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The Sinkhole Syndrome

BY DONALD S. WHITNEYsinkhole

You know the story. The man has been believer in Christ for decades. To all outward appearances he’s a man of Christian faithfulness and integrity. He has maintained a reputation as a fine example of public and private faithfulness to the things of God for decades. Then, without warning, it all collapses into a sinkhole of sin. Everyone wonders how it could have happened so quickly. In most cases, it soon becomes known that—like most sinkholes—the problem didn’t develop overnight.

Several years ago, this man likely had a relatively consistent devotional life through which the Lord often refreshed, strengthened, and matured him. But with each passing year, his busy life became ever busier. Increasingly he saw his devotional life more as a burden—a mere obligation sometimes—than a blessing. Because of the massive doses of Bible teaching he’d heard—in addition to the knowledge gained teaching church Bible classes himself—he began to imagine that he needed less private prayer and Bible intake than when he was younger and not as spiritually mature. Besides, he had so many other God-given responsibilities that surely God would understand that he was too busy to meet with Him every day.

One small concession led to another; one plausible rationalization led to the next, until the devastating day when a tipping point was reached, and the spiritual weakness developed by too many private compromises could no longer sustain even the appearance of Christian integrity. And into the sinkhole fell his reputation, witness, ministry, and perhaps much more.

If you’re a strong young Christian, passionate about the things of God, and you find it impossible to imagine yourself coming to such a condition: beware. This situation could easily be yours in a few years. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:12 are an apt admonition here: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

I’ve been in pastoral ministry for twenty-four years. For fifteen years I’ve been a professor of biblical spirituality. I’ve written several books and many articles related to spirituality. I speak on the subject to future ministers and missionaries on a daily basis in the seminary classroom, and in churches and conferences around the country almost every weekend. And yet I will freely admit that it’s harder for me to maintain my devotional life now than ever in my life. That’s because I’m busier now than ever. I have many more responsibilities than I had as a young man. And they all take time, time that must come from somewhere.

As the pressures of life increase and more deadlines loom, it becomes harder to maintain time for the devotional life. “Who will know if I abandon a consistent prayer life? Who can tell if I seldom turn the pages of Scripture? I know the Bible pretty well already, and I hear it a lot at church. God has given me this busy life; surely He understands.” And the erosion begins.

At the outset it’s likely that very few will know when the hidden part of your spiritual life begins crumbling. Just as imperceptible movements of water underground can carry away the earth beneath long before anyone on the surface perceives it, so the pressures of life can secretly displace the soil of our private spiritual disciplines long before the impact of their absence is visible to others. The more public parts of a Christian’s life, such as church involvement and various forms of ministry, can often continue with little observable change right up until the awful moment of collapse and the hypocrisy is revealed.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with many factors that undermine intimacy with Christ. Realize that it’s almost certain that the number of time-thieves trying to steal from your time with God will only increase as the years pass. My hope is that this article will alert you to this subtle, creeping tendency so that it won’t overtake you.

Never be deceived by the temptation to think that with the increasing spiritual maturity you expect to come with age, the less you will need to feast your soul on Christ through the Bible and prayer. What Jesus prayed in John 17:17 for all His followers—”Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”—applies to us all throughout our lives.

Jesus practiced what He prayed for us. While Jesus is infinitely more than our example, nevertheless He is also our example of sanctified living, of living coram deo. The Bible tells us (in Luke 4:16) that Jesus regularly attended when God’s people assembled to hear the Scriptures, and also that He would get alone to meet with His Father (Matthew 14:23). Jesus’ followers need both the sustaining grace that comes through the public worship of God as well as that which comes to us when we meet with Him individually.

I don’t want to minimize the role of the church in preventing spiritual shipwreck in the life of the believer. In this piece, however, I am writing to warn those who will increasingly be tempted to think that frequently meeting God with others can compensate for seldom meeting with Him alone.

There are seasons of life when our devotional habits may be providentially altered. But the general rule is that those reconciled to God through the cross of His Son need conscious, personal communion with Him every day until the day they see Him face to face. And the ordinary means by which He gives it is through the personal spiritual disciplines found in Scripture, chief of which are the intake of the Word of God and prayer.

Pursue the Lord with a relentless, lifelong, obstacle-defying passion. Resolve never let your daily life keep you from Jesus daily.

Donald S. Whitney is Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Death First, Then Life

In Book 2, Section 8 of John Bunyan’s awesome work, Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named Mr. Great-Heart puts a riddle to a man named Mr. Honest. It’s a fantastic bit of verse:

He that will kill, must first be overcome;
Who live abroad would, first must die at home.

As is Mr. Honest’s response:

He first by Grace must conquer’d be,
That Sin would mortify;
And who, that lives, would convince me,
Unto himself must die.

We will not put to death the sin that remains in us (Colossians 3:5) without first ourselves being conquered, overcome by God (Romans 8!). This is true at the moment of conversion, and throughout the whole of a Christian’s life.

This is not “let go, and let God,” Keswick stoic passivity. God has raised us to life, that we may be part of His Overcomers, subjects of His victorious and ever-advancing Kingdom of Light.

But attempts to crucify the flesh, by the strength of the flesh, always fail, and thank God they do! (Colossians 2:20-23) “Bootstrap theology” brings no glory to the God of grace. The world is full of self-help gurus, but Jesus is not one of them. Why not? Because we must die and be buried with Christ before we can live and be raised with Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

There can be no honest mistaking one of the central points of Christianity: if you want to live, you must die. Paul says that in our baptism we died with Christ in order that we may be raised with him (Rom 6:4).

The currents of this water are layered, and they run deep. We are born dead (Eph 2:1) and we must die to be born again.

But Jesus is the Great Physician! Looking with compassion on a race of creatures dead in our trespasses and sins, He invites us to receive exactly what we need: to die to our sins, with Him, because He died for us, and was raised for us (Rom 4:25). Dead to the works of the Law, dead to sin, dead to self, and alive to God, alive to righteousness, alive to truth and beauty, alive to life! There is never any variation in the Great Physician’s prescription: first death, then life.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC.

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Book Review: When Sinners Say “I Do”—Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage

BY SUSAN VERSTRAETE

When Sinners Say “I Do”—Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage
Dave Harvey, Shepherd Press, 2007whensinners

He doesn’t pull any punches. In the preface to his book, When Sinners Say “I Do”, Dave Harvey says, “The more you get to know me, the more you’ll admire my wife.” Harvey has taken a good look at himself in the mirror and has seen a sinner staring back at him—the same experience we’ve all had if we are honest. Even though we believers are being sanctified, and even though God promises to complete the work He begins in us, all of us are still sinners. So now what? How can sinners have a marriage that glorifies God?

Harvey’s surprising answer is “by being good theologians.” Specifically, he encourages us to apply the Gospel to our marriages. “Never make the mistake of thinking that the Gospel is only good for evangelism and conversion,” he says. “Accurately understanding and continually applying the Gospel is the Christian life.”

The first half of Harvey’s book talks about sin. He helps us to redefine the problems we may be experiencing in marriage (or in other relationships) biblically. Not “My marriage is having problems” but “I’m having a problem with sin.” In the second half of the book, Harvey gives us multiple examples from his own life and from others to help us see how we can act toward our spouse with humility, mercy and kindness. We understand the Gospel first, and then we apply it —what Harvey calls “taking your theology out for a spin.” As he says, “Forgiven sinners forgive sin.” Unlike many marriage books, this book focuses on what I need to do, not how I can manipulate my spouse to change to please me.

I was struck by how widely applicable most of the book was—not just for marriage situations, but much of the material was helpful for relationships in general. The book was honest, understandable and often funny. I highly recommend it.

When Sinners Say “I Do” is available on the FCC bookshelf, or from Amazon.com for about $10. (The study guide for this book is about $7.00 from Amazon.com.)

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

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John Worley’s Last Words to the Church

By John Worley

Jesus my redeemer has been the anchor of my soul, an anchor hidden behind the veil because He preceded us and opened up access to the safe harbor of heaven. Where he is, I am now also.

I asked to have this read to you at my memorial service to share with you some of my final thoughts. You, my family and my fellow believers in this community of faith, were in these thoughts. In reminding myself of all I had to be thankful for, it occurred to me that you also share in those things because of this safe haven on earth that the Lord has brought us to, which we call Faith Community Church. My last 20 years in this church have been more nurturing and satisfying than all the years I spent in pastoral ministry. You are this church and Christ Jesus is your Lord. For that, be grateful today and rejoice.

The Lord gave me a good life, though not necessarily an easy life. He gave me mercy and grace though I had deserved his wrath.Worley

As a father and particularly a Christian husband, it was hard to think of not being here to fulfill my role to shepherd my family and to nurture and protect my wife. God graciously gave me peace in this, because he made us to be part of this church. I have served with the elders of this church and they are exemplary men of faith, integrity and wisdom. I have no misgivings about entrusting my wife Judy to their spiritual watch care. I am comforted especially by Scripture’s promise that God will become husband to the widow whose God is the Lord.

This is an immensely caring church; a burden bearing, interconnected body that loves in both word and deed. A Church rooted in sound doctrine, biblical proclamation and godly consistency of lifestyle. And so, I entrust Judy, Jackie and the generations of her family into the care of this congregation as well. They will grieve and you will grieve with them, grieving is normal and to be expected. What is not normal or acceptable is obsessive persistence in grief. I don’t expect it will be necessary, but if need be, come along side and help them to move on in living. Our living is for the Lord and His purposes. Life will be filled with losses of all kinds and occasional gains as well. Death is part of life. It is an inescapable occurrence that our Sovereign God has predestined for each of us.

Having had an advanced approximation of the approach of my death (with a few unexpected extensions), it made each final day bring a special awareness of the grace and mercy of God renewed every morning. It heightens one’s appreciation for what God is accomplishing in each of us as he daily makes us his workmanship, creating in advance, daily good works i.e. faithful stewardship responses to opportunities given by God. There is an old saying, “You should not wait till someone’s funeral to say something nice about them.” In like manner we should not wait till we know we are dying, to experience each day with a spirit of rejoicing and thankfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m glad I didn’t wait, I hope you don’t either. In Him alone there is life eternal.

In conclusion let me add that some of you will no doubt miss my presence or our opportunities to interact. I wanted to say that I will miss you all as well. Realistically however, I expect I will be so occupied with experiencing all the wonders and the worship in being absent from the body but present with the Lord that, as the old hymn puts it, ” the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

John Worley III was an elder at FCC from 1996-2016. John went home to be with the Lord in 2016.”

Posted in: Christian Living

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Deliverance From Sin’s Power Over Our Emotions

BY MARTY BEAMER

I have never thought of myself as an emotional guy. In fact, I have been pretty “anti-emotion”—just ask my wife. I never thought Christians should put much weight into emotions, anyway. How many times have you been led astray by them? In my Christian walk, nothing has betrayed me more than acting how I felt like acting. This is the reason I experienced somewhat conflicted emotions. Usually, they led me to sin. Recently, the Lord showed me my error. I realized it isn’t emotions that lead me to sin but sin that distorts my emotions.

Compass Bulletin Cover Templates(1)

Are we led astray by our emotions? Or are we, emotions and all, led astray by something more insidious?

Have you ever noticed you cannot will yourself to feel a certain emotion? I would love to see you try. Go ahead, decide to be angry and see what happens. Angry yet? How about sad? I could give you an entire list and you could never will yourself to feel a certain way. Yet, how many times have you been angry or sad or jealous and acted on it? You cannot will yourself to feel a certain way, but your feelings can will you to act a certain way.

What does this have to do with sin? The better question is what doesn’t this have to do with sin? What is sin if not your desires (emotions) demanding your will to act against the laws of God? James 1:14 says, “But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires.”  When you see how sin affects humanity one thing is evident: it is has infected your emotions. Further, because your will is chained to your emotions, your will is a slave to sin. But why would God make us this way? Why would so much depend on our emotions when they are so difficult to control?

The Rhetoric Companion for the Modern Student by Edward Corbett and Robert Connors stated something that changed how I will think about this forever. They say, “We arouse emotion by contemplating the object that stirs the emotion.” All at once it hit me. How do you change the emotions? You think. You dwell. You meditate. Isn’t this something Christians are called to do? Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” What does Paul tell these brothers to do? Think about true, honorable, just, pure, commendable things. When you think of these things, this leads to a practice of these things. Only then, according to the text, will you have the God who produces peace (an emotion). Why is Paul telling them to think? Because thinking is what changes your emotions. And your emotions change what you do.

And let me remind you, brothers and sisters, to give new life to your emotions will only happen as you remember the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Therefore…remember that you were at [one] time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:11-13) Daily, call yourself to remember that you were dead with no hope. Remember that you were a vessel of wrath. Remember that God looked upon you with favor. Remember that He gave up His own Son as the ransom for your sins. Remember when you heard these sweet words of truth and your heart was made new. Think. Mediate. Dwell. Remember. Scriptures demand is for all Christians to have a life marked by remembering. The Gospel is not only to change our intellect but our emotions as well.

My call to you today is to remember. Do not neglect your emotions because they are what lead you to sin. Instead, determine to characterize your life as one who remembers, who contemplates and who dwells on the Work of God. Then, and only then, will your life, and emo-tions, be captivated by the Gospel against the power of sin.

Marty Beamer is Assistant Pastor at FCC and an M.Div. and Biblical Languages student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Security Team: FCC Code of Conduct

Recently, a “code of conduct” was established for those attending services and other activities at FCC.  We believe this code is a commonsense and logical approach to assist in ensuring quiet and respectful behavior associated with Christian worship.  The code is as follows:

Faith Community Church (hereinafter FCC) welcomes all members to its facilities for worship and other functions. Guests of members and other visitors or attendees are expected to behave in an appropriate manner and respect and observe the rights of other members, guests and visitors.codeofconduct

Behavior in the Facility

FCC’s facilities are intended to be used for Christian worship, quiet meditation, reading, studying, attending programs, attending meetings and other reverent (quiet and respectful) activities associated with Christian worship. Attendees are expected to conduct themselves in a reverent manner that makes these activities possible. Attendees will respect the rights of others to benefit from their attendance with the least amount of interference or disruption.

The following types of disruptive behavior are NOT allowed in or on FCC property:

  1. Behavior that endangers the safety of another person.
  2. Vandalism or deliberate destruction of FCC property.
  3. Theft of FCC materials or the personal property of others.
  4. Violation of any local, state, or federal law.
  5. Possession, consuming, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  6. Running, yelling or screaming or disruptive behavior.
  7. Selling goods or services or soliciting money without approval of FCC leadership.
  8. Smoking in the facility.
  9. Physical abuse or other unwanted touching of any other person.
  10. Threats of physical harm.
  11. Abusive, profane, vulgar or obscene actions, language or gestures.
  12. Acts of protest or demonstration.
  13. Any other disruptive or outrageous behavior that offends the spirit of reverent Christian fellowship or behavior.

To further the security level here at FCC, we plan to invite the Homeland Security Section of the KCPD to conduct a Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources inventory.  This will involve taking pictures of our facility, obtaining floor plans, hours of operation, critical contact persons etc. Once gathered, this information is then downloaded into a computer database that is shared with KCPD police officers, and KCFD firemen.  Then, if they are ever called to our facility, the officers and/or firemen can bring this information up on their computer laptops before arriving on the scene.

1 Peter 5:8 – Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

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In Spirit and Truth: What Does that Mean, Exactly?

spirit and truthtBy Andrew Sheffield

In Spirit and Truth:  What does that mean, exactly?

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:23-24)

In the “worship wars” (read: style wars) of the past two or three decades, this passage has played a central role.  On all sides people use these verses to make their cases—some argue that the “spirit” component of worship is missing from services that use only traditional hymns, and therefore contemporary music must come in to rescue the church from dead worship; others claim that Jesus’ statement endorses charismatic practices; still others argue that “truth” is missing from contemporary praise and worship music, directing us back to hymns as the answer for our worship woes.

Obviously, not all of these perspectives can be true.  And in fact, I would argue that all of them miss Jesus’ point and thereby miss an essential truth about worship.  Recall the occasion for these words:  the Samaritan woman has put to Jesus the issue of where right worship of God should take place—in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerizim.  And in His own infinitely wise way, Jesus thwarts her expectations, and, rather than answering her directly, He makes a much, much larger point.  He tells the woman that physical location no longer matters in worshiping the Father; rather, spiritual orientation matters.  And in fact, Jesus’ point here goes even further than issues of location; it touches on the very definition of worship.  For, up to this point in the history of Israel, worship has been centered around the physical acts of sacrifice and offering, in the physical place of the temple.  But Jesus says here that physical places and even physical acts are not the heart of worship:  rather, spiritual, unseen realities define true worship.

Without delving any deeper into this text (there are volumes of truth here), think about just this point:  the governing realities of true worship are spiritual, not physical.  To put this another way:  God looks not at the outward appearance, but at the heart.  Or, another way:  “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”  Sound familiar?  These are all ways of stating the truth that worship is more about unseen realities than about seen realities.  The unseen realities—who God is and who we are in light of Him—should be our consuming focus.

