Join in a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation

Today on January 20, 2021, we are inviting Eastbrook Church into a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our nation on the day of the presidential inauguration. The goal of this day is not to pray in a partisan way, but to bring our hopes and fears about the future of our nation to God, even as we intercede for the preservation of our nation, unity amidst divisions, and revival of hearts turning to the Lord. We welcome all of you to join us.

Prayer is the most appropriate first response we can make to circumstances like this. Prayer is not the only response, but it is vital. In prayer, we lay down our thoughts and feelings before God, relinquishing our desire to control, our visions of what is needed, and fears that grip us. We can release this all into the hands of God. In prayer, we also venture into encounter with the God who has made us and holds all the world together by His providential power and goodness. Prayer leads us to intercede for the needs of the world, to call out to God on behalf of those with power in the world, and also brings us into the silence of entrusting all things to God who knows better than us what is truly needed. God changes us and changes circumstances through prayer.

Fasting is simply voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It is the opportunity to express to God in a very tangible way that we need Him more than anything else, even a physical meal. Fasting is always accompanied by focused prayer. If you do not know much about fasting or would like to grow in your understanding of this spiritual practice, let me encourage you to make use of the resources on my blog here.

As we engage in this day of prayer and fasting, here are some prayer points to guide us:

  • pray for true peace in our city, nation, and the nations of the earth in this divisive, confusing, and tumultuous time
  • pray for a peaceful transition of power as President Trump steps down and President Biden is inaugurated
  • pray that God would guide the leaders of our nation with His wisdom, and that whether they name Jesus as Lord or not, God would mercifully lead us forward in His ways
  • pray for healing of wounds in our nation, reconciliation across divides, and a constructive pathway forward toward a more whole and unified national life
  • pray against the powers of evil, both spiritual and physical, that seek to disrupt and destroy, both in the church and the nation
  • pray that the church of Jesus Christ might stand united for God’s kingdom and ways as we navigate a season where even we as God’s people have been destabilized by tension
  • pray for revival in our nation; that God would lead people to a true understanding of the gravity of sin and evil, as well as the good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ
  • ultimately, pray that God’s kingdom would come and God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven

These additional resources on prayer may be helpful as you pray:

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 January 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.


patient endurance“Word for the year: patient-endurance” – Ian Paul at Psephizo: “Last week, in our mid-week church group, we were reflecting on what God has been teaching us during 2020. Various people shared experiences, and particular biblical passages or verses—but one person shared a word, not from Scripture, but from reflection on the year and a sense of what God was forming in this person, and the word was ‘resilience’….We don’t find the term ‘resilience’ in the New Testament, but we do find an important term that carries many of the same ideas, and which has a particular importance in the context of Christian discipleship. The term is ὑπομονή (hypomone)….It thus combines ideas of endurance, patience, and courage, and is translated in various way in ETs, including ‘endurance’, ‘steadfastness’, and (my favourite) ‘patient endurance’.”


Members of the audience react as U.S. President Trump delivers remarks at an Evangelicals for Trump Coalition Launch at the King Jesus International Ministry in Miami

“‘How Did We Get Here?’ A Call For An Evangelical Reckoning On Trump” – A friend shared with me this interview with Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College by NPR. “As fallout continues from the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, Ed Stetzer, head of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois, has a message for his fellow evangelicals: It’s time for a reckoning. Evangelicals, he says, should look at how their own behaviors and actions may have helped fuel the insurrection. White evangelicals overwhelmingly supported President Trump in the 2020 election.”


World Watch List 2021“Open Doors’ 2021 watch list highlights impact of COVID-19 on religious persecution worldwide” – “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a number of existing problems: political divides, inequities, conspiracy theories. It also has exposed religious persecution in a number of countries, according to Open Doors. In India, the Christian watchdog organization said 80% of Christians who received pandemic aid from its partner organizations reported they’d been turned away from other food distribution points because of their faith. Others reported they’d been passed over for employment. Some had walked miles and hidden their religious affiliation in order just to get food, it said.”


