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Posts Tagged ‘George MacDonald’

Last fall I read George MacDonald’s The Highlander’s Last Song: a beautiful book if you read it for the descriptions of the Scottish landscape and life, and for the romance. When I read it, I was trying to enjoy some easy fiction instead of deep theology, but my discernment alarms started to go off when he wrote about the Cross.

A burdening selection: “Mother, to say that the justice of God is satisfied with suffering is a piece of the darkness of hell. God is willing to suffer, and ready to inflict suffering to save from sin, but no suffering is satisfaction to him or his justice… He knows man is sure to sin; he will not condemn us because we sin… [mother speaks] Then you do not believe that the justice of God demands the satisfaction of the sinner’s endless punishment? [son] I do not… Eternal misery in the name of justice could satisfy none but a demon whose bad laws had been broken… The whole idea of the atonement in that light is the merest figment of the paltry human intellect to reconcile difficulties of its own invention. The sacrifices of the innocent in the Old Testament were the most shadowy type of the true meaning of Christ’s death. He is indeed the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. But not through an old-covenant sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty. No, the true atonement of Christ is on an altogether higher and deeper plane. And that is the mystery of the gospel…” (The Highlander’s Last Song, originally “What’s Mine’s Mine” by George MacDonald, this edition edited by Michael R. Phillips and copyright 1986, published by Bethany House)


Tonight, opening Tag Surfer on WordPress, I came across this post (and sermon link – advertised as only 14 minutes) titled, The Cross. The author begins, “The Father was not punishing Jesus in our place on the cross.” In the fourteen minute sermon, though he uses several Bible verses, all of them are taken out of context, contexts which usually include a reference to the blood of Christ taking away our sins, redeeming us, etc. I felt at one point like there was a blow to my heart, when he reported that at the Crucifixion, Jesus and God cheered and celebrated. So much for man of sorrows, and sweating blood in Gethsemane. And the whole way through this horrible, deceptive sermon, this man is associating the biblical view of the Cross and atonement with darkness, with a shackled and blind and guilty perspective of our own that we project onto the Cross, creating a mythology. That is not true! The Bible teaches clearly that Jesus had to suffer and die on a cross so we would not have to die. He is the propitiation, the sacrifice, the lamb, the substitutionary atonement, the righteous fulfillment of God’s wrath against our sin. By His stripes we are healed.

The wonderful young men over at Elect Exiles have been doing a wonderful job reminding their readers what the Cross was. Come on, readers; click the links!!

Why Did Christ Die?
Christ’s Righteousness, Not Our Own
Saving Reconciliation
The Need for Reconciliation

I started looking up the verses about why Jesus died. There are a lot. There couldn’t have been a better reminder of what my God did for me, this Good Friday. (all verses are from the KJV)

Isaiah 53:5-10, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”

2 Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Romans 5:8-11, “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. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

1 John 4:10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;”

Colossians 1:20-22, “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Ephesians 1:7, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”

Colossians 2:14, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”

Matthew 20:28, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

Galatians 3:13, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”

Titus 2:14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

Hebrews 9:28, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I saw this idea on another blog, and thought that since I’m so negligent of keeping my own list, I’d try to post for you all what books I read through the year (on this one page) and whether I recommend them. As a matter of fact I have just catalogued all the books in my room like Gretchen and Natalie and YLCF blogged about, and I have over 300 (and a few duplicates to give away!).

April:
Arena by Karen Hancock (mature scenes, science fiction/allegory, really vivid story)
 

May:
St. Elmo by Augusta J. Evans (good writing, gripping story, inspiring)
June:
 

The Shaping of Things to Come (a perspective on how the Church could react to the changing culture; definitely can’t endorse all of it; thought-provoking)

The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock (an enthralling – do you know that word means “enslaving”? – fantasy; mature scenes, violent, theological; the first of a trilogy)July:
 

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (one of her later books, some familiar characters, but developed into less extreme versions than the other books. To be honest, I didn’t like this one nearly as much as her other books, but I did find myself relating to some of the conflicts in the story.)

Present Concerns by C.S. Lewis (a collection of many short, easy to read essays written by C.S. Lewis for newspapers and magazines and forwards of books, dealing with politics, philosophy, and issues of the day.)

