Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothèd then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

– Robert Robinson, 1757

Some traditional old hymns speak so much more than modern melodies do. This is one of them. What I love is his honest portrayal of the ‘prone to wander’ and ‘prone to leave’ life that we live in (Romans 7:14-22); and this coming from a pastor, which these days are portrayed as high and mighty celebrities, incapable of failings. And the balance (or scale tipping rather) hope of God’s ‘sovereign grace’ in final salvation.

What brokeness! What hope! What joy!

What you save them with, you save them to

I remember James Boice often saying, “What you save them with, you save them to.” His point was that any evangelism that is not centered on Christ’s atoning work and its biblically-defined results, leaves our “converts” still alienated from God. People “saved” with sentimental appeals or therapeutic promises may join our church, joyfully regard themselves as Christians and embrace our evangelical sub-culture, and even have beneficial changes in their lives. But until they confess their sins and trust the cross of Christ, the wrath of God remains on them. There is but one way to God, and the one gospel He has provided for true evangelism is marked red with the shed blood of Christ.
Rick Phillips

As much as that is a skeptical view of contemporary approaches to evangelism (seeker-friendly methods), I think there is some truth in James Boice’s words. I read the same words on some lecture notes online saying “Theology determines methodology; worship determines witness.” We cannot dissect the methods from the goal. 

Anecdotally, this quote might not seem true but it is worth a thought. It is often the ones who quietly leave or get left behind that slip our minds.

The challenge at the end of Acts

Paul lived there two whole years in his own rented quarters and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete boldness and without restriction.
Acts 28:30-31

Paul lived the gospel with no restrictions.

He only had a rented house and didn’t own his own shelter. He was on house arrest and was limited in his ability to move about or communicate freely. He had limited potential to earn finances. But none of that deterred him. The picture painted in this last passage of Acts tells us quite the opposite. This is a sobering reminder that many of the barriers we’ve placed before the gospel are self-placed.

Job – God’s sovereignty in suffering

He said, “Naked I came from my mothers womb, and naked I will return there. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed!” In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with moral impropriety. Job 1:21-22

This passage follows Job’s extravagant outburst of sorrow. He tore his robe, shaved his head and threw himself face down to the group. Imagine a child in a shopping aisle in tantrum. This picture frames his words. In his anguish, he philosophises with a sense of symmetry:

  • We came with nothing and we leave with nothing
  • God gives and God takes away

Job’s rollercoaster life illustrates the very things that our sovereign God gives and takes away – life and everything in it while his spoken analogy of birth and death reflects the sovereignty of God giving and taking away perfectly. This illustrates 2 things for us:

  • Nothing in this life is permanent – the gift of life (on this earth) is transient
  • Nothing is outside of God’s control – the sovereignty of God is all encompassing (Job 42:2)

These are 2 very important concepts that Job teaches us. But lets not forget the third – God’s plan is good:

So the Lord restored what Job had lost after he prayed for his friends and the Lord doubled all that had belonged to Job… So the Lord blessed the second part of Job’s life more than the first.
Job 42:10, 12 (see 10-17)

God wants good for us. The ultimate goodness that God wants for us is not comfort, health and wealth because these things are all transient but Himself – everlasting, all powerful and all good. Sometimes God does bring goodness in this life as is the case in Job but we can be sure He brings it in the next. Notice that although it says that all these good things are restored to him “after” or “when” he prayed for his friends, it was not because of Job’s actions. God’s goodness is not shown here to be dependant on our action.

Job’s exclamation is entirely appropriate: “May the name of the Lord be praised!” This is not fatalistic “que sara sara” exclamation, this is “praise God” active acknowledgment for His gift (transient it may be), his sovereignty and his goodness. Job even before God restored him had already found the ultimate goodness – God himself.

Learning from others mistakes

I was reading this morning (http://marcronez.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/city-harvest-case-part-5-chcs-crossover-or-sun-hos-crossover/) and realised that we haven’t spoken too in-depth about transparency and the associated risk and risk strategies. (And here is my governance/public servant brain speaking: these should be documented as well.)

Read: Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 13:10; 15:22; 19:20-21; 20:18. And probably Rehoboam’s story.

Risk strategies is not just financial. So far, the only things we’ve spoken about is: “what if we can’t get 30 people” or “what if sara and may get pregnant”. We’ve looked at the risks to our product but not the risk in our process.
– What are things that we are doing now that can be perceived in the wrong light/will be hard to explain? / Will what we are doing be seen in good light by all?
– What is our plan Bs for each milestone? Are we placing all our eggs in one basket? Are there different ways of doing things with lower risk that we need to explore or keep the door open for?

Regarding transparency:
– Is the means to reaching the goal appropriate to the goal? Can our process and rationale be scrutinised by a third party?
– Have we included nay-sayers in our planning and rationalising process or is it all yes-men? What have we done about the words of nay-sayers?
– Who are our advisors? After reflecting on our advisor’s words, do we go back to our advisors and discuss what we think about those words?
– Have we been transparent with our current leaders/mentors/advisors?

The author of the article had difficulty separating God’s call from selfish human desires by examining the church’s actions. And honestly, as living breathing people, examining our ourselves is hard. Thats what advisors are for. Ps Kong Hee had advisors – good and respected advisors. Did the advisors not pick out these blind spots (which makes them not so great advisors) or did Ps Kong dismiss/rationalise away anything perceived as against the agenda. The problem is that in Christiandom, once someone says “God said so” or “this is God’s call”, others often back off with their disapproval and/or they can’t say anything else. That is a challenge to the kind of transparency, openness and authenticity we strive for.

The same set of questions above need to be asked of our own lives as well – our ministry is an extension of our life. God’s call, confirming prophetic words, encouragement from advisors is all good but handled without wisdom (and plain common sense) will jeopardise the call.