Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Book Reviews Coming Shortly

As mentioned in a previous post, I'm going to try my hand at reviewing books here at Jordan's View. The first two books I intend to review in the near future are titled The Barbarian Way, by Erwin Raphael McManus and The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth, by Ted Dekker. Interestingly, the two books, both sent to me from Thomas Nelson publishing, deal with a similar topic-- both look at the state of the church today, and both present a vision of what the church ought to be, challenging the reader to become more passionate in the pursuit of Christ.

I'm glad to be reading these kinds of books at the moment-- they're just what the doctor (Holy Spirit, that is) ordered. Be on the look out for the reviews to be posted within the next week and a half.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Blips on the Blogosphere 8

Cerulean Sanctum: Battling Testaments!
Is the New Testament at odds with the Old Testament? Dan Edelen notes that some seem to emphasize one testament over the other, but argues that the church ought to be a "Whole Bible" church.

the evangelical outpost: Soul Mates and Manly Men
Joe Carter's advice for the lovelorn is very funny and tongue-in-cheek, and there's truth in it as well.

Phases of a Relationship with Blogging | Mark Rivers

This post reminds of my own blogging journey and recent post, My Life As a Blog.

Fundamentalism, the ECM, Authentic Christianity, False Apostles, Deceitful Workers, Angels of Light—and a Coda for Adrian about "Tone"
Phil Johnson has a lot to say here. Some great points about how to argue biblically (as opposed to in a PC way) in the blogosphere.

Making Disciples: Teach Them To Obey
A good word from a bold NYC pastor, who also happens to be my biological brother.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My Life As a Blog

In February of 2005 (I think it was February 11th, to be exact), I posted my first article on this blog. For me, blogging was an experiment-- I wasn't necessarily planning to become a blogger. The fact that one could start a blog in minutes using Blogger software made it very easy to start -- here I had written this little piece about Paul McCartney that I was calling A New Rock and Roll Spirit?, and in just 10 minutes I was publishing it for the entire world to see. It really is an amazing technology, when you stop and think of it.

I wasn't even a regular blog reader at the time. I had Chuck Colson's "Breakpoint" bookmarked as a homepage, and modeled my blog after that site-- Christian cultural commentary, but with a personal touch.

But as I continued blogging I started to realize its potential as a communication tool, one that gave me complete creative control (how often do you get that!), and one which could be used to try to make an impact on the world. As Christians we have a mandate to be "salt" and "light" in a decaying and dark world, and I was discovering that bloggers could use their influence for good.

I began visiting blogs, mostly Christian, noting the way others were blogging. There were the pundit-type blogs that make quick points, present many links, and seem to throw many bits of information at you. Then there were blogs with longer, more reflective articles. There were scholarly blogs, often written by professors or pastor-theologians, and more personal "journal" blogs, documenting the details of people's daily lives. Some blogs featured truly excellent writing, others were less articulate.

I went to the first-ever God Blog Conference, and met many like-minded folk. I was impressed with the caliber of people I met there-- men and women of great intelligence-- erudite, articulate and desirous of using their ample gifts to make an impact for Christ.

I asked myself: what kind of blog did I want to be? I decided one way I could be of service was to make my blog a good resource, since I'm good at researching and finding things on the Internet. So I created resource links, many of which I developed simply by using some of the hundreds of sites I already had bookmarked in my own travels on the web.

As I began posting various articles, I've wanted to discover my specific niche in the Christian blogosphere. I tend to write best by bringing a philosophical/theological bent to my musing about say, the message of John Lennon's song, Imagine. A songwriter/musician myself, I like to talk about the creative process. I enjoyed writing a review of Paul McCartney's last album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. In another post, I analyzed more deeply one of the songs from that album, Follow Me, delving into the spirituality of Mr. McCartney. I discovered the Christian Carnival, a weekly gathering of posts from various Christian bloggers from a wide range of denominations and perspectives, and had the privilege of twice hosting the carnival (#96 and #110), here on Jordan's View.

Still, I'm not sure I have yet found my niche completely. But even more important, I have wanted, and still want, my blog to be integrated with my life and calling. I do not want it to become a distraction away from whatever God is doing in and through me, but hopefully, to be a helpful, even spiritual discipline I can use to help me discover and pursue that calling.

