A Prayer on the Transcendent Gift of Adoption in Christ

Blue sky sunshine

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)

Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit which we have received through faith in Jesus Christ. We could not buy or earn this favor but have received it from You as a generous gift. We don’t take it lightly. Thank You that the Holy Spirit makes us children, not slaves, and brings us boldly and lovingly into Your family. Thank You that we can call out, “Abba, Father!”, by the Spirit and know that we belong and will be heard.

What dramatic sort of gift is this, Lord? How could it be that any who come by faith through Christ might receive the immeasurable gifts of belonging, adoption, and being able to call on You? All these gifts are beyond value. Many things that we pursue with our lives for and strive endlessly after still outpace our wild grasping or earning. Yet here with You we find all we most need given as sheer received gift! What else can we say but “thank You”? Thank You for the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit who speaks of our adoption, confirming within our spirits what the Scriptures tell us is true and our new reality.Thank You that we are heirs of Your full kingdom as we become children—even co-heirs with Christ. Thank You that we are privileged to share in both the suffering and the glory of discipleship with Christ Jesus. As Peter writes, this is “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade…kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Thank You!

And so, Father, with abounding praise and gratitude we step into this day as children of God, heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ, and recipients of the Holy Spirit. We choose to yield and surrender ourselves to You again. Let us enter into the fellowship of Your suffering that we might also enter into the fellowship of Your glory. Strengthen us to deny ourselves that we might also find the abundant life in You. Give us power each step of this journey that we might live a long obedience in the same direction. Again, today, Lord, we declare that we are Yours.

The Weekend Wanderer: 19 February 2022

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


pastor trauma

“I’ve Reached My Breaking Point as a Pastor” – Peter Chin in CT Pastors: “A new Barna study discovered that 38 percent of pastors have given real, serious consideration to quitting the ministry in the past year. I am one of that 38 percent. Even in the best of times, pastoral ministry has always felt like a broad and heavy calling. But the events of the past few years have made it a crushing one. The presidential election. Unrest around racial injustice. A global pandemic that has taken the lives of over 800,000 Americans. Never before had I considered health protocols in the context of the church. But today, being too strict with health guidelines might damage the well-being of the church, while being too lax might take the life of a congregant. Pastors like me have to deal with the never-ending conversation about in-person versus online services—and how to serve churchgoers without leaving behind the immunocompromised or disabled. All of this has injected a paralyzing degree of complexity and controversy into every single situation I face, every decision I make. And to make things worse, it feels as if everyone is on a hair trigger, ready to walk away at the merest hint that the church does not line up with their political or personal perspectives. Normally, pastors might rely on their personal relationships to navigate such fraught dynamics. But COVID-19 has taken that away as well, forcing us to rely on phone calls and video screens—which are no substitutes for physical presence.”


Tim Keller“Scraps of Thoughts on Daily Prayer” – Tim Keller at his blog: “There are three kinds of prayer I try to find time for every day – meditation (or contemplation), petition, and repentance. I concentrate on the first two every morning and do the last one in the evening. Meditation is actually a middle ground or blend of Bible reading and prayer. I like to use Luther’s contemplative method that he outlines in his famous letter on prayer that he wrote to his barber. The basic method is this – to take a Scriptural truth and ask three questions of it. How does this show me something about God to praise? How does this show me something about myself to confess? How does this show me something I need to ask God for? Adoration, confession, and supplication. Luther proposes that we keep meditating like this until our hearts begin to warm and melt under a sense of the reality of God. Often that doesn’t happen. Fine. We aren’t ultimately praying in order to get good feelings or answers, but in order to honor God for who he is in himself.”


126914“Learning to Love Your Limits” – An interview with Kelly M. Kapic by Erin Straza for Christianity Today: “Being human can be very frustrating. We’re always long on demands but short on time and energy. And so we redouble our efforts, searching for the magical time-management hack that will allow us to cram more life into our waking hours so that we can live the most efficient and productive life possible. Yet even as we strain against our natural limits, ultimately they cannot (and should not) be overcome, because God designed them for our good. That’s the premise underlying Covenant College theologian Kelly M. Kapic’s latest book, You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News. Persuasion podcast cohost Erin Straza spoke with Kapic about the beauty of our human limits and the freedom that comes when we learn to embrace God’s design for a meaningful life.”


