Saturday, January 06, 2007
Colts Playoff Day Links
Time Waster that sucked me in way too fast.
Oh, let's not be overly dramatic or anything. If the story requires that much rhetorical flourish, it's dull, don't write it!
Stories of the very large - Some people are no fun, and makin bacon!
Poke fun if you will, but sadly, people stupid enough to need these labels actually exist. Used to be we could make fun of them instead of the labels.
No doubt Elizabeth Taylor is sending her latest husband to fetch it.
Gotta love ingenuity.
Related Tags: plain spoken, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Rocket Racer, a guy with a super-powered skate board. You know, come to think of it, I am kind of surprized there was never a villian based on the Rubik's Cube, or the Pet Rock. But, I digress. Oh yeah, and then, as if the skate board fad was not enough of a "hook" - they went and made the guy black! Now in this day-and-age of the X-games, how many black skateboarders out there are there? Anybody, anybody...?
Really, he is a good guy that burst on the scene as a bad guy out of desparation, but just couldn't pull it off and ended up teaming with Spidey to fight the bigger bad guy that came along. Talk about lame!
That the bad guy makes good story is about as old as comics, but here is the thing - for the story to have any appeal, any appeal at all, the bad guy has to be really bad, not just pretending to be bad because Mama needs groceries.
Rocket Racer - bad idea poorly executed.
Related Tags: comics, comic books, comic art, Spidey villians, Rocket Racer
Friday, January 05, 2007
True "Spiritual Formation"
This came home to me most fervently when Unveiled Face linked to this post reflecting on the loss of a 3-year old child. Two things became readily apparent to me as I read the post and shook off it's enormous emotional impact.
The first was an old lesson to this blog. God's desires for us are far more extensive than we can imagine, and such remodelling of a life can, at times, be unpleasant. It will require the demolition of much that we hold so very dear. It is extremely hard to understand at that time that what God has to construct in its place will be so much better than what we hold so tightly, often impossible. The reason? Because the real lesson is to cling to God himself.
I am currently working through the book, "Renovation Of The Heart In Daily Practice" by Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson with a small group. Chapter 6 contains these words
I felt great relief at hearing the twelve-step goal of "becoming the same person all the time."In some ways that is such a great description of spiritual maturity, and increasing integration of the various parts of ourselves. I bet we all can put our finger on some time in our life when progress in this direction was measurably made. And if you think about it, it was likely a traumatic, painful time.
We design our churches to provide comfort and security for the people that come to them, and yet God seems to have something very different in mind. It is in our discomfort and insecurity that we most readily find Him and what He would have for us.
The second point from this very powerful post concerns the very idea of ministry.
Daniel was God's silent little preacher. He has preached and we have listened.God's instrument of ministry in this case wsa a small boy, dying from the moment of his birth. God simply does not work in us, or through us, in the ways we expect. He is not in the earthquake, but in the still, small voice. The cathedral is testament, but it is the humble hut where hearts are touched and lives changed.
How often do we build what we want instead of let God use us to build what He wants? How many cathedrals have we built when would should have been sitting in huts? How often do we do our work when we should be doing God's.
We recently celebrated the birth of God - as a small child in the most humble of circumstances. The same God that later destroys the cathedral of the day and brings salvation to the world through His own death. How often do we forget this example?
Related Tags: minsitry, humility, spiritual formation, maturity, pain
I'm Running Out Of Title Ideas Links
Serious thinking about a serious subject.
Speaking of which, I need to think about this one. I certainly like that they aren't starving the poor child, but....
There are no details in this story, but that is an awful lot of "casualities" for a leak of this sort. Either the plant is grossly below even third world standards for construction and safety or, people panicked. Given the location, I'll bet a week's pay on the later.
I'm with Mark. History matters.
Way Cool Video
Deep quantum wierdness.
Well, for goodness sake, don't let the panic die down.
Criminals - stupid, or just really, really politiclly correct?
PT Barnum lives - this story is everywhwere
No, but you can bet they can in Kentucky!
Things my wife will love and refuse to believe. Frankly, when it comes to the later, I do not think there is a woman in the world that will buy it.
PORK FAT RULES! That'll be good bacon. By the way, where I hail from, Indiana, where in some circles growing hogs is a true passion - 440 lbs is lightweight.
Related Tags: science, creator, science policy, medical ethics, chemical accidents, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
The robot then asked, "Sir, what is your IQ?"
The man answered "Oh, about 164."
The robot then proceeded to discuss the 'theory of relativity', 'inter-stellar space travel', 'the latest medical break throughs', etc.......
The man was most impressed. He left the bar but thought he would try a different tact. He returned and took a seat. Again the robot clicked and asked what he would have? "A Martini please."
Again it was superb! The robot again asked "What is your IQ sir?"
This time the man answered, "Oh about 100". So the robot started discussing NASCAR racing, the latest basketball scores, and what to expect the Dodgers to do this week end.
