Saturday, December 16, 2006
Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Link
Sometimes I hate our legal system because of how it controverts logic. The very concept of a somehow "uncruel" death penalty is just asinine. Of course it is cruel, the point IS that it is cruel. It is also the only acceptable societal response to genuine evil, which is real and amongst us. Personally, there are some for whom drawing and quartering would be too humane.
I am going to get in a lot of trouble for saying this, but this is not cool. I think the handicapped people ought to wear a sign that says, "I forced the government to force you to at least act politely. Was that polite?" Here's a hint, coercion, government or otherwise, is defintionally impolite.
When will they be on the showroom floor, and where do I make a deposit?
Ive always thought "reporter with sense of humor" was an oxymoron, but not anymore. Check this:
At Wheaton North High School the mission is to create self-directed students who make sound decisions. Last week one of those students decided to do the unthinkable when officials say he spiked a container of cafeteria salad dressing with his own semen.It took actual intelligence to write that paragraph.
Speaking of which, the "smartest" are also the most liberal. That says that either we have a very perverted view of "smart" or education is no longer worth it.
Beautiful and cool.
Yes, it's true, I used to be grossly obese, enormously fat, but NO!, despite the rumors, never like this. Next to him, I looked like Nicole Ritchie, which is why I hung out with him a lot...
Th new James Bond?
I wonder if he was chased into a windmill by villagers with pitchforks and torches?
How come it's cute at 2, and my wife throws things at me when I say it?
Related Tags: pride, freedom, capital punishment, over-regulation, military hardware, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Continuing our journey through lam-o Spidey villians What can you say about a guy named Typeface? Obviously invented by someone who spent waaaaaay to much time fiddling with computer fonts, Typeface just sounds like the kind of bad guy only a font geek amongst comic geeks could love.
This guy has got to have come out of one of those bullpen brainstorming sessions where they did not have time to invent and actual character, so they came up with a villian theme and personified it instead. Fine for action, but lousy for actual, you know...story.
This guy would not be so bad if it were still the 1940's and mere sight of a guy with powers and tights was enough to make the public wonder. I mean look at that dialouge on the left..."purveyors of poisonous rhetoric" - you have to love the alliteration - but otherwise that has to be the lamest line since "...take over the world." Sadly, this guy is fairly new, proving creativity is still hard to come by.
Related Tags: comics, comic books, Spider-man, Spidey villians, Typeface
Friday, December 15, 2006
The Gospel And Blogging
My question, frankly, is why, given several years with this notion, are we still fiddling with the analogy, and more importantly why aren't we seeing results? Two reasons I think. Firstly, we Godbloggers are more interested in our community than in spreading our message. Secondly, the analogy is flawed because the understanding of the Reformation is incomplete.
I will not belabor the point on bloggers and their motivations, I have done that again and again. There is room in the world for bloggers that desire self-expression, that are simply seeking to be part of an on-line community, but much as a church can be too focused on its fellowship to remember its call to evangelism, so I think Godblogging can.
The second point is more informative. There was much more to the Reformation than simply "new media" - there were new ideas, liberating ideas. You will note that the new media of the age did not help the old ideas (the Roman church) much. Where are our new ideas? So far, we are just recycling the old ones in new ways.
More too was the willingness to organize and transmit those new messages in all available ways, not just through the new media, but the key word there is organize. It was not about Martin Luther or John Calvin, it was about the thousands that picked up their ideas and built something of them. What is it in Godblogging we seek to build?
Which brings me to the genuine heart of this matter. Political blogging has been highly effective, why? Simple, blogging is a tool of politics - something used by the greater organizations of politics to further their cause. The same holds for Godblogging, that which has been most effective has been that which has been affiliated with some organization and been used to further the aims of that organization.
There is a lesson in that. If you want to be a part of the blogging comunity, then by all means, come in, the water's warm and there are some nice people around. But, if you are serious about using blogging to accomplish some end, you need to be serious about more than just blogging. Attach yourself to some organization with which you sympathize and make your blogging a tool of that effort. Or, do the really hard work of organizing yourself. But it's not gonna happen here in cyberspace unless it is also happening out there in three dimensions.
