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“Lord, take their children and smash their heads against the rocks.” Ps. 137; praying against the violent and wicked

31 Mar

From his grace (Cranmer blog):

Psalm 137: “God, I wish you’d take the children of my enemies and smash their heads against the rocks”

There is perhaps no greater empathy aroused in times of war and strife than when we see the intolerable suffering of children; the desperate eyes of the innocent; the tears of orphaned babies, frightened, hungry, sapped of all hope and devoid of love. Their little mangled bodies lie on crimson sheets, spliced by shrapnel, traumatised by nightmares, soaked in the stench of their own urine. These images leave a wound far deeper than any weapon of mass destruction.

The newly-installed Bishop of Leeds the Rt Rev’d Nick Bains delivered yesterday’s ‘Thought For The Day’ on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He tells us on his blog – Musings of a Restless Bishop – that it was “written in the face of the horrors of Gaza, Syria, Ukraine and all the other bloody conflicts filling the news screens, and with a strict word limit”. His subject was Psalm 137 – the well-known lament which begins “By the Rivers of Babylon”. He takes us from Boney M’s jaunty disco dance hit to the psalm’s final line, which is a disturbing imprecation. He writes:

Now, Psalm 137 is not a comfortable song; nor is it a song for the comfortable. It ends with a shrill cry of pain and hatred: “God, I wish you’d take the children of my enemies and smash their heads against the rocks.” But, it isn’t there to justify an ethic. It isn’t there to suggest it is right to think such awful things of other people’s children. It is there for two reasons: first, to confront us with the reality of how deep our own human hatred can go, and, secondly, to tell us not to lie to God (thinking he can’t handle that reality or the depths of human despair).

Christians tend to focus on the messianic blessings and sing about the glories of Zion: we love the psalms of thanksgiving, kingship and confidence, and meditate on those of remembrance and wisdom. About a third of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament are drawn from the Psalms, which highlights their theological significance and liturgical importance to the Early Church.

But the Psalter is also full of bitter imprecations which offend modern sensibilities. Curses against enemies abound, often in otherwise sublime settings of supreme sacrifice, humility and brokenness. The Christian will naturally feel that that the spirit of anger and hatred reflected in these sections falls well below Jesus’ teaching and moral standards: it’s hardly an expression of love for one’s enemies to pray that God would take their children and smash their heads against the rocks.

But the intense suffering of the Jews in exile naturally aroused the desire for such horror: we want to hate our enemies, and rather enjoy wishing upon them all manner of suffering and strife. The parents of Gaza are teaching their children that Jews are lower than pigs; the Jews of Israel are teaching their children that Palestinians are all terrorists; the Sunni ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq are beheading the cultic Shia and slaughtering infidel Christians; the Shia are fighting back where they can. The dismembered Christians might be forgiven as they pray in their bombed-out churches for their enemies to die and rot in hell.

But we must bear in mind the fact that for most of the psalmists there was no meaningful afterlife, and so no vindication of the righteous or judgment of the wicked. Rather like today, when notions of heaven and hell are routinely dismissed with the goblins and fairies of Neverland, we prefer judgment to be seen to be done in this world. The final lines of Psalm 137 cannot really be understood without considering that the psalmist was passionate about and impatient for justice:

Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom
in the day of Jerusalem;
who said, Rase it, rase it,
even to the foundation thereof.
O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed;
happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth
thy little ones against the stones.

Such laments take us to the depths of helplessness and forsakenness. They are cries of distress when there is nowhere to turn: God has abandoned us and our enemies mock and scorn – or terrorise, persecute and murder. Impulsively but genuinely we want their children to be fatherless and their wives to become widows (Psalm 109:8f). And we hope to God that their bastard offspring don’t grow up to be another generation of murderous devils.

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 19:14).

Those who are taught resentment and loathing will not easily find Jesus or enter the kingdom. Violence breeds violence and hate engenders hate. The way of Christ is peace. In our secularpolis this may seem like sheer folly. But it is a choice we make in the hope and anticipation that God’s love will finally prevail through the way of the cross, despite our inability to see how this may be possible when warring hearts are filled with grievances and pain.

There is nothing at all to be gained from smashing the heads of babies against the rocks. No, that way lies a world wracked by revenge and ever more violence.

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A story of redemption from homosexuality; review of the Dennis Jernigan documentary, Sing Over Me

16 Oct

From Professor Amber Stamper:

sing-piano1

Here’s a not-so-very-pleasant place to start: I have nine gay friends, and every single one of them has been hurt by the Church.

