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.]

Say “Our Father” [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:9)

Jesus’ approach to prayer is strongly rooted in his relationship with God as Father. Three times in Matthew 6:6-8, Jesus refers to “your Father”; twice in verse 6 and once in verse 8.  The idea of approaching God as Father isn’t entirely new with Jesus. We encounter God referred to as Father numerous times in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16). Even in some Jewish literature written between the times of the Old and New Testaments, God is called Father.

However, what is new with Jesus is that He says the primary way of relating with God is as our Father.  When questioned about His authority, Jesus responds to His critics in this way: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). When at the tomb of His good friend, Lazarus, Jesus calls out in prayer: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42). Even in the agony of the Garden of Gethsemane before the Cross, Jesus speaks to God with this intimate address: “‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus’ relationship with God is characterized as a unique Father-Son relationship.

In one of the most important parts of Scripture on this theme, Jesus prays in Matthew 11 this way: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11: 27). Jesus says that as the Son, only those who know Him can enter into that same relationship with God as Father.  By the gift of Jesus Christ we can not only know about God and receive salvation but actually enter into that same intimate and powerful relationship of the Father and the Son. We come right into the middle of that unique relationship that exists between God the Father and Jesus the Son, and we are now part of that community because of Jesus.

That is why Jesus begins the teaching on prayer that we know as the Lord’s Prayer in this way: “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9). When we pray we must know to whom we are praying.  Because of Jesus’ unique relationship to the Father – and because of salvation for us through Jesus – God is now our Father as well. This is the central theme of the Christian life with God. It is the central reality of the life of prayer.

Our Father,
  what a wonderful gift
that through the Only Son, Jesus Messiah,
  we too can address You so personally.
Thank You that You know
  what we need before we pray.
Thank You that, as a good Father,
  You give us better gifts
than any earthly father
  could every give to us.
Thank You that though our earthly parents
  are imperfect and sometimes fail,
You are a good, good Father
  who is perfect and never fails.

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

Prayer to Your Father in Secret [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

In contrast to the hypocrite of Matthew 6:5, who loves to have their prayers seen and heard in public places, Jesus tells His disciples that they should pray to their Father in secret. Because God is our Father, we are set free from the need to impress others in our prayer life. Instead, we can turn aside to the secret place of our lives to speak to Him.

Ironically, in Jesus’ time most of His hearers only had one-room houses, so it wasn’t like they had an extra secret room somewhere. While it can be helpful to literally have a prayer closet, Jesus emphasizes that we should go into some secret place where we can meet with God.

Jesus’ example shows us what the secret place with God looks like. We read in one part of the Gospels that Jesus had “no place to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). As a result, Jesus drew aside to be with God early in the morning (Mark 1:35), often in deserted places of solitude (Luke 5:16). Wherever He was, Jesus found a secret place where He could meet with His Father in secret.

At the same time, there was one place it seems Jesus often liked to draw away while in Jerusalem. That was the Mount of Olives. This was the place where Jesus prayed on the night of His betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56). It was a special place of prayer for Him where He could meet with the Father.

Whether on the road with no place to lay His head or in a regular place like the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ reward in prayer was not the accolades of others but simply meeting with His Father.

If we are praying to our Father and not to the crowds of people around us, where is our secret place with God? Do you have a place where You can regularly meet with God in prayer? Is it your car, is it your office, is it literally a quiet nook or closet where you can talk with Him? Jesus assumes that we will pray – that’s why He says, “when you pray…” – so are we developing the secret life of prayer with Father God just like Jesus?

Father, I draw near to You
  in the secret and the quiet
of this place and time
  where You are found.
I want to tell You that You are my reward,
  and I love You more than others’ praise.
Make that even more true in my life
  than it is right now.
Grow me deeper with You in prayer,
  and call me back again and again
  into the secret place of prayer with You.

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