September 09, 2020

Review: Hokahey! A Good Day to Die! by Richard G. Hardorff

Hokahey! A Good Day to Die!: The Indian Casualties of the Custer FightHokahey! A Good Day to Die!: The Indian Casualties of the Custer Fight by Richard G. Hardorff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very informative, well researched. Not exactly a compelling read, but good for what it is.

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September 02, 2020

Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best book I read in 2019. Beautiful, devastating, inspiring.

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August 27, 2020

Review: The Forgotten Church by Glenn Daman

The Forgotten Church: Why Rural Ministry Matters for Every Church in AmericaThe Forgotten Church: Why Rural Ministry Matters for Every Church in America by Glenn Daman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good, well-researched book. Covering why Rural Ministry matters, a number of the cultural and societal issues facing the rural church, and offering practical suggestions for ministry, Daman’s book is very practical. At times I think he overstated his case, but given the neglected nature of the subject matter this is understandable.

If you’re interested in rural ministry, involved in it, or curious about why anyone would “throw their life away” on small town small church ministry, this book is worth a read.

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August 26, 2020

A Hole

 Joe Blackburn

It’s 5:30 am. The morning is in transition from the grey of first light into something more approximating daylight. I look out over the porch, through a gap in the pine trees, to the wheat field across the road. I remember them mostly growing bluegrass in that field, but maybe wheat prices are up this year. Or maybe they thought they would be before the COVID mess.

My baby girl is laying on the floor to the right of me, intermittently sucking on her bottle and pulling it away to smile. She’s so happy. I wish he could have met her.

This is the first morning I’ve slept in this house, my grandparent’s place, since my grandpa died last December. I came out in June when we did a belated memorial service, but the house was packed with family from all over the country, so I just crashed at my brother’s place in town. 

We never called them our “grandparents”, always Grammie and Pak. When or how Pak became our equivalent for grandfather I’ll never know for sure, though I’m told it was my doing as a small child. He shaped me so profoundly. How I respond to people, how I tell a story (though my ability pales compared to his), even how I hold my fingers when I wave at someone--all bear the stamp of Pak’s influence. When my mom called me on December 17th of last year to tell me he was gone, I wasn’t surprised. But I still entered a state of numbness similar to shock. Then I got home and told my kids. My oldest, then 6, sat with me on the couch. And we cried.

This house feels so different without him. Not empty, there are more people moving to and fro than ever, a couple of my siblings have moved in during the past few months. But there is a vacancy. Something missing. A feeling that I could accomplish something while I’m here that would prove meaningful to the man I so much admired. Now he isn’t here. No more chances to share what’s happening in my life, hoping to hear his words of approval. No chance to fix something around the place for which he would have thanked me. Not because I wanted the thanks so much as they were a tangible evidence that I had in fact helped him, and I so desperately wanted to give back to this man who gave so much to me. 

I set my coffee down to think. Man. I miss my Pak.

August 23, 2020

Sermon Sunday : the Psalms

 here is a link to the sermons from the Psalms on the Remsen Bible page:

May the Lord bless your Sunday!

August 21, 2020

Who will accuse whom?

Here is a link to an excellent review of C.S. Lewis's masterpiece, Till We Have Faces. 

This book is one of the few novels I've ever re-read, and much like the author of this piece, I found the second reading far more rewarding. Lewis is using the metaphor of this myth to pierce into the deepest realities of our souls. Read the review to taste that, pick up the novel to experience it. 

An excerpt: 
Telling her strange story for posterity, this old queen presents a body of evidence, for her goal is to make a case against the divine. She details her complaints against the gods—their cruelty, hiddenness, jealousy, and trickery. But as she tells the story of hurt and injustice, something else develops. She realizes her case is, in reality, a case against herself.

Indignant, she discovers that, after all, she was the cruel and unjust one. Logical and learned, she discovers that, after all, she was the liar and deceiver. (The worst lies she tells are to herself.) Pragmatic and effective, a ruler who has built a solid and abiding empire, she discovers that, after all, her kingdom will be given to a distant relative she hardly knows.

Meanwhile, the one behind the stories was always drawing this queen to meet him, to show her that abiding satisfaction and truth never was found in the usual places—in shrines and magic, in book learning, or in politics. It was always, only, and forever found in him. Not found in a “what” or a “why,” but in a “whom.” 

Read the rest of it.

August 20, 2020

Reasons to Pray (part 1)

 This post is the first of three on prayer, drawn from the opening chapter of 1 Samuel. 

Do you pray? Maybe you're like me, someone who definitely prays, who even counts prayer to be a significant part of your life-and yet you find yourself feeling guilty that you still don't pray with near the frequency you should. After all, the apostle Paul told us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I hardly manage to pray with substantial frequency, let alone constancy. 


