December 26, 2017

But This Gospel

Thy Kingdom come, here as in heav’n, we plead we pray.
But this gospel who can believe, and what to whom is now revealed?
I believe, Lord, my doubts assuage, help me today!

Many will come, rule in my name: esteemed of men, admired and crowned.
But lo a child, born in a barn: of no esteem, by men despised.
Thy Kingdom come, here as in heav’n, we plead we pray.

Nations shall rise, kingdoms shall war, doom and despair, death and the grave.
But he is called: the Prince of Peace—no war, no death, forevermore.
I believe, Lord, my doubts assuage, help me today!

Against this low, wannabe king, devils and men, they seethe and rage.
But God decrees: “No end shall be of his kingdom and of his rule.”
Thy Kingdom come, here as in heav’n, we plead we pray.

Yet injustice, with oppression, affliction too: this king they slew!
But by suff’ring—how can it be--he justified many, you, me.
I believe, Lord, my doubts assuage, help me today!

They say he lives, they say he rules, they say he comes, the Prince of Peace.
But this gospel who can believe, and what to whom is now revealed?
Thy Kingdom come, here as in heav’n, we plead we pray.
I believe, Lord, my doubts assuage, help me today!

December 17, 2017

An Advent Devotional: Put On Your Dancing Shoes!

Has God ever messed up your life? Mary, “a virgin engaged to be married to a man named Joseph” (Luke 1), had big plans. When, suddenly, the angel Gabriel showed up with big news: “Jesus is coming…in you!” And “Mary was greatly troubled,” for all the reasons you would be too: “Oh what a scandal!” “Joseph will surely leave me!” “Should I even keep the baby?” And she asked the angel a very good question: “But how is this possible, since I am a virgin?” After years of waiting and longing and hoping and preparing for the coming of Jesus, the good news (“gospel”) of his coming wasn’t such good news after all. Because it was suddenly personal, too personal. Because when God shows up, his plans are often very different from our plans.

He messed up Zechariah too. That’s the other birth announcement in Luke 1: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you are to name him John.” Like Mary, he too was greatly troubled. And, like Mary, he too asked a very good question: “But how is this possible, since we’re too old to bear children?” For which he was struck mute. Why? Because Scripture says he asked the question out of unbelief.

November 16, 2017

GPS: God's Positioning System

"Christian" does not mean one who merely prayed the sinner's prayer when they encountered Christ but one who continues to follow Christ every day. And that's not easy. Because he took the way less traveled. The Way of Christ is a narrow road and our nature-habit-default is to hop on the freeway instead (Matthew 7).

The only way I know to stay on the straight and narrow, to use a different metaphor, is to "eat the word of God" (Jeremiah 15) as part of my daily diet. For "man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

So the Bible is sort of like a Christian GPS. Because every day I get that voice navigation that is so radically course-altering that I have to decide once again whether or not I really want to continue down this Jesus path. I mean crazy-sounding stuff like this from today's readings:

"The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous are gracious and continue to give."--Psalm 37

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."--Luke 6

This Christian Way may be the death of me yet; and that just may be the point (Matthew 16)!

July 15, 2017

Let Us Pray!

Somebody asked me this week, "How is the prayer ministry going?" "What prayer ministry?" I gulped. Yes I had big plans. But the truth is I'd forgotten. But before that I'd given up. I'd been warned that nobody is really serious about prayer today. But I didn't believe it. I was wrong.
The primary calling of Benedictines is prayer. And I'm a professed Benedictine. Not because I'm good at prayer but because I'm bad at it. And, more importantly, because I believe in it. I'm absolutely convinced that prayer is the only hope for the mess that is America today and for the bigger mess that is the American church today.
Jesus said the church of God shall be known as a house of prayer for all people. At one time in our history that was true. And every revival in history was sparked by the fervent prayers of God's people for their neighbors at home and around the world. Even as a kid growing up--not that long ago--prayer meetings were the heart and soul of congregational life together. No longer. Tragically, the only place that's still true today is...your local mosque.
Most churches can't get three people together for a prayer meeting. (Though I did once manage to get half a dozen together for a prayer conference!) What about your church? Is it known in the community as a house of prayer for all people? What is it known for? What does it strive to be known for?
Seventeenth-century bishop Francis Turner was spot on: Morning and Evening Prayer together, every day of the week, if by any means in the world you can prevail with at least a few of your parishioners, is the best and most public good they can ever do in the places where they live, and the ministers should labour at it with as much application and zeal as the thing itself mightily deserves” (Martin Thornton, English Spirituality).
Let us pray!

July 12, 2017

Gen. 24: How Can I Find The Will Of God For My Life?

Are you lost on the road of life? You need a new GPS!

G Godly Goals
P Prayerful Planning
S Spiritual Submission

Please share this sermon with others who might need to hear it!

May 27, 2017

John 14: When God Breaks Your Heart

Where Jesus makes the most controversial statement in the history of humanity!

March 31, 2017

The Dismal State Of Church Education

Just airing a grievance here. And I come at this from two perspectives: biblical theology (the study of God and his revelation) and pedagogy-andragogy (the art and science of learning).

At one time I was a serious student of the Proverbs. (I’d love to teach through the Proverbs if the Lord ever provides an opportunity.) And I have two sermons online from the Proverbs, which provide background and context for the point I want to make here:

Educating Ourselves To Death
Living Wise Among The Foolish

The Proverbs teach us Simpletons that there are two highways through life—and many crossroads between. The Broad Road leads progressively through Sin, Scoffing, and Folly, before reaching its final destination, Destruction. The Narrow Road leads progressively through Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom, before reaching its final destination, Salvation.

This pattern of growth from knowledge to understanding to wisdom is found everywhere: purgation, illumination, union; grammar, logic, rhetoric; apprentice, journeyman, master; shu ha ri; etc.

From the world of pedagogy-andragogy we know that people learn in many different ways, and that these ways vary not only by age but by stage of learning. (So, yes, this gets complicated.) Without getting into details here, suffice it to say the least effective method of education is simple lecture, or sermonizing, unless the Holy Spirit sets it ablaze. Just consider how Christ discipled—more of a Montessori approach—vs. how churches disciple today. And that difference is a significant part of our problem!

How much of all of this do church educators, disciplers, and catechists seem to know? You guessed it: nearly nothing. And the worst of it is that nobody is talking about it. Go ahead and Google it; you’ll come up with nothing. The only thing I can find is a reference to an unpublished doctoral dissertation on the topic by a PCA pastor, David Wallover, in Ohio. I contacted him and he says they’re working on this at their church and we may see a book someday; drop him a line of encouragement 😊 Maybe there are, in fact, other churches and ministries out there working on this too—a couple that come to mind are Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the CS Lewis Institute.

Maybe I should be developing discipleship curricula instead of management training curricula?