Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Little" Sins

"Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines."
 - - - Song of Solomon 2:15

A little thorn may cause much suffering. A little cloud may hide the sun. Little foxes spoil the vines; and little sins do mischief to the tender heart. These little sins burrow in the soul, and make it so full of that which is hateful to Christ, that He will hold no comfortable fellowship and communion with us. A great sin cannot destroy a Christian, but a little sin can make him miserable. Jesus will not walk with His people unless they drive out every known sin. He says, "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." Some Christians very seldom enjoy their Saviour's presence. How is this? Surely it must be an affliction for a tender child to be separated from his father. Art thou a child of God, and yet satisfied to go on without seeing thy Father's face? What! thou the spouse of Christ, and yet content without His company! Surely, thou hast fallen into a sad state, for the chaste spouse of Christ mourns like a dove without her mate, when he has left her. Ask, then, the question, what has driven Christ from thee? He hides His face behind the wall of thy sins. That wall may be built up of little pebbles, as easily as of great stones. The sea is made of drops; the rocks are made of grains: and the sea which divides thee from Christ may be filled with the drops of thy little sins; and the rock which has well nigh wrecked thy ship, may have been made by the daily working of the coral insects of thy little sins. If thou wouldst live with Christ, and walk with Christ, and see Christ, and have fellowship with Christ, take heed of "the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." Jesus invites you to go with Him and take them. He will surely, like Samson, take the foxes at once and easily. Go with Him to the hunting.

- - - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Morning and Evening

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Muslim cleric: torture and kill homosexuals

As often happens, a very insignificant event is being blown out of all proportion in the public prints, but, in this case, is providing a striking example of at least three phenomena: hatred of Christianity, fear of Mohammedanism, and the utter hypocrisy of the media and "intelligentsia" throughout the West.

Recently, the pastor of a Baptist church in North Carolina, responding to the current President's ardent endorsement of "gay marriage," made some intemperate and foolish remarks, as sometimes happens among preachers and politicians when addressing controversial issues.  Although this insignificant little popinjay, who serves a church in a very small town, didn't quite descend to the depths of the execrable Fred Phelps, he did say the following:  "Build a great big large fence 50 or 100 miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. Have that fence electrified so they can't get out. You know what, in a few years, they'll die out. You know why? They can't reproduce."  Then, to make matters worse, either he or one of his congregants put his remarks on YouTube, where they have gone viral.

Before proceeding further, a bit of perspective: without making excuses for this jackanapes, two things must be noted, if fairness is a priority.  First of all, his comments were the product of his own imagination; he was not quoting the Bible, or any Baptist document.  Second, there are more Baptist churches in North Carolina than in any other state, save Texas: a conservative estimate would be over a thousand individual congregations, each with its own pastor. A "gay Christian" website lists ten or eleven Baptist churches in North Carolina as "gay affirming." So, judging Baptists, even North Carolina Baptists, by the rantings of one particular preacher would be unwise.  
Nevertheless, the Usual Suspects are in full cry, proclaiming this preacher's remarks a major league "hate crime." The American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have all weighed in, demanding an apology from the pastor, denouncing his "hate speech," and, for all I know, demanding that a really nasty bug be dropped down his shirt.  The Anti-Defamation League, at least, had enough discernment to say that the preacher's remarks were "incompatible with the tenets of his faith," rather than attacking Christianity per se
But here's where the hypocrisy comes in: the five-minute rant of this little man, in this little town, is being denounced as a major transgression against humanity and decency itself.  And yet, where were these same people, this same media, these same "concerned citizens," when an Islamic cleric, five years ago, was saying on television that homosexuals should be tortured to death?  The following video is unintentionally amusing in spots, but the man is in deadly earnest: and, unlike the preacher in North Carolina, he quotes Islamic scripture to justify his views:

There's a double standard, obviously, although this is nothing new.  If Christians are true to the teachings of the Bible, they regard homosexual acts as sinful, just as illicit heterosexual acts are sinful.  But this is intolerable, coming from Christians, because Christianity itself is intolerable in this theophobic world.  If a Christian takes a stand against "gay rights" or "gay marriage," the homosexuals become hysterical (the word is carefully chosen), the media goes berserk, and senile movie stars rip pages out of Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms. 
But if A Muslim proposes torture and execution for homosexuals ... not a peep.  Not a whisper.   
It's almost as though someone were afraid of the followers of "the religion of peace" .... but surely that can't be, can it?

