Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Happy Birthday, United States Marine Corps. The first 227 years of forever.

"Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but the Marines don't have that problem."
Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America

"For all of those that have son's or daughter's at bootcamp let me pass on what I found. Let me give you a little back ground first. When my son left home he had no motivation, he was lazy, slobby, no pride, no self worth. This is the boy that got off the bus March 18th at Parris Island. The man that I met on Thursday for parents day is AWESOME. There is no way I can describe to you all the difference. He looks different, he walks different, he talks different, he has such a sense of bearing and pride all I could do was look at him in awe. Oh yes, the training is hard, what he went through is unimaginable to any one that has not been there. They are definitely taught to be Warriors. Let me tell you the surprise of what else they are taught. My Marine son has better values, better morals, better manners than any one I know. It is so much more than Yes Sir, Yes much more. He cares about how he looks, he cares about what he does, and its not a boastful, bad ass thing. He is a true gentleman. I saw patience, and a calmness in him that I have never seen. I could never express my gratitude enough to the Marine Corps for what they have given my son. I know this, I have an 11 year old Devil pup still at home. When the time comes for his turn if I had to I would take him kicking and screaming all the way. Although I'm sure that will not happen. The hero worship I see in my younger sons eyes for his Marine brother tells me I will have two Marines in the family, and I will be one very proud mother."
"Cybil", Mother of a Marine writing to the myMarine Group

"Don't you forget that you're First Marines! Not all the communists in Hell can overrun you!"
Col. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, USMC, rallying his First Marine Regiment near Chosin Reservoir, Korea, December 1950

"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold."
1stLt. Clifton B. Cates, USMC in Belleau Wood, 19 July 1918

"Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?"
GySgt. Daniel J. "Dan" Daly, USMC, near Lucy-`le-Bocage as he led the 5th Marines' attack into Belleau Wood, 6 June 1918

Whenever I can I sit on our backyard deck in order to have my prayer time. I was there this morning (the next door neighbors were burying their friend's cat, complete with inscribed memorial block of wood, and no I didn't do it, so stop thinking that; Frisky was looking on in total amazement, wondering why they weren't making that perfectly good cat into dog food, but I digress), and I was working through doctrine of majesty as a part of my worship. You can tell right away that God the Holy Spirit helps with concentration during prayer, considering the manifold distractions. I was thankful indeed. Anyway, I read through doctrines as a part of my prayer time, integrating what I read into prayers of worship. While I was reading I ran across a favorite passage which illustrates the majesty of God's power and character as well as any writing.

From John Muir, Range of Light, “Looking eastward from the summit of Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositae. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.... Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light.”

I've been to that very place. It is between San Jose and Monterey, and although the smog and dust of the San Joaquin Valley now more often than not obscures that view, I have seen it as described, and it is truly majestic. Yet if creation is majestic, then surely God the creator must be even more so. God exists exactly as the Bible reveals Him to be, and that makes all the difference. Live out your lives in careful consideration of that.

Courage and Faith.

Friday, November 08, 2002

I noticed today that Berean Publishers of New Zealand have recognized a poem of mine as one of their favorites. I wrote this several years ago, and it still moves me when I read it. The inspiration was Christ; the guide God the Holy Spirit. I merely acted as His servant. May its words fill you with the true meaning of the gospel. Thanks also to whoever sent it to them.

Berean Publishers of New Zealand
I am currently reading William Manchester's The Last Lion, a biography of the first part of Winston Churchill's life. It is excellent on many levels. First, as a history of Victorian England it is on par with Pax Britannica, considered by most to be the champion history on the subject. The prologue, which runs some 75 pages and gives an overview of Churchill's life, is the most memorable and entertaining passage of history writing that I can remember. Second, as a history of virtue borne of strife, it gives excellent service. Winston Churchill was born to a famous British politician and his american wife. They cared so little for him they refused to answer his pleading letters from school, even when he was a child of less than 10 years of age. His father openly despised young Winston and publicly disdained him even when he was very young. It was both neglectful and emotional abuse. On top of that, he was physically abused in an appalling manner by a certain schoolmaster. On one of the few occasions when he received care from his own mother, he came home with so many open wounds and bruises from brutal whippings that there was dismay even in an era when such things were acceptable. All of which contributed to his indomitability. An indomitability which, when confronted with the daunting tyrants of the 20th Century, was unfazed. Churchill had his flaws, like any human being. In many ways he was slow to mature. But he was fearless in combat, and could not be buffaloed by any political leader, British, German, or otherwise. Winston Churchill stands as one the the great examples that a difficult and even abusive childhood may be overcome, and may even become an advantage to those who are honest enough with themselves and with the world to see it.

