Saturday, December 23, 2006
Jingle Link Rock
And why is Santa polling well when Jesus is not? I love Santa, but...
And all is right in my world.
Apparently working in California government is an actual contagion. In other words, why I go to Sacramento as little as possible.
Sir Bono? Doesn't have that ring to it. I wonder if he'll perform in armor now?
Check this video - It's a Chritmas present from the Constructive Curmudgeon.
He's got more by the way...
So tasteless I have to link.
Always look on the bright side of life.
Let me guess - send it to McDonald's.
You mean they had one to begin with?
And people wonder why a Hoosier like me would make Kentucky jokes.
Related Tags: religion, basketball, California, music, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Merry Christmas From A Few Of My Friends
Related Tags: comics, comic books, comic art, superheros, Christmas comics, superhero Christmas
Friday, December 22, 2006
God's Providence Is Real!
Now, I referred yesterday to a very nearby church fire resulting in the total destruction of the church building. The church of which my wife and I are a part is about the same 500 feet from the church that burned that we are (yes, we live across the street from church, it's a rough commute.)
Well, yesterday we arranged for both congregations that were burned out (it housed two congregations) to conduct Christmas Eve services in our facility on Sunday morning! We will also be hosting those congregations for a sweets and coffee reception around lunch time.
I guess I can forgive some of our church leadership for being a bit lazy in their committment to Christ, since they will now be working like dogs (as will a lot of the rest of us) to make this work. Funny how God managed to solve our neighbors problems, and what I perceived as our problem at the same time.
We do worship a great God.
Related Tags: providence, Christmas Eve
To blame declining math and science fluency in the US on religion, faith, or religionists is bizarre, counterproductive, and just plain wrong.Whenever this subject arises, it strikes me that science is indeed the one picking the fight and I am most curious about the "Why?" question.
Liberal ideologies -- socialism, secularism, multiculturalism -- are more responsible for a greatly decreased emphasis on those studies or subject matters that lead naturally to the hard sciences and math.
Those who learn in America have been less and less likely to pursue Math and Science, because they've been spoon-fed, spoiled, and discouraged from hard learning.
Why is religion viewed as irrational and science not? Is it just the nature of the inquiry? - science being natural inquiry and religion being revelatory inquiry? I think that lies at the heart of it, but the assumption that revelatory inquiry is irrational simply does not hold up, and most in science that have read past a book or two knows that. Besides, the fight is usually not picked by practicing scientists - rather it is picked by those that choose to use science to further some other agenda, and do so in the name of science.
Bottom line, I think it is because religion has boundaries and purely natural inquiry does not. That is another way of saying it is the oldest problem in the world - sin. We simply think we know better, isn't that the the basic definition of sin?
Bottom line is this, we will never win this battle intellectually because it is not at its base an intellectual battle. We need to reach the hearts of those that pick the fights. We need to reach out to the people, not just their ideas.
Related Tags: science, faith, reason, rationality, sin
The Carol Of The Links
I just want to cry. Can't the pilgramage be about the pilgramage and not the politics and conflict - just for a few days?
Too close to Christmas to comment, but too important not to link.
Missed it by that much.
ROCK AND ROLL!
It's a whole lot better than having it travel in the other direction.
The changed the headline on this story, but check the ttile bar of your browser. Our President sure is a busy guy.
Clark Griswald Lives.
I vote for global warming.
Will they rape and pillage along the way?
Related Tags: persecution, Christmas, global warming, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Becoming a Christian is not a means to an end. It is not a way of achieving what we want. Being a Christian IS the end, completely recalibrating what we want. Of course, it takes a while for any Christian to grow into that understanding, but my issue is why do we "sell" the baby steps instead of the whole package?
I think it is a tad bit deceptive to sell personal gratification when what we are offering is personal transformation. That such happens cannot be doubted - what else explains the revolving door that is so many ministries? What else explains how many go to church, but how few are active in church? What else explains the countless that went through a Christian "phase"?
I think the "why's" are pretty straightforward. Actually, it is just one "why." We do not understand the depth and radicalness of what we have a hold of much more than the people we are trying to give it to. What else can explain why we measure the success of ministry on worldly terms, not God's?
Consider, we are afraid that if we told people completely and fully up front what they were signing up for, they would respond negatively. Is that because we ask too much of them? I don't think so, lot's of institutions ask everything from people and often get it.
Nope, it's because we ourselves do not appreciate the glory of what we have sufficiently to present that glory to others. We focus on our suffering instead of our salvation. "We can't tell then about that - then they'd wouldn't think we are perfect."
I wrote a while back that Ted Haggard does not need to be restored to ministry, that his failing and how he deals with them WAS ministry. He has the potential to be the most effective minister in God's name history has ever seen, precisely because of his brokenness.
Haggard now has the chance to model the true nature of the gospel, not the "good times, get rich, feel good about yourself" gospel, but the gospel of remaking the fallen man.
We all have the chance to model that true gospel, provided we claim it for ourselves.
Related Tags: gospel, broken, media, truth, suffering, pain
Go Link It On The Mountain
Ba -- Da -- BING!
Almost everybody involved here are incredible jerks. But I have to say the nanny-state PC types have the rest of us backed so far in the corner, being a jerk may be the only way out.
Gimme that Old Time Religion - but not always.
Translation - PLAY TIME!
Lost in Space defined.
"Getting ahead of the game" defined.
Life, defined in video:
Anyone who saw the Matthew Broderick "Godzilla" could have told you this. Of course, I may be the only one that did.
Speaking of which, I feel a SciFi script coming on.
I had no idea the fish had joined the EU.
School, where the incredibly stupid pass it on.
I do not even know where to begin making fun of this, just too many angles - I'll leave it up to you.
