Saturday, December 30, 2006
Not Quite New Year Links
Dull....Very, Very Exciting (at least in season)
Is there really any other kind?
My new career - Whiskey Ambassador.
NYC passes gas.
Stuff to know, just because.
Related Tags: joke, humor, wisecrack, saarcasm
The imagery of a singe\le wheeled tank like this is actually quite old and was a big part of comic and sci-fi lore back in WWII, but once we get to the 60's it's nostalgic at best, if not down right insipid.
But I have to say this panel at left cracked me up more than any I have seen for quite a while. Check the lettering - does that look like a little kid saying "Weeeeeeeeeee...." or what? "Gee Mommy, that was fun, can I go again?" Think about it, a ferris wheel loose from it's moorings as bad guy.
Look how unstable this thing is and then think about it. Beat this bad guy by leaving a quarter in the road.
Related Tags: comics, comic books, comic art, Spidey villians, Big Wheel
Friday, December 29, 2006
Does Anybody Besides Me See The Irony Here?
.I spoke in a casual contemporary service that reflected the gravitational pull of Willow Creek, only a half an hour away.As I read that I could not help but think of all the lectures I had received over the years abot how worship had to be made "more accessible" so that Joe-off-the-street could walk in and not be threatened -- and yet -- this poor child found a contemporary worship service as foreign a land as everyone told me such a person would find the more traditional "high" worship I love and cherish.
After the Sunday service, Janet told me that Gina had been quietly asking her questions throughout the event. She wanted to know where the worship band played the rest of the week, why the building didn?t look more like a church (it was multi-purpose), what are the song lyrics doing on the screen, why the auditorium had chairs rather than pews, etc.
Gina liked the coffee in the lobby and the music, found the technology striking (I think she had expected none), but was disappointed that the church offered nothing to eat for breakfast. After the sermon Gina expressed appreciation for my talk because it sounded ?normal? (I think as opposed to being stylized) and it gave her ?a lot to think about.?
During the service, Janet entertained each of Gina's observations and answered every question.
Needless to say, the author arrives at pretty much the same conclusion I have:
Janet's experience suggests that even the most spiritually inexperienced person can appreciate a fairly mainstream, or even traditional, service if someone cares enough to serve as a spiritual/cultural interpreter.Now, here is a bit of a corrollary to this conclusion - maybe we need to invest some effort in interpreting for those inside the the church? Of course, I don't think it will work, because mostly this depresses me.
The conclusion I draw here is that the pressure for less strenuous worship, and church life in general, comes not from trying to get the outside in, but from the inside wanting to lower the bar. Look, I'm not talking about music choice here - I'm talking about jettisoning hundreds of years of tradition and meaning in the development of an order of worship, the power of corporate confession, the depth of the Words of Institution for the sacrament, those awkwards times of silence during worship where we - shudder - might be forced to deal directly with our Lord.
This paints a picture that tells me that "seeker-sensitivity" is the excuse on which we hang our own desire for ease and lack of challenge.
People don't come to church because of stuff like worship style, they come because of personal connection. The rest of it is about us, and frankly, this bit does not reflect well on us.
Related Tags: church, worship, contemporary, worship style, challenge, maturity
Because If I Didn't Link To It...
When did we get to the point we want government to do everything for us?
And yet, people keep talking abou thte US as the problem.
It's more important than Bond, no, really.
Warch this at your peril, and only if you are immensly bored:
This was actually boradcast on television, but then is it rea;;y that surprizing?
And no one notices.
And you thought rednecks didn't exist.
Just in case you were wondering.
For that enemy at work
For some reason, I think this German explains this German.
This is how wars start.
Related Tags: nnanny state, air pollution, joke, humore, sarcasm, wisecrack
Thursday, December 28, 2006
The Ecclesiastical Ladder of Success
That said; however, I want to talk about that wonderful phrase he has coined "The Eccesiatstical Ladder of Success" I think it hits on one of the biggest problems we face today. How do we, as Christians, measure our success in Christian growth? After all, are we not supposed to be growing all the time. How do we know we are, and at what rate? Are we succeeding in being a good Christian?
So often when we attempt to answer these questions, we look at some sort of ecclesiastical ladder. Even if we manage to avoid the desire to grow to the point where we can "go professional" with our faith, there are the lay offices - "I've made it to Deacon, but soon I can grow up to be an Elder!"
I am sure every serious Christians sees the folly in that kind of thinking, particularly as I have written it here, and yet if we are honest with ourselves, such thoughts do occur to us from time-to-time. But the worse part is that our ecclesiastical institutions are organized in such a way that it almost forces us to think in such terms.
