The Weekend Wanderer: 30 March 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.

open Bible“Memorization and Repentance” – I have often called our church toward Bible memorization, believing that it is not only one of the best ways to call truth to mind, but also inherently formational. I was delighted, then, when I came across Hans Boersma‘s article in First Things, extolling the role of memorization within the journey of repentance during Lent. He writes: “Memorization is underrated. But it’s understandable that contemporary society puts it down: Why worry about mental storage when we have digital storage? One answer is that repentance depends on memory. Thus, memorization is a Lenten practice, a repentant turning back to the memory of God.”

 

90075“China Shuts Down Another Big Beijing Church” – “Another prominent unregistered church in China, Shouwang Church in Beijing, was raided by Chinese police over the weekend and officially banned from gathering to worship. Shouwang, which draws more than 1,000 attendees, is the fourth major underground congregation shut down by the Communist government over the past several months, as party leaders and heads of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement intensify efforts to rid religious groups of Western influence and exert control to make them more Chinese.”

 

gaza“Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits house” – This past week CNN reported that “Israel has carried out strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza, after a rocket attack on a house injured seven Israelis. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the office of Hamas’s political leader and the group’s military intelligence headquarters were among the targets.” In the midst of this, many innocent people on both sides continue to suffer. Too often, however, in conversations with westerners I have found that many people fail to realize that Palestinian Christians in Gaza are caught in the crossfire, some literally fleeing as their homes were demolished by rocket blasts this past week.

 

llifestyle6_1“Miracles in Munich” – “Two streets away, at the Freie Evangelische Gemeinde (Free Evangelical Church, or FEG), there were signs of another influx to Germany: refugees. As I walked upstairs, the bustle and aroma of coffee from the fellowship hour gave way to quiet in a room where Afghan refugees meet each week to study the Bible in Farsi. Welcoming 1.6 million asylum-seekers since 2015 has strained the German social system, but it has also been a God-delivered opportunity for FEG to reach part of the refugee population.”

 

webRNS-Volf-Book3-022819“How Christian theology lost its way” – Miroslav Volf has written a new book with Matthew Croasmun, For the Life of the World: Theology that Makes a Difference, which calls Christian theology back to its reason for existence. “Christian theology has lost its way because it has neglected its purpose. We believe the purpose of theology is to discern, articulate, and commend visions of flourishing life in light of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. The flourishing of human beings and all God’s creatures in the presence of God is God’s foremost concern for creation, and should therefore be the central purpose of theology. With this manifesto we aim to return theology to itself so it can better serve communities of Christian conviction and participate in truth-seeking cultural conversation about flourishing life for all.”

 

Francis Spufford“Francis Spufford pens unauthorised Narnia novel” – Francis Spufford, author of the witty Unapologetic and other great works, has written a novel that falls within the Narnia stories. Originally written for his daughter, Spufford’s novel, The Stone Table, has received noteworthy praise: “one of the best works of fiction I have read in the past several years” (Alan Jacobs). Unfortunately, due both to copyright law and trademark law, the book will not see the light of day until after 2034, if we are lucky, or unless CS Lewis PTE grants special permission. If that’s confusing, you may want to read Alan Jacobs’ clarification on the matter here. Now, after all of that, don’t you just want to feast your eyes on this work?

 

Azusa Pacific“Azusa Pacific Drops Ban on Same-Sex Student Relationships, Again” – After dropping a ban on same-sex student relationships in September 2018, and then reversing course to restore the ban in October, Azusa Pacific University has just announced a shift to once again drop the ban on same-sex student relationships from its student conduct code. While Azusa does not allow students to have sex outside of marriage according to its student conduct code, this change allows ‘romantic’ same-sex relationships.

 

89954“ECFA Suspends Harvest Bible Chapel’s Accreditation” – In the ongoing saga of recently-fired pastor James MacDonald and his former church, Harvest Bible Chapel, the latest news highlights further concerns. Not only was MacDonald verbally abusive of staff members and authoritarian in his leadership, but the church also apparently mismanaged funds during his tenure. Because of these concerns, the ECFA has suspended Harvest’s accreditation until further investigation.