Thus, I find it helpful when reading Scripture to observe the various reasons we are to pray. In prayer, God doesn't just give us an action to perform. He is welcoming us into a deeper relationship with himself, the very relationship for which we were designed and made. But our default tendency is to believe we don't need this relationship, that we are sufficient on our own. Which is why the first reason for prayer that I want to examine is this: desperation.


Have you ever felt desperate? In the opening pages of the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, we meet a woman named Hannah. And Hannah is a woman distressed to the point of desperation. 

She is desperate for a couple of reasons: she has to share her husband with another woman. She has no children of her own, while the rival wife (Peninnah) is able to have several. Thus we read in v7 that Peninnah would provoke Hannah to the point where Hannah wept bitterly, and would not eat. In v10 we find her at the door of the tabernacle, where she was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. Her lips are moving, but she is so beside herself in anguish that no words are coming out, and the priest at Shiloh, an old man named Eli, assumes that she is drunk.

Maybe you can place yourself in Hannah's shoes. You have a deep desire for something, an ache so bad it hurts. And then your lack is rubbed in your face by a rival, and even your loved ones and the figures who ought to represent some level of comfort (eg, Hannah's husband Elkanah, and Eli the priest) don't understand you in the least. In the words of Proverbs 14:10, the heart knows its own bitterness. 

To whom shall she turn?

In these times, who can we turn to? Hannah knows. We find this in her reply to Eli's accusation of drunkenness, "I have had neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation. She is deeply troubled, anxious, and vexed. And she turns to the Lord in prayer. Elkanah hasn't heard her. Eli hasn't heard her. But Hannah trusts that God will hear her.

We will look in upcoming posts at how God responds to Hannah's prayer, and the encouragement we can take from that. But what I want to draw your attention to in this post is this simple fact: Hannah knows herself to be desperate. And she takes that desperation to God. 

We so often live under the delusion of self-sufficiency. We don't think we need any help, let alone God's help. But God knows better. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14). When we see ourselves in this light, as so much dust, always on the verge of returning to that dust, we will understand how desperate we are. Maybe it takes an extreme circumstance to put you there-an illness, a job loss, the death of a loved one. Or maybe the creeping realities of age, an unstable world, or always feeling tired give you daily reminders. Whatever is the cause of our coming to grips with frailty, the result should be the same: it should drive us to our knees. 

Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear! All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

August 19, 2020

Review: No Quick Fix by Andrew David Naselli

No Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It's HarmfulNo Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It's Harmful by Andrew David Naselli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Super helpful, very clear. Useful book for lay people and pastors alike.

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August 17, 2020

You Reap What You Sow

 Yesterday our church celebrated its one year anniversary of meeting together as a local congregation. Our guest speaker was Mike Hulinsky, lead pastor at LeMars Bible Church.

As he preached from Galatians 6:7-10, his first point was simply a restating of verse seven: you reap what you sow.

This seems obvious, intuitive, and you almost ask, why, Paul, is this even necessary to state? But there is a reason he needs to say it: we don't want to believe it. We want to think that our actions don't have consequences. We want to act like they don't. 

Wild Oats

There used to be a phrase, which I don't hear as often anymore, but I think that has more to do with a change in vocabulary than a loss of the idea. You'd see someone, usually a young man, making some very foolish decisions with their life, and it would be described as sowing their wild oats. Johnny is doing a lot of partying and spending time with girls who are sexually indulgent, just sowing his wild oats. Ronnie takes up gambling and is getting into the drug scene, it's a phase, he's just got to sow his wild oats. And honestly, growing up, I just thought this was a phase most people went through. It was obvious to me that you didn't have to. But I thought it was normal, and while maybe not intelligent, not particularly problematic. 

However, as one old farmer once remarked, the problem with sowing wild oats is that you then are harvesting wild oats. Or, as Paul says in Galatians 6:7, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Choices have consequences, to think otherwise is to mock God. Those are pretty stark terms to put it in.

Realistic Hope

Now, the good news of the book of Galatians is that God is more than willing (and able!) to both forgive and change sinners like you and me. We all have done more sowing of the wrong seed than we would care to admit. But Christ died as a substitute, that we need not die eternally for our transgressions of God's law:

Galatians 3:13-14, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"--so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Jesus takes our curse, takes our ultimate punishment. And if our hope is in him, we are given the Holy Spirit of God, who himself is the power to change us. He will conform our desires to God's, so that we can choose to sow good seed. 

But this doesn't remove the reality of our earthly past. While we can find forgiveness, hope, and the power to change in Jesus, we often still face the painful realities of the choices we have made that are wrong. God does not magically remove every temporary and earthly consequence just because he's removed the eternal punishment. We still live in a world in which cherry tomato seeds produce cherry tomatoes, corn seeds produce corn, and wild oats produce wild oats. Your decisions still matter. Don't think that you can mock God. Sow to the Spirit.

August 16, 2020

Sermon Sunday: Cross Shaped Joy

 This is a sermon I preached back in March, out of John chapter 16

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (