In the Light of Eternity

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Leonard Ravenhill died twenty-two years ago (1994). Without the advent of the internet, his memory would have remained cherished only without certain circles and his sermons traded on video cassette between a few church groups.

Thanks to Youtube, online sermon archives, audio recordings, and the new orthodox scholarship that is revitalising itself by drawing afresh from the forgotten orthodox wells of the past, Ravenhill is perhaps more widely known in 2016 than he was even during his lifetime. He deserves to be, for he addressed his mission to the Church at large, transcending denominations (most of which he predicted as far back as the 1980’s would diminish and utterly fail because their methods and motives had faded from true, biblical standards of Christianity).

Ravenhill identified himself as a classical Pentecostal, but he was not overly partial to Pentecostals. He repudiated modern Pentecostalism with its dramatics, lights, glitz, hand waving, “praise bands” and so forth. His was a Pentecostalism of the Holiness Movement from the 1920’s; a serious commitment to holiness, to prayer, to contemplation, to reverence, to awe at God, and to the word of God. This species of Pentecostalism is as far removed from the modern variant as a wise elder is removed from a callow adolescent.

One cannot listen to many of his sermons without coming to realise that Ravenhill had a deep abiding love for God and for the holiness of God. Both qualities are rare today, even among people who identify themselves as Christians.

His commitment to God was absolute. He was well-known to pray for six or more hours a day, often beginning at midnight and praying through the early hours of the morning. And his prayers were not trite. He exemplified the very essence of St. Peter’s call to be a “holy priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ“. Ravenhill’s prayers were indeed sacrifices of a spiritual sort. He prayed with tears, with groaning, and with energy. Like Paul, he “travailed as in birth” in the place of prayer in the hope of bringing Christ into the hearts and lives of others – primarily, a Church bound in its 20th century winter.

Prayer was the heart of his service and the cornerstone of his life in a way that is so sadly missing in the Church today. “No man rises above his prayer life”, Ravenhill was wont to say, “No man is greater than his prayer life”, which is certainly true. Moreover, his preaching reflected this depth of prayer. There was the atmosphere when he preached of the throne room of God. Crowds would come to listen to him. At the beginning of his sermons there would often be a frothy, carnival atmosphere among some visitors, but this quickly dissipated as his sermons progressed until people were made solemn and still.

Like his close friend A. W. Tozer, Ravenhill devoted a considerable part of his life to the study of men who had a deep connection with God and who had been involved in serious, meaningful revivals of Christianity. His attention was arrested by men of God who had poured out their entire life into the service of God, and he sought to do the same. His preaching was often ornamented with references to Whitfield, Booth, the Wesley brothers, to Ann Carmichael, and so on. In like fashion, he reflected deeply on the life of St. Paul, and the service of the prophets. Through it all, the motivating force in his life was to stand approved by the One he loved on the awesome Day of Judgement.

He lived his whole life – not merely a portion of it – in the “light of eternity”. Everything in his life was centred on the grandeur and majesty of the throne of Christ before which all men must stand. Indeed, in his office, a plaque was attached to the wall bearing a single word: “ETERNITY”. That was his daily preoccupation. That is what he strove toward.

Occasionally God raises up men upon whom he has bestowed a clarity of vision about the enormity of the life of the world to come, and gives such men to the Church. These servants of Christ burst through the membrane of our pretensions. They are impassioned with the glory of Christ; hungry for eternal blessing and divine closeness in a way that defies so many in our comfortable world of seemingly settled certainties. Such men provoke and sharpen. They are sent to bring holy fire to the cold hearts of their brethren. Leonard Ravenhill was one such man.

Of all his sermons, the one which has probably had the deepest impact is his sermon titled “The Judgement Seat of Christ”, which leaves one spellbound and sombre at the thought of Jesus Christ in judgement, of the great accounting of all things at the end of the ages, of every man’s work being tried by the pure and holy Son of God. It is an uncomfortable sermon and it seriously disturbs one’s own pretensions and self-righteousness, as all good preaching should. It is a sermon that savours of the incense of the heavenly realms, and one well worth listening to and contemplating seriously.

Oh that more men might see the awesomeness of coming judgement and the vastness of eternity. Oh that the Church might arise and embrace again its commission with fervour and with faith. Enough with the rubbish of politics and social commentary. Enough with grubbing about money and risk and investment. Time indeed, to get serious about our eternal destination – infinite hell, or infinite heaven.

There are a million roads into hell, but not a single road out.” – Leonard Ravenhill.

