Stay Awake for Advent (A Sermon)

Advent began last Sunday, November 30. I had the joy of preaching, and leading the divine liturgy, at Lutheran Church of the Master in Carol Stream, Illinois. This is the audio of my sermon based upon the lectionary Gospel text in Mark 13:24-37. I pray that this sermon will encourage you in your worship, edification and spiritual transformation during this wonderful new beginning to the church year.

By |December 5th, 2014|Categories: ACT 3, Incarnation, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Personal|

The Cruciform God

imagesWhen the concept of the atonement is primarily understood as divine forgiveness we have been given a clear way to understand how God can be both just and justifier. He can demand payment for an offense and yet at the same time he can provide forgiveness in himself as the person who pays for our offense. He can do both at the same time.

Be honest. No one enjoys suffering. In fact, if a person desires to suffer we seriously wonder if they are mentally healthy. But if the reason for our suffering is just and understandable, on other grounds that we might not readily see at first glance, then most of us can face it with some degree of strength. What makes suffering particularly hard to accept is this – if we are suffering because of an injustice done to us then it truly seems unbearable. The reason for this perplexity is that we rarely think of ourselves in a negative light. We believe that we do not deserve to suffer because we are not that guilty.

The Depth & Extent of God’s Forgiveness Displayed in the Atonement – Part 2

UnknownOver the centuries theologians have developed numerous models for expressing the saving significance of Jesus’ death. We have sketched out several of these models, ever so simply I freely admit, in several blogs the past few weeks. I have concluded, along with Joel B. Green, Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, that: “No interpretation of the atonement can be regarded as the only authentic one, not least because no one model or metaphor can exhaust the significance of Jesus’ crucifixion” (Fuller Theology, News & Notes, Fall 2012, 3, italics are my own). I urge you, friends and readers, to grasp the importance of Green’s statement. You should realize that by opposing the simple clarity of this conclusion that you are likely opposing other important Christian truths, especially the unity of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Joel Green suggests that this was true even within the time in which the New Testament itself was written since several different models seem to clearly be at work in the apostolic texts. This was true as well in

Watch Out for "Christian Karma"

The words “karma” and “Christian” do not naturally go together. Karma comes from Indian religions and is most definitely not a Christian concept. Karma refers to the concept of “action” or “deed” and is understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect. Thus people popularly speak of someone who experiences a lot of bad events in their life as “having bad karma.”

improve-good-karma-tipsKarma is generally associated with spiritism and reincarnation. In this context “the law of cause and effect” is situated within a deeply spiritual way of understanding. Karma is even used to determine how one’s life should be lived. Spirits are encouraged to choose how (and when) to suffer retribution for the wrong that they did in previous lives. The problem with this kind of spirituality is simple–such teaching has no clear grasp of how we actually know this reality without remembering whether or not we had a choice in the first place. Disabilities, physical or mental impairment or even an unlucky life are all due, in some way, to the choices a

Christ Our Center – The Lausanne Conversation at Mundelein Seminary

The past two Monday blogs (May 20 and 27) have included information about our April 18 public meeting, “Christ Our Center.” This event was held at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary. This event was a small part of the first ever Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation, a private dialogue between twenty-five leaders. ACT3 Network worked with our partner, the Lausanne Committee, to jointly host and sponsor this event. This video gives you the opportunity to now join with us in hearing and following what transpired that historic Thursday night.

Today I post the third, and final, video of that special evening. This is a dialogue with all four of us participating: Fr. Edward T. Oakes, Dr. Hans Boersma, Fr. Robert Barron and me. It also includes responses, comments and a discussion of some of the topics and questions of that evening. The audience also asked questions. Some of these questions were asked by participants from the private conversation and some by guests who were only present for this evening meeting.

Again, I hope the work that we put into making this video available proves to

St. Cyril of Alexandria – Our True Unity Flows from Divine Diversity

Our Lord Jesus Christ did not pray only for his twelve apostles, who became the solid foundation of the Christian church. He also prayed, as we read in John 17:20-24, for all who would believe in him in every age since the apostles. He prayed for all of those who would yield to him and obey the words that call them to be holy by believing on him as the Christ, the son of the living God. We see his will in this matter revealed most plainly in these astounding words:

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,[a] so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world

Testimony Has the Greatest Weight

The famous Samuel Johnson (1708–1784), often called quite simply Dr. Johnson, was a devout Anglican essayist, poet, literary critic and editor. He has been called “the most distinguished man of letters in English history.” He is also the subject of the most famous single work of biography in the whole of literature, James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson. Johnson observed, as reported in Boswell’s biography, “Testimony has great weight, and casts the balance.” I believe this is profoundly true with regard to our Christian faith. Let me explain.

The late Christian philosopher Elton Trueblood wrote, “If Christ is trustworthy, God really is!” He further said we have many reasons for believing in God but the one reason that is ultimately inescapable is the testimony of Christ. If Christ is the center of certitude then it is not rational for anyone to refuse to follow him into his own deepest conviction of reality. “The testimony of Christ is important,” adds Trueblood, “because thoughtful people are fully aware of a certain inconclusiveness in all other theistic evidences.”

There are good evidences

A Canadian Leader Who Models Christian Grace in Leadership

Wall5A Canadian Christian friend recently introduced me to the head of state in his province by sharing an email link. I thus learned about a remarkable politician named Brad Wall. Wall was elected Premier of Saskatchewan in the November 2007 provincial election. 

Since that election, the Wall's leadership of the government can point to a remarkable list of achievements, including;  

– Three balanced budgets; 
– The largest tax cuts in the history of Saskatchewan; 
– Cutting the province's debt by almost 40 per cent; 
– Record infrastructure spending to improve roads, schools and senior's facilities all across Saskatchewan and providing more affordable housing for those with lower incomes.

Prior to his career in politics, Premier Wall was active in his local business community and was involved in service work spanning local events, economic development and health care

“I Have Never Found Anyone in Israel with Such Faith” Part Two

Yesterday I showed how God coming into this world made this the “visited planet,” to quote one of my favorite lines from the late J. B. Phillips. Today I want to explain further what this means for true faith.

I begin by making a statement that I have come to understand over the last decade. Until I understood the incarnation as I now do I would have said what the evangelical Protestant church needs the most is a bigger view of God. I would now disagree with myself and say what we need even more, to the surprise of many who read these words perhaps, is a much bigger view of humankind. We have a radically deficient anthropology because we have a radically deficient view of both creation and incarnation.

So when Jesus says of the Centurion that he had never found such faith as that which he expressed in all of Israel it was more than an exaggerated statement for effect. He was saying that religion can never produce such great faith. Only faith in the person of Jesus – his wisdom, grace and love – can

By |June 26th, 2011|Categories: Faith, Incarnation|

“I Have Never Found Anyone in Israel with Such Faith” Part One

In Matthew 8 we have an astonishing account of true faith. I have heard many theological definitions of faith given over the years but none comes close to this story. (Have you ever noticed that Jesus did not give definitions of faith but stories that reveal what true faith looks like in a person’s actions?) This is such an account.

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such

By |June 25th, 2011|Categories: Faith, Incarnation|