Multiply: MissionsFest 2018

This weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin our annual missions festival Multiply: MissionsFest 2018. Our theme comes from the words of the prophet Habakkuk:

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

Let me invite you to join us in our weekend services and mid-week gatherings. There is a lot going on but here are the highlights:

October 13/14, weekend worship services – Dr. Paul R. (Bobby) Gupta of Hindustan Bible Institute (HBI) in Chennai, India.

October 16, 7-8:30 PM – “The Call: A Time to Praise and Intercede” – This evening of MissionsFest will take the place of our 2nd Tuesdays Worship/Prayer service for the month of October and will be an evening of hearing of God’s work in our world and asking Him to work in the Church. Join us for a time of worship, prayer, and listening.

October 17, 7-8:30 PM – “The Experience: Multiply In Your Neighborhood” – This family friendly, interactive evening that takes us through the journey of making disciples in our own neighborhoods. Join our mission leaders, field workers and guest speaker Dr. Gupta as we explore God’s plan for reaching the nations.

October 20/21, weekend worship services – We will finish out the missions festival with some of our international guests in worship services, and I will preach the closing message.

Access the full schedule via our web-site here.

The Weekend Wanderer: 13 October 2018

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.

 

1536560855288“Chinese officials burn bibles, close churches, force Christian to denounce faith amid ‘escalating’ crackdown” – This was shared with me by a friend directly connected to the situation of the house church in China. President Qi has increasingly put pressure on religious groups, particularly the underground church, as he seeks to reestablish a more pure communist agenda in China. What is new here is the aggressive measures being taken, including against the “Three-Self Church,” which is the government-approved church.

 

LX7EOIGOEQI6RI7GITNKHU263Y“October 12 Update on the Release of Pastor Andrew Brunson” – On Friday international news reports indicated that a Turkish court ruled today to release Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained for the past two years and has been remanded to house arrest since July due to health concerns. Following this case over the past two years, it is clear that Brunson has been a pawn used in the midst of political tensions between Turkey and the United States. Throughout his detainment, he has claimed he is innocent of the charges that he is somehow connected to organizations working against the Turkish government.

 

83523“A Dying Child and a Living Hope” – When Kelly and I went through the painful experience of a miscarriage, I pulled a book off my shelf that a friend had once bought for me called The Shaming of the Strong by Dr. Sarah Williams, a professor at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. A couple of days ago, I read on Christianity Today that Dr. Williams has released a new book, which looks to be either a revision of the earlier book or a reappraisal of her own journey through carrying a child, Cerian, whom doctors told her would die upon birth. Aaron Cobb reviews that new book by Sarah Williams, Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian, showing the grace and insight that Williams brings in the valley of the shadow of death as she reflects on what it means to be human.

 

_103770368_20171028_123422“The young Americans who are bucking the divorce trend” – This should catch your attention: between 2008 and 2016 the divorce rate in the US fell by 18%, according to a study by the University of Maryland. Of course, the related fact is that marriage rates have also dropped, with millennials three times less likely to get married than their grandparents’ generation. The abstract of the study concludes with this line: “The U.S. is progressing toward a system in which marriage is rarer, and more stable, than it was in the past, representing an increasingly central component of the structure of social inequality.” Looking at five couples that span the spectrum of modern marriage relationships, a BBC reporter highlights reasons why this may be the case, including a rare, fair-minded look at Christian marriage in couple #5.

 

alan jacobs“Christianity and Resistance: An Interview with Alan Jacobs” – The Los Angeles Review of Books has a wonderful interview with Alan Jacobs about his recent book The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis. It’s no secret that I have a great admiration for Jacobs’ writing and thinking, and this interview only adds to that admiration. Setting up the interview, the interviewer writes, “That mid-20th-century moment when civilization looked into the abyss — and large portions of humanity plunged into it — seems to resonate strongly for a lot of writers and thinkers these days, and not only because of Trumpism’s neo-fascist and ‘Christian’ nationalist tendencies.”  [Thanks to Wesley Hill for sharing this article.]

 

trump-with-evangelical-leaders“‘Evangelical’ has become too political and needs to be ‘reclaimed’, says WEA head” – The ongoing debate about what the word ‘evangelical’ means and whether it is still a helpful term rose to the surface in recent comments by the General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, Bishop Efraim Tendero. This dovetails with a recent report that nearly 40 evangelical leaders came out with a statement against Donald Trump and the Alt-Right, in light of many contested surveys that say 80% of white evangelical voters supported Donald Trump. A wide-ranging group of authors wrestled with that question in the book Still Evangelical?: Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning, published by InterVarsity Press.

 

John-Lennox“Should We Fear Artificial Intelligence?” is a lecture given as part of the “Trending Questions” series of the Zacharias Institute by Dr. John Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and an Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford. Lennox digs into some of the most pertinent questions related to AI today, touching upon the domains of science, philosophy, ethics, and theology. This is a long video, but you can skip ahead of the introduction to Dr. Lennox’s lecture directly at 18′ 23″. [Thanks to Jeff Davis for sharing this link with me.]

 

he held radical light.jpgHe Held Radical Light – Image Journal, in their latest email update, reviews Christian Wiman’s latest book. “This slim new volume of essays on art, death, and eternity, demands to be read with a level of focused attention that is hard for me to come by these days, but it repays the effort. Picking up where My Bright Abyss left off, it’s a chain of essays about contemporary poets, including A.R. Ammons, Denise Levertov, Seamus Heaney, Susan Howe, Donald Hall, and many others, in which Wiman probes his own youthful desire to write ‘a poem that would live forever’—a wish intensified by his battle with cancer. That goal might seem ludicrous, if Wiman were not so self-aware, so sincere, and such a thirsty reader of poems. As it is, the idea of such a poem, possible or not, feels worthy of every attention.”

