Alle Meine Quellen Sind in Dir

This woodcarving hangs above the hallway in our home.  Quite often, guests inquire about what it means.  Rather than directly translate, I tell them the painful but sweet short story behind it.


My wife’s maternal great-grandparents, the Hellings, lived in Germany.  Opa Helling was a baker there.  After having new mechanized equipment installed in the bakery, presumably an automated dough mixing machine, he called for his wife to come in to watch the new process.

As the machinery began, his wife bent over to get a closer look.  As she did, her long hair fell down into the gears. Before anything could be done, horribly the machine pulled a large section of her scalp away. One can only imagine the horror of the joy and pride of that moment turning so quickly to pain and suffering.

Making matters worse, Oma Helling was a diabetic. Her wound never healed. For the rest of her life, she had a metal plate that covered the wound.  In a family picture we have of her, she reminds us so much of Miriam’s grandmother and mom. She is looking down as she busily works with her […]

In that cold and draughty stable…?

With all of our four children in school, my wife and I have sat through quite a few school nativity plays over the last couple of weeks and so been reminded of some of the many misconceptions that have grown up around the account of the birth of Jesus. Having recently read Kenneth Bailey’s very insightful and thought-provoking book ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’, I thought this might be the place and time to pass on a brief digest of his treatment of the Bethlehem stable.

He begins by reminding us that it is very improbable that Joseph could have turned up with a heavily pregnant Mary and found nowhere in Bethlehem to stay. As a ‘royal’ in Bethlehem from the line of David, Joseph would have been welcome in any home. It would have been an unthinkable breach of hospitality to turn him away from the door, never mind a pregnant woman.

To our Western minds, the word manger makes us think of stables or barns, but this was not the case in traditional Middle Eastern villages. Simple village homes often had just two rooms. One was kept for guests, attached to the end of the house or on the roof (1 […]

Browse Worthy: Engaging the Culture

I commend these posts with their resources that help us think Biblically and proactively about the cultural events roiling around us.

A Time to Speak – In an effort to promote “God’s multiethnic vision for the church,” The Gospel Coalition sponsored a streamed discussion the other day on the racial tensions in our land.  This post shows you the helpful resources and ongoing dialogue they are offering.

George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, You, and Me – As the Sony hackers put online not only movies but private records and correspondences,  Tim Challies offers these sobering thoughts for you to consider.

Moses without the Supernatural – Ridley Scott’s “Exodus:Gods and Kings” – With his typical insightful analysis, Al Mohler reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly about the new Exodus movie.

A Cure for the Prayerless Heart

Are you having trouble in your prayer life? Do you feel as though your heart is hardened soil as you pray? Sing the psalms!  Wilhelmus a’Brakel gave this encouragement to his readers over 300 years ago when he wrote:

Singing will move a heart which frequently remains unmoved during prayer. It can be that while singing the tears will drip upon the book. Have you not frequently experienced this? Have not you been stirred up by hearing the singing of others? Others will therefore also be stirred up by your singing.

The Papists in France knew this, and therefore they strictly forbade the singing of psalms and meted out cruel punishment for this—even prior to massacring the church.

Therefore, no longer be silent, but lift up your voices—in spite of the devil and all the enemies of God—to the honor and glory of your God, as this has done you too much good already (and still does) than that you would refrain from thanking the Lord with songs of praise. You must furthermore do so in order that you might stir up others to serve the Lord with gladness. It will then become manifest to all […]

Simplifying Evangelism & Fellowship

Simplify! I’m not one for detailed plans, complicated procedures or more than 10 steps of anything. So I’m always looking for ways to make things more simple. This past week, in studying Psalm 34, King David helped me greatly in this pursuit by showing me that evangelism and fellowship aren’t two different activities of the Christian life, but one and the same. Let me explain. 

A Humble and Triumphant King

“Earthly kings and princes,” writes Edwards, “when they are about to engage in any great and difficult work, will put on their strength, and will appear in all their majesty and power, that they may be successful. But when Christ was about to perform the great work of redeeming a lost world, the wisdom of God took an opposite method, and determined that he should be humbled and abased to a mean state, and appear in low circumstances.”

The Christmas carol composed by Carol Owens underscores this same truth. After asking the question, “How should a king come?” the melodic voices of men and women answer as follows:

“Even a child knows the answer of course, In a coach of gold with a pure white horse. In the beautiful city in the prime of the day, And the trumpets should cry and the crowds make way. And the flags fly high in the morning sun, And the people all cheer for the sovereign one. And everyone knows that’s the way that it’s done. That’s the way that a King should come.”

With repeated emphasis, the earthly pomp of kings is stressed. But near the end of the song, the Gospel emerges. […]

The Night Watcher

From a deep slumber, I awoke suddenly.  I lay in the dark wide awake, certainly no habit of mine.  The clock by our bed showed that it was one-thirty in the morning. In the depth of my sleep, my subconsciousness had alerted me that something unusual was taking place.

Above the sound of my wife’s gentle breathing and the drone of the fan in the hallway, I heard a sound. It was deep, mysterious, rhythmic.  After listening to it three or four times, I realized that what I was hearing was an owl.

We had heard them on a few occasions before. Their call reverberating through the woods fascinated us.  Yet attempts to spot them had been futile.   As I lay listening, I remembered my wife saying she had heard one recently. Having never seen an owl in the wild before, I was hopeful to do so this night.

So I slid out from beneath the covers, leaving my wife undisturbed.  I tiptoed over to the window and lifted the shade. The moon outside was full, casting a silvery glow on the woods behind our house.  The leafless trees stood there silhouetted against the night sky.  Each crook of their limbs and twigs […]

What Must I Be To Pray?

I trust you won’t hold it against me if I told you that I’ve often wondered what makes someone a good prayer. I know, I know, that sounds awfully critical and judgmental—two sins I’m often prone to. But I must admit that I’ve heard people pray in such a way that it has made deep and lasting impressions on me.

I remember one prayer from a man I greatly admire that adored God for his Triunity. God in unity, God in plurality, simple in substance, undivided in nature yet distinct in person and indivisibly united. The content was so rich a theological treatise could have been written from it, and it moved me to worship. But I have also heard profound prayers from the lips of children who, without care or concern for what others would think or say, converse with God with such blessed simplicity I blush that I don’t approach the Throne of Grace with likewise child affections. So, if I’m allowed to ask, what makes a man, woman, or child a good prayer? If it’s not eloquence, wordiness, age, experience—what is it?

I think the answer, or at least one of the answers to that question, is character. The […]

Save Us, Superman!! (And then leave us alone.)

As we look back at some of the most popular films of the past few years, and as we look ahead to movies in production, it is clear that superheroes have captured the imagination of our culture.  If we’re at all into it, we have our favorites.  My nine year old son has thought a lot about superman in particular, and he has concluded that the Man of Steel is, to quote him precisely, “a pansy.”  This is just one of the many reasons I am so proud of my boy.

Superman has it so easy that it’s hard to respect him.  He’s got ridiculous strength, x-ray vision, the power of flight – and to top it all off, a full head of perfectly placed, silken black hair.  (Some of us are particularly envious of that last attribute.) Batman is more like it.  There’s a Gothic grittiness to the dark knight; he works in the shadows and only pretends as Bruce Wayne to like the limelight in order to keep criminals from discovering his secret identity.  And forgive me if this offends you, but the quasi-realism of Batman is precisely why he and Superman should never be in the same story. […]

Guest Post: Ferguson, Staten Island, and Jesus Christ

Our friend, Daniel Howe, posted this thoughtful piece at his blog today. Daniel’s the pastor of Christ RPC in Providence, Rhode Island. Although written for his own church family, I suspect it will be of great help in evaluating and praying over our nation’s current turbulence.

Our church has at least two sets of pastoral needs. About half of those in worship on a given Sunday are African, and about half are American (mainly white), but right now, none are “African-American” – American-born black. I’m writing this note mainly to my church. I want to give you things to remember when you see ugly things happen as they have in Missouri (and, since I started writing this post, in New York City) over the last few weeks. Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island are all over the news, and if you use Facebook or Twitter, all over them, too. Recent events – the refusal of two grand juries to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men – bring to our attention some of America’s most shameful problems and ugliest history.