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Faith Energized By Love

UnknownAs I have been reading and writing on love for more than thirteen months now I am awestruck by so much that is transforming my own  life.

Here is but one example. A Pauline text that has deeply moved me can be read in Galatians 5:1-6:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.  Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law.  You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (5)

Unknown-1Several years ago Pope Benedict XVI tasked three trusted cardinals to investigate as deeply as necessary the Vatican’s internal culture. He wanted to know what prompted a Vatican butler to steal incriminating documents and then leak them to a journalist. Only two men know what is in the final report that came from this investigation: Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. So on December 22 Pope Francis responded to this internal investigation by addressing the Vatican Curia in a message that was direct, sharply stinging and very bold. In it he gave 15 Ailments of the Curia.

Over the last four days I have counted down each one of these “ailments” from number fifteen to number five. Today I share the last four.

No. 4 Planning too much

The pope said, “Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit.”

This charismatic Jesuit pope is a man who walks in the Spirit. He loves deeply and especially loves the gospel of forgiveness and joy. He knows the joy

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (2)

pope-francis-600Yesterday I reported on the comments that Pope Francis made to the Roman Catholic Curia just prior to Christmas. He enumerated fifteen ailments he saw in the curia. (The term curia is foreign to many evangelicals. The curia consists of those officials who assist in the governance of the Catholic Church. The Roman Curia is the central government of the global Catholic Church.) Other denominations have something like the curia but the origins of this term are generally believed to be found in Latin (Roman) Western developments. For example, every diocese (even in many non-Catholic contexts) has the equivalent of a curia. This governing council can be made up of priests, ministers, financial officers and other lay officers who help govern. Every institutional church form has something like a curia even if we call it the elders or deacons of the church.

The point of all this is to show you that the pope’s strong statements can be applied to all who govern and lead the church, including lay leaders in evangelical contexts. For this reason I am counting down

When Christians Defend Jesus Why Do They Lop Off Ears?

My good friend Tom Tollet is an elder in a Baptist church in Memphis (TN). He is a faithful Bible teacher who became one of the best friends my late mom and dad had in their final years in Tennessee. He served for many years with FedEx and now operates his own family business. The following reflection was sent to me some time ago and I now use it with permission.

As I prepare to teach from Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God” I meditate on how the Lord was a friend of sinners while preaching an uncompromising Sermon on the Mount. How do I do that today? I suspect it won’t exactly look like August 1st.

I understand the call to defend marriage and oppose the power plays of certain city mayors, but doesn’t it seem like we simply respond in kind to the opposition ….power for power, rhetoric for rhetoric, manipulation for manipulation? In other words: did August 1st have the aroma of Christ? I’m sure Mike Huckabee would say: don’t be a disciple of mine but of Christ. But do we recognize the difference that makes in attitude

ACT3 Network Story Video (3)

On Monday I introduced you to the best resource we have ever created to share our vision. This new resource is our ACT3 Network Story video. Yesterday I shared some ways in which you could use this story to impact your own life and that of others who you feel that you can reach. Today I wish to share how we will use many new video resources that came from our interviews. I believe that we have created short films that share a great story that can impact thousands of viewers like you.

In making this new ACT3 Network Story film producer and director Tim Frakes shot 10-12 minute interviews with about forty-five different people. These interviews included filming with Catholic and Orthodox priests, Protestant ministers from many traditions, lay leaders from the entire church and people of varied backgrounds ethnically and nationally. We interviewed men and women, young and old. The major question that we asked each person was simple: “Tell us what Christian unity means to you and why?” We also asked each person to talk about how they saw ACT3 Network sharing this vision with others. You will hear

Christian Unity Week @ Judson University, Part Three

IMG_4199We ended Christian Unity Week at Judson University on Friday, October 10. The final message was given by one of my dearest friends on earth – Fr. Wilbur Ellsworth. Fr. Ellsworth, pastor of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in Warrenville, Illinois, has been my friend since the 1980s. He came to Wheaton, from a pastorate in Kent, Ohio, to serve as senior pastor of the First Baptist Church. We have shared many times of ministry, and growing friendship, over the last twenty-five plus years.

