Monday, January 28, 2013

Adding a Door

Since we are nearing the completion of our siding project, we have begun to turn our attention to the guest suite in our house.  Because we really haven't needed that space for our own living area, it has taken it a while to move to the top of our priority list.  One aspect of this project was adding a dedicated entrance for the suite, which it made sense to do while we were still in siding mode.
 
The unbroken wall.
 

Removing brick.

 
Removing old gypsum sheathing.
 


New opening framed and cutting the drywall.


The door is in!


New sheathing.


Housewrap and trim.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Faces Among the Multitude

We've been going through Revelation at church lately, and last week we were in chapter 7, where John speaks of the "great multitude that no one could number" standing before the throne of God.

I tend to think of this multitude as a homogenous, unified mass, rather like a picture of a crowd of people in a children's picture book.  The first few rows of people may have some distinguishable features, but for the most part the crowd consists of a sea of uniform white ovals-- the merest suggestion of individual people.

In some sense this is true; God's people will be fully united on that day.  We share a common identity, a common salvation, and, more importantly, a common Savior.  "There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."  (Ephesians 4:4-6)

In another sense, however, it is not true at all.  I had never thought about this until this sermon, but when John looked at this multitude, he didn't see a shapeless mass.

John saw faces.

He was looking at the full number of God's redeemed-- all those whom God would save throughout all of history-- a staggering number of individuals, each one with his own unique story, experiences, and place in God's purposes on this earth. 

The question, then, which we must all ask is this:  Was my face in the multitude that John saw?

How do we know?  John is given the answer in verse 14:  "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Who Is a Preacher?

Conrad Mbewe recently posted an article on the continuing relevance of preaching for the Christian church.  Here is his description of the preacher's task:

"A preacher is a herald. He comes into our busy and preoccupied lives and announces to us what the king of heaven has sent him to announce. That is how God normally communicates with his people. He burdens men with his word and sends them to us to unburden themselves before us. While we are busy with our callings in the world they are busy in the study of the word and of the world. They then come to teach us what the word says about our world and about our lives in this world. We ignore them to our own peril."

And, on the authority of preaching, he says:

"Even in secular fields, a lecturer does not begin with, 'Read your text books and let us discuss as equals.' Rather, he teaches first, gives assignments to enable you to think a little further, and then calls you to discuss the issues that you have learned. Even where he asks you to read your textbooks first, his learning is acknowledged in the discussion that ensues afterwards. Now, if that is true of subjects that do not endanger human souls for eternity, how much more should this be the case with spiritual truths? Surely, we should be humble enough to sit and humbly learn under proven and experienced 'men of God' before we open our mouths to speak."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Epic of Karolan Book Sale

Some of you may remember the reviews I did of the first two books in the Epic of Karolan series by Ari Heinze (Bright Against the Storm and Ashes of Our Joy).  Books three and four are worthy of just as much blog publicity, but unfortunately I don't have time tonight to write a thorough review.

HOWEVER... there's a sale on, and I didn't want anybody to miss it!  Just until Saturday, January 5, you can buy book 1 for $5, or you can buy the whole series for $42, compared to full price at $66.

Check out the link here!

I'll just say this: the Christian faith and themes in this story are not superfluous afterthoughts.  They beat strong and steady at the very core of the story.  The battle raging in the midst of a man's soul is no less significant and suspenseful than the battle being fought with sword and bow against an external foe-- and when all was said and done, I walked away from book four marveling at the goodness and love of God.  Not many novels leave me feeling that way.

Don't forget to look at the website!

And, just to whet your appetite, here is a Christmas poem that Ari Heinze wrote:


Bethlehem for the Broken
A European peasant, 15th century:

For countless miles the towns are struck with drought
Or so they say -- I cannot journey there.
Weak are my steps, and slow, when I go out
To buy with dwindling coins our meager fare

Some starve already; we at least can eat.
But not enough, so high the prices grow --
And nothing else grows: children, trees, and wheat
In their own way the rainless months now show.

We may perhaps survive to see the spring,
And in the spring perhaps the rains may fall.
But when o'er fields of dust the Yule-bells ring
And sad, gaunt children trudge to the church-hall

I listen to the priest, but cannot hear:
"The Savior's born," he says, "Immanuel
Means God with us" -- but God is nowhere near.
The endless famine starves us down for Hell.


A true teacher responds:

Bitter the curse, and strange the work of God
Who yet has not answered your cries with rain.
Yet do not say it means naught that he trod
This earth, and knew its tears, and bore our pain.

No heartless god, removed from human grief
Is him whose birth these ringing bells make known.
Mid desert dust his hunger sought relief;
He refused Hell, and made no bread from stone.

But when the fainting crowds denied him rest
He multiplied the loaves and fed them well.
And later on the wine and bread he blessed:
His flesh and blood to lift our lives from Hell.

