The raising of Lazarus by Ambrose
Why did Jesus call Lazarus by name – “Lazarus, come out” (JOhn 11:42)- when He raised him from the dead? Some way, following Ambrose, replied, ‘If Christ had not called Lazarus by name, He would have emptied the whole graveyard,” But indeed, so He has.
“The Lord … raised not Lazarus alone but the faith of everyone. If you believe what you read, your spirit also, which was dead, revives with Lazarus. For what does it mean that the Lord went to the sepulchre and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out’ except that He wouldd give us a visible proof and set out an example of the future resurrection? Why did He cry with a loud voice, as though He were not accustomed to work in the Spirit and to command in silence? He did this only that He might show that which is written: ‘In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet … we shall be raised’ (1 Corinthians 15:52). The raising of the voice answers to the sound of trumpets. And He cried, ‘Lazarus, come out,’ Why is the name added, except that one might seem to be raised instead of another, or that the resurrection were rather accidental than commanded? …
…When the power of the divine command was working, nature did not reguire its own functions; brought, as it were, into extremity, it obeyed no longer its own path but the divine will. The bonds of death were burst before those of the grave. The power of moving was exercised before the means of moving were yet supplied.
‘If you are amazed by this, consider who gave the command, so that yo might cease to wonder; Jesus Christ, the power of God, the life, the light, the resurrection of the dead. The power Himself raised him who was lying prostrate, the life Himself produced his steps, the light Himself drove away the darkness and restored his sight, and the -resurrection Himself renewed the gift of life’ (Ambrose, “On the Death of Satyarus, 2. 77-79) quoted in “A Year with the Church Fathers” p 65 edited by Scott Murray
The Adventures Ahead on the New Earth
Randy Alcorn / March 01, 2023
At 2:30 a.m., on November 19, 2002, I stood on our deck gazing up at the night sky. Above me was the Leonid meteor shower, the finest display of celestial fireworks until the year 2096. For someone who has enjoyed meteor showers since he was a kid, this was the celestial event of a lifetime.
There was only one problem: clouds covered the Oregon sky. Of the hundreds of streaking meteors above me, I couldn’t see a single one. I felt like a blind man being told, “You’re missing the most beautiful sunset of your lifetime. You’ll never be able to see another like it.”
Was I disappointed? Sure. After searching in vain for small cracks in the cloud cover, I went inside and wrote these paragraphs. I’m disappointed, but not disillusioned. Why? Because I did not miss the celestial event of my lifetime.
My lifetime is forever. My residence will be a new universe, with far more spectacular celestial wonders, and I’ll have the ability to look through the clouds or rise above them.
During a spectacular meteor shower a few years earlier, I had stood on our deck watching a clear sky. Part of the fun was hearing oohs and aahs in the distance, from neighbors looking upward. Multiply these oohs and aahs by ten thousand times ten thousand, and it’ll suggest our thunderous response to what our Father will do in the new heavens as we look upward from the New Earth.
Imagine sitting around campfires on the New Earth, wide-eyed at the adventures recounted. Yes, I mean telling real stories around real campfires. Why not? After all, friendship, camaraderie, laughter, stories, and cozy campfires are all good gifts from God.
On the New Earth we may experience adventures that make our current mountain climbs, surfing, skydiving, and upside-down roller coaster rides seem tame. Why do I say this? It’s more than wishful thinking. It’s an argument from design. We take pleasure in exhilarating experiences not because of sin but because God wired us this way. We weren’t made to sit all day in dark rooms, watching actors pretend to live and athletes do what we can’t.
In Heaven, we will be able to do as we wish and go where we wish, never wondering if our wishes are wrong!
Want to see the crossing of the Red Sea? Want to be there when Daniel’s three friends emerge from the fiery furnace? It would be simple for God to open the door to the past. Because God is not limited by time, He may choose to show us past events as if they were presently happening. We may be able to study history from a front-row seat.
Think of friends or family members who loved Jesus and are with Him now. Picture them with you, walking together in this place. All of you have powerful bodies, stronger than those of an Olympic decathlete. You are laughing, playing, talking, and reminiscing. Now you see someone coming toward you. It’s Jesus, with a big smile on his face. You fall to your knees in worship. He pulls you up and embraces you.
