The Weekend Wanderer: 7 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.

candlelight“Advent begins in the dark” – Fleming Rutledge is one of the most astute preachers and pastoral theologians in America today. Her book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus, was not only one of the most celebrated books of 2017, but an insightful and accessible approach to the center of our faith. Here is Rutledge with a brief, poetic prayer for Advent.

 

burkina-faso2“Five boys and pastor among 14 Christians shot dead in Burkina Faso church massacre” – Nothing reminds us so much of how Advent begins in the dark and how God comes into our darkness than reading about the persecuted church. What sadness struck me this week when I read about this terrible tragedy in the beleaguered church in Burkina Faso. Read this and pray. Also, consider praying for other brothers and sisters in the countries where believers are most persecuted around the world.

 

Trump Holds Campaign Event in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania“The Crisis of American Christianity, Viewed From Great Britain” – When you find the air so thick from charged political rhetoric that you can no longer tell what is really going on, it is sometimes helpful to get a perspective from outside the environment. Here is British theologian and New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, commenting on the current crisis in American Christianity within the charged political atmosphere of our days.

 

Wayne Grudem“Wayne Grudem Changes Mind About Divorce in Cases of Abuse” – To outsiders, this may seem like non-news, but for those within evangelicalism, this is at least somewhat noteworthy. Wayne Grudem is an acclaimed evangelical theologian, careful biblical scholar, and conservative complementarian through and through. He has wanted to avoid lax allowances for divorce in the past to the degree that his statements have supported spouses staying within abusive marriages. At the recent Evangelical Theological Society meetings, Grudem strongly reversed his views on divorce in cases of abuse. This is a welcome change, if not a little late in my mind, particularly in the era of #MeToo and #ChurchToo.

 

Potted "family-tree"“The New Kinship Engineering” – What are we to make of our newfound powers through scientific breakthroughs brought together with our newly asserted freedom from shared ethical frameworks? The questions and debates are nearly never-ending, but this article by Brendan Foht highlights what may seem like an extreme example to wake us up to the need for careful thinking. “The willingness of the fertility industry to use experimental technologies like three-parent IVF to satisfy the kinship desire of prospective parents, even when it means putting the health of children at risk, bodes ill for how they will use the even more powerful technologies of genetic engineering now on the horizon.”

 

Unrendered image of The Lord's Prayer. Taken with Canon Powershot G3“Seeing the Lord Behind the Lord’s Prayer” – Wesley Hill wrote a volume in Lexham Press’ recent series on Christian Essentials. The entire series looks excellent, although I have not had the chance to read them yet. Here is a review of Hill’s volume on the Lord’s Prayer by Tina Boesch. Of all the things you could give as a gift to family and friends this Christmas, Hill’s book looks to be a worthy option.

 

Music: Sufjan Stevens, “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming,” from Songs for Christmas

[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.]

Family Camp at Fort: The Art of Prayer

IMG_3117.JPGIn the last week of June I had the opportunity to speak at Family Camp 2 for Fort Wilderness in McNaughton, Wisconsin. If you’re not familiar with Fort, you should definitely consider their amazing range of ministry opportunities throughout the year. Every Winter our Student Ministries takes a group for Winter Retreat up in this beautiful place.

Since I have been spending so much time thinking and speaking on prayer, I kept that theme for the Family Camp, speaking on “The Art of Prayer.”

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 5.28.47 PM.pngFort has posted those messages online here. The five messages I gave were:

  • “Making Space for Prayer” – a look at the way that Jesus’ ordered His life around His relationship with the Father through prayer
  • “Jesus on How We Should Pray” – beginning to look at Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6
  • “Praying Like the Master” – specifically walking through Jesus’ teaching on what is known as the Lord’s Prayer
  • “Praying in Difficulty” – learning from Jesus’ approach to pray in John 17 in the midst of stressful circumstances
  • “Praying with Paul” – looking at one of Paul’s notable prayers in his letters from Philippians 1

 

I am so thankful for the staff team at Fort that I had the chance to work with during the week, as well as all the families that gathered for a week in the Word and in the woods together.

Prayer Course and prayer resources

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 10.03.07 AM.pngAs we prepare for a week of 24/7 Prayer at Eastbrook Church (July 15-21) as part of our summer of prayer, I want to encourage you to explore the great resources available at the 24-7 Prayer movement’s web-site.

Specifically, I’d like to encourage you to access the online Prayer Course they have put together.  Journey through the Lord’s Prayer with six short videos and a handy ‘cheat sheet’ for each session, all designed to fuel discussion and deepen your prayer life and the prayer life of the church. The sessions are:

  • Adoration (“Our Father in heaven”)
  • Petition (“Give us this day”)
  • Intercession (“Your kingdom come”)
  • Perseverance (“Your will be done”)
  • Listening (“Our daily bread”)
  • Warfare (“Deliver us from evil”)

Praying with Praise [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13)

The Lord’s Prayer ends with a brief statement that returns our focus to the power and presence of God. This ascription does not appear in the earliest biblical manuscripts and is usually seen only in footnotes within our contemporary Bible translations. As John Calvin notes, however, “it is so appropriate to this place that it ought not to be omitted.”[1]

These final words are appropriate because they return attention to God at the conclusion of prayer, which is where Jesus taught us to begin our prayers. Jesus teaches that our prayers should be book-ended with Godward praise. After moving through the second half of the prayer’s petitions related to the needs of our earthly lives, the Lord’s Prayer concludes with deep assurance of God’s stability, faithfulness, and rule over all the earth. This assurance includes all that we have presented to Him in prayer. After all is said and down we enter into a place of rest and peace in the presence of our holy and good Father to whom all praise belongs.

