Monthly Archives: September 2012


A Word About Blog Comments and My Internet Mission

I am so grateful for all of you who comment on these blog posts. I welcome your comments, even when you disagree with me or push back about what I write. The only comments that I ever block, and this is extremely rare, are those that are intemperate and/or expressions of personal cyber rage.

Several have asked me why this site registers a number of comments yet when you look at the comments section there are fewer actual posts than the number says. The reason for this is quite simple. I link this blog to my Facebook page thus when people click “like” on Facebook this registers to this blog as a comment but there is no specific content to read. The site says that someone has commented but there are no words. You will actually see photo images of these people who “like” a particular post if you read the data carefully. It helps, if you “like” something posted on my Facebook page from this blog site, that you say why you “like” the post with a comment!

You will also see some graphic flaws in this

By |September 28th, 2012|Categories: ACT 3, Personal|

The Church After the Bible

My current ACT 3 Weekly article, sent by email subscription on Monday each week, is a continuation of the series I am currently doing on “Understanding the Bible.” This series, and previous issues, are all archived and available on the ACT 3 website.

Many Bible-reading Christians seem to think that if you know the text of Holy Scripture, and exegete that text with care and precision, you clearly understand the message of the Bible. I have suggested that we best understand the Bible when we understand the story of Jesus. But we cannot even stop there, talking about the story of Jesus revealed in the Bible. We must see how that story impacted generations of people after the close of the canon. We must, to put this plainly, move from the world of the Bible into the everyday life of the church and God’s mission to all people everywhere. Simply put, we must move beyond the pages of the Bible, to the life of the church and the witness of Christians for seventy generations. Why? Because we

Agape Love and Religious Liberty

St. Augustine’s reasoning, on force and human freedom, demonstrates how essential it is for Christians to balance their desire that all persons know God’s truth as revealed in Jesus Christ with their recognition that the only coercion they should apply is that of reason and love.

The essential flaw of Augustine’s argument is the assumption that the end justifies the means. The end, in this case, is commendable. But the question that must be posed is clear: “Does love not decree the means as well as the end?” Agape love never allows one to detach the means from the end.

Love may reason, urge and plead. But love does not coerce or force. Christians cannot employ means that do not give the fullest attention to the latter’s freedom and personal integrity. Agape simply cannot use force by definition. To apply love in this way usurps God’s prerogative and contradicts love’s very nature.

God created humanity not out of an inherent need but out of love. We were designed for personal communion with God. Human love responds to, and reciprocates, divine love. If communion is forced then

By |September 26th, 2012|Categories: Church History, Free Speech, Freedom, The Church|

An Evangelical Response to Dignitatis Humanae

After presenting an overview of Vatican II’s discussion and passage of Dignitatis Humanae at Lewis University (last week) I then proceeded to set forth an evangelical view of religious freedom, or at least one that I believe accords well with the view I personally hold as a Christian.

I began with 1 John 4:8: “God is love.” This terse statement sums up the deepest insight of the entire Christian faith. The Jews knew God’s covenant love of mercy but not agape. Love is revealed to us in grace and truth, in the person of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God.

In his classic book Agape, author and theologian Anders Nygren says that God’s love has four characteristics that make it distinct:

1. It is spontaneous or self-motivated. Its source is in God. It loves not because of what is in the other person but because love belongs to human essence.

 2. It is self-originating, it does not play favorites; Matt. 5:45 “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” He

By |September 25th, 2012|Categories: Free Speech, Freedom, The Church|

A Dialogue on Vatican II and The Declaration on Religious Liberty

Last Tuesday (10/18) I was invited to participate, as a Protestant evangelical, in a special symposium called “Living Vatican II in the Twenty-First Century.” This event was an interdisciplinary, ecumenical and interfaith conversation based on a celebration of the Council’s 50th anniversary. The entire event took place between September 18-21 and was sponsored by the Lewis University Center for Ministry and Spirituality.The panel I shared on was led by Dr. Jeffrey Gros, one of the leading Catholic ecumenists in North America. Jeff has a lifetime of ecumenical work, including writing and collaboration with a number of evangelical institutions and leaders. He is a veritable “who’s who” in the intersection of these two ecclesial worlds, an intersection that has drawn me into deeper conversation and relationships with Catholic scholars and leaders over the last decade. Jeff and I have known each other since we met at an ecumenical event at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham (AL). We really became good friends about a year ago when Jeff moved to Chicago to serve at Lewis University. Jeff Gros is

How the Apostles Really Evangelized

Yesterday, I quoted a paragraph from a friend about Jesus being central to everything; i.e. He is the message of the Good News. This paragraph, from my good friend Fr. Joe Girzone, elicited a response from him to me of a story he shared that I now share with you. Again I am with Joe completely in the point he makes. We have taught a lot of people about laws and morality and very little about Jesus. Joe writes:

I was once asked to be on the board of directors for a program named, Mission for Biblical Literacy. It was started by a few Southern Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian theologians and pastors. When I asked what was the purpose of the group, I was told that Protestants were not reading the Bible as faithfully as they used to and that they were trying to respond to that problem and find a way to interest their people in going back to the scriptures. When I asked them how they conducted scripture programs they told me that they start with Genesis and spend so many months reading

By |September 21st, 2012|Categories: Christ/Christology, Evangelism, Jesus|

Jesus Is the Message, Period

I am convinced about one thing that really matters: Jesus is everything!

Jesus is mankind’s best and only hope. He is the Savior of the world and the salvation of all who long and search. Our most enjoyable and wonderful task is to “make him known.” We can do that in many ways but the goal is always to share him, not our plans, programs and theology. (Yes, I understand, good theology matters deeply since the person of Jesus pushes us to think and do good and health-producing theology about his life and person!) This is why Fr. Joseph Girzone, author of the best-selling Joshua book series, continues to inspire me deeply and remains a trusted and much-beloved friend in my life. Fr. Joe gets this! Jesus is his life and message. In Joe’s recent monthly email he wrote the following timely and provocative thoughts:

Lately, various Christian denominations have been embarking on new evangelization programs to promote the Christian message.  However, it is very disturbing that the approaches being promoted by all of these groups whose material I have read, are concerned about  theological correctness and

By |September 20th, 2012|Categories: Christ/Christology, Jesus|

A Pastor's Personal Vision for a Missional Church

I write a great deal about “missional church.” One of my close friends, Pastor Stan Wiedeman, serves a congregation in the metro-Chicago area. He has been in this ministry for 13 years. Stan recently wrote a vision-casting document to his elders asking them to consider the future of their ministry more carefully. He sent me a copy to read, seeking my counsel. I liked this short statement so much that I asked him if I could share it on this blog once the elders had been given time to process the content. I believe this is a “model” paper in terms of showing how a pastor can provide real vision to a church. Whether or not a church accepts such a vision will always depend upon the leadership structure and how ready they are to lead their church into a very different future. I commend this paper as an excellent vision statement. I hope this might be helpful to some of you who are wrestling with what a missional church should really look like.


Our church has

By |September 19th, 2012|Categories: Missional Church, The Church|

Reading the Bible: From the Apostles to Us

Each Monday, for the last eight years, I have published an e-article called the ACT 3 Weekly. Many readers of this blog do not even know these articles are published and I’ve discovered that readers here have never been to our ACT 3 site to sign up for these mailings. Presently we are rebuilding the ACT 3 website and reworking our entire online presence. Until everything is synchronized I am going to post this ACT 3 Weekly here on the blog site so readers can discover the most important weekly writing that I do. I hope more of you will discover this resource by this post. This present post is in a series on understanding the Bible. Back issues are available at ACT 3


In this short series about learning how to read the Bible we have considered that Jesus is the reason for the entire biblical story. The Bible is principally about him, not science, history or even religion. This is not to deny that at times these subjects are touched upon, at least in non-technical ways. I say this to underscore the myriad

By |September 18th, 2012|Categories: Biblical Theology, Hermeneutics, Scripture|

Complete Trust and Commercial Assurances

In the worship of this past Lord’s Day the divine liturgy that I shared in led us to confess that there were times when we failed to think of God’s call upon our lives properly. Because of these times we could not live an “impossible dream” because we saw this call as “an unwelcome interruption.” I was struck by how powerful this simple confession was to me. The line which followed said, “Faithful God, the apostle Paul emphasizes Abraham’s complete trust and faith in your promises and how he grew ever stronger in faith, fully convinced of your ability to fulfill what has been promised.”

Then this affirmation was followed by an application and confession which genuinely struck me as soul-searching in a profound way:

We find it hard to hear your promises above the commercial assurance of transformation–promises tempting us to trust the newest and trendiest product to realize our dreams. For all the times when we do not place our hope and trust in you alone, forgive us, O God. 

I thought about this confession over the last 24 hours. I believe that it is

By |September 17th, 2012|Categories: Business, Liturgy, Personal|

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