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Monday, July 21, 2014

A Minister's Glory and Joy

A Minister’s Glory and Joy
Since the day when I retired from the enlisted ranks of Air Force, I have been serving as a pastor (everything from being a licensed stated supply, to becoming fully ordained). I have ministered in three congregations that would claim to be strongly evangelical (in all the right senses of that word), biblical, and conservative. In those three congregations, to greater and lesser degrees, I have ridden an emotional rollercoaster. I have been plunged into the deepest depths of distress and lifted up to the heart-pounding heights of happiness. I have been cursed at, accused of heresy and hatred, sneered at, ridiculed and laughed at; and I have been thanked, hugged, loved, prayed for and prayed with. I have seen people walk away from the Faith under my preaching; and I have baptized, or been part of reclaiming, many who have since walked in increasing integrity in faith in Christ. It has been an experience where my heart has bled and my eyes flowed with tears of grief; and where I have walked on cloud nine while raising my voice and hands in profuse adoration. All of this is background to the following thoughts.

In reading Paul’s letters to churches 2,000 years ago, I find that many of my experiences are mirrored in his. If one will take the time to read, for example, 2 Corinthians, it quickly becomes clear that Paul is airing the musty dungeon cell of his heart (see particularly chapters 4, 6, and then 10-13). But there is one aspect of the Gospel Ministry Paul mentions which either cuts against the grain of what I’ve been taught or plows against the hardened furrows of my own stony heart. It’s the way Paul describes the connection between his joy and a congregation.
“Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Corinthians 7.2-4).
This ornery congregation that he is in the process of taking to task nevertheless fills him with pride, comfort, and joy!

Or glancing over to the Philippian church, Paul challenges them to complete his joy (2.2). And states that these people are his joy and crown (4.1). Even though there are troubles in that congregation that worry him (4.2-3), yet he makes the audacious claim that they are his joy. He even goes so far as to assert that they will be his pride and the vindication of his ministry on the day of Christ (3.16).

Then turning to the young Thessalonian church, Paul crows over them that they are his glory and joy (1 Thessalonians 2.20). He further affirms that when the day comes and he stands before Christ, they will be his hope, joy and crown of boasting (2.19). He declares that he, and his companions, are really alive as they see these believers “stand fast in the Lord” (3.8), and the joy he feels for them is nearly inexpressible (3.9).

All of this joy-talk brings me to put my foot down on the ministry break-peddle, and slow the car down to sight-seeing speed. I find myself asking in prayer, “Lord, can I say that this church is my glory and my joy? Do I look forward with a deep anticipation of hope, joy or “crown of boasting” (1 Thessalonians 2.19) with regard to this congregation in the day when you will come to judge the living and the dead (2 Corinthians 5.10)?” This brings me, then, to the next part of my prayer; “If not, why not! What is it in me that is keeping me from this kind of joy over this congregation?”

In answer to my prayerful question, it may be that part of the problem is a professionization of the Gospel Ministry. If I’m a “professional” minister, then there must be a detachment from the church and its troubles. That’s what professional counselors and hospice caregivers must do to maintain their own emotional elasticity. But is it possible that this professional detachment might be one of the very things hindering and hampering a minister from finding real joy in a congregation – even a terribly messy one? Could it be that the emotional distancing of a pastor from the parishioners actually breeds cynicism and callousness instead of joy and hope? Is this one reason why so many ministers end up having short ministries in multiple churches?

How does this professional aloofness compare with the Jesus-shaped warmth of Paul, with all of his familial spirit and intimacy?
“For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2.5-12).
And there is his birthing and siring metaphors used with regard to other churches, “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4.19)!  And “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4.14-15).

It seems to me, therefore, that professional distancing or detachment has very little place in pastoral ministry. Maybe that is one reason why we – you and I – cannot resonate with Paul’s  “you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2.20) with regard to a congregation.

What to do?
Pray that God would help you to find his glory and joy in the congregation where he has put you.
Invest your very self in the nurture and care of the congregation (1 Thessalonians 2.11).

Find reasons to boast in your church before the Lord now, practicing for that Day when he returns (1 Thessalonians 2.19).

Finally, when you are tempted to hunker back down into the safety of professional distance, look at Christ Jesus our Lord who sacrificed his personal safety and emotional comfort for you: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10.45). And hold on to him as he shepherds you in love and joy; “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2.25); “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3.17).
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3.17).

