A HYMN FOR TODAY — How Long Till the Morning?


How Long Till the Morning?

Consider the mornings of this mortal land,
Each a new beginning from the Maker’s hand.
While the storms may gather ‘gainst the evening sky,
The day breaks cloudless in the morning.

Rise up to the battle, for the skies dawn clear;
Let us gather courage while the foe draws near.
Though the night falls weary, saints of God, march on!
And He’ll raise our banner in the morning.

When the trumpet sounds to signal Heaven’s day –
Resurrection morning when the dead shall wake –
What a glorious gath’ring when the Lord descends
And we rise to meet Him in the morning.

How long till we see the morning?
How long till we see Your face?
O my Lord, guide us through our troubles
Till we rise above them in the morning.

Irr., C.E. Couchman, 1992

Tune: AURORA – C.E. Couchman, 1992

#712 in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, 2012

HOW LONG TILL THE MORNING? compares the Christian life to a night of struggle and turmoil to be rewarded by the return of Christ “in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5; Jer. 49:14; Lam. 3:23; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; Rev. 6:10).

Canaanite Wine Cellar discovered at Tel Kabri

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Tel Kabri is a Canaanite site located a few miles east of Nahariya in the Plain of Akko in northern Israel. Excavations have been conducted at the site for several years under the direction of Prof. Eric H. Cline of Washington University and scholars from the University of Haifa, Israel.

A total of forty clay jars were discovered. Each have a capacity of 13 gallons. You may read more about the discovery here and here.

The photo below shows a room in the Canaanite palace at Tel Kbri. The excavators date this structure to 1700 B.C.

This discovery reminds us of the wine cellars discovered at El-Jib (Gibeon) by James Pritchard in 1959. Sixty-three cellars with a possible capacity of 25,000 gallons were excavated (Pritchard, Gibeon, 79-99).

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Federal judge rules housing allowance for ministers unconstitutional

Federal judge rules housing allowance for ministers unconstitutional

Why do pastors receive a tax exemption for housing?

By Joe Carter — Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission — November 25, 2013


A federal judge recently ruled that an Internal Revenue Service exemption that gives clergy tax-free housing allowances is unconstitutional. In her ruling U.S. District Court Judge Crabb claims that, “Some might view a rule against preferential treatment as exhibiting hostility toward religion, but equality should never be mistaken for hostility.”

Despite the judge’s claim, appealing to “equality” is not enough to make the action non-hostile nor is it in line with previous court decisions. Not only has the Supreme Court previously stated that the Establishment Clause prohibits hostility against religion as much as it prohibits the establishment of a state religion, it has also noted that its “precedents plainly contemplate that on occasion some advancement of religion will result from governmental action.”

But aside from the question of constitutionality, the clergy exemption raises a question that many people — whether religious or not — are likely to be wondering: Why exactly do ministers receive a tax exemption for their housing allowance?

To answer the question we must first consider how taxation of church property, including clergy housing, has historically been considered.

Since at least the time when Joseph served in Pharaoh’s Egypt, religious property has been exempt from certain forms of taxation. (Genesis 47:26) The practice continued in the Roman Empire and through medieval Europe and was part of the common law, which America adopted from England. The common law granted tax exemptions to established churches and, through the equity law tradition, to all churches. From the 15th century to the 19th century, most pastors lived in the parsonage, a house provided by the church. Housing was thus a form of non-cash payment that was exempt from taxation since the parsonage was church property.

By the early 20th century, though, both clergy housing and taxation had changed considerably. So in 1921, Congress passed the Revenue Act, which exempted from the gross income of ministers the rental value of any “dwelling house and appurtenances thereof” provided by a church as a part of clergy compensation. This parsonage exemption, however, applied only to ministers who lived on property owned by their church and disadvantaged ministers whose churches provided a housing allowance rather than a church-owned parsonage. In 1954, Congress amended the tax code to allow ministers to exempt a portion of their income to the extent used by the minister for housing. According to the Senate Report, the purpose of this addition was to eliminate the disparity in the tax code between ministers who lived in a church-owned parsonage and those who were given a stipend with which to secure housing.