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The Building Blocks of Secular Tyranny

 

SHORT SYNOPSIS FOR THE TIME POOR: A detailed essay appearing in The Atlantic about speech-codes and the slide of college campuses into increased regulation of people’s behaviour, activities, and conversation.

 

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This article presents a very good analysis of the growing intolerance present on college campuses and the efforts by student groups to regulate both speech and conduct lest anyone should be “offended”. Hungry for control, anyone who does not submit to the demands of these groups is labelled racist, sexist, or bigoted (as chilling in modern parlance as the cry of “witch!” must once have been) and subject to incredible vilification. The article documents the careers trashed, the reputations permanently damaged, and the jobs lost for the sake of inadvertently causing “offence”.

It is tempting to dismiss this as madness isolated to the bubble-world of college campuses. However, this is a worldwide phenomenon. Although the article looks mostly at American college life, the same rush to control people is being replicated around the world with a number of notable examples of this behaviour recently arising at universities in the United Kingdom. Moreover, if history teaches us anything, it is that ideas that gain credence among the intellectual elites of a community eventually filter all the way through the social structure. That is why it is now possible to hear from the mouths of the most uneducated people the same pop-psychology theories that were current in the 1980’s and 1990’s. People who have scarcely read a book, who have hardly spent any meaningful time at study, and whose life has been a trajectory of criminality or poverty, somehow have acquired these ideas which they put into service to alleviate their culpability for their actions. Ideas which yesterday were the sole province of social sophisticates, today have become the mental furniture and worldview of many.

This new generation of political-correctness-on-steroids has developed a root-and-branch theory to support their efforts to control speech. They equivocate any exposure to challenging academic material with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is also the concept of trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and even Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder. All of this portends a new era in human interactions that will not end at the boundary fence of college campuses. Eventually these concepts will spread through the wider community and we will have to deal with it in one form or another. We are facing a future era in which people demand to be free from any idea, words, photographs, or material that makes them uncomfortable.

It is not difficult to project how this will play out, or what it means for Christians and the witness of the Church. After all, there is nothing more offensive than the offence of the cross. And many Christians in the West – at least Christians who are properly evangelical and thoughtful, and who understand society through the same lens as our Blessed and Infallible Lord – can see the writing on the wall. Persecution of believers is inevitable. It always has been. The Church is relieved from persecution only ever for a season. And now, in 2016, as element after element; brick after brick goes into the edifice of a new secular tyranny, one can only marvel at how thoroughly absurd it all is, yet how sinister and cruel. Secularism and godlessness can only terminate in absurdity, rank hypocrisy, and the smashing of what is true and properly moral, good and righteous. It has a warm fuzzy exterior, but hides blades of steel. For it means to dispossess you, dear Christian, of your livelihood if you dare stand against the currents of the age. It means to imprison you, fellow believer, if you run afoul of a hate-speech code in the cause of Christ.

The inerrant St. Paul understood this long ago. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” – and when one reads this article, there is ample evidence for that folly corresponding to the conviction that this is high wisdom.

Some examples of incredible follow from the article include a student who objected to the rowdy behaviour of African-American women who were making a disturbance at night, and used a common epithet for noisy people from his native Israel. This resulted in a charge. Apparently the words he used were more egregious than preventing other people from sleeping:

Among the most famous early examples was the so-called water-buffalo incident at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1993, the university charged an Israeli-born student with racial harassment after he yelled “Shut up, you water buffalo!” to a crowd of black sorority women that was making noise at night outside his dorm-room window. Many scholars and pundits at the time could not see how the termwater buffalo (a rough translation of a Hebrew insult for a thoughtless or rowdy person) was a racial slur against African Americans, and as a result, the case became international news.

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Claims of a right not to be offended have continued to arise since then, and universities have continued to privilege them. In a particularly egregious 2008 case, for instance, Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis found a white student guilty of racial harassment for reading a book titled Notre Dame vs. the Klan. The book honored student opposition to the Ku Klux Klan when it marched on Notre Dame in 1924. Nonetheless, the picture of a Klan rally on the book’s cover offended at least one of the student’s co-workers (he was a janitor as well as a student), and that was enough for a guilty finding by the university’s Affirmative Action Office.

 
These examples may seem extreme, but the reasoning behind them has become more commonplace on campus in recent years. Last year, at the University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota, an event called Hump Day, which would have allowed people to pet a camel, was abruptly canceled. Students had created a Facebook group where they protested the event for animal cruelty, for being a waste of money, and for being insensitive to people from the Middle East. The inspiration for the camel had almost certainly come from a popular TV commercial in which a camel saunters around an office on a Wednesday, celebrating “hump day”; it was devoid of any reference to Middle Eastern peoples. Nevertheless, the group organizing the event announced on its Facebook page that the event would be canceled because the “program [was] dividing people and would make for an uncomfortable and possibly unsafe environment.”