(Feel free to re-post or republish. But as always, please give credit where credit is due. Mike)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Short Review of "The Psalms, ESV"

I am always looking for a way to incorporate the Scriptures into the various times of daily prayer. Therefore, I was delighted when I recently noticed that Crossway has bound the Biblical Psalter in a single book called, “The Psalms, ESV”. This hardback-covered-in-trutone volume covers 384 printed pages, the size and thickness of a compact Bible, and has a total of 14 blank leaves for notes and references along with a presentation page. The format of each Psalm is a lyrical-poetic form centered on the page. Each Psalm has its own space so that when a Psalm ends on a page there is a blank space, with the following Psalm beginning on a new leaf. The print is an easy to read size on a cream colored background and thicker paper that doesn't bleed when marked.

The aesthetic presentation comes across well, and facilitates devotional use. If one likes to chant the Psalter, the arrangement is set-up in such a way as to make it possible. Though it’s not “pointed”, nevertheless the mildly experienced to expert user will find the punctuation and organization quickly lends to intoning any given Psalm. And the size and weight is easy to hold in a single hand.

“The Psalms, ESV” is a beautiful work. With a little thought, it would be ideal for congregational use, and it will be beneficial for individual devotional practice. I enthusiastically recommend this book and commend Crossway for its work.

[Feel free to re-post of republish this review. As always, please give credit where credit is due. Mike]

Monday, July 14, 2014

Revival and Reformation Pt 14: 2 Chronicles 12

[Audio File is here]

Revival and Reformation Pt 14
2 Chronicles 12
Holy Father, it’s true – our hearts are often sluggish, our minds often dull, our perception often cloudy. We urgently need you to open our eyes, clear our heads, and remove the clutter in our hearts, so that we can rightly recognize what you are saying to us this day. Help us, Father, for Christ’s sake and in the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sin! Big, fat, ugly, greasy, slimy sin! Sin can destroy our families, our businesses, our health, our nation and our churches. So, when we have sinned, or when sin has overtaken a congregation, imprisoned a denomination, or captured a nation, what happens? Are there consequences? And then what happens when we turn from our wicked ways and turn to God? Does it set us Scott-free from all of the aftereffects? Let’s look into the Holy Scriptures and see what God says to all this.

Background up to this point: Chapters 10-11.

The Decline: 1-4; {a} v. 1. For all of the spiritual infusion of 11.13-16, it just wasn’t enough. It wasn’t a strong enough epoxy to hold the pieces together! {b} V. 2, cause and effect!  (For more see 1 Kings 14.21-24).
The Word of Yahweh: v. 5. {a} We all need to take serious notice of the principle here and in 1 Chronicles 28.9; 2 Chronicles 15.2, 24.20 – abandoned to the consequence of your sin. This word of the LORD by the prophet would have been highly uncomfortable, unpopular, and unwanted then as it would be now. Westminster Confession of Faith 11.5 
(God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and, although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God's fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.”).
{b} Don’t miss the significance of whom the prophet speaking to. It’s the King and leaders. Why is that? Based on v.1-2, it appears that the leadership has set the temperature and direction for those they lead. Now hold that point in the back of your head, because we’ll return to it later in the sermon.
The Response: v. 6. The same Hebrew word as in 7.14 “humbled” – used 4 times in this chapter alone!!! What is their response to the unpopular and uncomfortable Word of God? Do they shoot the messenger? No, but – at this point at least – they submit to the Lord’s words, and that comes through clearly in their bull’s-eye vocal affirmation. “The LORD is righteous” in what has happened to us. The LORD is just and fair in abandoning into the hands of Shishak. The LORD is correct in his analysis of us and his response! The LORD is righteous! They’re humbling themselves and submitting to the Word of God. And this runs along with what James, the brother of our Lord, says:

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:18-21).

The Promise: vs. 7-12. {a} The “Cause and Effect” action is now in the other direction (contra v. 2). The condition of humility is essential to Yahweh’s Promises in 7-12. As our Lord Jesus says to the religious leaders of his day, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23.12). {b} The Place of Strong Discipline – v.7b, 8 and 12. After their tumble there will not be a “No-Fault” restoration – often times there are consequences to our sin that we may still have to deal with long after we’re forgiven and restored.  Sometimes, mercy cuts deep; but it cuts deep for our benefit, our good! Sometimes mercy cuts deep to teach us and restrain us.

The Everlasting Warning: v. 14!!!! The whole of chapter 12, from verse 1 to verse 14 shows us the importance of leadership leading the way either into or away from the God-ward life. 7.14 must have an equal response w/ 12.14.  That old principle is often times very true: the people can only prosper in Christ up to the level of their leadership; whether in our families, church and denomination. There is a clear, but subtle warning here to we who are in leadership. What direction are we setting for our families, congregation, denomination?

