.”

In Lewis’s time, much of academia was already convinced that every past generation formed a staircase of progress, leading (of course) to enlightened modernity. And since Lewis’s death, many intellectuals have only become more convinced of their own perch at the pinnacle of history. These days, we barely even notice the snobbery.

Metaxas goes on to list some relatively recent discoveries with links to some great articles about what they mean with respect to the veracity of the biblical record. An example of one of the discoveries is described in a post on the same site about confirmation that King David was an actual, living breathing person (the famous Tel Dan Stele). There are additional links in and after the story to additional confirmations. Then he goes on to describe the silliness of chronological snobbery and how it dampens the acquisition of a better understanding of ancient history.

The veracity of the Bible revisited

Dead Sea Scroll FragmentOne of our most fondly remembered homeschool outings was a visit to the traveling exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences back in 2008 when the kids were in their early teens. It was particularly exciting for me because it had been a hobby, an avocation really, to read Ancient Near East history for the previous twenty five years to try to get an understanding of what we really know about the events that transpired in the Old and New Testaments. Of course the New Testament and the events surrounding Jesus’ time here on Earth or the most well attested events in antiquity as represented by the documents available to us today and the proximity in time of those documents to the actual events. As part of our world view studies in homeschool, we studied all these things carefully and it was nice to see the artifacts themselves. That this exhibit arrived in Raleigh was coincident with our studies was truly serendipitous.

The Old Testament is so far removed from us that, historically speaking, it is a lot more difficult to find the level of verification for those events from either the available documentary evidence or from archeology. Still, there not nothing and what there is continues to confirm the biblical record. I was very happy to find a couple of articles that talked to all these issues in the last couple of days. The first is a blog post about the way the canon of the New Testament was selected. It put into one article what it took me a long time to figure out reading about it piecemeal. The upshot is hat 22 of the books of the New Testament, the gospels, the Acts, Paul’s epistles (including Hebrews), I Peter, I John and Revelations have always been universally recognized as canonical. In addition, things like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of John, etc. have been considered to be heretical from antiquity. There are a couple of other categories that describe how the canon got to 27 books and no more. I highly recommend this concise article titled An Essential Key to Understanding the Development of the NT Canon.

In addition to that, I found a blog post titled Historical Reliability of the Old Testament: Resources for Study. It is a series of links to articles about what we do know and what we don’t know, historically speaking, about the Old Testament. The articles talk about the controversies, the archeology, etc. of the Exodus, the Babylonian exile and other events and persons in the Old Testament. I good survey of what we know today and a good place to start (from the list) is this article by Peter J. Williams.

Dog bites man, press misleads public

There are a continuous stream of reminders for why thoughtful people should not get their news from the main stream media. In an article titled New York Post flubs the strange case of a liberal church and a lesbian minister’s pension, Terry Mattingly of the religious journalism watchdog site discusses the outrageous misrepresentations made by the NY Post in an article they titled, Lesbian pastor’s widow takes on church to get pension payments. It reminded me of a set of articles written about a homosexual man who was an acquaintance–a friend of a family member, but got caught abusing a boy who was his foster child. It was a horrible, very sad affair. The way the events were reported in the main stream press led people to believe the guy was a serious church goer, but neglected to say he actually taught sexuality classes to eighth and ninth graders at a very liberal Unitarian (who reject the beliefs of historical Christianity) until deep into the articles if they were reported at all. You can read about it and follow links to a couple of the articles on this topic here, here and here.