True food and drink to starving Man he gives:
True life, born of his life, forevermore.
And if not one of us to spring's rains lives,
He yet throws wide before us Heaven's door.


An American businessman, 20th century:

I was young, and now in winter I am old.
Brothers, sisters, wives, and children I have lost.
In this warm one-room apartment it is cold,
As with nothing left to pay, I count the cost.

Was there one of them that I did not betray?
And could all their sins I railed at to the sky
In the balance against mine, hope to outweigh?
Proud, blind, ruthless, and self-seeking -- that was I!

And I never knew the measure of my life.
Now amid the fading year I count the dust
That is all I won with all my bitter strife:
All the sin that seemed so golden fell to rust.

Now the debts of youth, that age can never pay,
Form a crushing burden on my weary soul,
As I look upon this mocking Christmas Day
As if it, or anything, could make us whole.


A true teacher responds:

The baby born of Mary, in the hay --
Galaxies tremble upon his slightest word --
In vibrant goodness tread his sorrowful way
And died -- a plebeian convict -- nailed to board.

All this, 'tis written, was for love of you.
Against this love -- think you your sin shall stand?
What can the puny puddle of your evil do
When that blessed tsunami crashes o'er the strand?


An Arab woman in America, 21st century:

I taught her the pure way to speak, to walk.
I bought her her first veil and tied it on.
She was my pride -- of her I loved to talk.
How shall I raise my head since she is gone?

None know where she is gone -- but all know why:
She loved beyond our law, and broke our rule,
And left me naught but shame -- enough to die.
To live is this corrupting place I was a fool!

And here the garish festival of lights and trees
And selling -- yet also of Isa's birth --
Now glimmers round this mother on her knees:
This mother now bereft of hope and worth.

And even if Isa, as infidels say,
Died to throw the gates of Heaven wide --
Even then, on the great judgment day,
Where shall my shame and I find place to hide?


A true teacher responds:

The pauper's child who had a manger-bed
Transcendent honor's crown could claim by right --
Relinquished it our sinful dust to tread,
And died in shame that turned the day to night.

By this he gained eternally the right
In his own honor to blot out your shame:
To cloth your nakedness with garments bright,
And name you with his own most-honored Name.


A hostage under threat of death, 21st century:

The smell of filth and sweat is all around
As through our wretched jail our captors pace.
And when the one of us they seek is found,
They drag him out into an open space.

Moments pass, so silent dripping sweat falls loud.
Then guns crack like the laughter of a manic god.
It isn't me -- yet all I was: a man, kind, proud,
Is lost, with hope, with beauty: I am but a clod.

A clod whose insight and philosophy
I shrunk and shriveled to a single thought:
"Don't take me next!" -- better this misery
Than to be dragged from here, and -- and -- and shot.

I care not for the dreams that brought me here,
Nor for the ones I left so far behind.
Only my pounding heartbeat still is dear:
No single manly impulse stirs my mind.

Then in this debauch of unmanning fear
Intrudes the thought that this is Christmas Day,
And ones I -- when a man -- held dear
Will hold a feast and, "Merry Christmas!" say.

But Christmas now has naught to do with me
Listening for footfalls that may bring my death.
The Star of Bethlehem, the foolish tree
Mean nothing as I measure out my breath.


A true teacher replies:

But child of fear, oh orphan of mortality --
The King whose birth that mighty star made known
When a grown man, took up a different tree,
And was raised up on it -- not on a throne.

He died in anguish bullets cannot bring.
Scourged, nailed, and speared, his bloodless corpse lay cold.
How final then death's strength -- how sharp its sting:
It swallowed up the Lord of Life untold!

Oh man, oh prey of fear -- the death he bore
Was yours, not his: he took the thing you fear,
Vanquished it in his glory evermore,
In splendor rose, making his triumph clear,

And now the Life and Resurrection reigns.
This is the King whose star o'er Bethlehem shone!
Though death a final triumph grimly claims,
Death lies: the Lord of Life is on the Throne.


The conclusion of the matter:

In all despair, all depths of human woe,
Holds Mary's child all rescue and relief?
Yes -- always yes! -- save for those who forgo
All gifts of his, owning no need, no grief

That humbles them to cry out for his aid --
Determined in their pride to stand alone:
Alone -- as if the seraphim were made
To live with self, not God, on their life's throne.

But for the hungry, he gives food indeed.
None ask, or seek, or knock for him in vain.
When poor, mean sinners cry to him in need,
He gives himself: unmeasured, untold gain.

Oh Lord of Life, oh Love beyond all thought --
Your glory lifts our dust to priceless gold.
Your strength and wholeness heal our filthy rot.
All praise be yours through endless years untold.