Tuesday, May 05, 2015

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Tuesday Tome - Revolution of Character

I have gained so much from Dallas Willard's writing and teaching. His books, The Divine Conspiracy and Renovation of the Heart, are two of the most helpful and practical spiritual formation books I've ever read. I've recommended these books to many people at church, but many, sadly, tell me they have found them a little too difficult get through. Fortunately, there is another helpful resource that can help bridge the gap.

Don Simpson has done us all a favor by distilling the main ideas from Renovation of the Heart into a the little book Revolution of Character. While Renovation is not really all that difficult to read, there is no doubt that Revolution will be much more accessible for the average church goer. It's one I will be recommending often.

From the back cover...
Heart, mind, body, social life, and soul. God is ready to transform every aspect of your life. Perhaps your spiritual life is not all you want it to be. Your sporadic successes, plateaus, and dry spells only lead to more frustration. Spiritual master Dallas Willard believes the main reason we fail in our spiritual life is that we don't examine carefully the roles played by all five elements of our person: heart, mind, body, social life, and soul.

Real change comes when we give each element thoughtful and prayerful exposure to God's transforming work. In Revolution of Character, Dr. Willard enables you to dwell meditatively on each of the five elements, understand its role, train it in new patterns, and seek God's transforming power. This powerful, holistic approach will produce new ways of responding to life and will result in profoundly changed character.

Table of Contents:
• A revolution has begun
• The heart, center of our life
• A magnificent ruin
• Restoration of the soul
• Christ's pattern for spiritual transformation
• The battle for our thought life
• Educating our feelings
• Transforming our character
• The body, our primary ally in christlikeness
• Changing how we relate to others
• Transforming the soul
• Being the light of the world.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Monday Music - Good Medicine

As many readers may know already, my dad has been very sick for the last six weeks. He's dealing with an aggressive cancer in his bones and has been pretty miserable.

It was great to be able to visit my Dad last week and to have all three of my boys there with me. They did a little concert right there in Dad's room.

We sang a few gospel hymns and a few fun songs the boys sing when they're in concert. It really cheered him up. Dad said it was the best medicine anybody could give.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Your Presence and Work

O God, open the eyes of our heart. Give us the faith to recognize you and to join you in your redeeming and healing work in our world.

We humbly recognize our need for forgiveness and restoration. In our weakness and selfishness, we often fail each other, fail ourselves, and fail you.  Thank you for the hope and power we have through Christ.  Raise us and transform us by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

Forgive us our sins, and make us ready and able and quick to forgive others, even as you forgive us.

Help us, O God, to delight in your will, and to walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Open our eyes to your presence and work in our lives.

Give us the faith to see the possibilities and purposes you have for us at our work, in our homes, with our families, and with our neighbors, and in our church.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Friday Favorites - Before this World

James Taylor has a new recording coming out this summer and I'm looking forward to hearing it. I've been a fan for a long time, and "Walking Man" (1974) is still one of my favorite records of all time. Hope this new album has some new JT goodness as good as his early stuff. What follows is from Rolling Stone Magazine...
James Taylor's Mellow Rebirth: Inside 'Before This World'
The songwriter emerges from a songwriting break with first all-new album since 2002
By Andy Greene March 27, 2015

The last time James Taylor released an album of new material, Tower Records was a multi-million-dollar business, Tobey Maguire was the brand-new Spider-Man, and the Iraq War had yet to begin. "I got out of the habit of writing songs for about 10 years," says the singer-songwriter, 67. "I just never prioritized it."

That changed for Before This World (due out June 16th), Taylor's first all-new LP since 2002's October Road. About two years ago, concerned that he might never release another album of new songs, he decided he needed to cut himself off from his everyday life...


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thursday Thinking - The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation

Here's a thoughtful short from a local filmmaker documenting the struggle for Christians to understand and value racial reconciliation. Good stuff!

THE LAST PRAYER / story from Chitwood Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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Wednesday Words - Foreseeing

Middle age refers more
to landscape than to time:
it's as if you'd reached

the top of a hill
and could see all the way
to the end of your life,

so you know without a doubt
that it has an end—
not that it will have,

but that it does have,
if only in outline—
so for the first time

you can see your life whole,
beginning and end not far
from where you stand,

the horizon in the distance—
the view makes you weep,
but it also has the beauty

of symmetry, like the earth
seen from space: you can't help
but admire it from afar,

especially now, while it's simple
to re-enter whenever you choose,
lying down in your life,

waking up to it
just as you always have—
except that the details resonate

by virtue of being contained,
as your own words
coming back to you

define the landscape,
remind you that it won't go on
like this forever.

"Foreseeing" by Sharon Bryan, from Flying Blind. © Sarabande Books, 1996.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday Tome - Being Christian

This little book is so accessible and yet so deep. While a theologian, Rowan Williams writes with a pastor's heart and in a style of writing that is as lovely to read as it is easy to understand. I will be recommending this book often and giving copies to new and renewing Christians.

There are four chapters in the book: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, and Prayer. I'll share a short quotation from each.

On Baptism:
"Baptism is a ceremony in which we are washed, cleansed and re-created. It is also a ceremony in which we are pushed into the middle of a human situation that may hurt us, and that will not leave us untouched or unsullied. And the gathering of the baptized people is therefore not a convocation of those who are privileged, elite and separate, but of those who have accepted what it means to be in the heart of a needy, contaminated, messy world. To put it another way, you don't go down into the waters of the Jordan without stirring up a great deal of mud!" (p. 6)

On Bible:
"As Christians read the Bible, the story converges on Jesus. The full meaning of what has gone before is laid bare in Jesus. The agenda for what follows is set in Jesus...

"Here in the story of Jesus, is the story in which we see what an unequivocal obedience and love look like. Here is the story where we see a response to God so full of integrity, so whole, that it reflects perfectly the act of God that draws it out. Here is the story in which the speaking of God and the responding of human beings are bound together inseparably. And so if the whole Bible is about the speaking of God and the responding of human beings, then of course it is by looking at the story of Jesus, the luminous centre, that we discover how to read the rest of it. Jesus, living, dying, raised from the dead, breathing his Spirit on his Church – it is in his light that you read the rest of the Bible." (pp. 34, 35)

On Eucharist:
"So as we give thanks over bread and wine in the presence of the Lord we are – with him and in him – seeking to make that connection between the world and God, between human experience and the divine and eternal Giver. And that means that we begin to look differently at the world around us. If in every corner of experience God the Giver is still at work, then in every object we see and handle, in every situation we encounter, God the Giver is present and our reaction is shaped by this." (p. 49)

On Prayer:
"It seems that all Christian reflection, all theology worth the name, began as people realized that because of Jesus Christ they could talk to God in a different way. It was the new experience of Christian prayer that got people thinking, 'If Jesus somehow makes it possible for us to talk to God in a new way, then surely there are things we ought to be saying and believing about Jesus.' And so the great exploratory business of theology began to unfold.

"That newness of prayer is expressed most vividly by St. Paul in Romans 8 and Galatians 4. 'God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father"' (Galatians 4.6). The new way we talk to God is as Father, and that is the work of the Spirit of Jesus. And of course it is the prayer recorded of Jesus himself, the night before his death (Mark 14.36). So, for the Christian, to pray – before all else – is to let Jesus' prayer happen in you. And the prayer that Jesus himself taught his disciples expresses this very clearly: 'Our Father.' We begin by expressing the confidence that we stand where Jesus stands and we can say what Jesus says." (pp. 61-62)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Music - I Press On

I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

I press on through thick & thin
I press on every day
I press on through the lose & win
For I know He's the Way

I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

"I Press On" by Dave Burkum (based on Philippians 3:12), from Fireside: Worship & Scripture Songs, © Copyright 2006 by Dave Burkum.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Make Our Lives a Witness

Almighty and everlasting God, we give you thanks for the hope and reconciliation you have given us through Christ. Help us to live in the resurrection power of your Spirit. Make our lives a witness to the faith we profess.

We confess our sins and weaknesses, Lord. We repent of the ways we have disobeyed and turned from you. Forgive us and help us to turn away from wrong.  Transform us and give us the faith to press toward life, healing, restoration, holiness, and good deeds. 

You are so gracious to us, and we ask you to make us able and quick to be gracious toward others.

Thank you, O God, for sending your son into the world to save us. We worship Christ Jesus because he is worthy, for he has redeemed, by his blood, people from every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation.

It’s in his saving name we pray. Amen.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Favorites - Wolf Hall

From the PBS Website...
A historical drama for a modern audience, Wolf Hall tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, played by Mark Rylance—a blacksmith’s son who rises from the ashes of personal disaster, and deftly picks his way through a court where ‘man is wolf to man.’ Damian Lewis (Homeland) is King Henry VIII, haunted by his brother’s premature death and obsessed with protecting the Tudor dynasty by securing his succession with a male heir to the throne. The cast also includes Claire Foy (Little Dorrit) as the future queen Anne Boleyn.

Told from Cromwell’s perspective, Wolf Hall follows the complex machinations and back room dealings of this accomplished power broker who must serve king and country while dealing with deadly political intrigue, Henry VIII’s tempestuous relationship with Anne Boleyn, and the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation.

The miniseries is adapted from Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Booker Prize-winning novels: Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies.