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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.

A Swedish House Church Movement of Revival

Pietism produced many expressions and forms. In the end, Pietism was a rival/renewal movement in the centuries following the Reformed and Lutheran Reformations of the sixteenth century. I personally believe the post-Reformation produced a new type of scholasticism that help to reduce the flame of reformation to a flicker. Pietism is quite often seen by modern Reformed and Lutheran confessional adherents as a bad development. If you believe in church renewal and the work of the Spirit you should rethink this idea.

 

Martin Marty on the Roots of Pietism

The famous church historian Martin Marty is part of a new series on pietism. This short clip is well worth watching. Marty “nails it” when it comes to what was lacking in the early Lutheran Reformation and the doctrinal emphasis that followed.

 

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

The Week That Dramatically Altered the Culture Conflict and the Future of the Church

th-1Response to the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has been all over the map, to say the least. We have seen some amazing celebrations and all the expected denunciations from many Christians. At First Baptist Church in Dallas the pulpit was adorned with red, white and blue last weekend. The pastor called the ruling “an affront in the face of Almighty God.” Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Dallas, said the court had acted in a way that represented “depravity, degradation and what the Bible calls sexual perversion.” The White House, in contrast, was bathed in the rainbow colors of the LGBT movement. Many other churches, mostly Protestant mainline congregations, called attention to the decision with prayer and joy.

The pastor at First Baptist in Dallas said he was not discouraged at all. He added, “We are not going to be silenced. This is a great opportunity for our church to share the truth and love of Jesus Christ and we are going to do it.” Now, if ever there was a line I personally agreed

Celebrating the Martyrdom of John Hus 600 Years Later

Monday, July 6, marked the 600th anniversary of the martyrdom of John Hus. Hus, the great Bohemian reformer, prophesied in his death that God would raise up another reformer who would carry on what he began, a reference that fits Martin Luther to the letter. (We celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s “Ninety-five Theses” in 2017!)

thJohn Hus, known as “The Morning Star of the Reformation,” desired that the Czech nation and people know redeeming grace through Jesus Christ more than anything else. He preached a clear and popular message in the language of his people, not in the Latin of the church. He taught the Bible very carefully and encouraged people to pursue the truth in Christ in every area of life. He was willing to die for his faith and this is exactly what happened.

On Monday a most remarkable event took place in the city of Opava in memory of John Hus’ martyrdom. The Catholic Church hosted an ecumenical memorial service to honor John Hus, the biblical reformer, in the main city cathedral. The service was

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.

The Killing That Stunned America: April 14, 1865

assassination1One hundred-and-fifty years ago on this day America was emerging from its long nightmare, a war between the states that we call the American Civil War. More Americans died in this four-plus year conflict than in all other military operations in our entire history put together. During this great ordeal brother killed brother and entire families were torn apart. Towns and cities were devastated across the South. Though slavery was formally and legally ended what followed was another one-hundred plus years of “virtual” (economic and social) slavery that created major problems we are still unable to solve as a free people. We have, if I read present events correctly, never fully recovered from this time. We are defined by race (itself an artificial and unscientific distinction) as much as any modern and free society in the world.

As a son-of-the-South I can tell you that the memory of this Civil War abided in my own family heritage as something that we understood as deeply life-changing. (I can still remember hearing the War referred to as: “The Way of Northern Aggression.” If you think

John Hagee: Reflections on My Facebook Post (Part 4 of 4)

486525_10151146516347518_322558031_nWhen I previously wrote about John Hagee I defended my link and comment by saying that Hagee is misleading multitudes. I believe this is apparent once you read the biblical texts above and then read what Hagee is saying. Then follow his actions on behalf of the state of Israel. (Have you ever seen photographs of his studio/auditorium where his services take place? His platform is surrounded by the flags of both the U.S. and Israel. And have you ever followed the money trail of his Christians United for Israel mission and asked where does Hagee send significant funds to support a nation, not a mission? And have you heard what he says about the gospel and the need for the Jews to believe in Jesus as the Messiah?) To suggest that I should read the entire Four Blood Moons book before I comment on his teaching is nothing short of preposterous. For beginners I have read all of John Hagee that I care to read. His exegesis is terrible, his theology is worse and his public

John Hagee: Reflections on My Facebook Post (Part 3 of 4)

B166PIn the case of John Hagee very few people within the larger culture are paying attention to his prophecies. Last week I scanned a copy of John Hagee’s book, Can America Survive?: 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation (Howard Books, 2010), in a Half-Price Bookstore near home. The copy I looked at was called an “Updated Edition.” (I love how these books have to be updated. I wonder why? This is humor dear reader!) The subtitle on this newer edition reads: “Startling Revelations and Promises of Hope.” The cover speaks of “special updates” on: the death of the dollar, a nuclear Iran, the reaction of Israel, and hope for a troubled nation. Hagee writes of the following:

  1. The impending nuclear war in the Middle East
  2. The coming death of the U. S. dollar
  3. The consequences of rejecting Israel
  4. The absolute accuracy of biblical prophecy
  5. The coming Fourth Reich

The dust jacket of this same book says, “As a candid conservative Christian leader . . . this bestselling author courageously sounds an alarm to awaken the American nation from the slumber

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