Friday, April 25, 2008
I’ve read Jude a few times before, but when you’re reading through the Bible, by the time you get to Jude you are in a sort of “get to the end” kind of state. Just coming off Hebrews and the Pauline epistles, when you hit 1, 2, and 3 John and Jude, you just sail through these tiny books, and it’s easy to let the word flow through your mind like water through a pipe. You think, “Um, I don’t really understand this,” and then you think, “And I still have Revelation to go—talk about tough to understand!” Thus, it was very good to spend a week looking at this book and meditating on it.
Jude is a book that I rarely hear preached. It’s kind of a scary book—in my NIV, the heading of the longest section is, “The Sin and Doom of Godless Men.” Not exactly what most pastors these days are drawn to, especially if they are of the “win friends and influence people” camp.
An outline of the book goes like this:
Jude identifies himself and greets his readers, identifying them as fellow sharers in salvation.
Then he proceeds to warn them about false teachers who will infiltrate the church and teach false doctrine for their own gain. He describes these false teachers in great detail, I think both to warn us against becoming like them, and (obviously) to help us recognize and avoid them.
Jude encourages true believers to continue strong in the faith, ready and willing to help those weaker than themselves, merciful yet very cautious towards those who are in error.
It ends with praise to God who is able to give us all we need for life and discernment, so we can live a life pleasing to Him and ultimately join Him in paradise.
There were two main things that I took from the book this week:
The first is a warning about antinomianism. This is significant these days, because evangelical churches everywhere are drifting into antinomianism. Antinomianism was, throughout the history of the church, recognized as a heresy, but in these days it is accepted as the blessed truth. The definition of antinomianism is: The doctrine or belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace. Many people I know believe that this goes without saying. I pointed out to one woman once that her theology was antinomian. She said, “What is that?” I explained and she said, “Well, yes, of course.”
The whole point of the gospel is that Jesus came so that we could be freed from sin, filled with the Holy Spirit, and empowered to live life God’s way. (See Ezekiel 36:26-27, and particularly notice verse 27).
There are many places in Paul’s writings that can be said to support antinomian theology. However, when considered in context with the whole Bible, it becomes apparent that this is not what Paul means. Peter wrote of Paul, “…His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do other scriptures, to their own destruction,” (from 2 Peter 3:16). If you read all the epistles by people other than Paul, and consider what they are saying about this issue, you will see that they clearly explain that if we are true believers, our lives must reflect the active presence of the Holy Spirit through obedience to Him. (James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 2:13-16; 2 Peter 1:3-11; 1 John 3:16-19, 5:18, 2 John 4; 3 John 3, 4, 11).
I know this sounds technical, and I hope it is not boring, because I believe that it is incredibly significant to all believers everywhere, and something to be especially on guard against in these days. Jude says, “They are godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord,” (from Jude 4). So many people these days say, “It doesn’t matter. I can do it if I want to. I’m under grace.” Anyone who disagrees is labeled a “legalist.”
For the record…
Legalism is: believing that you can be saved through your own power and your own righteousness by following the law.
Legalism is not: loving the law and following it in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us and helps us to understand that the law is God’s revelation of what is right and good, the best way to live, handed down to us in love by the One who designed all life and knows how everything works best. (That’s not legalism, it’s Christianity. Read Psalm 119. It’s a very long Psalm, and just about every single verse mentions God’s Law in one way or another. For example, “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight,” [Psalm 119:33-35]. Believers delight in God’s law. They LOVE it.)
Even Paul says, “What shall we say? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2—and just to clarify, I hope nobody thought I said that Paul is antinomian. He definitely is not, as this illustrates. It’s just that some of the things he wrote can be taken to support that view if they are not properly understood.)
The thing is, we have lots of people changing the grace of God into a license for sin, but not so many whom we can clearly see denying that Jesus is Lord. Obviously Oprah does, but she doesn’t qualify as a credible spiritual leader to begin with. I wonder if it is a progression—folks begin by using grace to justify sin, and that should be a warning sign to us, because ultimately they will deny Christ. I wonder?
Clearly these false teachers know they are doing wrong, like Cain whom God warned directly—“sin is crouching at your door”—and yet he did not care or honor the Lord, but continued with his own murderous plan to seek his own personal gratification and jealous revenge. They are in it for selfish gain like Balaam who allowed himself to be hired to curse God’s people, even though God got right in his face and told him, through a talking donkey no less, that He did not approve (Numbers 22-24). Like Korah, they have no regard for God, God’s choice, or God’s true servants, and they fool heartedly believe that they have as much right as anyone to declare the “truth”. Korah thought he was as worthy as Moses and Aaron. God opened the earth and swallowed him up (Numbers16).