And by “the Church” — lest we overlook ourselves in the term’s abstraction — I mean they have been hurt by individual Christians.

Having spent the last decade of my life in academia’s liberal and affirming circles, I have, of course, met dozens more than these nine professors, staff, and students — and quite a few of them have shared with me tales of some not-so-First Corinthians 13 encounters with Christians. But those nine are ones I’d call real friends.

“Sing Over Me opens up a safe space for homosexuals who feel — as Jernigan did — in need of rescue.”One — after agonizing for years over coming out to her family — was asked by her grandfather, a pastor, to never set foot in his house again. Another overheard his Christian roommate (half-)joking about him on the phone, saying he needed to “turn or burn.” Another was asked to stop participating in the church choir until he had gotten his sinful nature “under control.” Several others were just slowly “phased out” of their Christian friendships after coming out: texts went unanswered, calls went unreturned, profiles on Facebook were suddenly “limited,” and pretty soon they were being excluded from important life events like marriages and births with no uncertainty as to the reason why.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this really isn’t such a hot track record. And I seriously doubt my friends’ experiences are unique.

What got me thinking about this in the first place was the documentary Sing Over Me, the testimony of popular Christian singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. I’d never heard of Jernigan, but some Google searches revealed that I’ve heard many of his songs. When I saw that his testimony centered on redemption from a life of homosexuality, though, I got nervous. I began anticipating all the possible ways a film like this could be trouble: preachy, judgmental, simplistic, aggressive, presumptuous — there were any number of land mines it could step on. Also, I was concerned about the medium. As a student of media and rhetoric, I know that the trouble with a format like film is that it’s not reciprocal. The audience sits and watches, the final credits roll, and viewers are left to think about what they’ve learned. There’s no conversation or chance for questions or clarification. This is fine for some subjects, but for others, lines of communication need to be open. I feared this was one of those subjects.

 So I was, to be quite honest, really surprised when, ninety minutes after suspiciously clicking “Play,” I found myself sitting calmly and thoughtfully in front of my computer screen feeling simultaneously motivated and meditative, provoked and inspired, challenged and hopeful.

Read the rest

On the life and spiritual virtues of boredom

22 Jul

From Geoff Thomas:

We no longer expect children to endure boredom for a second. In our infancy we bounced balls, fed the rabbits, made a model with Mechano and watched the ascent and descent of a yo-yo. We also read books. Our meals were pretty predictable, and a visit to the local park was an event. Today visits to the zoo, bouncy castles, jumping on a trampoline are routine necessities. Daily playgroups and day-nurseries fill every vacant minute with watching videos, learning how to play with computers and bouncing on the soft-play. Everything is wound up to a pitch of noisy razzmatazz. The toys children play with are made of garish plastic of primary colours. The child who would cheerfully have eaten mashed potatoes and vegetables every day is now encouraged to stimulate its palate and develop a taste for chillies, aubergines, vindaloo curry or garlic.

A.N. Wilson has written, “Pascal said that all human trouble stemmed from our inability to sit quietly in one room. If he was right, then we have serious trouble ahead, with an extraordinarily restless, vacuous generation of human individuals waiting to take over the world.

Full article (good one here)

When tornadoes come, there is only one pair of arms than can hold you perfectly

30 Apr

Today, we remember the Tittle family, and others going through the same misery.  But the Tittles “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).  In the wake of the devastating killer tornadoes, it is worth remembering that there is only one pair of arms than can hold you perfectly.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deut. 33:27)

From Family Life:

The Lord Gives, the Lord Takes Away

After the recent tornado in central Arkansas, this is a time of extreme emotions here at FamilyLife.

He died as he lived … protecting his family.

The Tittle FamilyRob Tittle, a FamilyLife staff member and kindred spirit warrior for the family, died last night in the tornado that crushed parts of central Arkansas.  Two of his daughters—Tori, age 20, and Rebekah, 14—were among the 15 killed in the storm.

Rob, 48, and his wife, Kerry, had watched the sky grow dark and ominous and were shepherding their nine children under a stairwell when the tornado disintegrated their home.  Rob was doing what a man does—putting his family first and trying to get two of his daughters to safety—when the twister hit.

