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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

An Evening for Ecumenical Conversation @ St. Procopius Abbey

P1250149On 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

ACT3 Network Video: An Introduction to Our Mission

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.

 

Debating Doctrine and Preserving Unity: What Conservative Christians Can Do (2)

Unknown-1In 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

Debating Doctrine and Preserving Unity: What Conservative Christians Can Do (1)

UnknownA very good friend, who is mature and wise from solid life experience, recently taught what he describes to me as “a somewhat ecumenical message in my adult Sunday School class (while unpacking the Greatest Commandment).” He told his class that when true believers disagree on peripheral matters we are to remember that we are in the family of God and that our Lord prescribes a loving way to humbly engage with one another. If we engage with each other in the way our Lord taught us then we are able to both teach and learn.

One of the examples my friend used in his adult class was the subject of differing views of creation that are held by Christians. (The discussion was much wider but this issue was the one that troubled a few.) At the end of this class someone with whom my friend has ministered in their local church context for well over thirty years (he adds he felt this relationship had been at a fairly deep level) came forward to ask a question. He wanted

Chris Castaldo on Christian Unity

Today I post a great video clip on unity by my friend, Dr. Chris Castaldo. Chris formerly served at the Billy Graham Center and recently became the lead pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois. Chris shares my vision very deeply yet he comes at the particular issues from a very different background and context. What makes our partnership work is a deep relationship between us that is rooted in love. This love goes all the way back to Chris’s seminary days at Gordon-Conwell in Massachusetts. Chris lives just two blocks from my house in Carol Stream. Our friendship is the kind where we can  “drop by” and chat any time. Pray for Chris, Angela and their children as they adjust to a new pastorate.

I also post this video today because tonight Dr. Castaldo will moderate our ACT3 Dialogue on Christian Unity tonight with Fr. Robert Barron. This event will be in Lisle (IL) at St. Procopius Abbey. You are welcome to attend at 7:00 p.m. There is no registration required and no charge to attend. A video of the entire evening is being made. We

The Way of Jesus Beyond Doctrinal Propositions: Living the Love and Unity of Christ

P1240816The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service that I wrote about yesterday included a warm and deeply thoughtful sermon by Fr. George Byron Koch, pastor of Resurrection Church (Anglican), West Chicago, IL. Fr. Koch is the new chairman of the ACT3 Network board and a very dear friend. He is also a great writer and preacher. His sermon in the Christian Unity service was one of the best calls to our unity in Christ I have heard in a long time.

George Byron Koch is the author of What We Believe and Why (Byron Arts, Northwoods, IL, 2012), a magnificently readable and insightful study of Christian faith and practice. 51Uif1n6RHL._AA160_Two particular insights undergird this book: (1) The Christian faith has been torn from its Jewish roots, and; (2) The influence of philosophy on the church has divided it again and again, creating extremely deleterious consequences for Christ’s mission. I not only share George Koch’s view I believe you will hear both aspects of it clearly in this

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

A Special Season in the Desert – A Journey into Deeper Ecumenism (1)

The mission of ACT3 takes me to many cities and communities, to meet with leaders in private as well as large and small groups of earnest Christians from many churches. Some of my most enjoyable work is building relationships with some of the most interesting and mission-focused leaders that I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing my life-journey with as partners. Such was the case again because of a visit to the Phoenix area, January 16-21. Over the next few days I plan to share this mission with friends by means of these blogs. I ask you to share in the joy of what Christ is doing and to pray for me as I seek to be faithful to God’s John 17 call upon my life.

On Saturday, January 17, I spoke at a Phoenix-area John 17 Movement meeting hosted by Catholic Renewal Ministries of the Diocese of Phoenix. Catholic Renewal Ministries (CRM) is a ministry organization that provides a variety of services to parishes and prayer groups across the Phoenix diocese, including: seminars, retreats, conferences, healing masses, praise nights and other devotional resources. CRM can best be

Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

Philosophers have debated this question for millennia: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Christians have an answer, indeed the only answer that I believe satisfies both the mind and the heart.

the-love-of-god-tara-ellisIn the distant past there was only God. The ineffable and eternal God, existing in the triune fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was/is a God of eternal love. God is a triune fellowship of selfless, perfect, other-centered love. Further, there is no conscious life outside of God, the Father-Son-Spirit. God alone constitutes the complete whole of reality.

This is what we confess in the Creed and this really is central to Christian faith: “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”

But in God there was never anything lacking. The picture is perfect. It is one of a ceaseless peace and joy flowing in love within the circle of the three persons in the divine trinity. God did not, simply put, create everything that is because he lacked anything or needed you or me. He created us out of a

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