And they call Christians hypocrites!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Anatomy of Repentance, Part IV

David, the King of Israel, has committed adultery, treachery, and murder.  He's taken advantage of his position as King to seduce the wife of one of his most loyal and brave commanders, and then contrived to have the man "accidentally" killed in battle - - - so that he could have the man's wife, Bathsheba, for his own.  And now, months later, what's David doing?  He's waiting for God to repent!

This is the fourth installment in our series on repentance.  In our first post, we discussed the "mechanics" of repentance, as described in James 4:7-10; in the second, we saw that genuine repentance involves, not just the things we do, but what we are.  The third post discussed the difference between true and false repentance, and the dangers of self-deception. But now we come to a question that has been a subject of bafflement and controversy to Jewish and Christian theologians for many centuries: namely, does God Himself ever repent?  Don't worry: I'm no theologian, and you're probably not either, so we're going to treat the matter as practically as possible, avoiding speculation and flights of fancy, and simply look at what the Bible itself says.  

We won't be able to answer all the questions, because God has chosen to conceal certain things from us; but we'll see what the Bible says about the main question.  And, to spare you any suspense, I'll say in advance that the answer is clear: Yes, God does sometimes "repent" - - - provided we understand what repentance means in the first place.

First, however, we need to explain that opening paragraph, and put David's hopes for God's repentance in context.  After all, David is described in both the Old and New Testaments as "a man after God's own heart" (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), and despite his sins of adultery and murder, he pleased God all his life.  So, why was he waiting for God to "repent?"  Repent of what?  Not of any sin, that's for sure.  It was something else.

After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and contrived to have her husband, Uriah, killed, he thought that he had gotten away with it.  Nobody (probably including Bathsheba) knew what he had done to Uriah; the nation of Israel regarded Uriah as another casualty of war.  David took Bathsheba as his wife, and she conceived (probably from their initial encounter).  But David's sins, though hidden from men, were known to God, and God sent his prophet, Nathan, to confront him.  (The story of David's sin is found in 2 Samuel 11:1-17; his meeting with Nathan, and its aftermath, is found in 2 Samuel 12.)  Nathan told him of God's displeasure with his sin, and the terrible consequences that would follow.  And, to his credit, David himself repented, sincerely and humbly, giving us a picture of repentance that has seldom, if ever, been equalled: Psalm 51, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.  David's heart was truly broken by his own wicked acts, and he was genuinely contrite.

But Nathan had told him in advance one of the consequences of his sin:  And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die (2 Samuel 12:13-14).

As related in 2 Samuel 12, when the baby became ill, David prayed and fasted and begged God to spare him.  He did this even though God has told him, through the prophet Nathan, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. God had declared His intentions with terrible clarity: the baby would surely die, period, no appeals.  David believed God; as a lad, he had believed him enough to challenge Goliath, and slay him.  But now, he was hoping that God would repent of the judgment He had pronounced: that God would change His mind.  As we saw in our first post in this series, that's the first part of repentance.

Does that seem far-fetched?  David spelled it out.  When he received word of the baby's death, he quit weeping, washed his face, and resumed his life.  His servants were astonished:  Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me (2 Samuel 12:21-23).  He was hoping that God would change his mind.  (The final verse in that passage, by the way, is one of the Biblical proofs that infants who die go to be with the Lord, regardless of what any church teaches: David knew that he'd see his child in Heaven.)  And David, who knew the character and nature of God, was justified in his hopes, even if they didn't come true. 
David knew that God could and would repent, in almost every sense of the word, because he knew God, and what God had done in the past.  And we see God changing His mind, and His actions, throughout the Old Testament. That's the essence of repentance, as we saw in our first post. 

