— Rodney “Gipsy” Smith MBE (31 March 1860 – 4 August 1947)
“I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”
— Aldous Huxley 1894–1963[ Located this content here. My thanks. ]
This quote was one of many by noted atheists (who were quite forthright in all but stating that a large causal factor in their atheism is a desire to not have the morality of a deity imposed upon their lifestyles) in an article I recently ran across.
Only when an article hits me this hard do I really feel the sacrifice of giving up Facebook for Lent. There’s a frustration in not being able to share with others something that so deeply chokes my heart. It’s then that I remember that I have a blog and can, at the very least, not lose the resource entirely.
And yet after we lost Olivia, it didn’t take long for me to realize that in this Christian microcosm of ours, somehow an aborted baby had so much more to offer the world than a miscarried one.
Both babies may have died at the same gestation – one by choice, the other by chance. But the value attached to each child completely depended on how that child died. Here are some of the mixed messages I received — sometimes just hinted at, other times outright:An aborted baby deserves to be grieved. A miscarried one deserves to be gotten over. And quickly. An aborted baby could have been the next Einstein or Bach or Mother Theresa. A miscarried baby was probably damaged goods.
An aborted baby was killed against God’s design. A miscarried baby fulfilled God’s plans.
An aborted baby was a real person, and should have the rights as such. A miscarried baby was not a real child – naming them really is kinda weird. Speaking of weird … counting them in the line-up of your children? THAT’S weird!
An aborted baby should always be missed in this world. God had created them for a purpose, no matter what health issues they may have had. A miscarried baby was meant for heaven — and we moms should just be so thankful we have a baby in heaven, and should not grieve the loss of their place on earth. After all, they never TRULY had a place on earth, did they?
A beautiful, valuable, miscarried baby.
An aborted baby is a tragedy. A miscarried baby is slight bump on the road of life.
An aborted baby could never be replaced. A miscarried baby can always be replaced – “Oh, don’t worry, hon – your time will come again. You’ll have more. Just relax and trust God. You’ll see.”
An aborted baby’s mom should know exactly what she’s missing out on if she has living children. A miscarried baby’s mom should not grieve that loss, but instead, should just be thankful for the lives of her living children.
“The new rebel is a Skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial impression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher that all life is a waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a police man for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls the flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to the political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beast; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves they practically are beast. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore, the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.” — G.K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy, III. “The Suicide of Thought.”
Quoted recently by Ravi Zacharias. Found at GKCDaily
A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out!
I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out.
Or to put it another way:
People aren’t confused by the gospel
They’re confused by us
Jesus is the only way to God
But we are not the only way to Jesus
This world doesn’t need my tie, my hoodie
My denomination or my translation of the Bible
They just need Jesus
We can be passionate about what we believe
But we can’t strap ourselves to the gospel
‘Cause we’re slowing it down
Jesus is going to save the world
But maybe the best thing we can do
Is just get out of the way
— Casting Crowns, What this World Needs
“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.”
― C.H. Spurgeon
I hear two themes juxtaposed. In biblical theology it is a theme of people who love and fear God asking, “How can I better serve God?” In the Evangelical church, as product of our soft-sell evangelism, it is a theme of people who love themselves asking, “Why isn’t God serving me according to my expectations?”
In quiet time, I read of people in want joyfully praising God for His provision and blessing. When I leave the house, I encounter people (myself included), who want for nothing significant but are miserable and critical of God.
We sing worship and praise songs to and about an awesome sovereign God, who, must exist only until the final chord fades.
We have no need of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris to turn us into atheists. We in the United States are doing just fine deluding people into disillusion of belief in God† on our own using nothing more than the Evangelical theology of entitlement and our false intrinsic belief that God has somehow endorsed our godless pursuit of “The American Dream.”
† To my mind, this constitutes a double-negative. The delusion is becoming disillusioned of something that was never illusion. We don’t need the faulty logic of the neo-atheists. We do perfectly well on our own.
Why doesn’t it immediately strike us as the pinnacle of hubris and foolishness when we even begin to think in terms of “God fails”?
As always I thank God for this man and his ministry and for the insights and talent of expression he was given. Had I but heard and heeded sooner… perhaps… perhaps not. It is not as though God had not placed others in my life to prompt me to see that I refused to see.
“Sarah doesn’t cause me to be the way I am. She -reveals- the way I am. Therefore if my response is unloving it reveals an unresolved sin problem within me that can’t be blamed on her; and Sarah’s response is her responsibility, so if she response in a way that’s disrespectful, that’s her issue.
