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Archive | Musings

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, […]

The Death of a Neighbor

I’m told that he ended his life by sitting in a running car in a closed garage.

My mind can’t help but picture the scene. I see him sitting there with a blank stare, a cigarette in hand, smoking one more time. The radio isn’t on. The space is dark.

A man who had been my neighbor for nearly six years recently committed suicide. A co-worker informed me of his death. At first, I didn’t know who he was talking about. He just described cop cars speeding to a particular house. But as he continued to describe various details surrounding the man’s life, I suddenly asked, “Was his name Joel?” “Yes. It was Joel,” came the reply. I sighed deeply and then said, “He used to be my neighbor.”

If I Were to Sin

John said the Bible was written so that “you may not sin.”

But what if I were to sin?

If I were to sin, I would not want to have a god other than the Trinity or worship idols.
For I would become like the false god or the idol I worshipped.
I don’t want to be angry like Allah or blind like a Buddha.
(Psalm 115:1-8)

If I were to sin, I would not want to use the Lord’s name wrongly.
He takes it personally and how could I hurt the One whose very name gives me salvation?
(Exodus 20:7; Acts 4:12)

If I were to sin, I would not want to forget the Sabbath Day.
I would miss too many blessings and ultimately forget the Lord Himself.
(Isaiah 58:13-14)

If I were to sin, I would not dishonor my parents or even roll my eyes at them.
For that is to invite the birds of the valley to peck out those eyes.
(Proverbs 30:17)

If I were to sin, I would not want to mess around with another man’s wife.
For that would be like lighting a fire on my […]

Life Outside the Circle

It is no mere coincidence that when God is rejected virtue and pleasure depart. God is the ultimate source of such things, the fountainhead from which we all partake, reflecting and mirroring as image bearers.

Sin tragically results in separation. When Adam and Eve fell, they were cast from the garden. When Israel sinned, the land vomited them out. When we are saved, we are said to be “in Christ,” a description denoting profound proximity. But before we were made new, the language was different. Distance takes over. “You were once far away…” says Paul, “alienated” and “excluded.” No reconciliation. No closeness. Strangers. Enmity.

Now picture a circle. Write in that circle things like joy, holiness, peace, righteousness, goodness, life, love, justice, truth, beauty. The circle is God. Now stand back and consider the two realms of possibility. There is the circle and there is that which resides outside the circle.

If all joy and righteousness is found inside the circle, what is there to be found outside the circle? Not joy. Not righteousness. Since every last drop of joy exists in the circle, its utter absence resides outside.

But it is more than that. It is not as if the absence of joy […]