Fr. Ellsworth and I have built a relationship over meals, prayer, conversations about theology and church, as well as special family events. We have celebrated birthdays, weddings and times of grief. We have given unique gifts to one another that we both value deeply. The intimacy of our friendship is something I treasure very, very profoundly. When Fr. Ellsworth began his private journey toward the Orthodox Church some years ago I knew of his direction long before it was made public. We entered into much healthy and engaging dialogue. Both of us learned a great

God, the Ebola Crisis and the American Response

You cannot escape it even if you try. The Ebola outbreak dominates the news cycle day-after-day right now. So long as this virus impacts even one American millions of Americans will keep on watching this endless reporting. Once it dies down, at least in terms of being a threat to the US, then we will soon forget about it. Meanwhile West Africans will die by the thousands. I am not cynical about this at all. I simply think that this is the way news goes on day-by-day inside the bubble of life here in the US.

If you’ve ever traveled abroad you will soon realize just how America-centric we are in terms of what interests us. News of the world fills one page in most daily newspapers in the US. It only makes the TV news if it impacts Americans directly. (The one exception happens when a great tragedy strikes some part of the globe and then it will be mentioned once or twice and forgotten.) In Europe the news reporting covers a bit of local interest, the world at large and then America. We have this

New Possibilities in the Quest for Visible Unity

Dr. J. Norberto Saracco is a leading Pentecostal pastor in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Norberto has been a leader in the global ecumenical movement and deeply involved in the Lausanne Movement. He serves on the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation committee that I chair and through this work we have become good friends. He was a presenter at our recent meeting in Mundelein. (This address and video will soon be available on our website.)

Norberto is also a very close friend of UnknownJorge Bergoglio, who the world now knows as Pope Francis. Norberto, and the former Cardinal, shared many platforms and public prayer meetings together. They have also spent many times together in private, both before Begoglio became Pope Francis and since. Together they have witnessed to the power of Christian unity in the Spirit. With this in mind I share a guest post today by presenting Norberto’s words from a previously published article.

In February of 2006 Norberto gave a presentation that originally appeared on the website of the World Council of Churches. Today I publish this article because I

Love Alone Is Eternal (Part Eleven)

UnknownOne of the greatest contemporary spiritual writers I have happily encountered in the last few years is Carlo Carretto (1910-1988). Carretto was a member of the Little Brothers of Jesus, the order inspired by the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld. Through his best-selling Letters from the Desert, and more than a dozen other books, Carlo Carretto gave to Christians a joy-filled spirituality centered deeply in God’s love. Carretto showed us that it was possible to live a contemplative life in the midst of a very busy, modern world.

One of Carlo Carretto’s most moving reflections, which includes translations of his original Italian, reflects the sense of where I hope you will go with me as we discover that our love is too small.

Like God

If we are not capable during our lifetime of falling in love with God, we are lost.

Without love we are incomplete, immature, bored, missing paradise.

We would be doubtful and formulate the following equation: love of God equals peace, joy, bliss, fecundity, exultation, paradise; lack of love equals

Love Alone Is Eternal (Part Ten)

Most of us realize that life is more than our limited experience of day-to-day activity. We believe there is a God we believe that it is he who sustains the world. We further believe that it is God who made us. But moments of wonder and transcendence do not mean that we know God really loves us. Explaining the world, and especially our own lives, without a personal, sustaining and loving God seems impossible. The alternative is an accident, or worse yet, pure fate!

When John says “God is love” we are prone to think, “That’s really nice.” Then a dozen popular and cheerful songs flood our minds about love, sweet love, what the world needs a little more of we say. We conceive of someone who cheers us up by being sunny and happy. But the biblical writers didn’t sing these kinds of songs or conceive of this kind of sunny personality. They surely didn’t have these ideas in mind when they spoke of God being love. Love, for the biblical writers, is the will to do good for another person, even at great cost to

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