Think of it this way. A speck of sand in the human eye first causes irritation, right? And if not cared for, infection and if still not cared for, loss of vision. Now that same speck of sand in an oyster causes irritation then concretion and then produces what?… a pearl. Now, did the sand cause the eye to lose vision? Did the sand cause the oyster to produce a perl? No, the sand is an irritant that reveals the inner properties of the human eye. The sand is an irritant that reveals the inner properties of the oyster.
On the marital bus ride, your spouse is an irritant.… . They’re irritating you, but they’re revealing your inner properties. It’s as simple as that.
The sun in the sky melts the butter but it hardens the clay. How does the sun know to harden the clay and melt the butter. It doesn’t. The sun is a heat that is revealing the inner properties of the the butter, revealing the inner properties of the clay. The trials that Jesus went through; Did they cause Him to be the Son of God or did they -reveal- Him to be the Son of God.
The trials you and I are going through reveal who we are.” ~ Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
The Conclusion of Ransom’s Battle with God and Self, Perelandra, Ch 11
Whatever happened here would be of such a nature that earth-men would call it mythological. All this he had thought before. Now he knew it. The Presence in the darkness, never before so formidable, was putting these truths into his hands, like terrible jewels.
The voluble self was almost thrown out of its argumentative stride—became for some seconds as the voice of a mere whimpering child begging to be let off, to be allowed to go home. Then it rallied. It explained precisely where the absurdity of a physical battle with the Un-man lay. It would be quite irrelevant to the spiritual issue. If the Lady were to be kept in obedience only by the forcible removal of the Tempter, what was the use of that? What would it prove? And if the temptation were not a proving or testing, why was it allowed to happen at all? Did Maleldil suggest that our own world might have been saved if the elephant had accidentally trodden on the serpent a moment before Eve was about to yield? Was it as easy and as un-moral as that? The thing was patently absurd!
The terrible silence went on. It became more and more like a face, a face not without sadness, that looks upon you while you are telling lies, and never interrupts, but gradually you know that it knows, and falter, and contradict yourself, and lapse into silence. The voluble self petered out in the end, Almost the Darkness said to Ransom, “You know you are only wasting time.” Every minute it became clearer to him that the parallel he had tried to draw between Eden and Perelandra was crude and imperfect. What had happened on Earth, when Maleldil was born a man at Bethlehem, had altered the universe for ever. The new world of Perelandra was not a mere repetition of the old world Tellus. Maleldil never repeated Himself. As the Lady had said, the same wave never came twice. When Eve fell, God was not Man. He had not yet made men members of His body: since then He had, and through them henceforward He would save and suffer. One of the purposes for which He had done all this was to save Perelandra not through Himself but through Himself in Ransom. If Ransom refused, the plan, so far, miscarried. For that point in the story, a story far more complicated than he had conceived, it was he who had been selected. With a strange sense of “fallings from him, vanishings,” he perceived that you might just as well call Perelandra, not Tellus, the centre. You might look upon the Perelandrian story as merely an indirect consequence of the Incarnation on earth: or you might look on the Earth story as mere preparation for the new worlds of which Perelandra was the first. The one was neither more nor less true than the other. Nothing was more or less important than anything else, nothing was a copy or model of anything else.
At the same time he also perceived that his voluble self had begged the question. Up to this point the Lady had repelled her assailant. She was shaken and weary, and there were some stains perhaps in her imagination, but she had stood. In that respect the story already differed from anything that he certainly knew about the mother of our own race. He did not know whether Eve had resisted at all, or if so, for how long. Still less did he know how the story would have ended if she had. If the “serpent” had been foiled, and returned the next day, and the next … what then? Would the trial have lasted for ever? How would Maleldil have stopped it? Here on Perelandra his own intuition had been not that no temptation must occur but that “This can’t go on.” This stopping of a third-degree solicitation, already more than once refused, was a problem to which the terrestrial Fall offered no clue—a new task, and for that new task a new character in the drama, who appeared (most unfortunately) to be himself. In vain did his mind hark back, time after time, to the Book of Genesis, asking “What would have happened?” But to this it brought him back to the here and the now, and to the growing certainty of what was here and now demanded. Almost he felt that the words “would have happened” were meaningless—mere invitations to wander in what the Lady would have called an “alongside world” which had no reality. Only the actual was real: and every actual situation was new. Here in Perelandra the temptation would be stopped by Ransom, or if would not be stopped at all. The Voice—for it was almost with a Voice that he was now contending—seemed to create around this alternative an infinite vacancy. This chapter, this page, this very sentence, in the cosmic story was utterly and eternally itself; no other passage that had occurred or ever would occur could be substituted for it.
“It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom,” said the Voice.
And he knew that this was no fancy of his own. He knew it for a very curious reason—because he had known for many years that his surname was derived not from ransom but from Randolf’s son. It would never have occurred to him thus to associate the two words. To connect the name Ransom with the act of ransoming would have been for him a mere pun. But even his voluble self did not now dare to suggest that the Voice was making a play upon words. All in a moment of time he perceived that what was, to human philologists, a mere accidental resemblance of two sounds, was in truth no accident. The whole distinction between things accidental and things designed, like the distinction between fact and myth, was purely terrestrial. The pattern is so large that within the little frame of earthly experience there appear pieces of it between which we can see no connection, and other pieces between which we can. Hence we rightly, for our use, distinguish the accidental from the essential. But step outside that frame and the distinction drops down into the void, fluttering useless wings. He had been forced out of the frame, caught up into the larger pattern. He knew now why the old philosophers had said that there is no such thing as chance or fortune beyond the Moon. Before his Mother had borne him, before his ancestors had been called Ransoms, before ransom had been the name for a payment that delivers, before the world was made, all these things had so stood together in eternity that the very significance of the pattern at this point lay in their coming together in just this fashion. And he bowed his head and groaned and repined against his fate—to be still a man and yet to be forced up into the metaphysical world, to enact what philosophy only thinks.
“My name also is Ransom,” said the Voice.
It was some time before the purport of this saying dawned upon him. He whom the other worlds call Maleldil, was the world’s ransom, his own ransom, well he knew. But to what purpose was it said now? Before the answer came to him he felt its insufferable approach and held out his arms before him as if he could keep it from forcing open the door of his mind. But it came. So that was the real issue. If he now failed, this world also would hereafter be redeemed. If he were not the ransom, Another would be. Yet nothing was ever repeated. Not a second crucifixion: perhaps—who knows—not even a second Incarnation…some act of even more appalling love, some glory of yet deeper humility. For he had seen already how the pattern grows and how from each world it sprouts into the next through some other dimension. The small external evil which Satan had done in Malacandra was only as a line: the deeper evil he had done in Earth was as a square: if Venus fell, her evil would be a cube—her Redemption beyond conceiving. Yet redeemed she would be. He had long known that great issues hung on his choice; but as he now realised the true width of the frightful freedom that was being put into his hands—a width to which all merely spatial infinity seemed narrow—he felt like a man brought out under naked heaven, on the edge of a precipice, into the teeth of a wind that came howling from the role. He had pictured himself, till now, standing before the Lord, like Peter. But it was worse. He sat before Him like Pilate. It lay with him to save or to spill. His hands had been reddened, as all men’s hands have been, in the slaying before the foundation of the world; now, if he chose, he would dip them again in the same blood. “Mercy,” he groaned; and then, “Lord, why not me?” But there was no answer.
The thing still seemed impossible. But gradually something happened to him which had happened to him only twice before in his life. It had happened once while he was trying to make up his mind to do a very dangerous job in the last war. It had happened again while he was screwing his resolution to go and see a certain man in London and make to him an excessively embarrassing confession which justice demanded. In both cases the thing had seemed a sheer impossibility: he had not thought but known that, being what he was, he was psychologically incapable of doing it; and then, without any apparent movement of the will, as objective and unemotional as the reading on a dial, there had arisen before him, with perfect certitude, the knowledge ‘about this time tomorrow you will have done the impossible’. The same thing happened now. His fear, his shame, his love, all his arguments, were not altered in the least. The thing was neither more nor less dreadful than it had been before. The only difference was that he knew—almost as a historical proposition—that it was going to be done. He might beg, weep, or rebel—might curse or adore—sing like a martyr or blaspheme like a devil. It made not the slightest difference. The thing was going to be done. There was going to arrive, in the course of time, a moment at which he would have done it. The future act stood there, fixed and unalterable as if he had already performed it. It was a mere irrelevant detail that it happened to occupy the position we call future instead of that which we call past. The whole struggle was over, and yet there seemed to have been no moment of victory. You might say, if you liked, that the power of choice had been simply set aside and an inflexible destiny substituted for it. On the other hand, you might say that he had been delivered from the rhetoric of his passions and had emerged into unassailable freedom. Ransom could not, for the life of him, see any difference between these two statements. Predestination and freedom were apparently identical. He could no longer see any meaning in the many arguments he had heard on this subject.
