Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, May 29, 2015

Swedenborg Was A Far-out Dude

That the Divine is the same in things greatest and least may be shown by means of heaven and by means of an angel there. The Divine in the whole heaven and the Divine in an angel is the same; therefore even the whole heaven may appear as one angel. So is it with the church, and with a man of the church. The greatest form receptive of the Divine is the whole heaven together with the whole church; the least is an angel of heaven and a man of the church. Sometimes an entire society of heaven has appeared to me as one angel-man; and it was told that it may appear like a man as large as a giant, or like a man as small as an infant; and this, because the Divine in things greatest and least is the same.

The Divine is also the same in the greatest and in the least of all created things that are not alive; for it is in all the good of their use.  These, moreover, are not alive for the reason that they are not forms of life but forms of uses; and the form varies according to the excellence of the use. But how the Divine is in these things will be stated in what follows, where creation is treated of.

Put away space, and deny the possibility of a vacuum, and then think of Divine Love and of Divine Wisdom as being Essence itself, space having been put away and a vacuum denied. Then think according to space; and you will perceive that the Divine, in the greatest and in the least things of space, is the same; for in essence abstracted from space there is neither great nor small, but only the same.

Something shall now be said about vacuum. I once heard angels talking with Newton about vacuum, and saying that they could not tolerate the idea of a vacuum as being nothing, for the reason that in their world which is spiritual, and which is within or above the spaces and times of the natural world, they equally feel, think, are affected, love, will, breathe, yea, speak and act, which would be utterly impossible in a vacuum which is nothing, since nothing is nothing, and of nothing not anything can be affirmed. Newton said that he now knew that the Divine, which is Being itself, fills all things, and that to him the idea of nothing as applied to vacuum is horrible, because that idea is destructive of all things; and he exhorts those who talk with him about vacuum to guard against the idea of nothing, comparing it to a swoon, because in nothing no real activity of mind is possible.  -- Angelic Wisdom Concerning the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom -- Emanuel Swedenborg, paragraphs 77 through 82.

That was clearly some potent pipeweed.  Weirdness aside, there are some interesting ideas buried here and there.  Swedenborg reminds me a little of Blake but perhaps more self-indulgent.  He's not on the level with MOTT over all, and I'm not convinced it's worth the sifting, but sometimes I skim for things that grab me.

Space is one of those things.  It is cannot be nothing.  Swedenborg has good kung fu here, "Put away space ... think of Divine Love and of Divine Wisdom as being Essence itself ...".  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

He Called Disciples

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. -- 1 Corinthians 9:27

Paul was not a complacent Christian.  Leading up to this verse, he compares our life in Christ to a race in the Olympic Games and to a wrestling match or boxing match. 

You have to play by the rules:   Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? (Matthew 7:21-22) Not everyone who enters the race will finish. 

We know from Philippians 3:12 that the Apostle did not claim to have attained perfection.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Every day there are new challenges.  We struggle; we stumble; we start again.  A little further on in his First Epistle to the Church at Corinth, Paul says, “I die every day!” (1 Corinthians 15:31)

There is no place for complacency in our walk, but there is also no place for discouragement or despair.  Like Paul, like the Lord Himself, our lives have to be marked by humility and meekness.  We are what we are by God’s grace.  He calls us ever “further up and further in”, and there are times when the way is steep.  The undisciplined – like me – we’ll need all the help we can get.  I struggle with pride and smugness, too -- which seems contradictory, but some of us are prone to over-steering.  

Perhaps I am apathetic about the hard things and overly impressed with how well I do on the easy things.  In any case, I need to be on guard, watching, praying, calling myself out, and refusing to jump to my own defense if someone else calls me out.  When I come to the end, I’d like to be able to say, or have it said of me, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).  With that I would be content.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What the Net Dragged In

 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.  When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.  So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous -- Matthew 13:47-49

This little parable follows after the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and its explanation.  It is related, for, as the weeds are separated out at harvest and burned, so the undesirable fish are cast away. They are not thrown back.  Those aren’t the fish the fisherman wants reproducing. 

I was reading Herman Ridderbos’ comments in his book The Coming of the Kingdom.  He discusses the question of why the tares could not be separated before the wheat was harvested.  When you think about it a little, this is the question that troubles a multitude of those in the valley of decision, as Joel says.  Why do we have to wait for the wicked to be removed from among us?  Why does God work only at the end of history?  The atheist’s answer is that, obviously, there is no God, and we are living in a delusion. 

The promoters of evolution ought to understand this better than anyone -- except for the fact that they reject the idea of the cosmos and existence having any meaning at all.  What we believe is that nature is very much part of the language of God and part of His revelation.  As we know from observing nature, if a predator is removed from the environment, the ecosystem is thrown out of balance.  There is overpopulation of the prey species and food sources are depleted to the point, in some cases, of irreversible destruction. 

If that is part of God’s revelation then we can see, as Jesus is teaching in these parables, that there is a balance to be maintained in the development of the kingdom.  There will come a point when the kingdom is perfected, when it is matured to a degree that allows us to move into an entirely new realm of existence.  This is depicted in the parables as the time of harvest, of the drawing in of the net.  When that Omega point is reached, the balance that has been part of our maturation process will no longer be necessary, and those influences will be removed while the righteous are brought in to their ultimate purpose and destiny. 

