Ooh, That Double Vision

He saved perfectly, he’s saving progressively, & he will save completely.

In reading my devotions today, I came across a passage that stirred my heart so I thought it may do the same for yours, my dear friend and pilgrim.

In Titus 2:1-10, Paul issues a series of ethical commands for how Christians are to live and what kind of people they should strive to be in Christ. After explaining how Christians are to live in 2:1-10, Paul then explains why in Titus 2:11-14.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-13

Notice this simple, yet profound truth: what a Christian does today is grounded in what Christ did and what Christ will do. Our present life is a response to the grace of Christ that appeared in the past and the glory of Christ that appear in the future.

John Stott helps apply this in his commentary on Titus.

The apostle, in this short paragraph of only four verses (11–14) brings together the two termini of the Christian era, that is, the first coming of Christ which inaugurated it and the second coming of Christ which will terminate it. He bids us look back to the one and on to the other. For we live ‘in between times’, suspended rather uncomfortably between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ . . .

The best way to live now, in this present age, is to learn to do spiritually what is impossible physically, namely to look in opposite directions at the same time. We need both to look back and remember the epiphany of grace (whose purpose was to redeem us from all evil and to purify for God a people of his own), and also to look forward and anticipate the epiphany of glory (whose purpose will be to perfect at his second coming the salvation he began at his first).

This deliberate orientation of ourselves, this looking back and looking forward, this determination to live in the light of Christ’s two comings, to live today in the light of yesterday and tomorrow—this should be an essential part of our daily discipline. We need to say to ourselves regularly the great acclamation, ‘Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.’ For then our present duties in the home will be inspired by the past and future epiphanies of Christ.

Canon Hay Aitken suggested that the two comings of Christ are like ‘two windows … in the School of Grace’. Through the western window a solemn light streams from Mt. Calvary. Through the eastern window shines the light of sunrising, the herald of a brighter day. ‘Thus the School of Grace is well lighted; but we cannot afford to do without the light from either West or East.’

Stott, John. The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus (The Bible Speaks Today Series) . InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

The Christian’s present life must be motivated, guided, ruled, and fueled by focusing on both the grace of Christ’s past cross and the glory of his future crown. If it’s not, we’ve lost our track.

As Foreigner once sang:

Ooh, double vision, I need my double vision
Ooh, It takes me out of my head, takin’ me out of my head
Ooh, I get my double vision
Ooh, seeing double double, double vision
Ooh, oh my double vision
Ooh, double vision
Yeah-ah, I get double vision, ooh . . .
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How Ought a Christian Behave in 2020?

A real life picture of a Facebook debate.

Americans are living in a fairly chaotic and volatile time. Our two political parties have never seemed so polarized. Many see the government’s actions in response to the virus as either too weak and insufficient or way too strong and unnecessary. As the election nears, the alarmist rhetoric from both sides of the aisle sounds more and more like a bad counterfeit of the book of Revelation. The prophets are condemning the other side to hell while shouting to the watching world, “The end is near (if our candidate isn’t voted in)!”

Our chaotic time has created (intensified?) a chaotic style of discourse as well. Whether online or in-person, we’re surrounded by people screaming at, accusing, and disrespecting those with different views than them on the big things (e.g. abortion, racism, economic structure) and the little things (e.g. masks). No one seems to know (or care) how to get along.

How Ought a Believer Behave in 2020?

So, this brings us to a good question to ponder, “How ought believers in Jesus behave in such times of governmental controversy and conversational pollution?” What do we need to be reminded of in 2020?

To get straight to it, here are six good counsels to start.

(1) Have a Posture of Ready Submission to the Government

The government is a gift from God for which we should be thankful (Rom. 13:1). The government’s authority is established by God so we should be ready to respect her officials and obey her rules (Rom. 13:7) when it acts legitimately and doesn’t forbid what God commands or command what God forbids (as my pastor likes to put it). Yes, there are times were obedience to Christ demands we disobey the government (Acts 4:18-20), but the default position of a Christian’s heart must be submission, obedience, and honor to the land’s rulers ans laws. For a really helpful sermon on this, see here.

(2) Be Ready for Good Works

Don’t allow the problems “out there,” which you can do little to nothing about make you ignore the problems “right here” that you can do a lot about. By all means, pay attention to what’s happening in our world “out there” and be active, but know this: Christians should be busier in doing good to their neighbor in person (e.g. practicing hospitality, helping someone follow Jesus, etc.) than they are owning the libs online.

