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The ‘Learning’ In Contentment

My favorite weekly meeting is Wednesday at 6 a.m. at Perkins Restaurant.

There I recently had one of those jump-off-the-page-of-your-Bible experiences. Call me dumb, but I had never processed the fact that three times in Paul’s famous “contentment passage” in Philippians 4 – which I have quoted anecdotally dozens of times – the Apostle specifically uses the word “learned” (in Philippians 4:9 and 11, 12 ).

The men’s prayer breakfast is not a big one, as prayer breakfasts go. But it is a faithful one, an intimate one. Men from our church gather like clockwork each week for the sole purpose of lifting our hearts together before the Throne of Grace. We make 3-4 specific prayer requests for the week, and then lift one another’s burdens to the Lord in prayer before a hearty breakfast. Our prayers are far ranging, kingdom focused prayers for the advance of God’s reign in this world. It is not a place where we sit on our hands, but where we take the Kingdom by storm.

But recently  God has landed the prayer breakfast guys in the school of contentment. He has simply overwhelmed us with his presence and blessings and pressed us to “come back” to a place […]

The Trellis And The Vine

While at my parents home this summer I snapped this picture on a whim, then stuffed it in “digital memory” … meaning I forgot it. Today I found it, and meditate upon the trellis and vine.

First, the vine. When our Savior instructs us about union and communion with himself, he instructs us in this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5a). Unfortunately, this verse and its context suffers the death of the  Christian cliche’. Because many have no actual experiences with vineyards, grapes, or even farming in general, the rich understanding of this Biblical passage and its overarching analogy can be lost on our minds. We’ve never fretted as our vine mysteriously wilted, threatening our economic livelihood. We have never groaned when the weight of the vine upon itself caused the vine to snap in half, causing all the fruit higher up to literally “wither on the vine.”

No, this world of vineyards is distant to us, and we would do well to enter the world of grape growers. The Scriptures are packed with spiritual fruit-growing messages for those able to decode the analogies.

Cleaning The Crib

August is a very important month in my pastoral ministry. The way our family works, summer is the time to travel, stay up late, and do things out of the ordinary. It is the time to swim, to visit family, and to conference with the visible church.

But the majority of life cannot be like that. If the fall will be a productive period of discipline and engagement, then August simply must be a time of reengagement, of clearing the decks, of putting the tools back in order.

Persecution Is Real … And In Real Time

The Persecuted Church for which I pray became real for me today.

From my basement computer I had precious fellowship with a brother in Christ via Skype. Riaz (not his real name) is hiding in his home in the restricted nation of Pakistan for many days to avoid the anger of the local population. I heard the fear in his voice. His grown brother called to insure the safety of Riaz and his wife and children. Riaz may need to flee Pakistan for a time.

What Is “Need Love,” And Do I Have It?

Click on the picture to access CCEF Now in PDF format.

Came across this interesting snippet today in CCEF’s first online magazine.

[CCEF Now, pg. 3]

In a recent video series, Dr. David Powlison shared four resources [The Book of Common Prayer, Luther’s 95 Theses #1 , Lewis On “Need Love”, Luther’s Prayers] he has found helpful for counseling ministry. In the following excerpt from the [third] video, David discusses a quote from The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis.

We have so much to learn from our brothers and sisters who have gone before us. Christians who lived in generations before ours dealt with the same kinds of issues that we do. They too processed and personalized the Bible’s revelation, and some put those reflections into their own words in hymns and books.

That is similar to what we do in counseling because most of counseling is in our own words. Biblical counseling is not simply a litany of Bible citation. There may be instances when we open to one particular passage and spend time there, but most of what is said is in your words and in the words of the person you are counseling.

One living and rich paraphrase of the truths of the Bible is a quote from C. S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves [read it here]. The quote gives a marvelous depiction […]

“Mother Margie” — A Tribute

Roy and Margie Blackwood at my high school graduation in 1996. Click on the picture for funeral arrangements and obituary information.

