Bible

Two Quotes from Jerome

On the benefit of obeying Jesus’ words to the rich young man in Matthew 19:

“It is an act of apostolic perfection and of perfect virtue to sell all one has and to give to the poor—thus becoming weightless and unimpeded and flying up with Christ toward heavenly delights.”-Jerome, in Bonaventure, Defense of the Mecidants, ch.7.

And on preaching what we ourselves have not done:

“I exalt virginity to heaven, not because it is mine, but because I more greatly admire what I do not have. Preaching to others a quality lacking in oneself, this indeed amounts to a frank and embarrassing confession. But if I am held down to earth by the weight of my body, is this reason enough not to admire the flight of birds?” (Jerome in letter to Pammachius, qtd in Bonaventure ch.7, p.141)

Source: Bonaventure, Defense of the Mendicants, in The Works of Bonaventure,
trans. José de Vinck, v. 4: Defense of the Mendicants.

Origen on Windows in Scripture

“And as for the apostolic epistles, what man who is skilled in literary interpretation would think them to be plain and easily understood, when even in them there are thousands of passages that provide, as if through a window, a narrow opening leading to multitudes of the deepest thoughts?”
Origen,  On First Principles

Singing after Supper (in Chinese)

I’ve uploaded some songs we sang recently. I’m hesitant to give too many details, but I’ll say there were around 20 people gathered together, about 75% being Chinese Christians. We had a feast, and the food was followed by some singing of worship songs. I recorded these two via my phone, so the quality is low–just the way these young folks like it. I hope you enjoy it and praise God.

Read Your Bible More and More – Desiring God

Read Your Bible More and More – Desiring God.

I love the first two reasons Piper gives as to why reading the Bible everyday (whether one feels like it or not) is not legalism.

  1. You are confessing your lack of desire as sin, and pleading as a helpless child for the desire you long to have. Legalists don’t cry like that. They strut.
  2. You are reading out of desperation for the effects of this heavenly medicine. Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, can cure this terminal disease.

I actually founds this as I searched DG for “daily Bible reading” to see what Piper or some other might have to say to “stir me up” and rekindle my fire for reading the Word before breakfast each day. Why do I go to DG? Because a true friend tells you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear, and I can often count on the folks at DG for that, and Piper is simply the most motivating advocate of daily reading of the Word in personal and/or corporate devotions, but especially the former.

Let us continue the race of faith, slowly and steadily, always quick to listen and slow to speak, humbly and boldly.

via Read Your Bible More and More – Desiring God.

Christians Put Hands on Bibles for the First Time

I found this (linked) blog post earlier and didn’t know how to feel. My first reaction to this kind of video, honestly, is to disbelieve that any of it is true. After all, I have been to China for a year myself, and I saw plenty of extra Bibles, still in the plastic wrapper.
That’s forgetting something, though: China is a very large country.
So that doesn’t mean that the Bible is known or understood there by all, though, and far from that is the truth: the Word has spread rapidly there, praise God, for doors are opening–but there are still millions who haven’t heard it preached or taught right. (And by “right,” I do not mean my particular interpretation of the Word, but rather, they haven’t heard the word taught as the truth).

The Good News

Do you love the Word of God this much? We who have many Bibles are so blessed. We ought to do something to get the Word into the hands of those who desire it like these Chinese Christians.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=vQIxjIkRv8Y&NR=1

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“We Have Cause to Be Uneasy” and The Quotable *Mere Christianity*

As so often happens, my wife received a phone call from a friend asking questions about her faith and how one can trust that the Bible as true.

The time was 10:00pm, and since I was in a place to consider sleep, I reached for my Kindle and thought to browse the “Theo”(logy) section for some titles that might be of use to my wife’s discussion.

First, I saw Dr. R.C. Sproul’s “Can I Trust the Bible?” and as great as it is, I did not find that for which I was hoping. I was about to give up when I saw that classic title: “Mere Christianity” — always worth a read. Lewis didn’t say what I was looking for either, but I was hooked.

The first paragraph which my eyes came across — when I skipped around the work’s natural order — was worth highlighting. (That in itself is noteworthy, considering how unpleasant highlighting can be on the oldest, most basic Kindle). Once the highlighting was completed, I realized the next paragraph was a continuation of the genius that was the previous paragraph. [Spend another 30 seconds highlighting the next paragraph.] Not too long thereafter, lo and behold: another highlight-worthy passage. We could almost underline or highlight the whole book…

Thus, here they are — probably over-quoted but worth the re-read again and again — from the first book’s fifth chapter. (NOTE: this is in not meant to be a comprehensive list of the work’s best quotes. These are the paragraphs that captivated me in my ten minute gander, before provoking me to rise again and share them on the blog.) Now…

You may have felt you were ready to listen to me as long as you thought I had anything new to say; but if it turns out to be only religion, well, the world has tried that and you cannot put the clock back. If anyone is feeling that way I should like to say three things to him.

First, as to putting the clock back. Would you think I was joking if I said that you can put a clock back, and that if the clock is wrong it is often a very sensible thing to do? But I would rather get away from that whole idea of clocks. We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when doing arithmetic.

When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.

Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth– only soft soap and wishful thinking to being with and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over the prewar wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the same about religion.

Future Glory and Forgetting the Past

This morning I read in Genesis the forty-first chapter and noticed something new to me: Joseph forgets his past suffering, because God has blessed him so greatly. Are we all capable of receiving such blessing that we might be able forget all of the past pain?

Here are the verses in which I learned about Joseph forgetting the old misfortunes:

Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:50-52, ESV)

How beautiful it is that God did not only make Joseph fruitful and happy, but God did so for Joseph in the same place Joseph was in during his worst period of suffering.  Moreover, it was so good that Joseph forgot about the slavery he was in before the sunshine came.

The apostle Paul adds insight here:

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV, emphasis added)

By the way, if you haven’t read The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis, the book is well worth the time and money.

Lewis writes therein, “At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”

Paul adds again, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, ESV)

One day, God will right all the wrongs and bless you who would be in Christ out of this world and into a far, far better one that is unimaginably fantastic, yet — real.  That is not to say this one is to be tossed out and forgotten just yet.  Uncertain as we are as to how long it shall take us to get to the next world, it is our duty to make this one as much like the next as possible.

Match Point Opening Scene: Luck vs. Greatness

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

Last night Linli and I watched a movie given to us by a dear friend who asked us to pass it along after we watched it: Match Point. She probably asked us to pass it along not because the message is the best, but more likely because not many people will want to watch it more than once. By no means is it a “feel good” film, but Match Point is interesting and definitely provocative. I will not go into more detail, but I do want to share the opening scene because I think it is beautifully done.

The movie’s themes, aside from commenting on the dichotomy of love/lust and marriage, strongly revolves around fate having a greater role than ability.

I love reading, listening to, and watching artist’s explorations of the ancient question: how much of life is in our control?

One verse in the Bible that I believe gives us insight, despite how many Christians will disagree, is the one at the top of this post, and below:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

The NIV even translates the word as “intended” rather than “meant.” There is a large difference between this idea, that God not only knew it was going to happen but moreover meant that it take place, is quite different from the common, “oh, God will use it for good, even though you meant it for evil.” True, he will, but this verse, often misquoted, says that he meant it for good, and I do not believe that He makes mistakes.

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/how-can-i-believe-that-god-is-in-control-when-something-bad-happens#/listen/full 

*By the way, I do not recommend the aforementioned movie to everyone. To the Christian strong in faith, I do. To those easily offended, I do not. Indeed, the taking of the Lord’s name in vain several times in the movie is hard to hear, but for some, the movie may provide insight without causing them to sin. The film is rated R for “some sexuality.”

Medgar Evers Through Bob Dylan and Paul

Fifty years ago, a hard-working, risk-taking, family-loving man was shot in the back, dead in his own driveway for his efforts leading the NCAAP in the Civil Rights Movement. His name was Medgar Evers.

That was only fifty years ago.

evers_medgarmedgarmarching

As we get older, history seems shorter in perspective. In high school, to me, the Civil Rights movement and segregation sounded so far away because it was forty of fifty years earlier, and that was almost three or four times my age then. To a twenty-five year old now, however, fifty years ago is only twice that age, so the perspective changes.

Thankfully, We The People have come quite far in the last fifty years, in terms of segregation, by the grace of God. There is, of course, still work to do, and there always will be.

I first heard of Medgar Evers, though,  in the opening lines of “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” a song Bob Dylan wrote in 1963, the same year of Evers’ death:

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game

The last verse also explicitly references Evers and his burial:

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He’ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game

Read more: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/only-a-pawn-in-their-game#ixzz2VNQnQiUO

Thirty years passed before the jury convicted Evers’ murderer, according to Debbie Elliot’s NPR blog today. Those years surely crawled by, especially for Reena Evers-Everette. Even when Medgar was alive, however, the last decade of their marriage was still fettered to fear, she says:

“And we never knew from one day to the next what would happen. I lived in fear of losing him. He lived being constantly aware that he could be killed at any time.” (NPR-Elliot)

So the shooting of Medgar Evers was not something that happend randomly: it had been a long time coming, and Evers lived waiting for it.  Yet he kept at the work he knew he was called to do.

In the book of Phillipians, Paul writes:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (3:17, ESV)

I am certainly no expert on Medgar Evers nor the Civil Rights, but it seems clear that Evers was a man who looked fear and evil in the eye, without a blink, and kept on working.

Such a person is to be honored.

To read more about Medgar Evers, see his entry in the encyclopedia of the King Institute, here:  http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_evers_medgar_1925_1963/

John Piper Spurgeon Lecture | Reformed Theological Seminary

John Piper Spurgeon Lecture video| Reformed Theological Seminary.

The following words are Charles Spurgeon’s (not John Piper’s), and I want to note them here, for sharing with  you and personal review later:

“Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord—not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavoured with the words of the Lord.

I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved.”

“Puritanism, Protestantism, [and] Calvinism are poor names which the world has given to a great and glorious faith: the doctrine of Paul the Apostle, the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

“Those who do away with Christian doctrine are, whether they are aware of it or not, the worst enemies of Christian living.”

Defining preaching:  “to know the truth as it should be known, to love it as it should be loved, to proclaim it in the right spirit and in it’s proper proportions.”

via John Piper Spurgeon Lecture ! | Reformed Theological Seminary.