JANUARY 20, 2022

Dear Friends,

When I wrote my book Love Like You Mean It, I included an extended quote from a man who is widely considered America’s most important and original philosophical theologian, Jonathan Edwards. His book Charity And Its Fruits is a classic work on 1 Cor. 13. You can’t go wrong reading and quoting Edwards, right?

Well, maybe. My editor, whose job it is to look out for me as an author sent me an email asking if I was sure I wanted to include the Edwards quote in my book. He reminded me that some in our day are reconsidering what the great theologian had to say about love in light of the fact that he was a slave holder.

I chose to leave the quote in my book. And I continue to turn to Edwards for insight spiritual and scriptural insight. I also read Luther, who as it turns out, had some pretty terrible things to say about Jews. There’s the heavily highlighted, influential book I have on my shelf written by a pastor and seminary President who divorced his wife after confessing to an affair. I still pull it off the shelf on occasion.

I thought about all of this as I read this week Three Simple Ways To Flatten Your Neighbor, a helpful article written by Trevin Wax. In it, Wax makes the point that we have a habit of drawing narrow boundaries and dismissing anyone who doesn’t line up with our views. He writes:

“Some progressive Christians refuse to learn from any pastor or theologian—no matter how personally devout, biblically rooted, or theologically beneficial—who don’t line up exactly with the latest theological position or political proposal. Meanwhile, some conservative Christians do the same, dismissing any book or boycotting any conference featuring a well-respected, biblical preacher, because they disagree with the way the pastor has handled questions about racial justice in the past.

“I’m reminded of a quote from one of my seminary professors who recommended several books from a theologian from another tradition. When a student complained that the theologian was in the ‘bad’ category, the professor said, ‘I agree with you that he’s fallible and there are problems with some of his views, and yet he is so very helpful in other areas that to not read him is to impoverish yourselves.’

The whole article is worth reading. It was a reminder for me that I’m going to be spending eternity worshipping God side by side for eternity with people with whom I don’t see eye to eye right now.

More than a century ago, Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle (who as far as I know isn’t currently in the doghouse for some failure of orthodoxy or orthopraxy) wrote this:

“It is a bad symptom of any man’s state of soul, when he begins to put the second things in religion in the first place, and the first things in the second, or the things ordained by man above the things ordained by God. Let us beware of falling into this state of mind.

There is something sadly wrong in our spiritual condition, when the only thing we look at in others is their outward Christianity, and the principal question we ask is, whether they worship and serve God in our way.”

We’ve all heard the aphorism “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Theological liberals too often ignore or dismiss what the church has long affirmed are theological essentials – the kinds of things we affirm each week in our worship service as we recite the Apostles Creed or the Westminster Shorter Catechism. At the same time, theological conservatives have a tendency to add to the list of essentials things that don’t belong. The conservative error is no less grievous than the liberal one.

Ryle has a helpful series of questions to help us think about who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Do they repent of sin? Do they believe on Christ? Are they living holy lives? These are the chief points to which our attention ought to be directed. The moment we begin to place anything in religion before these things, we are in danger of becoming as thorough Pharisees as the accusers of the disciples.”

I am convinced that the Lord would have us be people who lead with love, and if we err, we err on the side of grace.

Gospel Zone classes for elementary aged kids will start back up in February and continue every first and third Sunday morning this year. As a reminder – elementary aged children will be in the first part of the Sunday morning worship service with their parents. We’ll dismiss the children as the sermon begins.

Ladies, mark your calendars for Monday, January 31. That’s the kick-off night for the Spring Women’s Bible Study, a 10-week devotional study in the book of Psalms.

If you haven’t received information about the plans for women’s study this spring, send Jen Gurney an email at jengles1@yahoo.com. She’ll add your name to the list!Guys, in preparation for Valentine’s Day in February, our First Tuesday Men’s Gathering will feature a conversation with Dennis Rainey, the co-founder and past President of FamilyLife, and my long time partner on the FamilyLife Today radio program.

You know the drill – we’ll meet on Tuesday night, February 1 at 6:15 for dinner and then kick off the evening at 7:00. In preparation for the time, here’s a link to the syllabus so you can starting thinking about our topic, which is how we as husbands can do what we’re told to do in 1 Peter 3:7 – live with our wives in an understanding way.”

As always, think about guys from outside the church who you can invite to join us.

And speaking of February and Valentine’s Day, make sure you’re planning to prepare for the holiday by being part of our Valentine’s weekend Love Like You Mean It marriage conference.
Put the dates on your calendar and DECIDE NOW to attend. This is for every married couple, regardless of how long you’ve been married! Click here and register. Get signed up. Go ahead and commit! This is a great event to invite another couple to attend with you. You know those people you’ve been wanting to do something with or to maybe invite to church? Here’s the perfect opportunity!

It’s just six weeks away. The spring Men’s Retreat! Click here to sign up now to reserve your spot!

When I woke up Sunday and saw a dusting of snow and clear roads in our neighborhood, I thought to myself “well, it happened again! The meteorologists were wrong! We could have had church after all!”

I hope however you spent your Sunday, I hope your body and soul were refreshed and you were able to spend time worshipping our great God.

With no precipitation in our forecast this week, it looks like we’re “all systems go” to gather in person this week. We’ll be back in our study of John’s gospel.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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