A Prayer to Become a Community of the Triune God

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)

Lord, give us power and grace
that our character and relationships
one with another might look like You
from start to finish and throughout the years.

Lord, You know the temptation to retaliate,
to treat poorly those who treat us poorly,
to repay a verbal stabbing with a silver-tongued sword thrust,
to descend like a flaming comet into anger, bitterness, and cursing.

Lord, help us to take instead the way of blessing,
to walk in unflappable peace, humility, and compassion,
to step inside another’s shoes and see their life through their eyes,
to saturate every word and action with the seeds of selfless love.

Lord, such a way of life does not come easy,
in fact it cuts against the grain of normal human life.
It must instead overflow from Your very life springing up from within us
and be steadily sustained by Your Holy Spirit’s power.

Lord Father—grant us Your life.
Lord Son—grant us Your truth.
Lord Spirit—grant us Your way.

The Weekend Wanderer: 29 October 2022

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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


Gordon Fee“Died: Gordon Fee, Who Taught Evangelicals to Read the Bible ‘For All Its Worth'” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “Gordon Fee once told his students on the first day of a New Testament class at Wheaton College that they would—someday—come across a headline saying ‘Gordon Fee Is Dead.’ ‘Do not believe it!’ he said, standing atop a desk. ‘He is singing with his Lord and his king.’ Then, instead of handing out the syllabus like a normal professor, he led the class in Charles Wesley’s hymn, ‘O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.’ Fee, a widely influential New Testament teacher who believed that reading the Bible, teaching the Bible, and interpreting the Bible should bring people into an encounter with a living God, described himself as a “scholar on fire.” He died on Tuesday at the age of 88—although, as those who encountered him in the classroom or in his many books know, that’s not how he would have described it. Fee co-wrote How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary colleague Douglas Stuart in the early 1980s. The book is now in its fourth edition and has sold around 1 million copies, becoming for many the standard text on the best way to approach Scripture. Fee also wrote a widely used handbook on biblical interpretation, several well-regarded commentaries on New Testament epistles, and groundbreaking academic research on the place of the Holy Spirit in the life and work of the Apostle Paul. ‘If you had asked Paul to define what a Christian is,’ Fee once told CT, ‘he would not have said, “A Christian is a person who believes X and Y doctrines about Christ,” but “A Christian is a person who walks in the Spirit, who knows Christ.”‘”


221020-newsmentalhealthfade“How to Read the News Without Sacrificing Your Mental Health” – Mitchell Atencio in Sojourners: “When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, Daniel Burke felt overwhelmed by the pace of the news cycle. ‘The images and the stories, particularly about young children and schools … being bombarded [were overwhelming.] I have young kids and I felt pretty deeply affected by these stories,’ Burke told Sojourners. ‘The way we make news these days … it’s like a firehose … it’s really easy to become overwhelmed.’ Burke, a former religion editor at CNN and contributing editor at Tricycle, is not alone in feeling overwhelmed. Forty-two percent of people in the U.S. will ‘sometimes or often actively avoid the news,’ according to a 2022 Reuters Institute and University of Oxford report, and nearly half of those respondents said they felt the news had a negative effect on their mood. Yet the majority of people in the U.S. — 81 percent — say that news is ‘critical’ or ‘very important’ for democracy, according to Gallup and the Knight Foundation. This can be especially true for Christians who follow 20th century theologian Karl Barth’s adage to ‘take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’ If God is calling us to build more just communities, we are first called to know what is happening in those communities — and for that, we often need the work of journalists. But engaging news should not come at the expense of one’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Here’s how engaging the news can be a personally and societally beneficial process.”


