Archive for June, 2009

depressionCharles Spurgeon wrote this sermon two weeks after a horrific and senseless event at Surrey Gardens Music Hall. Spurgeon was a gifted preacher who regularly drew crowds in the tens of thousands. In order to accommodate his growing congregation, he rented the music hall at Surrey Gardens. On the very first evening Spurgeon was using the facilities, ten thousand came to listen while ten thousand waited outside. During the singing of the second hymn, one man yelled “Fire! Fire! The building is collapsing!” Of course there was no fire.  The man simply men to derail the meeting.  Nevertheless the attendees were quickly thrown into panic and fled from the building. In the ensuing chaos seven people were trampled to death. The weight of the incident sent Spurgeon into a severe depression which eventually manifested in illness. Two weeks later Spurgeon once again ascended the pulpit in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall to deliver the sermon I have posted below. I have read many sermons and much theology from the earliest Christian theologians through the reformers, the puritans and the modern era and I have seen no one apply the glory of Christ to his grief as this man does in the following sermon. He does not address tragedy directly, but you must keep in mind the events in the music hall and you will see the importance of what is being said. Read it.

I almost regret this morning that I have ventured to occupy this pulpit, because I feel utterly unable to preach to you for your profit. I had thought that the quiet and repose of the last fortnight had removed the effects of that terrible catastrophe; but on coming back to the same spot again, and more especially, standing here to address you, I feel somewhat of those same painful emotions which well-nigh prostrated me before. You will therefore excuse me this morning, if I make no allusion to that solemn event, or scarcely any. I could not preach to you upon a subject that should be in the least allied to it. I should be obliged to be silent if I should bring to my remembrance that terrific scene in the midst of which it was my solemn lot to stand. God shall overrule it doubtless. It may not have been so much by the malice of men, as some have asserted; it was perhaps simple wickedness—an intention to disturb a congregation; but certainly with no thought of committing so terrible a crime as that of the murder of those unhappy creatures. God forgive those who were the instigators of that horrid act! They have my forgiveness from the depths of my soul. It shall not stop us, however; we are not in the least degree daunted by it. I shall preach there again yet; ay, and God shall give us souls there, and Satan’s empire shall tremble more than ever. “God is with us; who is he that shall be against us?” The text I have selected is one that has comforted me, and in a great measure, enabled me to come here to-day—the single reflection upon it had such a power of comfort on my depressed spirit. It is this:—”Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:9-11.

I shall not attempt to preach upon this text; I shall only make a few remarks that have occurred to my own mind; for I could not preach to-day; I have been utterly unable to study, but I thought that even a few words might be acceptable to you this morning, and I trust to your loving hearts to excuse them. Oh, Spirit of God, magnify thy strength in thy servant’s weakness, and enable him to honour his Lord, even when his soul is cast down within him.

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Preached by Bishop Mark Lawrence on June 21st 2009, confirmation service.

click here to watch

Do You Know Where Your Governor Is? I don’t…

Posted: June 22, 2009 by limabean03 in Current Issues

from CNN.  This is kind of weird. I hope the man is o.k.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – After a bruising battle with the state legislature over federal stimulus money, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has mysteriously stepped out of the public eye.

Even his wife, Jenny, said Monday that she didn’t know where the governor was, according to the Associated Press. But Sanford’s office expressed no concern Monday afternoon about his absence.

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said Sanford “put in a lot of time during this last legislative session, and after the session winds down it’s not uncommon for him to go out of pocket for a few days at a time to clear his head.”

However, Sawyer added in a statement sent to CNN: “Obviously, that’s going to be somewhat out of the question this time given the attention this particular absence has gotten. Before leaving last week, he let staff know his whereabouts and that he’d be difficult to reach. Should any emergencies arise between the times in which he checks in, our staff would obviously be in contact with other state officials as the situation warrants before making any decisions.”

Earlier in the day, Sawyer said Sanford had simply taken some time away from work to “recharge after the stimulus battle.” Sawyer did not address Jenny Sanford’s comments to the AP in either statement.

