Friday, October 25, 2013

James White on Islam

This past weekend our church was privileged to have Dr. James White as the guest speaker for our annual fall conference.  He just published a book called What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an, so the topic for the weekend was Islam--its teachings, history, inconsistencies, and implications-- and how it relates to Christianity.

I think the biggest take-away from the weekend for me was the renewed realization of how hopeless Islam is.  Islam shares with Christianity a belief in a holy God, a broken law, and the threat of hell, but in Islam there is no mediator.

Each Muslim is a unique individual in desperate need of a Savior.  Each one needs to know that God is not only characterized by holiness and wrath, but that, in the bounty of His love and mercy, He has provided a substitute who has already borne all the wrath that was due to His people, and that for those who believe in Him there is full assurance of eternal life in the presence of God.  Our response to Muslims we meet ought always to be characterized by love and compassion, not fear or avoidance.

You can see videos of all the conference sessions here

There is also a bonus session on the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts-- a fascinating look at the unparalleled textual evidence for the accurate transmission of the New Testament text.  Just to whet your appetite, there are approximately 2 million pages worth of catalogued, hand-written, Greek New Testament manuscripts from 100-1500 AD.  In those 2 million pages, there are only about 2000 textual variations-- many of which can be attributed to common scribal errors.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Alaska

Here is just a sampling of our Alaska trip pictures.  Enjoy!
 
We traveled on this riverboat up the Chena and Tanana rivers.
 

Here is the Butcher sled-dog training camp.  The husband of Iditarod-winner Susan Butcher is in the lower right.
 

We watched a demonstration of this traditional method for drying salmon.  The fresh one we had just seen prepared is on the left.  The structure in the river behind is a fish wheel for catching fish.
 

This covered wagon, pulled by huge draft horses, carried us through a very scenic area near Denali National Park.
 

Here is a mother grizzly with her two juvenile cubs foraging for berries.
 

This view in Denali National Park almost didn't seem real.
 

If the "big one" (locally known as Denali) had been visible that day, it would have dwarfed this snowy range.
 

"... an example of what bears can do to cans."
 

We were nearly out of the park when we saw these caribou.
 

For a long time I (Judith) had wanted to see a moose in the wild and finally got my chance!
 

We barely caught this picture in a residential section where the homes back up to a landing strip.  Many of the residents have these small planes they can take off in right from their backyards!
 

We had several opportunities to see glacier silt accumulation.  In this place the silt was like quicksand.  Some people have gotten caught in it, then have drowned when the tide came in.
 

As we entered Glacier Bay, we came to this abrupt transition to silt-laden water.
 

When visiting Glacier Bay the rangers came to us!
 

For perspective a person would be a speck up against this cross-section of a glacier as it meets the ocean.
 

We thoroughly enjoyed this trio on the ship.  As they moved about performing in different parts of the ship, we sort of followed them around.  They were amused.
 

If you can see the painters, it will give you a perspective on the size of the ship.
 

We, along with four other passengers and the pilot, flew in this helicopter out of Skagway.
 

The helicopter ride was fantastic!  The weather was perfect for the spectacular views we were privileged to see.
 

Our invigorating five-mile (round trip) nature hike along the Skagway River in the Tongass National Forest gave us an opportunity for some close-up viewing of a little piece of Alaska.  It was a delightful contrast to the grand vistas.
 

This view of Laughton Glacier met us at the far point of our hike.
 

Ever the train enthusiast, Gerald was a happy guy to be riding on the vintage White Pass and Yukon Railway!
 

In Juneau we and our guides were excited to see these orcas (killer whales).  They aren't often seen!
 

We were refreshed in God's word during a brief Christian worship service on the ship.  Being in a lounge for the service felt strange, but it was a blessing to be gathered with other Christians for prayer, singing, and the expounding of God's word.  A fellow passenger and retired pastor preached on John 3:16.  (He's the tiny face in the very center of the picture.)
 

On our galley tour we saw several food art pieces such as this one.
 

We marveled that his seemingly wild whacking away could produce anything recognizable, but it really did!
 
 
Well, that's all!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Newsletter

From Laura, 14 … I have had some new opportunities recently for my piano-playing.  The most “major” thing I’ve done is to play hymns during our Communion at church.  I have learned a lot from this, but my greatest aspiration would be to play during a wedding.  Who knows what occasions may arise!  Last week I wrote a persuasive essay for English, with its subject being why it is beneficial to play the piano.  I suppose that demonstrates some of what I’ve been thinking about lately!

From Becca, 17 … The four of us kept house for almost two weeks last month while our parents were gone.  We did things like drive to church with the windows open and get our hair all messed up.  We didn’t always have our meals on time and we were really slaphappy sometimes.  John and Megan and the Wades each had us over for dinner, which helped to break up the time and keep us from being lonely.  We had fun, but were really glad when they came home again.     

From Seth, 20 … I'm studying for midterms and reading Isaiah.  Studying for midterms is crazy and time-consuming, but the subjects are interesting.  The end of Isaiah is a great picture of our God who forgives and restores sinners.
 
From Anna, 23 … I've been thinking recently about the great privilege that it is to know God.  As Jeremiah 9 says, "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord..."  Riches, wisdom, and strength are all temporal things that we will someday lose.  None of them can gain us favor with God, and none of them can help us to avoid His judgment.  They cannot compare with the eternal privilege of knowing God-- a knowledge that can only come about in so far as God graciously grants it to us.

From John, Megan,James, and Ezra (due Nov.) … (by Megan) We like to keep life interesting and definitely succeeded in August!
 
To keep a long story short, John had appendicitis.  We first thought it was a bug of some sort similar to what James and I had a few weeks prior.  We went to our family doctor, who encouraged us to go in to the ER.  That afternoon he had his partially ruptured appendix taken out.  We praise God we caught it before any infection set in.  John was in the hospital for 24 hours and was able to finish recovering at home.  He couldn't lift anything heavier than 10lbs. for four weeks!  We praise God that he is fully recovered and back to normal daily life again.

The pregnancy is going well, and we are all eager to have Ezra Michael Pedersen in our arms!  Only a month and a half left to go until the due date!
 
From Ray, Katie, Peter, Samuel, and Andrew (by Katie) We went on a little family vacation to Galveston in September, which we all really enjoyed.  The boys loved the beach, although Samuel preferred to just play in the sand.  Andrew was particularly delighted.  He loved the sand, the water, the mud, the waves, the wind, the seaweed, his hat, the toys...everything.  He toddled around grinning and exclaiming all afternoon.  We also spent time at the hotel pool, and went to the train museum, the Rainforest Cafe, and on a ferry ride.  We were wiped out when we got home, but it was a fun time together.

From Gerald and Judith … Since the last newsletter, we two have been on an Alaskan cruise!  Over a year ago we initiated the trip with Gerald’s mom because we knew how much she would love to do a trip with us and Gerald’s sister and her husband, plus we wanted to see Alaska.  Gerald’s sister and her husband got “on board” with the plan, and excitement was building over the months as we fine-tuned our itinerary.  Then, very sadly, Gerald’s mom died in May.  We all chose to go on with the trip, but her absence from the planning and the trip itself was certainly felt.

It truly was a wonderful experience!  Alaska is a wonderland of God’s amazing creation.  We saw grizzly bears, moose, caribou, red fox, dall sheep, eagles, sea lions, orcas, humpback whales, and salmon.  It was very exciting to see them all in the wild!  We saw glaciers, ice fields, icebergs, waterfalls, fjords, and snow-capped mountains.  We had the delight of seeing glacier calving.  There was one really large section that was particularly impressive when it broke off into the ocean.

We had the great fun of many different modes of transportation: airplane, bus, train, ship, catamaran, helicopter, covered wagon, and river paddleboat.  We enjoyed tasty food, a skilled classical music trio, a tour of the ship’s galley, and an ice-carving demonstration.  When we had time on our hands, we explored every part of the ship that wasn’t closed off to passengers.  One quaint little activity we enjoyed was 4:00 tea time when we were seated at large round tables with other passengers and tea and goodies were served.

For those of you who might be interested, our path was as follows:  We first flew to Fairbanks.  The next day we took a riverboat cruise.  Then we took a bus to Denali National Park where we rode on a covered wagon, toured the park by bus, traveled to Talkeetna, and had our flight around the Mt. McKinley area cancelled due to poor weather.  Next we rode a train to Whittier (near Anchorage) and got on the ship.  We viewed Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay.  In Skagway we visited a friend from 40 years ago, toured the town, flew in a helicopter, took a hike in the Tongass National Forest, and rode the White Pass & Yukon Railway back to town.  In Juneau we went whale watching, enjoyed a salmon bake, and visited Mendenhall Glacier.  In Ketchikan we visited Misty Fjords.  From there we had one more day at sea before arriving in Vancouver to catch our flight to Houston.
 
All in all, it was an unforgettable trip!  We don’t expect to ever be in Alaska again, so we tried to soak in as much as we could.  We’ll put some of our photos on the blog, but they don’t really do justice to what we saw.
 
With love from the Pedersen clan

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Is Reason Rational?

"Reason is itself a matter of faith.  It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all...
 
"In so far as religion is gone, reason is going.  For they are both of the same primary and authoritative kind.  They are both methods of proof which cannot themselves be proved.  And in the act of destroying the idea of Divine authority we have largely destroyed the idea of that human authority by which we do a long-division sum.  With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it."
 
~ G.K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy