A Pilgrim’s take on how to follow the Reformers

William Bradford writing about his Pilgrim Pastor John Robinson teaching them about the dangers of a faith that is unwilling to go beyond its Reformers. ( July of 1620)

“He charged us before God and his blessed angels, to follow him no further than he followed Christ… He took occasion… to bewail the state and condition of the Reformed churches who were come to a period in religion and would go no further than the instruments of their reformation.

As for example, the Lutherans, they could not be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; for whatever part of God’s will he had further imparted and revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it.

And so also, saith, you see the Calvinists, they stick where he left them, a misery much to be lamented; for though they were precious shining lights in their times, yet God had not revealed his whole will to them; and were they now living, saith he, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as that they had received…

Here also he put us in mind of our church covenant, at least that part to receive whatsoever light or truth shall be made known to us from his written Word; but withal exhorted us to take heed that we received for truth, and well to examine and compare it and weigh it with other Scriptures of truth before we received it.

For saith he, it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick antichristian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.”

Why Tom Bombadil Matters

Wake now my merry lads!

Wake and hear me calling!

Warm now be heart and limb!

The cold stone is fallen;

Dark door is standing wide;

dead hand is broken.

Night under Night is flown,

and the Gate is open!

-Tom Bombadil,

(FOTR by J.R.R Tolkien)

The older I get the more I’m drawn to the idea that there’s a realm within a realm where evil has no power. A place within the story that is beyond and before the story. A piece of heaven in hell. A figure that’s singing while the world is weeping. A man whose dancing and prancing, feasting and taking walks in the wood. Outside Bombadil and Goldberry’s land, there’s an apocalypse unfolding around a powerful ring but inside its merely a trinket with no use to him. Everything in the hinterlands is monumental, tragic and catastrophic…everything is so important and demands action. But here ancient evil spells are broken with a nursery rhyme. Here the kingdom is entered with the key of a child.

I think we often need to be reminded that this world is a small world within a grander world. This present darkness is fading, because a light from on high has dawned.

Hopefully you are able to hear him sing:

“Hop along, my little friends, up the Withywindle! Tom’s going on ahead candles for to kindle. Down west sinks the Sun: soon you will be groping. When the night-shadows fall, then the door will open, Out of the window-panes light will twinkle yellow.

Fear no alder black! Heed no hoary willow! Fear neither root nor bough! Tom goes on before you. Hey now! merry dol! We’ll be waiting for you!

Hey! Come derry dol! Hop along, my hearties! Hobbits! Ponies all! We are fond of parties. Now let the fun begin! Let us sing together!

Now let the song begin! Let us sing together Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather, Light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather, Wind on the open hill, bells on the heather, Reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water: Old Tom Bombadil and the River-daughter!”

Wonder

Wonder

That’s what I realized living where I do, grants me.

Wonder isn’t something that adulthood traffics in that often it seems.

I work to live awake and observant, I think a writer’s life cultivates such a posture, or maybe it’s the other way around?

Either way it’s a gift to be caught off guard and brought to a standstill to watch something unfold before you…like this Moose walking across your land.

It’s important for the soul to experience awe.

I think we loose an aspect of Divine necessity for living when we eliminate , exterminate or displace the beasts that can kill us and yet keep us alive on a level below our reason.

I think we need to hear a Moose’s guttural moan from 50 feet away.

We are losing these deep experiences and I’m sure what’s replaced them isn’t any where near the wonder.

The Faces of Lions

The Faces of Lions by Eric Blauer (11/10/19)

A poem inspired Veterans and 1 Chronicles 12:8, 2 Samuel 1:19-27 and Joshua 14:7-12

In honor of Veterans, men and women who will not be forgotten in the annals of eternity’s pen and the hearts and minds of patriots and the memory of our enemies.  

There was a day when wars ended. 

An era when country and combat were not held in dishonor, back when the shame of being a bastard was more about the father refusing to own his role than the character of the child. 

But not now, evil is good and good is evil and the lock on the door is chided as the tool of fools. We live among generations that have never known a time of peace. They have been born in blood. 

