I happened to be on the campus of Columbia Seminary to meet with the president and professor of theology, Dr. Leanne Van Dyk. (Leanne has previously taught theology at Western Seminary in
The world roils in bad news and the story of immense tragedies. These painful realities are quite real. But the great danger we Christians face in 2016 is to focus our attention on this “bad news.”
In his final public utterance of 2015, Pope Francis on Thursday, December 31, insisted that the horrors of the past year are often “weighed down by private interests, by an insatiable thirst for power, and by gratuitous violence.” But Francis stressed that the reality of true goodness should not be lost in 2016. Indeed, I believe this true goodness should be stressed, certainly not in a pollyannaish way, but in a distinctly Christian way. Christ has overcome evil and his peace has changed the world. During these twelve days of Christmas let us remember that the evil of sin remains, but only for the time being. (Sin too will finally be put down completely on the “Last Day!”) This is why we should not entertain false notions about world peace.
Pope Francis added, “How many great gestures of goodness, of love
Several years ago I shared the story of how I met Fr. Joseph F. Girzone (1930-2015). I had read Joe’s wonderful book, Jesus: A New Understanding of God’s Son (New York: Doubleday, 2009). I simply loved it. Frankly, it changed my life in many profound ways. I wrote my first ever review on Amazon and as a result someone showed it to Joe who then reached out to get to know me. Since this is the kind of thing I would do, and it is rarely done to me, I had an immediate desire to know this lovely man. Well, we began to chat on the phone and by email. The man who wrote the huge best-selling novel, Joshua (1983), was a friend. What a pleasant and divinely-orchestrated surprise. When I first encountered Joshua in the days of its immense popularity in the early 1980s I was so profoundly influenced by Puritanism that I considered a novel about Jesus a virtual sacrilege. (So much for a mind that was open!) So getting to know this unusual priest became an
As I sit this evening at my computer I am amazed. For five days every newscast and commentator has responded the visit of Pope Francis to America with such joy and positive energy. From every perspective, including the most non-religious journalists and broadcasters, people have talked about the pope but in doing so they have talked a great deal about Jesus, the Bible and the joy of the gospel. I have never heard so much public talk about matters of profound truth and faith in my lifetime, except perhaps at the funerals of President Kennedy (1963) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968). We have seen pictures of Pope Francis with prisoners, in a seminary speaking to bishops and students about the two greatest works of a shepherd (prayer and the preaching the gospel), praying at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York with representatives of world religions, speaking before the United Nations, speaking before Congress, meeting with the Speaker of the House, meeting with the President and then this evening leaving our shores after being with
A very helpful interaction of the kind that is called for by people who love deeply and follow Christ. You will find things to disagree with but if you agree with everything why bother to reconfirm you own views? I submit this as a helpful and civil exchange.
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Yesterday I wrote about my personal journey in using the social media. In particular I wrote about Facebook and Twitter. I am not an expert on these media resources by any stretch. I do know how they have impacted my personal life. As a result of reflecting upon these social media resources I shared in that previous blog post how I will make changes beginning this week.
I will continue to blog. I will post my own material on this (my) blog site. I will also publish material from guest bloggers who hold various viewpoints and who are in my network of friends and Christian leaders. These will not be mere links to public sites and news feeds but articles and opinions that I post on my blog site with my knowledge and oversight. Generally, I will post only once a day. My sense of frequency feels like I will post 3-5 times a week. Most posts will be 300-500 words, some longer. It depends on the content and time I have to write. I will link all
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
On Monday, February 9, St. Procopius Abbey (Lisle, IL) hosted a wonderful evening gathering dedicated to Catholic-Evangelical ecumenism. Several hundred guests, representing scores of Catholic and Protestant parishes throughout the Chicago area, gathered to listen to two long-time friends engage in a ninety-minute conversation about Christian unity. Taking their cue from the current actions, and written initiatives, of Pope Francis the two conversation partners addressed the possibilities and problems inherent in this new ecumenism. The Very Rev. Dr. Robert Barron, Rector/President of University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, and the Rev. Dr. John H. Armstrong, a Reformed Church minister and adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College. Dr Armstrong also serves as the founder and president of the ACT3 Network in nearby Carol Stream, Illinois, who sponsored the event. Both Fr. Barron and Rev. Armstrong shared personal stories and answered questions. The dialogue was moderated by Rev. Dr. Chris Castaldo, Lead Pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville. Dr. Castaldo also moderated the Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue between Dr. Armstrong and Francis Cardinal George, hosted by Wheaton
Last fall (2014) a friend, who is a professional videographer with solid credentials, partnered with me to make a new video. Another friend gave ACT3 a generous gift to make this new “ACT3 Introduction” video. This has been on our home page for several months but not on the blog site.
Today I am pleased to tell you that I believe this to be the best presentation of our vision and work that we’ve ever made. It gets to the point by telling a narrative that works well in relating the work of our mission. Please pass this along to your friends and please do pray for me and the growing work of ACT3.
In the story that I related yesterday I ended with a friend who was teaching an adult class in his church and a couple that had quit attending because my friend did not embrace a six-day, twenty-four hour, recent creation of the earth. My friend asked me to pray as he responded to this relational breakup.
After two weeks this friend reached out to the husband in this story. he writes that this man has been his friend for decades. They met for breakfast together. My friend writes, and I know this to be true from first-hand knowledge, “John, this is a subject that I have studied deeply for several decades.” After the breakfast meeting he wrote to me saying, “Ironically I found that the relational side of things was, to some degree, restored through our time together. However, the cognitive side seemed blocked. This brother was not open to ideas that contradicted his view. His presumption seems to be that his view is Scriptural (hence others could not measure up). I chose to only share enough to help him see that there are