131502“Christians Say Sayfo Martyrs Should Get Genocide Status” – Jayson Casper in Christianity Today: “In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, evangelicals laid down their lives for their Lord. Living in Nusaybin, once home to the ancient theological school of Nisibis, they were among the firstfruits of the Sayfo (‘sword’) martyrs. Overall, modern estimates posit half a million deaths of Syriac-Aramean Christians at the hands of Turkish and Kurdish soldiers, concurrent with the Armenian genocide that claimed 1.5 million lives. Today this Christian community, still speaking the language of Jesus, seeks its own recognition. In June 1915, the Muslim-majority city—now located on Turkey’s southeastern border with Syria—had about 100 Syrian Orthodox families, and an equal number belonging to other Christian sects. The Protestants were rounded up with Armenians and Chaldeans, marched to the front of town, and shot dead. The Orthodox families were promised peace by the local leader, but 30 men fled and sought refuge in the rugged mountains. A monk, trusting authorities, led soldiers to their hideout seeking to reassure the frightened band. According to reports, along the way they turned on the monk, demanding he convert to Islam. Upon his refusal, they cut off his hands, then feet, then head. Returning to Nusaybin, the soldiers assembled the remaining Christians, leading them out of town. In joyful procession the believers sang hymns of encouragement: Soon we will be with our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Warren - angels“Praying in the Night: Our Q&A with Tish Harrison Warren” – Mockingbird interview Tish Harrison Warren for their upcoming sleep issue: “The book begins in darkness — under the fluorescent lights of a hospital room. Enduring a brutal miscarriage, Tish Harrison Warren enters what she refers to as her “dark night of the soul,” a term coined by the sixteenth-century Spanish priest and mystic Saint John of the Cross to describe a time of spiritual crisis, when God seems absent. Prayer in the Night details Warren’s journey through that night, and serves as a guide for others in the midst of it. Written in direct, accessible prose, Warren’s honesty about suffering is matched only by her enduring faithfulness through it all. Of the weeks following her miscarriage, Warren writes, ‘Unlit hours brought a vacant space where there was nothing before me but my own fears and whispering doubts.’ At such a time, especially if you’ve been raised to believe you have to come up with it on your own, prayer can seem taxing and absurd — a kind of one-sided conversation in which the person praying does all the work. In such a case, following a script written by someone else might be helpful. Warren explains: ‘When my strength waned and my words ran dry, I needed to fall into a way of belief that carried me. I needed other people’s prayers.’ Specifically, she means Compline, an age-old service of evening prayers, a portion of which goes like this: Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen. In Prayer in the Night Warren meditates on each line of this remarkable invocation.”


Cultural Humility“Cultural Humility” – B. Hunter Farrell and S. Balajiedlang Khyllep at the Renovaré Blog: “One day I had an all-day meeting at a mission hospital an hour away from the seminary where my wife, Ruth, and I worked in DR Congo. Ruth decided to visit a sick friend and invited two young Congolese boys to go with her for some fun exploring the hospital grounds. The boys seemed to enjoy the day, and at the end of the hot afternoon they sat, watching some of the hospital personnel playing tennis. One of the employees asked the boys if they would each like to have a tennis ball. The boys’ eyes lit up and they eagerly accepted. When we returned home, Ruth asked the boys if they wanted her to write their names on the balls so people would know whose they were. They did. Then seven-year-old Mikobi asked if she would write his brother Tshejo’s name on the ball too. She thought how nice that was and wrote ​Tshejo.’ Then, Mikobi asked if she would write his friend Dilunda’s name on the ball. Something stopped her in her tracks — maybe it was a fear that there would be confusion over whose ball it really was. So Ruth paused and said, ​Mikobi, this is your ball.’ He looked at her, confused, and finally said, ​Mamu, if my friends had gone on the trip wouldn’t they have gotten a ball?’


Abraham Kuyper study“Kuyper the Mystic” – Clay Cooke and Steven Garber write this 2010 article in Comment: “The truest truths are never new. And the most important questions are always the perennial ones, the ones that human beings always ask. As my favorite poet, Steve Turner, once put it: History repeats itself. Has to. Nobody listens. I am an Augustinian, and I am a Bernardian, and I am a Calvinist, and I am a Kuyperian—and in and through it all, with the Puritan Richard Baxter and the Oxbridge don C.S. Lewis, I am a mere Christian. I would not have it be any other way. What are the Confessions if not an autobiographical yearning, from the first page on, for intimacy with God? I want to know you, and be known by you. Is it possible? The story of Augustine’s first 30 years of life is one of an increasingly hard heart, knowing the truth about God and himself, but resisting its metaphysical and moral meaning. And then, strange grace, he was awakened to reality—and his vision of God and the human condition shaped the next millennia, and for many all over the world, the centuries beyond. Bernard of Clairvaux’s marinated meditations on a true love for God, moving beyond creedal orthodoxy and intellectual assent, still echo across the centuries for those with ears to hear. Calvin quoted Bernard second only to Augustine, and when he set forth one of the deepest of all truths in the first pages of the Institutes, we hear him remembering his teachers. We cannot really know ourselves unless we know God; and then he argues, the reverse is also true. Everything else grows out of that thesis. Everything. But as I am shaped by this story of Augustine, Bernard, and Calvin, I am also shaped by Kuyper.”


Music: Rich Mullins, “Growing Young,” from The World as Best as I Remember It, Volume 2

Two Contrasting Ways: The Pharisees and Jesus’ Disciples

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 23, Jesus follows a series of attacking questions from religious leaders with a scorching critique of the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.” (Matthew 23:1-7)

There are three main claims that Jesus makes against these religious leaders. First of all, they are inconsistent (23:3), saying one thing and doing another. Second of all, they burden people (23:4). Their teaching is like burdensome loads on people’s shoulders and they don’t lift a finger to help. This is in dramatic contrast with Jesus’ own words: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). Third, these teachers of the Law and Pharisees are concerned with appearances and reputation (23:5-6). They focus on what they wear as a sign of religiosity and seek out places of honor in the synagogue and other religious gatherings.

