Saturday, May 21, 2011

Isaac Watts: My Soul, My Life, My All

I want to tell you today about a great man. He was a great not because he was big and strong because he wasn’t. He was 5 feet tall and had a big head. He was sickly most of his life. He could barely carry out his duties when he was 30 yrs old, and yet he has impacted the world.
He wasn’t a great man because he was smart. But he was very smart. He wrote books used as textbooks at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale.
He wasn’t a great man because of his family, but he came from strong and brave stock. His grandfather was the captain of a British warship in the mid 1600s; his father was a teacher and a deacon in a dissenting church during a time when England was persecuting the dissenters. His mother’s grandfather was a leader of the French Huguenots who were run out of France because of their faith.
No this man was great because he trusted in a Great God at an early age, and shared his faith with the world. I’m talking about Isaac Watts. 

He has been called the Reformer that Christians know by heart…but not by name.

     Now why should we know about this man? Well he is the father of English hymns, he influences hymn writers to this day, AND we sing a number of his songs in church.  So who was this man?
Let me set the stage for the world Isaac Watts lived in. 
Just 10 years before he was born the plague came to Southampton and decimated it. Many who could afford it fled to London and other larger areas. The poor were left with very few shops and industry and no real economy. Then there was the English persecution of the dissenters. Those who believed they should be free to worship as they see the Bible teaches. These were Baptist, Quakers, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and later the Methodists.
Isaac’s own father a Congregationalist, was jailed several times for his beliefs. It was on his release from jail the first time that he married a young lady that very day. But then one year later when young Isaac was born, the father couldn’t be there because he had been locked up again. During this time many Christians died from malnutrition and disease that was rampant in these nasty prisons. His father was released the following year and slowly was able to start up his school again.
He started teaching young Isaac Latin at 4 years old. He began writing in Latin at 6, at 9 his father started teaching him Greek. That was also the year that he had smallpox!
But the next year he began to tackle French. Most English didn’t learn French in those days, but there were many French descendants, like his mother, in the area and he thought it was a good idea. Then at 13 he learned Hebrew.
     He was so bright that a wealthy Doctor volunteered to pay for his education at Oxford or Cambridge. But to do so, Isaac would have to renounce his family’s Dissenting ways, and pledge full faithfulness to the Anglican Church. Isaac couldn’t do that. So he went to a less prestigious academy established for dissenters. He graduated there at 20 and returned home for two years before he found a teaching position. It was during those two years, when Isaac wrote the bulk of his hymns. He was incredibly prolific.
     This whole hymn-writing hobby of his had an interesting start. The English of his day didn’t sing hymns. The Germans had for 100 years, but all they sang in England were psalms set to a rather somber and difficult meter.
One day Isaac was complaining after their church service that these songs are too cold and dark. The preaching at that time was sound biblical teaching by men with some good education in the Bible. But to him the songs didn’t seem to fit. So his father said. Why don’t you write something suitable for our congregation for this evening?
Some have said this was a sort of challenge, like someone saying, “If you think you can do better go ahead!” I think his dad knew he was up to the job.
     When Isaac was 6 years old he wrote a poem and showed his mom and she couldn’t believe he really wrote it.  So he went and wrote another, this time he used his own name.
I am a vile, polluted lump of earth
 So I’ve continued ever since my birth
   Although Jehovah, grace doth daily give me
     As sure this monster, Satan, will deceive me
       Come therefore lord from Satan’s claw relieve me.
           Wash me in thy blood, o Christ
             And grace divine impart
               Then search and try the corners of my heart
                 That I in all things may be fit to do
                   Service to thee and thy praise too.
He continued to write verses and poems, so one day his father says, “Isaac, you write a hymn.”
 More about that later but there are some other things you should know about this great man.  
Being strong in his faith, being the son of a teacher and having received a degree to teach and be a minister, he had some strong beliefs. One of which was, if you are going to try to love the Lord with all your mind you need to be a good thinker. He was influenced by the Empiricist philosophers of the day and took to science and philosophy very well. This was the movement that taught that knowledge came from empirical evidence that you could see and measure. It’s the basis of modern science. And because of this emphasis he became known as a great thinker. He wrote a book called Logic that was used as a text for many generations at Oxford, Cambridge, and even Harvard and Yale, it went thru 20 editions. He wrote about Metaphysics, he wrote the first book of verses for children, and it went thru 100 editions! He published a major work on astronomy and wrote catechisms for little children to learn about Jesus.
But it’s his hymns that made him famous. In spite of the influence of Watts by philosophy, Isaac Watts knew there was another source for knowledge than just observation. The other source? The Word of God received by faith.
     Among his great writings in Philosophy, Astronomy, and Logic, he wrote hymns like these:
Alas and did my saviour bleed
All hail the power of jesus name
am i a soldier of the cross
christ the lord is risen today
come ye that love the lord
Oh god our help in ages past
when i can read my title clear
jesus shall reign wheree’re the sun
joy to the world
when i survey the wondrous cross.
In America a printer by the name of Benjamin Franklin printed his hymnbooks. Nobody seems to know exactly how many he wrote. One man says 697, another over 700, another 750. But among his less famous ones are a couple that looked interesting:
That last title suggests something. Isaac Watts wasn’t just a man given over to the passion of Objective Thinking and Logic and Objective Theological statements. He was also the subjective experiential lover of Christ and man of faith.
Think about two of His greatest hymns for a second.
First, Joy to the World. Because of the tune that we sing it to this is one of the most joyful hymns but it’s also one of the most doctrinal! It’s all written in the third person. Listen:
From the text in Luke 2:10 I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Isaac Watts writes:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.
But compare that to the next song, it’s all written in first person. Joy to the world is made up of objective truths about God. And he wrote many songs like that. But he also wrote songs like this: WHEN I SURVEY: 
From Gal 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Isaac Watts made it very personal and wrote:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine?
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all

There is anguish here.
Anguish for sins committed.
Anguish for a life spent on self.
Anguish for the inadequacy of what we have to offer.
Anguish because God’s Holiness demands a price we can never pay.
Anguish because of the price our Lord, who loves us so much, paid on our behalf.
That leaves only one action. All the logic in the world can’t dispute that Jesus deserves our souls, our lives, our all.
     Does Jesus have your all today? Does He?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oh Hell!

Little did I know when I preached a series on Heaven and Hell two years ago that Hell was going to soon be in the news big time? Hell! Recently Bill O’Reilly on Fox and Martin Basher on MSNBC, even good morning America has discussed it! How would you like to wake up to THAT conversation?

  First let me say this is not a response to Rob Bell's Book, Love Wins But his book did give rise to this discussion. So consider this a brief polemic on the doctrine of eternal punishment. (Justology?)

  Next let me say 's a given that not a single liberal theologian believes in any type of traditional view of Hell. Also, most conservative theologians believe in some version of eternal punishment. There are a handful of conservative theologians who believe that Hell ultimately destroys, or annihilates, the soul and it ceases to exist. But that’s not the same as saying there is no Hell, or that Hell is here on earth, or that someday all the people in Hell will be allowed into Heaven, or that all Hell will break loose! (I just added the last one for fun.)

   Then let me say, Nobody in their right mind ‘likes’ the idea of Hell! It’s a horrible, terrible concept. Eternal suffering? Are you kidding? If it is put to a vote, I’d be tempted to vote against it! And if you ask, what about Hitler or Osama bin laden, I’d say I don’t think they’ll be in Heaven but I don’t care if they are in torture forever. Let them be annihilated. I’m ok with that! (But not too quickly, I mean as long as I'm voting.)

You see our thinking wants to say, there’s enough trouble here on earth for some people, let’s 
just say Hell is here on earth and be done with it. OK? Is that alright?

No, it’s not alright. Because Jesus says something different. And I’m always going to go with what Jesus said, above human ideas and foolish daydreaming.

   Under Attack: The doctrine of Hell.  Jonathan Edwards wrote of hell: This doctrine is indeed awful and dreadful. It is dreadful to think of it, but yet tis what God, the eternal God, who made us and who has us soul and body in his hands, has abundantly declared unto us, so that so sure as God is true there will absolutely be no end to the misery of hell.
Listen to John MacArthur on hell: This truth of eternal punishment to come on those who do not believe the gospel …is a painful message to preach. … It’s not only a painful message to preach, it is a painful message to hear. It is a painful message to process. It is a painful truth to apply, but it is biblical

So what did Jesus say on this subject? 15 times Jesus referenced Hell. 6 times Jesus talks about eternal fire and the fire of punishment. Jesus talks about Hell more than anyone. So if you don’t believe in Hell you’ll find yourself arguing with Jesus, not me.  

     Mat 25:41  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the
     eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ...46  And these will go away into eternal
     punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
    Mar 9:43  And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life
     crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 

According to Jesus
Hell is outer darkness (Mat 22:13) where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat 8:12). 
Hell’s a fiery furnace (Mat13:42, 50) unquenchable fires (Mk 9:48-49). Hell is spiritual destruction (Mat 10:28) where there are endless torments (Lu 16:23-24).  
In Short: Hell is a horrible place with agony, terror, and anguish.
 Some people still say, “I don’t care, I just don’t believe in eternal punishment.” To be consistent then you can't believe in eternal Heaven. In Matt 5:46 (above) Jesus uses the same word ‘aionos’ which means eternal, to describe both of them. If you don’t believe in an eternal Hell, then how can you believe in an eternal heaven?

