Saturday, August 05, 2006
I've Got A Pig In The Ground And The Beer On Ice And All My Linkin' Friends Are Coming Over Tonight
If you are a blogger and you are not participating, you ought to be. Unexpressible gratitude to Dadmanly for pointing this out.
Some people int he former Soviet still do not get this whole capitalism thing. You need a product the people want.
Is this why everyone is moving to Arizona? Still awful hot for my taste.
Blame Bush I. An annual change of 0.00001% annually, completely impersceptable, save for instrumentation that did not exist 10 years ago.
Blame Bush II. Well, they don't yet, but somebody will - count on it.
Bloglines is currently undergoing a major upheaval and as such has at least temporarily eaten a number of the smegging things I was going to link to here. Now for extra credit, name the source of the term "smegging" (HINT: Television series not of American origin).
Related Tags: art, mood, global warming, weather, sarcasm, joke, humor
Dr. Stephen Strange is a character, like so many of the Silver Age, from the mind of Stan Lee, but in this case not the pencil of Jack Kirby. Like Spider-man, this Lee creation was from the pencil of Steve Ditko, but unlike Spider-man, I like very much the way Ditko draws him.
In this top picture, you see what may be one of the best ideas, and images from Marvel, ever. Dormannu, arch-nemesis of Strange, has conjured the personification of Eternity himself and now does battle with that entity. This is one of those comic images that has stuck with me for decades - the idea of personifying eternity itself is mind-blowing and I think Ditko dreamed up just how he should look.
As I have grow older I have read more of this and other magical characters, but they still make me nervous. I have; however, grown to love the imagery produced with those characters.
Strange's "Cloak of Levitation" makes a marvelous visual element in almost any panel, and in the mystical realms the character so often inhabits, it can billow about with effect that has only ever been achieved elsewhere by some Batman artists.
Dr. Stephen Strange was a renowned surgeon, who in a fit of pique lost the use of his hands for surgery; becoming a stumblebum drunk who went on a pilgammage to seek enlightenment and at the top of the Himalaya's was trained by his Master, along with he ho would become Dormannu as the "Sorceror Supreme." It was when this title was bestowed upon Strange over Dormannu that Dormannu finally lost it altogher and "turned to the dark side" gaining his flaming head.
But never have I liked the character better than as he is depicted here from the Neil Gaiman written miniseries 1602. These stories find the Marvel stable of characters emerging not in the 20th Century, but in the 17th and 18th, in Elizabethan England. In this setting Strange seems not the mage out of place that he does in modern times, but seems instead to simply belong as both his powers and those of say Charles Xavier seems equally mysterious, yet acceptable. While his garb in the series lacks the visual impact of his original, so was true for all the Marvel characters, there simply was no spandex then.
But it is in The Defenders that Strange has been most frequently enjoyable to me. In part because of the relationships he has had with so many characters in that series, and in part because the nemesis of the team have been less directly mystical, making the stories more accessible to me.
Of recent years, Strange has been reduced to something of a "mystical consultant" called in by other heroes on an as needed basis. I have come to have a fondness for the character that makes me want to reinvent him somehow so he can again stand on his own in the comicverse. Magical characters today are so dark, that Strange is actually refreshing.
Related Tags: comics, comic books, comic art, Marvel, The Defenders, Doctor Strange
Friday, August 04, 2006
Are You A Christian Writer?
Particularly, Christian writing represents a biblical worldview concerning what is true about Creation, Corruption, and Redemption; Christian writing must be involved in or reflect one or more of the preceding dimensions of truth.When Mike goes on to explain what he means by those terms, things get really interesting, so I recommend the post to all. One problem with a summary like that is that in fiction writing in particular, all of it can be summed up in those three "dimensions of truth," it's the truth that the writer assigns those dimensions that matters.
As a disclaimer, I am no writer of fiction. This is about it, and given the amazingly underwhelming response that has gotten, the efforts are likely to begin and end at that point. I do think the obligations for a Christian writer are very different in fiction and non-fiction.
After all, it would not be even reasonable to ask a fiction writer to write only about people that are pure, plastic, and Christian, heck, it wouldn't even be interesting. But the debate on how pure or not pure is a very active one. (HT: CGO) But since Mike seems to be aiming at fiction, with Tolkien as a guide, I'll let him have at it - he can't go far wrong if he follows his guide.
I'll talk about what I do know a bit about - non-fiction writing. Most don't know it, but I have an actual book in publication. It's called California's Permit-By-Rulle Handbook: A Guide To Compliance - and now you know why most people don't know I have a book in publication.
I must say, it is difficult to put my finger on how, as a Christian, I could have or did write that book any differently that someone who is not a Christian. But I do think there is a difference in what I have done about promoting it after writing it. If, everytime someone asked me for advice on that topic I had sold them a book instead of simply answering their question, the book might not be quite as obscure as it is, though, the community of people interested at all would leave it in pretty serious obscurity regardless.
You see, part of my obligation as a Christian writer is, simply, to be a Christian. Way too many people hang the label on thier product without living the life. Neither I, nor any other Christian writer, have mastered, or could even claim to rise to the level of "good" when it comes to living a Christian life, but I try - and if I am going to call myself a "Christian writer" I must keep trying, and I must keep letting Christ enable me. A big part of living that life means I put the people I encounter ahead of the product I sell.
Blogging is unique among Christian non-fiction writing because it is so interactive. Which, I believe, offers us a greater opportunity to be genuine Christian non-fiction writers than any other medium. Consider
Gal 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Each of those are attributes demonstrated not in word, but in deed, and specifically in deeds involving interactions with others.
So, you want to call yourself a "Christian blogger" then ask yourself if your interaction with other bloggers reflects those attributes. You see, it does not make a difference what it is you write about on your blog. If you want to write about politics, by all means - Baking?, please! I love recipes. - Sports?, sure -whatever it is write about it, but do so in a manner that reflects the attributes the Apostle Paul laid out above - that's the obligation of a Christian blogger.
Now, I can hear the critics lining up to point out the places where I have failed at this standard. Granted! There is one place where some would claim I am continually "in violation" - the use of sarcasm and the wisecrack. I work pretty hard to aim those weapons of criticism at ideas, not persons, but some are offended personally when their ideas are attacked. I am still wondering about that one - I mean no malice, but if malice is communicated, does my intent matter?
That said, I'd rather read a blog about blather that exhibits the characteristics a Christian blog should, than read a blog about Christian theology that does not. And frankly, I think the former will do more to advance the gospel, than a dozen of the later.
Related Tags: writing, Christian, non-fiction, fruits of the Spirit, blogging, Christian blogging
Proof, Pat Robertson is not the brightest bulb in the four-pack.
We don't need to stinking contest. I AM the #1 fan!
Though I don;t anymore, I followed "Shroud science" quite closely for a long time - I have mongraph compendiums in my librayr and actually applied for one of the "expeditions" once - so I found this fascinating. (HT: Brad) The reason I quit this avocational pursuit is because after much prayer and meditation I have concluded God did not want physical evidence of Christ to be left behind for it would be an impediment to faith - the object would be come the idol, as is seen with many relics of extremely specious origin. Does that make me a puritan? - probably, and I have witnessed God using relics to preserve faith in communist countries, but....
This made my head explode.
Water was the first, and remains the most important "environmental issue."
Challenging the assumptions of science, or at least finding it's borders. I still contend science must presume a fully natural system, but once it reaches a point where the supernatural is a rational possibility, it must say it has reached the limits of what it can do.
G.K. Chesterton was a lot of things, but until now I did not think him prophetic.
News d'toilet - here and here.
Related Tags: global warming, Snakes on a Plane, military hardware, intelligent design, joke, humor
Related Tags: Friday Humor, humor, joke, video, Scots, kilts
Thursday, August 03, 2006
It Was One Of THOSE Days Links
Thus there is no essay type post today. I know, it's no excuse, but hey, it's my blog. So, on to the links...
Another nail in the MSM coffin - Not to mention science in general. Too bad they will take a lot of people with them on the trip to fantasy land. This seems to hit just the right tone.
Speaking of global warming - here is evidence I can understand.
It's all about perspective - but how come there never seems to be a middle-ground perspective?
And to think, people used to think it was a problem when they tossed them in bars. Sounds like a pretty sturdy guy to me!
Danger! - Fat police at work.
If only there were video! In the meantime, this video needs to be released.
Apparently, I am in excellent company.
Thank you, but I'll find my own way. Confused? - remember the edict!
Who knew they ate? (Yes, same story, new headline, new wisecrack - deal with it.)
For that difficult commute.
The intensity of your desire to go to this event is probabaly a great measure of your geek quotient.
They did not talk to my wife. Besides - that would mean she got to hold the remote!
Gotta believe this is the ultimate oxymoron.
Related Tags: global warming, gender and church, fat police, joke, humor, wisecrack
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Sometimes We Get What We Deserve
Now comes news, via Instapundt, who got it from Outside the Beltway who in turn read it in the Seattle paper, that the Seattle shooter recently converted to Christianity. And thus, we hand another club to those that wish to beat us.
Under such circumstances, I am not surprized to find things like this (HT:Purgatorio) in the world.
Has it ever occurred to anyone that waves the banner of individualistic Evangelicalism, that such is the inevitable result of that viewpoint? As faith becomes "personal expression" and salvation a completely individualistic experience, we're going to be joined by a number of very wacky individuals. In fact, I'm betting there are a few in your local congregation. I know I could make a list from mine!
From simple poor taste, to genuinely offensive remarks, to downright evil, Christianity is rife with things and behaviors most assuredly not of Christ. And each time they happen, they do not just besmirch the individual involved, they besmirch, they do real harm, to the very name of Christ.
The strongest witness we have to Jesus Christ is not our theology, it's not our architecture, it's not our worship styles - it's us. This means two very important things.
Firstly, it means we should endeavor in our own lives to present Christ. We need to be as pure and upright and all the other positive adjectives you can thing of as we can be.
But secondly, it means we need to be judicious about those that we allow to bear Christ's witness to the world. That is a vitally important function of the Church. And yes, that function must be balanced with grace, but it is possible to keep someone in the graceful company of fellowship, while at the same time denying them public opportunities to soil the name of our Lord.
As Christians, persecution is our lot in life, I think scripture makes this clear. But I also think it makes a difference what we are persecuted for. We should be persecuted for Christ's sake, not for failure to be even decent human beings. we do not need to hand our persecutors ammunition, save the ammunition of a life transformed by the Holy Spirit.
I love my Lord and will defend Him to the death, but I grow weary of having to defend Him from attacks that result from those that call on His name. We need to demand more of ourselves. We need to set the bar higher. We need to honor Christ more than we honor image or institution.
Related Tags: persecution, ammunition, faith Christianity, the church
Linkin', Until I Can't Link No More
Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death.If you've ever been there, you saw this coming a mile away. They're a little short of funds for things like security and environmental protection of the object d'arte.
