The Weekend Wanderer: 12 December 2020

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. Disclaimer: 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.


Nazareth site“Ancient Dwelling Excavated in Nazareth May Have Been Childhood Home of Jesus” – “An archaeologist may have discovered the location of the childhood home of Jesus in Nazareth. Professor Ken Dark from the University of Reading in England believes he has established a plausible case for the remains of a 1st-century home excavated beneath a modern-day convent. According to him, the ancient dwelling was first investigated in the 19th century, but the idea lost traction among experts in the 1930s. The site went mostly forgotten since, until Dark launched an expedition in 2006 to reinvestigate the area.”


Chauncey Allmond“Logos Enlists Black Church Leaders to Diversify Bible Study Resources” – “Chauncey Allmond dreams of a day when white evangelical preachers will reference the work of African American Bible scholars without even thinking about it. He and his colleagues at Logos Bible Software hope they can make that happen by adding more African American voices to the digital study tools currently used by more than 4.5 million people. ‘The African American voice is a powerful voice that needs to be heard,’ Allmond said. ‘There’s a lot of traditions in the African American church that I think Logos is missing out on.'”


W H Auden - Reimer“What Comes After: W. H. Auden’s cure for the post-Christmas blues” – W. H. Auden was one of the foremost English poets of the 20th century and also a Christian. His poetry was increasingly influenced by his faith, and his book-length work For the Time Being is particularly appropriate for this time of year. A professor I studied with while at Wheaton reads this work every year during Advent or Christmas. Here is Jeff Reimer in Commonweal: “every character in this long and complex poem senses that the birth of the child demands a response; senses that…Christ has “thrown everything off balance.” They are all caught up in the aspect of time that Tillich, developing a biblical contrast, calls kairos as opposed to kronos, categories with which Auden was consciously working. In other words, their confrontation with the Christ child is not part of the flow of ordinary chronological time, but by appointment; it is a summons, a moment of decision.”


Including the Stranger“Book Review: Including the Stranger: Foreigners in the Former Prophets – The prophets of the Hebrew Bible often address God’s care for what is often called “the quartet of the vulnerable“: the widow, the orphan, resident aliens, and the poor. The Minor Prophets are the easiest portion of Scripture to turn to on God’s concern for these people, but what do other portions of Scripture say about this theme? In Themelois, David R. Jackson reviews David G. Firth’s recent contribution to this area of study on the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) for the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.


Keira Bell“Puberty blockers: Under-16s ‘unlikely to be able to give informed consent'” – This in from the UK, which tends to be ahead of us on some of these issues related to social change, via the BBC: “Children under 16 with gender dysphoria are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment with puberty-blocking drugs, three High Court judges have ruled. The case was brought against Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which said it was ‘disappointed’ but immediately suspended such referrals for under-16s. The NHS said it ‘welcomed the clarity’ the ruling would bring. One of the claimants, Keira Bell, said she was ‘delighted’ by the judgment. Ms Bell, 23, from Cambridge, had been referred to the Tavistock Centre, which runs the UK’s only gender-identity development service (GIDS), as a teenager and was prescribed puberty blockers aged 16. She argued the clinic should have challenged her more over her decision to transition to a male as a teenager.”


Walter Hooper“Died: Walter Hooper, Who Gave His Life to C.S. Lewis’s Legacy” – From Christianity Today: “Walter Hooper, a North Carolina man who dedicated his life to preserving and promoting the writings of C. S. Lewis, died Monday at the age of 89. He was sick with COVID-19. Hooper served briefly and informally as Lewis’s literary secretary—helping the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Abolition of Man answer his mail—before Lewis’s death in 1963. Hooper, then 33, left a teaching post at the University of Kentucky to take a leading role in managing Lewis’s literary estate. He continued to promote Lewis for the rest of his life.”


Music: Chabros Music, “Come Worship Christ

The Weekend Wanderer: 21 November 2020

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.


Hatch - preaching“When Words About God Become the Word of the Lord” – I think a lot about preaching and how the words of human communicators can possibly express the wonders of the Scripture given us by God. Not only do I think a lot about preaching, but I also preach quite a bit and write about preaching. Because of this, I don’t lightly recommend articles about preaching. This one by Nathan Hatch, President of Wake Forest University, is well worth the read.