Many of the blogs I have been drawn to over the past year are written by bloggers who are reformed in their theology, and I have admired their sharp writing and strong Scripture-based arguments. Yet, as I continue to hammer out my own theological beliefs, I must admit I don't find myself able to fully embrace the five points of Calvinistic theology (T-U-L-I-P), though there are some ideas there that I do find convincing. I have followed the blogosphere debate between cessationists and continuationists on the matter of spiritual gifts for today-- and come out feeling that the cessationists have not proven their case (at least in my mind)-- yet also with lingering questions over just what can we expect in the areas of healing, tongues and prophecy today. Certainly the cessationists are not wrong in pointing out that there is much in the practice of such gifts out there that is not biblical. In my life I continue to reflect on these matters and will hopefully write about them more often.

I have also been honored by some book publishers contacting me recently, and sending me books to read. So I soon hope to be posting book reviews.

But the bottom line is that I have seen that my blog is a reflection, an extension, of me. It is only going to be as effective and fruitful as I am. The deeper I go in my walk with Jesus, the more fully surrendered I am to His will, the more powerful this blog will become-- in terms of impacting others in a lasting way. That's why I haven't been blogging too much recently-- I have had to deal with myself first.

I believe that as I become sharper in my walk with the Lord, my blog will also become a sharper, more effective instrument for ministering to others. Focusing on Jesus, and dealing with the hindrances and sin in my life, I will run more swiftly and effectively, the race that is set before me.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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: 1-2)"

Monday, March 13, 2006

You Mean Traditional (Biblically-Styled) Marriages Work? Shocking!

It's interesting how often I've seen this phenomenon: scientific studies that present themselves as amazing new revelation, but actually only confirm the ancient truth and wisdom that followers of Christ and of the Bible have known all along. For example, a Nestcape News article titled The No. 1 Way to Make Your Wife Happy reports on the results of a sociological study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia. Some of the "shocking" conclusions of the study, published in the journal Social Forces, include the following:

    The most important determinant of a woman's marital happiness is the emotional engagement of her husband. A wife cares most about how affectionate and understanding her husband is and how much quality time they spend together as a couple.

    Women who do not work outside the home report happier marriages and spend more quality time with their husbands.

    Women who have more traditional attitudes report more affection and understanding from their husbands. Such attitudes include the idea that women should take the lead in care of the home and family, while men take the lead in earning money.

    Commitment matters. Women who share with their husbands a strong commitment to a lifelong marriage are more likely to report that they are happy in their marriages and happy with the affection and understanding they receive from their husbands, compared with women who do not have such a commitment to marriage. Shared commitment seems to generate mutual trust and higher levels of emotional investment on the part of husbands, both of which are factors that promote marital happiness among women.

    Fairness also matters in shaping the quality and character of women's marriages. Married women are happier in their marriages when they think housework is divided fairly, and they perceive their marriage to be equitable. They also spend more quality time with their husbands when they think housework is divided fairly. What's fair? It's up to each couple, and it's not necessarily a 50-50 split.

The above conclusions seem consistent with the wisdom of the Bible on marriage. Our Lord Jesus re-affirmed the truth that marriage is God's invention, not man's:

"Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Matthew 19: 4-6)"

The Apostle Paul's inspired and sublime teaching on marriage reveals God's plan-- a mystery of the highest order-- that the husband-wife relationship mirrors the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5: 25-33). The biblical picture of marriage shows that husband and wife are designed by God to play different but complementary roles, and that rather than confine them, the fullest blessings in marriage come to those who fulfill those roles obediently and faithfully.

Some aspects of these biblical roles include the husband being head of his household (1 Cor 11:3, Eph 5:23), primary provider for his family (1 Timothy 5:8, 2 Cor 12:14), and the spiritual leader in his home (1 Tim 3: 4, 12), who sacrificially and unselfishly loves his wife. The Bible says to husbands, "Love your wives as Christ loved the church", and "love your wife as your own body." It says to wives, "respect your husbands" (Eph 5:33), which means, among other things, loving her husband and children by working hard (primarily in the home), being submissive to her husband's leadership, and being pure and self-controlled (Titus 2: 5).

Given the weakness of human nature, a marriage will not survive without strong commitment. Biblical marriage commitment is a covenant that views marriage as a sacred vocation, a promise made before God and witnesses to remain faithful to one's spouse. The traditional wedding vows that promise to stay together "for richer or for poorer, in sickness and health, as long as we both shall live", aptly reflect the nature of such a commitment.

