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The Battle of the Psalter

Have you ever heard of the The Battle of the Psalter? Perhaps our generation has been so busy waging the so-called “worship wars” that we have often forgotten our history. Take a moment to enjoy the story of Columba and The Battle of the Psalter:

Columba (c. 521-597 A.D.), known as the “apostle of Scotland,” was born of royalty in Ireland in the generations following Patrick (c. 390-461 A.D.). Most of what is known of Columba has been passed down in Adamnan’s Life of Saint Columba and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. These histories are full of legend – a mix of truth and error. Some modern historians question whether Columba’s missionary significance has been overrated simply because he had biographers while many of his contemporaries did not. In spite of our uncertainty of the truth of all the details, the story of Columba and the Battle of the Psalter is worth retelling.

He was raised in Ireland until he went to Scotland in 563. Legend has it that when Columba was a child, Cruithnechan, the man who had baptized him, was called on to recite Psalm 101 at a public festival. The boy Columba barely knew his alphabet, but when the old man’s voice faltered, […]

Praying for Your Leaders?

It is easy to become frustrated with politics and government. It is easy for us to throw up our hands as Christians and say, “Well, politics is not the essence of Christ’s kingdom, so I’m just not going to invest much (if any) energy there.” Some find it discouraging because it seems that we are often “losing” political battles. But friends, we are only really losing when we are unfaithful to Jesus. Even the martyrs know that they won even though they lost in the face of persecution from earthly authorities as they stood for truth (Revelation 6:9-10). If we are being faithful in Christ, then we are always winning. So, it might be a good time to ask if you are being faithful to God’s call on your life with respect to your leaders, especially as lawmakers take up their work afresh across our land in the month of January.

There will always be considerable debate about what God requires of us as we relate to government. But we are all to pray for our leaders; that is one indisputable truth. Paul urges in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and […]

Exploring Our Identity

Many of us have gone to our ancestral homes – or are still there – over the holidays with extended family. These can be wonderful, and sometimes less-than-wonderful, times of discovering something of our identity. It could be something about the origin of simple traditions that make life colorful – like this year learning about the great-great-great-aunt who bequeathed us the recipe for biscuits that we still use on Christmas Eve. My grandmother told us that Aunt Mary was a “short lady who was pretty good sized and really liked her biscuits!” That’s the kind of ancestor you want to learn biscuit recipes from…and the kind of ancestor you want to learn to learn moderation from.

Or, we might ask deeper questions. Who are we? Where did we come from? What is in our background? It helps us understand who we are in the present. If you are with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, you might be asking some of those kinds of questions about your identity this year.

Jesus identity mattered too. When Jesus was born, he came into the world through his ancestral home of Bethlehem. Caesar Augustus may have thought he was directing the census recorded in Luke 2, […]

Sabbath School Teacher Appreciation

The following are inexact excerpts from an informal address delivered last week at a Sabbath School teacher appreciation banquet in the congregation of my youth, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette, Indiana. Names in selected personal stories have sometimes been altered to protect the guilty, the victims, and the bystanders:


Good evening and thank you for inviting me to be with you tonight. I do appreciate your labors in the Lord as you teach the children week by week. Having grown up in this congregation, I can appreciate the price you pay.

One of my earliest memories of Sabbath School class here came in the northwest classroom on the second floor of the old church house on Hays Street. I was probably four years old. Billy, John, and I were students in the preschool class – there might have been a fourth, I can’t remember. Two Purdue University graduate students, Mr. Ford and Mr. Bond, served our teachers. The ratio of two teachers to three or four students gives you a sense of how the Christian Education Committee had sized up the student body. Apparently, on this particular week, we were a bit rowdy at the table as the class […]

Listen Up!

Everyone is talking about Ferguson. I can add nothing new regarding the grand jury decision and the specifics on the ground. Most of us can do nothing about it either. However, many say that we need to take time to listen given the height of emotions and the various reasons for them in our current race-relations climate. For instance, Lecrae’s thoughts can be found here. Thabiti Anyabwile longs for the same here.  We need to listen, even if we think the speakers might be wrong. Very little is being said about how to listen. Listening on the internet or to the television is not sufficient. It does not count for much. This post is written to encourage us all to dialogue face to face with those of other ethnic heritages.

Biblical authors like Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:17) and John (1 John 1:14) longed to see those whom they addressed face to face. Paul did the hard thing and looked Peter in the face when he disagreed with him (Galatians 2:11). Jesus looked directly at those with whom he disagreed (Luke 20:17), and he was moved with compassion when he saw hurting people (John 11:33). Face to face contact changes the dynamic. […]

For Your Thanksgiving Day Table

If you are looking to read one of the old American Thanksgiving Day proclamations around your table this year, here is the 1781 proclamation by Thomas McKean, President of the Congress of the United States.

