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 […]


Little Joys

The Lord turns even our little sorrows into joy…

Last weekend I had to spend yet another beautiful, sunny Saturday going to various open houses for graduation. Now don’t get me wrong. With my own daughter crossing the graduation stage Friday night, I rejoice in seeing her and her friends reach this milestone in their lives. It was just that the prospect of having another Saturday so filled that I would not be able to do any yard work, ride bikes with the kids, or read leisurely made me, well, a bit grumpy. So as I climbed into the car with my wife and three of my teenagers to head to Lafayette, I had that same low energy, frustrated, angst feeling I get when I have to go clothes shopping (which thankfully because of a wife whose patience is vast and whose care for me is heroic I have not had to do for several years). Yes, I had nothing less than a sinful, selfish attitude.

However, throughout the day the Lord used means to pour grace upon grace on me. Listening to the excitement of my children on seeing their friends and to Trevor […]


Jonathan Edwards & the Youth List

More people commented on my last blog entitled “A Grieving Heart” than I have ever had before. I want to follow it up by testifying regarding the youth here at Sycamore RPC, then answer a question that arose.

In the past week, in response to this challenge that I reiterated from the pulpit a few days ago, many of our youth have written, spoken to me or related to others the conviction the Holy Spirit has brought upon them regarding worldliness in their lives and the desire to change. Tears have been shed, parents have been engaged in conversation, and youth are making commitments to holiness. This is encouraging, and we pray it will be lasting.

In my past article reference was made to a situation involving Jonathan Edwards, the pastor during colonial America in Northampton, Massachusetts, whose preaching in the mid-1700’s was one of the means God used to create The Great Awakening. In light of a question, I thought more information and clarity might be of interest.

In the midst of the great fruitfulness that came through this God-ordained revival, a difficulty arose prompted by a practice in the church at that time called “The Halfway […]


A Grieving Heart

To the youth of the Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church and their Christian friends:

My pastoral heart is grieving over you.

Why?

Every so often I survey your blogs and scan your Facebook pages. Why? You are in the flock I am charged by Christ to keep, one who has to “watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account” (Hebrews 13:17). I am not snooping in your private letters or peeking in your journals. I am looking at the witness you have chosen to advertise about yourself to the world through the internet. It is your testimony to a watching world. And to be honest, after spending some time doing so this morning, I feel sick to my stomach.

Why?

Certainly I saw bright spots of youthful enthusiasm for the church, encouraging interaction with others, and devotion to the Lord expressed. Yet I also see that our culture is awash in the sewage of a God-hating media, and many of you are at least giving the appearance of floating along and enjoying the ride.

Why would I say that? It was Jesus who said that what comes out of your mouth comes out […]


Surefire Attendance Booster

One church in Kokomo experienced barking, meowing, and chirping in its service yesterday, and it was not because the Toronto Blessing finally hit our town. No, this was a “blessing” of a different variety.

St. Andrews Episcopal church held its annual Blessing of the Pets service yesterday. Yes, indeed, you can go to this link and see a turtle waiting in line for his priestly blessing, participate in animal liturgy, and hear Fido add his barks to the praise (or was that a howl at the off-key organ?). Though I know Father Tim Kavanaugh, the fictitious Episcopal priest in the Mitford Series by Jan Karon, has a dog who occasionally wanders into the service and even obeys better when Scripture is quoted, I never remember him being invited to worship. But then, as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.

When churches resort to these cutesy things, the media obligingly follows along, takes cute pictures, and everyone has a good laugh. Yet sadly that’s exactly what the world is doing. Laughing at the church, that is.

Alas, however, I assume too much. Perhaps some of my readers in cyberspace legitimately want to ask, “Why should […]


I Can Only Imagine

It’s been one of those days where friends and my brother have sent me amusing video clips to watch. Dozens of fish just jumping out of the water at night toward a light and landing into a rowboat (somewhere in South America I believe). “Evangelism Linebacker,” a spoof commercial on an effective witnessing program where wimps, who will not tell others the good news, get body slammed by an NFL-type who appears out of nowhere. So when my brother sent another one, I expected at my lunch break to have another laugh. Instead, I sobbed.

