Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Rare Sunny Day

After weeks of cold, wet, windy, stormy weather, and the weather forecast basically saying more of the same, the morning dawned clear and bright. It was rather unexpected.

While running errands, I stopped at a couple places to take a few pictures to remind myself that from time to time we do see something other than gray. There may be a few more photos added to the gallery later today. (Edit: The light wasn’t right this afternoon, so no more photos.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Atonement: Announced?

Sabbath School Study Lesson 5, Atonment Announced.

Dr. Alden Thompson from Walla Walla University discusses, at length, whether or not the “announcements” of the Atonement were really announcements, and if so, in what way. Because of that, and because my thoughts run along similar paths, rather than rehashing the same thing all over here, I invite you to go to the following pages for Dr. Thompson’s discussions.

I leave you with a point to ponder regarding the Atonement. It is commonly said that “Christ died for us” (see, for example, Romans 5:6-8). Does this mean, “Christ died in our place,” as is often understood? Or could it simply mean what is says, “Christ died for us,” because there was nothing else that would clearly show both the horrible depths of sin and the infinite heights of love? Could it simply mean, “Christ died for us,” because his death and resurrection was proof that love conquers even death and the grave, and because of this victory, Christ’s offer of life is proven to be sure?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sermon: Reason-able Faith

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

We had a few more people this Sabbath than we did last, so I went ahead with the one-week delayed sermon. This is the same one I used for the Presbyterian service last Sunday. The sermon is about Biblical faith; that faith is not blind, but rather is based upon reasonable evidence that can be evaluated and tested.

First Autumn Snow

Even it not officially, for all practical purposes Winter is here. The weather forecast was right for once and we did get some snow overnight. During most of the day yesterday we had a bit of respite from the weeklong storm. I was able to do a little water maintenance on the hot tub water without getting soaked. I also worked on our fleet of bicycles. But when time came around to get the mail, gale-force winds picked up and hail was falling – so much for bicycling to the post office. About an hour later, the sun peaked through.

So here are a couple of shots that record the first snow…

_MG_3240  _MG_3241

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Start of winter?

This morning, I saw the first rain with a bit of slush mixed in. The weather forecast for tomorrow includes the word “snow” in it. We’ve been getting pounded by heavy rains and wind for much of the week. If this was happening around Florida, it would be of a tropical storm variety. There is even one offshore that would be of hurricane (I guess Typhoon since we’re on the Pacific) strength, if it was further south.

The ground is absolutely saturated. The basement puddles started to recede today, but by this evening the new round of rain has caused all the puddles to return.

I don’t mind rain, but I’m beginning to get more than a little annoyed with the never-ending storm we’re getting.

Update your Windows PCs

If you’re using a Windows PC, there is a critical security patch that you shouldn’t wait to install. If you have automatic updates turned on, the patch will eventually install, but you shouldn’t wait for that to happen.

If you’re using Windows XP, start Internet Explorer and under the Tools menu there is a Windows Update option. Follow the instructions and install the patch. It will require a restart of the operating system.

If you’re using Vista, open Control Panel, select Check for Updates, and then on the left column, click the Check for Updates to make sure you are getting the latest information. Follow the instructions.

The technical data is available at

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Atonement: God’s Initiative

These are comments on Sabbath School Study Lesson 4, Atonement and the Divine Initiative.

The Study Guide offers sufficient Biblical passages to show that the Atonement was certainly something that was in God’s mind prior to the occurrence of sin. The Study Guide covers the material sufficiently, so I really won’t go into that here. Rather I want to explore the question of how much the Atonement encompasses.

As you may know, I’ve been going through Gustaf Aulen’s Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement. It is fascinating to learn about the history of the ideas behind the Atonement.

Western Christianity, from around the 10th century and up to the present, has associated the Atonement primarily with the crucifixion.1 However, this is certainly not the only view and perhaps not the best way, and at the very least, an incomplete view of the Atonement. The more complete view is that the Atonement is something that God began as soon as sin entered the world and is something God is still actively working today.2 The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ constitutes a climax, though not the end, in the process of Atonement. The cross demonstrated sin’s ultimate result as well as love’s ultimate victory. The process comes to a close when Jesus returns and sin and death will be destroyed.

