Showing posts from 2020


Review: Geronimo's Story of His Life by Geronimo

Geronimo's Story of His Life by Goyahkla Geronimo My rating: 4 of 5 stars This was a great look through the eyes of a famous warrior into like in the Southwest circa 1840-1900. Also gave you a peek into the mind of a man devoted to a people and a place. View all my reviews

What is Preaching?

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash  There is a helpful book review/essay over at the site St. Eutychus, on the nature of preaching. Here's a brief excerpt: "Do I do my job best locked away in an office with the Bible and some commentaries open, typing into a word processor for 30 hours a week, or do I do my best listening to the wisdom of the body talking to others, with the Bible open, and thinking through how the passage best speaks to the diversity of people in the body, and to the world in a way that makes what is being said  plausible and engaged , rather than  detached and idiosyncratic . Let’s take Paul’s metaphor of the body seriously; and metaphorically — a metaphor is not an exaggeration of the true state of affairs, but an accessible simplification — a sign that points to a greater reality — a ‘simplification’ you use to make something more complex understandable… so when Paul speaks of the church as a body we’re not meant to think he’s over-applying the reality of our u

God With Us

 This is a sermon from our Christmas Eve Service at Remsen Bible, I pray it is a blessing to you! God With Us Matthew 1:18-25, Remsen Bible Fellowship Christmas Eve Service, 12/24/2020 Text: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”

Review: On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior My rating: 4 of 5 stars Prior engages the classical virtues and their role in our lives via a discussion of great literature and the role it can play in shaping said virtues with us. I was a little worried that this would simply be a collection of book reports, as it were, but was pleased to find more. Swallow has thought deeply about each of these virtues, and so is interacting not only with the chosen book for each chapter, but also theology, philosophy, and ethics. The entire book is worth reading. However, if you're on the fence, and happen to be one of those dinosaurs who likes to walk through a Barnes and Noble and thumbing through a book before purchasing, read the chapter on Kindness. It's worth the price of the volume. View all my reviews

Shut Up and Listen

  "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Proverbs 18:2 We live in a day when the right to self expression, codified in America by our constitutional right to free speech, is not seen as something you are simply entitled to. Expressing what is happening to you and in you at any given moment is not something we are only allowed to do in our social media age, but is considered a positive virtue.  How does this line up with Proverbs? The writer in Proverbs 18:2 seems less enamored with free expression than the typical modern American. In fact, the free expression of one's opinion is juxtaposed, held up against and contrasted with, finding pleasure in understanding. Whereas the dispenser of this biblical wisdom might give advice that sounds like an old school dad- "you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion" - the modern individual, who sees self-expression as the highest ideal, might counter - "ah, yes

Review: Mansfield's Book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield

Mansfield's Book of Manly Men: An Utterly Invigorating Guide to Being Your Most Masculine Self by Stephen Mansfield My rating: 3 of 5 stars After listening to an interview with Mansfield, I commented to my wife that this book sounded interesting, and she purchased it for me. I was disappointed. His telling of biblical stories (all the stories, actually) is thin. Not in a cliff notes, skip-the-fluff way, either. Lots of froth and extra words and not enough actual narrative. That said, I learned about a couple of guys I was previously unaware of. There are some good quotes. And he reproduces a few poems that will hopefully spark the interest of a few readers. View all my reviews

Review: The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield My rating: 5 of 5 stars Read it. Be convicted. Be moved to laughter and tears. Maybe argue a few points. But most of all, learn and apply. View all my reviews

Review: The Superstition of Divorce by G.K. Chesterton

The Superstition of Divorce by G.K. Chesterton My rating: 4 of 5 stars The original articles toward the front are typically brilliant Chesterton. The chapters he adds in addition to the original articles are good, though perhaps a bit tedious in comparison. The thing I found primarily fascinating was less his arguments, and more the fact that he saw this as a problem 100 years ago, at a time which many of a conservative bent today look back upon as some sort of golden age. But modernity and its individualism at the expense of the family was already doing the destructive work which we now see in fuller fruition. View all my reviews