Hey!, I did way too well at this hot Christmas past quiz. Does that make me a geek or a nerd. And I still want the Tracy Island set.
If it was in Portugal, it would be perfect.
Related Tags: FIRE!, political correctness, nanny state, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Suffer To Glory
Once Jesus' disciples confessed Him as the Christ, He knew He had to teach them the real road to glory. Each of the Gospels reminds us that this road led to the cross of agony before it led to the crown of glory.How does John accomplish this seeming impossible task? Simple, he keeps us focused on the end, even in the middle of the journey. Surely this must have been what Our Lord did as He made his way to His demise.
Luke 22:41-43 - And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, "Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done." Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.As Christ contemplated "the cross of agony," He focused not on His discomfort, but the will of His Father and "the crown of glory" which lay on the other side.
I wonder if we realize how much God loves us? I wonder if we realize how much better He can love us than we can possibly love ourselves? We tend to focus on our own cross of agony because we think we are protecting ourselves from the pain, an expression of our love of self. But God loves us so much more than we can love ourselves, and He wishes that crown of glory to be upon our heads. He also knows the pain of the path to that crown, thus He walks it with us and takes the pain for us, if we but rely on Him.
Perspective is everything, and we cannot have the perspective we need, we can't get high enough. But God is high enough and has that perspective - He sees clearly the crown that awaits us. We watch Him and follow Him to the goal that only He can see.
Prov 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.So simply to say, so hard to do.
Christmas approaches. He in whom we trust; He whom we follow is coming into view. Look at Him, trust Him, follow him.
Related Tags: cross of agony, crown of glory, trust, faith, incarnation, Christ, god
We Three Links Of Orient Are
The cost of your next European vacation just went up. And trust me, that's ALL that will happen.
No doubt the current Congress will find this too expensive, but we need it.
If time dawned, what came before? (HT: Hugh Hewitt)
Freak show or fake? Lotta fake fossils out of china these days - it's an industry.
Form over substance.
Lord Hoarders - A new twist on "Cat ladies"?
Some of these are new, they are all very cool, especially Batman and Robin.
I guess its better than farting lava.
What's worse than dying in a plane crash? Speaking of which, they say its worse on the living.
He said, "No Honey, really, it's the accident." She said, "I don't buy it." Court said. "Here's your money." Of the three, name the smartest.
The joke's too easy, write your own.
Why not just move? This does; however, give credence to the build a bunch of fans on the San Gabriel Mountains to clean the LA air theory.
Related Tags: blogging, taxation, joe, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
What Is Faith?
But what is faith? Seems to me that when we say "I wish I could have your faith" what we often mean is, I don't have the mental weakness to believe. Is faith just a commendable quirk of the weak willed? And then we say of others - "He has really strong faith." But what do we mean? Don't we often mean - he knows it's not true, but he has so much "faith" that he can still believe. But people who believe what isn't true aren't nice and quirky, they're deluded. And those who believe what they know isn't true aren't heroes they're insane!When I read that, the first thing that came to my mind was the sort of "I'm right, you're an idiot" debate that we see so often here in blogging about some realtively insignifcant point of theology. But the Bluefish quickly put my mind at ease.
What is faith? The part of the Bible we've just read, ends by saying - faith is being certain of what is unseen.
Faith makes a difference. This isn't something limp or fuzzy. This is an unswerving conviction. We're wary of strong convictions - We call it fundamentalism. But this isn't suicide bomber faith. This is faith that loves... even at great personal risk and loss.Faith as an expression of love, so deep, so profound that it entails personal risk - what an amazing comcept.
Let me take a stab at it this way. Faith is not being convinced, but rather assurance leading to certainty. What's the difference you ask? Well, the first is born of the self and the other is born of the source of the assurance. I am certain of nothing save God, and there are somethings about which He assures me and others that He leaves, I think purposefully, ambiguous.
Usually when we react in a ugly fashion it is because we lack certainty and have only our convictions. Bluefish discusses from Hebrews that genuince faith, real certainty, stands suffering
This is the way faith is described in chapter 11, sentences 1 to 3. Faith is not believing in what is untrue. It is not wishful thinking. Sentence 1 - being sure... certain... So gutsy and convinced that removes fear and sets Christians free to love lavishly and dangerously. Faith is a confidence in a better possession. In heaven.What are so many afraid of?
People that are willing to go to war over arminianism/calvinism or charismatic/cessasionist or whatever, must have their faith not in God but in their theology. How sad. Do we worship what we think of God more than we worship God?
Related Tags: faith, certainty, conviction, love
Oh Come All Ye Linkful
When I first saw this headline "Will Americans Sacrifice For Posterity" I dug in exitedly, particularly in light of the link just above. After the last election and all the posturing on Iraq, etc., I am deathly afraid this nation no longer has what it take to beat a genuine enemy, and we have one in our face right now. Sacrifice hurts, but it is necessary to win and win we must. As I read, my face dropped - it;s about...global warming. Folks I hate to tell you, but after reading of the real, genuine sacrifice above, this thing is laughable, and terrifying in its diconnection from reality.
This meme is gaining momentum, sadly - war as polluter. People's priorities are really, really messed up.
Fascinating, and oddly, does not make me hopeful in any fashion.
Hanna-Barbera's TV cartoons are fondly remembered by all of us - we grew up with them. But as you think of Joe Barbera today, please, please think of their work at MGM. The TV work was ugly and cheap, the movie work was amongst the best ever done.
Och Mon! - This is a military supply crisis if ever...
Sick Christmas giving.
Just what I always wanted. No wait, it's this.
And thus it begins - soon the genitically mutated boa began growing at an incredible rate, killing utter morons that dared keep it as a pet through out the Midwest. Have I ever told you I wish I wrote bad movies for the SciFi channel?
Speaking of bad SciFi movies, say hello to the devil fish. Mutated by pollutants in the sulfer, they take to land, leaving a slime trail of destruction.
Courtesy Joe Carter - the Freak Show lives.
I wonder if this should have been included in the freaky list?
That's a huge burger. 57 pounds! That's like half the cow....oh wait, "pounds stirling."...never mind.
Related Tags: honor, war, sacrifice, environment, Joe Barbera, priorities, joke, humor, wisecrack, Christmas gifts
Kitty Kartoons - Nativity
Monday, December 18, 2006
If You Love Me, Heal My Church
There are a couple of great things in CP's post worth considering:
And yet, the few leaders who do have the nerve to stand for biblical truth and Presbyterian principles are now under assault from the forces of institutional malaise!That phrase "institutiobnal malaise" is a wonderful one. A conversation I was having with a well-placed denominational leader the other day said mouthfuls. He said that in essense, denomination matters less and less to the average parishoner. He is so right - there is a malaise about the judicatories which has allowed them to go so long without correction. The key question is "Why?"
Some of it is indeed power plays by those in the higher levels of the church structure, forcing the congregational voice, from which policy is supposed to flow, into ever larger and less listened to echo chambers. Yet another is the increasing professionalization of the denomination, leaving little for elders to do.
But mostly it is we the members, deacons and elders. We live our lives wrapped in ourselves and do not do the hard work, nor have the hard love of the church that is necessary.
In other words, to keep as many people within the church as possible and to try to avoid conflict at all costs, we sowed the seeds of limitless conflict and ensured our own eventual demise!We do avoid conflict too readily and to energtically:
Prov 27:17 - Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.Conflict is the crucible through which we are refined, both individually and corporately. The avoidance of conflict is not productive, the problem is how we do conflict. It is possible to have conflict without personal destruction, but we seems to have forgotten how. We need to learn it again.
But there is one thing I think disagree with CP on
Yet, I would also argue that our rising crisis is just the fruits of a flawed constitution,...Flaws in the constitution of the church there are, but those flaws are not fundamental, they were put there, through the amending process - THEY CAN BE REMOVED AS THEY WERE INSERTED. We just have to stand up and do it. CP is very pessimisstic, and perhaps he is right, but I am an optimist, I prefer to think God has great things in store for us.
Related Tags: PC(USA), optimism, hope, church, energy, laity
What am I saying? - the warm climate is obviously producing disasterous results.
I cannot believe they have to ask.
However, money is the bottom line in all of this. And, I think, the motivator. (This should give you an idea of what I am talking about - don't stop sin, encourage it and tax it. Or in the global warming case, make a sin up and tax it.) And yet, the long view, even on money...
Wisdom in the middle of the politics.
Key:Studies of discourse in these settings, including my own analysis of examples from the last 15 years (2-4), show, for example, that discussions of uncertainty have had the dual effect of justifying increased research funding while delaying policy decisions--a win for both the scientists and the politicians!In other words, we keep the public all lathered up, so we can keep making a living investigating the unanswerable, but not actually doing anything. I jest a bit, but not entirely. The writer is seekig genuine dialog, and worthily so, but my point is broader - defining an "issue" does develop a virtual industry from which many can profit without ever producing a product. Something is a little akilter there.
Even the nature preserve doesn't always preserve stuff. Man is far from the most destructive thing in God's created order.
Via Glenn Lucke/Joe Carter comes this bit of fascinating video
Which put me in mind of this
and I laughed and laughed and laughed. Am I a blasphemer?
And suddenly, I felt my age. A rock-and-roll quiz, no mention of the Beatles, Stones, Clapton? What?
Because an old-fashioned fake fire just is not good enough.
Hugh Hewitt makes a funny. He must have been into the egg-nog over the weekend.
There is win at all costs and then there is this. I've never wanted anything that bad....
Related Tags: global warming, environment, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Sunday, December 17, 2006
God rest Ye Merry Gentle-Links
I really hate it when secular media tries to figure out what I believe. You know, you can take a car apart, but if you never drive one, or see one work, it will be a pile of nonsensical parts.
AMAZING - the UN does something right. However, given that they fail to fight genocide, I have little faith in tis effectiveness.
I avoided reading this for a while, but alas. I find I am with iMonk - words fail. One of the BHTer's noted that it could be over-reporting, but nope, the Grahams are all too press saavy for that.
Is this the right place, or even the right terms for asking, let alone answering the question "What Is A Christian?" Seems to me that's what seminaries are for, not Anderson Cooper 360.
And yet, political involvement by persons of faith remains extraordinarily important.
Deep social commentary: This is pathetic. It is also a little scary that they could compile the list.
He is the best.
Related Tags: religion and media, the UN, Billy Graham, Butler basketball, Bab Knight
Sermons and Lessons
JOHN BUNYAN was born in the village of Elstow, near Bedford, England, in 1628. Because of his fearless preaching be was imprisoned in Bedford jail from 1660 to 1672, and again for six months in 1675, during which latter time it is said his wonderful "Pilgrim's Progress" was written. While his sermons in their tedious prolixity share the fault of his time, they are characterized by vividness, epigrammatic wit, and dramatic fervor. The purity and simplicity of his style have been highly praised, and his unflinching faith has been the inspiration of many a hesitating soul. Among his best known works are "The Holy War," "Grace Abounding in the Chief of Sinners," and "Sighs from Hell." He died in London in 1688.
So run that ye may obtain. - I Cor. 9:24.
Heaven and happiness is that which every one desireth, insomuch that wicked Balaam could say, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." Yet, for all this, there are but very few that do obtain that ever-to-be-desired glory, insomuch that many eminent professors drop short of a welcome from God into this pleasant place. The apostle, therefore, because he did desire the salvation of the souls of the Corinthians, to whom he writes this epistle, layeth them down in these words such counsel, which if taken, would be for their help and advantage.