(3) Speak Evil of No One

Informed disagreement is vastly different than speaking evil (e.g. disrespecting, slandering, baseless accusations). Christians are encouraged to the former, but prohibited from the latter. This includes (especially) those with different political views than you or those in government positions. Make sure your mouth delivers only light and life.

(4) Avoid Quarreling

Again, informed, civil, and respectful debate is different than engaging in verbal fistfights. The goal of civil debate is to persuade folks who think differently with thoughtful arguments and even being open to learn in the process. The goal of quarreling is to score points with those who already agree with you by using all sorts of soundbites, slogans, and “gotcha” tricks with no intention of seriously listening or learning. Avoid quarreling like you do dumpster fires because, like them, they’re only hot and stinky.

(5) Be Gentle

This must be a hallmark characteristic of any Christian communication whether it be preaching those who believe or attempting to persuade those who don’t; whether it be speaking with those who respect you or those who disrespect you. Allow the world to rant and rave and yell and threat, but Christ’s people must not descend into such juvenile, thoughtless habits. May our speech, in writing or speaking, online or in person, be always gentle (1 Peter 3:15).

(6) Be Perfectly Courteous Toward All People

There is more to being a Christian than being polite, but not less. It behooves those bought by Christ’s blood to show basic respect, manners, and civility toward others who bear his image. This means we should not be known for interrupting, shouting, yelling, name-calling, not listening carefully, or other disrespectful practices. Whether or not folks agree with what you say, they should at least always walk away thinking, “What an enjoyable and kind person they are.”

Four Brief Notes About the Above Counsels

First, if you think the above sounds too politically correct and soft-footed, then take a quick look at Titus 3:1-2:

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

If you have issues with the counsels, then know whom you’re disagreeing with.

Second, one good thing about the internet is your writing and interactions are written down to look at later. Consider taking the above list and hold your own interactions up to it. Where are areas in your conversation where you see God’s grace? Praise God for those! What are some habits you need to repent of?

Third, I think we need to realize that a lot of our online and in-person debate characteristics are taken from the world instead of the Lord. Many of us look more like (insert high profile conservative here) instead of Jesus. So, I ask you, “Who is forming you? In whose image are you being conformed?”

Fourth, some may be thinking, “But this is a time to stand up for the sake of religious liberty, the life of the unborn, and other important rights being threatened!” To that, I say: you are absolutely correct! Informed believers should be speaking life-giving (both eternally and temporally) truth and not be cowered into silence! It is important! And that is all the more why the above counsels are needed because our message is muted when we ignore them. If you seek quarrels, people will avoid you. If you speak evilly of people, people will ignore your message. If your life isn’t adorned with good works, people will note your hypocrisy and think your message of little power. If you don’t pay attention to how you are communicating, then many will not pay attention to what you are communicating. Yes, this is a time to speak up and therefore it is all the more important to pay attention to Scripture’s commands concerning our conduct. We should not want to obscure life-giving truth with ugly tactics.

As usual, there’s more to say and more nuance to explain, but here’s the bottom line: God has a lot to say about what we say (our message), but also how we say it (our manner); both our beliefs and our behavior. As followers of Jesus, we want to make sure that we take both seriously.

As a final thought, I think it will help keep us from danger if we make sure we are always more critical of ourselves than we are of others. Let’s not allow the world’s great evils make us blind to our own folly and neglect of Scripture’s commands. As John Stott once said: “We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?’”

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A Christian’s Politics

What should a Christian’s politics look like?

Though there’s much to say, I found this thought from Jonathan Leeman a good and necessary place to start.

Christian’s politics always begins with Jesus. He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords. And we know his will through his Word.

A Christian’s politics proceeds through the spoken evangelistic word: “The King is coming to judge all transgressors. Repent and believe, and he will graciously pardon.”

A Christian’s politics then takes root in the individual heart. Only a heart that’s been remade by the Spirit of God will no longer seek to lord it over others, but will extend mercy even as it has received mercy.

Then, remarkably, a Christian’s politics should become visible in the life and fellowship of the local church—both in its teaching and in its fellowship. Whether you’re a member of this party or that party, the local church is where we learn to love our enemies, forsake our tribalism, and beat our swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. Here is where we tutor one another in the righteousness and justice of God. Here is where the righteousness and justice of God become tangible, credible, and believable for the onlooking nations.

Every week that a preacher stands up to preach he makes a political speech. He teaches the congregation “to observe all” that the King with all authority in heaven and on earth has commanded (Matt. 28:20). He strives to shape their lives in the way of the King’s law. We then declare the King’s judgments in the ordinances, embrace the King’s purposes in our prayers, and echo the King’s joy and mourning in our songs.

