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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Randoms

An Application for Dating My Daughter.  Well, I could have used this twice already, but at least I still have one more chance . . .

Ah!  Here's a great question: "how much does a hurricane weigh?"  The answer is astounding . . . but remember, this could not have come about through the work of a Creator--it happened by chance!

"If the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Galatia had been published in Christianity Today how would it be received by those who read that magazine? Well, what follows are the letters from readers in response to Paul’s inspired Epistle."

Are you schizophonetic?  Spend seven minutes watching this fascinating presentation on the way noise may be affecting our mental health.  There may actually be another reason for wind, water and birds . . .



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Partnerships Announced

Columbia International University is joining hands with other passionate, Christ-centered organizations. Through these partnerships we can accomplish more as together we impact the nations with the message of Christ.

Columbia International University is pleased to announce their new partnership with Ambassadors For Christ!  Having similar mission and values, Ambassadors For Christ and CIU will work together to train and send people to the nations with the message of Christ.


Ambassadors For Christ is called by God, in cooperation with local churches, to evangelize and disciple Chinese students and professionals in the United States and other parts of the world, to motivate and equip them to impact the culture for the Lord, and to mobilize and channel them into the service of Christ as a vital force for God's Kingdom. Organizations like Ambassadors For Christ draw servants with a heart for the Lord and a desire to serve Him; it will be our great privilege to train them for the service to which they are called.

A partnership with Ambassadors For Christ means any employee or their dependent in the agency receives a 35% tuition reduction for any course at any time of the year, with the exception of doctoral level courses. It applies to any employee of Ambassadors For Christ, state side or overseas.

Other partnerships include:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Photo blog: RCPL

This photoblog is a repost from 2008. These pictures were taken from the center of our downtown Richland County Public Library, looking up (or down) the escalator corridor. This place just demands to be photographed!














Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding Favor with God

The god of this world has been at hard at work capturing man’s allegiance, driving the wedge of alienation deeper between man and God through a living faith that cannot agree “on who God is, what He is like, how man should relate to Him or the dimensions of the supernatural world” (Steyne, Philip. In Step With The God of the Nations). There is no peace of mind, no certainty of anything but fear. Theological exchanges (even those on the street) sound like grade school children, “my god can beat up your god.” How does “yeah well, my god . . .” work in an age of tolerance and so-called reconciliation when there clearly is no basis for either?

If there is a God, how is He to be approached? Do we fall on our knees, or grovel? Should we lick the dust at his feet?

What should I do with my hands: lift them up, stretch them out, place them on my head or clasp them behind?

How is He pleased? What and how much am I supposed to bring into His presence?
What am I guaranteed because of what I believe? What is safe?

The problem with trying to do things in order to earn favor with God is that “doing” is bribery, which means man has created for himself a god lower than he. Man has offended God by breaking His moral laws and bribery makes the judge worse than the criminal. So what kind of God is He, really?

Dr. John MacArthur skillfully and beautifully presents a summary of the first three chapters of Romans by borrowing a scene from classic literature: “In the Iliad of Homer, the great Trojan warrior, Hector, was preparing to fight Achilles and the invading Greeks. As he was about to leave home, Hector wanted to hold his young son Astayanax in his arms and bid him farewell for what ended up being the last time. But Hector’s armor so frightened the infant that he shrank back to his nurse’s caress. The father, laughing out loud, then removed his bronze helmet and took up his little child in his arms. The boy discovered the father of his love behind all that armor. That is similar to what Paul does in his letter to the Romans, beginning with 3:21. Having shown God as judge and executioner, as it were, he next shows the God of love, who reaches out with open arms to sinful people in the hope that they will come to Him and be saved.” (MacArthur, J. Romans : Grace, Truth, and Redemption. W Publishing Group: Nashville, 2000)

God has given us a glimpse at His Holy Perfections in the table of contents of righteousness, the Ten Commandments. The Apostle Paul demonstrates in lawyer-like fashion, that when man stands before God, man has no right to boast of any righteousness, goodness—there is no place for religious pride. God has revealed His righteousness (3:21) and made payment for sin on man’s behalf to demonstrate His righteousness (3:25). That payment received by faith allows God to demonstrate His righteousness by passing over the sins previously committed (3:25-26). God cannot pronounce the wicked as clean without this demonstration of His righteousness. We must believe God or we are lost.

Romans 4 focuses particularly on Abraham and the fact that he was justified before he was circumcised. The Romans could have cared less about circumcision, except for being a rite of passage to adulthood, as practiced by cultures worldwide. What does this mean for them, especially considering the Hebrew background? Simply those acts of religion do not matter to God. Believing God is the key. Circumcision is not a ritual that earns reward but becomes a badge, a symbol in the heart of those who believe what God has done for them. The acts of religion do not purchase favor, but serve as reminders of what we believe and provide discipleship opportunity for new believers.

God’s perfect standard as seen in the law shows man where he fails God and religion cannot repair the breach. Someone said that the only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break. Perhaps this is what people secretly desire when they rationalize their offenses by saying, “but laws are man-made!” Try that one in a traffic stop! First, if there were no God, there would be no ethical problems, no morals; nevertheless, His perfections are evidence of His existence and man is exposed in His light. One may carry on in life thinking he is doing well until the law shows where he has transgressed, and there are consequences regardless if he acknowledges the law or not. He cannot stand before the judge and say “I’ll be good, I’ll never do it again” because acts of future goodness cannot fix what was done in the past.

Only God can do that for those who will come to Him. Christ died because He loves.


Friday, September 24, 2010

"10 Books That Screwed Up The World" by Benjamin Wiker

"Books, and people too may be carelessly approached or walked right past, without ever getting a chance to show themselves for what they are. Once one is aware of the possibility of seeing much more, one proceeds much more carefully, like a hunter who pauses often to look and listen, because the game could be anywhere." (Cary Stickney, Convocation Address at St John's College Graduate Institute in Liberal Education , 1994).

************
Allow your eye for a moment to survey this list of ideas, taking note of those that may seem familiar at the very least; or, note those that perhaps may be adopted into personal lifestyle or in the lifestyle of someone you know:
  • Do whatever it takes to accomplish your purpose--you are accountable only to yourself;

  • Your opinion matters most--what you think will “be;”

  • I think, therefore, I am;

  • Guilt does not exist, so do whatever makes you feel good as long as you don’t hurt someone else;

  • Conscience does not exist, society is unnatural for the animal called “man” who needs to return to natural “roots;”

  • You are what you produce;

  • The destiny and happiness of man depends on his own efforts;

  • Morality is a series of taboos established in the name of religion.

These are a few ideas that have found their way into western mind through the very influential books included in a collection often referred to "The Great Works of the Western World," or "The Great Books of the Western World." The writings range from the time of ancient Greece to around 1940 (depending on the list). Authors include Homer, Socrates, Aristotle, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Pascal, Thomas Jefferson, Herman Melville, and Leo Tolstoy (to name a few). Many feel intimidated by the dates of the publications found in the reading list, or will perhaps balk at their titles, so these works generally go untouched except for those who for various reasons will actually read them and are subsequently influenced by them. Would it be surprising to learn that many universities still use these books, and a handful actually build their entire curriculum around the collection alone?
Benjamin Wiker wrote “10 Books that Screwed Up The World And Five Others That Didn’t Help” is a book about books, with the intent of showing that while books such as those afore-mentioned may be “great,” the ideas contained therein are not often great. Wicker does not grapple with the meaning of “great,” but argues the point that bad ideas (specifically those titles discussed in his book), “float, largely undetected, in the intellectual air we breathe,” and the fact that most will not engage these books underscores the dangerous results of breathing polluted intellectual air. Bad ideas lead to the kind of disallusionment as expressed by Michelle Obama in 2008: "I don't know about you, but as a mother, wife, professional, campaign wife, whatever is on my plate, I'm drowning . . . " (p. 225). What led her to this point?
Wiker stresses the influence of bad ideas through the anecdote that Rousseau (whose ideas grew into what became the French Revolution and Communism, among other movements) republished his books in the skins of those that laughed at the first editions. These problems unchallenged bad ideas are traceable in history, evident in politics, create unnecessary ethical dilemma, generate hate, contribute to general confusion, misplace intention and destroys man. As the author succinctly states, "the road to savagery is paved with gullibility." (p. 70)

Wiker divides this 260 page book into three major sections that give chronology to the development and influence of ideas, one upon the other. The first section, “Preliminary Screw Ups,” shows where the first foundational cracks become evident in the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli’s 1513 publication of “The Prince” followed by a discussion of Rene’ Descarte’s 1637 work called “Discourse on Method.” The fourth is Thomas Hobbes’ 1651 literary monster, “Leviathan;” and finally, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s influential 1755 piece, “Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men.” These books started the tail-spin.

The second section focuses on the “Ten Big Screw-ups,” books that were influenced by the first four already mentioned: Marx and Engels’ “The Manifesto of the Communist Party” (1848); John Stewart Mills’ “Utilitarianism” (1863); Charles Darwin’s “The Descent of Man” (1871); Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” (1886); V.I. Lenin’s “The State and Revolution” (1917); Margaret Sanger’s “The Pivot of Civilization” (1922); Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” (1925); Sigmund Freud in “The Future of an Illusion” (1927); Margaret Mead’s “Coming of Age in Samoa” (1928); and finally,Alfred Kinsey’s “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” (1948).

The final section, “Dishonorable Mention” includes “The Feminine Mystique (1963) by Betty Friedan, and closes with an Afterword, “A Conclusive Outline of Sanity.”

There is a curiosity that people are not interested to question their own presuppositions, yet hold them (good or bad) tenaciously and pay a price in doing so. The irony is that many universities who lean heavily on these books teach students to ask questions, but the background is that the student is the teacher--does he know what questions are good?
This book is a must-read because most are not intentional students of literature, culture, philosophy, or theology yet hold and are influenced by ideas that touch on these areas and more. The author does an astounding job explaining 15 of the Great Books in concise chapters, breaking the ideas in question down into digestible chunks. Most importantly, the author shows how and where these bad ideas surface in thought and action, evaluating them from a theological position in light and sometimes witty ways.
Anyone who spends time with people outside the Christian bubble will recognize most if not all the ideas reflected here that have worked their way into daily life and thought. This book adequately prepares the reader to face what lies “out there.” Each high school and university student should read The Great Books of the Western World because this is the nest of ideas that shows from whence we've come, and how we got here. The student should question everything, not for pure skeptism nor to be his own teacher, but to confirm and conform to absolute truth; but if he or she will not, the student should at least read this book, regardless of professional direction. The Great Books will not go away, so a good student should be prepared to discern and respond to their ideas.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Randoms

Mortimer Adler gently explains "How To Mark A Book."

Dr. Warren Larson answers the question, "Is Islam Violent or Peaceful?"

Best-selling author, pastor, and Columbia International University graduate Robert J. Morgan was the keynote speaker during the 2010 Christian Life Conference at CIU:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vampire Christianity

Vampire Christianity describes the kind of person who wants the blood of Christ to pay for their sins and keep them from hell—and nothing more. Vampire Christianity seeks forgiveness from sin, but no cleansing from sin. The Vampire Christian wants nothing to do with the life of Christ, being filled with the Spirit or walking in obedience—they just want “fire insurance.” This kind of thinking does not reflect (no pun intended) biblical teaching. Perhaps we could call it “Twilight Christianity”—the kind that is not quite in the light.

God, the righteous judge, wants to give those who repent more than forgiveness and fire insurance—He wants to give new life that comes in no other way but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by what He accomplished through shedding His blood. This happens by dying to sin in Christ, that sin would have no power over the believer. God does not intend for one who was dead in sin to be saved from sin and live like he or she is still dead in sin. This is the very issue addressed by Paul in his letter to the Romans, asking, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Ro. 6:2).

Picture if you will a cadaver, a dead body on the slab. Everything possible can happen to that body, but what does it matter? Life in this world is no longer possible. Those who have died in Christ are dead to the world and are alive in Christ. We were dead in sin and alive to the world, but then we were enemies of God and wanted nothing to do with Him. Oswald Chambers wrote in “Biblical Ethics” that, “Sin is not wrong-doing; it is wrong-being, independence from God. God has undertaken the responsibility for its removal on the ground of redemption.” When we repent and are born again, we move from “wrong-being” to “right-being.” Why should we return to wrong-being if we are dead on the slab of the world?

Have you ever heard the expression, “turning over a new leaf?” God doesn’t turn over leaves—He creates new ones. Turn over a dead leaf and you have a dead leaf. Paul writes we are “baptized into Christ Jesus” to “walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6:3); united in the likeness of His death and resurrection (6:5); crucified with Him, no longer slaves of sin (6:6); free from sin (6:7); alive with Him (6:8); dominated by life (6:9); alive to God in Christ (6:11); alive from the dead (6:13); under grace (6:14); slaves of righteousness (6:18). The old self is dead.

Here’s what we are to know: when we believed, we were baptized/buried into His death (6:3,4); we were raised with Him in life (6:4); we were crucified with Him “that the body of sin might be done away with” (6:5); the risen Christ is a dead-no-more Christ (6:9); we are slaves to the one we obey (6:16).

Colossians 3 makes it more clear for us (which was actually written before Romans). Here Paul plainly states that if we were raised with Christ, we have died and our life is “hidden with Christ in God.” For this reason, the things that affect us on earth (fornication, uncleanliness, passion, evil desires, and covetousness) should not be affecting our dead body.

The reason why we struggle is that we live in the presence of sin. When we repent we are delivered from the penalty of sin (hell) and the power of sin (unrighteousness), but we still live in the presence of sin. We are spiritually dead to sin and need to be disciplined to make that death affective in our members, live as if sin had no power over us. Principally, it doesn’t anyway because God is the one who changes us—we just need to learn to live as changed people. He gives us grace in His cleansing and forgiveness and He gives us life. The Christian life finds its source in Christ, belongs to God and is empowered by the Spirit.

“Jesus Christ is not looking for people who want to add Him to their sin as an insurance against hell. He is not looking for people who want to apply His high moral principles to their unregenerate lives. He is not looking for those who want only to be outwardly reformed by having their old nature improved. Jesus Christ calls to Himself those who are willing to be inwardly transformed by Him, who desire an entirely new nature that is created in His own holy likeness. He calls to Himself those who are willing to die with Him in order to be raised with Him, who are willing to relinquish slavery to their sin for slavery to His righteousness. And when people come to Him on His terms, He changes their destiny from eternal death to eternal life." (John MacArthur)

“Christian” refers to one who participates in the death of Christ by faith, receives the benefits of that death (eternal life) by faith and lives the Spirit filled life by faith. There is no application of blood and continuing in a bloodless condition.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not A Chair Nor A Chicken.

You were born a human being. That means you are not a chair, and you are certainly no chicken.

You are not a chicken because you know how to argue, to stand up and fight; just to fight for what is right.

You are too special to be a chair because you hear the voice of God. What does He sound like? You will know when He is suddenly silent. Beware the Lotus Eaters! Stay awake and know who the phonies are!

Show some guts because there are too many possibilities, too many temptations and it is easy to go wrong. Satan tempts us in those places he knows we CAN do—we are never tempted to do the impossible.

You are worth all the trouble to get goosed a little because you know that we would never do anything to hurt you, nor would we ask you to hurt yourself.

There is a reason you are not a chair nor a chicken. That reason is because you were designed to do something in such a specific way that nobody living ever has been able to, can do or ever will do. You are able to bring glory to God in a way that He has made for you—nobody can do what He designed you to do. You are not made to be the butt-end of things, nor are you made to scratch in the dirt.

You have talent. You have ability and we don’t want you to chicken out on yourself.

You are not a chair nor a chicken is because you know how to laugh—really laugh. You also know how to make other people laugh. You see how people make cartoons of themselves. You have a good eye because you are good at being human. This is a sign that you are alive; but, there is an abundant life for you. You will never find it by just sitting here, scratching around. Don’t be somebody else’s cartoon.

You make poor chair, a poor chicken.

(inspired by a scene from Herb Garner’s, “A Thousand Clowns”)

Friday, September 17, 2010

“Candide,” by Voltaire

“Optimism” and “pessimism” are terms that have found their way into nearly daily usage and are often defined in terms of water in the glass--is the glass half-full or half-empty? The answer actually depends on whether the glass is being filled, or emptied; otherwise, it is simply half a glass of water.

Voltaire (born François-Marie Arouet, 1694 - 1778) has been called “The Father of the Enlightenment,“ which is a period we describe as the rise of humanism. His philosophy, along with other writers, is still considered to be influential causes of both the French and American revolutions. As a theologian, Voltaire was primarily deistic, but his leanings were more pagan. His most well-known contribution is a a critique and analysis of the times, in the short witty book, “Candide” (1759), which incidentally, could very well be the source of “optimism“ and “pessimism.” The influence and reactions to John Bunyan (“Pilgrim‘s Progress,” 1678 ), Jonathan Swift (“Gulliver’s Travels,” 1726), with perhaps a nod to Miguel de Cervantes (“The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha,” 1605 and 1615) are evident in terms of style, flow and application of this satire.

The character of Candide is the very incarnation of the naïve, the Gomer Pyle type who careens through life saying “Golllllll-y” at whatever comes his way. Literally, his name translates from the French as “candid,” or “ingenuous.” The Latin, “Candidus” means “white,” which creates a witty contrast against his very intelligent, cohesive South-American half-breed valet, Cacambo, who correctly observes, “My dear Master . . . everything seems to surprise you” (Chapter XVI). One might say he is the original “Polyanna.”

Dr. Pangloss, (whose name means “all tongues”) the optimist always has something to say, believing everything happens for a reason (we have spectacles because we have a nose on which to perch them; we have pants because we have legs to put them in; all is right because people talk nonsense)--everything has a purpose and it is all for the better. Dr. Pangloss’ theories receive the fullest attention and are put to the test throughout the story.

Other characters in include Cunegonde, the elusive young woman who captured Candide’s heart; Paquette is the a serving maid who gives Dr. Pangloss syphilis (for the better!) which could be symbolic of the sin nature, as the maid is able to trace the disease to its source); the cynical Old Lady who has faced unmatched tragedy, but loves life; and the scholar Martin, is the pessimist, the antithesis of Dr. Pangloss, who may be influential in causing Candide to distrust the teachings of Dr. Pangloss.

The book begins with Candide being forcibly removed from “the most beautiful and delightful of possible castles,” and ends with some concentrated dialogue on the necessity of “keeping the garden.” Voltiare does take make the most of every opportunity to critique every field of study including theology, and this may be the case here in making drawing parallels with the Biblical account of the Fall; however, it may not be concluded that Candide has regained paradise in the end. The reference to keeping the garden in the end may unintentionally reflect the truth that paradise is not on earth, despite how well one thinks of his situation. One is resigned to sweat and toil because that is the mark of the curse.

