Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Mind Over Matter

The following linked article supports other things that I have read in favor of the "placebo effect." I have often wondered why medicine hasn't tried to actually harness the power of the placebo effect before now, since it works so well for so many.

This article certainly seems to support the Biblical teaching about life and death being in the power of the tongue, and about joyful hearts being good medicine.

Mind over matter
By Kate Rew
Positive thought can be as effective as drugs in beating disease, studies show

PREVENTIVE medicine may soon mean more than just monitoring your vegetable intake and exercise levels, and include how many negative thoughts go through your head in a day.
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that a patient’s beliefs and hopes affect their prognosis. “One of the major contributors to maintaining health and removing disease is the attitude of the patient,” says Professor Oakley Ray, a psychologist from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. He reviewed 100 years of research on psychology and disease for a paper published in American Psychologist, and concluded that “words can have the same effect as drugs: thinking optimistically can change your whole biology”.

Ray quotes a wide range of evidence, including various studies linking mindset to heart disease: one such study, by Professor Laura Kubzansky, from the Harvard School of Public Health, established that optimism lowers the risk of heart disease in older men, while pessimism and hopelessness increase it. “There is strong evidence that patients with heart disease who feel hopeless about their condition do worse,” says Professor Alan Steptoe, a psychologist at University College London, “but whether this attitude can be changed is still an open question.” Indeed, large randomised trials have shown that the use of drug therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy to treat depression in heart-disease patients has failed to improve survival in the depressed group.

Ray — who has survived lymphoma against the odds — would have optimism inculcated in schools, so that no one faces illness with a “woe is me” attitude or has to shift years of ingrained negative thinking in response to an illness. He would also have teaching hospitals spend as much time on human relations as on neuroanatomy. Graham Archard, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, says that while this would make no difference to the way GPs treat patients, “a positive attitude of ‘I’m going to get better’ can affect prognosis”. People who give up don’t do so well or live so long, while some people who do everything can defy serious illness.

“This is why counselling and complementary therapies can be so good, and why GPs will suggest books and courses on relaxation and stress management. However, ten minutes per patient doesn’t give GPs much time to harness this response. In an ideal world we would double appointment times so GPs could address the biopsychosocial aspects of disease and how people could help themselves.”

Not all the evidence that Ray cites is of equal quality. “There are some good studies alongside bad studies in his paper,” says Professor Amanda Ramirez, who runs the Cancer Research UK psychosocial research programme at King’s College London. “The idea that ‘fighting spirit’ is important in cancer prognosis has, for instance, been discredited.”

“Furthermore, current best studies don’t support any link between stress and cancer. We can say with increasing confidence that there is no evidence that cancer is a response to your psyche.”

She adds that it’s important to remember that if you are ill, it’s only natural not to feel positive about it straight away. “There is a process you have to go through, and you may need to talk and cry and get depressed first. This is entirely normal and appropriate. What we’re worried about is people who go down and stay down, or people who don’t go down at all — that sort of positivity is so brittle that it’s likely to come unstuck.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Advice for Young Maidens

Early Thoughts on Marriage
by Nathaniel Cotton (1705-1788)

Those awful words 'Til death do part'
May well alarm the youthful heart:
No after-thought when once a wife;
The die is cast, and cast for life;
Yet thousands venture every day
As some base passion leads the way.

Pert Sylvia talks of wedlock-scenes,
Though hardly entered on her teens;
Smiles on her whining spark, and hears
The sugared speech with raptured ears;
Impatient of a parent's rule,
She leaves her sire, and weds a fool;
Want enters at the guardless door,
And Love is fled, to come no more.

Attend, my fair, to wisdom's voice,
A better fate shall crown thy choice.
A married life, to speak the best,
Is all a lottery contest:
Yet if my fair-one will be wise,
I will ensure my girl a prize;
Though not a prize to match thy worth,
Perhaps thy equal's not on earth.

'Tis an important point to know,
There's no perfection here below.
Man's an odd compound after all,
And ever has been since the Fall.
Say, that he loves you from his soul,
Still man is proud, nor brooks control.
And though a slave in love's soft school,
In wedlock claims his right to rule.
The best, in short, has faults about him,
If few those faults, you must not flout him.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Looks Like I *may* be a Criminal....

...before the end of the week.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Tribute to a Queen Amongst Friends

My Friend
by Vida I. Poutz

"This is my friend," I heard her say,
And in her voice I heard
A certain something then relay
That friend is no small word.

It seemd to pack a sort of pride;
She wanted all to know
She had someone to stand beside,
Someone in time of woe.

I heard her say, "This is my friend,"
And that encompassed all --
Someone on whom you can depend
To answer any call,

A certain sort of bond that held
Through trouble and through strife,
Two common spirits closely bound
In friendship all through life.

Deep inside a glow began
And spread to warm my heart --
A feeling of deep gratitude
For making me a part.

When she said, "This is my friend,"
I knew she meant it too,
For in my heart she'd always held
A space reserved for few.

Through the years true friends are made;
You cannot beg or buy one.
But life has ways of sorting out,
And life has tricks to try one.

As I look back, she always rose
Far up above the rest,
And when she said, "This is my friend,"
I knew I'd stood the test.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Oh Brother!

Brave New Babies
Parents now have the power to choose the sex of their children. But as technology answers prayers, it also raises some troubling questions
Permission to Rest

I think one of the hardest things that I and many other mothers have to do is give ourselves permission to rest when we aren't feeling well. And it gets even harder to do if you happen to be a homeschool mother. Demons of guilt arise to torment one's self over dishes not done, too much PBS Kids while mom is comatose on the couch, chores done sloppily or not at all if mom is not there to supervise, Laundry Mountain left unscaled, and not least, the lack of directed reading, writing, and 'rithmetic that is occuring.

Oh Demons..... SHUT UP!

I'm off to bed with a hot mug of lemon water to keep me company.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?

A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it. Don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system! Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass, a green leafy vegetable and a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable slop.

Q: Is beer or wine bad for me?

A: Look, it goes to the earlier point about fruits and vegetables. As we all know, scientists divide everything in the world into three categories: animal, mineral, and vegetable. We all know that beer and wine are not animal or mineral, so that only leaves one thing, right? My advice: Have a burger and a beer and enjoy your vegetables.

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

A: Well, if you have a body, and you have body fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good.

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?

A: You're not listening. Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?

A: Are you mad?! HELLO ..... Cocoa beans .. another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around! Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets. Have a cookie..One more thing... When life hands you lemons, ask for tequila and salt.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Pet Peeve

One of my pet peeves is the dearth of qualified women midwives. One of the biggest reasons for this dearth is the way the medical community has tried to create a monopoly on the delivery of babies, restricting it where they can to allopathic medical doctors. Most of these doctors are men.

I have nothing against men, provided they are kept in their place. But I don't believe that place is in the labor and delivery rooms of our nation, unless they are the husbands of the women and fathers of the babies.

Giving birth is the culmination of the most intimate act between a man and a wife. Traditionally, birthing women were attended by other women; a midwife, their mother, aunts, cousins, sisters, etc. Birth was a normal family centered event, not the medical catastrophe waiting to happen that it now tends to be. Since birth was taken over by the medicos and moved to the hospital, the traditional support system that saw a new mother nurtured, supported and mothered into her new role by her experienced friends and relations has now been laid upon the shoulders of her husband (who, unless he is exceptional as a nurturer makes a poor substitute for the women) and a bunch of strangers she has never met before. Worse yet, her typically male doctor rushes in at the end to "deliver" her baby and then rushes off when the baby is successfully caught.

I could sound off on a lot of things that I have problems with in this scenario, but the one I want to focus on right now is the way a woman has to endure the experience of having herself exposed before another man other than her husband. Not a few women come out of the experience of a hospital/medical birth feeling, not empowered, but humiliated and exposed. I had seven hospital births in a variety of hospitals before finding a woman midwife and had to endure the embarrassment of this exposure. I had to try and ignore the maleness of my doctor and set up a kind of refuge from what was really happening in my mind, just to get through and get that baby in the end. What a contrast to the dignity and respect I was treated with by my midwife who understood the need and desire for modesty!

Birthing is an extraordinarily vulnerable time for a woman. She labors at one of the most eternally significant things she will ever do when she brings forth life. What a shame to expose her to shame and violation at this time!

