December 30, 2020

Review: Geronimo's Story of His Life by Geronimo

Geronimo's Story of His LifeGeronimo'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.

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December 29, 2020

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 union (with Christ, by the Spirit), but pointing to a deeper mystery. And we might, to use Paul’s metaphor, understand preaching — as in the spoken word in the gathering — as the act of the body’s mouth; when my mouth speaks it is connected to my brain, powered by my lungs, informed by my eyes and ears… and representative of the rest of me (and my actions) if my words have integrity."

It's a long piece, but very well worth your time if you are a preacher, or interested in what preaching is all about: 

December 24, 2020

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


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”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.


The story is so familiar to us that we can miss the gravity of what’s at play. A young Jewish couple are betrothed to be married. It’s probably been planned for some time, and they are eagerly anticipating the day. And then Joseph gets the awful news. Mary is pregnant. She has betrayed him. His plans for the future on hold, probably deeply hurt and angry. And now he holds her life in his hands. If this becomes public knowledge, that Joseph has had to go through the divorce process with his bride to be because she has broken her vows to him, it would destroy her life. He lays in bed, contemplating these things. No, destroying her and bringing her to public shame would be wrong. Do justice, but love mercy. Joseph is a righteous man. He cannot move forward with this relationship and stain his good name, but he doesn’t need to drag her through the mud. He’ll put her away quietly. A quick, simple divorce. The facts are clear.


As Joseph contemplates this all in his bed, finally sorting things out in his mind and drifting to sleep, God sends a disruption. And that disruption is in the form of an angel of the Lord, a messenger sent from on high. God’s message is clear: do not fear to take Mary as your wife. That’s awful bold! Doesn’t God know the rumors that will fly? But the truth is more important than the rumors, and the truth is this: That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. God has miraculously, inexplicably, created a life inside the womb of this young virgin. This would be a jarring message in itself. But I want to think about the rest of this message from the angel, because as hard to comprehend as a virgin birth may be, the rest of what he says is just as amazing.


First note that the angel calls Joseph a Son of David. That’s important, because David is the king by whom all kings of Israel are measured. And while Joseph is his descendant, this carpenter probably doesn’t go around thinking about kingship. That’s not how he would be seen or how he saw himself. But the angel opens this way, because David received a promise of an eternal king to reign on his throne. And Joseph is about to find out that his David lineage is going to play a key role in that story.

The angel then tells Joseph that the child to be born Mary is to be named Jesus. Jesus. The Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua or Yeshua: Yahweh Saves. The name of the leader who delivered the people into the promised land, conquering the foes who would stand against them. So this child is to be a mighty deliverer like Joshua of old? Will he save us from the Romans? No, here is a different type of deliverer: this Jesus will save his people from their sins. There is an enemy bigger than the Egyptians, the Caananites, the Amalekites, the Moabites, the Amorites, the Assyrians, the Philistines, the Babylonians, the Romans, or whoever it is you fear in this world today. The enemy to worry about is the enemy that lives within you, condemning you before a Holy God: your sin. But Jesus came to save his people from their sins.

Who are his people? Certainly Joseph would have thought of the Jewish people when he heard these words. But even as Matthew is writing he is hinting that Jesus’ people include more than the ethnic children of Abraham. In verses 3-6, we find 4 women in the genealogy of Jesus. Each has their own interesting background, but they hold one thing in common: their outsider, Gentile status. Tamar is a gentile, Rahab is a gentile, Ruth is a gentile, and Bathsheba was married to Uriah, a Hittite gentile. The new people of Jesus, those saved by Jesus from their sins, will not be identified by their physical lineage. They will be identified by this: trusting that Jesus is the Savior they need.


Note the other name we see for this child, this time from a quotation out of Isaiah 7: Immanuel. Matthew gives us a translation for this name: God with us. Do you see your need for God to come save you? That’s where each of us stands on our own, the whole world lying in the power of the evil one, each one of us in the grip of sin. But Jesus came into this world to be the One who would save us. God the Son, the Eternal Word of the Father, took on human flesh and dwelt among us. Eternal God, lying in a manger. Incarnating not as some royal prince or priest, but coming and dwelling for nine months in the womb of an unknown, obscure virgin.

If this all sounds far fetched, that’s understandable. Why would God so care for us? We are left in the same place as Joseph: there is a decision to be made. Joseph had to choose: would he trust the message of the angel, believe that Mary was honest and that this was God’s son whom he was to raise? Believe that God was breaking into the world to save his people from their sins? He made the choice to trust. He obeyed the voice of the angel, took Mary as his wife, and named the boy Jesus. That same Jesus lived a perfect life, the life Joseph couldn’t live. And he died a horrible death on a Roman cross, bearing the weight of Joseph’s sins. And he rose from the dead, guaranteeing new life for Joseph, deliverance from those greatest of enemies, sin, death, and the wrath of God.

Will you receive that same gift this Christmas? Will you trust Jesus, and receive him as your Immanuel? Let every heart prepare him room.

December 23, 2020

Review: On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great BooksOn 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.

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December 18, 2020

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, but I have seven social media accounts. Who has time for using their ears?"

Of course the one who freely expresses their thoughts is doubly doomed, and the Sage of Proverbs knows this. First of all, to go freely venting your thoughts will make you look the fool, thus he gives advice to bridle your tongue in chapter 17. "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge [...] Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." (v27a, 28). Subtext: if he opens those lips the sea of his folly will burst forth. And even the man already acquainted with knowledge knows better than to think he always has something to say.

And if you want to learn, to acquire knowledge (the highest of goals, see Proverbs 1:1-7), it is going to involve a lot of shutting your mouth-or restraint from typing-and instead listening. You have to shut up in order to listen to others and, as James 1:19-21 would say, you have to shut up to hear from God.

December 16, 2020

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 SelfMansfield'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.

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December 09, 2020

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

The Gospel Comes with a House KeyThe 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.

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December 02, 2020

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

The Superstition of DivorceThe 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.

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About Me

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