   English speaking people have a history of stories ending with “And they all lived happily ever after.” I read stories like that to all 3 of my girls as the were growing up. Usually it sounded like this: "...and they all lived happily ever after, now go to sleep.
Daughter, "Did the Prince and Princess have babies?"
"Yes, go to sleep."
Daughter, "What are their names?"
"Good ni-ight."
"Can I have a drink?"  (but I digress)

You know what we call those kind of stories? Fairy tales
And anyone who says that God is going to make it all work out, no one will be punished forever and everyone lives happily ever after…its a fairy tale!
Some say the whole idea of Heaven is a Fairy Tale. Understandable, but I'm basing this on the words of Christ Jesus. 

Doesn’t Jesus say (Mat 10:28) that the soul will be destroyed in Hell? Yes He does, that word comes from a root meaning mar, punish or ruin. There‘s another word that means disintegrate, to demolish. Jesus uses that for the Temple, not the soul.

Part of our problem is we are fair-minded Americans. We think we are more fair minded than God, or God is more fair minded than the Bible suggests. 
For instance, If I punch my friend Mark in the nose, he would be justified to repay me with the same. Or he might call the law. But if he does the smart thing he’ll get me calmed down and then I’ll feel guilty and apologize and he can hold this over my head the rest of my life. 

BUT, what if I walk up to President Obama and punch him in the nose. Before he gets a chance to forgive me or invite me to a beer summit, I’ll be body slammed by 3 or 4 Secret service men, handcuffed taken to jail and I won’t get out for a long time. And that is as it should be, He's the President!
In other words, the punishment fits the crime. Now Rob Bell, a pastor who wrote a book questioning the reality of Hell, might ask, why would God punish for eternity someone who only sinned for 70 or 80 years, and in fact is guilty of one primary sin, that of rejecting Jesus. Will God punish that person FOREVER? Wouldn’t God make the punishment fit the crime? Surely the wicked will be punished; but forever? All I can say to this logic is this:
     Any sin against the infinitely holy, infinitely loving, and infinitely JUST God is a crime of eternity. Not a crime of 70 or 80 years but a crime of infinite proportion
You want to deny Hell? Go ahead and deny the Abject, Fearful, Holiness of God. 

And when you begin to think of the eternal nature of Hell, don’t picture your loved ones or friends going there… picture yourself. What do you deserve?    

     I don’t believe you can scare people into heaven, but they need to hear the truth, that’s why Jesus warned us of Hell.

And I'm glad that Jesus is the Seeker of the Lost!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

20 Things Men Should Know About Women

20 Things Men Should Know About Women

Repost: I posted this online recently: Ladies, what is one thing men should know about women? Your answers will B a blog post. Ready, go!  Here are the responses:

Macy Missildine (she says this a lot) If you are going to be there, be all there!

cindybeall When we say we’re “fine”, we’re really not. K? (In response to your ladies question)

_taylorlen if we put conscious effort into getting ready, please tell us we look good. you may be thinking it, but we need to hear it!

Anna_Light women like to talk. If you want to score some points ask them a question that sparks conversation. Oh and listen too!

melissamoore the vast majority of us mean what we say. If you ask & we tell you what we want/need, just do it. We loathe being ignored.

Jubilee888 Listen to our input with respect & pray about it; men are supposed to lead, but God didn’t give them ALL the answers. ;-)

rndspringer What we wish men knew: Sometimes we don’t want you to fix it, we just want you to listen.

ajkasza Women want their men 2 provide ldrship/ security–keep your job, keep your temper, keep your focus on God/home/family. Hope this helps!

katiemoon 1+ thing men should know: don’t b intimated when women r strong & don’t b afraid to lead even stronger.

kebrennan Men: We don’t always want you to “fix” it. Sometimes we just want you to listen.

Ashley Reaka Most of the time we do not need you to fix something, we just need you to listen to us even if it is difficult for you to understand.

Sandy Collum Sandmeyer We really do expect you to read our minds. That’s a flaw, we’re really sorry.

Shelley R. Smith if you cannot read my mind, ask me what’s going on in there. :0) communication is the key that will unlock the treasure chest and help you solve the mystery that is me.

Angela Nevius Dormer husbands, show your appreciation and attention when we dress modestly in public… then maybe we won’t desire to get attention from other men by dressing otherwise! (my man is the best at this!)

Christine Ramos Sarcione That we are most attracted to them when we see them playing with their children, laughing and having a great time!

Emily Tate We’re going to assume that every action/inaction of a man has a meaning behind it, even if it doesn’t.

Donna Ecton Don’t make assumptions or stereotypes about women. I’m not going to be/act/like a certain way because “women are supposed to/ that’s what women do”. That is so irritating! For instance, I’m not really that into shopping for clothes, handbags, etc. That doesn’t make me “weird”. Oh and don’t just shrug off our emotions to hormones. That invalidates our feelings.

Well ladies, love for you to add to the list in the comments!  Gentlemen, thoughts?

Friday, May 6, 2011

For Pastors: How Does an Under-shepherd Stay Faithful to the Chief Shepherd?


Pastors are supposed to build up the flock, right? They're supposed to stir believers on to godliness and service. We're supposed to be positive, gracious, winsome, congenial, frugal, sweet, and always out visiting the right people. Oh, and we're supposed to know at least the book and the chapter of any and every verse they think of. In short, they're supposed to be nigh on to perfect.

So what do we do when the very words of Jesus come into play in a situation without violating any of the above?
 For instance:
Mat 6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

How do you tell someone who has gone on and on about how much "The Lord has blessed them financially" before laying down a sizable check on the Sunday School room table? How do you tell them, the Lord isn't accepting your offering? Or do you just shut up and keep it. Let the giver and God sort out what sort of blessing, if any, the giver will receive?

Then there's:
Mat 6:5  And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Say there is a woman who doesn't show the qualities and character that the pastor believes a Christian Lady ought to show, but she always likes to pray in front of others. You don't want to explain to everyone why this person should not be in leadership or 'leading' in prayer. You still hope to help her grow and repent. Her problem might be more about willful disobedience than immaturity. But for the time being you have to make a call, for the woman's benefit and for the church. Am I right?

Then there is the command to all believers:
Mat 5:23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

I don't want to be at odds with anyone. I don't like to make enemies, it's just in my nature to try to keep people happy. OK? I want people to like me. So sue me. BUT, I have to do whats right because I will answer to God for how I pastored His flock. So if I have offended someone and they DO, in fact, have something against me, I should apologize and make restitution.
But, what if they just THINK they have ought against me. What if they are upset with me when I was just trying to do what is right. What if a pastor doesn't believe, after soul-searching prayer, that he has truly hurt them in any way?
    Notice that Jesus didn't say that the brother "thinks" he has ought against, or thinks that a person has in some way hurt him, taken from him, damaged his character etc. etc. If a man says he is offended him that may be true. But they may have offended him with the truth, and therefore owe no apology.
     Still, it's my desire and command to bring unity within the church, and that I will try to do. Often, a perceived injury is often the result of misunderstanding.

Then a shoe gets put on another foot:

Mat 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

This is one of the hardest steps of church discipline to take. Not the first part possibly, although that too is difficult. But taking someone with you who is mature enough in the Lord to put what the Bible says above feelings. Then to approach them in a restorative way, giving them every benefit of doubt, but still calling them to repentance.
     Then, what do you do when the person confesses his faults, then does something else wrong and leaves the church. If the sheep says it's leaving the church does the shepherd still go after it? Then if it joins another flock do you forget about it or warn the other shepherd?

And then:
Mat 7:15  Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

And this is one of the trickiest situations of all; when a pastor perceives and discerns that one of the sheep is a wolf, but none of the other sheep see it. The pastor's responsibility is to God first, then to the protection of the flock. Sometimes the flock doesn't want protection. Sometimes they want the pastor to go through diversity training so he will learn not to discriminate against wolves. (Poor little things.) After all maybe the wolf wants to be a saved wolf!

Just points to ponder for pastors.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shelter From the Storm (Lyrics)

Resting in your holiness, the only place it's safe to be,
I find myself so blessed, I find myself so free.
And when I take a stand for you, or go where I am called,
The enemy may rise up against me but I know I won't fall.

I've got a shelter from the storm, I have a place where it is warm,
I have a hiding place in you.
And I'll never fall away because I'm saved by grace, and grace will keep me ever true, 
I have a hiding place in you, I have a hiding place in you.

I don't face the world alone, I face it side by side,
With the One who's on the throne, the One who bled and died
To give this world it's only hope, He wants you to come in.
He wants to give you Holy Life He wants to be your friend.

To be your shelter from the storm, your place where it is warm,I have a hiding place in you.
And I'll never fall away because I'm saved by grace, and grace will keep me ever true, 
I have a hiding place in you, I have a hiding place in you.

And I'm not ashamed to say, I know the only way,
I can reach anyone is to be in touch with you.
For I want them to see, they can be from sin set free,
And just like me they can always run to You.

And find their shelter from the storm, Their place where it is warm,They'll have a hiding place in you.
And they'll never fall away 'cause it's all by grace, and grace will keep them ever true, 
We have a hiding place in you, We have a hiding place in you.

(copyright 1997 Clark Dunlap)