Category Archives: Giants of the Faith

Quotes and writings of the past

Spurgeon on Faith in the Sun

It takes about eight minutes for light to reach us from the sun We may judge of the pace at which that light comes when we reflect that a cannon ball rushing with the swiftest possible velocity would take seven years to get there and that a train travelling at the rate of thirty miles an hour and never stopping for refreshments would require more than three hundred and fifty years before it would reach the terminus You may thus form some slight idea of the distance that we are from the sun and this I think furnishes us with a good illustration of faith There is no man who can know except by faith that the sun exists That he did exist eight minutes ago I know for here is a ray of light that has just come from him and told me that but I cannot be sure that he is existing at this moment There are some of the fixed stars that are at such a vast distance from the earth that a ray of light from them takes hundreds of years to reach us and for aught we know they may have been extinct long ago Yet we still put them down in our chart of the heavens and we can only keep them there by faith for as through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so it is only by faith that we can know that any of them now exist When we come to examine the matter closely we find that our eyesight and all our faculties and senses are not sufficient to give us positive conviction with regard to these heavenly bodies and therefore we still have to exercise faith so is it to a high degree in spiritual affairs we walk by faith not by sight

Ponderings on Memorial Day

In my younger days, I pretty much lived at the airport. My boss, a member of the greatest generation, an Air Force Colonel, and a B17 captain had started a civilian flight school post retirement. Every once in a while he’d show me a letter from the USAF where they wanted him to return, and had even carved out some loopholes in order to make it possible for folks of his age… He often said it was tempting, but then he’d say “I like my life the way it is”.

At 60+, he’d gotten married just a few years before and had a young son. It was a totally new life for him. In his younger days, he’d been married, had a family, sent the kids off to college and then his wife passed on. The joy in this new life of his and the great faith he had was an awesome inspiration… and yet, his WWII experiences came across as vivid as if they were yesterday. He’d flown his 25 missions, became an instructor, and then lived an air force career for many years, followed by a corporate job and years of the reserves.

Short of really bad weather when nothing was flying, there wasn’t a day when the office didn’t come across as an American Legion or VFW post with the number of veteran aviators and other veterans stopping by. There was an air of intense bravado and self sacrifice… it was if nothing could rattle these guys. The proverbial hands of steel ran very strong. I heard stories of the hardship of the B17, or folks having to bail out, the fear of being captured, being captured, the horrors of war…

I also heard of crazy pilot stuff, like drinking until 2AM, sleeping a few hours, and then putting on their facemasks at ground level and turning the O2 to max as a means of clearing their hangover for the next mission. The proverbial eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die ran very strong. A lot of fellows didn’t make it back…

But some of this was only inferred… hearing of the amount of damage a B17 could take, and still be airworthy enough to make it back, and/or get it down on the ground was amazing. But then, when the fuselage would get hit with flak to an extreme, there were guys back there too and some were either were killed instantly, or passed on shortly there after. Few if any would talk about that aspect, and if they did, the firehoses turned on in a huge way. At times, the eyes and hands of steel got hit with a hammer and while it didn’t win, there was great silence.

I saw a photo of my old boss’ son a while back, and I could see his father through him. It got me thinking about the horrors these young guys experienced. As a 20 something captain, how does one process the partial loss of ones crew, ones friends? The mission has to became the primary and near exclusive focus, and future life became a sequential series of missions… in between one would go off, process things a bit, and then be back on task for the next one.

This is not so easy though… many fellows chose the path of the bottle, and a fair number of them entered 24/7 alcohol land and succumbed to it. My boss talked about such too, had it not been for the grace of God, he too would have never made it to 60, or even 40 for that mater.

The fact is war continues for many, well after the initial time of combat has passed… and some won’t make it. In today’s, world, unlike WWII, there’s a newer phenomena occurring, where in folks are getting hit with PTSD, even apart from combat situations… followed by ending their lives. Its a difficult, and very troubling sociological and psychological issue and one which is not so easy to address. Its far easier to wipe such under the carpet as its too hard to think about… but think about it we must.


Today, let us remember those who have passed. Tomorrow, let us work to keep those who served, and are currently serving from ending their lives prematurely. It doesn’t have to end that way.

