Roots: Looking Back and Reaching Forward

 

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a new preaching series entitled “Roots: Looking Back and Reaching Forward.” This series is the second of a three-part series related to our 40th anniversary as a church, following on our series, “Power in Prayer.” This is a series celebrating our legacy as a church, and also recalibrating as we head into the future together. We will look back at what God has done in our midst at Eastbrook, while also looking forward to what God is calling us into as a church.

September 7/8 – “Activated by the Holy Spirit”

September 14/15 – “Truly Community”

September 21/22 – “Growing Disciples”

September 28/29 – “Sacrificial Generosity”

October 4/5 – “Worship in the Beauty of Holiness”

Old Camel Knees: a brief reflection on the remarkable prayer life of James the Just

James_the_Just_(Novgorod,_16_c.)The fourth-century church historian, Eusebius, relates a story gathered from the lost works of Hegesippus during the second century about James “the Just,” who likely wrote the epistle of James and was the earthly brother of Jesus. In the midst of outlining the persecution of the church in his Ecclesiastical History , Eusebius details the death of James in Book II, Ch. XXIII:

3. The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows:

4. “James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James.

5. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath.

6. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.

7. Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, ‘Bulwark of the people’ and ‘Justice,’ in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.

There is so much we could discuss here, but today I merely want to draw attention to point (6) above, which highlights James’ ongoing life of prayer, specifically his worship of God and petitions for forgiveness on behalf of others. His dedication to prayer is such that his physical body reflected it: “his knees became hard like those of a camel.” It is because of this phrase that James is often referred to as “camel knees.”

The idea of praying on our knees is mentioned frequently in Scripture (Psalm 95:6; Daniel 6:10; Luke 5:8; Ephesians 3:14). Praying on our knees conveys humility – an appropriate sense of who we are – and awe – an appropriate sense of who God is. Getting down on our knees tells us in a very tangible way – through the posture of our bodies – that something different is occurring in our experience that requires something different from our bodies. As one commentator writes, kneeling in prayer communicates something vitally important: “We recognize that God is everything for us and that without his merciful love, we are, literally, nothing.”

These days many of us, especially those within evangelical traditions, rarely get on our knees in prayer. In fact, it is so out of the ordinary that when I recently invited our church community to kneel, I had to take extra time to set it up ahead of time. Those in what would described as traditional churches likely find it more common to descend to a kneeler each week for the confessional prayer. Regardless of our worship tradition, I would like to suggest that all of us could learn quite a lot from the Apostle James in his example of dedicated, humble prayer through appropriate kneeling.

However, let me take it a step further, and say that pastors and ministers of all sorts should take a cue on prayer from “Old Camel Knees.” It would be an invaluable breakthrough in ministry practice if all of us serving in ministry left a legacy like James of dedication in prayerful worship of God and intercession before God on behalf of our people. May God give us grace that our bodies would be marked by our dedication in prayer.

The Weekend Wanderer: 13 July 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.

91291“The Temptations of Evangelical Worship”Mark Galli continues his meandering reflections on the contemporary situation of evangelicalism with some pointed reflections on worship. “In the last decade or so, evangelical congregations have woken up to the centrality of praise and adoration as Scripture commands. One of the great developments of our time is how we worship. “Praise choruses” and contemporary worship music, for all their limitations, aim our hearts and minds in the direction of God. One does not even have to be taught to lift your face or raise your arms as you sing these songs, as the songs themselves often drive one upward to seek and praise God….Yet the temptation of the horizontal is with us always, and it comes in many disguises in our worship.”

 

91310“Amazon Sold $240K of ‘Liturgy of the Ordinary’ Fakes, Publisher Says” – I was so sad to hear about this turn of events for Tish Harrison Warren, who wrote the wonderful book Liturgy of the Ordinary published by InterVarsity Press. If you haven’t read the book, it’s well worth the read. IVP made a statement about how they are working on this with Amazon directly and on their side of things here. You can also read Warren’s own reflections on this at her blog here.

 

6-19-DavidSwanson-Immigration“Immigrants Under Attack: Five Ways the Church Can Respond” – David Swanson writes at Missio Alliance about the difficult place the church lives in at the tensions of immigration. “A few weeks ago my wife and I brought our two young sons to a prayer vigil for a Colombian pastor and her husband who’d been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Despite having fled terrorism in her home country, purchasing a home in Chicago, completing her pastoral training, and serving a church, Pastor Betty Rendon was arrested in front of her daughter and granddaughter in her own home. She was deported in less than a month.”

 

Jaipur City India“From Babylon to Rajasthan, here are the newest UNESCO World Heritage sites” – From National Geographic: “The ruins of an ancient city, the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, and an icy volcanic landscape are officially part of our collective world heritage. For the past 43 years, representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have met to evaluate which natural and cultural wonders around the globe merit World Heritage status. Icons including the Galápagos Islands, Macchu Picchu, and the Great Barrier Reef are inscribed on the list. Some sites are endangered by threats such as overtourism and climate change.”

 

First men and original sins adam roberts.jpg“First Men and Original Sins” – Here is Adam Roberts at Image integrating reflections on the movie The First Man with thoughts on space travel, the sacred, the profane, and original sin. “Profane is an interesting word. Etymologically the word describes the ground outside—or, strictly, in front of (pro)—the temple (fanum). How do we understand the profanity, or otherwise, of space travel? Is earth the temple and outer space the outer (pro) fanum? Or could it be that the heavens are the temple, and it’s we who are stuck down here in a mundane, profane antechamber? Is the sense of wonder that attends space exploration fundamentally a religious impulse? Or is the achievement of Apollo a triumph of solidly non-spiritual science, engineering, technology, and materialism?”

 

90642“How J. P. Moreland Presented His Anxious Mind to God” – In an interview about his recent book, Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace, theologian and apologist J. P. Moreland opens up about the challenges of his own recovery from anxiety and depression.

 

Music: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Take Five,” from Time Out.

[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: 29 June 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.

lincoln_bible_-_front“A Bible Owned by Lincoln, Unknown to Historians for 150 Years, Goes on Display
Read”
– Via The Smithsonian: “Seven years after her husband was assassinated, Mary Todd Lincoln presented his friend and neighbor, the Reverend Noyes W. Miner, with a special gift: an 18-pound Bible, adorned with a hand-tooled leather cover and gilt-edged pages, that had once belonged to the president. The Bible remained in Noyes’ family, unbeknownst to historians, for 150 years. But the precious the artifact has now been gifted to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois, where it went on display for the first time this week.”

 

_107156925_ab_index_promo_976_v5-nc“The Arab world in seven charts: Are Arabs turning their backs on religion?” – From BBC News: “Arabs are increasingly saying they are no longer religious, according to the largest and most in-depth survey undertaken of the Middle East and North Africa. The finding is one of a number on how Arabs feel about a wide range of issues, from women’s rights and migration to security and sexuality. More than 25,000 people were interviewed for the survey – for BBC News Arabic by the Arab Barometer research network – across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories between late 2018 and spring 2019. Here are some of the results.”

 

hong kong christian hymn“With Hymns and Prayers, Christians Help Drive Hong Kong’s Protests” – “Christianity has had a striking influence in demonstrations against a proposed law that would allow extraditions to mainland China. A hymn called ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ has become an unofficial anthem of demonstrations against a proposed extradition law.”

 

refugee crisis“The Global Refugee Crisis Hit a Record High. The US Welcome for the Persecuted Is at a Record Low” – From Christianity Today: “In just a few years, the United States has gone from a world leader in refugee resettlement to only admitting a fraction as many as it once did—a shift that has allowed fewer persecuted Christians and other religious minorities into the country. On Thursday, World Refugee Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees declared a record-high 70.8 million people were displaced last year. Despite pleas from evangelicals, the Trump Administration continued to restrict the number of refugees admitted in the country to fewer than half of what it had been for decades.”

 

Congregation at church praying“Donations to ‘religion’ declined $2 billion in 2018 after years of growth: study” – “Giving to houses of worship, denominational bodies and religious television and radio declined in 2018 after years of growth as individual Americans donated about $3 billion less than they did in 2017 under a new federal tax code, according to a new study.  The Giving USA Foundation, an arm of the Giving Institute, released its 2019 annual report on philanthropy in the U.S. conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy on Tuesday. The study is the longest-running and most comprehensive report on charitable giving in the United States. It finds that total overall charitable giving in the country rose 0.7 percent to an even higher record level of nearly $428 billion actual dollars in 2018. But when inflation is accounted for, the study finds that total giving in 2018 declined by 1.7 percent from a record level in 2017.”

 

Thorncrown Chapel“9 Exceptional Works of Worship Architecture in the United States” – “Let’s get this out of the way: God-honoring worship can happen anywhere—a strip mall, a bowling alley, a rented high-school cafeteria, wherever. And the how—worshiping Jesus in spirit and in truth—is far more important than the where. But in 2,000 years, the global church has created some awesome architectural spaces that glorify God just by being. And in about a tenth of that time, the United States has produced a few as well.”

 

MusicBryce Dessner and André de Ridder, “Lachrimae,” from St. Carolyn by the Sea.

[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.]

Comprehensive Praise: some reflections on worship from Psalm 150

sunshine-dust-motesThe psalms are the prayerbook of the Bible, prayer-songs that were often used within the corporate and private worship of the people of Israel. They are also one of our strongest biblical resources for shaping our life of worship today within the Christian church. The entire psalter concludes with a summary psalm of worship, Psalm 150, and I would like to share some thoughts that leap out to me about worship from this psalm.

Worship is God-Centered
The beginning word of Psalm 150 is simple: Hallelujah, which means, “praise the Lord.” The theme and tone of this psalm, something which sums up the entire book of psalms, is God-directed praise. This word, hallelujah, sets our spiritual compass to true north in God. Here at the beginning of this psalm, yet at the end of the entire psalter, we remember that God is the center-point of attention for our worship and rooted anchor for our lives. An oft-repeated phrase about worship is: “its’ not about me.” Hallelujah is the personal and communal exclamation of that reality. When we conclude the final word in the psalms with an introductory word, “praise the Lord,” we are forced to remember that worship and life is not about me but about God.

The Intersection of the Mundane and the Holy
In the next verses of Psalm 150, we find location in worship within God’s sanctuary or tabernacle even as our imagination stretches up to the heavens or the firmament of the sky. The psalmist reminds us that worship simultaneously draws us near to God in a Read More »

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.

Read More »

The Weekend Wanderer: 22 December 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.

apocalypse“Why Apocalypse is Essential to Advent” – I am just concluding a long preaching series on the book of Daniel at Eastbrook Church entitled, “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith.” Moving through the entire book this Fall brought the apocalyptic visions of the second half of the book into alignment with the season of Advent. I have not had a better preparation for Advent than this in a long time. Because of all that, I really could not agree more with Fleming Rutledge in this excellent essay over at Christianity Today.

 

cherries“Grace” – Over at First Things you will find a beautiful, narrative reflection on grace and Advent by Patricia Snow. It begins: “On a hazy afternoon in late May 1986, I wait, as I wait every weekday afternoon in a parking lot in Branford, Connecticut, for my son to be dismissed from school. While I wait, I listen to Ceci, another mother new to the school, whose son is in my son’s class. She is telling me about her car.”

 

The head pastor of the Zion church in Beijing Jin Mingri poses for picures in the lobby of the unofficial Protestant "house" church in Beijing

“Detention of 100 Christians raises concerns about religious crackdown in China” – The intense pressure by the Chinese government continues to be felt by minorities of all types, and specifically upon individual Christians and church communities. This latest report, occurring last weekend, highlights the ways that President Xi is ratcheting up control to degrees that have not been experienced for quite some time. Religious freedom is a real issue in many parts of the world and Christians must be aware of the present challenges. One church in China is responding more vocally than normal to this challenging situation: “‘Faithful disobedience’: An influential house church in China responds to a wave of police detentions.”

 

Beth Moore“Max Lucado Reveals Past Sexual Abuse at Evangelical #MeToo Summit” – An important event took place last week in Wheaton, IL, related to the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements. “Today, [Beth] Moore joined major evangelical leaders—including Australian evangelist Christine Caine, bestselling author and San Antonio pastor Max Lucado, and Seattle pastor Eugene Cho—for a Billy Graham Center event called Reflections: A GC2 Summit on Responding to Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence. The event represents the largest inter-denominational response to sex abuse since #MeToo took off last fall.”

 

merlin_147632778_6dffd07c-9d53-48f3-b187-adaaca0217c5-superJumbo“Internet Church Isn’t Really Church” – In case you weren’t clear on what church is, Laura Turner writes to at least help you understand that online church isn’t really church. Of course, this is in part a response to Judah Smith’s launching of a church app for personal, online worship, but that is merely the latest iteration of something that has been happening for years now. Turner writes: “This, then, is the beauty of the church: not that it is perfect or convenient or fits easily into my life but that without it, my life would be deficient. I could still believe in God without the church, could celebrate Christmas without it, or go once a year. But I don’t believe I would truly be a Christian without the real, in-person, Sunday morning church.”

 

hillsong worship“Where next for contemporary worship music?” – Speaking of modern afflictions of church, here is Madeleine Davies’ exploration of the history of worship music and the challenges that it faces today. This is not a short read, which means that it is really worth reading. I would encourage you to take the time to read through this piece and reflect on what worship really means and how music is or is not a part of that.

 

Marsh-and-Fannie-300x225.jpg“Charles Marsh Delivers DuBose Lectures at Sewanee University” – At the end of November Dr. Charles Marsh, professor of religious studies and director of the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia, delivered the DuBose Lectures. His topics bring within their range some of my own greatest areas of interest: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his ‘religionless’ Christianity, civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so much more. I have not listened to the lectures in their entirety, but hope to do so soon.

 

Vitamin waterVitamin Water will pay you big bucks to give up your phone for a year – Armed with $100,000 offer and a lie detector test, Vitamin Water is reaching out to see if anyone could really go for an entire year without their smart phone. I’m tempted to go for this, but not sure I could complete all the requirements in the fine print since I preach from an iPad on weekends as a way to avoid using paper notes each weekend. Maybe you could do it!

[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.]