The Weekend Wanderer: 4 December 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.


Supreme Court abortion debate“Supreme Court Abortion Case Holds Signs of Hope for Pro-Life Evangelicals” – Kate Shellnut at Christianity Today: “After a long-awaited challenge to Roe v. Wade made it to the US Supreme Court on Wednesday, pro-life evangelicals who had rallied for the cause for decades were encouraged that the conservative-leaning court appeared willing to uphold a contentious Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The justices’ decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, due in late June, could overturn the country’s landmark abortion rights cases, making way for more restrictive state laws protecting the rights of fetuses in the womb. White evangelicals—who are twice as likely than the average American to want to make abortion illegal—gathered outside the high court in Washington and, across the country, listened to the oral arguments streamed online due to the pandemic. But the two-hour discussion—the greatest threat to abortion policy in 50 years of prayer and advocacy—largely skipped over familiar evangelical talking points to focus on the legal grounds for the case.”


Ray Chang - pastor burnout“7 Ways Pastors Can Avoid Burnout Before It’s Too Late” – Ray Chang at The Better Samaritan with Kent Annan and Jamie Aten: “The number one thing I am hearing from people is about how exhausted they are. It seems like most people are running on fumes, with barely just enough to get through each day. This includes pastors. I am hearing so much from pastors who are on the brink of burnout or pushing through in the midst of burn out from everything that has been taking place. Everything from the COVID-19 pandemic and all of its entailments, to the deep political polarization that rears its head throughout churches, the pervasiveness of conspiracy theories, issues surrounding racial injustice and sexual abuse and how the church ought to respond, mental health struggles, and economic challenges, have all led to a compounding weight of sheer exhaustion. As I continued to hear what pastors have been sharing, I found that the primary points of exhaustion had to do with some combination of needing to lead through transition after transition, in addition to already having to do too much and being stretched too thin, with less support and help than ever. Essentially, the uncertainty of the pandemic and multitude of complex overwhelmings are leading to a significant strain on the soul. As a result, here are a few things I have been encouraging pastors and church leaders to do. Adapt and adopt if it can serve you.”


Bethlehem“Do You Know These Details of Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem?” – From Faith Life: “Christians understand the meaning of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem . . . but there’s so much that’s hazy in our imagination and understanding of the details. Popular Christmas songs, Christmas movies, and Christmas media have given us the wrong idea. Read about the fascinating truth in this excerpt adapted from the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels….For example, the geographical setting of Bethelehem: The ancient village of Bethlehem was located five miles (eight km) south of Jerusalem, one half mile (0.8 km) east of the watershed at the end of a short, narrow spur of chalky limestone angling southeastward. Its elevation, at just over 2500 feet (762 m), is about the same as Jerusalem, and the rainfall is virtually identical for Bethlehem and Jerusalem (twenty-four in, or sixty-one cm, per year, about the same as the wheat fields from central Nebraska to central Texas).”


https://www.intouch.org/about-us/meet-dr-charles-stanley

“Died: Labib Madanat, Who Showed the Bible to Palestinians and Israelis in Word and Deed” – Morgan Lee in Christianity Today: “During his decades of ministry, Labib Madanat repeatedly passed through Israel’s main international airport. So regularly did security detain and thoroughly search him, he developed his own response. ‘Ben Gurion is my mission field,’ Madanat would say. ‘When I tell them that I am a Palestinian Arab Christian, and that I love the God of Israel and their Messiah, I get their full attention!’ The son of Jordanian missionaries who later led his father’s Jerusalem church, Madanat’s role as director of the Palestinian Bible Society (PBS) and later coordinator of all the Bible societies in the Holy Land offered him a platform to live out the gospel in a polarized region. He died on November 15 at the age of 57, after suffering three consecutive seizures during a ministry trip to Baghdad, Iraq. ‘There are people in the world who work and provide help to different groups not like them but don’t always have a love for those people,’ wrote his brother-in-law Daoud Kuttab, secretary of the Jordan Evangelical Council. ‘This was not Labib. He genuinely open-heartedly loved everyone he came in contact with, Arabs or foreigners, Palestinians or Israelis, Iraqi Shiites or Sunnis, Amazigh from North Africa, or Kurds in Irbil.'”