The clergy, of course, are not the only ones to receive such an exemption. Congress included several categories of tax-free housing allowances to demonstrate a willingness to give tax breaks to classes of taxpayers who have little choice about their personal living space, such as members of the military, members of the Peace Corps, members of the Foreign Service, etc. As Peter J. Reilly explains,

Whether the employer provides a cash allowance or a home, each benefit serves the same purpose; that is, often the employer’s needs affect the living space needs of its employees. Many times, these classes of employees frequently relocate, thus preventing them from settling down and hindering long term close friendships. Further, the employers frequently require them to use their homes to conduct employer business. Additionally, the employee’s place of service may not be desirable. These employees must reside where their employer requires and must frequently use their residence for employer business. Some employees sacrifice amenities that most citizens take for granted, such as long term stability in one locale and privacy.

The constitutionality of the parsonage exemption would be difficult to challenge since it has been encoded in statutory law for over almost a hundred years. That is why critics of clergy exemptions have focused on the housing allowance.


– See more at: http://erlc.com/article/why-do-pastors-receive-a-tax-exemption-for-housing#sthash.1NAlYvNk.dpuf

A HYMN FOR TODAY – Thou Art Merciful, O Father


Thou art merciful, O Father,
Full of pity, love and grace;
Thou wilt not forever chasten,
Nor in anger hide Thy face.
High as heaven, vast and boundless,
Hath Thy lovingkindness been;
Far as east from west is distant
Hast Thou put away our sin.

Like a Father’s tender pity
Is God’s mercy toward His own;
For He knows our frame, rememb’ring
We are dust, our days soon gone.
Like a flower, blooming, fading,
Like the grass, we pass away;
But God’s righteousness and mercy
On His children rest alway.

In the heavens, well established,
Is His universal throne;
For His kingdom ruleth ever,
And His sway all kings shall own.
Bless Jehovah, ye His angels,
Bless Him, hosts of His control,
Bless Jehovah, all His creatures,
Bless Jehovah, O my soul! – Elmer L. Jorgenson, 1921

From Psalm 103:8-22

Tune: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1778
arr. Elmer L. Jorgenson, 1921

#28 in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, 2012

Footnote 27 – C.S. Lewis: The Discarded Image

Footnote 27 – C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1964), p. 89.

Earlier I posted information about CS Lewis’ death on November 22, 1963. Normally this would have received significant press and public attention – the death of a respected scholar at both Oxford and Cambridge who became a wartime fixture in Britain for his radio discussions during the dark days of World War 2; the former atheist who became of the most significant and widely-read apologists for the truth of Christianity – was “overtaken by events” of the same day.

The significance of CS Lewis as an academician and scholar is sometimes overlooked or dismissed by those who know him only through his more popular apologetics books, or who cavalierly dismiss his views.  But his work as a scholar of medieval literature and the trans-generational and cross-cultural transmission of knowledge is significant.  His posthumously-published work,The Discarded Image (Cambridge University Press, 1964) is one of my “favorites” – describing how medieval texts assimilated the Greco-Roman corpus of “natural history” (what would, in the 19th century, be dubbed “science”) – useful to a green graduate student in the History of Science at Emory University in Atlanta, grappling with bestiaries and other strange accumulations of knowledge. .

As a young man, I once had a flash of insight that youthful hubris allowed me to imagine at the time to be one of the few truly “original” ideas I ever had (everyone should have one or two such ideas in a lifetime, no?) It was the notion that God does not really “foreknow” what happens in the future (as though He were limited to looking at the future through a keyhole, or the “wrong” end of a telescope – actually an apt description of the limited view of prophets and angels described in 1 Peter 1:10-12). Rather, since He is not time-bound, and therefore is already “at” tomorrow, or next year, He knows what decisions I make in my future since he is already “there.” In the same way that I know what choices I made for breakfast this morning (bacon and eggs, cereal, bagel? – ALWAYS go for the bacon, if available), similarly, He knows my “future-to-me” choices, without limiting them in any way. The insight seemed so profound and original at the time…..

