We are on our summer schedule, gathering for worship on Sundays at 10:00am.

Hope for the Hopeless

daily reading plan

May 15, 2020 by Steven Lulich

You who have made me see many troubles and calamites
Will revive me again;
From the depths of the earth
You will bring me up again.”
Psalm 71:20

In my life, I don’t feel like I have personally known “many troubles and calamities,” but I know others who have. As a professor, I sometimes have the terrible and humbling privilege of being granted insight into my students’ personal lives. More often than I could wish, these young adults have already known significant hardships. Sometimes the “many troubles and calamities” are imposed externally, by forces outside of our control – troubles and calamities like earthquakes, tornados, viruses, car accidents, and wars. Sometimes they are self-inflicted through poor choices, despair, and a lack of hope for something better.

Return of the King

daily reading plan

May 13, 2020 by Tim O’Connor

“…the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary” (Psalm 68:24)

Last week, I reflected on Psalm 31, which Christ quoted in his dying words, and our need to prepare for the inevitable occasions when our faith and hope is tested, and our usual support systems seem to break down, or vanish altogether. For an image, think of the looks on the faces of Frodo and his companions in the Return of the King, at the desperate moment when the forces of Mordor overwhelmed them, with no relief in sight. Although we need to confront the reality of the fight we are in, it’s also not healthy to always dwell on the bleakest experiences of life. Psalm 68 gives us a necessary counterpoint: a stirring exaltation as God leads the victorious nation of Israel, carrying the ark of the covenant, in a procession to Mount Sinai:

Better than Life

daily reading plan

May 12, 2020 by Bob Whitaker

In Psalm 63 David makes a dramatic statement.  “Your love is better than life.”  When David writes this Psalm he is living in the desert of Judah.  He might be fleeing from King Saul or more likely he is running for his life because of a revolution within his own household – Absalom.  In either case the most primal instinct of human nature is to preserve one’s life and this is precisely what David is attempting to accomplish.  In light of that condition he pauses to consider something that is an even greater priority than human life.  During these difficult circumstances he expresses his praise to God in several ways.

We Have Heard with Our Ears

daily reading plan

May 8, 2020 by Aaron Brown

I find it easy to judge the Israelites. Don’t you? I think about the beautiful and bloody story of God making his covenant with Abram to the binding of Isaac. I think about Jacob wrestling with God and how God saved Jacob and his sons from famine by the hands of his son Joseph.  The Book of Genesis is full of times when those Patriarchs encountered our God. The covenant was passed down generation to generation. In an amazingly awesome display of God’s power in the plagues of Egypt, the Israelites regain their freedom by simply walking away from their oppressors with their gold. Even after the pillars of cloud and fire lead them day and night and the pillar of cloud protects them as the Egyptian army pursues and the sea opens an escape on dry land, the Israelites grumble. God feeds them manna from heaven and quails and even provides water gushing from a rock, they whine.  “Why did you bring us out to the desert to die? We could have been back in Egypt eating leeks and garlic.” How can the Israelites whine? After not only the amazing stories of their fathers, but their own encounters with God, they bemoan their situation with, it seems, very little appreciation and thankfulness.

Commit Your Way to the Lord

daily reading plan

May 7, 2020 by Steven Lulich

“Commit your way to the Lord;
Trust in Him, and He will act.
He will bring forth your
Righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.”

Psalm 37:5-6

I have recently been a bit out of sorts. I’ve been tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, uncertain. How long will we need to stay at home? When will it be safe again? Am I going to have to teach an entire semester online in the Fall? Can I wrap up this semester successfully? Why are new and unexpected jobs still piling up? Will the kids ever sleep an entire night? Can I come through for my colleagues? Am I a man of my word? Am I self-disciplined? Am I a good father? Am I a good husband? Why am I struggling so much right now?

In God’s Hand

daily reading plan

May 6, 2020 by Tim O’Connor

“Into your hand I commit my spirit…” (Psalm 31:5)

The Psalms are the prayer book for the people of God. Being so familiar to ancient Israelites, the language of the Psalms frequently gets quoted by other biblical writers. David’s Psalm 31 is a favorite. Phrases from this psalm appear in Jonah and Jeremiah, and the opening three verses of Psalm 71 (possibly written by David himself, as an old man) closely follow David’s opening prayer here. The Church takes this process of re-embedding Scripture to a new level, as we see the deepest meaning of the entire Old Testament, the fulfillment of what it (sometimes dimly) points to, in the incarnation and life-giving ministry of Jesus Christ. The Church has especially taught Christians to see Christ throughout the Psalms, and to pray its prayers with an understanding that he inhabits them. That is easy to do in this case, as we read in it Christ’s final words on the cross, “into your hand I commit my spirit.”