We also live among those who have fought battles in cities few know or care about and yet many who do, can’t utter them without remembering someone they lost in battle. 

We are forbidden to have heroes in this age. The soldier no longer stands for anything or anyone when Eden is everywhere, there’s no snake in the garden and everyone is divine. 

When I reflect on Scriptures like the ones that inspired this piece, I mourn not for the glory of victory or violence, but for the loss of living in a time when dying for something was possible. These are confusing times when Nazis are neighbors and Hitler has been resurrected from the dead but the Holocaust is denied. 

May God send us Eagles and Lions before we are convinced we don’t need saving. 

It is to this world…I write. 

—————————————————————————————————————-

They have long since forgotten,

that night was the domain 

of their destructions,

and now light, 

drives no shadows away.


We have no oil for shields,

or stone for blade,

No song sung for eagles,

and the Lion’s mane is shorn.


Giants hold our homes in the hills,

the Mountain heights are dry,

no one weeps for warriors,

when Apollyon’s name is changed

to Avalon.


There are no battles to fight,

when heroes are villains,

and enemies the valiant,

when honor is suspect,

and valor is a four-letter word.


There’s no blood on our heights,

no beauty sacrificed for glory,

for Heroes aren’t slain on sofas,

and wars are not waged on personal days.


The mighty are forgotten,

tell it not in Kandahar,

proclaim it not in the streets of Fallujah,

lest the daughters of al-Qaeda be glad,

and the children of ISIS rejoice.


Terror is the plastic-faced masquerade of evil,

prowling the nations from door to door,

unhindered with the keys of the cities,

when the faces of Lions are no more. 

13 Reflections from the Bible’s Royal Wedding Psalm

Psalm 45

For the choir director: A love song to be sung to the tune “Lilies.” A psalm of the descendants of Korah.

-Include love songs in your marriage. Include flowers in your marriage. Music and flowers will strengthen and sweeten your marriage.

1 Beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem about the king, for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet.

-Include poetry in your marriage: You will have many years ahead and many moments to say things that you need to say but won’t quite know how to say it. That’s why God gave us Poets.

2 You are the most handsome of all. Gracious words stream from your lips. God himself has blessed you forever.

-Learn to tell each other the good things about each other. You will increase what you praise. If you want to make love at night, you have to be loving during the day.

3 Put on your sword, O mighty warrior! You are so glorious, so majestic!

-A good person protects what they love. Security matters in marriage. Protect it from all the dangers that threaten to kill it be they physical, emotional, relational, financial or spiritual.

4 In your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice. Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!

-If you want to succeed and have a healthy marriage, be trustworthy, humble and do what is right. The truth of what you say is proven by what you do in marriage.

5 Your arrows are sharp, piercing your enemies’ hearts. The nations fall beneath your feet. 6 Your Divine throne, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. 7 You love justice and hate evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.

-A marriage that lasts is one that understands that you will fight all kinds of battles in life but God will give you what you both need to cultivate a life of joy together.

8 Myrrh, aloes, and cassia perfume your robes. In ivory palaces the music of strings entertains you.

-It’s the little things that matter the most in marriage. Many marriages have all the right things happening but still stink. It doesn’t matter how good a man or woman you are, if you stink, nobody will want to be close to you.

9 Kings’ daughters are among your noble women. At your right side stands the queen, wearing jewelry of finest gold from Ophir!

-A good marriage surrounds itself with good people. You will face many things in marriage that you won’t have a clue on how to navigate. That’s why God gave us multi-generational friends. If you don’t have any…make some and if you have bad friends, it’s time to make some new ones.

10 Listen to me, O royal daughter; take to heart what I say. Forget your people and your family far away.

-One of the first commands in the bible regarding marriage, is “leave and cleave”, which means God wants you two to create your own life together. Many marriages falter because they will not maintain proper boundaries with inlaws, or judge their own marriage by one another’s parents marriages, or feel trapped to replay the bad stories of the past.