Unfortunately, these figures have lost the point of what relationship with God is all about. The Pharisees were known to give minute attention to the Law of God to a point of detail that they had become legalistic and over-scrupulous in Jesus’ day.  In a sense, they seem full of life, but their life is more truly marked by missing the point, a sort of spiritual death.

Jesus offers a stark contrast between these ways of the Pharisees and the way of Jesus’ disciples.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12)

Jesus disciples take a different way. They are called to shun titles and the praise of people (23:8-10). While Jesus singles out the titles “Rabbi,” “Father,” and “Instructor,” these are not the only forms such pride could take. Any title can become a source of pride: Pastor, Elder, Teacher, Council member, Usher, Bible Study or small group leader…you name it, and the human heart can turn it into something to be prideful about. As John Calvin said, “the human heart is a perpetual idol factory.” On the positive, Jesus’ disciples are to follow Jesus’ humble path (23:11-12). Jesus was a humble servant, as most powerfully described in Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus did not grasp ahold of glory for His own use and advantage, but emptied Himself in order to take on human life. As a human, He lived humbly in the form of a servant even to death on a Cross. He became a servant to bring us to God.

Jesus’ way of life – what we call discipleship or Christian formation – is marked by a lively humility that is quite unlike the deathly way of the religious leaders. 

The Weekend Wanderer: 26 March 2022

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


127791“The Stunning Humility of God” – Fernando Ortega in Christianity Today: “Many times I’ve stared at Titian’s famous painting “Christ on the Way to Calvary,” which depicts Simon of Cyrene as he helped Jesus carry the cross up the hill to Golgotha. In the painting, it looks as though there is some kind of communication happening between the two—Christ sorrowfully glancing up over his left shoulder and Simon gazing down with kindness at the face of Jesus. What would I have said were I in Simon’s shoes? Maybe it would have been something along the lines of ‘Ah, holy Jesus, how have you offended, that mortal judgement has on you descended.’  The other day, as I was driving my 12-year-old daughter Ruby to school, we saw a weather-beaten woman sitting at the top of the freeway exit, begging for money in the Albuquerque sun. I said to Ruby, ‘That’s Jesus right there.’ ‘What do you mean?’ she asked. I explained how Christ continually identified himself with the downtrodden and marginalized in the world—with beggars, lepers, tax collectors, harlots, thieves—with the ‘least of these,’ according to the society of his day. She still looked at me quizzically. Thrilled to have gained her attention on the subject, I said, ‘The humility of God is a pearl of great beauty in this desolate world.'”


623afa7e567af_humanrightscouncilCropped“Since summer 2021, ‘thousands of Afghans who espoused the Christian faith are hiding in fear'” – Evangelical Focus – Europe: “The Geneva office of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) was present in the 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The evangelical body representing 600 million Christian worldwide has been working for a long time in the issue of religious freedom for faith minorities. Addressing the situation of Afghanistan, the WEA alarmed on 8 March in a joint statement with the Baptist World Alliance and The Jubilee Campaign that ‘religious minorities in Afghanistan are threatened. Thousands of Afghans who espoused the Christian faith are hiding in fear since August of last year.’ They called on the Office of the High Commissioner for human Rights to ‘closely monitor’ the situation or religious minorities. ‘We look forward to working with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. We recommend to maintain a strong human rights pillar of the United Nations Assistance Mission to support the Special Rapporteur in continued monitoring of human rights, specifically women and minorities rights.'”


RNSHILLSONGABUSE101714“Hillsong pastor Brian Houston resigns after revelations of indiscretions with women” – Roxanne Stone at Religion News Service: “Less than a week after the Hillsong board released a statement revealing its cofounder, Brian Houston, had sent inappropriate text messages to a staff member and spent time in a woman’s hotel room, the board of the global megachurch has announced the longtime global senior pastor has resigned. In a statement posted on its website Wednesday (March 23), the board said it had accepted Houston’s resignation and acknowledged ‘there will be much emotion at this news.’ Houston, 68, a New Zealand native, founded Hillsong Church with his wife Bobbie in the suburbs of Sydney in 1983. The Pentecostal powerhouse now boasts 30 locations around the world, with an average global attendance of 150,000 weekly. Hillsong’s music program has produced some of the most popular worship songs used in evangelical churches around the world, including ‘Oceans,’ ‘What a Beautiful Name,’ and ‘Shout to the Lord.'”


