Saturday, October 21, 2006
sometimes wonder if the entire clothing scene of the disco era can be traced this this character. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of my collection is this origin issue. Luke is most famous for being the first black hero to have his own title. There were black heros before him, but he was the first to get his own book. I must confess that I was always surprized that he was not vilified by the black community, because he was so stereotypilcally "black" but today that would juts make him another rapper.
My favorite incarnation was when he teamed with Iron Fist as you see below. The interplay between the two characters, both more type than character in their origins. allowed them to develop into well-rounded full formed characters.
Of course, the big news regarding Luke is there is a movie in the offing.
Which may account for his radically new look as you see below. Let's face it, no one is going to dress up in that disco outfit anymore, and he does bear a striking resemblance to a certain snake killer, don't you think? (but then so does Nick Fury in the "Ultimate Avengers" - a story for another time)
Related Tags: comics, comic books, comic art, Luke Cage, Power Man, The Defenders
Friday, October 20, 2006
Suffering and Success - Church
So much has been written by so many about the misdirection of the church in things like the use of marketing techniques, the mega-church phenomena and other seeming misguided metrics of church success that it seems redundant to address those here A more important question is what would a suffering church look like?
One is tempted to to snidely answer that question with - The Mainline Denominations! Unfortunately, that is simply a statement that such churches are failing by the standards that we have here agreed are not suitable. They may suffer when compared to those standards, but do they suffer in the sense we mean it here?
No, I think a "suffering" church will be a confessing church. Note, I did not say "confessional" which implies adherence to those statements of doctrine called "confessions." No, I said confessing - that is to say a church knows its shortcomings and owns them, and admits them outloud and submits them to God Almighty - and urges its members to do the same.
I do dearly love corporate confession in worship, but it can be vacant and hollow, mere recitation without understanding or meaning. Certainly genuine confession will be marked by a bit of suffering. For what is the genuine realization of our own failures if not painful?
Col 2:12 - having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.Confession, like baptism, buries us with Christ just a little - that's gotta hurt. Hardest of all, it is a self-inflicted wound.
Imagine a church where you spend as much time examining where you are weak as you do proclaiming what you are going to build. That's a church that will endure self-inflicted suffering. That's a church that will place itself squarely in the hands of the Almighty relying not on the wisdom of the foolish. That's a church that will succeed in ways we cannot begin to imagine.
Part IV of the series is here.
Part V of the series is here.
Part VI of the series is here.
Related Tags: success, suffering, confession, church
Next morning when the barber goes to open his shop. There is a thank you card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.
Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies: "I'm sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week." The cop is happy and leaves the shop.
Next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a thank you card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.
Later a Republican comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies: "I'm sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week." The Republican is very happy and leaves the shop.
Next morning when the barber goes to open, there is a thank you card and a dozen different books such as "How to Improve Your Business" and "Becoming More Successful."
Then a Democrat comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies: "I'm sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week." The Democrat is very happy and leaves the shop.
The next morning when the barber goes to open up, there are a dozen Democrats lined up waiting for a free haircut.
Related Tags: politics, Republican, Democrat, joke, humor, wisecrack
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Suffering and Success - Personal Ministry
Today I want to look at that in regards to what each of may consider as our personal ministry. We all should have one, maybe even two. I say two because we should have some role we play in our local congregation - that's one for of personal ministry. The other forms is; however, a little less direct. Our whole lives are, in a sense, a personal ministry. Who you are, how you behave, is evidence of Christ in your life nd this evidence is presented to everyone you meet. This, whether we like to acknowledge it or not, is also a form of personal ministry, Let's consider each form briefly.
When it comes to our role in the local congregation, suffering comes in when we consider what we want to do versus what needs to be done. A personal example. I am truly unhappy when serving on Session. The best meetings are merely tedious, the paperwork enormous, the volunteers unreliable, the demands heavy. Then there are times when things get contentious, tempers flair, ugliness ensues, and sometimes, frankly, sheer stupidity raises its head. Nope serving on Session is no joy, it is pure chore, pure unhappy suffering chore. Because of this, I probably do not do it as much as I should, because I am fairly good at it. I am asked pretty routinely - I think there is a reason for that.
I am part of a denomination in crisis. That crisis will affect my congregation - that is probably a time for the good people to be on Session not the people climbing the learning curve, and I think I am one of those good people (So, I think does the nominating committee). But the mere thought casues me to shudder a bit. If I go on Session, I can promise you I will suffer. But it matters a lot.
When selecting our personal ministry in our local congregation, we need to be willing to suffer a bit - it's just that simple. we need to consider what needs to be done more than what we want to do.
When it comes to that other form of personal ministry, suffering is likely to be a big part of the equation.