SEE! - I knew global warming was a good thing And, as it turns out, the Roman Church has a special blessing for this benefit thereof. I knew there was a reason I liked the Catholics.
From the Twilight Zone.
From someplace far more bizarre, and evil.
Speaking of "from other places", a woman that really is from Venus.
When Joe Carter is uninspired, he's funny. Now it turns out he is also environmentlly aware.
What could possibly go wrong?
I like the celebrity pastor point here, but in "real" churches, with atttribution, I don;t think there is anything wrong with a preacher using a sermon written by another - they sometimes have better things to do, like pastoral calling.
Ebay as MySpace. Here's a hint - MySPace is free.
Moral of this story - sweat now, or sweat more later. I on the othr hand will just get a bigger air conditioner. Give me a break!
The problem with Putin. It makes me cry - I love Russia so much, but it is simply endemically corrupt. The decent people are leaving in droves.
Smart real estate developers - Not so bright cops.
Related Tags: global warming, Hermitage, joke, humor
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
The Tyranny of Options
My new car has created a dilemma for me. The sound system is amazing. AM/FM - 6-CD changer, cassette tape deck, and satelitte radio. That last option alone is mind-boggling, over 150 channels of micro-formatted, commercial free music, all of this by the way, available from conveniently and safely mounted steering wheel buttons.
And I hardly listen to a song all the way through anymore.
I may love what I am listening to right this moment, but there just might be something a little better on the next channel, or CD in the changer. I no longer enjoy the music, I find myself in a frenetic search for the perfect music for the moment. How fast am I driving, how's the weather, what's my day been like? - that means I need to listen to....But wait! - wouldn't XXX be just a bit better? DARN! that CD is at home - I know maybe it's on the the satelitte...and so it goes.
As a kid, I could spend an hour listening to the same song over and over, cleaning the records, tweaking the equalizer so that the song sounded just right.
Some songs have become a part of my bones. Ask my wife, every now and then something pops up from my youth and I sing it, remember each lyric, as if the song was in heavy rotation today.
I wonder, in this consumer age of church offerings. Whether it be the options among congregations or the options within congregations, if people are not franctically searching for just the right experience, concerned always, simply because of the sheer plethora of options, if there isn't something just a little bit better just around the corner.
But in such a state, can those Christian experiences you have searched through become a part of your bones, instantly available when triggered? Or, are they so much noise just passed by in search of the unreachable perfection?
Christianity is about depth, not breadth. It's about becoming a part of your bones.
Options are attractive to be sure - I am always attracted to that next possible listening opportunity. But attraction is not enough, not in church. How do we pull people deeper? How do we get them to look past the available options and to choose just one of them?
I think we start by looking at thousands of people in pews and not being satisfied that they are there, but instead wondering why they aren't there the rest of the week.
Related Tags: options, depth, faith, church, Christianity
Well, This Deal Is Linked!
Oh sure, now they announce this. Where were they in 1957 when I was born, and desparately needed it?
Nothing like a personal touch - nothing!
Hmmmm, subtle, but he has a point.
Not complete justice, but it's a start. I; however, think that the biggest problem was the advisors that made Rogan run away from his record when he lost. The loss was inevitable under the circumstances, the man should have been allowed to stand tall. BTW, I live in his former distract and gave more heavily to his losing campaign then any other.
Yes, they are among the funniest troop in history, but iconic? If you are British do you really want people to associate you with "The Ministry of Silly Walks?"
As if Arnold needs help fighting anything.
Why this blog is adding a feature that will allow it to urinate on other blogs.
I MUST have the protoype, then arrange for an accident of cosmic proportions to destroy all knowledge and notes of it's invention and creation - leaving me a SUPERHERO!
It used to be we wanted to colonize other planets becasue it was just cool. Now we must do it to save mankind. I am not always a fan of progress.
Beating yourself about the head and shoulders. Yes, we in the PC(USA) are very, very good at that.
Proof Mars once supported life. After all, only something as sinister as intelligent life could result in toxic dust storms.
The gotta have of the week.
While not spousally related, I have been sorely tempted to do the same thing in a few churches.
Related Tags: KELO, obesity, personal touch, Jim Rogan, fear mongering, joke, humor
The Terrorbuster Saga
Read this story from the beginning at The Terrorbuster Saga Blog
For next couple of months, Carter's life was a blur. Some of it was because of what they were doing to him, but not much of it. He only had one surgery in the whole process. Everything was done with injections and radiation and fiber optic mini-intrusions. At one point, somebody said something about nano-tech actually building systems inside him. He didn't really remember.
His perceptions of the world around him were changing quite rapidly. The first thing they did was implant computer systems in him. They originally intended him to operate it with thought control, but that was a bit more than he could handle right away. He was fitted with a pair of glasses that enabled him to see a "screen" and the computer responded to finger movements. Soon; however, the very intelligent system they had installed taught itself the brainwave patterns that produced the finger movements and was responding before he actually moved. It wasn't long before he found the finger movements unnecessary.
Receiving information from the computer proved far more problematic. No matter what they tried they could not unpload directly into his brain. Information had to be filtered through his sensory systems. There was too much for him to take it in aurally, but having that computer screen in his eye was distracting at key moments. Eventually they fitted him with a small screen actually in the lens of his eye. They gave him an auditory input and gave him the ability to switch between them turn them off. Nevertheless, being intimately connected to the Internet and other various networks made it very difficult for a very long time to have any sense of "reality." For Carter cyberspace became a very real place.