On November 16, 2011 at about 5:30 p.m. a dear saint of the Lord stepped into the Lord’s presence.

Margie Blackwood (June 30, 1925 – November 16, 2011) was known and loved by countless members of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church and others. Though I had not visited “Mrs. Blackwood” in several years, I wanted to bear witness to the important role she played in my growth and formation as a boy and as a Christian man.

Margie Blackwood was the quiet one of the Blackwood family:) Her husband Roy Blackwood fulfills a strategic and far-ranging ministry in the kingdom of God. He was able to do so precisely because the Lord in his grace had blessed him with a “helper that was meet” for him (Gen 2:18,20). My earliest memories of Mrs. Blackwood were seeing her joyfully settled week by week in the “old sanctuary” of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church.


Earth as viewed by Apollo 8 astronauts from Lunar orbit on Dec. 24, 1968. Taken by astronaut William Anders, this picture chronicles the first time humans ever witnessed an "Earthrise." Click on the image.

(taken from The Book of Origins: Genesis Simply Explained by Philip Eveson, p. 21-23)

On Christmas Eve 1968 the crew of the spaceship Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit the moon. In their Christmas greetings to earth, the astronauts quoted these words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

This opening sentence, so simple yet so profound, sets the tone for the whole prologue. It makes us sit up and prepare for what follows. Appropriately, the subject of the first sentence of the Bible and of Genesis is God. He is the subject of nearly every sentence in this first section: ‘God said…’, ‘God saw…’, ‘God divided…’, God called…’, ‘God made…’, ‘God created…’, God set…’, ‘God blessed…’

The Bible is first and foremost revelation concerning God. From the very first verse God discloses truth about himself. The term used for ‘God’ is Elohim, the most common word in the Old Testament when referring to the deity. Like our English word ‘God’, it can be used of pagan gods, but here it is […]

Reasons For Faith

Dr. Stephen Meyer sat down with R. C. Sproul last year for a wide ranging discussion about the integration of faith and science.

The Intelligent Design movement is gaining steam in the academic world, and this year the 2012 Ligonier Conference will feature Dr. Meyer speaking on the topic of Intelligent Design.

It is so encouraging to see a generation apprehending a clear-headed worlview and vocabulary adequate to take on the deeply-ingrained lie of Satan that a finite, information-laden body can have “the illusion” of design while actually being the result of random variation and natural selection, a.k.a. Darwinism.

The heavens do declare the glory of God, and the skies do display his handiwork.

Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow

There are some resources those committed to Biblical evangelism and discipleship simply have to have. A few copies of Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow ought to be knocking around your office (if it’s messy like mine) or filed neatly on your “Reformed Bookshelf” if you are organized and tidy like my mother.

This little book by Dr. R. C. Sproul has proven a useful Christ-centered, Scripture-saturated tool in my humble efforts to pass along the truth of God to others. Time after time as I’ve given this small book to a friend (or simply read it aloud with them over lunch),  the Lord has used his Word to pierce hearts with the Biblical truth of God’s love and shepherdly guidance.

A Blessing Over Them

Jesus had fully identified with his Twelve. He had sent these disciples out on a mission. And now he was trying to draw away for focused time with his men. Perhaps these tired men were looking forward to the rest and clarity of Jesus’ classroom.

But we see in Luke 9:10-17 that the crowds had followed him to that distant place. A place far away from the infrastructure and markets needed to support the needs of such a crowd. Nevertheless, Jesus — a model of hospitality (see 1 Tim. 3:2) — “welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing” (Luke 9:11).

What a gracious man the Christ must have been! His life was structured and disciplined from one vantage point, but from another it was chaotic and fluid, always responding to the needs of those around him. He was never hurried, but he was proactive in ministering to the individual needs of people. He was warm. He loved these people whom He created and had come to redeem. He prayed for their souls and multiplied five loaves and two fish to meet their physical needs.