Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Body and Soul

(Psalm 119:97) O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

Once there were two husbands who found themselves at the end of the day standing in line to purchase a dozen roses for their respective wives. Both left the shop with identical bouquets and presented them to their wives with identical economy of words, “For you, my love.”

The two wives gave identical responses to the offerings of their husbands, “Oh honey, whatever possessed you to do such a thing?” But sadly, this is where the similarities ended.

The first husband responded to his wife’s query by explaining that he did so because he well understood his husbandly duty to purchase something that he could ill afford and to present it thusly as a token of his willingness to fulfill his husbandly duties.

The second husband responded to his wife’s query by apologizing for the inadequacy of twelve long-stemmed roses to properly communicate the depth of his feelings, the intensity of his love and the extent to which he had been captured by the sublime beauty and exquisite graces of his beloved.

Needless to say, the dissimilarities only multiplied for these two husbands throughout the evening and into the night.

O, for grace to both know and love the LORD; to both understand and rejoice in His ways; to worship in the assembly more out of delight than duty; and to yield ourselves to both the form and heart of the liturgy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Devil's Dictionary: Christian

Ambrose Bierce was a god hater blessed with unusual insight into the human condition and a particularly well-developed faculty to detect hypocrisy within the ranks of the Christian church. Bierce published his caustic aphorisms under the title of “The Devil’s Dictionary” in 1911.

Devil’s Dictionary: Christian, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.”

Commentary: Ouch. This observation opens “a whole can of worms.” But consider one possible application: The Protestant Church continues to rail (rightly) against the sins of the Roman Catholic Church, calling her to repent of her idolatry of the Mass, her use of images in worship, her profound confusion on the matter of faith and works, Purgatory, Mariolatry, merit, the saints, the papacy, and much more. Given that sin is “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” we are right to demand a hearty repentance and wholesale return to the standard of God’s Word, particularly on issues directly pertaining to the purity of the Gospel.

However, as Bierce noted, we are very prone to stridently apply God’s law to our neighbors while blissfully ignoring what is says about the sins peculiar to “our side.” “What sins?” you say with mild indignation. How ‘bout our rampant sectarianism (30,000 protestant denominations and growing!), our ubiquitous and ugly in-fighting; our gimmicky evangelism (Got God?); our pervasive hostility to covenant connections; our lack of historical awareness; (Pop Quiz: Circle the good guy – Pope Leo X or Pope Gregory VI; Who denied Emperor Theodosius the Lord’s Table – Augustine, Ambrose or Athanasius?); our endemic disdain of the historic creeds and councils (How many protestants could identify the differences between the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicean Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon?); our rejection of the inerrancy of the Scriptures; our ordination of women and homosexuals; our spineless tolerance of murder (abortion); and last but not least our man-centered, man-conceived, man-pleasing, ultra-foofy worship?

I am not suggesting that we cease calling Rome to repentance. But it might be a good idea to show her what that looks like as we do. SDG

Monday, November 22, 2004


FYI: I have adjusted the "comment" tool at the end of the articles so that you now can leave a comment if you are so inclined. Previously only "members" could leave comments.

Of Angles and Attitudes

(Ezra 9:5-6) And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God, And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
(Luke 5:8) When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

John Wesley once noted that “the angle of knee determines the attitude of the heart.” This adage is surely an overstatement, but nonetheless true in large measure. We are not disembodied spirits, and we are commanded by God to worship Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. And to offer up to Him our bodies as living sacrifices. Therefore, in our weekly Lord’s Day Service do we stand to offer our praises to the King of Glory, and at one point even lift our hands to bodily demonstrate our enthusiasm in worship, our eagerness to embrace God as our Father, and our readiness to receive, open-handedly, all that He would give to us. When God’s Word is preached we assume the posture of students learning from their master. And at the Table we continue to sit, not as disciples, but rather as honored guests at the Lord’s Feast.

But what is the Biblical posture of contrition? What is the angle of the knee most frequently adopted by those who are confessing their both their sinfulness and their unworthiness? You know the answer already. The knees are bent in a bodily indication of abject humility before the throne of Him who is perfectly holy. And the head is bowed in a bodily display of the heart’s remorse, anguish and sorrow over sin and wickedness.

“But I can do all of that between my two ears” the Gnostics will surely object.

“I know its in the Bible, but it’s not a part of our tradition” some Pharisees will certainly chime in.

“But kneeling is a very uncomfortable position for me to assume” some who don’t get it at all will proffer.

But some will say, “Let me take my place beside Ezra, Peter, and the myriads who have gone before me in Christ’s church, and allow me to assume their posture as I confess my sins. Sharp rocks and gravel would be preferable, but in their absence, this plush carpet will do. For regarding my transgressions, I covet the opportunity to preach to my stony heart with my buckled knees. And regarding my confession, I would have the Lord know my shame and grief.”

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A Tale of Two Saviors

"And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now…thou shalt conceive, and bear a son."

And so begins the wondrous and oft told story of Israel’s deliverer. A story with more plot twists, apparent defeats and unlikely victories than many a fictitious tale.

God’s deliverer came to His people at the height of a prolonged season of religious decline, and protracted political oppression by a powerful pagan nation. Although he was but a single man, born of a woman, the Bible records that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” and in that anointing was bestowed a great power to save.

This promised one, this savior, was both a conundrum to his own people and a bane to his enemies. Sometimes he spoke plainly, and other times in obscure riddles. Sometimes he behaved meekly, even submissively, and other times by overt demonstrations of supernatural power, manifested himself to be the Lord’s savior.

But the more victories he won over his enemies, the more bitterly they seethed, and the more actively they conspired to humiliate him before the people. Having failed multiple times to take him openly by force, they bribed a trusted companion of his with pieces of silver, to betray and deliver him over to their injurious intrigues, and despicable designs. And so it was done.

After his capture, but before his death, the scriptures record that he was forsaken by God, and this was clearly evidenced in his unprecedented powerlessness at the hands of his enemies. And so they led him roughly, one last time to a place where he could be mocked and made sport of in the sight of all. And there he cried out for God to remember him; and there he stretched out his arms……… placing his hands upon the pillars which upheld the roof of the Philistine banquet hall, and filled with the Spirit one last time, spent his life to deal a crushing blow to the heads of that malicious brood of the serpent’s seed assembled there.

Samson was, of course, only a dim and imperfect shadow of the ultimate judge and deliverer of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet through him, by faith, we see Christ quite clearly, and are moved to exclaim, “How great a Savior, and how mighty his salvation!”

Why Blog?

"Reading makes a man full, preaching makes a man exuberant, but writing makes a man exact." Or so the saying goes...

Assuming that there is some truth to this proverb, I am venturing out into the universe of web-logging with guarded optimism, hopeful that the exercise of writing down my random obeservations and uneven cogitations will bring some clarity to my own thought processes. If someone else out there can benefit from my cyber-scribblings so much the better. I will strive to be exact, not in the sense of "without error", but rather in the sense of "exactly" what I'm wrestling with, or musing about, right now.

1 Chronicles 26:18 provides a fair example of what I hope to glean from this exercise. I do not presently understand the import and glory of the phrase "Parbar westward, four at the causeway and two at Parbar." But I am confident that its meaning is both accessible and helpful to the persistent student, and that the first step to understanding this verse is thoughtful reflection upon it. To be sure, reading is helpful. But reading and reflection is trebly so, and therefore journaling (of which blogging is a sub-species) ougth to be of some profit to both blogger and blogee (that would be you.)

I will also be including some articles, papers and poetry that I have written in the past and would welcome any comments on the same.

Having said all that, let the reader beware. Do not fold, spindle or mutilate the contents of this blog. (Has anyone actually ever spindled anything? Anyone, anyone? Bueller?) Not sold in stores. Not available in states without electricity, but readily available in states of anxiety, shock and/or euphoria. Terms subject to change without notice, prices do not include tax or license fees, not redeemable without coupon, alcoholic content not to exceed 14% (by volume.) SDG.