11 For your royal husband delights in your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.

-Love and respect are the two foundational motivations for men and women. If you understand this truth, you will understand how to serve one another and unlock each others hearts.

12 The princess of Tyre will shower you with gifts. The wealthy will beg your favor.

-Finances are one of the top three reasons couples get into difficulty and often divorce. Figure out how you will manage your money together. Oh, and you will get all kinds of glassware as wedding gifts, re-gifting is ok for recently married folks, that’s marriage truth #36 in the marriage handbook.

13 The bride, a princess, looks glorious in her golden gown. 14 In her beautiful robes, she is led to the king, accompanied by her bridesmaids. 15 What a joyful and enthusiastic procession as they enter the king’s palace!

-Beautiful clothes and a lovely home are far more important in a marriage than most men think. Life will be more difficult until you learn the importance of both of these things. A well dressed woman in a crappy home, or a terribly dressed woman in a nice home are both to be avoided.

16 Your sons will become kings like their father. You will make them rulers over many lands. 17 I will bring honor to your name in every generation. Therefore, the nations will praise you forever and ever.

-Your kids will be like you, weigh that piece of knowledge very, very carefully. It’s not just what you say but what you do, that will be the most powerful influence on your kids. And remember, when you are dead, the only people who can really tell others about the kind of person you were, is your kids. Weigh that heavily too.

Trump, MLK Jr. and Why I Think Politics Matter

I do my best to stay engaged in the primary matters of importance in politics. I try to listen to both sides and do my homework on the major issues.

I do this because I believe that public policy matters in private life.

I pay taxes and I want to know what they intend to do with my money. I’m an American and I choose to participate in our political process, which is the envy of many in the world.

I’m always on the lookout for a leader that will advocate for the political platform, policies, programs and principles of what I believe matter.

I love the primary season of elections because this is where all the horses get in the race and we get a chance to learn what they envision matters and what or how they will pursue that vision.

Anyone can apply for the job, but after the primary, the choices are made and that’s just how it works. Every voter who chooses to play, has to play with the cards dealt.

To me it’s not about personalities but platforms, policies and principles. It’s not about someone’s age, sex, persuasivness, attractiveness or even poltical party. It’s what they see as the problems and how they intend to advocate for change. It’s also how they see America and what they will protect of America that doesn’t need to change.

I am not a Trump groupee.

I would love for there to be another candidate that better represents the totality of my vision and values on a number of fronts and issues. But I do agree with Trump on many of the platform, policies and principles he has advocated, defended and put in place. There are many I don’t and there is a ton of tone, style and temperament issues and actions that I don’t like either.

That said, I am not primarily influenced by the way in which something is done as much as how important is it that it gets done.

As surprisingly as it may be, some of this thought came to me from Martin Luther King Jr with his charges against what he called “The White Moderate” in works like “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html).

Many of the reactions to Trump remind me of the same critiques that opponents of King used. I am not saying Trump rises to the same level of King and I know I am triggering a ton of my friends by even putting the two in the same paragraph, but there’s similarities as I see it.

I voted in 2016 based on my deep concern that the American far-left was driving our Republic into the ditch on all fronts that matter to me.

My vote was used to thrust a stick into the wheel as another radical put it:

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As a politician Trump has governed far more conservative than anyone imagined he would, to the surprise of his reluctant supporters and the chagrin of his opponents.

There are two public fronts in American life…the political arena and the culture war.

My faith informs both but it’s active in different ways within the limitations of each.

I am not looking for a politician in my pulpit or pastor in the oval office.

I believe that distinction is uniquely part of our American political heritage. It’s the genius of this American Experiment and a purposeful and principled part of our founding documents. I think it works and the history of our Republic witnesses to the long moral arc of justice as MLK Jr. put it.

“Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Both Trump and King fail to live up to the moral example I would hope for in men of such influence and power. Many people wrestle with the words, works and witness of each man and I do as well.

I do not defend the sins, failures and faults of either and their accomplishments don’t justify their actions, but their sins don’t nullify their accomplishments either.