State Sen. Jake Knotts, a fellow Republican and opponent of Sanford, told CNN that South Carolina law enforcement officials informed him Saturday that the governor had taken a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division vehicle on Thursday and had not yet returned.

read the whole thing here

Honoring Christ

Posted: June 22, 2009 by limabean03 in Christianity, Church Fathers, Discipleship, The Christian Life

This past weekend I was humbled and blessed to speak at New Wine at St. Andrews, Mount Pleasant. My theme was on living a life of worship to the glory of Christ. I concluded with this verse from Phillipians “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1.20-21).

This morning, Iain shared with me an e-mail he received some time ago about Thomas, the Bishop of Marash around the time of the Nicaean Council.  Unfortunately I have no reference for you but if someone will track it down I will put it up.  If you want to know what it means to honor Christ with your body, think on Thomas, the Bishop of Marash. 

“The General Council having thus received authority from the King (Constantine I), the fathers directed that there should be gradations in teh assembly and that each Bishop should sit in his place according to his rank.  Charis were there made for all and the king entered and sat with them.  He kissed the spots which were the marks of Christ in their bodies.  Of the 318 fathers, only 11 were free from such marks…but all the others were more or less maimed in their persecution from heretics.  Some had their eyes taken out; some had their ears cut off.  Some had their teeth dug out by the roots.  Somd had the nails of their fingers and toes torn out; some were otherwise mutilated; in a word there was no one without marks of violence; save the above mentioned 11.  But Thomas, Bishop of Marash was an object almost frightful to look upon; he had been mutilated by teh removal of his eyes, nose and lips; his teeth had been dug out and both his legs and arms had been cut off.  He had been kept in prison 22 years by the Armanites who used to cut off a member of his body or mutilate him in some way every year, to induce him to consent to their blasphemy, but he conquered in this fearful context to the glory of believers and to the manifestation of the unmercifulness of the heretics.”

monergism.com has put together a great reading to get better acquainted with the 500 year old reformer.  I’ve listed a few of my personal favorites below.  What not used the remainder of 2009 to pick one of these guys up and see what all the fuss is about?  Each book is linked to the site where it can be purchased from monergism.com.

Institutes of the Christian Religion:  This two volume set is surprisingly accessible, even for an “armchair” theologian.  It was after all the best selling book in Europe for nearly a decade.  Not only is it a good introductory work on theology, it is a must read for any person who considers himself a serious student of theology. 

Calvin’s Commentaries (22 Volume Set):  For 22 volumes this set is a bargain at $129.99.  I was recently asked what commentaries I would most recommend to the aspiring preach and without hesitation I put this set forward.  Probably a bit much for lay people, nevertheless if you can shell out the bucks it is every bit as accessible as the Institutes. 

Sermons on Job:  A masterpiece on human suffering and the sovereignty of God.

The Piety of John Calvin: A collection of his spiritual prose, poems and hymns:  written by Ford Lewis Battles who is considered the authority for Calvin studies in North America (and possibly the world?).  This is a fine introduction to the heart of the reformer.

wedding cake

Baxter was a Puritan pastor in England in the mid 1600’s.  I enjoy his writings very much for his clear, pracitcal, advice on a range of Christian concerns.  The following is an excerpt from a pamphlet on keeping discord out of the home.  Baxter’s typical style is to begin by showing you why you should be concerned before applying practical advice.  I have left that section out but you can see it if you click through.  Below you will simply find six practical instructions to help a husband and wife have a peaceful relationship.  I’d like to draw your attention to two of them.  Baxter’s first point is that the couple should have sex a lot! (and you call him a Puritan?!?!?).  Conjugal is of course merely an adjective for the state of marriage between husband and wife, however in Baxter’s context “conjugal love” plus “heat and vigor” equal sex.  This is a timely word to husbands and wives in modern North America who are simply too busy to have sex.  Baxter says “make time!  It’s important!”  The second point that I would like to draw your attention to comes under heading number 5, which simply suggests that if you get in an argument you should seek to pray with one another.  I have found bringing Jesus into an argument through prayer quickly throws cold water on any heated argument (if both parties submit to the prayer that is).  So enjoy this bit of advice from a long dead pastor…

