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The 110th Birthday of One of the Greatest Christians of the Last Century

bdb188d9-723d-438b-99f1-cc9e9d6f603eToday, February 4, is the 110th birthday of the German pastor, theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When I arrived at Wheaton College, as a transfer student in January of 1969, one of the first great joys I experienced was finding the story of Bonhoeffer for the first time. The classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, was my introduction. Later I read his prison papers, a few of his works on ethics and a lot of biography. I did not understand this theology then, and still do not fully understand it now, but I knew greatness and humility when I saw it. Bonhoeffer was truly a great Christian! But here is the point often missed – he was not a “safe” Christian. Anyone who reads him soon realizes that Bonhoeffer was not a typical pastor.

Too few of us have read Bonhoeffer and fewer still have grasped his importance, especially to the modern West. (The popular biography of him a few years ago was helpful in some respects but it also gave some distorted images and caused

Chicago’s Archbishop Cupich’s Response to the Supreme Court’s Ruling

bioIn my post yesterday I referenced the response of some conservative Christian ministers and leaders to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage announced last week. A Chicago news report noted that Archbishop Blasé J. Cupich, on Sunday, July 5, urged Chicago’s Catholics to adopt “mature and serene reflections as we move forward together.” Cupich noted that the Court’s decision had “redefined civil marriage.” He also said that the Catholic Church has “an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons.” But, he added, “It is also important to stress that the Supreme Court’s redefinition of civil marriage has no bearing on the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony in which the marriage of man and woman is a sign of the union of Christ and the Church. In upholding our traditional concept of marriage, we are called to support those who have entered into this sacred and loving bond with God and each other.”

Can you not see the striking difference in both wording and tone in the archbishop’s response and that of stridently conservative evangelicals and Catholics in other parts

A Film Series on the Protestant Reformation

Two weeks ago I did a three-and-a-half hour video session in Souderton, Pennsylvania. I sat down with Vision Video, one of the premier Christian video production companies in the world. I had a profoundly enjoyable experience and hope that the time I invested in a forthcoming project will bear much fruit.

IMG_5027Vision Video is making and producing a three-hour series for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I believe this series will be available in 2016. It is to be determined how many videos there will be in the series, what kind of resources will be added and how it will be marketed. The entire project anticipates the anniversary year of 2017. It has a number of well-known people in the series. It should make a significant contribution to churches and Christian viewers in general. Vision Video has produced some noteworthy films and won a number of awards for their work over the years.

This particular series was nearing completion when the production and film team decided that the series was missing several things that were needed.

What a Classic Movie Can Teach Us About the Church

Quiet ManToday’s Guest Blogger is Dr. Dave Lescalleet

Every year our family watches the 1952 classic movie The Quiet Man as a way to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day.  This film, because of its Ireland location, is more and more associated with this national holiday.  The story, set in the 1920’s, stars John Wayne as retired American boxer Sean Thornton who returns to the village of Inisfree, Ireland, where he was born, in the hopes of finding peace and quiet but in the process finds love.  The beautiful and equally talented Maureen O’Hara plays the female lead as Mary Kate Danaher.  The feisty Danaher, quickly falls in love with the affable Thornton and easily proves his equal, giving as good as she gets.

The Quiet Man is a ‘fish out of water’ story as Wayne’s Thornton must not only integrate himself into the odd but endearing community of Inisfree, but along the way learn their old Irish customs and how they do life together.  To say that this is one of my all-time favorite films is an understatement.  From the

Aaron Niequist: The Practice – Learning the Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Aaron Niequist began an experimental community at Willow Creek early last year (2014).

The Practice: Learning the Unforced Rhythms of Grace. Aaron aims to be a discipleship-focused, formation oriented, practice-based tribe asks two simple questions:

(1) What is the Life that Christ invites us into? and (2)

“What are the practices,” he asks, “that we can do together, and on our own, to embrace this Eternal Life now?”

Said simply: What is God doing and how can we join Him?

As Aaron and I have gotten to know each other as good friends the last two years I have watched these developments with increased joy and interest. Today I would like to share some exciting video material with you as my friends. This material is available here for only one week so please watch it now.

On a Sunday night in May, Father Michael Sparough, SJ, guided The Practice community through the historic Christian practice of The Examen. The night was powerful and so unexplainably holy that we wanted to invite more people into the experience. So we’ve turned the live recording of Fr Michael into a full New Liturgy—fleshing it out with an evocative musical score and three original songs. We hope it helps you connect with God in a deep and daily way.

Here is the promo for examen:

Check out the full examen liturgy project here.

