Does What We Sing Matter to the Faith of the Church?

Since the 1970s we have had a raging debate about singing and music in the church. This debate has often come down to “traditional” music, or (old) hymns, versus “modern,” or popular music. The real truth is that the great influence on church music has been a combination of the charismatic influence, much of which is good in directing our hearts to God in personal praise, and the popular songs of television and pop-culture. This “performance” music is not good, at least in my view. Why?

People do not participate in “praying twice” (St. Augustine) as much as they watch and observe and see a professional production of varying quality. On contrast, pietism went right to the heart of people when they sang their faith. What happens if we cease to express our communion in the common faith in deep and thoughtful ways?

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Wheaton 2016

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an international Christian ecumenical observance kept annually between January 18 and 25. It is actually an octave, which means the observance lasts for eight days.

The observance began in 1908 and was focused on prayer for the church unity. The basic idea, and the January dates, were suggested by Father Paul Wattson, co-founder of the Graymoor Franciscan Friars. Watson conceived of the week beginning on the Feast of the the Conversion of St. Paul and concluding on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Peter. The dates and ideas actually were a variant of the Protestant version of these Catholic celebrations. (Wattson was himself a former Anglican priest.) In the mid-1920’s Protestant leaders proposed an annual octave for unity leading up to Pentecost. (Many local communities also celebrate this time and offered joint prayers for unity.) Pope Benedict XVI “encouraged its observance throughout the entire Roman Catholic Church.”

What is interesting is that this observance began in Catholic circles but once it jumped boundaries it took new forms and meanings. Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyons, France, who has been called

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

A Special Season in the Desert – A Journey into Deeper Ecumenism (3)

UnknownWhat God gave to me in the late 1990s, and into the early years of this present century, was a settled assurance that he would go with me into a desert. There I would feel abandoned at times but he would always be with me. In the desert he would provide for me, heal me, teach me and prepare me for a very different future. Though I did not know what that future would look like precisely what was revealed to me was that when he placed me in my new role I would have power and true freedom to exalt him openly. I had no idea what this meant in my wildest dreams. I did know, beyond any doubt in my soul, that this new mission was “from the Lord” and that every blessing would be his alone. One year I preached twice all year, at least in Sunday services. When my wife asked me this question, about how many times I had preached in a certain year, I was stunned to answer her since I

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015

PCU invite 2015 copyOne of the most important events each year, an event which is now over one hundred years old and counting, is the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Around the globe Christians from all churches and denominational expressions come together to pray as one for the healing of the church and her myriad divisions. This year the Chicago event for this special week will be held in Carol Stream (IL) and is hosted by ACT3 Network. I will be sharing more information in the coming days but please mark your calendar and plan to join us at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 24. You do not need to sign up. Just mark the date and plan to come.



The Moravian Daily Texts and My Contemplative Practice in 2014

1533855_571338782944849_238247196_nA dear friend, Gerald Stover (PA), gave me a lovely gift at the Luminosa Award ceremony in June. I have used this gift, The Moravian Daily Texts, regularly in 2014.

Most historians agree that the Moravian Church, which began as a renewal movement within the Catholic Church, was started through the work of a Catholic priest named Jan Hus (the English is John Hus) in the early fifteenth century. The Moravian movement was a reaction to some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Hus wanted to return the Church in Bohemia (the homeland of my wife’s family line) and Moravia to the practices of early Christianity. His reforming efforts sought a liturgy in the language of the people, the allowance of the lay people to receive both the bread and the cup during communion, and the elimination of Papal indulgences and the idea of purgatory.

Interestingly, some (but not all) of these practices were altered, five centuries later at Vatican II. The Moravian movement gained royal support and a certain independence for a while, even spreading

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

UnknownNo teaching on prayer has more powerfully impacted the Christian Church than the “model” prayer, what I prefer to call “The Disciples’ Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-15). The Lord’s Prayer is slightly inaccurate since our Lord never prayed this prayer but rather taught us to pray it. It is both a prayer to be prayed and a model to follow in all we offer to our Father in regular prayer. We both worship and petition when we follow this model. One of the three petitions we offer is for our “daily bread.” Have you ever wondered what this really means? Why should we still ask when God has promised to provide for us? What difference does our asking really make?

On Sunday, August 17, I preached a sermon, in a series on this text that the pastor has followed this summer at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Bloomingdale, IL. You can listen to this sermon on our ACT3 website via the embed below.


By |August 29th, 2014|Categories: ACT 3, Prayer|

Jesus Prays for His Own – A Sermon (John 17)

Preaching at Joint UBF Service 11:24:13The life of our Lord Jesus Christ had an intentionally designed dramatic climax. He was “born to die.” This was not just any death for any person but a death which revealed the depth of God’s love for the world (John 3:16).

In John’s Gospel the glory of the Savior ultimately is his cross. In the death of Jesus we see his glory in the cross for at least five reasons:

1. His greatness is revealed by dying.

2. His work is completed by his dying.

3. He must obey the Father and thus glorify God by dying.

4. His cross is not his end – the resurrection will follow. Vindication is real. It is as if God pointed at the cross and said, “This is what men think of my Son.” But God pointed at the resurrection and said, “This is what I think of my Son.” The glory of the resurrection removed the shame of the cross turning it into glory.

5. The cross is the way back to God. The gateway to glory.

John 17 gives us

A Unique Opportunity for Serving Christ in Ecumenism

Next Tuesday, April 8, the Semi-Annual meeting of the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops takes place near O’Hare Airport in Chicago. To my pleasant surprise I have been afforded the opportunity to speak to the bishops about evangelical Christianity and our role in ecumenism and mission. I will speak, as well as share lunch, with the bishops and thus I will interact with them as a friend. To say that I was delighted to accept this invitation when it was given to me several months ago, and now to be near the date of our meeting, is a source of deep joy and a call to pursuing true humility in mission. I go to this meeting to share as well as to learn. I go to love and be loved. I go to expand the work of ecumenism in my own circles, especially among younger evangelicals, and I go as the Liaison of the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation. In this role I have been given further joy and opportunity.



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