Empty Arms prayer service tonight

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Tonight at our regular 2nd Tuesday Worship and Prayer gathering at Eastbrook, we will have a special prayer service for those who have experienced pain in the loss of an infant or unborn child through miscarriage, the loss of a young child, regretted abortion, or the long ache of infertility. This gathering is open to anyone who has experienced these situations, or those who want to walk with them in pain toward healing.

We will sing, pray, have some experiential responses to God, and hear two testimonies from others in our congregation.  In the midst of the service, Kelly and I will also share the ways that God met us in our own story of loss, as well as encouragement from His word.

A Prayer inspired by the prophet Micah

Almighty God,
You see the ruin
that we as human beings
so often bring upon ourselves,
individually and corporately.

We acknowledge that we have looked
to human strength instead of your strength
and to human leaders in place of your kingly rule.
We long for someone to set things right
and all our worry and efforts
seem sometimes to only make things worse.

Have mercy on us, O God,
that we might receive
Your severe mercy of correction,
and find the grace of restoration
through Jesus Christ,
the Promised Messiah foretold in Micah
and the only One who can truly save.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

A Prayer inspired by the prophet Jonah

Almighty God,
You are the powerful Creator
of all the nations upon earth.
You are holy and wonderful
beyond what we understand.

We look at Jonah and we are startled
by his insolence in running away from You,
by his humility in recognizing Your rescue,
and his anger at Your mercy to those
he felt did not desire to receive it.

We are startled because we know
that same insolence, humility, and anger
run through our own lives and hearts.

Have mercy on us, our God,
and transform us from the inside out
that we might love what You love
and hate what you hate.
That our lives might overflow
with mercy like You overflow with  mercy.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
our Savior and Deliverer,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

Jesus, Jairus’ Daughter, and the Eyes of Faith

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Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. ‘Stop wailing,’ Jesus said. ‘She is not dead but asleep.’ (Luke 8:52)

This story is familiar for many of us. Jairus approaches Jesus about his sick daughter, and Jesus agrees to accompany Jairus to his home. On the way, someone meets Jairus from the house to notify hi that his daughter has died. Jesus encourages Jairus to believe, and they continue on their way. When they arrive, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with the girl’s parents, and they approach the girl’s body. Speaking the phrase, “My child, get up!”, Jesus raises her from death. We remember this story because it is so striking to see Jesus’ bring life in the face of death.

But equally striking is Jesus’ exhortation to stop wailing when the girl is dead. Equally shocking is His statement that she is not dead after all but merely asleep, when all the facts say otherwise. We have to ask ourselves some questions. Does Jesus see things others do not see about the girl’s physical condition? Does Jesus see something in the purposes of God that others do not see? Is Jesus speaking a rebuke of some sort about a lack of faith? Is Jesus poking fun at the people who are there?

The last question seems unlikely because Jesus rarely did that sort of thing to people in grief, but directed His piercing critiques to the hypocritical. The third question seems possible, given that faith is a theme throughout this story. The first question seems unlikely because all evidence pointed to the girl’s actual death, and there is no evidence from the text that Jesus had examined her in some way. The second question seems to draw closest to the heart of what is happening here. Jesus sees something that others do not see about what God wants to do in this situation, and that it is connected to the call to faith/believing.

Jesus’ ability to see beyond the natural and into the realm of God’s kingdom purposes with clarity is a gift beyond most of us. We see physical phenomena with natural vision, failing to consider or apprehend the magnitude of the vision of faith related to God’s plans.  Jesus’ vision was different.

Lord, give me eyes to see what You have in store, even today. May my eyesight become more like Jesus’ eyesight, for the glory and the fullness of Your kingdom.

The Weekend Wanderer: 28 December 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.

FYI, I’m taking a one-week break from compiling “The Weekend Wanderer,” so don’t expect a post at the beginning of January. Happy New Year, everyone, and thank you to all those who enjoy reading this weekly compilation that I share.

 

27McCaulley-articleLarge“The Bloody Fourth Day of Christmas”Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, brings into focus one of the most shocking elements of the nativity narratives. In Matthew 2, the magi visit Jesus, first encountering King Herod, who asks them to return and tell him where this miracle baby is born. However, they are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, who then proceeds to slaughter all the children under the age of two in the vicinity. In the midst of this, somehow, Scripture assures us that hope breaks through, and McCaulley helps us see that in his New York Times editorial.

 

Donald Trump & Jerry Falwell“Nearly 180 Evangelical Leaders, including Billy Graham’s Granddaughter, Condemn Anti-Trump Editorial in Letter to Christianity Today – Last weekend, I began “The Weekend Wanderer” by featuring the editorial from Mark Galli of Christianity Today calling for the removal of President Trump. That editorial became top news on various news sites around the nation. What quickly followed was a widely diverse response, both positive and negative, from around evangelicalism, including a letter of opposition sent to CT by various evangelical leaders, including Franklin Graham, and an invitation from the Red Letter Christian group to support the impeachment efforts.  Timothy Dalrymple, President of Christianity Today, wrote a response to all of this, “The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President.” What is clear from this dialogue is that evangelicalism is not unified in its politics, something that has been evident to many for several years. What is less clear, and something that has been debated throughout recent years, is what “evangelical” really means, and whether the term is helpful any longer.

 

114394“The Pastor’s Study Is Not a Bunker” – Not too long ago, I wrote an article about pastoral ministry that began with a reference to Gregory the Great (read “The Disturbing Temptations of Pastoring in Obscurity”). Gregory is a fantastic example for ministry, particularly for those of us trying to live as pastors in the midst of confusing and busy times. I appreciated reading this article by John P. Burgess, Jerry Andrews, and Joseph Small, drawn from their recent book, A Pastoral Rule for Today: Reviving an Ancient Practice, which I’m partway through reading. For any pastors out there, I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on this one.

 

Representation of Magnum Chaos (before the Creation took place): wood marquetry by Giovan Francesco Capoferri after Lorenzo Lotto (1480-1556) - 16th century - Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo“Idle components: An argument against Richard Dawkins” – “Richard Dawkins’s new book Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide is relentlessly confrontational. While discussing it with me, a colleague suggested that the rhetorical tone is itself worthy of note. Dawkins is in effect making a declaration: ‘I understand all this highfalutin science; simple-minded religious believers don’t. Authority therefore resides in me. Here, for instance, is an objective account of embryology which can be contrasted with a religious view – presumably that it’s all a great miracle’. In dialectical terms, Dawkins presses his ‘antithesis’ so hard that the unwary reader may accept the erroneous ‘thesis’ (namely that believers swallow a lot of bilge) from which we must apparently recoil.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-12-24 at 6.48.19 AM“We are not divine. But we are loved. That is enough.” – Kate Bowler at The Washington Post: “We are not divine. When we confuse hope for power, we transform tragedy into failure. Most wishes — even good wishes — will not come true. Bodies age. Love slips out of our hands….This Christmas, God will be born among us, despite our best efforts. So, for those growing tired of waiting for heaven, may the season give us room to say: God is here. We are loved. It is enough.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-12-27 at 4.42.06 PM“Inside the Ghent Altarpiece” – I first encountered the Ghent Altarpiece when I was a student in college in Art Survey. I would not say that I was widely exposed to visual art at that time, but I could already see the wonders of this piece of artwork by Jan and Hubert van Eyck. Someone recently shared with me that you can walk through this piece online and I immediately found myself transported by the vivid beauty of every part of this marvelous piece of worship artwork, which I have never seen in person. This is probably the next best thing.

 

Music: Chabros Music, “Hope to the Nations”

[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.]