Archive for the ‘the disheveled shelf’ Category

The problem with home schooling is that there are, at every given moment, too many good books to read, too many interesting things to do, and too many lines of thoughts interacting with each other whether in harmony or counterpoint.  At present we are reading II Corinthians, memorizing James, listening to N.T. Wright’s lectures on Romans, reading Primeval Saints by James Jordan, and covering the Babylonian time period with Vision Forum History of the World Lectures (see the end of this post for a great giveaway offer).  My mind is having a conversation about one book, hopping to another author’s point of view about a related topic, wondering what this author would think of that one, etc…

Reading James Jordan’s Primeval Saints aloud to the children, we have been analyzing our family’s thoughts, words, and actions, through the series of contrasts between the way of the pagan and the way of true faith presented in the introduction to his book Primeval Saints, an introduction which, in my opinion, begs to be classified as both poetry and prayer and, well, a beautiful, convicting rebuke (see here for more). And now, he’s got us analyzing our mealtimes, our arguments, and our schoolwork in other ways too.  In the first chapter, Jordan delineates an inescapable six-fold rite in which we engage throughout life:

 I. Laying hold of

II.  Giving thanks

III. Breaking down and restructuring

IV. Distributing work to God (tithe), self, and others

V. Evaluating by God, self, and others

VI. Enjoying the work by God, self, or others

      I particularly like this observation he makes:  “Adam’s sin lay precisely at the second step of his rite.  He refused to give thanks to God, because he could not do so.  With the forbidden fruit in his hand (the act of taking), and intending to eat it (an act of restructuring), Adam could not give thanks to God.”  This giving-thanks theme is also woven into N.T. Wright’s lecture pointing out the connection to Adam and Eve in Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  It is also woven into what we are studying about the Babylonian Empire, of Nebuchadnezzar, thanking himself, glorifying himself for his impregnable city walls; of Belshazzar, his son, laying hold of the plundered Israelite tabernacle goblets and thanking gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

    In contrast, God calls us, his creation stewards, to lay hold of this world and give him thanks—not to abandon it to the pagans, who can’t and won’t give him rightful thanks. Do we engage in this task?  In his lectures on Romans and elsewhere, N.T. Wright correctly scolds that we Christians too often have been mis-occupied with an ethereal heaven in the sky, and not engaged in the task before us— “heavenizing” the physical world, or, in more familiar phraseology, Thy Kingdom Come on Earth As It Is In Heaven.  And so, Christians unwittingly embrace pagan gnostic philosophy, mindlessly muttering excuses like, “Oh I don’t care about that, it’s not going to heaven…”, and shamelessly living out “I’ll Fly Away” theology, abandoning our God-given task to lay hold of and to take dominion of the cosmos.  (Wright humorously states that when folks insist on saying that they are going to heaven when they die, he rebuts, “Yes, but you won’t be there forever.” 🙂 See his book Surprised By Hope)  We are called rather to actively lay hold of this real, physical, fallen-but-being-redeemed garden-world, and after having laid hold of all that is ours in Christ, albeit broken by the Fall—the arts, the sciences, culture, politics, architecture, technology, medicine, business, homemaking…the whole wide world—we are called to give him thanks for it, break it down and restructure it, gift it to him, to others, and ourselves in order to bless the world, so they can evaluate and enjoy.  World Transformation in Six Easy Steps, One Task at a Time.

     In Chapter 2 Jordan points out that, helping to restore us to our God-given pattern, our weekly worship is centered around the same six-fold rite of sacrament and Word. And, essentially, through worship, God ultimately is laying hold of us and restructuring us (God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword) as we are broken down, reformed/transformed more into his image, and delivered back into the world  as a restored  new (re-) creation, again, and again, and again.