All that is left is a grim grey slab of concrete.The Tittle Home

The Tittles’ 19-year-old daughter posted this on Facebook from a friend’s house: “… my mom, and my six brothers/sisters are alright.  We have lost three of our family … Dad, Tori and Rebekah, prayers would be appreciated.  The house is gone stripped from the foundation.  The Lord Gives and the Lord Takes away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

Minutes later and less than 10 miles away, Barbara and I peeked out from under the stairs as the storm passed in front of our home.  It tends to get your attention when the TV weatherman says the tornado is bearing down on your street!  We could see the wall cloud crossing a lake, less than two miles away.

Thankfully the twister missed our home, but it did chew through the property of another staff couple, Dan and Nancy Butkowski.  Their house suffered roof and window damage and the tornado scattered more than 100 trees like matchsticks.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the end for our staff.  The tornado swept across the Arkansas River and smashed into the small community of Mayflower (population 2,312) where another staff couple, Dan and Kristin, lost their home and their two cars

Dan saw the twister coming across the river and hurriedly moved his wife, six children, two dogs, a bunny rabbit, and a lizard into the master bedroom closet, which was designed as a storm shelter.

He closed the door.  And as the seconds ticked by, Dan said to his children, “This is the day of salvation!  If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, NOW IS THE TIME TO DO IT!”

A moment later, the tornado tore into their home, sucking the vent plate out of the top of the shelter.  Dan said, “The pressure in that shelter was 10 times that of any airplane ride I’ve ever taken!”The Gaffney home

The twister was gone and with it their home.

They looked out of the vent and all they could see was a landscape marked by massive devastation.  They couldn’t get out of the shelter, so they called 9-1-1.  Neighbors arrived and it took them 30 minutes to get the family out.  They were stunned to find a car leaning against the shelter.

The family could smell gas leaking, so they walked more than two miles, some barefoot and others wearing adult shoes.  They met a friend who took them out to get a pizza and some cookies.

Riding in a van, one of the children said, “This is the worst day of my life!”  To which their 10-year-old daughter, who has prosthetic legs, replied, “That may be, but we need to talk about the good things!”  The rest of the ride was spent celebrating the “good things.”Debris found in Heber Springs, Arkansas

Tornadoes are full of tragedy, but also have threads of irony.  A photo was posted on Facebook by a local weatherman who asked, “Anyone recognize the name?”  It showed Emily and Noah Tittle’s name on a UPS package and an old photo of Kerry when she was a toddler.  The items were found in Heber Springs, Arkansas—80 miles from the Tittle home.

This is a time of extreme emotions here at FamilyLife.  We mourn the loss of a good man and coworker and his two daughters, and at the same time we celebrating the survival of so many children and family members.  The news could have been much worse. We are “giving thanks always and for everything” (Ephesians 5:20).

One last post from the Tittles’ 19-year-old daughter: “Dear friends, Do one thing for me.  Hug your dad.  Hold him tight and don’t let go, that man is the greatest gift God gave to you.  Tell him you love him, tell him you will always Love him.”

Pray for these families in their journey with Christ.

If you would like to help the Tittle family, please click here to find out how. And click here to help the other family mentioned in this article.

You can also listen to a special FamilyLife Today© broadcast where Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine discuss how we can respond in faith when tragedy occurs.

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

 

The history and meaning if the resurrection

20 Apr

From JC RYLE:

MATTHEW 28:1-10

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from the sky, and came and rolled away the stone from the door, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him, the guards shook, and became like dead men. The angel answered the women, “Don’t be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said. Come, see the place where the Lord was lying. Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead, and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”

They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word. As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!”

They came and took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go tell my brothers that they should go into Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The principal subject of these verses is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. It is one of those truths which lie at the very foundation of Christianity, and has therefore received special attention in the four Gospels. All four evangelists describe minutely how our Lord was crucified. All four relate with no less clearness, that He rose again.

We need not wonder that so much importance is attached to our Lord’s resurrection. It is the seal and headstone of the great work of redemption, which He came to do. It is the crowning proof that He has paid the debt which He undertook to pay on our behalf, won the battle which He fought to deliver us from hell, and is accepted as our Surety and our Substitute by our Father in heaven. Had He never come forth from the prison of the grave, how could we ever have been sure that our ransom had been fully paid? (1 Cor. 15:17.) Had He never risen from His conflict with the last enemy, how could we have felt confident, that He has overcome death, and him that had the power of death, that is the devil? (Heb. 2:14.) But thanks be unto God, we are not left in doubt. The Lord Jesus really “rose again for our justification.” True Christians are “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” They may boldly say with Paul, “Who is he that condemns–it is Christ that died, yes rather that is risen again.” (Rom. 8:34. Rom. 4:25. 1 Peter 1:3.)