(1) Keep up your conjugal love in a constant heat and vigor. Love will suppress wrath; you cannot have a bitter mind upon small provocations, against those that you dearly love; much less can you proceed to reviling words, or to averseness and estrangedness, or any abuse of one another. Or if a breach and wound be unhappily made, the balsamic quality of love will heal it. But when love once cooleth, small matters exasperate and breed distaste.

 (2) Both husband and wife must mortify their pride and passion, which are the causes of impatiency; and must pray and labour for a humble, meek, and quiet spirit. A proud heart is troubled and provoked by every word or carriage that seemeth to tend to their undervaluing. A peevish, froward mind is like a sore and ulcerated member, that will be hurt if it be touched. He that must live near such a sore, diseased, impatient mind, must live even as the nurse doth with the child, that maketh it her business to rock it, and lull, and sing it quiet when it crieth; for to be angry with it, will do no good; and if you have married one of such a sick or childish temper, you must resolve to bear and use them accordingly. But no Christian should bear with such a malady in themselves; nor be patient with such impatiency of mind. Once get the victory over yourselves, and the cure of your own impatience, and you will easily keep peace with one another.

 (3) Agree together beforehand, that when one is in the diseased, angry fit, the other shall silently and gently bear, till it be past and you are come to yourselves again. Be not angry both at once; when the fire is kindled, quench it with gentle words and carriage, and do not cast on oil or fuel, by answering provokingly and sharply, or by multiplying words, and by answering wrath with wrath.

 (4) If you cannot quickly quench your passion, yet at least refrain your tongues; speak not reproachful or provoking words: talking it out hotly doth blow the fire, and increase the flame; be but silent, and you will the sooner return to your serenity and peace. Foul words tend to more displeasure. As Socrates said when his wife first railed at him, and next threw a vessel of foul water upon him, ‘I thought when I heard the thunder, there would come rain’; so you may portend worse following, when foul, unseeming words begin. If you cannot easily allay your wrath, you may hold your tongues, if you are truly willing.

 (5) Let the sober party condescend to speak fair and to entreat the other. Say to your angry wife or husband, ‘You know this should not be betwixt us; love must allay it, and it must be repented of. God doth not approve it, and we shall not approve it when this heat is over. This frame of mind is contrary to a praying frame, and this language contrary to a praying language; we must pray together anon; let us do nothing contrary to prayer now: sweet water and bitter come not from one spring,’ etc. Some calm and condescending words of reason, may stop the torrent, and revive the reason which passion had overcome.

 (6) Confess your fault to one another, when passion hath prevaileth against you; and ask forgiveness of each other, and join in prayer to God for pardon; and this will lay a greater engagement on you the next time to forbear: you will sure be ashamed to do that which you have so confessed and asked forgiveness for of God and man. If you will but practise these directions, your family peace may be preserved.

read it all here

orwellBelow is an excerpt from George Orwell’s provocative essay “Politics and the English Language” written in 1946. The essay disturbs on a number of levels, however the take away point for me was how the modern use of the English language intentionally obscures meaning. Once meaning is intentionally obscured by vague words, mixed metaphors, or excessively complicated words then the speaker has gained  power over his audience that he would not have if he was speaking clearly. It got me thinking of a question Karl Barth asked some time ago, how should a Christian use language in light of this knowledge? (Graham Ward has written a good book on this looking at Barth’s theology of language). Perhaps I will write my own response to this question in light of Orwell’s essay in the coming days. In the meantime, the essay itself is only nine pages. Click through and read the whole thing…slowly! Take it all in and enjoy!

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

“While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.”

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one’s elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning’s post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he “felt impelled” to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: “[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany’s social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe.” You see, he “feels impelled” to write — feels, presumably, that he has something new to say — and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.

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