A Crash Course in the Gospel (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Ephesians

One of my favorite books of the Bible is the Psalms. Through the Psalms I have learned how to pray. One of my other favorites is the Gospel of John. John’s telling of Jesus’ story has helped me connect my spiritual longings with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ so powerfully. Right after the Psalms and John comes Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here, the basic contours of right thinking about God and right living with God come together in such a short space that every sentence strikes with power.

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, as I continued with our series “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity,” I had the privilege of addressing one of my favorite Scriptural texts in this favorite book of mine. I turned to Ephesians 2:1-10 for “A Crash Course in the Gospel.”

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.

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A Crash Course in Knowing Christ (Ephesians 1:15-23)

Ephesians

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued our new series walking through the New Testament book of Ephesians, entitled “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity.” This weekend, I continued with the second half of chapter 1, which offers us a “Crash Course in Knowing Christ.” This is really a prayer of Paul that unfolds for us how prayer in gratitude, intercession, and worship helps us know Christ more fully in our lives.

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.

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The Weekend Wanderer: 18 May 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.

 

Equiano“Olaudah Equiano’s Argument Against Slavery Was His Life Experience” – Last summer I had the chance to participate in a study group with Dr. Willie James Jennings, walking through his book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and it changed me in many ways. One of the key voices in Jennings’ work is Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave who wrote of his life experiences in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Eric Washington recounts the life of Equiano in this biographical feature at Christianity Today. If you want to dig even deeper, read Jennings’ pivotal book.

 

Day at the River“Preserving Real-Life Childhood”Naomi Schaefer Riley reflects on the need for disconnection with childhood, but also the near impossibility of it in today’s world. “There is no doubt we have given away a lot more than privacy in the name of connecting people around the world. We’ve abandoned civility, trust, any sense of perspective, and we have lost a lot of sleep as well. In an effort to save their own hides, some social media heads have proposed technological and policy solutions to these problems….The only way around these problems is to remind ourselves continually of the tastes and temperaments that make real life enjoyable and meaningful, and to foster these experiences in our children, who would otherwise grow up with little memory of life off-screen. We can’t hope to improve our digital habits, including the way we talk online, if we don’t strengthen our capacity for non-digital interaction with the world around us. And if we don’t develop this capacity in childhood, perhaps we never will.”

 

students mental health“Students are increasingly turning to religious leaders for mental health support” – “High rates of mental ill health among students, including some tragic cases of suicide, have highlighted the vulnerability of many young people facing the pressures of higher education while away from home for the first time. University leaders have affirmed their commitment to strengthening student support, and counselling services are busier than ever. But one resource is often overlooked: chaplaincy. Chaplains are representatives of religion or belief organisations who work within universities to support the religious and pastoral needs of the communities.”

 

Burkina Faso“Another Sunday Church Attack in Burkina Faso Kills Six” – From last week: “For the second time since Easter, a church in Burkina Faso has suffered a terrorism attack during Sunday services. This time, the target was a Catholic church in Dablo, where the priest and five worshipers were killed. This prompted a series of déjà vu headlines among global media outlets as the death toll matches last month’s attack on an Assemblies of God church in Sirgadji, where the pastor and five worshipers were killed.”

 

190520_r34349“If God Is Dead, Your Time Is Everything” – James Wood reviews Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom as a valuable critique of religious faith and belief in eternity. It is worth knowing the arguments against our faith and being prepared to intelligently respond. “At a recent conference on belief and unbelief hosted by the journal Salmagundi, the novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson confessed to knowing some good people who are atheists, but lamented that she has yet to hear ‘the good Atheist position articulated.’ She explained, ‘I cannot engage with an atheism that does not express itself.’ She who hath ears to hear, let her hear. One of the most beautifully succinct expressions of secular faith in our bounded life on earth was provided not long after Christ supposedly conquered death, by Pliny the Elder, who called down ‘a plague on this mad idea that life is renewed by death!'”

 

NAMM Fly-In For Music Education Briefing With David Brooks On 2017 National Political And Election Outlook“David Brooks’s Journey Toward Faith” – Of course, not everyone thinks about this like Hägglund, Wood, or Pliny, so perhaps it’s worth reading about New York Times columnist, David Brooks, journey to faith. His column writing is exceeded in value by his recent full-length book efforts, first in The Road to Character and now in The Second Mountain. In The Atlantic, Peter Wehner tracks Brooks’ journey toward faith, which is well worth the read.

 

theology matters“Theology Matters” – All of this should help us see why Tozer’s famous statement is so true: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Here is an interesting dialogue between Christian theologian Gerald McDermott and Jewish theologian Yitzchock Alderstein about why theology matters. “In all of this the formal intellectual work of theology can seem remote, even counterproductive. Until it matters. Perhaps good theology is a superadded benefit that true piety can do without. But bad theology surely matters, for it can have toxic effects.

 

Gordon College“Liberal Arts Cuts, Evangelical Edition” – “Gordon College, an evangelical Christian college outside Boston, announced that it will eliminate 36 faculty and staff positions and consolidate and cut a number of majors in a budget-cutting move. Among the changes, Gordon is eliminating stand-alone majors in chemistry; French; physics; middle school and secondary education; recreation, sport and wellness; Spanish; and social work, and it is merging political science, history and philosophy into a single department.”

 

christian burial“This Could Be England’s Earliest Known Christian Burial” – “Live Science reports that researchers have now identified what they believe to be England’s earliest known Christian burial, at a tomb near Prittlewell in Essex. The tomb was first discovered in 2003, but it was mired in more than a millennium’s worth of earthen crust, which blocked researchers from performing a properly detailed assessment. In this absence of evidence, there was even some speculation that the tomb may have been Saeberht’s own, but now we know better: It predates his death by anywhere from about 10 to 35 years, with researchers dating the tomb to between the years 580 and 605.”

 

Music: Vulfpeck, “Dean Town,” from the album The Beautiful Game.

 

[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: 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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 21 July 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly post in which I gather a smattering of news, stories, resources, and other media you could explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

paul_lachine_illustration“Less Religion, More Money: Countries Get Wealthier as They Become More Secular, Study Says” – Newsweek reports on a recent study in Science Advances that tracked economic development in countries over the past 100 years. “Researchers called tolerance of individual expression the “ultimate driver” of economic change.” Of course, Newsweek doesn’t mention what the introduction for the study says: “Although a correlation between economic development and secularization is evident, in that countries that are highly religious tend to be the poorest (7, 8), it is not obvious which change precedes which through time: whether development causes secularization (9, 10), or vice versa (11), or whether both changes are driven, with different time lags, by a factor such as education or advances in technology.”  It does seem to me that if “individual expression” is the “‘ultimate driver’ of economic change,” we should also ask the question of whether economic change is the ultimate evaluative tool of individual and corporate satisfaction in a country. Are the wealthiest countries reflective of the highest level of well-being? While “well-being” is defined further down in the study, it is not clear how this relates to overall economic development and whether the definition of well-being is implicitly drawn from a secular versus religious definition.

 

pregnantOn a slightly different but related note, Philip Jenkins highlights the dipping fertility rates in the United States in his article: “Faith, Fertility, and the Fate of American Religion.” He writes: “The United States just passed a critical statistical landmark, one that I think – I fear – has immense implications for the nation’s religious life. If I am right, and we are dealing with early days, we might seriously be looking at the opening stages of a large scale process of secularization. After being reported and speculated about for decades, that secularization might finally be happening. As I will argue, the term “secularization” over-simplifies the process, but let that stand presently.”

 

Bonhoeffer_Union_Class“Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Harlem Renaissance” – It’s no secret that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my theological heroes. Ever since I first read his book The Cost of Discipleship in high school after giving my life to Christ, I have continued to learn from his writings up to the present time. Here is a thought-provoking presentation by Dr. Reggie Williams on the intersection of the Harlem Renaissance with Bonhoeffer’s studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Williams is also the author of Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus.

 

VanhoozerSpeaking of theologians in development, every pastor, student pursuing their PhD in theology, or other budding theologians should read Kevin Vanhoozer‘s excellent essay: Letter to an Aspiring Theologian:” How to Speak of God Truly.” Along with giving all of us some excellent reading to pursue, Vanhoozer brings the pursuit of theological thinking into context of thought and context of life.

 

18-mariia-butina.w710.h473.2x“Alleged Russian Spy Was Working to Infiltrate Religious Right As Well As Gun Groups” – With all the ongoing attention given to spying and infiltration between the United States and Russia, one of the more interesting twists this past week came from the case of indicted Russian-spy Maria Butina. Not only was she seeking to influence gun groups, she was also intentionally targeting religious conservative groups as well.

 

michelle-jimenez-211321-unsplash-770x513Last week in “The Weekend Wanderer,” I shared an article on the dramatic increase of multiracial congregations in Protestant Christianity. Not everything about this is positive, however, as at times this can be what some call “racist multiculturalism.” Dr. Lamont Francies explores the potential negative aspects of multi-ethnic churches in his challenging article: “The Mask of Multicultural Churches.” Many of the issues he raises are areas we have struggled with at Eastbrook Church as we continue to navigate what it truly means to move from the appearance of ethnic diversity to deeper Gospel transformation toward the Revelation 7 family of God.

 

Andrew Brunson 2I continue to follow the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been jailed for the past two years in Turkey on allegations tying him to rebel groups there. You can read my latest update here, but also recent articles at Christianity Today (“Turkey Keeps American Pastor Behind Bars—At Least for Three More Months“), CNN (“Trump calls for Turkey to release US pastor accused of spying“), The New York Times (“Turkey Resists Pressure to Release American Pastor From Jail“), and The Washington Post (“Turkish court rejects appeals to release jailed American pastor“).

 

5-medina“4 Ways Men Can Combat Abuse in the Church” – In light of pervasive abuse in our society that also unfortunately touches the church, Gricel Medina says its time for a change. “#ChurchToo and #SilenceIsNotSpiritual have proven that, too often, our instinct is to blame the victim and assume the best of the abuser. Men receive standing ovations in some churches just for responding to allegations; whether they confess or deny misconduct appears almost irrelevant. It might be because Christians love a story of repentance and forgiveness more than the hard work of justice. Or, it might be because we want to believe the best of our leaders.” [Thanks to Sandra Maria Van Opstal for sharing this article.]

 

Laity-Age-of-Distraction-BW-0019-webEver wish you could have two of your favorite thinkers in one room talking about the same topic for an extended period of time. Sadly, I found out I missed on opportunity just like that when Alan Jacobs and Jamie Smith led a retreat together earlier this summer at the Laity Lodge entitled “Attending to God in an Age of Distraction.” Thankfully, I also discovered that audio recordings of the sessions are all available online 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.]