May 09

09MAY2021  The PCT trail awaits me. I leave in 50 days.

I plan to return to my mission of eventually hiking through the entire Pacific Crest Trail, section hiking it over several years’ time. I would have preferred to have thru-hiked the trail in a single season, which I attempted in 2019. That ended up in an aborted mission for a number of reasons, the greatest being that it was a very high year for snow, and most of the people that I hiked with were either flip-flopping or dropping out. I ended up skipping around a bit, and yet the snow still seemed to be a deterrent issue, either from failure to melt creating dangerous conditions or from recent melting causing the number of mosquitos (misery) to be intense.

This year, I hope to do several sections. I plan on starting from Walker Pass and working my way up to Donner Pass. I am not totally decided on whether to go from Donner Pass to Old Station this year, being that resupply may be slightly problematic. If I skip Donner Pass to Old Station, I will jump up to Castle Crags (Castella, I-5) and proceed up to Callahans (I-5 in Oregon/Ashland). After coming home, I would like to complete further sections of Washington State. I have changed my plans a number of times in the past few months. Should I resupply over Kearsarge Pass/Independence, or push on? Should I stop at Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) or go another day and resupply at Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR)? VVR is much more friendly to thru-hikers, but is slightly more off of the trail, and demands yet another mountain pass and 20 more miles of hiking, which is added on the 156 miles you’ve already gone from Kennedy Meadows South without a resupply. Should I stop at South Lake Tahoe, which demands a hitch-hike to and from the trail, or should I do a limited resupply at the Echo Lake Resort? Other decisions will probably be best made while on the trail.

Many further decisions await me in the weeks ahead. Exact equipment remains a question. I’ve tried out several other packs and love the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I’ve strongly considered switching stoves but ultimately decided on sticking with the JetBoil stove that I’ve used before. It heats water faster, uses less fuel, handles wind better, and only weighs a few ounces more than the more popular trail stoves. It is not as good of a cooking stove since you cannot simmer the heat, but then I generally do minimal cooking on the trail outside of heating up water or cooking Ramen noodles. How should I carry my bear canister? Inside or outside of my pack? What foods am I going to prefer to eat, knowing that one’s appetite seriously changes while on the trail? Questions, questions, questions.

Because I am going to be hitting a more challenging portion of the trail immediately after starting, I realize the importance of getting into trail shape. I plan on doing an overnighter or two. I will continue to run (more like… 1-2 mph crawl) up trails in the area at least 2-3 times a week. Hopefully, that will also get my excess weight down, and it seems to be working. This activity has also been fun and has allowed me to explore a lot of new trails in Western Washington.

Assembly of resupply boxes has occupied some of my time. It is hard to predict exactly what is going to be needed for each new segment of the trail. So, you over-plan a little bit, knowing that some of your goodies will be left in a hiker box. Too much of anything can become nauseating on the trail, and balance is most important. A person’s physiology changes drastically while on the trail. In 2019, I discovered that I was getting profoundly hypotensive, which ended when I stopped my anti-hypertensives and stayed only on aspirin and a few general vitamins. Like many hikers out there, aches and pains force one to consume mass quantities of vitamin i, ibuprofen.

I will not be doing hike-a-thon activities this year.  In 2019, I was participating in a hike-a-thon for Huguenot Heritage, an organization that is dear to my heart and worth hiking for. We did not coordinate well enough the development of a support structure, were late at setting up the structure for raising support, and then struggled with a terrible year to actually hike the trail (because of snow). Because this year is going to be piecemeal, it will add to the complexity of raising support. So, I am not going to engage this as a possibility for Huguenot Heritage or any other worthy organization.

Betsy has been my greatest support through all of this and has put up graciously with my adventure. She does not share my passion for the trail, preferring to engage in gardening and home pursuits. I am able to reassure her of my personal safety through the use of new technology, the personal locator beacon (plb). I have my Garmin InReach mini set to send a satellite signal every 30 minutes while I am on the trail, identifying my location. Thus, she is able to see my progress as I move further and further north. I am also able to send her messages via satellite, and she is able to send messages in return. As an aside, a few people will be receiving my daily plb notifications. PLEASE DO NOT respond unless it is vitally important or an emergency: each response takes up electrons on my device and I don’t have a wall socket at night to recharge anything. I will be up to 11 days away from the ability to recharge my devices. Back to Betsy. Part of the rationale for me section hiking rather than doing a pure thru-hike is that I will still have a moderate amount of time this summer with Betsy. She just happens to be my most favorite person in life, and life on the trail is always thinking of her.  She also contributes to my hiking by mailing resupply packages at the appropriate times, and for dropping me off and picking me up from the train station. Bless her soul for helping me.

