Anthrocide

Anthrocide.net is the official website for D.L. Hamilton, author of several Christian novels and essays.

Archive for the 'Christianity' Category

Kindle/Nook ebooks

For those of you who don’t use Facebook or who may have missed Becki’s posting, I have finally taken the plunge and put a series of my novels out on Kindle and Nook as ebooks. If you have a Kindle or Nook Tablet/Reader you can, of course, download and read them there. Or, if you have an iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone, or probably any other smart phone or tablet device, you can get a free Kindle or Nook app and use those devices to read them. I’ve read entire books on my iPhone and, though you might think it’s too small to read on, it’s really not bad at all.

The books are in a series called Ever Increasing Glory. The first book is Hidden in a Field, the second is The Way of Escape and the third is Canceled Debts. Although they’re classified as Christian romances they include an attempted murder, a car wreck, a foiled rape attempt, and a guy getting worked over with a rubber hose so they’re not all just romantic fluff.

You can use the links below or search the Kindle or Nook sites by the series (Ever Increasing Glory), by the titles or by “D. L. Hamilton” (Don Hamilton won’t work).

Kindle:
•Book 1: Hidden in a Field
•Book 2: The Way of Escape
•Book 3: Canceled Debts

Or, for the more graphically-oriented, click on the cover image below:

Hidden in a Field Cover TN The Way of Escape Cover TN Canceled Debts Cover TN

Nook:
You can view the whole Ever Increasing Glory series.

You can read the first few chapters for free and the books themselves are pretty inexpensive. Hope you find the stories enjoyable as well as inspirational.

God’s blessings,

Don

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Goodness!

What follows are two seemingly unrelated thoughts that actually do tie together, so please bear with me.

The first relates to a radio commentary I heard recently that made a significant point. It said that the U.S. government should not be as shocked as it is that the “Arab Spring” has not resulted in democracies rife with fundamental freedoms and equality for all citizens in those countries where dictators have been ousted. Our government seems amazed that the rest of the world would not readily embrace the concepts of equality and liberty that we all so cherish. The commentator made the point that our republic succeeded as a form of government because it had Christianity as its underpinnings. Absent those Christian roots of love, kindness, righteousness, and a recognition of the intrinsic worth of each and every individual not only will democracy fail, it doesn’t even make sense. Hence, those non-Christian cultures overthrow a despot simply to trade him for another form of totalitarianism, but one that is more closely allied to the rebels’ views. The despotic governments we see moving in to fill the vacuum in places like Egypt and Libya should serve as a cautionary tale for us as our nation continues to divest itself of its Christian roots.

The second relates to goodness. It is one of the nine attributes the Apostle Paul lists as the “fruit of the Spirit;” that is, behaviors that result from the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life. They are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There have been any number of Bible studies and curricula that delve into the specifics of each of these and their effect and manifestation in the life of the Christian. However, the one that is often hardest to fashion an hour-long class about is goodness. In fact, one study series I found on the subject was only eight lessons long. They completely skipped over goodness. One can develop myriad class sessions on love, peace, and the nuances of faithfulness. But on the surface “goodness” seems too generic. Okay, we’re supposed to do good, to be good. End of study. However, goodness is a concept that may be more complex than all the others put together. Why? Because it demands that we define “good.” What is good? And how do we know? Is good defined as whatever is best for me, personally? If so, it would be good for me to steal your car since that is to my benefit. And, of course, if you abide by the same definition, it would be “good” for you to slit my throat to get your car back as that would be to your benefit. Etc. So, what then? Is “good” whatever benefits the largest number of people? That just takes the previous examples and expands them. For the majority to steal everything the minority has would be to the majority’s benefit. Hmm… How about goodness is any behavior that does no harm to anyone else? Key question: Why would doing no harm be superior to being cruel and brutal to others? Why would such a philosophy be better than “might makes right?” Or put another way, “Says who?” When there is no Who or where there is only a “who” whose scruples are, well, unscrupulous, the definition of goodness becomes either nonexistent or perverse.

But, for the Christian, the definition of goodness is so obvious that we cannot even put together a decent hour-long study on it. That is not to say that all Christians’ behavior is characterized by goodness—Lord knows there have been atrocities aplenty among those who claim to be Christian. But evil behavior by fallen, imperfect people does not negate the unsullied Biblical definition of goodness. Which is, if I may wax a tad overly simplistic, goodness = God-ness. In other words, that which is true of our Lord defines that which is good. Hence, we recognize good over evil as: truth over lies, kindness over cruelty, generosity over stinginess, love over selfishness, gentleness over ferocity, mercy over condemnation, sobriety over drunkenness, industriousness over sloth, optimism over pessimism, grace over judgmentalism, and so on. Additionally, not only does this provide a definition of good, it is eternal, unchangeable, and adherence to it has consequences—the approval of the omnipotent God.