The guy had to try it one more time. So he left, returned and took a stool.... Again a martini, and the question, "What is your IQ?"
This time the man drawled out " Uh..... bout 50".
The robot clicked then leaned close and very slowly asked, "A-r-e......... y-o-u-r.........p-e-o-p-l-e..........g-o-i-n-g..........t-o........ n-o-m-i-n-a-t-e..........H-i-l-l-a-r-y-?????
Related Tags: humor, Friday humor, joke, Hillary Clinton
Thursday, January 04, 2007
The Bible As Self-Expression
When I ran across this OpinionJournal piece on the boom in Bible publishing, I became somewhat ashamed of the rather self-indulgent nature of that book.
"Bibles are a growth area for us and we're giving them more space in our stores," said Jane Love, religion buyer for Barnes & Noble. "It's partly because of the way they've evolved over the last three or four years."What is revealed here is rather frightening to me. My efforts at adorning that Bible were acts of adoration, I loved that thing, still do - but alas now such adornment is an act not of adoration, but self-expression.
But Bibles are becoming as much personal statements as fashion statements. "What people are saying is 'I want to find a Bible that is really me," noted Rodney Hatfield, a vice president of marketing at Thomas Nelson. "It's no different than with anything else in our culture."
In some instances, spiritual leaders are embracing myriad translations and their flocks are following suit. "You go back 20 years and the pastor would stand in the pulpit and say 'you need to have this Bible, this translation. Go to the store and buy it,'" said Thomas Nelson's Mr. Hatfield. "But now pastors are reaching out and grabbing the translation that best suits their point for a particular sermon." [emphasis mine]
Worse, we see not an effort to find the most accurate translation and from it derive what we are to know, instead we seek translation to support that which we have already concluded - yet another form of self-expression.
The Bible, scripture, is for us but it is not about us. Consider what the Westminster Confession says:
Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.God expresses Himself through scripture to aid us in our salvation but the same confession later says:
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory,... [emphasis added]There is nothing inherently wrong with having a pretty Bible, but we must listen to it, we do not shape it to suit our mood, our understanding, or our perspective. Rather we use it to teach ourselves the correct perspective.
I grow increasingly aware of efforts to mold faith, whether in worship style, Bible choice, and even theology to shape us. Such is the ultimate sin. We do not shape God, we submit to God's shaping of us.
What faith expression do you have that is really self-expression? Submit.
Related Tags: Bible, scripture, publishing, self-expression, submission, shaping
Incredibly Unusual Weekday Link...
One more step into the abyss.
There was a distinct comic book buzz in the blogosphere yesterday. Hence, the "unusual" in the title today. This is why:
The trailer for the Fantastic Four movie coming out in May hit the internet. Anybody that says it's not cool is just wrong. But don't forget there is another comic book movie coming out in February that looks mighty good too:
All this casued Jonah Goldberg to link to The 10 Lamest Superheroes. How could they forget the remarkably popular, yet utterly lame Bouncing Boy?
And, as long we we are looking at cool visual stuff, check out this powerpoint of photos from space.
Given how often this breaks down -- I don't think so.
For god's sake, DO NOT LIGHT A MATCH.
And they say men are gross.
Bizarre, yet entertaining.
Just say NO! - to remakes of spin-offs of crap. Sure, it's crap I watched religiously when younger, but it was still crap and should stay in the crap bin.
Related Tags: Bible helps, comic books, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Rules Of Interpretation And Lessons For The Church
1. ". . . concerning the Lord and His body, when there is a transition from the Head to the body, or from the body to the Head, and yet no recession from one and the same person . . . and yet, certainly, it must be understood how much of this belongs to the Head, how much to the body; that is, how much to Christ, how much to the Church."What do we do when we cannot sufficiently tell the difference between the devil's body and Christ's body? How easy is it to tell which head we are attached too? How sad is it that I find myself asking these questions?
". . . knowing as we do that the head and the body--that is, Christ and His Church--are sometimes indicated to us under one person (for it is not in vain that it is said to believers, 'Ye then are Abraham's seed,' (1) when there is but one seed of Abraham, and that is Christ), we need not be in a difficulty when a transition is made from the head to the body or from the body to the head, and yet no change made in the person spoken of."
7. "The seventh rule of Tichonius and the last, is about the devil and his body. For he is the head of the wicked, who are in a sense his body, and destined to go with him into the punishment of everlasting fire, just as Christ is the head of the Church, which is His body, destined to be with Him in His eternal kingdom and glory. Accordingly, as the first rule, which is called of the Lord and His body, directs us, when Scripture speaks of one and the same person, to take pains to understand which part of the statement applies to the head and which to the body."
I want so badly to believe Christ's body, the church, is an extension of Christ and indistinguishable from Him, but it keeps screwing up so badly. I have no problem accepting the "already, not yet" still sinning nature of an individual Christian, but when it comes to the church, I find it oh so hard. The church is supposed to be collective of our gifts and attributes, it is supposed to amplify the transformation God is creating in us. Yet, the opposite seems to be the case, it seems to collect and amplify our lower, baser natures.
