April 22, 2003

Sorry for the lack of

Sorry for the lack of posting in recent days. Was real busy for Easter, as I knew we would be, but there is a complication on continuing the blog for the remainder of the month, and I'm going to have to let the schedule slip for more important matters. Family concerns are calling me back home to Texas, and I will not be touching the blog for about a week. Prayer is appreciated, and I am also certain that God has everything under His control. I guess prayer is good for us whenever we doubt that - which is why we are told to ask God for our daily bread, even though He already knows we need it.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:05 PM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2003

In Remembrance Last night, our

In Remembrance
Last night, our church had its annual sacrificial meal, commemorating the Last Supper. Communion is always special, but it seems even more so on this day. A little more special for us, as our church is unable to use its kitchen (structural damage has prevented us from having full access to our church since December 1999). We have our sacrificial meal in a meeting room of another organization down the street from us. Maybe the disciples' last supper with Jesus was also in a strange room.

Good Friday
A while back, and I cannot find his original post in the short time I have, Jeffrey Collins Joyful Christian said that he thought Psalm 22 was an expression of Christ's thoughts on the cross.
Psalm 22

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.

But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in You;
They trusted, and You delivered them.
They cried to You, and were delivered;
They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
"He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him! "

But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother's breasts.
I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother's womb
You have been My God.
Be not far from Me,
For trouble is near;
For there is none to help.

Many bulls have surrounded Me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.
They gape at Me with their mouths,
Like a raging and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.

For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.

But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me;
O My Strength, hasten to help Me!
Deliver Me from the sword,
My precious life from the power of the dog.
Save Me from the lion's mouth
And from the horns of the wild oxen!
Psalm 22: 1-21 NKJV

The Psalm doesn't end there, however. There is a good ending, as we will soon see.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 26 Christiana and Mercy in the Valleys

The Pilgrims now descend into the Valley of Humiliation. They know of Christian's fight with Apollyon, and talk about it, expressing fear of a similar fate. Great Heart assures them that they will be safe. Christian's fight with Apollyon actually resulted from Christian's missteps as he descended into the valley. Great Heart goes on to say that the Valley is actually a very pleasant place, that our Lord actually had a country house here, and loved to walk and partake of the beauty of this place. Here is solitude and rest. They see the spot where Christian and Apollyon fought, and there is a pillar erected there to commemorate Christian's victory. Great Heart tells them that when Apollyon was defeated, he fled to the Valley of the Shadow of Death, their next destination.

Now they come upon the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and they have two advantages that Christian did not have: they enter the Valley in daylight, and they have Great Heart as their guide (as well as each other). The Valley is long and difficult still, and the boys are afraid. Great Heart gives them comfort from his experience. He has traveled this Valley many times, and this time is not as challenging as the worst of them, so he tells the boys to take comfort from the fact that he is still alive. One of the boys becomes ill, but Christiana applies some of the medicine obtained from the Physician at the Family's house, and he recovers. Christiana soon sees something fiendish and ugly approaching them from the front, and gathers the boys and Mercy around her, but as it comes closer, it vanishes as if they were passing through fog. Later, Mercy hears a lion roaring, and looks back to see a lion stalking them. Great Heart moves to the rear, and when the lion sees his drawn sword, stops the pursuit. Later they come upon an open pit, and cannot see the bottom for all the smoke and fire about it. Great Heart tells them this is like doing business on the Great Deep, or going down to the roots of mountains. He directs them to pray, and soon the hindrance is cleared and they are able to continue.

One last obstacle remains, the cave at the end of the valley. However, this time, they do not encounter Pope and Pagan, as Christian did, but a raging giant, Maul who demands that Great Heart stop his business with pilgrims. Maul is known for encountering Pilgrims with sophistry, subtle reasoning and deception leading to a skeptical view of the truth. Great Heart confronts Maul, saying they shall fight, but not until the Pilgrims hear the reason for the fight. Maul accuses Great Heart of robbing the country. Great Heart asks him to be specific in his accusations. Maul says, "You practice the craft of a kidnapper. You gather up women and children and carry them into a strange country to the weakening of my Master's kingdom." Great Heart replies, "I am a servant of the God of Heaven. My business is to bring Sinners to repentance...And if this is indeed the business of your quarrel, let us get to it as soon as you would like."

The giant has a club, Great Heart a sword. The giant strikes first, bringing Great Heart down to his knees, but he recovers and delivers a wound to the giant's arm. The fight is fierce and takes more than an hour. Eventually both have to stop to rest. Maul simply catches his breath, but Great Heart prays earnestly. The women and children stand nearby, huddled together, sighing and crying all through the battle. When the fight resumes, Great Heart knocks the giant down, whereupon the giant cries out "Stop, let me recover!" Great Heart stops and lets the giant get up. As soon as the giant is up, he delivers a blow which just barely misses breaking Great Heart's skull, but in the weak moment after the thrust, Great Heart pierces the giant's chest with the sword. The giant begins to faint, and Great Heart cuts off his head.

Thoughts on this chapter
The Valley of Humiliation, which many people view as a bad thing, is actually a desired place to be closer to the Lord.
The Valley of the Shadow of Death presents many dangers. Some of them are just illusions, figments of our imagination. Others are real, but thwarted with the strong defense of the sword of God's word. Others are more difficult to travers and require fervent prayer. Then there is the ever present chatter from those who would discourage Christians from going on their Pilgrimage or encouraging others to do so. Confronting them may be difficult, even violent (in spiritual terms), but we are called to take on the Pilgrimage boldly. It helps to have a guide with a sword to do the actual fighting, however.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2003

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 25 Christiana and Mercy Meet the Family

Great Heart leads the Pilgrims to the Porter's Gate (we're at the House Beautiful now), and introduces them. He then begs leave of them in order to return to the Interpreter's house, his mission being fulfilled. Christiana expresses regret at his having to leave, and Mercy and James express similar sentiments. Great Heart replies that he has to be obedient to his Lord, but he would be willing to accompany them, if the Interpreter will send him. He then tells Christiana that she could have asked for this back when they were at the Interpreter's house -- but he has to return now, and will return if called for.

Christiana then identifies herself as Christian's widow, and the Porter leads everyone into the house where the Pilgrims are introduced to the family. They are greeted with joy and thanksgiving, a much easier reception than the one Christian received. After dinner, Christiana asks to have Christian's old room, and she shares the room with Mercy. Mercy has a dream that evening, where she is lamenting the hardness of her heart, and she sees someone with wings coming to her. Mercy is asked what troubles her, and when she tells her complaint, she is told "Peace be to you," and she is dressed in fine clothes, adorned with beautiful jewelry and a crown, and is led to One sitting on a throne, where she is welcomed. She laughs out loud in her dream, and Christiana asks her about the dream in the morning. Christiana assures her that the latter part of the dream will come true just as the first part.

