Yes, Children, There Is a Santa Claus. Really.

St. Nicholas "Lipensky, by Aleksa Petrov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When I was a pastor, one Sunday in Advent I called the kids forward for the children's sermon. I told my three to seven year old congregation "Today I'm going to tell you the truth about Santa Claus." Usually the kids were pretty wriggly. This time the parents were squirming. Here is what I told them. "Long, long ago, about 300 years after Jesus was born, there was a man … [Read more...]

Advent 3–Reading Isaiah (cont.)

Tomatoes-RootSystem-SouthGardenBed, by Glenn, cc license

Reading through Isaiah in Advent provides some breathtaking moments. Yes, there is also some thick slogging: any number of passages are filled with ancient history and unfamiliar names. But scattered throughout the book's 66 chapters are some of the most beautiful, inspiring, hope-filled moments in all of Scripture. Some of them are familiar as can be. … [Read more...]

Advent 2–Reading Isaiah (cont.)

DSC_7965 by Andrew Gould, cc license

Funny things happen when reading Isaiah if (a) you are a Christian and (b) you have a theological education in a mainline Protestant tradition. (a) As a Christian, there is a whole lot of Isaiah, like the series of oracles to the nations (see chapters 13 and following), that just seems like hard slogging. The references are clearly to ancient issues in ancient times and … [Read more...]

Advent 1–Reading Isaiah

Adventskranz 1 by Liesel, cc license

I'm setting out to read Isaiah again this Advent: 25 days to read 66 chapters. It shouldn't be a problem but, what with a pile of grading running into preparation for the looming new semester, holiday gatherings, and a sinful nature I seldom seem to reach the end in time. My ancestors in the Reformed tradition jettisoned Advent along with most of the rest of the … [Read more...]

Singing God’s Praise–The Old Fashioned Way

The Resurrection of Christ, 17th century, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

All my adult life I have been a Presbyterian. As often as possible during that same adult life I have worshipped among the Orthodox. It has not been that often in the sheer number of occasions--some glorious opportunities to hear the Liturgy St. Vladimir's Seminary when I was in seminary and graduate school; a smaller number of visits to the tiny building and burgeoning … [Read more...]

From Gratitude to Obedience: Can We Get There from Here?

The Lost Explorer, Joe Hunt, cc license

You've probably heard the joke about the fellow who asked for directions only to be told "Sorry. You can't get there from here." In the Reformed tradition we think gratitude leads us to obey God's expressed will. But as a comment in last week's post on the life of gratitude asked "...it seems like a stretch to say that we express our gratitude by not murdering … [Read more...]

What Does The Life of Gratitude Look Like? (Heidelberg Catechism, Q93)

Decalogue parchment by Jekuthiel Sofer 1768, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving is coming next week! I love having a day that almost requires me to say “Thank you!” to God and to people around me. I want my whole life to focus on giving thanks. What does a thankful life look like? If you have been here before you know that I often post about topics in the Heidelberg Catechism—a 16th century Reformed summary of biblical Christianity. It is a … [Read more...]

How Do You Find God’s Will? (Heidelberg Catechism, Q91)

"?" by Andrés Nieto Porras, cc license

If you follow Jesus, sooner or later the question is going to come up: What is God’s will?” We love God. We want our lives to please God. But how on earth can we figure out what God really wants? A full century after the Pentecostal movement drew our attention to the presence of the Holy Spirit, we assume that if just quiet down God will whisper the answer in our … [Read more...]

Vocabulary Lesson: The Keys of the Kingdom (Heidelberg Catechism, Q83)

First Aid Kit and Key, Felix E. Guerrero, cc license

Read your King James Bible and several times you'll run across the word "sackbut." Say that today and somebody will feel insulted. Back in 1611 people knew it was a musical instrument. Language changes as centuries pass. That can happen with theological vocabulary too. Take the word "keys." Listen hard to sermons, to your Christian friends, or to Christian media. Is … [Read more...]

Guest Post on ChristianMomThoughts.com: “Training Wheels for Your Child’s Prayer Life”

RayPhotosPerth on Pixabay, public domain under cc license

I am thrilled that Natasha Crain invited me to write a post on her great Christian parenting blog, "Christian Mom Thoughts." Natasha writes on apologetics for parents, equipping them to help their kids grow in a strong and well-informed faith, and she now has a book under contract with Harvest House. Check out her work -- but read my post first! It is up and … [Read more...]