I will be departing to Walker Pass with much less anxiety than in the year 2019. By now, I am most familiar with the routine of thru-hiking, waking up before dawn, sometimes heating up a cup of coffee, taking down the tent and packing your pack, taking off on the trail, singing the doxology, gloria patri and Constantinopolitan creed, walking for 2-3 hours at a time before stopping to rest, eating food that would normally be completely unacceptable off the trail, constantly watching your Guthooks app to make sure that you are on track, going occasionally to the point of exhaustion before stopping, setting up camp, cooking supper, settling in the sleeping bag, killing all the mosquitos that happened to stray into the tent, writing the day’s trail blog, and then quickly drifting off to sleep. Each day repeats itself with new segments of the trail, new challenges, new discoveries, new horizons, new vistas, new photographs. Someday (soon?) I will have reached an age that will no longer permit me to go long distances on the trail. It’s hard to know when that day will come. Until then, I keep my head held high and walk with a thankful spirit that God has granted me the ability to do what I am doing. Cum deo ambulo. Deus mecum et vobiscum!

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May 06

More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, by William Hendriksen ★★★★★

I read this book about 20 years ago and decided to re-read it because of its persisting value in defining how I read and understand the book of Revelation. Hendriksen speaks as an amillennialist, interpreting the book of Revelation as seven sequential parallel stories of human history from the first to the second advent. The overarching theme is that of the saints are more than conquerors in this world, a world that seems to totally beat down the Christian faith. When John wrote the book of Revelation at the end of the first century, persecutions were occurring and there was a great question as to whether or not Christianity would survive. Revelation gives seven recounts of Christians not only surviving but of coming out of the struggles of life as uber-conquerors. I’ve appreciated the amillennial view as a distinct improvement over premillennialism with its very bizarre means of forcing interpretations of Scripture that simply don’t flow naturally, and of post-millennialism, which forces a structure to Scripture that is highly inconsistent. I suppose that no view of eschatology is perfect, and even amillennialism has its inconsistencies, yet seems to read most naturally into the description of the present and future in the Scriptures. Some day it will all come clear, but until then, regardless of the view, our primary focus needs to be that of living holy, devout lives, never wavering from the truth of Scripture.

There is a sense of a story repeating itself in Revelation when reading the book from chapter 1 to chapter 22. Many times, the saints are drawn up into glory and evil defeated. These repetitions are easier to see once pointed out. They are as follows:

Revelation 1: An introduction to the book of Revelation
Revelation 2-3: The story of Christianity when viewed from the example of the churches (the lampstands)
Revelation 4-7: The seven seals (not referring to the Ingmar Bergman film)
Revelation 8-11: The seven trumpets
Revelation 12-14: Christ versus the dragon, the two beasts, and the harlot Babylon
Revelation 15-16: The seven bowls
Revelation 17-19: The defeat of the dragon and his allies
Revelation 20-22: Ultimate Victory through Christ and the new heaven and earth

A careful reading of the book of Revelation with the divisions as seen above will point out that we are simply seeing human history from different perspectives. The greatest perspective is that of Rev. 20-22, where the dragon (Satan) is bound, and the gospel able to go out throughout the whole world. This should excite the saints to no end. Amillennialism is NOT Pessimillennialism as has been proposed by others, but offers the most optimistic view of world history: Christ and the saints ALWAYS come out victorious against evil. The warnings in Revelation against the dragon (Satan himself), the first beast of the sea (world governments), the second beast of land (also called the false prophet, being the world religions and institutions of human construct), and the harlot Babylon (the seductions of wealth, economics, power, sex, fame, and unrestrained freedom), should alert the Christian of the attack on our faith coming in from all sides. We need not fear. We can peek to the end of the story and see how it will all come out. Those who are faithful are guaranteed to be more than conquerors.

