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Archive | Musings

Praying for our Nations

As I write this, the people of Scotland are voting on whether or not they want to remain in the United Kingdom. A remarkable 97% of the people have registered to vote in the referendum, and the turnout at the polls is expected to be the highest in Scottish history – remarkable indeed in a climate of electoral apathy. As I write, the result is impossible to predict – experts reckon it could be decided by a margin as slender as 60,000 votes. The polling organisation Ipsos Mori are saying 51% yes, 49% no.

 

As a Northern Irish citizen of the United Kingdom, I have heard and read plenty of arguments over the last few months as to why Scottish independence would be either the kiss of life or the kiss of death to both Scotland and the rest of the UK. In the ‘yes’ camp and in the ‘no’ camp experts hold forth eloquently, persuasively, passionately, supporting their arguments with telling and pertinent statistics. And then the other side comes back with forceful counter-arguments and equally plausible statistics. It’s all too easy to become like the sheep in Animal Farm who just believed whoever spoke last! How do we pray about [...]

iDolatry

First, a disclosure.  I have an iPad and and an iPhone.  These tools are wonderful helps to me.  After a few double or missed bookings because my wife and I were unaware of each other’s calendars, this summer I synchronized them on these devices (after I convinced her to not use the large printed one anymore in our kitchen).  In teaching, I love how easy it is to plug my iPad into the projector so my students can follow my notes.  I just discovered the Doceri app (I’m always a little behind), which allows me to use my iPad as a whiteboard as it projects what I write on the screen.  Having my iPhone on my commutes saves me invaluable time, as I catch up on phone calls, listen to SermonAudio, or even record sermon or blog thoughts (including these) that I speak out loud in the semi-privacy of my car.  Though far from tech savvy, I am fairly integrated and love these tools.

Yet I am uneasy.  My hand seems to reach for my iDevices automatically, without thinking.  Some nights I stay up too late catching up on emails or just reading the news or blogs.  I find it more difficult to [...]

The Sound of Faith

What is faith? Sometimes we answer that question with closely associated words. “Faith is trust,” someone may say. Or, “Faith is belief,” says another. The older theologians—whom we would do well to follow—speak of it as a “firm and sure knowledge” and a “confidence.” Generally speaking, it’s agreed that faith is made up of knowledge, assent, and trust because it engages the mind and the will. To say it a little more poetically in the words of Martin Luther, “Faith is a living, daring confidence on God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times.”

Now all of that is very good as far as it goes. But, what if we let faith speak for itself? Speak for itself! Does faith have a mouth? Does it have a voice with which to speak? It does! And this living, daring confidence finds expression in a hundred–probably a thousand–different ways, on the pages of Scripture. Open your Bible and see if you can hear the sound of faith. It’s everywhere:

Faith is heard in the trust for provision, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Gen 22:8). It’s heard [...]

The Power of Memory

With my Uncle Don passing away this week, my mom lost both her brothers within a span of a few months.  Sadly, her dementia makes it impossible for me to relate to her what has taken place.

However, just a few weeks ago, Don and Mom spoke on the phone ever so briefly.  I saw in my Mom’s brightening eyes and emotional voice the signs she knew it was her brother on the line.

The videos below, one of an old trainer visiting his elephant after fifteen years of separation, and the other of an Alzheimer patient having a moment of recognition of her daughter lying beside her, capture the power of memories.

These events remind us of the importance of such things as lifelong bonds of love, of continuing to love the forgetful and wayward, and of the hope in calling people to remember the gospel that they so long ago seem to have forgotten.  “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9).

 

Scar Stories

With her Carolina twang, Mommy told me to go let Daddy know that supper was ready. Heading out the front door of our little house on the dead end of the gravel road, I saw Daddy across the creek that ran through our property. He was clearing brush from the bank. As I headed toward him to deliver the message Sally, our black-coated collie, came eagerly over to greet me.

Sally was chained to a metal stake Daddy sometimes used to pitch horseshoes. As she wagged her tail and rubbed against me, the chain she dragged caught around my left foot, knocking me off balance. As I pitched forward, the top of my right foot, as bare as the other one, drug across the jagged edge of the horseshoe pipe. My errand to call Daddy to supper turned into a scream of pain as I looked and saw the top of my foot flayed open, blood pouring out.