If there are any guys reading this blog, I hope you take it to heart to seriously consider the merits of a woman attendant when it is time for your wife to give birth. Men should be one of the biggest cheerleaders for women attendants for this very reason, imho.

Crazy Cat

I own a dainty little puss we called "Suki." She is part Siamese and has the blue eyes and seal point coloring, but also a white streak on her nose and a few white patches on her paws.

Yesterday I had a client come for a visit and one of the tasks at hand was to grind up some valerian root for her in my coffee grinder so that she could make capsules from it. Now I don't know if you are familiar with valerian root, but it is the herbal equivalent of say, Valium, but has none of the side effects, is non-toxic, and non-habit forming. It is a great tonic for the herbs and a wonderful sedative for those who suffer from insomnia. It is also exceedingly smelly.

How smelly is it? Smelly enough that Suki could smell it through the closed and locked office door. She was soon scratching at the door wanting in, but I thought she just wanted to be sociable. She came in and leapt up on my desk where we were working, so I shooed her back out the door. Very soon my client left and I returned to some work I was doing on the computer.

In front of my computer monitor is a small space where I had been working to encapsulate the powdered valerian root. I had done this on a piece of paper to minimize the amount of herb scattered about. Suki scratched and fussed at the door again, and since my client was gone, I let her in. She was immediately back up on my desk and to my amazement she started going wild -- licking the paper with the remains of valerian dust on it, rubbing herself in it and then biting, licking and scratching at it and anything else that happened to have valerian on it. If you have ever seen the wild gyrations of cats with catnip, then times it by a factor of 5 for increased wildness. I never knew that valerian held such attraction for cats.

After spending a good 15 minutes wrestling with the herbed paper and attacking various things in the office, Suki settled down at my feet and I forgot about her as I returned to my work. My husband arrived home a little later and found my cat laying at my feet in a very deep herb-induced sleep.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Cain and Abel Syndrome

Fratricide is not limited to the human race. Apparently this result of the Fall is also seen with regularity in the lives of eagles. Golden eagles will typically lay two eggs each season. Two eggs are an insurance policy to make sure at least one of them hatches. If both hatch, the parents feed both of the fuzzy little chicks until they are strong enough to duke it out to the death. It doesn't take long, and they are still downy chicks when they attempt to kill off their nest-mate.

While this form of behavior is a natural one that occurs with great regularity, it is also one that causes a sense of revulsion. There is something exceedingly unnatural about members of the same species doing one another to death, whether it is siblings killing one another, or fathers eating their young, as is the case with some fish. We may accept that this is the way things are, but at the same time, there seems to be a universal feeling of "something is wrong with this picture."This sort of points back to what the Apostle Paul said when he declared that "creation was groaning and travailing."

It will be an exceedingly glad day for all of creation when all the sons of God are revealed and it is released from the futility to which it is now subjected.
Dainty Doodle

Elodie, aka Dainty Doodle, aka Punkadunk, is growing up. She is still a petite little miss, smaller than average, yet strong and hale at 19 mos. But oh is she sweet!

The other day Bethany was massaging my ears for me (which is a cool way to stimulate the entire body through the acupuncture points in the ear) while I was nursing Elodie. In the middle of nursing, Elodie stops, clambers up to kneel in my lap and then reaches up both of her little arms to pull and tug on my ears too. Then she held her little face up to me for a kiss.

She is also a clever imitator who knows how to unload or load the dishwasher, turn on the VCR, make my computer do (ahem) interesting things, and wash dishes by hand in the sink, after dragging a bar stool over to sit upon.

It was pure mental agony carrying her for those 10 longs months, but I haven't regretted a day since she slipped into my hands and heart.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The Indignation of Children

My kids can be awfully hard on one another, despite many warnings, admonitions, exhortations and disciplining. But let some outsider do damage to one of them and it is amazing to see how quickly they close ranks and turn on the outsider.

The outsider today was the two year old daughter of one of my clients. While she was being looked after by her grandmother in my living room, she turned on baby Elodie and bit her hard on the cheek -- hard enough to leave a prominent set of teeth marks. Elodie's heart-rending sobs brought all the siblings running and one and all looked darkly at the offender who was hauled off by her horrified mother to the metaphorical woodshed in our bathroom. I had the feeling that they would have loved to have been the ones to administer the discipline.

So while I am sad that Elodie's cheek is decorated with a ring of teeth marks, I am at the same time gratified to see that my children do love each other, and baby especially, to the point that they will stand up for and defend one another.

This reminds me of an incident from my childhood. My sister and I were at odds a lot of the time. There were only the two of us and I was the elder. Our relationship was not the closest or most loving, especially as my sister took great delight in provoking me to the point of madness and retaliation in self defense, whereupon she would run to mother with a tale of woe over what I had done to her. This usually meant a spanking or some other form of discipline for me. I didn't cherish loving thoughts towards her most of the time.

One time we were being babysat by an aunt by marriage in an old apartment complex. One of the children across the way was envious of my sister's long, luxurious black hair that hung to her waist, and in a fit of jealousy yanked a huge chunk of it out of her head and left a bald patch. My poor sister cried her eyes out in pain and humiliation, and I cried my eyes out with rage. I was only about 8 or so at the time, but I remember having murderous anger in my heart for the perpetrator. How dare she do that to my sister? I wanted to do the same to her. Good thing she was out of reach.

Birthday Grrrrl

I turned 43 three days ago. Not that long ago I read an article that said that men and women approach birthdays quite differently. For women, birthdays are seen as celebratory events; a time for socializing and connecting with their family, friends, and important people in their social life. Men, on the other hand, tend to look at birthdays as being days of reckoning, where they look at their goals and either pat themselves on the back for a job well done or are reminded of all the things that they didn’t accomplish and the goals they missed. One of the ways this difference is seen is reflected in the timing of death for men and women. Many elderly women die soon after their birthdays because making it to the birthday and having a time to celebrate is important to them. Men tend to die before their birthdays as a way of avoiding that day of reckoning. Or at least that was the thesis of the article that I read.

This birthday has been a combination of the above for me. First, the celebratory part. I had a very wonderful birthday this year and it was reflected in the care and attention that was devoted to me by my family. First of all, I received a nice card and gift from my parents on Friday. This brought a tear to my eye and a feeling of warmth around my heart when I read what my mom had to say. I also received a gift of a fridge magnet, a CD from a Christian musical artist, some beautifully fragrant soap and a candle made with healthy ingredients from Chris, a friend of Ben’s and a sort of adopted family member, and his mother. Now that was totally unexpected!

The next segment of birthday gifts could almost be titled, “Queen of the Day Meets Lord of the Rings.” My dear husband, Marc, spent a great deal of time over the preceeding weeks trying to track down some collectible LOTR action figures and the soundtracks to all three movies. Some of the children chipped in to help pay for them. Trista got me A Guide To Middle-Earth daily calendar with all kinds of interesting notes on the LOTR and other writings by Tolkein. Marc also bought me a DVD of a live concert of Great Big Sea to listen to and watch. Tamara bought me a makeup kit, Sam gave me a gym jacket, and Bethany got me some chocolate. Ben and Hannah made me a cake that was, um, interesting. [Note to self – INSIST on baking my own cake next year.] Marc took me out for a meal (Steak Neptune – yum!), and I had a two phone calls from my sister and my daughter Patricia , who phoned to wish me many happy returns.

After the children headed to bed, Marc, Nathanael and I watched a Johnny Depp movie, “Bennie and Joon.” I didn’t know who Johnny Depp was until I watched “Pirates of the Caribbean” recently. Now I have watched two other of his movies, “Edward Scissorhands” and the above mentioned and am beginning to recognize certain characteristic mannerisms that he brings to his work. He is very talented and I am looking forward to seeing more of his work.

Now for the reckoning part. The time of reckoning at my birthday is actually coincidental and the result of several books that I am working my way through. The first book is “The Sedona Method” by Hale Dwoskin, which I have quoted in other parts of my blog. There is a natural psychology that exists in the world separate from the nonsense one finds in a lot of the stuff taught in universities. I believe the Sedona Method taps into some of it. It is enabling me to see that I spend a lot of time spinning my wheels in emotions that don’t serve to get me where I need to go. So I am taking stock of my emotional life and sorting out the stuff that is holding me back from the success I desire and working on making corrections to the often irrational thoughts that keep those emotions rolling. In other words, I am learning to take my thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ in a more intense way.

