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Living My Way Into the Life of the Trinity

No truth is (perhaps) more complex than that of the Trinity, one God in three persons. But I am persuaded that no truth is more central to living well as a follower of Christ. The Trinity is not a debate, at least for me. It is revealed yet it is a stunning mystery. A professor, playing on an earlier line, once said, “If you deny the Trinity you may loose your soul but if you accept the Trinity (and truly embrace it) you will likely find life and freedom.” So true.

My journey into God has been deeply Trinitarian for decades but much more so in the last twenty-plus years. My first memories of God, as a young child, were a mixture of terror with that of a friendly person who loved me. So far as I remember I always believed in God. But I also believed in hell and believed I might go there. (Massive confusion helps create this fear yet Scripture does, quite plainly, warn us of judgment.) I also believed in Holy God,

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

Pondering the Syrian Context on the Day After Our Nation Launched Fifty Tomahawk Missiles

Late late night I read the first news reports of our president’s authorization of the launch of fifty missiles on Syrian air bases. (He warned the Russians in advance so their soldiers would leave, wanting to avoid a direct conflict with Russia.) It appears this morning that we hit military targets and human casualties will be small, perhaps even none. The reason for this attack was the outrage felt by our nation, and our president, upon seeing the helpless children who had died at the hands of President Assad through the use of chemical weapons. (Of course, Assad is denying he was behind this and blames the rebellion for the use of such weapons.)

I am deeply troubled by these events. Let me explain why.

Is this strike a one-time military action? If not, what is our strategy going forward? If there is “no red line” that Assad can cross to lead us into a “hot war” with him (which Mr. Trump promised for months he would not do) then why did these photos of dead children prompt this response and why now? Is there a policy for

Breach of Trust: Has Our U.S. Policy Lost Its Way?

Our American commitment to perpetual war now seems fairly self-evident. We have been engaged in some kind of military conflict, almost without significant pause, since the end of the Vietnam War. Our current military action in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the wider Middle East) is nearing fifteen years and there is virtually no reason to see a real (final) end in sight with the election of an aggressive military advocate now in the White House. The president is surrounded by generals who believe in the goals and commitments of our present time in military history and thought the strategic use of force might change I am not convinced it will bed for the better. Let me explain.

Warmongers and militarists talk about bombing North Korea, or at least increasing our presence on their border, if necessary. They also talk about intervening in the Syrian civil war. We continually talk about “defeating ISIS” by “bombing the hell out of them” through using the full power of our vast military power to destroy them, a prospect that has

My Story: An ABC Chicago Television Special

 

Several years ago a special ABC Channel 7 Chicago program was done on my life and mission. It appears on our resource page inside the ACT3 site but I share it here for those who are new to this ministry and have not yet seen it. This is 28-minutes long.

 

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017 in Atlanta

Last Tuesday evening, January 24, I preached a sermon on reconciliation (1 Corinthians 5:14-20) at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service at Emory University in Atlanta. I shared this program with leaders from across much of the Christian tradition. The event was inspiring and deeply Christ centered. The Archdiocese of Atlanta made a video about the evening which you can see here in less than three minutes.

On Saturday, May 20, I will be back in Atlanta to lead a “Unity Factor Conversation” for the city. Information will be available soon. Registration is free and a meal is provided. Mark the date now and if you live in the area plan to join us for interaction and worship around our shared desire to be an answer to our Lord’s prayer in John 17:21-24. God is doing good things for unity in Atlanta. Pray for the city, pray for me and pray for ACT3 and our work there. If you wish to follow ACT3 sign up for our ACT3 Weekly.

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 Life and Last Days of a Saint: Dr. Ben Campbell Johnson

Does What We Sing Matter to the Faith of the Church?

Since the 1970s we have had a raging debate about singing and music in the church. This debate has often come down to “traditional” music, or (old) hymns, versus “modern,” or popular music. The real truth is that the great influence on church music has been a combination of the charismatic influence, much of which is good in directing our hearts to God in personal praise, and the popular songs of television and pop-culture. This “performance” music is not good, at least in my view. Why?

People do not participate in “praying twice” (St. Augustine) as much as they watch and observe and see a professional production of varying quality. On contrast, pietism went right to the heart of people when they sang their faith. What happens if we cease to express our communion in the common faith in deep and thoughtful ways?