 

Orlean-LibrariesAnd since we’re on the topic of books, why not travel through memory and the stacks of the public library with Susan Orlean in her wonderfully written essay, “Growing Up in the Library,” over at The New Yorker. As a chronic reader who spends time at our local library every week, and as one taken to the library as a child by my parents who continues that legacy with my own children, I resonate with Orlean’s first lines: “I grew up in libraries, or at least it feels that way.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in the Daily Prufrock.]

[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.]

October 12 Update on the Release of Pastor Andrew Brunson

LX7EOIGOEQI6RI7GITNKHU263YInternational news reports indicate that a Turkish court ruled today to release Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained for the past two years and has been remanded to house arrest since July due to health concerns. As I have followed this case over the past two years, it is clear Brunson has been used as a pawn in the midst of political tensions between Turkey and the United States. Throughout his detainment, Brunson has denied any validity to the charges that he is connected to organizations working against the Turkish government. You can read the full news report below.

ALIAGA, Turkey (Reuters) – A Turkish court ruled on Friday that the American evangelical Christian pastor at the center of a row between Ankara and Washington could go free, a move that could be the first step toward mending ties between the NATO allies.

The court sentenced Andrew Brunson to three years and 1-1/2 months in prison on terrorism charges, but said he would not serve any further jail time. The pastor, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, was put in prison two years ago and has been under house arrest since July.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has imposed sanctions on Turkey in an attempt to secure Brunson’s release, tweeted: “PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!”

Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red tie, the North Carolina native wept as the decision was announced, witnesses said. Before the judge’s ruling he had told the court: “I am an innocent man. I love Jesus, I love Turkey.”

After the ruling, Brunson’s lawyer told reporters he pastor was likely to leave Turkey.

The diplomatic stand-off over Brunson, who had been pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, had accelerated a selloff in Turkey’s lira, worsening a financial crisis.

Brunson had been accused of links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a coup attempt in 2016. Brunson denied the accusation and Washington had demanded his immediate release.

Witnesses told the court in the western town of Aliaga that testimonies against the pastor attributed to them were inaccurate.

After the judge questioned one witness, Brunson said the judge was asking about incidents Brunson had not been involved in. His wife Norine looked on from the visitors’ area.

‘GREAT CHRISTIAN’

Trump has scored points with evangelical Christians, a large part of his political base, by focusing on the Brunson case.

The pastor’s release could boost Trump’s ability to spur such voters to vote in large numbers for Republicans in the Nov. 6 elections, which will determine whether they keep control of Congress.

The heavily conservative constituency voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. He has called Brunson a “great Christian”, and Vice President Mike Pence, the White House’s top emissary to evangelicals, has urged Americans to pray for Brunson.

U.S. broadcaster NBC said on Thursday that Washington had had done a secret deal with Ankara to secure Brunson’s release.

The lira stood at 5.910 to the dollar at 1336 GMT, little changed on the day after firming 3 percent on Thursday on expectations that Brunson would be released.

Relations between the two NATO allies are also under strain from disputes over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Turkey’s plans to buy a Russian missile defense system, and the jailing of a Turkish bank executive for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

With Brunson’s release, attention may now turn to the fate of a Turkish-U.S. national and former NASA scientist in jail in Turkey on terrorism charges, as well as local employees of the U.S. consulate who have also been detained.

Old Camel Knees: a brief reflection on the remarkable prayer life of James the Just

James_the_Just_(Novgorod,_16_c.)The fourth-century church historian, Eusebius, relates a story gathered from the lost works of Hegesippus during the second century about James “the Just,” who likely wrote the epistle of James and was the earthly brother of Jesus. In the midst of outlining the persecution of the church in his Ecclesiastical History , Eusebius details the death of James in Book II, Ch. XXIII:

3. The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows:

4. “James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James.

5. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath.

6. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.

7. Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, ‘Bulwark of the people’ and ‘Justice,’ in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.

There is so much we could discuss here, but today I merely want to draw attention to point (6) above, which highlights James’ ongoing life of prayer, specifically his worship of God and petitions for forgiveness on behalf of others. His dedication to prayer is such that his physical body reflected it: “his knees became hard like those of a camel.” It is because of this phrase that James is often referred to as “camel knees.”

The idea of praying on our knees is mentioned frequently in Scripture (Psalm 95:6; Daniel 6:10; Luke 5:8; Ephesians 3:14). Praying on our knees conveys humility – an appropriate sense of who we are – and awe – an appropriate sense of who God is. Getting down on our knees tells us in a very tangible way – through the posture of our bodies – that something different is occurring in our experience that requires something different from our bodies. As one commentator writes, kneeling in prayer communicates something vitally important: “We recognize that God is everything for us and that without his merciful love, we are, literally, nothing.”

These days many of us, especially those within evangelical traditions, rarely get on our knees in prayer. In fact, it is so out of the ordinary that when I recently invited our church community to kneel, I had to take extra time to set it up ahead of time. Those in what would described as traditional churches likely find it more common to descend to a kneeler each week for the confessional prayer. Regardless of our worship tradition, I would like to suggest that all of us could learn quite a lot from the Apostle James in his example of dedicated, humble prayer through appropriate kneeling.

However, let me take it a step further, and say that pastors and ministers of all sorts should take a cue on prayer from “Old Camel Knees.” It would be an invaluable breakthrough in ministry practice if all of us serving in ministry left a legacy like James of dedication in prayerful worship of God and intercession before God on behalf of our people. May God give us grace that our bodies would be marked by our dedication in prayer.