Another book I am working through is called, Smart Women Finish Rich, by David Bach. Lest you think that this book is just about money grubbing, one of the first things you are asked to do is to set down what your values are. Once you do that, you are asked to look at your spending/saving/investing habits and see if they are supporting your values or negating them.

One of the things I was surprised to discover about myself is that despite whatever talents and abilities I seemingly have, and despite the fact that these things should tend towards success, I am actually afraid of success. I never really realized this before, but it goes a long way towards explaining all the great ideas that never get acted on, the unfinished projects, and the lack of progress in certain areas. It also explains a diffidence I feel whenever I am working with people, especially when it comes to getting paid for my services. It’s like despite the fact that I know I have done something to help them, I feel I don’t deserve to be reimbursed for my time or abilities. I also feel inhibited in selling my services to people or recommending products that have solid scientific, clinical studies and from which I have personally experienced and seen others derive benefit from.

Okay, now that I know what some of the problem is, what about some solutions? Well, not surprisingly, when I did a test for psychological reversal on the topic of being successful, I was reversed. I then did some EFT to help correct the problem and a later test seemed to indicate that I had successfully cleared that mental/emotional block. The acid test for seeing if I had cleared my “success diffidence” came last night when I was at the gym. I ran into a friend I haven’t seen for some time and got caught up on his family news. One of his daughters is having some health related problems and he is quite certain that much of the problem is being caused by the drugs that she was put on by the doctors. I was able to share with him some of what I am doing and suggested with confidence that I thought I could help his daughter with some of her challenges. He expressed great interest in what I had to say and assured me that I would be hearing from his wife concerning setting up an appointment for their daughter. Even if he never follows through, I am encouraged that I have had that much of a break through with myself. Prior to this my heart would have accelerated and my respiration would increase as I would have nearly a panic attack when recommending myself to someone. None of that occurred last night and I was able to discuss it calmly, rationally, and with conviction. I am thrilled in a calm sort of way.

I guess I’ll be keeping you all up-to-date on the kind of progress I will be making in the days ahead, both in slaying personal demons and in clearing out the internal noise pollution of “should, must, have to” that seems to accompany everything I do.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Today's Hardy Har...

Q: What's the last thing that goes through a bee's mind when it hits the windshield?

A: It's stinger


Thursday, January 08, 2004

Ahhhh!!!! THAW!!!!

After temperatures that dipped down to -35 before you factored in wind chill, todays daytime temperature of zero degrees celsius is postively balmy! The other day I foolishly tried to open the door on my van with a bare hand and it was so cold my fingers felt burned by it.

In the course of my lifetime, I have lived with oil heat, steam registers, electric baseboards and a wood furnace. When it gets this cold, nothing beats a wood furnace. The wood is not only cheaper, it also dries the air out which makes it feel warmer in the house. When we used to live in the Vancouver area, I could never feel warm in the winter when it was raining outside with the gas heat on because of the high humidity. It was bone-chilling,raw, dreary cold.

I also like not having to depend on the gas company for supply. Lots of people have found themselves stranded without heat or a way of cooking when their gas supply was cut off for whatever reason. Then there is the cost factor. If you use natural gas or electric to heat your home, you are captive to the rates charged by the supplier. This year we were able to get a lot of wood for nothing more than the price of the gas to haul it. The only thing it needed was sawing into the right lengths. We didn't even have to split it as it was the scrap unusable part cut off logs when they are sawed into boards. It was pre-split, so to speak.

I remember the clanking of the steam registers in the old converted farm house I was raised in, in Massachusetts. I am sure that I would consider them an unsightly though necessary evil if there were in my house now. My sister has them in her house and while they keep it warm, they are also great for catching dust. However, I loved being able to sit on them when especially cold, and they were also a great place for drying out wet mittens in the winter.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Is "Public" Education Always Bad?

I frequently read arguments by homeschoolers that the education of children belongs to parents because God delegated authority to parents and therefore it is solely the responsibility of parents to do all the schooling. I read such an article today and it prompted me to ask the following questions:

1. Are parents ever allowed to delegate tasks and still be doing their job of seeing their children are educated?

2. Is the only godly way to educate children in the home, or are parents allowed to form cooperatives or hire tutors who take direction from them and are accountable to them for what is taught?

