There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

Archive for theology

staying untied

should you ever marry?  isn’t it too much of a minefield?  haven’t we seen enough relational and familial carnage to look at marriage with deep suspicion?

Mike Bullmore has a few things to say on the matter. It’s one sermon in a series found here.

the beautiful counter-intuitiveness of the gospel

the most expensive expression of forgiveness continues to put and end to a devastating cycle of violence and retribution.  Where does one gather the resources to be able to forgive without simply denying the pain of what’s been lost?  Read here.

let our forbear in the faith bear his soul to you this summer

Cynthia Nielsen is leading a summer study on St. Augustine’s Confessions on tuesday nights.  Cynthia brings, to put it mildly, a depth of insight into our forbear in the faith.  Click here if you’d like more information on the study.

means test

The LORD has strident words for Israel (the Northern Kingdom) through Hosea, but, at least in 1:7, the words for Judah (the Southern Kingdom) were conciliatory: mercy would still come Judah’s way in the way of deliverance from external forces. But the promise of deliverance would be, the LORD says, through unconventional means. Not by military prowess would Judah escape the imperialistic aspirations of Assyria.

It may be trying too hard to make a principle of a slight phrase, but I think there’s something to learning to trust God through unconventional means of accomplishing His purposes. Read the rest of this entry »

Advent musing, II

if you’re looking for reasons why to make time for preparing and participating in the Lord’s Table, here’s my take on how the observance of Advent almost requires it.

Do you remember ever reading the play by Samuel Beckett entitled Waiting for Godot? It’s the story of two hapless nobodies waiting for one who ends up never coming. The play ends where it begins, on a broad plain by a dead tree, and the scene never changes. And at play’s end, we are left not in admiration of these two poor sops’ patience, but in pity of their willingness to wait for what seems will never come. Read the rest of this entry »

the fruit of the Spirit and its implications for marriage

They are now Mr. and Mrs. Brian Black (and, at their request, I presented them as Mr. and Mrs. Married-Filing-Jointly in a nod to their common profession of corporate tax), and they married last weekend.  They picked the text. I tried to link its implications to marriage.  The English Puritan, John Owen, said that no sermon (or wedding homily, for that matter) is fit for others until it has been preached to the preacher, himself.  I’m reading it again for my sake this morning.


22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self control, against such things there is no law.  24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh in its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

If you happened to be at the base of Mt Rainier or somewhere in the Himalayas, and you saw a man preparing to climb to the summit of either, outfitted only with a single rope and a granola bar, you might think for a moment that this man was brave and tenacious.

But it’s more likely that the outcome of his attempt to climb with only those items will reveal he was neither brave nor tenacious, but merely foolish.  The climb before him would be magnificent and worthy of the ascent, but it’s treacherousness would require a kind of preparedness he did not account for.

You’re stepping into something this day that is both magnificent and treacherous. Read the rest of this entry »

Justification by faith makes you want to dance

As we near the All Saints Day–that day after the SugarFest we tend to put so much emphasis on–it’s worth recycling a little ditty we showcased last year at this time. Think of it as a clever recap of Reformation history.

Meanwhile, if you’d like just a bit more substantive background on All Hallow’s Eve, have a gander at this.

sex in the Spirit

this from a little ditty on Galatians 5:16-26 a couple years ago

Moulin Rouge Say “desires of the flesh” in mixed company and you’re likely to get what? Smirks, chuckles, and people moving quietly away from you. Why? Because it seems an outdated phrase, or that those desires are, instead of reviled, now championed, exalted. What am I getting at? These desires are what many people would reason: “those are good things; they’re what make life worth living. Any proscription of them is just an outdated attempt at keeping people in line; or they’re overreactions to otherwise harmless expressions of pathos.”

But Paul puts these out here. And we’d be wise to consider what they’re really expressions of. Most people would see them for the most part as essentially harmless. But Paul means not only to clarify what is in opposition to the life guided and led by the Spirit, but to expose what those kind of expressions reveal about those who engage in them. For every single one of them—every single of these fleshly desires—is a good desire gone bad. A perfectly natural and holy desire twisted into something destructive, and in the end, pleasure-killing rather than pleasure-finding. They are desires divorced from their intended ends.

Consider fornication: Read the rest of this entry »

beware of always outsourcing what is in your “job-description”

newt1vt5tuesap.jpgin moments like the tragedy we’re all hearing more and more about in Blacksburg, VA, it usually becomes the province of pastors and counselors to help people, if not to “make sense” of this, keep from entering into destructive patterns of bitterness, cynicism, fury, or isolation. But, while such types have had more training in helping people “cope,” I reject the notion that those not in those roles are any less responsible for helping people grieve, process, or come to terms with what’s happened.

Read the rest of this entry »

oh, for that elusive peace

our circumstances must not be the determinant of our joy

that’s a comment from a respected author that’s stuck with me recently, a comment I think came into play in our exploration of John 4 last Sunday (as well as the issue of what you would say if given the chance to explain the Gospel).  This poem by Amy Carmichael ended up in my box this morning.  I think it teases out that principle. . .that rather counter-cultural, counter-intuitive principle.

As with any art, you will not notice its significance through a hasty consideration of it.  So plan to read this a couple times at least.

Have a look: Read the rest of this entry »