A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Calmly Considered: Should Christians Participate in Black Friday?

In this episode of Calmly Considered, Michael and Allan discuss how Christians might think about gift giving in the Christmas season and how to balance living in a culture of material abundance with a life of simplicity.

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Monday, November 14, 2022

Sacred Space


"Maybe you had to leave in order to miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was."-- Jodi Picoult

Yesterday, I returned to a congregation I pastored fifteen to twenty or so years ago. I retired from serving another congregation this past June, and when my earlier church received the news, they invited my family and me to return to celebrate my retirement. My entire family came-- children, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. My wife and I were thrilled everyone could be there. We worshiped with people we hadn't seen in years and with new faces who connected with the church after we left. It felt good to stand in a familiar pulpit in a familiar sanctuary. Afterward, the church hosted a reception for us in the Fellowship Hall. It was good to reconnect with some great and faithful saints.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Word Revisited: Should Protestants Read the Apocrypha?

In this episode of Word Revisited, we interview Rev. Dr. David DeSilva, Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary (Ashland, Ohio) and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. The interview centers on his book, Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance. We ask ask him why Protestants should read the Apocrypha and how these writings illuminate the worlds of Jesus and Paul.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Victory Requires a New Song, but at What Cost?



O sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
    have gotten him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
    he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the victory of our God (Psalm 98:1-3).

Every war has its battle songs. During the American Revolution one tune was “The Liberty Song.”
Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all, By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall; In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed, For heaven approves of each generous deed.
During the Civil War the Confederacy sang “The Bonnie Blue Flag,”

Friday, November 04, 2022

The Wesleyan Way: An Interview with Bishop William H. Willimon

In this premiere episode of The Wesleyan Way, Allan interviews United Methodist Bishop William H. Willimon on his latest book, Don't Look Back: Methodist Hope for What Comes Next. They discuss such questions as "How have Methodists lost their essential character as a mission?" "What must be done to revitalize a Methodism that is currently aging out of existence?" "Why do Jurisdictional Conferences ask the wrong questions of episcopal candidates?" "What is the hope for what comes next?"

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Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Deconstructing Memes: Voting Biblically



As we are in the throes of another election season, I think visiting a meme about what it means to vote biblically is in order.

The meme above floats around on social media in every election season, usually posted by Christians whose politics are more conservative. At first glance, it appears to be well grounded in Scripture, but is it? I would say that it certainly is based on some Scriptures and it also makes some good points, but there are two glaringly large problems with this meme.

Having the Faith of a Farmer


Though the fig tree does not blossom
    and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
    and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
    and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will exult in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer
    and makes me tread upon the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

All of us live by faith in something or someone, even those who are not particularly religious. We have faith that our family will support us in difficult times, young children trust that their parents will protect them and give them aid when they skin their knees. Even when we drive, we have faith (though with some caution) that others on the road will drive carefully. Every day we live by faith in some regard.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Christians and the Celebration of Halloween


I know some Christians are skittish about the observance of Halloween. I have never been. I went Trick-or-Treating as a kid and we took our children as well. In fact, I think the celebration of Halloween has sound theological ramifications. Please consider the following:

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

In Praise of Tax Collectors and Prostitutes



“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not,’ but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same, and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him, and even after you saw it you did not change your minds and believe him (Matthew 21:28-32).

Jesus has a problem with the truth. His problem is that he tells the truth, come what may. Jesus never minces words. At times, we might say to someone who said something offensive, “It’s not what you said; it’s how you said it.” Jesus is uninterested in the latter.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Friday, October 21, 2022

God Will Make a Way, but Patience Is Required



In those days and in that time, says the Lord, the people of Israel shall come, they and the people of Judah together; they shall come weeping as they seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, and they shall come and join themselves to the Lord by an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten (Jeremiah 50:4-5).

The people of Judah are not in a good place. The Babylonian Empire, the biggest bully on the geopolitical block in the sixth century B.C., has destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple and has deported many of God’s people off to exile in Babylon. Surely, it must seem that God has either forgotten them or is not as powerful as the gods of the Babylonians. It’s been hard for the Judeans to accept Jeremiah’s insistence that they have been judged for their idolatrous ways and unjust behavior. Whatever they may think of the why of their situation, they have no hope for a bright future. There seems to be no way out of their exile.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Calmly Considered: The Mid-Term Election and Voting as a Christian

In this episode of "Calmly Considered," Michael and Allan discuss the upcoming mid-term election. They offer some thoughts on the current political landscape and make some predictions, which are probably wrong. They also reflect on how Christians might think about voting as it relates to their faith.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Mission/Evangelism Is a False Distinction


These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not take a road leading to gentiles, and do not enter a Samaritan town, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick; raise the dead; cleanse those with a skin disease; cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff, for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town (Matthew 10:5-15).

Many churches today make a distinction between mission and evangelism. Mission is digging wells and building churches in far away places, while evangelism is telling folks about Jesus. Many churches have a Missions committee and an evangelism committee. By default the two are viewed as two separate endeavors. But are they?

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Pronouncing Judgment When There Is No Harvest


On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again” (Mark:11:12-14a)

In Mark 11, Jesus enters Jerusalem one last time. He will spend the next several days needling the religious authorities to within an inch of their patience. The people come out to greet him as he enters the city. No doubt the people are reminded of another triumphal entry many decades before—the entry of Judas Maccabeus, who had liberated Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple. But Jesus has something else in mind for the Temple. His first stop upon his arrival is the Temple itself, but it is too late in the day, so Jesus leaves for Bethany with his disciples to stay with friends.

Friday, September 30, 2022

On Faith and Faithfulness


Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. “I know your works: your love, faith, service, and endurance. I know that your latest works are greater than the first. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve (Revelation 2:13b, 17, 19, 23b).

Reformation Day will soon be observed at the end of October (the 31st) and All Saints Day will be remembered on November 1st. That the two fall next to each other is a fact of history—Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany on October 31st; but this year I have been pondering the theological connection between the two days.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Hurricanes, Biblical Interpretive Malpractice, and God's Judgment


So, I wonder why all the Christian leaders who pronounced judgment on New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are silent now about God's judgment on Florida because of Hurricane Ian for DeSantis' treatment of asylum seekers and other very unChristian things?

Friday, September 23, 2022

Let's Talk POTUS (Any POTUS) and the Economy


It has been rightly said that “presidents get more blame and take more credit for the state of the economy than they deserve.” All one has to do is read social media to know that the average American’s understanding of the role of the president of the United States is mostly uninformed at best and politicians use that ignorance for their advantage.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Word Revisited: John Among the Gospels

In our premiere episode of "Word Revisited," we speak with Dr. Paul Anderson on the Gospel of John. Is John history? Is it theology? Both? Neither? How is the Fourth Gospel similar to and different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

Dr. Anderson is Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. He also serves as Extraordinary Professor of Religion at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

His books can be found on his Amazon author page, here.

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