These false teachers not only think they have the right to declare truth, they think they have the right to define it, that they have the right and authority and ability to actually decide what is true. We see this attitude everywhere these days! In every one of Jude’s examples of this attitude, we see people who were destroyed by their sin. (You could do a whole study on how this relates to the fear of the Lord, but I will spare you today.)
Near the end, Jude exhorts us to treat these people with mercy. Truly, when we consider their ultimate demise, that blackest darkness has been reserved for them, we must be moved to mercy, pity, and hope that God will open their eyes and bring them back.
So we are warned to avoid antinomianism, to be on guard against false teachers who proclaim it. If we can’t trust our teachers, how can we ever make it to the end? Where do we go? This leads me to the second message that came powerfully from this book: God is sovereign.
The sovereignty of God, even the sovereign choice of God, is clear here, perhaps more clear than anywhere else in the Bible.
Right from the very beginning, Jude alludes to God’s sovereign choice: “to those who have been called,” he writes, “loved by God and kept by Jesus Christ.” The called. An awful lot of people don’t want to face it, but there are two kinds of people: those who are called by God to be part of His Kingdom, and those who are not.
I read Jude in a number of translations. The significance of Jude 4 doesn’t come out in the NIV, which says, “Certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago,” but if you look at some other translations, you get a message that is rarely seen in the Bible and almost never discussed out loud. HCSB says, “Certain men, who were designated for this judgment long ago…” NASB says, “…those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation …” And ESV says, “…who long ago were designated for this condemnation…” It sounds to me that, just as some of us were predestined for salvation (Ephesians 1:4 is one place we see this), there are those who were predestined for destruction. I’m not sure if I like this, but I’m pretty sure that whether I like it or not is immaterial, and it looks like that is what it says. I didn’t make it up; I’m just pointing it out.
God is sovereign, and whether people like it or not doesn’t change it. They can rebel against the truth like Cain, Balaam and Korah (and, I guess, Oprah and thousands of unnamed others in our day and age), but it will be to their own peril and demise. Me, I’m sticking with God, because I want to win this one. I don’t win much, but I can be on the winning side for all eternity, and that’s where I’d like to be: “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies,” (Psalm 60:12).
Which brings us to the end (and a glance back at the beginning). Jesus keeps those He has chosen. He keeps us. Jude 1 said that we are kept in Christ Jesus. Verse 24 says that He keeps us from falling. We don’t have to worry and fret about false teachers, or sinful society or a wicked world. If we are chosen, called, drawn, loved and kept, we are also safe. He is able to keep us from falling. He is able to provide all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. He is able to teach us, comfort us, justify us, make us wise and infuse us with His own righteousness. We really ought to all memorize Jude 24-25. My father often ends his prayers with these verses:
To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy--to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
The key to making a good dump cake, incidentally, is to cover the top completely with butter before baking it. Pioneer Woman's photo of the pre-baked top isn't quite accurate, I think. You have to meticulously slice the butter into paper thin slices and place them edge to edge to completely cover the top. If you don't do this, you will get powdery spots. Unfortunately, this step makes an otherwise incredibly easy recipe into a very putzy one. That being said, it is still really tasty and worth making. Also, it is No Fail. Really.
However--I have a variation on dump cake that is absolutely delicious and AWAYS gets rave reviews. If you like apple pie or apple cobbler, you will LOVE this:
Ruthie's Dump Cake
1 can apple pie filling
2 cans (~15 oz., or one  28-30 oz. can) sliced pears in light syrup
1 spice cake mix
1/2 to 3/4 cup butter
heavy cream or ice cream
Lightly grease a 9x13 pan. Mix apple pie filling and pears (do not drain) in a large bowl. Turn into pan. Spread the cake mix evenly over the top. Completely cover with thin slices of butter. Bake at 350 for about an hour. Serve warm, drizzled with unsweetened heavy cream (or ice cream, but heavy cream is better).
Yesterday I had a craving for dessert. We had not had dessert for a number of days, unless you count a half a package of Chips Ahoy that came back from the beach with us. I was craving dessert, but I thought I had about 30 minutes to make it, beginning to end, because I thought I had to pick Shannon up from school.
