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Happy Circumcision Day?

Preached on Genesis 21:1-7 yesterday regarding the birth of Isaac. The joyous arrival of Isaac, whose very name means “laughter,” to Abraham and Sarah after all those years of waiting and all the factors surrounding it invites us to think of the coming of the true seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.

Yet the way the story is written makes this event central to Isaac’s coming:

“Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.”

Why does God highlight a circumcision, and what was the significance of it being done on the eighth day? You may not realize this, but you actually will be celebrating the true significance of this act two weeks from today. What do I mean?

Well, first read this from the Wikipedia Encyclopedia:

“Most countries in Western Europe officially adopted January 1 as New Year’s Day somewhat before they adopted the Gregorian calendar…This is sometimes called Circumcision Style, because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, being the eighth day counting from 25 December.”

Having the beginning of the year happen exactly one week after Christmas (eight days in the way the Jews counted it – Sunday to Sunday was eight days […]

Prayer Requests from the Library

As I wrote last week, a proposal involving a huge downtown development project ($110 dollars, seven-towers, eleven city blocks) was published in a local paper. The map showed our church building surrounded on all four sides by their enclosed mall. No one from the library or community had spoken to us about it before it was published.

The counsel we had received from eminent domain legal specialists in our first go around was that when threats are proposed to not let a day go by without speaking to it. To that end, I wrote a letter to the editor (basically the material from the blog of last week) that was published in the Tribune on December 13th. A reporter had contacted me the day before so there was also a front-page article entitled “Church on the defensive” in the paper which you can read here:

Yesterday I was on the phone quite a bit, as one library board member and then the board president called in response. Both conversations were cordial, and they both assured me that the firm making the proposal had indicated, despite what the map showed, that it would not involve taking the church. They both […]

Celebrating Graying Temples

I’m getting old. No surprise to you, I know, but it reads like the daily news to me. Reflect with me on these little reminders from recent comments:

“Your hair [what’s left of it is implied in this comment] is getting more gray around the temples.”
“Time for your colonoscopy again.” [Sigh.]
“Your whole face fills with wrinkles when you smile.” [Okay, I actually said that one to the face looking back at me in the mirror as I laughed at all my laugh lines.]

If the comments are not enough, feeling the sore back every morning when I wake up, finding out recently that for months I have been calling a couple that I see regularly by the names of Larry and Nancy when they are actually Steve and Ruth, and hearing more adults using “Mr. York” rather than my first name serve as daily messengers that the “way of all the earth” has no exception clauses. We are all but a vapor (James 4:14), a fading flower (I Peter 1:24), each man a breath (Psalm 39:11) – from dust created and to dust returning. Sometimes this “dirty” truth occurs particle by particle, the dust flaking away imperceptibly until one day […]

Here We Go Again?

Faithful readers of this blog will remember the struggle our congregation had with the local library board a while ago (If interested, you can read about this here then there). The long and short of it was that the library, located diagonally from us across the intersection in front of our building, was considering using eminent domain powers to acquire our church’s property in order to expand their facilities. After a four-month long campaign by our congregation that was supported by a local lawyer, the Alliance Defense Fund, and Advance America, the library board decided on February 5, 2006, not to pursue any plan involving the acquisition of Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church’s property. The headline in the local daily paper the next day read “Congregation rejoices at library decision.”

Yet in an article published this week in a local weekly paper, a $110 million, eleven city blocks, seven towers proposal was unveiled by an Indianapolis firm for the downtown area. Two of these towers would be directly in front of and beside the church building, and a map published in the paper shows these towers being connected by a building structure that surrounds the church property on all four sides? Though […]

An R-Rated Pulpit?

Know one story worse than what happened in Sodom before its destruction? You know the one in Genesis 19, where the angels visited Lot, his house was surrounded by a homosexual throng, and he offered his daughters to the lusters instead of the visitors they were seeking?

The story that immediately follows after the destruction of Sodom. Lot ended up living in this cave with his daughters and…well, go ahead and just read Genesis 19:30-38 for yourself. The sordid details are there, but for a clue just realize his oldest daughter named her new son “From father” and the youngest daughter called her pride and joy “Son of my (father’s) people.” What creative, shameless names.

