Putting the Twig to the Nose

When my daughter Lindsay, home for the Thanksgiving break, asked me a question the other day, at first I wondered what they were teaching her at college. “Dad, what does ‘putting the twig to the nose’ mean?” she asked.

Then she told me she was reading Ezekiel for her Bible class, where the angel of God points out in Ezekiel 8:17 that men in Judah were guilty of “putting the twig to their nose.” Considered the family’s resident Bible expert, I enjoy it when my children ask me questions. Yet I had to admit to being a bit baffled by the expression, as I had not thought about it before. As our family happened to be traveling at the time, we discussed the context a bit, I told her it sounded like a pagan ritual to me, and then promised to look it up later.

What I found was interesting and (not surprising with the Word of God) fear-producing.

This verse with its expression is from a scene where the angel of God is showing the prophet why destruction is about to come upon Jerusalem. In the vision Ezekiel is shown 25 men worshiping in the […]


Offering Thanks Like a Pilgrim

Around 200 people gathered last night at Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church for a Thanksgiving Service. Brethren from the Elkhart, Lafayette, and West Lafayette RP congregations joined us for this annual event, along with friends from other churches and the community.

With the title above serving as our theme, the evening began with the following explanation:

The roots of Thanksgiving in our nation are found in those first Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Mayflower in 1620. After 66 days at sea, they arrived at what would be called the Plymouth colony on November of that year in what is today Massachusetts. Right before they landed, 41 persons on board gathered and signed the Mayflower Compact, which was a document explaining how this new colony would be governed. It was a covenant that spoke of how they would order and preserve themselves in order to accomplish the goal of their voyage, which was done (I quote from the Compact) “for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country.”

They would need their faith in God. William Bradford, the eventual governor of the colony, […]


All A-Twitter

Yet another technological wonderment has hit the internet. This will be old news for the young people, I’m sure, but hang in there for a moment while I explain it to my generation. It’s a service called Twitter that has a little bluebird as its logo. Basically put, it is like making the wall of Facebook instantaneous without all the dressings. Oops! That still won’t explain it to most of my middle-aged friends. Let me be a bit more specific.

Rather than a blog like you are reading now, Twitter is a micro-blog that allows a constant updating of thoughts (limit of 140 characters) from the Twitter subscriber and those he allows to respond. These mini-posts can either be read on the Web as a continuous list of comments or sent via e-mail or text message. As the developers state, Twitter answers the basic question, “What are you doing?” Friends can post what they are doing or thinking at any moment and, wham, all those who care can receive the news on their cell phones or computers. Major corporations and news agencies are using Twitter to give people instant updates (called […]


Forgiving Yourself?

Imagine having witnessed the following:

A man came running up to a police officer standing on a corner. “Sir,” he shouted desperately, “someone just stole my wallet. You have to arrest him before he gets away.”

The policeman responded, “Now calm down, sir. When did this happen?”

The man replied, “Just five minutes ago, officer. Please hurry!”

The officer held his hand up patiently to quiet the man. “Now, sir, can you describe the thief to me?”

Hurriedly, the man spurted out, “He is about five foot ten, 180 pounds, wearing a blue button-down shirt with khaki pants and running shoes. He has light brown hair, blue eyes, and a mustache. Oh, and a large mole on his right cheek.”

As the man who lost his wallet was describing the thief, the officer was busy looking him up and down. He then said to the man, “Excuse me, but that description describes you exactly.”

The man nodded eagerly. “Exactly! I stole my wallet. Now hurry!”

At that point, I doubt the officer would arrest him, though he might have the man committed to […]


Differing Weights & Scales

Though I missed it, I guess this past Sunday was “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” as some ministers decided to tell their congregations for whom they should or should not vote. In response, Cal Thomas, a Christian political commentator, has made it quite clear that pastors and churches are really not to be involved in the business of addressing political matters. The great pastor and theologian Martyn Lloyd-Jones would seem to agree. In urging the preaching of Christ rather than politics, he said, “I am in no position to stand and address a company of Christian people as to whether I think the Government has acted rightly or wrongly. That, I repeat, is not the primary business of the Christian minister.”

I find myself drawn to the spirit of Thomas and Lloyd-Jones’ point, as our focus in the pulpit should always be in the exaltation of Christ. Certainly turning the pulpit into a place for political stumping is foolish at best and idolatrous at worst. Yet I still find that I cannot agree with the gagging effect on the preacher these men’s chief idea if practiced would bring. At key times and […]


Veiled Thoughts

“Perhaps nothing is more mysterious than a veil or curtain.”So began my last sermon on the mystery in Ephesians 3:1-7.And so begins this collage of “veiled thoughts” today.

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In society, mystery is caused by a lack of evidence or facts.In Scripture, mystery is caused by a lack of spiritual insight.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

God not only created light.He created darkness also.He is Lord of both.So says the prophet Isaiah.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Men cannot figure women out because of what women veil.Women cannot figure men out because of what men reveal.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~He who would obfuscate the clarity of Genesis 1is not qualified to teach Sunday School,let alone adults in higher education.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The great temptation for the preacher is the desireto be heard rather than for the congregation to listen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~It is the wise man who understandshow the word gentleman is formed.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sin always starts with a lie.It will only end when the lies cease.

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Some might view the election asSmooth Talk versus Straight Talk.

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A new twist on an old saying at our house?Better smiles with a lizard in handthan tears with two 30-feet up our backyard tree.

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Even in the “greed-filled” game of Monopolythe losers are not allowed just to print more money.

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Take a quarter and notice that its edge is milled.Find out why.Then you’ll […]


Sicut Sagittae

Sycamore Covenant Academy (SCA), an academic and discipleship ministry of our congregation, opened its doors this week to start our seventh year. We are more excited than ever, as we have over fifty students with several of them being from new families (some from surrounding areas such as Peru, Marion and Indianapolis) participating. It has also been encouraging to see the Lord provide great teachers and courses to offer. Plans are underway to offer once again our Hope for Today Tutoring twice a week to underprivileged children in the neighborhood. Watching our own youth sit down with these youngsters and read the Bible to them, pray, and help them grow in their reading skills was last year, and will be again this year, fun to watch.

I am also excited and thankful for the new logo you see (click it to go to the SCA website) that Susan Spiegel designed for us that captures the essence of this ministry. We feature a sword and a shield because our theme statement reads this way:

Raising Our Children in the Fear of the Lord
Arming Our Children with the Knowledge of His Word and World
Sending Them Out to Possess the […]


Beating the Jonah Syndrome

As Hurricane Gustav churned in the Gulf of Mexico a few days ago, reports circulated that it could grow into a monster Category 5 storm. I, like many others, kept tuning in to find out if it would strike New Orleans with more or greater force than Katrina had done three years ago. So great was the possible danger that it caused a major political party to cancel its campaigning for a day. Yet Gustav weakened, its center headed west of New Orleans, and it only struck the city with a glancing blow. The cameras trained on the levees, which showed the angry sea waves sloshing over the top, were not able to deliver stunning pictures of their collapse and the re-flooding of this city. So though the winds of political campaigning have picked up again and are blowing as strong as ever, thankfully the winds of Gustav died down and the city of New Orleans was spared.

At least that last phrase in the sentence above is what one is expected to say publicly. If the truth be known – and here is where you may lose any respect you might have had for […]


I am the Lord’s!

This past Sunday, after a year of special preparation, five teen-aged young ladies professed their faith publicly at Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church. Centering my preaching on Isaiah 44:3-5, where God promises the outpouring of His Spirit upon the children of believers, I reminded the congregation that what we were witnessing in these covenant youth was a powerful working of God. Though these young ladies have grown up in nurturing homes, my theme was that “the church needs to learn to anticipate and celebrate in the protective salvation of covenant youth in the same way it rejoices over a dramatic conversion.” These young people were not justified by their family nor by their age. Rather, they have been justified by faith in Christ as the Spirit of God has worked in their lives according to His promises.

Because young people growing up in the church often have difficulty expressing their testimony, as the “normal” testimony paradigm is of a dramatic conversion, we have put together a “Covenant Child Testimony” worksheet to help them. Through interviewing their parents and looking at God’s work through generations, it is designed to help them identify God’s active influences in their own lives. […]


Rolling in the Light

A blogger’s inner musings:

What about reviewing some of the great books I’ve been reading – Rutherford’s Letters, Keller’s The Reason of God, Owen on sin, etc.? Naw, certainly someone else has done it better – just use them in preaching. Hey, what about false unity at the Olympics? Ministry of the youth? Intern outtakes (catchy name but might make Bill and Jason mad)? Nope. Nope. Nope. Maybe another time (especially the one on interns). Could write about my final breakfast with Lindsay before college. No, too personal. But her lifting her iced coffee to her mouth and sucking her spoon thinking it was a straw sure was funny. Hey! There’s an idea! Funny things this summer…

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Last week I visited Bill Scott, a member of our church who is now a double amputee, at the nursing home where he lives. After nearly dying twice earlier this year, the Lord has amazingly raised him up. Bill was in good health and spirits, and is looking forward to his 70th birthday next month. It was a glorious, unseasonably cool August day, and as we visited Bill was sitting in his wheelchair as I reclined on a bench out in front. As we […]