3. I wonder if the problem is not so much one of jurisdiction (though I do not for a moment believe that the state/federal/provincial governments have not overstepped their bounds and treat parents as providers of room and board for the State's children) as it is one of the schools being run by the prevailing religious establisment in our nations, which is blatantly anti-Christian? IOW, would we be objecting so hard if the established religion of the land was the reformed faith and our children were being taught all the subjects under the sun from this perspective? Is it the institution itself we object to or the establishment that runs it?

4. Were our fore-fathers and mothers in the Faith all sinning when they sent their children to schools that were based on the presupposition that the Christian faith was true?

5. I also have in mind the Reformers like Knox and Andrew Melville who did much to institute and reform the schools and universities and thereby paved the way for their nation to become literate in a much more efficient fashion, thereby spreading the effects of Reformation quickly. Was this inherently sinful on their part?

I pose these questions because for a long time I gave the very knee-jerk response that I see a lot of others in the Christian homeschool movement give -- that truly godly parents homeschool and that this is always and forever the only godly thing to do. Anything less than homeschool is a dereliction of duty by these parents. I also believed that "public" education *as an institution* was from the pit of hell. I now question that belief.

I should say that I am familiar with Martin Luther's comment on schools. This strikes me as falling into the category of being an argument from abuse. Schools *might* and have fallen into apostacy. But we might as well argue against the institution of marriage because some men might beat their wives. If you eliminate marriage, no wives are beaten. Eliminate schools and no children are corrupted.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, my children are not in public school and I have no intentions of putting them there. (I have been homeschooling for about 21 years now.) I guess where I am coming from with all this is that, optimistic historicistic postmillenialist that I am, I forsee a time when not only our civil magistrates kiss the Son, but also our other institutions will do so. In that case, I don't know that I would have a lot of objections to parents choosing to send their children to a school.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Bad Bloggie

For some reason, the little counter thing that tells you how many comments I receive on a given blog entry no longer works. This makes it look like no one has anything to say about the things I write. And I don't know how to fix it either. Blech.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Musings on the RPW

We have just successfully gotten past another Ho Ho season and I would like to take this time to reflect upon something that, no doubt, some of you see as an obsession that I have. It has to do with the regulative principle of worship, or RPW for short. In the providence of God, chapter XXI of the Westminster Confession of Faith was the topic of discussion at our Bible study yesterday, and so these thoughts are offered as the result of the discussion and the meditation I have had on this topic.

When it comes to the second table of the 10 commandments, people can see pretty clearly why we should not steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, dishonor parents or covet. These are sins that directly impact us when they are practiced against us. Hence the adage to do as you would be done by is one that we naturally concur with (unless we happen to be the offender, in which case, we often try to build a case for why it is ok for us to sin in this particular instance).

When it comes to sins that are direct offenses against God, the case is not so clearly seen or felt. Bolts of lightening do not fall upon our hapless heads every time we worship false Gods, profane and corrupt true worship, take the Lord's Name in vain, or profane the Lord's Day. We often don't see a direct connection between a particular sin against God in the negative providences that are visited upon us.

The most hardened atheist amongst us will talk of things being either "good" or "evil", or will stand for what he thinks is "just" or "right." When he does this, he refers to a standard that exists outside of himself and with which he knows that the person he is speaking to also acknowledges. If that presupposition did not exist, all references to things being "good" or "evil" would be nonsense, or else nothing more than a statement of preference on the part of the speaker. An atheist couldn't talk about child abuse or puppy mutilation as being something truly evil, but rather something that he prefers didn't happen. But he doesn't. He thinks and acts in terms of the belief that there is a standard that determines what is right or wrong that others also recognize and thereby betrays the fact that he knows the truth about God, but is suppressing that truth in unrighteousness. (Romans 1:18)

God's existence, and the rightness or wrongness of actions and thoughts is built into the human psyche and is inescapable. Only fools deny this.

All well and good, but how does this relate to the topic of worship? Simple. Although we know by the light of nature that God exists and that we owe Him obedience, we do not know by the light of nature what constitutes good and acceptable worship of Him.

It is striking, if you go around the world and look at the worship practices of cultures, we often see some sort of sacrifice being offered to the god of that culture. It could be fruit or vegetables, drink offerings, animal, or even human sacrifices. We know that the "god" needs to be propitiated and appeased, but do we know how he wants this done? Is there anything in the light of nature that tells us how to approach the God of the Universe in a way that pleases Him? No. And that is the whole point behind the regulative principle of worship.

There are several ways of coming at the question of determining what is good and acceptable worship. The first way is to make it up as you go and hope that somewhere along the line you hit on something that is pleasing to God. This implies that man's judgement is capable of being reliable in determining what God wants by way of worship. Those who use this method rely on sincerity of intent to get them through. It also assumes that sin didn’t corrupt our judgement in this particular instance. This assumption is no where supported in Scripture.

A second way is to rely on special revelation, as being the only rule to direct us how we are to know and worship God. This is where most professing Christians look when they want to determine true and false worship, but even here we don’t see complete agreement, and the reason for this is because of the presuppositions that we all bring to Scripture.

The historic Reformed position espoused by the Westminster Divines states that “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men or in any other way not presecribed in the Holy Scripture.” [WCF XXI.1]

This necessarily means that our worship will be limited to only doing the thing that God commands -- not adding to it or taking away from it. This is precisely the direction we find from God in His Word in Deuteronomy 12: 29-32.

"When the LORD you God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it."

Here we have God specifically telling us not to look to the heathen for ways of worshipping Him. He takes great care in the books of the Law in laying out precisely what it is that is required so that they are not left in any doubt. Instituted worship is worship which has been augthorized, commanded, or required by him.

Let’s look at the example of Cain and Abel for the first illustration of this principle. Cain offers a sacrifice of the fruit of the ground to the Lord while his brother, Abel, brings a firstborn sheep of his flock. God rebukes Cain but accepts Abel’s offering. Why? Every theologian I know draws the logical conclusion that God had told them exactly what to do for worship. “If you do well,” God says to Cain, “will you not be accepted?”

If God demands a sheep, does that leave any room for fruits and vegetables to be brought?

The approach of some reputedly Reformed people is to do what is commanded, refrain from that which is expressly condemned or forbidden, and anything else not expressly forbidden is ok. In this view, it is wrong to offer strange incense like Nadab and Abihu, but nothing forbids you from having clowns and skits in your worship service, because this is not expressly forbidden. By taking this approach, many Protestants have adopted the hermenuetic of Rome who has multiplied ceremonies, symbols, activities and so-called holy days, like Christmas, not mentioned or specifically forbidden in Scripture. The difference between Rome and many Protestant churches is only one of degree, and not kind.

This kind of worship is vain. Here is what the Lord said in Mark 7:6-9:

“…Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men – the washing of pitchers and cups and many other such things you do.’ He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.’”

In other words, whenever we add anything to our practice by way of worship that is not expressly commanded by God, this is vain worship and demonstrates a heart that is far from God in obedience. Were not the Pharisees believing that they did God honor when they washed their utensils and beds for God’s sake? Yet the Lord calls this vain worship.

Let’s bring this a bit closer to home. We have a feast that we are commanded in Scripture to observe: The Lord’s Table. How many people do you know who put in the same amount of care, time and preparation for celebrating a feast we are commanded to keep as they put into observing Christmas – a feast no where commanded in Scripture? People agonize for months over what they are going to buy others. Weeks of shopping and cooking go into the preparations for said day. Do we spend even a tithe of our time preparing for the covenant meal? Are we not guilty of vain worship when we do this? Are we not elevating a tradition of man over the commandment of God?

In short, what we have here is a struggle between two opposing camps: One camp which holds to and espouses the complete Sovereignty of God in worship, and the other which espouses the sovereignty of man in worship.

May the Lord purify His Church in these matters.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Get Blogging, YOU!

This is a notice to all the people whose blogs I typically read on any given day. You are all a bunch of lazies! I am tired of visiting your blog only to see the same old post that is over a week old. The only notable exception to this is Ginny, who has been posting long, lovely posts about her life almost every day.

No excuses now! Get busy!