At last, you’re with the person you were made for, in the place you were made for. Everywhere you go, there will be new people to meet, including Charles Spurgeon and his friends Charles Stanford and Hugh Stowell Brown. As the author of Hebrews wrote, “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (11:13-16, NLT).
There will be new places to enjoy, new things to discover. What’s that delicious aroma? A feast? A party’s ahead. And you’re invited.
Here are some further thoughts about our coming adventures on the New Earth:
In the glimpses afforded of [Jesus’] life beyond resurrection we find . . . freedoms even further enhanced. At the physical level he can appear, disappear and then reappear at will (cf. John 20:19, 26; Luke 24:15, 31, 36, 51); at the moral and spiritual level there is a freedom from the awful burden of responsibility for the completion of his mission; at the relational level there is a new freedom to indwell and personally identify with all who belong to him. Such is the promise of the heavenly life—an existence of boundless freedoms.
Bruce Milne, The Message of Heaven and Hell
We are partly “Heaven-blind” because the worldview our culture has adopted has made it hard to see supernatural colors.
Daniel Brown, What the Bible Reveals about Heaven
Their souls being on fire with holy love, shall not be like a fire pent up, but like a flame uncovered and at liberty. Their spirits, being winged with love, shall have no weight upon them to hinder their flight. There shall be no lack of strength or activity, nor any lack of words with which to praise the Object of their affection. Nothing shall hinder them from communing with God, and praising and serving Him just as their love inclines them to do.
Jonathan Edwards, Heaven: A World of Love
If it brings glory to God and increases our knowledge of Him, you will indeed be able to engage in some form of time travel.
Larry Dick, A Taste of Heaven
We want to serve God more, but we have to sleep. We want to pray and study the Bible, but we grow weary. In Heaven, bodies will do whatever we want them to do. We will possess boundless energy with which to serve God.
Steven J. Lawson, Heaven Help Us!
Actually, we will do many of the same things in Heaven that we did here on the earth—just perfectly.
Steven J. Lawson, Heaven Help Us!
This voice of joy [in Heaven] is not like our old complaints, our impatient groans and sighs; nor this melodious praise like the scoffs and revilings, or the oaths and curses which we heard on earth. This body is not like that we had, nor this soul like the soul we had, nor this life like the life we lived. We have changed our place and state, our clothes and thoughts, our looks, language and company.
Before, a saint was weak and despised; so proud and peevish we could often scarce discern his graces; but now, how glorious is a saint! …Happy union! Now the Gospel shall no more be dishonored through our folly.
Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest
I haven’t been cheated out of being a complete person—I’m just going through a forty-year delay, and God is with me even through that. Being “glorified”—I know the meaning of that now. It’s the time, after my death here, when I’ll be on my feet dancing.
Joni Eareckson Tada
If Jesus’ resurrected body is a clue, along with accounts of angels appearing to a host of other biblical worthies, I surmise that we will transport ourselves not only across but also through space—and with what by earth standards would seem incredible speed. Anyone who has envied a hawk’s ability to soar or a whale’s to dive can get enthusiastic about heavenly release from present limitations of mobility.
Arthur Roberts, Exploring Heaven
These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else—since He has retained His own charger— should we accompany Him?
C. S. Lewis, Miracles
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
Throughout eternity we will live full, truly human lives, exploring and managing God’s creation to his glory. Fascinating vistas will unfold before us as we learn to serve God in a renewed universe.
Edward Donnelly, Biblical Teaching on the Doctrines of Heaven and Hell
There will be new planets to develop, new principles to discover, new joys to experience. Every moment of eternity will be an adventure of discovery.
Ray C. Stedman, “The City of Glory”
Browse more resources on the topic of Heaven, and see Randy’s related books, including Heaven.
Photo by Tom Gainor on Unsplash
How we are brought to Jesus
We do not “choose” Jesus, He choses us. It is so pretentious to think that we have anything in us to presume that we could “choose” Jesus. The following is quoted in “A Year with the Church Fathers” by Scott Murray he is quoting St Augustine in the following pp 52-53.
