The Weekend Wanderer: 17 August 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Marty Sampson“What could have helped Marty Sampson’s faith” – Some of you may have heard that Marty Sampson, well-known as a worship leader and song writer with Hillsong United and Hillsong Young & Free, announced that he is departing from his Christian faith. After pointing to the string of failures in ministry leaders and sharing some of his own doubts, Sampson says multiple times, “No one talks about it.” Aside from the fact that a lot of people talk about it, this raises multiple issues about the theological vacuity of much of evangelicalism, the inability of many churches to give space and guidance to people in moments of questioning or doubt, and also the lack of long-term growth mindset that gives space for ups and downs in much hyped-up contemporary worship-experience churches. Australian missiologist Michael Frost offers some meaningful insights in this article, with reference to the life of Thomas Merton: “In our information-drunk, effectiveness-addicted culture, finding genuine truth happens through the life-tested skill of gathering what is needed to sustain faith without killing faith in the gathering.”

I’d also encourage you to read Russell Moore’s article, “When Someone You Admire Abandons the Faith.He writes, “The Internet is atwitter with opinions on all of that, from atheists, from Christians, and everyone in between. As sad as I am about all of this, I can’t help but think about lots of people I’ve known, many of whom would never make headlines, who just, sometimes very quietly, walked away from the faith. ” Along with that, David French’s article on this issue, “Another Pop-Culture Christian Loses His Faith,” in National Review is painfully relevant: “I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away (again, only Sampson knows his heart): They’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.”

 

J D Vance Catholic“J.D. Vance Becomes Catholic” – At another point in the faith journey continuum, there is this news. J. D. Vance wrote the book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis as a reflection on social challenges in our country, the struggle to find stability in life, and what it means to become a good person in spite of a difficult family upbringing. The book became a New York Times bestseller and is being made into a movie directed by Ron Howard. Rod Dreher reported this past week that Vance has converted to Roman Catholicism. Vance comments: “one of the things I love about Catholicism is that it’s very old. I take a longer view….The hope of the Christian faith is not rooted in any short-term conquest of the material world, but in the fact that it is true, and over the long term, with various fits and starts, things will work out.”

 

91727“Preaching Against Racism Is Not a Distraction from the Gospel” – Here is Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College: “In light of recent gun violence, some of which appears to be racially motivated, the church’s response to racial controversy is once again in the spotlight. We have to ask ourselves: What will our testimony be? What do we do when violent events occur with such startling frequency that we don’t know what to do or what to say? How do know when it is wise to be silent or when it is necessary to speak? Pastors, in particular, have to ask: How do we use the pulpit to preach against racism?”

 

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“Does Your Preaching Touch Politics?” – And if that raised some questions about how the pulpit should engage with current issues, here is a 2008 article featuring Mark Dever, Adam Hamilton, Joel Hunter, and Efrem Smith on how they preach on political issues. While some aspects of it show their age, as we continue in a divisive climate in our society, advice from these seasoned pastors is worth the read.

 

NewYorker_Mosquito_Vertical_v5“How Mosquitoes Changed Everything” – We all dislike mosquitoes, but now there is an assembly of their great impact on human civilization. “Winegard finds first-person descriptions of death and suffering caused by mosquito-borne diseases in many eras. Florence Nightingale called the Pontine Marshes, near Rome, ‘the Valley of the Shadow of Death’; a German missionary visiting the southern United States wrote that it was ‘in the spring a paradise, in the summer a hell, and in the autumn a hospital’; a Mayan survivor of post-Columbus epidemics remembered, ‘Great was the stench of death. . . . All of us were thus. We were born to die!’ And yet human beings lived with, and died from, mosquito-borne diseases for thousands of years without understanding how they were reaching us. Not until the end of the nineteenth century was it scientifically established that mosquitoes transmitted malaria. Before then, the miasma theory, holding that fevers travelled independently, through fetid environments, held sway, reflected in the very word ‘malaria’: we thought we were the victims of ‘bad air.’ That these tiny biting insects might be affecting our lives so profoundly was a leap beyond imagining.”

 

_108333557_overallwinner_matbeetson_watermarked“In pictures: Australian Geographic’s photo prize winners” – The world is a beautiful place, and there are many parts to it that we will never be able to see in person. Thankfully, there are skilled photographers who can share unique views of God’s good creation with great skill and from fascinating angles.