I appreciated that Hendrikson did not just provide a summary interpretation of the book of Revelation, but also provided a framework for reading the book. His insistence in constantly bringing to mind the theme of the book of Revelation, of grasping the context and purpose for which the book was written, and of viewing Revelation not as a blow by blow account of the story of history but as providing general themes as to human history, all are relevant to having the best grasp as to what this book is saying. In reference to the last point of the book NOT providing detailed history, general events are those happening throughout the Christian era, such as the differing types of churches, the opening of the seals, the four horsemen, the blowing of the trumpets, and pouring out of the bowls, are all judgments from God happening throughout the Christian era, though perhaps intensifying at the end of our epoch. Henrickson is often very helpful at grasping the symbolism of the book, even though often I felt that many other alternative interpretations could still remain faithful to the text.

Others have since written commentaries on the book of Revelation based heavily on the model discussed by Hendrikson. The last generation of scholars has produced a new generation of excellent thinkers, offering fresh insights into this book that are not difficult to understand once one grasps the overall means of reading and interpreting Revelation. More than Conquerors remains on my list of top books of all time, and one that you also might consider reading.

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Apr 27

VISE — In defense of Frische Luft

I have written previously about VISE (Virus Insanity Syndrome Extremis) in previous posts, mostly related to hiking and backpacking. Outside and on the trail, I find it interesting how many hikers find the need to wear face masks when passing another person, and often when hiking alone. What are they accomplishing with their face mask? Is it not doing more harm than good? Why do they feel compelled to have something over their mouth and nose which is probably doing a very poor job of restricting the passage of viruses? Why is it that the closer the trail is to Seattle, the more people are noted to be wearing their face masks? Does urban society really have that great an influence on our behavior?

Benjamin Franklin has written on the spread of viruses that is worth paying attention to since it is so fitting to our current “epidemic”. Franklin first suggested that the common cold did not happen because people became cold. Rather, he felt that it was a communicable disease or at least something that is transmitted by air in a stagnant environment. Franklin would frequently take air-baths, seeking fresh air,  Frische Luft. His advice would have been for well-ventilated areas (he slept with his window open, even on cold nights), and for not compacting people together in a confined space without adequate airflow.

The current approach to airborne viruses is to make everybody wear a face mask. Is this a good idea? A recent study on face masks from Stanford concludes, “The existing scientific evidence[s] challenge the safety and efficacy of wearing facemask as preventive intervention for COVID-19. The data suggest that both medical and non-medical facemasks are ineffective to block human-to-human transmission of viral and infectious disease such SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, supporting against the usage of facemasks. Wearing facemasks has been demonstrated to have substantial adverse physiological and psychological effects. These include hypoxia, hypercapnia, shortness of breath, increased acidity and toxicity, activation of fear and stress response, rise in stress hormones, immunosuppression, fatigue, headaches, decline in cognitive performance, predisposition for viral and infectious illnesses, chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Long-term consequences of wearing facemask can cause health deterioration, developing and progression of chronic diseases and premature death. Governments, policy makers and health organizations should utilize [a] proper and scientific evidence-based approach with respect to wearing facemasks, when the latter is considered as preventive intervention for public health.”

Benjamin Franklin might have suggested yet another reason why face masks are not a good idea, and probably increase one’s chances of acquiring the Wuhan virus. Face masks create one’s own personal stagnant air environment, the air that one will be breathing. I go outside for Frische Luft. Why bring my stagnant air environment with me? How long must we endure this insanity? There are many places that we go where face masks are mandatory, such as in government buildings and in stores. These buildings are well ventilated, and generally rarely ever sufficiently crowded to cause a health risk. I thank God that at least the church we are now going to does not require face masks. Isn’t it a pity that so many churches still demand serious social distancing as well as face masks? There is nothing so dehumanizing as a face cover. The next thing you know, we will all be wearing full burkas!

Until this “epidemic” hit, the response to communicable diseases was to quarantine the sick. Now, we are quarantining the healthy. When a rise in the incidence of the disease is noted, the conditions of the quarantine are enhanced. Is it perhaps possible that our responses to the Wuhan virus are actually making matters worse, rather than better? Is our response prolonging the “epidemic” and spreading it out over more months, and perhaps years?

How often have you heard the phrase “We can send men to the moon, but we still can’t cure the common cold!”? The Wuhan virus is a form of the common cold. How is it that we have searched for many years for a vaccination for the cold to no avail, and yet, suddenly three or more “vaccines” appear? The vaccines available do not prevent catching the virus, nor transmitting it, so that precautions such as face masks are still advised. Really? The vaccine supposedly does nothing except to decrease the severity of the illness if one acquires a bout of the Wuhan virus. Really now? Our government must think that the common man is dumber than blue mud. Why is it that if you’ve had a case of COVID-19, you are still asked to take the vaccine? Does that make any sense at all?

What are the dynamics behind the transmission of a virus from one person to another? Several issues need to be looked at. 1. Viral Load. If you received just one viral particle, would you contract the virus? The answer is, overwhelmingly not. 10? 100? Generally, it takes a substantial viral load to contract the disease. 2. Timing. If you encountered one viral particle an hour, over time that would be a substantial load, though insufficient to give you the viral illness. The rate at which you are exposed to a virus is most important. 3. Distance. Viral particles decay very quickly in air. Close proximity is absolutely necessary to transmit the virus from one person to another. Air temperature, humidity, etc. also have an effect on the duration of viability of a virus, though those factors are not controllable. Using this knowledge, imagine two people passing each other on the trail. The average walking speed is at approximately 2.5 miles/hour, for a combined speed of 5 miles/hour, or, a little more than 7 feet/second. The infected person would need to be exhaling and healthy person inhaling at the moment, which would be at most a two-second time period.  Considering the viral load and timing demands, mere dynamics explain why it would be near impossible to communicate the virus while hiking on the trail. If anything, a face mask would allow a portion of the exhaled air of the passerby to be trapped, and the risk increased for acquiring the virus.

Tucker Carlson addresses the face mask issue head-on and could not have said it better. This video used to be on YouTube but was quickly taken down. If you do a YouTube search you come up with a CNN talking head playing a short segment of Tucker and then offering a totally nonsensical explanation as to why he is wrong. Please watch this…   https://rumble.com/vg5tfh-tucker-carlson-drops-nuke-on-outdoor-mask-wearers-liberals-lose-their-minds.html?mref=64ogp&mc=8vvr9. The attitude needs to be that the face mask wearers are the crazy ones, which is true. So, take off your masks outside, and insult anybody that demands you put your mask back on! More and more studies are coming out demonstrating that face mask wearers actually are much more unhealthy than those that do not wear a mask at all. Don’t be stupid. Get rid of your mask!

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Apr 17

Prepare to Meet Your God, by Rich Hamlin ★★★★

This short book of 155 text pages is a compilation of sermons that Rich Hamlin preached on the book of Amos in the year 2011 at the Evangelical Reformed Church in Tacoma, Washington. These sermons are very characteristic of the style of Rich’s preaching. In this volume, you will find solid, substantial preaching with both explanations of the text as well as applications that the listener may take home with them. Amos was a shepherd from Judea, but whose ministry was to the northern ten tribes of Israel. The preaching was that of the judgment of the Israelites for being unfaithful to their God. Rich makes clear that the truths taught then are still most relevant in today’s world and must be heeded. Rich’s preaching is not flowery, it is not deeply expository, he doesn’t impress the hearer with his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, or with his ability to quote the most obscure sources. Yet, it is preaching that always reaches the heart and soul of the listener. These are sermons most worthy of being read and taken to heart.

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Apr 11

Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All is Lost, by Michael Walsh ★★★★★

In this book, Michael Walsh details 18 battles where the battle was extremely lopsided and the battle was to the death. At times, an army was entirely wiped out, as in the Teutoburgerwald under Varus in the year AD 9, or at Khartoum. Other times, there are harrowing escapes of a few survivors that live to tell the tale, such as at Rorke’s  Drift, or at the Chosin Reservoir. The author (Walsh) has written a number of books, though most of them are fictional. He has acted as a movie reviewer for Time Magazine. He has also written under a pseudonym for National Review. One would imagine that Walsh is most interested in gory stories, stories with excitement and intrigue. Yet, Walsh makes it very clear from the opening prologue and introduction that that is not the case, and lays out his intentions for the book. War seems to be an inevitability, and peace an exception to the rule. Not that war is desired; the Romans were correct in stating “Si vis Pacem, para Bellum”. Even though the United States has been in nearly perpetual war since it was founded, we live in a society that has sanitized war, making war bloodless, an activity fought by gentlemen strickly standing by guiding rules and principles of engagement. The current US intention of making the war machine politically correct, balanced between the sexes and individual physical capabilities has lost sight of the true nature of war. Revenge, personal honor, patriotic pride, lust for power or wealth, and other emotions will cause one to sacrifice their lives on the battlefield, and not out of altruism, which is rarely noted among combatants. The leading introduction to this book is necessary in order to set the tone as to the author’s intentions. Walsh then marches through the chapters of this book providing synopses of various battles, including Thermopylae, Cannae, Teutoburg, Masada, Hastings, Szigetvár, the Alamo, Custer’s last stand, etc., and ending with the story of Walshes’ father fighting at Chosin Reservoir. The last battle ends on a personal note since Walsh was able to interrogate his father (who fought at Chosin) about his thoughts and reactions in the midst of battle when all seems to have been lost. Indeed, it is uncommon for the warrior to return to society eager to speak about their experience, and most often, will remain silent until coaxed to recount the battle details. A few of these battles were not taught in school, and were unfamiliar to me, such as the battle for Sigetvár. A few Amazon commentators noted that Walsh was not perfectly accurate in all of his historical comments, and such may be the case, though those inaccuracies do not distract from the main thesis of the book.

