The Weekend Wanderer: 8 May 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.


Marva Dawn“Remembering Marva Dawn, a Saint of Modern Worship” – I first encountered the writings of Marva Dawn while preparing for ministry at Northern Theological Seminary. That is also where I also first heard her in person at a conference organized by Bob Webber, a friend and mentor during those days before Bob’s passing in 2007. Her books Sexual Character, Truly the Community, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, and Keeping the Sabbath Wholly have influenced me significantly. Here is a tribute to Marva Dawn by Mike Cosper at Christianity Today. “When a mentor saw me struggling with worship in our fledging church plant, he handed me a copy of Marva Dawn’s Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship in this Urgent Time. I wondered what a Lutheran and a lover of historic worship practices would have to say to a congregation whose traditions came more from indie rock shows than any church.”


refugee resettlement“Biden raises refugee ceiling, and faith-based groups brace for rebuilding work” – From Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins at Religion News: “Faith-based refugee resettlement groups are celebrating President Joe Biden’s decision to raise the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. for the remainder of the federal fiscal year to 62,500, even as they acknowledge that they need to rebuild their capacity after years of cuts under the previous administration. The announcement from the Biden White House comes after significant pushback from the faith-based groups that form the backbone of the nation’s refugee resettlement program after the president signed a memorandum last month aimed at speeding up refugee admissions that did not touch the historic low set by former President Donald Trump.”


Fleming Rutledge“The Body of Christ in an Empire of Lies” and “On writing political sermons” – In these two posts, seasoned pastor and theologian, Fleming Rutledge, offers some pointed and poignant advice to pastors for the current moment. Rutledge is perhaps best known for her masterful work, The Crucifixion: Understanding the death of Jesus Christ, which has won acclaim from across the theological spectrum (see this, this, or this). Whether you agree or disagree with her, Rutledge’s commentary and advice in these posts is worth reading and grappling with, something I continue to do as a pastor and preacher in these divisive and challenging days.


madmenThe Spirituality of Solitude: In the Poverty of Solitude All Riches Are Present” – Ben Self at Mockingbird: “In a post a couple weeks ago, I used the paintings of Edward Hopper to suggest that there is an important difference between loneliness and solitude, and that despite our understandable exhaustion with the loneliness of these times, we may strangely come to miss certain aspects of solitude when this pandemic is over. But what is it, more specifically, we might miss?…On the one hand, we most naturally try to remedy the pain of being alone — our loneliness — through contact with others. But paradoxically, we also seek to remedy that same basic pain — but the pain of being separate from God — through solitude, separation from others. Thus, it is our very loneliness that can drive us both into the arms of others and away from others into solitude, to spaces where we might be ‘alone with the Alone.'”


Barons - memory reading“Why we remember more by reading – especially print – than from audio or video” – Linguistics professor Naomi S. Baron in The Conversation: “During the pandemic, many college professors abandoned assignments from printed textbooks and turned instead to digital texts or multimedia coursework. As a professor of linguistics, I have been studying how electronic communication compares to traditional print when it comes to learning. Is comprehension the same whether a person reads a text onscreen or on paper? And are listening and viewing content as effective as reading the written word when covering the same material? The answers to both questions are often ‘no,’ as I discuss in my book How We Read Now, released in March 2021. The reasons relate to a variety of factors, including diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset and a tendency to multitask while consuming digital content.”


kovacs-1“Underwater Photos Taken During Blackwater Dives Frame the Atlantic Ocean’s Stunning Diversity” – Grace Ebert at Colossal: “After sunset, self-taught photographer Steven Kovacs plunges into the open ocean around Palm Beach to shoot the minuscule, unassuming creatures floating in the depths. He’s spent the last eight years on blackwater dives about 730 feet off the eastern coast of Florida in a process that ‘entails drifting near the surface at night from 0 to 100 feet over very deep water.’ Often framing species rarely seen by humans, Kovac shoots the larval fish against the dark backdrop in a way that highlights the most striking aspects of their bodies, including wispy, translucent fins, iridescent features, and bulbous eyes.”


Music: Jpk. (feat. Solar. & I. Erickson), “By Your Side”

7 Things We Can Do As Christians in Times Like This

The past week has been one of the most chaotic for our nation in recent memory. The scenes in the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, were a striking contrast with the celebration of Epiphany for which that day is set aside on the church calendar. Epiphany literally means ‘appearing’ or ‘manifestation.’ The celebration offers an important opportunity to thank God for the light we have received through Jesus Christ and the significance of His saving work, not just for one people group, but people from around the globe. We also reflect on how our ordinary lives are impacted by the light found in Jesus Christ, both His teaching and His life.

