The Weekend Wanderer: 27 August 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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


130547“Dallas Willard’s 3 Fears About the Spiritual Formation Movement” – James Bryan Smith in Christianity Today: “As a young man, I was privileged to be an eyewitness to the rise of the Christian spiritual formation movement. It began, in its modern form, in 1978, when Richard Foster wrote what has become the perennially standard text on the spiritual disciplines, Celebration of Discipline. Within a few years of its publication, Christians who had never heard of solitude, silence, or meditation were now practicing these disciplines. A lot of good was happening, but Richard saw that many Christians were practicing the disciplines in isolation and needed more guidance. So in 1988, he asked Dallas Willard, me, and a few others to join him in forming a spiritual formation ministry called Renovaré (Latin for “to renew”). Dallas, who served as a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California for 40 years, was one of the most important pioneers in the spiritual formation movement among evangelicals and mainline Protestants. He was close friends with Richard; in fact, Dallas first taught Richard about the spiritual disciplines, which of course were nothing new but were rooted in the ancient church….But privately, I noticed something else during those decades: Dallas was voicing serious concerns about the movement’s future.”


Isaac Adams“An Interview with Isaac Adams on ‘Talking About Race'” – Bill Melone interviewing Isaac Adams at Mere Orthodoxy: “Isaac Adams serves as lead pastor at Iron City Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and is the founder of United? We Pray, a ministry devoted to praying about racial justice. The following transcripted interview revolves around his book, Talking About Race: Gospel Hope for Hard ConversationsBill Melone: Isaac, thank you for participating in this discussion! Your book is a thoughtful and careful work that I hope is widely read, and I hope this discussion will connect people to the book and other work, and perhaps also give insights that connect your work to current issues in evangelicalism. I wanted to start by talking about hope. You wrote in your book:

I believe we still have an opportunity to stun the world with our love for one another, and I pray that we all are asking, ‘How can Christians love each other today on matters of race in such a way that the world has no choice but to say, “Wow! Look at how those Christians love one another!”‘

It’s impossible to write words like this without hope. But with all the division in America and in the American Church right now, it’s hard to have hope like this. Can you give a brief pitch for why I should question my pessimism about hope?”


image 3 - fire“Tending the Inner Fire” – David G. Benner in Conversation Journal: “Christian spirituality should never be a passionless spirituality. It invites us to come in from the cold and be awakened to love by Love. Love is right at the center of Christian spirituality: love of God, love of ourselves, love of our neighbors, and caring love for our world. Eros is an important source of fuel for this love. Brought to life by the Spirit as the flame of Love touches our soul, our passions awaken us and point us toward others and the Other. But as any good spiritual director knows, tending our inner fires is not simply for the purpose of self-fulfilment. Christian spirituality calls us to channel these fires in such a way that it moves us with (com)passion into the world. Passion for God should lead to passionate engagement with the world and the others who share it with us. Christian spirituality is not supposed to be a private matter, something within us or between God and us. Spiritual direction should never focus on the inner journey to the neglect of the outer. Henri Nouwen described the three movements of the spiritual journey as reaching in, reaching up, and reaching out. All three are essential for contact with and discernment and channeling of our inner fire.”


Kenya General Election“Amid post-election tension in Kenya, evangelicals urge to ‘preserve peace'” – Jonatan Soriano In Evangelical Focus – Europe: “Days after the election results were announced, tensions in Kenya remain high. The memory of the 2007 incidents, when 1,200 people lost their lives and another 600,000 were displaced, does not help. Although for the 2022 elections, religious and civic bodies have made efforts to promote a peaceful and “mature” voting process, the victory of the ‘alternative’ candidate led to riots in the capital Nairobi. With 50.49% of the vote and a lead of barely 200,000 votes over his opponent, the hitherto deputy president William Ruto has been declared winner of the elections. Analysts link his victory to three key factors: the support of the central region of the country (the most populated), the perception of Ruto as an ‘alternative’ to the country’s great political dynasties (the Kenyattas and the Odingas), and the state of the economy. However, the announcement by the electoral commission (IEBC) was met with backlash….The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya also issued a pastoral letter to its member churches. In it they acknowledge the work of ‘evangelical churches and communities across the country for the critical role they have played in this process.’ At the same time, they call on their members to recognise the work of the electoral commission and to maintain the connections that have developed, with several Alliance leaders assisting in the vote counting process. ‘During this period, we urge the church to lead the way in upholding the dignity of women, children and the vulnerable in society”, they add. Christians are called to ‘persist in prayer’, especially ‘for the peace that comes only from God.'”