“When Jesus invites us to come to Him He is not talking about a long journey but about one that is instantaneous. When we believe in Him, we have already come and arrived at the port of our destination. It is not a long and perilous journey as ancient travel was.
We are embarking on a conveyance that means that the price has been paid. Our ship of salvation is none other than the ship of the cross, upon which the Lord directs us to the ultimate safe haven of His love and salvation. All that is hard has been expiated through the cross, on which we now travel in the care of the crucified. The journey means that we are already there. We can only arrive in Christ. If we believe, we are there.”
Augustine: “…Christ said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father’ (John 6:65). Now as to where the Lord said this, if we call to mind the previous words of the Gospel, we shall find that He said, ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44) He did not lead, but He draws. This violence is done to the heart, not to the body. Why then do you marvel? Believe, and you come. Love, and you are drawn. Do not suppose here any rough and uneasy violence. It is gentle; it is sweet. It is the very sweetness that draws you. Is not a hungry sheep drawn when fresh grass is shown to it? Yet I imagine that it is not bodily driven on but fast bound by desire. In such a way you, too, come to Christ.
…But inasmuch as even in this kind of voyage, waves and tempests of many trials abound, believe on the Crucified One, so that your faith may be able to ascend the wood of the cross. You will not sink, but you shall rather be borne upon the wood. Thus, even thus, amid the waves of the world did [Paul] sail, who said, ‘But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14)
Prayer of repentance Psalm 51
Psalm 51 is a powerful prayer for obtaining the Lord’s forgiveness and healing. As we pray this psalm, we can stand before God guilty but unafraid. As we make this prayer of David our own, we are disposing ourselves to receive an abundance of our loving Father’s mercy and compassion.
“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guild and of my sin cleanse me.”
Jesus came into the world as our Savior and Redeemer. As we appeal to his mercy and compassion, Jesus is pleased because we are acknowledging him for what he wants to be most – Redeemer and healer.
Our attitude also bespeaks our openness to the transformation he wants to effect within us.
With the tax collector, let us pray: ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13)
David Rosage “Rejoice in Me” p 79
Great Insights into stewardship Abby Perry “Something’s got to give” How Holiday Generosity can ease your stress and increase your joy” Christianity Today Dec 2022 pp 80-85
…A OnePoll survey found that 88 percent of Americans feel that the holidays are the most stressful time of the year. Seventy-seven percent find it difficult to relax during the season that purports to be a time of joy and celebration, and well over half use the word ‘chaotic’ to describe the holiday season.
Financial concerns and others’ expectations top the list of holiday stressors for most Americans. Yet by the time November comes around, most households have piles of fundraising letters from ministries and nonprofits that grow each day. Already stretched by the number of gifts they need to purchase and dinners they need to host, some feel as though adding philanthropic giving to their December to do list is simply one task – and one hit to the bank account – too many…
…when Christians think of themselves as merely as potential donors, they see their financial contributions as an act of ‘giving away’ of resources.’ There’s no ongoing relationship with the organization or sense of investment. But the team at Maclellan says that a ‘steward-investor’ concept invites deeper engagement between giver and organization…
…Rather than experiencing them as yet another obligation or guilt inducing to do item, a steward investor mindset invites Christians to think wisely and intentionally about which ministries or organizations to support, as well as what it might look like to give generously and with a sense of lasting impact…
…The experts at Stewardship Legacy Coaching recommend taking inventory of one’s finances at the end of each year, looking for places where stewardship could be increased and more intentional giving could be practiced…
…The thought of giving at the end of the year may seem stressful or anxiety inducing, but research shows that generosity actually improves mental health in several ways. Scientists at the University of Oregon have conducted scans that show the pleasure-related reward centers activating when people decide to donate money to a cause they believe to be good. Additionally, participants in a joint study from the University of Lubeck, Northwestern University and University of Zurich who pledged to spend money on others over the next four weeks exhibited brain activity while making that decision that predicted an increase in their happiness.
Giving also has positive effects on hormones and other neurological functions. For example, donating releases oxytocin, the hormone that is most often associate with feelings of love and connection to others. Individuals also experience the release of serotonin, the mood stabilizing hormone, when they give, as well as dopamine, the feel good transmitter.