Then there were the internal effects of what he thought of as "Amy's suit". Amy had not told him everything the suit could do. It greatly enhanced his sensory abilities, thus flooding his brain with even more information. He found himself able to see into the infrared and ultraviolet spectra. This gave him a sort of built in night-vision capability, among other things.
Being an exploring soul, Carter did not stop with what they gave him. He figured out how to use the computing power at his disposal with the infrared sensing capability to actually do infrared spectroscopy on objects he examined. His network interface gave him near infinite library matching capability, so even though he was no chemist, he could do some chemical analysis right in the field.
He found himself able to listen through walls, which grew embarrassing on more than one occasion as he discovered the various "relationships" around him.
Carter?s reality-confusion was further troubled by the fact that he was never in any one place for very long. He'd be taken to this facility for procedure A and that facility for procedure B and so forth. Goldman seemed to be the only one that had the whole picture of what was happening and he was so full of wisecracks that Carter just shut him off most of the time when he talked.
When Carter could get an actual conversation, Goldman proved to be a pretty nice guy, and sharp as a tack. Eventually, they found themselves back in the Twin Towers Project complex under the White House where Goldman became Carter's tenuous thread to reality. Nobody ever told Carter anything but to "explore his possibilities," which he did, but each time he did he found it hard to rejoin humanity.
Goldman kept him human. Between Goldman's very human wisecracking, obscure cultural references, numerous flaws, and constant presence, Carter would use Goldman as a path back to the human race. Carter found that by focusing himself on Goldman he could begin to shut out all the extraneous information and input and begin to feel again like a man, not just a mobile network interface.
Goldman wasn't a warm guy, which was good for Carter, but eventually he felt a need for more than the thrust-and-parry of "guy" conversation ? he felt a need for real human contact, the kind of conversation guys only have with girls, and then only when they are alone and only when they really, really like the girl. Once he realized the need he was experiencing, memories of Amy flooded everything.
In his room alone, he broke down and cried, and cried, and cried. For the first time since she died, he felt fully human. Goldman watched the whole thing over an observation system about which Carter knew nothing. Goldman smiled broadly. On a nearby computer he called up his project notebook and made a simple entry, "Subject Ready."
The next day, the President dropped by for a visit. It was the first time Carter had seen the President since the day he agreed to all of this. As the President walked in, he nonchalantly greeted Carter with, "How's my terrorbuster?" wearing a very mischievous grin.
Carter looked up at the President and activated the mimicry stealth circuits that now were his skin and took on the appearance of the ugliest superhero costume anyone had ever seen. "Mr. President, this is a terrorbuster and I don?t want to be one."
The President laughed, hard. "I suppose you have decided you are Captain America then?"
In the blink of an eye, Carter became the spitting image of that comic hero, shield, chain-mail and all, "Well you have to admit, he cuts a pretty good jib."
The President laughed again, but Carter kept talking, "Sir, I do need a codename, and I?ve been thinking about it."
He moved in front of a nearby computer and activated the invisibility circuits. He began to shimmer and then blended perfectly with what was behind him. The effect was startling. It was as if he turned into a computer screen and keyboard. "Mr. President, I have become the first true 'Intelligent Interface.'"
"I-squared," chimed in Goldman from the corner.
The President just smiled and said, "So you have," then nodding to Goldman, "and so it will be."
Related Tags: fiction, comic books, story, terrorism, terrorbuster, GWOT
Monday, July 31, 2006
1) What does the life of a single Christian living fully unto the Lord "look like"? What are ways that a Christian single may serve God both in work and relationships?Before I delve into this, I want to lay out my "qualifications" - I am nearly 50 years old and was single for far more of my adult life than I have been married - if we count adulthood as beginning at 18, I was single for 20 years, I have been married "only" 11. I am immensely happy in my marriage, more so than most men my age, I think in large part becasue those 20 years have made my wife and my marriage far more precious to me than anyone married younger can possibly understand.
2) How might a single Christian live a life of purity in thought and in deed? How might such a Christian deal with sexual desire and desire for close companionship and children?
3) How might a Christian deal with the "waiting and wondering"? How does a Christian single find his or her "calling"? What does calling mean in terms of the single Christian?
4) How might a single "find" a spouse?
But having said that, I have a real problem with the first three questions - they are based on the presumption that singleness is somehow an extraordinary burden, that "normal, married" people do not have to bear. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Singleness carries with it a different burden than marriage, but it is hardly extraordinary. The simple logistics of coordinating two (more if there are children) schedules is an incredible burden - but this is a trivial example.
The first three questions circle around what I will call "the vacuum" of singleness. Some would label it loneliness, but that is not always the problem. Sometimes it's something as simple as not having anyone to use as a sounding board. Making simple decisions, like what to have for supper, without input for someone else can be difficult - that's the vacuum.
Well, one of the lessons I have learned is that marriage does not really fill that vacuum. In the end, someone has to decide what's for supper. Simply put you cannot rely on anyone else to fill the voids you sense in your single life, not even a spouse - such will only result in your disatisfaction with your spouse.
Now what questions 1-3 do have right is that they are about getting on with life as a single, but more importantly, as God's single. And this is, I think, no different than a married person.
The Apostle Paul said
1 Cor 7:7-8, 32 - Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.Simply put, as a single person, get busy. Dive head first ito your church, volunteer, try everything until you find what works.
