Monthly Archives: May 2006

A Truly Wonderful Novel

The modern novel, Peace Like a River, written by Minnesotan Leif Enger is one of the finest first works of fiction I have read in years. Indeed, it is a superb book, first or otherwise, period! It is the story of a real family tragedy, told within the context of a true (Christian) love story. It is most definitely not sentimental “Christian” fiction, but a serious gripping story with real human characters set in a most believable 1960s context.

Told from the standpoint of eleven-year old Reuben Land, an asthmatic boy in the upper Midwest, it brings the reader right into the grip of divine providence from the very first page as it recounts the birth of Reuben, which was a miracle in itself. Along with his sister, and deeply devoted charismatic father, Reuben and the family begin a cross-country journey to find Reuben’s outlaw older brother in the middle portion of the story. The brother had been controversially charged with a double murder. The family’s journey follows a most unpredictable course, all the time leading the reader to see the faith

By |May 31st, 2006|Categories: Books|

My Present Reading

I read widely, as you might guess. I always have and suppose I always will. I am presently reading Douglas John Hall’s theological autobiography, Bound and Free, an engaging and moving memoir by a prominent theologian of our time. In the evening, and for sheer fun, I am reading and enjoying the baseball biography, Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig (2005), by Jonathan Eig. In the mornings, along with the Scriptures, I am reading two books: Wisdom of the Little Flower: Therese of Lisieux—Bearer of Western Spirituality, a wonderful treatment of the biblical spirituality of the nineteenth century French Catholic saint, written by Rudolf Stertenbrink. Yesterday I began the Desert Father: A Journey in the Wilderness with Saint Anthony, by the Australian author James Cowan, a book I discovered while browsing in Borders on Sunday evening. (I can’t go into these places and not buy one book most of the time!)

Along with these books I recently began reading a wonderfully helpful 1992 out-of-print title, The Myth of Certainty, written by Bethel College English professor Daniel Taylor. This book is

By |May 30th, 2006|Categories: Books|

The Issue is Hermeneutics

Christians can and do harm the missional cause of Christ when they misuse the Scriptures. Make no mistake about this fact. One such "Christian", who has worked immeasurable harm to the cause of Christ in America, is the Rev. Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

Phelps, and his small flock, have been showing up to demonstrate around the country for several years now. At first they picked homosexual groups for their loud and obnoxious protests. Their strident “God hates fags” slogans did nothing positive for the kingdom of Christ, prompting skeptics to consign them, rightly or wrongly, to the category of more conservatives gone crazy. Now, Phelps and his gang are protesting military funerals around the country.

Today they showed up at the Arlington National Cemetery to sing “God Hates America” to the tune of “God Bless America.” They held placards which read: “God is America’s terror” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.” They even had other creative and original signs saying “You’re going to hell” and “Bush killed them.”

As crowds of

By |May 29th, 2006|Categories: Hermeneutics|

Celebrating the Holy Season of Easter

This year, my fifty-seventh, marks the first time in my life that I have publicly celebrated all the great days of the church calendar surrounding Easter. These have included Holy (or Maundy) Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday (or the Easter Vigil) and Easter Sunday. Then there were the Sundays of Easter and the special celebration on Thursday of this week of Ascension Day. Finally, today (May 28), we celebrated the last (or seventh) Sunday of Easter which took us to the amazing events of Act 1:12-26. Next Sunday (June 4) will be Pentecost Day, a time of great celebration.

I can’t even begin to relate the significance of these celebrations in my life over these many weeks. I feel as if the realities of my salvation were brought home to me in a fresh and powerful way that I have never known in the gathering of the church. I can now see, more plainly than ever, why the church has celebrated these events during a special season of the year for well over nineteen hundred years (at least in some cases).

By |May 28th, 2006|Categories: Church Tradition|

A Beatiful Day in the Sun at Wrigley Field

My love for baseball borders on passion, as readers already know. I thus enjoyed one of the loveliest days of the year on Friday. My daughter, who got her passion for this rgeat game directly from me, accompanied me for a gorgeous day at the old ball park—Wrigley Field. We had seats twenty rows above the Cubs dugout and soaked up the sun, enjoying the sights and sounds of a great day near Lake Michigan. And we saw the Braves win 6-5, this time in the ninth inning as the Cubs found several new ways to lose. Since we both went to see the Braves, our favorite team, the outcome was superb, just like our day. You really can’t beat fun at the old ball park, especially on a near perfect day in Chicago. I am truly blest to enjoy such delights in the summer.

