Richly Dwelling Words: The Sands of Time are Sinking

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As we end our sermon series on hymns, we come to a hymn which has the End as its subject. I used to avoid Eschatology (the study of the End) because Dispensational charts seemed so dry on the one hand and best-selling novels seems so unbiblical on the other hand.

But I’ve learned to love Eschatology, and this hymn by Anne Cousin (which she based on the work of Samuel Rutherford) played a part in that. Instead of figuring out and charting the details, this hymn exalts in the great hope that is Christ himself–”The Lamb is the all the glory of Emmanuel’s land!”

Listen, read the lyrics, and enjoy the images Cousin paints of our eternal rest!

1. The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for -
The fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark had been the midnight
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.

2. The king there in His beauty,
Without a veil is seen:
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army,
Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land

3. O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted
More deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.

4. The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.

5. O I am my Beloved’s
And my Beloved is mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into His house of wine
I stand upon His merit -
I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.

Richly Dwelling Words: Blessed Assurance

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As we begin to wind down our sermon series “Richly Dwelling Words: Hymns of the Faith,” we finally come a song written by the prolific Fanny Crosby. Crosby was blind. One of the most interesting aspects of one of her most well-known hymns “Blessed Assurance” is the emphasis on the sense of sight.

Read the lyrics of this hymn again, looking for this emphasis.

1 Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

2 Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight:
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

3 Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Mystery Shoppers Rate Church Size

Mystery Shoppers Rate Church Size

You’ve heard of mystery shoppers, but have you heard of mystery guests in churches? Apparently one research agency used this approach, and they found that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to churches. Here is the summary of what they found about small churches:

They found that churches with fewer than 80 people in attendance often don’t do well with children’s ministries or having information available (think updated website). But they lead the pack in greeting guests upon arrival, the pre- and post-service atmosphere and friendliness.

Read more.

Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling

What is an intellectual? While some self-consciously pursue what they think to be intellectual life, others in reaction to the pretension of supposed intellectuals dismiss intellectual pursuits altogether. James W. Sire strikes a balance by carefully defining the work of an intellectual in Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling. He writes, “[T]hinking is integral to our call to be what God wants us to be” (9). So God created all human beings in his image and desires them to love him with their mind (Luke 10:27). But God calls some people to the life of the mind in a special way. Sire explains that this “is not a call that makes us either better or worse” (9). The intellectual life is a vocation and gifting from God that must be obediently heeded.

Sire defines an intellectual as “one who loves ideas” (27). The intellectual dedicates his life to understanding, developing, and communicating ideas. What then makes a Christian intellectual distinct from other intellectuals? Sire puts it simply. The Christian intellectual loves ideas “to the glory of God” (28). For Sire, the Catholic intellectual John Henry Newman embodies the ideal of the Christian intellectual. Newman exemplified the courage to pursue ideas and to allow that pursuit to culminate in action. While Protestants may disagree with Newman’s conclusions, he leads the way in connecting the pursuit of truth with the pursuit of holiness.

The connection of truth and holiness recasts the common stereotype of intellectuals. Rather than being cold and detached, “joy is more often the emotion that characterizes serious intellectual endeavor” (72). To love ideas means to delight in the process of thought. A cold, dryness endangers the pursuit of truth. Sire quotes Wendell Berry to explain this danger, “By taking oneself too seriously one is prevented from being serious enough” (82). The joy of thought particularly characterizes the Christian intellectual because the Christian worldview confidently proclaims the existence of and possibility of discovering truth. Cold-detachment only properly characterizes intellectuals who do not believe the apprehension of truth to be possible since to know truth is to be taken in by its goodness and beauty.

Truth therefore cannot be segregated from morality. Virtue precedes true knowledge. Disordered passions keep the mind from perceiving truth and allows it to “succumb to falsehood masquerading as truth” (93). But even as true knowledge comes from virtue, it also concludes in greater holiness. Sire writes, “We only know what we act on. Or: We only believe what we obey” (96). Because of this relationship between knowledge and action, the chief intellectual virtue is humility. Humility allows thinkers to pursue thought, and it also allows thinkers to live what they know. The connection between truth and holiness and between the intellectual life and humility reminds us that Jesus was an intellectual. Sire quotes Dallas Willard: “Jesus is the smartest man who ever lived” (179).

Like Jesus himself, the intellectual calling places great responsibility upon the shoulders of the intellectual. Sire admits that much anti-intellectualism is justified due to the havoc wrought upon the world by intellectuals. Albert Camus said, “Mistaken ideas always end in bloodshed” (212). Nonetheless, many Christian intellectuals have chosen to operate in their fields on the basis of a naturalistic ideology. To think in a way consistent with a Christian worldview may mean jeopardizing one’s career in academia, but to love the truth may require sacrifice. Sire concludes, “Telling the truth may indeed be hazardous to one’s professional health…courage is one of the intellectual virtues. It is absolutely necessary for Christians in the academic world today” (224).

The Cultural Captivity of Missions

The Cultural Captivity of Missions

In this post, HeartCry missionary Trevor Johnson catalogs things said by “evangelical” missionaries in the name of contextualization within his Muslim context. Johnson gives the following challenge to missionaries:

This trend towards focusing on “common ground” rather than contending for legitimate points of difference is a hallmark of modern evangelical missions towards Muslims. We may permissibly look for legitimate “open windows” of commonality rather than beating on closed doors, but let us never do so at the expense of truth.

Whether you are a missionary or a sender of missionaries, this is an important read. It is important that those supporting missions actually know what is happening on the field. Read here.