Now to tie these two disparate thoughts together. With a common societal absolute standard of what constitutes good vs. evil it becomes possible to not only establish laws to encourage good and discourage evil, but to trust the citizenry to be a government “of the people.” Good citizenship means to exhibit good behavior—not primarily out of fear of government reprisal but because of the common recognition of what good is and the desire to be good. Those who choose to do evil recognize it as being evil. They understand that they run the risk of suffering the consequences of violating laws that not only exist in some code book but that coincide with Almighty God’s laws. Although there are examples of the church disassociating itself from those involved in flagrant, perpetual, unrepentant sin; by and large Christians are responsible to govern their own behavior and answer to the Lord. Such is not the case in other cultures without Christian influence. Jesus said, “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” In many non-Christian societies this concept of individual freedom is completely foreign, not merely to their political power brokers but to the average citizen as well.

Equality among all citizens and our system of government go hand-in-hand. The New Testament concept of “…in humility consider others better than yourselves…look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Php. 2:3-4) steers citizens toward good behavior and away from our natural dog-eat-dog proclivity. Governments must exist, but they govern benevolently only to the degree that they accurately distinguish good from evil and recognize the infinite, intrinsic worth of each individual deemed precious by the omnipotent God of all. Attempts to frame our republican democracy around a society whose concept of goodness is “might makes right” will quickly degenerate into a totalitarian monstrosity much as we see happening in the middle east. Karl Marx envisioned a utopian society where everyone happily subjugates his own ends for the good of the society at large. But everywhere communism has been tried the result has been oppression by a tyrannical government. The primary reason is that Marxism’s atheistic roots provide no answer to the inevitable “why” question. Why should I set aside what benefits me for the sake of anyone else, let alone for the sake of faceless “society”? Because some guy named Marx says to do so constitutes “goodness”? Who bestowed him with the power to define goodness? For that matter, who bestows anyone, or any government, with the power to define goodness?

Ah, and so we are back to the basic point. There is Someone with that power. And, not only does He define goodness, the indwelling of His Spirit produces goodness as a by-product of our surrender to His lordship over our lives. As America moves ever further from the Christian basis for its concept of government and from God’s definition of goodness, one cannot help but ask, as Lincoln did, “…whether that nation…can long endure.”

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Lyrically Speaking…

Here’s an oddity that leaves me puzzled: hymn lyrics–or more specifically the use of King James English therein.

Now, I do realize that from the early 1600’s until the early 1970’s the KJV Bible was used by 99.9% of the English-speaking Protestant world. People somewhat understandably associated the use of King James lingo with all things sacred and often felt compelled to use that same mode of speech in any reference to the Lord, including prayers and hymns. This was especially reasonable where scripture was contained in a hymn since it would necessarily be the KJV that was used. The result is that many hymns are laden with “Thee,” “Thou,” “Thy” and “Thine.” Typically King James verbs were also used surrounding those pronouns–for consistency one would assume–giving us “art” instead of “are,” “loveth” instead of “loves,” “hast” (or “hath”) instead of “has,” etc. So, we end up with song lyrics like: “My Jesus I love Thee I know Thou art mine…”

Okay, whatever. What gets weird is that the use of King James parlance is so often random and inexplicable.

As noted, references to the Lord in KJV make sense for the day in which these songs were composed. What I have a harder time understanding is why references to you and me are done that way. For example, the song “Is Thy Heart Right With God,” as the title suggests, refers not to the Lord with KJV but to the listener: “…Dost thou count all things for Jesus but loss?” Why address ME in King James English? Other songs such as “Take Time to be Holy” do the same thing.

Then there are those hymns that can’t make up their minds. Notice how the hymn “His Way with Thee” switches between modern and King James for no apparent reason as it refers to the listener alternately as “YOU” (modern) and “THEE” (KJV):

“…His love can fill YOUR soul, and YOU will see / ’twas best for Him to have His way with THEE.”

Actually the only explanation is a pathetic one. “Thee” was used purely because it rhymed. Now that’s sad.

Even more random are those songs where only one word is KJV. An example is “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” where it says: “…For I know whate’er befall me Jesus doeth all things well…” Notice that at the beginning of the song it does NOT say “All the way my Savior LEADETH me…” but later He “DOETH” rather than He does. Again the unfortunate evident explanation is that the lyricist resorted to KJV in order to maintain the meter of the song–rather than rewriting the lyric (sorry, Fanny Crosby, but that was the cheap way out).

