Sunday, August 30, 2015

Appreciating the Gift Her Husband Gave Her

Quote for the Day:

"Long before anyone invented the term 'women's lib,' Bill liberated me to be a homemaker, wife, and mother. My main accomplishment was raising five little Grahams and watching them grow through good times and bad to be men and women committed to the Lord's service, all as pilgrims in progress." Ruth Bell Graham, quoted in Finish Strong by Richard G. Capen, Jr. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Understanding is a Two-Way Street

Quote of the Day:

“In times of controversy, it often seems easier to duck the issues; to let little of your real views be known so as not to offend anyone. Whether it’s a local school issue or a tough decision to make as a parent, the path of least resistance is often the one chosen because we think everyone will end up feeling good. And yet, I have always found serenity in knowing that my life is driven by certain values and principles that never change. You can too. No amount of shouting or personal attacks  can take away the key anchors of your life if you know what you believe and stick to it. That’s what being authentic is all about.
One reason our country is in so much trouble these days is because too many of us have refused to stand up for those values we believe in so passionately. We have worked so hard to understand the other person that we have failed to help him or her even to consider the principles that drive our own lives. I’m not suggesting you ignore others or trample insensitively on their views, but you are entitled to your ideas too.” 
Richard G. Capen, Jr., former chairman and publisher of the Miami Herald and United States Ambassador to Spain.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” 
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Gives Meaning to Life: Quote of the Day

The quote for today is from Elizabeth Dole:

"Life is not just a few years to spend on self-indulgence and career advancement. It's a privilege, a responsibility, a stewardship to be lived according to a much higher calling--God's calling. This alone gives true meaning to life."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Augustine's Migration from Intellectualism and Hedonism to Faith in Christ

In the introduction to a book of Latin selections of Saint Augustine’s De Civitate Dei (City of God), by Reverend William G. Most, one finds enlightening facts about Augustine’s migration to a Biblical faith in Jesus Christ:

Dr. Most writes:

“...we find Augustine in his nineteenth year, a brilliant student at Carthage. In the course of his reading he came upon Cicero’s treatise on the excellence of philosophy, the Hortensius (now lost). The reading of this work enkindled in Augustine a desire for philosophy. Since he did not find the name of Christ in Cicero’s work, Augustine was not content to seek for wisdom there, and he quite naturally turned to the Scriptures. What he thought was his fine literary sense was offended by the unpretentious language of the Scriptures, and he considered them crude, and often in flatly incorrect Latin, for St. Jerome had not yet made his new translation. Thus it was that we find Augustine looking eagerly for an intellectual system which would satisfy his love for wisdom, but which would not fetter his lax moral habits.”

In other words, Augustine wanted Christ, and Christ’s Word, but written according to Augustine’s literary preferences and presented in a way so as to meet his intellectual presuppositions, while at the same time giving him permission to live his life with no moral delineations.

So Augustine became enamored with the Manichean system, primarily because, as Dr. Most writes, it allowed Augustine to justify his “loose morality.” However, that, too, lost it's luster over time. 

“For nine years Augustine had to content himself with a gradually weakening faith in Manichaeism, bolstered by the hope of Faustus.” Faustus, however, “could not solve Augustine’s troubles.”

“Augustine was sorely disillusioned. He no longer hoped to find the wisdom he sought in Manichaeism, but did not know where else to seek it. His old intellectual well as his even more lax morals, still plagued him.”

So Augustine left his teaching post at Carthage and went to Rome, where he was attracted to the “philosophy of the New Academy” (the successor to the original Academy of Plato): 

“For the Academy professed to teach that truth was unknowable, and that the best substitute to be had was a probable opinion.”

Augustine began teaching rhetoric at Rome, as he had at Carthage, but was soon offered a professor of rhetoric position in Milan, which he took. 


“he decided to resume the rank of catechumen in the Catholic Church until he could find something better.”

The ensuing stops on Augustine’s journey include: listening to the sermon’s of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan; Neoplatonism; and finally 

“a return to the reading of Scripture, and especially St. Paul.” 

At this point,

“Augustine’s intellectual obstacles were practically gone, as he himself admitted. But his moral faults still held him back, and Neoplatonism could give him no help against that weakness...Something more was still needed.”

Augustine then came into contact with, and saw models of, lives changed by a conversion to Christ:

“Grace, operating through the good examples of which he had heard, drove Augustine into an interior struggle. Images of heroic men and women...floated before his eyes.” 

He was asked, Dr. Most writes,

“whether he could not do what they had done, trusting in God, and not in himself. And when he would wish to get up and obey, the phantasms of his immoral attachments pulled him back. Getting up and leaving his friend Alypius who had been nearby, he (Augustine) sought relief in tears, when he heard what seemed to be the voice of a child nearby singing: Tolle lege, Tolle lege. Interpreting this as a call from heaven, he picked up the copy of St. Paul, and read the first words on which his eye fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in couches and debauch, not in quarreling and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh and its concupiscences.’ He read no more. The darkness of doubt was gone.”

What happened next?

Augustine "resigned his position as professor of rhetoric, and retired to the country villa of his friend....After receiving baptism from the hands of St. Ambrose, he set out for Africa".

Augustine eventually became the bishop of Hippo and the writer of more than one hundred literary works, including his Confessions.

The above trajectory of Augustine’s thinking is remarkable when one consider's that Augustine was born on November 13, 354 in North Africa. It simply goes to show that the superiority complex of self pride in one’s intellectualism and humanism is nothing new. The active, living Word of God is what freed Augustine from self and hedonism and gave him truth and peace. 

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Friday, August 14, 2015

In Answer to a Poem on Death Heard on NPR

The following poem is my response to a poem I heard read on the air on National Public Radio. 

That poem landed where much secular humanist poetry lands when it comes to death, and that is that it's okay to be pro-afterlife only if we can't know what that is. It's okay to entertain thoughts of life after death as long as the only surety is the anticipation of it and the possibility of what we might make of ourselves in the next life. But more importantly, the ideology goes, since we can't ever really know what will happen to us after we die, we are to close out our lives on earth having made sure that we have truly lived, to have given it our best shot here.

In contrast to this daring to think wishfully, the Christian can know the content and context of their next life. In addition, life that precedes that heavenly life is lived within that knowledge, not irregardless or in ignorance of it. 

It is with unabashed surety in the joy of our salvation based on God's own Word to us that we live outside of a fear of death and free of hesitant maudlin musings in the genre of "perhaps."

God's gift of salvation in Jesus Christ is now, in present tense, and later, forever in heaven. That is a truth, not a conjecture; a sure hope, not a maybe; a firm foundation, not a crapshoot.  

In Answer to a Poem on Death Heard on NPR

It is enough to watch the sun rise,
to know, with certainty, there is a heaven and an earth,
that life after death is not
some wishful nebulous
informed-by-one’s-hopeful-thinking possibility
of re-imagining oneself yet again,
the way one re-imagined themselves
in their own image
all their years on earth--
the very earth (and therefore very heaven),
they deny
in their own self-imposed opinion.

by Barb Harwood
copyright Barb Harwood

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Jesus speaking in John 14:1-4

"If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.  The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man." 1 Corinthians 44b-49