As human beings, we rebel against this concept, because it seems to violate our concept of God.  In the first place, we know that God is omniscient, and knows everything; so why would circumstances or events cause Him to change His mind, as though He were caught by surprise?  Also, we know God to be a Being of pure goodness; so how could He "repent," as a sinner repents of some sin?

The latter objection is the easier to explain.  God repents; and you and I repent.  (We were originally made in His Image, after all; there are plenty of similarities.)  The difference is simple: when you and I repent, it's because we've done something wrong.  God never does anything wrong; "he hath done all things well" (Mark 7:37).  When God repents, or changes His mind, it's either a reflection of His nature (as we'll see), or it's because of actions done by others, who have free will (as we'll see).

Before going any further, we need to deal with a specific verse of scripture, which some would say disproves everything we're discussing.  Folks who haven't studied the Bible as a whole, but merely know a few scattered verses, will quote Numbers 23:19: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? If that's the only verse you know on the subject, then obviously it appears that God doesn't repent.  Sounds pretty definite, doesn't it?  But this is an example of the Bible interpreting itself, without the aid of Greek and Hebrew "scholars" who, like a Philadelphia lawyer, can explain things any way you want them explained. The first two clauses define each other: that he should lie and that he should repent express a similar concept.  By using the very clear word "lie," the Bible is telling us what "repent" means in this case.  (Theologians refer to this Hebrew literary device as a "hendiades," or "one meaning through two." You see it a lot in the Psalms and other Wisdom books. Try to stay awake; that's as technical as we're gonna get.) This is, to my knowledge, the only time that the Bible equates repenting with lying, and it is an unusual use of the word; but that's what the verse is saying.  It's not saying that God doesn't repent; it's saying that He doesn't lie.  It's important to look at this verse, because it's often trotted out by skeptics as an example of the "contradictions" in the Bible.  But if one understands how the Bible is written, there's no contradiction at all. 

The first time the Bible tells us of God's repentance (and we're not planning to go through all the examples; just a few), is in Genesis 6.  God, seeing that mankind has become unimaginably, indescribably corrupt, "repents:" And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them (Genesis 6:5-7).  What follows is Noah's flood. So, in this passage, is God "repenting" of sin, like you and I are called upon to do?  Of course not. Is He "changing His mind" about something, because events have caught Him off-guard?  No, but He is certainly responding to events that He knew would happen.  (He allowed them to happen, because He gave us free will, and will not violate it.)  Once again, however, we have an example of the Bible interpreting itself: in Gen. 6:6, repentance is equated with grief, and perhaps regret.  It grieved God that He had created mankind.  This matter of allowing the Bible to interpret itself is of prime importance, and if you read carefully, you'll see it all the time.  In Numbers 23, repentance is equated with lying; in Genesis 6, it's equated with grieving.  Of course God knew that mankind would become so terribly wicked; but it still hurt Him, and grieved Him, when it came to pass. 
Usually, however, when God "repents" in the Bible, it is very advantageous to His creatures; His repentance is in the direction of mercy, not justice, as in Genesis 6.  (Even there, He didn't utterly destroy the race; He saved Noah and his family.)  He pronounces a curse or judgment on a people, and then repents, changes His mind, and doesn't bring the judgment to pass.  (This is what David was hoping for, as his baby son lay dying.) We can see both sides of God's repentance in Jeremiah 18:6-10: O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them. In either case, is God repenting of sin?  No, He's simply exercising His divine prerogative of changing His mind - - - a prerogative that He has shared with us.  Does anyone think that a mortal man or woman can change their mind, but that God can't?  Is the creature more powerful than the Creator?  
The classic example of God's "merciful repentance" is that of the city of Nineveh.  In the book of Jonah, God sends the prophet to make an explicit, ironclad pronouncement to the evil inhabitants of that city: Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown (Jonah 3:4).  No "escape clause," no "unless," no doubt: in forty days, God intended to destroy the city.  But having heard this message, the heathen Ninevites, who wouldn't know the Mosaic Law from a copy of TV Guide, took the message to heart; and, although God had not commanded them to repent, they repented anyway: So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not (Jonah 3:5-10).  (Notice the Ninevites' immediate reaction: they "believed God."  That's always the first step in human repentance.) God changed His mind, repented, and spared Nineveh: a perfect example of the principle stated in Jeremiah 18. The wicked pagans of Nineveh understood God's character and nature better than most 21st century "theologians," be they Catholic, Baptist, or Protestant. 


