To look back or not to look back

Recently I saw the saying, “Don’t look back: you’re not going that way” on Pinterest, and now it seems like I am seeing it all over the place.

Is that good advice? It can be sometimes, if looking back is keeping you from moving forward, if it is keeping you from obedience, if it tempts you in any kind of wrong way, if it causes you to wallow in regret instead of repentance or instead of learning a better way, if it fuels your longing for something or someone you should not have.

We don’t know all the reasons Lot’s family was told not to look back, but when Jesus admonished His hearers to “Remember Lot’s wife,” who did look back and was turned into a pillar of salt, the context was that of the coming of the kingdom of God, and just after mentioning her, He said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” Clearly when God says, “Go!” then it is not time to look back.

But are there times to look back? This depiction of the saying above amused me, because in context, not looking back would be a major safety hazard!

Looking back

This one also makes a good point:

don't_look_back,_but-85120

There are times God tells us to look back. Just this morning I read, “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (Isaiah 51:10). It is good to look back at where the Lord found us and where He brought us from. Many times in both the Old and New Testaments, a prophet, preacher, or apostle recounted Israel’s history to them, reminding them of their unfaithfulness and His faithfulness and mercy and grace. They were told to “remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deuteronomy 8:2), “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee” (Deuteronomy 32:7), “Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth” (I Chronicles 16:12).

A couple of churches mentioned in Revelation were admonished to “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent,” (Revelation 2:5), and “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (2:2-3).

The Psalmist encouraged himself (here and here and here, among other places) by looking back and remembering how God had met his needs and faithfully dealt with him in the past.

Peter said, “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour” (I Peter 3:1-2).

So, do we look back or do we not look back? We can’t live life by catch phrases. There are times and reasons to look back, but there are times and reasons not to look back: it depends on what we are looking at and why and what effect it has on us.

I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.

Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust.

Psalm 40:1-4a.

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Laudable Linkage

Here are some noteworthy reads from the last few weeks:

Why You Can Trust Your Bible despite differences in texts.

The Amalekite Genocide. God’s command to wipe out the Amalekites is used as ammunition against Christianity by atheists and is troublesome to Christians. Here is a thoughtful article about God’s possible reasons for it.

Where does brokenness drive you? I pondered this for a long time after reading it. It’s kind of popular in blogging right now to expose our failings in the name of transparency and lean heavily on grace, and that’s not wrong. I think perhaps it started as a reaction against appearing to have too picture-perfect a life to readers. But do we sometimes wallow in our failures and presume upon grace? We are all broken in some respects, and grace provides for blessed forgiveness, but it doesn’t stop there.

Indispensable. No one is. Beautiful.

21 Spiritual Things to Pray for Other Christians. It’s easy to pray for physical needs, but we sometimes neglect these spiritual needs.

Dear Disillusioned Christian Girl.

Stories That Lead By Example. Sometimes a story explains things better than an explanation. “I believe stories can broaden our empathy, helping us to love. They tell us we’re not alone. But they can also give us something to live up to, whetting our appetite for virtues we don’t yet have.”

To Moms of One or Two Children. Feeling overwhelmed and finding God’s grace sufficient no matter how many you have.

Richard Baxter on Educating Children.

Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex. They probably know more than you think they do, and from dangerous sources. This is not a new problem, but the Internet exponentially increases the availability of unwholesome sources of information.

Are we doing the Lord’s work? Questions for web sites set up specifically to expose a leader’s sins.

The 5 Worst Books For Your Children. Interesting thoughts.

23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert.

18 Fun Things To Do Before Going Back to School. I think most students have already, but these are still fun ideas.

And something to bring you a smile:

Have a great weekend!

