The Idealist

Aaron Swartz wanted to save the world. Why couldn’t he save himself? -Slate

On Jan. 4, 2013, Aaron Swartz woke up in an excellent mood. “He turned to me,” recalls his girlfriend Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, “and said, apropos of nothing, ‘This is going to be a great year.’ ”

On the morning of Jan. 11, one week after he’d insisted it would be a great year, Swartz woke up despondent—lower than Stinebrickner-Kauffman had ever seen him. “I tried everything to get him up,” she says.

Continue reading “The Idealist”

Merry Christmas!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

 

Scary Dreams

I woke last Friday morning from a scary dream. I was traveling around the downtown Toronto subway system, trying to make my way around the bottom of the U. At some point, I got out of the subway system and started walking on the street. Nothing was scary at this point. I was just trying to make my way around downtown Toronto. I guess I was walking up the street to the next subway stop when I heard the explosion.

It was that kind of explosion. That deep, thunderous, rolling explosion. The kind that tears through your thin courage veneer and lays bare your soul. In my dream, I was so scared I didn’t turn my head for a while but I kept walking. People were looking, though, all staring, speaking in frantic tones, and looking down at the waterfront.

When I did turn my head, my fear was cemented. A massive warship was broken in charred, mangled pieces. It felt close enough to touch. The world seemed to turn grey, and for some reason it started to get cold. It felt like the end.

At some point in the dream, I started praying to God to save me.

I found myself getting into the back seat of a car with some couple in the front. In the backseat was a long-sleeved sweater, a toque, and pants. I put these on to ward off the cold. I remember feeling whole, bound up, confident that I could deal with the cold, in a much better condition than those frightened people running all around me to deal with what was coming next.

Shortly after this, I must have wakened because I don’t really remember any more of the dream.

When I awoke, that fear was clinging to me. I was happy that it was just a dream but my mind reminded me of a scene in a movie I once saw.

In the film, Constantine, there is a scene of a woman having a vision of Hell by being held under water. When her vision is finished she struggles frantically from the bath and exclaims “I knew it was real! I always knew it was real!” I’ve always remembered this line because it rings true to the feeling in the pit of our stomachs in some certain horrifying moments of our lives.

Having awoken, I was comforted by the knowledge of God’s love for me, love that overcomes fear,

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:16-18

From this we gain a peace that confounds understanding,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

How do you get this peace?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Then, go out and change your ways,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9

We all know it`s real. We always knew it was real…

Put me in, coach

Richard Wurmbrand and wife Sabina are an inspiring pair who left their mark on Christian history and founded The Voice of the Martyrs, “a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide.”

Richard Wurmbrand was born the youngest of four boys in a Jewish family on March 24, 1909, in Bucharest, Romania. Gifted intellectually and fluent in nine languages, Richard was active in leftist politics and worked as a stockbroker.

After their marriage, Richard and Sabina were converted to Christ in 1938, chiefly because of the influence of a German carpenter, Christian Wölfkes. They joined the Anglican Mission to the Jews in Bucharest. Richard was ordained, first as an Anglican, and then after World War II as a Lutheran minister.

During World War II, Richard and Sabina saw an opportunity for evangelism among the occupying German forces. They preached in the bomb shelters and rescued Jewish children out of the ghettos. Richard and Sabina were repeatedly arrested and beaten and, at least once, nearly executed. Sabina lost her Jewish family in Nazi concentration camps.

In 1945 Romanian Communists seized power and a million “invited” Russian troops poured into the country. Pastor Wurmbrand ministered to his oppressed countrymen and engaged in bold evangelism to the Russian soldiers.

That same year, Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand attended the Congress of Cults organized by the Romanian Communist government. Many religious leaders came forward to praise Communism and to swear loyalty to the new regime. Sabina said, “Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ.” Richard warned, “If I do so, you’ll lose your husband.”

“I don’t wish to have a coward as a husband,” she replied. Thus Richard declared to the 4,000 delegates, whose speeches were broadcast to the whole nation, that their duty is to glorify God and Christ alone.

Between 1945 and 1947, Richard distributed 1 million Gospels to Russian troops, often disguising the books as Communist propaganda. Richard also smuggled Gospels into Russia. On December 30, 1947, the People’s Republic of Romania was proclaimed. Persecution.com – About our Founders

There are few things more powerful than a Godly woman who understands her man, and gives him the license to act like one.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May this season bring you happiness and joy in Jesus Christ and his victory over sin and death! Christmas, celebrating the birth of the Saviour, marks but the beginning of his Victory over sin and death!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, came to save sinners like you and I.

The good news is joyously simple…

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Christus Invictus: Behind the Verse

Update 2015-05-16: I just came across a well-written post–“Invictus” Redeemed–about the poem and Dorothy Day’s response to it from many years ago. Day’s poem is a good read but the author writes quite well on why it is the original poem isn’t all that inspiring or reasonable when you get into the details.

Christus Invictus: Behind the Verse

In a previous post, I published a poem entitled Christus Invictus. That poem was based on and inspired by William Ernest Henley’s Invictus. Although the Wikipedia article doesn’t cover it, Henley’s Invictus was a “deathbed affirmation of his atheism” [author’s note: not literally, since he wrote it young when he was sick and lived many more years but true per his apparent convictions later in life]. I think most people know the poem even if they don’t know the author or remember the poem in its entirety.

