Prayer as Soul-Shaping with God (Colossians 1:9-14)

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued our series “Power in Prayer: Learning to Pray with St. Paul.” After looking at Ephesians 3:14-21 on praying our way into God’s power and love, this week I looked at how prayer shapes our souls from Colossians 1:9-14.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement. Each weekend I am also providing some resources for prayer related to the passage or theme of the week.

Resources for prayer

Our life of prayer is fueled by accurate knowledge of God’s will for believers. Read through these verses and use them as material in your prayer life, both this week and in the future:

Paul’s example of praying regularly for others is inspiring. Join in praying for others more regularly through the monthly “Eastbrook Prays” guide, or joining our morning prayer gatherings each weekday (Mon-Fri), 6:00-6:45 AM, in Holy Grounds.

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Shadow-Casting Monsters: Parker Palmer on dealing with our souls, part 1

parker-palmer-header-520x280Awhile back, I read through Parker Palmer‘s brief book Let Your Life Speak. This is an outstanding book on life and leadership. Palmer has worked quite a bit with educators and as an advocate for peace in our world today. He comes from a Quaker background.

To set the tone of what he is trying to accomplish in this book, slowly read through the following quotation in the book:

It is so much easier to deal with the external world, to spend our lives manipulating material and institutions and other people instead of dealing with our own souls. (82)

Immediately after this important statement, Palmer outlines five ‘shadow-casting monsters’ in the life of a leader. I wanted to outline three of those here today, with particular attention to the first one.

Shadow-Casting Monsters #1-2:
1. “Insecurity about identity and worth” (86).
2. “The belief that the universe is a battleground, hostile to human interests” (87).

In pondering the first of Palmer’s leadership monsters, I was challenged to look into myself. Am I leading out of insecurity or lack of worth? Am I trying to get a sense of value and meaning in my life through those I am leading? Am I controlling or manipulating others in order to create a sense of value in my own self? Our shadow-side stretches out to satisfy our own selves through what we do. This is not true leadership or ministry.

Further in on this first monster, Palmer writes these words that every leader should consider deeply:

These leaders possess a gift available to all who take an inner journey: the knowledge that identity does not depend on the role we play or the power it gives us over others. It depends only on the simply fact that we are children of God, valued in and for ourselves. When a leader is grounded in that knowledge, what happens in the family, the office, the classroom, the hospital can be life-giving for all concerned. (87)

The alternative to such a grounded living? Flipping Palmer’s words on their head, it would be giving death to those around us.

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 September 2018

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.

 

pew-846021_640“Why Evangelicals Should Care More About Ecclesiology” – At the Mere Orthodoxy web-site, Tish Harrison Warren writes about the crisis in evangelical integrity and moral leadership highlighted by the current political divides and failures of pastoral leaders. What I appreciate about Warren’s article is the way in which she connects this failure with a tendency within evangelicalism to become enamored with celebrity leadership while simultaneously not paying attention to the “boring” institutional necessities that sustain the life of the church.

 

d4e13e1c5865740384133e7da6be19“The rising political power of Evangelicals in Latin America” – This is old news with a new twist as evangelicals continue to have rising influence within Latin America, including in the political sphere. “It would seem that the reach of these religious organisations in Latin America is not only expanding in terms of the number of followers but also in terms of their influence on government policy. The various Evangelical churches are seeing rising electoral support for their moral conservatism.”

 

macarthur.jpeg“The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” – John MacArthur has been at the center of a series of debates on social justice and the gospel culminating in The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. More than 4,000 evangelicals have joined MacArthur, and others like Voddie Baucham and Douglas Wilson, in signing this statement, which equates the emphasis upon social justice within the evangelical church as a cultural distortion on theological and a misunderstanding of the gospel. This seem at least in part to be a reaction to the works of Tim Keller (see his Generous Justice), Matt Chandler, Thabiti Anyabwile and others within conservative evangelicalism who have been calling for engagement in justice and racial reconciliation as an overflow of living in the gospel. Underlying it all is a deep divide about the nature of the gospel and the life to which it calls us as a response. Jemar Tisby has a word of advice about how to respond to the ministries of those who signed this statement: “avoid them.” Ryan Burton King outlines why he cannot sign this statement, even though he was invited to do so.