I enjoyed this book. Walsh provides excellent commentary on the nature of war, even though he does not seem to seek alternatives. Much of his diatribe seems directed at current US policy towards the military, where the sexes are confused and intermingled, where standards are lowered, where personal feelings ascend to trump the nastiness and reality of war. This is a great book to read for those who like war history. It is a light read and can be read within a week time period.

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Mar 19

The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, by H.W. Brands ★★★★★

I started reading this book in November of last year and then was interrupted by 8 other books which needed to be read first. Those reviews are below. I now return to this text. First, I may comment on how I chose this text. There were not many biographies of Ben Franklin, and I was a bit leary of the author, who I was unfamiliar with, and hesitant after being disappointed with one other author that was well-acclaimed but failed to write what I consider to be a satisfactory account of the person in question. Though this book was long (at 716 pages and small print), it was a delightful narrative of this great man. 

Brands begins where one would expect, at Franklin’s birth in Massachusetts. Ben Franklin grew up in a Calvinist environment but rejected it. He learned the printing trade, and concomitantly mastered the art of writing. Franklin, while still young, escaped the Calvinist atmosphere of Boston, and settled in Philadelphia, first plying the trade of printer and publisher, and eventually moving on to bigger and better things. He quickly became politically involved, working on bettering Philadelphia, doing sundry things such as starting the first college in Pennsylvania (eventually becoming Penn State U), starting a fire department, and working on bettering the life and education of Philadelphians. Franklin had a deep curiosity regarding science, and did much to improve our understanding of electricity, including naming a positive and negative “side” to electricity. Franklin’s mind was free to explore all of the sciences, and throughout his life maintained a curious and investigative mind. Eventually, he became the Postmaster-General, a position that led him into further political prominence.  The development of issues between the 13 colonies and Great Britain led to Franklin being sent to London to act as an ambassador for American concerns. For most of his stay in London, he developed strong friendships and a few enemies. Franklin had no intention of promoting independence for the USA until matters in London forced him to think otherwise. Toward final events that led to war, Franklin found himself turned upon by his British friends and realized that the war need not happen; corruption that was rampant throughout the political structure of Great Britain led heavily to an inability to work out differences with the colonists. Franklin returned home but soon after sent off to France to serve as an ambassador and to appeal for funds to serve the war ends against England. Finally, long after the end of the war, Ben returns home to Philadelphia, though somewhat hesitantly, concerned over his poor health. Interestingly, Franklin seemed to greatly enjoy both London and Paris a little too much, and spent much of his life in those countries. Franklin served as an elderly advisor in the writing of the constitution and was a great advocate in getting it signed by all thirteen colonies. His final years were then few, and spent in pain from bladder stones and other aches and pains. Even then, Franklin’s inventive mind knew no rest, for example, coming up with a rolling printing press, or proposing that the earth’s magnetic axis would occasionally flip. 

There are several chapters included that explores at length Benjamin Franklin’s thinking. Laced throughout the remainder of the book are many details as to the mind of Ben Franklin. Ben was a great moralist, and many quips that are common to us arose from his pen, first from his Poor Richard’s Almanac, and then from his many letters and writings. Franklin rejected basic Christianity in his early Boston years, and even when he came in contact with the great Evangelist George Whitefield, spurned the Christian faith, noting that he denied the deity of Christ, though he looked to the Jesus stories as a means of moral instruction. Even still, Franklin was active in proposing for prayer during the writing of the Constitution (which was turned down), and in relying on God for the composition of our Constitution. Indeed, he fits the bill as a Deist, which was true of so many of America’s first politicians. In the first chapters of this book, I felt that Brands was being sloppy in his account of Franklin’s life, creating fictional Michener-style prose, rather than real history. Thankfully, such was not the case, and Brands relied heavily on detailed autobiographical notes that Franklin wrote throughout his life. Brands’ writing style is particularly appealing, in that he is never insulting to the reader, but constantly providing minor historical facts to inform the reader of the greater context of the events that affected Franklin’s life. Concluding, this is a book that I can heartily recommend. You will enjoy reading it, and hopefully coming out much more enlightened on the real Ben Franklin. 

