The Weekend Wanderer: 30 January 2021

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.


Sebastian Kim“Democracy, ‘The Problem of Minorities,’ and the Theology of the Common Good” – In this brief, but informative essay, Sebastian Chang Hwan Kim, Academic Dean for the Korean Center and Robert Wiley Professor of Renewal and Public Life at Fuller School of Theology, offers a helpful exploration of theology for the common good. Engaging with other prevalent theologies for public engagement, Kim suggest some meaningful ways in which we as Christians can step into the public sphere for the good of all without relinquishing our theological footing.


Praying for the World“Prayers and Praises from the World’s Hardest Places to Be a Christian” – Just over two weeks ago, Open Doors released their annual “World Watch List,” which tracks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to follow Jesus. I strongly encourage you to explore the amazing resource that Open Doors has assembled there, but also want to encourage you to take a look at this resource from Christianity Today. Here, CT has assembled both praises and prayers not merely for that part of the world but from believers in many of those countries. This is a very helpful resource for intercessory prayer for the world.


wayne

Jesus and John Wayne – a series of reviews” – One of the most thought-provoking religious books of the past year is Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. The title itself may either draw you in or frustrate you, but the book has sent ripples through the church. It was through church historian John Fea that I first heard about a series of reviews of the book at the Mere Orthodoxy website. If you’re interested in the book (love it or dislike it) or if you’ve never heard of the book, consider reading this series of reviews for appreciative, reflective, and critical responses, often intermixed in each essay:


Wintering“How ‘Wintering’ Replenishes” – In this interview by Krista Tippett from On Being, Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times speaks to something many of us have felt in this past year of trials and challenges. Here’s the description from On Being: “In so many stories and fables that shape us, cold and snow, the closing in of the light — these have deep psychological as much as physical reality. This is “wintering,” as the English writer Katherine May illuminates in her beautiful, meditative book of that title — wintering as at once a season of the natural world, a respite our bodies require, and a state of mind. It’s one way to describe our pandemic year: as one big extended communal experience of wintering. Some of us are laboring harder than ever on its front lines and also on its home front of parenting. All of us are exhausted. This conversation with Katherine May helps.”


Jefferson Bible Jesus“What Thomas Jefferson Could Never Understand About Jesus” – Vinson Cunningham offers an insightful review of Peter Manseau’s The Jefferson Bible: A Biography in The New Yorker, touching upon not only Jefferson, but also Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Howard Thurman: “Jefferson, meanwhile, was mulling a book project. He imagined it as a work of comparative moral philosophy, which would include a survey of ‘the most remarkable of the ancient philosophers,’ then swiftly address the ‘repulsive’ ethics of the Jews, before demonstrating that the ‘system of morality’ offered by Jesus was ‘the most benevolent & sublime probably that has been ever taught.’ This sublimity, however, would need to be rescued from the Gospels, which were—as Jefferson put it in a letter to the English chemist, philosopher, and minister Joseph Priestley—written by ‘the most unlettered of men, by memory, long after they had heard them from him.'”


Music: Víkingur Ólafsson, “Philip Glass: Études, No. 2,” from Glass Piano Works | recorded at the Yellow Lounge

Join in a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation

Today on January 20, 2021, we are inviting Eastbrook Church into a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our nation on the day of the presidential inauguration. The goal of this day is not to pray in a partisan way, but to bring our hopes and fears about the future of our nation to God, even as we intercede for the preservation of our nation, unity amidst divisions, and revival of hearts turning to the Lord. We welcome all of you to join us.

Prayer is the most appropriate first response we can make to circumstances like this. Prayer is not the only response, but it is vital. In prayer, we lay down our thoughts and feelings before God, relinquishing our desire to control, our visions of what is needed, and fears that grip us. We can release this all into the hands of God. In prayer, we also venture into encounter with the God who has made us and holds all the world together by His providential power and goodness. Prayer leads us to intercede for the needs of the world, to call out to God on behalf of those with power in the world, and also brings us into the silence of entrusting all things to God who knows better than us what is truly needed. God changes us and changes circumstances through prayer.