The Guise of Purity

@khad wrote the other day, “The guise of purity is a good mask for corruption. Perhaps mostly because it discourages inquiry.” I’m thinking how true this is… moral high roads present near impenetrable barriers , few if any question them, and if they do, bam they get shot down.

That is, until light eventually illuminates the road. At that point, one can see whether such is indeed a moral high road, or merely one heck of a good game show… and it does seem to be the case there are lots of game shows.

I ame across the following from Leontius, Bishop of Neapolis. He pretty much nails the guise of purity.

Those who are eager to pursue the worthy status which can be taught to others are obliged to demonstrate in their own life the teaching of still others and present themselves to all as a model of a way of living which is a virtue inspired by God, according to the divine word which says, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” [Mt 5:16], lest perhaps they are eager to chastise, reform, and guide others before they themselves are instructed and purified through working at the divine commandments, having failed to lament their own death, while concerning themselves with the death of another, and fulfill in themselves the truthful saying, so fitting to them, which says, “He who does not do and teach these things will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” [Mt 5:17], and again, “Hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye and then look to take out the speck in your brother’s eye” [Mt 7:5]. For this reason also the wise author of the Acts of the Apostles says thus concerning our great and true God and teacher, “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach” [Acts 1:1]. For this also Paul, the great vessel of election, wrote rebuking the Romans, saying, “You then who teach others, will you not teach yourselves?” [Rom 2:21] and so forth.[2]

Since therefore I am unable to present instruction and the image and model of virtuous deeds from my own life, carrying with myself everywhere the mark of sin, come, and from the work of others and their sweaty toils, I shall today….

He then proceeds to introduce St Symeon… who practiced a different sort of guise, namely a very pious and holy man in private, who puts on a great show of impurity and craziness in public!

Upon reaching the first church in his public ministry, he came in, disrupted the liturgy, threw nuts at the women, and then rolled the pastry tables.

It was also the saint’s practice, whenever he did something miraculous, to leave that neighborhood immediately, until the deed which he had done was forgotten….

Its a fascinating read… be forewarned, the text is translated from ancient manuscripts, it is not politically correct, it is likely to make conservative leaning folks more than a bit squeamish. A sanitized more pc description of St Symeon can be found at wikipedia.

I dont know that folks of God need to eat strange and/or disgusting food, hang out in the desert… or tie a dead dog to their robes, but certainly such an approach is a whole lot better than a guise of purity. There is only One who is truly pure.

Sanitizing the Wise Men

I’ve been thinking about Epiphany and the wise men for a bit. Its interesting how a so called sanitized view of those fellows seems to pervade much of Christian society.

Many folks hold them out to be Kings, and I think such is reasonable if one looks at their visit fullfilling old testament prophecy. The thing is, to simply state they are kings from afar, and that they were astronomers is only part, and realistically only a sanitized part of the story. More so, I think we loose something if the story is just left at that.

The study of the stars is what leads us to think of astronomy, today, a very hard science with an incredible amount of really nasty mathematical equations behind it, albeit extremely visually appealing. Back then, the study of stars was likely a lot more oriented along the lines of astrology, rather than orbital mechanics and spectral analysis.

The word magi is sometimes used to describe the wise men. Magi, were typically followers of Zoroaster, and for all practical purposes were Persian priest astrologers. If we do a bit of digging into the term “wise men”, we find it also refers to Simon the Magician (a believer, albeit an inept one, and for whom the sin of Simony is named) in Acts, yet another connection to astrology and sorcery. We also find Elymas, another sorcerer, albeit one who tried to lead people astry.

Lets look at the gifts they brought… gold, frankincense and myrhh. A vastly different type of offering than sacrificed animals as was the common practice of the day. Some records suggest that Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh were given to the mythical God Apollo hundreds of years prior. In todays world, we think very positively of the gifts… I’m not so sure said combination gifts would be looked at as being very popular amongst those who ascribe to a legalistic point of view back then.

Even more so, imagine the outrage amongst those who didnt like it that Jesus ate with sinners, that the first ones who came to be with him were sorcerers, and were guided by a star. God pretty much condemns folks who practice such in the OT, but yet he used exactly such folks to be the first recorded to see his Son.