But it gets even more random that that. In the hymn “Count Your Blessings” there is a line in one verse that goes, “…Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold…” Notice, “Christ HAS”. But in the chorus the lyric is “…see what God HATH done.” Unlike the others, this helps neither rhyme nor meter. The only possible explanation is that the lyricist developed a lisp between writing the verse and the chorus (maybe he lost a tooth or something).

Some hymn lyrics are pretty odd regardless of King James usage. This one for example from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”:

“Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer…”

Now, first of all it doesn’t say A friend or SOME friends but strongly implies that it refers to ALL your friends. It is not unheard of for a so-called friend to forsake a person, proving to be no friend at all. But to have ALL your friends forsake you? What situation could cause that? The only thing I can think of is if you did some heinous, repugnant, disgusting thing that sent all your friends scurrying to get away from you–like becoming an Amway representative.

But even that is not the strangest part of the phrase. It asks if all your friends DESPISE you. How on earth could a group of people who despise you be classified as “friends”? Aren’t those who despise you–by definition–your enemies?

Or how about this lyric from “I’ll Fly Away”: “…Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away…” Who keeps birds in prison? Unless they’re referring to the Birdman of Alcatraz or something but in that case HE was the one imprisoned in Alcatraz; the birds could come and go as they liked. Of course, it might be referring to a “JAIL-bird” who has flown from prison–but doesn’t that mean an escapee? Is that what we want to be favorably compared with? In a hymn yet?

Another oddity among hymns is the use of what I call “Yoda-speak.” You may recall that the little green Jedi dude in the “Star Wars” films had a characteristic mode of speech in which he sort of spoke backwards. For example, instead of saying “He is strong with the Force” Yoda phrases it this way: “Strong with the Force is he.” Notice how the following hymns do the same thing.

From “Power in the Blood”: “Would you o’er evil a victory win?” Shouldn’t that be “Would you win a victory over evil?” Unless, of course, you have pointy ears and use a light-saber.

From “You Never Mentioned Him to Me”: “…You helped me not the light to see.” I think us non-Jedi’s would say “…You did not help me see the light” wouldn’t we?

From “Give of Your Best to the Master”: “…You from sin’s ruin to save…” Translation: “…To save you from sin’s ruin…”

Not that contemporary Christian music is immune from odd lyrics. Consider the song “My Glorious”. The chorus of the song has this first line:

“God is bigger than the air I breathe”

That is a truly weird figure of speech. Comparisons of the Lord to “the air I breathe” have been used before but always in reference to absolute necessity, i.e., we need God as desperately as we need air. Referring to air in terms of size is beyond strange. Someone suggested that perhaps the reference was to the whole of earth’s atmosphere–sort of a convoluted way of saying He is “bigger than the sky.” However the addition of the phrase “I breathe” tends to negate that since I don’t inhale the entire atmosphere. I think I read somewhere that a breath is about two quarts of air. Saying that God is bigger than that is faint praise indeed. Truthfully it is either using the wrong attribute of “the air I breathe” or the wrong attribute of God. Whatever, it is pretty much nonsensical. Sort of like saying Superman is “faster than a red, red, rose.” One’s natural reaction is “Eh? How’s that again?”

But that’s not the only issue with the song’s lyrics. Here is a verse:

The world’s shaking with the love of God
Great and glorious, let the whole earth sing
And all you ever do is change the old for new
People we believe that

(Then back to the Chorus: God is bigger than the air I breathe…) The first line of the verse–as does the chorus–refers to God in the third person, that is, talking ABOUT God to the audience. But the third line apparently has abruptly switched to speaking directly to Him (“…all YOU ever do…”). But then the next line is back to addressing the audience, this time in plural (“WE believe”) then immediately back to the singular in the Chorus (“I breathe”). I think the lyricist should have gone to bed earlier and taken a fresh look at this in the morning.

Perhaps more sleep would also have helped in the writing of the David Crowder Band’s “How He Loves.” The opening line or so about how God “loves like a hurricane” makes me scratch my head a bit, but then it gets really weird: “…all of a sudden, I am unaware…” I’m sorry but, by definition, it is impossible to SUDDENLY be UNaware of something. You could suddenly become AWARE of something, but how can one suddenly be unaware—unless one passes out or has a stroke or something. In another verse there is a reference to how “…heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss…” Eh? I’m not sure how, even poetically, heaven can meet earth like a kiss, but an unforeseen kiss? Does that mean it forgets to pucker or close its eyes? I don’t get it but it could be that I’m biased against the song because Crowder’s rendition of it makes my skin crawl.

