A Few Thoughts on Repentance -

  1. Repentance is a gift from God. We mustn’t assume that repentance has its origin within us. God gives repentance as a gift of grace through the work of the Spirit in His people and as such ought to be treated as a gift with an awareness of an undeserved mercy. (2 Tim. 2:25)

  1. Repentance is recognizing that our offense is primarily a transgression against God, His holy character, and His Law, and secondarily a transgression against our neighbor as His image bearer. Therefore real repentance is to be offered for real sins and real transgressions and not for illusory or made-up offenses. (Matt. 22:36-40)

  1. Repentance, rightly understood, inevitably brings about a change of mind and posture towards those whom we’ve sinned against. First, in abhorrence of my behavior as it has been directed toward to the person and character of God, and second, as I have sinned against my neighbor. Repentance looks like renewed disposition, love, and good deeds directed toward both. (Eph. 4:28)

  1. Repentance is casting myself upon the mercy of God for my personal transgressions against God and my neighbor, and imploring Him for forgiveness, and trusting that He will hear my cry for mercy. And this with a single view of turning away from this action that has caused a breach between Him (and my neighbor) and me, with full recognition that without God’s mercy I am lost in my sin. (Psalm 51, Luke 18:9-14)

  1. Repentance is recognizing and embracing the reality that my sinful behavior is no small thing. My sin is a transgression against the holy character of God and as such required the death of Jesus Christ as God’s sin-bearer. (Heb. 9:22)

  1. My repentance is not conditioned upon the repentance of someone else. My transgression is mine alone and whether someone else repents is of no consequence to me. My sinful action against God (and my neighbor) is the sole source for my repentance. (Matt. 5:23)

  1. Lack of repentance brings judgment. (James 5:9)

  1. Repentance must characterize the community of the forgiven as the world looks on in confounded amazement. (Rev. 2:5)

  1. Repentance makes the heart glad as we become reconciled to God and our neighbor. (James 5:16)

  1. Repentance is an indication that we are walking in the light and have fellowship with God through Christ. (1 John 1)

  1. Repentance, with both contrition and joy, shows the inestimable worth of Jesus Christ as a propitiation for my sin. (1 John 1:5-10)

  1. Repentance demonstrates the imminence of God's Kingdom (Matt. 4:17)

  1. There is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. (Luke 15:7)

  1. True repentance always bears good fruit. (Matthew 3:8)

  1. Repentance, when offered in faith, is always accompanied by the assurance of forgiveness by God. (1 John 1:9)




Born a Martyr -

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."'
-Luke 2:25-35

'The whole life of Christ was a continual Passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucufied, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and death were but one continual act, and his Christmas day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of the same day. And as even his birth is his death, so every action and passage that manifests Christ to us is his birth, for Epiphany is manisfestation. Every manifestation of Christ to the world, to the church, to a particular soul is an Epiphany, a Christmas day.'
- John Donne, The Showing Forth of Christ, quoted in Watch for the Light, p. 303-304

Dear Friends and Family,

I love the story of Simeon from Luke 2. Can you imagine this elderly, faithful Jewish gentleman day after day serving and performing his temple duties? He was righteous and devout; a man set upon by the Spirit of God and having been visited by the Spirit who assure him that he would see God's salvation before he died. When Joseph and Mary had brought Jesus to the temple for the rites expected by Levitical law Simeon saw Him. When he set his eyes upon Jesus an old man saw God's salvation. Simeon recognized that this would be God's salvation for all peoples; Gentile and Jew alike. In the new babe Simeon saw what many do not see. He saw hope for all peoples, but also that this salvation would be opposed. Salvation would come at a price. Simeon saw that God's salvation was to be manifest, not by youthful zeal and the hope of a young child, but this salvation would be made manifest by opposition and suffering. Simeon saw God's salvation in a child that would bring salvation through the piercing pain of suffering. Simeon may not have seen God's redemptive plan from beginning to end, but he made the connection between God's salvation and the opposition that was coming to this child. God's redemptive plan included both a manger and a cross. This child was born a martyr.