Basic Essentials: Weather Forecasting by Michael Hodgson (an easy to understand crash course in predicting the next 48 hours’ weather without all the doppler and satellites and other technology. Using cloud observations, wind velocity, and barometric changes, you can get a feel for what is going to happen in the weather. I’m especially fascinated to know what the different clouds mean, and to discover that there are logical reasons connecting how they look, where they are, and what they do.)

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald (a Christian classic, so I’m told, which influenced both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The story of Diamond, a young boy who learns about faith through his friendship with Lady North Wind.)August:
 

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (a friend told me this was the best book of the Anne of Green Gables series. I’m not sure, since I read most of the Anne books long ago. The setting is Prince Edward Island during World War I, and in the respect that it revealed what life was like during those oft-overlooked days of history, I greatly appreciated this tale. It is also a nice story, filled with deep characters, as anyone who has read L.M. Montgomery might expect.)

Journey of the Heart by Jeannie Castleberry (The tale of a girl about my age dealing with feeling left behind by older siblings and friends who have husbands while she doesn’t. Through a lot of guidance from practically perfect parents, she learns about her relationship with God and her family, and about not settling for a man about whom God has not given you peace. I have to say that this story is not the best writing I’ve ever read; sometimes it reads like a bullet-point list of what it means to be committed to courtship.)

Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg (A hard-to-classify book explaining the Ezekiel prophecy, world events, and opinions of experts and world leaders that led Joel Rosenberg to write a series of novels recognized as prophetic. I appreciated the grasp he has on worldwide trends, and his emphasis on taking the Bible as a guide even for real-life decisions like drilling for oil in Israel or taking Bibles to the Middle East.)

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers (a metaphor-charged story of a little girl who, burdened by guilt, turns her village upsidedown looking for someone who, instead of eating her sins once she died, could relieve her of her sins right now. I don’t agree with all of the theology, and the village people seemed to have more than their fair share of horrible sins, but the story was really good and well written.)

September:
Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney (a short book reminding me of the gravity of the gospel and the grace remembered when you focus on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross while we were yet sinners.)

I, Isaac Take Thee, Rebekah by Ravi Zacharias (originally I thought this was a book for married people, but since I am preparing a Sunday school lesson series on the Church as the Bride of Christ I decided to read it. That is not the topic of this book. Ravi writes this application of the story of Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis to teach young people to prepare for or be diligent to work on their marriage. A theme is the will behind marriage. One of the most memorable illustrations is that of Ravi’s own brother who with his parents and aunt arranged his own marriage.)

Waking Rose by Regina Doman (the third in a series of modern retellings of fairy tales. Based on Sleeping Beauty, experience an exciting tale about waiting for love, about redemption, heroes, and the sanctity of life. With ample references to literature, and a Christian worldview, this approximately 300 page-book with a beautiful cover is a great read. I only need to mention that whereas her prior books were not distractingly Catholic, this book has more Catholic references: Mary, praying the rosary, etc.)

Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (Another great CS Lewis collection of essays. This book has the seeds of most of the ideas you find cunningly presented in his novel. The first one – Weight of Glory, and the last two – Slip of the Tongue and Membership are my favorite, covering the more Christian and less philosophical topics. A good book for underlining.)

Pearl of Beauty compiled by Natalie Nyquist (I read this in one day. It is a collection of classic tales similar to Aesop’s fables in that there is a moral – for young women – to every story. Louisa May Alcott and George MacDonald are both represented. I’d recommend this book, not only because the stories are enchanting, but also because of the study/discussion questions Natalie included. I think it’s a great resource for raising or mentoring young ladies.)

October:
Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham, Jr. (see full review, recommend)

Love and Freindship (sic) by Jane Austen (see full review)

November:

Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings by Charles H. Hapgood (Focuses on the Piri Re’is map discovered in 1929, but compiled in 1513 by a Turkish sailor.  Through a discussion of comparative geography, navigational grids called portolanos, and projection; Professor Hapgood and his team of students and collaborators were able to show that: 1.  The map more accurately represented Middle America, Antarctica, and Africa than maps drawn at the time.  The existence of an antarctic continent was dismissed during the age of exploration for about three hundred years until it was, apparently, rediscovered.  2.  The reason the map was so accurate was because the makers of the map – it was a compilation of many local maps – could accurately compute latitude and longitude, technology absent during the Renaissance and the next couple centuries.  3.  The projection(s), or the way the map displayed the continents relative to each other, required trigonometry to account for the spherical surface of the earth.  Trigonometry was in use by the Greeks, but not in cartography during the sixteenth century.  In second grade I was taught that Columbus discovered the earth was round, and discovered America even though he thought it was India.  This book proposes that Columbus had access to an ancient map and was using it to search for land across the Atlantic.  He may have even had one identical to the Piri Re’is map, evidenced by a 70 degree tilt in that map of only the islands of the Caribbean.  You should read this book, but with a critical mind.  The author never considered the Bible as an explanation for his findings, and gives dates for his archaeology and geology inconsistent with the Bible, putting confidence in radioactive dating techniques.) 

