Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Supplication - To Think, Speak, and Act

Almighty God, we know that without your grace we are powerless to help ourselves. We ask you to help us in heart, mind, and body as we seek to be your people. Save us from all those things threaten and tempt us in our bodies, and from all evil thoughts that hurt us in mind and spirit.

Forgive us our sins. Help us die to ourselves and live through you. Make us willing and able to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Help us to think, speak, and act in ways that restore lives, nurture relationships, create peace, and bring honor to you.

Thank you, O God, for salvation and life through Christ. Help us to surrender fully to you and to follow Jesus with whole hearts. Help us to know Jesus––to love him, to understand him, to honor him, and to draw near to him––so that our lives are completely shaped and guided by him.

It’s in His Saving Name that we pray these things. Amen.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thursday Thinking - False Doctrine: Perfectionism

An errant doctrine has surfaced in some pastoral conversations in recent months. This false teaching is most often referred to as “Sinless Perfectionism.” Maybe you've heard about it too. If so, I'd like to give you a resource to help you think it through from a perspective that is biblically sound.

The most pastoral and straightforward refutation of "Sinless Perfectionism" I have been able to find is from pastor and author Randy Alcorn. I'm thankful for the thorough and thoughtful video posted HERE on the Eternal Perspectives website.

An excerpt from the transcript...
Can a believer sin? Yes. Should a believer sin? No. Has God given us in Christ the resources so that we can turn from sin and live a life that is righteous and holy before Him? Absolutely, yes! We are new creations in Christ, and as we see in Titus 2, the grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says we face no temptation or trial that does not offer an escape for the fully yielded Christian.

We should never be content with our sin or excuse ourselves from it. Rather, we should be quick to recognize our sin, so that we can confess it and keep it from entangling us.  There is no more certain way to be entangled by sin than to keep telling yourself what you’re doing really isn’t sin at all.

My concern for people who truly believe in sinless perfectionism, is not simply that they’re kidding themselves. It’s something worse—what are they going to do about the sin in their lives they don’t see? They are going to end up redefining sin, denying sin, justifying their sin, and playing dangerous games by calling their sins by different and less serious names.

To call their sins mere mistakes is to minimize their sins, and to keep them from obeying the commands to confess their sins to one another and to God. Where is the humility in that? Ironically, the mother of all sins is the sin of pride. What could more effectively instill a sense of pride than to believe we are incapable of sinning? To admit we are dead wrong is an act of humility we should practice regularly. But this can’t be done by someone whose theology tells them they cannot sin.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday Words - Late February

The first warm day,  
and by mid-afternoon  
the snow is no more  
than a washing
strewn over the yards,
the bedding rolled in knots  
and leaking water,  
the white shirts lying  
under the evergreens.  
Through the heaviest drifts  
rise autumn’s fallen  
bicycles, small carnivals  
of paint and chrome,  
the Octopus
and Tilt-A-Whirl  
beginning to turn
in the sun. Now children,  
stiffened by winter  
and dressed, somehow,  
like old men, mutter  
and bend to the work  
of building dams.
But such a spring is brief;  
by five o’clock
the chill of sundown,  
darkness, the blue TVs  
flashing like storms
in the picture windows,  
the yards gone gray,  
the wet dogs barking  
at nothing. Far off  
across the cornfields
staked for streets and sewers,  
the body of a farmer  
missing since fall
will show up
in his garden tomorrow,  
as unexpected
as a tulip.

“Late February” by Ted Kooser from Sure Signs. Copyright © 1980 by Ted Kooser.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday Tome - New Arrival

Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World
by Miroslav Volf

Publisher's Description...
More than almost anything else, globalization and the great world religions are shaping our lives, affecting everything from the public policies of political leaders and the economic decisions of industry bosses and employees, to university curricula, all the way to the inner longings of our hearts. Integral to both globalization and religions are compelling, overlapping, and sometimes competing visions of what it means to live well.

In this perceptive, deeply personal, and beautifully written book, a leading theologian sheds light on how religions and globalization have historically interacted and argues for what their relationship ought to be. Recounting how these twinned forces have intersected in his own life, he shows how world religions, despite their malfunctions, remain one of our most potent sources of moral motivation and contain within them profoundly evocative accounts of human flourishing.

Globalization should be judged by how well it serves us for living out our authentic humanity as envisioned within these traditions. Through renewal and reform, religions might, in turn, shape globalization so that can be about more than bread alone.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Supplication - When We Go Astray

O God, we are so thankful for your mercy. Please be gracious to us when we go astray from your ways. Bring us back to you. Give us humble hearts and steadfast faith. Teach us to hold fast to the unchangeable truth of your Word. Help us to follow Jesus Christ your Son.