ERLC abortion pill“Explainer: The Supreme Court reinstates abortion pill restriction – Here’s an explainer from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on an abortion debate issue addressed by the Supreme Court this past week. “The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted the application for stay presented by the Trump Administration and reinstated requirements for women seeking medical abortion pills to first visit a doctor’s office or clinic. The decision was split 6-3, with the liberal justices in the dissent.”


A bas-relief depicting the sack of Jerusalem on the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, constructed in 82 CE

“What Happened at Masada?” – James Romm reviews two new books on Masada at The New York Review of Books: “The historian Steve Mason has called The Jewish War by Flavius Josephus ‘perhaps the most influential non-biblical text of Western history.’ This may seem a surprising choice. Written in Greek around 75 AD, the war it describes—the Judaean revolt against Roman rule that began in 66 and largely ended in 70 after huge losses, including the destruction of much of Jerusalem and the tearing down of its Temple—hardly seems today to be ‘the greatest not only of wars of our own times, but of all those we have ever heard of,’ as Josephus claims in his opening words. Yet the work continues to fascinate, especially now that thorny questions have emerged concerning its account of the war’s coda in the year 74: the mass murder-suicide of nearly a thousand Jews who resided on the fortified hill of Masada, just before it was captured by the Romans.”


Loretta Ross“What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?” – I am convinced that we no longer know how to talk to one another. A friend shared this article with me and I found it thought-provoking within the current retributive cycle of our culture of vengeance and public shaming. “‘I am challenging the call-out culture,’ Professor Ross said from her home in Atlanta…’I think you can understand how calling out is toxic. It really does alienate people, and makes them fearful of speaking up.’ That perspective has made Professor Ross, 67, an unlikely figure in the culture wars. A radical Black feminist who has been doing human rights work for four decades, she was one of the signatories of a widely denounced letter in Harper’s Magazine, for which she herself was called out.”


Music: Max Richter, “On the Nature of Daylight,” from The Blue Notebooks.

The Weekend Wanderer: 11 July 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.


Churches reopening“Churches, Coronavirus, and The New York Times” – Earlier this week The New York Times published an article with this title “Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are a Major Source of Coronavirus Cases.” The lede said, “The virus has infiltrated Sunday services, church meetings and youth camps. More than 650 cases have been linked to reopened religious facilities.” Now, at first blush you may say, “Oh my, how could churches be so foolish!” But then, without diminishing how serious everything is, you may stop and consider 650 cases across 50 states with total cases of more than 65,000 in the nation and say, “What a minute. Do these statistics really support the claim being made?” And then you might read this article by Ed Stetzer, former head of LifeWay Research and Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, and you reassess everything.


Supreme Court“What the Ministerial Exception Will Mean for Religious Employers” – Very significant rulings have come out of the Supreme Court in this past month. Several in the past week and a half have made significant impact in relation to religion in America, and this week brought a decision that put debate around religious liberty squarely at the center. “The Supreme Court defended religious liberty on Wednesday, bolstering and broadening the so-called ‘ministerial exception.’ In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that the Constitution protects the freedom of religious organizations to hire and fire employees who play a vital role in fulfilling their religious mission.”


harps“A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” – This letter published in Harper’s seemed to cause quite a stir online this past week. While not at first glance related to faith and culture, it actually is about a certain kind of faith and culture. There is a clash of ideologies in our public sphere that is bringing a strange alliance of different groups. Here, artists and intellectuals as varied as Wynton Marsalis, Malcolm Gladwell, J. K. Rowling, and Salman Rushdie came together to sign onto a letter calling for the respect of free speech and the open exchange of information and ideas in a culture that is often aimed at cancelling and public shaming. A friend pointed me to Fredrik deBoer’s assessment of this called “Ending the Charade,” which is brief and will get you thinking. Also, at the Convivial Society, L. M. Sacasas directs our attention to the way that digital media plays into this debate in “The Material Sources of Free Speech Anxieties.”