From beginning to end, it is God’s initiative. The Bible pictures God as coming down to meet with his wayward children, time after time. From Eden to Abraham, to Moses and Sinai, to many of the judges, and to prophets, God comes down to reveal himself to the people in ways and words that they can comprehend and understand. By coming down, God seeks to draw people up to him.

The greatest work Atonement, obviously is the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. By entering humanity as a human being, God sought to demonstrate in perfection his nature and character to the world. He came as man because that was the only language that we would understand. When the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are lifted up, people are either drawn to him, or reject him.

The victory was won at the cross, but it is of no effect unless accepted by each and every person. Thus the promise and offer of Atonement was clearly seen at the cross, but the work of Atonement continues until all have chosen to accept or reject the offer to be reconciled to God and accept the victory over sin that the Atonement provides.

Aulen writes,

The New Testament idea of redemption constitutes in fact a veritable revolution; for it declares that sovereign Divine Love has taken the initiative, broken through the order of justice and merit, triumphed over the powers of evil, and created a new relation between the world and God.3

Again, for additional thoughts and perspectives on this lesson, I recommend Good Word from Walla Walla University.

1Aulen, Gustaf. Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, WIPF an STOCK Publishers, 2003 edition, Chapter 5, “The Middle Ages.”

2ibid.,  Chapter 3, “The Fathers in East and West” and Chapter 4, “The New Testament.”

3ibid.,  p. 79.

Wildly Windy and Wet

I can’t recall when it started, but it seems like at least a week now where we’ve had heavy rains. Last night was particularly wet as well as windy. There are areas in the basement that are now wet that never got wet during the previous fall and winter. I couldn’t stay asleep this morning, so heading down there I found three boxes that were sitting in puddles. I moved them to higher, drier ground. I don’t think there was anything in those boxes that would be permanently damaged.

I don’t mind the rain. I don’t mind the lack of light. I do mind the concentrated rains that saturate the ground and cause water to rise up into the basement.

The Presbyterian service on Sunday went without too many incidents. There were a couple of times there when I wasn’t exactly sure what was supposed to happen (they have a very fixed order of things). But after a few awkward moments things went on.

Monday evening and yesterday, a couple of the instructors for the school district that supports some of the homeschool families were in town and provided workshops and classes, both for parents and kids. The kids learned a bit about PowerPoint 2007 and about the states during yesterday’s classes. Yesterday evening was a potluck with the families.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

An empty church today

I’m not sure if this has happened before, but today it was just our family. Yup, that’s right. So we sat around for a while, then sang for another hour or so as we waited to see if anyone would come. I set down the 15-minutes rule (you know, from college – if the prof doesn’t show up 15 minutes after start of class, you’re free to leave?) at 11:00 a.m. At 11:15 we went back home. Having no one else here is actually better for me than having one or two others because with no one else, I can just use this week’s sermon next week.

After getting home I put a frozen pie in the oven, warmed up the cauliflower + kidney beans curry and had lunch. Later in the afternoon I went to the post office and picked up a few packages that were waiting.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fall rains are falling

It’s been wet, wet, wet, wet, wet this week. Some of the rain has been quite heavy. The ground is completely saturated, and water is once again rising up into parts of our basement. It doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing any truly dry days over the next two weeks.

We were on the receiving end of proselytizing yesterday. Traveling Mormon missionaries are in Petersburg for a few months. They arrived about a week and a half ago. A week ago they stopped by and wanted to know if they could come back to give their “presentation.” I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I said they could. Thus they returned yesterday afternoon and for an hour they gave their talk while we listened. I threw in some questions and held to my view. Shelly called the whole thing a “debate.” She says that when she goes to the drama/communications class next Tuesday, she can report to the class that she sat through a debate! :) I asked who won, and she didn’t know. Probably like the current political debates, it’s pretty much a draw, not changing anyone’s minds. They left the Book of Mormon so that I could examine it and discuss it next week. I glanced through the chapter they asked me to read (the post-resurrection appearance to the Nephi), and it didn’t take much glancing to see that the Jesus described there isn’t the Jesus found in John 20 and 21 (post-resurrection appearances to the women and disciples).

The really sad thing is that whenever they seemed to get backed into a corner with reasoning and evidence that might suggest that that they believe isn’t reasonable, it came down to, “I believe because I prayed about it and the feeling I got from the prayer tells me it’s true.” Trying to persuade against experience is nearly impossible. It’s the same with any other faith, Christianity included. If a person believes that they’ve experienced a miracle, that becomes reality to them. Or if they believe God has spoken to them, it is nearly impossible to convince them otherwise.

I believe true Christian faith is based on reasonable evidence. Faith is the assurance of things we don’t see, based upon things we do see. Faith is trust in God because the past gives us assurance that God is trustworthy. True faith is not blind faith. Faith rests upon solid evidence.

I was going to preach this weekend (I have both our church and the Presbyterian service) on Part 2 of my Lord’s Prayer series, but I’ve decided instead to preach on Reason-able Faith – faith that is based upon and able to accommodate reason.

I guess the positive to come out of all this is that I’ve experienced the awful side of being the target of proselytism. Let me tell you it was very aggravating, frustrating, and stressful. I felt I was being sold a product I didn’t need nor want. They would say anything to try to get to where I would agree with them. Their offer of help to us and to people we might know in the community just oozed of an ulterior motive.

These are methods to which Christian witness and evangelism must never resort. We are not salespeople trying to sell God to the world. We should not witness with the goal to create more Christian or more church members. Our witness should be simply because we want to show a better way, to show what our God is really like, all without the goal of conversion. The work of conversion is through the Holy Spirit. We do not need to make overt attempts to persuade, because simply stating and showing the evidence for our faith should be persuasive enough. When I read the examples of Jesus, that is how I see him working.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Atonement: The Fall Into Sin

These are comments on Sabbath School Study Lesson 3, The Fall Into Sin.

You’re free to disagree, and I realize many will, with my opinion on the emergence of sin. It is my opinion, held for quite some time now, that from a mathematical, statistical standpoint; in a universe governed through love and liberty; given infinite time and possibly infinite beings; the emergence of sin was inevitable. Inevitable doesn’t mean it is reasonable. Like many of us have probably heard or read in the past, there is no reason for sin, and if reason could be found, sin would be excused. I believe there is no reason for sin, but at the same time my opinion is that it was inevitable.

The one way, in my opinion again, that emergence of sin could have been avoided was if every being clearly understood the nature and consequence of sin. But God, being God, even though he himself had knowledge about sin, could not demonstrate sin to the universe without violating his own nature. To violate his own nature would mean God would no longer be God, and well, the universe would cease to exist. Without a knowledge of sin then, my opinion is that one being, given the infinity of eternity, would eventually choose (God allows that because I believe God places supreme value on liberty, even more than power, safety and security) to try the path contrary to God’s nature of love and liberty. Prior to demonstration of sin, created beings had to trust that God’s way was best.

What is God’s nature of love and liberty? I believe it is the attitude of self-sacrificing love. Self-sacrificing love frees all who practice it from the need to be loved and accepted by someone else. The paradox is that when everyone practices self-sacrificing love, the need for love and acceptance is automatically met. Harmony is disrupted and a wound is introduced when someone chooses to try the path of self-love rather than self-sacrificing love; when someone thinks that they are better able to meet needs on their own, or demand (through force, deception, coercion, etc.) that their needs be met by others.

The big problem (I’m sure there are others, but the one I want to focus on here) with self-love is that it breaks relationships within a community. Since the definition of sin that I favor is a broken relationship, self-love then is sin. Self-love can be manifested in many different ways. The one I focus on is the attempt by one person to meet his or her needs through their own efforts.

In the Garden of Eden I think that this expression of self-love was a cause of the Fall. When the Serpent comes to Eve (and really, the Biblical text strongly implies Adam was right there with her, standing by, doing nothing), the insinuation is that God has only provided partial satisfaction for a relational need; i.e., God has not provided intimacy (“knowledge” is associated with relationships and intimacy) with evil. The Serpent implies that God’s knowledge of good and evil are both intimate, and therefore Eve, too, should strive to be like God in that respect. The Serpent offers Eve a way to correct this deficiency, and Eve accepts, and Adam acquiesces. Adam and Eve choose to distrust God’s goodness and God’s way. The Fall is complete.