Then I encountered Lewis’ comments below, published while I was still a high school kid only beginning to contemplate such matters.  Ah, well….there is no shame in being superseded, or pre-dated, by C.S. Lewis!

Here’s the text:

“God is eternal, not perpetual.  Strictly speaking, He never foresees; He simply sees.  Our ‘future’ is only an area, and only for us a special area, of His infinite Now.  He sees (not remembers) your yesterday’s acts because yesterday is still ‘there’ for him; He sees (not foresees) your tomorrow’s acts because He is already in tomorrow.  Just as a human spectator, by watching my present act, does not at all infringe its freedom, so I am free to act as I choose in the future because God, in that future (His present) watches me acting.”

        C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1964), p. 89.

Did you know C. S. Lewis died Nov. 22, 1963?

C.S. Lewis, one of the foremost apologists of the 20th century, died on November 22, 1963. His passing was, of course, “overtaken by events” which overshadowed his passing. I mentioned this in a lesson Sunday in which I quoted Lewis’ famous quip that there are two equal and opposite errors about Satan (one being to totally disbelieve, the other to become overly consumed by him – and that he is equally pleased with either error). Ferrell elaborates on Lewis’ life and death here.

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Recently I have been reading C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath. He says that Warnie found his brother dead at the foot of his bed at 5:30 p.m. [in Oxford], “Friday, 22 November 1963.” Then comes this paragraph:

At that same time, President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade left Dallas’s Love Field Airport, beginning its journey downtown. An hour later, Kennedy was fatally wounded by a sniper. He was pronounced dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Media reports of Lewis’s death were completely overshadowed by the substantially more significant tragedy that unfolded that day in Dallas.

C. S. Lewis was buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Headington Quarry, Oxford after a private, and very small service. Warnie chose a phrase from a Shakespearean calendar that was in their home back in Belfast at the time of their mother’s death in August 1908: “Men must endure…

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Lindsay’s Lens: A Challenge From a Grieving Father

Lindsay’s Lens: A Challenge From a Grieving Father

I was going to comment on Scott’s post — but my daughter says it better!

A Challenge From a Grieving Father — Lindsay’s Lens, November 22, 2013

Read more from Lindsay Wolfgang Mast on her blog, Lindsay’s Lens, at:


This blog has been long-neglected. Not for any lack of thought on my part, but because much of my thinking has been going on in the background while things that required doing demanded my time more urgently. I am pleased to have the desire and the time to be back at a keyboard and writing this morning.

This week much of my ‘doing’ has involved praying for and trying to encourage a number of people I know who have been touched, again, by death. This time, it is the death of a 25-year-old man who went out to enjoy a fall day and drowned in Kentucky’s Barren River. I did not know Adam Smelser, but many people I care about cared deeply for him, and still do. By all accounts, he had both an insatiable appetite for life–first, for eternal life, but also for the life God blessed him with on Earth. Funny, talented, vibrant. His loss is being felt deeply here.

I have been praying for his friends. I have also prayed fervently for his family, who lost a beloved son, the second of 6 siblings. I have heard Adam’s father, Scott, a preacher, teach about parenting, and I know he takes his role seriously. He has been quite transparent about his grief and his faith via social media, and his handling of this unspeakably hard situation is so very admirable.

His words yesterday, though, have pierced me to the heart:

“A newly married friend just asked -as many have- if there’s anything he can do. I’ve been asking for a time machine, but nobody has had one yet. Today I came up with a better request:

Here’s what you can do, you and that sweet wife of yours. Have a baby boy (girls are fantastic, have some of them too, but right now we are one short on the boys). And for all of them, expect great things of them. And don’t let the world get their hearts. And love them like crazy, and train them like they’re going to be workers for the King of the Universe.”