Remember, you can only see this for one week so take advantage of it now and

The Lord’s Supper: A Roman Catholic and Reformed Evangelical Dialog (Video)

Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper? How frequently should we observe it? What does this meal mean? What happens when we eat the bread and drink from the cup? What do Christians disagree about and what do they hold in common? These and other questions are explored in my book, Understanding Four Views of the Lord’s Supper. 51Uh-nniC6L._AA160_This volume in the Counterpoints series from Zondervan allows four contributors to make a case for the following views: • Baptist view (memorialism) • Reformed view (spiritual presence) • Lutheran view (consubstantiation) • Roman Catholic view (transubstantiation) All contributors use Scripture to present their views, and each responds to the others’ essays. This book helps readers arrive at their own conclusions. It includes resources such as a listing of statements on the Lord’s Supper from creeds and confessions, quotations from noted Christians, a resource listing of books on the Lord’s Supper, and discussion questions for each chapter to facilitate small group and classroom use.

After this book was published in 2007 I engaged with my friend Fr. Thomas Baima in a

Living in Community, Living in Love

41XiJWC3cPL._AA160_Yesterday, I wrote about the desert fathers and mothers. One of the most prominent of them all was Antony of the desert. After reading Jesus’ words to the rich younger ruler Antony, sensing the spiritual deadness of his own soul and of the church of his time, retreated to the desert to seek God with his whole body and soul. For the next twenty years he wrestled with (in his own words) demons and the constant rigors of ascetic practice. His sole desire was to draw nearer to God. (He was not undertaking a “self-help protect” so that he might be saved by his good works!)

When Antony’s friends begged him to leave, and then dragged him, away from the desert twenty years later, his health was superb and the power of his ministry was unmistakable. Antony shows me what new life really costs–everything! He also scares me to death and he makes me tremble before the deep spiritual reality that he knew during and after the desert. But he also gives me hope. I’ve was in a

The Wilderness and the Desert: Images for Christian Living?

41XiJWC3cPL._AA160_Two of the most lasting images used by the Christian church to describe the spiritual life, especially among the desert fathers and mothers, are wilderness and the desert. Had I not learned these two images in the early 1990s I am not sure I would have profited so deeply from my own spiritual journey.

First, the feeling of God’s absence became real to me during the late 1990s and all through the first decade of this century. I had known God’s presence in some remarkable ways previously but around 1998 this sense of his presence began to recede. I felt what the ancients called abandonment. I felt like I was wandering in a wilderness, a desert. I felt God was testing me. I felt a devastating absence for prolonged times. I read the account of my Lord suffering in the wilderness and identified with his heart in some ways.

Second, these images suggest an arid spirit but in reality I learned the opposite to be the case. I was being powerfully renewed in the desert. In Exodus, when the

The Way of Jesus (1)

GBK Uganda brighter croppedWe welcome Rev. Dr. George Byron Koch as our guest blogger for today and tomorrow.

I remember the first time I learned that the early believers, long before they were called “Christians,” referred to themselves as followers of “the Way” of Jesus. I heard it as an apt and beautiful poetic metaphor—which I assumed they had invented for themselves.

I have since learned that the expression actually has deep Jewish and rabbinic roots, and this has opened my eyes to something truly fundamental in following Him—something we have often forgotten, or didn’t fully realize we knew. It is a rich treasure. Let me open it up.

First, the great rabbis over the centuries, as well as at the time of Jesus, had passionate and dedicated disciples. When disciples agree to abide by the teachings of a rabbi, they are said to “put his yoke” upon them. When Jesus says, “Put my yoke upon you,” He is literally offering to become your rabbi, your teacher and model. That was and is the expression used by the rabbis to define

The Way of Jesus Beyond Doctrinal Propositions: Living the Love and Unity of Christ

P1240816The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service that I wrote about yesterday included a warm and deeply thoughtful sermon by Fr. George Byron Koch, pastor of Resurrection Church (Anglican), West Chicago, IL. Fr. Koch is the new chairman of the ACT3 Network board and a very dear friend. He is also a great writer and preacher. His sermon in the Christian Unity service was one of the best calls to our unity in Christ I have heard in a long time.

George Byron Koch is the author of What We Believe and Why (Byron Arts, Northwoods, IL, 2012), a magnificently readable and insightful study of Christian faith and practice. 51Uif1n6RHL._AA160_Two particular insights undergird this book: (1) The Christian faith has been torn from its Jewish roots, and; (2) The influence of philosophy on the church has divided it again and again, creating extremely deleterious consequences for Christ’s mission. I not only share George Koch’s view I believe you will hear both aspects of it clearly in this


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