My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

27 March 2008

pssst, new links (look right)

I'm almost 30

I'm listening to Bruce Hornsby on Pandora right now. And I really like it. Perhaps adulthood has its perks. Like not being required to hate piano pop anymore. Billy Joel, watch out.

07 March 2008

Koran, round 1

For this month's book club, I decided to read through the Koran. This was the first time I have done so. Though I hesitate to record my thoughts (picture an Islamic book club reading through the Bible for the first time...), here are some things that stuck out to my on my first reading.

Compared to the Bible, I was surprised at how little of the Koran is made up of history stories. There are some stories in the Koran, but not many. And the ones that are there are, by and large, re-told stories from the first five books of the Bible. This re-telling often adds or changes details (like Jesus speaking to Mary while he was still an infant); the changes are sometimes incidental, but other times constitute a major rearranging of the ideas of the Biblical story.

Some things were noticeable because of their absence. In the Koran, I found no trace of regeneration of internal conversion. And, despite claiming repeatedly that Allah is a merciful god, there is no sense given of how he forgives. That is, there's no sense of atonement. In the place of atonement is a strong theology of merit, of inheriting Allah's favor and eternal happiness through our good works. More broadly, there is a great sense of religion, but no great sense of redemption. Despite the reality of sin, there is no overarcing storyline of salvation.

There are other parts of the Koran which, if we read them without knowing who wrote them, could have been written by Christians. The Last Day, the resurrection, monotheism (only one god-ism), the reality of heaven and hell, the sovereignty of god - these are themes we have in common with the Koran. It's good to know these, to keep us from caricaturizing and to help us in our outreach.

Finally, there is not nearly as much violence in the Koran as I guessed there might be. I've heard that some of the harsher jihad teachings come from the Hadith (the recording of Muhammad's life and sayings) rather than the Koran. I only came across a few passages which tended toward a violent mindset and none of those were any harsher than what we could pull out of our Old Testament.

Again, these are my observations based on a first time reading. So take them with some salt pinches and feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken!

06 March 2008


I can't speak for other preachers, but one of the things that runs through my mind right before I preach is, "How can I preach? Why should these people listen to me? So many of these people are more advanced than I in their walks with Christ. Some here are more obedient to God's Word than I am." But even this is part of God's blueprint, even using weak and imperfect men. Yes, the character of the preacher is important; but even his weakness is part of God's plan. This quote from John Calvin came across my desk today and is a helpful addition to the recent discussion on the primacy of preaching.
This is the best and most useful exercise in humility, when (God) accustoms us to obey his Word, even though it be preached through men like us and sometimes even by those of lower worth than we. If he spoke from heaven, it would not be surprising if his sacred oracles were to be reverently received without delay by the ears and minds of all. For who would not dread the presence of His power? Who would not be stricken down at the sight of such great majesty? Who would not be confounded at such boundless splendor? But when a puny man risen from the dust speaks in God's name, at this point we best evidence our piety and obedience toward God if we show ourselves teachable toward his minister, although he excels us in nothing. (4.3.1)

04 March 2008

It's not easy

Poet Stephen Dunn, from an interview in Books & Culture by Aaron Rench, speaking about how poetry brings us closer to reality:
To get the world right is a hard-won thing. It's not easily done.

I feel the truth of this daily. This understanding the world rightly. It is a fight.

Honor to whom honor is owed

Our presbytery met last week in Orlando, Florida. Presbytery accomplishes a lot of good and necessary work, but the most significant thing we did last week was to honor the lifetime ministry work of Dr. Roy Blackwood. Dr. Blackwood officially requested, and was granted, that his resignation as senior pastor at Second RPC in Indianapolis be received. Although that part of the evening was a very sad occasion, the receiving of his resignation was followed by Pastor Keith Magill giving a long testimony concerning Dr. Blackwood's ministry and work. For me, three things shone through the evening.

First, the amount of work God has used Dr. Blackwood to accomplish is truly amazing. When he began pastoring in the 1950's, there was only one Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indiana. Now there are nine, all of which have the stamp of his passion and ministry upon them. Even our new church, Immanuel, owes honor to Dr. Blackwood; though he did not participate in the planting of this congregation, he helped plant our mother church and he helped instill the vision in that session and in our presbytery for continual church planting.

Second, the testimony of so many men and women include how Jesus used Dr. Blackwood in their lives. Several of the pastors spoke at a reception, revealing how Dr. Blackwood's passion for the church as a whole was equaled (if not surpassed) by his love for people as individuals. He was and remains a disciple-maker, calling and training many men for the pastorate and many more for lives devoted to Christ in other vocations.

Third, and perhaps the most moving, was Dr. Blackwood's reason for resigning his pastorate. His dear wife, Margie, was able to be there that evening with us and he recognized her commitment to and help for his ministry. This resounds in so many pastors' hearts, that "without her, I could not have done any of it." Fact is, Mrs. Blackwood needs more and more help these days. And Dr. Blackwood resigned in order to receive his promotion to taking care of her full time, this helpmate who took care of him for so many decades of ministry.

I'm sure Dr. Blackwood doesn't read blogs. If he did, he probably wouldn't like this post. At least not unless I end it the right way, by giving the honor to Christ rather than to Roy. This is his greatest testimony to me, that in everything, Jesus should receive the glory. It's not Roy's church or your church or my church. It's Jesus' church.