Asian American Collaborative“Asian American Community Tackles Anti-Blackness In Chicago” – Last week, community members from the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC) marched from Chinatown to Bridgeport to fight anti-Blackness. WBEZ in Chicago interviews Ray Chang, the President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative and also the Ministry Associate for Discipleship in the Chaplain’s Office at Wheaton College. You can listen to the thirteen-minute interview at the link above, but also find out more about this even at the website for the AACC here.


Mel Lawrenz“Working Through Traumatic Loss and Grief: Interview with Dr. Mel Lawrenz on his new book, A Chronicle of Grief – When I moved to Milwaukee, I served as the college pastor at Elmbrook Church for five years. Mel Lawrenz was the Senior Pastor of Elmbrook at that time, and his daughter, Eva, was part of the college ministry I served. I still remember hearing the shocking news that Eva passed away unexpectedly in 2017 at the age of 30. Mel had written previously about grief and trauma, but when I received a copy of his book, A Chronicle of Grief, I knew it would be more personal and powerful. Here is an interview of Mel by Jamie Aten, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute.


AP-immigration-trump-cf-170126_12x5_1600“Evangelical group writes to Trump urging him not to end DACA” – “A group of Evangelical leaders are writing to President Trump this week to urge him to reconsider plans to resubmit a filing to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Seven religious leaders encouraged the president to leave DACA in place until Congress passes legislation that permanently protects Dreamers, the young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. The Hill reported this week that Trump is expected to refile paperwork this week to end DACA.”


monreale“Rehabilitating the Quadriga” – This may seem a little off the beaten path, but I came across this 2013 article by Peter Leithart on rehabilitating the Quadriga, while writing a book review that I hope will come out this fall. The Quadriga is the fourfold sense of Scriptural interpretation with roots in the early church fathers: literal sense, allegorical/theological sense, tropological/moral sense, and anagogical/eschatological sense. While usually discredited in discussions of modern models of biblical interpretation, there is a movement afoot to recover figural or allegorical reading of Scripture, not in the sense of fanciful readings, but in the sense of regaining the theological meaning inherent within the literal reading of Scripture. Leithart does a good job of summarizing it all.


Ennio Morricone“Ennio Morricone’s life in pictures” – Okay, we are all over the place today, but if you did not hear that Ennio Morricone passed away, you should stop for a moment and take a look at this quick summary of his life in pictures. Famous for writing the scores for “spaghetti westerns” directed by Sergio Leone, such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars, Morricone continued to work on film scores, including those with more overtly religious themes. He received numerous Oscar nominations for his film scores, including that for The Mission, which was sometimes described as nearly overwhelming the movie in its power.


Music: Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile, “Scarcely Cricket,” from Not Our First Goat Rodeo.

[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: 25 April 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.


116902“We May Be ‘Safer at Home.’ But Many At-Risk Kids Aren’t” – Here’s Chris Palusky, President and CEO of Bethany Christian Services: “While most children in the country are dealing with the frustrations of missing their friends, a hiatus in sports seasons, and closed playgrounds, others worry about the very real possibility of homelessness, abuse, or neglect. Most of all, they face the fear and uncertainty of wondering if they are alone. This is a fear no child should ever endure. As we stay home to protect the medically fragile and elderly, we can’t forget this other highly vulnerable group. I won’t parse words: The number of children in foster care will dramatically increase because of the coronavirus pandemic.”


Beaty-GettyImages-1215355325-780-x-508“NYC Medical Ethicist: It’s Time We Learned to Talk about Death” – Katelyn Beaty in Religion & Politics: “Lydia Dugdale, director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at Columbia University, is perhaps prepared more than most to face death….In addition to her medical degree from the University of Chicago, she earned a master’s in ethics from Yale Divinity School, and she co-directed the Program for Medicine, Spirituality, and Religion at Yale School of Medicine. Dugdale has also spent more than a decade recovering ancient wisdom from the tradition of Ars Moriendi, which translated from the Latin means ‘the art of dying.’ Beginning in the fourteenth century, as the bubonic plague ravaged Western Europe, the Ars Moriendi was a handbook on how to prepare for death. ‘A central premise [of the handbook] was that in order to die well, you had to live well,’” writes Dugdale in a new book, The Lost Art of Dying. ‘Part of living well meant anticipating and preparing for death within the context of your community over the course of a lifetime.'”


Kidd - tactile religion“Tactile Religion in a Time of Pandemic” – Here is Thomas Kidd, author of the recent acclaimed book, Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis, on the impact of the pandemic on tactile aspects of our religious gatherings, such as hand-shakes, hugs, and passing the peace. “Whenever we are able to go back to some sort of normalcy, I don’t see those contact rituals coming back until an effective COVID-19 vaccine is available (sometime in 2021, Lord willing). That will mean that church will remain strange, because tactile religion is such a common feature of Christianity that we don’t notice it until it is gone.”


Kierkegaard Harpers“Difficulties Everywhere” – My first exposure to Søren Kierkegaard that I remember was through my sister-in-law’s brother, who was the same age as me and obsessed with the Danish philosopher when we met during our college years. It was only later that I really came to appreciate Kierkegaard’s unique approach to faith and Christianity, as well as being credited as the founder of existentialist philosophy. Kierkegaard is perhaps best known for advocating the ‘leap of faith,’ a phrase he never formally used, which refers to moving beyond mere rational understanding by engaging the will and trust in the crisis of decision-making and living. Christopher Beha’s review of Clare Carlisle’s Philosopher of the Heart: The Restless Life of Søren Kierkegaard is well worth the read as a minor introduction to Kierkegaard.


Austin Kleon prayer“On praying, whether you believe or not” – I have really enjoyed Austin Kleon’s work on creativity. A fun father-son highlight for me with one of my kids this past year was seeing Kleon when he visited Milwaukee and gave a lecture at Boswell Books. In this post, Kleon reflects on prayer from a very interesting perspective. Describing it as “the best proselytizing I ever heard”, he shares Mary Karr‘s advice on prayer: “Why don’t you pray for 30 days and see if your life gets better?” I think you’ll enjoy Kleon’s thoughts here, regardless of whether you believe or not.


Ideas_Art-Crisis-Productivity-200020298-001-“Productivity Is Not Working” – Our culture is frenetically busy and often assesses value based in terms of what we can produce. The nature of our faith reminds us that we are more than what we do, but we still wrestle with it. In WIRED magazine, Laurie Penny offers a refreshingly honest depiction of how the pandemic heightened her struggle with the need to produce. “There has always been something a little obscene about the cult of the hustle, the treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that if you stop running for even an instant, you’ll be flung flat on your face—but the treadmill is familiar. The treadmill feels normal. And right now, when the world economy has jerked to a sudden, shuddering stop, most of us are desperate to feel normal.”


AP-immigration-trump-cf-170126_12x5_1600“World Relief on the White House’s Proposed Immigration Restrictions: ‘This Is Unacceptable'” – Some of you may know that, after a short stint working at a bookstore, I began my working career with World Relief, working with the Africa Regional Director for several years. I am aware that a lot of attention has been given to the topic of immigration in recent years with vastly different opinions on the topic. However, I do agree with President of World Relief, Scott Arbeiter, who writes: “World Relief is supportive of the administration’s efforts to manage and prevent the further spread of COVID-19, but urges the government to reconsider measures that contradict both public health advice and the principles on which the U.S. is formed.”


Gerhard Richter: <i>Birkenau</i> (installation view), 2014“The Master of Unknowing” – Two years ago, when Kelly and I traveled to London in celebration of our twentieth wedding anniversary, we meandered our way through many of the museums in the city. While visiting the Tate Modern, we stumbled into a room displaying the work of Gerhard Richter. I wasn’t familiar with Richter’s work, but it was stunning in person. I enjoyed reading more about Richter and his work in this feature by Susan Tallman in The New York Review of Books. One quotation from Richter just captured me: “It is my wish, to create a well-built, beautiful, constructive painting. And there are many moments when I plan to do just that, and then I realize that it looks terrible. Then I start to destroy it, piece by piece, and I arrive at something that I didn’t want but that looks pretty good.”