medicalgraphembed“Will Technology Enhance or Deplete Relationships?” – Matthew Loftus in Plough Quarterly: “If you’ve been to the doctor’s office lately, you probably only had the good fortune to look into your doctor’s eyes for a few seconds in a brief respite between her feverish note-taking on a swivel screen. In the past decade, all medical practitioners in the United States have been forced to switch from paper charts to electronic medical records (EMRs), a technology designed primarily for the purposes of billing. EMRs give little added value to clinicians, and they don’t help patients very much either; they increase medical professionals’ workload, while decreasing their face-to-face time with patients. These systems have been imposed with little care for their impact on the practice of healthcare. I work in a hospital in East Africa, and the EMRs we use there are much like those used in the Baltimore hospital where I completed my residency, only less functional. In the country where I serve, politicians run campaigns promising “a laptop for every child in school” when many of these same children do not have running water at home. There is a painful irony in this mindless celebration of technology. Tamara Winter describes this phenomenon as ‘mimetic misdirection,’ a stubborn belief that the accoutrements of successful development (highways, flashy buildings, digital technology) will be the means by which a country will be uplifted. Suckered by the promise of progress, administrators in hospitals where electricity is unreliable and computers are scarce have bought the lie that an EMR is better than a paper system, and have installed a ‘solution’ that creates more problems than it solves.”


Jewish Minyan“Jews say making daylight saving time permanent threatens morning prayer” – Michele Chabin at Religion News Service: “American Jews say they were blindsided by the U.S. Senate’s lightning-fast passage of a bill to make daylight saving time year-round and intend to fight it. The Sunshine Protection Act, which passed the Senate on March 15, will make it nearly impossible for Jews to pray communally in the morning, Jewish advocates say, and still get to work or school on time during the winter months. According to Jewish law, morning prayers must take place after the sun rises. Daylight saving time, which currently begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November, extends darkness on late-winter mornings. ‘It will affect our religious life, our professional life and our family life,’ said Rabbi Abba Cohen, vice president for government affairs for Agudath Israel of America. ‘If congregational and personal prayers begin after 8 in the morning, how will people get to work at 9 a.m. or earlier?'”


rubble-demolished-building-construction-waste-37283447“Some Parts of Evangelicalism Do Not Need To be Deconstructed … They Need To Be Destroyed!” – Michael F. Bird in Word from the Bird: “Jonathan Leeman – a nice guy I’ve interacted with – has an article on Defending Sound Doctrine Against the Deconstruction of American Evangelicalism over at 9Marks. In a nutshell, Leeman rejects the complaint that Christian doctrine, evangelical doctrine, is culturally conditioned and self-interested. Some people, realizing this situatedness and self-interest have been led to question, doubt, re-think, and ‘deconstruct’ their faith. Now, deconstruction is the latest fad, and deconstructing can mean leaving evangelicalism for liturgical churches or else leaving the Christian faith altogether. I have mixed feelings about this. First, I believe in evangelical doctrine, but…we need to be very self-aware of how much of our theology is truly biblical and catholic and how much of our theology is a product of our own perspective, position, and the prevailing philosophy of the day…. Second, some people are wrestling with doubt, regret, and wondering if their whole faith was tied to their social location, inheriting a conservative culture from their parents, a faith that made use of Jesus rather than actually following Jesus.”


Music:Alister Fawnwoda, Suzanne Ciani, Greg Leisz, “Leopard Complex,” from Milan

Learning to be Silent :: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, “The Tower of Babel”

Pieter Brueghel - Tower of Babel.jpg
Pieter Bruegel, De bouw van de toren van Babel; oil on panel; 1563.

Sin and temptation are funny things. They often disguise themselves in respectability and inventiveness that catch us off-guard at the last minute. Genesis 11 tells the story of a community’s effort to construct a great tower at a time when humanity shared common speech. The vision statement for the project was: “Building a tower to heaven to make our name great” (see Genesis 11:4). T-shirts and coffee mugs with the vision statement emblazoned on them were distributed all over town and the project commenced with great zeal. The only problem was that this effort was one more in a string of typical human aims to displace God and put humanity in His place. God will have none of it and stops everything before it reaches conclusion. Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting shows the colossal effort involved in this project. The architecture intentionally reflects that of the Roman Colosseum, reminding the viewer that both Rome and Babylon were biblical cities representing prideful humanity’s stance against God. Already in the painting we can see some arches beginning to crumble. The tower’s construction cannot hold together architecturally just as pride in communities and individuals pulls against itself, ending in collapse. We’re told in Genesis that God set out to “confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (11:7). This may sounds harsh until we realize just how disastrously far human brokenness and sin can go when gathered together around collective endeavors. We read about it in our history books and today’s news: war and hatred, greed and emptiness, repression and injustice. The journey of Lent reminds us that this is not only true in history and in the news, but also in us. Lent teaches us to lay our pride down and learn to be quiet–even silent–before God.