Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Light in the Darkness



It was still dark Sunday morning as I drove to church, when my eyes beheld the most beautiful sight. Hanging against the backdrop of a black sky, a big, beautiful full moon shone brightly. To be sure, there was an attractiveness that the moon had in and of itself, but it was made all the more luminous in contrast with the darkness of the morning sky which surrounded it. I wondered at its beauty there, the only celestial object my eyes were able to behold at this early morning hour, and then the enigmatic truth struck me: Even as my world was shrouded in darkness and the sun was at this moment obscured from my eyes, it was still the source of the light that made the moon so radiant.

As I continued on my way, it occurred to me that we too, as Christians, are to shine brightly against the backdrop of our setting. We live in a world which is at times exceedingly dark, and people should note the contrast when they see our lives. It should be a thing of breath-taking beauty. This is only possible because (just like the moon) the light with which we shine does not emanate from within us. Rather, it is a reflection of the Son, who (for a time) is also hidden from our sight. But his light shining in and through us is a reminder to ourselves and to others that he will return; light will overcome darkness and it will be day once again.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Peace on Earth, Good-Will to Men

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
With the confluence of the Advent season and mass shootings occurring at (what should be) alarming rates, I am reminded of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "Christmas Bells." It was penned during a time of great personal pain for Longfellow. As the Civil War raged, Longfellow lamented the loss of his wife to a terrible accident and the near-fatal injuries his son had sustained in battle. He described the dissonance within his own heart at hearing Christmas bells wring out, "Peace on earth, good-will to men!" while his own experiences demonstrated anything but.
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
But even as Longfellow's circumstances truly were terrible, they would not get the final word. Instead, he turned his attention to what he knew to be true about the loving God who superintends those circumstances:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
This Christmas season, may the bells (and all the other trappings) of Christmas remind us that just as Jesus came once, he is coming again. And when he does, he will set all things to rights, for it is his heart that there should be "peace on earth, good-will toward men." In a world filled with so much Wrong, I can think of no greater encouragement than the knowledge that the Right will indeed prevail!

But let's take it a step further, shall we? For if this idea of "peace on earth, good-will to men" is important to Jesus, then it should also be important to those of us who are his followers. Therefore, let us take tangible steps to promote peace, to demonstrate good-will:
  • Love your neighbor, even when they're not very lovely
  • Forgive those who have wronged you, even though they don't deserve it
  • Seek reconciliation with those with whom you are at odds
  • Focus less on how we've been wronged (be it as individuals or as a group) and spend more time prayerfully considering where we might have been wronged by others
  • Humbly seek forgiveness from others regardless of whether they're willing to admit the wrong that they've done
  • Pray (really pray) for those who are your enemies 
  • Show respect to everyone, as those who bear the image of God, even if you disagree vehemently with them on the most fundamental and important of issues
In doing these types of things, we will truly be followers of Christ, those who are about "peace on earth, good-will to men."

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stott on Having a God-Directed View of Prayer

"It will be seen that the fundamental difference between various kinds of prayer is in the fundamentally different images of God which lie behind them. The tragic mistake of Pharisees and pagans, of hypocrites and heathen, is to be found in their false image of God. Indeed, neither is really thinking of God at all, for the hypocrite thinks only of himself while the heathen thinks of other things. What sort of God is it who might be interested in such selfish and mindless prayers? Is God a commodity that we can use to boost our own status, or a computer that we can feed words into him mechanically."

John Stott
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Get a case of 40 Bibles for $40


Westminster Seminary Bookstore is running a great special right now. Get a case of
40 Bibles for $40. At our church, we keep a bunch of these on hand so we can give them to visitors or anyone else who might have need of a Bible. The ESV is a great translation (my preferred one, in fact) and you'll never beat the price.

The special only runs while supplies last, so be sure to act now!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Give us this day our daily bread...

"The prayer for bread in this petition should be allowed to remain, first of all, a prayer for bread. At times in the church's exposition this bread has been turned into spiritual bread...It is possible to be more spiritual than God. Why would Jesus who fed his five thousand not want us to pray for the feeding of our six billion? And while Jesus says that man does not live by bread alone, he is too realistic to say that man does not live by bread at all."

