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Monthly Archives: March 2020

I Want My Apple Store Back

This is just one man talking, here.  But I think the Apple Store should be classified as an “essential business”.  My iPhone is so ancient that’s it’s trade-value is a whopping $15.  Air Drop is miscuing; my iPhone and Mac do not recognize each other even if they’re within a foot of each other.  If I try and use the built in email on my Mac it opens dozens of tabs and will not stop until I quit the app.  And I’m convinced that a foreign government is trying to incite me to insanity because iCloud suddenly holds a grudge against me, although I’ve neither offended, nor misused it.  It cooperates with other Mac users, but not me.

I record my sermons on the iPhone, which isn’t optimal, but functional.  Did I mention my iPhone’s trade-in value?  But I digress.  Anyway, the format for such recordings is m4a, and please do not ask me what that means.  My “secretarial assistant”–that’s code for my loving and patient wife– is able to upload them with zero problems.  But not this Sunday.  No, sireee, Bob.  The technology ghosts of the Internet were haunting me once again.  I deduced that if I converted the file to mp3 all would be fine.  I made a brief test recording of me trying to hum an old jazz ballad and low and behold, the file uploaded in an instant.

So, I made a backup copy of the recent sermon (smart move, right?), and went for the conversion, a term which has serious religious overtones.  I retrieved a fresh coffee from my French Press, which is low-tech and gives me no stress.  Ten minutes later the file was still converting.  The familiar angst of technological futility arose within my gut.  Maybe it’s just the bandwidth, I thought, all the while knowing I was lying to myself.  Something was wrong.  The MacBook Air had decided to convert the entirety of my voice memo library to mp3.  I had 677 individual files.  No, that’s not a typo, and no they’re not all sermons, not even a quarter of them are.  I decided that maybe that was a good thing.  I came back 45 minutes later and the completion time was… 6 days and some odd amount of minutes.  Not. Helpful. At. All.

I found the file I wanted and it had already converted.  Taking a risk I dragged it unto the desktop and it remained place!  I then quit the conversion and quickly–the coffee had me revved up and ready to go– got the desired file unto an old Olympus recorder.  The sermon is safely ensconced on the Middlesex PCA website.

Technology and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love it– it hates me.  Members of the church I pastor are well aware that I often fervently pray before I hit “print”, because the printer in my office sometimes acts as if it’s possessed.  I even made a video for one of my elders as proof.  The printer was going berserk and the off button would not comply.

Everything I wrote is true.  And I hope/trust/pray that you realize I’m attempting a bit of humor.  A little bit won’t hurt at this time–the world is bleak enough.  But thinking about what’s occurring at this moment is sobering.  You might say that computer issues are a First World problem (not realizing how degrading that term is), but it’s not.  It’s more like 10% or 5% or dare I say it… 1% problem.  The reality is harsh– if a family of four grabbed some burgers at the drive-through of a fast food eatery today,  they shelled out more money in those few minutes than many people in the world will ever spend on food at any one meal.

I write this to give us perspective, not to inflict shame.  God has blessed us.  If you live in the USA you live in a place that many people would think was…heaven.  We’d all do well to get on our knees and thank The Almighty.

 

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Silence and Stillness

Very often, when I leave my office at night, I stop at a certain place in the parking lot.  It’s not a ritual, but it is something of a personal tradition for me.  The first time I stopped at this spot was immediately following the March Session meeting way back in 2003.  I even recollect some of the discussion that the Ruling Elders and I had that night.  Those seventeen years have certainly disappeared!  

When I stop I usually look at the sky’s expanse, then over to the homes in the neighborhood, and I always say a prayer.  Sometimes the prayers are longer. 

As I was leaving my office tonight I did the usual, and the prayer was more contemplative, and rather brief.  I looked at the neighborhood first and not the night sky.  The stillness and the silence was nothing if not chilling.  You have to understand that even if I leave my office at 2 a.m. there’s at least some traffic out on the highway, which is maybe a quarter mile west of  the church.  Not tonight.  No late night truckers, no rumbling diesel engines, no young people trekking down the road with the music blaring.  Silence.

I recalled how many times I’d stopped there and heard the usual commotion, and wondered what the countryside looked like and how it sounded two hundred years ago.  I’m all for modern progress; I’m no luddite.  But I do not enjoy the noise that comes with modern technological society.  Tonight, I longed to hear a car engine, or a radio.  Even the animals were quiet at that moment.

I called out in a fairly loud voice, and said, “It’s going to be okay.”  I was hoping, but not expecting, for a response from someone across the street.  But there was no reply.  Maybe someone heard it and whispered assent to themselves, maybe someone heard it and muttered a disagreement.  I’ll never know.

