Monday, July 23, 2007

Off to Higher Things

The boys and I are on our way to the youth conference in Minneapolis this week. We enjoyed supper at Culvers earlier. Now we've stopped for the night in Eau Claire. Paul kept saying as we drove through this part of the state, "Wow, this looks like Wisconsin. Oh, I feel like an Illinois tourist!" Now for a good night's sleep because I'm sure we won't be getting much sleep for the rest of the week.

Government Mandated Schooling

I live with only five people. Within 36 hours after the release of The Deathly Hallows, THREE of these people (unbeknownst to each other) informed me:
"Guess what the evil people do? They outlaw homeschooling and other private schools!"

The Fishbowl for the Pastor's Wife

A few weeks ago I met the new wife of a previously-widowed friend. In making polite conversation, she learned that I was a pastor's wife. So she was interested in why I attended Bible class at my father-confessor's church. I acknowledged that there were some pretty nice things about being "just one of the laymen" without being The Pastor's Wife. She was trying to be understanding and sympathetic, thinking about the experience of some other women she knew who were married to pastors, and thinking that would be my experience too.

She talked about how it's hard to live in the fishbowl. I explained that doesn't bother me tremendously. After all, I blab all about our lives on the Internet here anyway. And I know that in this rural area, everybody's life is fodder for the gossip mill; it's not unique to the pastor's family.

She suggested that it's hard for kids to live up to the expectations of being pastor's kids. I don't think my kids had too much of a hard time with that. For one thing, the only thing I impressed on them was what they did or didn't do because they're Christians. No special standards for the pastor's kids, except that we wouldn't allow them to volunteer to mow the church lawn. Now, my kids WERE held to some standards occasionally because we didn't want to give homeschoolers a bad name. "You be polite today. We don't want people to think poorly of other homeschoolers just because of some dingbattiness today on our fieldtrip."

Next my friend's wife suggested that it's hard for pastors' wives because they're expected to do so much at church. But I don't. My husband is the pastor. I have enough to do with my own activities. I am careful not to do more at church than I would if I were married to the plumber. So that's no big deal for me either.

What I like about going to Bible class somewhere else is being free to ask questions in Bible class. I don't have to worry about the stupidity of what I ask, or the depth of what I ask, or the peripheralness of what I ask. I know that my questions don't reflect on the pastor there like they do here (though it's probably not the same in all congregations), and that provides a certain level of freedom to receive God's word without worrying about what people think.

That's the fishbowl that worries me. Not whether my house is clean. Not how my children behave. Not how involved or uninvolved I am in church activities. Not my lack of stylishness. But that people may think my beliefs, my confession, my thoughts, my struggles, are reflective of what their pastor thinks. They may be the same; they may not. But given that people will assume my thoughts are likely to reflect the pastor's thoughts, I do not say much at church here. That's why the freedom to participate in Bible class out of the fishbowl can be so helpful.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Take Heed Lest Men with Base Alloy

What I have done and taught, teach thou,
My ways forsake thou never.
So shall My kingdom flourish now
And God be praised forever.
Take heed lest men with base alloy
The heavenly treasure should destroy;
This counsel I bequeath thee.

Alloy. Two metals blended. Not a pure metal.

Base alloy. What they would do with coins when they wanted to cheapen them. Take the real silver or real gold, melt it down, mix in just a little bit of cheaper metal, and shape new coins. Who'd know that the purity wasn't what it had been? The purity was just a little "watered down."

In the history of coinage, we see what happens when the standards of purity aren't maintained. A little of the cheap stuff is added. And then it happens again. And again. Over the course of months or years or decades, there is virtually no precious metal left in the coins.

Could that ever happen with doctrine? Just a little something wrong is allowed to stand. Over time, a little more base alloy is snuck in. Slowly changes are made and people don't notice.

Purity of doctrine is important. Faith lives from the truth. Of course, in this sinful world, errors and false doctrine will continue to hound us. That doesn't mean that errors and false doctrine are okay. But neither does it mean we're damned to hell if our doctrinal comprehension should happen to be in error on some point.

In coinage, base alloy can eventually turn the coins into worthless slugs; the treasure can be destroyed through slow dilution. So too, in doctrine, so much "base alloy" has been added in some churches that they are no longer Christian -- they no longer possess the treasure.

When people get upset over a "little thing" like a "minor doctrinal point," it's not because they're hard-nosed legalists. (Well, sometimes it is. But not always.) It's often due to their proper love of what is good and what is true, and their fervant desire not to lose that treasure.

1 Kings 19:11-12

The OT reading recently was the story of Elijah escaping from Ahab after the Baal/Yahweh showdown at Mount Carmel.

"The Lord was not in the wind. ...
The Lord was not in the earthquake. ...
The Lord was not in the fire."

But there were all those times God did send wind and earthquakes and fire, like the Flood and other judgments. And even times when the Lord was IN the wind and the earthquakes and the fire. Think of the wind at the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14). And the earthquakes and fire at Sinai (Ex 19). And the fire at the calling of Moses (Ex 3) and when Aaron's sons burned the off-limits incense (Lev 10).

So it's not that God is never in the wind and the earthquake and the fire. But the comfort is that God comes looking for us when we run away, puts up with our pity parties, and assures us that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church (no matter what it obviously looks like). The comfort is in the still, small voice of the word of God's forgiveness and God's faithfulness.

If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

O faithful love that shepherded through faithless years;
Forgiving love that led us to Your truth;
Unyielding love that would not let us turn from You
But sent us forth to speak pardon and peace. (LSB 558)