Frederick Dale Bruner
Matthew: A Commentary, Volume 1: The Christbook, Matthew 1-12


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Calvin on Why We Pray

“But if God knows what things we have need of, before we ask him, where lies the advantage of prayer? If he is ready, of his own free will, to assist us, what purpose does it serve to employ our prayers, which interrupt the spontaneous course of his providence? The very design of prayer furnishes an easy answer. Believers do not pray, with the view of informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant. On the contrary, they pray, in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from Him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things. God himself, on the other hand, has purposed freely, and without being asked, to bestow blessings upon us; but he promises that he will grant them to our prayers. We must, therefore, maintain both of these truths, that He freely anticipates our wishes, and yet that we obtain by prayer what we ask. As to the reason why he sometimes delays long to answer us, and sometimes even does not grant our wishes, an opportunity of considering it will afterwards occur.”

John Calvin
Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, volume 1

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Quick Thought About Our Differences


You and I might very well come from different types of cultural backgrounds. Your skin color may be different than mine and we might be different genders. We might disagree on sports, art, politics, morality, religion, and just about everything else. We might each live our lives in a totally different fashion, with completely different understandings of what’s right and wrong, even true and false.

I want you to know something about me though. Even though I passionately hold to those things which I believe to be true, I am 100% committed to this fact: No matter who you are or how you live your life, you are created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made, and worthy of my respect as such. Please forgive me when I fail to live up to this ideal, and know that those who do not espouse such belief, do not act in the name of Christ, no matter what they may claim.

I'd love to really get to know you, and have you know me. Where we differ, let's at least try to better understand one another. We don't need to agree in the end, but perhaps we can avoid the almost reflexive vilifying of each other that is all too common in our culture. And where we do happen to find common ground, let's commit to working together for what we agree is the common good. 

No doubt, we will continue to disagree on any number of issues, ideas and areas of belief.  But if such a mindset and practice as I've outlined here were to become commonplace, the world--though still far from perfect--would certainly be more pleasant. That would be nice. And I think that's something about which we can all agree.

Friday, May 15, 2015

On the Importance of Reading Church History

“When I started reading (The Descent of the Dove by Charles) Williams, I was a sectarian, ‘related’ only to a small coterie of people who lived and thought and prayed like me.  When I finished, I was part of a congregation centuries deep and continents wide.” 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tim Keller on Prayer


"To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule--it is a failure to treat God as God."

Tim Keller
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter: Tragic Mistake or Deeper Magic?


Here is a nice video that Stephen Altrogge put together for Easter, poetically discussing the deeper magic* of Easter.





*-Whenever you can invoke The Chronicles of Narnia, that's a winner in my book!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

This great video was put together by the folks at Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis. May it be a blessing to you this Easter.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Cross

As finite beings...
  • We can not bridge the infinite chasm that separates us from a holy God. 
  •  We can not pay the infinite debt that God is due on account of our sin. 
  •  We can not convey the infinite glory that God possesses.
But Christ can...and did…on the cross.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Jesus Outside the Lines

After much anticipation on my part, my copy (finally!) arrived. I can't wait to dig into this new book by my friend and former pastor, Scott Sauls.

Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides is advertised as being for those who are "weary of us against them," instead showing how "Jesus offers us a way forward-- away from harshness, caricatures, and stereotypes." Sounds like a book that Scott would be the perfect guy to write, and it sounds awfully good to me!

If it sounds good to you too, join me in checking out it out. Watch the video below and pick up your copy while they're still in stock so you don't have to wait like I did! Endorsements, a sample chapter, and study materials that go along with the book are also available here.
 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

N.T. Wright on the Problem of Evil

"We are not told—or not in any way that satisfies our puzzled questioning—how and why there is radical evil within God’s wonderful, beautiful, and essentially good creation. One day I think we shall find out, but I believe we are incapable of understanding it at the moment, in the same way that a baby in the womb would lack the categories to think about the outside world. What we are promised, however, is that God will make a world in which all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well, a world in which forgiveness is one of the foundation stones and reconciliation is the cement which holds everything together. And we are given this promise not as a matter of whistling in the dark, not as something to believe even though there is no evidence, but in and through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, and in and through the Spirit through whom the achievement of Jesus becomes a reality in our world and in our lives. When we understand forgiveness, flowing from the work of Jesus and the Spirit, as the strange and powerful thing it really is, we begin to realize that God’s forgiveness of us, and our forgiveness of others, is the knife that cuts the rope by which sin, anger, fear, recrimination and death are still attached to us. Evil will have nothing to say at the last, because the victory of the cross will be fully implemented."

N.T. Wright

Friday, December 19, 2014

Straight No Chaser...The Twelve Days of Christmas

Here's another of the songs I try to share each Christmas. It's a different take on a familiar tune...and it's a whole lot of fun!