Baron Munchausen (1720 – 1797) would have been satisfied with Voltaire’s storytelling method of cartooning through his characters the void that exists between belief and behavior, the warning bell any Christian should heed. Hypocrisies of all kinds are elucidated with immoral priests, illogical philosophers, corrupt rulers and the tragic ends of the pragmatist. Voltaire underscores that behavior is evidence of belief, otherwise all men are liars, thieves, adulterers, etc. Candide would later ponder, “Do you think . . . that men have always massacred each other, as they do to-day, that they have always been false, cozening, faithless, ungrateful, thieving, weak, inconstant, mean-spirited, envious, greedy, drunken, miserly, ambitious, bloody, slanderous, debauched, fanatical, hypocritical, and stupid?”

Near center of the book Candide and Cacambo find their way to El Dorado, which becomes almost mindful of heaven itself. This is a country of perfection, “the best of all possible worlds.” The country is ruled by an absolute monarch, all is at peace, there is no crime and no prison, precious metals and stones are everywhere and are regarded as dirt and rock. Cacambo asks about the religion of El Dorado and their hosts blushes, “Can there be two religions, then? I have always believed that we hold the religion of all mankind. We worship God from morning till night.”

Cacambo and Candide are preparing to meet the monarch and inquire as to protocol: should they kneel, grovel, put hands on the head or behind, lick the dust off the floor? “’The custom is,’ said the lord-in-waiting, ‘to embrace the King and kiss him on both cheeks.’” One cannot help but notice the near direct quote and implication of Psalm 2 (note verse 12). Yet, our pilgrims feel they cannot stay enjoy this Master and remain in this state of paradise and so must return to the world of violence and immorality. Candide plainly states that he cannot be happy without she whose lusts got him forcibly removed from the immaculate castle and he longs for his own home, so they leave El Dorado.

Once delivered from The City of Gold the travelers meet an escaped slave who has a leg and an arm cut off. The picture here is that the pleasures enjoyed in the world and by the world, come at the happy expense of others who are (un)willing to dedicate their lives to the cause. “Who has the best of the world?” becomes the rhetorical question that shapes unrealistic optimism and blind pessimism.

More situations that will not be discussed here (for space) seem to bring a reversal to the direction of the story. Candide seems to want to see the happy optimism of Dr. Pangloss’ at work in a world of happy people; but, he discovers through the Old Woman, Martin and the Count Pococurante that life is not that ethereal. Is it the mere child’s view of the world that Voltaire is trying to change, or is he a Scrooge that wants everyone to share misery? Martin suggests that we need to stop proving things and get to work, “for that is the only way to make life bearable.” Is life meant to consist of battle against boredom, vice and necessity, as the Turkish farmer suggested; or is there something more?

Perhaps the heart of “Candide” is just what satire shows: a half glass of water. Optimism, pessimism, religion, philosophy, hedonism, even wealth and poverty fail because the hearts of men are evil. Voltaire wants desperately to rise above being man and when he runs into the barrier of truth, he recoils because truth exists where he does not want to find it: outside himself.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Randoms

The comments made by The Universe regarding Dr. Hawking's book demonstrate the logical conclusion of an idea's direction.

But things like this rare spiral structure in space cannot be formed by physics alone. Physics would make them more common than they are . . .

Speaking of books, the temporary library has opened at Columbia International University, following the fire that destroyed the main library in May.

Rare medieval Bible finds home at the University of South Carolina.

Should local governments have the right to monitor how you divide your paper cups from your plastic forks? Some cities already leverage fines against those who do not recycle properly.

Behind-the-scenes look at recording the audio for C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters" with an astounding cast (ht: Tim Challies):










Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mental and Ethical Jellyfish

“We are sending forth graduates with diffused minds, scarcely fit to take command of their own lives or to co-operate in the development of a social state; drifters into conformity and essential human futility; easy victims to specious crowd psychologies; followers of what seem easy ways out . . . . They esteem themselves only creatures of their environment and so they tend to become just that. They have little or no perception of standards—of truth, beauty, or goodness; they have no goals or purposeful perfection with which to estimate values or by which to gauge achievement. All things are to them relative—relative not to absolutes but to expediency. Truth means to them little more than a body of observable facts; beauty, conformity to fashion; goodness, doing the things that will make one comfortable or popular. Out of our most able youth, capable of high adventure, we are manufacturing mental and ethical jellyfish.”

President Stephen Bell, of Saint Stephens College. Quoted by W.A. Harper, “Character Building in Colleges.” New York: Abingdon, 1928.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Richard Mant on "True Knowledge"

Richard Mant (1776 – 1848) wrote a commentary on the entire Bible and authored at least a couple dozen hymns, even translating some from the Latin for “modern” use. One particular Latin hymn ("Venantius Fortunatus," 569 AD) was paraphrased by Mant into the beautiful hymn, “See the Destined Day Arise:”

“See the destined day arise!
See a willing sacrifice!
Jesus, to redeem our loss,
Hangs upon the shameful cross.


Jesus, who but Thou had borne,
Lifted on that tree of scorn,
Every pang and bitter throe,
Finishing Thy life of woe?


Who but Thou had dared to drain,
Steeped in gall, the cup of pain,
And with tender body bear
Thorns, and nails, and piercing spear?


Thence the cleansing water flowed,
Mingled from Thy side with blood;
Sign to all attesting eyes
Of the finished sacrifice.


Holy Jesus, grant us peace
In that sacrifice to place
All our trust for life renewed,
Pardoned sin and promised good.


Grant us grace to sing to Thee,
In the Trinal Unity,
Ever with the sons of light,
Blessing, honor, glory, might.”


Mant also penned this poem:

“What is True Knowledge? Is it with keen eye
Of lucre's sons to thread the mazy way?
Is it of civic rights and royal sway
And wealth political the depths to try?
Is it to delve the earth or soar the sky?
To marshal nature's tribes in just array?
To mix and analyse and mete and weigh
Her elements and all her powers descry?
These things who will may know them if to know
Breed not vain glory But o er all to scan
God in his works and word shown forth below;
Creation's wonders and Redemption's plan;
Whence came we what to do and whither go:--
This is TKUE KNOWLEDGE and the whole of man.”

Mant has some particular thoughts concerning different two different kinds of knowledge: true knowledge, and by inference, untrue knowledge. “What is true knowledge?” He asks.

True knowledge is found in money or the acquisition of it.
True knowledge is not society be means of exercised rights or influence or politics.
True knowledge is not found by digging in the dirt or gazing into the heavens.
True knowledge is not found in harnessing nature, using natural resources, or making our own synthetics.

Mant points out that all these things are useful, but not for the purpose of making ourselves triumphant. We are to use our talents, abilities and resources to “scan God in his works and word shown forth below.” Creation’s wonders should drive us to search out what the specific wonder of the written word can only tell: God (who exists) is not satisfied to leave man dead in sin (redemption). Creation tells us only that we exist not of ourselves whereas the Bible tells our origin and destination. Saturating our minds around what God has revealed is true knowledge.

The implication is that if we become students of true knowledge, then we understand acquisition and stewardship, relationships and servanthood.

Not too long ago a friend of mine made a trip where, among other things, he wanted to see a very specific kind of art. He was going to attend an art show and see what he wanted to see; but, then he met somebody who introduced him to the person in charge of the show. He got to see the art in an entirely different way than if he simply attended the show.

We are able to enjoy more of creation itself as we dig and gaze because we know the creator.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Abide" in the Gospel of John

The word “abide” is a term that occurs often in the New Testament. As a verb, we understand that abiding does not always depend on an object; that is, in its range of meaning, to “remain, stay, dwell, lodge, remain, last, persist, continue to live, wait,” can be literal or figurative.

This becomes clear as we appreciate the depth of meaning by examining in John’s Gospel the one doing the action as well by investigating where the action is performed. Categorically speaking, the action of abiding is accomplished by God the Father (14:10), God the Son, Jesus (1:38-39; 4:40; 6:56; 7:9; 10:40; 11:6, 54; 12:24, 34; 14:25; 15:4-5; 19:31), and the Holy Spirit (1:32, 33; 14:17). God’s Word is described as abiding (5:38; 15:7). The disciples, Jesus’ mother and his brothers, even John (the disciple whom Jesus loved), are observed to “abide” (in some form of the word) where Jesus was (1:39; 2:12; 21:22).

Considering eternal matters, we find positive and negative aspects of abiding. Positively, eternal life (6:27), fruit (15:16), and believers (6:56; 8:31; 8:35; 12:46; 15:4-5, 7, 9-10) abide. Negatively, God’s wrath abides (3:36), as does guilt (9:41) and anyone who “does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (15:6)

There is great significance in noting where the action is occurring, for the narratives also communicate more than mystical, or spiritual principles. Geographically, we see Jesus abiding at Bethany beyond Jordan on more than one occasion (1:28, 38-39; 10:40; 11:6). We also find Him abiding in Capernaum (2:12), Sychar (4:40), Galilee (7:9), Ephraim (11:54) and in Jerusalem, on the cross, specifically (19:31). The earth is the place of abiding (12:24, 21:22-23) and all the inhabitants of the world (12:46).

The words and works of Jesus underscore the relational necessity of abiding “in” and/or “on” Jesus Himself (1:32-33; 6:56; 14:10), God Word (8:31; 15:10), and eternal life (6:27; 8:35; 12:34; 15:16). We also find that we are the place of abiding for God’s Spirit (14:17), even Jesus Himself (14:25, 15:4-7). This is accomplished through His love (15:9-10).

Those who are without this love relationship with God in Christ Jesus must understand there is another kind of abiding that occurs in them, the recipients of God’s abiding wrath (3:36) because of their unbelief and guilt (5:38, 9:41).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"U," the Klingon Opera Makes Debut

Yes, I'm a geek.

From Space.com: "Die-hard 'Star Trek' fans may want to dust off their Klingon dictionaries and take a transporter to Europe for the debut of the first opera ever to be completely sung in the invented science fiction language."

"U" [pronounced "oo"] Synopsis: Kahless has been betrayed by his brother, who brutally slays their father. The sorrowful Kahless struggles against his enemy, a tyrant called Molor, and visits the underworld. There he is united with his true love, the Lady Lukara, and must, with her help, defeat 500 warriors to regain his honor, using the first Bat’leth (or “Sword of Honor"), which he creates from his own hair.

Here is the Klingon Victory Song, "yIjah, Qey' 'oH" from an episode of Deep Space 9:



Ok, one more just for fun (we haven't had enough already yet today):

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: "God's Forgetful Pilgrims" by Michael C. Griffiths

Griffiths, Michael C. God’s Forgetful Pilgrims. London: Inter-Varsity: 1975.

This book seeks to apply the principles of being an individual Christian corporately; that is, the author shows the characteristics a true Christian congregation. Griffiths laments, “Sadly, many Christians seem to have lost their way corporately and are suffering from this strange amnesia about their congregational goals and purpose” (p. 9).

Griffiths first addresses “Our Mental Concept of the Church,” introducing standing translation problems resulting from the richness of “ekklesia” (the “called out group” where the reality of deliverance, relationship, inheritance and community expand the meaning of the already-difficult word) in various settings (locally, regionally, municipally and personally). Salvation has a distinct corporate quality and is not intended for individuals per se. Once again, the English language does not communicate well (for example, “you” is singular or plural, so who is Paul addressing when he writes to “you?”) and the western Christian particularly must expand his worldview from mere subjectivity (“I attend church”) to objective reality by engaging in God’s community The Church (“I belong”),. Ephesians is a letter on corporate salvation, developing the concept of “the people of God” as introduced in the Old Testament.

God has been and still is building “a new building in which God is to be worshipped, a new and glorious structure” out of living stones, those He has saved individually (p. 37). Construction is not beautiful and carries has its own level of trouble, but just anticipate what the final product will be! “God’s aim to perfect and finish the building is equally clear in scripture” (p. 40). Stephen, Peter, James, and Paul each reflected through inspiration that God dwells in a spiritual house; furthermore, we must “be careful how we build” and be responsible for what is placed on the foundation.