Christiana and Mercy decide to stay with the Family for about a month, learning all they can from them. Prudence asks Christiana's permission to test hers sons. She asks James, "Can you tell me who saves you?" James replies, "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit."
Prudence: "How does God the Father save you?"
James: "By His grace."
Prudence: "How does God the Son save you?"
James: "By His righteousness, death, blood, and life."
Prudence: "And how does God the Holy Spirit save you?"
James: "By His illumination, by His renovation, and by His preservation."
Prudence commends Christiana for the quality of James' learning.

Prudence questions Joseph, "What is assumed by this word 'saved'?"
Joseph: "That by sin Man has brought himself into a state captivity and misery."
Prudence: "What is assumed by his being saved by the Trinity?"
Joseph: "That sin is so great and mighty a tyrant, that no one but God can pull us out of its clutches, and that God is so good and loving to people as to indeed pull them out of this miserable state."
Joseph is commended for learning well.

Prudence questions Samuel, "Why do you want to go to Heaven?"
Samuel answers, "So I may see God and serve Him without weariness, so I may see Christ and love Him forever, and so I may have a fullness of the Holy Spirit in me suc as I can't enjoy here."
Prudence commends Samuel, "You are a good young man, also, and one who has learned well."

Prudence now questions the oldest, Matthew, "What do you think of the Bible?"
Matthew: "It is the Holy Word of God"
Prudence: "Is there anything written in it that you don't understand?"
Matthew: "Yes, a great deal"
Prudence: "What do you do when you come across in it places that you don't understand?"
Matthew: "I think that God is wiser than I. I also pray that He will please let me know everything in it that He knows will be for my good."
Prudence: "What do you believe regarding the resurrection of the dead?
Matthew: "I believe the same people who were buried shall rise the same in nature but not in corruption. And I believe this for two reasons. First--because God has promised it. Second--because He is able to perform it."

Prudence then tells the boys that they must continue to learn from their mother, and to observe what the heavens and earth teach them, and to pay special heed to the Book which led Christian to become a Pilgrim.

Mercy has a gentleman caller while staying at the house, a man named Brisk, who has designs on marrying her. Mercy asks the girls of the family about him, and is told that he is a man who pretends to be religious, but is actually stuck very closely to the world. She wonders what to do, for she does not want to continue the relationship. She is told to do what is in her nature, and Brisk will stop calling. The next time Brisk comes by, he finds Mercy making clothes for the poor. He asks how much money she makes doing this, and Mercy replies that she is doing this out of compassion, there is no profit. Brisk is discouraged and leaves.

Now finally, the bad effects of Beelzebub's fruit is felt (back from when the boys picked up the fruit on the path, right inside the Gate several days ago). Matthew becomes very ill. A Physician is called for, and after some questioning the cause is found. A laxative is made, which is found to be too weak, so stronger medicine is called for, "Ex Carne et Sanguine Christi (you know, physicians give strange medicines to their patients)" A footnote on this passage, from Hazelbaker, says "This Latin phrase means 'of the flesh and blood of Christ.' John 6:53-58 Hebrews 9:14 [Bunyan's scripture reference] The medicine of the Law was not enough to cure the sickness. The blood and flesh of Christ is the only medicine strong enough to overcome the effects of sin. Romans 8:3" Matthew reluctantly takes the medicine and recovers. Christiana asks for some of this medicine to take with her. The Physician gives her some of it and she is told that she must administer it in the same fashion, or it will have no effect.

During the remaining part of the month, the boys have several questions to ask Prudence, and the Pilgrims are shown a few artifacts, such as the fruit that Eve ate from, and the altar, wood, and knife used by Abraham when he was told to sacrifice his son Isaac, and finally they are shown Jacob's ladder, with angels ascending and descending upon it.

They finally send for Great Heart, who returns to accompany them on their Pilgrimage, to the end this time, and they depart.

Thoughts on this chapter
This chapter is full of questions and answers on basic theology. I've included only some of them, the ones I felt to be most significant. Once again, Mercy is reassured that she will be welcome at the end of the Pilgrimage. The boys are growing in wisdom. We will see later that they are growing in stature as well, the Pilgrimage is an allegorical type of a full and entire Christian life, from childhood to adulthood. Christian's journey as described, seemed to be only several months long, in Part Two, it encompasses an entire lifetime.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:56 PM | Comments (1)

April 13, 2003

Update on the blogging project

Update on the blogging project for Lent:

I have made a decision on what to do with the blog, and it is based on several things that have happened within the last week or two.

When Amy and I went to Marriage Encounter last weekend, one thing that I brought home with me was a conviction that it wasn't really helping our marriage by blogging after Amy has gone to bed for the night. Sometimes when we get home from an activity late at night, and do things we like or need to do when we get home, there isn't a lot of time left for blogging. This has been especially true in these last two weeks before Easter.

Another reason is that there is a situation in my family which has pretty much put me out of the mood for blogging. I don't want to get deep into personal details, but anyone reading this is invited to pray for my mom, she needs it right now, actually I guess both my parents do.

So - here's what I've decided to do till Easter: I'm going to cut back from a five-day per week to a four-day per week commitment to blogging the Pilgrim's Progress. That roughly translates into blogging every other day. That's going to push the book past Easter, and I'll be wrapping it up near the end of the month. Sorry for anyone wanting to get it read by Easter, if anyone did so, but I'm thinking this will be better for my sanity. Blogging every day this last week has gotten more difficult.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:02 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2003

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 24 Great Heart and the Hill of Difficulty

Great Heart leads the Pilgrims from the Interpreter's house, and they soon reach the Cross, where Christian's burden fell off his back, and rolled into the tomb at the bottom of a hill, where it was seen no more. Christiana knows that the Cross is the means of pardon, in word by the promise of God, but she does not understand its fulfillment in deed. She asks Great Heart for an explanation. Great Heart talks of pardon by deed by the work of Christ, "And He has obtained it in this double way: He has performed righteousness to cover you and has spilled blood in which to wash you." He goes on to describe fully the nature of Christ and His righteousness, both as God incarnate, and as fully human Man. He talks of the necessity for a redemption from the curse of sin, "this is by The Blood of your Lord who came and stood in your place and stead, and who died your death for your transgressions....For the sake of this, God passes by you and will not hurt you when He comes to judge the world."

They go on to the point where Christian tried to wake Simple, Sloth, and Presumption. They are still here, but are not asleep on the ground. They are now hanged up in irons a short distance from the path. They talk for a while about how their sloth resulted in their confinement and how it now serves as a warning for others, though for a while, they turned many Pilgrims from the path, hence deserving their punishment.

Going on, the Pilgrims reach the Hill of Difficulty, and see the paths around the hill that Formal and Hypocrisy took, thereby becoming lost. They note that there are obstacles preventing access to the false paths, yet the foolish still insist on taking what seems to be an easier path. They go up the hill, and find it strenuous after a while. They soon desire rest, and Great Heart leads them to the Prince's Arbor, the place where Christian fell asleep and lost his Certificate. They rest, being wary of falling asleep. Great Heart asks James, one of Christiana's sons, what he thinks of the Pilgrimage now. James says that he almost lost heart, but thanking Great Heart for his guidance, he replies that his mother has told him that the way to Heaven is like a ladder, and the way to Hill is like down a hill. He'd rather go up the ladder to life, than down the hill to death. Mercy replies, "But the proverb is: 'To go down the hill is easy.' " James answers, "In my opinion, the day is coming when going down the hill will be the hardest of all." Great Heart commends the boy for his correct answer.

They resume their journey, and soon approach the place where Christian encountered Fearful and Mistrust, running away from the lions. There is now a platform there, and a plate engraved with a message warning those who would turn back from fear, and stating that Fearful and Mistrust were here punished for endeavoring to hinder Christian on his journey.

They are now in sight of the lions. The young boys are afraid, and fall back to the rear. Great Heart smiles and chides them gently, saying "How's this, my Boys? Do you love to take the lead when no danger approaches but love to take the rear as soon as the lions appear?" Great Heart draws his sword, even though the lions are chained. His sword is drawn wisely, for their is a new danger here. A giant appears, Grim, and claims that the Pilgrims are trespassing. Great Heart replies that the women and children are going on Pilgrimage, "and this is the way they must go. And go it they shall, in spite of you and the lions." Christiana affirms that she and her companions will walk through. A fight ensues between Great Heart and Grim, resulting in Grim's death. The party then walks on by the chained lions safely, though they are afraid of them.

Thoughts on this chapter
There is a long monologue in this chapter regarding the righteousness of Christ and how He accomplished our salvation. It is rather detailed and hard to repeat in this review, but it is certainly worth a second look for anyone wishing to look it up.

The lions are now reinforced by a giant who actively resists the progress of the Pilgrims. In Part One, the lions were harmless. They still are, as long as they are by themselves, but the giant presents quite an obstacle. He is no match for Great Heart however. We will see more giants slain later, some by the boys, for by the end of the Pilgrimage, they will be men.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2003

I'm blogging at lunch today.

I'm blogging at lunch today. I don't usually blog at this time, but since I've heard that today is the nefarious "Homosexual Day of Silence", I've decided to speak up, and it's now or never since I won't be blogging tonight. I don't play such silly games as this "Day of Silence". If I've got something to say, I believe it's better to speak up. For gay activists who do play such games, may I suggest a modification to your strategy? If a little is good, then more is even better! Why not extend your day of silence to a whole year! That would really bring your point home!

Here's what the Concerned Women for America have to say on what parents should tell their kids about this event. (Sorry I've posted this a day too late for all you parents who treat this seriously - as you should)

Here's an even better way to remember this day: National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, 2003

So long for now--the Pilgrim's Progess blog will continue tomorrow night.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

I will not be able

I will not be able to blog tonight, Amy and I are going to the theater to see a play called Fiction. We know absolutely nothing about it. One thing that is not fiction, however, is the liberation of Iraq, as described all over the blogosphere, but I'm going to single out a special column found at National Review Online; Clifford D. May - You Call This Liberation? His thinktank, The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is added to the blogroll on the left.

If you want to read some fiction, take a look at the continuing discussion of the war from Mother Jones magazine and The Nation, who continue to argue that Iraqis are firmly against us, civilian casualties are overwhelming the nation, and that (for the zillionth time) this is all about oil. Chris Smith, writing for Mother Jones, interviews Robert Dreyfuss, who claims that the war in Iraq is the result of a 30-year-old neoconservative conspiracy. Dreyfuss's qualifications? He's a contributing writer for Mother Jones! It must be true!

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2003

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 23 Christiana and Mercy Meet the Interpreter

Our party of Pilgrims head off from the Gate walking along a walled path. On the other side of the wall is Beezebub's land, on which several trees grow, whose branches hang over the path. Christiana's boys jump up and grab some of the fruit from the trees and eat. Christiana rebukes them for stealing what isn't theirs, but she does not stop them in time. (We will see consequences of their actions later, but not today).

Continuing on, they encounter two men who assault the women, and the women cry out. Since they are still close to the Gate, some individuals come out and find the men in a great scuffle with Christiana and Mercy. The boys are nearby, powerless to intervene. The man coming to help them attempts to take the ruffians, but they escape and climb over the wall. The author notes that the dog which threatened the Pilgrims now becomes their (the bad guys') protector.

The Reliever then asks the women how they are, and they say they are alright. The Reliever then says that he is amazed that they did not ask for a Guide to assist them in their journey. Christiana says she did not know they would face danger so soon, but since it would have been good to have a Guide, she wonders why one was not sent with them. The Reliever says that it is not necessary to grant that which is not asked for "lest by doing so, they become of little value." Christiana asks if they should go back and ask for a Guide, but the Reliever says that will not be necessary, for in all of the Lord's lodgings there are sufficient things there to equip them with everything they need.."But as I said, He will be asked of them to do it for them, and it is a worthless thing that is not worth asking for."

They continue on their journey, and Mercy expresses amazement that they have faced such violent danger so soon. Christiana says that she should have recognized the danger. The men were similar in appearance to the two she saw in her dream back in Chapter 20, the two who were wondering how to thwart her pilgrimage before she received her invitation from the King.

As they continue, they come to the house of the Interpreter (compare with Chapter 5). They stop at the door, and hear people inside talking about Christiana. The news has gone forth that she is on pilgrimage, and the Interpreter's household is rejoicing at the news. Christiana knocks at the door, and a young girl, Innocent answers. She asks who is calling, and Christiana identifies herself and her party. The girl is overjoyed, and rushes in to announce the visitors. The Interpreter comes to the door, and welcomes them into the home.

In the house, they are shown the same images which were shown to Christian earlier, plus some additional ones. They are shown an image of a man holding a muckrake [a muckrake is a rake used for moving heavy, moist earth, most usually mixed with manure. -Hazelbaker]. Above his head, an individual holds a celestial crown and offers to trade the man the crown for his muckrake. The man does not look up or regard it, but continues to rake the straw, sticks, and dust of the ground. This is a figure of a man of this world, and the muckrake shows his sinful mind. The fact that he disregards the one calling from above shows that Heaven is only a fable to some and that things here are accounted the only things substantial.

They are then led to a fine room of the house, and told to look for anything profitable there. They see nothing, but are asked to look again. Mercy then sees an ugly spider hanging by its hands upon the opposite wall. When asked if there is only one, they notice that there is indeed more than one spider, and venomous ones at that. This shows that no matter how much one is infected with the venom of sin, one may still lay hold of and dwell in the best room which belongs to the King's house above.

They are then led into a room with a hen and chicks, and asked to observe for a while. They see a chick drinking water, and as it drinks it lifts its head and eyes up to heaven. They note the way the hen takes care of her chicks. She has a fourfold manner-- first, she has a common call, and she has this all day long; second, she has a special call, only used occasionally; third, a brooding call; and fourth, an outcry of alarm. The King has a similar manner with His people: a common call by which He gives nothing; a special call by which He always has something to give; a brooding voice for those under His wing; and finally an outcry when He sees the enemy come.

They are then led into a room where a butcher is killing a sheep. The sheep is quiet, taking its death patiently. They are reminded to learn from the sheep to suffer and to put up with wrongs without murmurings and complaints. "Your King calls you His Sheep."

They are led outside to a flower bed full of many flowers; some more spectacular than others, yet there are no complaints heard from them, nor do they argue with one another.

They are then led to a field of grain, from which the tops have all been cut off so that only the straw remains. Christiana asks what should be done with the crop. She answers, "Burn some of it, and make compost of the rest". The Interpreter notes that fruit is the thing to be looked for, and for the lack of it, the field is condemned to be burned or be trodden under foot by men. "Beware that in this you don't condemn yourselves."

They are shown a robin with a spider in its mouth. Christiana notes that she is not used to seeing a robin this way, she is used to seeing them feed on crumbs of bread or other harmless matter. "I don't like him as much as I did." She is told that the robin is an emblem very suited to be likened to some professors of faith, who are pretenders in that they frequent the house of the godly and the appointments of the Lord, but when they're by themselves, they can gobble up spiders like the robin.

They are then led into dinner, where they are presented with many proverbs before dinner is served. A sampling of those presented in the book:
"He who lives in sin and looks for happiness thereafter is like him who sows cockleburs and thinks to fill his barn with wheat or barley."
"If a man intends to live well, let him fetch his last day to himself and make it always his companion."
"Whispering and change of mind prove that sin is in the world."

Dinner is served, and the Interpreter engages Christiana and Mercy in conversation. He asks Christiana about her motivation for her pilgrimage, and she tells of her feelings for her husband, her dream, and the invitation she received. The Interpreter asks her about opposition from her city, and she tells how Mrs. Fearful tried to talk her out of coming. She tells of their assault on the way to the Interpreter's house, and he notes that their beginning has been good, and their latter end will greatly increase. He asks Mercy about her pilgrimage, and Mercy again answers timidly, and states that her lack of experience makes her desire to be silent; she cannot talk of dreams and visions, she has none to talk about. The Interpreter presses on her for her reason for coming, and Mercy states that her heart burned within her as she listened to Christiana defend her reasons for pilgrimage against Mrs. Fearful. Mercy decided then that if Christiana would accept her as a companion, she would accompany her on the pilgrimage. The Interpreter gives her a special blessing, "Your leaving is good, for you've given credit to the truth. You're a Ruth, who for the love she had for Naomi and the Lord her God left father, mother, and the land of her birth to leave and go with a people whom she didn't know before. 'May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.' Ruth two, twelve"

Supper is over, and everyone goes to bed, but Mercy has trouble sleeping because of her joy, for her doubts are removed from her farther than ever before.

The next day, they prepare to go, but Innocent is told to take them to the garden for a final Bath, where they are all washed, then given a special Seal on their forehead, and given new garments. The Interpreter calls a manservant of his, Great Heart, and tells him, "Take Sword, Helmet, and Shield; and these, my daughters, and guide them to the house called Beautiful, where they will next rest."

Thoughts on this chapter
God knows our needs before we pray, yet He still wants us to pray, and ask Him for what we need. Why? So we will have a thankful heart and not take Him for granted. Christiana neglects to ask for a guide, yet a guide would have been handy so close to Beelzebub's castle. Don't try the Christian walk alone. We have help from God available, ask for it. Also seek fellowship in a God-fearing Church, where He is worshipped in Spirit and truth.

Mercy finally seems to understand that she is accepted by the King. She has no vision, no dream, to support her decision to come on the pilgrimage, but she finally understands that she is welcomed by the King. Many of us have no special conversion experiences, no shouting, no crying; just a simple, yet sincere, prayer of repentance and asking for God's forgiveness. Don't let the lack of feeling mislead you to think your prayer wasn't heard. Jesus does not turn anyone away.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2003

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 22 Christiana and Mercy Enter the Gate

Our party of Pilgrims come to the Swamp of Despondence, which Christian had fallen into before he entered the Gate. It is in worse shape than ever. Sagacity, the narrator, speaking to the author, says that the poor shape is due to laborers who claim to be serving the King, but secretly act to bring dirt and manure into the swamp instead of stones, and thus serve to mar rather than mend it.

Christiana and her boys stop to ponder the Swamp, but Mercy says, "Come, let's go on. But let's be careful." They look for the steps which lead through the middle of the swamp, and with several close calls make it over without falling off the steps. As soon as they reach the other side, they hear a voice, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

Sagacity now leaves the author to tell of his dream with no further narration, and he sees Christiana, her sons, and Mercy approach the Gate. They agree that Christiana will speak for the entire group, so she goes up and knocks. But instead of being greeted by the gatekeeper, a fierce dog begins barking. They are frightened and confused; afraid to knock, yet afraid to turn back. Eventually, they choose to knock again, and knock much louder. The Gate Keeper answers this time, and asks who they are. Christiana tells him who she is, and their quest, and he lets her in, and says "Let the little children come to me." Mercy is left outside the gate however! Christiana realizes Mercy is missing and tells the Gate Keeper there is another desiring entrance, but as she is speaking, Mercy knocks again, so loud that Christiana is startled. The Gate Keeper asks who is there, and Christiana says that it is her friend. The Gate Keeper opens the Gate, but Mercy has fallen in a swoon. She had begun to believe that she would be left behind. The Gate Keeper tells her to get up, and tell where she is from.

Mercy says that she has come without an invitation from the King, that her only invitation is from Christiana. She expresses her fear of being presumptuous. The Gate Keeper asks if Christiana asked Mercy to accompany her, and she says that is so. The Gate Keeper brings her in, saying, "I pray for alll them who believe on me regardless of what brings them to me." All the Pilgrims ask the Gate Keeper, "We're sorry for our sins and beg of our Lord His pardon and further information about what we must do." The Gate Keeper grants His pardon and speaks many more good words to them. He then leads them to a summer parlor for conversation among themselves. They discuss their fortune for being united in their pilgrimage; Mercy is especially grateful. Mercy asks if the Gate Keeper was angry when she knocked so loudly. Christiana replies, "When He heard your lumbering noise, He gave a wonderfully innocent smile. I believe what you did pleased him well enough, for He showed no sign to the contrary. But I marvel in my heart why He keeps such a dog."

The Keeper comes back down, and Mercy asks him, timidly, why He has such a cruel dog. The Keeper answers, "That dog has another owner. He is also kept close by in another man's ground so my Pilgrims hear his barking. He belongs to the castle, which you see there at a distance, but he can come up to the walls of this place..." He goes on to say that the dog sometimes gets loose, and causes trouble for His Pilgrims and scares them away from the Gate, but He provides timely help for them. Mercy acknowledges the righteousness and integrity of the Gate Keeper, and with encouraging words everyone is sent on their way.

Thoughts on this chapter
Christiana knows of the steps in the middle of the Swamp of Despondence. We will see this pattern throughout Part Two -- Christiana has foreknowledge of the path based on her husband's experience. Perhaps Bunyan meant to imply that in real life, a real Christian man would not be divorced from a non-Christian wife, and the separation existed only in the fictional realm of the allegory. In any case, it is presented as if Christiana had seen Christian's walk all the way up to the River.

Mercy is afraid she will not be invited into the Gate, but the Keeper assures her that she is welcome. Unfortunately, she has to knock a second time, maybe because of her timidity at stepping forward when Christiana is first brought in. In Part Two, we will meet many more personalities, some bold, some afraid. We have seen, in Part One, Pilgrims who turned back in fear. In Part Two, we will also meet Pilgrims who are afraid, and choose to go forward anyway. Not all of us have the same courage and boldness as Christian and Christiana.

Christian faced the prospect of being shot at by arrows from Beelzebub's castle as he knocked at the gate. Christiana and Mercy face the prospect of being attacked by Beelzebub's dog. The Gate Keeper brings them all in however.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2003

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 21 Christiana Begins Her Pilgrimage

This chapter finds the author dreaming again, and he sees an aged gentleman, named Sagacity coming by him, and as he is walking in the same general direction, the author engages him in conversation, and they talk of Christian and his pilgrimage. Sagacity tells the author (they are overlooking the City of Destruction) that Christian has left this place, has succeeded in his pilgrimage, and is now highly commended wherever his name is heard, even in the city he departed. The author rejoices in Christian's reward, but he then asks, "Sir, do you hear anything of his wife and children? Poor things, I wonder in my mind what they're doing."

Mr. Sagacity replies, "Who? Christiana and her sons? They're likely to do as well as Christian himself.... They've packed up and have gone after him."

The author asks if that is really true, and Sagacity replies that he was there when it happened and saw it with his own eyes. He then proceeds to begin the tale of the Pilgrimage of Christiana, her sons, and a friend Mercy.

It seems that after Christiana's husband had crossed over the River, and she could not hear from him anymore, that her thoughts began to work upon her mind. She had lost her husband, and that cost her many tears, but that was not all; she began to wonder if her unbecoming behaviour toward him was one reason why she saw him no more. She became loaded with guilt. She remembered how she had hardened her heart against his appeals and persuasions, to her and her sons, to go with him. Then Christiana said to her children, "Sons, we're all undone. I've sinned away your father, and he is gone. He wanted to have us with him, but I wouldn't go myself, and I hindered you from receiving life." With that the boys all begin weeping and cry out to go after their father. Christiana expresses a regret that they did not follow him when given the original opportunity.

The next night Christiana has a dream, and in the dream she sees a broad parchment on which is recorded the sum of her ways. She is distressed by the sight of her deeds, and cries out, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." After this, she thinks she sees two ugly beings standing by her bedside saying, "What shall we do with this woman? She cries out for mercy when awake and asleep. If she's allowed to go on like this, we'll lsoe her as we lost her husband. Therefore, we must by one way or another seek to take her thoughts off of what shall be hereafter, or else all the world won't be able to stop it, and she'll become a Pilgrim." Christiana wakes up in a sweat, and trembling, but eventually falls back asleep. She dreams again, and sees Christian in a place of bliss, worshipping One sitting on a throne.

The next morning, she awakes and prays and someone knocks on the door. She calls out, "If you come in God's name, come in!" A Visitor responds "Amen!" and enters. He greets Christiana, "Peace to this house! Christiana, do you know why I've come?" Christiana blushes and trembles and she feels warm to this gentleman's errand. He goes on, "My name is Secret. I live with those who are high. It is talked of where I live that you have a desire to go there. Also, there is a report that you're aware of the evil you've formerly done to your husband in hardening your heart against his way and in keeping your babes in their ignorance. Christiana, the Merciful One has sent me to tell you that He is a God ready to forgive and that He takes delight in multiplying the pardon of offenses. He also wants you to know that He invites you to come into His presence, to His table, and that He will feed you with the fat of His house and with the heritage of Jacob your father." He goes on to say that Christian is there, along with many others, and they will all be glad when they hear the sound of her feet step over "your Father's threshold." Christiana is confounded and bows her head. The Visitor then gives Christiana a letter, brought to her from her husband's King. The letter tells her that the King desires her to do as Christian has done. Christiana asks Secret to accompany her. Secret declines, telling her she must set out the same way as Christian has done, and go to the Narrow Gate. He also tells her to keep the letter next to her heart, to read it, memorize it, and present it at the end of her journey.

Christiana then gathers her sons and tells them they are going to follow their father. The boys burst into tears for joy, and they all prepare for the journey. As they are about ready to leave, another knock is heard on the door, and Christiana again invites the visitor to come if they come in God's name. This time the visitors are taken aback by these words. The eldest of the two visitors is Mrs. Fearful, the daughter of the man giving up his journey for fear of the lions (back in Part One). Mrs. Fearful tells Christiana she is taking her sons into grave danger, and that for their sakes', she should not go. Christiana disregards her advice, remembering her dreams and the tender invitation from the King. Mrs. Fearful tries again, telling Christiana of all the dangers her husband faced, the lions, Apollyon, the Shadow of Death, Vanity Fair, and many other things. Christiana urges Mrs. Fearful to stop tempting her as her mind is made up. Mrs. Fearful then turns to her companion and says, Come, neighbor Mercy, let's leave her in her own hands, since she scorns our counsel and company." Mercy is thinking of taking Christiana's pilgrimage as her own, however, and resists Mrs. Fearful. She says, "I think I'll walk a short distance with her this sunshiny morning to help her on her way." She actually intends to travel with Christiana, but is too timid to admit it to Mrs. Fearful. Mrs. Fearful leaves in a huff, and goes to her friends to discuss Christiana's foolish endeavor.

Christiana extends an invitation to Mercy to travel with her, extending the King's invitation to her friend. Mercy is not sure if she'll be accepted, however. She does not have an engraved invitation, as does Christiana. Christiana urges Mercy to travel with her to the Narrow Gate, and there she will inquire on Mercy's behalf. They set out, and Mercy begins to weep. Christiana asks what troubles her. "Alas!" exclaimed Mercy, "How can I keep from sorrowing when I rightly consider what a state and condition my poor relatives are in -- those who yet remain in our sinful town. And what makes my grief even more heavy is that they have no instructor or anyone to tell them what is to come." Christiana answers, "Feelings of compassion befit a Pilgrim...I have hope, Mercy, that these tears of yours won't be lost, for the Truth has said, 'Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.' "

Thoughts on this chapter
Christian's life serves as witness to Christiana and she follows in his path. God calls us to be witnesses, using words if necessary. Are we letting the power of our walk with God serve as a witness to others of His grace, truth, power, and compassion?

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2003

Anti-war protestors clash with radio

Anti-war protestors clash with radio station flag & yellow ribbon promotion in Princeton

a story from the Princeton PacketHere's on NJ 101.5 and their presence at a Princeton anti-war rally.

Now, another view from the Trentonian, another local paper.

I've got some opinions on Princeton's peace rallies. First off, they are supported by the a group, the Peace Coalition of Princeton that is firmly in bed with International ANSWER, as shown by this link from their website. My opinion of International ANSWER? They never met a totalitarian dictator they didn't like. Pure socialist evil.

Is it a fair statement by Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed that Princeton supports our American GIs? Maybe, maybe not - but based on what I've read about other protest groups, I'm biased toward the latter, at least as far as what the average protestor is thinking, if they even bother to think at all.

What is the fruit of the peace protest movement?

I will no doubt receive complaints of "They don't all do that!" or "That hasn't happened in Princeton!" To which I respond, true, and true. But I've never heard of a Princeton rally to explicitly support our troops either. And as far as other rallies go, I'm hearing way too many stories of violence and harassment for me to believe that the people of the peace movement support our country or our troops on a grassroots level. Why do those who don't do such things continue to hang around with those who do? Why is there absolutely no condemnation of such acts in papers that bend backwards to present the illusion that these protestors are mainstream Americans?

I don't know what goes on at the peace rallies in Princeton, but I know that Princeton has passed an anti-war resolution, while other nearby communities have refused to consider it. It seems to me that Princeton just might deserve its reputation as the least patriotic town in New Jersey, and I'm glad NJ 101.5 is there to put the issue in their face.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

The Pilgrims' Progress - Introduction to Part Two

We've now covered Part One of the Pilgrim's Progress, which covered the pilgrimage of Christian from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. I'm going to take two days off the blog so I can travel out of town with Amy, and I'll resume Part Two on Sunday. Here's a little preview.

The pilgrim in Part Two is Christian's wife, who will be called Christiana. She travels with her sons, and a companion, a neighbor of hers. Along the way, they meet many other pilgrims on the path (and talk about many others as well), and the size of the group grows considerably. They also have a guide for the entire duration of the journey (except for a short duration at the beginning). We'll be discussing the significance of these differences, and others, as we cover the next fourteen chapters.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 12:56 AM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2003

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 20 The Pilgrims Enter Celestial City

The Pilgrims finally get over the Enchanted Ground and enter beautiful land, the country of Beulah, where the air is pleasant and sweet. Birds sing, flowers bloom, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land (The Song of Solomon is quoted several times in describing this land). The sun always shines, and the land is out of reach of villains such as Giant Despair or the monsters lurking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. They are also within sight of the City where they are going, though the glory is so great they cannot look directly at it. Inhabitants of the country are met, Shining Ones who walk here because it is next to the border of Heaven.

They meet a Gardener who tells them that the beautiful vineyards and gardens are the King's are are planted there for His own enjoyment and for the comfort of Pilgrims, so they refresh themselves with delicacies from the gardens. They get to sleep finally, and when they awake, they purpose to go straightway to the City, and on their way, they meet two Shining Ones who wish to accompany them. The Shining Ones inquire about their journey, as has happened so often before, but the Shining Ones have words for them, "You have only two more difficulties to experience, and then you are in the City."

Christian and Hopeful ask the men to travel with them, and the men are willing to do so, but state that their goal must be obtained by their own faith. They go on until they are in sight of the gate. Before them is a River. There is no bridge over it, and the River appears to be deep. The Pilgrims are astounded, and they are told, "You must go through, or you can't arrive at the gate." The Pilgrims ask if there is another way, but are told that only two men have ever entered the city without going through the River, "nor shall there be until the Last Trumpet shall sound." Then the Pilgrims, especially Christian, begin to despair. They ask if the River is always the same depth, and are told no, but are denied any further help in the matter. "For you shall find it deeper or shallower as you believe in the King of the place."

Christian enters the water, and begins to sink. He cries out to Hopeful, "I'm sinking in deep waters! The breakers go over my head! All the waves go over me." Hopeful responds, "Be of good cheer, my Brother! I feel the bottom, and it is good." Hopeful's encouragement doesn't help Christian as he is overcome with a great darknes and horror. He is afraid he will die in the river, and never enter the gate. He doesn't remember the events of his pilgrimage and has troublesome thoughts of the sins he has committed. Hopeful holds Christian's head above the water, with much difficulty, and endeavors to comfort him, telling him he sees the gate and people to welcome them. Christian is sure they are waiting only for Hopeful, but Hopeful says, "These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God has forsaken you, but they're sent to try you, to see whether you will call to mind that which you've received before of His goodness and depend upon Him in your distresses." Christian listens, seeming to get it finally. Hopeful adds, "Be of good cheer! Jesus Christ makes you whole!" Christian cries out with a loud voice, "Oh! I see Him again! and He tells me, 'When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.' " They both take courage, and soon find solid ground to stand on. The rest of the River is shallow.

On the other side, the two Shining Ones are already waiting for the Pilgrims. They admit their role in waiting, "We're ministering spirits sent to serve those who wil inherit salvation." The City stands upon a mighty hill, but they climb with no difficulty due to the assistance of the two men. The mortal garments (which I think means Christian's armor as well) were left behind in the river, and they emerge without them. They all talk about the glory of the place they are going to, "You are now going to the Paradise of God, in which you'll see the Tree of Life and eat of the never-fading fruits of it. And when you arrive there, white robes shall be given you, and every day your walk and talk shall be with the King, even all the days of eternity. You'll not see there again such things as you saw when you were in the lower region upon the earth -- that is, sorrow, sickness, affliction, and death, 'for the old order of things has passed away.' "

The Pilgrims then ask what they must do in the City, and are told that they must receive comfort for all their toil and joy for all their sorrow. They will wear crowns of gold, and enjoy the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One, 'for we shall see Him as He is'. They will serve Him with praise, shouting, and thanksgiving, and will be delighted in seeing Him. They will enjoy the company of friends who have gone before them, clothed with glory and majesty. When He comes with the sound of a trumpet in the clouds, they will come with Him. When He passes sentence on the workers of iniquity, they will have a voice in that judgment because "they were His and your enemies."

As they draw near the gate, a company of the Heavenly Host come out to greet them. The Pilgrims are introduced by the two Shining Ones, and the Heavenly Host cry out, "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" The King's Trumpeters come out to meet them. Everyone travels together with much shouting, rejoicing, the salutes of trumpets. They reach the gate. Above the gates are written, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." Shining Ones look down from above, Enoch, Moses, Elijah, and others.

The Pilgrims present their Certificates (yes, Hopeful had one too), and the Certificates are taken to the King, who orders the gates opened that the righteous may enter. In they go, and as they enter, they are transfigured and given new robes to wear. They break out into praise, singing with a loud voice, "To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

Now the gates are shut, and the narrator expresses the wish to be among those inside, but as he turns his head (in his dream), he sees another approaching the city, Ignorance. Ignorance approaches alone, with no guides to help him, but finds easy passage across the river, as a ferryman named Vainglory shows up with a boat. Ignorance walks up to the gate and knocks. Men look down on him from above and ask him who he is and what he wants, and then ask for his Certificate. Ignorance fumbles in his coat but produces nothing. When the King is told there is one at the door without a Certificate, He orders that Ignorance be bound and taken away. The Shining Ones who assisted Christian and Hopeful carry him to the door in the side of the hill (seen at the Delightful Mountains), the way to Hell.

Thoughts on this chapter
We're home at last! Do you ever think about Heaven, how great it is, how great it will be? I saw an episode of Touched by an Angel, where the angels were helping a family whose father was dying. The angels were trying to tell them that their father's death was actually a blessing, that it was only a transition. The quote I remember is that our lives are only a preparation for eternity. One objection to Christianity I've heard from skeptics is that we're too concerned with "pie-in-the-sky" stuff, not concerned enough with the here-and-now. Well, that may be a valid concern, or not, for about seventy to a hundred years, but we all die someday. Will that be a valid concern a thousand years from now? Think of yourself a thousand years from now, wherever you may be, looking back at your life. Are you going to be glad for the decisions you made, or regretting them?

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

As a hockey fan, I

As a hockey fan, I found this story really disgusting. (Found at Midwest Conservative Journal)

update: newspaper article at The Globe and Mail

Here in Trenton, they have little kids playing hockey in the intermission at Trenton Titans games. They call it "Mites on Ice". It's fun to watch. I can't imagine anyone booing them because they don't like the policies of Trenton's mayor, but that's effectively what the Montreal fans were doing. I also can't imagine going to a Princeton hockey game (they came in last this year) and throwing trash talk at the players because I don't like Cornell West or Peter Singer. Leave the kids alone. Booing players for the policies of politicians is mean and immature.

I'm not going to respond in kind (in fact I don't participate in booing in general - even though lots of fans do) - if I go to a Devils game and they wind up playing Toronto (2nd round series) or Ottawa (Eastern Conference finals), I will still stand when they play the Canadian national anthem. However, I will be rooting for the Philadelphia Flyers, and hope they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round (I always root for whoever's playing Toronto, by the way). And I'm real glad Montreal won't be going at all -- serves their fans right.

UPDATE - Stanley Cup predictions:
Am I blogging while asleep or what? The hockey games I'm describing above are the Stanley Cup playoffs! I'm just assuming everyone knows what I'm talking about - sorry.

Here's my predictions: All indications are (and this is real close) that the New Jersey Devils will be playing the Boston Bruins in round 1, and the Philadelphia Flyers willl be playing the Toronto Maple Leafs. If the Devils screw up and lose both their remaining games, they may lose the division to the Flyers. I doubt that will happen. They are playing a desperate Rangers team tomorrow - they'll be dangerous, but the last game is against Buffalo. Buffalo may be tough because they have nothing to lose, but if the division is on the line, the Devils will be tougher because they have everything to gain. The Devils definitely don't want to face Toronto in the first round. We need to keep our players healthy, and whichever team faces Toronto in the first round often suffers a lot of injuries. It was real bad two years ago when we lost Scott Niedermayer, almost for the whole duration of the playoffs. I'd like to see the Devils and Flyers both win round 1, along with Washington (an underdog win over Tampa Bay) and Ottawa (though Ottawa has a reputation for choking in round 1 - they won't this year). So round 2 will be Devils vs. Flyers and Ottawa vs. Washington. Eastern final will be New Jersey vs. Ottawa.

In the Eastern Conference, my other favorite team, the Dallas Stars is matching up to play against the Edmonton Oilers, as usual. The Red Wings (defending the Stanley Cup) will be facing Anaheim or Minnesota, while the Vancouver Canucks will face the other one of those. St. Louis and Colorado face off as wild card seeds 4 & 5. Look for no upsets here. Second round will be Dallas vs Colorado and Detroit vs. Vancouver. Western final will be Dallas vs. Detroit.

For the Stanley Cup, I'm picking (or is it wishing?) my two favorite teams to go all the way to a seventh Stanley Cup Final: New Jersey beats Dallas in 7.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:36 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2003

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 19 The Pilgrims Deal With Ignorance

Christian and Hopeful see Ignorance following up behind them, and they decide to wait for him in order to engage him in conversation. A heated discussion results over what constitutes true conversion, a true manifestation of God's grace in one's being. Christian says that intellectual belief is not enough, one must repent and be sorrowful for one's sinful nature. Ignorance claims that belief in Christ and having a good heart are enough, that His grace will make one's intentions and good actions meritable. Hopeful adds to the discussion by saying that no one can be saved unless God the Father extends to him a revelation of His Son.

Ignorance falls back, preferring to walk alone, and Christian and Hopeful start a new discussion on the mechanics of backsliding. They are almost out of the Enchanted Ground.

Thoughts on this chapter
This is a deeper and longer chapter, and it is rather awkward to detail the entire conversation, hence the shorter post tonight. This is a chapter which merits more study, and I don't think I can do it complete justice without more time. As far as I understand it, it seems that Ignorance thinks that if he thinks he is doing good, his heart is good, and God would have no choice but honor that goodness. It's based on good feelings and intentions, but is not built on solid rock.

Tomorrow is the end of Part 1. Part 2 will follow starting on Sunday, as Amy and I are going to be traveling this weekend. As a result of skipping four days, I will have fourteen days to cover fourteen chapters before Easter. I'm still going to do that, maybe I'll have some shorter posts some days and double them up, so I can have a day or two of rest before Easter.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 18 Hopeful Tells of His Conversion

Christian and Hopeful walk into an area where the air makes them drowsy, and Hopeful suggests they lay down to take a nap. Christian will have none of it, and reminds Hopeful of the Shepherds' warning regarding the Enchanted Ground. Hopeful thanks Christian for his wisdom, and admits he would have run the danger of death if he had been alone. "Two are better than one".

Christian suggests they have a good discussion in order to stay alert. Christian starts first with a song, then asks Hopeful, "How did you at first come to think of doing as you now do?"
Hopeful responds, "Do you mean, how I at first came to look after the good of my soul?"
Christian answers, "Yes, that's what I mean."

Hopeful gives his testimony to Christian, telling how he lived a sinful life involved in all the enjoyment of things seen and sold at Vanity Fair. "All the treasures and riches of the world, also I enjoyed orgies, carousing, drinking, swearing, lying, impurity, Sabbath-breaking, and so on..." He says that the testimony of the two Pilgrims, Christian and Faithful, told him that "those things result in death" Christian asks if Hopeful fell under the power of this conviction right away. Hopeful says that it took a long time, that he resisted it at first. Christian asks how it was that he responded like this until God's Holy Spirit moved him.

Hopeful replies with four reasons: first -- He was ignorant that this was the work of God, second -- sin was still very sweet to him and he hated to leave it, third -- he didn't know how to part with his old companions, and fourth -- the times when he felt the convictions were very troublesome and heart-frightening hours. Christian replies that it sounded like he sometimes got rid of his troubles, and Hopeful replies, "Yes, of course, but it would come into my mind again, and then I would be as bad -- no, even worse -- than I was before."

Christian asks what brought his mind around to thinking about sin again, and Hopeful lists several things that reminded him of it: meeting a good man in the street, hearing anyone read from the Bible, physical pain (using a headache as an example), a neighbor being sick, a bell tolling for the dead, thinking of dying, hearing of sudden death, and especially thinking about the inevitability of arriving at Judgment.

Christian then asks Hopeful how he dealt with the conviction then. Hopeful replies that he departed from sinful company and started paying heed to religious duties: praying, reading, weeping for sin, speaking the truth, and so forth. Christian asks if that helped, and Hopeful says that it did for a short while, but the trouble returned. Christian asks how that happened, since Hopeful was now reformed. Hopeful replies that such sayings as "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" continued to convict him of sin, as well as knowing that no one can observe the entire Law. He uses the example of being in debt to a store owner. Even if he resolves to pay for all his future purchases, he still has to repay the old debt. Hopeful also realizes that despite his best efforts, he continues to see new sin in his life.

Christian asks, "And what did you do then?" "Do!" exclaimed Hopeful, "I couldn't tell what to do until I shared my thoughts with Faithful. He and I were well acquainted, and he told me that unless I could obtain the righteousness of a Man who had never sinned, neither my own nor all the righteousness of the world could save me."

Christian asks if Hopeful thought that Faithful spoke the truth, and Hopeful says that if he had heard that earlier on, he would not have believed it, but given his frustration at his attempts for personal reformation, he now realized the truth of it. Christian asks if Hopeful thought there was such a Man to be found. Hopeful says he was at a loss until Faithful told him of Jesus: "Yes, and he told me it was the Lord Jesus, who dwells on the right hand of the Most High. And Faithful said this: 'You must be justified by Him, even by trusting in what He himself did during His life on earth as He suffered when He was hanging on the Tree.' I asked him further how that Man's righteousness could be so powerful as to be able to justify another person before God. And he told me He was the mighty God, and did what He did, and also died the death not for himself, but for me to whom His works---and the worthiness of them---would be ascribed if I believed on Him."

Hopeful then tells how Faithful invited him to go to Him and see, and Hopeful replied that that would have been presumptuous on his part, and then Faithful gave him a book containing the words of Jesus. Hopeful asked Faithful what he was to do when he arrived, and Faithful told him to ask the Father to reveal Him. "What should I say?" Faithful said to pray like this:

"God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ, for I see that if His righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that You are a merciful God and have ordained that Your Son Jesus Christ should be the Savior of the world, and moreover, that you are willing to bestow on such a poor sinner as I am---and I am a sinner indeed---Lord. Take therefore this opportunity, and magnify Your grace in the salvation of my soul through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen."

Christian asks if Hopeful prayed this prayer, and he says that he prayed it over and over, yet the revelation from the Father of His Son never came. Christian asks what Hopeful did then, and Hopeful said he kept on, a hundred times over, and then one day the revelation came, not by physical sight, but one day, while feeling very sad, he thought he saw the Lord Jesus looking down from heaven and saying, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." Hopeful replied, "Lord, I'm a great, very great sinner." And He answered, "My grace is sufficient for you." Hopeful also saw from the saying, "He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." Hopeful asked further, "But Lord, may such a great sinner as I am actually be accepted by You and be saved by You?" The Lord answered, "Whoever comes to me I will never drive away." The Lord gives many other assurances of Hopeful's salvation, and Hopeful's heart is filled with joy, his eyes full of tears, and his affection running over with love for the name, people, and ways of Jesus Christ.

Christian asks Hopeful how that affected his spirit. Hopeful tells how he became aware of the state of condemnation of the world, and how God the Father, though He be just, can justly justify the coming sinner. The revelation made him ashamed of his vileness of his former life, and made him love a holy life and long to do something for the honor and glory of the name of the Lord Jesus.

Thoughts on this chapter
Bunyan emphasizes praying through until one receives a revelation of Christ. This is no mere repeating a one-paragraph prayer from the last page of a religious tract. Bunyan also emphasizes being truly repentant and abhorring one's former sinful state; there is no salvation prayer with fingers crossed.

Underline this
"unless I could obtain the righteousness of a Man who had never sinned, neither my own nor all the righteousness of the world could save me."--Christian, speaking to Hopeful on the futility of being saved by one's own righteous acts.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)