Christmas songs are certainly not immune from lyrical oddities. Among the more bizarre is “The First Noel.” The tune is tolerable but the lyrics are, well, the only word to use for them is: lame. What earns a set of lyrics the designation of “lame”? For one thing, lyrics are lame when what they say is nonsensical or just plain wrong. For another, they are lame when there are superfluous words thrown in just to rescue the tune or poetic rhythm. And, as previously mentioned, “Yoda-isms” in lyrics (used primarily to force the rhyme scheme to work) make me crazy. An example of a Christmas song that uses one is: “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, / Let nothing you dismay.” Non-Yoda-speak would be, “…Let nothing dismay you” but that wouldn’t rhyme with “…born on Christmas Day” so, again, the songwriter took the cheap way out.

All that said, “The First Noel” is so bad it almost boggles the mind. To set the stage for the discussion, here is the first stanza along with the refrain:

The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay tending their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

Now, granted, poems and songs frequently butcher or completely omit relevant punctuation, but this one defies knowing what punctuation is appropriate. In the first line the phrase, “…the angel did say…” just dangles there out in space. The angel did say… what, exactly? One could presume that the next word or phrase would represent what the angel said, but that would be the word “Was” (ostensibly spoken “to certain poor shepherds”). As far as I know nothing in the Christmas story has an angel just saying, “Was.” This is fortunate, because if it did that would be mind-numbingly inane. As if that isn’t bad enough, even the phrasing of it is dorky. Using “the angel did say…” instead of “the angel said” is a case of a superfluous word thrown-in to try to stay on beat. Unfortunately the lyrics and “beat” really never do mesh in this song. What I think the lyric is trying to communicate is just that the angel spoke to some shepherds.

This, then, brings us to the next example of dippy-ness: “On a cold winter’s night….” Now, the evidence is marginal at best that Jesus was born in the winter but there is no hint in scripture that it was cold. Israel is a mild climate but admittedly it could have been cold—the odds are about as good that it wasn’t as that it was. Maybe slightly more toward the “wasn’t” side since had the birth taken place in the cold there’s a strong chance that Luke would have mentioned it—but he didn’t. The crowning touch is the final phrase: “…that was so deep.” Okay, what does that mean? It could be that I’m just not poetically-astute enough, but I have no idea what distinguishes a deep night from a shallow one. As near as I can tell, that phrase is there purely because the lyricist needed something that rhymed with sheep. How dumb.

But as bad as it is, the first, and most commonly known, verse is pure genius compared to some of the other verses. Get a load of this one:

Between an ox stall and an ass,
This Child truly there He was;
For want of clothing they did Him lay
All in a manger, among the hay.

There is so much wrong with this verse I won’t even attempt to critique it. I used to think that “The First Noel” was a French song that simply lost a lot in the translation. Turns out it is not French but Olde English—most think from the 16th century—making it contemporary with Shakespeare. Believe me, brother, this is about as far from Shakespeare as one can get!

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A Poem

In the Year that is my life it’s September.
Early September.
It’s still summer, you know.
Most people think of it as autumn.
But summer doesn’t end until September is far spent.

Just ignore that silly old tree out past the back fence.
Its leaves turn yellow way too soon—long before the others.
It’s still summer.

It has been an eventful summer.
Since it started I’ve gone from Dad to Father-in-law to Grandpa.
Admittedly, my love and I cannot stoop and pick flowers like we did;
Not like we did when we began our journey together back in the early spring.
That silly old tree already has leaves on the ground under it.
But, really, it’s still summer.

I can’t believe the stores are already displaying Halloween stuff.
How foolish.
Halloween means the advent of cold weather.
Why think about the cold when it’s still summer?
For another week or two.

I don’t look forward to cold weather,
Or achy joints, or short, dark days.
Coats and blankets can’t warm you like summer does.
I don’t look forward to the cold.
And spring will never come again.

But no need to dwell on that now.
It’s still summer, after all.
Even if that silly tree thinks it’s autumn.
It’s not. It’s still summer,
After all.

And yet…
When the Year ends, so will winter.
And I will bask in the glow of a glorious Day,
Warm and bright in the Light of eternal Love.
My Friend will take me by the hand
And I would wonder why I worried about summer’s end,
Except that I probably won’t remember these seasons at all.

I will be too engrossed in His glory to think about something as mundane
As summer, after all.
— D. L. Hamilton

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Building a House of Cards

As we approach Independence Day I would like to address the growing trend of some to try to divorce our nation and its system of government from its Christian roots and make it more and more atheistic.

It is as simple as this: The fundamental concept upon which the United States is founded is stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Notice: “…created equal and endowed by their Creator…” This is not just poetic language. The cornerstone of our nation and its system of government is that we are all equal because God says we are equal.