God is most definitely trying to get our attention in the midst of this social isolation.  The silence is a call to think.  He wants us to realize that we’re living too fast, but not living enough.  What I mean by that is that we’re a busy society, but much of what we do has little or know lasting value.  It’s important to keep abreast of what’s occurring in the world, our country, and our local communities.  But I suggest we turn off the blare of the news, and think about what’s actually important in life.  We’re living in serious times.  Let’s get serious about life.  Have a restful Lord’s Day.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

On Reading Your Bible

Shortly before He was betrayed, Jesus, in a manner of speaking, took his disciples on a tour of Jerusalem.  They marveled at how glorious the Temple and its adjacent buildings appeared.  It was then that Jesus gave them a terrifying lesson.  The lesson was that the Temple was to be destroyed, and when the Romans came to town in 70 AD, they forcefully fulfilled that horrifying prophecy.  Jesus warned the disciples that those would be trying times.

Many bibles have inserted “title headings” over various paragraphs.  For the most part they cause no harm.  But in Matthew 24 we see this heading–The Great Tribulation, and this is a linguistic marker that gives many of us a miscue.  Many American Christians think that this passage is about some future event.  It is not.  The event was futuristic for the disciples, but we live 2,000 years after them, so it is a past event for us.  I’ve actually heard some Christians say that we don’t have to even read Matthew 24 because it’s not about the church.  I told one such person that with that reading strategy we could easily do away with much of the bible.  He wasn’t advocating that position, but it was the logical conclusion of his stance.

These headings are not part of the biblical text, and the Word of God must be read with as clear a mind as we can muster when we open its pages.  So, it’s generally good to overlook them because those headings can give us preconceived notions of what the text intends to teach us.  We want God to speak to us.  We always come to the bible with a basic set of presuppositions, assumptions, life experiences etc.  These influence our reading, and that’s fine.  The key is to become conscious of the filters that our minds possess.  That way, when we sense that the filters of our life experiences are coloring our interpretation of a text, we can take steps to put the filters on hold.

Here’s an example.  God refers to Himself as “Father”, but we know that God is a pure spiritual being.  He has no body, therefore He has no physical offspring.  But talk to a Muslim and you realize that this is a major stumbling block for them.  They interpret the term “Father” as teaching that God has physical children, which, in turn, means He has a wife, and this idea is abhorrent to Muslims.  Guess what?  It’s abhorrent to Christians, as well.

What’s sadly ironic, is that the Islamic reader is not aware of his or her assumptions when they encounter this word, and they interpret it literally.  Christians understand that the term “Father” is used by God to help us understand His benevolent relationship with His people.  In other words, the bible uses language that accommodates to our limitations.

A good habit to acquire is to calm our minds, and pray before reading the bible.  Confess your sins, ask God to teach you, to give you understanding.  He will honor that prayer.  Bible reading is a skill that takes some time to master.  There are certain parts of scripture that I’ve read hundreds of times.  However, God often gives me a new application to my life, or a He shows me a nuance of the text that I never realized, or I receive a bold reminder that I’ve been forgetting something important.  God’s word is inexhaustible.  It will always give us insight.

So what are you waiting for?  Go grab that bible!

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

A Message From An Old Puritan

Today, I came across a very intriguing sermon by a Puritan by the name of Daniel Williams.  The Puritans were English and took their Christianity very seriously.  Hence, the nickname.  We can learn a great deal of valuable information from them.  In this sermon he laments the sins of his country; sins committed by believers and unbelievers.  It’s easy for those of us who claim the blood of Christ to look around, and weep over the sins of the general public–especially of those of high profile figures.  But shouldn’t we weep at a greater depth for our own sins?  Indeed, we must because God has lavished his love and grace upon us.  The sermon is entitled What Repentance Of National Sins Doth God Require As Ever We Expect National Mercies?  It’s also just shy of 31 pages long.  His title would not fit on any bulletin, and a sermon of that length, in today’s religious climate, would land him in a scalding hot puddle.  Fear not, I’ve no desire to preach that long.  What’s ironic is that he mentions something as an aside and adds that time didn’t permit him to go into the subject in depth!  Here’s an excerpt from the sermon.

The land is full of sin, after all the means which were sent to cleanse us. The fire hath devoured, yet our dross remains. The plague hath in its rage swept away thousands, yet the provocations of England abate not. How oft hath the Lord cried, “Wilt thou not be clean? when shall it once be?” (Jer. 13:27.) But we have held fast our several iniquities.