2 Tim 3:12 - And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.That reads like a promise! If your life is indeed testimony to Jesus Christ, you will be persecuted for it - Paul says it that plainly and that simply. It is so easy to be nice around others, but stop just short of letting that nice be a genuine testimony to the power of Christ in your life. And we all invariable stop just that short becasue we know if the genuine witness shines through, the persecution and suffering will come. The snide remarks behind our backs. In my field the automatic derision of the seemingly "unsophisticated." The list goes on.
But yet, it seems we are to seek such persecution, such suffering, as a sign that succeeding in living "godly in Christ Jesus." After all, is that not our ultimate goal?
When it comes to how we are to succeed at being a Christian and having a personal ministry, it seems suffering will be part and parcel. Don't ask God to remove it, rather, ask Him for the strength to endure. Then seek ministry where you can exercise that strength.
Part III of this series is here.
Part IV of the series is here.
Part V of the series is here.
Part VI of the series is here.
Related Tags: success, suffering, personal ministry, metrics, Jesus
Links From Detroit - Motown Style
Confession will save his soul, but he should not be allowed in the church again, ever.
How to be completely clueless. Two problems with this list of "world's most polluted sites." First, the usual assumption, absent proof, that illness in the region is a result of contamination. Two, there are no old Soviet military nuclear sites. Plutonium is the most toxic substance known to man, and well, they were in a hurry to build those bombs. This is a fund raising ploy, not science.
The trend of science cast as religion continues. This rises to the level of Darwin adoration in my book.
Not to mention there is probably an constitutinal issue here. Last I recall, only the federal government can enter into treaty negotiations.
This is a disgusting timewaster in a cute sort of way.
Gentlemen - this will absolutely ruin your day.
What not to steal.
Related Tags: math education, ministry, pollution, Darwin, global warming, Kyoto, joke, humor, wisecrack
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Suffering and Success - An Introduction
And I guess this ultimately leads back to our understanding of the gospel. Nowhere does God attach a promise to the gospel that it will make anyone successful, but He does attach many promises of suffering to the gospel. It follows that gospel driven leaders will be those who suffer well.David is absolutely right here and the mind reels at the practical consequences of such a statement This fact has consequences in
- Our personal ministries
- our church
- our blogging
- our careers
- our politics
There is probably more, but I think that sounds like a good outline for a series of posts, so let's leave it at that.
I think David stops just slightly short of the ultimate expression of his idea in this post - there is no contrast betwen success and suffering, rather suffering is success. God's metric of success is quite different than ours, and this puts it in quite stark contrast.
Just a couple of generic comments and then over the next few days we will look at the ramifications of this idea in the areas outlined above.
God is not in the buiness of comforting us, He is in the business of remaking us.
2 Cor 5:17 - Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.To be entirely trite, "you have to break a few eggs to bake a cake." The transformation that God intends for us will not, in fact cannot, happen without pain.
2 Cor 3:18 - But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
Gal 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.That crucifixtion is painful stuff, and obviously the Apostle Paul thinks we share in Christ's pain thereof.
Which brings me to my second general observation. Contemplate God's ultimate "success" - His greatest expression of love.
John 15:13 - "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.God's greatest "success" starts with His death by one of the most painful means ever devised by man. It ends in the glory of His resurrection, but it starts on that cross. Success started on the cross. When you think about that, is it any wonder Christ exhorts us
Matt 16:24 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.We are called to success, but not success as the world knows it, but success that starts on a cross.
Part II of this series is here.
Part III of this series is here.
Part IV of the series is here.
Part V of the series is here.
Part VI of the series is here.
Related Tags: suffering, success, the cross, Christ, transformation
Back In The Air Links
Great question! - Answer: I know it when I see it, and I haven't seen much lately.
Ever time a see a Che Guevara T-Shirt, I get a little angry. On the plus side I once asked a 14-yo in one of she knew who it was, which caused her mother to chime in with a "THANK YOU!" Of course she didn't - it was just "hot." But you know good and darn well the makers of those shirts do. Why didn't the mother forbid the child to purshase the shirt? Why didn't all the people that thanked me for saying something reinforce the message by saying something as well?
The shriller they get, the more they are losing.
Gays that argue against the Christian mandate against homosexual practice I understand, but against Christianity itself? It certainly qualifies as hate speech. Is gay becoming a "religion"?
Wrong conclusion "Thinking Christian" - I have yet to meet a Christian that hates gays. There is a big difference between thinking them sinful and hating them. The first is born of compassion and a desire to bring slavation, in a word, compassion. The second simply discards them.
A bit too far methinks.
I love my Catholic brethren, but this is a little creepy.
How come this makes me think of the Wonder-Twins?
Bet I could make it dirty, and no, I won't tell you how.
The best place to eat after visiting a 1000-year-old cathedral and the seat of Anglicanism.
How to avoid a warp-core breach.
No doubt it is green. (Cultural reference here, but if you have to follow the link the jokes timing is gone.)
You don't say.
Related Tags: travl, art, Che Guevara, global warming, homosexuality, Christianity, politics, joke, humor, wisecrack
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
The Narrative and Elections
The narrrative may have unique power when it comes to war because war requires national will on a scale not demanded by any other governmental activity. However, elections demand a significant amount of national will as well, and a campaign for national office is largely about defining and maintaining a narrative. This is both a blessing and a curse.
When leaders inherited office, the days of aristocracy, they cast themselves as the hero of the narrative and used it to garner the national will for their agenda. But in a democracy casting the narrative in such a fashion is problematic. "Ours is a nation of laws, not men" says that old phrase from Civics class. We should not vote for heroes, we should be voting for the men or women that will best operate the controls of government and its application of law. Ask yourself, how can a candidate cast a narrative that inspires and motivates when the hero is not a person?
I would argue that no one has sufficiently answered that question to date. Thus when a candidate runs for office, most especially the presidency, we are treated to narratives that paint the candidates just short of Superman. Consider the now famous "Man from Hope" video from the 1992 Democrat convention, or Clinton's "WWE walk" from 1996. To get elected, we grant the person far more importance than our governemental system was designed to provde for.
This has happened for a number of reasons, the power of media, the general inattentiveness of a large segment of the population to many matters governmental - the very success of our nation makes seriousness about matters governmental less necessary than they used to be.
The effect is that things unimportant become important, and positions arrived at for silly reasons. Thus, the religious affiliation of a candidate matters more than the stance on issues derived from that affiliation. Thus we see "Bush hatred" mandating stances on every issue from the left.
The narrative that matters in elections is not the narrative of the candidate, but the narrative of the nation. But people are so focused on the individual anymore that the narrative of the nation seems secondary. People seem unable to see the bigger picture.
I have to confess something - I was a very reluctant Bush voter first time around. I voted for him because he had the Republicans sown up, and I'm a party guy, but I was not overly impressed. Then came 9-11 and the man quit worrying about getting elected and started leading. He let history write the narrative about the events, instead of trying to control the narrative about himself.
I think the candidate that can really restore the necessary narrative balance in this country is the one that will lead in the campaign, and let history write the narrative. I also think this candidate will have enough natural appeal to win the day.
This means the canddate that I think will do best is the one that tells the nation's story, not his, or her, own. That's the narrative I want to hear in the '08 election cycle - and I think it is the one America wants to hear as well.
Related Tags: election, narrative, America, President, story
Too Much Travel Links
No mechanism, just assertion. Oh, that's good science.
They'd be right - but this may be a bit too far.
Well, that's it - kill 'em all. EVERYTHING man does changes the planet - Oh NO!
I worked for about 4 years with the gold mining industry in the US. Concerns are grossly overblown. Particularly when compared to mining operations like copper, or coal. I don't know why people focus on gold as evil mining so much.
Pick your fear.
This is wehrre hemmeroids come from.
Related Tags: environment, joke, humor
Monday, October 16, 2006
How To Vote Like A Christian?
1 Tim 6:1-2 - Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine may not be spoken against. And let those who have believers as their masters not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but let them serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.In both of these instances Paul seems to be calling not for changing the order of the day, but for being a good Christian in that order. This says that we have an obligation to be a good citizen of our nation, which in the case of the US, means voting and voting intelligently. So, the first thing one can say about how to vote like a Christian is to make sure and do it.
Eph 5:24-25 - But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;
Then there is the question of "Who?" Well, I think the fact that slaves are instructed to submit to non-believing masters and believing masters in the same fashion indicates that religous faith is not an essential question when it comes to deciding who to vote for. From a practical standpoint, there have been bad elected officials that were Christians (Think Jimmy Carter) and good elected officials that were not, or only nominally so (think Ronald Reagan).
We do not endorse a religion by voting for an adherent to that religion for any office. What's more, save for the national level, actually save for President, how much do we ever know about the religion of any candidate. Ask yourself this - if it is wrong to vote for a XXX for President, wouldn't it be wrong to do so for Senate? - or even Mayor?
Who we vote for is a question best answered by issues. That is to say to ask who it is that will best represent the issues that concern us as Christians. Issues on life, marriage, and, in this day and age, religious expression in public.
I keep thinking about the fact that the gospel is not a political message. If it was, Jesus would have overturned the Roman Empire as so many expected him to do. But He did not. He took a different path. Why, because He knew that the gospel would not win the day in that fashion - he knew it required something different.
Christianity will not "succeed" on the basis of who gets into office, or what laws are passed. It will flourish more or less, but some of the most vibrant Christians I have ever met were in places where their very existence was denied (The Soviet Union, The PRC).
In the end, the best way to vote like a Christian is, simply, to be a good Christian, study the options, and vote for the person that your reason, your reading, your research and your heart tell you to vote for. To ask the government to reflect your faith is, in a way, to ask someone else to be a Christian for you.
Related Tags: Christian, voting, faith, practice
Traveling Home From Boston Links
Proof, some clergy fall for propoganda too.
Speaking of reason - this time it is genuine.
Know your operating system
Please do not point it at me.
It's where I like to stay when in London.
I love caramel, I really love caramel, but no, this is abomination.
Speaking of abomination
You have not marked your territory if you do it this way.
Related Tags: global warming, Christians and environment, joke, humor, wisecrack
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Liberty Sunday - The Event - Live Blogging
After and intro by this church's pastor, first up - FRC president Tony Perkins, who, by the way, agreed to an Article VI interview today.
The first video package, along with the usual "one nation under God" stuff is discussing the story of Catholic Charities giving up adoption services in Mass. because if they continued to offer them, they would be forced to allow adoption to homosexual couples, they are right in pointing out the clash of homosexual liberty and religious liberty
Now up, the Romney's - more when they are done.
Governor Romney was impressive. More impressive; however, was the response of this at least half black, reasonably fundamentalist congregation to Romney. If the crowd is a measure, Romney has no Mormon problem.
Romney emphasized, as is Dobson via video while I type, the importance of opposite sex parenting for children. Romney emphasized the clash of adult and children's "rights." This strikes me as a devestating arguement - it should appeal across the political specturm (remember that book by Hillary?)
Romney is now back because they lost the national feed and the crowd is on its feet again. Same speech. I am noting that he makes specific mention of the establishment clause, saying liberals claim the establishment of the religion of secularism. Nice work, he defends his faith situation while banging the libs at the same time.
He also calls for the federal defense of marriage amendment, thus nationalizing his speech. Again, brilliant politics.
They are finally getting to the meat of matters, discussing how the homosexual agenda requires the restriction of politcal speech. they are marching through families that have tried to remove thier children from classes to avoid certain teaching and taking comment from leading conservative legal organizations.
It does strike me as I listen to some of the preachers here that the parallels are stirking with the civil rights movement. Haivng been born in the south, I remember hearing sermons about the evil presented by the civil rights movement - those tunes changed as the civil rights movement gained ground. Civil action of this type does have an effect on religious statements. This effect is amplified in an age of hate crimes laws. There is of course this difference. The civil rights activists had a moral case on their side - the homosexual activists do not.
After a few more preachers and videos, taking the podium is Alan Chambers of Exodus International, a Christian group that helps homosexuals overcome their temptation. While I have never heard Mr. Chambers before, I have heard similar testimonies. They are powerful and they are telling. The fact that people can and do "overcome" thier homosexuality says more about this dabate than almost any other fact. Mr. Chambers is powerfully pointing out, and he should know, how people on the other side of the debate are motivated in their shrillness by their internal conviction of their wrongness. They seek the power of government to overcome the moral reality of homosexual practice.
It's ending - Final Comments: This was essentially a get out the vote rally for the eight states that have marriage definition amendments on the ballot in the upcoming elections. While I generally think such things should happen somewhere besides the church, the stories told here about the squelching of religious expression and personal choice concerning how children are educated is powerful stuff. I am stil not sure about church, but I am sure peopole of faith need to take this to heart and vote.
Related Tags: faith, homosexuality, religious expression, freedom
Liberty Sunday - The Webcast begins
Liberty Sunday - The Protests Begin - Live Blogging
UPDATE: I just took a quick walk through the various protestors. The crowd as grown over the last half-hour and is amazing in it's diversity. They are attracting just about every kind of extremist on both sides of the aisle. I collected one flyer that contnded that Gov. Romney was who was really responsible for gay marriage in Mass.?????
But far and away, the crowd (about 50 at the moment) is of the gay rights = civil rights camp. Setting aside my religious objections for just a moment, I cannot help but be struck by how this cheapens the important issue of genuine civil rights. As i just overheard one person say, "I have met former homosexuals, but I can never be a 'former black.'"
Liberty Sunday, Setting The Stage - Live Blogging
In the meantime we have been granted an exclusive link to the DVD of the testimonies concerning the squelching of speech related to the homosexual agenda. This is will replay the Liberty Sunday event itself and this is the Critical Mass DVD itself with the stories of those who have suffered the offensive.
Liberty Sunday Press Conference - Live Blogging
The press conference before the event has begun. It started witht he usual suspect, the politial activist types, but we are now hearing from guys like David Parker and other parents that have had homosexuality more of less indoctrinated into thier kids by the school system. It is pretty ugly stuff. They are teaching kids about homosexuality and trying to make it appear normal at very early ages.
I am struck by how the efforts parallel the efforts to present Darwinism as a done deal through the educational system.
Right now, the speaker is Alan Chambers of Exodus - I am sitting with Randy Thomas, one of their bloggers. They are a ministry dedicated to helping homosexuals get out of that lifestyle using the gospel. It is great to hear from him. I have friends in their ministries in California.