Through Gates of Splendor

Five missionaries working in different outposts in Ecuador in the early to mid-1950s became burdened for a tribe of killers known then as the Aucas. Early encounters with the white man had not gone well when the rubber hunters came to harvest while also “plundering and burning the Indian homes, raping, torturing, and enslaving the people” (p. 14). But the Aucas killed not only white men, but any outsiders and even their own people. “Could Christian love wipe out the memories of past treachery and brutality?” (p. 14). The missionaries hoped so and longed to be a part of reaching this tribe with the love and gospel of Christ. Upheld by the truth that “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9b), they began to plan and strategize as to how best to reach these hostile people.

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot is the story of how these five men came to the Lord, came to be called to the mission field, their marriages, and how each was led to become part of “Operation Auca.” It’s no spoiler to say the operation ended in the death of the five, because that fact was known long before the book came to be and was probably a great impetus in it’s writing. But then it is not right, either, to say that is how Operation Auca ended, because God used it in the lives of the Aucas themselves as well as of people all over the world in the decades since. But knowing how the story “ends” lends a poignancy to the men’s lives and words.

The five men were:

Nate Saint, a brilliant pilot whose dreams of flying the big planes was cut short by an illness, but who went on to become a pilot for Missionary Aviation Fellowship, bringing much-needed supplies, human contact, and medical help to missionaries in outpost stations. He had an ingenious engineer’s mind which he used to great effect solving problems and improving life, and a healthy balance between doing everything in his power to ensure success and safety yet trusting God for the outcome.

Jim Elliot, from Portland, OR, intense and passionate, had a burning desire to share Christ with those who had never heard of Him, yet also had a humorous side and felt with George MacDonald that “It is the heart that is not yet sure of its God that is afraid to laugh in His presence” (p. 17).

Pete Fleming, from Seattle, WA, quiet, studious, would probably have been a college professor if he had not felt called to the mission field.

Roger Youderian, of Louistown, MT, severely affected by polio as a child, was called to the missionary field while serving in the military.

Ed McCully, from Milwaukee, WI,  was planning to go to law school when a Bible study led him to abandon all to follow Christ wherever he might lead.

Even before Operation Auca was even remotely thought about, most of the men were willing to give themselves even unto death. Jim wrote in his journal:

“‘He makes His ministers a flame of fire.’ Am I ignitible? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this my soul – short life? In me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. ‘Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.'” (p. 17).

Nate Saint, likewise, considered himself “expendable,” saying, “Every time I take off, I am ready to deliver up the life I owe to God” (p. 58), and Pete later wrote:

“I am longing now to reach the Aucas if God gives me the honor of proclaiming the Name among them…I would gladly give my life for that tribe if only to see an assembly of those proud, clever, smart people gathering around the table to honor the Son – gladly, gladly, gladly! What more could be given to a life?” (p. 26).

All of the wives, as well, were willing to live in “primitive” conditions and to be used in God’s service in whatever way He saw fit.

But they were not careless. Every step of Operation Auca was steeped in thought, discussion, sometimes disagreement, and prayer for the best outcome for all involved. And every step looked like it was going well.

What then led the Aucas then to kill the five men? When God opened the tribe to visits later, at first they said it was because they thought the men might be cannibals. In a later book I believe someone was told that the photographs the missionaries had scared them: they thought somehow it involved the soul of the person in the photograph. In Steve Saint’s more recent book, End of the Spear, he was told that an argument had broken out among the Auca men involving a woman, and one man wanted to prevent the bloodshed amongst the tribe and turned their anger towards the white men. It is possible that all of these factors played a part, or that as the Aucas (now known by their own name of Waodani [going by Steve’s spelling of it since he has worked with them for years, but I have also seen it as Huaorani or Waorani]) got to know white people and their language better, they may have felt more of a freedom of expression in later years that they did at first.

I first read this book in college, and the lives of these men and their wives and their dedication and love for the Lord touched me greatly. I have read it many times since, and it never fails to speak to me. The version I read this time is the same one I read in college, a brown around the edges 1977 fifth printing: the first printing was in 1956. It was interesting to see what I had underlined in previous readings and what stood out to me this time. It also touched off a lifetime of reading missionary biographies, reading just about everything Elisabeth Elliot has written and reading several other books about Operation Auca and the lives of those involved.

If you’d like to read more about any of these, I recommend the following:

  • The Dayuma Story by Rachel Saint, sister of pilot Nate Saint. Dayuma was the Auca girl who had escaped the tribe years earlier, taught the men Auca phrases, and later went back to share the gospel with her tribe.

I’m sure there are other books and biographies out there (I have one of Nate Saint on my bookshelf that I’ve not read yet). but these are the ones I have read. In addition, Elisabeth Elliot touches on the experiences of her time in the Ecuadorian jungle in several of her other books. One of my favorites is in The Savage My Kinsman when she quotes William Cullen Bryant’s poem, “To a Waterfowl,” and applies it to herself, especially the last line: “He, who, from zone to zone, Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, In the long way that I must tread alone, Will lead my steps aright.”

There are also several films and film clips of interest:

  • Through Gates of Splendor (it seems to be also on YouTube here), narrated by Elisabeth Elliot, using footage that she, Nate Saint, and Life Magazine had taken.
  • A “This Is Your Life” feature of Rachel Saint, part 1 and 2.
  • End of the Spear” (linked to my thoughts), a feature film.
  • Beyond the Gates of Splendor, a documentary made 50 years after the events. This is one I would recommend above all the others if you only have time for one. It is in four parts on Vimeo (Part 1, 2, 3, and 4), but I found the audio a bit hard to hear.

There are also several videos of Steve Saint speaking with Mincaye, one of the killers who eventually became a surrogate grandfather to Steve’s children. Talk about grace!

I wanted to say just a word, too, to those who criticize missionary efforts and who believe that primitive tribes should be left as they are. By the Waodani’s own admission, the tribe probably would have become extinct now if someone had not come to tell them of a better way of life. Why would anyone want to deny them that? In Spirit of the Rainforest (different people and field, but also a primitive tribe) this rather lengthy quote explains some of their feelings (I started just to link to it, but I feel it is so important that I copied it here):

“The naba wants to know why you want to change the way you live out here in the jungle,” Keleewa said to Hairy after Doesn’t-Miss talked.

Hairy was surprised at the question. “Because we’re miserable out here. We are miserable all the time. The people from Honey [predominantly Christian village] came here and made peace with us many seasons ago and their village keeps getting better. We want that for us. If it means throwing spirits away and getting new ones, we will do it. [This is not something said lightly. Many were under the impression that they would be killed if they tried to get rid of their spirits.] But we need someone to teach us these new ways.”

Hairy didn’t have spirits because he was not a shaman. But he followed everything the spirits told his shaman. I knew my spirits would be very irritated if Hairy quit following the spirits. No one who has killed as often and as long s Hairy could ever stop it…

Doesn’t Miss talked with Keleewa for a while. Keleewa paused and thought how to say what the naba said. Then he told Hairy, “He says there are many people in his land that don’t think that he, or any of us, should be here helping you at all. They say that you’re happy here and that we should leave you alone. He wants to know what an experienced killer like you would say to them.”

Hairy grew even more serious. “I say to you, please don’t listen to the people who say that. We need help so bad. We are so miserable here and out misery never stops. Night and day it goes on. Do those people think we don’t suffer when bugs bite us? If they think this is such a happy place out here in the jungle, why aren’t they moving here to enjoy this beautiful life with us?”

Doesn’t-Miss was quiet. Then he got out of his hammock and walked down the trail…When he was too far away to hear, Hairy said to Keleewa, “Is he stupid? Doesn’t he have eyes? Can’t he see these lean-tos we call houses? Can’t he see us roam the jungle every day, searching for food that isn’t here, so we can starve slower? Can’t he see that our village is almost gone, that this move we are making now is our last hope to stay alive?”