Is it because we have attached ourselves to the wrong head? I don't know for certain, but I certainly do think sometimes we confuse which head we are taking orders from.
Jesus certainly played the game by a different set of rules than we do. He built no edifices, maintained no budget. He sought the lost and outcast where we seek the rich and powerful. Does this mean all that is the church is corrupt? No, but it is very confused.
This much I do know, if we in leadership of the church spent more time trying to encourage and amplify the transformation God is creating in each other, and less time trying to "build the church" I think things would improve.
Related Tags: exegesis, hermeneutics, church, already, not yet
It Was More Fun Being Off Links
Blasphemy or clarification?
Speaking of which, I love professional wrestling (yes, my lowbrow is showing) but this made my skin crawl off my body and hide under the bed.
Speaking of over-reaction - this will put me in a deep depressive funk all day, for so many reasons, but most of all because of the objectification of the child.
I thought messing with the weather was bad mojo. Where are the "activists" on this one?
And what will those same activists do with this? No doubt ozone depletion is affecting radiation reflection back to the sun which sets up a constructive wave amplification pattern in cosmic ray emissions that COULD DESTROY THE ENTIRE EARTH! STOP DOING EVERYTHING AND SEND ME ALL YOUR MONEY NOW SO I CAN SAVE US BY TELLING YOU EXACTLY WHAT DO TO AT ALL TIMES.
If only they had the actual intelligence to do so. Living in LA being in the environmental business, I could tell stories, but then I would lose clients....
Why I started my own business.
I think I need to visit it all. (HT: BHT)
"Fell asleep"?...Do you think maybe intoxicating substances were involved? You know just a little?
Maybe so, but isn't it the tiniest bit "specieist" against pigs?
I'm betting he had a darn good time doing it too!
Related Tags: church, money, blasphemy, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Anyway, the six strategies are good ones:
- Nurture marriages for the long term.
- Have children and raise families.
- Become committed, active members of your church community.
- Join a Christian labour union or another work-related association.
- Become involved in your country's political life.
- Allow all your work to be influenced by your faith.
Numbers one and two are great ideas regardless of setting. It is, in essence, breeding your viewpoint into dominance. Now, bear in mind that breeding is not purely biological. Which means the third one is in the same vein, by actively working in your faith community you breed new faithful.
Numbers four and five are uniquely American opportunities. Which brings me back to my first paragraph. I'd rather look at ways to remain faithful to my Lord when my society, regardless of which direction "liberal" and "conservative" lie in that society, is moving in an antithetical direction. In America four and five are good expressions of that desire, but in other places there might have to be different ways.
But that last one, oh there is the heart of it all.
Eph 6:13 - Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.Do your actions, in work, in play, in leisure, reflect your faith, nay, your Lord? Why not? What part of the armor is missing?
While we are called to political activism, political activism is not faithfulness. Faithfulness is putting on that whole armor. Faithfulness is is allowing the light of Jesus to shine through all you do in word and deed, at work or at play.
That can only happen when we ourselves are fixing on His guidance and His glory. Have you prayed today? No? - then you are not fixed. Have you consulted the Word today? No? - then you are not fixed. You are not faithful.
We can be faithful, regardless of societal setting. And the key is the same in all those setting.
1 Cor 2:2 - For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.Related Tags: society, faithfulness, spirtual disciplines
Back To Business Links
The postgame ceremony was unbelievable, though it would have been even more special if someone from the University of Indiana was there to present a plaque or some kind of award. It still blows my mind that Knight is not in the school's athletic Hall of Fame even though he is eligible, but he is in Ohio State's. The Indiana administration should have been there in Lubbock given his 662 wins for the Bloomington-based school.I love where I came of age, but there are times I am reminded why I left.
There are so many beautiful fans in Indiana who have a passion and love for their basketball. They appreciate what Knight achieved, winning three national titles and 11 Big Ten championships there. That's why I feel Indiana's administration should have presented something. Let bygones be bygones on both sides. I have often said that the building in Bloomington should be named after Knight for all of his accomplishments and the players he has graduated.
Indiana did send a message of congratulations, but it was not enough.
Some things to think about as LA atones for it's "sins". Without that water, there would simply be no LA - it is after all desert. Also remember, only a few thousand people live in the Owens Valley, and that is all that ever will. It's geographical isolation, and the fact that much of it could disappear in the blink of a volcanic eye, will see to it that such is always the case. LA bought and paid for that land and water. Don't misunderstand me. I love it up there and vacation there often, but there is a bit of tyranny involved in this effort, and to describe what has happened as "sin" just misses the mark so completely.
OH, so it's moderate to think global warming is man-made, but extremeist to think it's not, even if both of you think the essential response is the same? What's the difference? well, the "moderate" wants centralized control of the response, whereas the "extremeist" thinks a robust free market will respond accordingly. And what really matters becomes apparent.