I am still unsure about Churchill's status as a Christian. The book depicts the upper crust of English society as exceedingly degenerate, and they were Winston's people. Among his contemporaries were many fine believers, so that it is not out of the question.

The ultimate triumph over child abuse comes courtesy of the grace of God, and there is ample grace to recover from any difficulty. John 9:1-3 testifies to God's reason for allowing such monstronsities: "1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

Blindness is a terrible handicap, and most difficult for children. Although it is a physical handicap, Christ's principle readily applies to environmental handicaps as well. Whether parental or peer abuse, whether physical or emotional, God allows it in order to display His works.

Courage and Faith.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Today is doctrine day. I am posting the first part of the Doctrine of Theology Proper. The term theology is used in a broader sense to describe all aspects of theology and all of the sub-doctrines drawn from the Bible. Theology Proper focuses on the person of God Himself, and here is the very beginning of the work I did earlier this year. Seems like a long time ago already.

2002 Basics Lesson #2: Theology II... A Description of God
I. General Course of the Lesson: A Methodology of Description.
A. We will study the essence of God: Who and what He is.
B. We will study the capabilities of God: What He can do.
C. We will study the character of God: the manner of His doing.
II. The Essence of God.
A. God is a person: He is the living God.
1. Argument from comparison with man:
a. Since man is like God in soul essence, Genesis 1:26-27, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness”, we may infer that the structure of the divine soul is the same as that of the human.
b. So God is also a person.
2. The original Hebrew and Greek terms which describe the God of the Bible.
a. The Hebrew is EL-HA. HA is an adjective which means living, and this is perhaps a take off from the ‘I am’ of Mt. Sinai.
b. The Greek is ZONTI THEOU. ZONTI is a present participle which denotes not only life, but continual existence.
3. Direct statements to the effect:
a. Joshua 3:10, “And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite.”
(1) You know that God is alive because the seemingly impossible comes to pass.
(2) From the human viewpoint the Jews had no chance to displace all of these tribes from the promised land. But, God was on their side.
(3) The living God implies that He intervenes in our affairs, and on behalf of those who love Him.
b. In Psalm 42:1-2, David is once again in a jam, “1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. 2 My soul thirst for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?”
c. In Psalm 84:2, the five sons of Korah, David’s allies, sing a song of longing for worship in the temple. Though they were great warriors (1 Chron 12:6), they would really rather be worshipping God. Note that these men are Korahites, from a dishonored family in Israel. Their forefathers caused Moses no little grief while in the wilderness. Yet these men are spiritual giants. “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
d. In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 Paul speaks to the Corinthians about the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, “2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”
(1) Paul says that the Spirit has convicted he and his fellow evangelists about their mission to Corinth.
(2) He has led them there, written on their hearts the need the Corinthians had for the Word of God.
(3) The context is the persistent lasciviousness of the people of this church. They had engaged in every kind of lawlessness, and done so as Christians.
(4) Along the way, they had rejected the ministries of Paul and the other good pastors and evangelists of the day.
(5) This unfortunate circumstance meant that Paul needed a reintroduction to the Corinthians, and this context, he was revealing the purity of his motives in his dealings with them.
(6) What purer motive could there be than rightness before God?
(7) And this is also the context of the impossible - true recovery from degeneracy. Only the living God can do that.
e. In 1 Timothy 4:10 Paul relates the term to salvation, the ultimate impossibility, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, particularly of believers.”
4. Statements which depict God as intervening into the lives of men:
a. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, “8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.”
b. Galatians 4:4-5, “4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
B. Spirituality.
1. John 4:24 makes a definitive statement about the spiritual nature of God, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
2. Spirit is the contrary nature to flesh, Isaiah 31:3, “Now the Egyptians are men and not God, And their horses are flesh and not spirit; So the LORD will stretch out His hand, And he who helps will stumble And he who is helped will fall, And all of them will come to an end together.”
a. Two comparisons come out of this verse: Egyptians vs. God, and their horses vs. Spirit.