Obviously, the metric of Christian growth is not institutional office, but character traits - love, joy, peace, patiene, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. This presents a challenge for our ecclesiatistical institutions - how do we organize those institutions so that these metrics apply?
For one thing, of course, we should insist on evidence of such character in those to whom we grant office. This is something at which we are increasingly bad. Most notably we fail to discipline those with office that fail at some point. I wonder if someone had been holding Ted Haggard accountable on these character traits if things would ever have gotten as far as they did?
But I think there has to be more, even persons of this wonderful character are not always suitable for institutional office, lay or clerical. Should not such people be the standard held up for the rest of the church? How do we do that?
The ladder we seek to climb is not an ecclesiastical one, but a personal development one. Somehow we have to make that ladder evident.
Related Tags: Christian success, fruits of the Spirit, metrics, growth, maturity
News Of The Day - Link Style
"Even something as fun as baking for the holiday season has an environmental effect," said Keil, an associate professor of chemical oceanography. "When we bake and change the way we eat, it has an impact on what the environment sees. To me it shows the connectedness."is a sign that the smegging Grinch runs the world, only he has never met the Who's on Whoville, and never will.
Global warming and polar bears - fantasy and fact. And yet, the "realities" of bureacracy and regulation could blur the line tremendously.
It's a chemical reaction, not a "lock and key" - the general public may not be deeply into science, but give me a break on this analogy stuff.
Fascinating Captain. commerce in service to religion. How come it comes out so differently for evangelicals?
Weirdness courtesy BHT.
How was he caught? Genius, sheer genius.
As I write, this very moment, I am on vacation with an earthquake specialist from the US Geological Survey at CalTech. His response to this story was laughter, no words, just laughter.
How come my last issue of "Analytical Chemistry" was not like this?
I have heard of "dead air" on radio, but this is ridiculous.
I can't help myself.
Related Tags: environment, global warming, science, weird, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
The Uneasy Conscience of a Non-Charismatic Evangelical
Interestingly, Wallace does not become a charismatic, but his book instead urges cessationists to find room for the experiential reality of the Holy Spirit whilst not giving up their theological positions.That's a pretty good description of me, so I perked right up. Adrian then goes on to present the eleven theses of the book, some of which bear further commentary
Although charismatics have given a higher priority to experience than to relationship, rationalistic evangelicals have given a higher priority to knowledge than to relationship.I couldn't agree more. Our faith is not just about belief; not some mere set of ideas. The author agrees:
This emphasis on knowledge over relationship has produced in us a bibliolatry.TRUST is the key word there. I know there are those that think the relationship thing is overdone, but it must be true for trust is the key determinant for a healthy life with God, life lived not on our own terms, but His. Life lived in trust to Him. As this next thesis says
The net effect of such bibliolatry is a depersonalization of God . . . our stance changes from "I trust in" to "I believe that."
Part of the motivation for this depersonalization of God is our increasing craving for control.Changing gear a little, this is where I really worry about the politicization of faith. As Evangelicals are increasingly identified as a political demographic, that depersonalization takes deeper and deeper hold. It becomes about your political stances, not your faith.
This is also descriptive of why some think me a little too open minded; why I am unwilling to condemn some that believe differently directly to the nether regions. If we are defined by our beliefs, it becomes very easy to draw lines and say who is in and who is out. If; however, we are defined by WHO we believe, and that who is God Almighty, such lines become much harder to draw. Why? Because He is undefinable and incomprehensible.
But what glory, many are they that lack the intellectual capacity to describe what they believe, but they are not denied the glory of life with Christ for that's what it is, life with Christ, not a life of thought.
Maybe the next time you want to read a book, you should pray? You don't have to be charismatic to pray do you?
Related Tags: Holy Spirit, charismatic, rationalism, relationship
Yes, There Are Things Worth Reading This Week LInks
Need to keep an eye on this. Governmnet not funding religion is one thing, but land use restrictions are another altogether.
The view from the UK. Is it possible that despite the death of relgion as a public influence in Europe, faith is more alive than ever?
The great government teet strikes again.
Assault by fart? Fascinating legal question - when does a nuisance become an assault.
How? Evolution had not had time to develop it.
Which is, or course, linked to cow farts. But those are flammable, so I am wondering if there is not a more direct link?
Stupidity is everywhere.
Related Tags: Gerald Ford, government and religion, Winston Churchill, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The Christian Conscience
And then, the Confession proceeds to tell us what we are free for--to follow the teachings of Christ! Conscience is not just 'following our feelings' and it most definitely is not 'doing what we think is best'."Doing what we think is best" is just another way of enjoying the enslavement to our sinful nature.
