“How Firm a Foundation”

John Rippon published a hymn in 1787 from an unknown author entitled “How Firm a Foundation.”

“Fear not, I am with thee; oh be not dismayed

For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand

Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

 

When through the deep waters I call thee to go

The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow

For I will be with thee, they troubles to bless

And sanctify to thee they deepest distress.

 

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie

My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and they gold to refine

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose

I will not, I will not desert to its foes

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

 

What is God up to?

We’ve all faced the Covid-19 virus and here in Connecticut things seem to be getting better while in other parts of the country it is going in the opposite direction.
I’ve been giving some thought to what God could be doing during this pandemic. We’ve talked about this being the church’s finest hour and it could be. Here’s some suggestions about how God could be using our current situation to bring glory to Himself.
1. He has been exposing our idols. In good times we can become consumed with those things that appear for the moment to bring us pleasure. Our focus comes off the One who can ultimately satisfy ALL our needs. In a time like this our idols come crashing down.
2. He is slowing us down in order to show us what is important. I miss my colleagues from the church staff. In the hours and days that I’ve been away God has showed me how important they are in my life. They give me energy, encouragement, and a sense of place and worth. God has also show me how important He is in my life. Having extended time to read His word has been like a drink of water from a cool stream in the middle of a heat wave.
3. He is calling us to prayer. He wants to spend time with me. That is AMAZING.
4. He is planting me in the middle of my neighborhood with time to see, meet, and interact with my neighbors. He wants me to show mercy to those in need.
5. And, in showing mercy, God wants me to act out my faith.

There are probably more reasons He is active and alive in this time. Look for Him in your life as I look for Him in mine.

Division

A review of When Doctrine Divides the People of God
Rhyne R. Putman

Tradition, norms, practices, and doctrines have all divided the church at one time or another. Before Christ left the earth, He commanded His disciples to show love for one another. Unfortunately, the church has not often lived up to that command. Putman attempts to set in place a pattern to follow when two believers, two denominations, or two churches come to loggerheads over the issue of doctrine.

Putman’s first few chapters take some careful reading and study to get through, but it is worth the effort to follow his logic, knowing that he will come to some practical recommendations later in the book. He begins with some observations on hermeneutics and the contribution of exegesis. From there, he deals with the issue of how we reason differently, and the role of emotions, tradition, belief, and confirmation bias in our interpretation of Scripture.

In part two of the book, he takes up the issue of changing our minds, and where we should set boundaries in our disagreements. He finishes with recommendations for a process of handling doctrinal disputes, after providing some helpful lessons from the life of Whitefield and Wesley.

Having recently participated in an examination of the issue of women in ministry, I found the book helpful, wishing I had read several of the chapters before the discussion started. I would highly recommend the book to anyone, or any church, dealing with issues that could potentially divide. There is a host of bibliographic material listed in the back of the book, taking up many pages, that would be helpful for further study.

I am thankful that Crossway provided me a copy of the book for an unbiased review.

A review of The Vision Driven Leader

The Vision Driven Leader
By Michael Hyatt

Hyatt, a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and now consultant, writes about the necessity and process of vision casting. To him, it is the key ingredient in making a company, organization, or idea fly.

Using many illustrations from well-known names in corporate America, he walks us through the process of drafting and then selling a vision. He feels that even an organization that is dying can be revived with the proper application of a vision.

Working on a church staff that is vision driven, I found the book a good review of the church’s current vision statement and its implementation. Even though the vision statement is only about four years old, it needs to be constantly examined to check its relevancy.

I found Hyatt’s work easy to read, but deep in a wealth of information and ideas. If for no other reason, the pithy quotes that are liberally sprinkled throughout the book are well worth the price of the book.

Baker was kind enough to provide me a copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Complaining

My child, do not be a murmurer, because it leads to blasphemy; neither be self-willed nor evil-minded, for out of all these blasphemies are engendered. But be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth. Be long-suffering and merciful and genuine and gentle and good and always trembling at the words which you have heard. (Didache 3:6-8)

The Sacred Chase, a review

The Sacred Chase: Moving from Proximity to Intimacy with God
By Heath Adamson

“God believes in you, and there is a relationship with God that is beyond belief.” The belief that God has in us leads to a “sacred chase,” both from His perspective and from ours. That is the premise of Adamson’s book in a nutshell.

In many of the chapters, Adamson uses the story of the healing of the demoniac as a basis for the principle or truth he wants to convey. His work is filled with stories from his personal life as well, but he consistently comes back to the Bible for the principle he wants to emphasize.

I found the book enjoyable to read. After reading several chapters, I picked up my highlighter and began reading the book again. I did find one glaring error in the book though. Adamson attributes to Samuel the work of confronting David after his affair with Bathsheba. Actually, Samuel records the events, but it was Nathan who did the confronting.

Baker was kind enough to provide me a copy of the book for my unbiased review.

Thinking

Alan Jacobs, How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds:

  1. When faced with provocation to respond to what someone has said, give it five minutes. Take a walk, or weed the garden, or chop some vegetables. Get your body involved: your body knows the rhythms to live by, and if your mind falls into your body’s rhythm, you’ll have a better chance of thinking.
  2. Value learning over debating. Don’t “talk for victory.”
  3. As best you can, online and off, avoid the people who fan flames.
  4. Remember that you don’t have to respond to what everyone else is responding to in order to signal your virtue and right-mindedness.
  5. If you do have to respond to what everyone else is responding to in order to signal your virtue and right-mindedness, or else lose your status in your community, then you should realize that it’s not a community but rather an Inner Ring.
  6. Gravitate as best you can, in every way you can, toward people who seem to value genuine community and can handle disagreement with equanimity.
  7. Seek out the best and fairest-minded of people whose views you disagree with. Listen to them for a time without responding. Whatever they say, think it over.
  8. Patiently, and as honestly as you can, assess your repugnances.
  9. Sometimes the “ick factor” is telling; sometimes it’s a distraction from what matters.
  10. Beware of metaphors and myths that do too much heavy cognitive lifting; notice what your “terministic screens” are directing your attention to—and what they’re directing your attention away from; look closely for hidden metaphors and beware the power of myth.
  11. Try to describe others’ positions in the language that they use, without indulging in in-other-wordsing.
  12. Be brave.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Read the whole book for an explanation and elaboration of each point. This post was taken from Justin Taylor’s post here.

Racism

Being white, I have no comprehension of what it must be to be black, Asian, or Jewish. The closest I’ve come is as the only white man in a Native American village where I was called names and made to feel very unwelcome. I remember the feeling of fear that welled up in me. That was an isolated incident, not an ongoing occurrence as is true for many blacks, Asians, and Jews.

As a follower of Jesus, what does He have to say about racism? What does Scripture have to communicate that might help me (us)?

Let’s start at the end. In the book of Revelation, John describes the following: “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.” (7:9) In paradise, the new heaven and the new earth, all are equally valued. I believe there will be people from all cultures there, and their cultures will enhance my ability to worship the King.

From the end, let’s go back to the beginning. Moses records, ““Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26) God created mankind in His own image. This was an intentional act, and we all still bear the image of God today although defaced by sin. Any and every form of racism is a rejection of an individual or group who are made in God’s image.

Also, from Genesis, we all descend from the same set of parents. “Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live.” (3:20) This idea is reinforced during the time of the founding of the church. In Acts, Paul tells the Athenians, “From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth.” (17:26a)

Staying with Paul for a moment, he tells the Galatians, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (3:28) This was a radical concept. Historically there had been enmity (prejudice) between Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) for centuries. Within Paul’s world, slavery was common and slaves and free were not expected to run in the same circles. The same was true for women in his day. To the men, a wife was for procreation, a concubine was for show, and a prostitute was for pleasure. The expectation of a man’s wife was not to be seen. Paul’s statement was radical. We, as followers of Christ, have no basis for discriminating. None!

“In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” Colossians 3:11
The Apostle Peter struggled with racism. When he finally came to realize that he was wrong, he stated, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.” (Acts 10:34)

It’s nice to say that we are all equal, but God didn’t stop there. His love, shown through salvation, is available to everyone. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)

“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Paul says, “Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him.” (Romans 10: 12).

Scripture is explicit that salvation is available to ALL (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 John 2:2; Acts 15:9; and, Matthew 28:19 where “nations” translates ethnos meaning people groups.).

With that said, what are we to do as Christ-followers? James is blunt in what he says, “But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.” (2:9) “Favor” or “partiality” as some translations use, is the Greek word prosopolempsia, meaning to show favoritism or prejudice, or to treat one person inherently better than another. Prejudice IS sin.

So, how should I respond as a Christ-follower? Prejudice and racism occur when I look down on someone in order to make myself look better. I need to examine my own life, words, and heart to see if there is anything in my life that has a hint of bigotry. “If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” (C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity) Father, I confess my pride.

But I need to go beyond introspection, I need to take initiative. “The only way to change bias is to change culture. You have to change what is acceptable in society. People today complain about politically correct culture, but what that does is provide a check on people’s outward attitude, which in turn influences how we think about ourselves internally. Everything we’re exposed to gives us messages about who is good and bad.” (Jennifer Richeson) Any time I see, hear, experience, or think that someone is less than me because of their color, ethnicity, or race, I must confess, confront, or expose the prejudice. Teach equality to the young, model it to all people, support every initiative that is Christ-honoring.

Additionally, I must be the church. We live in a broken world that only the love and acceptance of a good God will change. The church has the message, so it must be in the forefront of changing cultures and attitudes. There must not be a “hint” of prejudice found in the church, and I must do everything I can to see that there is no “hint.”

To my brothers and sisters who have felt the sting of prejudice from the church, I ask for your forgiveness. I ask for your help in exposing and correcting the sin. To my brothers and sisters who live in a world filled with hate, violence, neglect, and affronts to your humanity, I ask for your help so that we can walk shoulder to shoulder to expose and eradicate the sin. May it never be said of the church or of me that I am part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Here comes the judge!

“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock[stands as defendant]. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.” C.S. Lewis
If Lewis is correct, and I believe he is, what a sad state of affairs. I have placed myself as judge over God. What good can come out of this reversal? I would suggest only heartache for me as the judge.