Thursday, April 28, 2016

John Climacus: "peacefulness even in the middle of a raging storm"

John Climacus, 579-649

This is from the blog Dover Beach:
“The first stage of this tranquility consists in silencing the lips when the heart is excited. The second, in silencing the mind when the soul is still excited. The goal is a perfect peacefulness even in the middle of the raging storm.”
  --John Climacus

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Father of Lights

John Milton, 1608-1674
This is from the blog Literary Life:
“When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”


― John Milton, On His Blindness from The Sonnets of John Milton 

It’s hard to imagine deaf Beethoven, producing symphonic masterpieces composed in the chambers of his mind, but equally staggering is John Milton, completely blind by his fifties, yet dictating his epic poem Paradise Lost with its ten thousand verses.  The work is so ubiquitous to the canon of literature its lines are often confused with scripture.  He was deeply bitter when he wrote it and could not understand why God would give him both talent and desire, yet rob him of the sight needed to see the written page.  In his poem above, he works through the anger and remembers that no, it’s not about him.
This world is broken, but it’s not God’s fault.  Paradise was indeed lost when man decided to throw it away, but before you hastily blame Adam and Eve, look back over your last week and think of your own sins.
When we focus on the tragedy of this world we completely miss the point.  God could have walked away when we – yes we – rejected Him.  The Bible describes Satan as “the Destroyer” and were it not, even now for God’s merciful hand, we would all be subjected to unthinkable hell.
When beauty and genius emerge from darkness, we see the hand of God.  When the sun rises and the stars shine at night, we see the hand of God.  When the eternal soul of a child is conceived by the act of mortal humans, we see the hand of God.  God is not absent from this world, and His hand is not stayed.
His greatest display of mercy and beauty was the sacrificial gift of His only Son, Jesus who He sent to die for our sins.  His grace extends to you. In Christ, we see the perfect human life lived perfectly, and while His death is our redemption, His life is our meditation.
In Paradise Lost, Milton wrote:
 “A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”
You are more than your circumstances.  You are a child of God.  When your gaze turns from the consideration of your brokenness to the glory of God, your night will have concluded and your morning just begun.

James 1:17:  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."


Dig Deeper – Paradise Lost
The theme of Milton is not primarily Satan, nor even God and angels, but humanity. Not only do the opening lines of “Paradise Lost” proclaim the subject “man’s disobedience,” but throughout the epic it is the fate of man that is made the issue of every event in the universal creation. Thus Milton begins his story, not when Satan is conspiring against God, but when the defeated devil turns his revengeful thought toward the future inhabitants of the earth. Of that new world man is solemnly made the lord, God himself descending to breathe into him a spiritual life. It is to warn man against his fall that the rebellion in heaven is related; and in the central books it is the glory and the weakness of human nature that we see displayed. Finally, the future history of the world is communicated to Adam, not so much to manifest the absolute power of God or the futility of Satan’s hate, as to assure the children of God of his eternal love toward them. In short, the subject is not theology but religion—not the nature of God and of Satan, but the relation of the powers of good and of evil to ourselves. Could a poet deal with a problem of more compelling and everlasting interest to us? The reader who focuses his attention upon the human beings in “Paradise Lost” will do what the poet did, and will, though accidental details may elude him, follow Milton’s essential thought. The descriptions of heaven and hell, which may not correspond precisely to the reader’s notions of the states of bliss and of misery, will recede into the background, where they belong; and gradually there will rise before him Milton’s idea of the true meaning of human life.
Ernest Bernbaum, “The Poems of John  Milton,” in Lectures on the Harvard Classics, ed. Charles W. Eliot and William Allan Neilson (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1914), 81–82.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Watchman Nee--My Top 20 Quotes

Watchman Nee, 1903-1972

This is from the blog CrossQuotes:
Victory is the normal experience of a Christian; defeat should be the abnormal experience.
A Christian life is an unending engagement on the battlefield.
A Christian should know more about the operation of his spirit than about the activity of his mind.
Our prayers lay the track down on which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.
A forgiven sinner is quite different from an ordinary sinner, and a consecrated Christian is quite different from an ordinary Christian.
Our old history ends with the Cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.
The Blood deals with what we have done, whereas the Cross deals with what we are. The Blood disposes of our sins, while the Cross strikes at the root of our capacity for sin….
True spiritual life depends not on probing our feelings and thoughts from dawn to dusk but on “looking off” to the Savior!
He can only keep those who have handed themselves over to Him.
Now is the hour we should humbly prostrate ourselves before God, willing to be convicted afresh of our sins by the Holy Spirit.
Christians should not be content merely with knowing mentally the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as given in the Bible; they also need to know Him experimentally.
Oftentimes a carnal Christian is troubled by outside matters. Persons or affairs or things in the world around readily invade his inward man and disturb the peace in his spirit.
If you would test the character of anything, you only need to enquire whether that thing leads you to God or away from God.
They simply do what they feel like doing.
God wants us to love Him more than our Isaac.
God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker. That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say; but it is the divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin, not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him; not by helping him to do anything, but by removing him from the scene of action.
The sight of any trouble strikes terror into the heart of those who do not have faith, but those who trust Him say, “Here comes my food!”
The breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the odor, with the sweetest odor. Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance. There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness.
Outside of Christ, I am only a sinner, but in Christ, I am saved. Outside of Christ, I am empty; in Christ, I am full. Outside of Christ, I am weak; in Christ, I am strong. Outside of Christ, I cannot; in Christ, I am more than able. Outside of Christ, I have been defeated; in Christ, I am already victorious. How meaningful are the words, “in Christ.”
Historically, Pentecost followed Calvary; experientially, being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit follows the bearing of the cross.
People who are lazy, careless, doubtful-minded or arrogant need not expect God to reveal His secret or covenant to them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Two Churches: Babylon and Jerusalem



This is from The Latter Days blog:

Once again, Pastor Zac Poonen uses the two trees in the Garden of Eden - the tree of the knowledge of good & evil and the tree of life - to speak of the difference between living for self versus living for God.