 

Music: Ludovico Einaudi, “Night,” from Elements

[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: 21 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.

President Trump“Trump Should Be Removed from Office” – Christianity Today, the flagship publication for evangelicalism, broke the internet on Thursday when this article was released by its editor-in-chief, Mark Galli. While admitting that the opposing political party has had it in for President Trump since his election, CT is unequivocal: “But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.” This is consistent with CT‘s earlier critique of both Presidents Nixon and Clinton during times of crisis. Galli was interviewed about the Op Ed by CNN (“Christianity Today calls for Trump’s Removal from Office“) and Emma Green in The Atlantic (“How Trump Lost an Evangelical Stalwart“).  Rod Dreher at The American Conservative also weighed in (“Christianity Today Anathematizes Trump“). 

 

_110191848_mediaitem110191845“Citizenship Amendment Act: India PM Modi appeals for calm as protests grow” – In the midst of our own political turmoil in the United States, it may be hard to pay attention to other areas, but let me urge some attention to the situation in India. There, Prime Minister Modi’z government has put forward a citizenship amendment which “allows non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who entered India illegally, to become citizens,” but restricts this for those of Muslim background. The religious aspects of this amendment have led to fierce uprisings and international outcry about persecution of religious minorities. While different in politics and context, this echoes concerns that have arisen over China’s treatment of religious minorities as well.

 

featured640px“The Digital Pulpit: A Nationwide Analysis of Online Sermons” – The Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life released a “computational analysis of nearly 50,000 sermons…across major Christian traditions” from churches’ online presences this past week. “The median sermon scraped from congregational websites is 37 minutes long. But there are striking differences in the typical length of a sermon in each of the four major Christian traditions analyzed in this report: Catholic, evangelical Protestant, mainline Protestant and historically black Protestant.” As the primary preacher for four weekend services each weekend, with the goal of 35 minutes per message, I found this analysis fascinating. A summary of news report on the Pew Research Center’s analysis is found in “How long is the sermon? Study ranks Christian churches.”

 

Pope Francis“Pope lifts ‘pontifical secret’ rule in sex abuse cases” – One of the biggest global crises of the last decade in ecclesial discussions has to be the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church, as well as others. This has left craters of pain and echoes of hypocrisy in individual churches, as well as church fellowships throughout various nations. In many cases, investigation of these cases has been limited by pontifical secrecy, a concept established to protect sensitive information that was broadened to shield information in judicial circumstances. Pope Francis’ declaration this past Tuesday removed such shielding so that appropriate information sharing can allow investigations to move forward. “‘Certain jurisdictions would have easily quoted the pontifical secret … to say that they could not, and that they were not, authorised to share information with either state authorities or the victims,’ Archbishop Scicluna said. ‘Now that impediment, we might call it that way, has been lifted, and the pontifical secret is no more an excuse.'”

 

Interior St Margaret Mary Catholic Church“Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back” – There has been a tremendous amount of discussion around the shifting landscape in North America in relation to religion and emerging generations. Particularly in regards to millennials (those between ages 23 and 38), there is a recognition that increasingly percentages affiliate with no religion (“religious nones” – although some dispute this phrase) versus specific religious affiliation, whether Christianity or something else. One driving assumption that has given religious leaders comfort is the idea that one day these irreligious folks will return to church when the time is right or the need arises; often connected to when they have children. However, this comforting idea does not seem to be. As this article shared by a friend suggests, “there’s mounting evidence that today’s younger generations may be leaving religion for good.”

 

92301“Leith Anderson Has Bright Hopes for the Next Decade of Ministry” – The outgoing President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) reflects on major themes of the coming decade of Christian ministry. Some of his reflections are more factual, related to shifting demographics in our country, while others are more optimistic predictions of what lies ahead for the Christian church. Reading this article together with the previous one on religiously unaffiliated offers a healthy dialogue with differing perspectives on similar themes.

 

Music: Robbie Seay Band, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Come Thou Fount),” from December, vol 2 – Songs for Advent

[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.]