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John Chrysostom 250px

Given the nickname “Golden Mouthed,” St. John “Chrysostom” was a well-known preacher and Archbishop of Constantinople during the second part of the 4th century. His sermon on John 3:16 is just as powerful after 1,600 years, perhaps even more so given our increased individual and societal wealth. Jesus’ message hasn’t changed or become more palatable over the millennia:

“God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

What He says, is of this kind: Marvel not that I am to be lifted up that you may be saved, for this seems good to the Father, and He has so loved you as to give His Son for slaves, and ungrateful slaves. Yet a man would not do this even for a friend, nor readily even for a righteous man; as Paul has declared when he said,Scarcely for a righteous man will one die. (Romans 5:7) Now he spoke at greater length, as speaking to believers, but here Christ speaks concisely, because His discourse was directed to Nicodemus, but still in a more significant manner, for each word had much significance. For by the expression, so loved, and that other, God the world, He shows the great strength of His love. Large and infinite was the interval between the two. He, the immortal, who is without beginning, the Infinite Majesty, they but dust and ashes, full of ten thousand sins, who, ungrateful, have at all times offended Him; and these He loved. Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He says, that He gave His Only-begotten Son, not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants.

His Passion then He sets before him not very openly, but rather darkly; but the advantage of the Passion He adds in a clearer manner, saying, That every one that believes in Him. should not perish, but have everlasting life. For when He had said, must be lifted up, and alluded to death, lest the hearer should be made downcast by these words, forming some mere human opinions concerning Him, and supposing that His death was a ceasing to be, observe how He sets this right, by saying, that He that was given was The Son of God, and the cause of life, of everlasting life. He who procured life for others by death, would not Himself be continually in death; for if they who believed on the Crucified perish not, much less does He perish who is crucified. He who takes away the destitution of others much more is He free from it; He who gives life to others, much more to Himself does He well forth life. Do you see that everywhere there is need of faith? For He calls the Cross the fountain of life; which reason cannot easily allow, as the heathens now by their mocking testify. But faith which goes beyond the weakness of reasoning, may easily receive and retain it. And whence did God so love the world? From no other source but only from his goodness.

Let us now be abashed at His love, let us be ashamed at the excess of His lovingkindness, since He for our sakes spared not His Only-begotten Son, yet we spare our wealth to our own injury; He for us gave His Own Son, but we for Him do not so much as despise money, nor even for ourselves. And how can these things deserve pardon? If we see a man submitting to sufferings and death for us, we set him before all others, count him among our chief friends, place in his hands all that is ours, and deem it rather his than ours, and even so do not think that we give him the return that he deserves. But towards Christ we do not preserve even this degree of right feeling. He laid down His life for us, and poured forth His precious Blood for our sakes, who were neither well-disposed nor good, while we do not pour out even our money for our own sakes, and neglect Him who died for us, when He is naked and a stranger; and who shall deliver us from the punishment that is to come? For suppose that it were not God that punishes, but that we punished ourselves; should we not give our vote against ourselves? Should we not sentence ourselves to the very fire of hell, for allowing Him who laid down His life for us, to pine with hunger? But why speak I of money? Had we ten thousand lives, ought we not to lay them all down for Him? And yet not even so could we do what His benefits deserve. For he who confers a benefit in the first instance, gives evident proof of his kindness, but he who has received one, whatever return he makes, he repays as a debt, and does not bestow as a favor; especially when he who did the first good turn was benefiting his enemies. And he who repays both bestows his gifts on a benefactor, and himself reaps their fruit besides. But not even this induces us; more foolish are we than any, putting golden necklaces about our servants and mules and horses, and neglecting our Lord who goes about naked, and passes from door to door, and ever stands at our outlets, and stretches forth His hands to us, but often regarding Him with unpitying eye; yet these very things He undergoes for our sake. Gladly does He hunger that you may be fed; naked does He go that He may provide for you the materials for a garment of incorruption, yet not even so do you give up any of your own. Some of your garments are moth-eaten, others are a load to your coffers, and a needless trouble to their possessors, while He who gave you these and all else that you possess goes naked.

