Dec 15

He
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life! ESV

OK, I’ve spent the last month, reading and re-reading multiple times over Psalm 119. It seems to be one of the most neglected Psalms in Scripture, except for a few choice verses. There are hidden gems in this Psalm that misses inattentive readers.  Here is an example of progression in faith in God in the segment titled He. Note particularly…

33 “Teach me”  Faith demands knowledge, knowledge that requires active interaction of the Almighty. You can’t have faith in God without knowledge, gained by spending time in Scripture and prayer. 
34 “Give me understanding” You know the facts, you know the Bible, you know the teachings, statutes and ways of the Lord. Head knowledge must then lead to a deeper understanding. What do the statutes of the Lord really mean? Jesus Christ in the sermon on the Mount provided a wonderful example by taking various of the 10 commandments, and showing their full implications, eg, you shall not kill implies not hating your brother, neighbor, or enemy. 
35 “Lead me” So you now understand the ways of the Lord, but do you DO them? Walking in the way is much different that just knowing it. 
36 “Incline my heart” You are now doing the commands of God out of duty, but do you really delight in His commands? Do you cherish them above all things, above riches and silver and gold? 
37 “Turn my eyes from… worthless things” Maturity demands focus, and focus on the Lord and His ways need to be a total preoccupation of our hearts and lives. This takes time!
38 “Confirm …your promise”. Everybody wishes for instant confirmation, proof that the Lord is good and worth serving. The Lord confirms in His own time. It is not evil to ask the Lord to confirm Himself, but it is evil to demand a time schedule of Him
39 “Turn away the reproach” Anybody truly walking with God will come under reproach. It should be an assumption rather than an exception. But, David shows that it is not evil to ask for relief from this reproach.
40 “Behold I long for your precepts” This is the statement of a mature man of God. Do we constantly long for God in every moment in our lives? Do we see that walking in God’s ways is the most wonderful thing in the world. Sadly, we reach that phase, and then we die.

Or, we go on to reading the next section of Psalm 119, waw. Psalm 119:he is a wonderful illustration of maturity in our Lord. May be all grasp His teachings in this wonderful Psalm. 

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Dec 13

Old Lady on the Trail: Triple Crown at 76, by Mary E. Davison ★★★

This book is the story of Mary, who, starting at age 65 and retirement, began hiking the triple crown, which consists of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. The story is that of a fairly remarkable person. As Mary frequently reminds the reader, there are geriatric hikers, although long-distance geriatric backpackers are just slightly more common than that of the Dodo bird. 

Mary hiked the three long-distance trails never as a thru-hiker, but always as a section hiker. Her choice of sections seem to be somewhat random to me, a portion of the Appalachian Trail, then a portion of the PCT, then back to the AT, then to a completely disjointed segment of the PCT, so on and so forth. She did the CDT as a single entity, but even then, somewhat disjointed, though tending from south to north. 

The delights of reading this book were that it is fairly incredible (and delightful) that someone her age would do more than past the days in a rocking chair. Even more incredible is that she has had multiple orthopedic procedures—her bones were just not holding up—and yet she still persisted in hiking. Mary and I both hail from Puyallup, WA, and her spirit reminds me of an old pediatrician in town, P.G., of whom the town even has a statue to him(!), who would spend weeks backpacking in the snow or forest, well into his 80’s, long after having had multiple joints replaced. 

I don’t think I would ever consider doing what Mary has done. True, I plan on thru-hiking the PCT next year as a geriatric wanderer. I have no interest in the random break-up of the trail that she has done. In the course of doing that, she required the support of multiple friends, family and others in order for her to maintain short segments, frequent re-supplies, massive segments slack hiked, and very frequent retreats from the trail to stay in hotels or other places of comfort. I’m sure the automobile, train and plane use were for at least 2-3x the actual length of the trail—not the best way to go when people are going ape about “global warming”. I’d rather leave my more elderly years hiking the Pacific NW, doing as I can without the necessity of going to the other side on the country. But, that’s me, and Mary has her own wonderful story.

I have just a few complaints about the book. Mary claims to have used people to help her edit the book. I’m not sure they were too careful or critical, as they should have been. There were many, many typos. It was often very difficult to follow exactly where Mary started and stopped the trail, if one really wished to see what she had done. While Mary left out much needed detail about the hike itself, but other details were exceedingly annoying. I really didn’t care to know 20 or more times over that Mary washed her underclothes, and which underclothes she washed; or, her precise meals at her multiple city stops; or, the many times she decided to sing the Holden Evening prayer—she could have just told us once, and then mentioned that she often tended to sing the prayer or wash her clothes, at various times. With editing, the book could have been half the length and far more delightful to read without missing out on critical details of her adventures.