Remember that this proclamation was issued a week after Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown. Notice the detailed list of specific reasons for thanks to God – if you had to make a similar list for our nation this year, what would you include?

President Obama usually issues his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation on Thursday; you will find it at


By the United States, in Congress


Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of Mercies, remarkably to assist and support the United States of America in their important struggle for liberty against the long-continued efforts of a powerful nation, it is the duty of all ranks to observe and thankfully acknowledge the interpositions of his Providence in their behalf; – Through the whole of the contest from its first rise to this time the influence of Divine Providence may be clearly perceived in many signal instances, of which we mention but a few: –

In revealing the counsels of our enemies, when the discoveries were seasonable and […]

Why Joy Increases Through Evangelism

We all struggle with discouragement as Christians. We wonder, “Why I am I not more joyful?” One of the ways joy grows in our lives is through the practice of evangelism. Many people I know say that if they are discouraged, one helpful diagnostic question they ask themselves is “when was the last time I spoke to a person who does not yet believe in Christ about the kingdom of God?” The Lord delights to multiply our joy by calling us into the harvest fields with him. He just does.

The seventy-two that Jesus sent out in Luke 10 experienced this increase in joy first-hand. Their circumstances and calling were not identical to ours, but our gladness will grow similarly as we serve as Jesus’ witnesses in our own settings. Why does joy grow when we proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to those yet apart from Christ?

Joy increases through evangelism because we see the power of God at work. Luke 10:17 records “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’” Jesus said of what he had seen while they were on their mission “I saw Satan falling like lightning […]

Praying for Home-Grown Laborers

Instructive words for our own day from B. W. McDonnold’s History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church:

“There is a wonderful difference between the growth of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the two States to which this chapter is devoted. In Indiana there are now (1885) but three presbyteries; in Illinois there are ten. There is one thing indicated both by recent statistics and by this early history which may help to explain the difference. In Illinois from the beginning there was a vigorous struggle to raise up a home supply of preachers. Fast-days were appointed on which all the congregations joined in prayer that God would call and send forth men of his own choosing to preach the gospel. God answered these prayers, as he will do today in all our frontier presbyteries if, instead of clamoring for more preachers to come from the older States, they will ask God to call their own sons into the work.”

Historical note: The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was formed in 1810 by Presbyterians ejected from the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in the Cumberland River valley of Kentucky who loosened the requirements of subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith. In particular, the denomination effectively rejected the reformed […]

There We Stood

My college roommate and I were torn. Purdue football was in a season of rebirth in 1997 under new head-coach Joe Tiller; the team had opened the season 6-2. We had just returned from a blast of a road trip with friends to Iowa City’s Kinnnick Stadium the prior week – a blast even if the Hawkeyes had snapped our six-game winning streak. Next, Nick Saban’s Michigan State Spartans were coming to West Lafayette, Indiana on November 8.

Simultaneously, Dr. Roy Blackwood arranged for Dr. James Montgomery Boice to speak in Indianapolis on November 7-8. Dr. Blackwood had long prayed and labored to bring reformed theology to Indiana – a state that was most influenced by the Restoration Movement, frontier Methodism, Cumberland Presbyterianism, and dispensationalism. Very little that could be considered reformed existed by the mid-twentieth century in Indianapolis. Dr. Blackwood had successfully recruited others in the 1980s like Dr. John Gerstner to come and speak, but interest was not widespread in the city. As in many places in the late twentieth century, interest reformed theology began to gain attention in the area through church planting and the influence of ministries like Ligonier. Blackwood taught some seminary-level classes himself over the […]

Not Just a Soup Kitchen

Does your local church faithfully minister in the area of mercy? Many of us likely cringe a bit at that question. Perhaps the reason we do not like our own answer to that question is due to ignorance, confusion, fear, lack of leadership, or simply hard-heartedness. So, what is the way forward? When Jesus taught on the ministry of compassion, he often did so through stories – the parable of the Good Samaritan is foremost among them. Those stories then give way to instruction in the ministry of mercy.

Dr. David Apple’s new book Not Just a Soup Kitchen: How Mercy Ministry in the Local Church Transforms Us All follows the same pattern. Apple has been director of Active Compassion Through Service at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for over twenty-five years.

The book opens with Apple’s own biography of having twice been the wounded man on the side of the road like the man on the Jericho Road. He also experienced a hundred other hurts. He writes “This book is partially the story of how God transformed my life after surviving a near-death skull-fracture, childhood sexual abuse, teenage hopelessness, marital betrayal, spiritual bankruptcy and thoughts of suicide as an adult.” The […]