When we pray, we go on a journey with God. The journey of prayer begins with His holy and good presence, meanders through our requests related to His kingdom and our needs, and concludes with attentive trust in God’s faithful character. And so, we begin to enter into what the psalmist proclaims:

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

Jesus teaches us to pray in such a way that from start to finish, in all our praise and confession, in all our gratitude and petition, we are held in the gracious power of our kingly God, who is also our loving Father.

Lord, receive the praise in me
that You truly deserve,
for all the praise truly belongs
to You before and after all others.
You are so holy and so good.
You are so righteous and so just.
You are my Rock and my Fortress.
You are my King and my Father.
And I trust You above all.
Receive the praise You deserve in me.
Amen.


[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 915.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Praying as a Forgiver [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

The second part of the words on forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer relates to the way we treat others. Notice that there is no exhortation here to pray that God would help us to forgive others. No, there is merely the recognition that those who are forgiven also appropriately extend forgiveness to others.

Once, when Jesus was in the midst of a meal at a religious leader’s house, a woman of questionable reputation came in to the house. She drew near to Jesus, wept over His feet, wiped them with her hair and then anointed His feet with precious ointment. In the midst of this socially tense situation, Jesus offers forgiveness to the woman and uses it as a teachable moment for the religious leader, named Simon.

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:40-43)

Returning to the situation before Him, Jesus summarizes the teaching in this way: “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (7:47). The truth is that before God and through Christ all of us have been forgiven greatly. When we understand the depth of God’s grace toward us, the natural overflow is great love toward God and toward others, including forgiveness of their indebtedness to us.

Has someone wronged you at work this week? Has someone spoken ill of you in your apartment complex or neighborhood? Has a sharp word pierced your soul from a loved one in your own home? Let Jesus’ words speak to us: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

As we ask God for forgiveness, our hearts become contrite. When we receive forgiveness from God through Christ, our hearts grow soft with gratitude. This softness of heart should lead us outward with forgiveness toward others as well.

How many times should we forgive others? Let us hear these words of Jesus in response:

If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. (Luke 17:3-4).

Lord, I thank You for Your grace
in forgiving me of my sins.
Help me to extend that forgiveness
toward those who have wronged me.
I choose – by the Holy Spirit’s power in me –
to forgive as You have forgiven me.  

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Praying for Forgiveness [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“And forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12a)

The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer centers upon our relationship with God and with others. Specifically, it is a request for forgiveness. This request forces us to recognize that often we are not the sort of people we would like to be, others would like us to be, or God would like us to be.

Unfortunately, we are often dishonest in our lives, and this dishonesty can sometimes creep into prayer. Dishonest prayer does not lead us anywhere helpful, but inadequately hides us from God like Adam and Eve sheltering behind fig leaves. Jesus’ teaching on prayer, however, confronts us with the bare reality of who we are and who we are not.

When David was confronted by the prophet Nathan after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, he turned from hiding his sin to uncovering it before God. Psalm 51 is the record of that uncovering within prayer, which we call confession.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)

This psalm expresses the cry of a heart that knows its debts and calls out for mercy. John the Apostle offers words that respond meaningfully to our confession of our sinfulness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, let us run to Our Father, holy and merciful, uncovering our sinful indebtedness with boldness and humility in prayer.

Search through my soul, O God.
Reveal my hidden sin.
Cut through my self-deception,
and cleanse me from within.
Apart from You our souls are lost.
We’re blind to our wrong ways.
We trick ourselves to walk a path
that leads to our disgrace.
So lead me on the path of life,
and purify my soul.
I kneel before You;
I give myself to You.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Give Us Our Daily Bread [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

The first three petitions of the Lord’s prayer orient us with God at the center in prayer. With the next three petitions, however, the pronouns switch from ‘You’ and ‘Your’ to ‘us’ and ‘our.’ This switch reminds us that prayer is not only about God in heaven but also about us here on earth. We and our lives are of great interest to God.

The first of the requests related to humanity is an acknowledgement of our basic need before God. Every day we face the fact that our rumbling stomachs need sustenance. And so, we turn to God in dependence, requesting that He provide for us. In a world bent on acquisitiveness yet struggling with an imbalance of material goods it is an important reminder that this is not a prayer for our daily wants but for our daily needs.

Some who are reading this devotional today may be in deep places of need. Bring your deep needs to God and ask Him to provide. Others may be in a place of great abundance. If so, thank God for all He has given, for “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).

This request is also one we can lift up on behalf of others. We can pray for our family and friends that God will provide for their daily needs, whatever those needs may be. We can lift up those caught in the midst of conflicts, homelessness, oppression, and difficulty, that God would provide for their needs. The psalmist writes: “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:8). Martin Luther, in his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, viewed this request also as a warning. Regarding “those who wantonly oppress the poor and deprive them of their daily bread,” he wrote, “let them take care that they do not lose the common intercession, and beware lest this petition in the Lord’s Prayer be against them.”[1]

Standing with our Father, we turn our eyes to the true needs of the world and our lives, presenting them to Him in order that He will provide for us. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11).

Our Father,
give us our daily bread.
Provide for our true needs,
the seen and the unseen,
in ways that only You can
because of Your knowledge and grace.
We call out to You because You are good
and Your mercy endures forever.
Lord, I do not deserve to have You
  come under my roof,
but just say the word,
and I will be healed.


[1] Martin Luther, “The Lord’s Prayer,” in The Larger Catechism, http://bookofconcord.org/lc-5-ourfather.php.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]