I laud Mary for her adventuresome, and willingness to journey outside of her “comfort zone” on hobbit-like adventures, chasing the rainbow and following her dreams. Mary is an encouragement to many geriatric hikers like myself, and I wish her, as Roy Rogers would say, many happy trails.

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Dec 05

Esther & Trump

By Kenneth Feucht books No Comments »

Esther & Trump, by Robert Case ★★★★★

This book is the result of a series of Sunday School lessons of which I most fortunate to be a participant. I know Robert well, and would consider him a dear friend. (He might not consider me the same after reading my review!) Perhaps the reader may consider my review as heavily biased, but I have attempted to remain as objective as possible, and thus will also include criticisms of the book. Robert is a compelling speaker and writer, leaving one spell-bound when hearing or reading him. This book was a delight to read, and offered fresh perspectives on Esther. True, it is now trendy to offer fresh perspectives on biblical themes, such as the new perspectives on Paul, Genesis, Jesus, or Isaiah, just to name a few. Where I find most of these new perspectives to be dull and unoriginal if not patently heretical, the same is not true of Robert’s “new perspective” on Esther. He offers a perspective of the book of Esther which is not offensive to a mindset that holds Scripture to be the directly inspired word of God. 

The first several chapters of the book outline the historical context of Esther, mostly by detailing the lineage of Kings of Persia from the fall of Babylon through to Alexander the Great. The character and historical details of Xerxes is elaborated, which is most important in understanding the book of Esther. 

Subsequent chapters offer a textual commentary of the book of Esther. In this section, Robert manages to illuminate aspects of the text which are very clear but completely missed, as we traditionally read the book of Esther with our eyes wide shut. The character of Esther  is shown for what it really is—a person without sexual moral principles, and willing to break the laws of the Torah to achieve her own end. She is NOT a role model of virtue. But then, neither is the Jewish community living in Persia, where their sins are also laid bare. With the absence of narrative evaluative judgements as seen in all other Scripture, we miss those details that Robert Case is able to illuminate. Particularly evil was Mordecai in administrating the slaughter of all of the known enemies of the Jews, which is a story that would best be found in the book of Judges, everybody doing what was right in their own eyes. There is good reason why Esther is not portrayed as a model of faith in Hebrews, even though other quite sinful people like Samson and Gideon are mentioned. 

Toward the end of the book of Esther & Trump, Robert attempts to make a plea for the political nature of this book. He is correct that it is a book laden with politics, in that the story centers around the King (Xerxes) and his appointed officials (Mordecai and Haman, as well as other unnamed personnel). Referring to the Jews in Persia as “the church”, it is made to seem that Mordecai and Esther serve as representative agents of the church. This unfortunately is an extrapolation of the text rather than an overt claim, as we don’t really have a clue how involved Esther and Mordecai were with the Jewish community. If they were highly involved, then they show the Jewish “church” to be quite wayward. There is too much not mentioned in the book to allow strong conclusions to be made. 

Perhaps Esther really is included as a part of the canon of Scripture as a lesson in politics, as Robert claims. Yet, it is troubling that the absence of evaluative judgements leave the reader puzzled as to what amounts to proper interactions of the church and state, rather than to simply have the church infiltrating the state government. Perhaps brought to mind by me is another book I have read in the distant past, the Politics of Jesus, by John Howard Yoder. In the Politics of Jesus, Yoder effectually demonstrates the strong political nature of Jesus and his teachings. With the aspect of pacifism aside (which Yoder does a very poor job defending), there is a strong reason why even the teachings of Jesus offer the Christian or Jew a reason to interact if not participate in a political fashion with the state. Certainly, Case makes a good case from Esther for Christian involvement with state functions. 

The book has problems. There are many typographical errors, way too many sidebar distractions, and arguments on the political nature of the book of Esther which I think could have been better developed. Most distracting though was the title of the book. The book title is misfit, in that Trump is barely spoken of, except in passing toward the very end of the book. Are we to think of Trump as a form of Xerxes? If so, why was Obama not chosen as a far better choice, or Bush, or Clinton, all of which in many ways share more of Xerxes’ characteristics than Trump? If God was obscure in the Esther text, well, so is Trump, and I fail to see a connection between Trump and the politics of Persia. For such a seminal and needed text on Esther, this commentary truly deserves a more fitting title. 

In spite of problems, Esther & Trump still deserves a five star rating. There is great scholarship, brilliance in thinking, and illumination of the text in a way that is perfectly clear once one opens their eyes to what is plainly in the text. Case provides some hints as to why Esther was included in the canon of Scripture. To that end, I highly recommend Biblical scholars to give this book a fair reading.

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Dec 04

Liberalism: Find a Cure, by Mark Dice ★★★★★

This book was just published, and I read it while on vacation in Jamaica. I have found Mark to be most enjoyable to read, and so was delighted when this text came out. The book is perhaps slightly mis-named. He does not focus on many of the problems of the 21st century liberal mindset like economics, political social thinking, the environment, etc. Instead, he hones in only on those delusional aspects of their thinking, thinking that leaves conservatives most bewildered as why certain people are not being confined to an insane asylum rather than being the poster children and darlings of the now liberal press. I am specifically referring to the new liberal trends toward mentally re-designing their personal life, and expecting others to find the new design acceptable. Such things as voluntarily re-defining one’s race, sex, and even species are dealt with at length in Mark’s book. Mark also speaks at length about the new political incorrectness that is sweeping the land, how the names of things like sports teams are found to be offensive, how just about anything and everything from the American past is now considered either racist or sexist, because they reflect a time when values and behavior were differ from today. Mark has a lengthy chapter on the sickness of feminism, and ends by sadly accounting how the most important structures of society, like family, are now relegated to the dustbin of history. 

Mark spends little time in the book describing a cure, but suggests the importance of getting political and getting Jesus. Sadly, I think Mark’s cure is too little and too late. His suggestion of hope through the Republican Party deflects from the truth that both parties have betrayed the American public. Most certainly, we are seeing the death of the Republic, not because we did not stand up for Republican values, but because we have lost our moral base. Mark  hints at this truth at the end of the book.

The book is a great read, Mr. Dice is a delight to read, and I strongly recommend all, liberal and conservative, to read this book. 

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Dec 04

John Adams

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John Adams, by David McCullough ★★★★★

John Adams is a biography of the man who would serve as the second president of the United States, and who played a seminal role in instigating the Revolutionary War, writing the constitution, and forming the character of our new nation. It never seemed as though John Adams would be a particularly interesting person, but McCullough successfully paints him as a most fascinating character. The book starts with him in childhood, through growing up, starting a law career in Boston, only to be sidetracked by the cry for independence from Britain. Adams led the charge, helped get Washington appointed as commander in chief of the army, and then became the American ambassador to France during the war, and later, to Britain after the war. Serving two terms under Washington as vice-president, he eventually was voted in to the presidency for one term, losing then to vice-president Thomas Jefferson in his bid for a second term. His life afterwards was spent in mostly retirement, working his farm south of Boston, and writing lots of letters. He was eventually able to see his son John Quincy Adams win the presidency. Adams and Jefferson both died on the same day, the 4th of July, both being several of the last living singers of the Declaration of Independence. 

McCullough spends much time exploring many personal details of Adams’ life, including his Christian faith, and how that faith affected the writing of the constitution. You learn that in spite of common goals, the rancorous differences between personalities leaves one wondering how we ever survived as a young nation, though it seems that enough commonalities acted as the glue that held a fragmented society together. Particularly noxious was the fighting between the two parties, the Federalists and the Republicans. The salvation through it all was that even the two  parties had grave divisions, with many party members not strict to their own party. The extensive scholarship of those in governmental service, like Adams and Jefferson, is also noted, at a time when CP Snow’s “two cultures” did not exist, and the arts and sciences were often found mixed in all men of letters. The love of books and reading was assumed among the educated class, and many large personal libraries were noted.

Most notable was the reading style of the book. McCullough has a wonderful way with words, and holds the reader’s interest, leaving the book void of dry spells. I appreciated the extensive research that was performed in forming this book, with virtually every page packed with subtle details and information that would have never been brought out without the remarkable scholarship of McCullough. The author cannot be faulted for not having done his homework. John Adams is an important and valuable read for anybody that loves the USA and it’s history.

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