A Covenant Prayer of John Wesley

John Wesley

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

By John Wesley, evangelist and founder of the Methodist movement.

The Weekend Wanderer: 4 May 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly 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.

Martin Buber“Modernity, Faith, and Martin Buber” – I don’t remember when it was, but as a young man preparing for ministry there was a season where I seemed to encounter references to certain books over and over again. One of those was Martin Buber’s I and Thou, which continues to sit on my shelf today ever since I first read it years ago. Buber is an interesting combination of innovative modernist philosopher and ardent Jewish thinker. Adam Kirsch offers a reappraisal of Buber and the ongoing significance of his thought in The New Yorker, which is well worth the read.

 

synagogue shootingSynagogue Shooting in California – So much to say about this, but let me share two articles that I found thought-provoking. The first is Carl Trueman’s “Who’s to Blame When the Shooter Is One of Our Own?” in Christianity Today, which considers in depth what this means for us as Christians today.  The second is David Brooks’ exploration of the pervasive culture of fear that grips us in his opinion piece, “An Era Defined by Fear.” I offered my own brief response, “Six Pastoral Reflections on the California Synagogue Shooting,” this past Wednesday.

 

89918“Augustine, Son of Her Tears” – A thoroughly North African developed version of St. Augustine’s life has come to the screen. You can watch the trailer here and read a review of the film by Christianity Today as well as a few other sources here and here. This looks fascinating, as someone interested particularly in the history of North African Christianity. I am inquiring about how to view the movie directly and look forward to finding out more information soon.

 

90263“The Rise of Conversational Churches” – Anyone familiar with C. Christopher Smith and his work with the slow church movement or The Englewood Review of Books, will enjoy reading this article based on his recent book, How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church. “In this age of social media, it is widely accepted that we don’t know how to talk together—and especially with those whose perspective differs greatly from our own….Amid these widespread failures of conversation, some churches across North America are devoting themselves to learning the practice of conversation, among their members and with their neighbors.”

 

les murray

“Les Murray, poet and ‘gentle titan of Australian letters’, dies aged 80” – Les Murray has been one of the finest poetic voices in English during our generation. I’ve enjoyed his works tremendously, and I know that I’m not alone in that. It was with sadness that I heard of Murray’s passing. “Les Murray, a distinguished figure of Australian letters, has died at the age of 80 on Monday after a long illness. One of Australia’s most successful and renowned contemporary poets, Murray’s career spanned more than 40 years. He published close to 30 books, including most recently a volume of collected works through Black Inc.” You might also enjoy David Mason’s essay, “Les Murray, Dissident Poet,” in First Things.

 

Griswold-GunReformPennsylvania-2“God, Guns, and Country: The Evangelical Fight Over Firearms” – “The next morning, before leaving on their trip, Claiborne and Martin kneeled on the sidewalk in Kensington next to their mobile forge, among a pile of guns that they’d collected from neighbors or found in abandoned homes. Martin was sawing an AK-47 in half, and preparing to turn it into a mattock—an old-fashioned hoe with prongs on one side, which is used for breaking up clods of earth. He had grown up in a conservative evangelical church in Colorado. “It was very much God, guns, and country,’ he said. But in college he’d decided to return to his family’s Mennonite roots—a tradition that emphasizes nonviolence. With the help of a metalworker in Colorado, he had taught himself the rudiments of blacksmithing. Martin picked up the barrel of the AK-47 with a pair of long steel tongs and placed it into the forge until it softened and glowed a molten red.”

 

_106638359_65c8f2db-b008-41af-83e3-8d40fcc90a41“Burkina Faso: Christians killed in attack on church” – “Gunmen have opened fire on a church in northern Burkina Faso, killing at least six people, officials say. The attackers reportedly arrived on seven motorbikes at the end of Sunday’s service and killed the pastor, two of his sons and three other worshippers. It is the first attack on a church since jihadist violence erupted in the West African country in 2016. Fighters affiliated to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group as well as the local Ansarul Islam have been active.”

 

Music: Recomposed by Max Richter – Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, 1. Spring

[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.]

The Character of a Leader with Stuart Briscoe and Marc Erickson

It was a privilege to host Stuart Briscoe and Marc Erickson at our quarterly Leadership Community gathering this past Monday night at Eastbrook Church. I hope you enjoy this view into the lives of two pastors who have steadfastly walked with Christ over the years. Stuart began the night with a 20-minute message on three distinctly Christian aspects of character in leaders. With the next portion of the gathering, I had the chance to facilitate a Q&A with Stuart and Marc about the character of a leader. This led us to explore some important questions in our current era, as well as many interesting insights from their own lives.

Six Pastoral Reflections on the California Synagogue Shooting

synagogue shooting.jpg

This past Saturday, a 19-year-old man opened fire in a synagogue near San Diego, Chabad of Poway, killing one and injuring several others. This past fall, a similar shooting occurred at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, taking even more lives.  Since Saturday’s events, I have been reflecting on how we should think about and respond to this situation as followers of Jesus. Let me offer six basic responses here.

1. Lament – Paul the Apostle encouraged the early Christians to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). One of the greatest gifts we can offer to another person in grief is to sit with them in mourning. This was, in fact, the best gift that Job’s friends offered him in his distress. Let us, too, mourn with those in mourning and, as opportunity arises, share comfort with those in mourning from the overflow of comfort we have received in our own lives (2 Corinthians 1:4).