 

Read the whole article here.

Darwin: A Myth for the Post-Christian Mind

An excellent lecture that unpacks the Neo-Darwinian mechanism and the biological issues behind the concept that new genes and biologic data can be randomly generated.

Go here to view.

 

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The prominent atheist Richard Dawkins has said that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Many Christian leaders have determined that the only way to survive in a post-Christian culture is to attempt a synthesis of Darwinism and Christianity. In this session, Dr. Stephen Meyer will explain why it is precisely the wrong time to capitulate since Darwinism itself is being undermined daily by new scientific discoveries.

 

Finding Happiness by Returning to God

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According to the Bible, one of the problems with human beings is that we are born with a displaced sense of longing and desire. Instead of seeking for God, sin has thoroughly corrupted our personality such that we look anywhere but to our Creator for fulfilment, purpose, and peace:

The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one (Ps 14:2-3)

So, what does the LORD see when observing humanity in their native condition? He sees a race estranged from him; lacking all understanding of the glories of life; and he sees contaminated character. Worse, human beings are completely ignorant of their true condition and cannot even fathom it!

How does this take practical expression?

Primarily in how we choose to live.

Most people are born into the world believing that it is possible to find lasting happinesses here on earth. This is particularly true of young people who, endued with youth and health, often are completely persuaded they know the secret that has evaded their elders. And yet, while generations have come and gone, every generation seems intent on repeating the same error. Every generation believes it has the formula for the “good life”: sexual gratification, power and authority, money, holidays, entertainment, food, friends, family and parties.

It is part of the madness of the human condition that the very things man hangs his hat on for contentment, are the very things that not only deceive him, but often bring him much pain. It is a tragic farce. For either we believe we are not happy because we have not enough of the things in the above list, and therefore only by getting more will we be happy, or, we believe that we are unhappy because we are missing something on the list.

But, always, upon getting these things, we find they do not bring the promised fulfilment. Mortgage payments sour the experience of home-ownership; parties often end in tears or retching over the toilet; family can bring us much grief; sexual gratification is over in a flash leaving bitter remorse and often deep guilt. And on it goes. There is nothing on earth in which we can say, “This is joy, unsullied and perfect”.

The truth is, to find any kind of peace and joy, man must do something which he often only vaguely, dimly grasps: he must search for his life in the last place he expects to find it. He must seek for it in God. In holiness. In righteousness. In Christ. He must submit himself to God – wholly out of obedience to him – and then, in an amazing outpouring of God’s great mercy, he will find discover himself truly happy with a joy that is not only deeply fulfilling, but also pure because it flows straight from the untarnished glory of Christ.

This great truth has been articulated in many ways:

Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee…St. Augustine

 

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.C. S. Lewis

 

To make it quite practical I have a very simple test. After I have explained the way of Christ to somebody I say “Now, are you ready to say that you are a Christian?” And they hesitate. And then I say, “What’s the matter? Why are you hesitating?” And so often people say, “I don’t feel like I’m good enough yet. I don’t think I’m ready to say I’m a Christian now.” And at once I know that I have been wasting my breath. They are still thinking in terms of themselves. They have to do it. It sounds very modest to say, “Well, I don’t think I’m good enough,” but it’s a very denial of the faith. The very essence of the Christian faith is to say that He is good enough and I am in Him. As long as you go on thinking about yourself like that and saying, “I’m not good enough; Oh, I’m not good enough,” you are denying God – you are denying the gospel – you are denying the very essence of the faith and you will never be happy. You think you’re better at times and then again you will find you are not as good at other times than you thought you were. You will be up and down forever. How can I put it plainly? It doesn’t matter if you have almost entered into the depths of hell. It does not matter if you are guilty of murder as well as every other vile sin. It does not matter from the standpoint of being justified before God at all. You are no more hopeless than the most moral and respectable person in the world.Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

And just for good measure:

So who does not want to be happy? We all do, but wanting something is not the same as finding it. We all strive after happiness, but how many people actually find true, lasting happiness? Of course for the Christian, we know this is a foolish quest.

Search for joy and it will elude you. Search for God wholeheartedly and you will be found by him, and happiness will be thrown in as a by-product. – C. S. Lewis.