The Weekend Wanderer: 9 October 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.


Ed Stetzer“When will Christians learn from the unending engagement cycle of evangelicalism and race?” – Ed Stetzer in USAToday: “As the executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, one of my joys is leading people through our museum. Filled with historical artifacts and pictures, it’s a testimony to God’s faithfulness. One of my favorite pictures is of Billy Graham standing next to Martin Luther King Jr. I start by telling people how Graham took down segregation ropes for his meetings in the South. But the story doesn’t stop there. Historian Grant Wacker notes that as the civil rights movement intensified, Graham distanced himself from King by attempting to chart a moderate path. Decades later, Graham himself would speak of his lack of engagement in the civil rights movement as one of his great regrets. This same story of engagement, retreat and regret has come to define an evangelical culture that is bigger than Billy Graham. For more than a century, the broader evangelical movement has been in a cycle of engagement when opportunities arise, retreat when pressures and obstacles intensify, and regret at the failure to achieve any lasting change. Worse, the burden of this regret too frequently falls on evangelicals of color, as they are left abandoned only to be greeted with new promises next cycle.”


1067980“Donetsk: Three Protestant churches banned” – Felix Corley at Forum 18: “The unrecognised Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, has this summer banned three Protestant churches. One of the churches appears still able to meet for worship as it tries to gain registration. The rebel entity’s latest Religion Law change restricts registered religious associations’ activities to “participants and/or members”. In June the Culture Minister ordered musical and other artistic institutions to display lists of banned books & organisations.”


Biopolitics“‘Biopolitics’ Are Unavoidable” – Matthew Loftus at Mere Orthodoxy: “In the struggle to fight COVID-19, terms like ‘public health’ and ‘community health’ have been bandied about in an attempt to describe the ways in which our health as individuals is not dependent on ourselves alone. Wendell Berry says: ‘I believe that the community — in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures — is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.’ Berry’s statement speaks to our intuition that not only our individual activities, but also the health of the people, animals, plants, microbes, air, water, and soil around us all affect our health and we in turn affect them. As often as modern human beings would like to think of themselves as autonomous agents who determine their own bodily destinies, the reality is that the only appreciable limit to our contingency is how many things around us we can name. From this observation about the nature of our bodies we can move to a theological understanding of health.”


GettyImages-1234554084-e1628612279165“The Bible and COVID Vaccines” – Mark Talbot at The Center for Pastor Theologians: “Does the Bible offer us any insight into whether we should take the COVID vaccine? I think it does when we think through the implications of the early chapters of Genesis. Right before God made the first human beings, he declared why he was making them: ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’ (Gen. 1:26). God made us to be his earthly images who would represent him by ruling wisely and lovingly over the rest of creation. Then, immediately after making our first parents, he gave them what is often called the creation mandate; namely, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen. 1:28). God, as the psalmist puts it, gave the earth to us (see Ps. 115:16). We are meant to rule over it by exercising dominion over the animals and subduing whatever needs to be subdued.”


typewriter“5 Contemporary Poets Christians Should Read” – Mischa Willett at The Gospel Coalition: “I’m always a little sad after a poetry reading when someone comes up and tells me they’re ‘really into Christian poets,’ and when I ask excitedly ‘which ones?’ they rattle off a short list that ends with Gerard Manley Hopkins or George Herbert. Not that those poets aren’t required reading—absolute masters of the form and of the heart’s hows—but because there is so much good crop still being pulled from the fertile fields of theologically inflected verse. I always wish I carried around a backpack full of books by Mark Jarman, or Jennifer Maier, or Dana Gioia, to thrust into their readerly hands, beaming, ‘It’s still happening!’ It would be a kind of ministry, edifying the body thus. Here then is my own short list of contemporary poets of faith Christians should read.”


Justice Songs“Why Don’t We Sing Justice Songs in Worship?” – Michael J. Rhodes in Christianity Today: “In 2018, an unusual Bible made national news. Published in 1807, the so-called ‘Slave Bible’ offered Caribbean slaves a highly edited edition of the KJV. The editors presumably cut out parts of Scripture that could undermine slavery or incite rebellion. If you want a pro-slavery Bible, it’s unsurprising you’d get rid of the exodus story or drop Paul’s declaration that in Christ ‘there is … neither slave nor free’ (Gal. 3:28). But why did the creators of the ‘Slave Bible’ cut out the Book of Psalms? After all, the portions that tend to be well known and well-loved draw our minds toward well-tended sheep sitting by quiet waters. Yet upon closer inspection, Psalms is obsessed with the Lord’s liberating justice for the oppressed. And because the book offers us prayers and songs, it doesn’t just tell us how to think about justice—it offers us scripts to practice shouting and singing about it. But when I recently took a quick look at the lyrics of the first 25 songs listed in the ‘CCLI Top 100′ worship songs reportedly sung by churches and compared them to the way the Psalms sing about justice, I realized that we don’t necessarily follow that script.”


Music: Tim Hughes, “God of Justice,” Holding Nothing Back.

A Prayer for Spiritual Hearing

May my ears be attuned to Your voice, Lord.
  Like sheep know the voice of their shepherd,
  like children know the voice of their parent,
so may my ears be attuned to Your voice.

May my ears hear Your praise in creation, Lord.
  In the songs of Springtime chirping birds,
  in the winds that greet the break of dawn,
may my ears hear Your praise in creation.

May my soul hear the stirring of Your Spirit, Lord.
  Beyond the ragings, shakings, and rising fears,
  give my soul the ears to hear Your still, small voice.
May my soul hear the stirring of Your Spirit, Lord.

May my ears hear You in those around me, Lord.
  Give me grace to hear every other person’s voice
  as one who is made in Your image, my God.
May my ears hear You in those around me.

May I hear You calling me on my final day, Lord.
  When my last day day ordained arrives in time
  and You draw near to bring me to Your side,
may I hear You calling me on my final day.

Stepping Forward into 2021 with Dedication and Praise

Emmaus Road

This week, I am sharing some spiritual practices for reflecting on the previous year and stepping forward into the new year.

Stepping Forward with Dedication

Related to this focus on God is a dedication of our lives from the inside out. Psalm 86 is a one of my favorite psalms. Verse 11 has become particularly important for me.

11 Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
(Psalm 86:11)

That phrase about God giving us “an undivided heart” is a powerful picture of what it means to live with focus on God and dedication of life. It means that the center of our being – our heart; the place from which our life flows – is dedicated to God entirely. There is a unity – an integrity – to it.

Francois Fenelon describes that in this way:

What God asks of us is a will which is no longer divided between him and any creature. It is a will pliant in his hands…which wants without reserve whatever he wants and which never wants under any pretext anything which he does not want.[1]

The New Testament describes this a life given over to God with the word “discipleship.” Discipleship has God as its focus, and gathers our desires around God in such a way that our everyday living is ordered by God through the power of the Holy Spirit. We live dedicated to God from the inside out, both in our desires and in our decisions.

Dallas Willard says:

The priorities and intentions – the heart or inner attitudes – of disciples are forever the same. In the heart of a disciple there is a desire, and there is decision or settled intent. The disciple of Christ desires above all else to be like him…[and there is] the decision to devote oneself to becoming like Christ.[2]

So we enter into this year not only with focus upon God, but also with our whole lives dedicated to God.  We want an undivided heart – a life that has integrity in the fullest sense – both in the form of our desires and our decisions as disciples of Jesus.

So we can ask ourselves, “How will I order my life as a disciple of Christ this year? How will I bring my desires to God as part of my discipleship? How will I make decisions this year that reflection my discipleship to Christ? Is there any area of my life that is held back from Christ, such as time, finances, relationships, work?

Jesus said this: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).

Moving Forward with Praise

The final word of the psalms, as seen in Psalm 150, is praise. Psalm 150 provides the capstone of the entire structure of the psalms. It is a psalm of high praise.

Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 150:1-2, 6)

As we head into the year, we remember that this is more than the passing of time, more than the setting of priorities or establishing of resolutions, and more than the lament, confession, or thanksgiving. All of life, according to Scripture, is worship. We live in the daily presence of the Living God and He is worthy of praise. The end of our days, according to the book of Revelation, will rise up in the heavenly scenes of worship in the presence of God.

Julian of Norwich says,

All of the strength that may come through prayer comes from the goodness of God, for he is the goodness of everything. For the highest form of prayer is to the goodness of God. It comes down to us to meet our humblest needs. It gives life to our souls and makes them live and grow in grace and virtues. It is near in nature and swift in grace, for it is the same grace which our souls seek and always will.[3]

The sum total of our life is a response of worship to God. As the calendar turns from December 31, 2019, to January 1, 2020, we continue to respond to the ultimate goodness of God with a life of worship.

And so, perhaps the end of the year can be more than just a celebration of an apple sliding down a pole in Times Square or a thronging party with friends and family. None of this is bad, but might we remember there is something more: worship of the Eternal Creator who has made us for Himself.

So, what are your plans for the New Year? In the midst of all that is happening as we count down the days and hours into the new year, let me suggest setting aside some space and time in our lives to look back and step forward.


[1] Francois Fénelon, “A Will No Longer Divided,” in Devotional Classics, ed. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), 49.

[2] Dallas Willard, “The Cost of Nondiscipleship,” Devotional Classics, 15.

[3] Julian of Norwich, “The Highest Form of Prayer,” in Devotional Classics, 77.

Comprehensive Praise: some reflections on worship from Psalm 150

sunshine-dust-motesThe psalms are the prayerbook of the Bible, prayer-songs that were often used within the corporate and private worship of the people of Israel. They are also one of our strongest biblical resources for shaping our life of worship today within the Christian church. The entire psalter concludes with a summary psalm of worship, Psalm 150, and I would like to share some thoughts that leap out to me about worship from this psalm.

Worship is God-Centered
The beginning word of Psalm 150 is simple: Hallelujah, which means, “praise the Lord.” The theme and tone of this psalm, something which sums up the entire book of psalms, is God-directed praise. This word, hallelujah, sets our spiritual compass to true north in God. Here at the beginning of this psalm, yet at the end of the entire psalter, we remember that God is the center-point of attention for our worship and rooted anchor for our lives. An oft-repeated phrase about worship is: “its’ not about me.” Hallelujah is the personal and communal exclamation of that reality. When we conclude the final word in the psalms with an introductory word, “praise the Lord,” we are forced to remember that worship and life is not about me but about God.

The Intersection of the Mundane and the Holy
In the next verses of Psalm 150, we find location in worship within God’s sanctuary or tabernacle even as our imagination stretches up to the heavens or the firmament of the sky. The psalmist reminds us that worship simultaneously draws us near to God in a Read More »

Senior Pastor Video Update in the Time of COVID-19 (April 22, 2020)

Here is my latest video update for Eastbrook Church as we navigate the time of COVID-19. I will continue to re-post these weekly video updates here at my blog for those who have not seen it or who are not part of our church but could use the encouragement. You can watch it here or at the Eastbrook Church Vimeo channel.

 

In this video update I reference Lamentations 3. I am including a longer portion of the passage because I find these words so rich and powerful.

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

(Lamentations 3:19-26)