Welcome to: The Faithful Word.org -- Titus 1:9

Monthly Blog Archives for
His Master's Voice
Copyright © 2006 - All rights retained by author
Written by: C. W. Booth

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

 

It is our battle to fight. It is our race to run.

Do not lean on your own understanding, lean upon the Word. Be strengthened for service in the power of the Lord. Run the race and fight the good fight and be strengthened for service, all in the power of the Lord. How?

How does one access the power of the Lord?

Understand this: the battle is ours to fight, we are the foot soldiers. The race is ours to run, we are the athletes. To be sure, God has already won the war for us, but still we must fight the battles. God has set the course for us to run, but still we must run.

We fight and run not under our own power or strength, but under Godís. How? How do we get this strength? God has given us the strength through these gifts from Himself:

  • The Holy Spirit who indwells us and gives us power, renews our minds and hearts, and guides our consciences
  • The Word through which faith comes and grows
  • Discipline and trials which builds holy endurance
  • Other believers who provide encouragement
  • Prayer, for if we do not pray, we should not expect God to act on our behalf


These are His provisions for us to have the power and strength to run, fight, and win.

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self- control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:23-27)
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1)
This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:9-14)
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

 

A Day of Blessings and Hard Truths

Today was a blessing on so many levels. Among the highlights, I had the privilege of teaching our 6th graders about prayer. We pray to God with intent--the intent of being heard: knocking (gaining God's attention), seeking God's face (having God focus His attention on us as in a face-to-face discussion), and asking God to meet our needs, and also the needs of others. At the end of the lesson, each child paired up with one other child to pray for a half-minute for one need the other child had. These kids are so great! They really seemed to understand the concept of "pray continuously" and that God was listening to them with the intent to answer their prayers.

Another blessing was of a self-revelatory nature. Seeing one's own heart can be an upsetting and haunting thing (given our hearts are desperately sick). I have had to gaze upon my own for two days. Praise God He is larger than my heart and more forgiving than I am. There is so much growing I must do. Yet, God tells us that the more we are forgiven, the more we will love Him. Perhaps this will grow my love for Him.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

 

Sing a New Song, But Sing a New Doctrine?

It strikes me as odd that songs and hymns are not given the same level of doctrinal scrutiny as are sermons, books, or even blog postings. Yet songs comprise a significant part of the teaching that occurs within a traditional worship service.

When a song deviates from biblical theology, it literally creates a new doctrine. This new doctrine is immediately embraced and celebrated by the church with every voice present lifting it up to God, especially if the music is pleasing to sing or to hear. If we are going to offer a sacrifice of song to God, ought we not be careful that the theology we are quoting to Him is theology which He created?

One song comes to mind that I think must cause God to cringe every time it is enthusiastically offered before the altar by those who misunderstand its meaning. "Come. Just as you are to worship; Come, just as your are before your God. Come." (by Brian Doerkson).

As an invitation to the unsaved which implores them to come and bow in front of God, implying that there is no way for a sinner to make himself worthy before God and that Christ alone does that, it could be an acceptable song. Even as an invitational to the unsaved, it lacks an explanation that the sinner must repent of his sins, with the song writer choosing instead to emphasize "gladly choosing" and "give your heart" as surrogates for "repent."

Doubtless, most churches do not see this song as an invitation to the unsaved and improperly use it as a call to worship for the faithful. If a congregation member thinks it is a call to the believer to enter worship, he is then confronted with this odd new doctrine: "Come just as you are to worship, just as you are before your God."

Believers are never to come to worship "just as they are," unless the believer is already perfect and sinless. For those who are yet imperfect, Scripture instructs them to step away from the altar, search their heart, confess their sin, reconcile with other believers, and then come back to worship as a renewed creature. Be holy, for God is holy. This process of cleansing ourselves before coming to worship is the very image we get from the symbolism of the tabernacle, the temple, and communion.

On the other hand, there are recent songs which cause me to well up with tears as I contemplate the lyrics and the truth of their meaning. "Ancient Words" by Lynn DeShazo is one such song. Even now, as I read the song lyrics online, I have to choke back some tears. "Ancient Words" is worthy of being used as a call to believers to worship.

Read about the motivation for the song and the lyrics of "Ancient Words:" http://www.lynndeshazo.com/news_events/news/news_item.asp?NewsID=6

Friday, March 03, 2006

 

Making Difficult Decisions

In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider--God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him. (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

God has made the day of prosperity and the day of hardship. Why? So that man will never be able to foresee or anticipate the future. God alone owns that. Man is always dependent on God, day-to-day.

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:13-17)

Decision-making is dependent on faith in Christ, fear of the Lord, prudence, consideration of others (including care of family), understanding the brevity of life, knowing the principles of the Word, and realizing human plans are subject to change "as the Lord wills."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

 

When does a seeker become a believer?

When does desire become saving faith? When does a seeker become a believer?

It seems to depend on what the seeker is seeking. If all the seeker is seeking is the joy of heaven, he is out of luck. Jesus said those who "believe" simply for the joy will fall away from the faith due to lack of firm grounding (Luke 8:13). So merely seeking the joy and pleasure of heaven or the comfort of some afterlife is not sufficient.

Yet those who seek God must first have faith that God exists and believe that He rewards the seeker with salvation (Hebrews 11:6). And the seeker ought to have a fear of hell which he understands to be his due punishment for his sin in the eyes of a just and holy God (Matthew 10:28, Acts 17:30-31). Therefore, driven by holy fear, the seeker will find repentance in his faith, a gift and calling of grace from God to those who He has made to call upon His name (Romans 11:25-36, 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Timothy 1:9).

How will the seeker know he has found whom he seeks and has concluded his search? He must diligently examine himself:

  • Does the seeker now have true knowledge of God and His calling (understand the gospel)?
  • Does the seeker apply moral excellence where he did not use to apply it?
  • Does the seeker have self-control he did not have before?
  • Does the seeker now have perseverance to fight to keep this newly acquired knowledge and faith?
  • Does the seeker understand and desire godliness in ways he did not understand or desire before?
  • Does the seeker aspire to express kindness and love to Godís saints?

Are all these qualities not merely present but actually increasing in the seeker, if even a little? If so, then the seeker is no longer a seeker, he is a useful and productive member of Godís family. His knowledge, his desire to find God, has been rewarded with salvation.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:9-11)

"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." (John 6:37)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

 

A Love of Fishing

Today a missionary to China used fishing as an illustration for the Christian life. We may claim to love fishing, but unless we actually fish, the love is meaningless.

We can say we love other believers, but unless we act on that love, it is meaningless. We can say we love the unsaved, but unless we act on that love, it is meaningless.

It is wonderful how often fishing is used within Scripture. Before they were instructed by Jesus, some of the apostles were fisherman by trade. Jesus paid His tax with a fish once (sort of). A fish is considered a good gift for a father to give. A childís offering of fish and bread fed a multitude. And when Peter thought all was lost because Jesus had died, he went back to commercial fishing, and took many of the apostles with him.

It was this last instance of fishing that I find compelling in my own life. I have been fishing (working at my secular profession) all my life, since I was ten years old. Yet, Peter was chastised by Jesus for resorting to his secular profession when so little time was left to serve God.

For most people, working at commercial fishing to make a living would be noble, but for Peter, he had been given a spiritual gift and mandate to teach, so teach he must. For him a day was coming, he would be motivated to teach, his desire would be to teach, but he would be led by the hand by others and be forced to do those things which he did not want to do.

I love fishing. I love teaching. Time is short. What message should I get from all this?

Monday, March 06, 2006

 

Christians Behaving Badly

This past month the state of Indiana passed a new law. As I understand the new law, it makes creating a disruption, especially a noisy protest, illegal if it is held within several hundred yards of a military funeral.

It is a shame that Christians behaving badly were the inspiration for this new law. A church has been teaching that God disapproves of homosexual activity, and since the USA as a nation is relatively tolerant of homosexual activity, then God has been using Iraq to kill off American soldiers as a warning against the country. This church shows up to heckle and jeer the mourners of the dead soldiers (many of these men were born-again Christians themselves) under the mistaken notion that God judged these men as being more guilty and worthy of death because they were soldiers than others who also died the same day.

Surely it escapes the notice of such misguided Christians that Jesus said:

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5)

Those soldiers who have given their lives for our ongoing security were no worse than any or all persons who live in Indiana, or in the USA. We all deserve death for our sins and failures. Many of those soldiers who died were more full of Christian charity and love than those who protest: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

To be certain, God does regard homosexuality as sin (1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10). But there is no Scriptural merit to the idea that God is killing off our young men in Iraq as a judgment against homosexuality, nor is there biblical virtue in the public taunting of the bereaved; for does not God say:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:14-18)

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

 

Marriage as a Metaphor

In corporate alliance management the professional quickly learns that business relationships are not marriages. Contracts, and the legal terms of the contract, govern most aspects of the business relationship, not love. More poignantly, business relationships are temporary in nature by design, not lifelong as marriage is intended to be. Terms of dissolution (an exit strategy) are built into the better-written contracts.

Similarly, the Christianís relationship to the local church is not a marriage. Scripture calls the members of a congregation "brothers and sisters." A family of siblings, yes, but not a marriage. We freely leave behind one local fellowship to join another when our lifeís tasks require it, and doing so does not require a "divorce." No one should be made to feel guilty for growing up and moving on, for that is the nature of family relationships.

Christ is the promised husband of the universal church. Some day we, the global church, will be brought up to heaven for the marriage to the Lamb (Revelation 19:6, Ephesians 5:22-33). Though this marriage has not yet taken place, the promise (betrothal) has been issued and accepted. As a bride-in-waiting, we are to act and behave in a pure manner, preparing ourselves as best we can for our future relationship--adopting righteousness, learning the Word, practicing holiness.

Given that we, the church, are awaiting our future marriage, it gives me pause and makes me wonder about the propriety of book writers and song writers who describe our relationship with Christ in terms of romantic passions. Are not such romantic acts and feelings of passion more appropriate for those already married? What kind of pure and innocent engagement period are they attempting to impress upon us?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

 

Psalm 42 Ė The Sorrowing Sinner Whose Heart Desires God

Why do we worship God? What is the goal of worship? And what should our heart look like during worship?

Worship means (in Greek and in Hebrew) "to bow down" and "to serve." Romans 12 informs us worship is service (being a living sacrifice as opposed to a dead one, in other words, engaged in physical labor) to both God and to each other. This service takes the form of giving, teaching, encouraging, and many other of the famous "one anotherís" we read so very much about. Other passages describe worship as delivering praise to God, sometimes cheerfully with joy, and sometimes tearfully with sorrow and mourning.

Our hearts can be in great fear (as was Jesusí when He sweated blood in the garden), sadness, or in great joy. Worship is service and humility before God. So worship happens regardless of our emotional state and regardless of our physical condition and health. Worship can be thwarted by our spiritual condition, for we know that God does not listen to the prayers of unrepentant sinners. But all of life is dedicated to the act and reality of worship.

Consider Psalm 42. The Psalmist said his soul panted for God. Why? Because God had cut off His presence and His temple worship from His people when they were driven into exile by God for their sins. The Psalmist was not giving some romantic notion about his soul desiring a mystical rapturous pleasure of a hedonistic encounter with God as if that were some kind of normative event. The Psalmist was here worshipping God in deep depression that God had withdrawn Himself from him and the people because they had sinned. The Psalmistís soul was panting for forgiveness from God, his desire was to quench his sorrow over his sins for which he cried night and day (verse 3). He longed to be able to go to temple again and to have his prayers heard and his sins covered by sacrifice once again (verse 4).

Just as the Psalmist agonized over the fact that he could not offer sacrifices in the temple for his sins (a genuine act of worship from the heart), Jesus indicated in Luke 18 that the tax collector genuinely worshipped in anguish in the temple over the fact that he too was a sinner.

Worship in weeping, anguish, and mourning over our sins. I do not often enough contemplate that form of worship.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

 

Tradition, Like a Fiddler on the Roof

This afternoon I watched the movie, A Fiddler on the Roof. Just as I remembered it from the last time I saw it some twenty years ago, the movie was brilliant.

Still, the theme nags at me. Tradition. Why do the villagers do what they do? Answers the main character, "I donít know. But its tradition."

What I liked about the movie was the emphasis on the ever-present God, and constant references to the Scriptures (though, as was humorously pointed out in the movie, not all citations were actually from the Scriptures). However, ultimately, an appeal to tradition (the way things are done) became the answer to all problems, not an appeal to faith (the reason why all things are done). Sadly, without the Messiah, tradition does supplant faith. Or rather, faith in tradition supplants faith in God.

Earlier today, the men of our church heard three missionaries speak at a breakfast gathering. In each case these men left their American traditions and went to Asia, Puerto Rico, and Ecuador. Why? For the sake of their faith in Christ and for the sake of the Gospel. They follow in a tradition of faith older than the cultural traditions they left behind.

Tradition. Why do the missionaries do what they do? "I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it." (1 Corinthians 9:29)

Monday, March 13, 2006

 

Salmon Are Not Peace Makers

In recent days I have been reading through a coffee table book on freshwater fish in North America. By coffee table book I mean that the book contains more high quality, visually stunning, glossy photographs than high quality text. Eye candy for the fisherman.

Salmon morph as they clamor upstream to spawn. Replacing their usual sedate silver exteriors with shades of raging red and purple, they also develop more pronounced hooks on the front of their jaws. In their drive to be successful at spawning, they cut, slash, and tear at any would-be competitor that is within striking distance. As a result most salmon arrive at their spawning areas ripped and in very poor shape, which only enhances the reproductive chances of those salmon who were better at combat.

Christians, we are not in a spawning competition. Unlike salmon, we can all win the prize. We should be encouraging each other to excel, carrying one anotherís burdens, strengthening feeble knees if need be. Becoming like minded.

Instead, we act as salmon. We quarrel and devour, fighting to win notoriety. For what gain? To increase our own pleasure and to enhance our own earthly status.

Who is the quarreler? The one who introduces speculative doctrines into the church for the sake of shock value and becoming well known (2 Timothy 2:23), that is the quarreler. Speculative doctrines are those manmade teachings which sound like wisdom but can not be proven and sometimes not even disproved by direct appeal to Scripture. They are truly speculative and should not be taught or adopted by the church.

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:23-26)

Quarrels are the arrows, or bolts, used in crossbows. As either side in a battle release their arrows at the enemy, they are quarreling. Quarreling with the intent to kill, not to aid or assist the enemy in any way. Spiritually speaking, quarrelers intend to win status and dominate the church by introducing speculative or strange doctrines into the church, to the detriment of others who are killed or injured by the speculations.

Quarrels result from unprovable speculations like:

  • God is most glorified when (fill in favorite expression)
  • Modern songs are sinful if used in the morning worship service
  • Church carpets must always be red
  • Tongues must always accompany salvation or the person is not saved
  • Baptism is only valid if the person is immersed three consecutive times

Those who rebuke and stop the quarrelers, correcting those who are in opposition to the revealed truth, are not quarrelers. They are peacemakers.

Let us not compete with and injure each other, but embrace the truth, lift one another up in prayer, and reject speculative teachings for what they are--quarrels spawned from those who desire to be the big fish in the church.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

Lord of the Rings--A Trilogy Too Far?

Read the following post with a sense of humor.

Though my wife and son love The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I find in it less to appreciate. Putting aside the questions regarding the propriety of sword and sorcery fiction, fantasy worlds where evil is present but God is absent, and magical inanimate objects as the personification of pure evil, there is still the question of credulity.

Permit me to be frank. The logic behind the story is flawed. Gandalf the wizard was either the worst military tactician Middle Earth ever had the displeasure of running amok among its citizenry, or, he was a blood thirsty warmonger who enjoyed a good bloodbath better than most.

Perhaps I can best explain this viewpoint by offering my own rewrite of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy for comparison.

Bored of the Rings -- A Trilogy In One Act

Written by: C. W. Booth

Copyright 2006 -- all rights retained by author

"Ah, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, may I come in? My old friend, so very good to see you again on this chilly evening." Gandalf smiled and entered Bilbo's home, drew a shallow puff from his crooked and ancient pipe, then coughed a bit from the cumulative effects of tobacco in his lungs.