But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord;
Which leads me to the fourth question. I do not think it a coincidence that my wife and I met while serving as Deacons together at our church. I truly believe that by abandoning ourselves to Christ's service, He gave us to each other. Why did He wait so long? - Because we were each learning sufficient abandonment.
That last statement leads to a cautionary note. Speaking for myself, although I think my wife would agree that the same is true in her case, for a very long time, I used the church and my service therin as a "substitute spouse." That's not the point because that is focusing on and trying to fill the vacuum, and it is a road to major pain and disappointment.
No, what I am talking about is ignoring the vacuum and concentrating on Jesus - funny thing happens, the vacuum disappears, satisfaction arrives, and God's plans for you will be enough.
These are not platitutdes, these are attitudes, to be prayed for earnestly. God has blessed me far more richly than I imagined possible - not because the vacuum has been filled, but because He has taken it away.
Related Tags: single, married, Christian, alone, void, faith
Let There Be Links
When it comes to radioactive waste, the Brits have the same problem we do - it's not technology, it's NIMBY, interestingly, unlike in the US, on Great Britain, everywhere really is someone backyard.
Why do stories like this ALWAYS start with andecdotes. There is no more wasteful industry on the planet than medicine, but recycle? - NEVER! Ah, the joys of inelastic demand. Now, if the global warming people only understood that the demand for fossil fuel is almost as inelastic.
Something is very, very wrong when in the MIDDLE OF A WAR, a story like this appears. Are there really people in the world whose priorities are that far around the bend? Or is this a way to try and push an anti-war agenda in disguise? I actually pray for the later, because otherwise, the world is in serious trouble.
OK, These guys are good. And they might be able to help with the real problem with illegal immigration.
When it comes to war, particularly against an ideological opponent, this is a very serious point. Terrorism itself is a strategy to fight a war when genuine war is already lost - in such a situation we cannot merely win the war, we must convince the enemy he has lost, which generally means destroying either the enemy in totality, or killing the ideology. The former is not a task for the weak-kneed and the later is almost impossible.
As one half of an involuntarily childless couple, all I have to say is that this is a sickness, a deeply selfish sickness.
"Consider it all joy..."
Environmentalists and animal activists are of a kind, and they want to take all the fun out of life.
Related Tags: environment, global warming, litter, war, terrorism, childlessness, joke, humor
Sunday, July 30, 2006
And On The Seventh Day, There Were LInks
History has a way of repeating itself. That's a good thing, at least if you know it.
A fun list for the movie buff, though I would add to the list every James Bond movie ever made, for sheer panache.
Given that the details, at least as Malkin presents them, are sketchy, and that it is too easy to make kids that age cry, I am not certain this qualifies as "abuse", but it is SICK. The worst part is subjegating children to an adult agenda, under any circumstance.
Quote of the week:
the inclusion of foot pegs provides real health benefits by raising the knees above the waist, which facilitates a thorough expulsion of waste.You have to see it to believe it.
Speaking of sick. How can they fail to understand? - it does not help matters -- at all.
Right, but oh so wrong. (Not my friend John BTW, but the pastor he is discussing) It's HOW the church wins the culture war that matters (through evangelism), but win it the church must, and it shall!
There is a point here, but the most obvious characteristic of a creed is how short they are. That is to say, there is not much that rises to this important level.
Problem: proof texting on both sides. But I have to say that setting the OT in opposition to the NT is a major faux pas.
Related Tags: naming Christ, history, movies, politics, children, culture wars, creeds, biblical politics
Sermons and Lessons
FREDERICK WILLIAM ROBERTSON, was born in London in 1816, educated at Edinburgh University and took his degree at Oxford in 1841. From a law office he passed into the ministry, where his career, though brief, was exceptionally brilliant. His English style commends itself to the preacher's study for its naturalness, poetic beauty, lucidity, and strength. It is the style of a man of unique genius. He died of consumption at Brighton in 1853, little more than thirty-six years of age.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature in the career of Robertson was the influence he exercised over the workingmen. This class had in his day become estranged from the Church of England, few of whose clergy had any power to attract their attention and adherence. He was denounced as a socialist because of his foundation of a workingmen?s institute, and the opposition and vilification which he thus met with no doubt helped to shorten his life.
Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. -John xvi., 31, 32.
There are two kinds, of solitude: the first consisting of isolation in space; the other, of isolation of the spirit. The first is simply separation by distance. When we are been, touched, heard by none, we are said to be alone. And all hearts respond to the truth of that saying, This is not solitude; for sympathy can people our solitude with a crowd. The fisherman on the ocean alone at night is not alone, when he remembers the earnest longings which are rising up to heaven at home for his safety. The traveler is not alone, when the faces which will greet him on his arrival seem to beam upon him as he trudges on. The solitary student is not alone, when he feels that human hearts will respond to the truths which he is preparing to address to them.
The other is loneliness of soul. There are times when hands touch ours, but only send an icy chill of unsympathizing indifference to the heart; when eyes gaze into ours, but with a glazed look which can not read into the bottom of our souls; when words pass from our lips, but only come back as an echo reverberated without reply through a dreary solitude; when the multitude throng and press us, and we can not say, as Christ said, "Somebody hath touched me"; for the contact has been not between soul and soul, but only between form and form.