What Adam and Eve discover is that indeed they have become intimate with evil, but in the process have lost intimacy with God who is only good. God has knowledge about evil, but God is not intimate with evil; God does not have a relationship with evil. As created beings, the only way for Adam and Eve to really get to know what evil is all about is to experience it. The Serpent was right: they came to know evil, just as it had. They discovered that they had replaced a good relationship with an evil one. In their own power there was no way back.

Because God places supreme value on liberty, the demonstration of sin had to be allowed to run its course. But God, because he is love, could not leave Adam, Eve, and the rest of humankind subject to the ultimate consequences of sin. Thus the plan of restoration, the plan of at-one-ment, was put into action. This plan had always existed, because God knew that sin would eventually emerge.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Space Heater Plug-in Thermostat

I’m “plugging” (pun fully intended) a product here that I recently started using. It’s the Lux WIN100 Smart Temp 5-2 Programmable Outlet Thermostat.

Electric space heaters typically have some kind of the thermostat, but after a year of use I’ve discovered that their settings appear to be relative to the ambient temperature. For instance, our dining room can get quite warm on a sunny day, but the heater continues to run, even though when the ambient temps are lower the heater would have shut off, and the room ends up way too warm.

At one of the weekly coffees with the other ministers I learned that plug-in thermostats are available for around $30-40. I looked it up on and found one that seemed to fit my needs. I ordered three (because I’ve learned that around here it’s often good to have spares of hard-to-replace items) of the units (inexpensive flat shipping for any number of items, direct from the mfg.) and received them last week. I’ve put two in service and they’ve been doing very well at maintaining a constant temperature.

I used to have temperature swings of up to 10-degrees between nights and days, but with this it just sits steady within 1- to 2-degrees. I no longer have to fiddle frequently with the thermostats. I have a feeling this will, in the long run, save some on the heating costs.

The one catch is that the space heater must be able to remain in an On position (most are), or start out On when plugged in. I have one electronically switched unit that defaults to an Off setting so I can’t use the thermostat with this particular heater.

Highly recommended.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Big Celery

Since the latter half of last week was rather busy, I wasn’t able to grocery shop then. I got the chance yesterday afternoon to take in the last part of the 3-day produce sale at the big grocery.

I first went to the downtown grocery and picked up a few items and then drove up to the Post Office to see if there was anything placed there since checking it early Saturday afternoon – just a couple of junk mail pieces. While there I got a call from last week’s deceased’s husband’s daughter asking me to stop by and pick up a few items for the church.

I drove back home, dropped off a couple bags and then drove out the 10 miles or so to the house. I visited for a while, then returned with three boxes of Bibles, commentaries, tapes (cassette and VHS). I dropped those off at the church and then resumed my interrupted, original mission: groceries!

The first thing to greet me just outside the entry doors was a big box of celery, with their tops. I’d never seen that here, and I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen that in regular groceries. I bagged one up and went inside. I picked up six acorn squash, a 5# bag of Granny Smith apples, cans of refried pinto and black beans, and other items that were on sale.

With grocery prices the way they’re going, I try to get as much on sale as I can. I’ve discovered and learned ways to prolong the life of most produce, so that there is less waste. Anyway, at the checkout there was a mother and daughter with two large blocks of meat. The total of that came to over $100. My shopping spree, in six bags, came to just $43. I think it’s getting to the point where a vegetarian diet (though around here, if you personally fish and hunt, you can get your meats quite economically) is much more economical.

Anyway, back to the celery. At the checkout, it was so big it didn’t really fit too well on the scale. And anyway, I think the checker probably didn’t think I was going to use the top, so it was sort of leaning and came to about 2# -- $1.00.

I chopped up the top half, combined with garlic, onions, zucchini, and potatoes for a soup. I’m wondering now why produce in this country (because in Japan, they’re sold tops on) is generally sold tops off? I suspect the tops are often where much of the nutritional value is… And they work really well as greens used in soups and stir frys. Yeah, in the Lower 48 I’m sure you can find whole produce at Farmer’s Markets and such, but here, no such luck. Elise suggested I go find out how the groceries here get their produce and if they get them whole and trim them here, maybe I can get the “discards.”