Rejoicing with Simeon in seeing God's salvation.

Dan J. Morse

(Reposting an original post from December 2009)


Longing in Hope -

 There’s a tension that won’t go away. Try as I might to mitigate its effects the strain is palpable; longing and yearning…what is flies in the face of what should be. No aspect of life has escaped.  We yearn with incessant longing, but as a result of the fall all of life, is often hard and filled with unmet expectations.  Our longing manifests itself in frustration and alienation. Can we escape it? Is it possible to get beyond this tension?

What if the tension, and what if the yearning are indications; signposts pointing to something far more significant? What if the incessant longing for something better and different is an indicator of something broken and seemingly unfixable? What if estrangement and its satisfaction here and now are impossible?   In 2002 the contemporary rock group Coldplay asked an even more penetrating question,

Am I, a part of the cure
Or am I part of the disease?

What if the problem with longing is me? What if the cure I long for is held in abeyance by the contagion I carry? What if the biggest obstacle to satisfying my yearning is rooted deeply inside of who I am?

One of my favorite Advent stories is the story of Simeon found in Luke chapter 2. Simeon, a righteous, clear-eyed, and wizened temple worshiper was a man consumed with longing. He looked at the world around him and saw brokenness. He knew something of the prevalent and encroaching darkness and yet pined for something or Someone better. When the young child Jesus was brought to the temple for the rite of purification Simeon’s gaze fell upon Him. In that moment Simeon’s yearning, like a man overlong parched for water, found his thirsting sated. For Simeon the answer to the longing was found in deliverance, but even more so, in a Deliverer. Simeon describes his yearning being satisfied by seeing. He exclaims,

‘…my eyes have seen your salvation….’(v. 30)

In Jesus Simeon saw deliverance, not just for the world, but for himself. Long bound by chains of his own making, in Jesus Simeon was confronted by his longing, and confronted by his own need and the needs of the world around him. In Simeon’s beatific Advent vision every longing pooled up with satisfaction. Salvation, was found in Jesus in the Incarnation, and in Him the telos of longing, had come.

Simeon wasn’t the only one who longed for something. In generations prior the patriarch Abraham had been whispered a promise. And Jesus, of Himself, spoke as the anecdote to Abraham’s long dormant yearning in John 8,

‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ (V. 56)

Abraham’s longing was rooted deeply in the covenantal framework given to the first woman in Genesis 3. One would come, it said. He is promised, it said. Wait, it said.

For all of those like me that still yearn. For all of those that see the brokenness in both the world and in themselves, and long for the overdue mending to come. For those that find themselves longing and waiting, at times impatiently, for things to be different. For those that daily experience the tension that won’t go away…we wait. In this interregnum we wait for the twice-fulfilled promise, once as Bethlehem’s Child and once again soon as a cosmic reigning King. 

‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’
      Phillip Brooks, O Little Town of Bethlehem, 1868

-Dan J. Morse
Advent 2016

[1] Coldplay, Clocks, A Rush of Blood to the Head, copyright 2002(US), Parlophone Music


The Power of a Book

My love affair with books arrived at an early age. I read early and read often. Its kind of surprising really that I was never a better student, especially considering I read everything I could lay my hands on. Books opened new worlds and new thoughts to me and my young appetite was insatiable. I remember the excitement of the visiting Bookmobile, bringing home books from school, and earning money to buy books from the school’s book service.

When our older girls were very young someone recommended a book to me. At the time I was having a crisis of faith. Having been raised in a Christian home I was trying to make sense out of some of the things I thought I believed, and my efforts seemed futile. I couldn’t make sense out of some of what I’d been taught and every question raised only seemed to raise another. A wise friend recommended a book. At the time it was a very expensive book and for a young family it would have surely been ill-advised to waste money on such extravagances. Knowing my conflicted thoughts and doubts my friend said, ‘Buy the book. It may help.’

