Skip to main content

Posts

Grounded in the Eternal -- August 2019 Newsletter Article

School begins August 7th. I can’t believe it! When I was a kid we were off from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Summer vacation felt like a lifetime! Now those were the days!

With the return of school, our thoughts immediately turn to memories of reading, writing, and arithmetic. We remember days on the playground, special teachers we had, and good friends we made. No doubt, we also have memories of conflicts with other students and classes in which we struggled. School can be a mixed bag, some of it good and some of it not so good.

One of the often unspoken aspects of school is the passing on of values. I say unspoken because we live in a time when the emphasis is on the multicultural nature of our country. Public schools have to walk the fine line of trying to pass on the generally-accepted values of hard work, discipline, honesty, compassion, etc. without imposing a particular belief system about the source of these values.

This makes the job of the public school teacher very diffic…

The true power of Compounded Returns (June 2019 Newsletter Article)

Somebody told me once, half in jest, that while the big houses are in MCCUTCHANVILLE the real money is in DARMSTADT. Now like I say, there was an element of jesting in what they were saying. No doubt there are people in Darmstadt who are overextended when it comes to their lifestyle and there are people in McCutchanville who are savers. They were alluding, however, to the long-standing German heritage of Darmstadt with its culture of debt avoidance and frugal living. I found that this remains the culture in Germany today. While preparing for our trip to Germany we were told cash is king over there because Germans generally avoid debt.

There is an old word for living within one’s means and saving for the future, prudence. It is related to the word “wise”. It has to do with living in such a way that your actions lead to a better life. Now that my kids are grown and preparing for life on their own I’ve told them that if they begin saving now, investing while they’re young, they can have …

Religion is a Matter of the Heart

They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts (Romans 2:15 NIV).To be human is to be immersed in life (in existence, in the reality around us). There is no God’s eye view from which we can stand and with pure objectivity observe reality.To be sure, we have gained much by our attempts to stand back and analyze reality. We’ve been doing this in various ways since the beginning of human existence. With the scientific revolution there came tremendous gains from our ability to analyze the natural world but with it also a false sense of our ability to be objective and an exaggeration of the role of detachment in knowing.Don’t get me wrong. I believe in reason. However, knowing involves more than our cognitive faculty. There is what the ancients called the heart, a faculty often ignored by moderns.What is “heart”? For the biblical writers heart refers to the whole person immersed in reality. It refers to the whole self, intellect, emotions and will. Significantly, it…

May 2019 Church Newsletter Article: Triumphing in the Trial

At the end of this month we’ll be marking forty days since our celebration of Easter. It was at that time that Jesus left his disciples and ascended into heaven. The disciples asked Jesus just before he left if he was now going “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). They still had it in their minds that the messiah is supposed to bring in an earthly kingdom. Why is that?

Well, the Old Testament speaks of a day when God’s kingdom will be all in all. There are sweeping promises of God’s reign and rule through his anointed one when injustice and oppression will cease. Even today many Jews reject Jesus as Messiah precisely because he did not bring in this reign of literal, physical peace on earth. There is the unusual case of Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish diplomat and historian, who accepts the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection and believes that Jesus is the Messiah of the Gentiles (non-Jews) but says that only the return of Jesus to rule on earth will show him to be the Jewish messiah.

April 2019 Church Newsletter Article: Easter!

As I’m writing this, the birds are chirping, and the sun is shining. The sky is a beautiful light blue. It is morning, and it is spring, one of life’s great gifts that all can enjoy. There is the feeling of the fresh and the new.

As I’m writing this, I’m also in the midst of a series of Lenten Bible studies on the passion of Christ, a story that reflects much that is old and stale about our world. What I mean is, the ugliness and violence of the human race manifested in the story. The world has been and continues to be a place of injustice and oppression, a place of self-centeredness and greed, a place of sin.

However, we can endure the ugliness of the story, even as we endured the long winter we had this year, because we know a new day is dawning. Easter is our spiritual springtime. It is a breath of fresh air after the heavy focus on sin and God’s just punishment of our sin.

As Christians we have hope. I really don’t understand how people can have hope without Easter. I think C.S. L…

Christianity Isn't for Everybody

The title of this post is deliberately provocative. Of course I'm not saying that God doesn't want all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). In that sense, of course, Christianity is for everybody. What I'm referring to is the fact that not everybody will express an interest in Christian faith, and we should accept this fact.

We should accept it because Jesus himself said this would be the case. In a recent reading from the Sunday gospel (July 8th) Jesus told his disciples that there would be those who would not receive the message. They were then to shake the dust off their feet and move on (Mark 6:1-13). In other places Jesus said many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14) and broad is the way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Belief is the exception, not the norm.

We should also accept it because it will affect the way we do ministry. I believe it will cause us to act in a way more in line with the early church,…

Luther on Civil Righteousness

Here's a quote from Luther on the human capacity to cultivate civil righteousness, the capacity of all people to develop virtue and be relatively good people. Reformed theology speaks similarly when it talks of common grace. Luther is careful to distinguish this from being truly righteous before God.
We must distinguish between the theological and the civil standpoints. God approves also the rule of the ungodly; he honors and rewards virtue also among the ungodly, but only in regard to the things of this life and things grasped by a reason which is upright from the civil standpoint; whereas the future life is not embraced in such reward. His approval is not with regard to the future life. We believe that man without the Holy Spirit is altogether corrupt before God, though he may stand adorned with all heathen virtues, as moderation, liberality, love of country, parents and children, courage and humanity. The declarations of the Holy Scriptures prove the same thing. The statement i…