So it is not surprising (certainly not "shocking") to find that marriages reported in this study that mimic the biblical pattern-- husbands who really love their wives and show it through emotional engagement and being fair about housework; husbands who are good providers; wives who make the home and children their primary focus; spouses with deep commitment to their marriages-- actually do work better and bring more joy and happiness to those in them. It would be interesting also to see whether the marriages in this study that followed more traditional (and seemingly more biblical) models were in fact consciously adhering to a Christian model. I wouldn't be at all surprised if that were the case.

Not that the biblical model is in need of confirmation by scientific studies in order to be proven true-- but perhaps a study like this can help influence some to consider that the biblical picture of marriage does indeed work-- not just by chance, but because it's based on true revelation from the One who invented marriage.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


In case you're wondering why I haven't posted for a bit, I've been brooding. Trying to figure out lots of stuff, mostly about myself. I do have some post ideas in mind though.

The recent one year anniversary of Jordan's View just passed in February, and I would like to write a post reflecting on my first year of blogging. If you remember to, please also pray for me-- that my walk with the Lord will be renewed as I repent of long-standing sin patterns. And that I'll find new passion, direction and purpose as a result.

I hope to have some new posts shortly. Blessings to you, and thanks.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Self Life and the Christ Life by A. B. Simpson, Chapter 5


"Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; it is better for me to die than to live." (Jonah 4: 3).

This was the best prayer that Jonah ever uttered, if he had only really meant it in the right sense. The greatest need of Jonah's life was to die to Jonah, and his life is just a great object lesson of the odiousness and the foolishness of the spirit of selfishness in any mortal, especially in anyone who professes, or pretends, to work for God and the souls of men. Selfishness is always odious and out of place; but it is never so much so as it is in the man who professes to represent a crucified Redeemer and a loving God.

The story of Jonah is soon told. He was the first of the prophets whose writings have come down to us in the sacred canon. He lived in the reign of Jeroboam II, and it was through his instrumentality that that powerful monarch was enabled to raise Israel from the deep depression into which the nation had fallen, and restore her to the highest point of power and greatness in all the history of the nation.

Sent as the prophet of good tidings to his own people, he gladly went and by his inspired messages cheered on his countrymen, until they had subdued their enemies on every side, and won back their long lost territory from all their foes.

Had Jonah's career terminated at this point he would have gone into history as one of the most successful and brilliant of Israel's long line of splendid prophets. But God gave him a new commission, and sent him unexpectedly with a message of warning to the city of Nineveh, the mighty capital of the Assyrian Empire. This was to Jonah most unexpected and unwelcome. An enthusiastic patriot, he did not want to do anything that could bring the favor of God to the hated enemies of his country. And so the whole self-will of the man rose up in rebellion, and he determined not to go. Disobedience always brings separation from God, and so Jonah was inevitably driven from the presence of God, and looked about for some place where he might escape from the All-Seeing Eye whose glance he could not bear.

It was not difficult to find a chain of providences all working in the direction he wanted to go. And finding a ship at Joppa bound for the coast of distant Tarshish, he secured a passage at once and started for the chosen hiding-place. He was soon overtaken by the messengers of God's mercy and judgment, and, thrown into the sea as a sacrifice to appease the storm, he was swallowed by the great fish which God had prepared, and then thrown out from his living tomb, a resurrected man, where God's message met him again -- his commission was renewed to go to Nineveh, and preach the preaching that God commanded.

This time he went without any evasions or questionings, and for a time it really seemed that he was indeed a crucified man. But alas for human self-assertion! It was not long before Jonah came to the surface again. As long as his work succeeded and the people listened and repented, he was satisfied; but when God, in His mercy, met the penitence of the Ninevites with His mercy, and cancelled His judgment upon them, Jonah was bitterly disappointed and fiercely angry because his reputation as a prophet had been ruined by the failure of his threatenings; and sitting down under the shade of a gourd outside the city gates he fretted and scolded like a petulant and angry child, and finally he passes out of sight altogether, under his withered gourd, as a spectacle of humiliation and contempt, all the glory of his really wonderful work blighted by the dark shadow of himself which he threw over it in his egregious folly and unspeakable selfishness.

There are many lessons taught us by this extraordinary life.

1. We see a man who succeeds most wonderfully in religious work, so long as his work is congenial, but fails completely and utterly breaks down under the first severe test of real character. Jonah did splendid work so long as everything went all right; but the moment things went against him, he went to pieces. How many of us there are who in the sunshine of religious prosperity seem to be extraordinary workers and even ideal saints. It is the test that tells. Character is more than work, and God is leading us, if we will only let Him, through the tests which will bring us to the death of self, and to the place where He can use us as

Only His messengers ready,
His praises to sound at His will,
Or willing should He not require us
In silence to wait on Him still.

2. We see in him a man who obeys and serves God as long as it suits him, but is a stranger to that obedience which knows no choice except the Master's will. "Ye are my friends," the Master says, "if ye do whatsoever I command you." It is no evidence of friendship to Christ to do some things to please Him, to do much that is good and right; the true friend does whatsoever He commands.

3. We see in Jonah a man destitute of the true missionary spirit, a man who thought he was full of zeal, yet had no real love for God or the souls of men. Jehu had zeal enough, but it was zeal for his own cause. Jonah represents those people who will work as hard as you please for their own cause, even for the church, and the work which centers in their own sect, or family or country, but they know nothing of the real missionary spirit. They care not for the Ninevites, the Chinese, or the Africans, and they think it unreasonable waste to pour out our hundreds of thousands of dollars for the evangelization of the world, instead of spending it at home, and using it to promote the welfare of our own people.

4. A man running away from God. When we disobey God, we shall soon want to leave His presence altogether. Adam's single sin soon led to Adam's separation from his Creator, and we find him hiding from the presence of God. It is idle to think that you can indulge in any act of disobedience, and still look up in your Father's face and call yourself His child.

Jonah had no difficulty in finding means to carry on his purpose. The devil has his providences as well as the Lord. The ship was all ready, and it was going to the right place, and Jonah was soon on board, and comfortably asleep in his berth. Alas, the saddest thing about backsliding is, that it brings with it the devil's sedatives, and the soul can calmly sleep amid the fiercest storm, and complacently dream that all is well. There is nothing in all the judgments of God so terrible as a reprobate mind and a soul past feeling.

5. A man pursued by God's police, and brought to his senses by the trials and troubles which he brings upon himself and others. Thank God for the mercy that will not let us rest in our self-complacency and sin. Happy for us that we have a Father who loves us well enough to hurt us and drive us home to His loving breast. The saddest part of the trouble of the back-slider is, that he brings it upon others, and that he has to suffer because of the backslider's sin and folly.

Jonah's shipmates were the first to feel the effects of his disobedience, and to wake him up from his fool-hardy insensibility. Many a time it is not until our fortunes have been wrecked, and our families brokenhearted, that we find out the secret of all our troubles, and come back to Him who has smitten only that He might heal us, and broken only that He might bind us up.

What a pity that we should compel God to bring us back to Himself by the officers of judgment, instead of flying to the arms of His love, and choosing the blessing which He is determined we shall not lose.

6. We see in Jonah a man who had to die to himself before he could do any real good.

The great lesson of Jonah's life is the need of crucifixion to the life of self. Our Savior has used the story of Jonah as the special type of His own death and resurrection, and we know that our Savior's cross is the pattern of ours, and that as He died, so we should die to the life of self and sin.

In the story of Jonah we see God lovingly slaying the selfish prophet, and trying to put Jonah out of his own way, so that God could bless him as He really wanted to. Surely, if ever a man had a good chance to die, it was Jonah, and if he didn't, it was his own fault. He speaks of that living tomb himself as the belly of Hades -- the very bosom of death, and the prayer that he uttered, when in those awful depths, certainly sounded like the voice of a man who meant what he said; and when he came forth, it really did seem as if the old Jonah was going to be out of the picture henceforth. But alas! As we shall see later, he was only half dead yet. God cannot use any but a crucified man to preach about the crucified Savior.

When Jonah came forth from the depths of death he was ready to go anywhere that God wanted him, and when we are dead to self and sin we will not have any question to ask except this one: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Then we will go to Nineveh, or China, or any place the Master sends us, with glad and willing hearts.

7. But we see in Jonah a man who, after all, was only half dead, notwithstanding all his suffering and humiliation.

For a time he goes right on faithful and obedient. He preaches to the Ninevites the preaching that God bids him, and the most wonderful revival that ever attended any ministry follows his words, until from the king on the throne to the meanest of his subjects, the people of Nineveh are prostrate at the feet of Jehovah, and pleading for mercy.

But the moment that God hears their cry and disappoints Jonah's predictions of their destruction, the prophet breaks completely down and falls into a fit of petulance and anger, because God had failed to do what he had threatened and destroyed his reputation as a prophet.

It was but another form of the same old self life. A man may give up the selfishness that seeks its gratification in the pleasures of the world, and yet may seek the gratification of the same self life in some religious form. A woman may cease to be the queen of society and the idol of her hero worshipers, yet she may drink in the sweet delight of her influence and sway over the minds and hearts of men, in her very work for Christ, and the influence that she wields over the hearts that she brings under her religious sway.

The orator, as he holds spellbound the hearts of thousands, even when he tells them of Jesus and salvation, may be just as selfish and self-conscious as the actor on the stage, or the politician on the rostrum who speaks only for his personal triumph and ambition. Jonah's very success was his snare, and led him to forget his Master's glory and the real good of the people that he was sent to save, in thinking of his own success and his own glory.

God never can use any man very much till he has grace enough to forget himself entirely while doing God's work; for He will not give His glory to another nor share with the most valued instrument the praise that belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

We can never succeed in our service for God till we learn to cast our own shadow behind us and lose ourselves in the honor and glory of our Master. It is said that Alexander the Great had a famous horse that nobody could ride. Alexander at length attempted to tame him. He saw at a glance that the horse was afraid of his own shadow, and so, leaping into the saddle one day and turning the horse's head to the sun, he struck his spurs into the flanks of the noble steed, and dashed off like the lightning. From that hour the fiery charger was thoroughly subdued, and he never gave his master any trouble again. He could no longer see his own shadow.

Oh, that we could look into the face of our Lord, and then forever forget ourselves! Then He could use us for His own glory and afford to share with us the glory and gladness of our work.

8. We see in Jonah a man whom God had to humble in the dust to save him from destroying his own work.

God loves to make us partakers with Him in the fruits of our work. So He honored Moses and Samuel and Paul, and their names have come down to us associated with their blessed service for the Master; but this was because they loved to forget themselves, and seek only their Master's glory. How different it was with poor Jonah! He was seeking his own glory, and God had to humiliate him, and let him fail altogether in the very thing he wanted. Surely, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." Surely, he that would be chiefest may well become the servant of all; for the Master has said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." "If any man serve me, let him follow me; ... if any man serve me, him will my Father honor."

Poor Jonah lost this honor, because he sought it, and Paul found it, because he renounced it, and sought only to live that Jesus might be satisfied, even if Paul should be forever forgotten. This is the spirit of true service, and surely this is the solemn lesson that comes down to us through that humiliating spectacle, sitting, disappointed and rejected under his withered gourd, after the most successful ministry ever given to a human life, but one which brought no recompense to him, because he did it for himself.

9. We see in Jonah the picture of a man who wants to die when he is least prepared to die.

It was a very great mercy that God refused to take him at his word, when he cried with childish petulance, "Lord, I beseech thee, take away my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live." Let us be very careful how we utter reckless prayers. Poor Elijah asked to die one day in a fit of discouragement, and we only hear of him once again as a prophet.

Jonah asked in a petulant moment that he might die, and from that moment Jonah disappears from the page of history and passes into an oblivion which has upon it no ray of hope or light of recompense. The best way to be prepared to die is to be living for some high and noble purpose. The men that are ready to die are the men that are needed most to live for God and their fellow men.

10. We learn one more lesson from Jonah's life, and that is the true secret how to die, and then how to live for God and our own highest interest and blessing.

Thank God, Jonah's life lifts our thoughts to another and a nobler life, even that of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has died for us, and taught us not only how to live with Him, but also how to die with Him, and live the life that has been crucified with Christ, and is alive forevermore.

Not unwillingly, but with His whole heart did He lay down His precious life for us that in His dying we might be saved from death eternal, and then learn to die with Him, and live by Him, the life of unselfish love for God and men.

Not for His own glory did He live and die, but for us and for His Father. He died for us that we might live; yes, He died for us that we might die, and then live the crucified life and the life that is dead to self and sin.

Only through His dying can we truly die. We never can crucify ourselves, but we can be crucified with Christ, and say: "Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Then let us learn to die, and thus let us live, and some day we shall know all the meaning of these mighty words:

He died for me that I might die,
He lives for me that I might live,
Oh, death so deep! oh, life so high!
Help me to die, help me to live.


Resurrected with my Risen Savior,
Seated with Him at His own right hand;
This the glorious message Easter brings me.
This the place in which by faith I stand.

Men would bid you rise to higher levels,
But they leave you on the human plane.
We must have a heavenly Resurrection;
We must die with Christ and rise again.

Once there lived another man within me,
Child of earth and slave of Satan he;
But I nailed him to the Cross of Jesus,
And that man is nothing now to me.

Now Another Man is living in me,
And I count His blessed life as mine;
I have died with Him to all my own life;
I have risen to all His life Divine.

