I am the husband of the lovely and talented Lynette, and the father of three great kids named, D. J., Michael, and Rebekah. Since 2002 I have been the pastor of Glen Burnie Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Glen Burnie, MD. Our church has just moved and changed our name so I am now the pastor of Grace Point Presbyterian Church in Severn MD. Prior to that I served as a youth minister at Pinewood Presbyterian Church in Middleburg, FL, and as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Winter Haven, FL. As to education, I graduated from the University of Florida in 1985, studied for about 18 months at Columbia Biblical Seminary and Graduate School of Missions, and then graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL in 1995.
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Monday, November 15, 2010, 11:11 PM
A couple of days ago I did a post called “Why Love the Church” wherein I analogized from some words of G. K. Chesterton to the effect that we ought to love the church simply because she is the church, the bride of Christ and mother of the faithful. In that quote Chesterton was speaking of the difference between admiring the nation of England vs. loving it. Admiration demands reasons, love is without reason. I think he is spot on in his manner of thinking there and this applies well to the church.
I’d like to follow up on that in this post with a couple of more quotes. One of the things that mitigates against love for the church in our day is our obsessive individualism. It’s difficult to escape, individualism is the air we breathe and we import individualistic ways of thinking into how we relate to the church. Our personal, individual spiritual growth is our top priority. Here’s a quote from Mike Horton’s book “Made in America” which points to at least one prior generation that understood that corporate piety is more important than personal piety, that the church takes priority over the individual.
The Puritan was concerned that even his calling served the neighborhood or commonwealth rather than himself. He hardly doted on himself. Even religious activities were not to be done from selfish motives. God has justified him, having punished Christ in his place. Acceptance has been freely given, not achieved. Therefore, even developing one’s personal relationship with Christ at the expense of the community was viewed as antisocial and, consequently, anti-Christian behavior. One no longer had to work for his own salvation (for instance, by helping others), so he could give himself to the good of others from unselfish motives. Puritan William Gurnall insisted that the one who was truly pious “did others more good in this world than himself in the next.”
Saturday, November 13, 2010, 8:36 PM
As I’ve hopscotched around the internet the last month I’ve come across a G. K. Chesterton quote that offers some wisdom in how we relate to the church. He is speaking of his love for England, but the love he shows for England here is a terrific example of the love we can and should have for the church. This is from an article by Joseph Sobran:
G.K. Chesterton, with his usual gentle audacity, once criticized Rudyard Kipling for his “lack of patriotism.” Since Kipling was renowned for glorifying the British Empire, this might have seemed one of Chesterton’s “paradoxes”; but it was no such thing, except in the sense that it denied what most readers thought was obvious and incontrovertible.
Chesterton, himself a “Little Englander” and opponent of empire, explained what was wrong with Kipling’s view: “He admires England, but he does not love her; for we admire things with reasons, but love them without reason. He admires England because she is strong, not because she is English.” Which implies there would be nothing to love her for if she were weak.
The analogy I am making here is probably pretty obvious – substitute the church for England. In our current climate few admire the church, but many claim to love the church. Yet I wonder if most of those who claim to love the church aren’t like Chesterton’s Kipling – trying to find reasons to love an institution they can’t admire.
Monday, December 21, 2009, 1:52 PM
As I have been reading blogs lately I have been nearly overwhelmed with all the reports of cancer. Matt was kind enough to post an update on my own condition a few days ago, and I can think of at least 5 other bloggers and leaders I have become aware of in the last couple of weeks who are battling cancer.
When a doctor first told me I might have cancer last year I struggled with how much worry was legitimate. I was worried that I might be getting too worried, this shows how neurotic I am – worrying about how much worry was appropriate. A friend of mine comforted me that my worries were legitimate when he reminded me that there are few words in the English language that are scarier than the word “cancer.” As the legendary sportswriter Jim Murray said when he found out about his wife’s cancer – “The cancer has metastasized. The most terrible collection of syllables in the language.”
With all of this going on I am concerned that you, the healthy reader, may have undue worries and fears about your own future. A friend of mine mentioned to me last year that along with their love and concern for me and my family, many in our congregation were worried about themselves, could this happen to them. And, if my story and the stories of others cause you to eat better, get more exercise and pay more attention to potentially troublesome symptoms, that will be great. But I hope that will not mutate into fear.
One of the most helpful words for me during this struggle came from something I read by John Piper. He said something to the effect that part of having faith is having faith today that you will have the faith you need tomorrow. In other words, God gives you grace for each day’s trials (see Matthew 6:34). If you are not facing the trial of cancer (or some other thing) you don’t have the grace and faith you need to face it right now because you don’t need it. But when the day of trial comes, God will give you the grace and faith you need.
As to what this has to do with the overall purpose of the Evangel blog I would offer the suggestion that one of the great losses we have suffered as evangelicals is the loss of the practice of “soul care,” and we need to recover the tradition of ministers as “physicians of the soul.” Also, the ravages of the health and wealth gospel are well known to those who contribute to and read Evangel, and it is useful to remind us that the Christian message is uniquely targeted toward those who suffer and that the Christian church is uniquely called and equipped to minister to the sick and dying.