First, Not to be wicked, and sit still, and wish for heaven; but to run for it.
Secondly, not to content themselves with every kind of running, but, saith he, "So run that ye may obtain." As if he should say, some, because they would not lose their souls, begin to run betimes, they run apace, they run with patience, they run the right way. Do you so run. Some run from both father and mother, friends and companions, and thus, they may have the crown. Do you so run. Some run through temptations, afflictions, good report, evil report, that they may win the pearl. Do you so run. "So run that ye may obtain."
These words were taken from men's running for a wager; a very apt similitude to set before the eyes of the saints of the Lord. "Know you that they which run in a race run all, but one obtaineth the prize? So run that ye may obtain." That is, do not only run, but be sure you win as well as run. "So run that ye may obtain."
I shall not need to make any great ado in opening the words at this time, but shall rather lay down one doctrine that I do find in them; and in prosecuting that, I shall show you, in some measure, the scope of the words.
The doctrine is this: They that will have heaven, must run for it; I say, they that will have heaven, they must run for it. I beseech you to heed it well. "Know ye not, that they which run in a race run all, but one obtaineth the prize? So run ye" The prize is heaven, and if you will have it, you must run for it. You have another scripture for this in the tweleth of the Hebrews, the 1st, 2d, and 3rd verses: "Wherefore seeing also," saith the apostle, "that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." And let us run, saith he. Again, saith Paul, "I so run, not as uncertainly: so fight I," etc.
But before I go any farther:
1. Fleeing. Observe, that this running is not an ordinary, or any sort of running, but it is to be understood of the swiftest sort of running; and therefore, in the sixth of the Hebrews, it is called a fleeing: "That we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us." Mark, who have fled. It is taken from that 20th of Joshua, concerning the man that was to flee to the city of refuge, when the avenger of blood was hard at his heels, to take vengeance on him for the offense he had committed; therefore it is a running or fleeing for one's life: a running with all might and main, as we use to say. So run.
2. Pressing. Secondly, this running in another place is called a pressing. "I press toward the mark"; which signifieth, that they that will have heaven, they must not stick at any difficulties they meet with; but press, crowd, and thrust through all that may stand between heaven and their souls. So run.
3. Continuing. Thirdly, this running is called in another place, a continuing in the way of life. "If you continue in the faith grounded, and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel of Christ." Not to run a little now and then, by fits and starts, or half-way, or almost thither, but to run for my life, to run through all difficulties, and to continue therein to the end of the race, which must be to the end of my life. "So run that ye may obtain." And the reasons are:
(1.) Because all or every one that runneth doth not obtain the prize; there may be many that do run, yea, and run far too, who yet miss of the crown that standeth at the end of the race. You know all that run in a race do not obtain the victory; they all run, but one wins. And so it is here; it is not every one that runneth, nor every one that seeketh, nor every one that striveth for the mastery that bath it. "Tho a man do strive for the mastery," saith Paul, "yet he is not crowned, unless he strive lawfully"; that is, unless he so run, and so strive, as to have God's approbation. What, do you think that every heavy-heeled professor will have heaven? What, every lazy one? every wanton and foolish professor, that will be stopped by anything, kept back by anything, that scarce runneth so fast heavenward as a snail creepeth on the ground? Nay, there nre some professors that do not go on so fast in the way of God as a snail doth go on the wall; and yet these think that heaven and happiness is for them. But stay, there are many more that run than there be that obtain; therefore he that will have heaven must run for it.
(2.) Because you know, that though a man do run, yet if he do not overcome, or win, as well as run, what will they be the better for their running? They will get nothing. You know the man that runneth, he doth do it to win the prize; but if he doth not obtain it, he doth lose his labor, spend his pains and time, and that to no purpose; I say, he getteth nothing. And ah! How many such runners will there be found in the day of judgment? Even multitudes, multitudes that have run, yea, run so far as to come to heaven-gates, and not able to get any farther, but there stand knock¬ing when it is too late, crying, Lord! Lord! when they have nothing but rebukes for their pains. Depart from Me, you come not here, you come too late, you run too lazily; the door is shut. "When once the master of the house is risen up," saith Christ, "and bath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us, I will say, I know you not, depart," etc. Oh, sad will the state of those be that run and miss; therefore, if you will have heaven, you must run for it; and "so run that ye may obtain."
(3.) Because the way is long (I speak metaphorically), and there is many a dirty step, many a high hill, much work to do, a wicked heart, world, and devil to overcome; I say, there are many steps to be taken by those that intend to be saved, by running or walking in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham. Out of Egypt thou must go through the Red Sea; thou must run a long and tedious jour¬ney, through the vast howling wilderness, before thou come to the land of promise.
(4.) They that will go to heaven they must run for it; because, as the way is long, so the time in which they are to get to the end of it is very uncertain; the time present is the only time; thou hast no more time allotted thee than thou now enjoyest: "Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Do not say, I have time enough to get to heaven seven years hence; for I tell thee, the bell may toll for thee before seven days more be ended; and when death comes, away thou must go, whether thou art provided or not; and therefore look to it; make no delays; it is not good dallying with things of so great concernment as the salvation or damnation of thy soul. You know he that hath a great way to go in a little time, and less by half than he thinks of, he had need to run for it.
(5.) They that will have heaven, they must run for it; because the devil, the law, sin, death, and hell follow them. There is never a poor soul that is going to heaven, but the devil, the law, sin, death, and hell, make after the soul. "The devil, your adversary, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour." And I will assure you, the devil is nimble, he can run apace, he is light of foot, he hath overtaken many, he hath turned up their heels, and hath given them an everlasting fall. Also the law, that can shoot a great way, have a care thou keep out of the reach of those great guns, the Ten Commandments. Hell also hath a wide mouth; it can stretch itself farther that you are aware of. And as the angel said to Lot, "Take heed, look not behind thee, neither tarry thou in all the plain" (that is, anywhere between this and heaven), "lest thou be consumed"; so I say to thee, Take heed, tarry not, lest either the devil, hell or the fearful curses of the law of God do overtake thee, and throw thee down in the midst of thy sins, so as never to rise and recover again. If this were all considered, then thou, as well as I, wouldst say, They that will have heaven must run for it.
(6.) They that go to heaven must run for it; because perchance the gates of heaven may be shut shortly. Sometimes sinners have not heaven-gates open to them so long as they suppose; and if they be once shut against a man, they are so heavy that all the men in the world, nor all the angels in heaven, are not able to open them. "I shut, and no man can open," saith Christ. And how if thou shouldst come but one quarter of an hour too late? I tell thee, it will cost thee an eternity to bewail thy misery in. Francis Spira can tell thee what it is to stay till the gate of mercy be quite shut; or to run so lazily that they be shut before you get within them. What, to be shut out! what, out of heaven! Sinner, rather than lose it, run for it; yea, "and so run that thou mayst obtain."
(7.) Lastly, because if thou lose, thou losest all, thou losest soul, God, Christ, heaven, ease, peace, etc. Besides, thou layest thyself open to all the shame, contempt, and reproach, that either God, Christ, saints, the world, sin, the devil, and all can lay upon thee. As Christ saith of the foolish builder, so I will say of thee, if thou be such a one who runs and misses; I say, even all that go by will begin to mock at thee, saying,This man began to run well, but was not able to finish. But more of this anon.
Question: But how should a poor soul do to run? For this very thing is that which afflicteth me sore (as you say), to think that I may run, and yet fall short. Methinks to fall. short at last, oh, it fears me greatly. Pray tell me, therefore, how I should run.
Answer: That thou mayst indeed be satisfied in this particular, consider these following things.
The first direction: If thou wouldst so run as to obtain the kingdom of heaven, then be sure that thou get into the way that leadeth thither: For it is a vain thing to think that ever thou shalt have the prize, though thou runnest never so fast, unless thou art in the way that leads to it. Set the case, that there should be a man in London that was to run to York for a wager; now, tho he run never so swiftly, yet if he run full south, he might run himself quickly out of breath, and be never nearer the prize, but rather the farther off. Just so is it here; it is not simply the runner, nor yet the hasty runner, that winneth the crown, unless be be in the way that leadeth thereto. I have observed, that little time which I have been a professor, that there is a great running to and fro, some this way, and some that way, yet it is to be feared most of them are out of the way, and then, tho they run as swift as the eagle can fly, they are benefited nothing at all.
Here is one runs a-quaking, another a-ranting; one again runs after the baptism, and another after the Independency: here is one for Freewill, and another for Presbytery; and yet possibly most of all these sects run quite the wrong way, and yet every one is for his life, his soul, either for heaven or hell.
If thou now say, Which is the way? I tell thee it is Christ, the Son of Mary, the Son of God. Jesus saith, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me." So then thy business is (if thou wouldst have salvation), to see if Christ be thine, with all His benefits; whether He hath covered thee with His righteousness, whether He bath showed thee that thy sins are washed away with His heart-blood, whether thou art planted into Him, and whether you have faith in Him, so as to make a life out of Him, and to conform thee to Him; that is, such faith as to conclude that thou art righteous, because Christ is thy righteousness, and so constrained to walk with Him as the joy of thy heart, because he saveth thy soul. And for the Lord's sake take heed, and do not deceive thyself, and think thou art in the way upon too slight grounds; for if thou miss of the way, thou wilt miss of the prize, and if thou miss of that I am sure thou wilt lose thy soul, even that soul which is worth more than the whole world.
Mistrust thy own strength, and throw it away; down on thy knees in prayer to the Lord for the spirit of truth; search His word for direction; flee seducers company; keep company with the soundest Christians, that have most experience of Christ; and be sure thou have a care of Quakers, Ranters, Freewillers: also do not have too much company with some Anabaptists, though I go under that name myself. I will tell thee this is such a serious matter, and I fear thou wilt so little regard it, that the thought of the worth of the thing, and of thy too light regarding of it, doth even make my heart ache whilst I am writing to thee. The Lord teach thee the way by His Spirit, and then I am sure thou wilt know it. So run.
The second direction: As thou shouldst get into the way, so thou shouldst also be much in studying and musing on the way. You know men that would be expert in anything, they are usually much in studying of that thing, and so likewise is it with those that quickly grow expert in any way. This therefore thou shouldst do; let thy study be much exercised about Christ, which is the way, what lie is, what He bath done, and why lie is what He is, and why He bath done what is done; as why "He took upon Him the form of a servant" (Phil. 2) ; why He was "made in the likeness of man"; why He cried; why He died; why He "bare the sin of the world"; why He was made sin, and why He was made righteousness; why He is in heaven in the nature of man, and what He doth there. Be much in musing and considering of these things; be thinking also enough of those places which thou must not come near, but leave some on this hand, and some on that hand; as it is with those that travel into other countries; they must leave such a gate on this hand, and such a bush on that hand, and go by such a place, where standeth such a thing. Thus therefore you must do: "Avoid such things, which are expressly forbidden in the Word of God." Withdraw thy foot far from her, "and come not nigh the door of her house, for her steps take hold of hell, going down to the chambers of death." And so of everything that is not in the way, have a care of it, that thou go not by it; come not near it, have nothing to do with it. So run.
The third direction: Not only thus, but in the next place, thou must strip thyself of those things that may hang upon thee, to the hindering of thee in the way to the kingdom of heaven, as covetousness, pride, lust, or whatever else thy heart may be inclining unto, which may binder thee in this heavenly race. Men that run for a wager, if they intend to win as well as run, they do not use to encumber themselves, or carry those things about them that may be a hindrance to them in their running. "Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things"; that is, he layeth aside everything that would be anywise a disadvantage to him; as saith the apostle, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." It is but a vain thing to talk of going to heaven, if thou let thy heart be encumbered with those things that would hinder. Would you not say that such a man would be in danger of losing, tho he run, if he fill his pockets with stones, hang heavy garments on his shoulders, and get lumpish shoes on his feet? So it is here; thou talkest of going to heaven, and yet fillest thy pockets with stones - i.e., fillest thy heart with this world, lettest that hang on thy shoulders, with its profits and pleasures. Alas! alas! thou art widely mistaken: if thou intendest to win, thou must strip, thou must lay aside every weight, thou must be temperate in all things. Thou must so run.
The fourth direction: Beware of by-paths; take heed thou dost not turn into those lanes which lead out of the way. There are crooked paths, paths in which men go astray, paths that lead to death and damnation, but take heed of all those. Some of them are dangerous because of practice, some because of opinion, but mind them not; mind the path before thee, look right before thee, turn neither to the right hand nor to the left, but let thine eyes look right on, even right before thee; "Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established." Turn not to the right hand nor to the left. "Remove thy foot far from evil." This counsel being not so seriously taken as given, is the reason of that starting from opinion to opinion, reeling this way and that way, out of this lane into that lane, and so missing the way to the kingdom. Though the way to heaven be but one, yet there are many crooked lanes and by-paths that shoot down upon it, as I may say. And again, notwithstanding the kingdom of heaven be the biggest city, yet usually those by-paths are most beaten, most travelers go those ways; and therefore the way to heaven is hard to be found, and as hard to be kept in, by reason of these. Yet, nevertheless, it is in this case as it was with the harlot of Jericho; she had one scarlet thread tied in her window, by which her house was known: so it is here, the scarlet streams of Christ's blood run throughout the way to the kingdom of heaven; therefore mind that, see if thou do not find the besprinkling of the blood of Christ in the way, and if thou do, be of good cheer, thou art in the right way; but have a care thou beguile not thyself with a fancy; for then thou mayst light into any lane or way; but that thou mayst not be mistaken, consider, tho it seem never so pleasant, yet if thou do not find that in the very middle of the road there is written with the heart-blood of Christ, that he came into the world to save sinners, and that we are justified, tho we are ungodly, shun that way; for this it is which the apostle meaneth when he saith, "We have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He bath consecrated for us, through the vail" that is to say, His flesh.? How easy a matter it is in this our day, for the devil to be too cunning for poor souls, by calling his by-paths the way to the kingdom. If such an opinion or fancy be but cried up by one or more, this inscription being set upon it by the devil, "This is the way of God," how speedily, greedily, and by heaps, do poor simple souls throw away themselves upon it; especially if it be daubed over with a few external acts of morality, if so good. But it is because men do not know painted by-paths from the plain way to the kingdom of heaven. They have not yet learned the true Christ, and what His righteousness is, neither have they a sense of their own insufficiency; but are bold, proud, presumptuous, self-conceited. And therefore,
The fifth direction: Do not thou be too much in looking too high in thy journey heavenward. You know men that run a race do not use to stare and gaze this way and that, neither do they use to cast up their eyes too high, lest haply, through their too much gazing with their eyes after other things, they in the mean time stumble and catch a fall. The very same case is this: if thou gaze and stare after every opinion and way that comes into the world, also if thou be prying overmuch into God's secret decrees, or let thy heart too much entertain questions about some nice foolish curiosities, thou mayst stumble and fall, as many hundreds in England have done, both in ranting and quakery, to their own eternal overthrow, without the marvelous operation of God's grace be suddenly stretched forth to bring them back again. Take heed, therefore; follow not that proud, lofty spirit, that, devil-like, can not be content with his own station. David was of an excellent spirit, where he saith, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty, neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother: My soul is even as a weaned child." Do thou so run.
The sixth direction: Take heed that you have not an ear open to every one that calleth after you as you are in your journey. Men that run, you know, if any do call after them, saying, I would speak with you, or go not too fast and you shall have my company with you, if they run for some great matter, they use to say, "Alas! I can not stay, I am in haste, pray talk not to me now; neither can I stay for you, I am running for a wager: if I win I am made; if I lose I am undone, and therefore hinder me not." Thus wise are men when they run for corruptible things, and thus shouldst thou do, and thou hast more cause to do so than they, forasmuch as they run for things that last not, but thou for an incorruptible glory. I give thee notice of this be-times, knowing that thou shalt have enough call after thee, even the devil, sin, this world, vain company, pleasures, profits, esteem among men, ease, pomp, pride, together with an innumerable company of such companions; one crying, Stay for me; the other saying, Do not leave me behind; a third saying, And take me along with you. What, will you go, saith the devil, without your sins, pleasures, and profits? Are you so hasty? Can you not stay and take these along with you? Will you leave your friends and companions behind you? Can you not do as your neighbors do, carry the world, sin, lust, pleasure, profit, esteem among men, along with you? Have a care thou do not let thine ear open to the tempting, enticing, alluring, and soul-entangling flatteries of such sink-souls as these are. "My son," saith Solomon, "if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."
You know what it cost the young man whom Solomon speaks of in the 7th of the Proverbs, that was enticed by a harlot: "With much fair speech she won him, and caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him, till he went after her as an ox to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks"; even so far, "till the dart struck through his liver," and he knew not "that it was for his life." "Hearken unto me now therefore," saith he, "0 ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth, let not thine heart incline to her ways, go not astray in her paths, for she hast cast down many wounded, yea, many strong men have been slain (that is, kept out of heaven); by her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death." Soul, take this counsel, and say, Satan, sin, lust, pleasure, profit, pride, friends, companions, and everything else, let me alone, stand off, come not nigh me, for I am running for heaven, for my soul, for God, for Christ, from hell and everlasting damnation; if I win, I win all; and if I lose, I lose all; let me alone, for I will not hear. So run.
The seventh direction: In the next place, be not daunted though thou meetest with never so many discouragements in thy journey thither. That man that is resolved for heaven, if Satan can not win him by flatteries, he will endeavor to weaken him by discouragements; saying, Thou art a sinner, thou bath broken God's law, thou art not elected, thou comest too late, the day of grace is passed, God doth not care for thee, thy heart is naught, thou art lazy, with a hundred other discouraging suggestions. And thus it was with David, where he saith, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the loving-kindness of the Lord in the land of the living." As if he should say, the devil did so rage, and my heart was so base, tin had I judged according to my own sense and feeling, I had been absolutely distracted; but I trusted to Christ in the promise, and looked that God would be as good as his promise, in having mercy upon me, an unworthy sinner; and this is that which encouraged me, and kept me from fainting. And thus must thou do when Satan, or the law, or thy own conscience, do go about to dishearten thee, either by the greatness of thy sins, the wickedness of thy heart, the tediousness of the way, the loss of outward enjoyments, the hatred that thou wilt procure from the world or the like; then thou must encourage thyself with the freeness of the promises, the tender-heartedness of Christ, the merits of His blood, the freeness of His invitations to come in, the greatness of the sin of others that have been pardoned, and that the same God, through the same Christ, holdeth forth the same grace as free as ever. If these be not thy meditations, thcu wilt draw very heavily in the way of heaven, if thou do not give up all for lost, and so knock off from following any farther; therefore, I say, take heart in thy journey, and say to them that seek thy destruction, "Rejoice not against me, 0 my enemy, for when I fall I shall, arise, when I sit in darkness the Lord shall be a light unto me." So run.
The eighth direction: Take heed of being offended at the cross that thou ~must go by before thou come to heaven. You must understand (as I have already touched) that there is no man that goeth to heaven but he must go by the cross. The cross is the standing way-mark by which all they that go to glory must pass.
"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven." "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." If thou art in thy way to the kingdom, my life for thine thou wilt come at the cross shortly (the Lord grant thou dost not shrink at it, so as to turn thee back again). "If any man will come after me," saith Christ, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." The cross it stands, and bath stood, from the beginning, as a way-mark to the kingdom of heaven. You know, if one ask you the way to such and such a place, you, for the better direction, do not only say, This is the way, but then also say, You must go by such a gate, by such a stile, such a bush, tree, bridge, or such like. Why, so it is here; art thou inquiring the way to heaven? Why, I tell thee, Christ is the way; into Him thou must get, into His righteousness, to be justified; and if thou art in Him, thou wilt presently see the cross, thou must go close by it, thou must touch it, nay, thou must take it up, or else thou wilt quickly go out of the way that leads to heaven, and turn up some of those crooked lanes that lead down to the chambers of death.
It is the cross which keepeth those that are kept from heaven. I am persuaded, were it not for the cross, where we have one professor we should have twenty; but this cross, that is it which spoileth all.
The ninth direction: Beg of God that He would do these two things for thee: First, enlighten thine understanding: And, secondly, inflame thy will. If these two be but effectually done, there is no fear but thou wilt go safe to heaven.
One of the great reasons why men and women do so little regard the other world is because they see so little of it: And the reason why they see so little of it is because they have their understanding darkened: And therefore, saith Paul, "Do not you believers walk as do other Gentiles, even in the vanity of their minds, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance (or foolishness) that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." Walk not as those, run not with them: alas! poor souls, they have their understandings darkened, their hearts blinded, and that is the reason they have such undervaluing thoughts of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the salvation of their souls. For when men do come to see the things of another world, what a God, what a Christ, what a heaven, and what an eternal glory there is to be enjoyed; also when they see that it is possible for them to have a share in it, I tell you it will make them run through thick and thin to enjoy it. Moses, having a sight of this, because his understanding was enlightened, "He feared not the wrath of the king, but chose rather to suffer afflictions with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He refused to be called the son of the king's daughter"; accounting it wonderful riches to be accounted worthy of so much as to suffer for Christ with the poor despised saints; and that was because he saw Him who was invisible, and had respect unto the recompense of reward. And this is that which the apostle usually prayeth for in his epistles for the saints, namely, "That they might know what is the hope of God's calling, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints; and that they might be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge."
The tenth direction: Cry to God that He would inflame thy will also with the things of the other world. For when a man's will is fully set to do such or such a thing, then it must be a very hard matter that shall hinder that man from bringing about his end. When Paul?s will was set resolvedly to go up to Jerusalem (though it was signified to him before what he should there suffer), he was not daunted at all; nay, saith he, "I am ready (or willing) not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." His will was inflamed with love to Christ; and therefore all the persuasions that could be used wrought nothing at all.
Your self-willed people, nobody knows what to do with them: we use to say, he will have his own will, do all what you can. Indeed, to have such a will for heaven, is an admirable advantage to a man that undertaketh a race thither; a man that is resolved, and hath his will fixed, saith he, I will do my best to advantage myself; I will do my worst to hinder my enemies; I will not give out as long as I can stand; I will have it or I will lose my life; "tho he slay me, yet will I trust in him. I will not let thee go except thou bless me." I will, I will, I will, oh this blest inflamed will for heaven! What is it like? If a man be willing, then any argument shall be a matter of encouragement; but if unwilling, then any argument shall give discouragement; this is seen both in saints and sinners; in them that are the children of God, and also those that are the children of the devil. As,
1. The saints of old, they being willing and resolved for heaven, what could stop them? Could fire and fagot, sword or halter, stinking dungeons, whips, bears, bulls, lions, cruel rackings, stoning, starving, nakedness, etc., "and in all these things they were more than conquerors, through him that loved them"; who had also made them "willing in the day of his power."