Blogging is not a ministry, it is a tool of ministry.
Related Tags: blogging, Godblogging, ministry, organization, effectiveness
Come On Bennett, Let's Link*
Loving the planet to death. That may be the best definition of "environmentalism" I have ever heard - certainly loving society to death.
This scientist urges him to shut up.
Relax, it's not all bad.
We heard the same thing about smoking, but nope, they are making money hand-over-fist treating smokers. We all die; we all need a lot of health care before we die, regardless of how we die. If anything will bankrupt the British NHS is is a shrinking taxation base with a growing elderly population.
So where did they get it from?
Cultural whiplash - animal sacrifice for aircraft maintenance.
The wave is cresting. (HT: Kruse Kronicle)
Most will find this video repulsive. (HT: CDR Salamander) It's about serious Texas cuisine. I find it truly, truly appetizing and am having a hard time staying off a plane to go get some right now. And now you know why I have had to lose so much weight in the last several years. By the way, you need some bar-b-que sauce to go with those onion rings.
Was the deer still attached?
Because, when it comes to our pets, we are all anthropomorphizing, sentimental idiots.
That's good shooting. seriously, wrong target, but great precision, pretty amazing for a carpet bomber like the BUFF.
How come Hanna-Barbera did not think of this? (Cultural reference for the cartoon impaired.)
To think, I was in Stockholm and missed this. Yes, I admit, I would have laughed very hard.
Why I must return to Moscow - the Batcave is there.
Related Tags: environmentalism, obesity, Texas cuisine, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
The speeder looks at the owner sheepishly and says, "Looks as if I killed your dog."
"I'm sorry. Was it a valuable dog?"
"I wouldn't say that."
"Well, suppose I gave you a hundred dollars. Would that be enough?"
"Well, I don't know."
"Two hundred dollars. That should do it."
The speeder reached into his pocket and came up with the money. Pressing it into the man's hand, he said, "I'm sorry I spoiled your plans to go hunting."
"I wasn't going hunting. I was heading out to the woods to shoot that mangy dog."
Related Tags: Friday Humor, joke, humor, wisecrack
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Who Examines Whom?
Hubris and heresy from someone named Campolo probably shouldn't be that surprising. But it is an extreme example of an all too common problem, even among non-heretics: failing to recognize the holiness of God.John Mark Reynolds is fond of pointing out that as Christians we are monarchists. Says Joe:
Contra Campolo, God is indeed completely good, entirely loving, and perfectly forgiving. But He is also holy - pure, wholly perfect, transcendent. Holiness demands that we tremble in God's presence; instead, we rebel. Justice demands that we we pay for our impunity; instead, we are allowed to continue living.
The question that we should be asking is not, as Campolo claims, "God is a cruel bastard. How can we trust him?" but rather, "God is a Holy Sovereign. How can he tolerate my rebellion?"[emphasis mine]I don't want to go all anti-intellectual here, but "hubris" is an excellent word when it comes to us trying to examine God and come to understand Him. Forget the judgement part for a minute, and let's just talk about comprehendability.
Though the concept was long ago left behind for most who do science, science was intended to come to know something of the Creator, by coming to understand His creation. Yet, the single most important lesson of science for any serious student is "The more we figure out, the more we know what we don't know." For all the vast knowledge of creation we have gained, there is so much more to know. The answers we get simply raise more questions. We used to think we had found the fundamental things of creation when we found the structure of the atom, but now we know bosons (e.g. protons and neutrons) are made of even smaller things called quarks, and we are not entirely sure they are the fundamental building blocks anyway. And all these things exist in a "quantum world" where distinction between matter and energy breaks down to a point that we do not really understand it, we just manipulate it. We occassionally find animals we thought millenia extinct. No sooner do we decide the planet is cooling, than we think we find it is warming. Science pushes at the boundaries of knowledge, always and only to find that the extent of knowledge is an ever increasing distance from its boundaries. If such is true of creation, what can be said of the Creator?