As I have been preaching through Genesis, the question did arise whether this story was appropriate sermon fodder. One commentary expressed the sentiments of others: “This text should never be used for a sermon.” Sensitive people and children are there, and we are in the presence of God for goodness sake. Yet Paul taught that we are to “preach the whole counsel of God,” and being committed to expository preaching, I plunged ahead with a message entitled Sodom Reborn. The fascinating thing about preaching on Lot was […]

Folly out of the Pulpit

Whoa! Being a mere babe in an internet savvy world, I had no idea when I wrote my previous post “Evil in the Pulpit” of the vast amounts of confirming commentary in cyberspace regarding both Senator Barack Obama and Pastor Rick Warren. Putting a conniving politician into the same room with a Bible-believing pastor should have the same result as gunpowder coming into a contact with a spark, reminiscent of Eljah before Ahab or Herod with John the Baptist, but these further revelations instead invoke images of, well, cornflakes meeting milk. Mush.

On the Obama front, Ben Shapiro reviews Obama’s book with the title The Audacity of Hope (no, this is not a biography on Bill Clinton) and clearly delineates the senator’s evil views on a variety of social issues by quoting him. Obama is pretty clever, for with one sentence he can show his support of homosexuality while simultaneously denouncing the infallibility of Scripture: “I [am not] willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.” Shapiro then goes on quoting and showing how Obama should be seen as having more in […]

Evil in the Pulpit

Often bloggers can do no better service than to point their readers to someone who has written an important article better than they can do.

With that in mind, please go to Kevin McCullough’s article at entitled “Why is Obama’s Evil in Rick Warren’s Pulpit?” The gist is that Warren has invited Illinois Senator Barak Obama, whose public stance on marriage, abortion, and homosexuality runs contrary to the Scriptures Warren claims to belief, to speak at his Saddleback Church on World AIDS Day on December 1

Admittedly, pastors of small churches such as myself criticizing leaders of megachurches can come across like a guy sucking sour lemons. Yet McCullough’s article points out how the fellowship of light and darkness undermines the faith, which is already doctrinally compromised within the megachurch movement. He is seeking to get people to call or e-mail Saddleback. Stay tuned to see if there is any response to this by the church.

All of which goes to remind us: When you start standing up for everything, you end up standing for nothing.

Preacher Confessions

If the title led you to believe you would read a juicy bit worthy of the National Enquirer, sorry to disappoint. Thankfully, that is not the case. The confessions I am about to make would be more like the equivalent of a fumble in football or error in baseball rather than a betting or doping scandal. Also, these are preacher confessions versus minister or pastor confessions. We are talking pulpit errors here.

However, I do not want to diminish the importance of carefulness. In his experience-filled book on the work of preaching called Preaching & Preachers, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks of the need for attentiveness to the true theme of the text in sermons. “…there is one golden rule, one absolute demand – honesty. You have got to be honest with your text.” The goal of the preacher is to bring out God’s truth in the text. He must then treat the text honestly by relating to the congregation accurately God’s purpose in giving us that portion of His Word. If this be the case, then a carefulness to the details of the text, or any aspect of the sermon for that matter, is essential. Having fumbled, bumbled and mumbled over […]

Little Men

As our nation grieves over the outbreak of violence in the recent school shootings in the Denver, Colorado and Lancaster, Pennsylvania areas, we may want to take this opportunity to teach our sons a lesson.

They need to be men and protect the women in their life, no matter how little they may be or how dangerous the situation.

Have you noticed that both shooters walked into classrooms and ordered all the boys to leave? According to news reports, none of the boys involved refused either gunman’s request. No boy’s life was taken. They all complied and in each case left girls with a man obviously intent on harming them.

Is the only story of resistance by any boy the one that ended up being a lie? A young man went on the Today show portraying himself as one who had initially resisted gunman Duane Morrison at the Platte Canyon High School tragedy. Yet the very next day he appeared again on the same show admitting he had not even been in the same classroom. He said, “I hope that people will know me for who I am, and not a liar.” Sorry, but after trying to get attention as a hero, when […]

America’s First Book

The first book published in colonial America was the Bay Psalm Book. According to the website of the Cambridge Reformed Presbyterian Church (which my friend Dr. Christian Adjemian pastors),

“The book was published in 1640 in what is now Cambridge, Massachusetts in a print shop now long gone, located in what is today Harvard Square…The preface to the Bay Psalm Book was written by John Cotton…(and is) an explanation and defense of the American Puritan understanding that the Book of Psalms is God’s hymnbook for the Church. This is a belief that was shared by all Presbyterian churches until the 19th Century.”

One of the ten existing copies of this work is on display as “America’s First Book” in the Library of Congress. The Bay Psalm Book was used extensively throughout the colonies and went through many revisions and improvements.

My point in drawing your attention to this is to encourage you to read the preface which supports and defends the practice of the church singing the psalms in its worship. The preface begins with this eloquent statement:

“The singing of Psalms breathes out nothing but holy harmony and melody…”

but then quickly raises the concern against the church setting psalm singing aside:

“…but […]