But Epiphany 2021 was a manifestation of a different sort, leaving all of us with various forms of pain, confusion, stress, and concern about what will come next. Divisiveness, violence, and misuse of power worked to derail governmental processes in a way that was shocking and unacceptable. Where do we go from here? Let me suggest seven specific ways as the minimum for how we can respond to these events as Christians.

  1. Bring our thoughts and feelings to God – One of the most difficult things to do in this present moment is to bring our thoughts and feelings to God. We are more than ready to bring them to social media, to our friends through texts, or family members through phone calls, but are we willing to first and foremost meet with God about our concerns? The Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). As we release our concerns, pain, and confusion to God in this situation, we are better able to engage with ourselves, others, and the world at large.
  2. Intercede for those with authority – After offering our own needs to God, we should next step forward in prayer by interceding for our nation, specifically for those with authority. As believers, we know that God works through prayer (James 5:16) and that we are called to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We know that our nation faces many challenges that are not only difficult to overcome but may seem insurmountable. We know and feel that there is tension and confusion in our government. We know there is a great need for people to turn back to God and His ways at numerous levels. Because of these things, we should pray that our nation will be awakened with a need for God, that true repentance and humility would arrive, that safety and peace will reign, and that regardless of their political party all political leaders will be guided by God for the common good.
  3. Cultivate peace and condemn violence – Jesus our Messiah is known as the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6). Where discord existed between God and humanity, as well as humans one to another, Jesus destroyed division by Himself becoming our peace (Ephesians 2:14-15). Because this is the way of Jesus, we as His followers must also be people of peace. We must let Christ’s peace rule in us because we are called to peace (Colossians 3:15). We live in peace through love, turning aside from all that is contrary to peace and love, including hatred, dissension, and violence. Our response is not to become more violent in response to violence, but to move forward as agents of reconciliation for the goal of God’s true peace through love in Jesus Christ.
  4. Hold to truth and reject falsehood – We have lived in a post-truth era for quite some time, but the fruits of that reality are taking hold at every level. Christians are people of the truth because our Savior came from the Father “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Disciples of Jesus must live in the truth about ourselves and reality, setting aside deception and half-truths as inconsistent with our God. We must discern falsehood no matter where it arises and name it as such so that we and others are not deceived. This requires us to be filled to overflowing with the truth of Scripture. If we meditate on talk radio, news websites (regardless of the source), or false narratives more than we meditate on God’s Word then we are sure to lose our way. If we want to flourish, then the word of God must be our constant meditation (Psalm 1:1-3). As followers of Jesus we must live in truth and name falsehood for what it is.
  5. Maintain perspective– Without downplaying the good or bad realities around us, we must also maintain perspective on our present moment. The prophet Daniel shows us how to do this. After being ripped from his homeland and launched into exile, Daniel witnessed many kings and kingdoms rise and fall over the course of his life. God gave Daniel a vision of more changes still to come in the future after his days were complete. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must maintain clear perspective that our hopes are not tied to a candidate, policy, country, or kingdom. All of these will come and go. There is only one “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
  6. Remain hopeful – One of the most important Christians virtues is hope. Believers in Jesus Christ are people of hope fundamentally because of the reality of the resurrection. Death, sin, and evil are not the end and will not have the final say in our lives or in history. Jesus is King and His Kingdom is close at hand (Mark 1:14-15). We are filled with the Holy Spirit, who seals us as Christ’s own speaks of our future inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14), and graced with the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20). It was because of the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness that even amidst the ruin of the exile the writer of Lamentations could write: “this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3:20-26). Regardless of the present moment, there is always hope in Christ.
  7. Seek the glory of Christ above all things – We can all sometimes lose our perspective on what matters most. No matter how important specific issues are to us, no issue, political party, or election should become more important to us than the glory of Christ. Without being simplistic about it, Christians must seek the glory of Jesus Christ above all things. If we understand what Daniel shows us, that kingdoms will rise and fall, then we will begin to understand that our overriding goal as the people of God is bringing glory of Christ. We do that in word and deed. We do that by proclaiming and embodying the love of Jesus Christ in the city and in the world. More than our side “winning” or making strides forward on a particular issue in our national politics, we must be motivated by our desire for people to truly seeing and knowing Jesus through us. It is only in Christ that all things are held together (Colossians 1:17).

The Weekend Wanderer: 14 November 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.


Carl Lentz“Fired Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz Apologizes for Infidelity” – I am more than tired of the failures of ministry leaders in North America. Here is one more example of a charismatic personality who has fallen into moral failure, bringing untold pain and confusion to his own family, congregation and others. There is a sickness at work within the church. While it does require appropriate accountability, we also need better guides for ministry, both old and new, as well as an adequate look at our dark side that we often hide from. This speaks of a deep need for radical repentance and different approaches to ministry. We must repent and re-learn ministry.