Saturday, October 11, 2008


It was a busy few days. Our church member passed away on Wednesday, prepared for the memorial service on Thursday, had it on Friday, and here we are today.

The reason for the rush is to keep costs down. A straight burial within three days is the most cost effective, with anything other treatment having to be done elsewhere. The cemetery is city-owned so anything done on the weekends costs extra.

All this meant that preparing for today’s sermon simply did not happen. Instead all of the time went into preparing the sermon, the life story, and the program for the memorial; and on working out what I would say at the graveside service.

Because of that, this morning, I simply played a videotape of a Sabbath sermon by Dr. Randy Roberts of the Loma Linda University Church. Not only that, but I was rather unprepared to lead the discussion on the Sabbath School lesson. Oh well.

I’m resting up a bit this afternoon, praying and hoping for a less eventful week to come.

A nice rainstorm came in overnight and is drenching us still. Thursday and the first part of Friday seemed pretty nice, at least from the little I saw. The higher hills and mountains are definitely getting whiter.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A bizarre thought experiment

A truly bizarre question just entered my mind…

First off, what follows probably won’t make much sense at all unless you’re familiar with Seventh-day Adventist eschatology and such.

Anyway, my question is based on the following presuppositions:

  • That there are other inhabited planets in the universe,
  • That after the Second Advent the saved can visit said planets,
  • That such travel occurs at the speed of thought,
  • That the speed of light in a vacuum is a constant,
  • That currently known physical properties of the universe do not change following the Second Advent.

Let’s suppose I am able to instantly go to a planet that is 200 million light years away from planet Earth. If I could see Earth from that planet, what will I see? Will sight itself be able to transcend space-time and thus I’ll see everything in NOW time? Will I have a choice to view things based on more restricted physical properties? If I choose the latter, what will I see back on Earth? The Earth as it was 200 million years ago?

Okay, so maybe it’s time to stop thinking and go to bed.

Atonement: Solution to a Problem

This is commentary on this week’s Sabbath School Study, Lesson 2, Cosmic Crisis: The Disruption of God's Established Order.

The primary problem of this week’s set of lessons is the assumptions on which is based, that there are significant passages in the Bible that provide details of Satan’s fall and how sin came to exist. The two passages discussed in Sunday and Monday’s lessons are Ezekiel 28:14-17 and Isaiah 14:12-14.

For various reasons Seventh-day Adventists have historically taken these two passages as referring to Satan. Here is what the IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament has to say about it:

Ezekiel 28:16-17. Satan Connection. From early on in church history there has been an interpretive tradition understanding his passage as an account of the fall of Satan. Though this same type of interpretation in Isaiah 14 was fervently denied by well-respected exegetes such as John Calvin (who bluntly ridiculed it), it has persisted into modern times. From a background standpoint, it must be noted that Satan is never portrayed as either being a cherub or being with the cherub in the garden in any passage of Scripture. Furthermore, Israel’s understanding of Satan was far more limited than that found in the New Testament. Even in Job [ed., which the lesson brings up in Wednesday’s lesson], Satan is not a personal name but a function (see comment on Job 1:6). “Satan” does not become identified as the personal name of the chief of demons until about the second century B.C., and he does not take up his position as the source and cause of all evil until the unfolding of Christian doctrine. Consequently, the Israelites could not have understood this passage in this way, and no New Testament passage offers a basis for departing from the Israelite understanding of it. In the context, it is a metaphorical description of the high stewardship entrusted to the prince of Tyre (as significant as the cherub’s role in the garden). Rather than treating this sacred trust with reverence and awe, he exploited it to his own benefit – as if the cherub of the garden had opened a roadside fruit stand. He was therefore discharged from his position, relieved of his trust and publicly humiliated.1

In regards to Job 1:6, the same IVP BBC OT reads

Satan. It is important to note that the term here, satan (literally, “the accuser”), is preceded in Hebrew by the definite article (“the”). Thus, in the context of Job it appears to describe a function rather than serving as a proper name…2

Finally the same IVP BBC OT in the commentary on Isaiah 14 notes that the rebellion described there bears resemblance to a number of Near East stories that probably existed when Isaiah was writing.3 Isaiah, in order to convey his message, may simply have been borrowing themes and words from already existing literature of his time.