Read the whole piece here.

If you want more on Christian faith and politics, grab Leeman’s book, How the Nation’s Rage. I recently started and have already found it helpful.

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What Happens When a Christian Sins?

No matter what form of Christian ministry you find yourself laboring in (e.g. childrens, youth, adult, parenting), here is a question you will be asked:

“What happens when a forgiven believer in Jesus sins?”

Since the questions has everything do with our relationship with God, sin, and grace, your answer will dramatically affect how the questioner views the gospel of Jesus. Therefore, it’s a question to ponder deeply and prepare to answer succinctly.

John Bunyan’s Answer

John Bunyan helps answer the question, “What happens to a believer’s relationship with God when they sin?”

Sin, after the Spirit of adoption (has) come, cannot dissolve the relation of father and son, of father and child . . . Now mark, you are no more a servant, that is, no more under the law of death and damnation, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:4-7).

Suppose a child grievously transgresses against and offends his father, is their relationship therefore dissolved? Again, suppose the father should (discipline) the son for such offense, is the relationship between them therefore dissolved? Even more, suppose the child should now, through ignorance, cry, and say, “This man is now no more my father!” is he therefore now not his father? Does not everyone see the folly of such thinking?

Know, then, that your sin, after you have received the Spirit of adoption to cry unto God, “Father! Father!” is counted the sin of a child, not of a slave, and that all that happens to you for that sin, is but the discipline of a father. “What son is he whom the father disciplines not?” (Hebrews 12:1).

(Taken from The Fear of God, p. 47-48)

The London Baptists’ Answer

Or, as the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith puts it well in article 12:

God has granted that all those who are justified would receive the grace of adoption, in and for the sake of his only Son Jesus Christ.1 By this they are counted among the children of God and enjoy the freedom and privileges of that relationship.2 They inherit his name,3 receive the spirit of adoption,4 have access to the throne of grace with boldness, and are enabled to cry “Abba, Father!”5 They are given compassion,6 protected,7 provided for,8 and (disciplined) by him as a father.9  Yet they are never cast off10 but are sealed for the day of redemption11 and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.12

1Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:4, 5. 2John 1:12; Romans 8:17. 32 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 3:12. 4Romans 8:15. 5Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:18. 6Psalms 103:13. 7Proverbs 14:26. 81 Peter 5:7. 9Hebrews 12:6. 10Isaiah 54:8, 9; Lamentations 3:31. 11Ephesians 4:30. 12Hebrews 1:14; 6:12.

And here is another part (article 11) of the same confession.

God continues to forgive the sins of those who are justified.14  Even though they can never fall from a state of justification,15 they may fall under God’s fatherly displeasure  because of their sins.16  In that condition they will not usually have the light of his face restored to them until they humble themselves, confess their sins, plead for pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.17

14Matthew 6:12; 1 John 1:7, 9. 15John 10:28. 16Psalms 89:31–33. 17Psalms 32:5; Psalms 51; Matthew 26:75.

There is definitely more that could be said, but these answers, and the Scriptures therein, will serve you well as you seek to help others live within the finished work of Christ and enjoy their blood bought adoption as sons & daughters of God.

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The Christian Testimony of an Old Testament Believer

In the foreword to Dr. J. Alec Motyer‘s excellent little book, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament, Tim Keller shares this fantastic insight he learned from the good doctor a few decades ago.

Approximately 40 years ago, during the summer between my undergraduate college years and seminary, I  . . . came eventually to the Ligonier Valley Study Center . . . where R. C. Sproul was hosting at his regular weekly Question and Answer session a British Old Testament scholar, J. Alec Motyer. As a still fairly new Christian, I found the Old Testament to be a confusing and off-putting part of the Bible.

I will always remember his answer to a question about the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the church . . . After saying something about the discontinuities, he insisted that we were all one people of God. Then he asked us to imagine how the Israelites under Moses would have given their “testimony” to someone who asked for it. They would have said something like this:

We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator—the one who stands between us and God—came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.

Then Dr. Motyer concluded:

“Now think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.”

My young self was thunderstruck. I had held the vague, unexamined impression that in the Old Testament people were saved through obeying a host of detailed laws but that today we were freely forgiven and accepted by faith. This little thought experiment showed me, in a stroke, not only that the Israelites had been saved by grace and that God’s salvation had been by costly atonement and grace all along, but also that the pursuit of holiness, pilgrimage, obedience, and deep community should characterize Christians as well.