The request of that grieving father is so challenging to me–to us. His son had a profound effect on others both his age and beyond. That doesn’t happen by luck or circumstance. I want to respond to the wisdom of a man who raised a soul like Adam.

Here is what strikes me about it: It is so very single-minded. And dedicated. And sincere. There is one reason, and one reason only that we are here: To Know God, and thus to Make Him Known.

When Mr. Smelser says, ‘Expect great things of them,” I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mean, expect them to walk or talk early, or to take home all the MVP trophies, or to land the highest-paying job out there. He means to expect excellence in God’s sight. He means it in the same sense as Colossians 3:23–our work is to be done heartily, yes. But it is to be done for the Lord, not for men.

Yet it is so easy as parents to forget that *our* work is for the Lord, too. We want to raise children who follow Christ, but who also (insert other thing that the world thinks is important right now too). That’s not single-mindedness. Of course there will be Christians with some traits that are lauded by those who do not serve Christ. But that is not the goal. And Satan loves to muddy up our thinking by telling us we really can have both. Jesus himself says it’s not possible (Matthew 6:24). But since God doesn’t write spiritual milestones in our child’s baby books, or give out trophies when our kids show kindness, or hand out raises when they tell someone about Jesus, it’s tempting to look elsewhere for the validation we want in growth, even when it is of an earthly nature. But that is just one way that we as parents let the world get *our* hearts, and when he has our hearts, he’ll get our children’s, too. That thought is chilling to me. May it never be.

I feel like I’ve got the love thing down. The constant challenge, though, is to remember that our primary love must be for our children’s souls–not for their volatile emotions. I have to do what makes them better, not what makes them happy (though a child whose parent truly cares for their soul is going to know much happiness).

Then there is the final urging to train them, to train them to serve the King of the Universe. Wow. I mean, no pressure, right? Our boss hung the stars and knows how many hairs are on my head, yet here I am trying to teach little kids (who will soon be big kids, and who all too soon be adults) how to work for Him. But clearly, it can be done, and He will help us.

So, I think about the best training I’ve gotten over the years. First, I needed to know what the job was and who my boss is. This is a big job, with a big boss, and I need to spend time teaching the children who they serve (bonus: I learn more about Him too). A worker also needs to know what is expected of them in their job. That is still more for us as parents to input into our children. And finally, the most effective way to train someone is to have them observe us on the job–and this one requires us to be in the field and on the clock all the time. I can’t farm this training out, y’all. It starts with me. It starts with me.

I suppose you could look at a challenge like this and feel overwhelmed by it. But when I see how very well the Smelser family did this, and how well other families I know have done it, I’m strangely not intimidated at all. Because I can see how they did it and where they got their strength to do it (Phil. 4:13). It makes me want to have oodles of babies. It makes me want to remind all the young couples who are waiting for the perfect time to have children: there is no perfect time, but there are always abundant blessings in children (Psalm 127:3). But most importantly, it gives me new resolve to do the things Mr. Smelser has said to do with my two children who are sleeping in their beds right now, who will wake up eager to learn new things, new skills, and to be shown the way they should go.


Because how else will they know the path to take?
Lord, may I be single-minded, sincere, and constant in my love and service for you. May I teach your way diligently to my children, and may we all never stray from it.
And a comment from Lindsay’s mother, who trained her in the way she should go:
“Thank you for this testament to what The Lord is able to help us, as His children, to do through His son. I thank Him that you and their father are the parents of those precious children in the beautiful photo on their path. I thank Him for your compassion, heart, and wisdom to do this most awesome task.
I continue to pray to God for the Smelser family and for so many who grieve so deeply, and know that He knows how deep that pain is and is ABLE and is the Source of hope, which saves us from despair. He turned the earth dark when His son died and accomplished His work.”  — Bette Wolfgang