Between activating the brain’s reward center and initiating the release of positive hormones, acts of generosity can become habit forming as givers want to repeatedly experience those positive feelings. Such a routine is a win-win for all involved: organizations can count on regular support from a reliable giver, and the giver enjoys less stress and increased happiness during a busy time of year.
In addition to the brain boost, people who give report higher life satisfaction than those who do not, and, according to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley, generosity is associated with workplace benefits, such as a lower risk of job burnout. In an era rife with mental health struggles and skyrocketing rates of mental illness acts of generosity can lessen depression and produce a sense of meaning and purpose.
Generous behaviors also seem to reveal connections between mental and physical health. For example, giving is linked to physiological benefits like lower blood pressure and successful recovery from coronary related health events. Researchers at the University of Michigan have even found that generosity seems to increase one’s lifespan: Individuals who did not provide support to others were more than twice as likely to die in the next five years than people who gave support.
And, perhaps most fitting for all of the holiday campaigns funneling through our mailboxes and inboxes, Jill Foley Turner at the National Christian Foundation shares research from the American Psychological Association that indicates generous people have a higher likelihood of experiencing the feeling of awe or wonder. These givers ae likely to feel small, but not in a negative way – instead, in the way that one might feel small beholding a starlit night sky or the ocean as it meets the horizon. In other words, when people give, they are invited to remember who they are in light of an immense God and to participate however they can in reflecting His goodness. What better time to reflect on our smallness than the Christmas season, when we celebrate the arrival of God as an infant: tiny and infinite at once…
…SRG managing partner Paul Schultheis and fellow members note that giving collaboratively has several positive outcomes for the givers. These benefits include a stronger approach to vetting organizations, the opportunity to take on large projects, and a variety of gifts and skills brought to the table by a diverse group of donors. Collaborative giving allows people of various financial means and availability to join together in making a difference – perhaps one person can write a large check while someone else has the time in their schedule to serve as a liaison with the designated ministry…
… Parents can help their children research organizations and choose one to support, for example, or participate in an endeavor like the Salvation Army Angel Tree, which provides Christmas gifts to children who otherwise may not receive any…
…’whoever sows generously will also reap generously’ (2Cor 9:6), giving during the Christmas season is a powerful way for believers to experience the goodness of God while simultaneously ushering it into the lives of others. As the angels brought tidings of great joy at the birth of Christ, so can we bring tidings of great joy to organizations and ministries carrying out God’s work in the world and to our own hearts, as well.”
The presumption of the secular to try and subdue the Church Karl F Fabrizilus “An Epistle in Time of Confession” Gottesdienst Michaelmas 2021 Vol 29 Nu 3 2021:3 pp 16-18The presumption of the secular to try and subdue the Church
…should rightfully not trust in the pseudo gods of medicine or ‘science’. ‘Science’ has become a god for many who think it has the ultimate answer. Rather than seeing science as the pursuit of knowledge, they want it to be the source of all absolute truth. However, the scientific method is only the pursuit of hypotheses. Many of the ‘truths’ it has uncovered have later failed to pass the test of actual data (evolution, global warming or climate change, green energy, etc) Science should follow the data, not self-proclaimed experts…To a world of fear and fear-mongers, we confess that God came in the flesh to be killed in our place and raised up on the cross in the ugliest of deaths that we might know the wrath of God has been satisfied by the atoning death of the Son of God…
…Let us remember what a god is. It is someone or something that we trust in for the good in our lives. During the last year it became clear that our life, that is our bodies and our own wellbeing, has become our greatest idol. This is nothing new, but the way so many Christians and Christian churches fell victim to this idol was stunning and tragic. Men have feared temporal death more than the reality of eternal death. Do we no longer believe that we are born in sin? (Gen 3: 17-19, Ps 14: 1-3, 51:5; Rom 3:21-25) and deserve eternal punishment (Rom 3: 2: 5-11, 6:23)? Do we no longer believe that Christ came in the flesh? His Incarnation (Jn 1:14) meant that He breathed the germ laden air around him in the filth of Judea and Galilee. He touched unclean things and was touched by people who were disease ridden … He looked upon men and had compassion… He calls us to take up the cross, that is, to suffer with Him in this age until we receive eternal life in the age to come…