The Great Litany“The Great Litany” – Maybe a good place to start would be to pray great prayers of times past that lead us into silence, reflection, and repentance before God. Here is one time tested resource for that sort of approach to our spiritual need in this hour.


Heather Cirmo - accountability“How to Prevent the Next Evangelical Leadership Scandal” – Heather Cirmo at Christianity Today writes: “Working as a public relations professional in the Christian world, I’ve had an up-close and personal view of how quickly crises can develop and how easily they can engulf an organization in controversy and confusion. I have been called on to help numerous ministries in crisis, many of which were struggling to come to terms with revelations of sexual impropriety or abusive leadership. My role is to try to minimize the public damage. But in many situations, it becomes clear that organizational problems existed far before the sin was ever made public.”


Hunter - on the brink“Dissent and Solidarity: Times of crisis are always times of reckoning” – James Davison Hunter at The Hedgehog Review: “If you were a forty-year-old in 1955, your life would have already spanned most of World War I, the Spanish flu pandemic, the convulsive birth of the Soviet Union, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany, World War II, the communist takeover in China, and the Korean War; closer to home, you would have witnessed McCarthyism and the growing pressures for remediation of ongoing and unresolved racial injustice—for all of the manifest good of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Emmett Till was murdered in 1955. During those four decades from 1915 to 1955, the nation had faced crisis after crisis, and, had this been your life, you would have known little else but a nation on the brink. Then, as now, these national trials were rightly recognized as existentially momentous, and then, as now, there was wide and deep controversy over how to make sense of them.”


Seychelles President“Anglican Priest elected Seychelles President in first victory for Seychelles Democratic Alliance” – “An Anglican priest, Wavel Ramkalawan, has been elected to serve as the fifth President of the Seychelles. It is the first time in the country’s 44 years of independence from Great Britain that the President is not from the United Seychelles Party. President Ramkalawan came close to winning power in the 2015 election, falling just 200 votes short of victory. But he triumphed in last month’s elections, winning 54.9 per cent of the vote against incumbent President Danny Faure’s 43.5 per cent.”


f14f8836c81d05f92479de92da21695b-729x1024“The Power of Love: Grace in Augustinian Perspective” – Simeon Zahl at The Mockingbird blog: “There is a particular challenge that emerges when we speak about divine grace. On the one hand, God’s grace is given to sinners. There is something about the deep structure of divine love that is revealed in the fact that it makes a bee-line for those whose lives are most broken (Mk 2:17; 2 Cor 12:9). Indeed in some mysterious sense it is the nature of God’s grace to burn the brightest where it is least deserved (Rom 5:6, 5:20). On the other hand, God’s grace also transforms the sinners it encounters, at least in some minimal sense: grace redeems (Col 1:13-14) and heals (Jer 30:17; Mt 4:23), breaks chains (Gal 5:1) and gives life (Rom 4:17; Jn 10:10). If grace offered us no help at all in our distress it is not clear how it could ever become attractive to us in the first place.”


Music: Jpk., “Rosewater

[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.]

Five Recommendations on Election Day

Here are five recommendations I’d like to offer for followers of Jesus Christ on Election Day here in the US.

  1. Pray – We know as believers that God works through prayer (James 5:16). We know that our calling includes praying for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We know that our nation is facing many challenges that are not only difficult to overcome but may even appear insurmountable. We know there is a great need for people to turn back to God and His ways at numerous levels. Because of these things, we should pray that our nation will be awakened with a need for God, that the elections will be guided by God, that safety and peace will reign on this day and days to come, and that all the candidates up for public office will be strengthened by God regardless of their political party.
  2. Think Biblically – As followers of Christ we must always filter our actions through the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures. We must let God’s truth both correct and encourage us, even as it renews our minds (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 12:1-2). We must remember that Jesus is our King and our allegiance is first and foremost to His kingdom. The kingdom of God is bigger than any political party. The kingdom calls us to value human life as made in the image of God from before birth through the end of our days. The kingdom of God calls us toward stewardship of the environment as created by God and stewardship of finances as a gift from God. The kingdom of God calls us to care for the forgotten, the poor, prisoners, widows, orphans, and foreigners in our midst. The kingdom of God calls for truth where truth is disregarded and moral order amidst disordered lives and relationships. The kingdom of God is marked by grace, truth, righteousness, and justice. As we face into this election day, we must think biblically as we wrestle with the issues before us.
  3. Vote – It is a huge privilege in our country to have a voice in the political process. So many of my friends from around the world do not have this privilege where they live. They have little to no voice in the political process. This is similar to the first century church, which did not experience anything like this during their lifetimes under the Roman Empire. One aspect of Paul’s instructions about our relationship to governing authorities in Romans 13 is to exercise our right to vote. I encourage every follower of Jesus to take up this privilege.
  4. Maintain Perspective – In the coming days, there will be some of us whose candidate wins and some of us whose candidate loses. For those whose candidate wins, we may be tempted to believe this victory is the answer for our country. For those whose candidate loses, we may be tempted to believe this outcome is the worst reality for our country. Without downplaying the good or bad realities, we must maintain perspective on all of this. The prophet Daniel shows us how to do this. After being ripped from his homeland and launched into exile, Daniel witnessed many kings and kingdoms rising and falling over the course of his life. God gave Daniel a vision of even more changes yet to come in the future. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must maintain clear perspective that our hopes are not tied to a candidate, policy, country, or kingdom. All of these will come and go. There is only one “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
  5. Love One Another – Scripture affirms again and again that we are called as followers of Christ to love one another and stand in unity (1 John 4:11; Philippians 4:1-2). Jesus Himself said that people would know we are His disciples if we love one another (John 13:34-35). Amidst one of the most divided times in our lives, as believers in Christ we most choose a different way. We must stand together as one in ways that those around us, divided by so many different political philosophies and party allegiances, cannot. Let us put on love, which binds all things together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14) so that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we might uphold the unity forged through the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus Christ.