It is hubris to try and understand God. But it is blessing for Him to reveal Himself to us. Yet even when we receive such blessed revelation, we must take care to know that it is but partial revelation, for the extent of God exceeds not just the boundaries of our knowledge, but the extent of our possible comprehension.
We cannot put God to the test, for we cannot comprehend His limits, if indeed He is limited in any fashion. And yet God tests us daily, testing not the limits of our knowledge, but the purity of our souls - a purity found only when we start by admitting our limitations.
Related Tags: hubris, knowledge, limitations, confession
Slinking Into Linking
If you can't go skiing this year, blame the Chinese. Why? - Because there must be someone to sue! Go ahead, try to collect. Here are your co-plantiffs.
It's not cow farts, it's cow burps? Let me tell you the real story. For decades the dairy industry in Southern California was rooted in Norco. In the last decade or so suburbia has surrounded the dairy farms, and experience their unique fragrance. And now cow emissions are a pollutant. You see a pattern here? You don't like it? -- MOVE, or buy the dairy farm, I don't care, but declaring it a pollutant is just stupid.
Breakthrough?...Breakthrough?! - Hogwash, the Democrats have had theirs by-passed for years.
Louisiania politics. And people blame Bush for the Katrina disaster....
NASA is attempting to make the Fantastic Four. Hopefully they have figured out a way to keep Ben from being a permanent rockpile.
Speaking of which, anytime someplace as august as NRO's Corner links to comic book stuff, who am I not to pass it on. Great Conan moments.
Having done business in China, I can appreciate the fact that they would use a labor intensive, freakshow approach to solving a problem. How do you think the dolphins felt when they saw that coming at them?
Speaking of freakshows. But the real question is "How much beer and how many brats?"
Poorest excuse for a dog in history. Just get a cat.
Related Tags: toxicity, global warming, cows, comic books, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
How To React
Churches in Britain are a "toxic cocktail" of bullying and terror, as parish priests struggle to lead congregations dominated by neurotic worshippers who spread havoc with gossip and manipulation.If I am entirely frank, and I usually am, I think this is a bit of a self-inflicted wound. I mean you build a consumer oriented church, you are going to get consumers and consumers like to complain. The story takes a slightly different approach but seems to hint at that fact by saying "nice" may be the problem.
The ?dark side? of parish life is detailed in a report published by the Church of England, which describes how peace and love are in desperately short supply in the pews of churches this Christmas
Dr Savage says one of the problems is that churches are hierarchical systems, with all the attendant echoes of feudal society. Thus they elicit bad behaviour such as status seeking, fawning, bullying, passivity, blaming others and gossiping.I am going to agree that nice is part fo the problem, but not necessarily the "echoes" of feudalism. God is, after all, a monarch. As I see it, the problems are threefold.
Clergy soften the impact of this, while at the same time preserving it, by being "nice", she says. "The norm of Christian niceness is ubiquitous, despite the portrait the Gospels paint of Jesus as an assertive, sometimes acerbic personality who readily confronted people in order to pursue their spiritual welfare."
he agrees that nastiness is unproductive, but argues that niceness ?can tie churches up in knots?. Because lay volunteers, such as churchwardens or vergers, are unpaid, they do not expect to be confronted by their "nce"vicar over the way they fulfil their role.
Elevating The Spiritual Part Of The Gospel Over the Behavioral
The life in Christ is more than ascent to a set of beliefs, and yet we talk about what we believe SO much, we lose sight of the consequences those beliefs are supposed to produce in our life. Worse, we allow people to continue in their assumption of salvation when all consequential evidence is missing. I know we will never know for sure until we get there, but come on...