Keleewa was slow to answer. He knew Hairy wouldn’t understand what he was about to say. “Most nabas think just like him,” Keleewa told Hairy, and shook his head because he knew he couldn’t explain why.

“Nobody’s that stupid,” Hairy snapped. “They must hate us. They think we’re animals” (pp. 180-183).

I said in an earlier post:

Why would even any non-Christian want to see a whole people group extinguished due to infighting or disease? Especially these days when we clamor to save the spotted owl and other endangered species? Shouldn’t endangered people be at least equally as important as endangered animals?

Would anyone in their right minds really want such practices as burying a widow along with her husband or killing twins or deformed babies to continue? So many primitive tribes practice these kinds of things.

Why deny these people the choice of hearing that there are other ways? Why not allow them to hear the gospel and let them make their own choice? So many who bask in the multitudes of freedoms we have here in the US would rather keep people like this in darkness in the name of preserving their culture. Most missionaries I know of these days consciously and conscientiously try not to “Americanize” the native churches but rather try to respect their culture and form churches within that culture while introducing healthier ways of living and civil practices. Who could possibly have a problem with that?

Thank you, Carrie, for allowing me to choose this book for  the Reading to Know Book Club in a year of featuring classics. It truly is a Christian and a missionary classic, and I am glad folks are revisiting it or discovering it for the first time.

Reading to Know - Book Club

I’ll leave you with the song the men sang the night before they launched “Operation Auca,” and from which the title of the book is taken (words and thoughts are here.)

Update: I just saw that several “Heroes of the Faith” books are on sale in e-book version for the Kindle for 99 cents for a limited time, and Jim Elliot is one title. I have not read that one in particular, but it might be worth a try for 99 cents. You don’t have to have a Kindle to download Kindle books: you can download a Kindle app and read them on your computer, phone, or tablet.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

And Carol‘s Books You Loved.

Books you loved 4

Book Review: Comforts From Romans

ComfortsComforts From Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time by Elyse Fitzpatrick wasn’t originally on my radar, but I saw that the True Woman site would be going through Romans 1-8 in the four weeks preceding Easter, using this book as a supplement. I had been wanting to do something a little different in my pre-Easter reading, and I had been wanting to read something by Elyse Fitzpatrick, so I ordered the book. In the meantime, I decided to do a different reading plan for Easter, so I saved this book for afterward and caught up with the weekly discussion about it at True Woman (under Romans Reboot).

The book is not a thorough exegesis or commentary of all of Romans 1-8, but rather a “devotional taste” of its truths. Elyse mainly just pulls out those parts of it dealing with “the absolutely shocking message of grace” (p. 13). The gospel isn’t just for the obtaining salvation at the beginning of our Christian lives: we need to hear it and think about it daily. Why? To stir up praise and gratitude to God for it, but also to remind ourselves, because we’re too prone to forgetting that our relationship with God is based on Jesus’ righteousness and not our own even after salvation.

If you’re familiar with Romans at all, you know that the first three chapters start with very bad news: the fact that we are all sinful, that our sin deserves judgment from God, and there is nothing we can do in ourselves to deliver ourselves. Even if we could perfectly obey every command of God from here on out (and we can’t), that won’t erase the sin we’ve committed up to now. It’s hopeless — which is why the gospel is very good news: Jesus kept every law of God in our place, and because He was perfectly righteous and the eternal Son of God, He was the only One who could take our sin and punishment in our place so that we could be saved when we believe in Him. Elyse discusses all of these factors in more detail: our “ruined righteousness,” our inability to keep God’s law, the great grace of God in Jesus Christ, what He accomplished in our salvation, and the implications of grace in our everyday lives. It is very refreshing and encouraging: even having known these truths for decades, it has been good to meditate on them again, to be reminded of the freedom we have in Christ.