We have reason to be very thankful, that this wonderful truth of our religion is so clearly and fully proved. It is a striking circumstance, that of all the facts of out Lord’s earthly ministry, none are so incontrovertibly established as the fact that He rose again. The wisdom of God, who knows the unbelief of human nature, has provided a great cloud of witnesses on the subject. Never was there a fact which the friends of God were so slow to believe, as the resurrection of Christ. Never was there a fact which the enemies of God were so anxious to disprove. And yet, in spite of the unbelief of professed friends, and the enmity of foes, the fact was thoroughly established. Its evidences will always appear to a fair and impartial mind unanswerable. It would be impossible to prove anything in the world, if we refuse to believe that Jesus rose again.

Let us notice in these verses, the glory and majesty with which Christ rose from the dead. We are told that “there was a great earthquake.” We are told that “the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door of the sepulcher, and sat upon it.” We need not suppose that our blessed Lord needed the help of any angel, when He came forth from the grave. We need not for a moment doubt that He rose again by His own power. But it pleased God, that His resurrection should be accompanied and followed by signs and wonders. It seemed good that the earth should shake, and a glorious angel appear, when the Son of God arose from the dead as a conqueror.

Let us not fail to see in the manner of our Lord’s resurrection, a type and pledge of the resurrection of His believing people. The grave could not hold Him beyond the appointed time, and it shall not be able to hold them. A glorious angel was a witness of His rising, and glorious angels shall be the messengers who shall gather believers when they rise again. He rose with a renewed body, and yet a body, real, true, and material, and so also shall His people have a glorious body, and be like their Head. “When we see Him we shall be like Him.” (1 John 3:2.)

Let us take comfort in this thought. Trial, sorrow, and persecution are often the portion of God’s people. Sickness, weakness, and pain often hurt and wear their poor earthly body. But their good time is yet to come. Let them wait patiently, and they shall have a glorious resurrection. When we die, and where we are buried, and what kind of a funeral we have, matters little. The great question to be asked is this, “How shall we rise again?”

Let us notice in the next place, the terror which Christ’s enemies felt at the period of His resurrection. We are told that at the sight of the angel, “the guards shook and became as dead men.” Those hardy Roman soldiers, though not unused to dreadful sights, saw a sight which made them quail. Their courage melted at once at the appearance of one angel of God.

Let us again see in this fact, a type and emblem of things yet to come. What will the ungodly and the wicked do at the last day, when the trumpet shall sound, and Christ shall come in glory to judge the world? What will they do, when they see all the dead, both small and great, coming forth from their graves, and all the angels of God assembled round the great white throne? What fears and terrors will possess their souls, when they find they can no longer avoid God’s presence, and must at length meet Him face to face? Oh! that men were wise, and would consider their latter end! Oh! that they would remember that there is a resurrection and a judgment, and that there is such a thing as the wrath of the Lamb!

Let us notice in the next place, the words of comfort which the angel addressed to the friends of Christ. We read that he said, “Fear not–for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified.”

These words were spoken with a deep meaning. They were meant to cheer the hearts of believers in every age, in the prospect of the resurrection. They were intended to remind us, that true Christians have no cause for alarm, whatever may come on the world. The Lord shall appear in the clouds of heaven, and the earth be burned up. The graves shall give up the dead that are in them, and the last day come. The judgment shall be set, and the books shall be opened. The angels shall sift the wheat from the chaff, and divide between the good fish and the bad. But in all this there is nothing that need make believers afraid. Clothed in the righteousness of Christ, they shall be found without spot and blameless. Safe in the one true ark, they shall not be hurt when the flood of God’s wrath breaks on the earth. Then shall the words of the Lord receive their complete fulfillment–“when these things begin to come to pass, lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.” Then shall the wicked and unbelieving see how true was that word, “blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12.)

Let us notice, finally, the gracious message which the Lord sent to the disciples after His resurrection. He appeared in person to the women who had come to do honor to His body. Last at the cross and first at the tomb, they were the first privileged to see Him after He rose. And to them He gives commission to carry tidings to His disciples. His first thought is for His little scattered flock. “Go, tell my brethren.”

There is something deeply touching in those simple words, “my brethren.” They deserve a thousand thoughts. Weak, frail, erring as the disciples were, Jesus still calls them His “brethren.” He comforts them, as Joseph did his brethren who had sold him, saying, “I am your brother Joseph.” Much as they had come short of their profession–sadly as they had yielded to the fear of man, they are still His “brethren.” Glorious as He was in Himself–a conqueror over death, and hell, and the grave, the Son of God is still “meek and lowly of heart.” He calls His disciples “brethren.”

Let us turn from the passage with comfortable thoughts, if we know anything of true religion. Let us see in these words of Christ, an encouragement to trust and not be afraid. Our Savior is one who never forgets His people. He pities their infirmities. He does not despise them. He knows their weakness, and yet does not cast them away. Our great High Priest is also our elder brother.

“My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?”

18 Apr

From J.C. Ryle (Matthew 27:45-56):

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Some of them who stood there, when they heard it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him a drink. The rest said, “Let him be. Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”

Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, they entered into the holy city and appeared to many. Now the centurion, and those who were with him watching Jesus, when they saw the earthquake, and the things that were done, feared exceedingly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Many women were there watching from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, serving him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

In these verses we read the conclusion of our Lord Jesus Christ’s passion. After six hours of agonizing suffering, He became obedient even unto death, and “yielded up the spirit.” Three points in the narrative demand a special notice. To them let us confine our attention.

Let us observe, in the first place, the remarkable words which Jesus uttered shortly before His death, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”

There is a deep mystery in these words, which no mortal man can fathom. No doubt they were not wrung from our Lord by mere bodily pain. Such an explanation His utterly unsatisfactory, and dishonorable to our blessed Savior. They were meant to express the real pressure on His soul of the enormous burden of a world’s sins. They were meant to show how truly and literally He was our substitute, was made sin, and a curse for us, and endured God’s righteous anger against a world’s sin in His own person. At that dreadful moment, the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him to the uttermost. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, and put Him to grief. (Isaiah 53:10.) He bore our sins. He carried our transgressions. Heavy must have been that burden, real and literal must have been our Lord’s substitution for us, when He, the eternal Son of God, could speak of Himself as for a time “forsaken.”

Let the expression sink down into our hearts, and not be forgotten. We can have no stronger proof of the sinfulness of sin, or of the vicarious nature of Christ’s sufferings, than His cry, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” It is a cry that should stir us up to hate sin, and encourage us to trust in Christ.

Let us observe, in the second place, how much is contained in the words which describe our Lord’s end. We are simply told, “He yielded up His spirit.”

There never was a last breath drawn, of such deep import as this. There never was an event on which so much depended. The Roman soldiers, and the gaping crowd around the cross, saw nothing remarkable. They only saw a person dying as others die, with all the usual agony and suffering, which attend a crucifixion. But they knew nothing of the eternal interests which were involved in the whole transaction.

That death discharged in full the mighty debt which sinners owe to God, and threw open the door of life to every believer. That death satisfied the righteous claims of God’s holy law, and enabled God to be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. That death was no mere example of self-sacrifice, but a complete atonement and propitiation for man’s sin, affecting the condition and prospects of all mankind. That death solved the hard problem, how God could be perfectly holy, and yet perfectly merciful. It opened to the world a fountain for all sin and uncleanness. It was a complete victory over Satan, and spoiled him openly. It finished the transgression, made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness. It proved the sinfulness of sin, when it needed such a sacrifice to atone for it. It proved the love of God to sinners, when He sent His own Son to make the atonement. Never, in fact, was there, or could there be again, such a death. No wonder that the earth quaked, when Jesus died, in our stead, on the accursed tree. The solid frame of the world might well tremble and be amazed, when the soul of Christ was made an offering for sin. (Isaiah 53:10.)

Let us observe, in the last place, what a remarkable miracle occurred at the hour of our Lord’s death, in the very midst of the Jewish temple. We are told that “the veil of the temple was rent in two.” The curtain which separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple, and through which the high priest alone might pass, was split from top to bottom.

Of all the wonderful signs which accompanied our Lord’s death, none was more significant than this. The mid-day darkness for three hours, must have been a startling event. The earthquake, which rent the rocks, must have been a tremendous shock. But there was a meaning in the sudden rending of the veil from top to bottom, which must have pierced the heart of any intelligent Jew. The conscience of Caiaphas, the high priest, must have been hard indeed, if the tidings of that rent veil did not fill him with dismay.

The rending of the veil proclaimed the termination and passing away of the ceremonial law. It was a sign that the old dispensation of sacrifices and ordinances was no longer needed. Its work was done. Its occupation was gone, from the moment that Christ died. There was no more need of an earthly high priest, and a mercy seat, and a sprinkling of blood, and an offering up of incense, and a day of atonement. The true High Priest had at length appeared. The true Lamb of God had been slain. The true mercy seat was at length revealed. The figures and shadows were no longer needed. May we all remember this! To set up an altar, and a sacrifice, and a priesthood now, is to light a candle at noon-day.

That rending of the veil proclaimed the opening of the way of salvation to all mankind. The way into the presence of God was unknown to the Gentile, and only seen dimly by the Jew, until Christ died. But Christ having now offered up a perfect sacrifice, and obtained eternal redemption, the darkness and mystery were to pass away. All were to be invited now to draw near to God with boldness, and approach Him with confidence, by faith in Jesus. A door was thrown open, and a way of life set before the whole world. May we all remember this! From the time that Jesus died, the way of peace was never meant to be shrouded in mystery. There was to be no reserve. The Gospel was the revelation of a mystery, which had been hidden from ages and generations. To clothe religion now with mystery, is to mistake the grand characteristic of Christianity.

Let us turn from the story of the crucifixion, every time we read it, with hearts full of praise. Let us praise God for the confidence it gives us, as to the ground of our hope of pardon. Our sins may be many and great, but the payment made by our Great Substitute far outweighs them all. Let us praise God for the view it given us of the love of our Father in heaven. He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, will surely with Him give us all things. Not least, let us praise God for the view it gives us of the sympathy of Jesus with all His believing people. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knows what suffering is. Jesus is just the Savior that an infirm body, with a weak heart, in an evil world, requires.

 

Internet use and secularization (new study). But might it really be just porn?

8 Apr

I agree with this article, but will add that I do think internet consumption itself (the insatiable desire to be connected at all times) contributes to secularization.  Bible meditation, prayer, I think are both impacted by what we once called “internet addiction.”  That word is hardly used today since we are connected everywhere we go.  The ability to concentrate, to read at length, follow a logical argument through, as well as dwell on unseen realities via prayer and biblical meditation, are surely eclipsed more and more as we feel the tug to “check” this or that website or social network or email or blog response, etc.

However, as any Christian knows, the impact of sin, particularly enslavement to sexual sin, is most devastating to one’s sense God’s personal presence in one’s life.  The estrangement that a believer feels from God increases the more they indulge in sexual immorality.

How internet porn explains the decline of American faith

Since the early 1990s, there has been a significant uptick in Americans abandoning their faith. After crunching the numbers, one researcher says contributing factors such as upbringing and education only explain part of the increase. What about the rest?

After controlling for variables like income, environment, and so on, computer scientist Allen Downey of Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts found 25 percent of the decline can be correlated with Internet access. More Web, less faith.

Why? Here’s Downey’s stab at an answer: “For people living in homogeneous communities, the Internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none), and to interact with them personally.” So increased exposure leads to doubt, disagreement, disenchantment, and ultimately to discarding your faith.

Maybe, but I don’t buy it. Downey’s answer plays off the modernist prejudice that equates religion and ignorance. That’s false on its face. But once we consider the Internet as a factor at all, there’s a far more obvious answer than wider horizons: porn.

Porn has been part of the Web from day one. And the stats for online consumption are staggering, even among Christians.

Disaffiliation should come as no surprise. We’ve already seen that porn makes prayer and beneficial contemplation impossible. Given the Christian understanding of the spiritual life, we’re not capable of simultaneously pursuing our lusts and sanctification. Such a pursuit causes internal dissonance, and the only resolution involves eventually conceding to the pull of one or the other. (I’ve talked about that before here.)

Personal testimony adds to the picture. In his book Samson and the Pirate Monks, Nate Larkin discusses his battle with sexual sin and its effect on his state of belief. The deeper he got the further away he felt from God.

I often screamed at God, banging on the steering wheel and begging him to relieve me of this terrible wickedness, to take the urge away, but the heavens were silent. After a while, I started wondering whether God was listening, whether he cared about me anymore, or whether he even existed at all.

On the flip side, as Larkin turned from lust, his faith returned. “I came to believe the gospel a little more,” he says. “The most powerful proof of God’s existence was the transformation that was taking place in my character.”

Faith is obedience, and obedience is faith.

If the rise of the internet has anything to do with a loss of faith — and it’s an interesting thought — the role of ideas is likely minimal. Arguments don’t cool many hearts, but sin surely does.

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