Once we get to the New Testament, Jesus’ words and the authors make clear that there is indeed an evil being that is named Satan. It is only towards the very end of the New Testament, in Revelation 12:7-9 where a clear connection is made between Satan and a brief description of how he ended up in this world.

What all this tells me is that details and the origin of the being we know today as Satan is inconclusive, when only Scripture is used. In other words, we ought to be careful that we don’t base any of our teachings and doctrine that requires the myth (I use this term in the proper, literary sense, rather than the pejorative sense) of Lucifer and Satan to be 100% accurate, true, and precise.

Regardless of the origins of Satan and how evil came to be, even if Satan is primarily a designation and representation for sin and evil in the world, the world has a problem: sin. The early church fathers saw the Atonement as the solution to the sin problem. Irenaeus responds to the question: For what purpose did Christ come down from heaven? “That He might destroy sin, overcome death, and give life to man.”4

Sin is not just some legal issue. In fact the breaking of any law is the natural consequence of sin that already occurred. Sin is the state of a created being who is no longer in proper relationship to the Creator. Because the Creator is Life, sin is also death. To be redeemed is to experience the at-one-ment, to return to a proper relationship, to be delivered from the state of bondage to sin and death, and back into a state of fellowship and life under love and liberty.5

George R. Knight writes, “The Bible pictures SIN as a relational concept. SIN is a way we relate to God. SIN at its most basic level is not some impersonal evil or residual animal behavior or bad trait built into human character. Rather, it is rebellion against the God of the universe…”6

I have one other quibble with the study guide. It’s found in Thursday where it begins, “There are two words used by Ezekiel…” and then continues in the next paragraph, “The word translated ‘trade’ also could be rendered ‘slander,’ suggesting that in heaven Lucifer was involved in raising false accusations against God and probably other heavenly beings.”

Now, I don’t read Hebrew, but I can look at concordances and dictionaries. According to what I’ve found, although the words “trade” and “slander” mentioned above are related in the Hebrew language, one is not a direct replacement for the other. The argument given in Thursday’s lesson seems to me to be a bit of a  stretch.

I have two recommendations for additional comments and study on this week’s lesson:


1The IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament. InterVarsity Press, 2000. p. 715.

2ibid., p. 495.

3ibid., pp. 603-4.

4Quoted in Aulen, Gustaf. Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, WIPF an STOCK Publishers, 2003 edition. p. 19.

5ibid., pp. 23-25.

6Knight, George R. I Used to be Perfect: A Study of Sin and Salvation, 2nd ed., Andrews University Press, 2001. p. 19.

Winter is in sight

While cycling out to the Post Office for mail, the clouds thinned out a bit to allow the peaks of the nearby hills show through. I saw something that I don’t think was there yesterday – white at the tops – snow! I looked behind me to see if Petersburg Mountain (the mountain visible directly across the Narrows from our bedroom windows) also had any snow, and bingo! it did. Even with full finger gloves, my hands were getting quite chilly. Winter is just around the corner.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A busy day

I had quite a full and busy day today. First, I hosted the monthly Ministerial Association meeting at our church. It was supposed to be at the St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, but last week learned that a change of venue had to occur. I asked around to see if anyone else was able to host, but I didn’t get a response so it defaulted to me.

Not every church hosting provides lunch (which is when we meet), but a few of us do provide rather elaborate meals. I couldn’t let people down, so I got to work this morning. The menu was chicken curry, basmati rice, honey-ginger glazed carrots, salad, and milk fudge with dried apricot bits. It all came together quite well, though I forgot to bring out the milk fudge. Oh well, more for me! The Lutheran pastor particularly enjoyed the carrots. I think he must have had half of the bowl.

Much of the meeting was presentation and discussion with the Community Education Director from the medical center. She came by to describe some of what she wants to do and to see in what ways the churches might want to partner. All in all it was a good discussion, letting us know of a community resource and another way for us to get involved with people outside the regular faith communities.