Thabiti Anyabwile“Pastors Launch Church-Planting Network for ‘Black and Brown Neighborhoods'” – Over the last few years, a good friend of mine, Kurt Owens, has been working on new initiatives for equipping and raising up central city church planting. He found that many of the predominant models of approaching church planting really do not work well in non-suburban, non-white contexts. I applaud his work and try to encourage him. I was encouraged when I saw that Thabiti Anyabwile was also working on something similar with his new initiative, The Crete Collective.


Carl Lentz - K Beaty“Carl Lentz and the ‘hot pastor’ problem”Last week I posted the disappointing news about Hillsong-New York’s pastor, Carl Lentz, being fired after having an extramarital affair. At Religion News Katelyn Beaty offers a well-written, entertaining, and challenging read about Lentz, megachurch Christianity, and men’s and women’s roles within evangelicalism. The last line will leave you thinking. Another take on the same topic comes from Carey Nieuwhof in his blog post, “Some Thoughts on Why Megachurch Pastors Keep Falling.” Another article that I posted a couple of weeks ago is also relevant here, Andy Crouch’s “Spiritual Disciplines for Public Leadership.”


Bay area“Gardeners and Pilgrims: Reviving place in the Christian imagination” – I bookmarked this article at Comment several months ago, but returned to read it only this past week and found it particularly insightful and meaningful as I finished off a series on unity by looking at the new heaven and the new earth. In this article Wilfred M. McClay explores the loss of a sense of place that has accelerated because of technology and transience, considering how Christianity speaks into this loss in a way filled with tension between the now and not-yet. That description is a mouthful, but McClay’s essay will make you think about the way we live now.


Eagle and Child interior“Friends and Letters: A Review of Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis, by Gina Dalfonzo” – Alexandria Desanctis in The National Review: “Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings have been the subject of careful study and popular interest for decades, but thus far scholars have paid relatively little attention to the friendship between Lewis and another well-known contemporary of his, Dorothy L. Sayers. The mind behind the Lord Peter Wimsey detective series, Sayers was a fiction writer who, like Lewis, devoted herself also to the study of Christian theology and produced several works of apologetics. In a new book, Dorothy and Jack, Gina Dalfonzo delves into the correspondence between these two writers, which spanned more than a decade, beginning with a letter from Sayers to Lewis and ending with Sayers’s death.”


children douthat“The Case for One More Child: Why Large Families Will Save Humanity” – While the title may not immediately grab your attention, or may even put you off, let me encourage you to give this article by Ross Douthat in Plough a spin: “We lack a moral framework for talking about this problem. It would make an immense difference to the American future if more Americans were to simply have the 2.5 kids they say they want, rather than the 1.7 births we’re averaging. But talking about a declining birthrate, its consequences for social programs or economic growth or social harmony, tends to seem antiseptic, a numbers game. It skims over the deeper questions: What moral claim does a potential child have on our society? What does it mean to fail someone who doesn’t yet exist?”


preaching-the-christian-year“Time Touching Eternity: Preaching through the Christian Year” – My latest article at Preaching Today went live this week. In it I explore the ways in which preaching can benefit from following the Christian year. As we move through Thanksgiving to Advent and the beginning of the Christian calendar, I am so thankful to the editors of PT for giving me the opportunity to share some ways the rhythms of liturgical year have shaped my own spirituality and preaching.


Music: I.Erickson, “Drowning

[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.]

C. S. Lewis on the Unprovable Efficacy of Prayer

Recently, I came across this extended quotation from C. S. Lewis on prayer in a devotional I read each morning. Lewis’ writings on prayer are always refreshing to me in their vibrancy and practicality. He is willing to address some of the most perplexing issues about prayer but does so without drying all the lively faith out of prayer.

Some years ago I got up one morning intending to have my hair cut in preparation for a visit to London, and the first letter I opened made it clear I need not go to London. So, I decided to put the haircut off too. But then there began the most unaccountable little nagging in my mind, almost like a voice saying, “Get it cut all the same. Go and get it cut.” In the end I could stand it no longer. I went

Now my barber at that time was a fellow Christian and a man of many troubles whom my brother and I had sometimes been able to help. The moment I opened his shop door he said, “Oh, I was praying you might come today.” And, in fact, if I had come a day or so later, I should have been of no use to him.

It awed me; it awes me still. But, of course, one cannot rigorously prove a causal connection between the barber’s prayers and my visit. It might be telepathy. It might be accident.

