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Archive | Musings

Prey to Being Positive?

As I round off my preparation for three sermons this Lord’s Day, I’ve been forced to think again of the ‘dangers of being positive’ or ‘criticism for being negative’.
If I’ve already raised your eyebrows, I wonder why that is? Perhaps you’ve fallen foul of some grumpy, gloomy pastors, or been lorded over by elders with hypercritical personalities.
Others may have been tainted by Peel’s ‘Power of Positive Thinking.’ Over-optimism is rife in parts of the West. Educationalists ban criticism as cultural taboo. Self-esteem gurus feed egos with applause.
At risk of being ‘jaundiced against joy’, I’ve often remarked how the ‘positivity police’ who cry ‘stop being negative’, are often among the most negative people I know. They say cheer up but rarely smile themselves.
To get onto something of substance, you might be wondering what has generated this blog on ‘prey to being positive.’ Well Scripture, I hope you notice, is supersaturated with negatives.
A fine example is the text that set me off. “Do not be conformed to this world”. To discover, discern, do & delight in God’s entire will, as living sacrifices, we must refuse to march to the drumbeat of our age.
Paul keeps step with Christ who was negative with no fault. “I am […]

Happily Ever After

Most of us have grown up with a strong affection for books that finish well and fairytales that conclude with ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ Whether it’s ‘Beauty and Beast’ or ‘Snow White and her Handsome Prince’, we don’t enjoy reaching the final page, with a sense of the outcome left hanging or the future appearing bleak or mournful.

With its concrete hope of the future the bible does not disappoint. Though the plan of God starts brightly, the narrative of sin introduces a negative twist, meaning the long journey through the Old Testament, is bumpy at best, if not harrowing and heartbreaking at times. There are lamps to light the route, with bright promises of hope. After the holocaust of Calvary, light dawns at resurrection. From that time on the dimmer switch turns up. Along the New Testament path, there are, of course, tornadoes to hide from and cloud bursts to dampen spirits. As a general trend however, the Gospel beams blaze brighter, as we draw closer to the Day, and as wait in anticipation for the full revelation of glory at the appearing of King Jesus.

I’ve been doing a little research on ‘The End’ of the Kingdom of […]

To Condemn Surfing? Define Your Christianity.

“Protestant missionaries… had forced surfing deep into the shadows… To Calvinists, surfing was a sinful exercise, leading only to unbridled licentiousness and godless impiety. Go surfing they pronounced from their pulpits, and eternal flames awaited.” Pacific, 131.

Simon Winchester (one of my favorite authors) makes this passing statement  about surfing and 1820’s Hawaiian Calvinism. Calvinism is condemned in less than forty words in the midst of a 492 page book which concerns the ecological, international, and economic importance of the Pacific Ocean. Why did Calvinism get discredited in the midst of a discussion on the ocean? With no footnote or historical anecdote, the assertion was made that Calvinists believe that surfing leads to hell’s flame.

I am not arguing that such condemnations have never been made. Somewhere someone at some time has most-likely condemned wave riding, yet Winchester’s statement demonstrates that outside of the church people have presuppositions about what defines the Christian. People assume they know what is Christianity. That assumption is based on how we reflect Christianity; how we define it. To an unbelieving world, we define Christianity, not in our words only — but also in our actions.

What defines you?

What defines your Christianity?

Is it defined by a condemnation of surfing or some other lawful activity? Is […]

Ten Truths For Thomas

I’ve just about finished writing an article on ‘Preparing to Preach Isaiah’, and having deposited 4k of weariness onto the treadmill, I’m in a position to type a few brief thoughts on the folly of unbelief and the overwhelming reasons Isaiah provides for faith in Israel’s God.

My targets in this article are Doubting David’s and Skeptical Sarah’s – which in the end basically means all of us at one time or another. in life’s varied faith-shaking circumstances.

Isaiah shows us what unbelief leads to – idolatry, rebellion, moral decay, judgment and exile as he explains in chapter 1 (and at various other points in the book).
Isaiah shows us what is in store for believing people from all nations who stream to Zion in chapter 2.1-6.
Isaiah shows why God really hates unbelief and idolatry because He is Holy, Holy, Holy and has given us a holy calling, so if you are tempted to doubt fall down on your face before God in chapter 6.1-8.
Isaiah makes the most stupendous predictions (in spite of what some continue to insist) of the most remarkable events such as the Virgin Birth of the Saviour in chapter 7.14, the everlasting Government of the Messianic Son of David in chapter 9.6-8, […]

Let Justice Roll Down

It has been a tumultuous week. Of course, in a very unfortunate way that almost seems normal. Turmoil, discord, confusion, and anarchy appear to be the new normal. That’s the society we live in. Recent headlines only confirm it. We have learned this week that the politically elite are not subject to the same laws as the governed, and dishonesty is an excusable offense so long as one is seeking to protect a reputation. We have again been troubled by the graphic and complicated images of those gunned down by police. We hear of the ways in which truth is being suppressed and efforts are being made to mute and silence religious convictions. We have watched again as those who have sworn to maintain peace have been, in a very calculated manner, executed on the street. Turmoil. Discord. Confusion. Anarchy. It leaves the world crying for justice because, in a very real sense, people see that things are not as they should be.

It’s difficult to know what to say in response. Even as I sit here and let my fingers do my thinking my own mind has tossed and turned and my reflections have taken a new direction. To desire […]

Friction

Recently I was out in the woods hauling some things with a wheelbarrow. As I tromped down the hill, with the weeds, grass, and briars brushing against my legs and arms, I was concerned about getting poison ivy. Then I remembered seeing this video about how to never contract it again (proving Facebook does have some value!).

The message of the video, delivered by Dr. Jim Brauker, is that the urishiol oil in poison ivy must remain on your skin for some time to create the itchy rash. Since this oil is undetectable to the eye and adheres to the skin, it is easy for it to remain on your body. Using very visible axle grease to demonstrate, in the video Brauker shows different ways you get the oil on your skin and then, with his hands and arms blackened by the grease, goes inside to clean up. Brauker uses different soaps and proves that none of them is the true answer to getting rid of the oil. The key is (you guessed it from the title) friction. He uses soap and running water with a cloth, and carefully cleans the axle grease off by rubbing it. He explains in the video that most people get […]

A Memorial Day Meditation

number of years ago now our family took a vacation eastward and southward where we focused on learning more about the Civil War. We had been studying this war in our home schooling curriculum. Being able to see some of the sights added value to our education.

As we traveled, we read books and listened to tapes that told stories of the war. Yet we also visited a few places to see what we were reading.

We stopped in Gettysburg, heard of Pickett’s Charge, and read Abraham Lincoln’s address.  As most of the war was fought on southern territory, it was fascinating to learn more of General Lee’s attempt to try to take the war to the Yankees. The great number of men who lost their lives in this battle was staggering.

Our favorite sight on this journey ended up being the private Pamplin Park near Richmond, Virginia. This four hundred plus acre site was extremely well-maintained, preserving the location of the April 2, 1865, “Breakthrough” battle which led to the evacuation of the Confederate capital at Richmond. This park also featured the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier. As we walked through this interactive display, our imaginations were triggered by the audio recounting and memorabilia all […]

“How Are You?” – and other declarations of malice

Imagine that you’re severely stressed.   Maybe that’s not too much of  a stretch for you right now.  If you’re anything like me in tense times, then in addition to stress-pounding Skittles to cope, you develop an irrational suspicion of other people’s motives when they encounter you in your turmoil.  Someone asks “How are you?”  But the inquirer seems afraid, and you interpret the nervous eyes to say:  “The answer to my question is any number of positive words, followed by your grateful acknowledgement of my asking.”  If you do give an upbeat answer, no matter how dishonest, and you follow it up with your thanks, no matter how insincere, you think you spy in their smiling response not only happiness, but relief.  And that makes you boil.  Or, someone just looks at you in your stress but doesn’t ask how you’re doing, and you get mad about what seems to be an obvious lack of concern and you suspect that they’re silently condemning you.  Either way, they can’t win.  Stress and the charitable judgement of others are not natural friends.

Stopping by Foggy Books on a Spring Day

Having just briefly dipped into B.B. Warfield’s ancient tome, on ‘the Inspiration and Authority of the Bible’, eager to glean some tips on ‘God-breathed’, otherwise affectionately known as ‘Theopneustos’, I thought I would pen a few random thoughts on the difficulty of reading highly-technical scholarly works.

Being a pastor with a side-interest in languages, and having a certain familiarity with Hebrew, Greek and Latin, I have to confess to being a little overwhelemed at the depth of linguistic knowledge required to decipher one of the chapters.

This work, brothers, frankly, is seriously heavy going; the material Warfield covers is beyond the competence of most pastors; without linguisic accumen the arguments are difficult, if not impossible, to follow or carefully weigh; yet, as most recognise, this also is an important book [at least in it’s day] – this stimulated me to muse on the vital importance of godly bible scholars.

It is much to be lamented, and dangerous for the Church, if she does not seek, by all means in her power, to remedy the longterm, slow decline in ‘classical’ education. The study of ancient cultures and languages have long proved a safeguard against the intrusion of serious error into the Body of Christ.

Certainly not […]

A Brief Reflection on Ephesians 2:7

“4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

————–

One of the astonishing things to be observed in Ephesians 2:7 is its future scope. Our being raised and seated with Christ in the heavenly places is designed to show forth the immeasurable riches of God’s grace. But note when this will be manifested. Paul declares that this will occur “in the coming ages.”

What is it about the riches, nay, the immeasurable riches of God’s grace that will be more clearly manifested in the future? Hasn’t such grace already been made plain?

It no doubt has. So in what way will it be made to shine more brightly?

Perhaps this is simply a matter of our more adequately apprehending its depths. Maybe once we are transformed in the twinkling of an eye, and once we behold […]