The Highlander’s Last Song by George MacDonald (beautiful descriptions, some good philosophical things to consider, but don’t read it if you aren’t solid on biblical theology.  I love Scotland, and the hero was a wonderful leader.  The story shows real progression in each of the characters.) 

December:
The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager by Thomas Hine (A history of America centered on people between 10 and 20 years old.  Deals with economics, morality, media, and education.  I enjoyed a sweeping look at US history as well as perspective on what we consider normal for teenagers and adolescence.  The author does not have a biblical worldview; import your own into it for some impressive conclusions.  A good book, but for adult readers only.) 

The Immortal Game by David Shenk (Brilliantly organized, well-chosen information, at a captivating speed; this book traces the history of the world as associated with chess: Islamic Caliphs, the rise of queens in Europe, and artificial intelligence, among many others.)

What did you read?  Share in the comments, or link to your website if you have a similar list!

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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One can read over the brim of one’s cup, just as Treebeard the Ent studied Merry and Pippin in his mountain home over his entdraught in Middle Earth long ago.  Such was I doing when I stopped thinking about the words and became more attentive to the taste in my cup.  I was drinking a vanilla chai tea latte, hot, and slightly watered down due to my lack of tablespoon at work.  The flavor is one of the new things introduced to my life in a year that is rapidly flowing to its end.  I like it. 

 

But I miss hot chocolate.  Not that I never drink chocolate anymore.  That I drink chai tea when I would have been sipping cocoa is undeniable.  Life has changed.  My tastes have dutifully broadened as an expected part of growing up.  If they are broadened, they are also dispersed.  Now the intensity of my appreciation for chocolate is tempered by my acceptance of vanilla chai tea. 

 

Would my life be better if I had refused to taste chai tea?  If through loyalty I remained zealous for chocolate alone, could I still be a grown up and still be happy?  Would I be happier? 

 

Life is a choice whether to try new things.  Once surrendered to a new pet topic, to the diminution of my former sole passion, my experience says there is no possibility of returning to a single-passion life.  A new opportunity arises, and if I am consistent, is tried.  Causes ebb and flow, wax and wane now, each replacing the last for its moment in the spotlight. 

 

I haven’t really written anything in a while.  Inspiration departed.  Whenever that happens I get borderline depressed, because life seems to have lost its flavor, and my passion for each moment has waned.  I don’t like drifting, shallow waves of life lapping around an unresponsive me.  Leaving the metaphor, though, I keep on doing things: going to work, talking to people, checking email.  Even genuine smiles come to my face. 

 

Now, slowly, I think I’m coming out of my doldrums.  A week ago Saturday night, I completely spontaneously saw a movie, August Rush.  There were so few people in the theater, and I was so tired.  Reclined in my seat, I tilted my head against the back of the cushion, and absorbed a beautiful movie.  The soundtrack was uniquely expressive, imposing its presence and importance.  Music spoke in the movie.  It communicated identity, feelings, direction, summons, friendship, longings, and fulfillment. 

 

Afterward I escaped the scent of popcorn into a fresh midnight wind.  The air was too cold to linger, but I breathed it deeply, and memorized its touch on my face.  I felt the cold and the current.  My brother and I talked of how we love things and moments with feeling, and flavor.  They say something, and mean something. 

 

In contrast, the chocolate cake I had just before the movie was bland.  The color boasted bursting flavor, when in actuality the taste was dull and muted.  Not like fudge, or cinnamon, or grape juice.  Those things are so bursting with flavor that they assert their identities. 

 

Then a few days later was a day full of feeling, and a sense of doing things important, though everyday.  I cried near the end, for a few friends came home.  Tears break the walls of the world without passion.  That’s the metaphor of George MacDonald’s Princess Lightness. 

 

Yet when the walls are down, and I care about what happens around me, when I’m advancing my might on causes and people, there’s the probability that I’ll see the world in reality, and see myself as I am.  Couple this to just turning 23, to holidays and old friends, and I am sad now – not depressed, but sad in a sentimental way, in a fightable way. 

 

Sunday I went to Red Robin alone.  They offered me a free burger for my birthday in exchange for receiving their emails, so I went to redeem my coupon.  The staff was nice.  I brought a book about grace.  And in between sips of a chocolate shake and bites of luscious burger, I observed.  The walls caught my attention, bearing an eclectic collection of posters, prints, and photographs.  One fantastic picture showed downtown Chicago along the Chicago River in 1929.  Already the concentration of sky-piercing towers was a marvel.  Chicago is my favorite city.  I can’t lay my finger on the reason, only that when I am there I feel alive.  Every place is a story; every sound has a flavor; and every person has a style. 

 

I love Christmas for the same reason.  Each song is a tale, each note a rush of emotion.  Every light twinkles mystery into my soul.  Altered from its original intent or not, in December the whole country is united in focus.  No one asks why the stores all play music about snow, bells, peace, and Jesus.  It is understood when you wear red that you’re being festive.  Even those who have dropped out of church make it back for the memories of candlelight at Christmas Eve services. 

 

So today, especially at Christmas, I want to challenge you to seize the day.  Breathe the moment.  Live to the hilt.  Pursue life.  Feed on truth.  Praise beauty.  Remember.  Cry.  Hope.  Laugh.  Sing.  Love. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This afternoon I spent several hours studying dispensationalism.  I feel sort of guilty for not having studied it before, because I have heard of it, and realized that I did not know exactly what it was.  After my research, I conclude that I had some right ideas of what it was, and that some who ascribe to “dispensationalism” would say that there was nothing more to the theological system than what I already knew.  They would be wrong. 
 
I’ve decided not to call myself a dispensationalist because of the “extra” doctrines I did not know, but for which, I suspect, the theologians I respect have not respected the system.  Some of the more basic tenets make sense to me, and have been part of my theology for ten years (which is saying something).  For example, I believe that God’s plan for Israel is not yet finished, and that some Old Testament promises to Israel remain to be fulfilled.  My interpretation of eschatology is literal and contains a pretribulational rapture and literal posttribulational millennium.  Finally and least surely held is a fancy that God is glorifying Himself through history by proving through as many different dispensations imaginable that man cannot achieve righteousness or even a pleasant world on his own. 
 
For some reason I have encountered many self-professed “Christians” who have very obscure theology.  Fortunately God has given me a sure foundation, a logical brain, and a willingness to search things out.  As a freshman, I researched free will and secular humanistic transcendentalism.  (In other words, the popular beliefs described in That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis, and now promoted by atheists and left-wing activists who want to turn the world into machinery – remind you of the apocalyptic time represented in The Matrix?)  Soon I was refuting Sabbath-legalism; defending the Trinity, working out a comprehensive eschatology, studying the applicability of Jewish dietary and feast laws, grasping security of salvation; refuting the Search for the Historical Jesus Peter Jennings special, head coverings, seeker-sensitive movements; investigating house churches, and understanding predestination/Calvinism.  Most of these are responses to strangers.  Honestly, a woman once began a conversation about the impending judgment of God at a thrift store!  I have a file in my room of literature people have given me explaining their newly-discovered, minority-accepted doctrines.  As a result, I am so grateful, I have a faith and theology that doesn’t get shaken much.  God’s grace is in all of this.  Without being forced into study by these confrontations, I wouldn’t have any of this knowledge. 
 
I want to quote George MacDonald here because I was reading The Highlander’s Last Song late last night and just wanted to share the experience: “Ian was one of those blessed few who doubt many things by virtue of a larger faith – causing consternation among those of smaller faith who wrongly see such doubts as signs of unbelief.”  I think my friends and family worry sometimes.  Apparently the doctrines I consider are adopted into my theology about half of the time (if you include defending doctrines like the Trinity and eschatology).  Let that reassure you if you will. 
 
Originally I was going to ask my blog readers (may I hail those from Korea, Ghana, Australia, Canada, the United States, and any other countries I missed!) for their understanding on dispensationalism, but Google had a wealth of information that seemed clear and reliable, though varied.  So now I’m going to share what I learned.  In some cases I am dealing point by point with the arguments presented to me this morning. 
 
What is dispensationalism?  Here I have compiled the best explanations Google provided, and their links, so you can look up more information. 
“Now, there are those who see seven dispensations. They see the dispensation of innocence, when God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and God relating to man there in the garden in man’s innocence. Then they see the second dispensation, (I forget what they call it), but it is from the time of Adam’s sin unto the time of Noah, in which they see the third dispensation of the government of God which lasted until the time of the law, which they see the fourth dispensation of the law. And the fifth dispensation of Jesus here; the sixth dispensation, the dispensation of grace; the seventh dispensation, the millennial reign.” – Chuck Smith

“The method of salvation, justification by faith alone, never changes through the dispensations. The responsibilities God gives to man does change however.” – End Times.org
‘Though it may not be spelled out so explicitly, the [Scofield] footnote to Matthew 5:2 in effect says that sinners during the millennium will be saved, not by the blood, merits, and grace of Christ, but by their obedience to the beatitudes, which are “pure law.” But this contradicts the universal proposition of Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” The Scripture, quite the reverse of Dispensationalism, asserts that there is just one way of salvation. True enough, the divine plan in all its completeness, as Paul said in Ephesians 3:5, “was not made known unto the sons of men in other ages as it is now revealed to his apostles and prophets by the Spirit”; but Paul’s fuller doctrinal explanation is precisely the same covenant that was less fully revealed in Genesis 3:15— “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” ‘ – Arthur Pink

Other semi-dispensationalists (like me) are John MacArthur and Dr. Henry Morris. 
In Ephesians 3:2, what is “dispensation”? Does it mean ‘house rules,’ like in Poker, so that Monday is deuces wild, Tuesday is threes are wild; and if you come with a three on Monday, you’ll be excluded from winning?  (Application to spiritual things is that some Dispensationalists say that Israelites were saved by keeping the law before Christ, and that in the tribulation or millennium, that will be the standard again.  I was told that if a post-rapture believer then sins, breaks the ten commandments, he is doomed forever.)  The Greek here for “dispensation” is oikonomia – “management of a household, administration, stewardship.”  This stewardship was given to Paul.  Ephesians 3:2 couples it with the prepositional phrase, “of grace,” and it was given to Paul to the Ephesians.  (That’s as literal as I can make the Greek.) 
 
What is the ‘mystery’ in verse 4 of Ephesians 3?  Keep reading until you get to verse 6.  Also read Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:18-29.  These verses explain that the mystery was God’s inclusion of Gentiles into the one body of the redeemed.  In English we think of “mystery” as a puzzle not yet put together, the secret of a magician’s trick, or the unsolved riddle of a mystery novel.  In the Greek it meant something that used to be hidden but is now revealed.  A pastor once explained that the word was originally used to describe the tactic of only revealing a military strategy/orders at the last minute, to keep it a secret as long as possible.  Hebrews addresses perhaps a reason for the mystery: Hebrews 11:39-40, “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
 
Ephesians 3:5 says the mystery is now revealed to “apostles and prophets.” Who are they?  There is no indication the text means anything but what it says.  “Apostles” generally referred to those left of the Twelve, but also included Paul and some other early believers.  Apostleship and prophecy are both listed as spiritual gifts.  Though the dispensationalist who spoke to me this morning said that “apostles and prophets” referred to the young pastors and missionaries (like Timothy) whom Paul was teaching via this letter, note that verse 5 says not that Paul was revealing the mystery to them, but that they mystery was revealed to “his” (God’s) holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit
 
The parable of the 10 virgins speaks to accepting salvation before Jesus returns unexpectedly.  It is a parable, and does not address either losing salvation or ecclesiology.  Nor is it particularly talking about the church.  Get caught up in the story; find the moral of the story; and apply it to Christianity.  Parables are not allegories
 
Jesus was said to have taught on the conduct expected of Jews in the millennial kingdom (thus the emphasis on the “kingdom gospel,” as supposedly separate from “Paul’s” gospel of grace).  Since Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah, and they should have known better from the prophecies, dispensationalists would say the church (and grace with it) has been parenthetically inserted until God resumes His everlasting covenant and law with Israel.  However, Colossians 1, Romans 9-11, and Ephesians (the passages submitted as evidence) rather speak of the Church as the one body in which the Jews and Gentiles are unified in reconciliation to God until in the last days God continues his plan specifically for Israel (see Revelation 7). 
 
Ephesians 2:11-20, “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:  But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.  Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”
 
Ephesians 4:4-7, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
 
1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
 
Law was not the means of salvation even in the Mosaic “dispensation.”  Being under the Law did not disqualify David from salvation when he committed adultery.  He repented again, and was forgiven.  Psalms 51:1-2, 17 –  “<To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.> Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin… The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
 
Is grace taught by Jesus? Luke 7:42-43 records Jesus’ use of a derivative of the common word (charis) for grace.  He also talked about grace without using the word: “And I give them eternal life…” or “He who hears my words and believes on Him who sent me has everlasting life.”  John focuses on this.  Eternal life was a gift.  Jesus often pointed out that the “good works” and law-keeping that had become Judaism were insufficient for salvation.  No man was perfectly good, but he tried to stack up his ideas of goodness against the perfect law of God, who also sees and judges the heart.  Still living in the Law system so that He could fulfill it, Jesus consistently pointed out the inadequacy of the Law or of man to keep it. 
 
Now that you understand that dispensationalists believe the Law will apply again during the Millennium or tribulation, let me try to explain their take on Hebrews.  They (or the man to whom I spoke this morning) would say that Hebrews was written as a manual for life after the reinstatement of the Israel dispensation.  It was written to the Jews, and so accordingly is separate from any instructions to the Church.  From this they argue that Hebrews 6 does not teach that Christians today can lose their salvation (which would be inconsistent with the rest of the epistles), but that the Jews can. 
 
I love Hebrews 6.  My favorite part is where it exhorts Christians to move beyond the basics.  To me this refutes the seeker-sensitive “conversion”-driven style of church.  I need fed the meat of the word, not just milk.  Several years ago my pastor taught on the second part of the chapter, the controversial part, which at first glance seems to have nothing to do with verses 1-3.  But verse 4 begins, “For,” so obviously the author felt he supplying the reasoning behind those first verses as he continued.  I remember that my pastor was arguing that here in Hebrews 6 there is evidence that the author makes an aside, discussing non-Christians who have been among the Church and witnessed God’s saving power, but never actually accepted the gospel for themselves.  His Bible interpretation for this passage seemed forced into the mold of his preconceived theology; he was proof-texting much like he did when justifying female leadership in the church.  So even though I believe no one once saved can lose their salvation (you did not earn your way in; you cannot earn your way out), I went searching for a more solid exposition of Hebrews 6. 
 
What I found was a lot of controversy and stretched interpretations, and one explanation that made perfect sense to me.  It was provided by Charles Spurgeon (a genius preacher, and eloquent!).  PLEASE read the whole thing.  I’m including the following two quotations just to summarize.  Truly.  His sermon transcript ties the entire passage together.  
“In order to make them persevere, if possible, he shows them that if they do not, they must, most certainly be lost; for there is no other salvation but that which God has already bestowed on them, and if that does not keep them, carry them forward, and present them spotless before God, there cannot be any other. For it is impossible, he says, if ye be once enlightened, and then fall away, that ye should ever be renewed again unto repentance…
 
“Well, there never has been a case of it yet, and therefore I cannot describe it from observation; but I will tell you what I suppose it is. To fall away, would be for the Holy Spirit entirely to go out of a man—for his grace entirely to cease; not to lie dormant, but to cease to be—for God, who has begun a good work, to leave off doing it entirely—to take his hand completely and entirely away, and say, “There, man! I have half saved thee; now I will damn thee.” That is what falling away is.” – CH Spurgeon
 
Compare to the logic-based argument Paul used in 1 Corinthians 15, where he was not saying that Jesus did not rise, but for the sake of argument posed a “what if”:  “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
 
My conclusion is that God always works for His glory.  God does have a special plan to use Israel in the world just as He has a special plan to use you and me, except that He published His plan for Israel in His eternal Word.  Man is never able to save himself.  God has always saved men only by His unfaltering grace!  His grace cannot let a man fall from His hand, so there is no loss of salvation. 
 
To God be all glory.  

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Outside the clear glass door comprising one wall of our kitchen, a landscape speaking of the fading embers of autumn diffused its horizon against pale strata of clouds.  No painting I have ever seen captured the ponderous life of such a morning.  Nor would an artist seek to inscribe its beauty, for the attraction is in the air that drifts between undecided worlds of color, texture, light, and rest.  As if worn out by the vital radiance of her early days, the autumn sways along in a stupor, ready for the peaceful hibernation of winter. 

 

Trees mostly bereft of leaves presided over their slain children, today still without a waft of chilling air to stir their brittle stems.  Dun grass furled its verdant banners, blades shriveled to hide in the dust until the birth of spring.  A front might have been gusting through the reaches of heaven, but stalled in its mission, the blown dunes of cloud hung where its power left them, each its own statement on the threadbare blue sky.  Light captured from tangent rays was diverted between the layers, promising the pink of dawn then the subtle gold of dusk, finally covering the whole scene in a vague grey shadow. 

 

Not cheerful or motivating; as George MacDonald would say, not pretty, but beautiful.  Afraid to release the grandeur of its parent mountains, the dwindling hills on which my house is set would rather be slowly consumed by the tedium of the plains, creeping like the slow tide towards our door.  I would sit in the yard, sit and pray, undistracted by irrepressible beauty, for the day is not for walking or doing.  Its lure would capture me. 

 

What cloaks itself in a nature like this?  Quest-calling by its disguise, perhaps the founded waiting is the source of its captivation: in-between-ness, as though retreating to no reality at all in complacent anticipation of crisis and glory.  Perception demands I see that the courage and triumph is born of the staid prudence of these hours.  Seas do not withstand tempests without concealing beneath, their unheeded depths. 

 

JRR Tolkien penned two verses suited by this day, this mood, this verity: “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.  The old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost.  From the ashes a fire shall be woken; a light from the shadows shall spring.  Renewed shall be blade that was broken; the crownless again shall be king.”  Perhaps a day like this speaks of an exiled king.  Tolkien asked of his poem, what king?  George MacDonald took a twin scene from the northwest coast of Scotland and asked, “What chief?”  What epic story do the silent rocks evoke? 

 

If I had joined the tale of the day, would I have glimpsed as the sun rose, the carven head of the fallen king coroneted by prophetic gold-flowered vines, the piercing promise of hope before a bleak pilgrimage? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I saw this idea on another blog, and thought that since I’m so negligent of keeping my own list, I’d try to post for you all what books I read through the year (on this one page) and whether I recommend them. As a matter of fact I have just catalogued all the books in my room like Gretchen and Natalie and YLCF blogged about, and I have over 300 (and a few duplicates to give away!).

This list will be updated as I 1) read more books, and 2) remember more books I already read.

April:
Arena by Karen Hancock (mature scenes, science fiction/allegory, really vivid story)

May:
St. Elmo by Augusta J. Evans (good writing, gripping story, inspiring)

June:
The Shaping of Things to Come (a perspective on how the Church could react to the changing culture; definitely can’t endorse all of it; thought-provoking)

The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock (an enthralling – do you know that word means “enslaving”? – fantasy; mature scenes, violent, theological; the first of a trilogy)

July:
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (one of her later books, some familiar characters, but developed into less extreme versions than the other books. To be honest, I didn’t like this one nearly as much as her other books, but I did find myself relating to some of the conflicts in the story.)

Present Concerns by C.S. Lewis (a collection of many short, easy to read essays written by C.S. Lewis for newspapers and magazines and forwards of books, dealing with politics, philosophy, and issues of the day.)

Basic Essentials: Weather Forecasting by Michael Hodgson (an easy to understand crash course in predicting the next 48 hours’ weather without all the doppler and satellites and other technology. Using cloud observations, wind velocity, and barometric changes, you can get a feel for what is going to happen in the weather. I’m especially fascinated to know what the different clouds mean, and to discover that there are logical reasons connecting how they look, where they are, and what they do.)

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald (a Christian classic, so I’m told, which influenced both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The story of Diamond, a young boy who learns about faith through his friendship with Lady North Wind.)

August:
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (a friend told me this was the best book of the Anne of Green Gables series. I’m not sure, since I read most of the Anne books long ago. The setting is Prince Edward Island during World War I, and in the respect that it revealed what life was like during those oft-overlooked days of history, I greatly appreciated this tale. It is also a nice story, filled with deep characters, as anyone who has read L.M. Montgomery might expect.)

Journey of the Heart by Jeannie Castleberry (The tale of a girl about my age dealing with feeling left behind by older siblings and friends who have husbands while she doesn’t. Through a lot of guidance from practically perfect parents, she learns about her relationship with God and her family, and about not settling for a man about whom God has not given you peace. I have to say that this story is not the best writing I’ve ever read; sometimes it reads like a bullet-point list of what it means to be committed to courtship.)

Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg (A hard-to-classify book explaining the Ezekiel prophecy, world events, and opinions of experts and world leaders that led Joel Rosenberg to write a series of novels recognized as prophetic. I appreciated the grasp he has on worldwide trends, and his emphasis on taking the Bible as a guide even for real-life decisions like drilling for oil in Israel or taking Bibles to the Middle East.)

