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Ashley Madison, Sin, and Judgment

The Greek philosopher Plato once told a story about an ancient and magical artifact known as the Ring of Gyges. This ring possessed the power to grant invisibility to the one who wore it. Such an invisible person was given near limitless anonymity and could–it is supposed–do almost anything they wanted to without the fear of getting caught. The story is intended to be a thought-experiment. The question at issue is whether or not the invisible person would use their power for good or bad. How would you use it? If you had the guarantee that you’d never be caught, what would you do?

Apparently for some, such anonymity was used to create profiles on the social website, Ashley Madison whose tag line is: “Life is short. Have an affair.” This Proverbs 7 website exists for the explicit purpose of encouraging and cultivating an atmosphere where people can secretly break their marital vows and engage in adultery–and all under the guise of near-invisibility. It boasts of over 39-million anonymous users. It promises 100% discreet services. It has even received trusted security awards. But, as it has now become apparent, Ashley Madison has overpromised and underdelivered. As almost everyone has probably read […]

The Local Pastor’s Special Joys

Perhaps it is the more reflective days that summer brings.  Could be seeing old friends or at least hearing news from them. Or maybe I could chalk it up as a form of “holy coveting.” On the other hand, it could be caused by hearing one too many pastors cyber-whining about their workload.  Whatever the cause, I have been reflecting on what I miss about being a pastor of a local congregation.

I write not to lament, for I am joyfully serving in the new position the Lord brought me to over two years ago now. Rather, I have just been noting some of the aspects of local pastoral work that I do miss being a part of my life now. Perhaps sharing these five joys I no longer experience in the same way will help a preacher out there find fresh appreciation for his work, or some congregants be more thankful for their pastor’s ministry.

Regularly Preaching to the Same Flock. Though I have opportunities to preach in my new role, and enjoy those times, there is nothing like preaching to people you have really come to know after years spent with them.  The man who has the duty of weekly bringing God’s Word to the flock he […]

The Joys of a Multi-Author Blog

Before I begin to give what the title suggests, one clarification must be given.  This post should not be interpreted as a slam on single-author blogs or be read as if there is a sense of superiority seeking to seep through these words. After all, almost all of my favorite blogs are written by one person, and I marvel at their creativity and productivity. And the best of these, if you really think about it, have a multi-author quality to them anyway as they link to other sites, interact with fellow bloggers, or invite guest columnists.  Like a single rose or a bouquet, both types of blogs can have their own beauty.

Here then are seven joys I experience as part of being on this blog with others.

Standing together.  Though each of the guys here is his own man, with a unique personality and approach to ministry, on the big, confessional matters we stand shoulder-to-shoulder.  How strengthening it is to share the same convictions with brothers in the Lord as we address the various issues of the day.

Relieving the pressure.  I realized long ago that my well, unlike others who are more disciplined and creative, could not fill up fast enough to be a […]

A Disciple of Mary?

I have often said that July is the best time to work through Jesus’s birth narratives. July is far enough away from December 25 that the emotional trappings of the day are not winning your heart. July is also far enough away from late September, when Costco starts to put out the manger scenes and yard Santas. July is perfect for studying the birth of Jesus! If I were a holy day keeping man (other than the Sabbath), I would propose July 12 as the Presbyterian and Reformed Birth Narrative Day of Remembrance and Cerebral Celebration through Pious Thoughts. But I am not a holy day keeper (other than the Sabbath), and this article is not a presbyteri-rant against the C-word.

In my family worship we have been begun studying the Gospel of Luke. What has impressed me as we have begun in the first two chapters is the faith and piety of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Luke 1:34-38 says,

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth […]

Shepherd the Shepherd

It wasn’t until I was nearly twenty-two years old that I first became a member of a church. In the college town where I was, there was a small Presbyterian congregation that seemed to fit with my changing convictions. I was and still remain thankful for the three years I spent there before going to seminary. As a dating couple my wife and I were taken under the wings of the pastor and his wife, we enjoyed a lot of friendships and fellowship, I was learning a lot, and it was also the church where I preached my first sermon! However, all of this was mixed with profound sorrow when spiritual tragedy struck our small congregation.

Only weeks after he married us it was discovered that our pastor was being unfaithful to his wife of twenty-five years. His family was left utterly shattered and broken as a result of his sin. But his adultery also affected each member of the congregation in different ways. For my family—as we looked toward seminary and the pastorate—this was deeply discouraging. I remember telling my wife with tears that if this would be the result of my future ministry then I’d rather not even begin […]

Am I Being Discerning or Critical?