081022pastors-grief“Ministry with the grieving” – Cornelius Plantinga in The Christian Century: “Christian pastors are more than acquainted with grief. They’re steeped in it. First responders and emergency room personnel meet grief that accompanies trauma, but they don’t usually have to minister to it. Pastors do. Their day job is to weep with those who weep. And not just when a congregant gets injured or dies. Grief arises from a host of causes. People grieve job loss, with all its anxieties. They lament their poverty. They grieve over the diminishments of aging, over their poor judgment that led to a tragic mistake, over family estrangements. They grieve over the disturbance or loss of their faith—often itself caused by grief. Congregants rejoice when their child graduates or gets married, but they also grieve because while we want our children to grow, when they do grow we ache. Some folks lament a normalcy they never had: ‘I so wish I had loved my mother and that she had loved me.’ A fair number of congregants feel sad that their lives haven’t turned out as they had hoped. Their lives seem to them flat and insignificant, a wounding rebuke of their youthful dreams.”


spread of Christianity“5 Ways Christianity Spread Through Ancient Rome” – Becky Little at History: “How did Christianity go from a small sect in a corner of the Roman Empire in the first century, to the religion that the emperor converted to in the early fourth century? Its spread was greatly aided by the empire’s political unification and extensive road system, as well as the belief among many Christians that the religion was something anyone could adopt, regardless of regional or religious background.”


Music: Audrey Assad, “I Shall Not Want,” from Fortunate Fall

Dallas Willard on “What a Disciple Is”

Dallas Willard is without a doubt one of the most important thinkers and writers of recent time on the Sermon on the Mount and the nature of discipleship. When working on my most recent message, “Real Response: receiving the invitation of Jesus,” as well as the entire series, “Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount,” Willard’s writing was incredibly helpful.

His book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God is in my top ten books of all time on the Christian life. The following excerpt from that book is taken from chapter 8, “On Being a Disciple, or Student, of Jesus.”

Here, Willard summarizes what a disciple is.

Following up on what has already been said, then, a disciple, or apprentice, is simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.

How does this apply to discipleship to Jesus? What is it, exactly, that he, the incarnate Lord, does? What, if you wish, is he “good at”? The answer is found in the Gospels: he lives in the kingdom of God, and he applies that kingdom for the good of others and even makes it possible for them to enter it for themselves. The deeper theological truths about his person and his work do not detract from this simple point. It is what he calls us to be saying, “Follow me.”

The description Peter gives in the first “official” presentation of the Gospel to the gentiles provides a sharp picture of the Master under whom we serve as apprentices. “You know,” he says to Cornelius, “of Jesus, the one from Nazareth. And you know how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and curing all those under oppression by the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

And as a disciple of Jesus I am with him, by choice and by grace, learning from him how to live in the kingdom of God. This is the crucial idea. That means, we recall, how I live within the range of God’s effective will, his life flowing through mine. Another important way of putting this is to say that I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my life if he were I. I am not necessarily learning to do everything he did, but I am learning how to do everything I do in the manner that he did all that he did.

My main role in life, for example, is that of a professor in what is called a “research” university. As Jesus’ apprentice, then, I constantly have before me the question of how he would deal with students and colleagues in the specific connections involved in such a role. How would he design a course, and why? How would he compose a test, administer it, and grade it? What would his research projects be, and why? How would he teach this course or that?

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1998), 282-283.

The Weekend Wanderer: 10 April 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.


040721ugwu-church“Christian clergy are being kidnapped and killed in Nigeria” – Patrick Egwu in The Christian Century: “On April 24, 2018, Joseph Gor and Felix Tyola­ha were presiding over an early morning mass for about 50 parishioners at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in a village in north central Nigeria. About 20 minutes into the service, gunmen, suspected to be from the largely Muslim Fulani ethnic group, stormed the parish and opened fire on the congregation. Nineteen people were killed, including both priests. The gunmen also razed houses, destroyed crops, and left the community in a state of chaos. After the attack, bishops, priests, and thousands of residents demonstrated to protest the killings. The protesters called on the Nigerian government to arrest and prosecute the killers. Three years later, no one has been arrested or prosecuted.”


“What Is the Good Life and How Do We Find It? A Forum with Dr. Jonathan Pennington” – As I have steadily been working through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in a preaching series entitled “Becoming Real” at Eastbrook Church, I have benefited from many works on that part of Matthew’s Gospel. From Augustine to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from R. T. France to Dallas Willard, many voices have helped me. One new voice that has been particularly helpful this go round with Jesus’ most famous sermon is Jonathan T. Pennington. In this lecture for the Center for Public Christianity, Pennington draws upon his work in two books, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing and Jesus the Great Philosopher, to speak about the good life from a Christian perspective.


Matthew D Kim“Addressing Racism in Light of the Image of God” – This article by Matthew D. Kim is adapted from “Preaching on Race in View of the Image of God” by Matthew D. Kim in Ministers of Reconciliation: Preaching on Race and the Gospel edited by Daniel Darling (Lexham Press, 2021). He writes: “Race and ethnicity are taboo subjects in many pulpits across the United States. Knowing that some of their congregation will see it as “liberal” talk, a social gospel incongruous with the true gospel, or a ploy of the political left’s agenda, many pastors shy away from teaching and preaching on the issues of race and racism—regardless of their rationale for such avoidance. Two camps emerge out of this salient concern. The first camp wonders why we are still needing to talk about race, while the second camp is exhausted by having to explain to the other why discussions on race and racism are essential.”


08.10-On-Correcting-Children“On Correction and Children” – As I was preparing my message on Matthew 7:1-6 for this coming weekend at Eastbrook as part of our series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Becoming Real,” I came across this article by Dallas Willard on the passage. This is really an excerpt from Willard’s fantastic book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, which is an extended exposition on discipleship through the lens of the Sermon on the Mount. I also consider that book as one of my must-read books on living with God through Jesus Christ.


“On ‘getting’ poetry” – Both during Lent and now during Easter I have posted a poetry series (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter”). I know that many people find poetry hard to understand or enjoy. Here is Adam Kirsch in The New Criterion addressing that very challenge. “I hear the same thing regularly from people who love to read novels and biographies, who are undaunted by string quartets and abstract paintings, but find poetry a closed door. No one is more aware of this disconnect between poetry and the reading public than poets themselves. The debate over why poetry moved from the center of literary culture to the outskirts of the academy, and how it can regain its place in the sun, has been going on at least since Dana Gioia’s landmark essay “Can Poetry Matter?” appeared in The Atlantic in 1991.”


“InterVarsity Wins Suit Against Wayne State” – Kate Shellnutt in Christianity Today: “The fight for campus access for faith-based student groups scored another legal victory this week. A district court judge ruled on Monday that Wayne State University violated the First Amendment with a 2017 decision that temporarily denied InterVarsity Christian Fellowship its status as a student group over the chapter’s requirement that its leaders be Christian. Wayne State’s nondiscrimination policy, according the 83-page opinion by Robert Cleland, ‘violated plaintiffs” rights to internal management, free speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and free exercise as a matter of law.’  The judge ruled that the First Amendment protects religious organizations’ rights to select their own ministers, and that the InterVarsity chapter’s student leaders qualified as ministers. While InterVarsity is open to all students, it asks leaders to sign a statement of faith.”


Music: Jpk. (featuring Nemetz), “Patience

Dallas Willard on the Kingdom of God: insights on what it is and how God rules

Dallas Willard’s book, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, is one of my favorite books of all time. In this book, Willard explores what discipleship is all about through the lens of the Sermon on the Mount. Much of Willard’s work in the book builds from the accessibility of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ. This is at least part of what I was trying to speak about in my message this past weekend at Eastbrook, “The Holy Spirit in Us: Living in the Kingdom of God Now.” Here is an extended quotation from Willard on the kingdom of God that I find particularly helpful.


“Now God’s own ‘kingdom,’ or ‘rule,’ is the range of his effective will, where what he wants done is done. The person of God himself and the action of his will are the organizing principles of his kingdom, but everything that obeys those principles, whether by nature of by choice is within his kingdom.

“The Old Testament book of Psalms comes to a joyous, breathtaking celebration of God’s kingdom in Psalms 145-150. The picture there presented must be kept in mind whenever we try to understand his kingdom. Then we will not doubt that that kingdom has exited from the moment of creation and will never end (Ps. 145:13; Dan. 7:14). It cannot be ‘shaken’ (Heb. 12:27f.) and is totally good. It has never been in trouble and never will be. It is not something that human beings produce or, ultimately, can hinder. We do have an invitation to be a part of it, but if we refuse we only hurt ourselves.

“Accordingly, the kingdom of God is not essentially a social or political reality at all. Indeed, the social and political realm, along with the individual heart, is the only place in all of creation where the kingdom of God, or his effective will, is currently permitted to be absent. That realm is the ‘on earth’ of the Lord’s Prayer that is opposed to the ‘in heaven’ where God’s will is, simply, done. It is the realm of what is cut out ‘by hands,’ opposed to the kingdom ‘cut out without hands’ of Daniel, chapter 2.

“Thus, contrary to a popular idea, the kingdom of God is not primarily something that is ‘in the hearts of men.’ That kingdom may by there, and it may govern human beings through their faith and allegiance to Christ. At the present time it governs them only through their hearts, if at all. But his kingdom is not something confined to their hearts or to the ‘inner’ world of human consciousness. It is not some matter of inner attitude or faith that might be totally diconnected from the public, behavioral, visible world. It always pervades and governs the whole of the physical universe—parts of planet earth occupied by humans and other personal beings, the satanic, slight excepted for a while….