No sooner had he discovered that he would certainly try to kill the Un-man tomorrow than the doing of it appeared to him a smaller matter than he had supposed. He could hardly remember why he had accused himself of megalomania when the idea first occurred to him. It was true that if he left it undone, Maleldil Himself would do some greater thing instead. In that sense, he stood for Maleldil: but no more than Eve would have stood for Him by simply not eating the apple, or than any man stands for Him in doing any good action. As there was no comparison in person, so there was none in suffering—or only such comparison as may be between a man who burns his finger putting out a spark and a fireman who loses his life in fighting a conflagration because that spark was not put out. He asked no longer ‘Why me?’ It might as well be he as another. It might as well be any other choice as this. The fierce light which he had seen resting on this moment of decision rested in reality on all.
“I have cast your Enemy into sleep,” said the Voice. “He will not wake till morning. Get up. Walk twenty paces back into the wood; there sleep. Your sister sleeps also.”
— Clive Staples Lewis, Perelandra, Chapter 11, 1943 [Emphasis mine]
Quoted here without permission. As such I hope it may inspire to buy a copy and read it in its entirety. This text is copyright: Smarmy Turtlenecked Traitor, The C.S. Lewis Co. Ltd. First Floor, Unit 4, Old Generator House, Bourne Valley Road, Poole, Dorset, BH12 1DZ, Tel: 01202 765652, Fax: 01202 765665
I read this over the phone to me mum the on Sept 4th with much explanation to help her understand why I was leaning towards ‘Ransom’ as a middle-name when I finally legally change my surname. I couldn’t get through it, without stopping several times for sobbing. This triggers in me many of the same strong feelings as does Reepichieep’s “Sweet! Sweet!” or the prompting, “Further up! Further in!”. “My name is also Ransom.” Every time I read it it hits me harder than the time before. There are a few other for which the same has been true: God’s Chisel, The Birdcage, Erin Fede’s version of The Lifehouse “Everything” Drama, and the original version.
I’ll not spoil it further by adding my own ponderings other than to say that my love for Lewis for his giftings grows continually deeper. He has “made me older” on so much that is truly important. Each time I read him, whether fiction or non, I feel as though I am sitting at the feet of the wise old Don and drinking deeply of great draughts of nourishing and bolstering drink. In turn I am filled with gratitude to God for His gift of this man who passed 10 years before I was given life.
I was looking for this passage in order to quote it elsewhere and stumbled into a bit of extra blessing in the context of where I found it, a blog article titled “A Sonnet kind of life” written by Joanne Heim for her site, The Simple Wife.
“How can I explain it to you? Oh, I know. In your language you have a form of poetry called the sonnet.”
“Yes, yes,” Calvin said impatiently. “What’s that got to do with the Happy Medium?”
“Kindly pay me the courtesy of listening to me.” Mrs. Whatsit’s voice was stern, and for a moment Calvin stopped pawing the ground like a nervous colt. “It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?”
“There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That’s a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?”
“Yes.” Calvin nodded.
“And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?”
“But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn’t he?”
“Yes.” Calvin nodded again.
“So,” Mrs. Whatsit said.
“Oh, do not be stupid, boy!” Mrs. Whatsit scolded.” You know perfectly well what I am driving at!”
“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?”
“Yes.” Mrs. Whatsit said. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”
— Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, Kairos
Of this quote she wrote,“Once more, I’m faced with the idea of freedom within boundaries. Of the inside being bigger than the outside. Of being bound to be free… …Boundaries. Time, place. Finances, family. Skills, talents. Energy, resources. The strict form that makes up my life. Your life. The structure that surrounds us, that contains us. That protects us. That shapes us. But absolute freedom within that structure.”
Madeleine L’Engle may be suspect in many areas of theology (I have a talent for understatement), but I appreciate her grasp of this essential concept of the Christian life, or more generally, the life of one who recognizes, acknowledges, and tries to honor the Sovereign God of the universe. We have the freedom to choose what is most important in our lives and the freedom for that choice to be God, His Glory, His instruction, and a very great promise if we make the choice to reject sin and put our faith in Him. It brings to mind the words of Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” In a world that rages against boundaries and limits, who “Believe that taboos are taboo”, which rebels against even the impersonal limits imposed by common sense, physics, and reality, it’s nice to be able to illustrate with such simple compelling clarity why there is freedom in obedience.
This message given by Paul Washer to the Way of the Master Conference really speaks to a lot of the things that have been on my heart and mind recently, and it echos very closely a statement of Ravi Zacharias that first put some of these thoughts into focus for me.
But the more you depend upon the arm of the flesh, and the more churches attempt to grow, not by being biblical, but finding the latest thing to appeal to the greatest number of people, as long as we are doing that we will never see the power of God.
And the church, in its desire to become relevant, makes itself look like a fool in the midst of its enemies.
The church today in America looks like a 6-Flags-Over-Jesus; because if you draw people, using carnal means, you will have to keep people using carnal means.