I can testify that Christ indeed is a very present help in a time of trouble and the gospel message is heard and understood most clearly in a time of suffering. I can think of no better time than Christmas to remind us all that indeed God is faithful.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009, 7:50 PM
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Christmas than to start an argument by attacking one of our favorite Christmas hymns.
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” has that one line “veiled in flesh the Godhead see,” and I just thought it would be fun to nitpick that bit. I don’t know what Wesley had in mind when he wrote these words, but I wonder if they display an unwitting gnosticism.
Taken at face value they seem to suggest that Christ’s divinity was hidden when He took on flesh. But is that the case? Granted, Philippians 2:5ff suggest that in the incarnation there was some type of emptying of Christ’s divine prerogatives. No matter what your perspective is on the exegesis of that passage there is nothing to suggest that the taking on of human flesh is what caused this.
Further, John 1:14 suggests that the taking on of human flesh was a revelation of God’s glory, not a “hiding” or “veiling” of it. I’m not accusing Wesley of any particular agenda here but I do think it illustrates the natural pull of gnosticism. Gnosticism prefers the spiritual to the material and we are so accustomed to associating “flesh” with sin that it may have seemed quite reasonable to associate “en-flesh-ment” with veiling of the Godhead. Certainly Wesley knew better to associate incarnation with sin, but maybe it was natural to associate it with veiling.
Also, simply in the hopes that I can draw John Mark Reynolds into this discussion I’d like to bring up Plato (in case you haven’t heard, it is well know that John Mark carries Plato in his backpocket). Could there be some sense in which Wesley unconsciously (of course by using that word it looks like I’m trying to bring Freud into the discussion, I am not sure which of our Evangel bloggers carries Freud in their backpocket) assumed that prior to the incarnation Christ existed in some more perfect “form” of deity that was diminished when he entered our world of “shadows.” I do realize I am setting myself up for a platonic beatdown, I’ve had two classes in philosophy and I’m acting like some kind of authority on Plato here.
Still, I wonder if this illustrates how we devalue the goodness of the physical, material world in which we live, and maybe it diminishes our celebration of Christmas. The Christian response to the secularization of Christmas often seems to be a religious sentimentalization of Christmas where we “celebrate” the baby Jesus in all His cuteness and warm-fuzziness. But the incarnation was for much more than creating warm sentiments. Christ took on a body and suffered in the body for sins committed (by us) in the body to redeem our souls and bodies and give us a hope for a bodily resurrection. It doesn’t sound like He was hiding anything by taking on human flesh.
Of course I could just be making a big deal about nothing.
Thursday, October 29, 2009, 11:08 AM
In the spirit of “me too! me too!” and “oh, can I play?” I’d like to throw in my own two cents and tag along with Jared and Joe on this whole Halloween thing. Here’s a re-post of something I had on my Jollyblogger blog way back in October of 2005, with a few little re-workings.
Tim Challies captures my own mixed feelings on Halloween very well when he says:
I acknowledge this as a difficult issue. My conviction is that it is a very poor witness to have the house of believers blacked out on Halloween. Halloween presents a great opportunity to interact with neighbors, to meet their children and to prove that we are part of the community – not merely people who want only to interact with Christian friends. At the same time I despise how evil Halloween is.
In a letter to John Fischer, Bonnie at Intellectuelle raises what I think is the most common objection to Halloween – it’s pagan roots:
What, exactly, does modern-day Halloween celebrate? I’m not so sure that the answer is “mere neighborliness and fun.” In my view, Halloween cannot be disassociated from its pagan origins and trappings, and to attempt to do so may be irresponsible. Also irresponsible is the rationalization that it’s OK to participate because “it’s fun and everyone else does.” Halloween customs unfortunately come with a lot of baggage.
I do think Bonnie is correct to a point in that modern day Halloween has come to be associated with paganism. On the other hand, I am not so sure that Halloween’s origins are pagan. Or, at least, it is not a slam dunk for-sure thing that it is. I think that any modern association of Halloween and paganism is more a link with modern practices than ancient origins.
It is conventional wisdom in the church to assume that Halloween is pagan in its origin but I came across some material a few years ago to cause me to re-think this. (more…)
Thursday, October 22, 2009, 11:45 PM
As usual I’m late to the party. Joe and I have been friends for several years now and in honor of our friendship I changed e-mail addresses and didn’t let him know. So, we’ve finally caught up and today I join this august body of bloggers, feeling way in over my head, and hoping I can offer something worthwhile.
Since I’m late to the party and haven’t gotten caught up on all of the prior posts I thought I’d mention something that has occupied my mind of late. Here’s my topic/question for discussion?
Are some of the hottest issues in evangelicalism today rooted in long standing anxieties over our loss of privilege and status as described by Ann Douglas in her book “The Feminization of American Culture (Google Books/Amazon).”
I wanted to discuss this because 1) I’m reading the book right now and am finding it terribly interesting and stimulating, and 2) I assume, or at least hope, that some of the other contributors to this blog are more familiar with Douglas than I and thus can correct/enhance our understanding of the issues she raises. If any of you are familiar with scholarly responses to Douglas, how well accepted is her thesis? She wrote back in the 70′s so I hope I’m not basing too much on either an out of date or discredited thesis. Assuming for now this is not the case I’ll proceed.
To introduce this, here are some of her words on the loss of the intellectual rigor of the Calvinistic tradition in favor of an obsession with popularity in society. (more…)