About six years ago someone I know–one of my seminary professors–shared with me a concern he had regarding my critical spirit. The conversation went like this: “You know Kyle, if there was a seminary degree on being a critical person, you’d be at the top of the class.” Okay, it wasn’t much of a conversation as I simply sat there and received his honest assessment of my character. It hurt. I don’t want to be a critical person. But he said it because he saw in me the same critical spirit he’d known to be true of himself. All I could do is say, “Yes, I’m a critical person.” And I am. I’m critical of other people. I’m critical of their personalities. I’m critical of their weaknesses. I’m critical of their views. I’m critical of their opinions. I’m critical of their way of doing things. I’m critical of their theological convictions. I’m a critical person. And that experience had a profound effect on me. It caused me to consider my own heart which has a natural bent toward being disagreeable and argumentative with others–and it made me realize that my critical spirit isn’t a spiritual gift to be embraced, it’s […]

In Their Own Words: “No Middle Ground”

Normally I like to avoid false dichotomies. Simply defined, a false dichotomy is when two alternatives are presented as the only possible options, unnecessarily forcing someone into an either/or situation. Keep your ears open and you’ll hear how often people make this mistake! That’s why I was a bit hesitant the first time I read this: “The Catholic Church is either the masterpiece of Satan or the kingdom of the Son of God.” Or, again: “Either the Church of Rome is the house of God or the house of Satan; there is no middle ground between them.” And yet again: “If the power over the human mind and the infallible possession of Divine truth claimed by the Catholic hierarchy did not really come from God, the claim would be horrible blaspheme, and the hierarchy would be the work of the devil.”

Before I risk the accusation of being uncharitable, it may surprise you to learn that these weren’t written by protesting Protestants. Actually, they’re written by some of the Catholic Church’s popular and influential clergy and theologians—to be precise, Blessed John Henry Newman, Cardinal Henry Manning, and Matthias Scheeben. In their own words these thoroughly committed Roman Catholics are absolutely persuaded […]

Vanity Fair: Just Passing Through

Vanity Fair “broke the internet” with a story of shock and shame. As the church reflects on the way in which the world has responded with glee, we must be mindful that we live in Vanity Fair. As Christians, we ought not to be surprised; we need to realize that we live in the midst of a world that is hostile to God and his glory.

The pretentious and wonderful Oxford English Dictionary defines Vanity Fair as “a place or scene where all is frivolity and empty show; the world or a section of it as a scene of idle amusement and unsubstantial display.”

As the world screams “wonderful” and the church groans in disgust, we must remember where Vanity Fair got its name.

Then I saw in my dream, that when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair. It is kept all the year long. It beareth the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity, and also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is […]

Sacrifices by Fire

I knew the day would come.

My life like yours is becoming increasingly a digital one.  I am moving more and more away from filing papers to storing items electronically.  I knew one day those three big, rusting, steel filing cabinets in our basement, sitting there like artifacts in a museum in that they remind you of the past but are rarely visited, would be emptied and removed. Sure, important documents would still be kept in a small filing cabinet or security box. But why keep paper files of items already stored on multiple devices and backed up in the cloud?

The past few days it finally happened.  A desire to declutter our basement drove me to do it.  What satisfaction it was to haul those cabinets out to the curb and, literally within minutes and without any summons, have a guy named Dan stop by in a pickup truck and haul them away to be scrapped.

Yet the joy of being free of the cabinets’ bulkiness turned into a bit of unexpected melancholy as I pulled the wagon filled with their contents over to the fire pit.  Now it was time to burn these papers, which mostly meant for me watching over two decades of […]

The Hospital is Full of Sick People!

I’m shocked! I mean absolutely shocked! Now, I don’t normally write in order to rant. I’m a firm believer that people have better things to do than read my rants–or anyone’s for that matter. But if I don’t say something I know I’m going to bottle it up and I’ll probably have a hard time sleeping–maybe even a hard time functioning as a normal human being. And if I don’t warn you, you might also experience what I did and I can’t even bear the thought. The craziest thing happened to me today. Can I tell you about it?

Here’s what happened. I decided to go and visit a hospital. I didn’t go because I felt sick. In fact, I felt just fine. I went simply to scope the place out. Now, I don’t do that on a regular basis and what I’m about to tell you will probably be so disturbing that you will never want to step foot in a hospital again. And, truth be told, I can’t blame you. Yes, you can thank me latter. Anyway, I got into the hospital and was waiting in the lobby and quickly found out that I was surrounded by coughing, sneezing, […]