Fasting is simply voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It is the opportunity to express to God in a very tangible way that we need Him more than anything else, even a physical meal. Fasting is always accompanied by focused prayer. If you do not know much about fasting or would like to grow in your understanding of this spiritual practice, let me encourage you to make use of the resources on my blog here.

As we engage in this day of prayer and fasting, here are some prayer points to guide us:

  • pray for true peace in our city, nation, and the nations of the earth in this divisive, confusing, and tumultuous time
  • pray for a peaceful transition of power as President Trump steps down and President Biden is inaugurated
  • pray that God would guide the leaders of our nation with His wisdom, and that whether they name Jesus as Lord or not, God would mercifully lead us forward in His ways
  • pray for healing of wounds in our nation, reconciliation across divides, and a constructive pathway forward toward a more whole and unified national life
  • pray against the powers of evil, both spiritual and physical, that seek to disrupt and destroy, both in the church and the nation
  • pray that the church of Jesus Christ might stand united for God’s kingdom and ways as we navigate a season where even we as God’s people have been destabilized by tension
  • pray for revival in our nation; that God would lead people to a true understanding of the gravity of sin and evil, as well as the good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ
  • ultimately, pray that God’s kingdom would come and God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven

These additional resources on prayer may be helpful as you pray:

National Day of Prayer service today at noon

National Day of Prayer

Join us today at noon for a 30-minute prayer service via Zoom to call out to God on behalf of our nation at many different levels. For more information and the Zoom invite, reach out to me via email.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Old Camel Knees: a brief reflection on the remarkable prayer life of James the Just

James_the_Just_(Novgorod,_16_c.)The fourth-century church historian, Eusebius, relates a story gathered from the lost works of Hegesippus during the second century about James “the Just,” who likely wrote the epistle of James and was the earthly brother of Jesus. In the midst of outlining the persecution of the church in his Ecclesiastical History , Eusebius details the death of James in Book II, Ch. XXIII:

3. The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows:

4. “James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James.

5. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath.

6. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.

7. Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, ‘Bulwark of the people’ and ‘Justice,’ in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.

There is so much we could discuss here, but today I merely want to draw attention to point (6) above, which highlights James’ ongoing life of prayer, specifically his worship of God and petitions for forgiveness on behalf of others. His dedication to prayer is such that his physical body reflected it: “his knees became hard like those of a camel.” It is because of this phrase that James is often referred to as “camel knees.”

The idea of praying on our knees is mentioned frequently in Scripture (Psalm 95:6; Daniel 6:10; Luke 5:8; Ephesians 3:14). Praying on our knees conveys humility – an appropriate sense of who we are – and awe – an appropriate sense of who God is. Getting down on our knees tells us in a very tangible way – through the posture of our bodies – that something different is occurring in our experience that requires something different from our bodies. As one commentator writes, kneeling in prayer communicates something vitally important: “We recognize that God is everything for us and that without his merciful love, we are, literally, nothing.”

These days many of us, especially those within evangelical traditions, rarely get on our knees in prayer. In fact, it is so out of the ordinary that when I recently invited our church community to kneel, I had to take extra time to set it up ahead of time. Those in what would described as traditional churches likely find it more common to descend to a kneeler each week for the confessional prayer. Regardless of our worship tradition, I would like to suggest that all of us could learn quite a lot from the Apostle James in his example of dedicated, humble prayer through appropriate kneeling.

However, let me take it a step further, and say that pastors and ministers of all sorts should take a cue on prayer from “Old Camel Knees.” It would be an invaluable breakthrough in ministry practice if all of us serving in ministry left a legacy like James of dedication in prayerful worship of God and intercession before God on behalf of our people. May God give us grace that our bodies would be marked by our dedication in prayer.

The Weekend Wanderer: 27 April 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.

