At around 10:30 p.m. every Friday night, light and darkness collide at the corner of Broad Ripple Avenue and Guilford Avenue in Broad Ripple Village, about six miles north of downtown Indianapolis. As the darkness of night descends, hundreds and hundreds of twenty-something club-hoppers pour into the village looking to indulge their hedonistic desires, fulfilling John 3:19-20 which says “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-21). Yet, in the midst of rampant spiritual darkness a few Christians proclaim that light has come. The result? A spectacular collision of light and darkness every week.
Wilhelmus a` Brakel (1635-1711), a Dutch pastor and theologian, wrote a devotionally-focused systematic theology for his congregation. The Christian’s Reasonable Service was first published in 1700, but was only translated into English in 1992. For all of last year and the first part of this year, I read a portion of his work each day in conjunction with my personal devotions as I worked through the four volume set. This work lifted my soul day-by-day, and I highly recommend it to you for daily reading as well. For Christians who know they should be reading more and better books but struggle to read, this is a great place to start.
Here’s a sampling of the chapter on Spiritual Joy (Vol. 2, pp. 445-467) where we are exhorted to use the means God has given to attain joy:
Recently, our local Reformation Society studied Romans 10:14-17. In the concluding discussion, one pastor remarked that while he has been complimented on good sermons, he has never been told that he has beautiful feet, referring to verse 15: “And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!’”
Why no compliments on our feet? Especially in the reformed tradition, the preacher stands behind a wooden-box pulpit, thus concealing his feet. Perhaps Paul, in quoting from Isaiah in verse 15, is issuing a call for Plexiglas pulpits?
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth. Every time I read those words from Ecclesiastes 12:1, the voice of Dr. Christian Adjemian rings through my mind.
Sixteen years ago, one sultry summer night, I sat with some three-hundred others from our presbytery in the chapel atop the hill at Johnson Bible College outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. I had completed high school and in a few short weeks would begin my studies at Purdue University. Dr. Adjemian had spoken on the book of Ecclesiastes that week at the Covfamikoi Family Conference, and the conference theme was A Time for Living.
A few years ago, the late Bud Wilson envisioned planting a vineyard at Second RP as visible picture of the church and of our union with Jesus Christ. One of the deacons labored to plant and care for that vineyard of Chardonnay (apparently) and Concord here on the church property. The vineyard is now in the midst of its fourth summer and its first to bear fruit.
Last Saturday, my mother graduated from Purdue University with her Ph.D. Universities rarely bestow such degrees on women who are called “Grandma” by twenty-one grandchildren. Thus, the commencement at the Elliott Hall of Music demanded our presence in a special way.
Many graduates hailed from China, India, or other lands whose languages differ radically from English. Mike Piggott, Purdue’s public address announcer, did a yeoman’s job pronouncing the names as the graduates were hooded. The strange sounding names reminded me of many lengthy sections of Scripture. Many Christians complain as they read aloud difficult names in the Scriptures such as Chedorlaomer, Maher-Shalal-Hashbaz, Romamti-ezer, and Meshelemiah. Admittedly, these are difficult, but they are given us to be read and understood. Remember that we will meet some of these in glory one day, and so their names should be familiar to us when we meet.
At Second RP in Indianapolis, we desperately need to update our website. I’ve visited a number of reformed and presbyterian websites as we consider what would be best. Most sites copy others with tabs like “About Us,” “What We Believe,” “Leadership,” “Sermons,” “Schedule,” “Contact Us,” “Bible Studies,” “Ministries”, “Links,” “Calendar,” “Members,” et cetera.
Almost all note and link the connection to the denomination. Yet, strikingly absent are references to the practical and personal benefits of the presbytery.
Our children often exclaim “It smells like Grandma’s!” when we walk through the door of our home after morning worship with the people of God. The aroma of slow cooked meat, potatoes, and vegetable wafts through the door evokes warm memories and brings a smile to every face. It is amazing to see how, in almost any circumstance, the whiff of great-smelling food transforms attitudes and even behaviors of those hoping to partake of its pleasure.
Last night, I looked at pictures from our family reunion a week ago where we celebrated God’s faithfulness. In addition to the children who are multiplying, I was also struck by the multiplying wrinkles, gray hairs (or vanishing hairs), and other signs of aging. Now, cells die more quickly than they reproduce – especially for some of us. Pictures like these helpfully remind us of the fallen world in which we live, and teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). It also reminds us that we have cause to rejoice in the work of renewal that our great God is doing in the hearts of his people, remembering the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”
This year, my parents, David and Jerri Faris, celebrate forty years of marriage in the Lord. Though their anniversary is October 22, the only time all of their eight children would together this year was this last week at the Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery family conference, Covfamikoi. Our parents worship and serve in the Lafayette, Indiana RPC. The eight children, their spouses, and twenty-one grandchildren are spread over seven RP churches, two presbyteries, and in the Sudanese mission, Cush4Christ.
Together, we children hastily composed the following poetic tribute to our parents which was read at the conference talent night. The poem celebrates God’s grace in their marriage, his grace to their descendants, and his grace in their service in congregations in Lafayette, Bloomington, and Kokomo, Indiana. God’s covenant love has been poured on us richly through our parents, and we are grateful.