Weather got you dreaming about summer?  That might be a good reason to go ahead and book some of the activities planned by the fine folks at Cedar Lake Camp in Livingston.  We’ve used their facilities several times for youth retreats and always find the accommodations excellent and the staff super helpful.  If you want more information you can visit their website or read below.

2015 Sports Camp Slide

Midway is launching a ministry for young adults designed to help those in that age group navigate the waters of life and faith.
This ministry will start with a get-together on the evening of February 1st, 2015 at Daniel and Rachael Lowhorn’s house.  More details will follow soon but we hope this message will serve as a kind of save-the-date.
Also, please remember that we believe connections across generational lines are important to Christian growth and thus, while this ministry is for the benefit of young adults, we greatly hope that not only young adults will participate!  Our hope is to have adult believers from all age ranges and walks of life involved.  If you are interested you can see Bro. Jeff for more information.

Over the Christmas season Bro. Nick, our former staff member, gave an update at Members Meeting about how we can pray for his family and his ministry at Centerville Christian Fellowship.

We asked him to record a video for those who weren’t able to attend the meeting.  Here it is:

The approaching New Year provides a rich opportunity to begin a regular and serious commitment to reading the Word of God.

Think of the miracle of the Bible. Over centuries of time, God supernaturally moved upon a number of men in an unusual way that resulted in them writing the exact words of God. God led His people to recognize these divine writings, and to distinguish them from everything else that has ever been written. Then God’s people brought these sixty-six books together. The preservation and survival of the Bible is as miraculous as its writing. Then God gave men, beginning with Gutenberg’s printing press, technological knowledge to copy and transmit the Bible so that all people could have it. All because God has something to say…

Could there be anything more important for human beings, created in the image of God to glorify Him, than to hear what He has to say?  With this splendid opportunity and responsibility before us we want to be found faithful to take full advantage of hearing from God in Scripture.  Toward that end…

We recommend – and will be promoting – the Foundational 260 Bible Reading Plan from Replicate Ministries.

The F-260 plan is a two hundred and sixty day reading plan that highlights the foundational passages of Scripture that every disciple should know. The creator developed the F-260 plan after failed attempts of reading through the Bible in a year with previous discipleship groups, providing a manageable plan that believers who never read through the Bible could complete.

With a traditional reading plan of 4 to 5 chapters a day, unread chapters can begin to pile up, forcing us to skip entire sections to get back on schedule. It reduces Bible reading to a system of box-checking instead of a time to hear from God. The required reading also makes it difficult to sit and reflect on what you’ve read for that day.

Believers are expected to read 1 or 2 chapters a day for 5 days each week, with an allowance for weekends off. The 2 off-days a week are built in so you may catch up on days where you’re unable to read.

In order to increase the return on the reader’s time in the Word the F-260 plan is wedded to a journaling (or note taking) plan that goes by the acronym H.E.A.R.

biblereading

H.E.A.R. stands for Highlight, Explain, Apply, and Respond.[i] Each of these four steps contributes to creating an atmosphere to hear God speak. After settling on a reading plan and establishing a time for studying God’s Word, you will be ready to H.E.A.R. from God.

For an illustration, let’s assume that you begin your quiet time in the book of 2 Timothy, and today’s reading is the first chapter of the book. Before reading the text, pause to sincerely ask God to speak to you. It may seem trite, but it is absolutely imperative that we seek God’s guidance in order to understand His Word(1 Corinthians 2:12-14). Every time we open our Bibles, we should pray the simple prayer that David prayed: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Word)” (Psalm 119:18).

After praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, open your notebook or journal, and at the top left-hand corner, write the letter H. This exercise will remind you to read with a purpose. In the course of your reading, one or two verses will usually stand out and speak to you. After reading the passage of Scripture, Highlight each verse that speaks to you by copying it under the letter “H”. Write out the following:

  • The name of the book
  • The passage of Scripture
  • The chapter and verse numbers that especially speak to you
  • A title to describe the passage

This practice will make it easier to find the passage when you want to revisit it in the future.

After you have highlighted the passage, write the letter “E” under the previous entry. At this stage you will EXPLAIN what the text means. By asking some simple questions, with the help of God’s Spirit, you can understand the meaning of a passage or verse. The next chapter will teach you in detail how to understand the meaning of a passage. Until then, here are a few questions to get you started:

Why was this written?

To whom was it originally written?

How does it fit with the verses before and after it?

Why did the Holy Spirit include this passage in the book?

What is He intending to communicate through this text?

At this point, you are beginning the process of discovering the specific and personal word that God has for you from His Word. What is important is that you are engaging the text and wrestling with its meaning.

After writing a short summary of what you think the text means, write the letter “A” below the letter “E”. Under the “A”, write the word Apply. This application is the heart of the process. Everything you have done so far culminates under this heading. As you have done before, answer a series of questions to uncover the significance of these verses to you personally, questions like:

How can this help me?       

What does this mean today?

What would the application of this verse look like in my life?

What does this mean to me?

What is God saying to me? 

These questions bridge the gap between the ancient world and your world today. They provide a way for God to speak to you from the specific passage or verse. Answer these questions under the “A”. Challenge yourself to write between two and five sentences about how the text applies to your life.

Finally, below the first three entries, write the letter “R” for Respond. Your response to the passage may take on many forms. You may write a call to action. You may describe how you will be different because of what God has said to you through His Word. You may indicate what you are going to do because of what you have learned. You may respond by writing out a prayer to God. For example, you may ask God to help you to be more loving, or to give you a desire to be more generous in your giving. Keep in mind that this is your response to what you have just read.

Notice that all of the words in the H.E.A.R. formula are action words: Highlight,Explain, Apply, and Respond. God does not want us to sit back and wait for Him to drop some truth into our laps. Instead of waiting passively, God desires that we actively pursue Him. Jesus said,

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7).

You can find a full explanation of the plan (from which this post was drawn) along with printable reading schedules and helps for memorizing scripture HERE.  Direct links to the printable reading schedules are below.  Join us this year in a thoughtful, profitable, intentional walk through the Bible.

F260 Reading Plan (Web)

F260 Reading Plan (Print + Fold)

F260 Reading Plan (Print + No Fold)

 

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Sparks

The hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is lovely partly because the lyrics speak so honestly about the believer’s heart, particularly those which confess a weak faith and ask God to ensure that faith remains:

Let that grace now 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.

If you are weak as in this regard take a moment to chew on this beautiful selection from a Puritan who well reminded us that faith in Christ is sure because He is sure, regardless of how our faith weakens from time to time:

Thomas Watson, an excerpt from “Faith”, from Body of Divinity.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Objection. But I fear I have no faith, it is so weak.

Ans. If you have faith, though but in its infancy, be not discouraged. For,

1. A little faith is faith, as a spark of fire is fire.

2. A weak faith may lay hold on a strong Christ; as a weak hand can tie the knot in marriage as well as a strong one. She, in the gospel, who but touched Christ, fetched virtue from him.

3. The promises are not made to strong faith, but to true. The promise does not say, he who has a giant faith, who can believe God’s love through a frown, who can rejoice in affliction, who can work wonders, remove mountains, stop the mouth of lions, shall be saved, but whosoever believes, be his faith ever so small. A reed is but weak, especially when it is bruised; yet a promise is made to it. “A bruised reed will he not break.” (Matt. 12:20)….

The weakest believer is a member of Christ as well as the strongest; and the weakest member of the body mystic shall not perish. Christ will cut off rotten members, but not weak members. Therefore, Christian, be not discouraged. God, who would have us receive them that are weak in faith, will not himself refuse them, Rom. 14:1.

This under-read essay of C.S. Lewis‘ has bearing on our study of Judges (as Bro. Jeff mentioned in his sermon Sunday).  Lewis, as usual, exhibits a clarity of thought and timeless wisdom rarely seen in popular level discussions about man and society.

Is Progress Possible?  Willing Slaves of the Welfare State

C.S. Lewis

[Originally published in The Observer in 1958 and subsequently printed in the book God In the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics.]

[Intro from God in the DockFrom the French Revolution to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, it was generally assumed that progress in human affairs was not only possible but inevitable. Since then two terrible wars and the discovery of the hydrogen bomb have made men question this confident assumption. The Observer invited five well-known writers to give their answers to the following questions: ‘Is man progressing today?’ ‘Is progress even possible?’ This second article in the series is a reply to the opening article by C.P. Snow, ‘Man in Society’, The Observer (13 July 1958).

Progress means movement in a desired direction, and we do not all desire the same things for our species. In “Possible Worlds” Professor Haldane 1 pictured a future in which Man, foreseeing that Earth would soon be uninhabitable, adapted himself for migration to Venus by drastically modifying his physiology and abandoning justice, pity and happiness. The desire here is for mere survival. Now I care far more how humanity lives than how long. Progress, for me, means increasing goodness and happiness of individual lives. For the species, as for each man, mere longevity seems to me a contemptible ideal.

I therefore go even further than C.P. Snow in removing the H-bomb from the centre of the picture. Like him, I am not certain whether if it killed one-third of us (the one-third I belong to), this would be a bad thing for the remainder; like him, I don’t think it will kill us all. But suppose it did? As a Christian I take it for granted that human history will someday end; and I am offering Omniscience no advice as to the best date for that consummation. I am more concerned by what the Bomb is doing already.

One meets young people who make the threat of it a reason for poisoning every pleasure and evading every duty in the present. Didn’t they know that, Bomb or no Bomb, all men die (many in horrible ways)? There’s no good moping and sulking about it.

Having removed what I think a red herring, I return to the real question. Are people becoming, or likely to become, better or happier? Obviously this allows only the most conjectural answer. Most individual experience (and there is no other kind) never gets into the news, let alone the history books; one has an imperfect grasp even of one’s own. We are reduced to generalities. Even among these it is hard to strike a balance. Sir Charles enumerates many real ameliorations. Against these we must set Hiroshima, Black and Tans, Gestapo, Ogpu, brain-washing, the Russian slave camps. Perhaps we grow kinder to children; but then we grow less kind to the old. Any G.P. 2 will tell you that even prosperous people refuse to look after their parents. ‘Can’t they be got into some sort of Home?’ says Goneril. 3

More useful, I think, than an attempt at balancing, is the reminder that most of these phenomena, good and bad, are made possible by two things. These two will probably determine most of what happens to us for some time.

The first is the advance, and increasing application, of science. As a means to the ends I care for, this is neutral. We shall grow able to cure, and to produce, more diseases –bacterial war, not bombs, might ring down the curtain– to alleviate, and to inflict, more pains, to husband, or to waste, the resources of the planet more extensively. We can become either more beneficent or more mischievous. My guess is we shall do both; mending one thing and marring another, removing old miseries and producing new ones, safeguarding ourselves here and endangering ourselves there.

The second is the changed relation between Government and subjects. Sir Charles mentions our new attitude to crime. I will mention the trainloads of Jews delivered at the German gas-chambers. It seems shocking to suggest a common element, but I think one exists. On the humanitarian view all crime is pathological; it demands not retributive punishment but cure. This separates the criminal’s treatment from the concepts of justice and desert; a ‘just cure’ is meaningless.

On the old view public opinion might protest against a punishment (it protested against our old penal code) as excessive, more than the man ‘deserved’; an ethical question on which anyone might have an opinion. But a remedial treatment can be judged only by the probability of its success; a technical question on which only experts can speak.

Thus the criminal ceases to be a person, a subject of rights and duties, and becomes merely an object on which society can work. And this is, in principle, how Hitler treated the Jews. They were objects; killed not for ill desert but because, on his theories, they were a disease in society. If society can mend, remake, and unmake men at its pleasure, its pleasure may, of course, be humane or homicidal. The difference is important. But, either way, rulers have become owners. Observe how the ‘humane’ attitude to crime could operate. If crimes are diseases, why should diseases be treated differently from crimes? And who but the experts can define disease? One school of psychology regards my religion as a neurosis. If this neurosis ever becomes inconvenient to Government, what is to prevent my being subjected to a compulsory ‘cure’? It may be painful; treatments sometimes are. But it will be no use asking, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ The Straightener will reply: ‘But, my dear fellow, no one’s blaming you. We no longer believe in retributive justice. We’re healing you.’

This would be no more than an extreme application of the political philosophy implicit in most modern communities. It has stolen on us unawares. Two wars necessitated vast curtailments of liberty, and we have grown, though grumblingly, accustomed to our chains. The increasing complexity and precariousness of our economic life have forced Government to take over many spheres of activity once left to choice or chance. Our intellectuals have surrendered first to the slave-philosophy of Hegel, then to Marx, finally to the linguistic analysts.

As a result, classical political theory, with its Stoical, Christian, and juristic key-conceptions (natural law, the value of the individual, the rights of man), has died. The modern State exists not to protect our rights but to do us good or make us good — anyway, to do something to us or to make us something. Hence the new name ‘leaders’ for those who were once ‘rulers’. We are less their subjects than their wards, pupils, or domestic animals. There is nothing left of which we can say to them, ‘Mind your own business.’ Our whole lives are their business.

I write ‘they’ because it seems childish not to recognize that actual government is and always must be oligarchical. Our effective masters must be more than one and fewer than all. But the oligarchs begin to regard us in a new way.