This principle is reiterated in Jeremiah 26:13, when the prophet is speaking God's words to the lying "prophets" of Judah: Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. Someone says, "Why does it keep referring to God repenting of 'evil?' Were His original plans really bad, or wicked?"  That's a legitimate question, but it's easily answered; in the context, such verses mean "evil" as something disastrous or deadly, not morally bad.  When afflicted, our affliction usually appears "evil."  God's goodness is not in question.  And, to repeat an earlier point: in the vast majority of cases, God's repentance usually involves mercy, and forgiveness: He's usually repenting of a judgment He'd already pronounced.  Someone might quibble, saying "Then why did He pronounce it in the first place?"  There are perfectly good reasons, but as for myself, I'm just thankful that His tendency has been towards mercy.  I'll take as much of that as I can get, no questions asked! 
The bottom line is that yes, God does repent, probably much more often than we suspect.  There are other examples in the Bible, and undoubtedly through history - - - and your own life, and mine.  But it's a different kind of repentance than ours.  God changes His mind, and changes His course of action: in that, His repentance is like ours.  But we repent when we've sinned; God never sins.  
And David? God took the life of his child ... but then gave him and Bathsheba another child, named Solomon.  God heard Psalm 51, and forgave David.  He is remembered as Israel's greatest King, and when Jesus returns to earth, He will sit on David's throne, in Jerusalem.  But God didn't take a "tolerant" view of David's sins.  Even in describing David's greatness, God put a qualifier: David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5).
How does this all this relate to you and me?  Very personally.  We're sinners, both by nature and by choice.  And God has pronounced His judgment on sin in no uncertain terms: The soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:20). For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:17-18).  If you haven't received Jesus Christ personally, by an act of the will, according to John 1:12, then you're under just as much condemnation as the ancient Ninevites.  But, in your case, God's repentance takes a different form: because He's already provided you with a choice: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31).
Theology is complicated.  It's frustrating.  And, for most normal people, it's impossibly boring.  But getting saved, receiving Christ, and escaping God's judgment, is so simple that a child can do it.  If you haven't done this, then lay the theology aside, and take advantage of the wonderful grace that God made available by sacrificing His own Son in your place.  Nothing you can do today is more important. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Happy Jerusalem Day!

Beginning this Saturday, May 19, at sundown, Israel marks Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day – the commemoration of the Holy City's miraculous liberation during 1967's Six Day War.

It is one of the most compelling stories in Israel's history. In 1967, Egypt blocked the straits of Tiran, putting a stranglehold on shipping in and out of Israel's crucially important southern port, Eilat. The combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon were poised for attack on the borders of the tiny Jewish state.

Israel was presented with a sobering choice: Wait to be invaded, or fight back in self-defense. Knowing that her very existence was in peril, she chose the latter course. The resulting battle, the Six Day War, ended in a stunning victory for Israel that led to the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli rule.

But why was Jerusalem divided in the first place? We must remember that even after the formation of the state of Israel, the fate of Jerusalem was still very much in question. In the war that followed Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, Jordan seized control of and annexed the eastern part of the city, including the Old City.

In its thousands of years of existence, Jerusalem had never been divided, and this division was crippling to the city and the life of its residents. Upon the capture of East Jerusalem by Arab forces, the Jewish quarter of the Old City was destroyed and its residents expelled. Scores of synagogues were likewise destroyed, and the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated. Jews were denied access to their holy sites, including the Western Wall, the holiest in all Judaism. Christians’ access to their holy sites in the Old City was severely restricted. Jordanian snipers perched on the walls of the Old City fired at will upon Israelis across the armistice line.

