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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fantasy and reality: George MacDonald's views

Some thinkers would feel sorely hampered if at liberty to use no forms but such as existed in nature, or to invent nothing save in accordance with the laws of the world of the senses; but it must not therefore be imagined that they desire escape from the region of law. Nothing lawless can show the least reason why it should exist, or could at best have more than an appearance of life.

The natural world has its laws, and no man must interfere with them in the way of presentment any more than in the way of use; but they themselves may suggest laws of other kinds, and man may, if he pleases, invent a little world of his own, with its own laws; for there is that in him which delights in calling up new forms--which is the nearest, perhaps, he can come to creation. When such forms are new embodiments of old truths, we call them products of the Imagination; when they are mere inventions, however lovely, I should call them the work of the Fancy: in either case, Law has been diligently at work.

In the moral world it is different: there a man may clothe in new forms, and for this employ his imagination freely, but he must invent nothing. He may not, for any purpose, turn its laws upside down. He must not meddle with the relations of live souls. The laws of the spirit of man must hold, alike in this world and in any world he may invent. It were no offence to suppose a world in which everything repelled instead of attracted the things around it; it would be wicked to write a tale representing a man it called good as always doing bad things, or a man it called bad as always doing good things: the notion itself is absolutely lawless. In physical things a man may invent; in moral things he must obey--and take their laws with him into his invented world as well.

- excerpted from George MacDonald, "The Fantastic Imagination," in A Dish of Orts, 1893, Public Domain.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Helen Mathews LaBar, 1910-2009

Helen LaBar was born in Fulton County, Indiana, May 4, 1910, to the late Arthur and Minnie Mathews, and passed away on October 26, 2009. The family moved to near Union City, Michigan, in 1914. She graduated from high school in Union City, and went to Albion and Ypsilanti Colleges, obtaining a teaching certificate in mathematics. She taught briefly in the Thumb area of Michigan, and also at Lincoln and Fox schools, one-room schools outside Union City, for five years. She returned to college, and graduated from Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, in 1931. While there, she met William LaBar, from Huntington, Indiana. They were married June 10, 1937, and immediately moved to Sawyer County, Wisconsin. They soon occupied a log cabin, built by her husband, near the Yarnell community, and began to raise their family. They moved to a 200-acre farm, which they purchased, near Edgewater, in 1945.
In 1952, Mrs. LaBar started teaching high school English and Math at Birchwood, Wisconsin. She also served as interim principal. After her retirement in 1970, she became a volunteer in nursing homes, which she continued to do into her 90s, leading Bible studies and hymn-singing, first in Wisconsin, and, later, in Michigan. In 1984, she and her husband moved to Union City. Her husband preceded her in death on June 26, 1991.
The LaBars were active in the founding of Wayside Chapel church, near Edgewater, Wisconsin, which was on land they donated, and they continued to be active in that congregation until they moved to Michigan. She was active in the Union City United Methodist Church, and was also involved in home Bible studies in the area, most of them in her home. She also attended Union City Wesleyan church, and Coldwater Nazarene church. She was known as loving the Bible, reading it daily, and memorizing much of it, including the entire book of Mark.
Mrs. LaBar became known as the creator of rugs, woven from used woolen fabric, using an interweaved braiding technique that she originated. She made several hundred such rugs, gave demonstrations, and taught many others this skill.
She loved music, and was pianist for Wayside Chapel church for many years, and also occasionally played for the Methodist Church in Union City, in addition to playing in nursing homes. She also loved making and connecting with friends, her family, reading, crossword puzzles, Scrabble*, and flower gardening.
Survivors include four sons, Martin and Faye of Liberty, South Carolina, Michigan, Montana, and Tennessee. There are ten grandchildren, who live in Alaska, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, and nine great-grandchildren, who range in age from five years old to two weeks old today.

*She beat me more than I beat her, when I last played her a few months ago.

Photo courtesy of Pauline LaBar-Shelton

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Colossians 1:16-17 poster

Hiatus coming - Colossians 1:16-17 poster
(For ESV copyright and usage information, see here.)