roots“Can You Go Home Again?” – Bill Kauffman reviews Grace Olmstead’s Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind in Modern Age: “Uprooted is the young, Idaho-bred, D.C.-area journalist Grace Olmstead’s book-length grappling with the question ‘Will I move back?’ It’s a good and thoughtful and searching book, comprising equal parts family memoir, meditation on the cause and cost and consequences of uprooting, and reportage on her native ground’s besiegement by ‘economic consolidation, suburban development, and brain drain.’ The only member of her clan who departed the Mountain Time Zone, Olmstead is acutely aware of the place she left behind, in that self-conscious way of the expatriate. Lord Acton said that exile is the nursery of nationalism, but in Uprooted Olmstead is a clear-eyed and analytical guide to her home state, oozing neither treacle nor bile.”


post-traumatic“When Jesus Doubted God: Perspectives from Calvin on Post-Traumatic Faith” – Preston Hill in The Other Journal: “The willingness to witness trauma is often autobiographical. This is true of me in my role as a professor of theology who is active in our university’s Institute of Trauma and Recovery. During my postgraduate education, I tried to stay in one lane and focus solely on Reformation theology and history. That would have been clean and tidy—theology in the academy, and trauma in the real world. But trauma and recovery has pursued me and refused to let go. No one starts from nowhere. We all carry stories that frame our daily professions and relationships. So how did I end up teaching integration of theology and psychology to trauma therapists after completing postgraduate research in John Calvin? I am still not sure. But I do know that these thought worlds, separate as they might seem, are deeply integrated in me, the person; that we cannot help but be who we are; and that there is a clear reward to integrating our professional lives with our lived experiences. A person-centered, holistic approach to life may just be what the world, divided as it is today by endless abstract classifications, is hungry for. What we may need is to encounter reality fresh and face-to-face, whether that reality is violent or beautiful.  As a professor of theology and pastoral counselor, I have had the privilege of witnessing countless students and friends share stories of surviving violence. I have also had the privilege of sharing my story with them. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I live daily with the symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) that affect every aspect of my life. Recovery has been slow and steady. The journey is long, but the friends on the road are more numerous than I had assumed, even in the academy. Indeed, it has been a privilege to research trauma with fellow survivors and witnesses who are keen to explore how theology can be reimagined in our ‘east of Eden’ world.”


The Russell Moore Show 0 David Brooks“David Brooks Wants to Save Evangelicalism” – Russell Moore interviews New York Times columnist David Brooks on The Russell Moore Show: “‘Are the times we’re living in really as crazy as they seem?’ This is the first question that Russell Moore has for David Brooks, a New York Times op-ed columnist, author, and commentator. Brooks’s recent column “The Dissenters Trying to Save Evangelicalism From Itself” details some of the unsettling, disheartening events within evangelicalism over the past few years and highlights several individuals who are trying to forge a different path. On this episode of The Russell Moore Show, Brooks and Moore discuss many types of people that ‘evangelical’ can describe. They talk about the difficulties of resisting the climate of the times. And they talk about what politics are meant to do and be.”


Music: Jon Foreman, “The House of God Forever,” from Spring and Summer

Metaphors for Ministry: Hitting ‘The Road’ with Cormac McCarthy

An article I wrote during the past year was published this week at Preaching Today. It draws from one of my favorite novels of all time, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. If you know McCarthy’s writing, you may know it is very rough around the edges. While The Road is also rough around the edges there is also a tenderness and grace sprinkled amidst the troubles. Because of this, it has been such a balm for my soul in these past few years. I wrote about that, and here is the first section of “Metaphors for Ministry: Hitting The Road with Cormac McCarthy” (you can read the rest here).

When a friend felt forced to resign from his church, he and I met up to talk, pray, shoulder burdens together, and cry out to God. I arrived a little early, so before I met him for brunch, I did what I always do when I have extra time. I stopped at a used bookstore. In the dollar discards was a dog-eared and stained mass paperback copy of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Road. I picked it up with a few other treasures and headed to the restaurant where we were meeting. We talked about deep pain and fiery hope, works of love and moments of failure. Our conversation roamed the whole range of pastoring within the local church.