By |May 27th, 2006|Categories: Baseball|

The Liberal Arts Education of Patrick Henry College

Patrick Henry College, a rural Virginia school of only three hundred students, has been making big news lately. This very conservative Christian school only has sixteen faculty members and five of their professors left this month. Others are thinking about leaving soon. What is the problem? The faculty is having trouble with the president’s understanding of what a liberal arts college does with the liberal arts.

The founder and president of Patrick Henry College is Michael P. Ferris, a fairly well-known conservative attorney with a long-standing commitment to, and legal defense of, home schooling. Indeed, Patrick Henry College aims at home school graduates as their target audience. Ferris expresses deep commitment to teaching a “biblical world view” and openly desires to train graduates who will become movers and shakers in the culture. (World magazine has featured news on the school on several occasions.) Some Patrick Henry students have even interned with noteworthy conservative political leaders such as Karl Rove, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. The problem at Patrick Henry College is that Michael P. Ferris understands the idea of a “biblical world

By |May 27th, 2006|Categories: American Evangelicalism|

Working and Praying for the Real Peace of Jerusalem

Columnist Robert Novak praises my own Illinois congressman, soon-to-retire Representative Henry Hyde (R), in Wednesday’s edition (May 25) of the Chicago Sun Times. He writes: “Showing the courage that has typified a political career now in its final months, [Hyde] is pleading the case of endangered Palestinian Christians to President Bush.” Hyde’s letter to Bush, in part, says: “I cannot be blind when Israeli actions seem to go beyond the realm of legitimate security concerns and have negative consequences on communities and lands under their occupation.”

The House International Relations Committee, chaired by Congressman Hyde, recently issued a five-page report which further concluded:

The Christian community is being crushed in the mill of the bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [And further, the security wall and expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank] are irreversibly damaging the dwindling Christian community.

This response is not a new one from Congressman Hyde. Two years ago he wrote Secretary of State Colin Powell to raise the same issue. He now claims that things are much worse. There is every reason to believe that this is the

By |May 26th, 2006|Categories: Israel|

A Catholic Protestant Wedding Revisted

On April 25 I wrote a blog about a wedding between two young Christians, one Protestant and one Catholic. This wedding was performed by my good friend Andrew Sandlin, one of the ministers of the Church of the King in Santa Cruz, California. I expect this blog generated three responses. The first one is the response I grew up with in the Bible-belt. Such weddings are "mixed" marriages and will lead to nothing but heartache and turmoil. The children of such a union will be completely confused and probably lost to the gospel. The second response would be one of liberal toleration that misses the fact that there are still real differences in our views of the church. This one leads to a shrug which says, "It doesn’t matter." The third response, which is the one I would appeal for personally, is that such a wedding has inherent problems but these problems can be overcome and should not prohibit a Christ-centered home and family. In fact, such problems could, in very strong marriages, produce fruit that is rarely seen in modern Christian homes on

By |May 25th, 2006|Categories: Roman Catholicism|

Signs of Renewal Amidst the Rubble?

It is common to hear references to Protestant mainline churches as those churches which are in a state of confusion, or churches that have become a theological rubble. Many conservatives are quite surprised to learn of the wonderful renewal efforts being faithfully made in these older churches.

Like all of these historic Protestant denominations in North America the United Methodist Church has been embroiled in a controversy about homosexual practice. The most significant recent case was that of Pastor Ed Johnson, a UMC pastor in South Hill, Virginia. Following ethical and biblical protocol Johnson postponed receiving an unrepentant and actively involved homosexual into the membership of his congregation. For this faithful action Bishop Charles Kammerer ordered Johnson to receive the man into membership. Johnson, being faithful to both God and conscience, stood against his bishop. For this decision he was removed from his ministry, and all financial support, and placed on Involuntary Leave of Absence. He was, in short, thrown out of his pulpit, without pay, and with no place to live!

Such actions remind me of other times in church

By |May 24th, 2006|Categories: Renewal|

A Missional Church with a Bright Future

I am afforded numerous opportunities to see the church in its various expressions across North America. For nearly fifteen years I have traveled across the land speaking in congregations of all sizes and forms. I have preached to mega-churches and new church plants. I have tried to encourage older struggling small churches in decline and newer small churches seeking to grow and minister in hard areas. I have preached in storefront settings, rural country white frame churches, urban centers, and living rooms. I have spent most of this time with churches ranging from 100 to 300 people in Sunday worship. My favorite size congregation, for reasons well beyond this present entry, is about 250-300. In this setting there are enough people to cover the bases of organizational need while the group is about the right size for real pastoral care and hands on friendship building in the congregation. Usually such a church has only one, or sometimes two, ordained pastor(s) on the staff. The sense of collegiality between the pastor(s) and the lay leaders is often great. Vision is also rooted in biblical goals

By |May 22nd, 2006|Categories: Missional Church|

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