 

bach-manuscript-well-tempered-clavier-prelude-no-1-1414409439-1-600x452“The Prelude” – Here’s Austin Kleon combatting violence with Bach. “I thought today that I was going to sit down and blog about violence, about how hard I am trying to cleanse my house of violence, how violence is not just guns and bombs and knives and fists, but how many kinds of touch can be violent, how words can be violent, how you can stab your salad violently….The only thing I feel like I can do is make my home a haven, a place where we celebrate things of beauty and rationality and love and peace. Bach’s music is one of those things.”

 

Music: J. S. Bach, “The Goldberg Variations,” performed by Glenn Gould (1955).

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Power in Prayer: Learning to Pray with St. Paul

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a teaching series entitled “Power in  Prayer: Learning to Pray with St. Paul.” This series is the first of a three-part series related to our 40th anniversary as a church. Since the earliest days of Eastbrook, prayer has been profoundly important and vital to our life as a church. It was often said that we wanted to be a church that could only be explained by the power of God.

As we move forward we want that to continue to be true. We believe that prayer is the heart of what it means to live with God, live as the church, and live on mission in the world. In this series, we will explore three basic aspects of the life of prayer so that we might be rooted in life with God and bearing fruit for His kingdom.

August 17/18 – “Prayer as Living within God’s Love” (Ephesians 3:14-21)

August 24/25 – “Prayer as Life-Shaping by God” (Colossians 1:9-17)

August 31/September 1 – “Prayer as Power for Mission with God” (Romans 15:23-33)

Beating Off the Demons

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In Genesis 15, Abraham has a monumental experience with the Living God. In order to reaffirm the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12, God asks Abraham to offer a sacrifice before Him. Abraham prepares the sacrifices, cutting them in half and spreading them out on the open fields of Canaan before the Lord.

All through the day, as Abraham waits to meet with God before the sacrifice, birds of prey come down to nibble and steal the sacrifice that Abraham has prepared before God. Jewish commentators and many of the early church fathers saw the correspondence between these birds and the demonic powers of Satan coming against Abraham. They described it as a picture of a holy life attacked in the midst of the world.

This helps me. Many times in my life, troubles rise up and I feel the tearing bites of the demons gathering around my life. In Romans 12, Paul describes the life of the Christian as a living sacrifice before God. We, too, cut open by the Word of God, offer our lives to the Lord, spreading them out on the promises of God’s truth, waiting to meet with God. Part of our task is to simply beat off the demons who come to attack us, confound us, and ultimately destroy us.

As the night descends, Abraham meets with God in perhaps one of the most bizarre theophanies in all Scripture. Floating between the bisected sacrifice, God appears as a smoking fire pot and a glowing torch before Abraham. God passes in the midst of the sacrifice to convey His glorious presence and His profound commitment to Abraham, taking upon Himself all the obligations of the covenant which Abraham could not fulfill himself.

This reminds us of the grace and power of God on our behalf. In Christ, God takes upon Himself the responsibilities of the covenant, showering us with the gifts of reconciliation and justification. In Christ, God has triumphed over the principalities and powers at the Cross, extending His victory to us. We, for our part, respond to the prevenient grace and victorious power of God with faith. In part, that includes us beating off the demons who strive to defile the responsive sacrifice of our lives. In this context, Paul’s words in Ephesians 6 about the nature of our conflict and the calling to stand make even more sense. So, too, do Peter’s words in chapter five of his first epistle about being sober and alert as the devil prowls around us.

As with Abraham, may God’s grace and power strengthen us daily to beat off the demons that strive to defile the living sacrifice of our lives that we bring to Him.

Celebrating God’s Glory…One Generation to the Next [Eastbrook Outdoors 2019]

Eastbrook Outdoors

Yesterday Eastbrook Church gathered to celebrate God’s goodness over 40 years with an outdoor worship service and picnic. It was an amazing time with folks across all four of our regular worship services gathering together as one, worshiping the Lord and celebrating with one another.

I brought a message from Psalm 145:3-8, which reads:

3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[a]
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

I spent some time talking about celebration, God’s power, God’s goodness, God’s love, and our response to it all. You can view the message, which is a stand-alone message and not part of any series, below.

 

A Prayer of Howard Thurman

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Open unto me, light for my darkness
Open unto me, courage for my fear
Open unto me, hope for my despair
Open unto me, peace for my turmoil
Open unto me, joy for my sorrow
Open unto me, strength for my weakness
Open unto me, wisdom for my confusion
Open unto me, forgiveness for my sins
Open unto me, tenderness for my toughness
Open unto me, love for my hates
Open unto me, Thy Self for myself
Lord, Lord, open unto me!