And what does Jerusalem look like today, now that the city has been united for 45 years under Israeli rule? The contrast is stark. It’s a bustling, at times chaotic city, brimming over with activity and commerce. It’s a place where religious freedom is written into law and respected in practice, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims live together and are free to worship according to their beliefs. It’s a city where ancient history is respected, but modern life is allowed to flourish; there is nowhere in the world that I know of where the balance between ancient and modern is as respected as it is in Jerusalem.
...June 7, 1967   
.....   ...
The psalmist wrote, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy” (Psalm 137:5-6). This is, to me, one of the most affecting passages of scripture, one that expresses beautifully, and with great poignancy, the longing of the Jewish people for their ancestral capital during millennia of exile. Today, along with Jewish people everywhere, I thank God that we have seen the day when that longing has been realized.

- - - Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
President, Stand for Israel

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"The Prodigal Son"

There was a time in the United States, before the Jacksons and the Kings and the Sharptons had utterly destroyed the African-American church, when some of the nation's greatest preachers, such as John Jasper, boldly proclaimed the word of God to their own people, in styles and cadences as distinctive as those of Dwight L. Moody or Billy Sunday.  In 1927, the famed black author James Weldon Johnson, having heard many of these men throughout his life, set some of their sermons down in verse form.  The result was Johnson's poetic masterpiece, God's Trombones.  For years, such "sermons in verse" as "The Creation" were included in American Literature textbooks, alongside Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.  Those days are gone now, but the whoredoms of the educational establishment, and the moral disintegration of the black church, should not prevent us from enjoying and drawing inspiration from these voices.  Here, from God's Trombones, is "The Prodigal Son."


Young man - - -
Young man - - -
Your arm's too short to box with God. 

But Jesus spake in a parable, and he said:
A certain man had two sons.
Jesus didn't give this man a name,
But his name is God Almighty.
And Jesus didn't call these sons by name,
But ev'ry young man,
Is one of these two sons.

And the younger son said to his father,
He said: Father, divide up the property,
And give me my portion now.
And the father, with tears in his eyes, said: Son,
Don't leave your father's house.
But the boy was stubborn in his head,
And haughty in his heart,
And he took his share of his father's goods,
And went into a far-off country.

There comes a time,
There comes a time
When ev'ry young man looks out from his father's house
Longing for that far-off country.

And the young man journeyed on his way,
And he said to himself as he travelled along:
This sure is an easy road,
Nothing like the rough furrows behind my father's plough.

Young man - - -
Young man - - -
Smooth and easy is the road
That leads to Hell and destruction.
Down grade all the way,
The farther you travel, the faster you go.
No need to trudge and sweat and toil,
Just slip and slide and slip and slide
Till you bang up against Hell's iron gate.

And the younger son kept travelling along,
Till at night-time he came to a city.
And the city was bright in the night-time like day,
The streets all crowded with people,
Brass bands and string bands a-playing,
And ev'rywhere the young man turned
There was singing and laughing and dancing.
And he stopped a passer-by and he said:
Tell me what city is this?
And the passer-by laughed and said: Don't you know?
This is Babylon, Babylon,
That great city of Babylon.
Come on, my friend, and go along with me.
And the young man joined the crowd.

Young man - - -
Young man - - -
You're never lonesome in Babylon.
You can always join a crowd in Babylon.
Young man - - -
Young man - - -
You can never be alone in Babylon,
Alone with your Jesus in Babylon.
You can never find a place, a lonesome place,
A lonesome place to go down on your knees,
And talk with your God, in Babylon.
You're always in a crowd in Babylon.