Fearless Faith

daily reading plan

May 5, 2020 by Bob Whitaker

“The Lord is my light and salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”  There is an obvious answer to that question – NO ONE!  Why?  Because in Psalm 27 the writer is trusting in the protection of a sovereign God.  He is placing his faith in the one who is his Good Shepherd.  It is almost a defiant question that is quickly answered in verse 3; “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”   This Psalm of David is a confident song that grows out of his real life experience.  Pursued by King Saul, he consistently trusted in God for the deliverance, confident in his Good Shepherd, resting under the shadow of the almighty.  As you read on you will find that his confidence is coupled with a petition that almost seems contrary to his security – “Do not turn me over to the desires of my foes…”  There is always a realism in the Psalms of David, confidence and concern, boldness and honest cries for help.  These are not contradictory themes which indicate a spiritual instability but instead they are a realistic trust in a wise and loving God.

David’s words might remind you of the Apostle in Romans 8, “If God is for us who can be against us…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ…In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  These words of David and Paul are not unrealistic pieces of poetry, pie-in-the-sky platitudes.  Instead, they are penned by men who endured significant suffering, both internal and external.  In both of these individuals you will find a common theme that transcends the ordinary and difficult circumstances of life.  In the midst of daily life their focus is on the eternal nature of God.  David says, “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon him in his temple.  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.”

If we took these words literally it would imply that David wanted to be a priest in the Tabernacle of God, dwelling there always.  However, we know this was not a real possibility since he was not from a priestly tribe and furthermore he was a king.  His words express a longing that is deeply spiritual, a desire to always be in the unbroken presence of God – a place of eternal safety and comfort.  Like David, the apostles, saints and martyrs embraced an otherworldly perspective that gave eternal meaning to the ordinary and often difficult circumstances of life.  No matter what happened they could rest under the shadow of the almighty.

Punk Evangelicals and Psalm 19

daily reading plan

May 4, 2020, by Dan Waugh

I have been a fan of punk rock for a long time. The classic punk band The Clash famously sang, “I fought the law, and the law won.” Punk is a movement based on fighting the man, resisting those in authority, pushing against the law.

Evangelicalism and Punk Rock might be cousins.

Silver Linings

daily reading plan

May 1, 2020 by Matt Wooden

Psalm 1

Stories of silver linings emerging from the quarantine have sprung up from so many sources. Among the “silverest” for our family has been the increased time out-of-doors. We have been especially thankful that the state parks have remained open and that we have had opportunities to visit our closest park, McCormick’s Creek, with much greater frequency than usual.

Early in Indiana’s state park years, Richard Lieber and his Conservation Department worked tirelessly to draw people to the newly formed state parks, of which McCormick’s Creek was the first in 1916. The earliest trail maps bear a statement from the Division of Lands and Waters called “The Intelligent Use of Leisure.” It reads:

“This trail map is given to you with the compliments of the state of Indiana through its Department of Conservation in the hope that it will direct your attention to the primary purpose for which the state park system has been established.

These recreational areas are parts of ‘original America,’ preserving for posterity typical primitive landscapes of scenic grandeur and rugged beauty.

Along the quiet trails through these reservations it is to be expected that the average citizen will find release from the tension of his over-crowded daily existence; that the contact with nature will re-focus with a clearer lens his perspective on life values and that he may here take counsel with himself to the end that his strength and confidence is renewed.”

I can’t read those initial words of hope for the state park system without thinking of the initial chorus of the book of Psalms. We hear for the first time what will be a consistent refrain of the psalmists: a charge to consider the activity of the natural world, created by the language and still persistently pouring forth the language of our God. Psalm 1 puts two natural images in front of us: a fruit-bearing tree planted by a flowing stream and the empty chaff of wheat blown by the wind. We are asked to consider which we most resemble: elements of God’s creation that are simultaneously being nourished and nourishing others or dead, spent shells of what was designed to be fruitful.

Interestingly, the second-growth woodlands that cover McCormick’s Creek State Park have sprouted over the past century from the chaff of the fields of the settlers’ farms. Just yesterday, my family walked alone through those woods, finding by the flowing creek a newly-born tulip poplar tree bearing just two small leaves. As Richard Lieber would have hoped, it made me consider my perspective and as the psalmist commands, it reminded me of the blessing of those whose delight is in the language of the Lord: the blessing of ever new life rising from the dead.

In this season, I hope that you too might be drawn to “scenic grandeur and rugged beauty” not only for their own sake, but primarily to be drawn into the images that spoke to the psalmists and draw our hearts to their maker and ours.

Behold the Man

daily reading plan

April 30, 2020 by Steven Lulich

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” John 19:5

A number of years ago I came across this little chestnut, scribbled (of all places) across the door of a public restroom stall:

Nietzsche:  God is dead.

God:  Nietzsche is dead.