"Gandalf, I found this shiny, magic, 24 carrot ring. It is so very precious to me, yet, I know I have to give it up. Can you help me?" Bilbo, even as he spoke, deftly removed Gandalfís pipe from between the aging wizardís lips, dumping the freshly lit contents of its bowl into the fireplace.

Grimacing, Gandalf replied, "Stand right outside your door, Bilbo, and whatever else happens, make no movement and no motion, holding the ring in your closed fist. No, no more questions, just stand there. Youíll know what you need to do when the time comes." Gandalf gingerly recovered his pipe, refilled the bowl, lit the pipe, and sat in Bilboís chair until the tobacco was fully consumed.

Rising from the chair, Gandalf summoned his friends, the eagles. Using no spoken words, the wizard told the eagles, "Carry this hobbit to the molten bowels of Mount Doom. If he drops the ring in, return him here unharmed. If the hobbit does not drop the ring into the lava, drop the hobbit, ring and all. In this way, you will save us from uncountable deaths and unspeakable misery."

The eagles faithfully did as Gandalf instructed. Tragically, Gandalf was wrong, for Bilbo did not know what to do when the time came. Frodo Baggins inherited Bilboís house, and peace reigned in Middle Earth for another thousand years.

Friday, March 17, 2006

 

Conquerors, but Only Temporarily

Some years ago, my wife and I had the extraordinary privilege of spending two days in Rome. As so many tourists before us, we found the Coliseum an imposing construct. Leading away from the Coliseum the main road marches first up, then down, to the ancient city civic center called the Forum. Just at the crest of this main road, standing as if it were still one of the key entrances under which all who wished to enter the heart of Rome 2000 years ago had to walk, is an arch of triumph.

This particular arch, the Arch of Titus, with its prominent position standing between the city center and the Coliseum, has particular religious as well as historical significance. The ancient Romans enjoyed documenting and celebrating their most significant achievements and conquests with large free-standing arches into which friezes and inscriptions were carved to explain the noted events.

When one looks carefully at this arch, they will find that the Roman army is shown carrying away the artifacts of the temple of Jerusalem, including the candelabra among other items. The Romans felt defeating the Jewish zealots of Israel was a major historical event and so constructed this arch overlooking their city center, in the shadow of the emperorís palace, and through which so many visitors would be obligated to walk.

As Christians we stood looking past the arch, past the frieze showing the sacking of the temple, and it dawned upon us, Rome the conqueror of Israel, is long gone leaving behind little but rubble to commemorate the vast empire and glory of those days. This is also true of Babylon and the other ancient empires that claimed temporary victory over Israel at one point in history or another.

However, Israel continues. Sadly, the temple is gone, but the nation survives. The language is still spoken and written. Much of the culture remains intact. God is worshipped still via the Law of Moses with all its rituals and feasts, except those that require the temple proper. God proves His presence and demonstrates the validity of His promises with this simple fact, that Israel exists today while her ancient conquerors have crumbled to rubble.

God is not slow concerning His promises. They will be fulfilled. Jesus is returning. The righteous will be resurrected. The world will be judged. But let us consider it His mercy that judgment is delayed and consider how to use that time of mercy wisely.

 

Sunday, March 19, 2006

 

Road Trip! -Part One-

This past weekend my little family took a road trip to the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Our primary objective was to see and learn from the temporary exhibit on Pompeii, one of the three Roman towns both destroyed, yet also preserved, by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius at noon on August 24, 79a.d.

About 20% of the population of Pompeii did not, or could not, flea when the eruption started. Those who tarried too long following the initial eruption, perhaps attempting to secure their homes against thieves or salvage their coins and jewelry, died. Many of the wealthy residents (and their conscripted servants and slaves) were found with their wealth literally in hand and house keys in their purses as they tried to outrun the pyroclastic flow of mud and gas, only to be buried alive.

As their bodies decomposed in place, under the mud and ash, over the centuries the mud and ash hardened and the bodies simply disappeared, leaving a hollow in the ground in the exact shape of the deceased person at the moment of their death. Archeologists poured in plaster to create castings of the person, or animal, just as they appeared at death. A small number of these were on display in Chicago.