The passage speaks for itself. However, I have previously posted about the implications for Christian stewardship of the environment.

Thanks for reading and looking.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blackberry leaves with Virginia mountains in the distance

Blackberry leaf, autumn, Blue Ridge Parkway

This photo was taken from just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, between Buena Vista and Montebello, Virginia, three years ago today. The leaves in the right foreground are blackberry leaves. In the distance, of course, are some of the Virginia mountains.

The photo is a live link to our Flickr photostream, and, if you click on it, you should go to the photo's own page. There's an icon above the photo, saying that you can see more sizes, including higher resolution versions of this photo. The photo is natural color.

Thanks for looking. Isn't God a great artist?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sunspots 232

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Science Daily reports that a large, but faint new ring has been discovered around Saturn.

(maybe) He Lives comments on a misguided attempt to remove liberal political bias from the Bible, by producing a new translation. 

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What was Solomon singing about?

My daily Bible reading (see here) goes through the entire Protestant scripture in a year. So, it goes through the Song of Solomon. (Also known as the Song of Songs, Canticles, and probably by other names.) I read it this year. I've read it a number of times. I decided that it was time for me to do some musing about this book.

There is a classic idea about what the book is about. Matthew Henry's commentary says :". . . here is not the name of God in it; it is never quoted in the New Testament; we find not in it any expressions of natural religion or pious devotion, no, nor is it introduced by vision, or any of the marks of immediate revelation." Henry went on to give his interpretation, namely that the book is a ". . . nuptial song, wherein, by the expressions of love between a bridegroom and his bride, are set forth and illustrated the mutual affections that pass between God and a distinguished remnant of mankind." Henry believed that it originally portrayed the relationship between God and Israel, and now portrays that between God and the church. Robert Jamieson, in his commentary, agreed with Henry on the value and purpose of the book. John Wesley also agreed. The Wikipedia article on the book indicates that this idea goes back at least to Origen. It also says that the New Testament shows some influence from the book.

My source for John Calvin's commentaries indicates that Calvin didn't prepare a commentary on this book (or on a few others from the Old Testament.)

Is the view of Origen, Henry, Jamieson and Wesley tenable? Well, maybe.

However, the author of the introduction to the Song of Songs in the New International Version Study Bible (Grand  Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005 -- the contributor was probably John H. Stek) believes that the book is love poetry, erotic love poetry. There is some evidence for that. For one thing, some or all of the commentators mentioned above say that the Israelites weren't supposed to read the book before they were 30 years old -- it mentions "breast" several times, and, taken literally, seems to be about a relationship including sexual activity. If so, fine. After all, God invented erotic love.

The book of Ezekiel, Chapter 23, speaks of God's relationship to the Israelites, using a marital relationship, including erotic love, as a symbol of God's love.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sunspots 231

Maybe some of you don't want to know, but Wired has an article on the chemicals found in a cup of coffee, and their significance to the human body.

I'm having a blogging hiatus, God willing.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Two Bible study tools

I have recently discovered what looks to be a fine Bible resource, namely a compilation of what are said to be all the places where the New Testament quotes the Old Testament. As might be expected, it's a long web page.

Perhaps it will be useful to you. I have not checked the page for completeness.

Another web page is a sort of metasearch engine for scripture passages. The Bible Verse Finder lets you input a verse, or passage, and returns links to more than fifty different kinds of Bibles, including many English translations, several other languages (including Greek -- 1881 Westcott and Hort), and an audio version or two. Some of these will handle only a single verse. Others will work for a passage.

I hope this information is useful to someone.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sun and Shield: Where it comes from

Psalm 84:11 with bread background

You are looking at my blog, Sun and Shield. What is the source of that title? Here you see it, in poster form.

The background of this chart is a scanned bagel. That's right, scanned. I just lay it on the scanner and scanned it, rather than photographing it. Perhaps not a smart thing to do -- crumbs might have caused some damage to the scanner. I used bread to represent good things. I first made a poster like this by using chocolate cake (not scanned, photographed!), but decided that I wasn't really sure whether chocolate cake was a good thing for me.