And the young man went with his new-found friend,
And bought himself some brand-new clothes,
And he spent his days in the drinking-dens,
Swallowing the fires of Hell.
And he spent his nights in the gambling-dens,
Throwing dice with the Devil for his soul.
And he met up with the women of Babylon.
Oh, the women of Babylon !
Dressed in yellow and purple and scarlet,
Loaded with rings and earrings and bracelets,
Their lips like honeycomb dripping with honey,
Perfumed and sweet-smelling like a jasmine flower;
And the jasmine smell of the Babylon women
Got in his nostrils and went to his head,
And he wasted his substance in riotous living,
In the evening, in the black and dark of night,
With the sweet-sinning women of Babylon.
And they stripped him of his money,
And they stripped him of his clothes,
And they left him broke and ragged
In the streets of Babylon.

Then the young man joined another crowd - - -
The beggars and lepers of Babylon.
And he went to feeding swine,
And he was hungrier than the hogs;
He got down on his belly in the mire and mud
And ate the husks with the hogs.
And not a hog was too low to turn up his nose
At the man in the mire of Babylon.

Then the young man came to himself - - -
He came to himself and said:
In my father's house are many mansions,
Ev'ry servant in his house has bread to eat,
Ev'ry servant in his house has a place to sleep;
I will arise and go to my father.

And his father saw him afar off,
And he ran up the road to meet him.
He put clean clothes upon his back,
And a golden chain around his neck,
He made a feast and killed the fatted calf,
And invited the neighbors in.

Oh-o-oh, sinner,
When you're mingling with the crowd in Babylon - - -
Drinking the wine of Babylon - - -
Running with the women of Babylon - - -
You forget about God, and you laugh at Death.
Today you've got the strength of a bull in your neck
And the strength of a bear in your arms,
But some o' these days, some o' these days,
You'll have a hand-to-hand struggle with bony Death,
And Death is bound to win.

Young man, come away from Babylon,
That Hell-border city of Babylon.
Leave the dancing and gambling of Babylon,
The wine and whiskey of Babylon,
The hot-mouthed women of Babylon;
Fall down on your knees,
And say in your heart:
I will arise and go to my Father.

(From God's Trombones [New York, 1927: The Viking Press].  Electronic copy available at  
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Documenting the American South Collection.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Come Close to Him

      "He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray, and as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering . . . they saw his glory."
  (Luke 9:29, 32)

      "If I have found grace in thy sight, show me thy glory."
(Exodus 33:13)
When Jesus took these three disciples up into that high mountain apart, He brought them into close communion with Himself. They saw no man but Jesus only; and it was good to be there. Heaven is not far from those who tarry on the mount with their Lord.
Who has not in moments of meditation and prayer caught a glimpse of opening gates? Who has not in the secret place of holy communion felt the rush of some white surging wave of emotion - - - a foretaste of the joy of the blessed?

The Master had times and places for quiet converse with His disciples, once on the peak of Hermon, but oftener on the sacred slopes of Olivet. Every Christian should have his Olivet. Most of us, especially in the cities and towns, live at high pressure. From early morning until bedtime we are exposed to the whirl. Amid all this maelstrom how little chance for quiet thought, for God's Word, for prayer and heart fellowship!
Daniel needed to have an Olivet in his chamber amid Babylon's roar and idolatries. Peter found his on a housetop in Joppa; and Martin Luther found his in the "upper room" at Wittenberg, which is still held sacred.
Dr. Joseph Parker once said: "If we do not get back to visions, peeps into heaven, consciousness of the higher glory and the larger life, we shall lose our religion; our altar will become a bare stone, unblessed by visitant from Heaven." Here is the world's need today--men who have seen their Lord. --The Lost Art of Meditation
Come close to Him! He may take you today up into the mountain top, for where He took Peter with his blundering, and James and John, those sons of thunder who again and again so utterly misunderstood their Master and His mission, there is no reason why He should not take you. So don't shut yourself out of it and say, "Ah, these wonderful visions and revelations of the Lord are for choice spirits!" They may be for you! --John McNeill

(From Streams in the Desert, Mrs. Charles Cowman, 1925)