But perhaps you do not lay them by in your coffers, but wear them and make yourself fine with them. And what gain you by this? Is it that the street people may see you? What then? They will not admire you who wearest such apparel, but the man who supplies garments to the needy; so if you desire to be admired, by clothing others, you will the rather get infinite applause. Then too God as well as man shall praise you; now none can praise, but all will grudge at you, seeing you with a body well arrayed, but having a neglected soul. So harlots have adornment, and their clothes are often more than usually expensive and splendid; but the adornment of the soul is with those only who live in virtue.

These things I say continually, and I will not cease to say them, not so much because I care for the poor, as because I care for your souls. For they will have some comfort, if not from you, yet from some other quarter; or even if they be not comforted, but perish by hunger, the harm to them will be no great matter. What did poverty and wasting by hunger injure Lazarus! But none can rescue you from hell, if you obtain not the help of the poor; we shall say to you what was said to the rich man, who was continually broiling, yet gained no comfort. God grant that none ever hear those words, but that all may go into the bosom of Abraham; by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Were Puritans So Dour?

Owen —  November 23, 2010 — Leave a comment

The Puritans

We’ve all been taught that the Puritans were a dark, dismal bunch.  Our teachers lied to us:

Contrary to popular impression, the Puritan was no ascetic.  If he continually warned against the vanity of the creatures as misused by fallen man, he never praised hair shirts or dry crusts.  He liked good food, good drink and homely comforts; and while he laughed at mosquitoes, he found it a real hardship to drink water when the beer ran out.

The Puritan Family:  Religion and Domestic Relations in 17th Century New England, Edmund Morgan.

John Owen

John Owen, probably the greatest Puritan theologian, would walk through Oxford ‘hair powdered, cambric band with large costly band strings, velvet jacket, breeches set round at knees with ribbons pointed, and Spanish leather boots with cambric tops.’

- The Unquenchable Flame:  Discovereing the Heart of the Reformation, Michael Reeves

Fail Not, Every Night, to Pass an Inquisition on Your Soul

Fail not, what employment soever you have, every night, as in the presence of God and His holy angels, to pass an inquisition on your soul, what ill it hath done, what good it has left undone; what slips, what fall, it has had that day; what temptations have prevailed upon it, and by what means or after what manner.

Ransack every corner of thy dark heart; and let not the least peccadillo, or kindness to a sin, lurk there; but bring it forth, bewail it, protest against it, detest it, and scourge it by a sever sorrow. Thus, each day’s breach between God and your soul being made up, with more quiet and sweet hope thou mayest dispose thyself to rest.

Certainly at last this inquisition, if steadily persued, will vanquish all customary sins, whatever they may be. I speak it upon this reason, because I presume thou wilt not have the face to appear before God every night confessing the same offense; and thou wilt forbear it, lest thou mayest seem to mock God, or despise Him, which is dreadful but to imagine.

-Alexander Whyte, The Duty of Prayer, p. 241

Thanks to 5 Pt. Salt for their post – “Why We Fail To Examine Our Hearts

Atheist Billboard in Chicago

Owen —  October 21, 2009 — Leave a comment
Atheist Billboard in Downtown Chicago

Atheist Billboard in Downtown Chicago

A billboard in the middle of downtown Chicago asks:

Are You Good Without God?

Millions Are.

The Chicago Coalition for Reason, who put the board up, describes themselves as:

An exciting group of organizations in the Chicago area, each of which celebrates a human-centered and naturalistic approach to life. For us, non-dogmatic and rational approaches to ethics, culture and the human experience are the most meaningful and satisfying.

As to the goals, the group thinks:

No reaction might be a good reaction.

“If Christians (or whomever) don’t react, that means atheism is becoming more acceptable in society. Which is great. If they do react, then what exactly are they opposed to?”

This is all part of the New Atheism, which is extremely evangelistic, and believes in proselytism more than most Christians I know – which ought to make us examine our zeal … or lack thereof. Though I have to admit, that my first reaction to the billboard isn’t shock. Most of the people I know and have grown up around are atheists, it isn’t exactly countercultural. Atheism has been the norm for a long time in the West.