The year in quotations.
If you know anything about how franchising works, this gets a little scary.
How to fry a snake.
My butt gets sore just thinking about it.
Being contrarian, I predict that scientists that think science can solve behovioral problems will be wiped out in a large global conflict in the next 150 years. For reference, see John Lennon, remember that song he wrote?
Who needs nuclear weapons when we have stoves?
Related Tags: Bob Knight, 880, water, Los Angeles, environment, global warming, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Monday, January 01, 2007
Assorted Scripture For The New Year
Luke 22:20 - And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood."
John 13:34 - A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another."
1 Cor 5:7 - Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
2 Cor 5:17 - Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Gal 6:15 - For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
Eph 2:13-15 - But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
Eph 4:21-24 - if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
2 Pet 3:13 - But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
Related Tags: scripture, new, fresh, renew
Happy New Links!
Been there, seen it - quite moving, even if I do not share the veneration.
A story only the writer cares about. Journalists are not a protected class, nor are they our military in defense of anything.
Here's a way to lose a lot of time. Mark Daniels linked to this site where you can watch old movies because of some old classics, but I think Mark and I have a different view of what compromises a classic. For example, my eye was drawn to:
- Atomic Age Vampire
- Brain That Wouldn't Die
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
- Malice In the Palace (A Three Stooges Short!)
Lots of propaganda films too. Kinda cool.
Cows and global warming, the inside scoop.
Well, it would have been funny in the movies.
No need to enter, the answer is "Yes!"
In all truthiness, I can boast of never having gone missing.
Something fishy going on here.
Related Tags: Bible reading, icons, old movies, global warming, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Kitty Kartoons - Happy New Year
Sunday, December 31, 2006
New Year's Eve Links...
THIS IS VERY GOOD STUFF! - I ought to write a whole post or two about it, but there is little to add.
I pity the guy that can wear it. (I almost hate myself for that joke, but it was too easy and made me laught oo hard)
Once again, I have escaped notice. I guess I lack sufficient stupidity.
I would have thought "very carefully" sufficient.
It's all Disney's fault.
Well, there are Best Of lists and then there is this.
Speaking of "Best Of" - just a brief moment to Thank The Lord for the blessings he heaped, I mean really heaped, on this household this year. It would be unseemingly to list it, but He is a good God, and I am grateful.
Related Tags: Presbyterian history, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sermons and Lessons
THOMAS GUTHRIE, preacher, philanthropist, and social reformer, was born at Brechin, Forfarshire, Scotland, in 1803. He spent ten years at the University of Edinburgh and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Brechin in 1825. In 1830 he was ordained minister of Arbirlot. After a valuable experience in evangelical preaching among the farmers, weavers and peasants of his congregation, he became one of the ministers of Old Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, in 1827. Lord Cockburn described his sermons in that city as appealing equally "to the poor woman on the steps of the pulpit" as to the "stranger attracted solely by his eloquence." He was a great temperance advocate, becoming a total abstainer in 1844, and has been styled "the apostle of the ragged school movement." Retiring from the active work of the ministry in 1864, he still remained in public life until he died in 1873. Through long practise, Dr. Guthrie delivered his memorized discourses as though they fell spontaneously from his lips. His voice has been described as powerful and musical. He was fond of vivid illustration, and even on his death bed, as he lay dying in the arms of his sons, he exclaimed: "I am just as helpless in your arms now as you once were in mine."
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh - Ezekiel 36:26.
As in a machine where the parts all fit each other, and, bathed in oil, move without din or discord, the most perfect harmony reigns throughout the kingdom of grace. Jesus Christ is the "wisdom," as well as the "power" of God; nor in this kingdom is anything found corresponding to the anomalies and incongruities of the world lying without. There we sometimes see a high station disgraced by a man of low habits; while others are doomed to an inferior condition, who would shine like gilded ornaments on the very pinnacles of society. That beautiful congruity in Christ's kingdom is secured by those who are the objects of saving mercy being so renewed and sanctified that their nature is in harmony with their position, and the man within corresponds to all without.
Observe how this property of "new" runs through the whole economy of grace. When mercy first rose upon this world, an attribute of Divinity appeared which was new to the eyes of men and angels. Again, the Savior was born of a virgin; and He who came forth from a womb where no child had been previously conceived, was sepulchered in a tomb where no man had been previously interred. The infant had a new birthplace, the crucified had a new burial-place. Again, Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant, the author of a new testament, the founder of a new faith. Again, the redeemed receive a new name; they sing a new song; their home is not to be in the old, but in the new, Jerusalem, where they shall dwell on a new earth, and walk in glory beneath a new heaven. Now it were surely strange, when all things else are new, if they themselves were not to partake of this general renovation. Nor strange only, for such a change is indispensable. A new name without a new nature were an imposture. It were not more an untruth to call a lion a lamb, or the rapacious vulture by the name of the gentle dove, than to give the title of sons of God to the venomous seed of the serpent.