And there are two kinds of men, who feel this last solitude in different ways. The first are the men of self-reliance - self-dependent - who ask no counsel, and crave no sympathy; who act and resolve alone, who can go sternly through duty, and scarcely shrink, let what will be. Crushed in them. Such men command respect: for whoever respects himself constrains the respect of others. They are invaluable in all those professions of life in which sensitive feeling would be a superfluity; they make iron commanders, surgeons who do not shrink, and statesmen who do not flinch from their purpose for the dread of unpopularity. But mere self-dependence is weakness; and the conflict is terrible when a human sense of weakness is felt by such men. Jacob was alone when he slept on his way to Padan Aram, the first night that he was away from his father's roof, with the world before him, and all the old broken up; and Elijah was alone in the wilderness when the court had deserted him, and he said, "They have digged down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword: and I, even I, only am left, and they seek my life to take it away." But the loneliness of the tender Jacob was very different from that of the stern Elijah. To Jacob the sympathy he yearned for was realized in the form of a gentle dream. A ladder raised from earth to heaven figured the possibility of communion between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God. In Elijah's case, the storm, and the earthquake, and the fire did their convulsing work in the soul, before a still, small voice told him that he was not alone. In such a spirit the sense of weakness comes with a burst of agony, and the dreadful conviction of being alone manifests itself with a rending of the heart of rock. It is only so that such souls can be taught that the Father is with them, and that they are not alone.
There is another class of men, who live in sympathy. These are affectionate minds, which tremble at the thought of being alone; not from want of courage nor from weakness of intellect comes their dependence upon others, but from the intensity of their affections. It is the trembling spirit of humanity in them. They want not aid, not even countenance, but only sympathy. And then trial comes to them not in the shape of fierce struggle, but of chill and utter loneliness, when they are called upon to perform a duty on which the world looks coldly, or to embrace a truth which has not found lodgment yet in the breasts of others.
It is to this latter and not to the former class that we must look, if we could understand the spirit in which the words of the text were pronounced. The deep humanity of the soul of Christ was gifted with those finer sensibilities of affectionate nature which stand in need of sympathy. He not only gave sympathy, but wanted it, too, from others. He who selected the gentle John to be His friend, who found solace in female sympathy, attended by the women who ministered to Him out of their substance - who in the trial hour could not bear even to pray without the human presence, which is the pledge and reminder of God's presence, had nothing in Him of the hard, merely self-dependent character. Even this verse testifies to the same fact. A stern spirit never could have said, "I am not alone: the Father is with me"; never would have felt the loneliness which needed the balancing truth. These words tell of a struggle, an inward reasoning, a difficulty and a reply, a sense of solitude "I shall be alone"; and an immediate correction of that: "Not alone: the Father is with me."
There is no thought connected with the life of Christ more touching, none that seems so peculiarly to characterize His spirit, as the solitariness in which He lived. Those who understood Him best only understood Him half. Those who knew Him best scarcely could be said to know Him. On this occasion the disciples thought, Now we do understand, now we do believe. The lonely spirit answered, "Do ye now believe? Behold the hour cometh that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone."
Very impressive is that trait in His history. He was in this world alone.
I. First, then, we meditate on the loneliness of Christ.
The loneliness of Christ was caused by the divine elevation of His character. His infinite superiority severed Him from sympathy; His exquisite affectionateness made that want of sympathy a keen trial. There is a second-rate greatness which the world can comprehend. If we take two who are brought into direct contrast by Christ Himself, the one the type of human, the other that of divine excellence, the Son of Man and John the Baptist, this becomes clearly manifest. John's life had a certain rude, rugged goodness, on which was written, in characters which required no magnifying-glass to read, spiritual excellence. The world, on the whole, accepted him. Pharisees and Sadducees went to his baptism. The people idolized him as a prophet; and, if he had not chanced to cross the path of a weak prince and a revengeful woman, we can see no reason why John might not have finished his course with joy, recognized as irreproachable. If we inquire why it was that the world accepted John and rejected Christ, one reply appears to be, that the life of the one was infinitely simple and one-sided, that of the other divinely complex. In physical nature, the naturalist finds no difficulty in comprehending the simple structure of the lowest organizations of animal life, where one uniform texture, and one organ performing the office of brain and heart and lungs, at once, leave little to perplex. But when he comes to study the complex anatomy of men, he has the labor of a lifetime before him. It is not difficult to master the constitution of a single country; but when you try to understand the universe, you find infinite appearances of contradiction: law opposed by law; motion balanced by motion; happiness blended with misery; and the power to elicit a divine order and unity out of this complex variety is given to only a few of the gifted of the race. That which the structure of man is to the structure of the limpet, that which the universe is to a single country, the complex and boundless soul of Christ was to the souls of other men. Therefore, to the superficial observer, His life was a mass of inconsistencies and contradictions. All thought themselves qualified to point out the discrepancies. The Pharisees could not comprehend bow a holy Teacher could eat with publicans and sinners. His own brethren could not reconcile His assumption of a public office with the privacy which He aimed at keeping. "If thou doest these things, show thyself to the world." Some thought He was "a good man"; others said, "Nay, but he deceiveth the people." And hence it was that He lived to see all that acceptance which had marked the earlier stage of His career - as, for instance, at Capernaum melt away. First, the Pharisees took the alarm; then the Sadducees; then the political party of the Herodians; then the people. That was the most terrible of all: for the enmity of the upper classes is impotent; but when that cry of brute force is stirred from the deeps of society, as deaf to the voice of reason as the ocean in its strength churned into raving foam by the winds, the heart of mere earthly oak quails before that. The apostles, at all events, did quail. One denied; another betrayed; all deserted. They "were scattered, each to his own": and the Truth Himself was left alone in Pilate's judgment hail.