After our time of conversation and prayer, as we headed to our cars, I knew it would be a long time until I would see him. I gave him a hug and then handed him the roughed up copy of The Road. I hoped, somehow, this worn out copy of the book might breathe life into his worn out life and broken down ministry.

My friend isn’t the only casualty of ministry in these divided and confusing days. Many pastors I have met are struggling with what it means to be a pastor now, wondering where we should turn for guidance in these times. Scripture and the great pastoral tradition provide the best and first resources, but in times when ministry is unclear, we need other voices to help us gain perspective and see rich metaphors for ministry.

While I am wary of misusing a literary work, I cannot think of any novel more appropriate as a parable for pastors in this present moment than The Road.[1]Against the background of an ashen, decayed world, burned out by an unnamed disaster, a father and son (referred to only as “the man” and “the boy”) walk a road littered with danger and goodness toward a hoped-for, yet unclear, destination.

As pastors today, our situation is similar. Everything we understood as normal is a faint memory in this post-pandemic secular age. Still, we are on a journey through dangerous lands, holding onto hope and goodness amid the perils we face. The Road offers us metaphors for ministry as we seek to shepherd our people with love even in desperate times.

Cormac McCarthy may seem like a strange author to turn to in such times. His spare yet powerful writing is often dark and grotesque. Still, McCarthy’s novels are haunted by some divine presence, even if his views are far from orthodox Christianity. In an interview McCarthy once said, “I don’t think you have to have a clear idea of who or what God is in order to pray.”[2] Throughout The Road, the father invokes God, sometimes in angst and other times in hope. This tension with the divine offers fertile ground for exploring echoes of pastoral work in the novel.

Wrestling Lessons with Job: encountering God in our suffering

In Shakespeare’s powerful drama King Lear there is a moving scene where King Lear, bereft of the daughter he loves most, Cordelia, and being controlled by his two other self-serving daughters, Goneril and Regan, rushes out into a tempestuous storm.[1]

As the dark storm rages about him, Lear rages about his own suffering and loss. He calls upon the wild thunder and lightning to destroy him and the grief-filled world as he wanders wildly through the darkness. Eventually, King Lear goes mad with grief and confusion in this episode. He calls out for justice, meaning, and resolution, but finds none in the isolation of the storm. In some ways, King Lear’s struggle parallels that of Job. They are both looking for meaning in their suffering.

I’m sure that we’ve all either experienced dark times or been around others who have.  It is one thing to experience a brief adversity or set-back, but another thing to endure ongoing suffering for weeks, months, or years.

“We Have Much Yet to Learn…”
Remember that Job suffered great loss. He loses all of his children—7 sons, 3 daughters—and all of his belongings—7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys. All he owned and love is gone in one stunning afternoon.

Still, Job could make an amazing declaration:

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. (Job 1:21)

Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10)

Job was able to make a great declaration of faith in the moment suffering struck. Now, however, we find Job is in a place of ongoing suffering. The initial dramatic declaration of faith is followed by a period of wrestling with that suffering. “Why, God?” is the question which resonates within Job’s mind.

In great fairy tale style, we all might like for God to immediately restore the fortunes of Job. We want to skip from the end of chapter 2 right on to the end of chapter 42 and have things put right.

Why do we need the rest of this book? As one biblical scholar writes, it is because we “have much yet to learn about suffering and about God.”

What Friends Are These?!
When Job’s friends arrive the best thing that they do is to sit silently with him in his loss and suffering. When they begin to open their mouths, things immediately go south. Their understanding of suffering and God’s role in suffering could be summarized most succinctly in the following ideas:

  • God corrects or disciplines those who need it
  • Sin in one’s life leads to adversity and God’s punishment
  • Lack of generosity leads to God’s punishment
  • If you confess and repent of your hidden sins, then restoration comes

Job, in their eyes, is encountering suffering, adversity, and dark times as a result of sin in his life which God wants to correct. If only Job were to confess his sins and turn back to God, then he would be restored. But there is something about the theological truth his friends offer to Job which doesn’t ring true.