A much more shocking billboard would be:

Do you know how much you need God?

HT: The Chicagoist

The Little Things

Whom Do You Fear?

Owen —  June 30, 2009 — Leave a comment

I hope, for her sake, that she doesn’t get trapped in a cycle of craving approval and fearing rejection. It’s a nasty spin cycle of confusion and hurt. Seeking approval from everyone in our orbit is akin to the nauseating dizziness a dancer experiences when she does not keep her eyes on one object as she twirls. Just as dancers are taught to spot, Christians are also taught by God’s Word to spot. The Bible tells us that we are to keep our eyes on the Lord and seek His approval only.

Being conscious of God’s approval or His displeasure is what the Bible calls “fear of the Lord.” It means to be in awe of, or to respect, more than merely to be afraid. Conversely, what we now call peer pressure, people-pleasing, or co-dependency is what the Bible calls “fear of man.” In a nutshell, the fear of man can either be a fear of what others think of us or will do to us, or a craving for approval and a fear of rejection.

via Whom Do You Fear? at Boundless.

The Bride Was Beautiful

Owen —  April 28, 2009 — Leave a comment

A Stunning Photo Spread:

Katie Kirkpatrick, 21, held off cancer to celebrate the happiest day of her life. Katie had chased cancer, once only to have it return-to clog her lungs and grab hold of her heart. Breathing was difficult now, she had to use oxygen. The pain in her back was so intense it broke through the morphine that was supposed to act as a shield. Her organs were shutting down but it would not stop her from marrying Nick Godwin, 23, who was in love with Katie since 11th grade.

Click to see the incredibly moving presentation.

NPPA: Best of Photojournalism 2006: Still Photography Winners: Enterprise picture story

Some footage of the Cathedral Christ the Savior being destroyed on Stalin’s command.  The cameraman who filmed it speaks about how he thought it was great blasphemy, but couldn’t refuse the order:

It’s hard to believe that when I was a child, in the early 1980s, it was still illegal in much of America to home school your children.  Apparently, it still is in Germany, and one couple is seeking refugee status:

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children, aged from three to 11, will appeal to a court on Thursday in Tennessee, where they fled after attempts by German police three years ago to force the family to obey the country’s laws which make school attendance compulsory.

When the Romeikes refused to comply with repeated orders to comply with the law, police came to their home and took the children, crying and upset, to school.

German family claim asylum in US over home schooling – Telegraph.

James 3: A Story

Owen —  March 13, 2009 — Leave a comment

A warning:

Clearly, there are more problems in that relationship than just getting to church on time. For tips on that practical matter, though a father of seven children has some tips.

A Boomer in the Pew

Owen —  March 2, 2009 — 1 Comment

A Boomer in the Pew is celebrating his one-year anniversary.  To do so, he’s employing an interesting turn on a tradition.  Instead of all his readers sending him a gift, he’s offering a gift to his readers:

One of you, my loyal “Boomer in the Pew” readers, is going to win this beautiful premium calfskin leather version of the new ESV Study Bible!

Boomer has some great posts, and explains why he started his blog a year ago:

My life has been primarily centered around building and selling a successful business.  Now I find myself in my early 50’s, semi-retired and asking myself lots of questions.

The first thing that I noticed, after selling my business, was that along with it went my “significance”.  I was shocked to find out how much of my self-worth was tied up in my ability to run a successful business.  Frankly, I was really more embarrassed.  I am certain that my Heavenly Father isn’t going to say “well done” for running a successful business.

In the business world I was able to rub shoulders with very successful people from all over the country.  I quickly learned that after the seminar was over,  the real talking started around the dinner table.  I gleaned that many successful business owners have been in such a pursuit of riches that they haven’t taken the time to see the HUGE hole that was in their hearts.  Behind them was left a trail of broken marriages, alcoholism, and great despair.

I also learned that my Christian diet consisted of oatmeal.  It is time for me to start eating “meat” so that I can have an impact in these peoples lives.  This is the desire of my heart.