“Salvation Corporate and Co-operative” helps the reader understand the biblical theology of “the body:” its origins (where did Paul get this illustration? It is not in the Old Testament! Could it have come from “the beloved physician” who traveled with Paul?); its application and meaning (a collection, society and organism); and, finally, some lessons for today (unity, diversity, God’s sovereignty over, interdependence of members, and maturity). Biblical theological study continues with “The Goal of Salvation,” where the Church is “pictured in the New Testament as the bride of Christ,” becoming “the beautiful and perfect new society, the new Utopia brought into existence by God himself” (p. 69). Griffiths includes discussions on “the invisible bride,” seeks to answer the question, “is church membership biblical?” and concludes by discussing the moral and doctrinal purity of the Church.

“The Church As A Family Community” develops the concept of belonging, moving from “Spiritual Isolationism” toward “Spiritual Intimacy.” There is a distinct relationship between home and the church (where the church exists when it is not a community) and the necessity of being Spirit-filled. Problems and limitations are considered, such as unrealistic expectations of maturity from the immature or the role of those not unmarried in a “family.” Regardless, the home is the congregation in miniature and leads one to always consider relationships. One “problem area” receives additional attention, that of “The Church And The Student.” This chapter seeks to answer questions beyond, “what is the relationship between the church universal and the church local.” Harder questions like, “What is the relationship of independent Christian societies of all kinds (including College and University Student Unions) to the local church?” and “What . . . are the proper marks of a local church and when does the group which is not a church become a church,” and, “Is any group of Christians ‘the church’?” each demand an answer.

The remainder of the book is concerned with the outward function of the Church, what we “do” when we come together as community (worship, services, meetings) and as we move through the world (missions). What we do when we meet is valuable (worship and fellowship with the Lord), and has a distinct character (individuals united in Christ coming together in one body). What we do when apart is equally valuable and distinct, for missions is building the church while provided the ministry of service.

The final chapter closes the book with an aire of action, for the Church is not a passive organism, but militant. A new community, as beautiful as the bride of Christ is, does not fit in the world. The Church is a “group of improbable people from a variety of impossible backgrounds [who] become a community!” (p. 157). Satan makes war against the saints, attacking shepherds and flock alike. The Church battles corporately as a phalanx, wearing armor described in plural, not singular concepts; that is, individuals are not to gird themselves, but the entire congregation: truth is “essential because we now belong to each other in the one body;” the breastplate of righteousness is the testimony of a group that deals with sin; Christ’s messengers go into the world with God’s peace on their feet; a shield is only one part of a defensive wall—what good is a single shield when the enemy encircles? The helmet ensures that defeat never enters our head; the sword of the spirit is offensive against the enemy, freeing others from the enemy and keeping the church from sin; prayer is the body life, the “blood” of the church.

Griffiths book reminds the reader that the church is not incidental, passive, nor is it meant to serve an individual. The quote provided by Griffiths in Chapter 8, “The Church and Its Services” addresses our misdirected thinking regarding the church and carries the theme of the book: “It is well to remember that neither St. Paul nor any of the apostles ever ‘went to church.’ They never saw and probably never imagined a building built and set apart exclusively for Christian worship.”

The strength of this 176 page book lies in the biblical theological studies, not only providing the results of the study for the purpose of the topic, but also serves as a model for the contributions of doing excellent scholarship.

Any reportable weakness would be technical, editoral (such as inconsistent type-face in this edition). The chapters could be arranged under more general headings, as they are easily grouped: chapter 1 provides its own introduction, apart from the actual introduction; chapters 2-5 could be arranged under “salvation and the church”; chapters 6 introducing chapters 7-10 as “church life.”

This book is strongly recommended for those desiring to move beyond mere expansion of ecclesiological understanding toward forming a philosophy of ministry that impacts the nations with the gospel.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Randoms

This is what Earth and the Moon look like from the planet Mercury.

Greg Koukl answers the question, "How do you handle the hardcore relativist that freely admits he doesn't believe he can tell a child rapist he's 'wrong?' What do you do when graphically describing something horrible like that doesn't successfully move the person's conscience?"

Have a nice day!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

When "All the World's A Stage"

A reader in Kathmandu, Nepal wrote me from his cell phone with this question: "how do I meet my goal or get success in life?" First, allow me to express my constant amazement at how “flat” the world has become due to technology. I am more amazed at how similar people are, asking the same kinds of questions “over there” that we may ask “right here.”

The question is difficult to answer because I don’t know what goals he has set for himself, and I don’t know what he means by “success.” I have asked him to define what he means, and until he answers, I am left with greater questions that his might lead to, such as “how do I meet the highest goal or achieve a fulfilled life?” Doesn’t this sounds much like “what is the chief end of man?”

Children ask questions more than adults. The first years are filled with “What is that?” and “Who is that?” Later, the questions change to “Why is that?” or are suddenly complex (such as, "in what language do deaf people think?") then suddenly we stop asking questions, not even aware that we stopped or knowing why we stopped altogether. All we know is that we are in some kind of trouble or difficulty and don’t know why. We turn to our books that are filled with questions that provide “band-aid” answers over our troubles, but we are left unchanged and the difficulties are still present. The reason is that we focus on particulars and felt needs of the moment instead of absolutes that have eternal value.

I recently read a book that might be fitting for a young Christian getting started on his journey with Christ, but one chapter unsettled me as it was filled with questions that could all be answered “yes”: “Yes,” I’ve been hurt; “yes,” I have expectations; “yes” I have unsolved problems; “yes,” I’ve felt confused; “yes,” I’ve felt like giving up; “yes,” life is complicated; “yes,” I deal with obstacles and wish I had no problems . . . so what’s the point?

The answers our friend seeks cannot be found without further questions, such as “what do you mean when you say ‘success?’” and “what are your goals?” He might want to be the most famous Sherpa of all time, or a shepherd with a productive flock, for all I know; but, does it matter if he never meets the highest goal? Is the highest goal subjective (to be found within), or objective (outside the self)?

Shakespeare included what was already a well-used cliché in the first lines of Act II, Scene VII (lines 139-166) in “As You Like It” (do high school students still commit this to memory?):

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

If the world’s a stage, what lies outside the stage? There must be something greater than the stage.

What is the purpose of “the play” and who wrote it? The play glorifies the writer, who casts the players for the parts He has written. The player does not write himself into the story.

If men and women are players, who is the audience? There must be someone else.