 

sri lanka church bombings“Bombs tear through Sri Lankan churches and hotels” – On Easter Sunday, multiple bombs went off in churches around Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. The death toll continues to rise, with over 350 lives now taken as a result of the bombings. As reports come in, it appears that the bombings were carried out by educated, middle-class individuals, including two sons of a wealthy spice trader, and may be in response to the Christchurch mosque bombing in New Zealand.

 

90392“Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings”Ajith Fernando, a Sri Lankan theologian and resident of Colombo, offers insight into how we should consider our response to such an event as Christians. This is a must read by an insider to Sri Lanka for those of us trying to understand how we should think, feel, and respond to these terrible events.

 

Paul W Robinson“Wheaton College Professor Emeritus Dr. Paul W. Robinson Wins Fulbright” – After graduating from Wheaton College, my wife, Kelly, worked for the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program at Wheaton College, first with Dr. Bob Stickney, and then with Dr. Paul Robinson. Paul and his wife, Margie, became friends and a beloved uncle and aunt to us as newlyweds in those days. I have continued to connect with Paul over the years through mutual work with Congo Initiative, and I was thrilled to hear about this new opportunity for Paul.

 

30-days-adult-cover-201930 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World – For many years now, I have participated with others in praying for God to move powerfully in the Muslim world during Ramadan. One of the best resources for this is “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World,” with their informed and full daily prayer guide. “It calls the church to make a deliberate but respectful effort to learn about, pray for and reach out to our world’s Muslim neighbors. It coincides annually with the important Islamic month of religious observation — Ramadan, a time of the year when Muslims are much more deeply aware of spiritual matters.”

 

Denton-Program-Guatemala-2018“A Christian Case for Humanitarian Intervention” – “The United States has the power, like no other force on earth, to protect the innocent from great evil. It has the capacity to send a message to lawless regimes. The message: they cannot always evade the moral laws that govern civilized nations. It is a message that is consistent with America’s vital national interests—and with its most cherished political and religious ideals. Conservatives, and Christians, ought to know and care about these ideals, which have done so much to promote international peace and security. Remember the American Creed, those self-evident truths expressed by thinkers from John Locke to James Madison: a belief in the God-given worth and equality of every human being, in natural rights, in the right to live in freedom, in liberty of conscience, government by consent of the governed.”

 

Mike Pence

“Mike Pence Is Coming to Taylor’s Graduation. The Class of 2019 Is Ready.” – “Taylor University recently made national news with its announcement that Vice President Mike Pence will deliver this year’s commencement address—spurring backlash from students, alumni, parents, and faculty. This is not the only recent political clash to put the small evangelical college in the spotlight. Last year, an anonymous newspaper titled Excalibur was created and distributed by a group of Taylor faculty who wanted to take a stand against the increasing liberalization that they perceived on campus.”

 

28f88c326477495985ff467547450456-jumbo“Can Black Evangelicals Save the Whole Movement?” – Not in direct response to the situation at Taylor with Mike Pence, but somewhat related you can read Molly Worthen’s opinion piece in The New York Times on what might save the evangelical movement. “Yet a vanguard of Christian consultants and community activists focused on racial justice is gaining a wider hearing in white evangelical institutions than ever before. Many of them have studied history, sociology — and that academic boogeyman, critical race theory, a conceptual framework focused on the power structures that help maintain white supremacy. They combine these tools with biblical arguments to challenge white evangelical assumptions about the role of the church in the world.”

 

yosemite-taft-point_s

“Selfie Deaths Are an Epidemic” – From Kathryn Miles at Outdoor Magazine: “Wu’s death, after all, is only the latest in a string of selfie-related fatalities. Termed ‘killfies’ by some social media researchers, these accidental deaths have involved social media personalities and, of course, adventurers. Canadian rapper Jon James McMurray perished last October after crawling out onto the wing of a Cessna while filming a music video….It can feel somehow reassuring to condemn deaths like these as foolish or self-absorbed, but that doesn’t seem entirely fair. And, frankly, emerging research doesn’t support that position.”

 

Music: The National, “Guilty Party”

[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.]