Biblical Theology

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Hearts and Minds Book Notes

One of my good friends is Byron Borger, the owner/manager of Hearts and Minds Books in Pennsylvania. Byron regularly prepares a great review of a wide array of books. I encourage you to read his reviews (which you can get by email) and buy books from him. Yes, you can buy books for a larger discount at Amazon but Byron will help you personally and guide you with a human and thoughtful response about new (and old) books. I know no other resource like Byron Borger if you love Christian books. In a recent review of new books he wrote the following about me and my book:

Costly Love: The Way to True Unity for All the Followers of Jesus, John H. Armstrong (New City Press) $15.95. I will tell you more about this later but I truly wanted to list it here. This is one of the most provocative and thoughtful and thorough studies of the Biblical teaching about love I have yet seen. It is serious and well researched, drawing on writers both

By |September 14th, 2017|Categories: ACT 3, Biblical Theology, Books|

A Sleepless Night and a Gentle and Powerful Morning Reminder

In Matthew 19 Jesus welcomes little children to himself, (gently) touches them and prays over them. The disciples, in contrast, seem too stern and busy to feel the is important kingdom work. The story tells us:

13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

It is easy to rebuke the disciples in this story. But perhaps we have this wrong. Could it be that love made them desire to protect Jesus and seeing he was tired and drained (they had seen multiple miracles of healing, great teaching, etc.). It is likely they were concerned for his well-being. After all, he was now talking about a cross, which puzzled them. I think the tension in his heart

Do Not Confuse Your Plans with God’s

One of the most persistent problems I face, as both a Christian thinker and leader, is to confuse my plans with God’s plans. I seek God, I pray, and I read widely and study a great deal. I often see a clear way forward, at least sometimes. I sometimes feel quite sure I know what God wants. But my plans are not God’s plans. I have learned this again and again over nearly seven decades of life. But I still fall into the trap even as I watch others do the same in large numbers.

The hope of humanity is Jesus Christ. This hope is clearly being challenged today. It is challenged by politicians. It is challenged by social engineers. It is challenged by entrepreneurs. And it is challenged by ministers as well. Dr. Ralphael Gamaliel Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta since 2005, rightly says, “It takes a tough mind and a tender heart to hold on to hope.” It sure does.

I have found holding on to hope very difficult over the last twelve months. I personally came through a quintuple heart

The Death of the Holy Innocents

The Gospel text for Sunday, January 1, 2017, was Matthew 2:13-23. It is a text I have rarely, if ever, heard preached. I have never personally preached from it in forty-five years.

Our congregation is faced with a unique trial and a season of life I hope you never go through as a Christian. On Christmas Eve our beloved pastor, Rev. Greg Moser, passed into the presence of Jesus his Lord at fifty-two years of age. We were stunned. It felt as if the joy of the season was sucked out of us. We were confused and reeling. What do we do now? Where do we turn with all our questions, fears, and doubts?

I have been asked to preach and lead the eucharistic celebration at Lutheran Church of the Master until we call an interim pastor, hopefully by February. During this time I will follow the liturgy and lectionary faithfully and seek to give pastoral wisdom and comfort to us as a people walking through deep grief.

So what to do with a text like Matthew 2:13-23? You can hear my attempt, feeble as it was, to respond

The Letter to Ephesus

This summer my local congregation, Lutheran Church of the Master, is engaged with a series of sermons from Revelation 2-3. I am filling in for our pastor for many Saturday evening vespers services. So far I have preached on the first three churches of the Revelation. Here is the first, The Letter of Jesus to the Church in Ephesus.

Note: These seven letters were all given by Jesus to John to deliver to the angel/messenger/bishop of each church.

Jesus’ Upside-Down Kingdom

The kingdom of Jesus turns everything “upside down.” We settle far too easily for a tame and non-threatening gospel where grace does not surprise us. This sermon was preached at Lutheran Church of the Master, Carol Stream, IL, on June 11-12. I share it because I hope it will edify and encourage you if you like to hear a biblical sermon as an audio file.

Should Ecclesiastes Be in the Biblical Canon?

iuMy question will likely startle some. It seems obvious to others. Count me among the latter group. I have read the book many, many times but it has never seemed clearly apparent to me that it belongs, even among the books that we call the “wisdom literature.”

I recently read Ecclesiastes again, this time in The Message. Same question: Why is it here? How does it belong?

The writer undertakes an investigation of experience at all levels. He asks questions about creation, justice, the wise versus the foolish, and the just versus the unjust. He insists that though God is sovereign over all things we cannot know exactly what God is doing or why he is doing it. What then is our proper human response? To take what we get now and use it as best we can. (Here is the observation that I wish I had learned much sooner! I tried to connect the dots of providence in my life overmuch and quite often I did so way too simplistically.)

So when various theologians and preachers tell you

The Passing of My Friend Joseph F. Girzone

224465_215055838545526_6641788_nSeveral 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

René Girard: The Passing of an Amazing and Iconic Thinker

I think it is quite unlikely that many readers of this post know the life and thought of René Girard. I discovered him late in life, only about fifteen years ago. I found his work on human desire both insightful and brilliant. Agree or disagree with Girard’s thought he helped us rethink human desire, anthropology and sin. If you reject the idea of evolution please do not let that issue keep you from learning from this great Christian thinker. This presentation by Fr. James Alison is a great, short summary.

You may need to see this several times to actually process Girard’s central thought but this is as good as any short presentation of the man and his thinking I’ve seen.

James Martin Shows the Importance of the Pope’s Encyclical in Ten Ways

Some readers know that I am a big fan of James Martin, the best-selling Jesuit author who is one of our most powerful Christian communicators today. Fr. Martin summarizes, in this short video, why the new papal encyclical is so important for all Christians.

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