My mind has blocked out much of the rest of the memories of that day when I was no more than five years of age. I remember Daddy and Mr. Jackson, the kind corn farmer who lived across the road, carrying me toward the [...]

Summer Blueberry Thoughts

Having just returned from vacationing near Lake Michigan, knowing my children will return to school tomorrow, and even seeing some leaves starting to turn because of the cool weather, I am reminded of how quickly the summer is ending.  Though not quite a paper on “What I did on My Summer Vacation,” here are a few of many reflections.

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Since the days of high school in dating Miriam, I have spent weeks of every summer in Western Michigan with her family.  Except last year when we moved and her mother passed away.  So it was a delight to return there.  Once again we took a morning with her dad to pick blueberries.  I will never tire of the wonder of the “wasted” abundance of the berries, with nearly as many overripe ones having fallen on the ground and overlooked ones remaining on the plant as ones actually picked by us and others. When Jesus fed the five thousand and they had ample leftovers, He was simply acting in accordance with His nature as God in overflowing with  generosity.

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With a friend for accountability, I resumed a pen and paper journal after a long hiatus.  I felt the [...]

Podcast: Satan’s Awful Idea

Recently our fellow blogger, Austin Brown, self-published a book entitled Satan’s Awful Idea with the subtitle A Biblical Theology of Satan’s Fall and Its Implication on the Unfolding Human Drama.  Combining his knowledge gleaned from years of listening to reformed podcasts on his mail route, his love of reading theological tomes, and his vivid imagination, in this work Austin addresses the question of how it is that Satan, originally an archangel in heaven, could convince himself and legions of other angels that rebelling against God would be a good idea. Clearly the record shows it was not!

Knowing for a few years that Austin was working on this project, and aware that the Biblical record is scant on this particular subject, I was intrigued with how he could develop this topic.  He did so using a speculative theology approach, which takes subjects clouded in mystery (other examples would be the decrees of God or the theodicy question) and addresses them philosophically using inferences from Scripture and insights from other theologians. Though I have told Austin I’d like to see a shorter version (it’s nearly 300 pages long!), some more editing, and I lean a bit more toward an Edwardian approach than he does (you’ll have to listen [...]

Libations of Prayer

O loving Father,

  When our hope begins to fade

  And our strength fails,

Again you send Your servants

  To come alongside us,

  Visible, tangible messengers of Your care.

 

In prayer we cling to ancient promises

  With brokenhearted faith that cries,

  Weeping yet once again over loss.

Their tears fall together with ours,

  Forming on faces and floors

  The sweetest libations of Your Spirit.

 

As we arise from sacred moment,

  To look through bleary eyes

  Upon pained yet radiant faces,

We behold the glory of a Savior

  Who, having shed tears and blood,

  Even now fellowships with us.

The Best Post Ever!! It Will Have You in Tears!! Of Joy!! And Mourning!!

A little while ago, I began noticing facebook links with a similar pattern:

“The Cutest Kittens Ever! #3 Will Leave You Smiling for Days!”

“You Won’t Believe These Sunrises! #20 Made Me Cry!”

“This three year old is the funniest dancer ever!!”

And so on. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why these things bothered me so much; I just knew they did. My only rebuttal was simply not clicking on the links. Until now. 

In the Face of Jesus Christ

Picture for a moment an inquisitive child. That shouldn’t be too hard since most children are experts at asking questions! What if the child came to you and said, “Excuse me, will you explain the brightness of the sun?” Now, perhaps some of you could give a better answer to that question than I can. But, I have to admit I’d be tempted to say in the most helpful way possible, “The brightness of the sun is that it’s really…bright.” And, I fear, that wouldn’t be helpful at all.

 

In some ways the brightness of the sun defies explanation. The closest I can come to an answer is to say that the brightness of the sun is that thing by which I see all other things. The reason I can see the tree outside of my window at this moment, is because the sun shines on it. And the brighter the sun shines, the more plainly I see. Not only the tree, but the blades of grass in my yard too.

 

I find myself grappling with the same difficulty when I think about the glory of God. The glory of God [...]