The conscience, the inward conviction of what is right and good, is a gift of the Holy Spirit to those who are freed from the bonds of sin by a new birth in Christ. And then, with that new self who is also now a slave to Christ, we can follow him and obey his Word.
The bottom line is this - we are created to be enslaved and will always be enslaved. Freedom, true freedom, exists not in a lack of enslavement, but in the attachment to a righteous and just Master.
One master tries to warp us into something we are not. THE MASTER uses us as we are intended and frees us to be who we were made to be.
Related Tags: conscience, enslavement, Master, Christian
This is awful, just awful. This will give you a hint, and this the details. Fascinating things to note - US study, reported in England, where they are already not reproducing themselves -- University of Utah study, Utah the most reproductive state in this the only actually reproductive nation in the western world. Tell me again how science operates without an agenda.
Yes he should be, and I kind of like who he is, warts and all.
This is incredibly amuzing, but likely only to me an a few others. (HT: The Corner)
Really Scary? - 3.5!?!?!?! - Must not be from around here. Now this is scary.
A comic book I don't care if I ever see, although the sample art's not too bad. Yes, it's a miracle of Christmas.
Related Tags: environment, global warming, demographics, reproductive rates, comic books, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Kitty Kartoons - Boxing Day
Monday, December 25, 2006
The Christmas Story - By Luke
Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
And when eight days were completed before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every first-born male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, "Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart In peace, according to Thy word; For my eyes have seen Thy salvation, Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel." And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed -- and a sword will pierce even your own soul -- to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with a husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. And she never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Related Tags: Jesus, Christmas, scripture
Our Christmas Card To You!
Related Tags: Merry Christmas
Special Christmas Links
From some friends in Iraq - It's a video
Blackfive -- In the Agora -- Hugh Hewitt -- Seeking Him -- Power Line -- Waffling Anglican -- Covenant Seminary -- Santa -- Backwoods Presbyterian -- Seeking Him -- Some Cartoon -- Quotidian Grace -- The Daily Telegraph -- Yahoo News -- Rev Bill -- Reformation Theology -- the church geek -- Blackfive (again)-- First Things -- Letter (HT: Hugh Hewitt) -- Christianity Today (HT: BHT) -- Constructive Curmudgeon - Evangelical Outpost -- Mark Daniels -- Great music (HT: Intellectuele) -- Middlebrow -- Presbyterian Bloggers -- Search The Sea -- The A-Team -- Aberdeen News -- Salt Lake Tribune -- More Middlebrow -- Middlebrow again -- Live Science
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Away In A Link-ger
Speaking of which, I have no idea what really happened here, but sometimes teachers really do humiliate students and they deserve whatever they get. There's one I know...
You cannot take it away from him now, he's the best.
But cow farts are a greenhouse gas, I am not sure the mass balance calcs work here.
I tried to make a joke out ofthis story and could not get it done. Fortunately, Rick suceeded.
This'll keep you busy for a while - the world of the wierd in photos, 2006 edition.
Related Tags: links
Illuminated Christmas Eve
Sermons and Lessons - Christmas Eve Edition
A Sermon Delivered on Lord's Day Morning December 20, 1868 by C. H. SPURGEON at the METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON
SERMON TEXT: ISA. 25:6
"And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined."
We have nearly arrived at the great merry-making season of the year. On Christmas day we shall find all the world in England enjoying themselves with all the good cheer which they can afford. Servants of God, you who have the largest share in the person of him who was born at Bethlehem, I invite you to the best of all Christmas fare-- to nobler food than makes the table groan-- bread from heaven, food for your spirit. Behold, how rich and how abundant are the provisions which God has made for the high festival which He would have His servants keep, not now and then, but all the days of their lives!
God, in the verse before us, has been pleased to describe the provisions of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although many other interpretations have been suggested for this verse, they are all flat and stale, and utterly unworthy of such expressions as those before us. When we behold the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed-- when we see him offered up upon the chosen mountain, we then discover a fulness of meaning in these gracious words of sacred hospitality, "The Lord shall make a feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow." Our Lord himself was very fond of describing His gospel under the selfsame image as that which is here employed. He spoke of the marriage-supper of the king, who said "My oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready"
Our first head will be the feast; the second will be the banqueting-hall-- "in this mountain;" the third will be the Host-- "The Lord shall make a feast; and the fourth shall be the guests-- he shall make it "unto all people."
I. First, then, we have to consider THE FEAST.
It is described as consisting of viands of the best, nay, of the best of the best. They are fat things, but they are also fat things full of marrow. Wines are provided of the most delicious and invigorating kind, wines on the lees, which retain their aroma, their strength, and their flavour; but these are most ancient and rare, having been so long kept that they have become well refined; by long standing they have purified, clarified themselves, and brought themselves to the highest degree of brightness and excellence. The best of the best God has provided in the gospel for the sons of men.
Let us attentively survey the blessings of the gospel, and observe that they are fat things, and fat things full of marrow.
One of the first gospel blessings is that of complete justification. A sinner, though guilty in himself, no sooner believes in Jesus than all his sins are pardoned. The righteousness of Christ becomes his righteousness, and he is accepted in the Beloved. Now, this is a delicious dish indeed. Here is something for the soul to feed upon. To think that I, though a deeply guilty one, am absolved of God, and set free from the bondage of the law! To think that I, though once an heir of wrath, am now as accepted before God as Adam was when he walked in the Garden without a sin; nay, more accepted still, for the divine righteousness of Christ belongs to me, and I stand complete in him, beloved in the Beloved, and accepted in him too! Beloved, this is such a precious truth, that when the soul feeds on it, it experiences a quiet peace, a deep and heavenly calm, to be found nowhere on earth besides.
This is a kind of honey which never cloys, to be assured by the word of God, and by the witness of the Holy Ghost within you, that you are reconciled and brought nigh by the blood and the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is a choice mercy. This is a fat thing indeed; but this is not all, it is a fat thing full of marrow too. There is an inner lusciousness in it when you reach the heart and soul of the matter, transcendent in richness; for remember that this righteousness, this acceptance, this justification, becomes ours in a perfectly legal way, one against which Satan himself cannot raise a demurrer, for our Substitute has paid our debt, therefore are we righteously discharged. Christ has fulfilled the law, and made it honourable for us, and therefore are we justly accepted and beloved. Here is marrow indeed when we perceive the truth and reality of the substitution of Jesus, and grasp with heart and soul the fact of our great Surety standing in our stead at the bar of justice, that we might stand in his stead in the place of honour and love. What bliss it is to cry with the apostle, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Come hither, all ye whose spiritual tastes are purified by grace, and feed upon this choice provision, which shall be sweet to your taste, sweeter, also, than honey and the honeycomb.
Meditate upon a second blessing of the covenant of grace, namely, that of adoption. It is plainly revealed to us, that as many as have believed in Christ Jesus unto the salvation of their souls, are the sons of God. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." Here, indeed, is a fat thing. What, shall a worm of the dust become a child of God? A rebel be adopted into the heavenly family? A condemned criminal not only forgiven, but actually made a child of God? Wonder of wonders! "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God!." To which of the kings and princes of this earth did He ever say, "Thou art my son"? He has not spoken thus to the great ones and to the mighty, but God hath chosen the base things of this world and things that are despised, yea and things that are not, and made these to be of the seed royal. The wise and prudent are passed over, but babes receive the revelation of his love. Lord, whence is this to me? What am I and what is my father's house, that thou shouldst speak of making me thy child? This gloriously fat thing is also "full of marrow." There is an inner richness in adoption, for, "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Well does the apostle remind us that if children, then heirs, for we are thus assured of our blessed heritage. "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall He not with him also freely give us all things?" Here are royal dainties of which the Word has said most truly, "They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house."
Passing on from the blessing of adoption, let us remember that every child of God is the object of eternal love without beginning and without end. This is one of the fat things full of marrow. Is it so, that I, a believer in Jesus, unworthy as I am, am the object of the eternal love of God? What transport lies in that thought! Long before the Lord began to create the world, He had thought of me. Long ere Adam fell or Christ was born, and the angels sung their first choral over Bethlehem's miracle, the eye and the heart of God were towards His elect people. He never began to love them, they were always "a people near unto Him." Is it not so written, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore, with lovingkindness have I drawn thee"? Some kick at the doctrine of election, but they are ill advised, since they labour to overturn one of the noblest dishes of the feast; they would dam up one of the coolest streams that flow from Lebanon; they would cover over with rubbish one of the richest veins of golden ore that make rich the people of God. For this doctrine of a love that hath no commencement, is the best wine of our Beloved, and "that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of them that are asleep to speak"
Equally delightful is the corresponding reflection that this love which had no beginning shall have no end. He is a God that changeth not. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Where He has once set his heart of love upon a man, He never turns away from doing him good. He saith by the mouth of His servant the prophet, that He hateth putting away. Though we sin against Him often, and provoke Him to jealousy, yet still, as the waters of Noah, so is His covenant to us; for as the waters of Noah shall no more go over the earth, so He swears that He will not be wroth with us nor rebuke us. "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." Why, beloved, this indeed is a fat thing; and I may add that it is full of marrow when you remember that not merely has the Lord thought of you from everlasting, but loved you. Oh! the depth of that word "love," as it applies to the infinite Jehovah, whose name, whose essence, whose nature is love! He has loved you with all the immutable intensity of His heart, never more and never less; loved you so much that He gave His only begotten Son for you; loved you so well that nothing could content Him but making you to be conformed into the image of His dear Son, and causing you to partake of his glory that you may be with him where he is! Come, feed on this, ye heirs of eternal life, for here are fat things full of marrow.
We should not, beloved, have completed this list if we had omitted one precious doctrine, which needs a refined taste perhaps, but which, when a man hath once learned to feed on it, seemeth to him to be best of all-- I mean the great truth of union to Christ. We are plainly taught in the word of God that as many as have believed are one with Christ: they are married to him, there is a conjugal union based upon mutual affection. The union is closer still, for there is a vital union between Christ and his saints. They are in him as the branches are in the vine; they are members of the body of which he is the head. They are one with Jesus in such a true and real sense that with him they died, with him they have been buried, with him they are risen, with him they are raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places. There is an indissoluble union between Christ and all his people: "I in them and they in me." Thus the union may be described:-- Christ is in his people the hope of glory, and they are dead and their life is hid with Christ in God.
This is a union of the most wonderful kind, which figures may faintly set forth, but which it were impossible for language completely to explain. Oneness to Jesus is one of the fat things full of marrow. For if it be so, indeed, that we are one with Christ, then because he lives we must live also; because he was punished for sin, we also have borne the wrath of God in him; because he was justified by his resurrection, we also are justified in him; because he is rewarded and for ever sits down at his Father's right hand, we also have obtained the inheritance in him and by faith grasp it now, and enjoy its earnest. Oh, can it be that this aching head already has a right to a celestial crown! That this palpitating heart has a claim to the rest which remaineth for the people of God! That these weary feet have a title to tread the sacred halls of the New Jerusalem! It is so, for if we are one with Christ, then all he has belongs to us, and it is but a matter of time, and of gracious arrangement when we shall come into the full enjoyment thereof. Truly, in meditation upon this topic, we may each of us exclaim, "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.
I cannot bring forth all the courses of my Lord's banquet; one serving man cannot bear before you the riches of such a surpassing feast; but I would remind you of one more, and that is the doctrine of resurrection and everlasting life. This poor world dimly guessed at the immortality of the soul, but it knew nothing of the resurrection of the body: the gospel of Jesus has brought life and immortality to light, and he himself has declared to us of Jesus, that he that believeth in him shall never die. "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet should he live." Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Not the soul only, but the body also shall partake of immortality, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. We expect to die, but we are assured of living again. If the Lord come not, we know that our bodies shall see corruption; but here is our comfort, we dread no annihilation, that dark shadow never crosses our spirits; we dread no hell, no purgatory, no judgment-- Christ hath perfected for ever them that are set apart; none can condemn whom he absolves.
The saints shall judge the angels, and sit with their Lord in the day of the great assize. To us the coming of Christ will be a day of joy and of rejoicing: we shall be caught up together with him; his reign shall be our reign, his glory our glory. Wherefore comfort one another with these words, and as ye see your brethren and your sisters departing one by one from among you, sorrow not as those that are without hope, but say unto each other, "They are not lost, but they have gone before," for, "blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them"
"Oh, for the no more weeping,Thus I have set before you a few of the fat things full of marrow which the King of kings has set before His guests at the wedding feast of His love.
Within that land of love!
The endless joy of keeping
The bridal feast above!
Oh, for the hour of seeing
My Saviour face to face!
The hope of ever being
In that sweet meeting-place."
Changing the run of the thought, and yet really keeping to the same subject, let me now bring before you the goblets of wine. "Wines on the lees-- wines on the lees well refined." These we shall consider as symbolising the joys of the gospel. What are these? I can only speak of those which I have myself been permitted to sip at. One of the dearest joys of the Christian life is a sense of perfect peace with God. Oh, I tell you when one is quiet for awhile, and the din and noise of business is out of one's ears, it is one of the most delicious things in all the world to meditate upon God, and to feel He is no enemy to me, and I am no enemy to Him. It is beyond comparison cheering, musingly to feel, I love Him. If there be anything that I can do to serve Him, I will do it. If there be any suffering which would honour Him, if He would give me the strength to endure it, it should be my happiness, though it caused me to die a martyr's death a thousand times. If I could but honour my God, my Father, and my Friend, all should be acceptable to me. There is nothing between the Lord and me by way of difference or alienation; I am brought nigh through the blood of His dear and only begotten Son. He is my God, my Father, and my all, and I am His child. Some of us have tried the imaginary happiness of laughter; we have mixed with the giddy throng, and tasted the wines of the house of carnal merriment, but our honest experience is that one single draught from the cap of salvation is worth rivers of worldly mirth.
"Solid joys and lasting pleasures
Only Zion's children know."
A quiet heart, resting in the love of God, dwelling in perfect peace, hath a royalty about it which cannot for a moment be matched by the fleeting joys of this world.
Our joy sometimes flashes with a brighter light, but even then it is not less pure and safe. You may look upon this wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it moveth itself aright, for there is no woe, no redness of the eyes reserved for those who drink even to inebriation of this sacred wine. This sacred exhilaration is caused by a sense of security. A child of God, when he has looked well to his Redeemer, and seen the merit of the precious blood, and the power of the never-ceasing plea, feels himself safe, perfectly safe. I do not understand the child of God reading his Bible and yet being afraid of being cast into hell. I can understand that the fear may cross his mind lest after all he should prove a castaway; but as he approaches once again to the foot of the cross, and looks up to Jesus, he feels that it cannot be. None were ever cast away who stood at the cross foot; for it is written, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." A child of God, with no hope but what he finds in Christ, has no cause to think his eternal state to be insecure. All are safe who are in Christ, even as all were safe who were in Noah's ark. No flood, no storm could hurt the man of whom it was said, "The Lord shut him in." The Lord has shut in all his people in Christ, and they are eternally safe in Christ. When the spirit knows that "there is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," then is it replenished with delight. When one feels that live or die, or work or suffer, all is well, how free from care is the heart! How divinely joyful to know that if one should lose all his earthly substance, the Lord will provide; that if one should be tempted, tempted greatly, yet with the temptation the way of escape shall be made! here is assurance rich with consolation. When one feels that all is safe, all safe eternally, for life or death all secured, I tell you that this is wine on the lees, wine on the lees well refined, and he who wins a draught thereof need not envy the angels their celestial banquets.
This joy of ours will sometimes rise to an elevation yet more sublime, when it is caused by communion with God. Believers, while engaged in prayer and praise, in service and in suffering, are enabled by the Holy Spirit to hold high converse with their Lord. Do not imagine that Abraham's speech with God was an unusual privilege. The father of the faithful did but enjoy what all the faithful ones participate in according to the grace given them. We tell to God our griefs; discoursing upon our sorrows not in fiction, but declaring them in real conversation, as when a man speaketh with his neighbour: meanwhile the Lord's Spirit whispers to us with the still small voice of the promise, such words as calm our minds and guide our feet. Yes, and when our Beloved takes us into the banqueting-house of real conscious fellowship with himself, and waves the love-banner over us, our holy joy is as much superior to all merely human mirth, as the heavens are above the earth. Then do we speak and sing with sacred zest, and feel as if we could weep for very joy of heart, for our Beloved is ours and we are his. His left hand is under our head, and his right hand doth embrace us, and our only fear is lest anything should grieve our Beloved and cause him to withdraw himself from us; for it is heaven on earth, and the fair antepast of heaven above to see his face, to taste his love. Communion with Christ is as the wine on the lees well refined.
We will place on the table one goblet more, of which you may drink as much as you will. We have provided for us the pleasures of hope, a hope most sure and steadfast, most bright and glorious-- the hope that what we know today shall be outdone by what we shall know tomorrow; the hope that by-and-by what we now see, as in a glass darkly, shall be seen face to face. We shall say, as in heaven, as the Queen of Sheba did in Jerusalem, "The half hath not been told us." We are looking forward to a speedy day when we shall be unburdened of this creaking tabernacle, and being absent from the body shall be present with the Lord. Our hope of future bliss is elevated and confident. Oh, the vision of his face! Oh, the sight of Jesus in his exaltation! Oh, the kiss of his lips-- the word, "Well done, good and faithful servant" from that dear mouth! and then for ever to lie in his bosom. Begone, ye cares, begone, ye sorrows; if heaven be so near, ye shall not molest us. The inn may be a rough and poverty-stricken one, but we are only travellers, not tenants upon lease. This is not our place of resting; we are on our journey home! Beloved, in the prospect of the quiet resting-places in the land which floweth with milk and honey, you have wines on the lees well refined.
If we were not limited to time this morning, as, alas! we are, I should have reminded you that these joys of the believer are ancient in their origin, for that is shown in the text. Old wines are intended by "wines well refined;" they have stood long on the lees, have drawn out all the virtue from them, and have been cleared of all the courser material. In the East, wine will be improved by keeping even more than the wines of the West! and even so the mercies of God are the sweeter to our meditations because of their antiquity. From old eternity, or ever the earth was, the covenant engagements of everlasting love have been resting like wines on the lees, and today they bring to us the utmost riches of all the attributes of God. I should also have reminded you of the fulness of their excellence, because the wine on the lees holds its flavour, and retains its aroma; and there is fulness and richness about the blessings of divine grace which endears them to our hearts. The joys of grace are not fantastical emotions, or transient flashes of a meteoric excitement, they are based on substantial truth; are reasonable, fit, and proper. They belong not to the superficial and frothy emotions of mere feeling, but are deep, solemn, earnest motions, justified by the clearest judgment. Our bliss is not of the foam and the surge, it dwells in the innermost caverns of our heart. I would also remind you of their refined nature. No sin mingled with the joys of the gospel and the delights of communion-- they are well fined. Gospel joys are elevating, they make men like angels. As the gospel God comes down to men, so by the gospel men go up to God. I might also have shown you how absolutely peerless are the provisions of grace. There is no feast like that of the gospel, no meat like the flesh of Jesus, no drink like his blood, no joys like that which crowns the gospel feast.
II. I can say no more: the table is before you, and now we must pass on with great brevity to notice THE BANQUETING-HALL.
"In this mountain." There is a reference here to three things-- the same symbol bearing three interpretations. First, literally, the mountain upon which Jerusalem is built. I do not doubt that the reference is here to the hill of the Lord upon which Jerusalem stood; the great transaction which was fulfilled at Jerusalem upon Calvary hath made to all nations a great feast. It was there where that centre cross bore upon it One who joined earth and heaven in mysterious union; it was there where amidst thick darkness the Son of God was made a curse for men; it was there where sorrow culminated that joy was consummated. On that very mountain where Jews and Gentiles met together, and with clamorous wrath cried, "Let him be crucified"-- it was there in the giving up of the Only-begotten, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed, that the Lord made a feast of fat things. Everything I have spoken of this morning is found in Christ. He is the resurrection and the life: in him we are justified, adopted, and made secure; every drop of joy we drink streams from his flowing veins.
A second meaning is the church. Frequently Jerusalem is used as the symbol of the church of God, and it is within the pale of the church that the great feast of the Lord is made unto all nations. I am in the truest sense a very sound churchman. I am indeed a high churchman; a most determined stickler for the church. I do not believe in salvation outside of the pale of the church. I believe that the salvation of God is confined to the church, and to the church alone. "But," says one, "what church?" Ay! that's the question: God forbid I should mean by that either the Baptist church, or the Independent church, or the Episcopalian church, or the Presbyterian, or any other-- I mean the church of Jesus Christ, the company of God's chosen, the fellowship of the blood-bought, the family of believers, be they where they may, for them is provided the feast of fat things. Whatever outward and visible church they may have associated themselves with, they shall drink of the wines on the lees well refined; but the feast is only to be found where they are found who put their trust in Jesus. There is but one church in heaven and earth, composed of men called by the Holy Ghost, and made to live anew by his quickening power; and it is through the ministry of this church that an abundant feast is spread for all nations, a feast to which the nations are summoned by chosen herald, whom God calls to proclaim the good news of salvation by Jesus Christ.
But, brethren, the mountain sometimes means the church of God exalted to its latter-day glory. This mountain is to be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. This text will have its grandest fulfilment in the day of the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Then shall the glory of the gospel be unveiled more clearly than at this present. Men shall have a fuller perception of the glory of the Lord, and a deeper enjoyment of his grace; while happiness and peace shall reign with unmolested quiet. Soon shall come the golden age which has been so long foretold, for which we cry with unceasing expectation. The Lord send it speedily, and his be the praise.
III. Thirdly, let us think of THE HOST of the feast.
"In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things." Mark well the truth that in the gospel banquet there is not a single dish brought by man. The Lord makes it, and He makes it all. I know some would like to bring a little with them to the banquet, something at least by way of trimming and adornment, so that they might have a share of the honour; but it must not be, the Lord of hosts makes the feast, and He will not even permit the guests to bring their own wedding garments-- they must stop at the door and put on the robe which the Lord has provided, for salvation is all grace from first to last, and all of Him who is wondrous in working, and who doeth all things according to the counsels of His will. Out of all the precious truths which I spoke of at the beginning of this sermon, there is not one which comes from any source but a divine one; and of all the joys which I tried feebly to picture there is not one which takes its rise from earth's springs; they all flow from the eternal fount.
