Our Blog

Filter By:

Seeing Glory in What's Familiar

main image

BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     One chilly evening recently I pulled my chair up close to a wood stove and started feeding logs into the intense flames. As the painful discomfort in my frozen extremities was quickly dissipated and replaced by the almost equal pain caused by the heat from the stove, I backed away from the open door and found the perfect distance to achieve the consummate state of coziness. I sat there for over an hour, watching the dry wood being rapidly consumed by the fire, mesmerized by the destructive power of the flames.

     Eventually, as the fire died down and the warmth and comfort made me sleepy, I began playfully poking at the pile of red-hot coals. I became fascinated by these chunks of charred wood – as waves of heat coursed through them, they glowed and undulated with brilliant colors of red, yellow, and orange. They became almost translucent at times, and their edges would sometimes sparkle with miniature flames. I was stunned by the beauty and mystery of what I was witnessing.

     Every day we step on, walk by, and sit in the midst of thousands of reflections of the glory of the Creator, and we rarely notice them. I’ve always felt that the cliché “familiarity breeds contempt” is, in most cases, an overstatement – what familiarity most often creates is apathy. Regarding God’s creation, we take for granted and become blind to that which is common, no matter how spectacular its beauty may be. The blue jays and cardinals that sit on the feeder at my window would be considered exotic in many parts of the world, but here they’re just part of the scenery.

     The dulling effect of familiarity has been augmented in our era by the remarkable advances in scientific study. The pursuit of scientific knowledge is good, but when we remove the mystery from our understanding of God’s creation we tend to lose our sense of wonder. Just because we can explain the processes involved with a burning log, a thinking brain, or a growing flower, that doesn’t lessen the glory of the Creator revealed in them; in fact, our increased understanding should deepen our amazement. It is only our sin that keeps science classes from breaking out into praise and worship services.

     In the beginning of chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told us that we must become like children in order to enter and thrive in His Kingdom. There are so many aspects of a child’s attitude that He could be alluding to – He especially mentions humility, and also implies that their willingness to trust is to be emulated. Another admirable aspect of a childlike heart is their relatively uncorrupted sensitivity to the wonders of God’s creation. The joy of discovery and experience of being in awe is a daily reality for young children. One of the greatest tragedies of the aging process is the onset of apathy and cynicism.

     The soul-deadening effect of repeated exposure to and experience of God’s glory in creation is a result of sin’s entrance into the creation. G.K. Chesterton once wrote in his book Orthodoxy, “[Children] always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” I pray that God will reverse the mental and emotional aging process in me and restore to me a child’s eyes for seeing His glory in the mundane.

     Seeing God’s glory is the most passionate desire of the heart that’s been born again by God’s grace. That glory is most clearly seen in His Word, where we see Jesus Christ, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). But there are also innumerable reflections of His glory all around us, every moment of every day. We just need to stop rushing around and pray that the Lord will open the eyes of our hearts so that we can see what is so obvious to a child-like heart.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

The Death of Denominationalism

main image

BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     I recently read this quote by Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow: "In the past century, denominationalism was … a very large part of what it meant to be Christian….now people belong to the Presbyterian church, not because of deep loyalty to the denomination at large, but because they like the pastor, they feel comfortable with the people, the building fits their architectural tastes, the church is not too far way, and it provides activities for their family." What Wuthnow says is consistent with what I’m hearing from many sources and what I’m observing with my own eyes – the increasing irrelevance of denominations among in the eyes of American Christians. Not only are believers generally uninformed about the differences between Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, and Methodists (let alone the myriads of splinter denominations in each of those categories), they really don’t care.

     There are some good and noble reasons for this disdain for ecclesiastical labels. In the past, many people have cloaked their attitudes of pride and judgmentalism in the guise of pursuing and preserving doctrinal purity in their denominations. Also, many of the divisions over doctrinal differences were unnecessary and unhealthy. And the existence of thousands of separate denominations has greatly blinded the Church of Jesus Christ to its essential unity and strength, and has damaged the testimony of the church before the world. Jesus prayed for those who would believe in Him, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in Me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent Me.” (John 17:21).

     But I fear that the motivation for disregarding denominational labels is actually more worldly than spiritual. I think the tolerance for denominational differences today is due more to weak Biblical knowledge and theological wishy-washyness than to a deeper love and spirituality. Recent generations in the church have become lazy and distracted by prosperity, and have not been willing to teach or learn the deeper truths of God’s Word. It is not a noble thing in the sight of our God to be indifferent about whether or not we should baptize infants; or how to reconcile God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility; or whether women should be Pastors or Elders. The Lord expects us to work hard for unity in the church, but not at the expense of truth.

     Also, as you can see in the quote at the beginning of this article, one of the major reasons that Christians disregard denominational and doctrinal differences is their misplaced priorities. It’s not surprising in this comfortable, self-centered culture that Christians tend to care more about the likeability of the pastor than his faithfulness to the Scriptures; or that they care more the friendliness of the congregation than level of their commitment to the Kingdom; or that they care more about the proximity of the church to their house than they do about how close it is to God and truth; or that they care more about activities for their kids than they do about in-depth training in truth and discipleship for their kids.

     It is ironic that, in the cause of breaking down barriers and pursuing unity among believers, so many are rejecting denominations and flocking to independent congregations. Is it not obvious that “independent” is not a complement for a local congregation? We are to be seeking to join with other believers on as large a scale as possible, to work toward dependence on other portions of the Body of Christ. In a good Biblical denomination (like the Presbyterian Church in America), this is exactly the goal, and I praise God that we are organizationally connected to other like-minded churches throughout the world.  

12345678910 ... 2627