John is close to the end of his Journey; a journey physical, mental, and spiritual. All the experiences, refinements, inputs and guidance; good, bad, evil, senseless, sound, are culminating into a true realization of the nature and person of “The Landlord” and his relationship to Him. It finally takes just one more bit of input, a tiny catalyst of truth for it to crystallize into true, profound, and complete knowledge.
He had been willing to trust God to aid him when he cried out for help, but not to trust Him enough to surrender control.
How like that we all are. We cannot have it both ways.
‘I suppose you have found me out. Perhaps I did not fully mean to keep them — not all — or not all the time. And yet, in a way, I think I did. It is like a thorn in your finger, sir. You know when you set about taking it out yourself — you mean to get it out — you know it will hurt — and it does hurt — but somehow it is not very serious business — well, I suppose, because you feel that you always could stop if it was very bad. Not that you intend to stop. But it is a very different thing to hold your hand out to a surgeon to be hurt as much as he thinks fit. And at his speed.’
I need to make this gel and cohere in my own life and figure out how to move forward positively in such a way as to have it always affect my thinking and doing. This applies to so many of my own personal struggles. I am determined to rely on my own gumption and understanding to overcome my vices and addictions because I don’t want to give over control to the surgeon. I want to retain the ability to stop if I chose. I know friends in their same own lonely, lamely listing coracle in an endless sea.
The portion If its help is not a metaphor, neither are its commands., serves as absolute conviction of prosperity gospel and the social gospel I’ve heard preached in post-modern churches. You cannot preach a wonderful happy warm-fuzzy God who wants you to have joy and peace and happiness w/o also acknowledging that this selfsame God has also made requirements of us. Imperatives we cannot ignore. We cannot have it both ways.
Originally posted to Facebook July 27, 2011 at 3:43pm
The popular hymn “In Christ Alone” won’t appear in the new hymnal of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) because hymn writers Keith Getty and Stuart Townend refused to change the lyrics.
Mary Louise Bringle, who chairs the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Songs, writes in “The Christian Century” that some committee members objected to the line that says, “On that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”
She says they asked Getty and Townend if the lyric could be changed to say “the love of God was magnified.”
The hymn writers wouldn’t allow it.
Getty has said they wrote “In Christ Alone” to tell “the whole gospel.”
Bringle writes that most committee members didn’t want the new Presbyterian hymnal to suggest that Jesus’ death on the cross was an atoning sacrifice that was needed “to assuage God’s anger” over sin.
Outstanding. I appreciate their holding firm even though it means loss of royalties and exposure. Hard choice and they put faith over other considerations. How does dc Talk put it? “Is this one for the people? Is this one for the Lord? Or do I simply serenade for things I must afford? You can jumble them together. My conflict still remains, holiness is calling In the midst of courting fame.”
I only recently became aware of the debate over “removal of wrath”, propitiation and expiation, and so on and so forth. I haven’t even grasped the scope of the positions, the terminologies, and I haven’t yet even begun to understand the arguments people put forth, but I am motivated to explore it. For now, I remain firm in belief that Christ died to satisfy our debt and remove God’s wrath from us.
First impressions are that this whole issue is going to end up in the box I’m keeping of doctrines that have led to the present-day church that creates false-converts and feels that the gospel needs to be given a facelift to make it more palatable… that has led to Word of Faith teaching, Prosperity Gospel, Sales Pitch Evangelism, and the Buddy Jesus. First impressions are only useful if they lead to refinement and second and third and eventually firm impressions.
I just don’t understand the mentality that struggles with the idea of an awesome God who is holy and thus capable of anger, wrath, punishment, correction, saying ‘no’, taking away privileges, and judging sin from obedience. What an awesome God, worthy of worship! It makes His love for us all the more fantastic and worthwhile and joy-provoking… He keeps reaching down to us and giving us chances to become obedient instead of writing us off as a bad job. The scope of this blows my mind… He created an entire universe for us. He created us. He created a garden and in order to give us true free-will, gave us only one instruction to which we must be obedient… and we did not, and thousands of years have now passed with example after example of His trying to redeem us and give us another chance to be obedient… If He were to tally the bill for all the redemptions of all the Gomers across all the years and put that quantity of silver and barley on the surface of the earth, I suspect we’d be nudging the moon out of orbit before the accounting even reached the birth of Christ.
Hooray, Living Waters has weighed in!
Beginning July 31, 2013 — Work in Progress.
And it begins. It hit me this morning that the only way to get this done was to start. Then I had a clever bit of insight which I repeated in my head several times to make certain that I wouldn’t forget it before getting to a computer to write it down. I’ve forgotten what it was. Utterly.