 

02allen-superJumbo“The Biblical Guide to Reporting” – In an OpEd in The New York Times, Marshall Allen reflects on how his Christian faith has helped him become a better journalist. “The editor scowled and said, ‘So what makes you think that a Christian can be a good journalist?’ He emphasized ‘Christian’ as if it was some kind of slur. I liked that he spoke his mind, but I was taken aback. I explained what I saw as a natural progression from the ministry to muckraking, pointing out that both are valid ways of serving a higher cause. The Bible endorses telling the truth, without bias. So does journalism. The Bible commands honesty and integrity. In journalism, your reputation is your main calling card with sources and readers. Obviously, many people have succeeded as reporters without strong religious beliefs. But I told him my faith had made me a better, more determined journalist. He replied with a noncommittal grunt. But I got the job.” [Thanks to Makoto Fujimura for sharing this article.]

 

ct-aretha-franklin-funeral-eulogy-reaction-201-001“Old-school eulogy at Aretha Franklin’s funeral ignites social media backlash” – Aretha Franklin’s funeral received a lot of attention but it seems to have turned a little too “old school” than many desired when Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr., stepped up for the eulogy. Speaking for roughly 50 minutes, Rev. Williams’ statement that “black America has lost its soul” received intense backlash on social media and other outlets. While it seems as if a lot of people feel like America has last its soul these days, the real problem is that we don’t know what a soul is anymore and what to do with it if we discovered we actually had one.

 

Carl Jung“From Myers Briggs to the Love Languages: the renaissance of the personality test” – I know a lot of people who are obsessed with personality tests, as well as a whole range of other personal assessments. I have subjected myself to many of them over the years, sometimes finding aspects helpful, but oftentimes feeling like I don’t really want to be put in a box like that. If you think that is just an INTJ talking, then maybe you should read Sarah Manavis’ article about how personality tests, in some way, have a renewed attraction because they become a personal gospel by which we can justify the way in which we live our lives. [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in the Daily Prufrock.]

 

the first testamentThe First Testament: A New Translation by John Goldingay” – Old Testament scholar John Goldingay brings us a new translation of the Hebrew Bible. “Most translations bend the text toward us. They make the rough places smooth, the odd bits more palatable to our modern sensibilities. In every translation something is gained and something lost. In The First Testament: A New Translation, John Goldingay interrupts our sleepy familiarity with the Old Testament. He sets our expectations off balance by inviting us to hear the strange accent of the Hebrew text. We encounter the sinewed cadences of the Hebrew Bible, its tics and its textures. Translating words consistently, word by word, allows us to hear resonances and see the subtle figures stitched into the textual carpet. In a day of white-bread renderings of the Bible, here is a nine-grain translation with no sugar or additives. In The First Testament the language of Zion comes to us unbaptized in pious religiosity. Familiar terms such as salvation, righteousness, and holiness are avoided. We cock our ears to listen more carefully, to catch the intonations and features we had not caught before.”

 

wessex“Medieval Tiles Unearthed at Bath Abbey” – “A team from Wessex Archaeology has uncovered brightly decorated 700-year-old floor tiles during excavations at Bath Abbey, according to a Somerset Live report. The abbey has been a religious center for well over 1,000 years, and the current Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul—completed in the seventeenth century—is a renowned example of gothic architecture. The tiles, however, provide a glimpse into an earlier Norman cathedral at the site that was constructed in the eleventh century but fell into decay in the late Middle Ages, and lay in ruins by 1500.”