2. See again, on the other side, the children of the devil, because they are not willing, how many shifts and starting-holes they will have. I have a married wife, I have a farm, I shall offend my landlord, I shall offend my master, I shall lose my trading, I shall lose my pride, my pleasures, I shall be mocked and scoffed, therefore I dare not come. I, saith another, will stay till I am older, till my children are out, till I am got a little aforehand in the world, till I have done this and that and the other business; but, alas! the thing is, they are not willing; for, were they but soundly willing, these, and a thousand such as these, would hold them no faster than the cords held Samson, when he broke them like burnt flax. I tell you the will is all: that is one of the chief things which turns the wheel either backward or forward; and God knoweth that full well, and so likewise doth the devil; and therefore they both endeavor very much to strengthen the will of their servants; God, lie is for making of his a willing people to serve him; and the devil, he doth what lie can to possess the will and affection of those that are his with love to sin; and therefore when Christ comes closer to the matter, indeed, saith lie, "You will not come to me. How often would I have gathered you as a hen doth her chickens, but you would not." The devil had possest their wills, and so long he was sure enough of them. Oh, therefore cry hard to God to inflame thy will for heaven and Christ: thy will, I say, if that be rightly set for heaven, thou wilt not be beat off with discouragements; and this was the reason that when Jacob wrestled with the angel, though he lost a limb, as it were, and the hollow of his thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him, yet saith he, "I will not," mark, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me."
Get thy will tipped with the heavenly grace, and resolution against all discouragements, and then thou goest full speed for heaven; but if thou falter in thy will, and be not found there, thou wilt run hobbling and halting all the way thou runnest, and also to be sure thou wilt fall short at last. The Lord give thee a will and courage.
Thus I have done with directing thee how to run to the kingdom; be sure thou keep in memory what I have said unto thee, lest thou lose thy way. But because I would have thee think of them, take all in short in this little bit of paper.
1. Get into the way. 2. Then study on it. 3. Then strip, and lay aside everything that would hinder. 4. Beware of by-paths. 5. Do not gaze and stare too much about thee, but be sure to ponder the path of thy feet. 6. Do not stop for any that call after thee, whether it be the world, the flesh, or the devil: for all these will hinder thy journey, if possi¬ble. 7. Be not daunted with any discourage¬ments thou meetest with as thou goest. 8. Take heed of stumbling at the cross. 9. Cry hard to God for an enlightened heart, and a willing mind, and God give thee a prosperous journey.
Provocation: Now that you may be provoked to run with the foremost, take notice of this. When Lot and his wife were running from curst Sodom to the mountains, to save their, lives, it is said, that his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt; and yet you see that neither her example, nor the judgment of God that fell upon her for the same, would cause Lot to look behind him. I have sometimes wondered at Lot in this particular; his wife looked behind her, and died immediately, but let what would become of her, Lot would not so much as once look behind him to see her. We do not read that he did so much as once look where she was, or what was become of her; his heart was indeed upon his journey, and well it might: there was the mountain before him, and the fire and brimstone behind him; his life lay at stake, and he had lost it if he had looked behind. Do thou so run and in thy race remember Lot's wife, and remember her doom; and remember - for what that doom did overtake her; and remember that God made her an example for all lazy runners, to the end of the world; and take heed thou fall not after the same example. But,
If this will not provoke thee, consider thus, 1. Thy soul is thine own soul, that is either to be saved or lost; thou shalt not lose my soul by thy laziness. It is thine own soul, thine own ease, thine own peace, thine own advantage or disadvantage. If it were my own that thou art desired to be good unto, methinks reason should move thee somewhat to pity it. But, alas! it is thine own, thine own soul. "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" God's people wish well to the souls of others, and wilt not thou wish well to thine own? And if this will not provoke thee, then think.
Again, 2. If thou lose thy soul, it is thou also that must bear the blame. It made Cain stark mad to consider that he had not looked to his brother Abel's soul. How much more will it perplex thee to think that thou hadst not a care of thine own? And if this will not provoke thee to bestir thyself, think again.
3. That, if thou wilt not run, the people of God are resolved to deal with thee even as Lot dealt with his wife?that is, leave thee behind them. It may be thou hast a father, mother, brother, etc., going post-haste to heaven, wouldst thou be willing to be left behind them? Surely no.
Again, 4. Will it not be a dishonor to thee to see the very boys and girls in the country to have more with them than thyself? It may be the servants of some men, as the housekeeper, plowman, scullion, etc., are more looking after heaven than their masters. I am apt to think, sometimes, that more servants than masters, that more tenants than landlords, will inherit the kingdom of heaven. But is not this a shame for them that are such? I am persuaded you scorn that your servants should say that they are wiser than you in the things of this world; and yet I am bold to say that many of them are wiser than you in the things of the world to come, which are of greater concernment.
Expostulation. Well, then, sinner, what sayest thou? Where is thy heart? Wilt thou run? Art thou resolved to strip? Or art thou not? Think quickly, man; have no dallying in this matter. Confer not with flesh and blood; look up to heaven, and see how thou likest it; also to hell, and accordingly devote thyself. If thou dost not know the way, inquire at the Word of God; if thou wantest company, cry for God's Spirit; if thou wantest encouragement, entertain the promises. But be sure thou begin betimes; get into the way, run apace, and hold out to the end; and the Lord give thee a prosperous journey. Farewell.
Related Tags: sermon, lesson, John Bunyan