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Hope for Eternity

After a three-month hiatus from the blogosphere, today marks my return. Lord willing, I hope to write Monday mornings and then post. So if you are interested in tuning into a weekly column with this shepherd’s perspective on life, I hope to meet you here.

My absence from blogging was semi-intentional. I rambled around the countryside a bit last fall to speak at several churches and a college retreat . Ministry with young people, from a growing academy to a budding college ministry, with some coaching for my sons’ basketball teams thrown in, has taken a great deal more time. Yet far and away the most time consuming activity (that caused me to set blogging aside for a while) has been planning for what we are calling Hope for Eternity.

On April 25-27 & 29th of this year, Irish pastor and author Ted Donnelly will be here at the Sycamore RPC sanctuary in Kokomo for a series of evangelistic meetings we are calling Hope for Eternity. Ted will speak three times on the subject of hell Wednesday-Friday, then on Sunday the 29th twice preach regarding the topic of heaven. God has blessed Ted with a […]

Mosquerading

Destroy and root out the abominations, idolatry, and heresy of the Turk, the pope, and all false teachers and fanatics who wrongly use Thy name and in scandalous ways take it in vain and horribly blaspheme it…in persecution they believe they render Thee a divine service.

This prayer is from Martin Luther’s small book A Simple Way to Pray. Luther’s book was written in request from his barber about how to pray. Luther took the Ten Commandments and Lord’s Prayer and offered prayers based on them to serve as a pattern for how we might pray. The above quote is from the petition “Hallowed be Your name.” The “heresy of the Turks” to which Luther refers is their religion of Islam, which teaches that the name of Jesus is decidedly not “the only name given under heaven by which men must be saved” (Acts 4:13). Heard or uttered any bold prayers like this in church lately?

Might want to start. For the Muslims are starting to pray to Allah in churches in the United States. This was brought close to home recently, as a Protestant church here in Kokomo has opened its doors to […]

By an Autumn River

Green murky waters flow quietly, Leaves from trees upriver carried twirling along.Slowly they pass by the stranger on the bank, Leaning against the trunk that’s strong.

Lips closed as prayers move upward, Silently…slowly…barely adrift.With struggling faith, they fall back to earth, “Lifeless, futile, a rejected gift?”

Across the stranger’s gaze a sole leaf, Tongue of fire from the sun-soaked season,Floats down and joins with other pilgrims. “Traveling assuredly, yet without reason?”

A far-off destination suddenly perceived, Comforts the one resting ‘gainst the tree.For mysterious Water carries both to distant field, Preparing soil for a harvest yet to be.

(Composed on the banks of the Wildcat during the Sycamore RPC Annual Camp-out)

Modinity

With the heat blazing away today (my Firefox Weather buttons show a severe weather alert because the heat index is to break 100 this week), did you know the the sun itself was used as a harmful illustration of God in church history? And do you know this same belief is commonly taught and accepted uncritically in evangelical circles today?

In the third century a man named Sabellius from Libya began to teach that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit do not refer to three distinct persons in the Godhead. Rather, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were just different names for the one true God. Sabellius taught that God existed in different forms or modes (this teaching became known then as Sabellianism or Modalism). Sabellius’ teaching explained that God existed as the Father in the Old Testament, then changed forms by becoming the Son in the period of the Gospels, and then, following His work on the cross and returning to heaven after the resurrection, He came back as the Spirit.

To illustrate, Sabellius used the sun. Sabellius said that the sun’s essence or core is like the Father, the sun’s light rays are like the […]

Christian Man, Christian Love

My wife is away for a few days, having taken the younger three with her to spend some special time with grandparents in Michigan. Funny how the older I get, the more I miss her companionship when it’s not immediately present. Yesterday morning, when the hummingbird hovered by the hanging basket of petunias on our front porch that she’s always tending, I noticed a pang when I was not able to show her. I feel a bit like I’m riding a tandem bike by myself. Yeah, I might be able to get around, but I’m pedaling hard and not nearly enjoying the ride as much.

This hit home when I pulled a book off my shelf and had a note card she had written many years ago, serving as a now forgotten bookmark, fall out. She had written the following quote to me when I was going through a struggle in the ministry. Though again I felt that pang of her absence, reading it again encouraged me and made me thankful for the little sermons she preaches in her quiet way that no one else but me gets to hear. Yet I will […]

Laughing at Limericks

Not much time to blog these past few weeks, so why not share a summer laugh or two?