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Feb 23

Blood, Sweat & Jesus, by Kerry Stillman ★★★★★

In the year 2009, my wife Betsy and I did several medical mission trips, one to Bangladesh, and the other to Cameroon. While both trips were to remote villages that were of Muslim orientation, there were great differences that we noted in how the hospitals operated as well as the style of the missionaries. The Cameroon experience was in the Sahal, or Extrem Nord of Cameroon, in a small town called Meskine just outside of Maroua. It was a hot, semi-desert environment, and many of the patients lived a nomadic lifestyle. While many languages were spoken, including French, Fulani, Arabic, German, and Hausa, one of the languages was not English. Thus, my communication was mostly in French to patients, and German to the surgeon from Leipzig that I was working with. It was in this setting that we met Kerry Stillman, who was a physiotherapist from England who was working at the hospital. The hospital in Meskine was built in the early 1990s by a trio of families that came out from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They were able to construct a mission hospital that has had a tremendous influence on the surrounding villages, and many Muslims came under the influence of hearing the gospel. The most peculiar aspect of this hospital mission that Betsy and I appreciated was that everybody seemed to get along quite well with each other. I say this because it is unusual to see the friendly spirit among co-workers as was seen at Meskine. Scott and Lee Pyles, as well as Danny and Frances Kennison, ran an enjoyable operation that kept peace with the hospital workers as well as patients. Dave and Patsy Alfors (from deepest darkest Africa!), the Kretschmar family from Leipzig, Kerry Stillman, Dr. Jacqueline from the Netherlands, and many others were all a great joy to be around. It was truly a great honor to have worked with them.

Kerry chronicles the events that led up to the founding of the MCWA hospital in Cameroon, based on the inspiration of a surgeon named Bert Oubre. Kerry details the original vision, the Pyles’, Kennison’s, and Oubre’s first trip to Meskine, and how the hospital slowly took shape, including how she was eventually recruited from England. Much of the book that follows are multiple anecdotes on how the hospital touched the lives of so many people in northern Cameroon as well as Chad and Nigeria. Each story was a moving experience of how the faithfulness of a few missionaries was able to bring the gospel and salvation to many people lost to the darkness of Islam. The challenges of becoming a Christian in a Muslim country were emphasized. Finally, events of terrorism from Boko Haram affected the hospital community, ultimately leading to the foreign missionaries pulling out of the hospital, though leaving it operational with native doctors and nurses. Kerry included descriptions of the challenges of life during Ramadan. She describes the process of a Muslim held funeral, and how it differs from a Christian funeral. She also had a chapter that described the many ways in which the hospital had positively affected the village of Meskine. Kerry is a master story-teller, and it was difficult to put the book down. She was artful at painting the lives of so many people whose lives she and the hospital community affected and led to Christ.

I enjoyed this book tremendously since Betsy and I were there in Meskine, worked in the hospital, and saw much of what Kerry wrote about. It brought back precious memories. For those who have never been to Cameroon or this mission, the book is still worth reading. It is a wonderful story of how many lives have been affected and blessed by the gospel and a few missionaries faithful to God’s call in their life. Perhaps someone will be motivated to even spend some time on the mission field?

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Feb 19

The Church in Babylon: Heeding the Call to Be a Light in the Darkness, by Erwin Lutzer ★★★★★

This book is the last of three books by Erwin Lutzer that I have been reading, all three having been written recently, and addressing contemporary events. Lutzer, in this book, offers a Christian approach to the many challenges against our faith that we now face as individuals and as a society. The challenges are many. The city has become God’s enemy. Our work environment is hostile to the Christian faith. The state is increasingly mandating laws in direct opposition to faithful Christian living. Technology creates a giant sucking sound on our souls. Confused sexuality is a lie that directly opposes God’s word and destroys individuals and families. Islam and immigration are presenting false gods into our communities, yet offer a mission field for us. The church is being torn apart by false gospels and false beliefs. To all of this, Lutzer offers the challenge of Christians being faithful in loving their God, sharing their faith, and living true to God’s word. Reform must happen both in individuals, as well as in the church itself. Persecution is guaranteed to be increasingly prevalent, and we must greet it as the price of being faithful Christians.

