The following prayer comes from the book of Puritan prayers entitled, The Valley of Vision, published by Banner of Truth. I offered this prayer during our worship service at Grace this morning, and I offer it to you now.
O Love beyond Compare,
Thou art good when thou givest,
when thou takest away,
when the sun shines upon me,
when night gathers over me.
Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.
Thy goodness has been with me another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.
About 15 years ago, a generous donor at our church gave us a baby grand piano. From then until now, that beloved piano united our congregation in worship every Sunday. Now, a new donor has come forward to give us a beautiful, 6'3" Baldwin piano to replace the one that came before it. This new piano, valued at $15,000, will build upon the legacy of the old instrument by continuing to unite our church in song every week. Both of these pianos are powerful testaments to the amazing generosity of the members and friends of Grace Baptist Church. Each of these gifts also causes us to look up and remember the ultimate Gift that made our church possible to begin with--the gift of God's own Son. If you live in the Marshall area, come worship with us this weekend. Enjoy our new piano, and celebrate the ultimate Christmas Gift.
This week wrapped up another semester of teaching at a local liberal arts college (pictured above). As always, I taught a single class in the Writing Department. The class involves a lot of reading and essay-writing. For the final exam this semester, I had my students write a 3-page response to a chapter in Kevin DeYoung's book, Crazy Busy. The chapter is entitled, "Deep Calls to Deep: How the Screen is Strangling Your Soul." The chapter is 10-pages long, detailing the threats of modern technology and offering suggestions for maintaining control over it. At the end of the chapter, DeYoung offers a 10-sentence paragraph explaining how Christian theology can also help us stay in control. I was very interested to find out what my students thought of DeYoung's words. After reading through their essays, here are the results:
1. My two evangelical students (out of a total of sixteen) were ecstatic about that final paragraph. One wished that DeYoung had spent more time developing his ideas. The other expressed how impactful his words were on her. This suggests to me that evangelical students today are not as well-taught as perhaps they should be, and are eager to learn how the Scriptures apply to modern life. A strong teaching ministry in our churches could really excite these people.
2. Ten of my sixteen students said little to nothing about DeYoung's final paragraph, but had positive feedback about the chapter overall. This suggested to me that these students were neither hostile nor enthusiastic about DeYoung's words. They were just indifferent to it. Getting past this apathy about spiritual matters poses a real problem for the church today. How do you get people to care?
3. Two students had an overall negative review of DeYoung's final paragraph. In both cases, their main problem was the subtle suggestion that we need God's Word to guide us. Both of these students asserted that we can manage our own affairs without the aid of divine revelation. Finding a way to break through that pride will be necessary to reach these students.
4. The final two students had strongly negative reactions to DeYoung's final paragraph. One wrote, "it seems like the author is trying to make himself sound better than everyone else...this caused me to lose a fair amount of respect toward the writer as I feel I was being talked down to throughout the religious parts of the writing piece." The other student wrote, "I know the feeling of having God almost forced upon me...it sure is tedious." Interestingly, both of these students grew up in practicing Catholic homes. However, after leaving home, they turned their backs on their upbringing. I wonder how many students are like this out there. They grew up in a very formalistic, works-based religious system, and it made them so weary that they can hardly even stand to read the word "God" anymore. This will be the most difficult group to reach, I think.