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When Life is in the Pits

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? – Psalm 137:1-3 As I write this article, we are busy making Thanksgiving preparations; by the time you read it on Sunday morning, the…

The Gracious Gifts of the Most High God

The origins of Thanksgiving in the United States, of course, go back to the 1621 celebration in Plymouth Colony. There is a lot we get wrong about that story, and it did not lead to an immediate annual observance. But it stood in a great tradition of harvest festivals common to Great Britain and other European countries who colonized the New World: both the Spanish and French conducted thanksgivings in the 16th century, and English settlers in Jamestown held a…

God is Real

What would you say if someone asked you to argue for the existence of God? There are a number of classical arguments that have been worked out and debated by philosophers and theologians over the centuries: the cosmological argument, that every finite, contingent thing must have a cause, so there must be an infinite, necessary Uncaused Cause; the teleological argument, that the universe shows evidence of design, so there must be a Designer; the ontological argument of Anselm, that God…

A Great Church?

On the first Sunday in November of 2017—exactly 4 years ago, in other words—Abbey and I came here to Liberty to try out for the open preaching position. It is hard to believe that much time has passed in many ways. In the interim, many things have changed for us personally and for the congregation. Some who were here that morning are unfortunately no longer with us; some of you reading this now were not here then. Not long after…

All Saints’ Day

Today is Halloween. In the US and many other countries, we associate that with a number of traditions: dressing up in costumes, going from house to house trick-or-treating, terrifying, uncanny things like ghosts and vampires. Some have accordingly objected to celebrating Halloween as wicked. Where did this holiday come from, anyway? To answer that, we need to understand that the day after is a holiday too: All Saints’ Day. This is a day set aside in the Roman Catholic Church…

Blest Be the Tie

John Fawcett was an 18th century British preacher, theologian, and hymn writer. He was born in Lidget Green, Yorkshire in 1739 to impoverished parents; by the age of 12, he was an orphan. He was then apprenticed to a tailor in the city of Bradford, where he worked long, hard hours. But in his spare time, he learned to read, eventually completing John Bunyan’s devotional classic Pilgrim’s Progress. A short time later, at 16 years old, he was alongside about…

Sex and the Bible

For the past several months, we have been considering how to make moral choices on Wednesday evenings. Recently, we began discussing sexual ethics. There are few, if any, areas of culture that have experienced more rapid and dramatic change in recent years; there are few, if any, subjects that we are more uncomfortable addressing. (I suspect the title of this article alone caused a few raised eyebrows!) But the Bible far from embarrassed in tackling these issues. That should help…

Jesus Rose Again

This morning, we will conclude our study of the Gospel of Mark by looking at the resurrection narrative in Mark 16:1-8. Our focus will be on the meaning of the resurrection in the story rather than on the historical reality of the event. But its significance assumes as a given that it really did occur; the way that Mark and other writers speak about the resurrection will not let us get off the hook with metaphorical explanations that are popular…

Jesus Lived and Died

In our sermon this morning, we will look at the burial of Jesus. Mark records that a number of women had followed Jesus from Galilee and were present at his death, and he names three specifically: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome (Mark 15:40-41). The two Marys see where he is buried (v. 47). And then all three of them go to anoint Jesus’ body on Sunday morning and find the tomb empty (16:1-8). They…

My God, My God

The first line of Psalm 22 is the only word spoken by Jesus from the cross in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 15:34). On the one hand, it is a lament out of the depths of despair, expressing the abandonment that Jesus felt on the cross; he identified with the sense of alienation the psalmist experienced. On the other hand, we should note that this psalm ends with vindication and restoration: the cry of distress is motivated by the confidence that God—my…

Alexander Campbell’s Address on War

Alexander Campbell’s Address on War  In our Wednesday evening class on Christian ethics, we have spent the last couple of weeks looking at the issue of war and violence more generally. It comes as a surprise to most people to learn that, historically, there was a strong pacifist current of thought in churches of Christ up until the World Wars. More specifically, nearly all of the first generation of leaders in the Restoration Movement—including both Barton W. Stone and Alexander…

People of Truth

Our contemporary culture has a real problem with truth. The premodern view was that all knowledge was an attempt to seek after God; the 11th century theologian Anselm’s motto, “faith seeking understanding,’ sums up the idea well. Then the Enlightenment came and displaced God as irrelevant to our knowledge: human inquiry for the 300 or so years leading to World War 2 was focused upon an ever-increasing discovery of facts, rooted in an unbridled optimism that we could objectively define…