It was mid-afternoon when it was all done. The rain started up again this afternoon, after staying away for a few days in a row. I returned home to put away leftovers and catch up on e-mail and such. Amy told me that Shelley was going to catch a ride home. (Shelley had drama class this afternoon.) I went to the hospital to visit a church member who probably doesn’t have too many more days left in this life. Since she wasn’t ready, I went to get the mail, returned, and then visited (really with her husband). Then I got a call from Shelley wondering where I was… So with a quick prayer, I drove out to pick Shelley up.

Shelley picked up, we returned to town where she withdrew some money, went to the Trading Union, where she got some items and I went across the street to the hardware store to purchase a replacement electrical outlet. The one in the dining room, which I had been using for the heater, was rather loose. This morning I noticed that when the heater was turned up to the full 1500W, the vibrations from the plug being loose was resulting in quite a bit of heat and was melting the plastic. FIRE HAZARD!

Upon returning home I set out to replace the plug. As family and regular readers know, I am NOT a handyman, so even something as simple as replacing the outlet is somewhat daunting for me. I turned off the breaker, checked it with a voltmeter, turned the breaker on, checked it, turned it back off, checked it again (making doubly sure I had the right circuit turned off). Even then, with trepidation I began work on the outlet. I did not injure myself in the process, and everything got hooked back together. I turned on the breaker, checked to make sure I had the hot wire on the right side (which it was), plugged in the heater and waited a while to see if the outlet was still cool to the touch (which it was). Success!

For supper because I still had quite a bit of rice leftover from lunch, because it was getting a little late, and because I didn’t want to prepare another involved dish, I considered using a curry mix from a box. But I decided against it and threw together garlic, ginger, jalapenos, turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper with some tomatoes and potatoes to put together a potato curry. The jalapeno turned out to be quite a bit hotter than I had expected. Oh well.

That was my rather full day.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

First music recording attempt

This evening I completed my first attempt at producing a music recording with my PC-based equipment. In an earlier post I mentioned how the audio interface seemed to produce annoying clicks in the audio stream. I tried all sorts of things to isolate and diagnose the problem. The final conclusion is that it’s actually the USB port or the PC itself. That’s good and bad, because the interface hardware seems to be fine. But it’s much more difficult and costly to replace the PC (which I’m not going to do). I’ve been able to reduce the interference to about once a minute or so, but not completely eliminate it. That is rather annoying because I have to record multiple takes and then replace the offending audio sections with clean ones.

I’d been working on producing MIDI versions of several praise and worship songs contained in a children’s choir collection. I took a set of those, recorded the audio outputs, and then I layered some of my vocals on top.

The final result isn’t spectacular, but I think it’s passable. There are some sections where the audio levels are a bit too high and clipped a bit. It’s not too bad in the original (uncompressed 73MB in size), but in the lower-quality MP3 (1.5MB), the clipping is more noticeable. I still need to get more experience in controlling the input levels, the outgoing mix levels, being more consistent while singing into the microphone, etc. to get a better final result.

Click Here for MP3.

Sermon: Lord’s Prayer – Part 1 – “Righteous, Pious”

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio. Click HERE for PowerPoint slides. Click HERE for PowerPoint Viewer.)

This is the first of (probably) five sermons on the Lord’s Prayer. This sermon is an introduction, exploring the context in which we find the Lord’s Prayer. I touch briefly on the context in Luke, but most of the sermon is spent on the Sermon on the Mount context.

Much of the sermon is spent discussing true vs. false righteousness and piety, true vs. false rewards, true vs. false kingdoms and how Christ’s disciples must hold to the correct, biblical understandings of these things. This leads to how the Lord’s Prayer appears to be Jesus’ instructions to his disciples on how to petition God to give them the proper perspectives as disciples of Christ.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Calm after the storm

Autumn is certainly here with us. Starting late yesterday afternoon the wind picked up and the rain fell in heavy torrents. It continued through the night. It was quite a surprise then, to see the sun breaking through this morning.

Since by last night I had completed the sermon preparation for tomorrow, I was able to take time out to go wander about in the muskeg. Even though the landscape here doesn’t get the spectacular colors of say, Vermont, as you can see from the photos, we do get color. The color is much on a much smaller scale. What I noticed most is how the dying tufts of grass seem to glow orange against the more drab colors of the already dead plants.