 I. Laying hold of bread, wine, and God’s Word

II. Giving Thanks for it

III. Restructuring (breaking & renaming bread & renaming wine, breaking the Word)

IV. Distributing (giving bread, wine, delivering sermon)

V. Evaluating (Tasting, Psalm 34:8, hearing the word)

VI. Enjoying (integrating resurrection, life, & applied Word into the lives of self & others)

       Christ’s body and blood (communion) and God’s Spirit-Sword (the Word),  continually come to us, breaking us down and recreating us, transforming us week to week, year to year, from glory to glory.  And more than that, he sanctifies the humblest of callings and accomplishes world transformation through all his image-bearing children with these thousands-of-times-repeated, sometimes mundane, six-fold processes in real-world-time (not I’ll-fly-away-to-glory-time).

     I am a homemaker.  My social security update rates my contribution to society for the last fifteen years at an echoing zero decimal zero zero US Federal Reserve Notes.  I cook, I clean, I organize, I teach, I love, I scrub mud and grime off tubs, toilets, small feet, and stinky bums.  I even leaf blow and mow sometimes.  So, theology like this, to me, is utterly practical and essential.  Why?  It’s essential because, while my government tithing statement says I’m not delivering a recognizable contribution to society, books like this one remind me that God is the One for whom I ultimately labor.   So, laying hold of a dish rag, laying hold of a book, laying hold of a bad attitude, laying hold of bread dough, laying hold of a cup of cold water to distribute to a little one—in laying hold of these small things, and in giving thanks, I take part in the recreation dance of heavenizing earth.  Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!

* Here’s something to lay hold of:  Vision Forum has a Christmas giveaway going on.  What a great way to stock your personal or church libraries  with rich resources and Christian Books.  Helping families seeking to be transformed by the renewing of their minds!  For more information, go to Raising Olives!

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i f   I  p e r i s h

“If I perish, I perish”.  These were the bravely spoken words of Esther, the Biblical beauty queen, committing herself to approach the king’s scepter to implore mercy for her people.  One of my new favorite books, an autobiography of Esther Ahn Kim, hearkens these words in its title, If I Perish. Its title and its story reflect a life lived with the same deliberate and reckless abandonment—a life yielded entirely to God’s purposes. In this book, the children and I were particularly intrigued with God’s intimate and particular attention to the prayers of His people, the amazing acts of His providence that orchestrate the details of history, and the corruption of cultures and governments that embrace idolatrous and godless worldviews.

During the Japanese occupation of Korea prior to and during WW II, the Japanese forced the Koreans to march to their gods’ shrines and pay homage—those resisting were imprisoned, brutally tortured, their families denied food rations. The narrative begins as Kim quietly, boldly marches to the shrine and, fearing God rather than man, does not prostrate herself to worship idols made by men. Her adventures, because of this, lead her to flee to Japan to inform Japanese leaders, some with Christian sympathies, of the untold extent of religious persecution happening in Korea.  This leads thereafter, into the story of her arrest and life in various Korean prisons where the Lord uses her gifts in language (she excelled in Japanese, the language of her captors) and writing.  Her devotion—constant prayer, fasting, courageous obedience, and mercy to the dirtiest and lowliest outcasts—throughout her imprisonment are very inspiring.

The ways in which God answers several of her prayers are simply historical. For instance, at the apex of the war, the Japanese are intent that all their subjects implore their gods for victory. As a result they plan that everyone will bow down at a signal and together pay homage to their gods. There is one cruel prison guard who despises all the good God has done through and to Esther Ahn and who is only all too eager to execute the impending justice towards Kim the moment Kim defies the command to worship idols. The expected time of worship arrives and passes…it never happens.   The plane, carrying the governor who was to signal the commencement of these worship exercises, has been shot down.  The last chapters record the defeat of the Japanese, an empire so humiliated by the impotency their gods, that they burn their shrines with kerosene. The Russian communists replace them in political power and with their godless, atheistic worldview they usher in a government and a society only more barbaric and more cruel. In the last chapters, Esther Ahn Kim flees persecution with other Christians to South Korea—south of the 38th parallel.

Here are a few choice dainties from the book:



“I am already dead.”



In reply to a Japanese Christian’s admission that he bows to the gods and doesn’t consider it a sin, Esther Ahn Kim writes, “I was stunned at his words.  What is the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, I thought, if a believer does the same things as an unbeliever? Why would he even become a Christian unless he allowed God to change his life?



“As the faithful servant of the great imperial Japanese emperor and the commandant of the Pyongyang prison, I order you to serve the nation by doing your work every day.”

“As a servant of God who created the heavens and the earth and overrules the whole world, I cannot obey rules that ignore the rules of God.”  Kim replies, insisting that she will honor the Sabbath Day by not working, despite the fact that she welcomes the job because it makes the time pass more quickly.  She writes, “After the confrontation with the commandant, I did not work on Sundays but spent my time with the Lord.  If we did not rest, how miserable we would be, with no difference between ourselves and the beasts.  Because of His fatherly love, God consecrated the Sabbath day to make us rest.  I was grateful for it.”



“An express train loaded with young Japanese soldiers had just arrived from Japan and was going on to the battlefield.  Everyone was at the station:  the leading officials, policemen, students, and ordinary citizens.  Japanese flags were waving while the people shouted, “Banzai,”  and the students in uniform were singing a patriotic number, accompanied by the band.  I was not listening to the din around me.  My gaze was fixed on the solemn, expressionless faces of the  young servicemen.  They looked like so many corpses headed for unmarked graves on the battlefields of China, living sacrifices to the gods of imperialism and military might.  Numbly I walked alongside the train, fighting for each breath.  The soldiers all had that strange look of death, as though they were being sent to hell for the sake of the state. Didn’t the Bible say that the wages of idolatry were wars, famines, and pestilences?  Because of it, youth would die in wars, wives would become widows, parents would lose their sons, children would become orphans, and peace would vanish.  Idolatry would cause all the world to be visited with calamities.  Leaders of the state were responsible, for they were committing sins and sowing the seeds of the curse.”



“In an effort to control the inner turmoil, the Japanese planned to increase the power of the Shinto spirits by persecuting the Christians.”



“They that trust in Jehovah are as mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth for ever.”  Psalm 125:1



“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.  He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble:  I will deliver him, and honor him.”

Psalm 91:14-15


You can purchase this book at Amazon:

If I Perish

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bishop ambrose

“Ambrose is the first man who told me the truth.  He’s the only man who is worthy to be a bishop.”

—the repentant words of a broken Emperor Theodosius who in irrational anger had ordered a sweeping massacre of about seven thousand people in Thessalonica, after which Bishop Ambrose (339-397 A.D.) resolutely barred him from communion and commanded his repentance for the wicked bloodshed.  A morsel of a fine reading today from Trial and Triumph: Stories From Church History by Richard M. Hannula.  We have a lending copy. (:


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The first day of Epiphany is traditionally called the King’s Day where the church remembers and celebrates the visit of the wise men, who saw the starry heavens declaring the glory of God, and followed the poetic message to seek the King in Bethlehem. We’ve begun a bit of a family tradition for commencing this season of epiphany by watching The Star of Bethlehem, a documentary movie about one man’s quest to make sense, astronomically, of the Bethlehem Star using NASA’s amazing computer program that can calculate the exact position of the stars on any given date.  Essentially Frederick A. Larson, the host of this movie, delineates the known astronomical possibilities for the star, considers the nine scriptural clues, eliminates most of these through reasoning, makes a hypothesis, and works with the computer-generated program to see whether his hypothesis is legitimate.  He notes that the wise men, from the star, were impelled to inquire after a (1) king, (2) born, of  (3) Jews.

What “message” was in the stars that could compel them to look for these three clues?  Essentially, within the time frame that Larson was hypothesizing, there is a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter, the “king planet” and Regulus, the “king star”, within the constellation of the lion (think Lion of Judah). He points out certain scriptural prophecies regarding the Messiah’s birth that seem to contain strong astronomical allusions.  Frankly, what Larson finds as he plugs in the dates into the program is stunning.