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers (a metaphor-charged story of a little girl who, burdened by guilt, turns her village upsidedown looking for someone who, instead of eating her sins once she died, could relieve her of her sins right now. I don’t agree with all of the theology, and the village people seemed to have more than their fair share of horrible sins, but the story was really good and well written.)

September:
Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney (a short book reminding me of the gravity of the gospel and the grace remembered when you focus on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross while we were yet sinners.)

I, Isaac Take Thee, Rebekah by Ravi Zacharias (originally I thought this was a book for married people, but since I am preparing a Sunday school lesson series on the Church as the Bride of Christ I decided to read it. That is not the topic of this book. Ravi writes this application of the story of Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis to teach young people to prepare for or be diligent to work on their marriage. A theme is the will behind marriage. One of the most memorable illustrations is that of Ravi’s own brother who with his parents and aunt arranged his own marriage.)

Waking Rose by Regina Doman (the third in a series of modern retellings of fairy tales. Based on Sleeping Beauty, experience an exciting tale about waiting for love, about redemption, heroes, and the sanctity of life. With ample references to literature, and a Christian worldview, this approximately 300 page-book with a beautiful cover is a great read. I only need to mention that whereas her prior books were not distractingly Catholic, this book has more Catholic references: Mary, praying the rosary, etc.)

Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (Another great CS Lewis collection of essays. This book has the seeds of most of the ideas you find cunningly presented in his novel. The first one – Weight of Glory, and the last two – Slip of the Tongue and Membership are my favorite, covering the more Christian and less philosophical topics. A good book for underlining.)

Pearl of Beauty compiled by Natalie Nyquist (I read this in one day. It is a collection of classic tales similar to Aesop’s fables in that there is a moral – for young women – to every story. Louisa May Alcott and George MacDonald are both represented. I’d recommend this book, not only because the stories are enchanting, but also because of the study/discussion questions Natalie included. I think it’s a great resource for raising or mentoring young ladies.)

October:
Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham, Jr. (see full review, recommend)

Love and Freindship (sic) by Jane Austen (see full review)

November:

Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings by Charles H. Hapgood (Focuses on the Piri Re’is map discovered in 1929, but compiled in 1513 by a Turkish sailor.  Through a discussion of comparative geography, navigational grids called portolanos, and projection; Professor Hapgood and his team of students and collaborators were able to show that: 1.  The map more accurately represented Middle America, Antarctica, and Africa than maps drawn at the time.  The existence of an antarctic continent was dismissed during the age of exploration for about three hundred years until it was, apparently, rediscovered.  2.  The reason the map was so accurate was because the makers of the map – it was a compilation of many local maps – could accurately compute latitude and longitude, technology absent during the Renaissance and the next couple centuries.  3.  The projection(s), or the way the map displayed the continents relative to each other, required trigonometry to account for the spherical surface of the earth.  Trigonometry was in use by the Greeks, but not in cartography during the sixteenth century.  In second grade I was taught that Columbus discovered the earth was round, and discovered America even though he thought it was India.  This book proposes that Columbus had access to an ancient map and was using it to search for land across the Atlantic.  He may have even had one identical to the Piri Re’is map, evidenced by a 70 degree tilt in that map of only the islands of the Caribbean.  You should read this book, but with a critical mind.  The author never considered the Bible as an explanation for his findings, and gives dates for his archaeology and geology inconsistent with the Bible, putting confidence in radioactive dating techniques.) 

The Highlander’s Last Song by George MacDonald (beautiful descriptions, some good philosophical things to consider, but don’t read it if you aren’t solid on biblical theology.  I love Scotland, and the hero was a wonderful leader.  The story shows real progression in each of the characters.) 

December:

The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager by Thomas Hine (A history of America centered on people between 10 and 20 years old.  Deals with economics, morality, media, and education.  I enjoyed a sweeping look at US history as well as perspective on what we consider normal for teenagers and adolescence.  The author does not have a biblical worldview; import your own into it for some impressive conclusions.  A good book, but for adult readers only.) 

The Immortal Game by David Shenk (Brilliantly organized, well-chosen information, at a captivating speed; this book traces the history of the world as associated with chess: Islamic Caliphs, the rise of queens in Europe, and artificial intelligence, among many others.)

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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