"Lowering The Bar" For Leadership
Desire for office, no matter how strong, does not necessarily reflect suitability. This is even true amongst people who are indeed very mature in their faith and truly transformed by the gospel. God grants each of us gifts and abilities that suit us to specific tasks, sometimes for a season, sometimes for a lifetime. Regardless we would do well to access those abilities and act accordingly.
And yet, as the article points out, people view office as status and thus seek it, regardless of suitability. But the problem is not the heirarchical nature of office, it is instead our unwillingness to demand suitability of those to whom we award office. They are not service awards, they are not lifetime acheivement recognitions, they are not even the natural progression from seminary.
We may be quite egalitarian in who we allow in our pews, but not in our leadership offices. Scripture is full of lists of characteristics and standards for leadership. A lifetime of dedicated service as an infantry man is laudable and honorable, and much appreciated, but it does not automatically make that person officer material.
A Desire To Preserve The Institution Over The Mission
Both of the above points are reflections of this point. We emphasise the spiritual and deemphasise the behavioral, because we have lower attendance if we "ask too much of people." The same is true when it comes to qualification for office, compounded by the fact that the institution demands that the offices be filled.
And yet, as this article evidences, when we preserve the institution without the mission we do not get what we are looking for.
In sum, and with complete sympathy to all my clergy friends and the ugliness they encounter, that ugliness is a result of the church not doing it's job the way God called us to do it. Maybe it's time we worried less about our position and more about our mission.
Cross Posted at How To Be A Chritian And Still Go To Church
Related Tags: church, office, ugliness, mission, institution, transformation
Do You KNow The Way To San Jose Links?
Europe runs and hides from protesters tearing the countries apart and won't fight a foreign war to save their skins, but by God they will protect fictious game characters. THE END IS NEAR!
The year that was in politics.
They have "squatties" in China, this is a novelty.
If they clean up the mess, they can keep them.
So share the fun!
Wish I could make a nerd joke out of this. Instead, I see an opportuniyt for "poor desert people" to get very, very rich off of nerds.
One must admire ingenuity, even tasteless ingenuity. Or, maybe not. Or then again.....
Because, well, that big screen TV just is not big enough.
You may neve speak of my sense of humor again - I did not invent this. And to think - it did not make the list.
Related Tags: environmental regulation, the decline of Europe, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
First an advanced apology. Some of my minister friends may take some exception to what I say, even feel it is aimed personally. I have no specific individual or individuals in mind as I write. If this strikes you in a personal matter, may I suggest you examine your own heart. If I am wrong, then let's discuss the issue, but there is nothing personal here at all.
First comment: Consider the primary reasons they cite for leaving
- preference for another form of ministry
- the need to care for children or family
- conflict in the congregation
- conflict with denominational leaders
- burnout or discouragement
- sexual misconduct
- divorce or marital problems
With the exception of those last two, that list sounds remarkably like the list that would be compiled by any employee leaving from any job, in any industry. I think that is most telling. The pastorate is NOT just another job. At least I don't think it should be. One of my favorite pastors ever, though far from a perfect person, once said a couple of things to me about pastoral ministry that I think are very wise. The first is that one must struggle with all one's might against taking such a job. It must be the irresistable and unavaoidable direction of the Holy Spirit that lands one there. Secondly he said that one must take the job very seriously, but himself not at all.
Because of my total conviction that the Christian life itself is ministry becoming a pastor is not a job and cannot, I do not think, be viewed as a job, it is a life engulfing undertaking - nothing less will do.
My second comment comes from this bit:
The importance of collegiality to pastors' flourishing emerges in several places in this study. Isolation and loneliness contributed directly or indirectly to pastors' moves out of local ministry.The calling to the pastorate may be extraordinary in its depth and level of committment, but not in the humanity of the individual. I do not, never have, understood why pastors feel like they must find their collegiality from other pastors and not from the congregation. Ministry is not something you do to someone, it is something you do with someone.
From my perspective, a pastor that teaches by example, that leads with his heart, that models failure, confession, redemption and sanctification from amongst, rather than teaches with words from in front, will be the pastor that truly changes the world.