Scot McKnight“Jesus Creed Books of the Year” – Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed blog: “The late Justice Antonin Scalia, known for his crystal clear and mind-shaping prose, once said this about what makes for good writing: ‘I think there is writing genius as well – which consists primarily, I think, of the ability to place oneself in the shoes of one’s audience; to assume only what the assume; to anticipate what they anticipate; to explain they need explained; to think what they must be thinking; to feel what they must be feeling.’  Herewith, I announce today the Jesus Creed Books of the Year, simultaneously the Tov Unleashed Books of the Year. These are good books I have read and not some kind of magical survey of everything written. Many of you will know my picks from the blog posts and newsletters, but much thought goes into picking which books become the subject of our conversations.”


Ijaz-Still“Pakistani Minister Whose Church Was Bombed to Resume Ministry at Home” Anne Lim at Eternity News: “Sydney-based Anglican minister, the Rev Ijaz Gill, is not letting fear stop him from returning to his homeland of Pakistan to resume his ministry – despite a horrific bomb attack that killed 122 of his congregation, many of them children, and injured 168 of his friends. Rev Gill was just about to remove his robe after morning service at All Souls Church in Peshawar when the first bomb hit on 22 September 2013. The historic 19th-century church was crowded with about 500 people, including many families, who were celebrating wedding announcements with a spread of food and sweets. ‘When the first bomb blast hit, I fell down; it hit my head and shoulder, I was injured. The second bomb blast hit many, many people,’ he recalls, shaking his head over the immense carnage. Rev Gill believes the suicide bombers targeted his church, located on the border with Afghanistan, because of his outspoken stand against the Taliban.”


Music: J. J. Wright, “Transfiguration Hymn,” from Vespers for the Feast of the Transfiguration.

The Weekend Wanderer: 10 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.


read aloud“Why you should read this out loud” – When our children were young we began reading aloud to them even when they were babies, inspired by the work of Jim Trelease and Gladys Hunt. As they grew older we found that we still enjoyed reading aloud. As they have begun to leave the house we continue to read books aloud as a couple because we love enjoying a good book or article together. Recent research suggests that reading aloud might not only be good with others but also on our own.


image 1 - COVID-19“N. T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann look to the Bible for wisdom during the pandemic” – When two wise and seasoned students of the Scriptures write about how to think Christianly about the pandemic it is worth paying attention. Both N. T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann are renowned biblical scholars of the New Testament and Old Testament respectively and both have written about recent works, God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath (Wright) and Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty (Brueggemann) that Jason Mahn helpfully reviews in The Christian Century.


Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill“Book review: The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill. By Robyn Wrigley-Carr – Evelyn Underhill is one of those unique authors from an earlier era whose writings continue to have relevance in our own day and time. Perhaps best known for her important work Mysticism, Underhill moved from an open-ended psychological spirituality to a deeper yet more rooted approach to the spiritual life  as evidenced by her works Worship and Concerning the Inner Life. Underhill’s words continue to speak to us today about prayer and also have set the stage for evangelical engagement with spiritual formation and spiritual direction. With a notable preface by Eugene Peterson, Robyn Wrigley-Carr’s recent work The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill is a work I look forward to reading and is worth paying attention to.


Ravi Zacharias“New sexual misconduct claims surface about Ravi Zacharias” – There are certain stories I hate to mention but still know it is important to discuss because it shines the light on paying attention to and overcoming the dark side of ministry. This is one of those stories. Just five months ago we marked the passing of Ravi Zacharias, who has been Recent reports, however, show that Zacharias may have been involved in questionable activities, which are now being investigated by his own ministry, his denomination, and others. Stories like this remind us both to be aware of human failings, even in our heroes, and to guard the weak from being misused by those who hold power.


