Preparation for Holy Week…

Mid-way through the eighteenth century, Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) wrote his classic work The Rise and Progress of Religion In The Soul, the book which led William Wiberforce to become a Christian. It traces God’s work of salvation from the point of conviction of sin through conversion; from awakening to the life of God, to preparing for death. After a lengthy discourse on the depths of human sin, Doddridge begins his presentation of the good news of the gospel. 

“Look upon our dear Redeemer! Look up to this mournful, dreadful, yet, in one view delightful spectacle, and then ask in thine own heart, do you believe he suffered and died thus? And why did he die? Let me answer in God’s own words, He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him, that by his stripes we might be healed; It pleased the Lord to bruise him and to put him to grief, when he made his soul an offering for sin; for, the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. You have indeed been a very great sinner, and your offences have truly been attended with the most heinous aggravations; nevertheless you may rejoice in the assurance, that where sin abounded, there shall grace much more abound…That righteousness, to which on believing on him, thou wilt be entitled, shall not only break those chains by which sin is (as it were) dragging thee at its chariot wheels with a furious pace to eternal ruin, but shall clothe thee with the robes of salvation, shall fix thee on the throne of glory, where thou shalt live and reign forever among the princes of heaven…But I have the authority of God’s Word to tell thee, that if thou this day sincerely believest in the name of the Son of God, thou shalt this day be taken under his care, and be numbered among those of his sheep, to whom he graciously declared, that he will give eternal life; and, that they shall never perish…With this gospel, O sinner, which is my life, and which, if thou dost not reject it, will be thine too.”

My soul confides in your goodness, O God. I adore the patience with which you have carried me for so long, and the grace which now makes me wiling to be yours—on your terms. As I prepare for this Holy Week, have mercy upon me and unite me to yourself, so that none of the allurements of this world may draw me back from you and plunge me into guilt and ruin. May I keep my hold upon you until at length I know more completely how sufficient a Savior you are. Through Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Note: Here is one of the 400 hymns that Dodderidge wrote. It is titled “Stupendous Grace,” and was set to music by Franz Haydn, 1798.

Stupendous grace! and can it be
Designed for rebels such as we?
O let our ardent praises rise
High as our hopes beyond the skies!
This flesh, by righteous vengeance slain,
Might ever in the dust remain:
There guilty spirits sent to dwell
Midst all the flames and fiends of hell.

But lo! Incarnate Love descends;
Down to the sepulcher it bends;
Rising, it tears the bars away,
And springs to its own native day.
Then was our sepulcher unbarred,
Then was our path to glory cleared;
Then, if that Savior be our own,
Did we ascend a heav’nly throne.

A moment shall our joy complete,
And fix us in that shining seat,
Bought by the pangs our Lord endured,
And by unchanging truth secured.
O may that love, in strains sublime,
Be sung to the last hour of time!
And let eternity confess,
Through all its rounds, the matchless grace.

The Children of Ethiopia…and the Face of Jesus

ethiopian child 1I just returned from Ethiopia and that is why I’m writing this at 4:30 in the morning! Over the next few weeks I want to report what I saw and learned because I know many of you will be asking. I was invited to go with a group (18) of pastors and church leaders from across the USA to experience the work of Compassion Int’l  and its main focus of Child Development, or what many call the Child Sponsorship Program. By the way, when you sponsor a child through Compassion, you actually sponsor that child and her family. Other programs may offer you a picture of a child for prayer purposes, but the money you send in goes to the community in which the child lives and not to that child per se. This is not a criticism, but it is something many people do not know.  However, you do need to be careful of certain organizations that deceptively use child sponsorship as a fund raising method to generate income for their overall needs.  Check this out carefully if you really desire to sponsor a child.

The ministry of Compassion can be summed up this way: Child-focused, it is all about the development and the holistic well-being of the child; Church-based, each program (over 300 in Ethiopia alone) is operated in relationship to a local church as a part of its outreach to its community; Christ-centered, it is not a social welfare system but a ministry to the spiritual, emotional, and social needs of a child in the name of Christ (no matter what the religious affiliation of the child’s family—many Muslims and Ethiopian Orthodox are enrolled); Committed to integrity, in other words, there are systems of checks and balances that ensure financial integrity with 83.3% of all contributions used for direct ministry. There are regular audits for each country office, an annual audit of Compassion Int’l, and program audits to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in the life of the child.  

Next week I want to introduce you to some of the Ethiopian people I met. However, for now, let me tell you about some of the other aspects of Compassion with which you may not be familiar. There is the Child Survival Program which often starts with prenatal care for expectant mothers as well as education of these caregivers in order to protect their babies from disease and other health dangers. A child can remain in this program until the age of 2 and then is automatically enrolled in the Child Sponsorship program, where s/he remains until graduation from high school. Then there is the Leadership Development program which helps highly qualified graduates of the Sponsorship program to receive a university education in their country. In addition to their studies, these students receive Christian leadership training through a Compassion representative.  There are 240 young adults enrolled in this program in Ethiopia alone and over 2,000 world-wide. It is this program that is of particular interest to me because it positions these Christian young adults to actually change the face of their nation. Pastor Joel and I had dinner with Beretek (name means blessing), who was a Compassion sponsored child, raised by his mother in inner-city Addis Ababa along with 7 other siblings. This bright articulate Christian young man graduated from a university in northern Ethiopia though the Leadership Development program and is now an architect.

The face of poverty is deeply scared and pock-marked, and enslaves many through its ugly glare. This trip enabled me to see another face offering hope to those who would normally have none. I saw the face of Jesus being unveiled though the beautiful faces of just a few (about 500) out of the 84,000 in Ethiopia being saved and discipled, nourished and educated though the vital ministry of Compassion. Thank you Community Fellowship for allowing me the opportunity to see that face from a very different vantage point. Tune in next week…