And yes, something that will only fill half a page will be something that requires me to write out random thoughts as I have them and slowly grow the product. This is not prose… it is random rambling, outpouring of heart that hopefully may be refined later into something of significance… because that’s my story… a process of refining to become something that may be of some significance…while slowly realizing that I have always been significant… to God.
One thing I do remember was that the urge to write it out came to me while listening to a Living Waters podcast “Welcome to the Most Annoying Hour on Radio”. They were discussing some British pastors who were big in the Emergent Church movement and breaking down those pastor’s responses to interview questions about what makes for a good sermon and such. The one thing that was thematic throughout was that the EC pastors were all about ‘me’. They were the sort to like the quote, “Preach the gospel always, if necessary, use words.” [From memory, I’ll get it proper later when I have more time]. Todd “Freakishly Tall” Freil really turned the light of clear thinking on this phrase and identify it as “Me” based… He was clear that it should be words, the gospel first, and then our lives to support our words.
So… that made me wonder… A personal testimony. Is that not a “Me” spreading of the gospel? I don’t know. I’m not going to ponder it right now… I’m going to write out my testimony, and if at some point I firm up one way or the other, I’ll either share or not share my testimony, or share my testimony only after I’ve shared the gospel… or something…
I think my thought that I cannot remember was something to the effect of opening with a question such as, “Does this personal testimony -have- to be some engaging tale of a life of unrepentant sin and pain and then a come to Jesus moment (complete with date, time, location and what one was wearing at the time), and then a tale of a life changed, or would someone find it just as honest and engaging to hear a story of a person who was blessed to be born into the faith… a person who epitomizes Romans 3:23… a person who, is a sinner and has had the truth all along but has always warred between his sin-nature and the sanctification of being in faithful relationship with God? Is that not more truly a tale that everyone can relate to… even those who don’t know God and will have, or do and have had a Come-to-Jesus experience? Do not those experiences fall entirely within this venn diagram? I think I want my testimony to focus on a life being refined… of growth and backsliding, of sin and repentance of a God who keeps taking me back and a life that I believe is growing in the right direction… I am a stubborn arrogant intractable guy who trusts in himself and takes FOREVER to be shown something and repeated beatings about the head and neck to get my attention and maybe whap a few new bits of truth in… and those bits often have to be whapped in several times before they get absorbed within. If Philippians 1:6 is my most personally significant verse, then wouldn’t that be the story of the truth of that verse? God’s story of love and patience and redemption and grace was spread out over 66 books and generations of Jews… my life is simply a condensed version of the same story… falling away, coming back on my knees, being taken in, growing a bit, growing complacent, getting distracted, falling away or getting my thinking out of whack, coming back, repenting, being taken in, being broken, being grown, falling away.… I’m finally to the point where I think I may be -glad- that I don’t have a “Dreadfully-dying, Application/acceptance of wonder-drug, healing and health” story. I struggled with not having one and wondering, “How can someone who was blessed to be fed truth with his bottle possibly have a story that someone who has never been fed that truth is able to relate to and feel impacted?” I think I’ve just realized… what about all those people who are lost who aren’t going to have the Come-to-Jesus/Road to Damascus/Moment of Clarity… It seems there are more of them than the other… what if my story is one that a ragamuffin who realizes his brokenness and emptiness and that he’s incapable of finding the right way on his own, hears the story/offer, ponders, and then, in a quiet moment… not even sure exactly when, comes to Christ on his knees, broken and contrite and begs forgiveness and sincerely repents… so aware of his depravity that he almost can’t accept the gift that’s offered because he knows that justice is for him to die and to him the moment is not about receiving salvation, but finally comeing to the end of himself, dropping the self-lies and the excuses, and humbling himself before God… he would take the death if only he could know that, just before punishment was meted out, that he had found forgiveness and approval from his heavenly father… he would die to have it… quietly… While Angels REJOICE in all the heavens that yet another pilgrim has come to the foot of the cross and laid down his burden… and for that, he is picked up off his face and embraced and brought into God’s family, into fellowship, made clean, sanctified, endowed with the promise of everlasting life with his heavenly father and the sanctifying seal of and indwelling by the Holy Spirit… all to continue the journey onward from the cross… a journey that may only slowly begin to look different as refining begins.
For the first time I feel, “I can do this.” “I have something worthwhile to offer.” I always have, but I had to realize it. I’m stoked… but I’m also at the point of weeping after gushing out the previous into words. I need to get back to work… but I want to come back to this. Want to refine, define. But I also really want to read A Pilgrim’s Progress and let Bunyan again show me how incredible my story is… the story of every Christian who ever was. Show me and once again put it on my heart not to take it for granted, not to think that I’ve arrived, to trust God and not myself, to press onwards.