Oh, it is so sweet to die with Jesus!
And by death be free from self and sin.
Oh, it is so sweet to live with Jesus!
As He lives the death-born life within.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Self Life and the Christ Life by A. B. Simpson, Chapter 4

The Self Life and the Christ Life by A. B. Simpson, Chapter 4


"Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag, the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord at Gilgal." (1 Sam. 15: 32, 33).

WE HAVE already referred to this passage as an illustration of the character of Saul. There is still a deeper type of the subtleties of the self life in the picture of Agag which the Holy Ghost has framed into the narrative of this solemn history. Saul and Agag both teach the same great lesson and warning, namely, the peril of a self-centered life, but they teach it in somewhat different ways, and the story of Agag is worthy of our prayerful and heart-searching consideration.

1. His Race. He belonged to the race of Amalek and the family of Esau, who represent through their entire genealogy the life of the flesh. From the very beginning of the human race God has drawn the line of demarcation between two races -- the fleshly and the spiritual man. Just outside the gate of Eden the division began. The family of Seth called themselves by the name of the Lord, and the race of Cain went off and built their city of culture and pride and became the pioneers of the worldliness and wickedness adorned and ameliorated by all the grace of human culture and all the attractions of earthly delight. The separation, alas, soon began to disappear and in the days of Noah the two races had mingled and intermarried, and the progeny was a generation of monsters of iniquity so degenerate and depraved that God turned with loathing from the whole race and pronounced the awful sentence, "The end of all flesh is come before me; I will destroy them with the earth."

After the flood God chose a separate family, the line of Abraham, and again endeavored to keep the chosen people separate. All along that line we see the earthly off-shoots of the family-tree separating from the central trunk and going out into the world. The first of these was Ishmael, the type of the spirit of bondage and sin. The next of these was Esau, the progenitor of a whole race who inherited the earthly spirit of their father, who, for a morsel of meat, sold his birthright and afterwards married with the daughters of Canaan and became as corrupt and polluted as they. In the same line were the descendants of Lot's unnatural daughters, the Moabites and the Ammonites.

Above all these, the race of Esau and Amalek were the representatives of the spirit of the flesh and the world. This was the reason that God pronounced the decree of their extermination. We find that when Israel went out of Egypt and started on their journey through the wilderness on their way to the Land of Promise, Amalek was the first to attack them. It is not difficult to see in this the foreshadowing of the fact that the first adversary that we have to contend with when we leave our sinful past of bondage and iniquity is the carnal nature in our own hearts, which soon asserts itself and tries to force us back to "the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." This is what Agag represents and this is what each of us has found to our cost to be a very real element in the experience of a Christian life.

2. The name of Agag is next significant. It is from the root "Hak," which is a generic form denoting, like Pharaoh, a ruler. It literally means ruler, and represents the spirit of self-will, self-assertion and independence in the human heart. Its prototype is Lucifer, the prince of light and glory, who, being lifted up with pride and refusing to be controlled, turned from an angel to a fiend, and has become the desperate leader of the rebellious hosts of hell. We see it next in the supreme temptation of the Fall -- "Ye shall be as gods" -- the desire for supremacy. We see it in the spirit of human ambition, in the Oriental despot, in the world conqueror, in the society belle and the political "boss." All belong to the same family. They are of the race of Amalek and the house of Agag. Their cry is like the prodigal, "Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me" and let me go away from parental control and do as I please.

There is no country where it is so rampant as our own. It appears to us as young mannishness and calls itself liberty, but its end is license, lawlessness and Anti-Christ, that Lawless one who is yet to embody the elements of human wickedness and pride, and end the present dispensation by defying God and man and perishing, like his father, the devil, in his presumptuous pride. This spirit is found in every human heart. It may be disguised in many insidious forms. It may call itself by illustrious names and ape the highest ambitions and the noblest pretensions, but it is Agag and Satan every time. The thing in you that wants to rule, wants to have its own way, to be independent, refuse control, to despise reproof, is wrong in its very nature. The very first thing you need in order to be of any use anywhere is to be thoroughly broken, completely subjected and utterly crucified in the very core and center of your will. Then you will accept discipline and learn to yield and obey in matters in themselves indifferent and your will, will be so merged in His that He can use you as a flexible and perfectly adjusted instrument, and henceforth you shall will only what God wills and choose only what God chooses for you.