We were hounded by the social distancing and mask commandments of this new god. Do this and live, we were told, but nothing could be further from the truth. These two new ‘commandments of men’ became the excuse for breaking the Third Commandment. People were told that through close contact they would kill people. Did not God say, ‘It is not good that man should be alone and How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…? Did we no longer understand the story of Elijah’s loneliness where he is renewed by being fed by God and goes in the strength of that food for forty days…? Do we no longer believe the words the Holy Spirit taught us to confess through David, ‘I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’ Are we not to encourage one another all the more as we see the Day approaching…? We are the Body of Christ… and we need one another. The devil is always attacking that Body, and he is smiling about his accomplishments during this last year. But our hope is in Christ alone and the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, … When we gather in the house of the Lord, we confess that we are dust and to dust we must return… but God has breathed life into these lumps of clay to bring us from death to life… God feeds us with the food far better than manna or the food given to Elijah. At the altar we eat and drink the flesh and blood of the crucified Son of God who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. This is the Tree of Life, the bread of heaven, by which we are strengthened throughout our journey through this wilderness of sin and death, not just for forty days or forty years. This is the medicine of immortality that is more powerful than any vaccine or medical treatment of this world, for it is strengthening our bodies for eternal life. These who have been reborn in Holy Baptism need the milk of the Word in preaching and the solid food of the Supper … Yet, many have trusted in themselves rather than the gracious gifts of God, the Sacraments of the Church given to save body and soul from eternal death. The Spirit of the Lord cries out, ‘Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful’…
…Our gathering as the Body of Christ is the ultimate confession of our faith in the Incarnate Lord. We gather before the altar and God comes to us uncovered in the preaching of His Word, the water of Baptism, and the gift of the flesh and blood of the Christ who died and rose for us. The Church should not be the place of mask wearing, but the place where in every sense we confess that this is the Body of the Risen Lord and death cannot harm us. In love, I may give people the option of doing as their conscience dictates, but I have a responsibility to call all of us to repent (yes, the non mask wearers also grow arrogant) and confess that our life is only in Christ. This results in an outward confession of faith in the Resurrection. We have already died in the waters of Baptism and been raised to life, God has killed us to make us alive. Can I be silent about such dangers?
How different this is from the masks that are designed to hide the God-given identity. It marks all men as our enemy, those who might kill us. If we are to fear we might kill each other, will we ever return to the faithful clean conscience before God without the mask? Yet, God has not ordained masks. They are a creation of man. It is even admitted by those who want them required that they do not necessarily work to prevent the virus. As such, society presents us with the mask as a false god to trust in to ‘save lives’. Masks have become an idolatrous, ‘sacramental practice’ for many, that is, an outward sign that identifies them as virtuous and carries with is the promise of being delivered from death….. Some of the best hymns about the good and gracious will of God were written in times of plague, death and uncertainty (LSB 713, 724, 743, 760) Is God no longer good? Surely, we must all repent of the weakness of our faith.
…We have slipped into the misguided idea that we must obey the government at all times, but this means we have forgotten that the governing authorities do not have authority over the church and its practices. Remember that the early church was an illegal religion that is, that they were not permitted to worship openly until the Edict of Milan in February of 313 AD. Yet they came together to hear the Gospel preached and received the Blessed Sacrament. Many were jailed and even put to death because they would not deny the faith (Ignatius and Polycarp). They followed the example of those in the Old Testament: Isaiah who was sawn in half, the three men in the fiery furnace … and Daniel… The New Testament testifies of Stephen … and James … and we are aware of the beheading of Paul and the upside down crucifixion of Peter… At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther was hidden from the authorities who sought to kill him. Christians defied the authorities who told them to cease and desist worshiping at the time of the Magdeburg Confession. Governing authorities have their limits in regard to Christian faith and the practices of the Church, (I will not address constitutional matters here.) Can the government order Christians to wear masks n Christian worship? Absolutely not. Notice that in some states they ordered that Communion not be celebrated. In fact, the mask issue led many to refrain from the Sacrament for months. Christians churches were far too complacent in allowing the government to make the decisions for them.