Later, I remembered that she was going out for ice-cream with friends after her organic chemistry test, so I actually would have had time to make just about anything, but at the time I did not realize this. It turned out OK, because if I had known I had unlimited time and didn't have to improvise, I never would have discovered what I discovered
I had a yellow cake mix, but I was afraid that if I made a cake, I would have to leave to get Shannon before it was ready to come out of the oven. I also had very limited frosting ingredients, and was not excited about my options there.
What I really wanted was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. That is what I wanted. But I had no chocolate cake mix, no baking chocolate, and only a very little bit of cocoa. I did, however, find a can of apple pie filling. But... I didn't have any canned pears (they don't sell them in bulk at Sam's). I had canned peaches, though. I decided to try a variation on a dump cake. It came out GREAT! Here it is...
Ruthie's Variation on her Dump Cake
1 can apple pie filling
2 cans (15 oz.) sliced peaches
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon orange peel (the kind that comes in a spice jar)
1 yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
cinnamon sugar (if you don't have any--> 2 tsp. cinnamon stirred into 1 cup sugar)
Grease your 9 x 13 pan. In a large bowl, mix pie filling, peaches, pumpkin pie spice and orange peel. Spread this in the 9 x 13. Because I was in a terrible hurry, I did not have time to painstakingly slice and place pieces of butter all over the top of a cake mix, so I just whipped out my Cuisinart and processed the cake mix, the butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar until they were evenly combined. Then I spread this on top of the fruit. Finally, to give a nice crystallized finish, I sprinkled the whole top with a few spoonfuls of cinnamon sugar (which we always keep handy in a canister so we can make cinnamon toast). Bake at 350 for an hour. Serve warm drizzled with heavy cream. This is a winner. I would definitely make it on purpose.
[p.s. I wasn't worried about getting it out of the oven when I left to pick up Shannon, because I have a time-bake feature on my oven and I knew that if the oven went off after an hour, the dump cake would be just fine sitting in there, staying hot for us, unlike a more fussy dessert that would dry out or something.]
[p.p.s. Shannon was full when she got home, which means that maybe there will be an extra piece of dump cake somewhere along the line---for moi?]
Monday, April 21, 2008
We went to the beach in North Carolina last week. It was warm and misty on Saturday evening when we arrived, good for pensive beach walks.
This was our first sunset--actually, our only sunset with clouds.
The view from our house, overlooking the salt marsh, was gorgeous. We had a dock and a kayak that we could use when the tide was high. Here is also a picture of Jonathan running out of the ocean because the water was just too cold for swimming.
Jonathan found a very cute little sand dollar.
Maybe I will post some more pictures tomorrow.
Monday, April 7, 2008
In each of Jane Austin's novels, she creates a matched set in her hero and heroine. Their personalities suit one another and they are able to bring out the best in each other while exercising their own strengths.
Mansfield Park is about a humble, Biblically submissive young woman who lives by principle, trusting that in the end her long-suffering will be worth it because there is a God who watches over the lives of men and rewards the pure and upright. Appropriately, her kind, serious cousin who plans to take orders and become a clergyman marries her in the end, after a short "fling" where his judgement lapses and he is drawn in briefly by a woman who mocks everything he stands for.
People may not like that this is what the book is about, but it is the truth, nonetheless. Such a theme obviously doesn't go over well in our society in this day and age. I have never seen a movie version of Mansfield Park that makes the least bit of sense, because nobody alive these days (especially the feminists who have taken such a quaint interest in Jane Austin) can even begin to understand Fanny Price's motivation.
The lesbianism in this movie is creepy, as is the lechery that is suggested in both Fanny's uncle and her father (there is a scene where Mr. Price ogles Fanny on her return home, then says, "It will be nice to have another young woman in the house." The camera then shifts to her younger sister, who makes a nervous hand motion by her throat, suggesting that the father has been sexually molesting her and will now branch out in his attentions). The uncle, also, is silently attributed with lust for Fanny and an active pursuit of his female slaves in Antigua. This insidious suggestion that all fathers are evil and incapable of treating a young woman with decency is another feminist shading that wildly diverges from Jane Austin's meaning or intent. As an author, Austin always makes a clear delineation between good, decent men and wicked ones, and she allows for the existence of both.