For the Health“For the Health of the Nation: A Call to Civic Responsibility” – The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and World Relief issued a joint statement and sign-on letter built upon an earlier work of the NAE called “For the Health of the Nation.” This latest efforts seeks to promote faithful, evangelical, civic engagement and a biblically-balanced agenda as Christians seek to commit to the biblical call to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. I encourage you to read and explore the website which has a number of very helpful resources.


Time Distortion“Why Our Sense of Time is Distorted During the Pandemic” – Here is an enlightening interview with Dr. E. Alison Holman by Jamie Aten, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, about why we often feel like we’re in a time warp during the pandemic. “Altered perceptions of time and its passing are common experiences of people facing trauma, as trauma can peel away the façade of the future, and interrupt the flow of time. This creates perceptual distortions such as feeling like time has stopped or that everything is in slow motion, experiencing a sense of timelessness, confusing the order of time and days, and perceiving a foreshortened future. My research suggests that these changes in perceptions of time and our views of the future may have significant implications for our health and well-being.”


Jefferson Bible“‘The Jefferson Bible’ Review: The Gospel, Sans Miracles” – Many have heard of Thomas Jefferson’s famous editing of the Bible, in which he rearranged portions of the New Testament into something radically different with Jesus less as a Savior than an insightful teacher. He called this project “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” but kept it secret out of fear that his work would be too controversial. With “his scrapbook of New Testament excerpts, the third president offered a dramatic revision of Christian tradition. The New Testament presented ‘the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man,’ he recognized, even if he hoped to sharpen those qualities by means of redaction.


Music: Johannes Brahms, “Piano Quartet No.1 in g minor, Op.25 4. Rondo alla zingarese: Presto” performed by Paul Huang, Jung Yeon Kim, Ole Akahoshi, and Jessica Osborne at the Seoul Arts Center

[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: 14 March 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.


CoronavirusCoronavirus – Public Health Informational Links – In the midst of all of the ever-changing updates on coronavirus and COVID-19, it is important to stay informed about what the virus is and what to do. I urge everyone to stay informed through the following resources:


masked girl to protect herself from wuhan virus in public area

Coronavirus – Church Resource Links – I have also come across a wide variety of resource links for churches who are trying to navigate this situation. Here are the resources pages I have found most helpful. If you have others, please feel free to post them in the comments for this post.


Eastbrook at Home Screen“Eastbrook at Home” – Like many other churches, we were forced to move our weekend services away from public gathering because of the declaration of a public emergency by our governor and the recommendation that events involving groups over 250 not meet. We have dubbed that online presence “Eastbrook at Home,” and it also includes links for further worship and discipleship at home resources. You are welcome to join us. We also have pulled together a page for congregational updates, including from our Medical Advisory Team, at “Health and Wellness Updates.”


1_QZDBZ9nV4EcpizDnCKKtMQ“Love in the Time of Coronavirus” – Andy Crouch offers a thorough and insightful look at how we can step forward to shape the culture at this unique time.”A leader’s responsibility, as circumstances around us change, is to speak, live, and make decisions in such a way that the horizons of possibility move towards shalom, flourishing for everyone in our sphere of influence, especially the vulnerable.” I view this as a must-read article for anyone with some sort of leadership presence. Justin Taylor offers a helpful summary of Crouch’s article in “A Guide for Christian Leaders in the Time of Coronavirus.”


Wuhan“Wuhan Pastor: Pray with Us” – I had not seen this letter written in January by an anonymous pastor from Wuhan, China, until I stumbled upon it recently when searching for something else. Given the way this situation has changed so quickly for us in the States, as well as around the world, I highly recommend reading this pastoral letter to believers in a time of crisis.


115964“Bethlehem Christians Bear Burden of Israel’s Coronavirus Crackdown” – “Visitors to Israel are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, according to safety measures implemented by the Israeli government in response to the global COVID-19 outbreak. The new policy has put a major dampener on Easter pilgrimages to the Holy Land—where 6 out of 10 tourists were Christians in 2018—dealing yet another blow to communities heavily dependent on foreign visitors.”


Music: Keith and Kristyn Getty, “Jesus, Draw Me Closer,” from In Christ Alone

[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: 7 March 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.

masked girl to protect herself from wuhan virus in public area“Is Your Church Ready for the Coronavirus?” – Like other pastors, I am working with my staff to make sure that our church is ready for what may come our way with COVID-19. In the midst of famous religious figures being quarantined as a result of travels outside the US, fringe religious sects being blamed for outbreaks of the virus in South Korea, and changes in methods of serving communion in Italy, it is important to come back to basics of being informed by the CDC and WHO about the actual situation with this epidemic. Beyond that, I found this article by Jamie Aten, Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) at Wheaton College (IL), really helpful in providing a few simple things churches can do now to help prepare for any potential public health crisis.


1918 influenza“The Coronavirus Is No 1918 Pandemic” – On the other hand, here is Jeremy Brown, Director of the Office of Emergency Care Research, National Institutes of Health: “We have just commemorated the centenary of the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918, which lasted only a few months but claimed 50 million to 100 million lives worldwide, including 675,000 in the United States. That pandemic remains a benchmark, and many commentators have rushed to compare it to the current coronavirus outbreak. What’s most striking about these comparisons, though, is not the similarities between the two episodes, but the distance that medicine has traveled in the intervening century. Whatever happens next, it won’t be a second 1918.”


115085“What Martin Luther Teaches Us About Coronavirus” – In light of all of this, it’s always helpful to remember who we are as the church, sometimes by getting in touch with those from an earlier time who faced major public health challenges. “In 1527, less than 200 years after the Black Death killed about half the population of Europe, the plague re-emerged in Luther’s own town of Wittenberg and neighboring cities. In his letter ‘Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,’ the famous reformer weighs the responsibilities of ordinary citizens during contagion. His advice serves as a practical guide for Christians confronting infectious disease outbreaks today.”


Screen-Shot-2020-01-22-at-10.49.12-PM“Stepping Toward the Future”Vince Bacote, who will be joining us at Eastbrook Church on April 27 as part of our “Faith and Politics” series, concludes a series of posts related to his lectures at the Theopolis Institute on the Church and Race.  “God’s work within the church is not the neat trajectory of transformation that we prefer, but the Spirit is at work leading God’s people to:

  1. be those who look at the truth about ourselves and the world,
  2. be those who patiently engage each other and pursue mutual understanding,
  3. be those who work with imperfect concepts while learning how to pursue mission together across ethnic differences,
  4. be those who are relentless in confessing and conveying our hope that God’s kingdom and heavenly city is on the way.”

hiddenlife4“Patience: Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life – Like most of us, I enjoy watching a good movie. But there is a significant distance between the sort of basic ‘good movie’ and a good, or even great, film. One of the great filmmakers of our era is Terrence Malick, whose limited work has several times reached greatness. Some of his more recent films, particularly since The Tree of Life, have involved religious and even Christian themes. In The Point, Alan Jacobs offers insights into his early viewing of and meaningful response to Malick’s most recent film, A Hidden Life.


biker-church-4-002--650a7ee07f76ec3f7ce36b5bb2aba79c80244736-s1500-c85“Bikers Get A Bad Rep, So They Started A Church Where They Feel Welcome” – Here’s a sentence I never thought I would write. Now, let’s look at an article from NPR about a biker church that has sprung up in Bangor, Maine, to help reach those in that subgroup who are struggling to find community in Christ. “Our mission-vision behind that, originally, was to have 10,000 bikers in the Bible every week. And God said, ‘Well, that’s great. We can do that.’ But we’ve far exceeded any of those numbers. I can’t even tell you what they are today. But we are in New Zealand now. We’re in Africa. We’re in Canada. We’re all over.”


Music: U2, “Yahweh/40,” from Vertigo Tour Live in Chicago

[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.]