Review: The Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook by Steven Rinella

The Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler by Steven Rinella My rating: 5 of 5 stars The recipes are good, the introductions to different varieties of game and how to properly butcher are educational, and the photography is beautiful. Worthy of a place on your coffee table, if you weren't busy using it in the kitchen. View all my reviews

Review: The Coaching Habit by Michal Bungay Stanier

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a thin, very broken up book. It reads a little like a coaching seminar. So if you're looking for a long book with lots of careful argumentation and footnotes, this isn't for you. However, if you're looking for a quick and easy read with some solid takeaways, then Stanier has written a helpful little manual for you. I personally struggle in conversation, due largely to what he calls the Advice Monster. I want to jump in and speak, rather than asking follow up questions and drilling down where the other person is coming from, in pursuit of helping them come to their own conclusions. He offers helpful tools to combat that tendency. Also, as a tool tip, all 7 questions are listed on page 200. Might want to dog-ear that page for future reference. View all my reviews

Review: Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson by D.A. Carson My rating: 5 of 5 stars As a bivocational, small-town church planter, this was hugely encouraging. Tom Carson, and many men like him over the centuries, labored in relative obscurity. Often having little observable success. But God sees their labors, and as the writer to the Hebrews says, he is not so unjust as to forget them. So keep reading your Bible, ministering to people with that Bible, and trust that the Lord who sent you will work. Be faithful to the end. May the Lord raise up more men like this in our day. View all my reviews

Speak No Evil

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.  Titus 3:1-2 The World We're In We're coming, as a nation, out of the most contentious election cycle in a number of years. While negative ads and trying to make it seem like voting for the other side would be an awful idea are nothing new, this year did seem to elevate the level of rancor that we've seen, at least compared to elections that I've observed (which reaches back to Clinton/Dole, 24 years ago). But while this tactics are certainly nothing new, it seemed the volume was pushed up to eleven this year. Part of that, undoubtedly, was that fact that this is 2020. The year of coronavirus, the year of shutdowns and a massive economic downturn, the year of rising deaths and the burden of facing all this trauma disconnected from so many we know and love. If y

Review: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a book I had picked up for dirt cheap when a book store I shopped was going out of business and the owner was begging me to fill bags with books. It then say on my shelf neglected and always perilously close to becoming the victim of one of my occasional book purges, until I ran across a few reviews that led me to think I ought to give it a read. Very glad I did. The story had me gripped, and Enger's prose moves between good and very good. My heart was often tugged, and I felt every jarring blow to the back that Reuben Land takes. We'll worth your time. View all my reviews

Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain My rating: 4 of 5 stars The obvious issues that a 21st century reader will have with Twain: racism, sexist stereotypes, etc. But, man, that dude was funny. With an uncanny knack for capturing human nature, especially the nature of boyhood. It moves a little slow at points, but if you like to laugh this is worth your while. View all my reviews

Review: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass My rating: 5 of 5 stars Douglass was a compelling writer with a powerful story. The temptation for our day is to look backwards and to say, how could do many people have acted in such an evil way. But to quote a recent George Will column, it wasn't hard. Human nature is bent toward such evil, and the evil if today simply takes a different form. But we should be genuinely thankful that the forms of Douglass' day are seen for the genuine hellishness that was present. View all my reviews

Review: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain My rating: 3 of 5 stars It's Twain, so there is plenty of humor, some of it side splitting. The satiric treatment of slavery deftly brings forth the folly not only of the institution, but of the underlying racism. It is also a somewhat tedious book. The lists (which Twain can use to great humor, as in Roughing It) got a little out of hand at times. A good audiobook option to laugh away a commute or job where listening to books is an option. View all my reviews