Forgive us our sins. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ. And as you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

Renew us, O Lord, and save us from the things that afflict us. Give us the strength to persevere, and give us hope as we cling to your promises. Forgive us our sins and deliver us from evil.

Make us vessels of your grace in a weary world. And as we are surrounded by so much suffering and hate, we ask you to make us a testimony of your saving and transforming love.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thursday Thinking – Love & Free Will

Love & Free Will
by Greg Boyd

From the REKNEW blog...
God could have easily created a world in which nothing evil could ever happen. But this world would not have been capable of love. God could have preprogrammed agents to say loving things and to act in loving ways. He could even have preprogrammed these automatons to believe they were choosing to love. But these preprogrammed agents would not genuinely be loving. Love can only be genuine if it’s freely chosen. Which means, unless a personal agent has the capacity to choose against love, they don’t really have the capacity to choose for it.  Keep Reading

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday Words - For Grief

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.
Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.
There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

“For Grief” by John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us
© Copyright 2008 by John O’Donohue.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday Tome - The Gifts of Imperfection

The Gifts of Imperfection
by Brené Brown

From Publisher's Weekly...
Brown, author of I Thought It Was Just Me (but It Isn't), again urges us to expose and expel our insecurities in order to have the most fulfilling life possible. Her latest is a guidebook for pilgrims on the journey to wholehearted living, which she defines as containing courage, compassion, deliberate boundaries, and connection.

She has defined 10 guideposts for personal introspection, which involve cultivating some positive quality, whether it be authenticity, self-compassion, or a resilient spirit, intuition, meaningful work, or laughter. Each guidepost is the focus of a chapter that contains illustrative stories, primarily from her own life; definitions, including the difference between shame and guilt; quotes from such diverse sources as Diane Ackerman and E.E. Cummings; and brief suggestions of activities that she pursues with the assumption that they might help her audience.

Although these activities are highlighted in her introduction to the book, they are in short supply and the book functions more as a chatty meditation on the guideposts. Despite occasional moments of insight, this book's primary value may be in spurring thought and providing references to other authors that will provide further inspiration for those seeking a more meaningful life.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday Music - Joe Henry

I just added Joe Henry's Invisible Hour to my music collection and really enjoying the beautiful songwriting and deep lyrics. "Lead Me On" was the first song I heard from this album.

I was introduced to Joe and his music through The Current 89.3 Song of the Day podcast and an On Being interview with Krista Tippett.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Supplication - Forgiveness and Renewal

Almighty God, we ask you to help us when we face temptation. We remember that Jesus was tempted during the forty days he fasted and prayed in the wilderness, and so we know he understands our weaknesses and temptations.

Father God, just as you strengthened Jesus to overcome temptation, we pray that you will strengthen us by your Spirit, that we too might overcome temptation and escape the sins that entangle us.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ.  Help us to extend forgiveness to each other in his name. Help us become a redemptive and healing community. Help us to have a saving and healing influence in our world.

Help us, O Lord, to be in the world as Jesus was in it. Help us to be truly engaged with our world, and yet to be truly different from it. Help us to be instruments of your grace and power. Where there is hatred, let us bring love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is discord, unity. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is darkness light.

Lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday Words - Remember You Are Dust

Psalm 90
A prayer of Moses the man of God.

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”

4 A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered.

7 We are consumed by your anger
    and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
    we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Tuesday Tome - Lenten Devotional

Lent for Everyone (Year C)
by N. T. Wright

Publisher's Description...
Lent for Everyone: Luke, Year C provides readers with an inspirational guide through the Lenten season, from Ash Wednesday through the week after Easter. Popular biblical scholar and author N. T. Wright provides his own Scripture translation, brief reflection, and a prayer for each of the days of the season, helping readers ponder how the text is relevant to their own lives today. By the end of the book readers will have been through the entirety of Luke, along with Psalm readings for each Sunday.

Suitable for both individual and group study and reflection, Wright's Lenten devotional will help you make Luke's gospel your own, thoughtfully and prayerfully, and your journey through Lent a period of rich discovery and growth.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Monday Music - Powder Blue

The Cactus Blossoms premier a live video version of "Powder Blue" on Rolling Stone Country. This is one of the songs on their new album, You're Dreaming.

Click here to watch the video and read a terrific review.  I just love this song and the video is warm and wonderful. So proud of these boys (including the electric guitar player in the shadows). The upcoming CD release shows next weekend should be fun.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Sunday Supplication - To Truly See Christ

O God, you have revealed your grace and truth through Jesus your only-begotten Son. We have seen your glory revealed in his birth, his life, his words, his death, and his resurrection.

Give us the faith to truly see Christ, and by his light, help us to see our own lives and our purpose. Strengthen us to take up our own crosses, to walk in his ways, and to be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.

We are thankful for your forgiveness and we ask that, as you have forgiven us our sins, you would help us to be quick to forgive those who have sinned against us.

We thank you, Father, for the grace and comfort you extend to us. We praise you for being a God of comfort and consolation. Help us to always look to you for the strength and hope needed to face our troubles. Give us eyes to see the hurts of those around us. Give us hearts of compassion, and make us instruments of your peace.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Thursday Thinking - Evangelical Fear

Today I want to direct you to a thought-provoking post on the Missio Alliance website written by Karina Kreminski. She considers the tension between  fear and mission.  Is fear is stopping evangelical Christians from engaging in wholehearted mission?

Breaking through Evangelicalism's Culture of Fear
by Karina Kreminski

A Short Excerpt...
I will often talk with people who are genuinely wrestling with current day issues yet too afraid to publicly share what they are working through for fear that their church, denomination, or Bible College might brand them as heretics. I also see more than a few churches practicing what I would call an unnecessarily constraining form of conservatism as they think about the values and structures of their church and I wonder if this is a fear based reaction.

It may not be, but I think the question needs to be asked. If it is true that there is a culture of fear emerging in Evangelicalism today then the consequences of this are concerning to me.

I wonder if God sends the church prophets who are the oddballs that we never expect and instead of listening to them we marginalize and domesticate their message? Prophets will often work on the fringes of society and as a result their message can be confronting and irritating to our middle class ears. Prophets will always disturb our practice and theology as they embody the radical values of the kingdom of God.

In a climate of fear, however, instead of hearing God’s voice through the strange prophets he send us, we will either reject God’s message or we will try to tame it so that it suits the culture we live in. This is disastrous. It means that instead of following in the footsteps of Jesus as we discern his Spirit today, we will be blindly walking in our own human-made paths.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Wednesday Words - Snow

A heavy snow, and men my age
  all over the city
are having heart attacks in their driveways,

dropping their nice new shovels
  with the ergonomic handles
that finally did them no good.

Gray-headed men who meant no harm,
  who abided by the rules and worked hard
for modest rewards, are slipping

softly from their mortgages,
  falling out of their marriages.
How gracefully they swoon—

that lovely, old-fashioned word—
  from dinner parties, grandkids,
vacations in Florida.

They should have known better
  than to shovel snow at their age.
If only they'd heeded

the sensible advice of their wives
  and hired a snow-removal service.
But there's more to life

than merely being sensible. Sometimes
  a man must take up his shovel
and head out alone into the snow.

"Snow" by George Bilgere from The White Museum, ©Copyright 2010 by George Bilgere.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Tuesday Tome - Triumph of Faith

The Triumph of Faith
by Rodney Stark

This book was recommended to me by a friend. The little brown box with the smiley face showed up on my front step last week. I've read a couple of other books by Stark and have found them to be pretty interesting.

“God is not dead.” —Wall Street Journal
Believe it or not, the world is more religious than ever before.
Everyone seems to take it for granted that the world is getting more secular—that faith is doomed by modernity. Scientists, secularists, and atheists applaud the change; religious believers lament it.

But here’s the thing: they’re all wrong—and the bestselling author and influential scholar of religion Rodney Stark has the numbers to prove it.

The Triumph of Faith explodes the myth that people around the world are abandoning religion. Stark marshals an unprecedented body of data—surveys of more than a million people in 163 nations—to paint the full picture that both scholars and popular commentators have missed. And he explains why the astonishing growth of religion is happening and what it means for our future.
Stark’s bracing book is full of insights that defy the conventional wisdom. With vigorous prose he reveals:
  • Why claims about Millennials’ lack of religion are overblown and historically ignorant
  • Why Islam is NOT overtaking Christianity
  • How 4 out of 5 people worldwide now belong to an organized religion
  • How 50 percent have attended a worship service in the past week
  • Why much-ballyhooed studies from the Pew Research Center and others get the religious landscape wrong
  • Why atheists remain few, anywhere—despite all the talk of the “New Atheism”
As Stark shows, secularists have been predicting the imminent demise of religion for centuries. It is their unshakable faith in secularization that may be the most “irrational” of all beliefs.

As the author of How the West Won, The Victory of Reason, and many other bestselling works, Rodney Stark has a richly deserved reputation for writing page-turning, myth-busting books. He is also a groundbreaking scholar who has so reshaped the social scientific study of religion that his work has become the basis of a “new paradigm.” Stark puts all those talents on full display in The Triumph of Faith.

This book will change how you see both religion and the forces of secularization.