The Lord makes the feast; and, observe, He does it, too, as Lord of hosts, as a sovereign, as a ruler, doing as He wills amongst the sons of men, preparing what He wills for the good of His creatures, and constraining whom He wills to come to the marriage-feast. The Lord provides sovereignly as Lord of hosts, and all-sufficiently as Jehovah. It needed the all-sufficiency of God to provide a feast for hungry sinners. No other than the infinite "I AM" could provide a feast substantial enough to supply the wants of immortal spirits; but He has done it, and you may guess of the value of the viands by the nature of our entertainer. If God spread the feast it is not to be despised; if the Lord has put forth all the omnipotence of His eternal power and Godhead in preparing the banquet for the multitude of the sons of men, then depend upon it it is a banquet worthy of Him, one to which they may come with confidence, for it must be such a banquet as their souls require, and such as the world never saw before. O my soul, rejoice thou in thy God and King. If He provides the feast, let Him have all the glory of it. "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory"
IV. Lastly, a word or two upon THE GUESTS.
The Lord has made this banquet "for all people." What a precious word this is! "For all people." Then this includes not merely the chosen people, the Jews, whose were the oracles, but it encompasses the poor uncircumcised Gentiles, who by Jesus are brought nigh. The barbarian is invited to this feast; the Scythian is not rejected. The polished Greek finds an open door; the hardy Roman shall meet with an equal welcome. Caesar's household, if they come, shall receive a portion, and so shall the beggar's brethren. Blessed be God for that word, "unto all people," for it permits missionary enterprise in every land; however degraded a race may be, we have here provision made for it. This feast of fat things is made as much for the Sudra as for the Brahmin; the gospel is as much to be preached to the degraded Bushman as to the civilised Chinese. Dwell on that word, "all people," and you will see it includes the rich, for there is a feast of fat things for them, such as their gold could never buy; and it includes the poor, for they being rich in faith shall have fellowship with God.
"All people." This takes in the man of enlarged intelligence and extensive knowledge; but it equally encompasses the illiterate man who cannot read. The Lord makes this feast "for all people;" for you old people, if you come to Jesus you shall find that he is suitable to you; for you young men and maidens, and you little children, if you put your trust in God's appointed Saviour, there shall be much joy and happiness for you-- "For all people"? Methinks, if I were now seeking and had not laid hold on Christ, this word, "all people" would be a great comfort to me, because it gives hope to all who desire to come. None have ever been rejected of all who have ever come to Christ and asked for mercy. Still is it true, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out"
Why should Jesus begin hard dealings with you? He cannot, because he cannot change. If he says, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out," make one of the "hims" that come, and he cannot cast you out. There is another thought, namely, that between covers of the Bible there is no mention made of one person who may not come. There is no description given of a person who is forbidden to trust Christ. I should like you to look the book through, you who dream that Jesus will reject you, and find where it is said, "Such a one I will reject; such a one I will refuse." When you find such a rejecting clause, then you will have a right to be unbelieving, but till you do I beseech you do not needlessly torment yourself. Why needlessly sow doubts and fears? There will be enough of them without your making them for yourself. Do not limit what the Lord does not limit I know he has an elect people; I rejoice in it-- I hope you will rejoice in in it too one day; and I know that His people have this marrow and fatness provided for them and for them alone; but still this does not at all conflict with the other precious truth that whosoever believeth in the Son of God hath everlasting life. If you believe in Jesus Christ, all these things are yours. Come, poor trembler, the silver trumpet soundeth, and this is the note it rings, "Come and welcome, come and welcome, come and welcome." The harsher trumpet of the law which waxed exceedingly loud and long at Sinai had this for its note, "Set bounds about the mount: let none touch it lest they die." But the trumpet for Calvary sounds with the opposite note; it is, "Come and welcome, come and welcome, sinner, come! Come as you are, sinful as you are, hardened as you are, careless as you think you are, and having no good thing whatsoever, come to your God in Christ!" O may you come to Him who gave His Son to bleed in the sinner's stead, and casting yourself on what Christ has done, may you resolve, "If I perish, I will trust in Him; if I be cast away, I will rely on him." You shall not perish, but for you there shall be the feast of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. The Lord bless you very richly, for His name's sake. Amen.
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