The Fifth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Commandments are closely related in this particular issue. As there is no conclusive, factual evidence that we are saving lives by using masks, we must be careful not to say we are saving lives by wearing masks or social distancing. I have personally seen the damage this time of social distancing, lockdowns, and refusal to allow hugs, kisses and even social interaction at meals has done to family members. Have more people been killed by ‘protecting’ them or by COVID?… Many were also forced to delay cancer treatments, heart surgeries and other conditions to ‘protect’ people. Evidence indicates that some of these people have died. Did we kill them? The isolation of elderly and young people has led to a surge in suicide as many doctors warned, but all we hear is COVID. Don’t our children need physical contact and in person instruction? But we, our governing authorities and teachers’ unions, have stolen that from them. The governing authorities are driven by good intentions, but not by facts. I am reminded of this quotation of C S Lewis, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.’ Lockdowns have destroyed our neighbors’ businesses, ripped apart their families, left many unemployed and all of it was done, so we are told, for our good. Are we not to speak up in defense of our neighbor?…
…our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. In a world that promotes fear, let us boldly proclaim life that comes to those who have died with Christ and have been raised with Him.”
John Chrysostom despite opposition continued to serve Christ
…Prayer: As bishop of the great congregations of Antioch and Constantinople, he fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and fidelity in ministering Your Word that Your people shall be partakers of the divine nature; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit one God, now and forever.
Given the added name Chrysostom, which means ‘golden-mouthed’ in Greek, St John was a dominant force in the fourth century Christian Church…John was instructed in the Christian faith by his pious mother, Anthusa… His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his hometown. In Ad 398, John Chrysostom was made patriarch of Constantinople. His determination to reform the church, court, and city brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until the time of his death in AD 407. It is reported that his final words were ‘Glory be to God for all things! Ament.’
John Chrysostom never stopped preaching and writing, even when he was deposed as patriarch of Constantinople. Such proclamation was to lead people to become a sacrifice in God’s presence (Rom15:16). By proclaiming the Gospel to us, our pastors are the priests who offer believers to our Father. Their office is to proclaim the Gospel of God. Like the apostle Paul, the proclaimers are not seeking their own honor but the praise of the Word of God and its gracious giver. Their only tool in this priestly work is the ‘knife of the Gospel,’ as Chrysostom puts it, but it is God’s Gospel and so is entirely suited to the task. No wonder Chrysostom kept preaching and writing to keep aflame the fire of the Spirit.
‘[Paul] lifts his discourse, not speaking of mere service as in the beginning but of service and priestly ministry. To me this is priesthood; this is preaching and declaring. This is the sacrifice I bring. Now no one will find fault with a priest for being concerned about offering the sacrifice without blemish. He says this at once to lift their thoughts and show them that they are a sacrifice, and in defense for his own part in the matter, because he was appointed to this office. It is as though he were saying. ‘My knife is the Gospel, the word of preaching. The cause is not that I may be glorified, not that I may appear conspicuous , but ‘that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 15:16); that is that those souls taught by me may be accepted. It was not so much to honor me that God led me to this point as it was out of concern for you,
‘How are they to become acceptable? In the Holy Spirit. There is need not only of faith but also of a spiritual way of life, so that we may keep the Spirit that was given once for all. It is not wood and fire, nor altar and knife, but the Spirit that is all in us. For this reason, I take all means to prevent that fire from being extinguished, as I have been also commanded to do.
Why then do you speak to those that need it not? This is just the reason why I do not teach you, but put you in mind.’ he replies. ‘As the priest stands by stirring up the fire, so I do, arousing your ready mindedness'” (John Chrysostom, “Homilies on Romans, 29)
Scott Murray “A Year with the Church Fathers” p 28
Chuck Swindoll “Of Parrots and Eagles” in “Come before Winter”, pp 83-85
“…Content to sit safely on our evangelical perches and repeat in repad fire falsetto our religious words, we are fast becoming over populated with bright colored birds having soft bellies, big beaks and little heads. What would help to balance thing out would be a lot more keen eyed, wide winged creatures willing to soar out and up, exploring the illimitable ranges of the kingdom of God … willing to return with a brief report on their findings before they leave the nest again for another fascinating adventure.
