Tag Archives: Meditation

Upcoming Project: Ad Fontes! (To the Sources!)

I have recently decided that I would like to start a project that will likely take me several years. In fact, I’ve been purchasing what I’ll need for said project for the past few months. I’m now very close to being ready to start, and I would like to share my mad idea with you, as you’ll be seeing quite a bit of it on my website in the future.

I’ve been a reader ever since I was a wee Lucas. My reading has been omnivorous; I love novels, savor poetry, delight over Shakespeare’s works (as you’ve likely noticed), learn from history, salivate over syllogisms, wonder at science and mathematics… I even read shaving cream labels and toothpaste tubes. But, of all the reading I do, nothing takes up more of my time – indeed, it is my life’s work – than studying the Scriptures and the works of the great commentators and theologians throughout Christian history.

Of course, as a Pastor and Teaching Elder in God’s church, much of my work is precisely that – pastoring and teaching, pastoring by teaching, and teaching by pastoring, as though the two could ever really be separate. My writing work is predominantly taken up in sermons and lessons; but, I’ve also been posting a lot of meditations, poetry, and the like on here.

The project, which would be additional to my regular sermons, studies, and writings on Scripture, is to study in more detail the great theological works of Christianity, beginning with the Apostolic Fathers (if you don’t know who they are, stay tuned!) and ending somewhere around Kuyper and Bavinck. My hope is to begin regularly sharing with you the insights I find there in short posts that will be accessible to a modern reader. That being said, these posts won’t be summaries, or merely sharing quotes from the works I’m reading. They’ll be more like my own personal meditations – gleanings, if you will – from portions of what I’m studying, along with applications.

Obviously, you can see why this project will take years. I see it not only as a way to introduce modern Christians to some of the major influential personages in our history, but also as a means of continuing my own development as a Pastor-Theologian. I’ve read a great deal of the Church Fathers, Medieval theologians, Reformers, Puritans, etc.; but the only library greater than the one I have read is the one I haven’t.

It’s important also to state that while I will be also reading some connected material, especially in helping me understand historical contexts, etc., my main focus will be on the works themselves. The reason for this is something akin to what C.S. Lewis stated so well in his introduction to On the Incarnation by Athanasius:

“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about ‘isms’ and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said.

The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.

The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

In other words, I won’t just be reading books about Basil of Caesarea, etc.; no, I’ll be reading the works written by Basil of Caesarea, Tertullian, Augustine, Origen, Calvin, etc. And I hope that my posts about these great theologians will also inspire you to read works by them.

Clearly, I won’t be able to read every theologian, nor will I be able to read everything written by the theologians I do read. But, my hope is to read at least their major works (along with some of the minor ones). Also, many of the works I’ll be reading, I’ll actually be re-reading. But that’s a good thing, as I’ve learned recently in my re-reading of Augustine’s Confessions; I think I can comprehend that work better now than when I first read it many moons ago – and what a rich feast it has been to my soul!

I’m excited about beginning; like I said, I’m almost there. I have a few books to finish before I begin my project. I’m excited about studying these works, yes; but I’m also very excited about opening up the treasure box of our Christian heritage and sharing it with others.

As always, I desire your prayers that the LORD will give me strength and wisdom and a deeper love for Him and for His people. Pray also that this project would truly be helpful – for me, for you, and for anyone else who reads my future posts!

Farewell to Falstaff: Growing Up and Moving Forward in Christ

There aren’t a lot of people who read and enjoy Shakespeare these days. At least, that’s been my experience. Of course, it was (I hope still is) required reading for high school students, but usually, after that initial taste, not many return to the feast. Whenever I break out the Bard in general conversation or for sermon illustrations, eyes begin to roll before I’ve even fully expressed my enthusiasm. Part of me has made peace with it; part of me wants to shout, “You don’t know what you’re missing, you Philistine!” The former part has won out… mostly.

Of the few people I know who still enjoy reading and watching Shakespeare’s plays, most know the great speech from “Henry V”: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…” (Act IV, Scene III). King Henry delivers this stirring speech before the Battle of Agincourt to encourage his fearful army; his words are beautiful and encouraging, putting fire into the fearful hearts of his army and inspiring them to take the field and defeat the French.

But even among we happy few, even fewer have read or watched the three great plays that precede “Henry V”, plays that narrate the fall of Richard II and the rise and reign of Henry Bolingbroke (later, King Henry IV). Interestingly, though King Henry IV is a main player in his titular plays, much of the drama surrounds the king’s son, Prince Hal (later King Henry V). In “Henry IV, Part One”, we find the young prince being, essentially, a disappointment to his royal father. Hal spends all his time drinking and carousing at the Boar’s Head Inn with a group of misfits, chief among whom is Sir John Falstaff.

Falstaff is vain. Falstaff is fat. Falstaff is vulgar. And, for wayward Prince Hal, Falstaff is a terrible influence leading him into more and more trouble. The king laments that his son has soiled his honor with such unsuitable living; after all, Hal is to be the new king after his father passes. Hal is aware of his father’s displeasure, but though he knows he must leave Falstaff and friends and his riotous life behind, though he promises to become the prince he should be, he doesn’t do it right away. Like Augustine before his conversion, it’s not hard to imagine Hal praying, “Grant me chastity and continence… but please, not yet.” (Augustine, Confessions, 8.7.17).