I was piqued in the last two weeks by a Ravi Zacharias podcast mentioning the poem, used in contrast to his Christian message. It’s a good poem, well written, realistic, inspiring, even, but I knew the poem lifted man above God – and, as is my bent, I can not abide what I perceive as foolishness. Thus, Christus Invictus is my response to Henley’s Invictus attempting to show the vastly different perspective of one suffering, as Henley did, yet living with the hope of glory in the salvation of Jesus Christ.

I had a few goals in mind when revising his poem. The first was to respond in verse, speaking on the same themes, but from the perspective of salvation. That was a driving force. A second goal was to show how changing so very little of the poem could result in such a different attitude, pained yet joyful, humble yet victorious. Another goal was to avoid sugar-coating the Christian experience. God does not promise unending earthly happiness. In fact, He promises the opposite. Hence, the poem is left untouched in many areas to retain and openly admit the reality Henley experienced and wrote about.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank, in Him, Jesus Christ
For my redeemed and purchased soul.

Henley had it right with “Out of the night that covers me, \ Black as the pit from pole to pole,” and so I left it as-is. There’s no use arguing against this Fallen world and that evil is afoot here.

Where Henley originally wrote, “I thank whatever gods may be \ For my unconquerable soul,” I knew this was disingenuous. There is a God and He has been saying the same thing to us for all history: Follow me. Just mentioning God, however, didn’t oppose all of the original intent. I needed to speak to Jesus Christ and His act on the cross that is salvation to every man, woman and child, each of us “our redeemed and purchased soul.”

In the fell-hard clutch of circumstance
I have sore-winced and cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of flagrance
My head is bloody and low-bowed.

Note the change from Henley’s “fell clutch” to “fell-hard clutch.” This is not an attempt to remove any of the original meaning but actually a poetic alteration to match the rhythm of the third line’s altered nine syllables.

Henley writes, “I have not winced nor cried aloud,” but he and I both know no human goes through this life without pain and sorrow. I simply admit as much. This line, too, was altered to match the third line’s altered rhythm.

I wanted to change Henley’s insinuation of random chance when he wrote “Under the bludgeonings of chance” and so altered the last word to “flagrance.” The truth is there is something going on in this world and there is more to the events that occur, to our circumstances, and to our choices, than simple random chance. This is the change that necessitated the “fell-hard” and “sore-winced” rewording in the first and second lines.

Sheer contrast is needed in the fourth line to provide force to the incredible difference of response one should expect from one saved from eternal death. Henley’s original, “My head is bloody, but unbowed,” needed a response that indicated an alternative to the natural reaction of men to the evils of this world. I did not want to diminish the reality of pain, however, and so “My head is bloody” remains.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the Shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

This verse is unique. There is absolutely no change to wording. I felt it was all accurate, fair and true. The observant reader will notice, though, that there is a single difference: The “S” in “Shade” has been capitalized where it was lowercase in the original. Where the original implies an insignificant nothingness, I wished to simply and subtly convey a terrifying somethingness, that which is the only thing left when one’s fate is not with God in the eternal.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
He is the captain of my soul.

Here, we come to Henley’s climactic verse of self-statement and self-direction. Most people know the last two lines of this verse even if they know nothing else about the context of those words.

Henley’s first lines are true and so left unchanged. The Christian admits God’s Way is straight, narrow, and difficult to maintain. The Christian admits God’s punishments are strong but know His mercy is greater and, His sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, ultimate in securing our souls.

And now Henley rings out at his strongest, his mightiest. His conclusion, affirmation and pronouncement: “I am the master of my fate: \ I am the captain of my soul.” And it is here that the strongest, mightiest contrast needs to be made.

Henley was right and Henley was wrong. He is very right in saying, “I am the master of my fate.” A man may choose, indeed, to accept or reject what is offered him. He may choose to accept Jesus’s salvation and he may choose to reject the same. Man is the master of his fate in the end.

C.S. Lewis put it in this way: It is either “Thy Will be done” or “Thy will be done.” We say to God, “Thy Will be done,” or God says to us, “Thy will be be done.”

Henley’s closing needs change in order to present the true distinction of the  faithful. The Christian understands he has chosen to accept what Jesus has done. The Christian understands that in so doing he makes not himself but Jesus the very captain of his soul.

I am the master of my fate:
He is the captain of my soul.

Christus Invictus is my response to Henley’s Invictus showing a Christian perspective on the same themes. I hoped to show the incredible difference of perspective of one who is going through suffering, as Henley did in his life, but who also lived with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ.

I even had the thought that I was “sticking up for God” which is a childish thing to think for a Christian. The Almighty needs no champion but Himself; And He already came in the form of the Son, Jesus Christ, who hung on a cross for our sins, died, and rose again, and conquered everything.

Nevertheless, God is due His rightful honour and glory. As Joseph said, in Genesis 50:20, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” I make no claim that this is such a case. That God intended me to do this, I do not make the claim. As Henley is created in the image of God, however, I can see the good within his writing and so wish to see it redeemed, in the end, to the glory of God alone.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria

Christus Invictus

“Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank, in Him, Jesus Christ For my redeemed and purchased soul.” -Christus Invictus

Christus Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank, in Him, Jesus Christ
For my redeemed and purchased soul.

In the fell-hard clutch of circumstance
I have sore-winced and cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of flagrance
My head is bloody and low-bowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the Shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
He is the captain of my soul.

Co-opted Invictus, mjg/10