b. It says that God is spirit, but the Egyptians and their horses are flesh.
c. So this is a primary difference between God and man.
d. That God is spirit means that He is fundamentally different from the physical universe of the flesh - he is not bounded by the atomic structure of the universe.
e. God is the creator of the universe, and thus He is outside of its boundaries.
3. Paul made an issue out of the difference between the flesh and the spirit.
a. 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But a soulish man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
(1) It is worth visiting here in order to see the contrast between PSUCHIKOS and PNEUMATIKOS.
(2) This is a surprising difference, where you would expect SARKIKOS instead of PSUCHIKOS.
(3) But Paul wants to emphasize that our invisible souls can also be contrary to the spiritual priorities of God, so he uses ‘soulish.’
(4) The thinking of men in this world is often contrary to spiritual thinking.
(5) The two viewpoints are as fundamentally different as the two realms.
b. Concerning the resurrection body, 1 Corinthians 15:42-46, “42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in a perishable body, it is raised in an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.”
(1) Paul contrasts the resurrection body with the body of flesh.
(2) Our resurrection body is extra-universal, not a part of the fleshly/physical universe.
(3) It is fully equipped for function and life in the spiritual realm.
(4) But here we see that even our future in heaven will require a change to a body that is suitable for the spiritual realm.
c. Ephesians 6:12-13, “12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
(1) There is a realm of warfare that is entirely spiritual.
(2) And there are spiritual forces of evil.
d. Colossians 1:9-12, “9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”
(1) There is a realm of wisdom that relates to the spiritual.
(2) It gives the ability to please Him, meaning that we can only please God when we are in the spiritual realm.
4. God is not constrained by the physical universe, in either space or time.
5. He demands a spiritual worship on account of this spiritual nature.
6. God enters into our universe and intervenes. But at least for the purpose of worship, He demands that we enter His in some significant fashion.
7. We cannot worship God from the flesh; it has to be a spiritual worship, entering into God’s realm of the Spirit.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The work in producing the biography of CPT Swanson has reminded me of the work of the writers of the four gospels. It has been about 30 years and more since Jon Swanson's passing. I have conducted many personal interviews with his family and fellow troopers, both by phone and by email. It was about 25-30 years after Christ's death when Matthew, Mark, and Luke began their works, and 40+ years for John. Memories are hazy, chronologies are difficult to construct, and pieces of the puzzle often contradict. For the first time in my life I am doing the primary work of the historian: collecting first-hand accounts. I am painfully aware of the difficulty of the work, and the responsibility to give a coherent narration of a good man's life. I am also aware of the inevitability of the creeping in of inaccuracies, and it makes me appreciate all the more the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in ensuring the perfect accuracy of the gospel accounts through inspiration. “God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture, that without waving their human intelligence, individuality, literary style, personal feelings, the time in which they lived, or any other human factor, His own complete and coherent message to man was recorded in perfect accuracy in the original languages of the writers, the very words bearing the authority of divine authorship.” I don't have that for my effort in constructing history, but I appreciate the product that the Spirit gave us in the gospels, and in all of Scripture.

Courage and Faith.
For those of you who visit here, I thought I would give you a picture of Captain Jon E. Swanson, United States Army. His widow Sandee sent this one to me last week, indicating that it was her favorite picture of him. Be ready for a meaningful and worshipful observance of Veteran's Day.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Two years ago on election day I had the most awful feeling. It was an undefined dread, as though an invisible shroud of evil had settled over the land. Like the guy said in Ghostbusters, "I have a bad feeling about this." And sure enough, our country went through a sore test of democracy, barely weathering the evil machinations of those who would manipulate democracy to satisfy their lust for power. I thought at the time that we were on the brink of the most severe civil unrest since the 1960s. I still believe today that we were indeed. When the dust settled and president Bush took the oath of office, I had the distinct impression that God had given us the president that we needed, and I said so at the time. For what, I did not know.

That our country exists today, undominated by foreign oppression, is sound evidence of the grace and patience of God.

Today America reflects her innermost self at the voting booth. We will have many new individuals sitting in elected offices across the land, and at the end of the day we will be looking in that great mirror of democracy: our elected leadership. I was at peace with God over the mess of the Clinton years, realizing that He wanted our nation to bear his shame as motivation to seek spiritual change. I am at peace with God today come what may. Our nation may choose the squalid chains of anti-establishment officials and policy, and if they do, God is in control. We will pay the price in the loss of freedom, and even the loss of life. The Law of Volitional Responsibility is fine motivation toward self-discipline, and we may have to go that way again.

I continue to pray for clarity regarding the issues and candidates. I cannot imagine there being a much more clear choice between the two than what we have today.

Courage and faith.

Monday, November 04, 2002

It is election day tomorrow.

I'm not going to tell you how to vote. After all, I teach my brains out on establishment issues, and by this time your conscience ought to be well-founded regarding the issues. The important thing I wanted to communicate is that you have a strong obligation to vote. I study history an awful lot, and I find that our position as Christians in America is highly unusual. That is to say, you have to look very hard to find a place in history where Christians have such a degree of control over their own destinies.

Thomas Paine said, "The right to the primary right by which other rights are protected" We stand on a historical pinnacle freedom. We are free to preach, free to proselytize, free to print and read our Bibles and inspirational materials based on the Bible. Voting is a means by which we protect those other rights. Allow the enemies of freedom to dominate through the voting booth, and you will have legislators who enact laws restricting your freedom; judges who uphold those restrictions. Ultimately, the cause of Christ will suffer. Understand this point clearly, and you will never turn your back on the voting booth.

"If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. may your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." Although Samuel Adams was speaking of taking up arms for our country, the principle holds with regard to the voting franchise.

From the heart.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

This is my favorite verse that has to do with culture. We're not stuck with the Bible alone for reading (not that such would be a bad thing), and we're not stuck with re-enactments of Bible stories for our entertainments (not a bad thing either). "Okay kids, let's do the Jonah play again." NOOOOOOOooooo!!!!! This verse enables us to sail to a new world of entertainment, a world that is bordered by virtue and at the same time unbounded by human creativity. Books, movies, plays, music, and more... all are valid insofar as they are virtuous. J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote an essay on how the gospel permeates all virtuous literature. How many great works of literature are clever retellings of the EUAGGELION, the gospel story.

This past year I saw four movies that very clearly passed the virtue test:
1) Spiderman. This is a good vs. evil movie, which contains themes of defending the weak and self-sacrifice.

2) Jonah. If you missed this, you missed a lot. A very fine and faithful re-telling of the misguided prophet. Surprising insight and attention to historical detail for a bunch of live-action vegetables. Has a subtle gospel, but gospel nonetheless. Good for the whole family.

3) A Walk to Remember. Okay so I cried. Imagine your 250 pound Pastor blubbering and you have the picture. First positive portrayal of evangelical Christians in a long time. In fact, this may be the first time that Hollywood painted Christians in a positive light since Cecil B. DeMille was making epics and Charlton Heston looked young (you just can't have old man legs in a short robe). It wasn't perfect, but the female lead carried the day, and it was worth every nickel.

4) We Were Soldiers. I have this thing about Mel Gibson movies. Every time I see one I think it's an elaborate remake of the Road Warrior. You know, Mel Gibson is just an average guy minding his own business when the bad guys tick him off. Then watch out! Mel's mad now. Then he shoots them full of holes in the shape of a smiley face. I thought this same thing in The Patriot. This was true to a much lesser extent in We Were Soldiers, but the element is still there, and I can't help but think that Colonel Moore bears a striking resemblance to Mel Gibson. Oh, wait, that is Mel Gibson, and this is a Mel Gibson Movie. This time the North Vietnamese make Mel mad, and they pay for it. But, this movie is worth your dollar for Sam Elliot's portrayal of Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley. If your ears are delicate toward profanity you may not share this opinion, but Elliot nailed the very idea of the U.S. Army Sgt. Major. It is also worth it because it portrays its soldiers and their women as godly and patriotic people, and it does not apologize for that. There were elements of the book that I did not care for, such as the author's tendency to place our communist foes as our moral equals. That's really bad. But it was a book that tore at your heart, and also made my Cavalryman's heart soar with pride for the way the Garry Owen regiment fought the battle. The movie leaves out that bad junk. I was amused that the one sympathetic communist character is summarily dispatched by Mel Gibson.