Review: On All Sides Nowhere by William Gruber

On All Sides Nowhere: Building a Life in Rural Idaho by William Gruber My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is part memoir, part American History, part anthropology, and part philosophy. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As someone who grew up driving and hiking around Alder Creek and living at the foot of the Benewah in the early 2000s, I found this a fascinating glimpse into life in 1970s Idaho. Gruber, as an outsider, has the perspective to notice the peculiarities of life up Alder. But he doesn’t write them up sarcastically or condescendingly. He writes from a perspective of love for the place and its people. Well worth the time. View all my reviews

Review: Chapters from My Autobiography by Mark Twain

Chapters from My Autobiography: 1906-1907 by Mark Twain My rating: 4 of 5 stars Some of the reflections he went into after sections written by his daughter were among the most moving I've ever read (or listened to, as the case may be). Twain was a man of many regrets. And an exceptional gift for capturing feeling with language. View all my reviews

Review: What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp

What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp My rating: 4 of 5 stars Practical, gospel-saturated. The biggest takeaways are that your marriage’s biggest problem is you and your sin, and the only solution is rightly aligned worship. He frequently repeats the important concept that marriages must be fixed vertically before they can be helped horizontally. Worthwhile read for married folks; I was using it in premarital counseling with a couple and it promoted several good discussions in that context as well. View all my reviews

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

Hokahey! 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. View all my reviews

Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi My rating: 5 of 5 stars The best book I read in 2019. Beautiful, devastating, inspiring. View all my reviews

Review: The Forgotten Church by Glenn Daman

The 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. View all my reviews

A Hole

  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 doin

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!

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 effe

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.  Reasons 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. Desperation Have you ever felt des

Review: No Quick Fix by Andrew David Naselli

No 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. View all my reviews

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

Sermon Sunday: Cross Shaped Joy

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

Should Churches be Open?

 The first thing to say in this post is that I am profoundly thankful to live in Iowa these days. While there has certainly been COVID in our area (including among some members of our church), it hasn't reached the levels of other parts of the county. Additionally, our government, both local and state, have been very restrained as to what they restrain.  As to the question I headed this post with, should churches remain open?, I don't propose to have an actual answer. Our church decided to begin meeting in person again the 1st Sunday in June, about a month after  the legal ban on group gatherings lifted here. To be honest, it is a decision that I do feel was correct and prudent, but it is also one that I have lingering doubts toward. The balance between obeying Christ's command to gather, coupled with vital role of gathering in the Christian life seems to me to outweigh the potential risks to life and health--especially in a place where bars and restaurants remain open. Wou

How Can I be Okay?

  Preface:  This isn't "writing" per se, this is the first of three posts that will be lesson outlines from the VBS our church is conducting this week. The titles are,  Where Did I Come From? , Am I Important , and How Can I Be Okay? My hope in sharing is that if you work with kids, or simply are interested in answering these questions for yourself, you will be edified. How Can I Be Okay? Gold bean bag Do you ever feel broken? Like something inside of you just isn’t right?  The last couple of days the kids have been working on a verse, Gen 1:1, In the beginning, God created… The Bible starts not with people, not with some slog beginning with an immense hydrogen explosion, but with God. A speaking God. A God who speaks life into being What did God call his creation? Very good ( v31 ) Part of that very good creation was an image-bearer: people Kids, who made everything? God! So, who made you? God! So, who’s the boss? God is! Right, God is the boss. And he gave people a job:

Am I Important?

Preface: This isn't "writing" per se, this is the first of three posts that will be lesson outlines from the VBS our church is conducting this week. The titles are, Where Did I Come From? , Am I Important, and How Can I Be Okay ? My hope in sharing is that if you work with kids, or simply are interested in answering these questions for yourself, you will be edified. Am I Important? Have you ever felt small and unimportant?  Did you know you are important to God? God cares about little things and little people, because God values all people.  What did we talk about yesterday? Creation Who remembers what the most important part of creation was? People; Gen 1:27, 31.  Gen 2: 7-9 , how did God make man? Where did God put him? 15 , why did God put him in the garden? Remember how people are supposed to take care of God’s world? 16-17 , God gives them a rule. How many rules? 1 rule! What is the rule? Remember that, it’s important. 18-23 , God didn’t want Adam to be alone, so wha