One aspect of that freedom that particularly resonated with me was when she discussed receiving an email from a friend about something she had done wrong. Elyse writes that she was able to receive the criticism, acknowledge its truth, confess and apologize for it without negative feelings for the messenger: “Because the gospel tells me that I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe, I am no longer entrapped in trying to prop up my former flawed identity…I can freely admit my failure without needing to cover up, be defensive, or beat myself up…Rather than raking myself over the coals, wondering, How could I be such an idiot and sin like this? I am now free to say, Of course I sinned like this! It’s just God’s grace that I don’t get e-mails like this every day! I am, after all, a very great sinner…but I’ve got a very great Savior” (pp 79-80).

There are a few places I have some quibbles with. One is in an otherwise very good series of chapters about “One Man’s Obedience,” Jesus’s having fulfilled all of God’s law perfectly every single day of His life. How He interacted with His siblings is conjecture, of course, since the Bible doesn’t say much about His childhood, but we can imagine what He must have encountered showing love to His siblings, yet being laughed at, misunderstood, sinned against, and so on. When she gets to His baptism, however, she says, “At that moment He knew without question who He was and why He’d come” (p. 86). I don’t think He doubted it or didn’t know until then: I don’t think His Father’s voice saying, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” was meant to reassure Him, but rather to be a testimony to those witnessing it. She goes on to say that “The Spirit, His Spirit, was finally released and flew to Him like a dove, granting Him the power to live and die and rise again.” I don’t think that’s what the Spirit was doing, but what exactly was going on and signified at Christ’s baptism is a discussion for another time, and I do understand good people can differ in their opinions about it.

In another place, she’s discussing the righteousness we have in Christ and the joy we should feel because of it: “Be done now with all your stupid efforts to approve of yourself and to look good…Be revolted by your own goodness and your love of reputation!…Dance a lot. Brag a ton about how righteous He’s made you. Show off your new clothes! Be as free as a drunk to look stupid and hop about for joy. Weep over your sin. Rejoice over His obedience…All those lessons about how to keep your religion dignified and presentable will be completely blasted away in the raucous party that will be known as ‘heaven'” (p. 100). I get that when we really grasp that we have the righteousness of Christ, when we really comprehend that as much as we’re able, we’ll be exceedingly joyful, but I don’t see anything in the glimpses of heaven the Bible shows us that compare it to a raucous party. Yes, the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7), but I don’t see that rejoicing as “raucous.” Not a big deal or a big quibble — we’ll see when we get there what it’s like. 🙂 I also cringe a little bit at “hopping around like a drunk.” I grew up in the home of an alcoholic: I have seen happy drunks (and other kinds as well), and to me it’s incongruous to think of rejoicing in Christ’s righteousness looking like that. Yes, I do know the Bible says “be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) as a comparison of being under the control of something else, and that may be the kind of allusion Elyse means here, or she probably was just getting at the idea of rejoicing with abandon. It just kind of rubbed me the wrong way because of my background, but again, it’s a small quibble, taking more time to explain that it is probably worth.

Another quibble is the interchangeable use of “law” and “rules.” The verses in the Bible about “the law” are referring to the commandments given to Israel in the first five books of the Bible. Much of Romans deals with the fact that we’re no longer under that law, but that doesn’t mean we’re no longer under any “rules,” that rules are evil, etc. The New Testament is full of commandments. I delved into that more here. We don’t keep rules, or even commandments, in order to be saved, because salvation is by grace through faith. We don’t keep them to be “made” or “kept” righteous even after salvation: our walk, our growth, is by faith, not by our own works. But we don’t ditch the NT commands to love our neighbors as ourselves, etc., either: we seek His grace, His power, is strength, His love, to enable us. Commandments and laws can’t produce righteousness, but they show us what it looks like so we can see where we fall short and how much we need help.

