Vindication vs. Intercession

In an entry of Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest titled “The Distraction of Contempt” my father underlined this:

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Recently I have been thinking about the meaning and causes of “having a critical spirit” so this caught my attention (and it is November 23 today).

I have at least three thoughts on this.  One is that Christ followers are called to take up their cross and follow Jesus.  Just as he was misunderstood and maligned I can expect that too.  So as much as I want to make sure I am understood and correct misconceptions, I need to accept that is not always possible, especially when there is a world view divide.  Secondly, and more importantly, I think, is that ultimately it is God who convicts and corrects, not me.  But I have been taught to intercede so that needs to be my primary response.

The Christian’s Love

The words will be familiar to a lot of you who don’t sing Sacred Harp, or Shape Note Singing.  This is the song I requested today when our Sacred Harp group in Savannah sang.

1. Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.

2. Before our Father’s throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.

4. When we asunder part,
it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart,
and hope to meet again.

The third verse is omitted in our book, but I like it:

3. We share our mutual woes,
our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.

 

 

The Same Yesterday and Today

Before my father’s funeral I was looking for something he once sent me.  I never found it.  Most likely it is in my collection in Savannah.  Today I read something that sent me to a very large old family Bible.  Paging through it I found a typewritten copy of the same quote, I’m sure was also typed by my Dad (typewriters have their own fingerprint).   In my memory the quote was about introducing your child to a living faith in Christ, truly speaking about a life of significance,  but I see now it is also about what that means over a lifespan. IMG_3778.jpg

The other thing that struck me as typical of my father is his sense of beauty.  I love that he typed that border on the top and bottom.

Crying Out For Myth and Parable

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After reading this essay, I want to read Bradley Birzer’s book:

Myth, Tolkien thought, can convey the sort of profound truth that was intransigent to description or analysis in terms of facts and figures, and is therefore a more powerful weapon for cultural renewal than is modern rationalist science and technology.[11] Myth can emphasize the beauty of God’s creation as well as the sacramental nature of life.[12] “Our time, sick nigh unto death of utilitarianism and literalness, cries out for myth and parable,” American novelist and political philosopher Russell Kirk explained. “Great myths are not merely susceptible of rational interpretation: they are truth, transcendent truth.”[13] Tolkien believed that myth can teach men and women how to be fully and truly men and women, not mere cogs in the vast machine of modern technological society.

In his inimitable way, Chesterton once wrote that

imaginative does not mean imaginary. It does not follow that it is all what the moderns call subjective, when they mean false. Every true artist does feel, consciously or unconsciously, that he is touching transcendental truths; that his images are shadows of things seen through the veil. In other words, the natural mystic does know that there is something there; something behind the clouds or within the trees; but he believes that the pursuit of beauty is the way to find it; that imagination is a sort of incantation that can call it up.[14]

Besides offering an essential path to the highest truths, myth plays a vital role in any culture because it binds together members of communities. “It is quite easy to see why a legend is treated, and ought to be treated, more respectfully than a book of history. The legend is generally made by a majority of the people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad,” Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy.[15] Communities “share symbols and myths that provide meaning in their existence as a people and link them to some transcendent order,” political theorist Donald Lutz explains. “The shared meaning and a shared link to some transcendent order allow them to act as a people.”[16] The man “who has no sympathy with myths,” Chesterton concluded, “has no sympathy with men.”[17] One cannot, it seems, separate men from their myths.

….For Tolkien, however, even pagan myths attempted to express God’s greater truths. True myth has the power to revive us, to serve as an anamnesis, or way of bringing to conscious experience ancient experiences with transcendence. But, Tolkien admitted, myth could be dangerous, or “perilous,” as he usually stated it, if it remained pagan. Therefore, Tolkien thought, one must sanctify it, that is, make it Christian and put it in God’s service.

Birth From the Top Down

Another new hymn to me, this one found in Sinclair B. Ferguson’s book Know Your Christian Life.  

From the chapter “Born Again” in which this old hymn is referenced:

    The new birth is, firstly, heavenly in origin.  Over and over again Christ emphasised this to Nicodemus.  He needed to be born of water ‘and the Spirit’, for only the Spirit gives birth to spirit…Indeed the principle is heavily underlined by the expression ‘born again’.  The word John uses, translated ‘again’, can mean either again or from above. It is difficult to be dogmatic about its significance here.  On the one hand, Nicodemus appears to follow through Jesus’ words in terms of being born ‘again’ i.e. for a second time.  He raises the question whether someone can re-enter the womb.  But the other uses of the word in John strengthen the case for translating ‘from above’.  In John 3: 31; 19;11, 23, it conveys the idea from the top downwards.  If we take it in this sense then we are still able to make sense of Nicodemus’ response.  When Jesus tells him that he needs to be born from above, only faintly understanding the meaning, he lamely asks whether another birth is possible.

    The corollary of this is often ignored.  If we are members of that kingdom it must be by heavenly birth!  In other words, if we are Christians it can only be because God has wonderfully intervened to give us new life.  Every Christian ought to think long and hard about this, because we have an inevitable and at times very worldly tendency to regard some ‘conversions’ as being more wonderful or amazing than others. ‘Miraculous’ we say when a famous celebrity is ‘born again’, and of course we are right.  But the miracle involved in the new birth of John or James Smith, whose name never appears in either Christian or secular press, is no less miraculous, no less wonderful and no less a cause of joy in heaven.  It involves the same exercise of divine power and the same abundance of God’s love.  What we need to do, therefore, if we would enter into the joys of our new birth is not to cast a glance over our shoulder enviously regarding the spiritual biography of another, but to search the Scriptures to see the rich measure of grace that God pours into every new child of God!

Losing our Freedom

Thanks to Patrick Kurp for my introduction to Claire Berlinski, an American journalist in this entry on his blog.  Kurp quoting Berlinski:

“Our shrinking vocabulary is not merely a curious linguistic trend. It signifies that we are losing our capacity for complex thought—and liberal democracy cannot survive this. Liberalism, and the tolerance it demands of citizen, relies upon the public’s sense of, and respect for, the near-infinite complexity of life generally, and human societies, in particular.”

Kurp also linked Berlinski’s newsletter, from which this comes:

That Western academics have become enamored of the idea that nothing is true and only power matters was not an inevitable consequence of our freedom, but a contingent accident of our intellectual history. Nonetheless, academia, and with it our intellectual life and all that is downstream of it, has been degraded by this empty and trivial orthodoxy. This, combined with the revelation that our politicians have lied to us so many times, about so many things, has given rise to widespread cynicism about truth itself. None of this must happen in a free society; there was nothing inevitable about this. It just happened to happen. But this is precisely the climate that allows a New Caesar come to power.

New Caesarism is a regime of lies. Such systematic lying cannot be as effective as it is unless the public believes already that there’s not much of a difference between truth and a lie—that “truth” is a fiction created by power, and that it is natural and legitimate to manufacture facts and arguments to serve a desirable aim or power structure.

Read the rest here.

Edgar F. Wheeler Oct. 28, 1920–Sept.17, 2019.

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    Rev. Edgar Francis Wheeler died peacefully September 17, 2019 at home in Mesa, Arizona.  Edgar was born October 28, 1920 in Nortonville, Kansas to Ernest Raymond and Marie Edna Wheeler, the fourth of five children that survived infancy.   There he spent his entire childhood.  Some of his earliest memories were of his wonder at the sights, sounds and smells of the prairie and farm.  His child-like sense of awe inspired by the natural world and Kansas never waned.
    About the time Edgar graduated from high school in 1938, he said he was “brought to faith in Jesus Christ as savior and felt called to become a minister”.  Over the next 9 years he worked and attended several colleges including Wheaton (IL), Milton (WI), Alfred (NY) and Salem (WV), from which he graduated in 1947.  He graduated from New Orleans Baptist Seminary in 1951.  At the time of his death Edgar had been an accredited Seventh Day Baptist (SDB) minister for 65 years.
    While in Salem Edgar met and married Xenia Lee Fitz Randolph with whom he celebrated 71 years of marriage before she died in 2016.
Edgar was the pastor of the SDB churches in  Metairie, LA, DeRuyter, NY (where he was ordained), Paint Rock, AL, Salemville, PA, Ashaway, RI, Denver, CO, and Nortonville, KS.  In his retirement he was interim pastor at Lost Creek, WV and Salemville, PA.
    Edgar was the 1970 Seventh Day Baptist General Conference President and served for 18 years on both the SDB Missionary Society Board and the Council on Ministry.  During 1948-49 Edgar worked setting Linotype for The Sabbath Recorder in Plainfield, NJ ( and later for the Huntsville Times).
   “Pastor” as he was often known, directed many church camps for children, led a boy’s 4-H club, served on PTA boards, drove a school bus, and was a volunteer fireman.  He intentionally found time to contribute to community activities and made himself available to anyone he sensed had a need.
    In retirement Edgar taught Bible studies, both in church settings and privately, taught art to children, painted, gardened, did carpentry, ingeniously repaired things most would discard, and invented various contraptions such as a black walnut cracker and famously, a bicycle powered jig saw.
    Edgar was also predeceased by three infant sisters, his sister Louise Sullivan, brothers Merlin and Charles Wheeler, a son, William Wheeler, and two infant grandsons.  He is survived by one brother, Edward Robert Wheeler of Weiser, ID, 10 children: Annita Parmelee (Asahel) Westerly, RI and Savannah, GA; Robert Wheeler (Dawn), North Platte, NE; Ruth Thorpe (Walter), Westerly, RI; Richard Wheeler (Michele), Pinnacle, NC; Helen Brannon (Kenneth) Mesa, AZ, with whom Edgar lived; Leon Wheeler, Washburn, WI; Noelle Fontaine, Tempe, AZ; Catherine Wheeler, Divide, CO;  Esther Palmer (Tony), Williston, VT; Ernest Wheeler (Cathy), Pinnacle, NC; 30 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews and treasured friends.
    The funeral will be 2 pm Saturday, September 28, at the 1st Hopkinton Seventh Day Baptist Church in Ashaway, RI, 8 Church Street, Ashaway, RI.   Friends and family may call there prior to the service at 1:30 pm.  He will be be buried at the Seventh Day Baptist Minister’s monument in the First Hopkinton Cemetery.  The service will be Livestream on the church website.  In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the charity he supported to the end of his life, the Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society, 19 Hillside Avenue, Ashaway, RI 02804.