Taken from “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament, p. ix-x)

What is concealed in the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament and what is revealed in the New is concealed in the Old. As the author of Hebrews put it, “The law has but a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). As Jesus put it, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).

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Favorite Quotes from “Ready Player One”

I recently enjoyed Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Here are some of my favorite quotes. Please note, I don’t necessarily agree with all the below quotes, but in one way or another find them helpful, intriguing, or illustrative of certain ideas or points of view.

An Angsty Teenager’s Take on Silly Religion. Fascinating (hilarious) when juxtaposed with a main character and plot infused with moral objectivity, virtue, and absolute truth.

“I wish someone had just told me the truth right up front, as soon as I was old enough to understand it. I wish someone had just said: “Here’s the deal, Wade. You’re something called a ‘human being.’ That’s a really smart kind of animal. Like every other animal on this planet, we’re descended from a single-celled organism that lived millions of years ago. This happened by a process called evolution, and you’ll learn more about it But trust me, that’s really how we all got here. There’s proof of it everywhere, buried in the rocks. That story you heard? About how we were all created by a super-powerful dude named God who lives up in the sky? Total bullshit. The whole God thing is actually an ancient fairy tale that people have been telling one another for thousands of years. We made it all up. Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. “Oh, and by the way … there’s no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny. Also bullshit. Sorry, kid Deal with it.”

An Angsty Teenager’s Gospel of Enlightenment. The myth of our day.

“You’re probably wondering what happened before you got here. An awful lot of stuff, actually. Once we evolved into humans, things got pretty interesting. We figured out how to grow food and domesticate animals so we didn’t have to spend all of our time hunting. Our tribes got much bigger, and we spread across the entire planet like an unstoppable virus. Then, after fighting a bunch of wars with each other over land, resources, and our made-up gods, we eventually got all of our tribes organized into a ‘global civilization.’ But, honestly, it wasn’t all that organized, or civilized, and we continued to fight a lot of wars with each other. But we also figured out how to do science, which helped us develop technology. For a bunch of hairless apes, we’ve actually managed to invent some pretty incredible things. Computers. Medicine. Lasers. Microwave ovens. Artificial hearts. Atomic bombs. We even sent a few guys to the moon and brought them back. We also created a global communications network that lets us all talk to each other, all around the world, all the time. Pretty impressive, right?

An Angsty Teenager’s Take on Death. “But the evidence seems to suggest that nothing happens.” Except for that one guy that came back and told us some stuff (Luke 24).

“You’re probably wondering what’s going to happen to you. That’s easy. The same thing is going to happen to you that has happened to every other human being who has ever lived. You’re going to die. We all die. That’s just how it is.

“What happens when you die? Well, we’re not completely sure. But the evidence seems to suggest that nothing happens. You’re just dead, your brain stops working, and then you’re not around to ask annoying questions anymore. Those stories you heard? About going to a wonderful place called ‘heaven’ where there is no more pain or death and you live forever in a state of perpetual happiness? Also total bullshit. Just like all that God stuff. There’s no evidence of a heaven and there never was. We made that up too. Wishful thinking. So now you have to live the rest of your life knowing you’re going to die someday and disappear forever.

“Sorry.”

The Cold Unreality of Video Games & Virtual Life. Interesting to think that this take on the meaninglessness of video games and virtual life must also be applied to “real life” from a naturalistic perspective. For, in the end, all this doesn’t mean anything. Once the “Game Over” screen hits at our death, we fade to black and all our struggle, pain, victories, and achievements are forgotten. From a naturalistic perspective, all of us are “just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting (our lives) on a glorified video game” we call life.”

Then I paused and spent a moment staring at my rig. I’d been so proud of all this high-tech hardware when I’d first purchased it. But over the past few months, I’d come to see my rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn’t exist. Each component of my rig was a bar in the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself.

Standing there, under the bleak fluorescents of my tiny one-room apartment, there was no escaping the truth. In real life, I was nothing but an antisocial hermit. A recluse. A pale-skinned pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact. I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting his life on a glorified video game.

But not in the OASIS. In there, I was the great Parzival. World-famous and international celebrity. People asked for my autograph. I had a fan club . . . I was a legend. Nay, a god.

 

 

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Three Realities True of All Races, Genders, & Classes

If I were asked to describe 2020 in one word, division would make my short list. A ten-second tour any social media platform or news channel would overwhelmingly garner its support. Hourly, divisive issues are yelled about by divisive people in the most divisive ways.

With this, it can be a re-calibrating practice to ask, “Do we have anything that unites us anymore?”

In their recent little booklet, Dr. Neil Shenvri & Dr. Pat Sawyer offer three basic truths that, from the Christian worldview, all people in all places are united by.

For Christians, our fundamental identity as human beings is derived from our relationship to God.

  1. All human beings are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27) and therefore bear inestimable value and dignity (Ex. 20:13; Ps. 139:13-14).
  2. All human beings are fallen in sin (Rom 3:23; 5:12, 18a) and are therefore in need of mercy (Titus 3:5).
  3. And all human beings need the redemption and restoration that is only offered in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5).

These three core identity markers unite all people across lines of race, class, and gender and form a basis for solidarity. We cannot look at any human being as wholly “other” since they, like us, are image-bearers and sinners who need a Savior.

(Taken from Engaging Critical Theory & the Social Justice Movement, p. 20).

In the face of all the division 2020 and coming years may bring, followers of the Risen One must work hard to reject the false and destructive divisions many create and embrace, wash our minds afresh with the truths of Mankind’s fundamental unities, and ensure our neighbor-love grows from there alone.

You can access the booklet free here.

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A Parent’s Job

At the bottom, what is the job of parent?

Dane Ortlund answers beautifully:

With our own kids, if we are parents, what’s our job? That question could be answered with a hundred valid responses. But at the center, our job is to show our kids that even our best love is a shadow of a greater love. To put a sharper edge on it: to make the tender heart of Christ irresistible and unforgettable. Our goal is that our kids would leave the house at eighteen and be unable to live the rest of their lives believing that their sins and sufferings repel Christ.

This is perhaps the greatest gift my own dad has given me. He taught my siblings and me sound doctrine as we were growing up, to be sure—which is itself a sore neglect across evangelical family life today. But there’s something he has shown me that runs even deeper than truth about God, and that is the heart of God, proven in Christ, the friend of sinners. Dad made that heart beautiful to me. He didn’t crowbar me into that; he drew me in. We too have the privilege of finding creative ways of drawing in the kids all around us to the heart of Jesus. His desire to draw near to sinners and sufferers is not only doctrinally true but aesthetically attractive.

I know for myself, a re-calibrating thought I return to again and again is this: Do my children see me savor the Savior? If that is happening, then I think all the other crucial responsibilities and joys of parenting will fall into place.

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5 Benefits of Sickness

With the current COVID19 situation, I can’t help but think about a sermon I read years ago entitled Sickness by J.C. Ryle.

In the sermon, he offers a biblical perspective on sickness under three headings:

I. The universal prevalence of sickness and disease.

II. The general benefits which sickness confers on mankind.

III. The special dutiesto which sickness calls us.

Under his second heading, Ryle unpacks five benefits sickness offers to those who know Jesus. For your joy, I have copied those points below.

I could not recommend the sermon more highly, especially since sickness is on everyone’s mind.

———————————————————————–

Once more I repeat, that I speak of the “benefits” of sickness on purpose and advisedly. I know the suffering and pain which sickness entails. I admit the misery and wretchedness which it often brings in its train. But I cannot regard it as an unmixed evil. I see in it a wise permission of God. I see in it a useful provision to check the ravages of sin and the devil among men’s souls. If man had never sinned — I would have been at a loss to discern the benefit of sickness. But since sin is in the world, I can see that sickness is a good. It is a blessing quite as much as a curse. It is a rough schoolmaster, I grant — but it is a real friend to man’s soul.

1. Sickness helps to remind men of death.

Most people live as if they were never going to die. They follow business, or pleasure, or politics, or science — as if earth was their eternal home. They plan and scheme for the future, like the rich fool in the parable, as if they had a long lease of life, and were not tenants whose length of stay is brief. A heavy illness sometimes goes far to dispel these delusions. It awakens men from their day-dreams, and reminds them that they have to die, as well as to live. Now this I say emphatically is a mighty good.

2. Sickness helps to make men think seriously of God, and their souls, and the world to come.

Most people, in their days of health, can find no time for such thoughts. They dislike them. They put them away. They count them troublesome and disagreeable. Now a severe disease has sometimes a wonderful power of mustering and rallying these thoughts, and bringing them up before the eyes of a man’s soul. Even a wicked king like Benhadad, when sick, could think of Elisha (2 Kings 8:8.) Even heathen sailors, when death was in sight, were afraid, and “cried every man to his god.” (Jonah 1:5.) Surely anything that helps to make men think, is a good.