In the days before the Internet and Amazon Prime books were much harder to find. I asked at the library and a local Christian bookstore and found myself only to be met with vacant stares. The response from the Christian bookstore was predictable. They had all kinds of ‘Christian’ trinkets, art, music and books, but this book was nowhere to be found. It so happened that there was no market for the book I was looking for in a Christian bookstore. The woman behind the counter was kind enough to look up the title on the microfiche. I’m really sounding old now, but a microfiche was a machine that magnified very small print from a sheet of Mylar and transposed it to be read upon a screen. On these Mylar sheets were printed hundreds of book titles and publishing information. The search began and as we scrolled through the titles there it was - L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1981, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids. I went home and saved my pennies and ordered a copy. After weeks of waiting it finally arrived.

Within the pages of a dry and dusty book on systematic theology God began to use an old Dutch Calvinist seminary professor to help frame my thinking. The pieces began to fit. I was able to make sense out of my Christian faith and out of the world I found myself in. Louis Berkhof became a familiar friend, mentor, and an ad hoc counselor to a young man in need. I don't think it's too strong to say, an old book written by an old man saved my life.  I can walk into my study now and see the book on my shelf, soon 35 years later, weathered and watermarked from carrying it to work in my lunch pail and dragging it along on vacation’s past. There within its pages are penciled notes, underlining, and highlights from years gone by. I’ve returned again and again to that book. Professor Berkhof has become one of several counselors of whom I make frequent inquiry. The Internet may have its advantages but it will never replace this book. This single volume, like a few others, have become faithful and trusted friends over the years.

Friends, never underestimate the power of a book.




Father’s Day as a Reminder of Weakness

It’s Father’s Day and with ample seat time on the tractor yesterday the formulation of this blog has been rolling around in my head. Today has been a big day, a day we laud fathers for their formative influences in our lives. For some this day brings sadness, you see for them to be reminded of their father is to open old wounds. Physical scars can be traced to specific physical abuses, but emotional scars, though every bit as real, can be harder to source. Some may not know their father at all, being abandoned early on.

Today I’ll have celebrated 38 Father’s Days as a father. With five children I rejoice in the profound privilege of being a father. There is nothing to be compared to it. In being dad to Sarah, Hannah, Esther, Nathanael, and Lydia I have experienced incomparable joy; five children and I am rich beyond measure. Each child has brought depth and blessing to my life, and in many ways I recognize to love them and care for them as a proper father is way beyond my natural inclination and gifting.

Each Father’s Day has also brought it’s own sorrow as well. For all of the joy each child brings there is an awareness of my own failures as a father. Age brings perspective. Painful memories abound in the recollections of the ‘what actually is v. what should have been.’ And for each of my children I can recall specific sins and failures in what I’ve thought of them, what I’ve said to them, and what I’ve done to them. Far more serious than simple shortcomings, my children have borne with a sinful father, and yet have done so quite charitably.  While my memory is long they’ve graciously kept short accounts

There are no perfect fathers. Some might be better than others, but each must own his failings. This Father’s Day I’m aware of mine. As a Christian I dare not be ashamed to name my weaknesses, failings, and sins as a father. To recount them is painful, but to declare them as so is to acknowledge my insufficiency and need, and thereby to open a channel for grace and help. For the Christian father the confession of inherent insufficiency is to declare the belief in a two-pronged remedy:  One, that God hears my cries for help in my paternal shortcomings, and, two, God exchanges my imperfections and sins for His righteousness. By faith and as a father I become the recipient of an alien (outside of myself) righteousness. An exchange takes place that allows me to be a father, with all of my sins, and yet not give up in despair. In Christ all of my fatherly shortcomings have been met. I still move forward in faith to be the dad I should be, and who God calls me to be, but I’m not lost in a death-spiral of never-ending torment of those things I should have done. In this I own my sin without being held captive by it. By faith I trust that I have been helped, I am being helped, and I will be helped in my responsibilities as a father (and now as a grandfather), because God has heard my cry in my weakness and need.

This Father’s Day I’m reminded of the rich blessing of my five children for which I’m eternally grateful, and today I’m reminded of fathering grace that God gives to those men that recognize their all-too-frequent failures and out of that acknowledgement run to God in repentance and faith. Dads, may we together rejoice in the former and abound in the latter.


Father’s Day 2016