What I find really impactful, is despite the practices and lifestyle of the wisemen, they knew of the Messiahs birth, they gave homage to God in his most humblest state, as a mere babe. If one does ascribe them to be Kings, their actions seem even more powerful. They set aside their works, their world, their lives to find what God had illuminated to them… They didnt miss the point, like so many others, who had the right lifestyle, the right actions, the right ancestry… yet got it all wrong.

Ramblings on St Stephen

Some random thoughts on St Stepen, bearing in mind either the 26th(West) or 27th(East) was St Stephen’s day.

The social gospel, with the power of the Gospel… The social gospel should not be just the doing of good deeds. More so, it should be folks doing good deeds, equipped, ready, and willing to make disciples should the Holy Spirit open the doors to do so. St Stephen was giving the role of helping the widows to allow the others to fully devote their time to prayer and the ministry of the word. While scripture doesnt give us much history as far as how much he did as concerns helping the widows, it fully addresses his sharing the good news of Christ to an audience who was less than receptive.

The synagogue of the Freedmen and their zeal for the law, so much so they completely missed the fact that the law and their scriptures pointed to Christ parallels a some of todays ministries. So many good deeds end up so focused on the deed aspect that Christ ends up being set aside… or in other cases, the tight integration of church and state forces Christ aside. When it comes to government funding of ministries, if someone steps up and fusses, things do not go well. Perhaps we really arent that different than the folks in the Freedman synangogue way back when, albeit it would be unlikely for the messenger to be stoned… but shunned would be a real possibility in some circumstances.

St Stephen’s defense in front of the Sanhedran rocked…

An anti safe approach to the future!

I came across this blog entry tonight, and was blown away. This fellow observes great opportunties ahead, and I think he is right on the mark. This is the time to step up to the plate, and throughout his post he mirrors a common theme, dont be safe, dont be timid, dont be fearful, step forward and get going!

The following final quote from him is pretty powerful

Most of all seek God’s Word for his loving example and the ways that Jesus expressed his love to us. Take a risk, give something up. Stop being so safe and get out there and get your hands dirty for Jesus.

Lutheran history, something way cool from UV Koren

Back when I taught Sunday school at Washington Prairie Lutheran Church years ago, more than a few times I marveled at the guys of old. Sometimes I’d arrive early, or if we had youth activities and I had spare time during down periods, I’d look at the photos of UV Koren, and wonder what it was like back then. I should have dug into the books of the church library as no doubt there was a wealth of info, albeit the earliest texts were likely in Norwegian. Alas, I was more interested in the teaching the subject at hand then the history, and as such never did.

Well, the wonderment continued, especially as I started to dig into “the election controversy” of the 1880’s. I had thought it was just election, until I got talking with an old housemate who had studied such as part of his discernment process. He mentioned in passing that it was not only election, but also high church, low church, slavery, and a host of other items. Guess what, virtually none of that info is online (at least from a ELCA predecessor standpoint, WELS and LCMS do have some info, however, there is a somewhat selective bias), a fair amount of it is only in Norwegian or German, and then throw in some Latin just for good measure.

Thus, its off to the library we go. Thank goodness for interlibrary loan, and a reluctance to remove old books with limited circulation by some libraries. One of the books I picked up used the old rubber date stamp and card thing. The last it was checked out was in 1988, and prior to that 1968! It was written in 1925, and be golly, those pages are old. I’m almost guessing the librarian had to clean the dust off of it, and probably was going ?????? who on earth would request this.

One of the things I found fascinating was the following from UV Koren, and I think there is a lot of wisdom today. Granted he was no fan of historical critical exegesis, but I’ll bold the key part that I think is oh so key, whether it be in matters of unity or doctrine. This is from an online resource and its a English translation of A Lecture Delivered Before the Theological Students at Luther Seminary.

One hears that it is often said that we rest on the shoulders of our fathers and that we should, therefore, have a better insight than they had. Let us see! First of all, we must be careful about whom we accept as our spiritual fathers. These must be the ones who have been obedient to the Word of God. If these are our fathers, then we must learn of them what they have learned from God’s Word. If we have, with their help, learned the same in God’s Word, then we can well climb up on their shoulders, if we desire to do so. We may then perhaps see something or other that escaped their notice. But mark well, we should not be in any great hurry, for we will not see anything that contradicts what they and we, after them, have seen in God’s Word! For this is not yea and nay, but yea and amen. And before we come so far that we have seen more than the fathers, we will find that we have become so old that we have no more time to see and search any further. We will be glad to come down from the shoulders of the elders and sit at their feet and do our best to come as far in knowledge as they. This will be the good fortune for the fewest of us. It is understood that I am here speaking of the chief parts of revelation. There may be many things in resources, archaeology, grammar and other areas of linguistics, etc., where information can be gathered which was not known to the fathers and which may give a better insight into one or another Bible passage. But whatever belongs to the basic truths, the essence of God, His will and deeds, man’s condition and salvation, the means of grace, the way and order of salvation, etc., in these truths nothing new can be uncovered. This would contradict the essence of God’s eternal Word and the essential attributes of revelation. We Christians have no use for the spirit of the age, though we should learn to know our times–the clearer the better–and to make use of this knowledge also in the form of our presentation of eternal truths

Prayers for Alan Henley

Alan Henley, a truely master airman was injured while playing with his kids a few months back, and while now at home, very much needs prayers as well as his family. You can read more at his caring bridge web site. Its a rough time for all of them, yet his wife Jen is holding things together very well. I’ve been down that path, and it is not an easy one whatsoever. Whats really amazing though, is how she is witnessing to the world, as to God’s grace. Nearly every update points to Christ in one way or another.

Here is an old video of Alan in flight.

Roger on the Lion, I’ll have a bear or two to go

Difficulties, dangers, disease, death, or divisions don’t deter any but Chocolate Soldiers from executing God’s Will. When someone says there is a lion in the way, the real Christian promptly replies, “That’s hardly enough inducement for me; I want a bear or two besides to make it worth my while to go.”

Sayings of C.T. Studd.

CT Studd was a pedal to the metal, full bore dude, sort of like a gung ho marine guy. No messing around, just blast forward and go. Somehow or another we’ve tended to wimp out on the deal…. not sure quite why that is. Some might argue the feminization of Christianity, and perhaps that plays somewhat of a role, but I think using such a description is more likely self-justification, than reality.

Perhaps it is separation from the world, I about fell on the floor over the exit strategy being presented in Albert Mohlers book. Granted, he tends to lean towards peitism and a theology of glory, as contrasted with a theology of the cross, but still the world needs to be engaged. If our faith and those of our children is so fragile that it cant take daily onslaughts from US society, contemporary Christianity, discipleship, and education have much bigger problems, than the most screwball teachings of the public school systems.(and imho… I dont really see much of an issue in the public schools, other than funding, discipline, and bullying). Even a 14 year old should be able to give account of their faith… maybe not with great theological depth, nor the ability to counter atheistic apologetics, but most certainly Christian education oppurtunities abound, both in Sunday school and in the home for preparation to do so. Engaging the world is where its at… not retreating to a place of safety. If Christianity is to be safe and family friendly all the time, it looses a tremendous amount of power. Granted, there are times where retreating and shelter are ok, and actually a good idea… but those times best be in the minority… not something to be striven for on a continuous basis.

Scripture is filled with NSFW texts and stories… things which likely make many a modest person blush if read in mixed company. Yet, Jesus warned us not to cause those young in the faith to stumble, but He also warned us not to keep them from Him. Some churches thus break things apart into childrens and adult services…. I dont think that really was what Jesus had in mind. If anything…. children, Rabbis, prostitutes, fishermen, criminals, as well as John and Jane Doe all came, talked, and shared…. children were not kept from Jesus, but likely they were not kept from pretty intense discussions either.

The discipleship path of a Christian should give them the tools and the power of the word of God, such that a couple bears and a lion, become a a minor annoyance, rather than something to be fearful of. I think we are pretty close to that… but it need to become real, and perhaps that is where the rubber hits the road. Folks dont like to have their faith tested, much less by a lion and 2 bears, but indeed with testing comes growth and perhaps we need to look at that a little more, not sure. God most certainly tests us, but I’m wondering in the domain of discipleship, if we need a little more emphasis somehow on things getting real, perhaps too real.