“So when Jesus directs us to pray, ‘The kingdom come,’ he does not mean that we should pray for it to come into existence. Rather, we pray for it to take over at all points in the personal, social, and political order where it is now excluded: ‘On earth as it is in heaven.’ With this prayer we are invoking it, as in faith we are acting it, into the real world of our daily existence.”

[From Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1998), 25-26.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 May 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.


George Floyd gospel legacy“George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston” – Kate Shellnut at Christanity Today: “The rest of the country knows George Floyd from several minutes of cell phone footage captured during his final hours. But in Houston’s Third Ward, they know Floyd for how he lived for decades—a mentor to a generation of young men and a ‘person of peace’ ushering ministries into the area. Before moving to Minneapolis for a job opportunity through a Christian work program, the 46-year-old spent almost his entire life in the historically black Third Ward, where he was called ‘Big Floyd’ and regarded as an ‘OG,’ a de-facto community leader and elder statesmen, his ministry partners say.”


AND legacy“Statement from The AND Campaign on Racialized Violence in America” – “We mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives due to racialized violence. The grief of their loved ones is our grief and we share in their agony. The riots in Minneapolis are not to be glorified or romanticized, but we must realize that they are a product of a riotous and unjust system. The disorder began when a man’s rights were violated and his life was taken. American racism was rioting against the people long before they took to the streets. We must condemn and address the cause before we can appropriately address the broken reaction.”


DallasWillard-sm

“Becoming The Kinds of Leaders Who Can Do The Job” – Here is some wisdom from Dallas Willard published in 1999, later compiled into a chapter in Renewing the Christian Mind, that connects with the call to spiritual and moral leadership in this moment. “We had read all of Dallas’ books and been deeply impacted by them—not least by his latest, The Divine Conspiracy. But Brian had just finished presenting some thoughts on new models of leadership—leaders marked not so much by conquest and technique, but by spiritual goodness and wisdom. And so we sat there, slumped pensively in our chairs, until someone finally said, ‘Dallas…please talk to us about how we become those kind of people.’ So, during a break, Dallas began listing some of his thoughts on a whiteboard. And then in his gracious, careful way, he challenged us to become the kind of leaders this world so desperately needs. The following is some of what he told us.”


Grief Comes to Church“Letting Grief Come to Church” – Whether we know it or not, we are all grieving different losses that the pandemic has brought into our lives. What does it mean to allow space for grief in the church and how might that help us experience release and healing in our lives? Clarissa Moll writes about this for CT Pastors, sharing five ways we can welcome what may feel unwelcome once the doors reopen at our churches.


Supreme Court Church“Supreme Court, in 5-4 Decision, Rejects Church’s Challenge to Shutdown Order”New York Times: “The Supreme Court on Friday turned away a request from a church in California to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. ‘Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,’ Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.”


balcony church“Balcony church gains popularity in Kenya amid pandemic” – I always enjoy creativity in how churches gather people or reach out to people. Here is one that I have never heard of that seems well-suited for this time of the pandemic, flowing from a children’s outreach in Nairobi, Kenya. “Machira has taken his ‘Balcony to Balcony’ service on the road since Kenya’s first case was found in mid-March. It has become quite popular, the preacher at the All Saints Cathedral of the Anglican Church of Kenya said.”


Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral Webcasts Sunday Mass Due To Coronavirus

“Seeking to Understand the Rise, Fall, and Loss of Young Pastors” –  Robert Stewart writes at Chuck DeGroat’s blog about a serious and hard topic. “At least (five) high profile young pastors of whom I’m aware have taken their lives during these past twelve months alone. As painful as this topic is to discuss I believe that we absolutely must force ourselves to do so if we’re ever understand what’s going on here. We shouldn’t be trying to address this crisis until we better understand all the cultural, characterological, spiritual, and biological issues which influence it. After the space shuttle Challenger disaster stunned the world in 1986 all shuttle flights were grounded until the underlying cause (defective “o-rings” in the right side solid rocket booster) could be understood and resolved. Seven astronauts died unnecessarily in that incident. Almost that many young pastors (or maybe more) have died in this past year. And, the many opinions about why don’t add up to any real comprehension which could guide us towards life saving solutions. It just seems unconscionable to continue on as usual amid the carnage. So, how might we begin the quest to understand and solve this crisis with an inquiry as focused and complete as the one which solved the riddle of the Challenger?”


 

Music: Common Hymnal (featuring Dee Wilson),Rose Petals,” from Common Hymnal

[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.]