Related Tags: pastor, leaving ministry, leading, teaching, job, humility
It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas Links
Yes, it is quite a sacrifice for one to never be able to act on one's sexual desires. But the ultimate question is not one's sexual desires or one's honesty, but whether Christ is truly Lord.AMEN!
Fear mongering 101 If you are worried the space station will drop on your head - send me money NOW!
I grow increasingly tired of stories like this, there and here.
Winning the award for most novel use of a condom in 2006 is.... Beats the heck out of "water ballon."
Needs more tire smoke! You know, they use ammonia for that in the bigs.
Now, if I can get it to play the school song.
They will be arrested for spitting.
Because things slow down this time of year.
Sure sign the ice fishing sucks this year.
Popular Science Christmas wish list - way too conventional for this geek.
How long before we study the life of someone that does this?
How my wife met me. I, on the other hand saw her from a distance and found her lovely.
Related Tags: homosexuality and faith, climate change, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Kitty Kartoons - Christmas Carols
Monday, December 11, 2006
Why Is It Rare?
One of the greatest obstacles to effective spiritual formation in Christ today is our failure to understand and acknowledge the reality of the human situation. We must start from where we really are.I could not help but be dumbfounded by the statement that the attributes of real spiritual transformation are not merely rare in the church, but perhaps considered a "hinderance to the process."
Some years back, within a period of a few weeks, three nationally known pastors in Southern California were publicly exposed for sexual sins. But sex is far from being the only problem inside and outside the church. The presence of vanity, egotism, hostility, fear, indifference, and downright meanness can be counted on among professing Christians. Their opposites cannot be counted on or simply assumed in the standard Christian group, and the rare individual who exemplifies these opposites - genuine purity and humility, death to selfishness, freedom from rage and depression, and so on - will stand out in the group with all the obtrusiveness of a sore thumb. This person will be a constant hindrance in group processes and will be personally conflicted by them, for he or she will not be living on the same terms as the others.
Paul summed up the root of human evil by saying, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." When God is put out of the heart and the soul, the intellect becomes dysfunctional, trying to devise a "truth" that will be compatible with the basic falsehood that not God, but rather man, is god; and the affections (feelings, emotions, even sensations) soon follow along on the path to chaos.
The path of spiritual transformation today lies through the illumination that we have ruined souls. This must be gratefully and humbly accepted and applied, to oneself above all. When the prophet Jeremiah, for example, said,"The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperatelywe have to recognize from our heart that we are the ones spoken of, that, indeed, I am the one described. Only then is a foundation laid for spiritual formation into Christlikeness.
Who can understand it?" (17:9),
This tells me that our institutions are very sick. We breed our leadership to show attributes other than what we desire, and we reward those that show not the correct attributes, but the ones we encourage in leadership.
How do we fix this?
Dear Lord help us!
Cross-posted on How Te Be A Christian And Still Go To Church
Related Tags: church, leadership, transformation, reward, institution
Monday Links Of Doom
Enviro-Extortion? Is it just me, or is this story absolute proof that environmentalism is now a religion? - Complete with the sale of indulgences.
The environment and power politics - which is the real reason the environment is an issue to begin with, not science.
Well, as long as we have our priorities straight. Millions dead and they are worred about the climate? Besides, the idea of "nuclear winter" has been around for a few decades....
Genuine climate science, not speculation based on incomplete data (top item)
Speaking of which - progress in reason. Not that this will change the "we want to tell you how to live your life" rhetoric one notch.
It appears the environmental whackos and the vegetarians, ney vegans, are hooking up. Oh yeah, and the civil rights crowd too. Leftist utopian thinking? - or desperation because alone the issue has no political traction? Couldn't be the later could it? I mean there is "consensus."
That's the problem with Mother Nature, she's fickle. I've always wondered why we wanted our power systems to have the potential to go the way of the Dust Bowl.
It should get together with Mono Lake and form a club.
