Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Approach, my soul, the Mercy Seat

“You should tell the devil “Just by telling me that I am a miserable, great sinner you are placing a sword and a weapon into my hand with which I can decisively overcome you; yea, with your own weapon I can kill and floor you.

For if you tell me that I am a poor sinner, I, on the other hand, can tell you that Christ dies for sinners and is their Intercessor… You remind me of the boundless, great faithfulness and benefaction of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The burden of my sins and all the trouble and misery that were to oppress me eternally He very gladly took upon His shoulders and suffered the bitter death on the cross for them.

To Him I direct you. You may accuse and condemn Him. Let me rest in peace, for on His shoulders, not on mine, lie all my sins and the sins of all the world.”

--Martin Luther

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Wanna see something scary?

The quote below is an excerpt from a book I recommend everyone read at some point and time. I think of these paragraphs as a "depth guage", so I ask the question: "where are we now in the age of so-called 'Post-modernism'?"

"Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their au­tonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would be­come a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a triv­ial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distrac­tions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflict­ing pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us."

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Penguin, 1985.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

a muse

O Scholarly Pen!
(Where to begin?)
Touching your lips to the dry desert page,
Caressing that plane,
A dance not in vain,
Swirling true art from the mind.

O Unlearned Keys!
(who credits these?)
Standing in rows on old bleachers like troops.
A-fiction romance
and diction, no dance,
Stamping the mark from the hand.

O Sapient tyro*!
(how will you go?)
Seeking to eat from the table of lore.
A home-sculptured meal,
Or “a fast-food deal”?
Glean from the ones who take time!

"[T]hat's what learning has come to nowadays. The Latin language is hardly understood, Hebrew is unknown and Greek is so little esteemed that it is not considered ignorant for even the most learned men to pass over a Greek word without reading it." -- Victor Hugo

* an interesting word referring to a student in general, implying the kind of student he is: ignorant or learned. That he is "sapient" suggests he is "learned."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

thinking through

"There are two selves: one that reacts to circumstances; the other responding from God to the situation." These words open a study on depression and despair. This is an intriguing thought as it exposes one of the most unique wonders of the universe found in man that will not be found in any other place or event in nature, namely that man can exist as two separate beings when he is only one. This is found in the statement "there are two selves"--by definition, man should not be able to exist in two selves simultaneously, yet he does. The book of James (in so many words) gives examples of how this strange phenomenon of works out in mankind.

James begins right at the heart of the issue: temptation. Man has a choice of responses to temptation that he will go through--when it is set before him he cannot do anything but experience it. Man has a choice in his experience of temptation: he can either be joyful because the endurance of the temptation (and non-submittal to it) will produce patience and a perfect work from God, even the opportunity to ask wisdom of God and attain such positive reinforcement for his life. On the other hand, one can succumb to the temptation and through lust conceive sin. So the result is reaction to circumstances could in effect be either the blessing of righteousness or sin. One cannot see much of man's dilemma here but at least one can see the start.

In chapter 3 James points to universally impossible situations. "Does a fountain send forth at the same hole the sweet and the bitter? Can the fig tree, my brothers, bear olive berries; or a vine, figs? So no fountain can yield both salt water and fresh." (James 3:11-12). But with a tongue man does the impossible. James 3:8 says "But no one can tame the tongue, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." Now, what can one do with this? By this we bless God, even the Father. And by this we curse men, who have come into being according to the image of God. Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so."

I have been trying to teach my family good practices of the stewardship of God's provisions and one vehicle of this stewardship is the practice of recycling. Each time a container is emptied I encourage them to see it finds the proper receptacle. One container that cannot be recycled is a bleach container. What can one do a container for poison? It certainly cannot be used again and must be destroyed. How is it that the tongue can be full of evil and deadly poison and curse men one moment, yet be used to bless God in another (James 3:9)? Man does the impossible!

Ray Stedman describes what this kind of living looks like by showing how one handles the passing euphoria of the high-points of the Christian life. On one hand, one may experience the habits of the former life swinging back into practice and the newly learned disciplines of Bible study and prayer become neglected to the point that "conversion" becomes forgotten. Some may wonder if they were ever truly saved. On the other hand, one may become aware of his sin and rebellion and "is frightened by the thought of regressing to what he was before, and casts himself in repentance and frustration upon the Lord anew . . ." in a cycle of rededications that becomes the acceptable norm. Stedman points to the middle of extremes where one:

It is possible to avoid the pain of humiliation of repentance and renewal by maintaining an outward facade of spiritual commitment, moral impeccability, and orthodox behavior. In so doing he can preserve a reputation for spiritual growth and maturity that is satisfying to the ego and seems to gain much in the way of opportunities for service and the commendation of the Christian community. Such a Christian life-style is prevalent around and so little condemned that the new Christian can hardly be blamed for adopting it and regarding it as the expected thing. He drifts into it with scarcely a pang, little realizing that it is a total fraud, s shabby imitation of the real thing. To him hypocrisy is a deliberate attempt to deceive others, and his own commitment to the doctrine, moral standards, and practice of Christianity is deep and sincere. But in reality he is a hypocrite . . .#

None of these are descriptive of what many would call "the normal Christian life" or "the victorious Christian life."

When I think of all that man faces and all he responds to and all that man is, I cannot help but remember that man is either in the flesh or he is in the spirit; he is governed by the law of the Sprit and life or he is dead in the spirit and flesh. When we read a statement such as "there are two selves" one must realize how a statement like this tries to rescue man from himself and to once again, do the impossible; that is, exist in two selves simultaneously. A statement as this says "man's problem is the situation and one must chose to respond to the situation through this avenue or that, by a wrong reaction from the flesh or by a right response from God." This only a partial truth. This is much like the practice of sweeping a floor. One sweeps to be rid of dirt. In Africa one will quickly learn that sweeping a floor can have two purposes: to be rid of dirt or to decorate it. If one lives in a house with dirt floors one will not sweep to clean up the dirt but will with the broom move the dirt around to form intricate patterns that decorate the interior. One way of living want to remove the dirt while another only moves it. The fact is: the dirt remains.

Perhaps one would better be helped by stepping back away from self and the situation to see from God's perspective. Chuck Swindoll stated that life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I respond to it. While it remains true that God is sovereign and controls everything, much of what happens to which we must respond is the result of our own actions under His providence. If there are two selves, “one that reacts to circumstances; the other responding from God to the situation" one of those “selves” is responsible to have produced the very situation of consternation. We do not sit idly by and let life and all it contains roll over us. We are partially responsible to what happens in the course of life.

In the late 1970’s a dam broke on the campus of Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Georgia and many lives were lost on that dark and stormy night. While it is true that an entire lake emptied itself over that 186 foot drop and down the channels right through campus and many people that night met their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through death, it was not the night nor the cold nor the water that caused their deaths. Most people died by what was in the water--the wreckage of homes and vehicles that accumulated and crashed on downstream right through the married student housing. Much of the damage that occurs in life about which we cry to God for help and deliverance is caused by our own contribution to the stream. Put simply, “you reap what you sow.”#

Recently I was shocked when my children brought home a flyer from church. The content of the flyer pointed out that parents are good at collecting material on parenting but read it little and now these materials sit on the shelves unused. What can be done to save the family? Spend $7.00 for new year-long guide for the family to use that keeps Bible verses in the four main viewing areas of life: driving time, eating time, recreation and bedtime. While I was thinking about the opening statement of the flyer, my wife shrugged and said, “how about saving a few dollars and just read the Bible regularly as a family.”

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