The answer that we give to the problem of evil will never be good enough for some of those who pose the question.  There are times, when I am battered and down, that it sounds pretty hollow to me.  I understand. The elk need the wolves as much as the wolves need the elk, yet it doesn’t make the kill any less painful or gruesome for the creature caught by the fangs.  I don’t know if elk have some sort of animal understanding of the interplay between themselves and their adversaries.  Perhaps they have something that gives them peace when it is their time to go down.  

 I do know that we have access to the wisdom of God.  A person may choose to live an animalistic, materialistic life.  He doesn’t have to.  The truth is all around us.  No one has to be a weed or a bottom-feeding scavenger, but even they, blindly, serve the ends of the kingdom.     

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pictures From Memorial Day

This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. -- Exodus 12:14

I have talked about Ova Kelley before.  He was killed in the Philippines at Leyte in World War II.  The Wikipedia link has the citation for his Medal of Honor.

His remains were brought home and buried in the little cemetery by Oak Grove Freewill Baptist Church a few miles north of Norwood, Missouri on Highway E.

You can click to get a better look.

I rode by here yesterday and stopped just to see.  I suppose I expected something more elaborate.  Most of the graves are behind me as I took the picture.  It was nearing midday, so the shadows are short, and we are looking a little north of east.

This is our country.

World War II isn't the only conflict represented on this hilltop.

I left this place and rode on to meet my daughter at my wife's grave.  I had been to decorate at the graveyard where my in-laws are buried.  I went to where my wife's grandparents are buried as well.  Everywhere there are those who are neglected because families are too diminished or distant.  I don't need to worry about the graves of my parents or grandparents.  There are still a lot of us close by.  It will probably be another generation or two, perhaps longer, before we are too dispersed in time and space to place our little marks of remembrance on stone and earth.  

The truth is that these markers are for those of us left behind.  We are the ones who need to be reminded of what this life is about, of its impermanence and its brevity.  It is our currency.  We cannot hoard it.  It must be spent.  Spend wisely.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

With the Morning

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  -- Psalms 30:5

Jesus spoke of the mother who forgets the pain of giving birth in the joy of receiving her child.  The writer of Hebrews speaks of, “… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). 

If we go back to the book of Nehemiah, we read of those who returned to Jerusalem from their long exile.  When they were instructed in the law, their eyes were opened to how they had fallen short of the Lord’s requirements, and they were grieved.  They began to weep (Nehemiah 8:9-10).

Sorrow isn’t a pleasant, but godly sorrow is healthy.  One of the dangers of continuing certain habits and being continuously exposed to even depictions of wickedness and lawlessness is that we tend to become desensitized.  This is sometimes thought of as “hardening” when, a lot of times, it is more simply ignoring.  The Spirit of God must break the shell of indifference and resignation more often than actual hardened evil.  The result, though, in either case, is that our hearts are grieved by the presence of that which is displeasing to God. 

At some point, however, we must set aside the anguish and the pain and begin to experience the joy of the Lord.  We are forgiven.   To stay too long in sorrow is to risk developing self-pity:    And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.  Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Whether our grief comes from conviction or from suffering and loss and the daily trials of life, the Lord does not want us to be overwhelmed or overburdened by it.  We may weep through the night for we are, after all, creatures of flesh, and we see not well in the dark.  The dawn arrives to break through our darkness.  Hope can again be seen. 

Though there I times I have trouble believing it, morning always comes. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Threading the Needle

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. -- Philippians 1:21

The words Paul uses are related to money and profit.  It you have sufficient capital you can live on the interest.  The greatest riches imaginable are ours in Christ.  Here is capital to provide a more than sufficient living, an abundant living.  

It also works if we turn it around and recognize that while we live in this world, it is we who belong to Christ as His servants over whom He rules but also for whom He obligates Himself to provide and for whom He cares.

The second part of the Apostle’s thought is perhaps even more compelling.  The carnally minded have invested everything in this world and this life.  Death, to the worldling, may be seen as an implacable enemy to be held off and frustrated as long as possible.  It means the loss of all that is familiar, comfortable, and hopeful. 

As Christians the truth is that we not only lose nothing when our time here ends, we gain because we are no longer receiving merely our stipend or our living but our full inheritance of and in Christ.  You can think about someone who has set up a trust for his heirs.  Their access is limited until they are of a specified age, perhaps 18 or 25, after which they have full access.  They gain by passing that milestone.   

On the one hand the carnal mind considers the trials, pains, losses, and sufferings of life against the darkness of death and recoils.  After all, as the Preacher said, a living dog is better than a dead lion (Ecclesiastes 9:4), and to cling to the known, however desperate and grim, is better than the black leap into oblivion.  On the other hand, life without hope can become an unbearable burden and the prospect of any kind of surcease is embraced.  Thus the natural man must sail carefully between Scylla and Charybdis. 

The contrast is that, instead of a choice between the lesser of two evils, the Christian is “caught” between goods:  the joys of life in Christ on earth with all of its hope and adventure, and the perfection of glory, the fulfillment of all hope when we see the Lord face to face.  Passing through the door of death, at the Lord’s call, we leave all temptation, sorrow, grief and pain behind us.  We have duties and callings and purpose while we are here.  When those are done, like the faithful workman at day’s end, we receive our reward and our rest.