3. Sickness helps to soften men’s hearts, and teach them wisdom.

The natural heart is as hard as a stone! It can see no good in anything which is not of this life, and no happiness excepting in this world. A long illness sometimes goes far to correct these ideas. It exposes the emptiness and hollowness of what the world calls “good” things, and teaches us to hold them with a loose hand. The man of business finds that money alone, is not everything which the heart requires. The woman of the world finds that costly apparel, and novel reading, and the reports of balls and operas — are miserable comforters in a sick room. Surely anything that obliges us to alter our weights and measures of earthly things, is a real good.

4. Sickness helps to humble us.

We are all naturally proud and high-minded. Few, even of the poorest, are free from the infection. Few are to be found who do not look down on somebody else, and secretly flatter themselves that they are “not as other men.” A sick bed is a mighty tamer of such thoughts as these. It forces on us the mighty truth that we are all poor worms, that we “dwell in houses of clay,” and are “crushed before the moth.” (Job 4:19), and that kings and subjects, masters and servants, rich and poor — are all dying creatures, and will soon stand side by side at the judgment bar of God. In the sight of the coffin and the grave — it is not easy to be proud. Surely anything that teaches that lesson, is good.

5. Finally, sickness helps to try men’s religion, of what sort it is.

There are not many on earth who have no religion at all. Yet few have a religion which will bear inspection. Most are content with traditions received from their fathers, and can render no reason of the hope that is in them. Now disease is sometimes most useful to a man in exposing the utter worthlessness of his soul’s foundation. It often shows him that he has nothing solid under his feet, and nothing firm under his hand. It makes him find out that, although he may have had a form of religion, he has been all his life worshiping “an unknown god.” Many a creed looks well on the smooth waters of health — which turns out utterly unsound and useless on the rough waves of the sick bed. The storms of winter often bring out the defects in a man’s dwelling — and sickness often exposes the gracelessness of a man’s soul. Surely anything that makes us find out the real character of our faith, is a good…

We have no right to murmur at sickness, and repine at its presence in the world. We ought rather to thank God for it. It is God’s witness. It is the soul’s adviser. It is an awakener to the conscience. It is a purifier to the heart. Surely I have a right to tell you that sickness is a blessing, and not a curse — a help, and not an injury — a gain, and not a loss — a friend, and not a foe to mankind. So long as we have a world wherein there is sin, it is a mercy that it is a world where there is sickness.

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Favorite Quotes From “Shogun”

I recently read the novel Shogun by James Clavell.

Here are some of my favorite quotes.

Man is But a Blossom in the Wind

“He subdued the land. Made the peace. Forced all the daimyōs in the land to grovel like peasants before him. Rearranged feasts to suit his whim. Promoting some. Deposing others. And then he died. He was a giant among pygmies. But perhaps it’s right that all his work and greatness should die with him. Isn’t man but a blossom taken by the wind, and only the mountains and the sea and the stars and this Land of the Gods real and everlasting?”

Reason & the Law in Japanese Culture

“The law may upset reason but reason may never upset the law, or our whole society will shred like an old tatami. The law may be used to confound reason, reason must certainly not be used to overthrow the law.”

The Study of Men

“It’s always important to take time to study men — important men. Friends and enemies.”

Complex Beasts

How can a man be so brave and so stupid, so gentle and so cruel, so warming and so detestable — all at the same time?

Death is Our Heritage

Perhaps that is why we love life so much, Anjin-san. You see, we have to. Death is part of our air and sea and earth. You should know, Anjin-san, in this Land of Tears, death is our heritage.

My Only Fear

I’m not afraid, my son. I fear nothing on this earth. I fear only God’s judgment

The Natural Direction of Our Thoughts

“Always remember, child” her first teacher had impressed on her, “that to think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever-increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that need discipline –training- is about. So train your mind to dwell on sweet perfumes, the touch of this silk, tender raindrops against the shoji, the curve of the flower arrangement, the tranquillity of dawn. Then, at length, you won’t have to make such a great effort and you will be of value to yourself…”

Patience

Patience is very important. The strong are the patient ones, Anjin-san, patience means holding back your inclination to the seven emotions: hate, adoration, joy, anxiety, anger, grief, fear. If you don’t give way to the seven, you’re patient, then you’ll soon understand all manner of things and be in harmony with Eternity.

This Sunset

This sunset exists. Tomorrow does not exist. There is only now. Please look. It is so beautiful and it will never happen ever again, never, not this sunset, never in all infinity.

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