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.]

Redemption and Embodied Sexuality

Love Sex Body Series GFX-05I continued our series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality,” this past weekend at at Eastbrook Church by turning to the third chapter of God’s Good Story: Redemption in Jesus Christ.

This message builds off of previous messages on Creation and the Fall, looking at Christ’s redeeming work as outlined in Romans 5. I take some time to reflect on the significance of Jesus’ incarnation for redemption from John 1 and 1 John 4. I then examine the reality of Christ’s bodily redemption in relation to our bodies, sexuality, and love with reference to various passages of Scripture, including John 8 & 9, Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 6 & 13.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

Read More »

Peter: God’s restoration in failure

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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 Weekend Wanderer: 23 February 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.

Richard Mouw“Richard Mouw Wrestles with Evangelicalism, Past and Present”Richard Mouw, is an elder statesman of evangelicalism, serving as an editor for numerous journals and a past president of Fuller Theological Seminary. Coming from the Reformed wing of evangelicalism, Mouw has been a strong voice for cultural engagement over the years. Tish Harrison Ward reviews his book, Restless Faith: Holding Evangelical Beliefs in a World of Contested Labels, at Christianity Today. “The book wrestles with questions of identity: What is this ever-changing movement called ‘evangelicalism?’ How do we deal with conflict over the meaning of this term and over the direction of the movement itself? And should we even use the ‘E-word’ anymore?”

 

science of miracles“The Science of Miracles” – Barbara Bradley Hagerty explores the science of miracles in this fascinating article that gives ample space for further consideration of how the science of faith and the faith of science interact. “But does that mean transcendent experiences are only a physiological event? Or, is this how the brain is wired to connect with a dimension of reality that our physical senses cannot perceive — in other words, does the brain activity reflect an encounter with the divine? I want to propose that how you come down on this issue depends on whether you think of the brain as a CD player or a radio.” You’ll have to read the rest of the article to discover what she means. [Thanks to Danny Clayton for sharing this article with me.]

 

89402“Our Churches Are Either Sacramental or Charismatic” – Andrew Wilson makes a case for the complementary value of both sacramental and charismatic traditions coming together in local churches. “There are, in other words, churches that are eucharistic and churches that are charismatic (as well as a good many churches that are neither). So it is interesting that the New Testament church about whose corporate worship we know the most, namely the church in Corinth, was both. The Corinthians were apparently unaware that those two strands of Christian worship were incompatible, and they happily (if somewhat erratically) pursued sacramental and spiritual gifts at the same time.”  Given my roots both in Anglicanism and the charismatic renewal, I have a lot of sympathy for Wilson’s case here and in his book Spirit and Sacrament.

 

89467“Making the Liturgy Sing a New Song” – “In 2015, when retired Anglican priest Nelson Koscheski shared one of his religious poems with the young music director at his Anglican church in Dallas, he never expected the poem to become a folk song. Koscheski thought the poem, which is about the Transfiguration, might make a good hymn, but would probably end up like most of his others—glanced at perfunctorily and then disregarded. But the music director, Ryan Flanigan, was so moved by the poem’s beauty that he set it to a simple folk tune, which he incorporated into the church’s Transfiguration Day service.”

 

new tolkien film“‘Tolkien’ Trailer: Fox Searchlight Biopic Stars Nicholas Hoult As ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ Author” – In case you didn’t know about it, there is forthcoming biographical movie on the life of J. R. R. Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. “The biopic follows the author through a hardscrabble childhood, into the battlefields of WWI and through the corridors of academia where he studied linguistics but eventually became a historian of the unreal.”

 

maxresdefault“Historic Vatican summit on clergy sexual abuse begins” – “Pope Francis began an unprecedented summit in Rome to confront the Catholic Church’s clergy abuse scandal by saying that Catholics are not looking for simple condemnation, but concrete actions. ‘In the face of this scourge of sexual abuse perpetrated by men of the church to the detriment of minors, I thought I would summon you, the Pope told the nearly 200 Catholic leaders gathered in Vatican City, so that all together we may lend an ear and listen to the Holy Spirit … and to the cry of the small who are asking for justice.'”

 

JDG SBC.jpeg“Southern Baptists should investigate churches that cover up abuse, says SBC president” – “J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the denomination’s Executive Committee should immediately investigate 10 churches named in a report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, including Second Baptist in Houston — one of the largest churches in the SBC. If any churches were found to have covered up abuse and refused to mend their ways, Greear told a gathering of Southern Baptist leaders on Monday (Feb. 18), then the convention should consider removing them from the denomination, a process known as ‘disfellowshipping.'”

 

weiss-wh-auden“Why W.H. Auden Hated His Most Famous Political Poems” – W. H. Auden is one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century, and also one of the most interesting essayists of his time. Late in his life, Auden revised many of his poems, redacting some parts of his work that he thought no longer worthy of being read. In this essay, Michael Weiss explores why Auden negatively assessed his early political poetry.

 

16-HammondBrochure-featured“‘Hearing’ the Hammond Organ” – On the lighter and musical side of things, how about the Hammond Organ. “The Hammond Organ was the first electronic musical instrument to become commercially successful. Just two years after it went on sale in 1935, major radio stations and Hollywood studios, hundreds of individuals, and over 2,500 churches had purchased a Hammond. The instrument had a major impact on the soundscape of both popular and religious musical life in the U.S., but it has been largely ignored by electronic music historians.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing these last two articles in The Daily Prufrock.]

 

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244), performed by Sir John Eliot Gardiner & The English Baroque Soloists.

[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.]