The one area I had a big problem with, though, is when discussing Romans 6:12-14, she says, ” My guess is that you’re feeling a little nervous right now and that you’re tempted to ask the same question that Paul does in the next verse: ‘Yes. yes, but, but…are we to sin because we are not under law, but under grace?’ to which I respond, ‘You can if you want to. But God forbid that you would want to in light of all He has done'” (p. 112). She then says very much the same thing at the beginning of the next chapter. I do see the “God forbid” in Scripture, but I don’t see the “you can sin if you want to.” That totally threw me.

I wish she had talked a little bit more about sanctification in the book. She does somewhat. She discusses that we “serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6), that we’re motivated to live for Christ not by heaping on more rules, but out of gratitude for what He has done, that we’re dead to sin, etc. I really would loved to have seen a discussion of Romans 8:13 about mortifying the deeds of the body through the Spirit. I’ve mentioned before that there are action verbs in the New Testament that indicate effort on our part, though it is not an effort to earn righteousness but rather effort springing from His righteousness in us. But I still wrestle with all of that, with what’s my part and what’s His part.

Probably one of the most helpful statements in the book, which ties together much that I’ve mused on here, is this, in a discussion of what it means to have died to sin: “This happened through our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection as is demonstrated at our baptism. Paul doesn’t give us new, more stringent rules to live by. No, he tells us who we are. It is the realization of our new identity that will ultimately and at heart level transform us” (p. 102).

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Book Review: Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story

Joni and KenAt 36, Joni Eareckson felt that marriage was probably not in God’s plan for her, not only because of her age, but because of her paralysis resulting from a diving accident in her teens. Who would be willing to take on all that would be involved?

After Ken and Joni met at church, then got to know one another, then started dating, Ken felt he could. He knew he loved her and he felt their marriage could work.

Joni was afraid he idealized her. He had read about her before meeting her, accompanied her on mission trips, heard her speak, and even though she tried to be realistic about herself and her humanness (when the leg bag collecting her urine broke in public while on a tour behind the Iron Curtain, she quipped that that was God’s way of not letting the attention and acclaim go to her head), she was afraid some people thought of her more highly than they ought to.

But after much time together and discussion, they married, And though they loved each other dearly, after some years the relentless details involved in Joni’s care began to wear on Ken. He began to pull away, to need time to himself to get away from it all. Soon their lives were on nearly parallel tracks, rarely intersecting. She had had a ministry and association before he came on the scene, and he felt unneeded in her world: he had his teaching and coaching and fishing trips.

Then unexplained and excruciating pain descended on Joni, not only requiring more care, but causing frustration because nothing seemed to help. And then came a cancer diagnosis…

Marriage has its rough spots anyway, but add all these to the mix, and any of them could break a marriage. In Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story, with Larry Libby, they want to make clear that what pulled them through was not their own strength, but God’s grace when they came to the end of their own strength. They don’t want to come across as super-saints, but as real people who found God’s grace sufficient in the most trying of times “to attain a new level of love rather than simply surviving or grimly hanging on” (p. 15).

I loved Larry Libby’s preface, talking about fairy tales and sad love songs, then musing:

We all dream dreams and know very well that they don’t always work out. Life is particularly hard on high expectations. Things hardly ever fall together the way we would have scripted them. The fact is, if we put our hope in a certain set of circumstances working out a certain way at certain times, we’re bound to be disappointed, because nothing in this life is certain.

So what’s the solution? To give up on dreams?

No, it is to realize that if we belong to God, there are even bigger dreams for our lives than our own. But in order to walk in those bigger dreams, we may face greater obstacles than we ever imagined and find ourselves compelled to rely on a much more powerful and magnificent God than we ever knew before (p. 15).

I know it’s the style these days to have a book jump back and forth in the time line, but it is somewhat confusing and choppy, and I think would have flowed much better maybe by opening with one incident and then flashing back to the beginning and progressing from there to the current time.

There is one kind of odd spot in the book when Joni had a horrible night suffering from pneumonia and prayed that Jesus would manifest Himself to her in a special way. As Ken ministered to her, suddenly she said.”You’re Jesus!” She went on to say that she could feel His touch through Ken’s, could see Him in Ken’s smile. That I can understand, but manifesting Jesus, being a conduit through which He can work, isn’t the same thing a being Jesus. And I think that’s what she ultimately meant.

I scanned some of the reviews on Amazon and was surprised to find some criticism that the book didn’t contain enough or reveal enough. I thought it was quite gracious of the Tadas to reveal as much as they did in order to show God’s grace and to encourage others: the rest really is none of our business.

Overall I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone.

I linked to this speech of Joni’s before, but it shares a condensed version of some of what is in the book.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Thoughts about God’s wrath

I’ve come across various reactions to God’s wrath in the Bible from various quarters and wanted to set down some of my own thoughts about it.

Sometimes people seem to see a dichotomy in the Bible between a seemingly angry God in the Old Testament and the loving, patient, and merciful Jesus of the New. But they are not two different Gods: they are part of the same Trinity. The Bible has much to say about God’s longsuffering, mercy, and lovingkindness even in the Old Testament, and Jesus rebuked the disciples for unbelief, had some pretty harsh words for the Pharisees, overthrew moneychangers in the temple, and Revelation says in the future judgement people will cry out for rocks to fall on them to try to protect themselves from the wrath of the Lamb of God.

God’s wrath shows first of all His justice. Just looking at a few verses about God’s wrath shows that He unleashes it against those who knowingly commit sin or worship false gods. People seem to see only His wrath when He punished the Israelites in the wilderness but forget the longsuffering He showed: He miraculously delivered them out of Egypt in a way only He could have that showed Israelites and Egyptians alike that that He was the one true God and all of their gods were false and helpless (many of the ten plagues had to do with a specific god Egypt worshiped), He miraculously delivered them again when they were caught between the Egyptians and the Red Sea, He miraculously provided food and water for them. They complained at the outset and He did not do anything but deliver them and provide for them. But instead of getting to know Him, to trust that He cared for them and would provide for them, they continued to complain and even wanted to go back to what He had delivered them from. He was patient with their complaining until they got to a place they should have known better.

His wrath also shows His righteousness, holiness, and love. God’s jealousy against false gods is not the same as that of an insecure boyfriend: other gods will lead people to hell. Sin will cause great harm to those who indulge in it and those whom they influence.

His wrath shows the magnitude of sin. The fact that we don’t see people being demonstrably punished in the same way these days does not mean God feels any differently about sin.

But the good news is that though “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness,” (Romans 1:18), “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:8-9).

In a chapter of Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter titled “The Most Important Word in the Universe,” Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., says:

The first thing to say is that the wrath of God is a part of the gospel. It’s the part we tend to ignore. Yet we don’t mind our own anger. There is a lot of anger in us, a lot of righteous indignation. Listen to talk radio. In our culture it’s acceptable to vent our moral fervor at one another…. But the thought of God being angry-well, who does he think he is?

Great question. Who is God? He’s the most balanced personality imaginable. He is normal. His wrath is not an irrational outburst. God’s wrath is worthy of God. It is his morally appropriate, carefully considered, justly intense reaction to our evil demeaning his worth and destroying our own capacity to enjoy him. God cares about that. He is not a passive observer. He’s involved emotionally.

The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It never says, “God is anger.” But it couldn’t say that God is love without his anger, because God’s anger shows how serious his love is.

His wrath is the solemn determination of a doctor cutting away the cancer that’s killing his patient.

In human religions, it’s the worshipper who placates the offended deity with rituals and sacrifices and bribes. But in the gospel, it is God Himself who provides the offering.

He detests our evil with all the intensity of the divine  personality. If you want to know what your sin deserves from God, …Look at the man on the cross — tormented, gasping, bleeding. Take a long, thoughtful look…God was saying something about his perfect emotions toward your sin. He was displaying his wrath.