 

C3PO-R2D2-header“The 100 Greatest Movie Robots of All Time” – Okay, this has little to do with anything other than fun. Why not traipse through the history of film searching for the greatest robots of them all? Sure, there are a lot of reasons not to spend your time on this article, but it might just be entertaining to see who else appears on the list, other than C-3PO, R2-D2, Hal, and the Borg.

[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: 1 September 2018

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.

 

83267“Many Churchgoers Want Sunday Morning Segregated” – At Christianity Today, Bob Smietana reports on a recent Lifeway Research survey about the desire and tendency for Protestant Christians to worship with others like them. “More than half (57%) of Protestant churchgoers under 50 say they prefer to go to church with people who share their political views. And few adult Protestant churchgoers say they attend services with people of a different political persuasion.” So much for the one new humanity of Ephesians 2

 

Griswold-The-Block-ChurchAnd in other, yet related, news: “Millennial Evangelicals Diverge from Their Parents’ Beliefs.” In The New Yorker, Eliza Griswold charts the recent changes in evangelicalism in terms of socio-political issues, concluding that evangelicalism is in a state of flux in terms of its social engagement on issues such as abortion, immigration, and more, particularly along generational lines. “The result is that younger evangelicals are speaking out on issues like family separation at the border, climate change, police brutality, and immigration reform­­––causes not typically associated with the evangelical movement. In the continuing moral outrage at the border, which includes nearly six hundred children still displaced in New York City alone, many see the faces of themselves and their families.” While I have strong aversions to generational theory, this should come as no surprise, given that the very idea of ‘evangelicalism’ as a monolithic theological, political, or sociological movement is fiercely debated today.

 

aretha“Here is the Aretha Franklin funeral program, and it’s epic” – The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, passed away this week (read the obituary). As with many of her generation of soul and R&B, she began her career by singing in church, including the church where her father was the pastor, New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. CNN has gathered together some quick facts on her life here. Although I had heard her music before, I hate to say that as a kid my introduction to Aretha came through her appearance with the song “Think” in The Blues Brotherswhich I saw in an edited-for-television version at an early age,  You might want a deeper dive into some of her greatest songs of all time here.

 

Lt. Comdr. John S. McCain is interviewed after the Vietnam War“John McCain Would Have Passed the Anne Frank Test” – After the passing of John McCain last weekend, there have been many reflections on his life and work. I particularly enjoyed this reflection by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic related to McCain’s integrity and willingness to stand up for the right in difficult situations and in the face of difficult people. The Anne Frank test: “something I learned from a Holocaust survivor almost 40 years ago, is actually a single question: Which non-Jewish friends would risk their lives to hide us should the Nazis ever return?”

 

Hybels“Randy Alcorn on Evangelical Sex Scandals: Bad Pastors Just Reappear at New Churches, Repeat Sins” Randy Alcorn, famous as a pastor and Christian author made veiled references to the Bill Hybels/Willow Creek saga, with some reflections on how the evangelical church grapples with leadership and integrity. In light of the systemic leadership coverup of the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal, Alcorn’s words feel more poignant: “Countless churches have hired a pastor who ends up in immorality, only to find out that he had been guilty of the same in his previous church, which they had failed to ask about his character, morality and reputation.”

 

inside out“Outside In: What do we see when we look at ourselves?” – You really do not want to miss Alan Jacobs’ astute exploration of the human condition and the contemporary suggestions of what it means to be a self (or not to believe in a self at all). Touching on St. Paul, Charles Taylor, the Invisibilia podcast, Rebecca West, Pokémon, Friederich Nietzsche, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and Inside Out, you will be delightfully provoked to thought.

 

ubang“Uban: The Nigerian Village Where Men and Women Speak Different Languages” – Just when you thought you had a difficult time communicating with someone else, a friend shared this fascinating piece about the village of Ubang in Nigeria, where men and women speak in different languages that are still understandable to one another. “In Ubang, a farming community in southern Nigeria, men and women say they speak different languages. They view this unique difference as ‘a blessing from God’, but as more young people leave for greener pastures and the English language becomes more popular, there are concerns it won’t survive.”

 

58581-canva-photo-editor-60.800w.tn“Australia’s New Prime Minister Is an Evangelical Christian” –  I’m not sure what evangelical means anymore, particularly when used by new agencies, but this was in the news this week. “Australia’s newest prime minister is a church-going evangelical Christian who isn’t afraid to stand up for his faith in a country largely viewed as secular. Scott Morrison became prime minister Friday when the Liberal Party voted him in as its leader after ousting Malcolm Turnbull, the former prime minister and party leader. The Liberals are a center-right party in Australia, while the Labor Party is more center-left. Morrison is a member of Horizon Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Sydney where he and his family are involved in ministries.”

 

the good lifeI’m thankful Micah Mattix highlighted Karen Swallow Prior‘s new book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great BooksHere is an excerpt: “Reading great literature well has the power to cultivate virtue. Great literature increases knowledge of and desire for the good life by showing readers what virtue looks like and where vice leads. It is not just what one reads but how one reads that cultivates virtue. Reading good literature well requires one to practice numerous virtues, such as patience, diligence, and prudence. And learning to judge wisely a character in a book, in turn, forms the reader’s own character. Acclaimed author Karen Swallow Prior takes readers on a guided tour through works of great literature both ancient and modern, exploring twelve virtues that philosophers and theologians throughout history have identified as most essential for good character and the good life. In reintroducing ancient virtues that are as relevant and essential today as ever, Prior draws on the best classical and Christian thinkers, including Aristotle, Aquinas, and Augustine. Covering authors from Henry Fielding to Cormac McCarthy, Jane Austen to George Saunders, and Flannery O’Connor to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Prior explores some of the most compelling universal themes found in the pages of classic books, helping readers learn to love life, literature, and God through their encounters with great writing. In examining works by these authors and more, Prior shows why virtues such as prudence, temperance, humility, and patience are still necessary for human flourishing and civil society.”

 

o-PARIS-facebook“Gorgeous Photos of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries” – Because you need some inspiration as the school year starts, why not imagine that you are completing your studies in an environment like this. Or maybe, like me, you just needed a new desktop image to keep you feeling like you’re part of something bigger than our computer-laden world.

 

JohnM-502x630Makoto Fujimura, “The Four Holy Gospels” – Take a moment to enjoy the wondrous artistry of Makoto Fujimura’s work commissioned for an edition of the four canonical Gospels in the English Standard Version, published in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version (KJV) Bible in 1611. More info here.

 

[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 House of Our Souls

[I wrote these words last February on a day away in solitude for prayer and study.]

I sit in this small prayer house in the winter cold. Because the main house at this retreat center is vacant for the week, I was offered the chance to stay in the main house for the day. As I went into the main house to get the key to the prayer house, I saw just how many rooms were inside; so much to explore and see.

But my choice is to sit in this small physical house. Here in this limited space I want to talk with God about the interior spaces of my soul – a large house with many rooms to explore and see. Too often I range through large spaces exterior to me, but fail to range through the deeper and cavernous spaces interior to me.

The houses we live in physically, we attend to through cleaning, upkeep, decorating, and remodeling. Some of these activities are regular.  We do our Saturday morning chores: vacuuming the carpet, mopping the kitchen floor, wiping down showers and bathtubs. Or we organize things to come into our houses: school papers from the children; mail sorted into bills, letters, or junk mail; shoes, coats, and hats put away in closets. Other activities we attend to happen as needed or according to schedule. We redecorate a living from with new furniture or fresh paint. We remodel a part of our house: finishing out a basement or adding on a family room to the rear of the house.

How much more must we attend to the interior house that is our soul? What regular activities must we do – the interior cleaning and organizing? What demands attention or requires planning – the interior redecorating or remodeling?

And so, I sit facing a window that looks out upon barren tree branches and a three-day-old blanket of snow. I look out through the window with my physical eyes, while, with my spiritual eyes, I look into the window to my soul. What will I find?

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