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Mentor Whispers

Last week retired pastor Dr. Roy Blackwood, who has been a longtime mentor to me, and his family made yet more volumes of his library available.  Knowing that many of my friends had gone through his books numerous times – as have I – I did not expect to find anything else of interest.  Yet I came home with a box of books.

One of the treasures of obtaining a mentor’s books is that seeing notes or highlights in them is like having him whisper in your ear. That’s how I felt when I saw the following underlined.  I share this whisper with you:

“The prayer-meeting is the spiritual thermometer.  The rise and fall of interest in the prayer-meeting marks the change of heat or coldness in the church.  You may be at a loss to determine which is the cause and which is the effect; i.e., whether the cold prayer-meeting makes a cold church, or a cold church makes a cold prayer-meeting; but we know that a cold prayer-meeting indicates a cold church.  They are inter-operative.” -R.J. George, Lectures in Pastoral Theology, “The Prayer-Meeting,” p. 29.

The Subject of Your Prayers

I know this may sound like one of those cheesy ads on a website sidebar, or perhaps the trite fare so often offered in evangelical circles, but I do not know how else to ask you. So here goes.

Want to make a simple adjustment that will, by God’s grace, transform both you and your prayers?

If so, read on.  But first you need a basic grammar reminder.

Of Sabbath Sticks & Stones

Like traveling down a highway on a vacation trip only to come upon a grisly accident, reading through the Scriptures can have a jarring impact upon you at times.  A short passage in Numbers 15 is one such spot, where a man is stoned for gathering sticks on the Sabbath Day.

Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. (15:32-36).

In some ways, like passing the car wreckage, you want to keep traveling on and forget it, but the human curiosity we call “rubbernecking” gets the best of you.  Why is such a story in the Bible?

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind with passages such as these.

Sermon Fit for a Child’s Mind

This past Lord’s Day I preached a children’s sermon.  Twice.  One was for the little ones in our congregation.  Then a few hours later I used the same message, with a slightly different application, in the afternoon chapel with the folks in the dementia unit where my mom lives.

In some ways, the contrast in audiences could not have been greater.  In the morning I was surrounded by little ones with fresh faces, tidy clothes, and squirmy bodies.  In the afternoon gathered round me were the aged with dulled expressions, slept-in and spilt-on clothes, and tired, worn out bodies.  The morning group’s minds needed filling with new lessons perhaps never heard, while the afternoon group needed minds filled with old lessons now forgotten.  Clearly, both groups needed a lesson fitted for a child’s mind.

Gentle Answers #2: How Fast?

Short and sweet, here’s the next question:

Is it a sin to go 66mph in a 65mph zone?

(I hope you’ll join in the conversation! And remember to keep submitting your questions.)


Rich Holdeman responds:



Barry York responds:

Yes, but it is a far greater sin to keep the speed limit and believe yourself superior to those who do not or, dare I say, to swerve to miss the gnat hitting the windshield only to run into a camel.


James Faris responds:

Is it a sin to go one mile-per-hour over the speed limit? Not if you a first responder such as a police officer! But, what about the rest of us? God has given the state real authority. The state must establish certain laws beyond the specific direction of Scripture for safety, just as parents do for their children. These laws should be obeyed as part of our obedience to God, insofar as the do not require us to sin (Romans 13:5).

We must also understand how the law functions. Jesus showed the Pharisees in Matthew 12:11 that they did understand how the law is to function based on what the Pharisees would do with one of their own sheep that fell into a pit on the […]

An Ancient “Problem-Solving” Technique

My friends speak of it.  I hear distant reports of it.  And I have seen it with my own eyes, more than once.  It seems that wherever I turn, the same problem runs rampant in the pop Evangelical church.  It is this: A segment of the leadership (and especially those who are looking to “enter the ministry”) begin criticizing another segment of the leadership, typically the pastorate.  No, not quite.  It isn’t full blown criticism, at first.  Rather, it begins as merely a “concern.”  “Holy sighs” are wed with anguished looks.  Problems in the church as discussed and dissected at great length.  Motives are scrutinized.  Past incidents are exhumed and thread together into a tapestry of intrigue.

Auctioning All Mankind: Der Schrei der Natur

You all know the piece. Creepy pastel. Ghostly image. You can feel the anxiety when you look at it. Blood red and orange background. Swirly confusion.

This week Edvard Munch’s The Scream became the most valuable painting ever sold at auction. It reached nearly $120 million dollars. That price is more than all of the RPCNA’s combined annual budget- I checked! The total annual budget of ALL RPCNA congregations is 10 times LESS than what this painting sold for (check the Minutes of Synod for evidence).

Why should you care that The Scream sold for $120,000,000? I mean, why should a Christian care that a creepy pastel of a wavy anxious man sold for more money than most of us will see in a lifetime of toil and sweat?

Public Prayer: Bringing God up to Date on Current Events?

What do our public prayers say about our view of God? What do unbelievers think when they are present in our worship services and hear our public prayers? More specifically what do unbelievers think we believe when they hear our public prayers?

President John F. Kennedy took the oath of office (another post, I am sure) as the 35th president of the United States of America, on January 20, 1961. Along with the oath of office (another post, I am sure) public readings were read and public prayers were prayed.

Among those in attendance was American novelist John Steinbeck. John Steinbeck wrote about his inauguration experience in “L’Envoi” a proposed, yet unpublished, ending to his travelogue Travels With Charley: In Search of America. As Steinbeck reflected on the inauguration he said the following concerning the public prayers:

“The prayers were interesting, if long. One sounded like general orders to the deity issued in a parade-ground voice. One prayer brought God up to date on current events with a view to their revision. In the midst of one prayer, smoke issued from a lectern and I thought we had gone too far but it turned out to be a short […]