Now learn from this a very important distinction. To feel solitary is no uncommon thing. To complain of being alone, without sympathy, and misunderstood, is general enough. In every place, in many a family, these victims of diseased sensibility are to be found, and they might find a weakening satisfaction in observing a parallel between their own feelings and those of Jesus. But before that parallel is assumed, be very sure that it is, as in His case, the elevation of your character which severs you from your species. The world has small sympathy for divine goodness; but it also has little for a great many other qualities which are disagreeable to it. You meet with no response; you are passed by; find yourself unpopular; meet with little communion. Well! Is that because you are above in the world - nobler, devising and executing grand plans, which they can not comprehend; vindicating the wronged; proclaiming and living on great principles; offending it by the saintliness of your purity, and the unworldliness of your aspirations? Then yours is the loneliness of Christ. Or is it that you are wrapped up in self, cold, disobliging, sentimental, indifferent about the welfare of others, and very much astonished that they are not deeply interested in you? You must not use these words of Christ. They have nothing to do with you.
Let us look at one or two of the occasions on which this loneliness was felt.
The first time was when He was but twelve years old, when His parents found Him in the temple, hearing the doctors and asking them questions. High thoughts were in the Child's soul expanding views of life; larger views of duty, and His own destiny.
There is a moment in every true life -to some it comes very early - when the old routine of duty is not large enough; when the parental roof seems too low, because the In¬finite above is arching over the soul; when the old formulas, in creeds, catechisms, and articles, seem to be narrow, and they must either be thrown aside, or else transformed into living and breathing realities; when the earthly father's authority is being superseded by the claims of a Father in Heaven.
That is a lonely, lonely moment, when the young soul first feels God - when this earth is recognized as an - awful place, yea, the very gate of heaven; when the dream-ladder is seen planted against the skies, and we wake, and the dream haunts us as a sublime reality.
You may detect the approach of that moment in the young man or the young woman by the awakened spirit of inquiry; by a certain restlessness of look, and an eager earnestness of tone; by the devouring study of all kinds of books; by the waning of your own influence, while the inquirer is asking the truth of the doctors and teachers in the vast temple of the world; by a certain opinionativeness, which is austere and disagreeable enough; but the austerest moment of the fruit's taste is that in which it is passing from greenness into ripeness. If you wait in patience, the sour will become sweet. Rightly looked at, that opinionativeness is more truly anguish; the fearful solitude of feeling the insecurity of all that is human; the discovery that life is real, and forms of social and religious existence hollow. The old moorings are torn away, and the soul is drifting, drifting, drifting, very often without compass, except the guidance of an unseen hand, into the vast infinite of God. Then come the lonely words, and no wonder. "How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business ?"
That solitude was felt by Christ in trial. In the desert, in Pilate's judgment hall, in the garden, He was alone; and alone must every son of man meet his trial-hour. The individuality of the soul necessitates that. Each man is a new soul in this world: untried, with a boundless "Possible" before him. No one can predict what he may become, prescribe his duties, or mark out his obligations. Each man?s own nature has its own peculiar rules; and he must take up his life-plan alone, and persevere in it in a perfect privacy with which no strangrer intermeddleth. Each man's temptations are made up of a host of peculiarities, internal and external, which no other mind can measure. You are tried alone; alone you pass into the desert; alone you must bear and conquer in the agony; alone you must be sifted by the world. There are moments known only to a man's own self, when he sits by the poisoned springs of existence, "yearning for a morrow which shall free him from strife." And there are trials more terrible than that. Not when vicious inclinations are opposed to holy, but when virtue conflicts with virtue, is the real rending of the soul in twain. A temptation, in which the lower nature struggles for mastery, can be met by the whole united force of the spirit. But it is when obedience to a heavenly Father can be only paid by disobedience to an earthly one; or fidelity to duty can be only kept by infidelity to some entangling engagement; or the straight path must be taken over the misery of others; or the counsel of the affectionate friend must be met with a "Get thee behind me, Satan" Oh! it is then, when human advice is unavailable, that the soul feels what it is to be alone.
Once more: the Redeemer's soul was. alone in dying. The hour had come - they were all gone, and. He was, as He predicted, left alone. All that is human drops from us in that hour. Human faces flit and fade, and the sounds of the world become confused. "I shall die alone" - yes, and alone you live. The philosopher tells us that no atom in creation touches another atom; they all approach within a certain distance; then the attraction ceases, and an invisible something repels - they only seem to touch. No soul touches another soul except, at one or two points, and those chiefly external?a fearful and lonely thought, but one of the truest of life. Death only realizes that which has been fact all along. In the central deeps of our being we are alone.
II. The spirit or temper of that solitude.
Observe its grandeur. I am alone, yet not alone. This is. a feeble and sentimental way in which we speak of the Man of sorrows. We turn to the cross, and the agony, and the loneliness, to touch the softer feelings, to arouse compassion. You degrade that lone¬liness by your compassion. Compassion! compassion for Him! Adore if you will - respect and reverence that sublime solitariness with which none but the Father was - but no pity; let it draw out the firmer and manlier graces of the soul. Even tender sympathy seems out of place.
For even in human beings, the strength that is in a man can only be learnt when he is thrown upon his own resources and left alone. What a man can do in conjunction with others does not test the man. Tell us what he can do alone. It is one thing to defend the truth when you know that your audience are already prepossest, and that every argument will meet a willing response; and it is another thing to hold the truth when truth must be supported, if at all, alone-met by cold looks and unsympathizing suspicion. It is one thing to rush on to danger with the shouts and the sympathy of numbers; it is another thing when the lonely chieftain of the sinking ship sees the last boat-full disengage itself, and folds his arms to go down into the majesty of darkness, crushed, but not subdued.