I have stood by the bedside of a woman whose thigh-bone was eaten through with cancer and who had thriving colonies of the disease in many other bones as well. It took three people to move her in bed. The doctors predicted a few months of life; the nurses (who often know better), a few weeks. A good man laid his hands on her and prayed. A year later the patient was walking (uphill, too, through rough woodland) and the man who took the last X-ray photos was saying, “These bones are as solid as rock. It’s miraculous.”

But once again there is no rigorous proof. Medicine, as all true doctors admit, is not an exact science. We need not invoke the supernatural to explain the falsification of its prophecies. You need, not unless you choose, believe in a causal connections between the prayers and the recovery.

The question then arises, “What sort of evidence would prove the efficacy of prayer?” The thing we pray for may happen, but how can you ever know it was not going to happen anyway? Even if the thing were indisputably miraculous, it would not follow that the miracle had occurred because of your prayers. The answer surely is that a compulsive empirical proof such as we have in the sciences can never be attained.

Some things are proved by the unbroken uniformity of our experiences. The law of gravitation is established by the fact that, in our experience, all bodies without exception obey it. Now even if all the things that people pray for happened, which they do not, this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted.

C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night, as quoted in Reuben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer (Nashville, TN: Upper Room, 1983), 326-7.

The Weekend Wanderer: 17 October 2020

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.


IDOP“International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians” – There is occasional conversation about persecution of Christians within the United States. While I agree that there is opposition to Christianity in North America, I usually turn my attention elsewhere to see true persecution. Sunday, November 1, is the international day of prayer for persecuted Christians, and I would encourage you to get involved with this important time of awareness and intercessory prayer, as well as continue to be engaged in an ongoing manner with this important cause.


Villados book review“The Antidote to Spiritual Shallowness Isn’t ‘Believing Harder,’ but Going Deeper” – I’ve been looking forward to reading Rich Villodas’ new book, The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us in the Way of Jesus. Villodas is the Lead Pastor at New Life Fellowship in New York, where Pete Scazzero was the former Lead Pastor, and has brought together spiritual formation practices within a multi-ethnic urban church in ways that I admire. As I wait to get to Villodas’ book in my to-read pile, here is a helpful review of the book by Rebecca Toscano for Christianity Today.


C Beha - index“Cracks of faith in the secular self” – Speaking of my to-read pile, here is a review by Joshua Hren of another book, Christopher Beha’s The Index of Self-Destructive Acts. Beha’s book was long-listed for the National Book Award for fiction, and it has been recommended to me by a number of people from various places. I look forward to reading it even more after reading this review.


fracture in the stonewall“A Fracture in the Stonewall” – Carl R. Trueman in First Things: “As Best hints in the article, the addition of the T to the LGB was not a natural marriage for precisely the reason he now finds Stonewall’s stance to be problematic. Trans groups rejected the importance of biological sex. It was not a positive philosophy that brought them into the coalition but rather a shared opposition to heteronormativity. The same also applies to the Q. The LGBTQ+ alliance is thus an alliance forged on the belief that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”


C S Lewis“C.S. Lewis, ‘Transposition’, and the philosophy of mind” – C. S. Lewis is one of the most beloved authors of the 20th century for his wide-ranging work from children’s fiction to Christian apologetics. Lewis is more than that, though. He was a poet and an expert on medieval and renaissance literature. Here in The Critic, Sean Walsh makes a case for recovering Lewis’ work as a philosopher as well.


Sergey Gorshkov - Hugging Tiger“Hidden camera’s hugging tiger wins wildlife photo award” – Perhaps this is something for the lighter side of things, but I appreciate the way these award-winning photographers display the wonders of creation that many of us rarely see. Take a moment to peruse these photos and thank God for the wonderful and intricate beauty of His glorious world.


Music: Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge, “Bone Collector,” Mount Royal.

[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 Weekend Wanderer: 18 April 2020

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.


Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 2.55.43 PM“When Christ conquered Caesar” – In my message this coming weekend at Eastbrook at the beginning of our new series, “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I make reference to this article by historian Tom Howard. I think you will enjoy this contrast between the ways of Nero and the ways of the first Christians, including Howard’s description of why Christianity ultimately overcame the crumbling empire of Rome.


1162785971222092.yp1ayqnqcvsmboslolrp_height640_custom-175c2aac0b32e71fa8949771537068a468c369c3-s1500-c85“Alternative Mourning Rituals Offer Comfort And Closure During An Outbreak” – One of our ministry partners in Congo, Congo Initiative, is shaping culture in many ways, including helping people deal with grief during this challenging time. “With a team of four counselors, psychologist Noé Kasali — who heads Bethesda’s counseling program in Beni, an Ebola-affected city in the northeast of DRC — has helped ease mourning for those who have lost a loved one to Ebola. They have done this by creating new interpretations of the traditional funeral ceremonies that are a critical part of the Nande culture — the largest ethnic group in Beni — but without the body of the deceased present.”


09brooks_Sub-superJumbo-v8“The Pandemic of Fear and Agony” – David Brooks invited readers of his New York Times opinion column to send their feedback to him about how the pandemic is affecting their mental health. Reading his catalogue of selections from the 5,000+ replies he received is humbling, painful, and insightful. I would encourage you to read this just to know that you’re not alone and also to help us all become more aware of how others are struggling during these times. A pastor friend of mine commented a week ago that he thinks mental health is one of the fronts of ministry that will become front and center in the days ahead. I cannot help but agree.


cs-lewis_at_desk“C. S. Lewis’ Advice To Students During A Pandemic Will Do All Our Souls Good Right Now” – Perhaps in light of Brooks’ chronicle of our mental health challenges, we could use a good word. C. S. Lewis, although often over-quoted, provides rich wisdom and insight, which is probably why is often over-quoted. He is just so good in these times. Thanks to Joseph Griffith for his reflections on Lewis’ 1939 message “Learning in War-Time.”


dancing_skeletons-_-dance_of_death-_wellcome_l0006816-440a8388671527f09dfe71029e5941ca31dd978d-s1500-c85“When Pandemics Arise, Composers Carry On” – Or maybe we just need some good music to help us cope with the pandemic. Over the centuries, art has been of great help during times of suffering, and that is no less true in times of a pandemic. Tom Huizenga offers examples of musicians who did just that, including John Cooke, Johann Sebastian Bach, and, more recently, John Corigliano and Lisa Bielawa. You may have your own selections of music that soothe your soul in troubling times, but here are some who composed music like that for themselves and us.


20200414_CovidweeklydeathsUSv2“Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like… “ – Ari Schulman, Brendan Foht, Samuel Matlack at The New Atlantis: “Any serious attempt to put coronavirus deaths in context by comparing it to some other cause of death in a previous year must acknowledge the marked differences in the Covid-19 trend — most notably, the rapid spike in deaths that is still underway, and the wide range of uncertainty about when it will peak, how high it will peak, and whether it will peak only once. As long as the pandemic is rapidly spreading, these comparisons will be fraught. Perhaps a better way to state the danger posed by the coronavirus is just that we cannot easily compare it to any precedent in recent history. Nor do we need to dispute projections about future deaths to recognize what has happened already. Amid the statistical noise is a powerful signal. The question is whether we choose to see it.”


Church-online-marketing-featured-imageMissional vs. Attractional in the Age of COVID-19? – There was a little bit of a kerfuffle online between church leaders who could be grouped within the attractional church camp (see Carey Nieuwhof’s “Half of All Churches Are Instantly Growing. Here’s Why and Here’s What to Do“) and the missional church camp (see Mike Frost’s “Coronavirus could set the church back 25 years“). Because of online church necessitated by this moment, some are advocating more and more of this while others are wringing their hands over it. I think we all just need to admit at this point that we’re all figuring out what it means to live as the church in this new moment. The old arguments about attractional vs. missional are growing tired, in my opinion, and need to be updated into a time where we see growing opportunities and hunger for deep human connection.


Dave Dummitt family“Willow Creek names Michigan pastor David Dummitt as new leader” – Speaking of attractional versus missional debates, it was easy to miss this news in the midst of everything COVID-19. Dave Dummitt, formerly of 2|42 Community Church in Ann Arbor, was named the new Senior Pastor of Willow Creek. For those who followed the Willow Creek search process, you know that it started with scandal, was criticized from the start, stalled at least once, and finally has come to a conclusion. Regardless of how you feel about everything that has gone on, let me encourage us to pray for Dave, his family, and Willow Creek as they embark on a new chapter as a church.


Music: Wilco, “Impossible Germany,” from Sky Blue Sky

[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.]