Archive by Author

Burning John Calvin in Indiana

Indiana celebrates its bicentennial of statehood this year. Amid all the various commemorations, it’s good to look at our theological roots; we’re still partly shaped by them. Indiana became the nineteenth state while the influence of the Second Great Awakening rippled northward from the Cane Ridge Revival (1801) in Kentucky. Arminianism took hold amid the fervor to take the gospel to the frontier; the reformed doctrine of John Calvin found little foothold by comparison.

Some Presbyterians abandoned their reformed theology and became Cumberland Presbyterians as they migrated to the Hoosier state. Thousands more left Presbyterianism altogether and began the Stone-Campbell Movement or the Restoration Movement of the Disciples of Christ. Stronger still were Arminian Baptists who tended to minimize the importance of education and relied especially on emotion in their pleas to the unconverted. But the Methodists converted the state more than any other with their methodical emphasis and missionary zeal. They sent missionaries to the Indiana frontier in droves and quickly structured life for communities, emphasized methods of the Christian life, and established rudimentary educational systems among wilderness people. All of these groups shaped the theology of the state with their commitment to Arminianism, and their influence is still widely evident. […]

God’s Great Gift of Ice Cream

Vishal Mangalwadi’s work The Book That Made Your World; How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Thomas Nelson, 2011) is a treasure. Ice cream lovers like me will appreciate God’s grace in the gift of readily available ice cream in the West just a little more after reading the book.

From India, Mangalwadi offers unique insights on the Western world through the eyes of an Easterner who has studied the West. A disciple of Francis Schaeffer, he shows Westerners the benefits we have received but often fail to appreciate. In a time when many Christians see the weaknesses in American culture, Mangalwadi reflects on the great things the Lord has done here that we ought to cherish and cultivate.

The book is part philosophy and worldview, part history, part economic treatise, and part missionary biography. He paints a broad brush. One might wish his scholarship were a little tighter in places or might disagree with his analysis of history and conclusions. But he provides a refreshing perspective that is not mere theory from a man writing from a leather chair at a mahogany desk; he’s boldly tried to work out the implications on the ground in rural India in the face […]

Life in Twenty Year Stages

“For some, life’s years are seventy; perhaps the strong may eighty see” Moses wrote in Psalm 90. We should daily remember the brevity of life in order to “count our days and set our hearts on wisdom’s ways.”

How do we count our days that usually amount to seventy or eighty years? One of many ways is to count by twenty year increments. These time blocks give us a general roadmap and help to order our expectations and sense of responsibility in life as we walk before the Lord and ask him to establish the work of our hands here on earth. Of course, we must remember that our value is not ultimately found in what we do but in what Christ has already done for us; we are called to abide in him all of our days. In real life, the division of life’s stages are not this clean; each person’s experience will be different. Take these for what they are – broad generalities. I stand at year forty – halfway; no doubt, others could write more helpfully on the last forty years of life. The basic outline I took from a sermon (I have forgotten the source) some years ago […]

Raising Up Encouragers

Three days ago, I remembered my friend and mentor Dave Long who has just passed into glory. He was a great encourager. When I was in college, he had our Men-In-Training group do a character study of Barnabas. That study ultimately gave rise to the following article on Barnabas and growing in encouragement that I posted four years ago. If the Lord has taken one great encourager from the earth in the last week, then surely he wants to raise up many more among those who remain. So, read and be encouraged to look around today for someone to encourage.

Some people in the church seem to have the spiritual gift of discouragement.  It’s all that guy can do – discourage others. Truthfully, we are all “that guy” far too often. We find it far easier to complain and view circumstances negatively than positively. So, when a person embodies encouragement, we notice. The apostles took note of a such a man named Joseph. They recognized that he was no ordinary Joe. They called him Barnabas instead, which translated means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36).

The church and her saints grew quickly when Barnabas encouraged people. We know from 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 that […]

David W. Long (1955-2016) – My Friend and Mentor

David William Long is now absent from the body but is at home with the Lord having died yesterday at age 60 after battling melanoma. Dave served as pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette, Indiana for 31 years. He ministered deeply to me as he mentored me and others. My reflections here in the midst of my grief are in no way a complete reflection of his life, but they are some of the ways he so deeply touched me. He was not perfect by any means, but I am so grateful that the Lord put him in my life.