Then, again, unless man received a new nature, how could he sing the new song? The raven, perched on the rock, where she whets her bloody beak, and impatiently watches the dying struggles of some unhappy lamb can not tune her croaking voice to the rich, mellow music of a thrush; and, since it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaketh, how could a sinner take up the strain and sing the song of saints? Besides, unless a man were a new creature, he were out of place in the new creation. In circumstances neither adapted to his nature, nor fitted to minister to his happiness, a sinner in heaven would find himself as much out of his element as a finny inhabitant of the deep, or a sightless burrower in the soil, beside an eagle, soaring in the sky, or surveying her wide domain from the mountain crag.
In the works of God we see nothing more beautiful than the divine skill with which He suits His creatures to their condition. He gives wings to birds, fins to fishes, sails to the thistle-seed, a lamp to light the glowworm, great roots to moor the cedar, and to the aspiring ivy her thousand hands to climb the wall. Nor is the wisdom so conspicuous in nature, less remarkable and adorable in the kingdom of grace. He forms a holy people for a holy heaven - fits heaven for them, and them for heaven. And calling up His Son to prepare the mansions for their tenants, and sending down His Spirit to prepare the tenants for their mansions, He thus establishes a perfect harmony between the new creature and the new creation.
You can not have two hearts beating in the same bosom, else you would be, not a man, but a monster. Therefore, the very first thing to be done, in order to make things new, is just to take that which is old out of the way. And the taking away of the old heart is, after all, but a preparatory process. It is a means, but not the end. For, strange as it may at first sound, he is not religious who is without sin. A dead man is without sin; and he is sinless, who lies buried in dreamless slumber, so long as his eyes are sealed. Now, God requires more than a negative religion. Piety, like fire, light, electricity, magnetism, is an active, not a passive element; it has a positive, not merely a negative existence. For how is pure and undefiled religion defined? "Pure religion and undefiled is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction." And on whom does Jesus pronounce His beatitude? "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." And what is the sum of practical piety - the most portable form in which you can put an answer to Saul's question, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?" What but this, "Depart from evil, and do good." Therefore, while God promises to take the stony heart out of our flesh, He promises more. In taking away one heart, He engages to supply us with another; and to this further change and onward stage in the process of redemption, I now proceed to turn your attention.
By way of general observation, I remark that our affections are engaged in religion. An oak - not as it stands choked up in the crowded wood, with room neither to spread nor breathe, but as it stands in the open field, swelling out below where it anchors its roots in the ground, and swelling out above where it stretches its arms into the air, presents us with the most perfect form of firmness, self-support, stout and sturdy independence. So perfectly formed, indeed, is the monarch of the forest to stand alone, and fight its own battles with the elements, that the architect of the Bell Rock lighthouse is said to have borrowed his idea of its form from God in nature, and that, copying the work of a divine Architect, he took the trunk of the oak as the model of a building which was to stand the blast of the storm, and the swell of the winter seas.
Observe, that although the state of the natural affections does not furnish any certain evidence of conversion, it is the glory of piety that these are strengthened, elevated, sanctified by the change. The lover of God will be the kindest, best, wisest lover of his fellow-creatures. The heart that has room in it for God, grows so large, that it finds room for all God's train, for all that He loves, and for all that He has made; so that the Church, with all its denominations of true Christians, the world, with all its perishing sinners, nay, all the worlds which He has created, find orbit-room to move, as in an expansive universe, within the capacious enlargement of a believer's heart. For while the love of sin acts as an astringent - contracting the dimensions of the natural heart, shutting and shriveling it up - the love of God expands and enlarges its capacity. Piety quickens the pulse of love, warms and strengthens our heart, and sends forth fuller streams of natural affection toward all that have a claim on us, just -as a strong and healthy heart sends tides of blood along the elastic arteries to every extremity of the body.
This new heart, however, mainly consists in a change of the affections as they regard spiritual objects. Without again traveling over ground which we have already surveyed, just look at the heart and feelings of an unconverted man. His mind being carnal, is enmity or hatred against God. This may be latent, not at first sight apparent, nor suspected, but how soon does it appear when put to the proof? Fairly tried, it comes out like those unseen elements which chemical tests reveal. Let God, for instance, by His providences or laws, thwart the wishes or cross the propensities of our unrenewed nature?let there be a collision between His will and ours - and the latent enmity flashes out like la¬tent fire when the cold black flint is struck with steel.
In conversion God gives a new spirit. Conversion does not bestow new faculties. It does not turn a weak man into a philosopher. Yet, along with our affections, the temper, the will, the judgment partake of this great and holy change. Thus, while the heart ceases to be dead, the head, illuminated by a light within, ceases to be dark; the understanding is enlightened; the will is renewed; and our whole temper is sweetened and sanctified by the Spirit of God. To consider these in their order, I remark - By this change the understanding and judgment are enlightened. Sin is the greatest folly, and the sinner the greatest fool in the world. There is no such madness in the most fitful lunacy. Think of a man risking eternity and his everlasting happiness on the uncertain chance of surviving another year. Think of a man purchasing a momentary pleasure at the cost of endless pain. Think of a dying man living as if he were never to die. Is there a convert to God who looks back upon his unconverted state, and does not say with David, "Lord, I was as a beast before Thee."
Now conversion not only restores God to the heart, but reason also to her throne. Time and eternity are now seen in their just proportions - in their right relative dimensions; the one in its littleness, and the other in its greatness. When the light of heaven rises on the soul, what grand discoveries does she make - of the exceeding evil of sin, of the holiness of the divine law, of the infinite purity of divine justice, of the grace and greatness of divine love. On Sinai's summit and on Calvary's cross, what new, sublime, affecting scenes open on her astonished eyes! She now, as by one convulsive bound, leaps to the conclusion that salvation is the one thing needful, and that if a man will give all he hath for the life that now is, much more should he part with all for the life to come. The Savior and Satan, the soul and body, holiness and sin, have competing claims. Between these reason now holds the balance even, and man finds, in the visit of converting grace, what the demoniac found in Jesus' advent. The man whose dwelling was among the tombs, whom no chains could bind, is seated at the feet of Jesus, "clothed, and in his right mind."
By this change the will is renewed. Bad men are worse, and good men are better than they appear. In conversion the will is so changed and sanctified, that although a pious man is in some respects less, in other respects he is more holy than the world gives him credit for. The attainments of a believer are always beneath his aims; his desires are nobler than his deeds; his wishes are holier than his works. Give other men their will, full swing to their passions, and they would be worse than they are; give that to him, and he would be better than he is. And if you have experienced the gracious change, it will be your daily grief that you are not what you not only know you should be, but what you wish to be. To be complaining with Paul, "When I would do good, evil is present with me; that which I would I do not, and what I would not, that I do," is one of the best evidences of a gracious, saving change.
Children of God! let not your souls be cast down. This struggle between the new will and the old man - painful and prolonged although it be - proves beyond all doubt the advent of the Holy Spirit. Until the Savior appeared there was no sword drawn, nor blood shed in Bethlehem, nor murderous decree issued against its innocents - they slept safely in their mothers? bosoms, Herod enjoyed his security and pleasure, and Rachel rose not from her grave to weep for her children because they were not. Christ's coming rouses all the devil in the soul. The fruits of holy peace are reaped with swords on the fields of war; and this struggle within your breast proves that grace, even in its infancy a cradled Savior, is engaged in strangling the old Serpent. When the shadow of calamity falls on many homes, and the tidings of victory come with sad news to many a family, and the brave are lying thick in the deadly breach, men comfort us by saying, that there are things worse than war. That is emphatically true of this holy war. Rejoice that the peace of death is gone.
By conversion the temper and disposition are changed and sanctified. Christians are occasionally to be found with a tone of mind and a temper as little calculated to recommend their faith as to promote their happiness. I believe that there are cases in which this is due to a deranged condition of the nervous system, or the presence of disease in some other vital organ. These unhappy persons are more deserving of our pity than our censure. This is not only the judgment of Christian charity, but of sound philosophy, and is a conclusion to which we are conducted in studying the union between mind and body, and the manner in which they act and re-act upon each other. So long as grace dwells in a "vile body," which is the seat of frequent disorder and many diseases - these infirmities of temper admit no more, perhaps, of being entirely removed, than a defect of speech, or any physical deformity. The good temper for which some take credit may be the result of good health and a well-developed frame - a physical more than a moral virtue; and an ill temper, springing from bad health, or an imperfect organization, may be a physical rather than a moral defect - giving its victim a claim on our charity and forbearance. But, admitting this apology for the unhappy tone and temper of some pious men, the true Christian will bitterly bewail his defect, and, regretting his infirmity more than others do a deformity, he will carefully guard and earnestly pray against it. Considering it as a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan sent to buffet him, it will often send him to his knees in prayer to God, that the grace which conquers nature may be made "sufficient for him."
I pray you to cultivate the temper that was in Jesus Christ. Is he like a follower of the Lamb who is raging like a roaring lion? Is he like a pardoned criminal who sits moping with a cloud upon his brow? Is he like an heir of heaven, like a man destined to a crown, who is vexed and fretted with some petty loss? Is he like one in whose bosom the dove of heaven is nestling, who is full of all manner of bile and bitterness? Oh, let the same mind be in you that was in Jesus. A kind, catholic, gentle, loving temper is one of the most winning features of religion; and by its silent and softening influence you will do more real service to Christianity than by the loudest professions, or the exhibition of a cold and skeleton orthodoxy. Let it appear in you, that it is with the believer under the influence of the Spirit as with fruit ripened beneath the genial influences of heaven's dews and sunbeams. At first hard, it grows soft; at first sour, it becomes sweet; at first green, it assumes in time a rich and mellow color; at first adhering tenaciously to the tree, when it becomes ripe, it is ready to drop at the slightest touch. So with the man who is ripening for heaven. His affections and temper grow sweet, soft, mellow, loose from earth and earthly things. He comes away readily to the hand of death, and leaves the world without a wrench.
In conversion God gives a heart of flesh. "I will give you a heart of flesh."
Near by a stone, a mass of rock that had fallen from the overhanging crag, which had some wild flowers growing in its fissures, and on its top the foxglove, with its spike of beautiful but deadly flowers, we once came upon an adder as it lay in ribbon coil, basking on the sunny ground. At our approach the reptile stirred, uncoiled itself, and raising its venomous head, with eyes like burning coals, it shook its cloven tongue, and, hissing, gave signs of battle. Attacked, it retreated; and, making for that gray stone, wormed itself into a hole in its side. Its nest and home were there. And in looking on that shattered rock - fallen from its primeval elevation - with its flowery but fatal charms, the home and nest of the adder, where nothing grew but poisoned beauty, and nothing dwelt but a poisoned brood, it seemed to us an emblem of that heart which the text describes as a stone, which experience proves is a habitation of devils, and which the prophet pronounces to be desperately wicked. I have already explained why the heart is described as a stone. It is cold as a stone; hard as a stone; dead and insensible as a stone. Now, as by the term "flesh" we understand qualities the very opposite of these, I therefore remark that - In conversion a man gets a warm heart. Let us restrict ourselves to a single example. When faith receives the Savior, how does the heart warm to Jesus Christ! There is music in His name. "His name is an ointment poured forth." All the old indifference to His cause, His people, and the interests of His kingdom, has passed away; and now these have the warmest place in a believer's bosom, and are the object of its strongest and tenderest affections. The only place, alas! that religion has in the hearts of many is a burial-place; but the believer can say with Paul, "Christ liveth in me." Nor is his heart like the cottage of Bethany, favored only with occasional visits. Jesus abides there in the double character of guest and master, its most loving and best loved inmate; and there is a difference as great between that heart as it is, and that heart as it was, as between the warm bosom where the Infant slept or smiled in Mary's arms and the dark, cold sepulcher where weeping followers laid and left the Crucified.
Is there such a heart in you? Do you appreciate Christ's matchless excellences? Having cast away every sin to embrace him, do you set him above your chiefest joy? Would you leave father, mother, wife, children, to follow Him, with bleeding feet, over life's roughest path? Rather than part with Him, would you part with a thousand worlds? Were He now on earth, would you leave a throne to stoop and tie His latchet? If I might so speak, would you be proud to carry His shoes? Then, indeed, you have got the new, warm heart of flesh. The new love of Christ, and the old love of the world, may still meet in opposing currents; but in the war and strife of these antagonistic principles, the celestial shall overpower the terrestrial, as, at the river's mouth, I have seen the ocean tide, when it came rolling in with a thousand billows at its back, fill all the channel, carry all before its conquering swell, dam up the fresh water of the land, and drive it back with resistless power.
In conversion a man gets a soft heart.
As "flesh," it is soft and sensitive. It is flesh, and can be wounded or healed. It is flesh, and feels alike the kiss of kindness and the rod of correction. It is flesh; and no longer a stone, hard, obdurate, impenetrable to the genial influences of heaven. A hard block of ice, it has yielded to the beams of the sun, and been melted into flowing water. How are you moved now, stirred now, quickened now, sanctified now, by truths once felt no more than dews falling out of starry heavens, in soft silence upon rugged rock. The heart of grace is endowed with a delicate sensibility, and vibrates to the slightest touch of a Savior's fingers. How does the truth of God affect it now! A stone no longer, it melts under the heavenly fire - a stone no longer, it bends beneath the hammer of the word; no longer like the rugged rock, on which rains and sunbeams were wasted, it receives the impression of God's power, and retains the footprints of His presence. Like the flowers that close their eyes at night, but waken at the voice of morning, like the earth that gapes in summer drought, the new heart opens to receive the bounties of grace and the gifts of heaven. Have you experienced such a change? In proof and evidence of its reality, is David"s language yours ? "I have stretched out my hands unto thee. My soul thirsteth after thee as a thirsty land"
In conversion a man gets a living heart.
The perfection of this life is death - it is dead to be sin, but alive to righteousness, alive to Christ, alive to everything which touches His honor, and crown, and kingdom. With Christ living in his heart, the believer feels that now he is not himself, not his own; and, as another's, the grand object of his life is to live to Christ. He reckons him an object worth living for, had he a thousand lives to live; worth dying for, had he a thousand deaths to die. He says with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live." In the highest sense alive, he is dead, dead to things he was once alive to; and he wishes that he were more dead to them, thoroughly dead. He wishes that he could look on the seductions of the world, and sin's voluptuous charms, with the cold, unmoved stare of death, and that these had no more power to kindle a desire in him than in the icy bosom of a corpse. Understandest thou what thou readest?
