Recommended Reading: June 16

If you read one article this weekend, look at No Victory for Religious Liberty by Darel Paul.

If you have more reading time, check out the following selections gathered from around the blogging world. Happy reading! Continue reading

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The Worrier’s Prayer

I came across this prayer several weeks back, and while the emphasis is clearly humorous, don’t miss the larger point: how often do we pray in these ways to our Lord?


Dear Lord,

Help me to relax about insignificant details, beginning tomorrow at 7:41:23 a.m. EST.

Help me to consider people’s feelings, even if most of them are hypersensitive.

Help me to take responsibility for the consequences of my actions, even though they’re usually not my fault.

Help me to not try to run everything – but, if you need some help, please feel free to ask me.

Help me to be more laid back, and help me to do it exactly right.

Help me to take things more seriously, especially laughter, parties, and dancing.

Give me patience, and I mean right now!

Help me not be a perfectionist. (Did I spell that correctly?)

Help me to finish everything I sta…

Help me to keep my mind on one thing … oh, look, a bird … at a time.

Help me to do only what I can, and trust you for the rest. And would you mind putting that in writing?

Keep me open to others’ ideas, misguided though they may be.

Help me follow established procedures. Hey, wait … this is wrong …

Help me slow down andnotrushthroughwhatido.

Thank you, Lord.

Amen

The Non-Denominational Reformation

Every 500 years or so in the history of the Christian church, a significant restructuring seems to take place.

Around the year 500, a church council at Chalcedon published what most of Christendom calls the clearest explanation of orthodox Christology: Christ is one person with two natures. However, large swaths of Christians—the Oriental Orthodox (such as the Coptic, Syrian, and Ethiopian churches) and the Church of the East—found the Chalcedon Definition lacking. And so the first major division in Christianity occurred.

About 500 years later, a hot-headed Bishop of Rome (or at least his hot-headed legates) and an angry Bishop of Constantinople mutually excommunicated each other,1 leading to nearly 1000 years of division between the western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Some 500 years after that, a tempermental Augustinian monk in Germany posted some theses for academic disputation that started a firestorm of theological controversy, reformation, and church divisions—resulting in the proliferation of thousands of Protestant denominations.2

Historically Speaking

Now, the historian in me is obligated to note that using a clean, round number (500 years) to delineate these dates is somewhat artificial. There’s nothing inherently special about the passage of 500 years that leads Christians to say to one another, “I don’t like how you do church anymore.” But humans enjoy describing the past in easy-to-remember terms that serve as useful baselines for historical knowledge, whether or not they encompass the totality of historical truth (476, 1492, or July 4th, anyone?). Even so, given Christianity’s track record so far, you might expect another monumental moment to occur any year now, since it’s been about 500 years since the last major shakeup in Christendom.

The argument I wish to make in this article, is that we’ve already begun to see the next great restructuring of Christianity: the rise of non-denominational Christianity. Continue reading

Mourning with Those Who Mourn

In what may be his most practical stretches of writing, Paul admonished the Roman church to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” in Romans 12:15.1

Modern Christians, as a whole, do a pretty good job with the first part of this verse. In just the past year I’ve celebrated birthdays, marriages, weddings, births, anniversaries, job promotions, home purchases, sports victories, and a whole host of other events with my Christian sisters and brothers. It’s pretty easy to rejoice with those who are happy, and the Church generally does a good job with celebrating the joys of life.

But what about the second part of Paul’s exhortation, to “mourn with those who mourn?” Continue reading

Recommended Reading: May 12

If you read one article this week, engage Evangelical Gnosticism by Abigail Rine Favale

For those of you with additional reading time this fine Spring day, check out the following selections, gathered from around the interwebs. Happy reading!

Theology and Churchworld

Lessons from the Worst Sermon I Ever Heard by Mike McKinley

Pope Francis, Nondenominationalist? by John Ehrett

Southern Baptist Women Launch Petition Against Paige Patterson by Kate Shellnutt

Miracles and Modernity by Benjamin Winter

Biblical Studies and the History of Christianity

April Biblical Studies Carnival by Ruben Rus

Gospels and Names by Larry Hurtado

Does Genesis Make Claims about History? by RJS

How Present Technology Changes Our View of Past Technology by Peter Gurry

Worldviews and Culture

“Avoidance Is Not Purity”: An Ode to the Pence Rule by Eric Hutchinson

Should Abused Women (or Men) Stay with Their Spouses? by Roger Olson

The Myth of Disenchantment by Peter Leithart

Empty Hands by Johanna Byrkett

Should I Hide When Mormons Come Knocking?

One of the great privileges of serving in the local church is the opportunity to hear intriguing questions from congregants. A couple of weeks ago, I had such an experience after talking about evangelism. The topic of door-to-door Mormon missionaries  came up, and eventually our conversation turned to how to interact with non-Christian missionaries—and if they should be shown any sort of hospitality at all. One participant in the conversation mentioned that they do not allow non-Christian missionaries into their home on the basis on 2 John 10-11, which says:

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” 2 John 10-11 (ESV)

I’ve always made it a point to be frank with door-to-door people of any sort. If I have time or you sound interesting, I’ll listen; if I’m busy or unlikely to be interested, I’ll quickly let you know. When it comes to non-Christian missionaries (people such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses), I’ve been known to chat for a moment or two, even occasionally inviting them to step onto my porch for a few minutes. In light of this information from 2 John, I wondered if I had been unknowingly violating a scriptural teaching. Continue reading

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.” He has blessed me with gifts beyond measure with many good things that I do not deserve.

For my wife and daughter—brings or joys, lights of life—thank you Lord!

For my family and friends—those you’ve placed in my life to guide, grow, and come alongside me—thank you Lord!

For my work and school—for the opportunity to learn and love you with my mind and hands, to contribute to your purposes in the world—thank you Lord!

For your Church—your communion of saints through space and time who have been faithful witnesses and for the local body of the faithful you have blessed me with—thank you Lord!

For opportunities for growth and maturity—those situations and events that force me to rely ever more fully on you—thank you Lord!

For all of your blessings and good gifts—especially the gift of your Son, whom you did not spare but offered up as a perfect sacrifice and through whom you offer forgiveness, life, and the restoration of all things—thank you Lord!

Amen.

Sermon-less Church: A Thought Experiment

“If you took away the sermon from your worship service, what sort of theology could you construct from what remains?”

Sometime back, a Facebook friend shared this quote from Pastor Mark Jones and it got me thinking. What would a sermon-less church service look like? What messages and theology would it convey? Would we attend? Just how central is the sermon to Christian worship? Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer Rewritten

Papa God,

Your reign above all of creation, you are beyond our capacity to approach.

Let your power and reign come into our world, into our lives; let you plan and desire become our plans and desires; let our world become good, true, and beautiful like your paradise.

Bless us beyond our wildest imagination, Papa God; give us all that we need and more.

Hold not our wrongs against us; don’t punish us where we go astray, but empower us to live out your mercy, love, compassion, and forgiveness in every aspect of our lives.

Papa God, protect and preserve us—save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil; let evil and wickedness have no place or power in our lives.

For yours, Papa God, are all good things—all power, all goodness, all praise, all majesty, all glory, and all beauty—your truly are all these things, now and forevermore.

Let it be so.