I found what I’m pretty sure are bog cranberries. I picked one, squeezed it, and it had a familiar scent to it. The taste resembles a cranberry – quite tart. I hope it was a cranberry… I’m pretty sure it wasn’t one of the toxic, red berries that the field guides warn about. At least I’m still feeling fine a couple hours later… :)

I also noticed quite a few mushrooms poking their caps up. I don’t think I saw quite as many during the spring and summer months.

Winter is not too far away. One weather forecast says we might see our first snow flurries in about a week.

Click HERE to open gallery in new window

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Atonement: God’s Nature

The following are some of my thoughts on this week’s Sabbath School Study, Lesson 1, God’s Nature: The Basis of Atonement.

“The subject of the Atonement is absolutely central in Christian theology; and it is directly related to that of the nature of God. Each and every interpretation of the Atonement is most closely connected with some conception of the essential meaning of Christianity, and reflects some conception of the Divine nature. Indeed, it is in some conception of the nature of God that every doctrine of the Atonement has its ultimate ground…”1 [Emphasis mine.]

What this says to me is that how one interprets and views the Atonement is colored by his or her understanding of God’s nature. Not only that, but his or her understanding of God’s nature is itself colored by how he or she understands the Atonement.

Is the above statement true? I believe it is. If a person believes that law-based justice is the overriding nature of God, it is easy to see the Atonement as merely a legal transaction. If the Atonement is primarily about satisfying legal demands, it becomes much easier to see God’s nature in forensic and judicial terms.

On the other hand, if a person believes instead that God’s nature is primarily one of love based relationships, is becomes difficult to accept any kind of legal and substitutionary metaphor in the Atonement, but rather see it more as a demonstration of God’s love. If the Atonement is viewed primarily as demonstration of love, it becomes much easier to interpret everything about God through that lens.

What is being described is a case of cyclical dependency. If we are not careful, the more we study the Atonement, the more narrow and rigid our mindset can become both in regards to the Atonement and of God’s nature. When we become rigid, we tend to become intolerant. When we become intolerant, we become unloving. When we become unloving, we defeat the whole purpose of the Atonement.

The two perspectives I mentioned a few paragraphs ago are termed, respectively, as the objective and subjective views on the Atonement. The former is attributed to Anselm (1033-1109). The latter is attributed to Abelard (1079-1142). As you might guess, the one held to by most Christians today is the objective view.2, 3

Aulen argues that neither is the view held to by the early Christians. (From the dates of Anselm and Abelard, it looks like possibly up to the first 1,000 years of Christianity.) He puts forth the idea of a classical view on the Atonement, which he calls the dramatic view of the Christus Victor.4 From the broad descriptions I’ve read, he seems to have some strong points in favor of this view. I might even suggest that as Seventh-day Adventists, our Great Controversy metanarrative might fit the Christus Victor perspective better than the more common perspectives. I’ve only begun to read his historical survey, so I cannot comment much more than this.

I think the key for the set of studies this final quarter of 2008 is to try to open up our perspectives to examine other points of view and to engage ideas with which we don’t agree in a respectful, courteous, and loving way. As finite beings, we need to realize that when we attempt to make sense out of and understand God, we are going to encounter paradoxes (what Aulen terms dualisms5). We must learn to live with both/and perspectives rather than either/or.

I believe God speaks to each person in ways that they best understand. For some, one perspective on the Atonement may work better than another, while for a different set of people, the one that works for the other may not work at all. We must be willing to at least try to see things from other perspectives, and to disagree agreeably. God does not change, but our perspectives and experience do change. I believe God accommodates our changes and reveals Himself in ways that are best at each stage of our journey.

Finally, as we study the Atonement this quarter, I believe whatever it means must translate into practical significance. If it doesn’t, then perhaps it isn’t as important as we’ve been led to believe; or, we missed something really key; or, the meaning of the Atonement we have isn’t quite right.

For further studies and commentary on this week’s lesson, I highly recommend the audio and study guide at Good Word.


1Aulen, Gustaf. Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, WIPF an STOCK Publishers, 2003 edition. p. 13.

2ibid., pp. 1-3.

3Knight, George R. The Cross of Christ: God’s Work for Us, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2008. pp. 21-22.

4Aulen. pp. 4-7.

5Aulen, pp. 4, 11.