Here is why Job’s friends’ statements don’t ring true:

  • Job’s standing and righteousness wasn’t a joke: Two times God described Job as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8 ; 2:3). Yet Job’s friends doubted his standing before God. Their statements about wrong ways leading to God’s punishment may have been true in general, but not specifically in regards to Job
  • Suffering is not necessarily doled out in proportion to one’s goodness or evil: Job rightly understood that “the wicked are spared from the day of calamity” (21:30) and that all too often the righteous are “a laughingstock” to those around them (12:4). The view of life that those who are good will avoid suffering and those who are bad will endure suffering just doesn’t prove true in life’s realities. It is not that clear cut in real life.
  • Sometimes God allows things we do not understand: Job was part of something bigger than him—a cosmic drama behind the scenes—and, as we see later in the book, he never really receives a full explanation for that. Neither Job nor his friends know the fullness of God’s ways behind the scenes. We are reminded that God’s ways are bigger than us and our understanding.

Job’s Growth through Suffering
While the ensuing speeches don’t reveal much further about Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, they do show us something about Job. He begins in despair, cursing the day of his birth and his continued existence. He complains of the absence of God’s justice. He laments his suffering and longs for the finality of death without a future.

But as the rounds of speeches continue, while not letting go of his call for God’s justice, Job’s perspective begins to change. The pinnacle of this is found in chapter 19:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (19:25-27)

And then in chapter 23:

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (23:10)

Job may not understand all that is happening to him —his part in it, God’s part in it, Satan’s part in it—but he does experience a transformation that is extremely significant. Job trusts in God’s ultimate salvation even as he wrestles with not understanding his suffering.

And For Us…
Now, what can we gather from Job’s experience of suffering and wrestling with God before our eyes in this book? If we do have much to learn about God and suffering, then what do we need to glean from Job today?

Perhaps we need to learn something about getting honest with God as a form of wrestling with our suffering. Maybe it is time to allow God to grow our faith through that wrestling. Or perhaps we need to develop as a friend in the midst of others’ wrestling with suffering and God.

Hopefully, like Job, we too will trust in God’s ultimate salvation even as we wrestle with our suffering.


[1] William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act III, scene ii.

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 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.


125694“How Might the COVID-19 Crisis Reshape our Churches for Good?” – Kyuboem Lee in Christianity Today: “In March 2020, as the American public only began to grasp the growing scope of the global pandemic, we suddenly went into a shutdown. Churches could no longer meet in person; many scrambled to find ways to broadcast their Sunday services online instead. Initially, many of us thought (wishfully, as it turned out) that the shutdown would last a few weeks and we would return to normal. But the shutdown dragged out for months and months. Many churches were unable to meet in person for more than a year. Pastors began wondering out loud to me if their churches would survive financially. They fretted about their buildings, sitting empty week after week. They were concerned about giving amid sudden job losses and economic downturn. They worried about a drop-off in online service attendance. There was much cause for deep anxiety, and the pandemic’s long-term impact on churches may be felt for years to come. But I don’t believe that the pandemic is a crisis we simply need to recover from. Instead, the crisis of the pandemic and its aftereffects presents an opportunity to reshape the church in transformative ways. It offers us a moment of clarity to perceive our need for reinvention for the sake of our mission.”


womanlightingcandleembed“Responding to Persecution: Where Western Christians would stand and fight, Eastern Christians have learned to endure – or flee” – Luma Simms in Plough: “In 2007, my friend Ishraq was an Iraqi biologist working in quality control in a government agency testing products coming into the country for contaminants – food products and plants, anything meant for consumption or planting – a job she had studied and worked hard to attain, a job she loved. Her husband, Luay, owned a car dealership. Although other Christians were leaving Iraq after the chaos that engulfed the country after the US invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein, they didn’t want to leave their homeland. With the increase in crime and the abduction of Christians, they thought it best to sell the dealership and wait it out until things settled back down. One rainy day as Luay got ready to drive Ishraq to work, two cars pulled up in front of them. Men got out and snatched Luay. As they dragged him through the mud, she grabbed hold of his leg, shrieking. One of the kidnappers disentangled her from Luay and flung her off. ‘I lost my mind, I was screaming like a crazy woman, I was screaming for someone to come help us,’ she remembers. The men shoved Luay into one of their cars and left. A minute later a police officer came driving by and stopped when he heard her crying. He got out and stood over her as she lay shaking on the ground. When she told him what had happened, it became clear he knew who the kidnappers were. ‘He gave me his card and told me that when the kidnappers called me to ask for ransom money, to let him know and he’ll see what he can do. I told him, “What you can do is get in the car and go after them right now.” The policeman left and I just sat there in the mud on the side of the street wailing.'”


