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Archive | Musings

Mole Patrol

In cleaning out the tool shed upon moving into our home two years ago, I almost tossed out the funny looking, conical-shaped container of half-used mole poison left behind by the previous owner.  Yet instead of seeing the yellow bottle as potential trash, I should have seen it as a prophetical forewarning of battles yet to come.

For though there was no sign of them in my lawn last year, the end of this summer and early fall changed all that. The attack started simply enough. I noticed a few raised areas on the edge of my property. Thinking little of it, I stamped them down and walked away with a smug “that’ll show them” attitude. I shake my head now thinking of how inexperienced at war I was!

For before I knew what had happened, their boots in the ground campaign turned my yard into what looks like someone’s idea of an upside down battlefield. Trenches pushing earth upward hiding the soldiers. Mounds of earth every few feet in certain areas forming upside down craters, as if small bombs had exploded underground. Supply lines of tasty grubs below fueling the troops onward. Exhausting my leftover bottle of poison in one area only to have […]

In Appreciation of C.S. Lewis

Yesterday was the fifty-second anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. Though his death was eclipsed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy on the same day, his legacy has endured. While half a century has passed, in the minds of many he remains one of the most successful and influential Christian thinkers of the twentieth century. Personally, I am very thankful for the man and his writings. That may sound strange to some. After all, I have my differences. I’m Presbyterian and he was Anglican. I’m a Calvinist, he wasn’t. I think Christ’s atonement is central, in his impatience he was ambiguous. I believe in the full authority of the Bible, he did not. But despite these and other differences—which are significant—his writings have had a profound effect on me.

C.S. Lewis taught me that Christianity doesn’t have to be mindless. I grew up in the heart of broad-evangelicalism. It was the kind, you might say, that didn’t encourage serious reflection and thought. To put it candidly it was a fairly brainless Christianity. That changed when I first encountered the mind of Lewis in Mere Christianity. Though I’ve moved beyond that book in many ways, it was there I first […]

Some Dogmatic Thoughts on Grace

When I was five years old, my parents took me and my sister to a farm – I think it was a farm – I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings so much as the reason for the trip.  We were getting a puppy!  Pretty soon I was standing in front of a wire-fenced, makeshift kennel in which a litter of mutts happily yipped and played together.  They were a mix of Golden Retriever and German Shepherd, and the one with a white tip on his tail immediately caught my attention.  So did the fact that he nipped me.  Yep, this was going to be our dog. 

Bearing The Cross of Silence

Attention is often given to the words of Jesus. Rightly so! He is wisdom incarnate and his words are a wellspring of truth and life. But I wonder if you’ve ever paused to think about what Jesus didn’t say. I still remember the day, as a nervous seminary student, when I got off the pulpit and a man in the congregation to which I was preaching publicly said, “Judas Iscariot could preach a better sermon.” Now, there’s two things you should know about me. The first is that I sometimes take criticism very personally. Second, I can be reactionary. So as these devastating words fell on my ears you can probably imagine how I wanted to respond. But it was out of this experience–and like I said, I’m not trying to be counterproductive–that I first began to notice the silence of Jesus and what it meant to bear the same cross.

The Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle once wrote: “Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves. Speech too is great, but not the greatest. Speech is silver, silence is golden.” Now, if there’s an element of truth in those words it’s surely seen in Jesus’ own silence. His silence […]

Look at the Fish!

We live in a hurried society. We live in a society that tells the microwave to hurry up. We live in a time when we can get anything we want as soon as we want it. Think of the entertainment that streams from our internet service. I live in a city where Amazon offers one-hour deliveries! We are a hurried and impatient people.

This hurried society has caused the Church to know less of the Scriptures, even while 20 centuries of commentaries and sermons are available with the click of a trackpad. We must regain a depth of understanding and a depth of humility as we approach the Word of God.

The Scriptures tell us that we are to meditate on the Word of God. Meditation takes time. It take effort to look at the Word of God and to dive deeply into the teachings, mysteries, and truths of the Word. The first Psalm tells us that the godly makes the Word of God his meditation day and night.

Do we take time to mediate on the Word? Would the church today increase in her love for Christ, understanding of Systematic Theology, application of New Testament ethics, and knowledge of the Bible if […]

Her Heart So Kind and So Weary

I worry for my loving mother
The dimming years,
The trials she has known

One of the heart wrenching decisions I had to make upon moving to Pennsylvania two years ago regarded my mother.  As I have shared before, she was living in a dementia ward near my home where I could visit her easily. Because she had nearly died the year prior to my move and was now stable and happy in “her home,” moving her was deemed by all those we consulted not in her best interest. The day I walked out from seeing her to head east was excruciating.