Why? Click here, read an incredible story, and be sure to watch the video.

Earlier this morning I had read the story of Mephibosheth. He was the grandson of King Saul who had been crippled as a child in an accident. When David took the throne of Israel, instead of having this family member of his enemy put to death, he returned Mephibosheth’s inheritance to him and had this lame man dine at his table. I had thought that morning of how gracious my heavenly Father has been to me, a fallen sinner who has been invited to the […]


My Irish Eyes are Smiling

Or at least my eyes are smiling upon Ireland.

Following our arrival on Wednesday, Miriam and I spent a day with the Donnellys. On Thursday they brought us to the northern coast where we saw the spectacular Giant’s Causeway. This area of the coast contains thousands of natural four and six-sided stone columns that form stepping stones you can climb upon, with rising cliffs behind them and grassy pastures on the top. They then dropped us off for a two-day stay at Portrush, which you can see at the center top of the map to the left.

The weather here has been extremely unusual the locals say, as the several straight days of sunniness and temperatures in the mid-sixties are even making headlines. Today we walked along the coast to Portstewart, which a sign said was six miles from Portrush. The path wound along the top and sides of cliffs of black rock. Laying upon grassy hillocks in the warm sun watching the foamy waves break and run over the rocks below was most relaxing. When we reached Portstewart we spent the afternoon going in and out of the seaside shops.

The surprise of the day […]


A Likeable Hero

On Tuesday night of this week, I was privileged to attend the Indiana Family Institute‘s (IFI) Annual Banquet. Tony Dungy, head coach of the Superbowl Champion Colts, was there as he was awarded IFI’s Friend of the Family Award. As you can see, my daughter and a few of her friends were able to get their picture with Mr. Dungy.

Being a practicing “Sabbatarian” (see my previous blog An Unlikely Hero), I had to give up watching pro football years ago except for the occasional Monday Night game. So I have not watched much of the Colts, though I do know who Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison are. However, I did not know the punter for the Colts was named Hunter Smith, who was at the banquet. He played music and gave a warm testimony of Mr. Dungy’s Christian influence on his life.

Watching people’s reaction in the presence of fame and football was interesting. A Colt’s helmet signed by the coach sold for $9000 in an auction. The program was arranged like a football game, complete with a two-minute warning. Autographs were sought eagerly. A minister in his opening prayer started […]


An Unlikely Hero

While enjoying a two-day get-away with my wife last week, I was fascinated to read this article about Elliot Huck. Elliot is a fourteen year old boy from Bloomington, IN, who in the past two years has won the regional Scripps Spelling Bee. Last year he finished 45th out of 250 plus contestants in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Yet despite training for about two hours a day over the summer to prepare for this year’s bee, Elliot will not be there. Why? Because this year they moved the bee from Saturday to Sunday, and Elliot’s convictions regarding the Sabbath Day means he does not believe he should compete on this day.

It was refreshing to read Elliot’s views and attitude. He stated that he had sought to glorify God in previous years by spelling, and this year he will glorify God by not spelling. This story further piqued my interest (Or should that be “peaked my interest”? Help, Elliot, or any readers!) because Elliot attends Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington, where Rachel Roberts, wife of Reformed Presbyterian pastor Bill Roberts, is the principal. How encouraging to see the Biblical […]


Timber!

Perhaps a blog with this name should not have a post with this title, but nevertheless…

Several weeks ago, when the temperatures were more like those of springtime than the ones we are experiencing now, I had the joy of helping fell a tree. In the woods atop the shore of Lake Michigan, Miriam’s dad had a dead beech tree standing sixty feet tall that was leaning to the west. As the wind made it sway the beech creaked and moaned with the plea to be brought down to its final resting. Delighted to comply with this request, we watched as Dad notched its front side, brought in the bite of the chainsaw from the back, then stepped back as the trunk separated from the stump and came crashing down with a final groaning protest to the forest bed.

I will never forget the face of my son Spencer who was running down the driveway at the time. He was oblivious that the tree was about to fall. When he heard the sound of the the limbs of the falling tree thrashing madly at those of its neighbors, he looked up wide-mouthed at it. […]