imrs.php“You’re a different person when you travel. Here’s why, and how to transform yourself at home.” – Jen Rose Smith in The Washington Post: “Every so often, I pack a bag for a solo trip that lasts as long as I can manage. The lifelong habit has weathered career changes, a pandemic and marriage. ‘Where is your husband?’ people ask. ‘Why are you here alone?’ ‘He’s at home,’ I say, perhaps while splashing through leech-filled mudholes in Borneo. ‘Because I like traveling by myself.’ I’m after more than sightseeing. Family, home and work are magnetic poles in my life; at times, I need to consult my personal compass away from the strong pull that they exert. When I leave familiar things behind, I look at the world with fresh eyes. Strange foods become new favorites. Curiosity surges. I am a different person when I travel. In her book, Getting Away from It All: Vacations and Identity, sociologist Karen Stein sheds light on the reasons that travelers, whether they’re going it alone or with friends, might feel different when on the road. She argues that travel is a chance to try out alternate identities — a temporary respite from ourselves.”


main-v00-81-1536x1024“China crackdown on Apple store hits holy book apps, Audible” – Matt O’brien at Religion News Service: “Amazon’s audiobook service Audible and phone apps for reading the holy books of Islam and Christianity have disappeared from the Apple store in mainland China, the latest examples of the impact of the country’s tightened rules for internet firms. Audible said Friday that it removed its app from the Apple store in mainland China last month ‘due to permit requirements.’ The makers of apps for reading and listening to the Quran and Bible say their apps have also been removed from Apple’s China-based store at the government’s request. Apple didn’t return requests for comment Friday. A spokesperson for China’s embassy in the U.S. declined to speak about specific app removals but said the Chinese government has ‘always encouraged and supported the development of the Internet.’ ‘At the same time, the development of the Internet in China must also comply with Chinese laws and regulations,’ said an emailed statement from Liu Pengyu. China’s government has long sought to control the flow of information online, but is increasingly stepping up its enforcement of the internet sector in other ways, making it hard to determine the causes for a particular app’s removal.”


29russellmooreembeddove“Integrity and the Future of the Church” – Russell Moore in Plough Quarterly: “Something was happening at the Vatican; I cannot remember if the issue was another sexual abuse cover-up or a contentious synod meeting. But I do remember seeing a woman I knew to be a serious Roman Catholic post on her social media an old music video, with no commentary. The video, R.E.M.’s 1991 song ‘Losing My Religion,’ prompted friends to ask if she had lost her faith. She responded that she hadn’t, but was afraid that she was losing her church. No wonder her friends were concerned. The song, after all, has entered popular culture as the soundtrack to almost any story of an ex-Catholic or an ‘ex-vangelical.’…In light of the current crisis of religion – seen perhaps most starkly in my own American evangelical subculture – I’m not sure that these are entirely different things. Perhaps ‘losing religion’ now is about both interpretations of the song, if not as much about intellect and argumentation as about grief, betrayal, and anger.”


John Coltrane

“Coltrane’s New ‘Love Supreme'” – Adam Shatz in The New York Review: “At a press conference in Tokyo in July 1966, a Japanese jazz critic asked John Coltrane what he would like to be in ten years. “I would like to be a saint,” he replied. Coltrane, who died the following July of liver cancer, at forty, reportedly laughed when he said this; but among his followers, he was already considered a spiritual leader, even a prophet. His reputation rested not merely on his musicianship, but on the example he set, the self-renunciation and good works required of every saint. Unlike the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, who launched the bebop revolution with the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, Coltrane was not a fully formed virtuoso when he first emerged, but rather a committed and tireless student of the horn—a hardworking man who arrived at his sound through a practice regime of almost excruciating discipline. “He practiced like a man with no talent,” his friend the tenor saxophonist Benny Golson remembered. The saxophonist Archie Shepp, one of Coltrane’s many protégés, exaggerated only slightly when he remarked that he never saw him take the sax from his mouth. The trumpeter Miles Davis, in whose mid-Fifties quintet Coltrane first rose to prominence, made the same observation, though more in exasperation than worship.”


Music: John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme, Pt IV – Psalm (Live),” A Love Supreme – Live in Seattle.