Here, I think, lies our real dilemma. Probably we cannot, certainly we shall not, retrace our steps. We are tamed animals (some with kind, some with cruel, masters) and should probably starve if we got out of our cage. That is one horn of the dilemma. But in an increasingly planned society, how much of what I value can survive? That is the other horn.

I believe a man is happier, and happy in a richer way, if he has ‘the freeborn mind’. But I doubt whether he can have this without economic independence, which the new society is abolishing. For economic independence allows an education not controlled by Government; and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of Government who can criticise its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology. Read Montaigne; that’s the voice of a man with his legs under his own table, eating the mutton and turnips raised on his own land. Who will talk like that when the State is everyone’s schoolmaster and employer? Admittedly, when man was untamed, such liberty belonged only to the few. I know. Hence the horrible suspicion that our only choice is between societies with few freemen and societies with none.

Again, the new oligarchy must more and more base its claim to plan us on its claim to knowledge. If we are to be mothered, mother must know best. This means they must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists, till in the end the politicians proper become merely the scientists’ puppets. Technocracy is the form to which a planned society must tend. Now I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects. Let scientists tell us about sciences. But government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value. Let the doctor tell me I shall die unless I do so-and-so; but whether life is worth having on those terms is no more a question for him than for any other man.

Thirdly, I do not like the pretensions of Government –the grounds on which it demands my obedience– to be pitched too high. I don’t like the medicine-man’s magical pretensions nor the Bourbon’s Divine Right. This is not solely because I disbelieve in magic and in Bossuet’s Politique. I believe in God, but I detest theocracy. For every Government consists of mere men and is, strictly viewed, a makeshift; if it adds to its commands ‘Thus saith the Lord’, it lies, and lies dangerously.

On just the same ground I dread government in the name of science. That is how tyrannies come in. In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They ‘cash in’. It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science. Perhaps the real scientists may not think much of the tyrants’ ‘science’– they didn’t think much of Hitler’s racial theories or Stalin’s biology. But they can be muzzled.

We must give full weight to Sir Charles’s reminder that millions in the East are still half starved. To these my fears would seem very unimportant. A hungry man thinks about food, not freedom. We must give full weight to the claim that nothing but science, and science globally applied, and therefore unprecedented Government controls, can produce full bellies and medical care for the whole human race: nothing, in short, but a world Welfare State. It is a full admission of these truths which impresses upon me the extreme peril of humanity at present.

We have on the one hand a desperate need; hunger, sickness, and the dread of war. We have, on the other, the conception of something that might meet it: omnicompetent global technocracy. Are not these the ideal opportunity for enslavement? This is how it has entered before; a desperate need (real or apparent) in the one party, a power (real or apparent) to relieve it, in the other. In the ancient world individuals have sold themselves as slaves, in order to eat. So in society. Here is a witch-doctor who can save us from the sorcerers — a war-lord who can save us from the barbarians — a Church that can save us from Hell. Give them what they ask, give ourselves to them bound and blindfold, if only they will! Perhaps the terrible bargain will be made again. We cannot blame men for making it. We can hardly wish them not to. Yet we can hardly bear that they should.

The question about progress has become the question whether we can discover any way of submitting to the worldwide paternalism of a technocracy without losing all personal privacy and independence. Is there any possibility of getting the super Welfare State’s honey and avoiding the sting?

Let us make no mistake about the sting. The Swedish sadness is only a foretaste. To live his life in his own way, to call his house his castle, to enjoy the fruits of his own labour, to educate his children as his conscience directs, to save for their prosperity after his death — these are wishes deeply ingrained in civilised man. Their realization is almost as necessary to our virtues as to our happiness. From their total frustration disastrous results both moral and psychological might follow.

All this threatens us even if the form of society which our needs point to should prove an unparalleled success. But is that certain? What assurance have we that our masters will or can keep the promise which induced us to sell ourselves? Let us not be deceived by phrases about ‘Man taking charge of his own destiny’. All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of the others. They will be simply men; none perfect; some greedy, cruel and dishonest. The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be. Have we discovered some new reason why, this time, power should not corrupt as it has done before?

C.S._Lewis'_signature

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. One essay in J. B. S. Haldane’s Possible Worlds and Other Essays (London, 1927). See also ‘The Last Judgment’ in the same book.
  2. General Practitioner [Editor’s Note: Equivalent to Family Doctor]
  3. In Shakespeare’s King Lear.