Parrot people are much different than eagle thinkers. They like to stay in the same cage, pick over the same pan full of seeds and listen to the same words over and over again until they can say them with ease. They like company, too. Lots of attention a scratch here, a snuggle there and they’ll stay for years right on the same perch. You and I can’t remember the last time we saw one fly. Parrots like the predictable, the secure, the strokes they get from their mutual admiration society.
Not eagles. There’s not a predicable pinion in their wings. They think. They love to think. They are driven with this inner surge to search, to discover, to learn. And that means they’re courageous, tough minded, willing to ask the hard questions as they bypass the routing in vigorous pursuit of the truth. The whole truth. ‘The deep things of God’ – fresh from the Himalayan heights, where the thin air makes thoughts pure and clear, rather than tired, worn distillations of man. And unlike the intellectually impoverished parrot, eagles take risks getting their food because they hate anything that comes from a small dish of picked over seeds … it’s boring, dull, repetitious, and dry.
Although rare, eagles are not completely extinct in the historic skies of the church. Thomas Aquinas was one, as were Augustine and Bunyan, …
…Who are those wh forge out creative ways of communicating the truths of Scripture … so that it’s more than a hodge podge of borrowed thoughts, rehearsals of the obvious which tend to paralyze the critical faculties of active minds?
Eagles are independent thinkers.
It’s not that they abandon the orthodox faith or question the authority of God’s inerrant Word … it’s simply that they are weary of being told, ‘ Stay on the perch and repeat after me.’ Eagles have built in perspective, a sensitivity that leaves room for fresh input that hasn’t been glazed by overuse…
I find myself agreeing with Philip Yancey, who admits:…
…Christian books are normally written from a perspective outside the tunnel. The author’s viewpoint is already so flooded with light that he forgets the blank darkness inside the tunnel where many of his readers are journeying. To someone in the middle the mile long tunnel, descriptions of blinding light can seem unreal.
When I pick up many Christian books, I get the same sensation as when I read the last page of a novel first. I know where it’s going before I start. We desperately need authors with the skill to portray evolving viewpoints and points of progression along the spiritual journey as accurately and sensitively as they show the light outside the tunnel.
Yancey is saying we need ‘eagle writers’ who come to their task with the abandonment of that keen minded Jew from Tarsus. If you need an illustration, read Romans. Like a careful midwife, Paul assists in the birth of doctrine, allowing it to breathe and scream, stretch and grow, as God the Creator designed it to do. And he isn’t afraid to say it for the first time, using a whole new vocabulary and style that is as original as it is accurate. There’s not as much as a parrot feather on one page of that one of a kind letter.
So then, which will it be? If you like being a parrot, stay put. But if you’re an eagle at heart, what are you doing on that perch? Do you have any idea how greatly you’re needed to soar and explore? Do you realize how out of place you are inside that cage? Even though others may not tell you, eagles look pretty silly stuck on a perch picking over a tasteless pile of dried seeds.
I’ve never heard anybody ask, ‘Eagle want a cracker?’
Critical thinking, how we can start teaching this to young people
There is a lot in Scientific American magazine that I find very helpful. When they stick to genuine science I get much benefit. It does seem to be rather vulnerable to “pop-science” and trying to influence for such discredited organizations as BLM, “woke theory”.
As a Christian pastor I’m often told that there are areas that I’m not welcome to discuss. Yet someone such a group as Scientific American can make baseless assertions about issues that it’s kind of obvious they are trying to make a political statement on, well, that’s ok.
I am going to quote at length an article in the February 2022 issue pp 38-40, that I think is very discerning on the issue of “critical thinking” and especially as it applies to younger adolescents. This article was written by Melinda Wenner Moyer. I am quoting kind of subjectively.
“The researchers also found that less than 20 percent of high schoolers seriously questioned spurious claims in social media, such as a Facebook post that said images of strange=looking flowers, supposedly near the site of a nuclear power plant accident in Japan, proved that dangerous radiation levels persisted in the area. When college students in the survey looked at a Twitter post touting a poll favoring gun control, more than two thirds failed to note that the liberal antigun groups behind the poll could have influenced the data.
Disinformation campaigns often directly go after young users, steering them toward misleading content. A 2018 Wall Street Journal investigation found that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which offers personalized suggestions about what users should watch next, is skewed to recommend videos that are more extreme and far-fetched than what the viewer started with. For instance, when researchers searched for videos using the phrase ‘lunar eclipse’ they were steered toward a video suggesting that Earth is flat. YouTube is one of the most popular social media sites among teens: After Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Information and Library Science, spent time searching for videos on YouTube and observed what the algorithm told her to watch next, she suggested that is was ‘one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.’
One tool that schools can use to deal with this problem is called media literacy education. The idea is to teach kids how to evaluate and think critically about the messages they receive and to recognize falsehoods masquerading as truth. ..”
“…A growing number of students are being taught some form of media literacy in college, but that is ‘way, way too late to begin this kind of instruction, says Howard Schneider, executive director of the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University. When he began teaching college students years ago, he found that ‘they came with tremendous deficits, and they were already falling into very bad habits.'”
“…there are very few data showing the best way to teach children how to tell fact from fiction.”
“Most media literacy approaches ‘begin to look thin when you ask, ‘Can you show me the evidence?’ says Sam Wineburg, a professor of education at Stanford University… There are factions of educational researchers behind each method, says Renee Hobbs, director of the Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, and ‘each group goes out of its way to diss the other.’ These approaches have not been compared head to head and some have only small studies supporting them. Like online media sources themselves, it is hard to know which ones to trust…”
“…Schneider’s Stony Brook program and the nonprofit, Washington, D.C. based News Literacy Project, teach students to discern the quality of the information in part by learning how responsible journalism works…”
“Yet some media literacy scholars doubt the efficacy of these approaches. Hobbs, for instance wrote a 2010 paper arguing that these methods glorify journalism, ignore its many problems and do little to instill critical thinking skills. ‘All that focus on the ideals of journalism is mere propaganda if it is blind to the realities of contemporary journalism, where partisan politics and smear fests are the surest way to build audiences,’ she stated.”
“Other approaches teach students methods for evaluating the credibility of news and information sources, in part by determining the goals and incentives of those sources. They teach students to ask: Who created the content and why? And what do other sources say? But these methods are relatively new and have not been widely studied…”
…”Mihailidis and his team interviewed the heads of all major organizations that are part of the National Media Literacy Alliance, which works to promote media literacy education. “We are finding, repeatedly, that many of the ways in which they support schools and teachers – resources, guidelines, best practices, etcetera – are not studied in much of a rigorous fashion.’ he says…”
…Working with the Poynter Institute and the Local Media Association and with support from Google.org (a charity founded by the media giant”), Wineburg and his team have created a civic online reasoning course that teaches students to evaluate information by reading laterally. The effects so far look promising. In a field experiment involving 40.000 high school students in urban public health districts, Wineburg and his group found that students who took the class became better able to evaluate web sites and the credibility of online claims, such as FaceBook posts, compared with students who did not take the class…”
…According to educational psychologist William Perry of Harvard University, students go through various stages of learning. First children are black-and-white thinkers – they think there are right answers and wrong answers. They then develop into relativists, realizing that knowledge can be contextual. This stage can be dangerous, however. It is the one where, as Russell notes, people can come to believe there is no truth. Ashley adds that when students think everything is a lie, they also think there is no point in engaging with difficult topics.
With news literacy education, the goal is to get students to the next level, ‘to that place where you can start to see and appreciate the fact that the world is messy, and that’s okay,’ Ashley says. ‘You have these fundamental approaches to gathering knowledge that you can accept, but you still value uncertainty, and you value ongoing debates about how the world works.’ Instead of driving students to apathy, the goal is to steer them toward awareness and engagement…'”
Hope in Christ our only hope
Our faith in Christ is certainly in the hope that He gives us. Not just in this life, where we know He is present with us. Our hope is in the eternal life of the resurrection. This is when our life is genuine, when we are given “life and life more abundant” as Jesus promises us, that is our hope and promise.
David Rosage writes: “…Hope is the source of our happiness, peace and joy. A little spark of hope is enkindled and fanned into a mighty conflagration as we strive to put on the image of Jesus by living the Gospel message. St Paul’s advice is certainly direct: ‘Acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth.” (Eoh 4: 23-24) “Rejoice in Me” pg 46