Lutzer is skilled at not only opening up the problems that we face as Christians but also at offering Scriptural solutions to these problems. Lutzer shines his best as a pastor in this book, probably one of his best at addressing contemporary issues that are destroying the church. His call to faithfulness should be both acknowledged and heeded.

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Feb 18

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, by Dane Ortlund ★★★★★

This book was sent to me by Dr. Don Wood, an old professor of mine whom I worked under at Cook County Hospital and at the University of Illinois in the Department of Surgical Oncology. It was a delightful read. The book is short, consisting of 23 chapters, each of which averages 8.53 pages long. Technically, the book might be read in 2-4 evenings, but it would not really have been read under such circumstances. The book is not intended to be a tome that is consumed in a single setting. It is not a devotional, and definitely not styled like a devotional. Though the chapters are short, one would not read the book in the way one would read something like The Daily Bread. Neither is the book an exposition in theological terms on the heart of Christ. One cannot read the book as though they were reading out of Berkhof or Bavinck.

The heart of Christ is an often-neglected topic. There are several approaches offered regarding Christ’s love toward us. Many sermons today skim briefly over the love of Christ for us as sinful people and then challenge us to clean up our act and behave appropriately as good Christian folk. These preachers fear that we will adapt an antinomian theology if “law” is not emphasized. Many others, in touching on the heart of Christ, turn Christ into a limp, unopinionated, all-accepting being. This fictional world of the preacher has no need of a savior averting us from the wrath of an eternal omnipotent God. Both opposites are equally perilous. A diet of nothing but this book would also be highly imbalanced, yet, without this book, the normal American Christian “diet” is also unbalanced. Ortlund does a necessary service to the reader elaborating on an often unspoken topic of Christ’s love toward us, of his care for us, of his gentleness toward those he calls his own. To help Ortlund in this task, Ortlund draws on the wealth of a number of Puritan Divines, including Thomas Goodwin, John Bunyan, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Richard Sibbes, and others. Ortlund sets us straight in seeing that while our proclivity is toward being angry and not loving God and others, it is God’s natural inclination to love us, and will be angry only when persistently provoked. I know of many people who thought of the God of the Old (and New) Testament as a wrathful, angry, unloving God, until they read Scripture, only to have unveiled the wealth of mercy and love of God as displayed again and again throughout the pages of Scripture. In the New Testament, Jesus (though he is God) is often pitted against God the Father, Jesus manifesting the gentleness and compassion of the Godhead and God the father manifesting the stern judgemental wrath of the Godhead. Ortlund sets one straight in this regard, as such thinking could not be further from the truth, as plainly demonstrated in Scripture.

I highly recommend this book. It is real food for the soul. It is accurate to Scripture. It is a treasure chest of statements attesting to a neglected aspect of Christ’s character, Christ’s love for us sinners. The Existence and Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock is a more comprehensive wide-angle lens approach to God’s character. This present book is a microscopic description of a single one of God’s attributes, a chapter out of Charnock’s tome. Christ spoke of himself, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)) This attribute of Christ must be near and dear to the heart of every Christian. Ortlund gently draws you into this heart of Christ.

There is another often overlooked aspect of this book worth mentioning. The typography and quality of printing are often overlooked. It is quite noticeable that this volume stands out above most books one would get on the market. The choice of typestyles, spacing, margin size, references, and printing are all far above the normal quality that one would expect. Thankfully, there are also no distracting call-outs. Does it really matter? Absolutely! The quality of typography determines the readability of a text and is often neglected. Crossway is to be commended.

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Feb 09

I don’t like to get political on this blog site. Politics are of low interest to me, even though the politicians of all parties are constantly in your face. I find this to be truly annoying. I tend to vote conservatively, and thus lean Republican, even though I have many deep misgivings with the Republican Party. I received a recent request for funds from the Washington State Republican Party, and something just triggered me something fierce. I wrote the state Party a letter of complaint pointing out their hypocrisy, which I’m sure they’ll ignore, or promptly trash. Here it is…

RepublicanPartyLetter

Here is the letter to Ronna McDaniel of the National Republican Party, similar, but with some content adjustment…

RNCLetter09FEB21

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