Such and greater far was the strength and majesty of the Savior's solitariness. It was not the trial of the lonely hermit. There is a certain gentle and pleasing melancholy in the life which is lived alone. But there are the forms of nature to speak to him; and he has not the positive opposition of mankind, if he has the absence of actual sympathy. It is a solemn thing, doubtless, to be apart from men, and to feel eternity rushing by like an arrowy river. But the solitude of Christ was the solitude of a crowd. In that single human bosom dwelt the thought which was to be the germ of the world?s life, a thought unshared, misunderstood, or rejected. Can you not feel the grandeur of those words, when the Man, reposing on His solitary strength, felt the last shadow of perfect isolation pass across His soul : "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Next, learn from these words self-reliance. "Ye shall leave me alone." Alone, then, the Son of Man was content to be. He threw Himself on His own solitary thought: did not go down to meet the world; but waited, though it might be for ages, till the world should come round to Him. He appealed to the future, did not aim at seeming consistent, left His contradictions unexplained: I came from the Father: I leave the world, and go to the Father. "Now," said they, "Thou speakest no proverb"; that is enigma. But many a hard and enigmatical saying before He had spoken, and He left them all. A thread runs through all true acts, stringing them together into one harmonious chain: but it is not for the Son of God to be anxious to prove their consistency with each other.
This is self-reliance, to repose calmly on the thought which is deepest in our bosoms, and be unmoved if the world will not accept it yet. To live on your own convictions against the world, is to overcome the world - to believe that what is truest in you is true for all: to abide by that, and not be over-anxious to be heard or understood, or sympathized with, certain that at last all must acknowledge the same, and that, while you stand firm, the world will come round to you, that is independence. It is not difficult to get away into retirement, and there live upon your own convictions; nor is it difficult to mix with men, and follow their convictions; but to enter into the world, and there live out firmly and fearlessly according to your own conscience-that is Christian greatness.
There is a cowardice in this age which is not Christian. We shrink from the consequences of truth. We look round and cling dependently. We ask what men will think; what others will say; whether they will stare in astonishment. Perhaps they will; but he who is calculating that will accomplish nothing in this life. The Father - the Father which is with us and in us - what does He think? God's work can not be done without a spirit of independence. A man has got some way in the Christian life when he has learned to say humbly, and yet majestically, "I dare to be alone."
Lastly, remark the humility of this loneliness. Had the Son of Man simply said, I can be alone, He would have said no more than any proud, self-relying man can say; but when He added, "because the Father is with me," that independence assumed another character, and self-reliance became only another form of reliance upon God. Distinguish between genuine and spurious humility. There is a false humility which says, "It is my own poor thought, and I must not trust it. I must distrust my own reason and judgment, because they are my own. I must not accept the dictates of my own conscience; for is it not my own, and is not trust in self the great fault of. our fallen nature?"
Very well. Now, remember something else. There is a Spirit which beareth witness in our spirits; there is a God who "is not far from any one of us"; there is a "Light which lighteth every man which cometh into, the world." Do not be unnaturally humble. The thought of your own mind perchance is the thought of God. To refuse to follow that may be to disown God. To take the judgment and conscience of other men to live by, where is the humility of that from whence did their conscience and judgment come? Was the fountain from which they drew exhausted for you? If they refused like you to rely on their own conscience, and you rely upon it, how are you sure that it is more the mind of God than your own which you have refused to hear?
Look at it in another way. The charm of the words of great men - those grand sayings which are recognized as true as soon as heard - is this, that you recognize them as wisdom which passed across your own mind. You feel that they are your own thoughts come back to you, else you would not at once admit them: "All that floated across me before, only I could not say it, and did not feel confident enough to assert it, or had not conviction enough to put into words." Yes, God spoke to you what He did to them: only they believed it, said it, trusted the Word within them, and you did not. Be sure that often when you say, "It is only my own poor thought, and I am alone," the real correcting thought is this, "Alone, but the Father is with me, therefore I can live by that lonely conviction."
There is no danger in this, whatever timid minds may think - no danger of mistake, if the character be a true one. For we are not in uncertainty in this matter. It has been given us to know our base from our noble hours: to distinguish between the voice which is from above, and that which speaks from below, out of the abyss of our animal and selfish nature. Samuel could distinguish between the impulse - quite a human one - which would have made him select Eliab out of Jesse's sons, and the deeper judgment by which the Lord said, "Look not on his countenance, nor on the height of his stature, for I have refused him." Doubtless deep truth of character is required for this: for the whispering voices get mixed together, and we dare not abide by our own thoughts, because we think them our own, and not God's: and this because we only now and then endeavor to know in earnest. It is only given to the habitually true to know the difference. He knew it, because all His blessed life long He could say, "My judgment is just, because I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me."
The practical result and inference of all this is a very simple, but a very deep one: the deepest of existence. Let life be a life of faith. Do not go timorously about, inquiring what others think, and what others believe, and what others say. It seems the easiest, it is the most difficult thing in life to do this. Believe in God. God is near you. Throw yourself fearlessly upon Him. Trembling mortal, there is an unknown light within your soul, which will wake when you command it. The day may come when all that is human, man and woman, will fall off from you; as they did from Him. Let His strength be yours. Be independent of them all now. The Father is with you. Look to Him, and He will save you.
Related Tags: Frederick W. Robertson, sermon, lesson