Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

On February 20, 2011, I had the privilege of preaching Mark 3:7–35 at Kenwood Baptist Church, “Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit.”

You must either submit yourself to the authorized teaching of the Apostles of Jesus (Mark 3:13–19) or reject him as either a maniac (cf. Mark 2:21) or one whose power comes from an unclean spirit (cf. Mark 2:22, 30).

Jesus is the bond-breaker, the sick-healer,
The bane of unclean spirits and the binder of the strong man.
He is the truth-speaker, the world’s-ruler,
The King of Israel and her humble servant.
He is the sin-bearer, the hope-giver,
The bridegroom and the lover of our souls.

And they defiled his name
By mentioning it in the same breath with Beelzebul’s.
They attributed the life-giving, rest-bringing, leper-cleansing, bondage-breaking power Jesus exercised
To the prince of demons.

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? I’ll give you the best answer I’ve got.

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Jayber Crow on Prayers and Hymns

I love this passage on the hymns of the faith. This paragraph, particularly what Jayber says about “Abide with Me,” wrenched my heart when I read it, and its hold on my mind brought me back to this book to type up these thoughts of Jayber (whose conduct, honestly, I found to be a little strange) to post them here. If you’re not blessed to know these songs, to have experienced the moving power of a congregation singing them, may this passage be a prod to that pleasure. Enjoy:

“What I liked least about the service itself was the prayers; what I liked far better was the singing. Not all of the hymns could move me. I never liked “Onward, Christian Soldiers” or “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Jesus’ military career has never compelled my belief. I liked the sound of the people singing together, whatever they sang, but some of the hymns reached into me all the way to the bone: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “Rock of Ages,” “Amazing Grace,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” I loved the different voices all singing one song, the various tones and qualities, the passing lifts of feeling, rising up and going out forever. Old Man Profet, who was a different man on Sunday, used to draw the notes at the ends of verses and refrains so he could listen to himself, and in fact it sounded pretty. And when the congregation would be singing “We shall see the King some-day (some-day),” Sam May, who often protracted Saturday night a little too far into Sunday morning, would sing, “I shall see the King some-day (Sam May).”I thought that some of the hymns bespoke the true religion of the place. The people didn’t really want to be saints of self-deprivation and hatred of the world. They knew that the world would sooner or later deprive them of all it had given them, but they still liked it. What they came together for was to acknowledge, just by coming, their losses and failures and sorrows, their need for comfort, their faith always needing to be greater, their wish (in spite of all words and acts to the contrary) to love one another and to forgive and be forgiven, their need for one another’s help and company and divine gifts, their hope (and experience) of love surpassing death, their gratitude. I loved to hear them sing “The Unclouded Day” and “Sweet By and By”:

We shall sing on that beautiful shore
The melodious songs of the blest . . .

And in times of sorrow when they sang “Abide with Me,” I could not raise my head.”

This last line about “Abide with Me” has deep resonance in the novel, for Jayber has walked through the valley of the shadow of death with people he loves, as those people lost loved ones who could never be replaced. So the line draws its beauty from the lyrics of the hymn and the pain Jayber has shared with these people. The weight of those who sing the faith bows his head in worship.

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Filed under Books, Literature, Worship

Gay Rights Prevent Christians from Being Foster Parents in the UK

Faithful Christian grandparents who have fostered 15 children already have “were told by a court yesterday that gay rights ‘should take precedence’ over their religious beliefs.”

And the video below shows an interesting discussion on the issue. The first speaker tries to link opposition to homosexuality and racism, and then a man who claims to be a gay atheist warns that the state could introduce a new version of morality that could turn out to be oppressive and tyrannical:

HT: Dan Phillips

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They’re Giving It Away

Exhausted your book budget? Promised not to buy anymore books for a while?

Christianaudio.com has a deal for you: this month they’re giving away R. C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God for free.

Why not redeem that time in the car on the commute? Or on the lawnmower, or whatever. The price is right. Enjoy.

 

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Jayber Crow on “Weathering” Sermons

Can God bring good out of bad preaching? Here’s Jayber:

“In general, I weathered even the worst sermons pretty well. They had the great virtue of causing my mind to wander. Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons. Or I would look out the windows. In winter, when the windows were closed, the church seemed to admit the light strictly on its own terms, as if uneasy about the frank sunshine of this benighted world. In summer, when the sashes were raised, I watched with a great, eager pleasure the town and the fields beyond, the clouds, the trees, the movements of the air—but then the sermons would seem more improbable. I have always loved a window, especially an open one.”

Notice how he speaks of “weathering” sermons, then talks a lot about the weather. Are there symbolic connections in this paragraph between bad preaching and winter and darkness? Are there connections between the word of God going forth to give life and summer? Is Jayber seeing a connection between better sermons being harder to believe? Is this a symbolic reference to a window at the end? Is good preaching a window on the world? What do you think?

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