By Howard Thurman, 20th century religious and civil right leader.

The Weekend Wanderer: 10 August 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Donna Barrett“Groundbreaking Vote” – “Delegates at the 2019 General Council returned Assemblies of God General Secretary Donna L. Barrett [to her post]….The election marked the first time a woman has been elected to a national office by a General Council vote in the 105-year history of the U.S. Assemblies of God….Barrett, 59, came into office in June 2018 by a vote of the Executive Presbytery. She received a standing ovation after the outcome announcement.” More info here: “Assemblies of God Elects First Woman to Top Leadership Team.”

 

Birmingham stained glass.jpg“Who’s Afraid of Social Justice” – Brian Dijkema at Comment relates his apology for the biblical calling to justice. “You can work very, very hard to downplay the host of scriptural references to justice, and the thread of justice that appears to run from the book of Genesis to Revelation, and which is captured in Reformed and small-c catholic confessions. You can ignore it; you can pretend it’s not there; you can attempt to blunt the sharpness of God’s Word; you can attempt to douse the holy fire that accompanies the execution of justice in Scripture, or to mute the strain and anguish of the voices in Scripture that cry out for justice. But after all of your efforts, justice will still be there in the embrace of peace, ready to be picked up by the downtrodden who read God’s Word; ready to convict the tyrant who is confronted by God’s Word; ready to lull those of us sitting comfortably on our dragon hoard of wealth to obey God’s command; ready to provide us with hope and encouragement.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 12.44.05 PM“America’s gun problem, explained” – After the shootings last weekend in El Paso and Dayton, everyone’s attention was turned toward the violence in our nation. Many, including clergy, linked these hate crimes with white nationalism. However, it returns us to the divisive dialogue around gun violence and legislation in the United States. Both this article from Vox and a companion piece at CNN (“How US gun culture compares with the world”) help examine statistics and data related to gun violence, hate crimes, and comparison with international approaches to guns. Regardless of your politics, this is worth the read.

 

Toni Morrison“Remembering the Peerless Toni Morrison” – If you’ve never read anything by Toni Morrison, you should do so within the year. I first read her in a literature class in college, and my wife regularly taught Beloved in her high school literature classes. “Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and peerless American author, died on Monday at the age of 88. Since the publication of her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970, Morrison has been established as one of the most powerful and distinct voices in literature, a lyrical chronicler and witness to the African American experience. Her 1987 novel, Beloved, the story of a former enslaved person who is haunted by the child she killed, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and was named the best work of American fiction of the late 20th century by The New York Times in 2006.”

 

91627“Bonhoeffer Convinced Me to Abandon My Dream” – Many of you know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my (dead) theological mentors and heroes. His statements on the church in Life Together revolutionized my cynicism. Here is Chase Replogle with a deeper dive into Bonhoeffer’s statements that challenged him to abandon his wish dreams to embrace the church that God had placed right in front of him. Pastors, take heed.

 

Upstart Kitchen“UpStart Kitchen Hopes To Boost Milwaukee Food Entrepreneurs” – Here’s some local news from Milwaukee about an exciting new initiative arising from the efforts of some friends. “There’s a new effort underway to help low and moderate-income food entrepreneurs in Milwaukee. UpStart Kitchen is an incubator kitchen set to open late summer in the Sherman Park neighborhood. It’s a shared, commercial kitchen space for chefs and caterers with dreams of opening or expanding their food businesses. It also has services to help the businesses get off the ground.”

 

Terry Gross 1991“Fresh Air Archive” – After 40 years of the NPR show Fresh Air, the entire archive of Terry Gross’ interviews have been archived and made available to listeners. Regardless of your perspective or politics, you cannot deny that Gross is an incredibly gifted interviewer with a probing curiosity that helps open up her guests. You might enjoy listening to her interview with cartoonist Charles Schulz (of “Peanuts” fame). She has also interviewed a number of Christian thinkers over the years, including Francis Collins, Richard Cizik, Al Mohler, Jim Wallis, Jerry Falwell, Peter Gomes, and more.

 

semicolon“The Birth of the Semicolon” – I don’t know why these sort of things interest me, but they do. “The semicolon was born in Venice in 1494. It was meant to signify a pause of a length somewhere between that of the comma and that of the colon, and this heritage was reflected in its form, which combines half of each of those marks. It was born into a time period of writerly experimentation and invention, a time when there were no punctuation rules, and readers created and discarded novel punctuation marks regularly.”

Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams, “Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis,” conducted by Andrew Davis and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at Gloucester Cathedral.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]