The God you have offended doesn’t demand your blood; he gives his own in Jesus Christ.

 A longer excerpt, though unfortunately not the whole chapter is here.

There is much more that could be said about this subject, and I’m debating with myself  about whether I should go ahead and post this or wait for more reading and study. But I think I’ll go ahead.

(See also How Tim Keller Made Peace With the Wrath of God).

“Come. See the Place Where Jesus Lay”

egrgrave2

Come, see the place where Jesus lay,
And hear angelic watchers say,
“He lives, Who once was slain:
Why seek the Living midst the dead?
Remember how the Savior said
That He would rise again.

”O joyful sound! O glorious hour,
When by His own almighty power
He rose and left the grave!
Now let our songs His triumph tell,
Who burst the bands of death and hell,
And ever lives to save.

The first begotten of the dead,
For us He rose, our glorious Head,
Immortal life to bring;
What though the saints like Him shall die,
They share their Leader’s victory,
And triumph with their King.

No more they tremble at the grave,
For Jesus will their spirits save,
And raise their slumbering dust
O risen Lord, in Thee we live,
To Thee our ransomed souls we give,
To Thee our bodies trust.

— Thomas Kelly

(Full version is here.)

Wishing you a blessed Easter, filled joy, hope, and love because of what our Lord has done for us.

Face the Cross

Upon the cross of Jesus my eye at times can see
The very dying form of One who suffered there for me.

Face the cross, He hangs there in your place.
See the Lamb upon the killing tree.
Stand and look into the Savior’s face
As on the cross, He dies for you and me.

Face the cross and see the dying Son.
See the Lamb upon the killing tree.
See His anguish and His tears of love.
Face the cross, He dies to set us free.

Turn not away, turn not away.
His nail-pierced hands are reaching out to you, to you.

Look upon the One without a sin,.
Spotless Lamb upon the killing tree.
Feel His pain and love from deep within,
So great a price, yet paid so willingly.

Turn not away, turn not away,
Face the cross, face the cross.

Face the One who suffers in your place,
See the Lamb, upon the killing tree.
Light of the world, now clothed in darkness grim
As on the cross, He hangs in agony.

Face the cross and turn not away, turn not away.
His nail-pierced hands are reaching out to you.

Turn not away, behold His wounded side.
Turn not away, behold the crucified.
Face the cross, He hangs there in your place.
Face the cross, and see the King of Grace.
Face the cross, face the cross.

– Words by Herb Fromach, music by David Lantz

Laudable Linkage

It has been a while since I’ve shared some of the interesting reading I’ve found online. Maybe some of these will be of interest to you, too.

My Train Wreck Conversion. A leftist lesbian professor who hated Christians becomes one.

How to Call a Prodigal Home.

Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church.

On abortion, it’s best to err on the side of life.

Why the Good News Turns Bad Without Adam. Repercussions of not viewing Adam as a real historical person.

Muriel’s Blessing. A husband who stepped down from his job to care for his wife with Alzheimer’s contemplates love.

Love or respect? Ways to show respect to husbands, ways you might be conveying disrespect.

Making visitors feel welcome.

Should We Cheer For God? Worship isn’t always loud and exuberant.

13 reasons Christians don’t have to be afraid.

Will the Real Biblical Woman Please Stand Up?

Beauty Is For Everyone. “Excellence, it turns out, is not elitist. Excellence is the most inclusive thing. It is beauty and beauty reaches everyone.”

10 Tips For Making the Most of Online Community.

Ideas to use up your paper scraps, HT to Lizzie.

And a few on writing:

The First 250 Words of Your Manuscript.

Writing Great Thoughts vs. great lines.

Parrot Front and Center or Back Story First?

When They’re Still Here, about loved ones whose memories and personality are fading:

I only watched the first few minutes of this, but someone made a live action version of Toy Story:

And just for fun, my son shared this on Facebook and had us laughing ourselves silly: