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The Trellis And The Vine

While at my parents home this summer I snapped this picture on a whim, then stuffed it in “digital memory” … meaning I forgot it. Today I found it, and meditate upon the trellis and vine.

First, the vine. When our Savior instructs us about union and communion with himself, he instructs us in this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5a). Unfortunately, this verse and its context suffers the death of the  Christian cliche’. Because many have no actual experiences with vineyards, grapes, or even farming in general, the rich understanding of this Biblical passage and its overarching analogy can be lost on our minds. We’ve never fretted as our vine mysteriously wilted, threatening our economic livelihood. We have never groaned when the weight of the vine upon itself caused the vine to snap in half, causing all the fruit higher up to literally “wither on the vine.”

No, this world of vineyards is distant to us, and we would do well to enter the world of grape growers. The Scriptures are packed with spiritual fruit-growing messages for those able to decode the analogies.

Keeping Covenant with our Youth

Each month the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary sponsors a “webinar,”which is a new e-term for an internet seminar that people can access via their computer.  A PowerPoint presentation accompanies a 30-40 minute lecture usually done by a professor or pastor on a variety of topics.  From “Facebook and Faith” to “Is Your Church Healthy?” to “Ministry to the Poor” to “Biblical Counseling,” solid, Biblical teaching is offered via the internet to anyone in the world who wants to tune in.  Several of our “GenRef Gents” (as I call our contributors) have done lectures.  For access to past webinars, you can go here.

Today at 3:00 I will be conducting a webinar called “Keeping Covenant with Our Youth: Encouraging Congregations in Educating Children.” So often the focus of a congregation’s efforts can turn to activities for the youth rather than their discipleship.  As this issue has been on my heart for quite some time, I’ll be offering principles congregations can implement to encourage the latter rather than falling into the former.  I taught this at our denomination’s Synod meeting this past summer, and have augmented it to include a section I’m calling “Pursuing the Prodigals.”  I’ll be sharing some of what the Lord […]

Reformed and Presbyterian Family Tree

Ever wonder how the various Reformed and Presbyterian denominations in North America are related? Attached is a Presbyterian and Reformed family tree designed to help answer your questions! It builds on similar charts that have been made in the past. It especially seeks to mark the history and relationships of member churches of NAPARC (North American Presbyterian And Reformed Council). More detailed charts of either Reformed or Presbyterian bodies may be found elsewhere, but this document contains them all on one page.

A Post About Post-ness

Are we to be congratulated for being a “post” society?  The word “post” has come to take on a subtle, special significance when used as a prefix in the world of sociology, philosophy and therefore theology.

The term is used in a general way to indicate “afterward.”  In history, the phrase “post-Reformation Europe” calls to mind a particular set of years and the ideas which have driven and defined it.  But in our culture, the term “post” means not merely a chunk of history and the ideas which animate it.  We use “post” as both a description of how things are and a prescription of how things should be.  It is a comment on the movement of society, but also a self-congratulatory compliment on the particular direction in which we’re heading. 

When You Have Faithful Elders

In a few weeks I’ll begin preaching on Ezekiel 34, God’s disputation against the false and selfish shepherds of Israel. He includes fiery accusations like these:

Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with wool…but you do not feed the sheep.
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed…
So [my people] were scattered because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. (from v. 2-6)

Frightening and sobering stuff. But for the time being, I’m in the middle of our annual elders’ planning retreat.