That isn’t to say that such actions won’t have consequences, they do and will, but I don’t want to live in a world where such standards are used on each other or those in history.

Today we are on witch hunts to exposes and dethrone anyone who doesn’t live up to some current and ever changing standard of what is right in the eyes of this postmodern culture.

We claim people as heroes I would of never imagined a few decades ago and burn at the stake the memory of those who we once saw as people to admire or celebrate on many issues.

This is the world we live in right now and I do my best to be a voice and active witness in these times and I know I fall short in more ways than I can count, but that doesn’t invalidate the endeavor.

If there’s a better way of engaging all of this and you have found the perfect path, then feel free to share it with me.

Until then I will keep fighting it out with the tools I currently have and pray it matters for the most good, for the most people, in the years to come.

Scythians and the Person Sitting next to you at Church

Scythians and the person sitting next to you at Church

Colossians 3:11
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”

I just love when Bible study encompasses history and horror and connects it to church life. I am not sure who you would categorize as a “Scythian” in your mind and heart but everyone has someone that represents.

Who makes your skin crawl and sets you off in a knee-jerk trigger? What issue provokes you to want to move seats or attend a church service elsewhere?

How about who someone voted for in the last election?

What they do in their private sex lives?

What they eat or don’t eat, their nationality, skin color, language or the car they drive?

Nail biters, open-mouthed chewers, drinkers, smokers or tokers?

Southerners, Northerners, West-siders or…Californians?

Blood-Eaters, Vegans, Tree-huggers or Pro-Lifers?

Catholics, Mormons, Baptists or Tongue-talkers?

Virgins, Sluts, Old people or Millennials?

Men, Women, Crying babies or runny nosed knee-bitters with smelly pants?

Normies, Rappers, Lumberjacks or Parents who put their kids in daycare?

Homeschoolers, Creationists, Atheists, Anti-Vaxers or Politicians?

Loud Talkers, Huggers, Weepers or Creepers?

Fat people, thigh-gap girls, botoxed or the dirty and toothless?

Who are your Scythians?

Do you see Christ or…only Categories?

A little history:
The Scythians were a terribly violent group of people who lived just north of the Black Sea. They were Eurasian, Horsemen, Nomads.

Herodotus:
“…no invader who comes against them can ever escape and how none can catch them if they do not wish to be caught. For this people has no cities or settled forts; they carry their houses with them and shoot with bows from horseback; they live off herds of cattle, not from tillage, and their dwellings are on their wagons”..

The Most Savage of the Barbarians:
“In what concerns war, their customs are the following. The Scythian soldier drinks the blood of the first man he overthrows in battle. Whatever number he slays, he cuts off all their heads, and carries them to the king; since he is thus entitled to a share of the booty, whereto he forfeits all claim if he does not produce a head. In order to strip the skull of its covering, he makes a cut round the head above the ears, and, laying hold of the scalp, shakes the skull out; then with the rib of an ox he scrapes the scalp clean of flesh, and softening it by rubbing between the hands, uses it thenceforth as a napkin. The Scyth is proud of these scalps, and hangs them from his bridle-rein; the greater the number of such napkins that a man can show, the more highly is he esteemed among them. Many make themselves cloaks, like the capotes of our peasants, by sewing a quantity of these scalps together. Others flay the right arms of their dead enemies, and make of the skin, which stripped off with the nails hanging to it, a covering for their quivers. Now the skin of a man is thick and glossy, and would in whiteness surpass almost all other hides. Some even flay the entire body of their enemy, and stretching it upon a frame carry it about with them wherever they ride. Such are the Scythian customs with respect to scalps and skins.

“The skulls of their enemies, not indeed of all, but of those whom they most detest, they treat as follows. Having sawn off the portion below the eyebrows, and cleaned out the inside, they cover the outside with leather. When a man is poor, this is all that he does; but if he is rich, he also lines the inside with gold: in either case the skull is used as a drinking-cup. They do the same with the skulls of their own kith and kin if they have been at feud with them, and have vanquished them in the presence of the king. When strangers whom they deem of any account come to visit them, these skulls are handed round, and the host tells how that these were his relations who made war upon him, and how that he got the better of them; all this being looked upon as proof of bravery.”
-Source: Herodotus’s “Histories”, Book IV, 440 B.C., translated by George Rawlinson

Ruth Retold

Ruth Retold.