What is man that you are mindful of Him, and the son of man that you care for him?” is the philosophical question asked of God by David in Psalm 8. The question reveals that one is trying to understand an answer he already knows: God is intensely interested in man. The word “mindful” is much deeper in the original, carrying the connotation of naming, mentioning, making monumental by recalling to mind, remembering. He says it again in another way: God cares for man. David is questioning an answer he already knows not because he is in doubt, but so that he can become saturated the truth, the reality of God’s care for man. All this simply means is that the highest goal for man stands outside him. Man’s chief end has everything to do with God.
The success of our hour upon the stage is measured by the apprehension of the highest goal: knowing God as we are known by Him.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Proof Is Not Enough

Reason is able to confirm the existence of God by consideration of the birds of the air and lilies of the field (as it were); however, reason alone fails to comprehend the person and things of God Himself. We see evidence that He Is, but we cannot know Him by mere reason alone in the same way that a building gives evidence to a builder, but gives the admirer no personal knowledge of the builder. We can’t prove the existence of God. We can only point to the evidence of The Creator (more in this in a moment). Yet, God desires to reason (not dialogue nor debate, but to settle on His terms) with man who is in rebellion against Him (Isaiah 1:10-20). This is doing theology: practicing true science (applying unbiased knowledge), and pure philosophy (transforming the mind mind, using discretion, enlarging the world beyond personal interest) to fulfill God’s purpose for us and bring Him glory that is all His.

When the follower of Christ and seeker of God rub shoulders with the world, we find difficulty in bringing things of God to a mind that does not believe Him. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Steve Sanchez at “Stone the Preacher” provides an excellent point here: “I would be doing my atheist friends a great dis-service—it would almost be a sin—if I were to prove God’s existence. Why? If they believed in God because of my proof, they would still be dead in their sins and trespasses—damned!—even though they believed, because it didn’t come by faith.” It’s not that the world does not believe IN God, but that they won’t BELIEVE Him and come to Him by faith.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) When we dialogue with those who are not walking with God, our message is one that accomplishes God’s purpose. Our message affirms that He is and that the hearer must exercise faith to be reconciled to Him through the grace that is His in Christ Jesus. Our message also affirms that He is and that the one who does not walk by faith should receive warning for rejecting God’s provision for Him in Christ Jesus. Either way, we must learn to speak the all the truth of scripture, reasoning. When we speak the Word of God, His purposes will be accomplished, not the things that we think should happen.

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’ So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.” (Acts 17:32-34)

I learned years ago when doing street ministry that the person with whom I am directly speaking may not be the only one who needs to hear what God has to say. I was having a conversation with a man on the sidewalk one night and pleaded with him to repent and turn from his sins and trust Christ. What I did not realize was the policeman standing in the shadows was hearing everything. Now when I engage someone, even three or four at a time, I try to “speak” to everyone, focusing on the ones most attentive. These seem to be the most sensitive to the Spirit. Just because there are those that walk away does not mean that someone else has not heard.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). This is the gospel. This is God reasoning with man: He can be found, so call on Him (this means, “pray) while He is near. Literally, seek His face. “Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.” (1 Chronicles 22:19) God is not lost, but must be sought through the things by which He has made Himself known. Creation shows He Is; the Law shows how we are separated from Him; Jesus Christ (crucified, buried and raised again) shows us how to be reconciled.

Understand that sin must be punished, so be willing to turn from sin and return to the Lord, receive His compassion and be forgiven. He will be found by those who look for Him.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1–2)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Think

"The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. That is not Christian faith. Christian faith is essentially thinking. Look at the birds, think about them, and draw your deductions. Look at the grass, look at the lilies of the field, consider them.

The trouble with most people, however, is that they will not think. Instead of doing this, they sit down and ask, What is going to happen to me? What can I do? That is the absence of thought; it is surrender, it is defeat. Our Lord, here, is urging us to think, and to think in a Christian manner.

That is the every essence of faith. Faith, if you like, can be defined like this: It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense."

--D. Martin Lloyd Jones. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Book Review: "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy

The post-apocalyptic work “The Road” compelled me to search out more from the talented author Cormac McCarthy. Having been assaulted by “No Country For Old Men,” I held that very little could be more brutal. “Besides,” I wondered, “what would a Western story be like, written by an contemporary author?”

So I read, “Blood Meridian: Or The Evening Redness In The West.”

This is not your father's Louis L'Amour or your grandfather's Zane Grey. McCarthy unapologetically uses Spanish like Tolstoy uses French in early editions of "War and Peace." It's like watching the last 15 minutes of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" over and over again, and expecting that something different will happen with each ending. Only it's much, much worse.

If “The Road” was a post-apocolyptic event (and there he never describes how the destruction came), then “Blood Meridian” is the event. Blood Meridian is historical fiction, very (very) loosely based on the bloody activity of the Glanton gang on the Texas-Mexican border in the mid-1800’s.

The introduction of this edition by Harold Bloom was a treat, but received with mixed emotions (I read the introduction twice to make certain I was understanding--like seeing a mirage . . .). I was disappointed to learn in the introduction how the book ended, but realized after reading the body of the work that I actually anticipated it—for relief. I greatly appreciate Bloom’s commentary, for without it, I would have committed the same act as he the first time reading: put it down. Perhaps I should have. Personally, I was intrigued by the parallelism he drew, comparing this book with a few other classic works, particularly the comparison with Melville’s Moby Dick (if you’ve read Blood Meridian, and have never read Moby Dick, you just may enjoy it now!). I was very interested to see how this played out.

Bloom correctly pinpoints what he calls “the visionary center” of the book from a point that happens to be approximate to the exact center:

They rode out on the north road as would parties bound for El Paso but before they were even quite out of sight of the city they had turned their tragic mounts to the west and they rode infatuate and half fond toward the red demise of that day, toward the evening lands and the distant pandemonium of the sun.”

This is paragraph is dynamite unexploded apart from the full text; but, it does not accurately describe the true center of the book. We find this true center about six chapters from the end, in Chapter 17. The conversation is war, and McCarthy wages war on all things beautiful and good. Earlier in the story, there is a description of a small book carried by the judge, one of its central characters. As they move through the land, he takes notes or makes a sketch then obliterates in some fashion the very thing that held his attention ("Anything that exists without my knowledge, exists without my consent").

Chapter 17 gives us a conversation around this campfire, where the judge explains, “It makes no difference what men think of war . . . war endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.” Observation: this thought carries forward, complimenting the old man’s comments regarding death in “The Road.”