There is some discussion of how this issue is cross racial lines. How about religious lines? Of Course, Gov. Romney will be here and he is a Mormon, there are Catholics and Protestants, but where are the Jews?
They will be releasing a DVD of testimony from people who have at their relgious convictions supressed because of the classification of homosexuality as a protected civil class. It will be called "Critical Mass." Unfortunately they do not have a link to it up yet. You can read some of the stories here
LIVE BLOGGING ALERT!
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
So begins the Bill of Rights with the first amendment to our Constitution--one that guarantees a God-given freedom. For over 200 years the light of the church has illuminated this freedom, but now a radical agenda seeks to extinguish that flame.
The expansion of non-discrimination laws to include homosexuality inevitably constricts our right to express and act on our religious beliefs.
Featured speakers include Mitt Romney and Tony Perkins, President of the FRC, both of whom I hope to get interviews with. Other notables in the religious/politcal battle will appear by video including James Dobson, Donald Wildmon and Chuck Colson. I'll be posting as frequently as events allow.
Links From Boston I
A fascinating look at religion and society, Hindu religion, but religion nonetheless.
Interesting blogging stuff on the tail and EVIL. In my opinion, MySpace ain't blogging - it's something else.
Way Cool Space pic
Because I must
Shouldn't my blog be better then?
Related Tags: pentecostalism, hindu, blogging, joke, humor, wisecrack
Sermons and Lessons
Newell Dwight Hillis was born at Magnolia, Iowa, in 1858. He first became known as a preacher of the first rank during his pastorate over the large Presbyterian church in Evanston, Illinois. (ed note: I was baptized in that church!) This reputation led to his being called to the Central Church, Chicago, in which he succeeded Dr. David Swing, and where from the first he attracted audiences completely filling one of the largest auditoriums in Chicago. In 1899 he was called to Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, to succeed Dr. Lyman Abbott in the pulpit made famous by the ministry of Henry Ward Beecher. By his strong personality and mental gifts he drew to his church a large and eager following. His best known books are "A Man's Value to Society," and "The Investment of Influence."
Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God, - Isaiah 40:1. He shall not fail, nor be discouraged - Isaiah 42:4.
This is an epic of the unwearied God, and the fainting strength of man. For splendor of imagery, for majesty and elevation, it is one of the supreme things in literature. Perhaps no other Scripture has exerted so profound an influence upon the world's leaders. Luther read it in the fortress of Salzburg, John Brown read it in the prison at Harper's Ferry. Webster made it the model of his eloquence, Wordsworth, Carlyle and a score of others refer to its influence upon their literary style, their thought and life. Like all the supreme things in eloquence, this chapter is a spark struck out of the fires of war and persecution. Its author was not simply an exile - he was a slave who had known the dungeon and the fetter. Bondage is hard, even for savages, naked, ignorant, and newly drawn from the jungle, but slavery is doubly hard for scholars and prophets, for Hebrew merchants and rulers.
This outburst of eloquence took its rise in a war of invasion. When the northern host swept southward, and overwhelmed Jerusalem, the onrushing wave was fretted with fire; later, when the wave of war retreated, it carried back the detritus of a ruined civilization. The story of the siege of Jerusalem, the assault upon its gates, the fall of the walls, all the horrors of famine and of pestilence, are given in the earlier chapters of this wonderful book. The homeward march of the Persian army was a kind of triumphal procession in which the Hebrew princes and leaders walked as captives. The king marched in the guise of a slave, with his eyes put out, followed by sullen princes, with bound hands, and unsubdued hearts. As slaves the Hebrews crossed the Euphrates at the very point where Xenophon crossed with his immortal ten thousand. In the land of bondage the exiles were planted, not in military prisons, but in gangs, working now in the fields, now in the streets of the city, and always under the scourge of soldiers. When thirty years had passed the forty thousand captives were scattered among the people, one brother in the palace, and another a slave in the fields. Soon their religion became only a memory, their language was all but forgotten, their old customs and manner of life were utterly gone. But God raised up two gifted souls for just such an emergency as this. One youth, through sheer force of genius, climbed to the position of prime minister, while a young girl through her loveliness came to the king's palace. One day an emancipation proclamation went forth, from a king who had come to believe in the unseen God who loved justice, and would overwhelm oppression and wrong. The good news went forth on wings of the wind making ready for their return to their homeland, all the captives gathered on the outskirts of the desert. It was a piteous spectacle. The people were broken in health, their beauty marred, their weapon a staff, their garments the leather coat, their provisions pieces of moldy bread, and their path fifteen hundred miles of sands, across the desert. To such an end had come a disobedient and sinful generation!