It is a mark of grace that the believer, in his progress heavenward, grows more and more alive to the claims of Jesus. If you "know the love of Christ," His is the latest name you will desire to utter; His is the latest thought you will desire to form; upon Him you will fix your last look on earth; upon Him your first in heaven. When memory is oblivious of all other objects - when all that attracted the natural eye is wrapt in the mists of death, when the tongue is cleaving to the roof of our mouth, and speech is gone, and sight is gone, and hearing gone, and the right hand, lying powerless by our side, has lost its cunning, Jesus! then may we remember Thee! If the shadows of death are to be thrown in deepest darkness on the valley, when we are passing along it to glory, may it be ours to die like that saint, beside whose bed wife and children once stood, weeping over the wreck of faded faculties, and a blank, departed memory. One had asked him, "Father, do you remember me" - and received no answer; and another, and another, but still no answer. And then, all making way for the venerable companion of a long and loving pilgrimage - the tender partner of many a past joy and sorrow, his wife draws near. She bends over him, and as her tears fall thick upon his face, she cries, "Do you not remember me"? A stare, but it is vacant. There is no soul in that filmy eye; and the seal of death lies upon these lips. The sun is down, and life's brief twilight is darkening fast into a starless night. At this moment, one calm enough to remember how the love of Christ's spouse is "strong as death," a love that "many waters can not quench," stooped to his ear, and said, "Do you remember Jesus Christ?" The word was no sooner uttered than it seemed to recall the spirit, hovering for a moment, ere it took wing to heaven. Touched as by an electric influence, the heart beat once more to the name of Jesus; the features, fixt in death, relax; the countenance, dark in death, flushes up like the last gleam of day; and, with a smile in which the soul passed away to glory, he replied, "Remember Jesus Christ! dear Jesus Christ! He is all my salvation, and all my desire."
By conversion man is ennobled.
While infidelity regards man as a mere animal, to be dissolved at death into ashes and air, and vice changes man into a brute or devil, Mammon enslaves him. She makes him a serf, and condemns him to be a gold-digger for life in the mines. She puts her collar on his neck, and locks it; and bending his head to the soil, and bathing his brow in sweat, she says, Toil, toil, toil; as if this creature, originally made in the image of God, this dethroned and exiled monarch, to save whom the Son of God descended from the skies, and bled on Calvary, were a living machine, constructed of sinew, bone, and muscle, and made for no higher end than to work to live, and live to work.
Contrast with these the benign aspect in which the gospel looks on man. Religion descends from heaven to break our chains. She alone raises me from degradation, and bids me lift my drooping head, and look up to heaven. Yes; it is that very gospel which by some is supposed to present such dark, degrading, gloomy views of man and his destiny, which lifts me from the dust to set me among princes - on a level with angels - in a sense above them. To say nothing of the divine nobility grace imparts to a soul which is stamped anew with the likeness and image of God, how sacred and venerable does even this body appear in the eye of piety! No longer a form of animated - dust; no longer the subject of passions shared in common with the brutes; no longer the drudge and slave of Mammon, the once "vile body" rises into a temple of the Holy Ghost. Vile in one sense it may be; yet what, although it be covered with sores? What, although it be clothed in rags? What, although, in unseemly decrepitude, it want its fair proportions? That poor, sickly, shattered form is the casket of a precious jewel. This mean and crumbling tabernacle lodges a guest nobler than palaces may boast of; angels hover around its walls; the Spirit of God dwells within it. What an incentive to holiness, to purity of life and conduct, lies in the fact that the body of a saint is the temple of God, a truer, nobler temple than that which Solomon dedicated by his prayers, and Jesus consecrated His presence! In popish cathedrals, where the light streamed through painted window, and the organ pealed along lofty aisles, and candles gleamed on golden cups and silver crosses, and incense floated in fragrant clouds, we have seen the blinded worshiper uncover his head, drop reverently on his knees, and raise his awestruck eye on the imposing spectacle; we have seen him kiss the marble floor, and knew that sooner would he be smitten dead upon that floor than be guilty of defiling it. How does this devotee rebuke us! We wonder at his superstition; how may he wonder at our profanity! Can we look on the lowly veneration he expresses for an edifice which has been erected by some dead man?s genius, which holds but some image of a deified virgin, or bones of a canonized saint, and which, proudly as it raises its cathedral towers, time shall , one day cast to the ground, and bury in the dust; can we, I say, look on that, and, if sensible to rebuke, not feel reproved by the spectacle? In how much more respect, in how much holier vene¬ration should we hold this body? The shrine of immortality, and a temple dedicated to the Son of God, it is consecrated by the presence of the Spirit - a living temple, over whose porch the eye of piety reads what the finger of inspiration has written: "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.?"
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