The Judge is a peculiar character (to say the least) who seems to have an eternal past, and claims to never die. One wonders if he was not inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, in "The House of the Seven Gables?" When Judge Pyncheon appears on the scene, people took particular notice to his strong resemblance of the original Col. Pyncheon who built the house--both Pyncheon's being vicious and unrelenting.

McCarthy speaks through the judge, dropping the bomb that attempts to destroy the basis for all things good. He declares that moral law is subverted by historical law: “A man falling dead in a duel is not thought thereby to be proven in error as to his views. His very involvement in such a trial gives evidence of a new and broader view.” He says that principles are trivial and history is absolute.

The failure of this view is found in the same paragraph: “Man’s vanity may well approach the infinite in capacity but his knowledge remains imperfect and howevermuch he comes to value his judgments ultimately he must submit them before a higher court.”

The priest being addressed by the judge has nothing to say because he, too, has broken moral law by his participation in the bloodletting. The judge takes his silence as consent. Everything is upside down and backward. What is living must die, and through death, find meaning—there is no meaning in life. But how can there be meaning in death? The judge says “Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all.” Sporting games require skill that leads to defeat. War “swallows up game player and all.”

This is what is most horrifying about the book—the philosophical absurdity. Try as he might to cast off moral absolutes, man still finds himself accountable.

"Blood Meridian" is the record of destruction at work from within a man.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

"Spontaneous Creation," Dr. Hawking? The Giraffe Doesn't Think So.

Stephen Hawking is trying to change his mind, saying that physics is the reason for the Big Bang, not God. Dr. Hawking now has left himself without an answer concerning the origin of physics. "If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God," he wrote. We do have a complete theory, Dr. Hawking; but, human reason accepts or denies it--it cannot triumph over it.

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," Hawking writes.

Spontaneous creation? This reminds me of the conversation I had with a young lady who claimed she was an athiest. When I asked for her explaination for the origins of the Universe, she replied, "it was a miracle."

Just today Tim Challies reminded me of this episode that originally aired on National Geographic Channel. The "golden nugget" is from the 3:30 to the 3:55 mark (if you have a queezy stomach, you may want to fast forward to those marks):

Randoms

E.M. Bounds' classic book, "Necessity of Prayer" is available as an audio book!

When I look at these, I can't help but wonder if I did not see one in a Doctor Who episode.

Great Balls of Fire . . . Again. On Jupiter. Again.

Speaking of fire, Sinclair Ferguson answers the question, "What Then Shall We Preach On Hell?"

NPR wonders: "Is Belief in God Evolutionarily Advantageous?"

The Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies has posted their latest newsletter.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Free Audio Download: "Spiritual Leadership" by J. Oswald Sanders

"With more than 500,000 in print, Spiritual Leadership has proven itself a timeless classic in teaching the principles of leadership. J. Oswald Sanders presents and illustrates those principles through biographies of eminent men of God - men such as Moses, Nehemiah, Paul, David Livingstone, and Charles Spurgeon."

christianaudio.com - christianaudio.com

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”

Words cannot express the great enjoyment I had as a teen getting lost in these very mountains pictured here, following the streams high up the slopes, resting in shade and sun, mesmerized by the sound of the sweet, jewel-encrusted water trickling to the cataracts that fed the lake. That slope on the left, just above the waterline was the means by which I put in a small boat and occasionally rowed from one end of the lake to the other, soaking in the quiet, staring at the fish, drifting in the breeze --untouchable.

Wintertime brought deep snow and I nearly cried at night as I could not sleep, staring out the window at the blue mountains, blazing in the moonlight and deathly silent. The stars (O, the stars!) overcast the sky, the Milky Way nearly blotting out space itself. The lights of night burned so so bright that shadows would cast to the ground as if it were day. I would put on my boots and coat, go outside, crunching up the snow-covered lane and muttering to myself, “how . . . how . . . ?”

The road past the cabin was once a rail-road bed and about half-way up the valley, a now-ancient trestle brought the train from one side of the mountain to the other. A earthen dam once held the lake in the higher up the valley, but broke at some point and the lake as we know it now sits forward. Following the stream up the valley, one would walk until one could walk no more, coming face to face with the mountains at the back of the valley. High up in the pass (just to the right of the upper-most middle of the picture, above) sits another small glacial lake, feeding a stream higher up that cascades down into waterfall that marks the rear wall of the valley.

Once, we hiked up our side of the mountain well before the trestle and followed the ridge to the rear of the valley, looking down at the stream in the bottom. We came up above the waterfall and felt like kings. Standing there above the cascade, one could look for miles the other direction, over the lake (beyond our view). Another time, we rode part way up the rear chain and hiked our way up to the pass to the glacial lake. High above the treeline, with head spinning for lack of oxygen, one breathlessly crumbles at the sight of the world.

Then I received devastating news, news that made me so angry I had yet something else I could not explain or describe. I was told that someone bought land from the proximity of the trestle all the way back to the rear of the valley, waterfall and everything—it was all private property, “no trespassing.” Somebody built a house back there and had this entire piece of heaven to himself. We had to see this, so we took the high road up on our side, hiked up above the treeline, crossed the rear waterfall and stood in the avalanche field on the far side of the valley, opposite the house and tried to understand what this person was doing.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889) is worth a few moments of personal research for his contributions as a poet. He wrote:

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings
.

I am not saying that people have no concept of beauty, but that they fail to see the source. They see the grandeur of creation, and make for themselves their own kingdom, and they never see the Creator. Man cannot see because we tread, sear, blear and smear and smudge. This is because (in the spirit of Kipling), they walk with shoes on leaving a deep and reckless trail, now crossing tracks and confusing the signs.

How marvelous that God will not allow His work to be trampled so easily. Nature cannot be “spent.” His fingerprints are deep and each time we look in places small and fresh, we straighten up gasping because our breath has been. His handiwork is vast and each morning we are awakened by the fresh spring of light that springs beyond yonder brown horizon and we are stunned.

Hopkins final lines are brilliant: “the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.” Brooding is preoccupation and incubation, thinking. God is intensely involved in His Creation. He has not wound it up to let it wind down. He is over, in, covering, watching, guiding and directing. Curiosity abounds and stupefies us, reducing our vocabulary to “how . . . how?”

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