In that hour, beholding these exiles and captives, a flood of emotions rushed over the poet; he saw those bound who should conquer; he saw that men were slaves who should be kings. Then, with a rush, an immeasurable longing shivers through him like a trumpet call. Oh, to save them! To perish for their saving! To die for their life, to be offered for them all! In an abandon of grief and sympathy, he began to speak to them in words of comfort and hope. At first these exiles, dumb with pain and grief, listened, but listened with no light quivering in the eye, and no hope flitting like sunshine across the face. Their yesterdays held bondage, blows and degradation; their tomorrow held only the desert and the return to a ruined land. Then the word of the Lord came upon the poet. What if the night winds did go mourning through the deserted streets of their capital! What if their language had decayed and their institutions had perished? What if the farmer's field was only a waste of thorns and thickets, and the towns become heaps and ruins! What if the king of Babylon and his army has trampled them under foot, as slaves trample the shellfish, crushing out the purple dye that lends rich color to a royal robe? "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people. Is the way long and through a desert" "Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill shall be made low." Has slavery worn man's strength to nothingness until he is as weak as the broken reed and the withered grass? The spirit of the Lord will revive the grass, trampled down by the hoofs of war horses. Soon the bruised root shall redden into the rose and the fluted stem climb into the tree. And think you if God?s winds can transform a spray and twig into a trunk fit for foundation of house or mast of ship; that eternal arms can not equip with strength the hand of patriot?
Is the Shepherd and Leader of His little flock unequal to their guidance across the desert? "Behold the Lord will come with a strong arm; he shall feed his flock like a shepherd and he shall gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom." What! Man's hand unequal to the task of rebuilding Jerusalem? Hath not God pledged His strength to the worker, that God whose arm strikes out worlds as the smith strikes out sparks upon the anvil? Is not man's helper that God who dippeth up the seas in the hollow of His hand? Who weighs the mountains with scales and the hills in the balance? What! Thine enemies too strong for thee? Why, God looketh upon all the nations and enemies of the earth as but a drop in the bucket. He sendeth forth His breath, and the tribes disappear as dust is blown from the balance. Then the trumpet call shivered through these exiles. "Hast thou not known? Have the sons of the fathers never heard of the everlasting God, the Lord, Creator of the ends of the earth? Fainteth not, neither is weary!" Heavy is the task, but the Eternal giveth power and strength. Even tho young patriots and heroes faint and fall, they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. While fulfilling their task of rebuilding they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Oh, what a word is this! What page in literature is comparable to it for comfort! Wonderful the strength of the warrior! Mighty the influence of the statesman! All powerful seems the inventor, but greater still the poet who dwells above the clang and dust of time, with the world's secret trembling on his lips.
He needs no converse nor companionship,Primarily, this glorious outburst was addrest to the exiles as heads of families. The father's strength was broken and his children had been crusht and ground to earth. The ancient patrimony was gone; he had gathered his little ones in from the huts where slaves dwelt. He was leading his little band of pilgrims into a desert. But the prophet spoke to the exiles as to men who believed that the family was the great national institution. With us, the family is important, but with these Hebrew exiles the family was everything. For them the home was the spring from whence the mighty river rolled forth. The family was the headwaters of national, industrial, social and religious life. Every father was revered as the architect of the family fortune. The first ambition of every young Hebrew was to found a family. Just as abroad, a patrician gentleman builds a baronial mansion, fills it with art treasures, hangs the shields and portraits of his ancestors upon the walls, hoping to hand the mansion forward to generations yet unborn, so every worthy Hebrew longed to found a noble family. How keen the anguish, therefore, of this exile in the desert! What a scene is that of the exiles upon the edge of the desert. Darkness is upon the land and the fire burns low into coals. Worn and exhausted, children are sleeping beside the mother. Here is an old man, lying apart, broken and bitter in spirit?one son stands forth a dim figure - looking down upon his aged parents, upon the wife of his bosom and upon his little children. Standing under the stars, he meditates his plans. How shall he care for these, when he returns to his ruined estate? In the event of death, what arm shall lift a shield above these little ones? What if sickness or death pounce upon a home as an eagle upon a dove, as wolves upon lambs, or as brigands descend from the mountains upon sleeping herdsmen!
In cold starlight, whence thou
can not come,
The undelivered tidings in his breast,
Will not Jet him
He who looks down upon the immemorable throng,
And binds the ages
with a song.
And through the accents of our time,
There throbs the
message of eternity.
And so the unwearied God comforted the fainting
strength of man.