Pop-culture has given; Post-modernist Christians have taken.
— Christian M. Cepel
It’s recently been the focus of David Platt and Ray Comfort et. al., that we use the phrase, “Invite Jesus into your heart.”, and they suggest that the phrase and concept isn’t scriptural. It’s a great metaphor that helps understanding of the relationship we begin when we repent with contrition and acknowledge Christ as Lord and savior and accept the gift of salvation.
Legalism? Or something to contemplate when we choose our words when explaining the gospel? What biblical language would fill the role if it were to be retired?
Part of this concern is in response to a change in how we explain/spread the gospel in the “Evangelical” Christian Church that’s occurred over the last half-century or so that Ray and others believe has actually resulted in a great many false-converts who, instead of becoming Christians with contrite repentance and sincere giving of Lordship to Jesus Christ, are instead becoming inoculated against ever making such a conversion/repentance/confession of faith. I see direct links to this giving rise to Prosperity Gospel, Word of Faith teaching, and the Emergent Church movement where folks like Rob Bell of Mars Hill write books explaining that there really is no such thing as Hell.
“I’m not talking about Hellfire Preaching. Hellfire Preaching will produce Fear-Filled converts. Using God’s law will produce Tear-Filled converts.” — Ray Comfort “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” @43:47
Are our words really so very important? I was unconvinced at first, but over the last month, I’ve really begun to ponder that question and become convinced that in trying to reach people and make Christianity palatable and ‘hip’, we’ve watered down the gospel to something perhaps less strong than the proverbial church punch/lemon-aid.
This definitely qualifies as ponderings and wonderings as I don’t know where I stand entirely, let alone what to do about it once I do.
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
— Annie J. Flint — 1866–1932
Today represents possibly the third or fourth time I’ve heard Ravi Zacharias quote this hymn, and in his usual manner, I find his delivery [ listen ] to give prose far greater impact than when I render with my own phrasing when reading or reciting. He included this in part two of his most recent Let My People Think message, “What answer for the wicked human heart?”. Pt 1, Pt 2
Is the gospel relevant to the heart of someone today, or must it be made relevant with pithy gritty angst, a rock-concert atmosphere, and the Holy Spirit riding the back of the mega-church smoke machines?
I discovered that I have a mailbox at church last week, or rather that the A/V Ministry does. This is apparently a fixture established for two reasons. The first is for the member [dearly loved] of the congregation who reminds me nearly every week that our 87dB worship service is too loud and prohibitive to worship. I found a collection of photocopied journal articles and even journals themselves with bits circled and notes paper-clipped to pages outlining the dangers of exposure to heavy sound pressure levels. *chuckle* I feel bad because there were some contributions that had sat there languishing unread for a long while. The second purpose is to serve as a place to stick all the adverts and catalogs from sound/lighting/video/production suppliers.
In perusing the pages of these full-color glossy tomes, I ran across testimonials from churches that had been helped by the catalog’s company. It was apparent that the answer to these questions was indeed, ‘yes’. The photos from these installs showed booths and stages that a pop-recording mega-artist and their sound-tech would feel quite at home within when performing.
I am a creature of ADD extremes, flights of fancy, bursts of strong (sometimes unwarranted, oftentimes inadvisable) emotion. I know this. God knows this. My friends and family bless me (Thank you. I love you. Thank you God) with an attitude similar to that which we Missourians express towards our capricious weather… “If you don’t like it, wait five minutes.” That’s not to say that I’m an untethered kite being blown by a storm with no emotional/intellectual anchor. Quite the contrary… I just have a heart that rushes on ahead and a mind that labors to catch it up and remind it that has again run away without a prayer consult, and left all the notes and lessons learned behind, sitting uselessly in a discarded backpack. The tether and the anchor are there, there’s just a regrettable amount of slack in the line that usually runs-out with a semi-painful ‘snap’.
I had a few hours of personal crisis. Despair, disgust, sorrow. I just wanted to turn in my monitoring phones along with my 2 weeks notice. This lasted, fortunately, only a few hours, before reason reasserted itself and I was able to view my own goals to repair, expand, and otherwise meet the modest ‘needs’ of our Sunday service, with a peaceful confidence that our answers to those questions, if asked, would be a simple, ‘no’, and if ever we stray into that mentality, we have only to reevaluate and tell ourselves ‘no’.
