05 July 2015

Slavery abolished

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 40, sermon number 2,371, "Freedom at once and for ever."
"You have been the slave of sin long enough; you need not be sin’s slave any longer."

Christ has not come to work out for you a deliverance which will take hours, days, weeks, or months to complete; he has come to knock your fetters off with a single stroke, and to set you free at once. If his gracious power is manifested in this assembly, the former slave of sin will go out of the Tabernacle door free; not half-free, with one or two of his fetters broken, there shall be for him immediate liberty.

It does not take any time to work in the human heart the great change which is called regeneration. There may be a great many things going before it and coming after it which take up much time; but to pass from death to life is the work of an instant. It must be so. If a man is dead, and he is made alive, there can be no interval between the state of death and the state of life. There must be a second in which the transition takes place.

When a blind man’s eyes are opened, it may be that he does not see for some time very clearly; but there is an instant in which the first beam of light enters the eye, and falls upon the retina, and in which the eye become conscious of the power of light.

So, in a moment, while I am speaking, the Lord can save you. In an instant, ye slaves of sin and Satan, he can make you free! It is the immediate abolition of slavery that I have to proclaim to you.

03 July 2015

Gurnall on the "heroic impulse," and how it is not a good thing

by Dan Phillips

[I have been reading (and tweeting) Gurnall's classic, CHRISTIAN IN COMPLETE ARMOUR, reading the Logos edition. It's a great and rich book, based on Paul's section on the spiritual war and the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Its strength is not so much in its exposition of that passage as in Gurnall's wide-ranging, instructive, and admonitory treatment of Christian living.

[In this section he is riffing on Paul's command to "stand" (Eph. 6:14), developing it by unfolding and by contrast. Specifically at this point he's been warning of the dangers of leaving the place God has given you. I reproduce this subsection whole and unedited, except for breaking it up into paragraphs, and added bolding.

[I think you will see a lot of personal application, as well as a lot of warning that applies to boastful, chest-beating, big-talking celebrity pastors — and to those simply unwilling to take on the yoke of discipleship, submit to qualified elders and local church ministry, be taught and corrected, demanding instead to be the biggest frog in the pond.]

It is an erratic spirit, that usually carries men out of their place and calling. I confess there is an heroicus impetus, an impulse which some of the servants of God have had from heaven, to do things extraordinary, as we read in Scripture of Moses, Gideon, Phineas, and others.

But it is dangerous to pretend to the like, and unlawful to expect such immediate commissions from Heaven now, when he issueth them out in a more ordinary way, and gives rules for the same in his word; we may as well expect to be taught extraordinarily, without using the ordinary means, as to be called so. When I see any miraculously gifted, as the prophets and apostles, then I shall think the immediate calling they pretend to is authentic. To be sure, we find in the word, extraordinary calling and extraordinary teaching go together.

Well, let us see what that erratic spirit is which carries many out of their place and calling. It is not always the same; sometimes it is idleness. Firstmen neglect what they should do, and then are easily persuaded to meddle with what they have nothing to do. The apostle intimates this plainly, 1 Tim. 5:13: ‘They learn to be idle, wandering from house to house, and not only idle, but busybodies.’ An idle person is a gadder; he hath his foot on the threshold, easily drawn from his own place, and as soon into another’s diocese. He is at leisure to hear the devil’s chat. He that will not serve God in his own place, the devil, rather than he shall stand out, will send him of his errand, and get him to put his sickle into another’s corn.

Secondlyit is pride and discontent that makes persons go out of their place; some men are in this very unhappy, their spirits are too big and haughty for the place God hath set them in. Their calling, may be, is mean and low, but their spirits high and towering; and whereas they should labour to bring their hearts to their condition, they project how they may bring their condition to their proud hearts. They think themselves very unhappy while they are shut up in such strait limits; (indeed the whole world is too narrow a walk for a proud heart, Æstuat infœlix angusto limite mundi; the world was but a little ease to Alexander;) shall they be hid in a crowd, lie in an obscure corner, and die before they let the world know their worth? No, they cannot brook it, and therefore they must get on the stage, and put forth themselves one way or other.

 It was not the priests’ work that Korah and his accomplices were so in love with, but the priests’ honour which attended the work; this they desired to share, and liked not to see others run away with it from them; nor was it the zeal that Absalom had to do justice, which made his teeth water so after his father’s crown, though this must silver over his ambition. These places of church and state are such fair flowers, that proud spirits in all ages have been ambitious to have them set in their own garden, though they never thrive so well as in their proper soil.

In a third it is unbeliefthis made Uzzah stretch forth his hand unadvisedly to stay the ark that shook, which being not a Levite he was not to touch. See Numb. 4:15. Alas! good man, it was his faith shook more dangerously than the ark; by fearing the fall of this, he fell to the ground himself. God needs not our sin to shore up his glory, truth, or church.

Lastly, in some it is misinformed zealmany think they may do a thing because they can do it. They can preach, and therefore they may; wherefore else have they gifts? Certainly the gifts of the saints need not be lost any of them, though they be not laid out in the minister’s work. The private Christian hath a large field wherein he may be serviceable to his brethren; he need not break the hedge which God hath set, and thereby occasion such disorder as we see to be the consequence of this. We read in the Jewish law, Exod. 22, that he who set a hedge on fire, and that fire burnt the corn standing in a field, was to make restitution, though he only fired the hedge, perhaps not intending to hurt the corn; and the reason was, because his firing the hedge was an occasion of the corn’s being burnt, though he meant it not.

I dare not say, that every private Christian who hath in these times taken upon him the minister’s work, did intend to make such a combustion in the church as hath been, and still sadly is among us. God forbid I should think so! But, O that I could clear them from being accessory to it, in that they have fired the hedge which God hath set between the minister’s calling and people’s. If we will acknowledge the ministry a particular office in the church of Christ,—and this I think the word will compel us to do,—then we must also confess it is not any one’s work, though never so able, except called to the office. There are many in a kingdom to be found, that could do the prince’s errand, it is like, as well as his ambassador, but none takes the place but he that is sent, and can shew his letters credential.

Those that are not sent and commissionated by God’s call for ministerial work, they may speak truths as well as they that are; yet of him that acts by virtue of his calling, we may say that he preacheth with authority, and not like those that can shew no commission but what the opinion themselves have of their own abilities gives them. Dost thou like the minister’s work? Why shouldst thou not desire the office, that thou mayest do the work acceptably? Thou dost find thyself gifted, as thou thinkest, for the work, but were not the church more fit to judge so than thyself? And if thou shouldst be found so by them appointed for the trial, who would not give thee the right hand of fellowship?

There are not so many labourers in Christ’s field, but thy help, if able, would be accepted; but as now thou actest, thou bringest thyself into suspicion in the thoughts of sober Christians, as he would justly do, who comes into the field, where his prince hath an army, and gives out he comes to do his sovereign service against the common enemy, yet stands by himself at the head of a troop he hath got together, and refuseth to take any commission from his prince’s officers, or join himself with them: I question whether the service such a one can perform, should he mean as he says, which is to be feared, would do so much good, as the distraction which this his carriage might cause in the army would do hurt

[William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 202–203.]

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01 July 2015

Something Dreadful

by F. X. Turk

As I take a summer vacation from my permanent hiatus, I want you to think about something with me for a moment.

"Hypochondriasis" was first diagnosed as we understand it today in the 19th century.  This debilitating condition is the result of an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical condition. An individual suffering from hypochondriasis is known as a hypochondriac. Hypochondriacs become unduly alarmed about any physical or psychological symptoms they detect, no matter how minor the symptom may be, and are convinced that they have, or are about to be diagnosed with, a serious illness. (thx, Wikipedia)

These people cannot be convinced that they are just fine no matter how many tests you run which demonstrate they are just like everyone else.  Science cannot dissuade them.  About 3% of all patients visiting their primary care physician have this problem.  The treatment, I am told, is the effort to help each patient find a better way to overcome the way his/her medically unexplained symptoms and illness concerns rule her/his life. Current research makes clear that this excessive worry can be helped by either appropriate medicine (targeting the anxiety) or targeted psychotherapy.

Diving deeper: the right treatment for this problem is not the one the patient would choose for himself or herself.  The problem is not the patient's body at all -- unless you count the state of anxiety in this person's brain over his or her perceived illness.  It would actually harm this person if we caved in to their false perception of a problem and treated them with the means they were demanding.  The right treatment is to approach their anxiety over the false self-diagnosis and resolve the problem that they are not sick no matter how sick they think they are.

This diagnosis and approach is one of those things that modern medicine simply accepts and works to treat as it presents itself -- in most cases.  But today there are some versions of this where the demands of the person with a perfectly healthy body but the feeling that something dreadful has happened have trumped the traditional medical diagnosis.  And in those cases, it doesn't matter how extreme the treatment the patient demands is: it must be rendered.  Drugs must be administered.  Every prosthesis must be added; every offending piece of flesh removed.  Organs with no functions must be implanted.  Organs in perfect health must be -ectomied. And if any of the treatments are refused, the person demanding treatment is somehow being violated, kept from a true form of self which would finally fulfill them.

That's pretty weird, right?

Now imagine a world where those people obtain the right to dictate to the rest of society what families look like and how children will be raised.

29 June 2015

SCOTUS: Spurgeon's Comments On The Ungodly Supremes

Spurgeon's comments applied to the Supreme Court's attempts to void the law of God; from Leviticus 5:17-18. 
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, "Sins of Ignorance," volume 23, sermon number 1,386.
"Conscience is differently enlightened in different men, and the ultimate appeal as to right and wrong cannot be to your half-blinded conscience or to mine." 

I might condemn what you allow and you would scarcely tolerate what I approve: we are, neither of us judges, but both culprits upon trial when we come under the law. The ultimate appeal will be to “Thus saith the Lord”—to the law itself, which is the only perfect standard by which the deeds and actions of men can be measured.

The law, from the supremacy into which this text lifts it, says to us, “You will not be excused because your conscience was unenlightened, nor because it was so perverse as to put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. My demands are the same in every jot and tittle, whatever your conscience may condemn or allow.”

Conscience has lost much of its sensitiveness through the Fall, and through our actual sins, but the law is not lowered to suit our perverted understanding. If we break the law, although our conscience may not blame us, or even inform us of the wrong, the deed is still recorded against us; we must bear our iniquity.

The law is also set above human opinion, for this man says, “You may do that,” and a second claims that he may do the other, but the law changes not according to man’s judgment and does not bend itself to the spirit of the age or the tastes of the period. It is the supreme judge, from whose infallible decision there is no appeal. Right is right though all condemn, and wrong is wrong though all approve. 

The law is the balance of the sanctuary, accurate to a hair, sensitive, even to the small dust of the balance. Opinions continually differ, but the law of God is one and invariable. According to the moral sensitiveness of a man will be his estimate of the act which he performs, but would you have the law of God vary according to man’s fickle judgment? If you would desire such a thing, God’s infinite wisdom forbids it.

The law is a fixed quantity, a settled standard, and if we fall short of it, though we know it not, yet are we guilty and must bear our iniquity unless an atonement be made. This exalts the law above the custom of nations and periods: for men are very wont to say, “It is true I did so and so, which I could not have defended in itself; but then, it is the way of the trade, other houses do so, general opinion and public consent have endorsed the custom; I do not therefore see how I can act differently from others, for if I did so, I should be very singular and should probably be a loser through my scrupulosity.”

Yes, but the customs of men are not the standard of right. Where they have been at first correct through strong Christian influence, the tendency is for them to deteriorate and sink below the proper standard. Habit, perpetuity and universality of wrong, at last enable men to call the false by the same name as the true, but there is no real change worked thereby: the customary wrong is still a wrong, the universal lie is still a falsehood.

God’s law is not changed: our Lord Jesus said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than one tittle of the law to fail.” The divine law overrides custom, tradition and opinion: these have no more effect upon the eternal standard than the fall of a leaf upon the stars of heaven. “If a man do any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he knew it not, yet is he guilty.”

All the customs in the world cannot make wrong right, and if everybody that ever lived from Adam down to this hour had done a wrong thing and declared it to be righteous, yet would it make no moral difference in the evil deed. A thousand ages of whitewashing cannot make a vice a virtue. God’s commands stand fast for ever, and he who breaketh it must bear his punishment. Thus you see that by the declaration of my text the law of God is enshrined in the place of reverence.

28 June 2015

Be glad!

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Morning and Evening, September 22, McDonald Publishers. 
"Be glad of heart, O believer, but take care that thy gladness has its spring in the Lord." 

Thou hast much cause for gladness in thy God, for thou canst sing with David, "God, my exceeding joy." Be glad that the Lord reigneth, that Jehovah is King! Rejoice that He sits upon the throne, and ruleth all things!

Every attribute of God should become a fresh ray in the sunlight of our gladness. That He is wise should make us glad, knowing as we do our own foolishness. That He is mighty, should cause us to rejoice who tremble at our weakness. That he is everlasting, should always be a theme of joy when we know that we wither as the grass. That He is unchanging, should perpetually yield us a song, since we change every hour.

That He is full of grace, that He is overflowing with it, and that this grace in covenant He has given to us; that it is ours to cleanse us, ours to keep us, ours to sanctify us, ours to perfect us, ours to bring us to glory—all this should tend to make us glad in Him.

This gladness in God is as a deep river; we have only as yet touched its brink, we know a little of its clear sweet, heavenly streams, but onward the depth is greater, and the current more impetuous in its joy.

The Christian feels that he may delight himself not only in what God is, but also in all that God has done in the past. The Psalms show us that God's people in olden times were wont to think much of God's actions, and to have a song concerning each of them. So let God's people now rehearse the deeds of the Lord!

Let them tell of His mighty acts, and "sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously." Nor let them ever cease to sing, for as new mercies flow to them day by day, so should their gladness in the Lord's loving acts in providence and in grace show itself in continued thanksgiving. Be glad ye children of Zion and rejoice in the Lord your God.

26 June 2015

Tweeting the Supreme Court's latest face-plant: forcing "gay" "marriage" on America

by Dan Phillips

So now we  know, if we didn't already, that the American Congress actually has 509 seats, given that the unelected tyrants sitting on the Supreme Court regard it as their job to create legislation and impose it on their subjects.

Through the day, I'll expand this post to include my tweets on the subject, along with other noteworthy additions.

First: this one I actually scheduled simply from my reading of Revelation, without a thought to the Supreme Court. Yet it was published after, and applies perfectly:


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25 June 2015

Disagreeing with Jesus

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in June 2011. Keying off of Matthew 19:23-30, Dan explained how a true disciple should respond when disagreeing with Jesus.

As usual, the comments are closed.
In Matthew 19:23-30, Peter claimed to have left everything to follow Jesus, and is now in effect asking Jesus whether it will have been worth it. The Lord graciously answers by telling Peter that he will be richly rewarded, and that the apostles will share in the earthly rule over the restored nation of Israel.

But I think Jesus gave the wrong answer. I think Jesus should have said instead, "And do you regret it, Peter? Am I the Messiah, or am I not? Am I what I say I am, or am I not? If I am not, then by all means, go back to your fish-flinging 9-5 and make the best of it you can. But if I am, what better thing do you have to do than to follow me? What better thing would anyone have to do?"

That's what I think Jesus should have said.  He was too indulgent of Peter. Instead of pointing to His own worth, He spoke of rewards. I think Jesus gave the wrong answer.

So, what does that mean?

Simple! It means I'm wrong. It means I blew the math. It means I have to change the way I think. It means I have to work it through again, until I get the right answer, and see it the way Jesus sees it.

Now, what did I just do? I just took something that happened in my mind in a minute tick of time, and slowed it down, spread it out, gave it a narrative. I took something that happened between my ears at some point in the past, known (before now) only to God, and displayed the process for you.

Why? I did it in the hopes of demonstrating how a disciple thinks, something I've touched on before (perhaps most notably HERE). If we read the Bible with our brains on, we all run into teachings and thoughts that initially hit us wrong, that offend us, that scandalize something in our customary way of thinking. The issue is: what do we do then?

First time a newly-saved man reads about sexual morality and fidelity in marriage, he may balk. Then when he reads about loving his wife as Christ loves the church, he may twitch again. Likewise, when a Christian woman reads about wifely submission, and God's blanket prohibition regarding women teaching or leading men in church, she may bristle. Or individual verses, or books in the Bible. Or the Bible's teaching on manhood or womanhood per se. Or the universal exaltation of a massive and powerful God over a bound and small man may threaten his cherished notions of man's libertarian freedom and sovereignty. Or the Bible's message about the value of the unborn, about keeping vows (including wedding vows), about creation and geohistory, about its own inerrancy and absolute authority, about eternal conscious punishment of the lost in Hell, about the absolute exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ, in a Biblically-defined Gospel with actual edges — well, old Adam may rise up and demand to have a word as if he were primus inter pares with God.

This is where real-live, actual, gritty, street-level discipleship either happens, or begins to collapse. To a man, we Christians claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Teacher. That being the case, we necessarily claim to believe that we have been entrusted with the Teacher's Guide. This will have an impact on our thinking, when we come to these forks in the road.

There are fundamentally two ways of handling such experiences, and only two:
  1. We change; or
  2. We try to change the Word.
Disciples take the former option. It involves taking up our cross and denying ourselves; it involves putting on the Lord Jesus, and making no provision for the willful passions of the flesh; it involves putting to death the deeds of the body, and being led by the Spirit in conformity to God's Word. It identifies these resentful, rebellious rumblings within as hostile, as the enemy. It targets them for destruction. It sees the world as enemy, not friend, and expects opposition, mocking, rejection, for the very fact that we live out the discipleship we profess, in every area of our lives.

And that way — alone — ends up right.