Each dead person was trying to protect their face. Each one seemed to know this was their moment of death. One man merely sat on the ground against a wall, knees tucked up to his chin, his hands covering his face as if in despair. A mother hugged her teenaged daughter whose head was planted in her motherís chest. A dog chained to his masterís house, sporting an elaborate collar, was found in the ultimate act of canine submission, on his back, legs up and throat exposed attempting to surrender to the volcanic victor; having survived a long time by continuously climbing on top of the falling debris and ash, but finally succumbing to the toxic atmosphere.

Entire bags and baskets of silver coins, fused by corrosion into unusable balls, were on display. These had been carried by their owners, cut down in mid-stride trying to flea the doomed city. One cannot help but think of Matthew 6:19-21. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Also on display were large numbers of the household gods carried by the dead, or recovered from their houses, tiny and large. Apollo and Mercury seemed to be popular. These idols were made of precious (and not so precious) metals and stone, depicting many of the beliefs of the citizens of ancient Rome. "The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts." (Revlation 9:20-21)

Pompeii was to some degree a corrupt town. At last count the archeologists have uncovered some 38 well advertised brothels in this town of 20,000. It applauded the blood sport of gladiatorial contests--some of the recovered helmets and armor were on display in Chicago. Its citizens worshiped idols and false gods. Yet, was it so different than any other city in modern America? Do we not wink at prostitution, even legalizing it in some states as they did in Pompeii? Are not our entertainment (movies and theatre) far more explicit and bloody than the combat of the gladiators? And is not our immense wealth a source of idolatry? "Ögreed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience," (Colossians 3:5b-6)

Life is short, like a vapor. Only what we do for Christ will last.

 

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 

Road Trip! -Part Two-

To understand the background to this post, please read "Road Trip! - Part One-" from March 19, 2006.

Throughout the museum death was on display. We visited the skeleton of Sue, the largest and most complete T-Rex fossilized skeleton unearthed to date. An entire exhibition hall contained massive and miniature dinosaur remains and eggs from China. All these proud and mighty animals were not merely dead, but extinct. A single colossal leg bone fossil from one of the larger plant-eating species was displayed with a sign that read, "Please touch." "Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you; He eats grass like an ox. Behold now, his strength in his loins And his power in the muscles of his belly. He bends his tail like a cedar; The sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze; His limbs are like bars of iron. He is the first of the ways of God; Let his maker bring near his sword." (Job 40:15-19)

In the Polynesian exhibit, it was demonstrated how the dead were worshipped. One such example of the worship of the dead was when a deceased family memberís skull was covered in mud and clay, sculpted into a bust, and placed on a mannequin or on a shelf, and brought to every major family event so they might participate. Magicians in the villages would carve god-sticks. These talismans would be used to house the spirit of a god, summoned by the magician, and the spirit in the god-stick would then speak to the magician, giving him knowledge and advice.

One bright note at the Polynesian exhibit was a sign that said something to the effect, "When Christian missionaries began arriving and converting the native peoples of the islands, the peoples would show their loyalty to their new God by destroying their god-sticks, tikis, and other religious artifacts. This has resulted in few pieces of religious art of antiquity surviving from the islands." "Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing." (Acts 19:18-20)

Ancient Egypt was powerfully portrayed. The entrance to the exhibit wound the tour line through a reconstructed limestone-block Egyptian tomb (the original painted hieroglyphs were kept safe from inquisitive fingers behind Plexiglas bolted to the limestone blocks). Numerous mummies from all periods were on display. One memorable mummy was a man whose head the museum had unwrapped, which was so intact and preserved that it had the appearance of almost being alive.

Everywhere there were idols or statues of Egyptian gods. Oddly, the Egyptians had a fancy for cat-human hybrid gods. A full size mock-up of an Egyptian idol chapel was also inside the exhibit. And yes, cat idols were in the walls and on the pedestals. It is difficult to put oneself into Mosesí sandals, leading the Hebrews out of Egypt to worship the true God while knowing the people had been indoctrinated for hundreds of years in the practice of idolatry.

