Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Music - Joyful, Joyful

Joyful, joyful, we adore you,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before you --
Hail you as the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.

All your works with joy surround you,
Earth and heaven reflect your rays,
Stars and angels sing around you --
Center of unbroken praise.

Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flowering meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Joyful, joyful we adore you. Joyful!
Joyful, joyful we adore you. Joyful!

"Joyful, Joyful" words by Hen­ry J. van Dyke (1907), music by Dave Burkum, from the Breathe a Little Deeper CD, © Copyright 2002 by Dave Burkum.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Teach Us Your Ways

O God, we give you thanks for our Lord and Savior Jesus, your only Son, who you have have exalted and given a name above all names. Help us to walk in his ways, to honor him as Lord, and to live in the grace and purpose of his Kingdom. Strengthen and comfort us by your Holy Spirit, and teach us to walk in your ways to the glory of your name.

We confess our sins and we thank you for your faithfulness to forgive us and purify us. And as your grateful children, teach us and help us to be faithful to forgive others. May the resurrection power and grace of Jesus help us restore relationships, heal wounds, calm fears, forgive offenses, and resolve strife.

Show us your ways, O Lord. Teach us your paths. Guide us in your truth. Give us the humility and wisdom to live for you and to follow you. Help us to love you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Favorites - Vacation

In just a couple of days, my wife and I will be taking a couple weeks for some much-needed vacation time. I decided that a true vacation should include a break from blogging, so I've preloaded a series of reposts for the first two weeks of July (you probably won't even notice).

"So," you ask, "What will we be doing during our vacation?"

Well, mostly just taking it easy. Some of the time we'll just be hanging around home, but we are going to hit the road for a few enjoyable days along Lake Superior – one of our favorite places to be. Here are a couple of the places we're looking forward to visiting.

Island View Resort

Siskiwit Bay Lodge

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Interpretive Epiphanies

Earlier this week, I had a great conversation over lunch with a friend from church. He posed a lot of thoughtful questions about just what the Bible is and how we should read it. These kind of discussions are more than interesting, they are of critical importance to people like my friend and I who believe scripture to be inspired and useful.

With impeccable timing, Peter Enns has started what promises to be a fascinating series of posts from evangelical Bible scholars who had "Aha Moments" which forced them to think differently about the Bible than they had previously. The first installment is by Enns and it is very interesting.  I'll get you started and then provide a link for you to keep reading.

From the Peter Enns Blog

Following on my last post, here is the first installment of a series–biblical scholars from evangelical backgrounds telling their stories about their “aha” moments that convinced them they needed to find different ways of handling the Bible than how they had been taught.
In the last day I’ve already gotten 10 scholars who want to participate and I expect more to come. My plan is to post their thoughts as they come in rather than all right after the other.
The purpose of this series, more than anything, is to encourage followers of Jesus who are on similar journeys–those who are finding that how they were taught to think about the Bible does not have adequate explanatory power for engaging the Bible as they now read it. You’re not alone. And it’s all good.

OK, I’ll go first.

Like most of those who will contribute to this series, there wasn’t just “one” moment that moved me from one place to another. It was more a culmination of many moments over many years–some feeling like a 2×4 over the head and others more a whisper.

Overall, as I continued to pay more and more attention to the details of the Bible, it became harder and harder to shake the feeling that Bible wasn’t behaving as I had always been told it most certainly does–needs to–behave.

What drove this home to me–one of these culminating “aha” moments– happened during my doctoral work and centered on just one verse: 1 Corinthians 10:4...


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wednesday Words - In Trackless Woods

In trackless woods, it puzzled me to find
Four great rock maples seemingly aligned,
As if they had been set out in a row
Before some house a century ago,
To edge the property and lend some shade.
I looked to see if ancient wheels had made
Old ruts to which the trees ran parallel,
But there were none, so far as I could tell—
There'd been no roadway. Nor could I find the square
Depression of a cellar anywhere,
And so I tramped on further, to survey
Amazing patterns in a hornbeam spray
Or spirals in a pine cone, under trees
Not subject to our stiff geometries.

"In Trackless Woods" by Richard Wilbur, from Collected Poems, 1943-2004. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday Tomes - Currently Reading

Surprised by Scripture
by N. T. Wright

From the Publisher's Description:
An unusual combination of scholar, churchman, and leader, N. T. Wright—hailed by Newsweek as “the world’s leading New Testament scholar”—is not only incredibly insightful, but conveys his knowledge in terms that excite and inspire Christian leaders worldwide, allowing them to see the Bible from a fresh viewpoint. In this challenging and stimulating collection of popular essays, sermons, and talks, Wright provide a series of case studies which explore how the Bible can be applied to some of the most pressing contemporary issues facing us... 
...Surprised by Scripture invites readers to examine their own hearts and minds and presents new models for understanding how to affirm the Bible in today’s world—as well as new ideas and renewed energy for deepening our faith and engaging with the world around us.
Need to Know
by John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
From the Publisher's Description:
A bold new statement of Christian epistemology, Need to Know presents a comprehensive, coherent, and clear model of responsible Christian thinking. Grounded in the best of the Christian theological tradition while being attentive to a surprising range of thinkers in the history of philosophy, natural science, social science, and culture, the book offers a scheme for drawing together experience, tradition, scholarship, art, and the Bible into a practical yet theoretically profound system of thinking about thinking.

John Stackhouse's fundamental idea is as simple as it is startling: Since God calls human beings to do certain things in the world, God can be relied upon to supply the knowledge necessary for human beings to do those things. The classic Christian concept of vocation, then, supplies both the impetus and the assurance that faithful Christians can trust God to guide their thinking--on a "need to know" basis. 

A Letter to My Congregation
by Ken Wilson

From the Publisher's Description:
“This is a remarkable and timely book,” writes Tanya Luhrmann, an author about contemporary religious life and the Watkins University Professor in the Stanford Anthropology Department. “It is clear to an observer like me that evangelical Christianity is at a crossroad. ... That problem is the broad and widening gap between evangelical Christianity and its young. … The book you hold is a passionate and courageous argument. Many people will not like it. But they should read it and weigh whether it is true, because more hangs on the argument than the fate of gay marriage within evangelical Christianity. At its heart, this book asks Christians to rethink what God and scripture may be saying about what it means to be a good and decent person. The answer to that question will shape what the church becomes in twenty years.”

Renovation of the Heart
by Dallas Willard

From the Publisher's Description:
Renovation of the Heart lays a biblical foundation for understanding what best-selling author Dallas Willard calls the “transformation of the spirit”—a divine process that “brings every element in our being, working from inside out, into harmony with the will of God.”

This fresh approach to spiritual growth explains the biblical reasons why Christians need to undergo change in six aspects of life: thought, feeling, will, body, social context, and soul. Willard also outlines a general pattern of transformation in each area, not as a sterile formula, but as a practical process that you can follow without the guilt or perfectionism so many Christians wrestle with.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Music - Putting First the Things that Last

I’m putting first the things that last– 
I’m putting first the things that last–
I’m putting first the things that last–
I’m putting first the things that last.

Do not store up treasures on earth
Where rust and moth destroy;
Instead make purses that will not wear out–
For where your treasure is
Your heart will also be.

I’m putting first the things that last–

I’m putting first the things that last–
I’m putting first the things that last–
I’m putting first the things that last.

Don’t be afraid, the Father is pleased
To give you His kingdom.
Sell your possessions and give to the poor--
For where your treasure is
Your heart will also be.

I’m putting first the things that last–
I’m putting first the things that last–
I’m putting first the things that last–
I’m putting first the things that last.

"Putting First the Things that Last" by Dave Burkum from This Is the Testimony, © Copyright 2005 by Dave Burkum. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Strengthen Our Hearts

O God, we acknowledge that every good thing comes from you. Fill us with good thoughts and a love for the things that are right and good. Lead us and strengthen us to do those good things you have in mind for us to do.

Each of us has our own struggle to be obedient to you, O God. Help us all to remember that everyone around us has similar struggles. When others sin against us, make us as charitable toward them as you are to us. Help us all to find our way back to you. When any one of us is sinned against, give us understanding and forgiving hearts. Make us willing to forgive because you have forgiven us.

Dear Lord, when we become downcast, strengthen our hearts to hope in you. Give us faith to trust in you and to praise you all our days. Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us by your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Favorites - Fishing with Friends

Always enjoy getting away for a few days of fishing with some good friends from church. Lots of good conversation, good rest, good food, and usually really good luck with the fish. Here's where I am today!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thursday Thinking - About Thinking Critically

Today I point you to a thought-provoking article published in this month's issue of Books and Culture.

How is it that we arrive at feelings of certainty? How do we determine when something is worth believing or not? And are humility and doubt related to faith? The article, adapted from Stackhouse's new book, Need to Know, reflects on these questions with helpful insight. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite:

Excerpts from Certainly? Not! (Books & Culture, June 2014) by John G. Stackhouse, Jr.––
Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman sums up much of his career in his popular book Thinking, Fast and Slow. He suggests that we typically respond to the world in something very like a reflexive mode: apprehending, comprehending, and responding to what we encounter with as little intellectual effort as possible. We therefore "process" the world, so to speak, along well-worn intellectual pathways, habits of apprehension, comprehension, and response (Kahneman uses the term "heuristics") that have served us well in the past and require little effort to traverse again.
- - - 
Now, to be sure, one man's laziness might seem to be just another man's efficiency. But Kahneman insists, "Anything that makes it easier for the associative machine to run smoothly will also bias beliefs. A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. Authoritarian institutions and marketers have always known this fact." Of course we must become thoroughly familiar with something in order to understand, assess, and respond to it properly. But Kahneman's point is different: mere familiarity feels like authenticity. What "keeps showing up" in our experience we tend to read as reality, even if in fact what keeps showing up is a function of our own choices (e.g., our choice of news media) or the choices of others seeking to direct us. Indeed, Kahneman's large book bristles with warnings about how we can be nudged or even bamboozled into errors in all sorts of ways by those who capitalize on our habits and particularly our penchant for the easy thought—or, even more basically, the vague feeling—over the deliberate, demanding consideration.

Indeed, as Kahneman cautions, "confidence is a feeling which reflects [what appears to us to be] the coherence of the information and the cognitive ease of processing it." Confidence, that is, does not emerge from true mastery of all the relevant data and laborious, skillful effort to interpret it any more than it emerges from a superficial glance at the file and a breezy hop to a conventional conclusion. Confidence itself, as we all know if we just think about it, says nothing at all about the actual quality of the thing or concept about which someone, even oneself, is confident.
- - - 
The Bible gives us infallible truth, doesn't it? I believe it does. But I don't believe that I interpret it infallibly. In fact, I don't believe that anyone does—do you?

What about the Holy Spirit, then? Again, the indwelling of every believer by the Holy Spirit is a precious truth, but I don't see his presence guaranteeing that every Christian will score 100% on every math test—or on/in any other test, either.

We walk by faith, not by sight (II Cor. 5:7), perhaps more profoundly than we knew. We walk, trusting our senses, trusting our memories, trusting our worldviews, and—in the face of all this doubt about all these good, but fallible, gifts of God—trusting God.
- - - 
Let' humble enough to realize how little we know, how little we know about the accuracy and completeness of what we think we know, and how much we have to trust God to guide, correct, and increase what we know according to his good purposes.

John Stackhouse is the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver. This article is adapted from his new book Need to Know: Vocation as the Heart of Christian Epistemology (Oxford Univ. Press).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wednesday Words - In the Middle of the Road

In the middle of the road there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
there was a stone
in the middle of the road there was a stone.

Never should I forget this event
in the life of my fatigued retinas.
never should I forget that in the middle of the road
there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
in the middle of the road there was a stone.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 
This poem is like a joke and we are inclined, first, to smile, yet a moment of thought suffices to restore a serious meaning to such an encounter. It is enough to live truly intensely our meeting with a thing to preserve it forever in our memory.  
–– Czeslaw Milosz

“In the Middle of the Road” by Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987), translated from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Bishop, from A Book of Luminous Things (ed. Czeslaw Milosz), © Copyright 1996 by Czeslaw Milosz.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday Tome - A Book of Luminous Things

I've started my way through a new anthology of poetry compiled and edited by Czeslaw Milosz. The collection is titled, A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry. Today I share two paragraphs from the Milosz' introduction that especially resonated with me. I'll likely be sharing a number of poems from this book in upcoming posts for Wednesday Words.

My intention is not so much to defend poetry in general, but, rather, to remind readers that for some very good reasons it may be of importance today. These reasons have to do with our troubles in the present phase of our civilization.

It has happened that we have been afflicted with a basic deprivation, to such an extent that we seem to be missing some vital organs, even as we try to survive somehow. Theology, science, philosophy, though they attempt to provide cures, are not very effective "in that dark world where gods have lost their way" (Roethke). They are able at best to confirm that our affliction is not invented. I have written elsewhere of the deprivation as one of the consequences brought about by science and technology that pollutes not only the natural environment but also the human imagination. The world deprived of clear-cut outlines, of the up and down, of good and evil, succumbs to a peculiar nihilization, that is, it loses its colors, so that grayness covers not only things of this earth and of space, but also the very flow of time, its minutes, days, and years. Abstract considerations will be of little help, even if they are intended to bring relief. Poetry is quite different. By its very nature it says: All those theories are untrue. Since poetry deals with the singular, not the general, it cannot––if it is good poetry––look at things of this earth other than as colorful, variegated, and exciting, and so, it cannot reduce life, with all its pain, horror, suffering, and ecstasy, to a unified tonality of boredom or complaint. By necessity poetry is therefore on the side of being and against nothingness.

Publisher's Description:
"A collection of 300 poems from writers around the world, selected and edited by Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz
Czesław Miłosz's A Book of Luminous Things—his personal selection of poems from the past and present—is a testament to the stunning varieties of human experience, offered up so that we may see the myriad ways that experience can be shared in words and images. Miłosz provides a preface to each of these poems, divided into thematic (and often beguiling) sections, such as “Travel,” “History,” and “The Secret of a Thing,” that make the reading as instructional as it is inspirational and remind us how powerfully poetry can touch our minds and hearts. "

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Music - Things Above

Since you have been raised with Christ,
Set your hearts on things above
Where Christ is seated
At the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things above–
Not on earthly things–
For you died
And your life
Is now hidden with Christ in God.

Set your mind on things above.

"Things Above" by Dave Burkum from "This Is the Testimony," © 2005 by Dave Burkum, lyrics adapted from Colossians 3:1-3. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN OR BUY

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Things that Are True

O God, you are a faithful provider and you give order and purpose to our lives. We ask you to help us put aside all the things that are hurtful. Help us to seek the things that are true and uplifting and healing and beautiful.

Father, forgive us our sins, and help us, in gratitude to you, to forgive those who sin against us. We recognize that our hearts are so prone to pride and unforgiveness. It is hard for us to confess our sins, even to you. Help us to see clearly how we so often offend you. And help each of us to have the humility to pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Give us eyes to see the good things you have prepared in advance for us to do, O Lord. Give us hearts that delight in your will, feet that walk in your ways, and spirits that longs to honor you in all we do. Help us to wake up and get honest about any disobedience, apathy, or distractions that are keeping us from faithfulness to you.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.