Significance of this whole chapter – All of this taken together was meant to guide those coming out of exile in the middle of the 300s B.C. – here was the trajectory that got us into that mess; here’s the way out of this muddle (7.14 kind of stuff); this is the way forward – God promising “some deliverance”; here is one lesson to learn as you continue to struggle with the consequences of sin (v.8) – to learn the difference between God’s service (which is the way of true liberty) and the service of idols and idolaters; and here is the other lesson that the leaders are to learn – lead your people to “set their heart to seek the LORD.”

But let me leave you with some hopeful thoughts. First, this chapter gives hope to leaders. The Lord stands ready to hear, forgive and heal! And specifically if we come in humility, setting our hearts to seek the Lord, acknowledging the Lord is righteous in how he has dealt with us. Let me take it one step further. As we set our hearts to seek the Lord, we benefit those who follow in huge and healthy ways; especially if we keep in mind Paul’s words, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11.1).

And secondly, for all of us: thankfully our chief Shepherd and supreme Overseer of our souls is Jesus Christ – and as we strive to draw from him, follow him, cherish him, etc., then there can be a going beyond the brokenness and faultiness of leadership by always looking through them (as it were) and keeping our eyes on The Leader himself; the leadership of Jesus! He will never lead us astray. Unlike Rehoboam, Jesus’ heart is always, eternally, unendingly set on seeking to submit to his Father – which is super great news for us!!!!! “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6.37-40).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Congregational and Pastoral Prayer: 13 July 2014 PM

Great is the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever! Lord God, we have prayed for rain – and you have plentifully poured your answer on us; great is the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever! We have lifted our voices and hearts to you on behalf of Bxxxx Dxxxxx – and now she no longer needs further treatment for the cancer; great is the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever! We have cried out to you on behalf of little baby Kxxxx Dxxxxxx – and she is gaining strength and growing healthy; great is the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever! And we have sought your protection for the teens who went to RYM and they have returned safe – great is the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever! Thank you, O our God!

As Isaiah your spokesman once said, “The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52.10). Show forth your strength on behalf of your people, and in defense of those who are oppressed, unjustly broken down and beaten up. Build up peace, prosperity and lawfulness among the nations that all may know you are God the Almighty, All-caring, All-knowing, all-sovereign, and give you praise.   O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord God, hear our prayer for your Church world-over; including Brookwood Baptist Church; Bryant Ave Baptist Church; Calvary Baptist Tabernacle; Calvary Missionary Baptist Church; and Camille Ave Baptist Church; as well as our Denomination’s Chaplains – Ron Eastes; Chris Reeder; Jack Unangst; Cristiano DeSousa; Chang Kim; Geun Lee; and Jason Hill. May they be filled with your power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin (Micah 3.8). And guide them to do what you have required by doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with you our God (Micah 6.8). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, you have told us to pray for workers to go forth into the harvest; look upon this congregation and raise up more laborers from our own midst. Look upon our men and boys that from their number you might shape and mold deacons, pastors, elders, Sunday School teachers and missionaries aplenty. Look upon these women and girls that you might lead and frame them to be mothers in Israel like Deborah, godly wives and mothers of church leaders like Lois and Eunice – Timothy’s Grandmother and mother, Bible translators, teachers, co-laborers with Gospel ministers – like Euodia and Syntyche who labored with Paul. Yes Jesus, raise up more laborers from our midst. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Finally, O God, knowing that you fathom us far better than we do ourselves, and that you grasp our unspoken worries, fears and anxieties far better than we can express with our lips, hear the groanings of our hearts…have mercy on us, dear God; help us; answer us for your Name’s sake. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Revival and Reformation Pt 13: 2 Chronicles 7.13-14

{Audio File is here}

Revival and Reformation Pt 13
2 Chronicles 7:11-16.

Here we are, Lord God, listening to your Scriptures read and expounded. Come and warm our hearts to happily embrace what you say to us. Amen.

There are seasons in our personal lives, or in the life of our families, but also in the life of a congregation or a denomination that feels like we’re wandering through a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. There are various causes for this – from extremely serious to simply falling into a slump. How does one get out of this slough of despond? I think there’s something here in this passage that God is saying a thing or two to each of us.
1.  The Problem of Pain: V. 13 – C.S. Lewis once wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (from “The Problem of Pain). And so: “The conditions of 2 Chron. 7:13 imply that when national disasters begin to afflict a nation, people, or group of believers, it is time to ask what it is that God is trying to say to them or to us” (Walter Kaiser, “Revive Us Again,” 231).

2.  The Promise is People-Specific: “My People, on whom My Name is called.” Acts 15:14-18; Matt. 28:19. Revival and Reformation is aimed at the Church of Jesus Christ!