Why the religious should be active politically. Look what happens when religion dies in a nation.
Evil as tourist attraction. Explains a lot doesn't it? People don't really believe in evil, or else they could not treat it so lightly.
Gee, why do you think Paul did not suggest this to the church at Ephesus, or maybe Galatia?
Because you need something to talk about at the Christmas parties.
Related Tags: environmental, global warming, priorities, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Sunday Links of Joy
Finally, a science v religion debate that at least makes sense to me.
More than science involved here - check that last paragraph.
It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Maybe this is why I don't drink coffee.
This bit of scare mongering video contains the dumbest, and I mean dumbest, statement in history: "The problem is that the earth's magenetic field was not designed by an engineer and approved by UL." Sometimes reporters should avoid the stand-up.
Some people never get the joke.
A music video from bizarro world. - Especially that guy on the string bass.
I couldn't read the story, because I did not want the answer to "With what?"
I am offically old - I don't get nor do I approve.
Related Tags: corruption, science and religion, science and values, Christmas, music, joke, humor, wisecrack
Sermons and Lessons
GEORGE ADAM SMITH, divine, educator and author, was born at Calcutta in 1856, and educated at New College, Edinburgh, Scotland. For years he was professor of Old Testament Language, Literature and Theology in the United Free Church College, Glasgow. He is author of "The Historical Geography of the Holy Land," "Jerusalem, the Topography, Economics and history from the Earliest Time to AD. 70"(1908). He was generally regarded as one of the most gifted preachers of Scotland.
Preserve me, 0 God. -- Psalm 16:16.
The psalmist lived in a period when belief in the reality of many gods was still strong, and when a man who would follow the one true God had to prefer to do so against the attractions of other deities and against the convictions of a great number of his fellow countrymen that these deities were living and powerful. That stage of religion is so distant from ourselves that we may imagine the psalmist's example to be of no practical value for our faith, yet in such an imagination we should be very much mistaken indeed, for, to begin with, consider how much you and I today owe to those believers who so many centuries ago rejected all the gods that offered themselves to the hearts of men except the true God, and who chose to cleave to him alone with all that passionate loyalty which breathes through these verses. But for them you and I could not be standing where we are in religion today. As the eleventh of Hebrews reminds us, we are the spiritual heir of such believers. It is to their struggles and their faith and their victories that we greatly owe it that we have been born into an atmosphere in which no religious belief is possible to us save in one God who is Spirit and Righteousness and all Truth.
That, then, was the great choice that the psalmist's faith was turning to a choice that was no mere assent to a creed that had been fought for and established by previous generations of believers. It was the man's own proving of things unseen and his own preference of those against the crowd and a system of things seen, palpable, and very powerful in their attraction for the senses of humanity. But we are not to suppose that the rival deities, from which this man turned to the unseen God, were to his mind or to the mind of his day the heap of dead and ugly idols which we know them to be. They were not dead things that he could kick away with his feet that these believers had to reject when they sought the living God, but things which he and his contemporaries felt to be alive and powerful; powerful alike in their seduction and in their vengeance. They were believed to be identical, as you know, with the forces of nature; they were supposed to be indispensable to the welfare of the individual and of society, and they were fanatically supported at the time by the mass of this man's own countrymen; so that to break from them in those days meant to abandon ancient opinions and habits, to resist many pleasant and natural temptations and to incur the hostility, as was believed, of the powers of nature, to break with customs and with rites that had fortified and consoled the individual heart for generations and been the support and sanction of society and of the state as well. Yet this man did it. From all that living crowd and system, from all those visible temptations and terrors he turned to the unseen, fully conscious of his danger, for he opens his Psalm with a great cry, "Preserve me, preserve me, 0 God!" but yet deliberately, and with all his heart: "I have said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord." I have no goodness, no happiness, that is outside Thee or outside the saints that are in the land, "the excellent in whom is all my delight." Here we touch another great characteristic of all true faith which is full of example to ourselves. It is remarkable how, when a man really turns to God, he turns to God's people as well, and how he includes them in the loyalty and in the devotion which he feels toward his Redeemer. His confidence and the sensitiveness of his faith in and toward God become almost an equal confidence and an equal sensitiveness toward his fellow believers. So it is throughout Scripture; you remember that other psalmist who tells us how he had been tempted to doubt God's providence and God's power to help the good man - does God know and is there knowledge in the Most High? "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocency." The psalmist immediately adds: "If I had spoken thus, behold I bad dealt treacherously with the generation of God's children." If I had spoken thus, denying God, I had dealt treacherously with the generation of God's children. Unbelief toward God meant to him treason toward God's people; and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews affirms the same double character of true faith when he emphasizes just these two points in the faith of Moses: "choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God," and "enduring as seeing Him who is invisible," and God Himself through Jesus Christ has accepted this partnership of His people in our loyalty. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me." I do not believe in the full faith of any man who does not extend the loyalty he professes to God to God's people as well, who does not feel as sensitive to his brethren on earth as he does to his Father in heaven, who does not practice piety toward the Church as he does toward her Head, or find in her fellowship and her service a joy and a gladness which is one with his deep joy in God, his Redeemer. Nay, is it not just in loving people who are still imperfect, often disap¬pointing, and far from their ideal it may be, that in our relations to them we are to find the greater proof and test of our religious faith" In these days such a duty is unfortunately more complicated than with the psalmist. The lines between God's Church and the world is not so clear as it was to him, and the Church is divided into many and often hostile factions. All the more it becomes the test of our religion if our hearts feel and rejoice in the fellowship of God's simpler and more needy and more devoted believers, however unattractive they may otherwise be.
Consider the way in which the psalmist reached this pure faith in God and in His people. A factor in the process was distaste for the ugly rites of idolatry. "Their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer." Idolatry always develops a loathsome ritual. Sometimes it is cruel and sometimes it is horribly unclean, but it always debases the worshiper's mind, confuses his conscience, and hampers his freedom and energy by the burdensome ceremonies it imposes upon them. Standing afar off from them as we do, and knowing that there is no heathen religion but has something good in it, we are apt to think that it does not in the least matter how crude or how material a nation's faith be if only it be faith in something more powerful than themselves, if it satisfy their consciences and have some influence in disciplining society and helping the individual to control himself. But you have only to see idolatry at work, and at work with the habits of ages upon it, to recognize how terrible it can be in its identification of sheer filth and cruelty with the interests of religion, and how it at once demoralizes and paralyzes its adherents. To see it thus is to understand the passionate horror of these words: "Their drink-offering of blood will I not offer."
It is, however, no mere recoil from the immoral which started the spring of this psalmist's faith in God. That faith was formed on personal experience of God Himself. In simple but pregnant phrases the psalmist tells us how sure he has become, first, of God's providence in his life; secondly, of God's intimate communion with his soul. God, he says, had been everything in his life. One does not know whether the psalmist was a prosperous man or a poor one; the inference that he was prosperous and rich has sometimes been drawn, but wrongly drawn, from one of the verses of the Psalm. His indifference to that is clear, but what he did have he knew he had from God. God, he says, is all his happiness and all his strength. "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup; thou maintainest my lot." Whether poor or prosperous he could say: "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage." Now that assurance of divine leading is not analyzable, but we know that it does grow up solid and sure in the experience of simple men who have put their trust in God, who have felt life to be a commission from Him and who have done their duty obeying His call. With such men "all things work together for good." Though life about them shake and darken, they feel their own solidity and have light enough to read the future. Though stript and stark, they feel the Lord Himself to be the portion of their inheritance and of their cup. The portion of my inheritance the Lord is, i.e., the little bit of land that fell to each Israelite as his share in the promised inheritance of the nation. "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance," as we might say in our Scotch language, "The Lord is my croft and my cup," so they find in Him all the ground and the freedom they need to do their work, fulfill their relationships, and develop their manhood.