I constructed this poster with the Corel X4 Graphics Suite. If you really want a higher resolution version of this graphic, the graphic, itself, is a link to our Flickr photostream, where there is an "all sizes" button just above the graphic, I believe. Feel free to use this, provided that the use is not for any commercial purpose.

This is my life verse. It has promises, and, of course, also an important condition. I hope that I meet it. With God's help, I do.

Thanks for reading, and looking.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Have you been spanked lately? Discipline of Christians

I misplaced my car keys this morning. How should I react?

Hebrews 12:5b “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (ESV, emphasis added. All Bible quotations from the ESV.)

What is discipline? The Free Dictionary tells us that the word may be used as a noun, or as a verb. Here are three of the noun meanings:

1. Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.
2. Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control.

4. Punishment intended to correct or train.
The verb meanings are closely related.

If God disciplines us because He loves us, and this discipline is designed to train us, that leaves two important questions.
1) Why does He do this? Or, better put, what particular improvement is God trying to achieve in us? I think the answer is simple, yet profound: Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

God wants us to be the best representatives of Christ, in this world, that we can be.

Just as Tiger Woods needs to practice, and listen to others, in order to achieve greatness in golf, we have to practice, and listen to others, to achieve Christ truly in us.

2) How does He do it?

There is no magic formula given in the Bible. Just as no good teacher, parent, coach or boss will treat every pupil, child, team member, or employee exactly alike, God doesn't discipline all of us in the same way. (I'm not speaking of favoritism here. Jane may need someone to get in her face, but Joan may do better with a quiet word.)

I believe that God disciplines us in at least these ways:
Discipline through words: The Holy Spirit speaks to us; through our conscience; through the words of family, friends, and co-workers, even non-Christian co-workers or friends who have our best interests in mind; through the Bible; through Christian leaders and peers. Nathan disciplined David in this way. It worked. God sent other prophets to the Israelites, and even to the people of other nations. Sometimes it worked, usually it didn't.
Discipline through harsh circumstances, such as persecution, famine, disease, war, loss of loved ones, loss of property, emotional anguish. Generally, God seems to try words first. But that doesn't always work.

Does this mean that apparent believers who are going through such bad circumstances are being disciplined? Not always. See Hebrews 11:32-38. See also 2 Corinthians 11:22-28. Neither does it mean that going through bad circumstances is a sign of God's love. It may be, but we shouldn't count on bad circumstances as showing us that we are loved. We are loved, but bad circumstances may just be our own fault, or just normal things that happen to everybody. Everyone's light bulbs have to be replaced, sooner or later. Everyone's kids go through teething.

Discipline by the church: Sometimes, God chooses to discipline through the church. (This is in addition to discipline through words, which may be administered by the church.)

This post, which quotes Jesus, in Matthew 18:15-17, discusses what to do if a Christian offender, when dealt with, refuses to repent. Jesus said to let such a person be as a Gentile and a tax collector, which seems to mean excommunication, or, as the Amish put it, shunning. See the Wikipedia article on Shunning, which is not just about the Amish, but is broader, and also indicates other scripture which commands this practice. I am linking to these passages. They are Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 3:14-15; 2 John 1:10-11. Does that mean to stop talking to such people, or to stop loving them? Of course not. It means that we must no longer treat some people as part of our Christian fellowship.

Finally, death: I don't want to get into the question of eternal security here. There has been many an argument on this subject, and I won't repeat those. Whatever the state of their salvation at the time, Ananias and Sapphira died.

Jeremiah 30:11 and 46:28 tell us what we already know, namely that God's discipline is just. We should continually be examining ourselves, to see if we are achieving true Christlikeness. As Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 13:5: Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

I should have prayed that I would find my keys. (I haven't yet) I should have looked for them, as thoroughly as I could. I should have asked myself how God could be using this to teach me something -- more care, more dependence on God, and less on things, or less pride in not losing my keys, for example.

God help me to meet all the tests of being like Christ.

*   *   *   *   *
October 2, 2009: My wife found my keys, thank God.

Bonnie has written a post on discipline which, like everything Bonnie writes, is well worth reading.