Be sure that I’m not saying that physical realities are completely meaningless or that there is some great divide between physical and spiritual—because we humans are both physical and spiritual, so any spiritual realities we experience are mediated through our bodies.

But if our chief focus is on the things we can see or touch or feel—the aesthetics of the place where we meet, the style of music, or even our emotional state, for example—then we will miss altogether the spiritual realities of true worship.  The battle we must fight in our worship (and indeed in our entire Christian life) is the battle to fix our eyes on the unseen things.

So the next time we gather—and every time we gather—remind yourself that your physical experience is not the ultimate judge of whether your worship is spiritual and true; rather, the orientation of your heart is what will make your worship genuine.

 

~Andrew

Posted in: Worship

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Your Greatest Threat

Commencement Address for Faith Christian Academy’s Class of 2007

It is an honor for me to address the graduating class of 2007, even though, frankly, I am not very adept at the hoo-ra-rah, motivational addresses that many graduates would probably expect.  I often tell the church I pastor that one of the reasons I preach from the Bible every week, Sunday after Sunday, is because without the Bible I honestly would not have anything to say.  I am not a profound person.  I am not very talkative.  I am definitely not a good story-teller. And I am not very wise in worldly matters.

As a speaker you often fret because you want to say something meaningful and memorable.  But for this occasion some of that consternation has been tempered because I was reminded this past week that a graduation ceremony is a much like a wedding ceremony:  Nobody ever remembers what the preacher says anyway.

It does not seem that long ago when I sat where you seniors now sit.  I graduated from high school in 1985.  But I guess that is another sign of old age when twenty-two years ago doesn’t seem that long ago.

1985 was an interesting year.  The price of gas was, if I recall, about seventy-seven cents.  The postage stamp had just been raised to twenty-two cents.  A woman by the name of Madonna started her first road tour.  Trivial Pursuit was all the rage.  Dynasty, Dallas, The A-Team, and Hill Street Blues were the top-rated television shows.  The Mac computer was one year old.  Desktop publishing was just becoming a reality (I had to type my reports on a typewriter with lots of whiteout, or if you were lucky, you could use the newly marketed erasable typing paper – which, by the way, didn’t last very long.)  Al Gore had not yet invented the internet.  No DVDs, iPods, or cell phones.  No caller-id and certainly no flat screen TVs.

Yes, the world has changed much in twenty-two years.  And who can imagine what the world of 2029 will be like?

For the next few moments I will make a meager attempt to articulate for you the greatest challenge facing you in the new world into which you will shortly be thrust.  And, by way of inference, I hope to demonstrate to you how this school – your education – has prepared you for this challenge.

I will address you in a style you are now familiar with – in the style of Classical rhetoric – by way of proposition and proofs.  My hope is that the logic is sound and convincing.

I believe the greatest threat you face is the most subtle threat ever to face a generation.  Your greatest threat is not a rogue terrorist, or a renewed cold war with Russia or China; it will not be an economic recession or hyper-inflation; it is not global warming or any other environmental concern.

My premise simply stated is that the greatest threat facing your moral, intellectual, and spiritual well-being is the culture of amusement, the culture of endless fun and infinite distraction.  I am, of course, not the first to suggest this.  It was “prophesied” in the 1950’s (about the same time as the advent of television) by a non-Christian, Aldous Huxley in his book Brave New World.  Huxley argued that in the future men will not be controlled by inflicting pain, but by inflicting pleasure.  He saw that people would come to love and adore the pleasures and technologies that undo humanity’s capacity to think.

Huxley’s premise was revisited in 1985 by Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death.  Postman saw that Western culture had moved away from the printed word to the electronic image, and subsequently turned all of public life and discourse into a form of entertainment – everything from education, religion, and politics (I would even add to that list eating – our children need Happy Meals just to get them to eat their hamburgers).

A related premise can also be found in Allan Bloom’s 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind which is a scathing critique of American institutions of higher learning.  And from a Christian perspective, Mark Noll sounded a similar alarm in 1994 with his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.  According to Noll, the scandal of the evangelical mind is, ironically, that there is no evangelical mind anymore.  Christians have simply stopped thinking.

So Christians and non-Christians alike have recognized that the culture of amusement and entertainment has made a coup de taut over America’s mind, without a shot ever being fired or an ounce of blood shed.  The constant indulgence of amusement and entertainment has sucked the intellectual and spiritual life right out of us.

And the reason the threat is so insidious is because it is virtually impossible to take seriously.  If I were to warn you about a terrorist threat or a grave environmental concern you could see the obvious harm.  But how do you warn somebody about fun?  About having a good time?  About such trivial things like TV, internet, and iPods?  Would you take a doctor seriously if he said to you, “I have some very bad news for you: You are going to die a slow, pleasure-filled death.”?

But the effects of the culture of amusement have been absolutely devastating upon the mind, soul, and faith of this generation.  You are entering into a world that has not only lost its desire to think, but the actual capacity to think!  You will be immersed in a culture controlled not by thinking but by feeling.  It is not swayed by arguments or logic, but by images and sound bytes.

Although there are many examples, I offer to you two proofs of the closing of the American mind; one example from political discourse, the other example from religious discourse.

In the world of politics we would only have to go back about one hundred and fifty years to the Lincoln-Douglas debates.  These debates represented the typical political process in American at that time.  Debates such as these were immensely important in deciding critical issues facing the country.  In many ways, these debates represented America’s pastime.  It was a diversion from their work.  They could leave their fields for a break from the hard labor.  One could even argue that these debates were a form of entertainment in the 19th century.

Lincoln and Douglas actually debated each other many times, but the format was always very similar.  Douglas would speak first for an hour.  Lincoln was given an hour and a half for his rebuttal.  To which a half hour was given for his response to Lincoln’s rebuttal.

One such debate took place on October 16, 1854 in Peoria, Illinois.  During this debate Douglas took three hours to state his political positions.  At Lincoln’s turn, he noted that he would need at least as much time as Douglas and that the time was already about 5 p.m.  So he suggested that the audience take a break to be refreshed by dinner and return for the conclusion of the debate.  When the audience reconvened after dinner, Lincoln spoke for four hours.

Let’s put the political candidates aside for a moment and focus on the audience.  Who in the world were these people who could endure seven hours of political oratory?  Were they professional politicos or party-hacks?  No!  They were just common, ordinary citizens who had the fortitude and desire to follow seven hours of political propositions, proofs, and logic so as to be a properly educated voter.  By any of today’s standards, these people possessed extraordinary attention spans!

Soon we will face our own Presidential elections.  It is remarkable how vastly different the format will be.  Typically, the first candidate will be given five minutes to state their position.  The other candidate will be given one minute to rebut.   Is it possible to present serious political discourse in five minutes?  Absolutely not!  Thus, serious political discourse is reduced to sound bytes and images.

Why are these debates so short?  For one, political discourse makes for terrible television.  But more importantly, American’s don’t have the desire or capacity for such serious discourse!  Who would sit and watch seven hours of real political debate on television?  The closest we come to serious political discourse in American is found on C-SPAN.  But who watches C-SPAN?

I tell you, Americans have not only lost their desire to think, they have lost their capacity to think.

 In the world of religion, I suppose we would only have to go back to Colonial America and cite such men as Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield among many others.  Many of Edwards’ sermons are still in print today.  And I can tell you that his sermons are taxing even to the most astute theological minds of our day.

But I would rather go back farther to an even more primitive people.  To a people who had none of the technological advances or media stimulations that we enjoy today.  I want to take you back to the remnant that returned to Jerusalem during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (circa 5th Century B.C.).  Let me share with the description the Bible gives of one of their assemblies.  I read from Nehemiah 8,

8:1 And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. 2 Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.[1]

Nehemiah and the other scribes taught the people literally from “early light” until midday – a minimum of six hours!  Nehemiah 8:7-8 states that during that time Nehemiah and the other scribes, “explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. 8 And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.”

These people listened to six hours of biblical exposition!  Could you find one congregation in America that could endure such a mentally challenging feat as listening attentively to six hours of biblical exposition?  As a preacher myself, I can tell you that many preachers would be run out of town if they dared to preach more than twenty minutes!

I tell you again, we have lost not only our desire to think, but our capacity to think!  We simply cannot bear the heavy burden of thinking anymore.

Now I know I must shortly conclude this address, for I am sure I have already taxed our delicate attention spans.  But I need to explain that I am not against having fun.  There is a place for fun and amusement.  However, from personal experience I can tell you that life is not always fun.  Life is full of moral, social, political, and theological complexities that require the hard work of thinking.

As seniors at Faith Christian Academy you are successfully graduating from an institution that has trained you to think.  You have been compelled to read widely, to reason logically, and to speak articulately.  I believe you are eminently prepared to rise above the prevailing culture and lead it.  You will be like cream that rises to the top!

Many of these students have said that they will never be able to watch a movie or listen to a commercial the same again.  They are always evaluating and probing it for the worldview behind it.  Seniors, you graduate from this institution equipped to think critically so that you will not fall prey to political pundits or slick election sound bytes.

In a word, you have been trained to think as Christians.  You now must learn what it means to be a Christian lawyer, a Christian doctor, a Christian politician, or a Christian astronomer.  But you have been given the tools to discern what that will mean in whatever field God leads you.

We bid you farewell with the great expectation that you will make a lasting impact upon a deeply broken culture.  So, on behalf of the faculty and the staff, I salute you!  I tell you a job well-done!  May God graciously and abundantly bless each one of you!

Thank you.

 

Copyright © Timothy P Juhnke

[1]New American Standard Bible . 1986; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996 (electronic edition.) (Ne 8:1). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Posted in: Pastor Tim, Uncategorized

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A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael

Book by Elizabeth Elliot, Revell 1987, Review by Susan Verstraete

When Amy Carmichael heard the call to missions, she never looked back. She gave up the option of marriage and motherhood and set sail for India in 1895, where she would remain for 53 years without furlough. At first, she planned to teach the gospel town by town to women oppressed by the caste system, poverty and superstition.  But things changed when she met a little girl named Preena, a seven-year-old sold by her own mother to become a woman of the gods—a temple prostitute.

The first time that Preena ran away from the Hindu temple, her mother brought her back. The authorities branded Preena’s hands with hot irons as punishment. Still, when the child found another chance to escape, she seized it and ran to a Christian woman who took her to Amy. Preena immediately climbed into Amy’s lap, and they both fell in love.

Amy could not return Preena to the temple; that was unthinkable. But she was torn. The Tamil had a saying—“Children tie the mother’s feet.”  Might Jesus be asking her to give up teaching His Gospel as an itinerate missionary to settle down to the menial labor of caring for this child? Amy prayed for clear direction. Within three months, four more homeless children had found their way to Amy’s bungalow.  She had her answer.  The one who had given up motherhood for the cause of Christ was now required to embrace it for that same cause. Her feet would be tied “for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed.” She wrote, “If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider ‘not spiritual work’ I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and the exciting, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

By obeying God’s call to the seemingly-menial labor of motherhood, Amy Carmichael established an orphanage that is still active over 100 years later. Thousands of children have been saved from a life of poverty, neglect and idol worship. She said, “Missionary service is a chance to die.” Elizabeth Elliot’s biography is an unflinching look at the woman she calls “my first spiritual mother” and an illustration of what it means for a fallible, headstrong woman to progressively die to self.

This book is available through Amazon ($12.00 paperback) or through the Mid-Continent Library system.

 

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The Love of a Mother for Her Son

By Sherrie Holman

Cold blue points of light in a silent winter’s sky,
The strength of waves beneath the dawning creation,
The whispers and the shadows of lives gone by,
And silently within the womb – love’s celebration!

Beginning the love of a mother for her son.

Her thankfulness only God can measure
For the gift received, though only for a short while.
She gazes in rapture at the tiny earthen treasure;
Her full heart forces to her lips an adoring smile
Capturing the love of a mother for her son.

The rude world loudly beckons; but she turns it down
To answer the sweet demands of charity, and she is blest.
Her home, her husband, and her posterity are her crown.
Softly embraced, enveloped in peace, there is time to rest,

Deepening the love of a mother for her son.

Now a youth with eyes whimsical and bright with zeal,
Yet blind and prey to nefarious powers that assail.
She defends with light and truth, his tender heart to seal
With heaven’s promises which are trustworthy to prevail.

Proving the love of a mother for her son.

Prayers have shod the young man’s feet for the run;
He presses onward endowed with unseen shield and sword.
Because, for the want of brave men, the world is undone;
It is there that Providence counts worthy to record.

Owing to the love of a mother for her son.

Posted in: Women's Ministry

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