One of our family’s summer highlights was our church’s family conference known as Covfamikoi (the name is a loose acronym from “Covenant Families” with the beginning letters of the states in our presbytery tacked on the end somehow). Along with the great teaching, hearty psalm singing, and rich fellowship, the 400-plus conference participants enjoyed such things as recreational activities, a concert by New Song from Geneva College, and a talent show by the conferees themselves. The conference also sponsored a limerick contest, with the submissions and winners read at the talent show.

The winner was Anna Roberts from Bloomington, with this clever turn-of-phrase poking fun at the RP family tree (she gave me permission to share it here):

The Reformed Presbyterian family tree
Is very close-knit in its ancestry.
Everyone is related,
Our cousins have dated;
So what’s your connection to me?

Somewhat out of character (at least for those who do not know her dark side like I do), my wife also got into the act. Her inspiration came from some posters that suddenly appeared all over campus one day. You see, at last […]

A Little Help Singing the Psalms

I must have been sleeping when they made the announcement. And it must be my lack of web-savvy that kept me from finding it on Crown & Covenant’s website. So I’ll ask you. Did you know that all the tunes for The Book of Psalms for Singing are in digital format on the internet? If you did, why didn’t you tell me?

Thankfully my pal Ed Blackwood finally did. So in case you were in the dark like me, be sure you are awake now and are paying attention. Even if you have trouble finding things on the internet like me, you can do this. All you have to do is either click here or type in www.psalter.org on your browser line and – voila! – all the tunes are at your disposal.

What a great service! Families can get help singing them in their home in worship. Presenters can become proficient in their skill. Pastors can readily hear whether their congregation can handle a tune come Sunday morning.

And just for a little further encouragement in not only properly pitched but balanced a capella psalm singing (distinguishing between public and private acts […]

Mourning atop a Blue-Green Hill

The late morning breeze carried the scent of the bright bouquets to those assembled under the canopy sitting atop one of the many blue-green hills of western North Carolina. The coolness and smell of the flowers were welcomed by the group seeking refuge from the sun in the shade of the awning. Men stood quietly while they pulled on tight collars. Women shifted their weight from one high heel to the other. And a sister, seated with her son and other close family beside her, stared blankly ahead at the casket before them.

The preacher began speaking, and told of a life that began in the days of the Great Depression. Though she had witnessed the rise of what many consider modern advances in this new “Age of Convenience,” he testified to how she had never forgotten her roots and the simple pleasures found in a life lived for others. Keeping her house tidy and welcome. Sitting around the dinner table on a Sunday afternoon visiting with friends and family. Giving bottles of Avon products to her brothers’ and sister’s children at Christmastime (the perfume well-used by the nieces, the bottles of cologne […]

Summer Days, Unread Books, & Butterfly Wings

When I am on vacation, I have one idea of how I like to spend my time. Celia, my four year-old daughter, has another.

Often when we are at Miriam’s parents’ home at summertime, I find myself alone for a few hours in the morning while the rest of the entourage goes into town to shop. Lounging about sipping coffee and reading one of the several books I’m in the midst of before an afternoon down on the beach of Lake Michigan is my ideal. Yesterday morning looked promising, as once again everyone went off to do their thing at an antique store (or was it Meijers? They told me but I was engrossed in my reading and did not hear clearly). Anyway, one thing they surely told me, but I did not factor into my “It’s going to be a perfect morning” equation, was that they were leaving Celia behind.

Now I love my kids, and playing Monopoly, riding bikes, jumping in waves, playing kickball in the sand and the like are testimony that I cannot exactly be accused of ignoring them on vacation. But I do like to read, and it’s tough trying to […]

Real Christianity

This subject is just the last two words of the typically long, 18th century title of the book A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christianity in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity. Written by William Wilberforce, this book helped persuade minds and hearts about the powerlessness of the “cultural Christianity” being practiced at that time in England and the need for a living faith in Jesus Christ. Having seen the movie Amazing Grace in recent months, I was motivated to read Wilberforce’s seminal work. The source of his passion to end slavery in his nation was his dynamic walk with the Lord that this book reveals.

As the Lord so often does when I’m reading one thing seemingly unrelated to other studies, I have found His Spirit using Wilberforce’s words to seal things He has recently been teaching me and that I have been emphasizing in the preaching and ministry here. In particular, recent concerns I have had regarding worldliness in my own life and in the church find truer expression in Wilberforce’s words:

The advancement of the kingdom of God and His glory are scarcely embraced as […]