Perhaps even more stunning to me was the more obvious, documented facts that Larson brought to my attention on another astronomical subject in the scriptures.  Do you recall Peter at Pentecost when the wild crowds were accusing them of being drunk because the disciples were suddenly able to speak in the languages of other people?  Well, in the midst of this chaos Peter quotes this –I thought– rather peculiar verse from Joel about a blood moon and tells the crowd that they know these things (about Christ) are true because of what Joel the prophet said about a blood moon and that they’ve seen it with their own eyes.  Larson informs us that a blood moon wasn’t just bizarre “prophet talk”.  That was a known term for a lunar eclipse.  And when you plug in all the data about months, weeks, days, and hours that are given in the scripture about the time of Christ’s crucifixion, you can see the computer-generated re-enactment of what was going on astronomically during the exact hour of Christ’s crucifixion and watch the lunar eclipse that was indeed happening.  A blood moon.  As a side note, I was reading along in another book earlier this week, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and lo and behold, it mentions a Dionysius the Areopgite who was born in Athens, who studied astronomy in Egypt and made very particular observations on the great eclipse which happened at the time of the Savior’s crucifixion.  He was later appointed a bishop of Athens and martyred under the second persecution under Domition in A.D. 81.  This is just history…the good stuff I missed by primarily getting the book-shaped agendas that were presented to me for my classroom education.  Grrr.

So, the movie ends with a little extra clip at the end.  A sort of “by the way this is an interesting side note”.  If you were to stand on the moon and look at the earth, at this sin-ridden world at that very hour of the eclipse, guess where the eclipse is happening… in the heart of the constellation of the Ram.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But my God, Jehovah, created the heavens and earth and all of their glorious coincidences with them, and he ordains that every bit of this world proclaims his glory.  And they do.  But after watching this movie,  I think perhaps, they were saying it more clearly than I ever anticipated.

All right, so just because I am a very forthright person I will say this.  Several people have watched this movie and loved it. But, one friend of ours fell asleep during this movie. (I scolded, naturally.) And, Nathanael who just turned seven told me this year, in his sweet little Nathanael way, “I used to think this movie was kind of boring.  But now I think it’s really interesting.”  Last year’s astronomy course justified.  Ha!!!  If you’re local and want to borrow this flick at the risk of feeling like you are taking your own short astronomy course (especially at the start of it), we’ve got it and would love to share.  Or you can buy it at Amazon for  $12 or research the details of his findings at this link:


Anyone with great arguments for or against the astronomical data within this dvd, please engage us–we’d be interested in hearing more.

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The following is an excerpt from a book I’m reading presently, How Should We Then Live?: The Rise & Decline of Western Thought  & Culture by Francis A. Schaeffer

“Let us not forget why the Christians were killed.  They were not killed because they worshipped Jesus.  Various religions covered the whole Roman world.  One such was the cult of Mithras, a popular Persian form of Zoroastrianism which had reached Rome by 67 B.C.  Nobody cared who worshipped whom so long as the worshipper did not disrupt the unity of the state, centered in the formal worship of Caesar.  The reason the Christians were killed was because they were rebels.  This was especially so after their growing rejection by the Jewish synagogues lost for them the immunity granted to the Jews since Julius Caesar’s time.

We may express the nature of their rebellion in two ways, both of which are true.  First, we can say they worshipped Jesus as God and they worshipped the infinite-personal God only.  The Caesars would not tolerate this worshipping of the one God only.  It was counted as treason.  Thus their worship became a special threat to the unity of the state during the third century and during the reign of Diocletian (284-305), when people of the higher classes began to become Christians in larger numbers.  If they had  worshipped Jesus and Caesar, they would have gone unharmed, but they rejected all forms of syncretism.  They worshipped the God who had revealed himself in the Old Testament, through Christ, and in the New Testament which had gradually been written.  And they worshipped him as the only God.  They allowed no mixture.  All other gods were seen as false gods.

We can also express in a second way why the Christians were killed:  No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions.  The Christians had that absolute in God’s revelation.  Because the Christians had an absolute, universal standard by which to judge not only personal morals but the state, they were counted as enemies of totalitarian Rome and were thrown to the beasts.”  (pages 25-26)

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