 

054_001A.TIF“The Books Briefing: As the Good Book Says” – The weekly books briefing from The Atlantic features a look at faith and writing with nods to Jemar Tisby, Graham Greene, Min Jin Lee, and more. “Faith, for many people, is a deeply personal thing: a set of spiritual beliefs that are inseparable from one’s identity. At the same time, especially in the context of organized religion, faith is defined by social customs—and this combination of private passion and public practice can sometimes be fraught.”

 

Music: Thomas Tallis, “Lamentations of Jeremiah,” sung by The Tallis Scholars directed by Peter Phillips.

[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.]

Exile Faith at Prayer [Daniel 9]

We continued our series on the book of Daniel this past weekend at Eastbrook Church by turning to Daniel’s famous prayer in chapter 9. Daniel’s prayer takes place in the first year of Cyrus’ reign, around 539 BC, and references Jeremiah 25:10-11 in recognizing that the time of the exile is reaching its conclusion. Daniel has been in exile for more than 60 years, but his imagination has not been closed in by the suffering of exile. Instead his prayer takes flight through an imagination set fire by the revelations of God.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Five Steps for Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership

fullsizeoutput_ac8In my previous posts on Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima‘s Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, I summarized their key assumptions in the book, the definition of the dark side, how the dark side develops, and five dark-side issues leaders often encounter. In this final post on the book, I turn to the third, and most hopeful, part of the book: “Redeeming Our Dark Side.” If reading my posts up to this point has made you despair of growing beyond your dark side, please make sure to read this part. As the book concludes, McIntosh and Rima suggest five steps to overcoming the dark side of leadership, which I’d like to summarize below.

  1. Acknowledge Your Dark Side (165-171): “Though it may sound simplistic, if we want to overcome our dark side, we need to start by acknowledging its existence and understanding the shape it has taken over the years. For many people who have spent a lifetime in church, this is not quite as easy as it sounds” (168). Christians tend to blame our failures on “the enemy,” minimize issues by saying “I’m forgiven,” or rationalizing our dark tendencies. However, until we name the dark side for what it is we will never grow through and beyond it. Like David confronted by Nathan the prophet, we must say here the hard words, “I am that man,” and then move through authentic repentance to growth.
  2. Examine the Past (172-180): “We are the sum of the experiences in our lives. The most successful and effective leaders recognize this and are able to separate fact from fiction in their childhood memories while understanding the role these memories have played in their personal development” (174). Because our past experiences often shape our deepest drives, an appropriate reflection on our past history with the guidance of the Holy Spirit can help us see motivating factors and historic patterns that shape us positively or negatively. This may lead us into a season of repentance, a need for conversation with someone in our lives, or inviting God into the broken places of our past. Ultimately, “gaining freedom from the power of your dark side involves extending forgiveness in some form” (179).
  3. Resist the Poison of Expectations (181-198): Expectations shapes our lives. Some are helpful and necessary, while others are imposed upon us by ourselves or others in ways that create a legalistic sense of obligation or a debilitating craving to proves ourselves that can be destructive. “If we are to overcome the power of the dark side, it will require resisting the poison of extrabiblical, unrealistic, legalistic expectations in favor of God’s liberating grace. We will need to identify the numerous sources of the expectations that bind us and then soundly reject then. Be warned. It will not be an easy task for those who have lived under their weight for many years” (196).
  4. Practice Progressive Self-knowledge (199-212): “In addition to the previous three steps, gaining any measure of control over our dark side will involve the ongoing process of fathering knowledge about ourselves through the practice of specific disciplines and the use of certain tools” (199). We must engage in spiritual disciplines such as Scripture reading, personal retreats, devotional reading, or journaling to know ourselves in God’s presence. Along with that, other tools, such as personality profiles professional counseling, personal accountability groups, or formal performance evaluations, can help us to know ourselves better so as to avoid ignorance of our dark side.
  5. Understand Your Identity in Christ (213-219): “Ultimately all of the previous four steps will leave us feeling frustrated and empty if we do not understand and accept our true identity in Jesus Christ. We must come to the point where we recognize that our value is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or the power that we wield. Rather, our worth exists independently of anything we have ever done or will do in the future. Without the grace of God that is found in his son, Jesus, Christ, as Isaiah the prophet declared, our best efforts and most altruistic acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6). Everything we might learn about our dark side will be without significant benefit if we fail to find our value in Christ” (213).