I did not understand the parts about slavery that were thrown into this movie, or why they were there, except perhaps as a feminist foil to show the overarching evil that occurs when one human being submits to another. However, the voluntary submission of a woman to a good man is completely different from the forced submission of a captured slave to his master. In the book, even Fanny refuses to submit against her principles when the cousins all decide to put on a play. She is quite sure that she is right to stay out of it entirely, but they cajole her so much that she begins to doubt herself, even more so when Edmund bends his own morals and decides to take a part. But she holds true to her conscience despite grave mental anguish, and she is rewarded when her uncle comes home and she is the only one who has done as he would have wished. This does not come out at all in the movie--the whole significance of the doing of the play is lost entirely.
This movie has some good points, and would surely be a help to someone reading the book for the first time--provided they actually read the book, so they could discern what is accurate and what is not. Fanny should be prettier, Mary Crawford should be younger, cousin Maria should be better looking than cousin Julia. Lindsay Duncan as both Lady Bertram and her sister, Mrs. Price, is the best thing about the whole movie. The men were all decently cast.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I had an idea. "How about," I thought, "if I put tons of walnuts and oatmeal and coconut and stuff like that into our cookies? Maybe then I will get more of them!"
This worked for a short time.
Ultimately, they learned to like walnuts and oatmeal and coconut.
Oh well, I tried.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
This is a shameless product endorsement. I am not being paid any money. Anyway, they would be crazy to pay me money if they checked my reader stats.
You see here a photo of my new vacuum. It is a Bissell EasyVac, a lightweight, bagless vacuum. It weighs less than eight pounds. I got it at a local discount store for $39.98. That's right, for less than $40, less than the cost of one weekly clarinet lesson, I got a vacuum.
"Does it work?" was the question from my daughter Shannon's college friend who was over for the weekend. It undoubtedly runs. It also sucks up dirt, as you can easily see when you look through the clear plastic into the cup that collects the dirt in the absence of a bag. It was full after I vacuumed the whole downstairs. So I dissembled it and cleaned it, which was easy to do, and the instructions that came with the vacuum were clearly written and easy to follow.
A few days later, it was also full (actually over-full) after I vacuumed the boys' bedroom. That's right--there was more dirt in one 12 x 12 bedroom than in our entire 1400 square foot main floor. That gives you a little insight into who usually cleans what, and how thoroughly. But, I digress.
I used to have an Oreck. I don't know if it was a lemon, or if Orecks are generally not much good, but it was always blowing sparks, burning out and needing belts replaced. I also have a Sears canister vacuum for "deep" cleaning, but I like to have a vacuum that is easy to use and not a dread to set up. Well, the Oreck was lightweight and easy, but it cost $350 to begin with and it was always breaking. This new Bissell is easier than the Oreck ever was, and also easier to maintain. Shawn says, "If it's still running at the end of the month, we probably got our money's worth."
No, it probably doesn't suction every dust mite like a Kirby. But you know what? Those big, heavy duty vacuums hurt my back. I dread using them. I avoid using them. If I vacuum (if I get out a vacuum and use it--at all), I am getting more dirt up than if I don't vacuum. Whether or not I might hypothetically suck more crud out of the carpet is immaterial if I'm not running the vacuum at all due to fear of personal injury. I am happy to whisk my Bissell EasyVac around the house and fill it with dirt, dust and dog hair. I know I have done well when I empty the "dust cup" into the trash.
Which brings me to the two drawbacks. They aren't very big drawbacks, but I will mention them.
First, someone developed vacuum bags for a reason. In the absence of a bag, you get stuff in the air when you empty the vacuum. However, I am confident that with practice I will improve in this area, and also, it is worth something not to have to keep buying bags, and to be able to clearly view when the "dust cup" is full and needs to be emptied.
Second, if you look at the photo, you will see that I looped the cord through the upper handle on the vacuum. For some reason, they designed it to come out of the bottom of the vacuum. Of course, this means you are always tripping over it and vacuuming over it. Someone must have mentioned this drawback in product testing, because they installed a flimsy clip on the back of the handle, where you are supposed to insert the cord. Let me just say--it doesn't stay there. But looping it through the handle is a quick, easy and reliable solution, so no problem in the end.
Hey, for under $40, what do you want? It works for me.
I have always lived in climates with harsh winters. Winter does not have much to say for itself, not much good anyway, except if you count that it is a good time for making soups and stews.
Spring is such a blessed relief--first longer days, and then the snow melts, and finally things begin to grow again.
Around here, spring really gives you a good picture of redemption, of life after death, of the promise of hope after despair. I wonder if people who live in tropical climates experience anything similar?
Even so, I do love a nice palm tree.