Sunday, September 23, 2018, 12:30 PM - 1:00 PM
Would you like to join us as we tour the Holy Land next spring? Were you aware that Baptists have a rich heritage and a long history in the Holy Land? And that a vibrant...
In Season 3 of his acclaimed podcast, Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell (author of cultural insights like The Tipping Point and Outliers) poses the question as to when does new information change behavior. The episode is called “Burden of Proof” and features Gladwell giving a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania. The lecture told the story about the long-ago fight over miner’s asthma and about the more recent and unforeseen death of a Penn student named Owen Thomas. Thomas had been a football player at Penn and had committed suicide three years earlier due to the effects of CTE. Through both stories, Gladwell pushes his audience to consider “How much evidence do we need of the harmfulness of some behavior before we act?”
In a wonderful book called You Are What You Love, James KA Smith wrestles with a similar question. “Do you ever experience a gap between what you know and what you do? Have you ever found that new knowledge and information don’t seem to translate into a new way of life? Ever had the experience of hearing an incredibly illuminating and informative sermon on a Sunday, waking up Monday morning with new resolve and conviction to be different, and already failing by Tuesday night? You are hungry for knowledge; you thirstily drink up biblical ideas; you long to be Christlike, yet all of that knowledge doesn’t seem to translate into a way of life. It seems we can’t think our way to holiness.”
While both Gladwell and Smith want to see people make improvements and changes for the better, their means to do so differ. Gladwell believes that with enough evidence, the burden of proof will compel people to change and get their act together. Smith, through personal experience and observation, sees a hard-to-bridge gap between knowing and doing...especially when it comes to the Christian life. Reminiscent of James 1:22-23, Smith recognizes the human tendency to hear something good and true, then never follow up with it again.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that the recipients of his letter would abound in their love (v.9) so that they would/could grow in knowledge, discernment, and purity. So that they may be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (v.11). To think and act and be right, they had to first love and love well. Paul is saying that our actions and habits are formed more by our desires (ie. what/who we love) than what we know to be true. This is why Smith defines discipleship as “a way to curate your heart, to be attentive to and intentional about what you love.” He calls it “more a matter of hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing.”
This is psalmist-type language. If you read Psalm 42 or 63, you’ll see words like thirsting and panting. You’ll see someone who longs for the Lord. If you read Psalm 119, you’ll see words like love and delight. You’ll see someone who finds joy in the Lord and considers His very words sweeter than honey (v.103) and more valuable than riches (v. 14). Someone who has had their affections completely captivated by the goodness of the Lord. Sanctification is less about learning new information and more about delighting in the One who brings about life transformation. We shouldn’t settle for knowing the right things...our hope and prayer should be that we love the right things. That we are growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ. We need to consider how we can stir up our affections for the Lord. We need to consider how our hearts are curated.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6:1
Do you have anyone in your life who is not doing what they should be doing? Or do you look at anyone and think, “If they would just _________, their life would be so much better!!” Maybe it is not someone close to you; maybe it is a public figure with no relation to you whatsoever. How easy it is to solve the problems of others….
What might be said of me? What areas of my own life need some adjusting? What planks in my own eyes need to be removed before going to restore a brother or sister?
Before I consider how I might restore another, it is necessary to spend some time removing the planks from my own eye. This gives me perspective. It helps me to remember that not one of us is without sin, perfect in all our ways. It helps me to approach others in gentleness and humility, knowing that we are all the same. My planks might be different than yours, but we all have them. So, my heart is then fixed on the Lord and His righteousness, and my desire is tuned for others to see Him and not me.
Hearts can be very tender. Very often we have no idea what battles a person might be fighting. As you approach someone to help in some area, you might discover many things you did not anticipate. For one thing, people may not be ready or willing to receive help. This can seem shocking if a person is obviously in dire straits. What should you do? Pray. Ask the Lord if you are the person to help. If you decide to move forward, offer your help in a very confidential, warm, and sensitive way, while continuing to seek the Lord in prayer. In any case, the person might refuse for many reasons. You should continue to pray and wait. You might reach out gently again later, but help cannot be forced. If this is a family member for whom you have some level of responsibility, your role is going to look much different. Again, prayer is so key. You might need some counsel if the situation is such that you cannot remain uninvolved.
If the person accepts help, you must pray through the entire process for His wisdom and guidance; for His heart and attitude, for His will and way, for His discernment to know how to provide help, and for the person’s willingness and readiness to receive it. Perhaps part of the preparation that the Lord is doing in that time is work in your own heart.
You may have heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” We might know exactly what to do to correct the problems a person is experiencing and thereby improve their life. But all of that knowledge is wasted if, in the process, we fail to communicate respect for them as a person. If I personally feel shamed, I will not want to receive help from you, nor will I feel your love, even if you are trying to help me; even if you are spending your time and energy and maybe even your resources to help me. We all want to be loved. And we all want to be known. However, being known is so risky because, deep down, we all realize our faults and we fear being judged and rejected.
So, our help must first gently communicate respect. We have to be vulnerable to demonstrate that we are not any better than the person we are trying to help. Those verses in Galatians warn us to watch out lest we ourselves fall into sin. This does not mean necessarily that we might fall into the same sin of the person we are helping, but rather the sin of pride- the sin of thinking we are better than they are. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are all the same; “one dumb decision away from blowing it,” as Buster reminds us.
After you have gone through all of these steps prayerfully, you can move forward and gently offer your help with humility and grace. Offer to pray together as a first step. If your help is not accepted at first, offer to meet on a regular basis for prayer. Trust must be established. A relationship must be built. Rely on the Lord in every way.
Remember that you are not God and that He is able to take care of the person apart from your help. Prayer is effective. Perhaps His call to pray is why you feel burdened for the person. Perhaps you are not the person God intends to provide the practical help. Pray for the one whom He will send. He is faithful and good, and His love endures forever. He can be trusted to make a way.
I had a lot of expectations about what foster parenting would be like, but one thing I did not expect was how the Lord would use my life as a bridge.
I’ve been blown away by how fostering is a bridge for my children to reach the wonderful world of Christian community I so often take for granted; a world of smiling faces, kind Sunday School teachers, loving friends, and people who know your name. My wife and I have yet to foster a child who ever had the chance to enter the doors of a church before entering our home, and each one of them (at least the ones old enough to express it) has loved
Many times my kids have asked me to count down the days until “church day”. They love their Sunday School teachers. My foster daughter will run down our giant church hallway squealing with delight when she sees one of the families who has cared for her. All the blessings so commonplace to people in
More than just a way to reach the community of God, fostering is a bridge for foster children to begin to know God Himself. I’m amazed at how the childhood years are so spiritually influential. The things my foster children have believed about God and life coming into our home (mostly learned through TV shows and movies) have shocked and grieved me. But, slowly but surely, the actions of our daily lives—like playing corny Christian kids’ music in the car, having (chaotic) family devotions through the Jesus Storybook Bible, talking about how God made the pretty pink sunset and the pretty pink ponies (we currently have a foster daughter), memorizing the children’s catechism, asking God to help us not be scared at bedtime, and even having difficult discipline conversations about how God requires us to use “true words” —have slowly and surely been used to help my children begin to know the God of Scripture and the world He’s made. These regular rhythms of Christian family life, the kind of blessing almost every Christian child has, may very well be the one and only season in my foster children’s lives when they even hear the name of Jesus.
But even beyond my children’s lives, fostering is a bridge for me. It’s a bridge to a world that I don’t see often, as a white, privileged, middle-class pastor at a Mount Pleasant, SC, church—a deeply broken world of poverty, daunting circumstances, generational sin, self-deception, and rebellion against authority. I have yet to attend a foster court date and failed to be emotionally moved by the birth parent’s state of life. (Please don’t misunderstand me—I’m not the angry, holier-than-thou foster parent. My wife and I are the biological parents’ biggest cheerleaders. The statistics of how children almost always do better with bio parents come alive in my home every time we hear the tearful cry of “I miss my REAL mom!”.) Fostering has caused me to be a regular witness of someone trapped in sin and seemingly insurmountable circumstances, both having a lot of bad cards dealt
I can’t leave these situations without being reminded that these parents are like the people first drawn to Jesus when He came to Earth. Jesus came to break generational sin. Rebellious and self-deceived sinners were the ones Jesus came to save, and He has the power, with a word, to radically transform them and to give them the strength to persevere in their daunting circumstances. I have a bridge to the immense light of God’s power in the darkness.
Finally, fostering is a bridge for me to know more
Sound familiar? It sounds a lot like God’s patience with His doubting people in the wilderness of Exodus and Numbers—His provision, their doubt, His provision in spite of doubt, their doubt in spite of provision, occurring over and over again. It also sounds a lot like my life: I’ve had pain and trials that haunt me, even though God graciously provided and helped me in them. He’s been so good, yet the moment another one of those trials is on the horizon, the moment my faith is tested, when I have to wait, even for the tiniest length of time, to experience His deliverance or provision—here I am again, peppering God with questions, tyrannically demanding a blessing from Him, having an unhealthy (i.e. idolatrous) view of the things of life. And there He is again, saying, so gently and firmly, “My son, have you ever been without? Don’t you know I’ll care for you?” This little parable of my own heart and my God’s gracious patience and provision for me is on display every night at dinnertime.
A bridge. That’s been the most impactful way God has used fostering in my life. There’s a temptation to think that mercy toward the fatherless is a one-way bridge—we give ourselves to bless these children and help them connect
The world is full of good things. Those words adorn the back cover of a book by Joe Rigney, who is a professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis. In his 2015 work, The Things of Earth, Rigney sets out to display the goodness of God’s creation and how enjoying that goodness brings us into
The tension Rigney is referring to is the balance the Christian must find as they live in light of eternity while presently abiding in a fallen world. The opening chapters to The Things of Earth provide some assistance and context to this problem. Rigney sets the stage by defining and discussing the sovereignty of the Triune God, what it means that we as humans were created in His image and are responsible for how we live day-to-day, and how God (as Creator) and us (as creatures) relate to and interact with one another.
From there, Rigney systematically explores
I appreciated The Things of Earth for numerous reasons. It was helpful in its practical exhortations and personal (especially chapter 8) in its examples and encouragements. From the outset of the book, Rigney frames his argument for why and how we enjoy the world we inhabit around the triune nature of God and the way we, as His image-bearers, are able to experience and enjoy Him throughout our lives. The chapters are saturated with Scripture and encourage the reader to “Let your imagination be shaped, molded, corralled, and harassed by the living Word of the living God.” Coming from Bethlehem College and Seminary, Rigney is well-versed in the idea of Christian hedonism that was made popular through John Piper’s Desiring God (ie. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”). Rigney honors that legacy by helping us to understand how we can best apply that Christian hedonism as we laugh with friends, eat pumpkin crunch cake, and watch the rain fall from the sky.
If you were to just skim The Things of Earth or only read a synopsis of what it’s about, you might walk away thinking you've been encouraged to simply love stuff better or to be more appreciative of a pretty sunset. That’s a start but it comes up short. Reading this book will make you want to enjoy those aspects of life more, but it will take you “further up and further in” and help you to see that every good gift that we get to experience is from our gracious Father and as you grow in your awareness of that fact, your desire to glorify God, by living responsively and responsibly, will be enhanced.
Another reason I enjoyed this book is
This book along with many others can be found for sale in the Resource Section of our Welcome Center on Sunday mornings.
Our culture radically prizes the individual in the way we choose to define or redefine who we think we are. Jen Wilkin, in ten chapters, takes an easy-to-read and conversational approach to explain ten attributes of God’s character and shows how we do not possess these attributes. She also explains why this is actually good for us. Jen Wilkin is a writer, Bible teacher for women, and speaker. While Jen’s choice of Proverbs 31:30 as her introductory verse and her application of Psalm 139 to women at the end of the book demonstrates an intention to speak to a female audience, the main content of the book is germane to men and women alike.
In every chapter, Jen notes first our own limitations, drawing the contrast between ourselves and our glorious God, to highlight each attribute, one per chapter. At the end of each chapter, she invites the reader to meditate on several Scripture verses related to that attribute and then she gives several questions for reflection. These allow the reader to personally engage with the teaching and to consider one’s own limitations in light of God’s limitlessness. How can this bring Him glory? How can this help one live in better relationship with others? In each chapter, the questions will lead the reader to consider both their vertical relationship with God as well as their horizontal relationship with others. Then she directs the reader in things to consider for prayer regarding that attribute. This format is so helpful to use for a quiet time devotional in addition to one’s regular Bible reading plan. Jen’s desire is similar to that of the faithful writers who have gone before her: “How should the knowledge that God is ___________ change the way I live?”
I think this book is also an excellent choice to read with someone with whom you are in a
Jen brings conviction as she explains how we attempt to live as though we are limitless, as though we possess these attributes that only the Almighty could ever possess. One example is in our desire for
Another example of how we seek to be like our limitless God is in the sadness we feel about changes to things we believed to be unchanging. We are ascribing to these God’s character quality of immutability. He alone is unchanging. When we deny that we ourselves can’t change from our sinful patterns of behavior we ascribe immutability to ourselves.
So in every chapter, Jen demonstrates how God’s character establishes order to the universe and to our lives. It is at once both convicting and comforting to recognize. She ends every chapter with the grace of the gospel and the understanding that while we desire to share these qualities with God, He is using them on behalf of all who trust Christ for salvation.
For those who might think the book is short on comfort and long on conviction, Jen shares that our problem is not in lacking self-worth, it is that we lack awe. She closes with Psalm 139, which turns us instead to look at God and then to look outward towards others and towards creation. We see we are at once insignificant in the big scheme and at the same time so very significant to Him. This is where we gain self-worth: understanding who we are, and who we are not. Real comfort is found only in the truth of who He is. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Jen Wilkin’s insightful and readable applied theology book will turn your gaze towards God. There is simply None Like Him.
This book along with many others can be found for sale in the Resource Section of our Welcome Center on Sunday mornings.
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