Nothing lasts forever. Not even towns made of stone and rock. Vesuvius buried Pompeii once, it will most likely do so again. Both Solomonís and Herodís temples were destroyed. Today, on the plaza where Herodís temple once stood (the temple in which Jesus worshipped) not even one stone remains built on another stone from the temple, having been entirely removed and replaced by a mosque; only the Wailing Wall remains--a remnant from the supporting walls of the grounds around the plaza. "Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, ĎDo you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.í " (Matthew 24:1-2)

Human and animal life is fleeting. Our lives really are like the wisps of smoke left behind by a candle when it is extinguished. It lingers for a moment, a hint of existence in the air, then it is gone. Our earthly treasures get passed along to others, who may not understand or appreciate them. "Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19)

All that remains are the treasures we stored up in heaven, those unselfish acts of service to Christ which furthered His kingdom, which brought more precious souls into relationship with Him--and those are truly treasures which will last for eternity.

Monday, March 27, 2006

 

What Is Love?

Love is so large a topic that it deserves its own rigorous Bible study. As I ponder this large topic, it comes back to my mind and my heart over and over again:

We love God only because He loved us first,

and,

Those who realize they have been forgiven much will love Him more than those who think they have only been forgiven a little.

How great a debtor of love I am daily constrained to be!

 

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

 

Wise and Innocent Use of Money

In this age of electronic marketing, digital lies, and internet theft, it is nice to find products that actually seem to do what is claimed. So, here is my list of good value finds, that in my opinion, have delivered to me what they promised.


Value Finds

    • Ginsu Knives Ė our set is more than 20 years old, they still are the best knives we have owned, and you can still have party fun by dropping a tomato on the blade and watching it slice itself in half (watch out for Ginsu knock-offs).
    • Daiwa Gold Cast fishing reels Ė forget the birdsnests that baitcasting reels create, forget adjusting the magnets, and forget the inability of cheap closed faced reels to actually fight bass; I just pick up a Gold Cast and start fishing (note: it is not nice to mock your buddies as they try to pick out their birdnests every half hour or so while you continue to catch fish).
    • Mountain Fury 15-speed bicycles from Walmart Ė these pre-assembled 26" touring bikes cost us only $45 a piece three years ago, and they still work great.
    • Blade Runner-brand roller blades Ė we bought our first, and only, set of roller blades more than a decade ago and we still love them. We have bought less expensive brands for our kids and were bitterly disappointed, so we always upgraded them to Blade Runner-brand so they could keep up with us on the biking/blading trails.
    • Virgin Mobile USA prepaid phone service Ė we rarely use cell phones, favoring land lines. But we wanted to have a cheap one with us for emergencies, which would actually work, and which would not cost us a monthly fortune, especially "by accident" as can happen with certain contractual plans (or so we have heard). Virgin prepaid costs us about $5 a month since we do not use it much, however, the phone is high quality (cost us only $50 to buy) and always seems to get a signal.

Not as Good as Hoped

Of course, some products I found to be not as good as I was led to believe based on the hype from advertising, resulting in expensive disappointment.

    • Gaskets and Seals in GM engines -- all my recent cars have been GM, and all of them have needed hundreds (thousands) of dollars of gaskets and seal repairs; my most recent car needed them after only 30,000 miles (just past its warranty period).
    • Dell Computer Rebates -- if actually receiving a cash rebate from Dell is more than mere mythology, someone might like to enlighten us how they accomplished this. Sadly, even the integrated modem on one of the two Dell computers I bought (and never got my rebate for) died after only 3 months--it would cost considerably more sending it back to Dell "for repair" than simply buying my own USB modem (which I have done). Worse, I am afraid if I send my PC back to Dell it will end up like the rebates and simply disappear into cyber darkness--my ability to trust Dell has been completely eroded. I must admit, it would have been nice to have the rebate to pay for the modem repair. Needless to say, bargain prices are no bargain if you cannot get the price quoted and the product becomes quickly defective. My next PC will be an HP I think.

Bright Hope

Yet, we should always bear in mind that only God is perfect and only His promises are the ones that cannot fail. So only His promises are those into which we should invest true faith:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)


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