I took a little creative liberty to retell the story of the book of Ruth in my recent sermon. Not because I think I can improve on the glorious book but in a sincere attempt to look at it with fresh eyes. We can become so familiar with stories in the Bible that we miss how they clearly speak to our lives. Ruth is one of my most favorite books of the Bible. I hope this retelling sends you back to the story to read with a curious mind and open heart. I hope it’s meaningful to someone.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/12Tydq3X6PU42rxRnToQ5VPmrnegRnKEPndy2z6-1icU

Promises for Parents and their children’s children’s children.

The great promises of the Old Covenant find their fulfillment in the New Covenant. Before the New Covenant many of those promises were provided for parents, but many were not able to keep the covenant or their kids in the faith. Thankfully the promises to parents can now find their full fulfillment because of Jesus:

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:20)

Here are some of those parenting promises:

Gen. 17:7

“I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”

Isa. 44:1-3

“But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you: Do not fear, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring.”

Isaiah 65:23

“They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them”.

Jeremiah 32:38–40

“They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.”

Isa. 59:21

“As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore”.

Ezek. 37:24–26

“David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.”

Acts 2:38-39

Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

Acts 16:30-40

“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”

1 Cor. 7:14

“For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”

Parent I am here to tell you that if you are a Christian, you stand in the Covenant of Jesus and in Him, all the promises are Yes and Amen. You have hope, not because you have been or are the worst or best parent, but because of God’s Covenant with you and your family.

This is not a covenant based on your performance or piety, but one that is founded and fulfilled by the Lord Jesus. He made this covenant and its fulfillment falls on His ability, not yours. He is the sure foundation and hope that the soul has as an anchor in the ever-changing storms of character and culture.

Your hope is in God and His promises. He is the One who holds our children’s children. What are you placing your faith in today? What promises do you hold as a parent?

Hebrews 11:1 says: “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.”

Kronos or Christ?

Sometimes when people talk about God, it’s hard to determine if they are talking about Kronos or Christ?

What is the deal with all the Old Testament sacrifices, altars, tabernacles, and temples, or the New Testament’s narrative about the nailing of Jesus to a cross and the language of drinking the blood and eating the body of Christ in Christian worship?

How can the late-modern person take serious anyone talking about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of their God and not think these folks are delusional, self-identified Werewolves or Vampires?

Doesn’t it all seem a bit too fantasy geek to believe in angry and wrathful gods, sacred temples, rites, and acts that all revolve around an ancient text that reads like a menu of bizarre sacrifices for whatever ails or offends?

What kind of God requires the death of anything or anyone to be right with Himself?

Why can’t God just declare someone OK and skip all the bloodletting?

Am I really sure I want to sing about being “washed in the blood”?

Isn’t it true that the sacrificial systems of worship that exist in most ancient religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Animism and the Judeo-Christian branches of faith simply reveal they are connected to an archaic system of beliefs that misunderstood the nature of reality, and were rooted in uneducated, superstitious thought?

Hasn’t the modern, scientific world replaced those old and odd worldviews with a more accurate, logical, verifiable explanation of the natural and metaphysical world?

Is God a bloodthirsty Monster?

These are the questions of the skeptic, seeker and saint in our day.

What does all of this have to do with a sermon series on: ‘HomeMatters: Singleness, Marriage, Family & Faith: God’s Plan for human flourishing in the Old and New Testament’?

Surprisingly a lot, and I hope that you will give me the chance to present to you why the Bible teaches that these issues matter for the heart and home to flourish.

Come join us at Jacob’s Well Church this Sunday at 10AM for Sermon #7: ‘Why the Pagan & Pious understand Sacrifice is required for Human Flourishing’.