Showing posts from August, 2020


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

Where Did I Come From?

    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. Where Did I Come From? Have you ever wondered where you came from? Who made me? What’s our memory verse? Genesis 1:1 : In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Can you name some things God made? He made everything, stars and trees, elephants and bees, the stars and your knees! But did you know he didn’t make it all at once? Gen 1:2 Does anyone know what void means? Empty. But he was there Do you know what happened next? God did 2 things: form, and fill Form: 1, Light/Dark (eyes open/close); 2 water/sky (swim/jump action); 3; water/dry land (swim/pump arms) Fill: 4, Lights (can you name l

Review: Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover My rating: 5 of 5 stars Westover's prose is brisk, clear. Her story is emotionally wrenching. I was both pulled along by the narrative she weaves and forced to pause as I shared in her grappling: how can you love in the midst of abuse? How can one be honest without being bitter when reality is so demented? How do you do what is right for survival when doing so feels like betraying those whom you cherish? A worthwhile read for anyone and everyone. View all my reviews

Observing the Beginning

 I'm working on some VBS lessons out of the first couple chapters of Genesis, and I was struck once again by Genesis 1:1-2 , In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Here are three quick things I noticed in this passage today. God Created This is the most obvious point. It's also the most important. The opening pages of the Bible assume the existence of an eternal Creator (present before the beginning, because he initiates said beginning). They also assume that everything else is derivative from, and dependent upon, him. This assumption frames the whole Bible; nothing makes sense without a Creator who transcends, who exists apart from and independent of, this world. God Formed I've always found it curious that God didn't just create everything in one big shot. He's speaking it all into being ex nihilio , wh

Count the Cost

  Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." That makes for a great pintrest quote or opening line to a blog. But does it reflect New Testament reality? The short answer is "yes." Matthew 10:34-39 34  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Mark 8:34-38 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny

Sermon Sunday

 Here is a link to the sermon I preached at our church last week, The Lord Revealed . The sermon text was John 21:1-14. Here is a follow up blog post to that sermon, from earlier this week: A Missed Point


"Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them...When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, 'Lord, what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!'" John 21:20a, 21-22   The Setting Here on the shores of Lake Galilee, Jesus has found 7 of his disciples fishing. He doesn't identify himself to them, but rather asks them a question, "have you caught any fish?" (v5). Which seems rather insensitive, because they haven't. But if you know the story, he more than makes up for this jab to the rib cage. Jesus tells them to let down their net on the right side of the boat, and the resulting haul of fish is overwhelming to the point where they can't get them aboard the boat. Jesus here reveals himself to the disciples. This is One who knows all, who provides , and who is their Lord. But for Peter, Jesus is also something else. Jesus is the all knowing, perfect