Every founder of a family knows the agony, of such an hour! We are in a world where men are never more than a few weeks from possible poverty and want; little wonder then that all men seek to provide for the future of the home and the children. But to the exile standing in the darkness, with love that broods above his babes, there comes this word of comfort: God?s solicitude for you and yours will not let Him slumber or sleep! God will lift up a highway for the feet of the little band of pilgrims. The eternal God shall be thy guide in the march through the desert. His pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night shall stand in the sky; He shall lead the flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the little ones in His arms, and carry the children in His bosom. And if the father fail on the march, the wings of the Eternal shall brood the babes that are left. His right arm shall be a sword and His left arm a shield. The eternal God fainteth not, neither is weary. Having time to care for the stars, and to lead them forth by name, He hath time and thought also for His children. What a word is this for the home! What comfort for all whose hearts turn toward their children! What a pledge to fathers for generations yet unborn! This truth arms every parent for any emergency. For God is round about every home as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, for bounty and pro¬tection.
But the sage was also thinking of men whose hopes were broken, and whose lives were baffled and beaten. These exiles, crossing the desert, might have claimed for themselves the poet's phrase, "Lo, henceforth I am a prisoner of hope." Like Dante, they might have cried, "For years my pillow by night has been wet with tears, and all day long have I held heartbreak at bay." For these whose glorious youth had been exhausted by bondage, life had run to its very dregs. Gone the days of glorious strength! Gone all the opportunities that belong to the era when the heart is young, the limitations of life had become severe environment often is a cage against whose iron bars the soul beats bloody wings in vain!
How many men are held back by one weak nerve, or organ! How many are shut in, and limited, and just fall short of supreme success because of an hereditary weakness, handed on by the fathers! How many made one mistake in youth in choosing the occupation and discovered the error when it was too late! How many erred in judgment in their youth, through one critical blunder, that has been irretrievable, and whose burden is henceforth lashed to the back! In suck an hour of depression, Isaiah assembles the exiles, and exclaims, "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people. Though your young men faint and be weary, though the strong utterly fail, yet God is the unwearied one; with his help thou shalt take thy burden, and mount up with wings as eagles; with his unwearied strength thou shalt run with thy load and not be weary, and walk and not faint." For this is the experience of persecution and the reward of sorrow, bravely borne that the fainting strength of man is supplemented by the sure help of the unwearied God.
Therefore, in retrospect, exiles, prisoners, martyrs, who have believed in God seem fortunate. The endungeoned heroes often seem the children of careful good fortune and happiness. The saints, walking through the fire, stand forth as those who are dear unto God. How the point of view changes events. Kitto was deaf, and in his youth his deafness broke his heart, but because his ears were closed to the din of life, he became the great scholar of his time, and swept the treasures of the world into a single volume, an armory of intellectual weapons. Fawcett was blind, but through that blindness became a great analytic student, a master of organization, and served all England in her commerce. John Bright was broken-hearted, standing above the bier, but Richard Cobden called him from his sorrow to become a voice for the poor, to plead the cause of the opprest, and bring about the Corn Laws for the hungry workers in the factories and shops. Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.
Let the exile say unto himself: "Your warfare is accomplished; your iniquity is pardoned; the Lord's hand will give unto thee double for all thy sins that are forgiven." The great faiths and convictions of the prophets and law-givers, your language and your laws and your liberties, have not been destroyed by captivity; rather slavery has saved them. At last you know their value; in contrast with the idolatry of the Euphrates, the jargon of tongues, the inequality of rights, the organization of justice and oppression, how wonderful the equity of the laws of Moses! How beautiful the faith of the fathers! How surely founded the laws of God. Henceforth idolatry, injustice and sin became as monstrous in their ugliness as they were wicked in their essence. Everything else might go, but not the faith of the fathers. Persecution was like fire on the vase; it burned the colors in. Little wonder that the tradition tells us that for the next hundred years, at stated periods, all the people in the land came together, while a reader repeated this chapter on the unwearied God and the fainting strength of man that had recovered unto hope, men whose hopes had been baffled and beaten.
The thought of an unwearied God is also the true antidote to despondency. The ground of optimism is in God. When that great thinker described certain people as without God and without hope, there was sure logic in his phrase, for the Godless man is always the hopeless man. Between no God anywhere and the one God who is everywhere, there is no middle ground. Either we are children, buffeted about by fate and circumstances, with events tossing souls about in an eternal game of battledore and shuttlecock, or else the world is our Father's house, and God standeth within the shadow, keeping watch above His own. For the man who believes in God, who allies himself to nature, who makes the universe his partner, there is no defeat, and no death, and no interruption of his prosperity. Concede that there is a God, and it follows as a logical necessity that He will not permit any enemy to ruin your life and His plans. For a man who holds this faith it follows that there can be no defeat, or failure. Indeed, the essential difference between men is the difference in their relation toward God. Here are the biographies of two great men. Both are men of genius, both are marvelously equipped, but their end was, oh, how different. One is Martin Luther, who stood forth, alone, affirming his religious freedom, in the face of enemies and devils thick as the tiles on the roofs of the houses. The few friends Luther had shut him up in a fortress to save his life, but Luther mightily believed in God. With the full consent of his marvelous gifts, he surrendered his life to the will of God. Knowing that his days were as brief as the withering grass, he allied himself with the Eternal. In his discouragement he read these words, "The Everlasting God fainteth not, neither is weary." In that hour Martin Luther shouted for joy. The beetling walls of the fortress were as though they were not. Victorious he went forth, in thought, ranging throughout all Germany. And going out, he went up and down the land telling the people that God would protect him, and soon Germany was free.