What do you think about these five steps to overcoming our dark side?

Is there something that’s missing, or does this cover it?

Which of these are most difficult for you?

Which of these have you benefited from?

Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 1]

Andrew Murray 2Over the next number of weeks, I am interacting with some of the writings of Andrew Murray. Murray was a South African pastor and missionary during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Murray is probably best known for his book With Christ in the School of Prayer, but he has many other valuable works.

My writing here was prompted by a conversation I had recently with a friend in town who shared Murray’s book Humility with me. Murray begins that book by distinguishing between three motives that urge us toward humility:

  1. The urge toward humility as a creature  – “The first we see in the heavenly hosts, in unfallen man, in Jesus as Son of Man.”
  2. The urge toward humility as a sinner – “The second appeals to us in our fallen state, and points out the only way through which we can return to our right place as creatures.”
  3. The urge toward humility as a saint – “In the third we have the mystery of grace, which teaches us that, as we lose ourselves in the overwhelming greatness of redeeming love, humility becomes to us the consummation of everlasting blessedness and adoration.”

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Journey to the Cross

Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent, and the beginning of our six-week journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As we begin our journey together, we are asking all who are able to pray and fast during the day. We will break our fast together as Eastbrook Church with Communion on Wednesday night at the Journey to the Cross service from 7-8 pm in the Worship Hall.

Fasting is one way of telling God that we want Him alone and we are willing to abstain from things we love and/or need (food in this case). Through fasting, we acknowledge that we love and need God more than anything; He is our life. Let tomorrow be a time to confess and rededicate yourself to Jesus, asking Him to remove any “dirt” from your life and cleanse you with His precious blood.

Tomorrow also marks the beginning of the “Crossroads” Lenten Devotional. Find ways to access the devotional below:

Read the “Crossroads” Devotional in 1 of 5 Formats:

  1. Online—Visit eastbrook.org/crossroadsdevotional each day for the reading, or connect with the online version through Eastbrook’s social media channels.
  2. Daily Email—Sign up for a special email list that will send you each day’s devotional at 4 am each morning. Sign up here.
  3. Mobile App—Download the Eastbrook Church mobile app and use the “Devo” tab to read each day. The devotionals will be published each morning at 4 am.
  4. Printed Book—A limited run of free devotional books are available at Eastbrook Church (5385 N. Green Bay Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53209).
  5. Digital Download—Download the PDF of the book for us with your tablet or to print out at home here.

This day is traditionally known as Ash Wednesday. For a look at what Ash Wednesday is all about, read “What is it?: Ash Wednesday and Lent?

The Glory of Christmas

Here is my message, “The Glory of Christmas,” from Christmas Day services at Eastbrook Church. This message fits within the larger journey through the Gospel of Luke that we are in the midst of at present. You can follow along with that entire series through our web-site, the Eastbrook app, or our audio podcast. Also, join me in reading through the entire Gospel of Luke and parallel Old and New Testament passages with the weekday reading plan for this series here.

Jubilee

img_1233This weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued the second part of our extended journey into the Gospel of Luke entitled “Appearing.”  This series looks at Jesus’ public appearing in ministry in Luke 3 and 4.

This past weekend’s message, “Jubilee,” is an important one in which Jesus preaches from Isaiah 61 in the Nazareth synagogue. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Also, join in with the weekday reading plan for this series here.

“The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:2-3)

Jesus the Prophet Who Speaks (Luke 4:16-17)

  • Images of enslavement in Egypt
  • Images of exile in Babylon

Jesus the Messiah Who Enacts (Luke 4:18-19)

 

Jesus the Jubilee Has Come (Luke 4:20-21)

 

Three Implications of Jesus and Jubilee

  1.  Knowing where we are and our need for Jesus the Jubilee
  2. Experiencing freedom in Jesus and freeing others
  3. Moving into forgiveness in Jesus and forgiving others

 The Polarizing Potential of Jesus (Luke 4:22, 28-30)

  • Receiving His gracious words (4:22)
  • Furious with His piercing words (4:28-30)