This is the real battleground of human salvation; this is the Waterloo of every soul; this is the test question of every redeemed life. This was the point where Saul lost his kingdom and Agag lost his life, and where still the eternal destinies are lost or won as we learn the lesson or refuse to be led in triumph by our conquering Lord.

Beloved, let us mark it well. Let us not miss the warning. Let us remember forever that no man can rule others until he himself is absolutely led of God, that no man can conquer foes till he first is conquered, that no man can lead in triumph the hosts of evil or the hearts of men until he himself is led in triumph the willing captive of the Savior's love and the Master's will.

3. The Decree of Extermination. God has determined that the race of Amalek and the house of Agag should be utterly exterminated. They were not to be spared, but to be destroyed. It was a case of no compromise. There was nothing good in them. The least element of Agagism was destructive and the whole community, with all their goods and belongings, must be put out of existence. Now, this is God's decree against the flesh in us. It cannot be cleansed. It cannot be improved. It cannot be cultivated. It cannot be educated into ideas and principles. It must be exterminated. Now, what is the flesh? Is it the bad principle in man? Is it some outward or inward evil which can be cut away like a tumor by a surgical operation? Listen, "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." There is the uncompromising decree of the total depravity and the hopeless condition of the flesh. But now what is the flesh? Listen again: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." There is the distinction clear as a ray of celestial light. Every man who has not the spirit of God is in the flesh, therefore, everything outside the spirit of God is flesh. Therefore, the flesh is not simply the sinful part of human nature, but the whole of human nature. It is the Adamic race. It is the natural man. It is the whole creature, and the whole thing is corrupt and polluted. The tree is so crooked you cannot straighten it without cutting it in two. The tumor is so interwoven with the flesh that you cannot cut it without killing the man. There is no remedy. There is no hope. The old life must be laid down and the new creation, wholly born out of heaven and baptized with the Spirit of God, must take its place as a resurrected life, as a new creation, as an experience so supernatural and Divine that its possessor can truly say, "I am no longer the former man, I have died and Christ has taken my place. It is no longer I, but Christ that liveth in me."

Don't try to sanctify the flesh. Don't attempt to evolve the kingdom of heaven out of the kingdom of hell. It is not evolution, it is creation. It is not morals or manners, it is a miracle of grace and power. Take no risks upon the old man. He will fail you every time. You may think your trained hawk is a dove, but in an unsuspecting moment its beak will be buried in your flesh. Your little wolf may have all the manners of the lamb, but in an evil hour it will destroy all your lambs and perhaps rend you limb from limb. It is hopelessly, eternally corrupt. It cannot please God. It must be utterly dethroned, renounced and crucified with Christ.

4. We see next the attempt of man to compromise with the flesh and to disregard this Divine decree of its extermination. Saul spared Agag that he might grace his triumph, and he kept the best of the spoil that he might sacrifice unto the Lord his God. He obeyed the commandment of the Lord to a certain extent. He defeated Amalek and destroyed the nation in a sense. He did all God told him as far as it was agreeable, and he took his own way just where it was pleasant. His obedience, therefore, was not really obedience to God, but truly self-will. He retained just enough of the flesh to destroy the whole service. The very essence of the disobedience was compromise. The very worst thing about it was that he tried to put the evil to a good use. It was a very insult in the face of heaven to bring the forbidden thing and offer it to the God he had defied. Now this is just the spirit of modern religious culture. Don't go too far. Don't be extreme. Don't be puritanical. Go easy. Be liberal. Meet the world half way. Marry that scoundrel to save him. Take that saloon keeper into the church because you can make good use of his money. Put that brazen-faced woman up in the choir because she will draw her theatrical set to hear her sing. Go to the theater and the play with your husband to get him to go to church with you on Sunday.

Nonsense. In the first place, in such an unequal contest on the enemy's ground the devil will always get the best of you, and instead of being saved the husband will drag to his level the woman that ventured on forbidden ground. The operatic singer, instead of bringing her set under the influence of religion, will bring the church to the level of her set and turn it into a clubhouse and a concert-room. The saloon keeper's money will moderate the tone of the preaching so that it will be a comfort unto Sodom, and vice and sin can sit unchecked, and even count itself the very buttress and pillar of the cause of the holy Christ.

Think you that God will accept such service? Will He who owns the treasures of the universe and could create a mountain or a mine of gold in a moment, and send a thousand angels to sing in His sanctuaries, will He accept the money that is stained with the blood of souls and polluted with the filth of dethroned purity and honor? Will He accept the meretricious service that is sold for sordid gain? Will He go begging to the devil's shrine, and asking his permission to let go his captives that they may be saved? Shame upon our unfaithfulness and our compromise! Oh, for the sword of a Samuel to hew in pieces the compromises that are an offence to heaven and a disgrace to the Bride of the Lamb.

5. We see the fawning pleading of the flesh for indulgence. Agag came forth, walking delicately, mincing like a silly, coquettish girl, smiling, seeking by his blandishments to disarm opposition, to win favor, looking like an incarnation of gentleness and innocence. A perfect gentleman! Surely, he could not harm a child! Surely, no one could dream of doing him harm! Ah, that is the old flesh pleading for his life, pointing out its refinement, its culture, its graces, the good that it is doing and wants to do, its claim upon your consideration and regard. It will decorate your church with the finest taste; it will sing in your choirs with all the harmonies of classical music and attract crowds; it will bring society to your church; it will give you a bright and liberal theology. It is full of humanitarian plans for the relief of the suffering and the uplifting of degradation, and it offers you a Pullman palace car prepaid to the gates of heaven.

Surely, such a beautiful gentle creature should not be rudely slain. But back of all its disguises and fawning, the Holy Ghost will show you, if you will let Him, the serpent's coil, the dragon's voice and the festering corpse of the charnel house.

Death is not always repulsive at the first sight. The daughter of Jairus was beautiful in her shroud, and a flush of life still lingered on her cheek, but she was as dead as Lazarus festering in his tomb. And so that sweet-faced girl, with her fawning charms, that brilliant minister with his intellectual sophistries, that voice that sings like an angel in the choir, are as corrupt and polluted as that poor creature that lies in yonder hospital dropping to pieces in the last stages of corruption, or that red-handed assassin reeking with the blood of his victim. They are both flesh, only at different stages of their moral putrefaction.

6. We see in Agag the flesh feigning death. "Surely," said Agag, "the bitterness of death is past." And so you will find plenty of people in pulpits and pews, on platforms and in obscure corners, who would make you believe that they are utterly dead, and yet who remind you when you get a good look at them of corpses walking around in their grave clothes. They are so conscious of their deadness that you know they are alive. They are so proud of their humility that you would rather they were proud than humble. They are so constantly in their own shadow that they try you by their religious egotism. Surely, dead people don't know it, don't think about it, are unostentatious, unobtrusive, modest, simple, natural, free, and, like good water, without taste, color or consciousness. Oh, for this blessed simplicity and this place of self-forgetting rest! Oh, for this fulfillment of the prayer, "Lord, let me die so dead that I won't know it."

Beloved, there is no danger so great, especially among Christians somewhat advanced, as that of counting ourselves in a place where we really do not live. There is nothing so hardening to the heart as to take the place of self-surrender and then live a life of self-indulgence, self-will and adding to it the greater fault of self-complacency; calling things holy which are not, bringing the standard down to our own experience and filling ourselves with a self-complacent dream. Truly, we are to reckon that we are dead indeed. We are not to reckon that we are reckoned dead, but we are to reckon on a reality, and we are to insist upon it and take nothing less from God or from ourselves. Oh, that we would dare to call things by their right names and have no counterfeit, even from ourselves.

7. We see self exposed and slain. Agag could not deceive Samuel. The old man pierces him through with one glance of the Holy Ghost, and looking at his mincing, fawning figure, we can imagine him saying, "I know you with all your fawning. You are an old murderer. You are a selfish, cruel tyrant. Your sword has made many a mother childless, many an innocent victim has been crushed beneath your lust or hate, and back of all your smiles there is a skeleton and a serpent's sting." And then with that sharp sword he cut through his blandishments and hewed him to pieces before the Lord.

Sin never stops till it reaches its worst, and God shows us in a single sample the possibilities of the evil to which the tiniest seed and fairest bud of selfishness may yet ripen.

Beloved, let us ask God to expose it in our hearts. Let us open our being to the sword of Samuel, which is just the sword of the Holy Ghost. It is described in the Epistle to the Hebrews in these solemn, searching, but blessed words: "The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

All that we need to be delivered from any form of self and sin is to really be willing to see it, to recognize it, to call it by its right name, to throw off its disguise, to brand it with its true character, to pass sentence of death upon it, to stand to the sentence without cornpromise, to consent to no reprieve, to give God the right to slay it, and then there is power enough in the sword of the Spirit, in the fire of the Holy Ghost, in the blood of Calvary, in the faithfulness and love and grace of God to make us dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.