It helped to have the clear words of Ravi Zacharais from a few days earlier to remind me that the people that I turn to and trust for good teaching and insight into matters of faith aren’t caught up in this troublesome church mindset/trend:
The Lord’s affirmation of the physical and spiritual tells me there’s a place for my body to be used rightly… and there’s a place for my spiritual depth… and when those two converge, you’ve found the beauty of worship. You’ve found it. …and a church that thinks we can only worship if we get ourselves all hyped-up in music is an extreme. It’s not going to work. What you win them with is what you win them to.
Here’s the bottom line I want to make for you: The rationalist had an angle at truth. The Existentialist had an angle at truth. The Empiricist had an angle at truth. The problem was in taking this single line, they blocked off all the others… and the church that only goes for the intellect is going to send out dry people… that only goes for emotion… is going to send people bouncing around with no mind. You’ve got to bring all of these realities and converge into a composite whole. That’s what the Christian ought to do best in this world.”
— Ravi Zacharias, “Engaging Cultures with Conversations that Count, part 2″ @15:39 Previous Article
David Platt described his realization thus in his book “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream”
“The youngest megachurch pastor in history.”
While I would dispute that claim it was nonetheless the label given to me when I went to pastor a large, thriving church in the Deep South — the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. From the first day I was immersed in strategies for making the church bigger and better. Authors I respect greatly would make statements such as, “Decide how big you want your church to be, and go for it, whether that’s five, ten, or twenty thousand members.” Soon my name was near the top of the list of pastors of the fastest-growing U.S. churches. There I was… living out the American church dream.
But I found myself becoming uneasy. For one thing, my model in ministry is a guy who spent the majority of his ministry time with twelve men. A guy who, when he left this earth, had only about 120 people who were actually sticking around and doing what he told them to do. More like a minichurch, really. Jesus Christ — the youngest minichurch pastor in history.
So how was I to reconcile the fact that I was now pastoring thousands of people with the fact that my greatest example in ministry was known for turning away thousands of people? Whenever the crowd got big, he’d say something such as “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Not exactly the sharpest church-growth tactic. I can almost picture the looks on the disciples’ faces. “No, not the drink-my-blood speech! We’ll never get on the list of the fastest growing movements if you keep asking them to eat you.”
By the end of that speech, all the crowds had left, and only twelve men remained. Jesus apparently wasn’t interested in marketing himself to the masses. His invitations to potential followers were clearly more costly than the crowds were ready to accept and he seemed to be okay with that. He focused instead on the few who believed him when he said radical things. And through their radical obedience to him, he turned the course of history in a new direction.
Soon I realized I was on a collision course with an American church culture where success is defined by bigger crowds, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings. I was now confronted with a startling reality: Jesus actually spurned the things that my church culture said were the most important. So what was I to do?
I’m still troubled, but I think that’s a good thing. As Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “We have cause to be uneasy.” and ” And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”. I want to stay uneasy. I don’t want to fall asleep. I want, at the very least, when I get excited and think, “This would be so cool for our sound system.” to ever have a voice that reminds me to ask myself (and God), if the Gospel needs my tech, or even my technique. Am I helping, or would I help more just by getting out of the way?
“The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” — Brennan Manning
The Lord’s affirmation of the physical and spiritual tells me there’s a place for my body to be used rightly… and there’s a place for my spiritual depth… and when those two converge, you’ve found the beauty of worship. You’ve found it. …and a church that thinks we can only worship if we get ourselves all hyped-up in music is an extreme. It’s not going to work. What you win them with is what you win them to.
Here’s the bottom line I want to make for you: The Rationalist had an angle at truth. The Existentialist had an angle at truth. The Empiricist had an angle at truth. The problem was in taking this single line, they blocked off all the others… and the church that only goes for the intellect is going to send out dry people… that only goes for emotion… is going to send people bouncing around with no mind. You’ve got to bring all of these realities and converge into a composite whole. That’s what the Christian ought to do best in this world.”
— Ravi Zacharias, “Engaging Cultures with Conversations that Count, part 2” @15:39
“To give truth to him who loves it not is but to give him more multiplied reasons [plentiful material] for misinterpretation.”
George MacDonald, Minister, poet, and novelist (1824 — 1905)
I am coming to believe that this quote suffers from the same symptoms with which Jim Elliot’s “He is no fool” quote is beset, in that there are many variations floating around out there and little to suggest which has greater veracity. Another possibility is that the author may have communicated, in print or person, the same meaningful phrase multiple times and perhaps not the same way every time. The first time I heard Ravi Zacharias relate this quotation it was with the “more multiplied reasons” wording and that remains my favorite, but I’ve subsequently heard him quote it as “more plentiful reasons” and so I am left in doubt if one or the other is really more accurate. Searching the interwebs I find both versions in similar abundance.