Last Lord’s Day evening, I had the great joy of preaching at the ordination and installation of two new elders in the Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church (Kokomo, Indiana). The event was special because I was involved in the Kokomo work from age six through high school. And the event was doubly special because I was able to lay hands on my father-in-law, Joe Marcisz, and Scott Hunt, a friend of many years. Finally, the Lord encouraged us that evening because the congregation is looking forward, in time, to church planting in the city of Marion, Indiana, which is 30 miles east of Kokomo. These two men are the first to be ordained to the office of elder who live in Marion. They will focus especially on leading the outreach ministry in Marion and on shepherding members who live there. This makes them the first of Marion’s Men.
Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama issued the annual Presidential Proclamation for Thanksgiving. It is copied below. The first Thanksgiving Day proclamation issued by our government, then the Continental Congress, was issued on November 1, 1777 and is copied below President Obama’s words. It was written by Samuel Adams. See if you can spot the similarities and differences. The exercise will probably motivate you to give thanks and motivate you to pray for grace.
If you need to be convinced that our culture loves heinous sin, just look at the Penn State controversy. Actually, we love to hate it. Our own sin doesn’t look nearly so bad when we can point at an alleged pedophile and those alleged to have given him cover. Many articles by sportswriters covering the story over the last two sound a like the Pharisee that Jesus described who stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). One columnist used the strongest language to condemn Penn State in one paragraph and later in the same article glorified the cheerleaders of various NFL teams. Why waste a good scandal when it provides cover for the lust of the flesh?
How big is your church? Jared lifted our eyes in his last post to see that ours is the church universal, regardless of the size of our local body, and we need to worship the living God with that knowledge each week. Jared and I had a little exchange behind the scenes about the statistical basis for some of the claims after he posted. In our private discussion, we both demonstrated our mathematical and statistical incompetence in seeking to accurately interpret the data in the study that he later linked in an update. Let’s just say that for the sake of our pride, we are glad that the Gentle Reformation math-whiz, Barry York, was not able to overhear our dialogue.
Last night, my fingers burned as I jumped back and forth between radio stations on MLB AtBat to keep up with the greatest single day of regular season baseball in history. On the last day of the regular season, eight games had playoff implications. After a day of hard work and after our evening Bible study (yes, I’m trying to spiritualize this as much as possible) I checked the scores and ended up being irresistibly fixated on the drama at hand.
I recently asked a burdened believer what I could do to help. “Just give us hope!” came the reply. All of us struggle with unrealized desires, some of which deeply burden the soul. Perhaps those that are most difficult are those in which there is no evident sin standing between us and our desire. Physically ill and disabled bodies ache as the soul groans: “Why? How long?” Young people, both men and women, say: “I thought I’d be married by now.” Couples cry out: “When will God give us children?” The unemployed ask: “Why won’t you give me work, God, to support my family?”
Fouad Ajami, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, writing in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, noted: “The Arabic word shamata has its own power. The closest approximation to it is the German schadenfreude—glee at another’s misfortune. And when the Twin Towers fell 10 years ago this week, there was plenty of glee in Arab lands—a sense of wonder, bordering on pride, that a band of young Arabs had brought soot and ruin onto American soil…Everywhere in that Arab world—among the Western-educated elite as among the Islamists—there was unmistakable satisfaction that the Americans had gotten their comeuppance.”
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?