Lord! what will the end of these things be? Wilt thou always bear, and seem to observe, our provocations, as slightily as we do? Alas! this would make us more miserable than God’s sorest rebukes. Judgments more awful than any we have yet felt, are become even necessary to our happiness; but though they be needful, what heart can endure them? What terror must attend those dispensations which will separate the precious from the vile; pluck up constitutions so rooted by interest, custom, malignity, and ignorance; disable the irreligious from settling church or state; and embitter our reigning sins to careless, scornful, and resolute offenders!

Nichols, James. Puritan Sermons. Vol. 4. Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981. Print.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Hope And The Cold Hard Facts

Did you get your dose of the daily news today?  I know I did.  In fact, I’m reading more news than I ordinarily do, and I normally read a great deal.  The news is supposed to be about the cold hard facts; the editorial page in historically where blatant opinion could be read.  I’m uncertain that’s the case in our day.  I grew up in a family of newspaper readers, and in the 80’s I would generally buy three papers each morning.  Ok, one was specifically for the sports coverage!

The point is this: I’m seeing an inordinate amount of editorializing and commenting in places that I want to discover cold, hard facts.  It’s getting more and more difficult with each passing day.  So who can we trust?  They say many Americans trust nothing but money.  I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.  But if you’ve got a dollar somewhere in the house take a look at the back of it.  In 1956, in the Eisenhower era, the 84th Congress passed a joint resolution requiring that “In God We Trust” appear on US currency.

God is the ultimate source of truth.  Therefore, we can trust Him.  We can trust Him fully. Has the Cover-19 crisis drawn you closer to God, or has the amount of information and news coming your way drowned out His voice?  What He says is trustworthy.  So I encourage you to dust off your Bibles.  We’ve got some extra time on our hands, so let’s do what we can to make the most of it.

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

Ephesians 5:15-21

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Thinking of The Future

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Rev. 21:1-4

These precious words point us to the future.  A glorious future.  It’s human nature to get entangled in the moment, and allow current circumstances to overwhelm us.  When that occurs it’s important for us to slow down, and become as realistic as possible.  You might be wondering how a passage dealing with the magnificent future of eternity is in any way realistic.  Well…

Are the promises of the Holy Bible true or untrue?  They’re true.  And if those promises are true, then they are dealing with reality.  And if they are dealing with reality, then we must categorize them as realistic.

A lot of people think the Bible is unrealistic, and has no bearing on our everyday lives.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Bible is a collection of holy writings.  It is idealistic in that it points us to what should be.  And that idealism, oddly enough, is utterly realistic because God is the Author of reality.

Take comfort in knowing that what God promises He brings to fruition.  A time is coming when pain, illness, distress, disease, and death will be no more.  In this world, those things are bitter realities that call for attention and action.  In the world to come, they won’t even exist.

 

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Living In A Virtual Universe

I haven’t posted a blog post in roughly nine years.  No, that’s not a typo.  And I’m not terribly active on social media because I do not find it “socially” rewarding.  I went to my Twitter account—which I rarely do—liked a friend’s Tweet, spent ten minutes researching how to post a Tweet, and another ten minutes discerning the logout process.  Good times.

And the times they are a changing, aren’t they?  We’re facing challenges, and they’re not normal challenges—not by a long shot.  For the time being, we’re being challenged at learning how to live again.  Living in this new reality.  And it is reality.  Make no mistake about this.  Our world is probably transforming into something that people my age (late model Baby Boomers) thought would only happen in a dystopian novel or movie.  

I’m confident that this crisis will pass, because life is always in flux.  But I think it’s likely that the Covid-19 shockwave is going to alter the landscape of our existence permanently.  We need to face up to this.  We need to admit that maybe, just maybe, we’ve gotten a bit soft in the last three decades.  When the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc collapsed we breathed a sigh of collective relief.  And though the West in general, and America in particular, has faced challenges since then, no one has been having nuclear fallout drills before lunch.  These days, if the Internet is lagging you’d think the sky was falling.  

What I find ironic is that the older folks I know are handling this pandemic with dignified aplomb.  Some of them recollect the Great Depression; some fought Hitler; some fought the Communists during the Korean War.  They remember when polio was a dreaded possibility.  Some had Scarlet Fever, had their homes genuinely quarantined, and then watched their favorite clothes, toys, and books burned to forestall the spread of the contagion.  

Each of us is facing unique challenges, and we’re all facing some common challenges.  I must learn how to pastor a church, stay connected to people I love, and reach the lost for Christ in this virtual universe.  And so I’ve reactivated my old blog, Blue Chip Christian, as a venue for communication in this bizarre situation. 

In the end, it’s going to be okay, but it might not be easy.  But it wasn’t easy on that Cross.  And because it wasn’t easy for Christ we can go to Him and He’ll understand our fears better than we do.  

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2020 in Uncategorized