We see these two trees symbolized in Scripture by two systems: Babylon and Jerusalem.  What is the difference between the two?  How do we know what it is to be religious versus what it is to be spiritual?  It is not primarily the doctrine to which we hold.  The answer is fire! The fire of the Holy Spirit.

Babylon is a Christianity of the head (knowledge, intellect).  Jerusalem is a Christianity of the heart (devotion, passion).  

Two Churches:  Babylon and Jerusalem

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bastardized Christianity


This is from the blog Pursuit of Percipience:
A new worldview which exists in the west these days is something called New Atheism. The main proponents are Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, and others like them.
New Atheists tend to believe that their worldview was created in a vacuum — that, in and of itself, it formed from nothingness and exists as a stand-alone philosophy on life.
Atheism is nothing new. Simple atheism has been around probably as long as simple religion has been around. But New Atheism is something different. It is a completely reactionary phenomenon.
New Atheism is a reaction to Christianity; it can not exist without Christianity; it carries with it many of the attributes of Christianity.
We can look at three attributes of New Atheism…
  1. Morality — New Atheists are very moral. They want fairness and equality. They care about the under-dog.
  2. Hope for a better future — New Atheists believe that, through natural evolution and social programs, life can and will get better for humanity.
  3. Evangelism — New Atheists believe that all must adopt their worldview in order to “save mankind.”
These three attributes can only be found previously in Christianity (and before that, Judaism). In no other religion will you find the moral concern for people that you find in Christianity. In no other religion will you find the concept of life getting better on a linear timeline. No other religion evangelizes.*
There is a belief that the world drastically changed in the 18th century. To some extent that may be true. But to the New Atheist, the 18th century is when humanity’s eyes were finally opened to the truth. The darkness of the past was swept away by the shining lights of science and reason. For the Christian, the darkness of the world was swept away two thousand years ago with the advent of Jesus Christ.
In the days of Jesus, when a new king came to power, heralds (called euaggelistÄ“s in Greek, or evangelist in English) would proclaim this good news (or euaggelion in Greek) to all the people.** It was good news if you previously supported this king. It might not have been good news if you opposed him. But, if you had opposed him, you were give a chance to turn away (repent) from your previous allegiances and commit your loyalty to the new king.
New Atheists  believe that the event of the euaggelion occurred in the 18th century, and are very frustrated at the fact that not everyone has pledged their allegiance to the new prevailing  order.
With the euaggelion comes a hope for a better future. In Christianity, the belief is that, because Jesus is now king, the world will be restored to a state of purity with freedom, love, and eternal life.
The New Atheists also believe that humanity is progressing to a better existence, and that this will be brought about by our continued evolution, both in the natural sense and the social sense. The problem with this is that there is no reason to believe that humans will evolve into anything better than what we are currently. Suppose some natural disaster happens, limiting the food supply, drastically changing the environment, and only the physically strongest and those who have no problem with killing survive? What would humanity evolve into then? Back to apes?
Most of the world’s religions in the past, and the present, view time as cyclical. Life just keeps on going with no change, around and around forever. Only in Judaism and Christianity will you find a hope for a better future coming to pass on a linear timeline. This idea is now found in New Atheism.
Westerners love Buddhism. They love the peace and the meditation practices and whatnot. But all you have to do is spend some time living in a Buddhist country and you’ll see what it really is. Buddhists suppress emotion, they don’t control it, they suppress it — and as a result, there can be some unexplained, unpredictable violent outbursts. Buddhists do not help the poor. The poor are poor because of karma. They deserve it. To try to relieve them from poverty is to go against karmic fate. This is the morality of Buddhism. Only in Christianity and Judaism will you find a moral duty to help the poor, the under-dog, and the suffering.
New Atheists hold to the very same moral structure that Christians do, they just don’t know where they got it from.
As we can see above, New Atheism is defined by Christianity. All of its main attributes come from Christianity. New Atheism would not have arisen in a Buddhist culture. It is entirely a reaction to Christianity.
Another misconception of New Atheism is the belief that Christianity, and all other religions, are an attempt to explain the natural world, and now that we have science to do that, there’s no reason for anyone to continue to hold on to religion.  But no religious people throughout human history saw their religious beliefs in this way. In fact, not all religions, Buddhism for example, even believe in a creator.
So where did New Atheism come from? As I write above, it came from within Christianity itself. Who were the fathers? It was all those who, while still believing in God, figured that they could explain God with reason. They brought God, who is outside our universe, and pulled Him into our world, into a lab, and tried to study and define Him. They took reason itself off of the foundation of God, gave it its own foundation, and from there began to critique God. That was the birth on New Atheism.
It’s like a man, being born blind, taking the whole visible world, with all its colours, and limiting it to his own confining senses. If he doesn’t know he’s blind, he won’t know he’s doing anything wrong. Taking reason off of the foundation of God is like gouging our own eyes out, and then erasing our memories of anything we once saw.
I, as a Christian, of course cannot help but criticize New Atheism, but there are atheists who do so as well:
The Atheist Delusion by John Gray
* Muslims do not evangelize. The definition of the word implies “good news” and that’s not what Muslims proclaim. Muslims proselytize. Christians proselytize too, but only in conjunction with evangelism.
** The Greek words euaggelion and euaggelistÄ“s both have the prefix eu (pronounced ‘you’) which means “joyful.” The second part of the word, aggelion (pronounced ‘ang-ghelion’) means messenger or message and is where the English word “angel” comes from.

The atheist and his metal detector