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Archive for August, 2016

Book Review: Issac Watts Remembered

Book by David Fountain, Joshua Press, Canada 1998 ISBN # 090355657x

Isaac had butterflies in his stomach as he paced nervously around the room. Today was the day he would meet Elizabeth Singer for the first time. Several months ago Elizabeth, a noted poet in her own right, wrote to tell Isaac how moved she was by his work. Isaac replied, and through the next several months of correspondence the two fell in love—there was even talk of marriage.

Isaac Watts was a natural poet. As a young child, his odd habit of conversing entirely in rhyme sometimes annoyed his parents. Rhyming had become so natural for him that when faced with a Isaac_Wattswhipping for his incessant verse, he said without thinking:

O Father, do some pity take,
And I will no more verses make.
His gift for language was as obvious in the pulpit as it was in his poetry. Isaac Watts preached his first sermon on his 24th birthday, July 17, 1698, in the Mark Lane Church (later called the Bury Street Church) in London. The church immediately realized his talent and devotion and hired Watts as a teacher, then later as their pastor. Even though he was often ill and unable to serve the congregation, they wisely and kindly continued to keep him on staff.

Isaac’s love of beauty in the written word caused him to cringe at the ugly and unpolished versions of the Psalms sung in the churches of his time. He complained to his father that they were not befitting the solemn dignity and beauty of the worship service and were an unfit offering to God. When his father charged him to either stop complaining or write something better, Watts accepted the challenge. Hymn writing became his passion. His congregation happily accepted the new songs, though some church leaders opposed his efforts to modify the existing clumsy church hymnody so that, as Samuel Johnson said, “elegance might consist with piety.”

Ironically, though Isaac had great love for beauty, his personal appearance was anything but lovely. He was only about five feet tall, with yellowish skin. His head was disproportionately large for his frail body, and boasted a large, hooked nose and small gray eyes.

Indeed, when he did meet Elizabeth Singer in person, she could not get past his looks. And when he offered marriage, she turned him down. “If only,” she lamented, “I could say that I admire the casket as much as I admire the jewel it contains.” Disappointed, Watts contented himself to be her friend and remained unmarried for the rest of his life. He accepted that the Divine Hand of Providence worked even in this rejection. Later, in writing to a friend he said:

I am persuaded, that in a future state we shall take a sweet review of those scenes of providence, which have been involved in the thickest darkness, and trace those footsteps of God when he walked with us through deepest waters. This will be a surprising delight . . . to have those perplexing riddles laid open to the eyes of our souls, and read the full meaning of them in set characters of wisdom and grace.

And so, through this Divine Providence, Elizabeth Singer missed the chance to marry the man some call the most influential of his generation. For certainly God and the church did not reject Isaac Watts for his lack of physical beauty. Open any hymnbook in the English-speaking world and you will nearly always find one, if not a score, of the 600 hymns written by Isaac Watts during his lifetime. Some of the more popular include “Joy to the World,” “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” His hymns became anthems for the Great Awakening and are still popular over 300 years later. As George MacDonald said, “Some of his hymns will be sung, I fancy, so long as men praise God together.”

In addition to his work as the “Father of English Hymnody,” Isaac Watts published 52 items on diverse subjects including astronomy, psychology, grammar, and logic. He held a long correspondence with Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening in the colonial United States and commissioned Edwards’ detailed description of those events. Watts’ friends included such notable figures as John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Lady Huntingdon and Cotton Mather. Benjamin Franklin published a book of Watts’ hymns. C. H. Spurgeon grew up learning Watts’ catechism and hymns and recommended both to his congregation.

Isaac Watts said, “The mind’s the measure of the man.” If this is true, the diminutive pastor Isaac Watts was a giant.

David Fountain’s small book (111 pages) is a fascinating introduction to Watts’ life. He includes correspondence, poetry, glimpses into Watts’ personal life and examples of his continuing legacy. This book is available from Amazon.com.

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary at Faith Community Church.

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COULD I WRITE ABOUT IT IN A COUNTRY AND WESTERN SONG?

By Matt Greco

Most of you know who Tim McGraw is but until I returned from Argentina, I was not sure who he was.  Tim McGraw is a MEGA SUPERSTAR in the entertainment world.  He dominates the Country & Western music scene (over 40,000,000 sold), has had several crossover musical successes, has had critical acclaim in the movies (he was the dad in both Friday Night Lights and The Blind Side), and has his star on the Hollywood walk of fame.  To use a sports example, he has hit over 500 home runs in pro baseball, he is a stand out for the special teams in pro football, and he has made the team in pro basketball!mcgraw

I had a chance to meet Mr. McGraw when he was in town giving a concert.  His tour manager is the sister of my wife’s best friend (no kidding), so we got backstage passes and free barbeque! My family and I had about three minutes with the guy.  I asked him how he managed to be a performer and a family man. He told me that he and his wife (superstar Faith Hill) never tour at the same time.  He said that way he can focus on work on the road and focus on the family at home.

Then he asks me what I did and I told him I worked for a Christian school and a church. For about 30 seconds he lost the aura of Country & Western / Hollywood superstar and he asks, “Do you have any advice for dealing with a 13-year-old daughter?”  I looked at him and said, “Prayer!” He smiled and nodded and it was about then he had to leave and go do his show.

In those moments I realized that Tim McGraw and I were exactly alike.  Well, he is younger, better looking, world famous, rich, can sing, and can act, but other than that we are alike.  He worries about things that money, fame, and a great singing voice can’t solve.  Both of us are concerned about how to raise our children, how to do our jobs, and how to lead our families.  If we had had more time we might have talked about other things.

Now I may never get another chance to talk to Tim McGraw or anybody else famous, but I will interact and talk to hundreds of people every year and so will you.  You can bet that they worry about their children, their marriages, their jobs, what happens when they die, etc…!  We can help them find the answer because we have a relationship with the answer and the answer is Jesus!

JOHN14: 6JESUS IS THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.   Jesus sets the standard when He said that He is the way, the truth, and the life.  There is no problem that Jesus cannot handle.  Whatever the circumstance, large or small, Jesus is the answer.  Do you know this?  Do you understand this?  Do you live this?  Could you explain it to someone who asked you?

1 PETER 3:15 – BE PREPARE TO GIVE AN ANSWER. As believers, we have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus and through that relationship we have hope.  Peter instructs us to be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about the hope we have, but to answer in a respectful and gentle way.  Whether we are talking to the famous or the infamous, the rich or the poor or anyone in between, we can and should share the wonderful answer that Jesus Christ is for all who believe.

Matt Greco is a member of FCC and the headmaster of Faith Christian Academy.

Posted in: Christian Living, Men's Ministry

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The Most Depressing Day of the Year

By Dr. Timothy Juhnke

Recently, a psychologist from the UK made headlines when he announced that Monday, January 24, was the most depressing day of the year. Dr. Cliff Arnall devised a formula that was used to determine people’s lowest point. He used the Formula:

[W + (D-d)] x TO
M x NA

A Reporter explained the formula like this: “The equation is broken down into seven variables:

  • (W) weather
  • (D) debt
  • (d) monthly salary
  • (T) time since Christmas
  • (Q) time since failed quit attempt [i.e. failed New Year’s resolutions]
  • (M) low motivational levels
  • (NA) the need to take action”

According to the article, Arnall devised the formula for a travel company that wanted to know the peak times that people book vacation getaways. Wow, nothing like adding an exotic vacation that you can’t afford to help you feel better when you are depressed!

I don’t mean to make fun of people’s depression and anxiety. It is a serious problem, especially if you suffer from it. But the truth is that the world has little hope of finding a lasting solution. Compiling debt to treat the blues only compounds the problem. Similarly, medicating depression and anxiety with pharmaceutical drugs or other substances only treats the symptoms, not  the cause.

Christians are not immune from depression, especially if they engage in the same destructive financial and emotional behaviors as unbelievers. But the believer possesses a solution; we have a prescription from God Himself. When believers focus their attention on the Lord (and repent of sinful behaviors when necessary) they have this promise:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

This is the only lasting prescription for peace. I have used it in heavy doses. I am thankful for that the law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply to Scripture and that we could never overdose on it. I am a living testimony that the promise of this verse works better than any drug the world could offer. I have literally experienced physical relief from anxiety as I clung to that verse. And the beauty of it is that there are no side effects. Stay your mind on Jehovah and He will keep you in perfect peace.

Dr. Timothy Juhnke is the Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Pastor Tim

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Book Review: Righteous Sinners

Review by Susan Verstraete

Righteous Sinners: The Believer’s Struggle with Faith, Grace and Works

Ron Julian, Navpress, 1998righteoussinners

Ron Julian freely admits that, like Martin Luther, he was driven to understand the Bible out of knowledge of his own sinfulness and moral weakness.  As a young believer, his teachers encouraged that if he “let go and let God” he could have complete victory over sins like selfishness and lust.  But though Julian had faith in God, believed the truth of the Gospel and wanted nothing more than to be free from sin, it didn’t work. He still struggled with sin, just as you and I do.  The teachers questioned his salvation, and Julian began to question their teaching.  He spent the next 25 years searching the Bible for the answer to his dilemma. How can God call sinful human beings—those of us who fail over and over— “righteous”? Righteous Sinners is the result.

It’s easy to fall into an unbiblical ditch either on one side or another of this issue. On the one hand, we might be tempted to constantly doubt our salvation because of remaining sin in our lives. On the other hand, we might believe that because God declares us righteous by grace and apart from works, intense struggle with habitual sin is unnecessary. Julian navigates safely between these two ditches, and gives us a balanced, biblical understanding of the role of trials, works, grace and the sovereignty of God in the lives of believers.

Ron Julian is a teacher at the McKenzie Study Center in Eugene, Oregon.  Incidentally, he has a direct tie to FCC, since he’s the father-in-law to Matt Greco’s son, Gil. His book is available through Amazon.com.

 

Susan Verstraete is a member of FCC and serves as church secretary.Book Review

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