Goethe tells us that Luther was the architect of modern German language and literature, and stamped himself into the whole national life. The Germany of the Kaiser is simply Martin Luther written large in fifty millions of men. But what made Luther? There was some hidden energy and spirit within him! What was this spirit in him? The spirit of beauty turned a lump of mud into that Grecian face about which Keats wrote his poem. The spirit of truth changes a little ink into a beautiful song. The spirit of strength and beauty in an architect changes a pile of bricks into a house or cathedral or gallery. And the thought of our unwearied God changed the collier's son into the great German emancipator. But over against this man, who never knew despondency, after his vision hour, stands another German. He, too, was a philosopher, clothed with ample power, and blest with opportunity. But he did evil in his life, and then the heart lost its faith, and hope utterly perished. The more he loved pleasure and pursued self, the more cynical and bitter be became. Pessimism set a cold, hard stamp upon his face, and marred his beauty. Cynicism lies like a black mark across his pages. At last, in his bitterness, the philosopher tells us the whole universe is a mirage, and that yonder summer - making sun is a bubble that repeats its iridescent tints in the colors of the rainbow. Despair ate out his heart. He became the most miserable of men, and knew no freedom from sorrow and pain. And lo, now the man's philosophy has perished like a bubble, his influence has utterly disappeared, for his books are unread, while only an occasional scholar chances upon his name, though the great summer-making sun still shines on and Luther's eternal God fainteth not, neither is weary.
Are you weak, oh, patriot? Remember God is strong. Do your days of service seem short, until your life is scarcely longer than the flower that blooms today and is gone tomorrow? God is eternal, and He will take care of your work. Are you sick with hope long deferred? Hope thou in God; He shall yet send succor. Have troubles driven happiness from thee, as the hawk drives the young lark or nightingale from its nest? Return unto thy rest, troubled heart, for the Lord will deal bountifully with thee. Are you anxious for your children? God will bring the child back from the far country. For the child hath wandered far, the golden thread spun in a mother?s heart is an unbroken thread that will draw him home! For things that distress you today, you shall thank God tomorrow. Nothing shall break the golden chain that binds you to God?s throne. Are you hopeless and despondent because of your fainting strength? Remember that the antidote for despondency is the thought of the unwearied God, who is doing the best He can for you, and whose ceaseless care neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Little wonder therefore that God became all and in all to this feeble band of captives, journeying across the desert back to their ruined life and land. God had taken away earthly things from them, that He might be their all and in all. When the earth is made poor for us, sometimes the heavens become rich. God closed the eyes of Milton to the beauty in land and sea and sky, that he might see the companies of angels marching and countermarching on the hills of God. He closed the ears of Beethoven, that he might hear the music of St. Cecilia falling over heathen's battlements. He gave Isaiah a slave's hut, that he might ponder the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. How is it that this prophet and poet has become companion of the great ones of the earth? At the time Isaiah rebelled against his bondage, but when it was all over, and the fitful fever had passed, and the fleshly fetters had fallen, he smiled at the things that once alarmed him, as he recalled his fainting strength and the unwearied God.
Gone - that ancient capital. Babylon is a heap. Jerusalem a ruin! But this epic of the unwearied Guide still lives! Isaiah, can never die! Can a chapter die that has cheered the exile in his loneliness, that has comforted the soldier upon his bivouac, that has braced the martyr for his execution, that has given songs at midnight to the prisoners in the dungeon? Out of suffering and captivity came this song of rest and hope. At last the poet praised the eternal God for his bonds and his imprisonment. Oh, it is darkness that makes the morning light so welcome to the weary watcher. It is hunger that makes bread sweet. It is pain and sickness that gives value to the physician and his medicine. It is business trouble that makes you honor your lawyer and counselor, and it is the sense of need that makes God near.
Are there any merchants here who are despondent? Remember the eternal God and make your appeal to the future. Are there any parents whose children have wandered far? When they are old, the children will return to the path of faith and obedience. Are there any in whom the immortal hope burns low? The smoking flax He will not quench, but will fan the flame into victory. Look up today; be comforted once more. Work henceforth in hope. Live like a prince. Scatter sunshine. Let your atmosphere be happiness. If troubles come, let them be the dark background that shall throw your hope and faith into bolder relief. God hath set His heart upon you to deliver you. Though your hand faint, and the tool fall, the eternal God fainteth not, neither is weary. He will bring thy judgment unto victory, immortalize thy good deeds, and crown thy career with everlasting renown.
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