We see this in the young prince and think, “Why don’t you just grow up and be a man? Your father needs you, your brothers need you, your people need you, and all you do is goof off with Falstaff and Poins and others of Sir John’s band of miscreants. Don’t you know you’re meant to be more than this?” But in thinking this we often betray ourselves. How many princes and princesses of heaven wallow in some lingering sin saying, “I know I should give this up… but not yet”? How often do we turn the looking glass on ourselves and say, “I’m meant to be more than this. It’s time for me to grow up!”?

There are no Peter Pans in the Kingdom of God. Those who are content to remain what they once were reveal a serious lack of maturity. Indeed, it’s likely that those who feel no conviction for their sin whatsoever and are content to wallow in the filth of the flesh are not Christians at all! If you truly are a believer, though, the Spirit will continually remind you through His convicting work that you need to grow up, you need to be moving forward in sanctification, becoming more and more like Jesus every day. The Spirit primarily performs this maturing work through the Word – preached, taught, studied, read, meditated upon, and ultimately believed and lived! The goal is that we would reach “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:13-14).

But sin is not the only hindrance to our walk with Christ. Oftentimes there are other things, even good things, that are holding us back and weighing us down. The author of Hebrews exhorts us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (the “Hall of Faith” of ch.11), let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1). The faithful saints who have gone on before us witness to us that if we are going to finish this race well, we’re going to have leave our sin behind, to put to death what we were and to become the new creation that we are in Christ (Romans 8:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17), to put off the old self and to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Note, though, that the author of Hebrews doesn’t say that we should just lay aside every sin, but also every weight; if there’s anything that is holding us back from growing in Christ, from running our race, from seeking God’s glory, then we are to cut it off. Practically, this means the binge-watching needs to go; the hours on social media wasting time that could be better spent in service, prayer, study, etc. needs to bite the dust; the “friendship” that always seems to lead you away from God needs to be reevaluated and perhaps ended or distanced. This reality plays out in many practical ways that even a brief self-examination would probably clarify for you.

Growing up and moving forward in the Christian life means that we must leave behind those sins and weights that hold us back, that keep us children; it means that we must become the new people we are in Christ, people who are and are being remade after His image.

Returning to my illustration, throughout the events of “Henry IV, Parts One and Two” we see multiple points in which Hal is forced to face the reality that he must cease living as he is, and become what he really is, what he was born to be. There is, of course, the battle with the rebel, Hotspur, and his forces, in which Hal has to step up and be a leader of men, defeating his enemy and winning the day. But the place where we see what could be called the tipping point is found at the death of Hal’s father, King Henry IV. In their final dialogue together, the rift between them is healed as Prince Hal promises to “rightfully maintain” the throne “‘gainst all the world”. (“Part Two”, Act IV, Scene IV).

After Hal is crowned King Henry V, it seems that the change from boy to man, from the riotous way of life in which he had indulged to the royal purpose to which he had been born, has been completed. As he royally processes near Westminster Abbey, the new king is approached by his old companion, Falstaff; rather than the warm reply he had expected, though, Falstaff receives a rebuke and banishment from King Henry V:

Presume not that I am the thing I was;

For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,

That I have turn’d away my former self;

So will I those that kept me company. (“Henry IV, Part Two”, Act V, Scene V)

In other words, King Henry V had become what he was meant to be, and would no longer live as he once did, nor carouse with Falstaff and his ilk. It would do us well, as Christians, to remember likewise that we are not the things we were, that the old man must die, and that whatever hinders us from growing up and being what we are meant to be in Christ must be banished from us. We, like Henry, must bid farewell to our Falstaffs.

Sojourn: A Brief Meditation

The world is quiet around me. And yet it’s not. The bright white of the falling snow, the underlying ice that has frozen the earth, the occasional sing-song chatter of hungry birds, the icy crying wind, and the passing of those who will not be deterred by the winter’s stormy countenance – I see, feel, hear all of these. And yet, there’s something quiet about a snowy day. It is as though, under its milky blanket the earth silently and eagerly awaits the thaw. It may be a cliché that has long been played out, but it is one we do well to remember: winter is awaiting its end, and even in its stillness it presses on to the spring, when the pure white will give way to brilliant greens and the multitudinous colors of God’s gardens, just as light shone through a prism reveals itself to be more than what we first saw. I am an exile, a sojourner to a home I’ve never yet seen, to a spring that will not end. This home is promised to me, the city of wholeness and peace, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-27); I wait, and at the very same time, I press on. I wait… for the Lord must come again and consummate His kingdom. I press on… “I journey to find the place where I will be resurrected,” as the missionary disciples of Columba said. I am a knight of heaven, a son of the King, in this world and in the next. This winter will end; it will not always be this way. In “this world with demons filled” (Luther), we are the church militant, the church sojourning; but the Son will come, and with this winter past, we shall be the church victorious, the church at rest at last. Let us wait for His salvation; let us press on to know Him, to do the works He has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10), and one day to see Him with our own resurrected eyes.

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:12-25

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:13-16

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62:1

“Toil passes, and rest will come; but rest only through toil. The ship passes, and you arrive at home; but home only by means of the ship. We are sailing the high seas, after all, if we take account of the surges and storms of this world. The reason, I am convinced, that we are not drowned is that we are being carried on the wood of the cross.” Augustine, Sermones ad populum, sermon 104.

Prayer: O Lord, God of sojourners, Who brought His ancient people from slavery in Egypt through the wilderness and to the Promised Land, and have in Christ vouchsafed to bring Your church unto Yourself in the New Jerusalem, protect us as we journey on, and strengthen our waiting faith that the homeland we behold with the eyes of faith now will be the homeland we see in joy with our resurrected eyes when Christ returns to judge the world. We ask in the name of Him Who bore the winter that He might bring His people to the everlasting spring, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.