My first memory of Dave is not particularly warm. Our church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette was without a pastor, and as a seven year-old, I liked the slow delivery style and gentle manner of the man who filled the pulpit frequently. As a boy, I didn’t understand that he was not a candidate, and so I was rather disturbed when I overheard my mother tell someone else that it looked likely that we would call a certain young man out of seminary – Dave Long. He had been to church to preach, but I had no idea […]

In This Year of Our Lord

If you have never read Vermont Royster’s classic Christmas Eve editorial In Hoc Anno Domini in The Wall Street Journal, do yourself the favor of reading it tomorrow when it is republished. It has appeared annually since it was composed in 1949. Or, you can read it here today. In it, he sets forth one key implication Christ for men and nations. The Wall Street Journal has long-prided itself on reporting the news so that readers immediately understand what today’s news means for the future; In Hoc Anno Domini is an editorial example of the same. Royster editorialized on the influence of Christ in a unique way. He caused readers to consider the historical news of the incarnation (though he did not explicitly articulate it as such) and its influence on their place in history present and future. No wonder the article resonates enduringly.

According to Royster’s biography, “most newspapers [in the late 1949] ran Christmas editorials that were messages of glad tidings, about peace and joy and the babe in the manger.” Years later, Royster noted,

But I did not see the world that way that year. There was a blockade in Berlin, and war clouds were again scudding across the map of Europe. There were the first […]

Chrysostom: The Innumerable Vexations of a Pastor

In high school, I served as a leader in our presbytery’s youth program. After one event, I learned that I had hurt another person by apparently gazing judgmentally from across the room at a certain point. I hadn’t the foggiest memory of any such eye contact, and I had not judged the person in my heart. Recently, an intern showed me that John Chrysostom (349-407 A.D.) faced the same challenge as a pastor in Antioch and Constantinople centuries ago as he recorded in his work On the Priesthood (Book Three). Elders may also feel a certain kinship with Chrysostom in some of his other vexations expressed here:

Again, the judicial department of the bishop’s office involves innumerable vexations, great consumption of time, and difficulties exceeding those experienced by men who sit to judge secular affairs; for it is a labor to discover exact justice, and when it is found, it is difficult to avoid destroying it. And not only loss of time and difficulty are incurred, but also no small danger. For ere now, some of the weaker brethren having plunged into business, because they have not obtained patronage have made shipwreck concerning the faith.

For many of those who have suffered […]

Growing In Jesus on Thanksgiving Day

The Lord, through the Apostle Paul, teaches us that that thanksgiving is the mark of a mature Christian: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7).

So then, how should our cultural Thanksgiving holiday develop maturity in us and the corresponding gratitude of heart? We know that making a mere statement of thanksgiving – whether as a Tweet, Facebook post, or at the Thanksgiving Day table – does not equate to maturity. Rather, biblical thanksgiving flows as we grow and develop by recognizing the many sorrows and joys, gains and losses, defeats and victories of life and still praise the Lord through them.

It’s a great thing to simply rejoice in the obvious expressions of God’s love for us. But it’s been a really hard year for many people. So, on this Thanksgiving Day, perhaps it is also good to begin by thinking about the various low points in our lives over the last year or even at present, to meditate deeply on ways in which the Lord has shown himself faithful, and then to see his […]

What is a Nation? Why does it Matter?

Those interested in the Syrian refugee immigration situation, the role of civil government, and the Protestant concept of nations will be fascinated by this presentation by Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi of India. When Christian thinkers in the East labor to articulate what their nations should be and become, they force Westerners to look more objectively at their own views of God and the world than they otherwise would.

Dr. Mangalwadi was introduced to me by an Indian brother in ministry who loves to find original thinkers in his native culture. Mangalwadi is one such original thinker. Christianity Today has dubbed him “India’s foremost Christian Intellectual.” He has profoundly influenced Indian Christian thought over the last four decades as a Christian philosopher as a teacher and author of more than a dozen books. This disciple of Francis Schaeffer boldly asserts many unpopular truths in the public square. Some have said it is remarkable that he is still alive given his boldness to speak against Hinduism in South Asia.

In this video, Mangalwadi spoke last year to an audience assembled by the Asia Biblical Theological Seminary and Delhi Bible Fellowship in New Delhi, India.  In the first half of the lecture, he postulates that the […]

But You Belong to Me

My grandmother grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. From a young age she was taught to work. By seven years old, her father tasked her with running water to him and the farm hands. He required cold water, so she had to pump at the well until the water came out cold as she filled the earthen crocks – which had first to be emptied of any warm, stale water – and then deliver them to the workers.

Amid all the work, she and her three siblings longed for a bicycle. Her father promised them that when the price of hogs reached twenty-five cents a pound, they could have a bicycle. When market prices rose, they had their bicycle from the Sears Roebuck & Co. catalogue. By propping the bike against the fence to start, she taught herself to ride alongside the fence by the lane. Within no time, and at the cost of a few skinned shins, she was off to the races.

But, there was still water to be pumped, and the bicycle riding would have to wait until the chores were complete. Her father even tried to make the work fun – every task was a competition […]