3.  The Prescription for Revival and Reformation
[a] Humble Themselves: Used 12 times in 2 Chronicles alone: Once or twice God humbles his people, but every other time it is about someone humbling himself before God. As Christ humbled himself, stooping down into our humanity (Phil. 2:7) and submitting to the Father’s rescue operation (v.8), we are being impressed upon to stoop down under the Word of God; to empty ourselves of our own religious inventions, recognizing our own bankruptcy before Almighty God, and taking upon ourselves the mind of a servant (v.5 and Mark 10.45). Isa. 57:14 "For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones." And James 4:10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

[b] Pray: This passage establishes prayer as a principle means by which God’s people can receive God’s enrichment/prosperity/blessing. Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10), the Tribes on the east-side of Jordan (1 Chronicles 5:18ff), David’s numerous prayers (1 Chronicles 16, 17, 29), and Solomon’s (2 Chron. 6). Then the first four kings of the divided kingdom are noted for prayer (Rehoboam, Asa, Abijah, and Jehoshaphat) and later Hezekiah and then rotten but repentant Manasseh. All of the recorded prayers in 2 Chronicles are to show that Yahweh keeps His promise to hear the prayers of His people.

[c] Seek God’s face: In most every case, seeking the face of God is to seek the person of God himself – an expression of loyalty to, devotion to and delight in God: for example 15:2 and 4. Seeking God is the opposite of forsaking him, turning the back to him, or abandoning his covenanted relationship. It carries the idea of intensity and warm commitment! 11:16 (“set their hearts to seek the LORD”), 12:14; 19:3; 30:19. Seeking him is a sincere devotion expressed or fleshed out, on the one hand, in complying with the Law of God (coming to love what he loves, and hate what he hates); on the other hand, yearning and desiring and delighting in the LORD God for his own sake!

[d] Turn away from their wicked lifestyle: Not just to stop doing something evil, but in the context, to start doing what’s right, to start walking in the Way of Yahweh. See Isaiah 1:15-17 {and the promise of v. 18}.

4.  Three-fold Promised Answer: {a} I will hear – with a view to answer. {b} I will forgive (cleansing, but also a restoring of relationship!), & {c} I will prosper - 2 Chronicles 20.20c.

There is nothing new or surprising in this prescription; no new secrets; no fresh steps to get holier and healthier. These are the very things a lover of God always wants to follow. This is a description of a Christ-lover, of one who loves because God first loved her and him! In the words of Matt Chandler of the Village Church, “But this repenting and believing is not merely a one-time occurrence…By means of the active, eternal grace of God, “repent and believe” becomes the living, growing, ever-renewing lifestyle of the Spirit-led believer” (“Recovering Redemption,” 66): [1] Humble – Matthew 18.3-4: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”; [2] Pray – 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18; [3] Seek his face/draw near – Hebrews 10.19-22 – “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water”; [4] Turn from and to – 2 Corinthians 7.9. // 2 Chronicles 7.14 is simply a clarion call to get back to the old paths, to the Faith of God in Jesus Christ: "Thus says the Lord: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). As you see clearly in this passage, this is the normal Christian life, where there is a sincere confessing and forsaking of our individual and communal sins; a deep, hungry desire to reverse the pattern of spiritual declension and apostasy and apathy; and a passionate aching after God himself! This is, and has always has been, the way of denominational, congregational, familial, and individual revival and reformation.

I conclude then, with this charge – Delight yourself in the Lord; Serve the Lord with gladness.  Humble… Pray… Seek…Turn. God has stepped forward and made the way. He has opened the door and holds it open to you and me, beckoning us to draw near. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1.3-4)!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Congregational and Pastoral Prayer - 6 July 2014 AM and PM

There is no god in heaven above or earth beneath that humankind can fashion, concoct or construct, like you. You keep faith with your people, hear them when they call out to you, rescue them from the evil one, and give them strength and endurance beyond their normal capacities. Great are you O Lord, and majestic is your name!

Father, as priests serving in your Temple, we intercede on behalf of those who are finding life a hard row to hoe…; those whose marriages are strenuous and maybe cracking under the strain…; those whose bodies need to be healed and helped…; those who have recently given birth or are pregnant now…; those who feel fruitless, futile and forlorn…; Have mercy on them, lift up their faces that they may know your compassionate kindness, strengthen what is weak and wobbly, and fill them with undying hope.

Lord God, look on our congregation – your congregation. Fortify the faithful; firm up the faint; encourage the down hearted; reclaim the wayward; and restore the penitent. Grant us everything we need to foster greater closeness and richer friendship; and bring us to be of one heart and one mind in the fold of your Church.

We implore you to shower your aid, guidance and resilience upon the Presbyterian Church in America. As you well know, Father, we’re quite an assorted association. By your Holy Spirit bind us more closely together around your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; bring us to have a valuable impact on our world through the Gospel ministry and mercy ministry; and steady us with a deep-rooted firmness that will remain standing securely in the face of the onrushing moral and spiritual tsunami of our nation so that you may be genuinely glorified and your Son be glorious honored.

O Eternal God, through whose mighty power our forbearers won their liberties of old: Grant that we (the folks of this church) and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace through Jesus Christ.

Almighty God, kindle in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquility your dominion and reign may increase until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love and the glory of your name.
O God, you are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in your being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth (Westminster Shorter Catechism # 4); look upon this nation with your favor, and restore to us, once again, the self-evident truth that our liberties are inalienable rights bestowed by you, our Creator; and by your aid, stir up our hearts to see how far we have strayed from your way of righteousness, that we may return to you (the Declaration of Independence). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord God, hear our prayer for your Church world-over; Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church; Bethlehem Star Baptist Church; Beverly Hills Baptist; Bread of Life Baptist; and Britton Baptist; as well as our Denomination’s Chaplains – Thomas Eddy; Bill Manning; Brendon O'Dowd; Samuel Rico; Mark Winton; John Sackett; and Scott Cauble. In accord with your promise, let no weapon that is fashioned against them succeed, and in righteousness and charity may they refute every tongue that rises against them in judgment. And may they find that their heritage and their vindication are from you, LORD God. (Isaiah 54.17). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Our Father, we pray for Txxxx as she works and toils with the brothers and sisters of Sacred Road ministry, and with the kids she works with. Help her and the others to gain the trust of the kids, and their hearing. Keep her healthy and safe, and conduct her with godly wisdom that she will be able to guide those kids to Christ, and escort them through resolving conflicts. May her work result in far more good than she can imagine or dream. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Finally, O God, knowing that you understand us far better than we do ourselves, and that you comprehend our unspoken worries, fears and anxieties far better than we can openly express, hear the groanings of our hearts…have mercy on us, dear God; help us; answer us for your Name’s sake. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Paradigm by Ceri A. Lowe

ParadigmParadigm by Ceri A. Lowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Doom and gloom rages, rattles and roars on the horizon! At least in the young adult market this appears to be the case. This whole booming genre breathes dust, desolation, destruction, disease and death; but it also seems to radiate youthful anticipation, aspiration, and rejuvenation. Ceri A. Lowe has burrowed her way into the whole scene with her new 376 page paperback, “Paradigm,” the first installment of a planned trilogy. Lowe tells a double story that follows the paths of two major teenage characters separated by 87 years.

“Paradigm” takes off in the middle of Carter Walker’s story as he enters into a kind of suspended animation – a form of population control imposed by the Industry for the good of the Community. When he is recalled from the Catacombs fifteen years later, things begin to really take off. Everything rehearsed in the beginning of his story slowly gets peeled back, chapter by chapter, until it becomes clear that what he believed with certainty is only partially true, and the actual truth changes his whole destiny. His tale, in this first volume, ends where Alice Davenport’s really began eight decades earlier.

Alice grows from an impoverished pre-teen to a survivor when the apocalyptic “Storms” came. She looks to be one of the few living people who end up being rescued by Paradigm Industries, a high-tech, literally underground, organization whose facility endures the five years of storms, flooding, serious environmental contamination and deconstruction. As Alice matures in those five years, she begins to develop resilience and determination, but also completely buys into the Industry’s social paradigm. She rises to become one of the leaders who surface from “the ship” to re-make the world in Paradigm’s image, a new world that will fix, sanitize and decontaminate all that was wrong before. Through Alice’s work the end becomes the beginning.

Carter’s and Alice’s narratives alternate, weaving back and forth around each other. Their stories come through successively swapping chapters that keep the movement of the tale jogging along at a steady pace, and make “Paradigm” an attention-keeper. Unfortunately there are a few places where it looks as if the story of one or the other of the main characters shows the stitches of a last minute re-write. But those stretched threads are not show-stoppers, they simply turn the narrative onto a different course than the author may have originally concocted.

“Paradigm” is an entertaining, attention grabbing read. The language is appropriate for any age, and there is nothing in it that would worry a conscientious parent. The book would be a great discussion starter for a youth book reading group. Everything from population control, to communalism, to ethical decision making, to “what would you do in that situation,” and so forth. I recommend this book.
Thanks to Boukouture for the e-copy used for this review.

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