Yet, aside from Christianity, in what sense is that true? I am not “equal” to anyone reading this. There is a 50% chance I am not the same gender as you. I am probably not the same age as you. I am not the same size, the same looks, the same IQ, the same skills, the same experience, the same health, the same value to society, the same attitudes, accomplishments, aspirations, relationships, background, heritage, likes, dislikes, and on and on. I am not equal to anyone else reading this. Or anyone else in this nation for that matter, and neither are you! So in what sense are we equal?

Apart from the teachings of Jesus Christ in NO sense are we equal! Let’s get real here. From an atheistic perspective, the severely handicapped person who is utterly dependent on others for survival is of far less worth than a famous surgeon who saves the lives of countless people. How then can they be said to be equal?

Within Christianity the answer is simple: Our Creator endows every human being with infinite intrinsic value. That is, “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son…” It is God Who has established that the severely handicapped person is exactly equal in value to the famous surgeon.

But to the atheist the claim that we’re all equal is clearly and demonstrably false. So the atheists are basically saying, “Well, let’s all just pretend we are equal.”

Are you kidding me? The basis of our country and our whole concept of government is “let’s pretend”????

If the forces that would eradicate the God of the New Testament from our nation’s roots succeed, like the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, someday someone will simply say, “We’re not all equal. Who says we are?” And in the silence that follows, our nation will collapse like a house of cards.

But do not misunderstand. It is not religion in general that establishes our equality but only Christianity. Nearly every other religion on earth establishes the worthiness of its adherents based on their achievement whether spiritual, physical, or relational. This ranking of people is a basic tenet of Hinduism. Other religions such as Islam and even Judaism consider those outside their ranks as unworthy (or even as undesirables whose elimination is laudable). Genuine New Testament Christianity alone acknowledges the infinite worth and equality of every individual. To be sure, those who commit their lives to Christ have an eternal advantage over those who do not, but even the unbeliever is equally loved until and unless, to the end, they are determined not to spend eternity with the Savior Who died for them.

We are equal, because we are equally loved. Because, “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

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Now, Hear This…

You should give a listen to the song “You Gave” on this music site. It’s the fourth song down and my son Scott was not only the composer but truly a one-man band. I was listening my way down the songs on the site and enjoying them while reading something else when, about halfway through “You Gave” I stopped and listened more closely. When it finished I went back and re-listened to the whole song again and have many times since. The simple but profound lyrics along with the hauntingly beautiful vocal and instrumental arrangement still grab me even after repeated playings. It’s 5+ minutes long but stay with it to the end. I think you’ll really like it.

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THE PLAY’S THE THING…

Since probably any readers of this will have already heard most of this story I will make it extremely brief. Our musical-drama, More Than Just a Man, was everything we were praying for. I did indeed have a coworker go on and on about the production. Several have asked for DVD’s of it. Becki’s coworker was moved to tears by the touching drama. The fellow who played Joseph of Arimathea in the production also works where I do. He later told me that a woman stopped him in a fastfood parking lot the Monday after the production and said, “It is Joseph, isn’t it?” These are the exact words Mary Magdalene says to J of A just before the play’s finale. The choir and drama directors talked about it on local radio and it got a huge picture feature in the paper. People were touched by Jesus’ love and power through the performance. God was praised by the performance. I grew closer to many, many members of our church through the rehearsals and performances. But I must say, rather selfishly, that best of all I grew so very much closer to my Lord through the rehearsals and performances. It has reawakened in me the realization of what an incredible privilege it is to belong to Christ; to have a vital relationship with the God of all creation, the God of unlimited power, the God of unlimited love. I look back amazed at how easily I allowed myself to neglect this marvelous treasure and get bogged-down in the world of the profane, the mundane, and the meaningless. How my heart aches for those who, by ignoring the free gift of glorious salvation that waits unopened, live every day in that same tired, hopeless, lifeless world. For to know Christ is to really live.

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MORE THAN JUST A MAN

This weekend we are doing 4 performances (including the videoed dress rehearsal) of a musical drama about Jesus from the perspective of the two Sanhedrin members who believed in Him: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. It is a marvelous play with excellent and effective music. So much so that I have been inviting people at work, etc., and offering to buy lunch (or dinner in one case) if they attend a performance and are not emotionally moved. Several have said they plan to come. I seriously doubt I’ll be buying any meals. There are scenes and songs that still give me goosebumps and this is the second year I’ve been in it. In one particular scene, last year I could hear audience members sniffling into Kleenexes.

While all of that is well and good, I’ve been pondering the question: What is my goal in being in this production?

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