The Weekend Wanderer: 31 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.


Abood - Asher Imtiaz“Grace Under Pressure: A photo essay” – A friend, Asher Imtiaz, has a very special photo essay in Comment that I would encourage you to take a look at. Asher writes: “I have been doing documentary photography for almost a decade now. Very early I asked myself this question: Why do I take photographs? The answer was: to honour people living under pressure. To give those who we consider as other’ a voice and a story….So when in 2016 I finally decided to start a long-term, self-assigned project to collect stories and photographs of immigrants, I wanted to produce work that is not just a report. Work that would evoke enough feeling in people to change their attitudes about immigrants. In the process, I found myself changed.”


George Yancey“I see nothing, I know nothing!!!” – George Yancey writes an extended blog post jumping off from his observations of Professor Eddie Glaude in his encounter with Rod Dreher on the Morning Joe show. As a sociologist and conservative Christian, Yancey explores how bias against conservative Christians in academia parallels other biases we have. The post is wide-ranging but looks at the interplay between our blindspots, the evidence we need of wrong in differing domains, and how that shapes who we defend and who we do not.


public engagement“The Early Church Saw Itself as a Political Body. We Can Too.” John Piper’s article that I shared last week highlighted one of the weaknesses of 20th century Christianity: we do not have a very well-considered theology of public engagement that touches on the individual and the corporate aspects of what God’s kingdom looks like. This is at least part of what I was trying to get at in the five-week series we walked through on the kingdom of God recently at Eastbrook. Tish Harrison Warren looks at the issue from a different angle in this recent essay in Christianity Today: “We have an impoverished and inadequate political theology. It took us generations to get here, and this one election, regardless of the results, will not undo that. So before we know who wins or loses, we as a church must begin to reexamine how the good news of Jesus shapes us politically.”


Nice attack“Three dead as woman beheaded in attack in French church” – France has faced shocking events in the past weeks with religious-based extremist violence. Just a couple days ago, an attack at Notre Dame church in Nice left three people dead. This followed an earlier attack just  over a week ago where a schoolteacher was killed in a suburb of Paris after exhibiting satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in a lesson on free speech.  This is part of a long conflict around a series of depictions of the Prophet Muhammed that goes back to 2005. Let’s all pray for wisdom, peace, and healing in France and for an end to acts of terror, reprisals, or mistreatment in any direction.


Wilton Gregory“Wilton Gregory: Pope Francis names first African-American cardinal” – “Pope Francis has said he will appoint 13 new Roman Catholic cardinals, among them the first African-American clergyman. The Pope announced the 13 cardinals from eight nations in a surprise address from his window overlooking St Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday. Wilton Daniel Gregory, the progressive 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington DC, will be one of them. The cardinals will be installed in a ceremony at the Vatican on 28 November. Cardinals are the most senior clergymen in the Roman Catholic Church below the pontiff.”


The_Temptation_of_Christ_by_the_Devil-768x402“Forget the Horns. Ditch the Pitchfork. What Do We Really Know about the Devil?” – One of the questions I often receive as a pastor is from folks wanting to know about this or that term or idea in the Scripture. One of the most frequent is related to the devil or to demons. I came across this simple summary of our understanding of the devil at the Lexham Press blog and thought I’d share it for those who are interested in the biblical backgrounds related to our understanding of the devil or Satan.


Music: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Killing the Blues,” from Raising Sand

[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.]