2. Rebuke hate – As Christians we follow a Savior who brought God’s grace and truth and embodied God’s love to the world (John 1:14; 1 John 3:16). Because of this, we cannot countenance hatred, whether within us or others, whether toward other Christians or those who do not share our beliefs. Anti-semitism, Islamophobia, white supremacy, and even more mild forms of prejudice have no place within those who name Christ as Lord. Valid disagreement about beliefs do not give us permission to hate, whether passively or actively, those with whom we disagree.

3. Be a peacemaker – In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). We can be peacemakers because, as the Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus, “he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). James, that advocate for faith manifesting in good works, exhorted early Christians, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18). We have an amazing opportunity in the midst of strife and danger to actively move forward as people marked by Jesus’ peace.

4. Advocate for change – Gun deaths in the United States surpass that of other nations, not just in numbers, but in percentage of our population. While I have many friends who are strong gun-rights activists, I have also talked with others, from gun shop owners to those who have lost loved ones to gun-related deaths, who agree that something needs to change in the legal processes by which guns are purchased and regulated. As Christians, who value the dignity of each human life made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and seek to be peacemakers (James 3:18), we must advocate for better gun legislation.

5. Look to ourselves – Early reports indicate that the young man accused of this shooting was a church attendee at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church just twelve miles away from the synagogue he terrorized. While the pastor of that church has appropriately distanced the congregation from this egregious event, all of us who follow Jesus must enter into a time of self-reflection about ways in which our own faith or congregational life might, even inadvertently, give rise to such hatred. God’s grace is sufficient for us to face into hard truths about ourselves. Peter tells us that judgment begins in God’s household (1 Peter 4:17), so we should humbly pray, “Search me, God, and…see if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24).

6. Pray – There is always power in prayer. God has given us the gift of prayer that we might reach out relationally to Him but also so that we might reach out to the world through Him. Every action listed above requires great wisdom, compassion, perseverance, and strength. The best way to move forward with all of these actions is from the foundation of prayer and trusting God with the results. There is not an either/or that must exist between prayer and action. Ideally, prayer and action fit together as two parts of the Christian response to any calamity. Certainly we can agree with the Apostle Paul: “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Peter: God’s restoration in failure

image 5 - lakeshore boat.jpeg

This past weekend in my message, “The Good News of New Beginnings,” I didn’t make my way into all the detail I had planned in the new beginning of Peter from his failure. Here are my sermon notes from that section, exploring Jesus’ restoration of Peter from the failure of his denials. I hope this encourages you in the midst of your own failures.


 

Now turn with me to one final story of new beginning, found in the next chapter of John’s Gospel. Here, we find the disciples have returned to their home area in Galilee to fish, but haven’t caught anything. Are they trying to de-stress after all that happened to them in Jerusalem? Are they forsaking all they learned from Jesus and just returning to their old lives?

We don’t know for sure, but something dramatic happens when Jesus Himself appears on the lakeshore to give them fishing advice. Jesus’ advice to throw their nets over the other side leads to a miraculously huge haul of fish, which makes them realize they are dealing with Jesus.

Peter, in His excitement, jumps into the water and swims all the way to shore ahead of the others. Jesus makes them breakfast, and they all know it is Him. In the midst of that breakfast, Jesus has a direct conversation with Peter in four parts.

Part 1 – Peter’s failed boldness (John 21:15)
Jesus: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (21:15)

This first question brings us back to Peter’s failure, when He denied Jesus three times.
Earlier in John’s Gospel before Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus had warned His disciples about the challenges about to come.

Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Which is exactly what Peter did. Jesus is resurrecting Peter’s failure so that He can directly deal with it. Suppressing our failures does not bring life; instead it eats away at us from the inside out.

Part 2 – Peter’s failed love (John 21:16)
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter’s painful response: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

But earlier in the upper room, Jesus had addressed all the disciples, showing them what real love looks like, when he said: “If you love me, keep my commands” (14:15).

Peter had a failure of nerve, but also a failure of love. Jesus draws this out into the light so that Peter might not be trapped within his failure but move into a new beginning.

Part 3 – Peter’s pain revealed (John 21:17)
But Jesus is not done yet.

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (21:17)

Just notice this phrase: “the third time.” Jesus is intentionally paralleling Peter’s three denials with three questions.

Peter’s pained response is “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Again, Jesus is calling all of the failure out into the light so that it might not be hidden or suppressed, but release, healed, and turned into a new beginning. What is that new beginning?

Part 4 – Peter’s calling (John 21:18-22)
After the three-fold “Feed my sheep” (21:17) Jesus speaks the ultimate: “Follow me!” (21:19). This echoes Jesus’ first invitation for Peter to follow Him. He is returned to a new beginning of discipleship that will lead him into a new beginning of ministry.

Jesus does not leave Peter to linger in failure, whether hiding it or brooding over it. Instead, Jesus addresses Peter’s failure by bringing it into the light, then healing it, and finally restoring him to a meaningful calling.

For us, too, failure can box us in. We hold it in the back room of our lives, afraid for anyone to know about it. We brood over it when no one is around, like it is something we cannot stand but something we cannot live without. This is not life, but less than living. Jesus comes to us, in the power of the resurrection, to say that what seems like the end in our failure does not have to be the end.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, our failures can be the doorways to a new beginning of restoration in Him.

The Good News of New Beginnings [The Good News of Jesus]

Jesus Series GFX_App SquareAs we continued our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Eastbrook Church, I continued the themes of our series “The Good News of Jesus.” This second weekend, we explored four post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to Mary, the disciples as a group, Thomas, and Peter in John 20:11-21:25. Each of these stories gives us insight into the ways that the resurrection of Jesus intersects with our ordinary lives, in such things as grief, fear, doubt, and failure.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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