J.C. Ryle on Jellyfish

June 12, 2012

Dislike of dogma is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and especially among young people. . . . It produces what I must venture to call . . . a “jelly-fish” Christianity . . . a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power. . . . Alas! It is a type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, “no dogma, no distinct tenets, no positive doctrine.”

We have hundreds of “jellyfish” clergyman, who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity. They have no definite opinions . . . they are so afraid of “extreme views” that they have no views of all.

We have thousands of “jellyfish” sermons preached every year, sermons without an edge, or a point, or corner, smooth as billiard balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint. . . .

And worst of all, we have myriads of “jellyfish” worshipers—respectable Church-gone people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than colorblind people can distinguish colors. . . . They are “tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine”; . . . ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old.

J. C. Ryle, Principles for Churchmen (London: William Hunt, 8 1084), 97–98. Quoted in J. I. Packer, Faithfulness and Holiness, 72–73.


A Critique of My American World View – Part 2 – Materialism

November 30, 2011

Part 2 – Materialism (Click here for Part 1)

I start with materialism because it is the easiest to see.  I surround myself with stuff, I want stuff, I buy stuff, and I throw away more stuff in a day than six Cambodians put together.[1]  But it’s not just that I have a lot of stuff, I also don’t want you to touch my stuff. I rationalize it by thinking, “Well, if I let them use it and they break it, they’ll have to pay me for it, and they can’t afford it” or “I wouldn’t want that to come between our friendship.” But my motive is self-focused, not looking out for their interests, rather just my own, and making sure I get to keep my stuff.  And when I look into my heart at the reason I have all this stuff, most of the reasoning is purely selfish.  How do I know?  What if someone took all my stuff?  Would I be upset? Yes.  I would be.  What if I was asked to give it all away?  Would it be hard?  Yes. Would I want to? No.   I would like to think if Jesus asked me to sell everything I own that I would do it in a split second, and without looking back, but sometimes I wonder if it would be harder to do than I think.

The truth is, materialism can be an asset to all of us who are Christians.  Because contained within the core principles of materialism there is a truth: we like stuff, and we like nice stuff, and we want a lot of nice stuff.

Who taught us that mansions, yachts, Lamborghinis, iphones, computers, and flat-screen TV’s are nice things?  Would anyone in their right mind rather have a clump of dirt over a bar of gold?  But who told us gold is better than dirt? Sure, there is some cultural variance on what is viewed as valuable, but every culture has those really nice things that everyone wishes they could have.  Who taught us to like nice things?  I would argue that it is the very essence of being human that we desire nice things.  This is why Jesus never had to explain to his disciples that being first in the Kingdom of God was something to be desired – because they inherently desired it.  Jesus didn’t have to teach on the value of treasure – because everyone already knew treasure was valuable.

So how is materialism an asset to us?  Well, we are all really motivated by attaining material possessions, and we are good at getting nice stuff.  As Christians we are not to change this motivation – only we are to enhance it – to get even better stuff!

Jesus said: ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19–21, NASB95)

It isn’t that storing up treasure is forbidden – it is storing up treasure on earth that Jesus commands us not to do.  Why?  Well, one of the reasons is because storing up treasure on earth is not the best we can have!  If we store up treasure on earth, thieves might take it from us, moths and rust might destroy what we have worked so hard for – and in the end, we will die, and then all we had would be lost.  So Jesus gives us the better alternative – and as materialists, we should listen!  Storing up treasure on earth is dumb! Foolish! Futile! Rather we should store up treasure in heaven because it will last forever, and is even better than any sort of treasure we can find here on earth!

Consider the words of Jesus:

“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3–4, NASB95)

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6, NASB95)

“But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:17–18, NASB95)

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:35, NASB95)

“But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”” (Luke 14:13–14, NASB95)

“And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9, NASB95)

People work 100 hours a week in order to get money.  People sacrifice everything for an extra dime!  And even we, as Christians do the same thing as the world!  Wasting our lives for stuff!  But a true materialist would see the futility of storing up treasure on earth, and move all – ALL – their assets to heaven.  Do I really want nice stuff?  Do I really want a lot of nice stuff?  The question then remains – do I believe what Jesus has said about reward to be true or not?  If I believe His words, then my life will never be the same.  And the way I deal with stuff will look nothing like the world’s materialism – for I will have switched to a heavenly culture of materialism that this world knows nothing about.

Is this selfish?  It depends on who is giving the definition.  Was Christ being selfish when He died on the cross?  The author of Hebrews wrote that Christ endured the cross and despised shame “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:2).  So was Jesus selfish – because He did it for His own joy?  No! Not at all! Our benefit, and His joy are not mutually exclusive, but are actually connected!

The way to reward in Christ is through selflessness. Through making myself the slave of everyone else around me. Through serving, and humbling myself.  And to use the joy of reward and heaven as a motivation does not taint the selflessness.  Because it is reward from God, and to seek out reward from God actually honors Him, because we are saying we believe His reward to be better than anything this world can offer – we are saying we believe in His promises, and that even at the cost of our lives, we will have His reward that He has for us, and no other.  If we do some act of kindness, and the recipient asks us why and we say, “Because my God is going to reward me for what I did for you today”, that makes God great, it displays His value to the world.

As I seek heavenly treasure, Christ will be glorified, and I will be eternally happy in Him for He gives good gifts, He gives only the best gifts.  What an amazing God we serve – that He is “not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Heb. 6:10).


[1] University College of Swansea. International Development Abstracts. Vol 26 Norwich [Norfolk]: Geo Abstracts, 2007, 30.
Kutz, Myer. Environmentally Conscious Materials Handling. Hoboken (N.J.): J. Wiley & sons, 2009, 139.


Fighting Sin

August 3, 2011

“And his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”

— Exodus 17:12

“It is far easier to fight with sin in public, than to pray against it in private. It is remarked that Joshua never grew weary in the fighting, but Moses did grow weary in the praying; the more spiritual an exercise, the more difficult it is for flesh and blood to maintain it. Let us cry, then, for special strength, and may the Spirit of God, who helpeth our infirmities, as he allowed help to Moses, enable us like him to continue with our hands steady “until the going down of the sun;” till the evening of life is over; till we shall come to the rising of a better sun in the land where prayer is swallowed up in praise.” – CH Spurgeon in Morning and Evening


Standing Between the Living and the Dead

July 22, 2011

Numbers 17:6-15 (English Numbers 16:41-50)

The following day the whole community of Israel accused Moses and Aaron, “YOU have caused the people of Yahweh to die!” And just as the community had assembled against Moses and Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting, for suddenly, the cloud covered it, and the glory of Yahweh appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting and Yahweh said to Moses, “Get away from this community so that I may annihilate them immediately!” But they threw themselves down on their faces, and Moses said to Aaron, “Get the censer and put burning coals from the alter in it, place incense on it, and quickly take it to the community and make atonement for them.  Because the wrath from the presence of Yahweh has gone out—the plague has begun!” Aaron did as Moses commanded, and ran to the middle of the assembly where the plague was just beginning and he offered the incense and made atonement for the people, standing between the living and the dead, and the plague was stopped. But 14,700 people died in the plague in addition to those who died because of Korah.  Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting because the plague was stopped.


A Critique of My American World View – Part 1 – Introduction

June 6, 2011

Being a missionary outside of my own culture gives me a unique opportunity to step back and evaluate my own world view in a way that is clearer and less (hopefully) self-deceived than if I never stepped foot outside my own nation. The problem is I have failed to really spend any significant time taking advantage of this opportunity. So my reason for writing this short “treatise” is mainly for personal benefit (yes, individualism is one of the many problems with my world view), but also for the benefit of Christian brothers and sisters who live in America as well as those who know Americans and wonder what is wrong with them. This will come in parts—this first part is only the introduction, but more will follow.

So for starters, what is a word view? It is simply the way a person views the world. It is how I view myself, and how I relate to God and the people around me. Obviously for Christians, our goal should be to view the world as God would have us view it (see Appendix A if you disagree…), that we would view the world as He intended us to – that He, as the old hymn goes, would be our vision.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

As was stated in the title, this is a critique of my world view. It’s not that I don’t love America, I do! Or that I don’t appreciate the great freedoms and privileges I have as an American. But I love God more, and want to love Him more and more each day. So when America gets in the way of my loving God, America needs to go and not vice versa. There are some positive attributes in my American world view, and I will seek to point them out, but for the most part, my “Americanness” gets in the way of having a right view of myself, and a right view of God, and therefore inhibits my relationship with God. I pray that through this undertaking that God will give me insight into sinful blind spots in my world view that keep me from getting more intimate with Him, and give me the grace to cast aside these broken cisterns that keeps me from drinking fully from the fountain of Life, and that He would be seen as gloriously beautiful among the nations through my satisfaction in Him.

One question remains to be answered before I go any farther: is there really any biblical merit to the study of one’s own world view? The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus (a missionary to a culture outside of his own) the following: “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:12-13). Paul made a cultural observation—a critique of the Cretans world view, and then outlined steps for Titus to take in order to combat the error in their world view. The main step in this case was to “rebuke them sharply”. There are other examples in Scripture where it is clear world view was taken into account when God’s messengers spoke, even Christ Himself took the world view of his listeners into account when He preached (ex. Matt. 5:21-22). The biblical purpose in understanding a world view is to see where it aligns and, more importantly, where it falls short of reality—the way God views the world and us. If we come to a study of world view with any other purpose, then it really is a worthless and empty pursuit.


John 14:1-6

May 31, 2011

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God and also believe in me. In my Father’s house there are many permanent residences. If it were not so, I would have told you, for I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you then I will also return and take you with me, so that you will be where I am. You already know the way to go to where I am going.”

But Thomas said, “Lord, if we don’t know where you’re going, how can we know the way?”

Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”


A Rescue Shop ហាង​ជួយ​សង្គ្រោះ​

April 11, 2011

A quote from translation work this morning:

Some want to live within the sound
Of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop
Within a yard of hell. – C. T. Studd

មនុស្ស​ខ្លះ​ចង់​រស់​នៅ​កន្លែង​ណា​ដែល​គេ​អាច​ឮ​សម្លេង​
ជួង​ហៅ​ប្រជុំ​របស់​ព្រះវិហារ​រាល់​ពេល
តែ​សម្រាប់​ខ្ញុំ​វិញ ខ្ញុំ​ចង់​បើក​ហាង​ជួយ​សង្គ្រោះ​មួយ
កៀក​នឹង​ច្រក​ចូល​ស្ថាន​​នរក។  – លោក​ស្ទិដ ស៊ី.ធី.


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