Yet God has been so faithful. Her care was excellent at the nursing home, and the staff loved her like their own mother.  Our church friends visited her to remind her of God’s presence and love. Her faculties were diminished to the point she could not process I had moved, so she was never upset when I visited. I scheduled regular visits out to see her (and my nearby college daughter who also was attentive to her), and Mom’s faith and joy were always on display.  Incredibly, after a number of years of calling me Jack for no reason […]

The Case for Animal Suffering (Or Why I Want Fat Chickens)

I’ve been a little slow digesting the latest episodes of Point of Inquiry, so my interaction here is going to require us to consider something that was recorded in August. By internet standards, I might as well be returning to the dark ages. That was so yesterday. Nevertheless, the issue is a hot one, and so for that reason, I suppose I can be forgiven.

The issue is animal suffering. But not just any old animal suffering. It is the kind that occurs in factory farms.

Now if you give our dear secularists a listen, you’ll quickly come to see that they care a lot about chickens. Tears aren’t shed or anything like that. But they do express deep concern. And in the case of Paul Shapiro, he has put his money where his mouth is. He’s been a serious advocate of animal rights, seeking to establish more humane animal laws.

Fair enough.

But then again, really? I mean , we’re talking about chickens, right? And we’re talking about chickens in a godless world (their worldview (and by “their” I mean the predominant view of the podcast and its listeners)).

Let’s think about this for a moment.

I like big, fat, juicy chickens. The bigger the […]

The Truth about Church Websites

I’m not going to lie. I’ve looked at a lot of church websites.

This is due to my having recently considered over a hundred cities in which to move and live. I know, right? A bit much. But it became something of a hobby, cracking open my laptop, firing up Google Maps, along with various church directories, intent on finding a new place to settle down.

Having since rumbled across the country in a moving truck, finally landing Pensacola, the dust has settled. No need for more feverish research. But through the process, I’ve emerged on the other side with a black belt in “What I want to see in a church website.”

By “What I want to see in a church website” I mean pretty much exactly that. When I go to a church website in order to investigate what they’re all about, what attracts me and what doesn’t?

Now the purpose in airing my thoughts isn’t to flaunt some kind of special insight of mine. Not at all. I have no special insight. This is merely a matter of opinion. But they’re opinions fresh out of the oven, and they’re rooted in real desires looking to be met.

So what’s what?

The truth is […]

Thoughts of a Recent Sojourner

I’m a man in a new place.

In many ways it is all quite familiar. There are the usual fast food chains, Walmart, and shopping malls. But in many more ways, it all feels wondrously and overwhelmingly new. Southern hospitality is a real thing, we are living in a treetop condo, and there are palms trees. Everything from the street lights to the cultural tone exhibit subtle (and no so subtle) differences.

It’s definitely not Indiana. And that’s ok. Kinda.

The truth is that I really do like it here in Pensacola. We’ve gained much. But it doesn’t feel like home yet. I suppose that will take time. In the meantime, our family feels like strangers and aliens. Like outsiders. Or better yet, people hanging out at another person’s family reunion. Everyone is welcoming, and they share their food, but we’re still posing as Floridians. We’re not fully a part of it all.

Uncertainty is a thing too. Our steps hesitate. We don’t quite know where we’re going at times. Thankfully there’s something called Google Maps. The “turn left in a quarter mile” voice is surprisingly reassuring.

But amid all the change and flux, it was a sweet blessing to sit in Sunday school and […]

A Timely Piece of Humble Pie

Wow! What a great weekend I have had! After teaching at the seminary Friday morning, a friend drove me out from Pennsylvania to Indiana for the organizational service of the Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church. A daughter work of the Kokomo congregation I formerly served, it was a joy to preach to a full sanctuary gathered to celebrate this long-awaited exciting occasion. After rich fellowship, we jumped back in the car and drove through the night, as I had to speak the next morning at the Westminster Conference at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Again, I was blessed as people interacted enthusiastically on the theme of experiencing our union with Christ. Yesterday we enjoyed worship in the morning, then in the evening I opened God’s Word from Ezekiel 3 on the need for the saints to be watchmen in the kingdom of God.

In the midst of these wonderful opportunities that can go to one’s head if not careful, the Lord gave me a timely humility check. Some young adults were over at our home yesterday, and informed me that a video portion of my son Trevor’s wedding from two years ago was on YouTube. I had no idea. With kudos to Kevin DeYoung who always […]