It is, however, with the psalmist's second reason for his faith we have most to do. "I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons." This man held close communion with God. Is it not great to find the testimony of a brother man coming down all through those ages, from that dim and distant past, clear and sure as to this, that he had God's counsel and that God kept communion with him? God had spoken to this man and shown him His will. Yes, he had received what we call inspiration and revelation, and had proved the truth of these in his life. They had led and they had lifted him. Nor had they come to him as many men falsely suppose revelation and inspiration exclusively have come to mankind, by means, namely, that were extraordinary and miraculous. The psalmist tells us of no vision of angels, of no voice from heaven. The Lord had not appeared to him in dreams nor by any marvelous signs; on the other hand, he tells us simply that the divine counsel of which he was so sure, and which he passes on to us, came to him through the workings of his inner spiritual life. That is what he means by the emphatic statement "yea, my reins instruct me in the night seasons," which he adds parallel with the thought, "I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel." According to the primitive physiology of this man's nation and times, the reins of a man fulfill the same intellectual function which we, with our larger knowledge, know are discharged by the brain. This was how God's revelation came to this brother of ours, through the working of his mind and conscience, but it was in the night seasons that they worked, not in the day and in the sunshine, but in the night when a man is left to himself with only this advantage to his thought: that like the blind he is yet undistracted by the influences which are seen. When he lies down he thinks soberly and quietly about himself and about life and about God, and about the great hidden future that is waiting for him. He was communing with God, who had made his brain and used it as an instrument of revelation. In these thoughts God was communing with man through his reason and through his conscience. You and I are always contrasting God's providence and His grace. We are always attempting to oppose reason and revelation; to this man they were one. God's great grace had come to him through God's own providence, and God's revelation was ministered to him through the reason with which he had endowed the creature He had made in His own image. This psalmist's chief and practical help to us men and women today is that he became sure of God not because of any miracle or supernatural sign, on his report of which we might be content indolently to rest our faith, but in God's own providence in his life and in God's quiet communion with him through the organs God Himself has created in every one of us. For all time, whether before or after Christ, these are the chief grounds and foundations of faith in God. So it was in the Old Testament - "stand in awe and sin not," "commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still," "be still and know that I am God." So with Christ, "for the kingdom of heaven cometh not with observation, but the kingdom of heaven is within you," and so with Paul, "the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . that he would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, to the end that ye being rooted and grounded in love may come to apprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height and to know the love of Christ."
God"s guidance of his life, first of all, produces in a man a great sense of stability. "I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved." He who has found God so careful of him, he whom God bath regarded as worth speaking to and counseling and disciplining, will be certain that he shall endure, provided he is sure of his own loyalty. The life so loved of God, so provided for, and in such close communion with the Eternal is not, can not be the creature of the day, and this assurance stands firm in face of even death and the horrible corruption of the body. The psalmist refuses to believe that he is to dwell in the horrible underworld forever - either himself or any of God's believers. "Thou must not, thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol, thou must not, thou wilt not suffer thy loved ones to see the pit." To this man it is incredible, and our hearts bear witness to the truth if we have had any experience of God's blessing and guidance. To this man it is incredible that the life God has cared for and guided and spoken to and brought into such intimate communion with himself can find its end in death. Those whom God has loyally loved and who have loyally loved God - for this word badly translated "holy" in the psalms really has that actual significance - those whom God has loyally loved and who have loyally loved God shall never die. As He lives so shall they; they shall never be absent from His presence. Be the future unknown and unknowable, be we ourselves incapable of conceiving the processes by which this mortal shall put on immortality, or where heaven is, or what eternity can possibly be to those who have never lived outside time, yet that future is secure and its immortal character is indubitable - where God is there shall His servants be, and because He is there their life shall be peace and joy, and because He is eternal it shall last forevermore. That thought is the whole of the hope and argument. We are assured of the future life because we have known God, and as we have found Him to be true to us and proved ourselves true to Him.
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