Join me in prayer as we start this letter.
Only Wise God, what you have declared "good", we often declare "not good." Give us your sight to see with your eyes what is good and not good. We ask you for wisdom to make your goals our goals and your paths our paths. Help us to finish the race, to persevere, and to be diligent to enter your rest. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Watch and Wonder 📽
What is our highest ideal? Are Christians to be like William Wallace, fighting the cultural battles with our swords held high? Is that our calling? To be sure, the Christian scriptures include some military language, and the Hebrew contains much more, but what is our ideal?
In this video, Dawson and I tackle a theology of weakness. In a culture obsessed with looking young, posturing strength, and displaying your best moments on public platforms, the Church needs to be reminded that our perfection does not display God's glory, rather it is our weakness. The church desperately needs to reclaim a theology of weakness both for our good and God's glory.
Living This Christian Life 🤴👸
Years ago when I wanted to become more skillful in public prayer, I was fortunate to come across the collects of Thomas Cranmer, the writer of the original Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. The “collects” (the stress is on the first syllable) that Cranmer wrote were brief but extremely ‘packed’ little prayers that tied together the doctrine of the day to a particular way of living.
As I have read them over the years they have brought me two great benefits. First, they have given me a basic structure by which I can compose good public prayers, either ahead of time, or spontaneously. Cranmer’s collects consist of 5 parts…
This basis for private a public prayer might help you think about prayer and be more confident in public prayer.
Listen and Learn 🎧
I don’t think I’m afraid of death, as long as it is quick. I know my future is secure. Suffering, on the other hand, does make me afraid. Long-term torture or sickness, even more for my child or wife than for me, is something that I have a visceral fear reaction to. I think that most people probably harbor the same fears.
The earliest Christians certainly faced the possibility of death, quick or prolonged. With that prologue we pick up a question asked to Dr. John Piper:
Why will God allow us to suffer as Christians if that suffering will harm our faith? It’s a question that comes in from an international listener. “Pastor John, hello! My name is Bernice. I’m 21 years old and live in Kenya, East Africa. My question stems from doubt in God’s good nature that crept in while talking to my friend about trusting God with her life and choosing to follow Jesus above all else. She won’t, and she won’t because she says following God will simply mean additional suffering and going through more trials that he causes (or allows) to happen before we can enjoy his goodness. I wonder if she’s right. Her point of view has made me question God’s goodness. Why would he cause pain to someone who trusted in him completely? Why would he allow them to suffer in ways that may injure their faith in him? Why believe if it just opens us to more suffering?”
Note: This episode disappeared from the podcast feed at some point, so I cannot embed it.
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Family Focus 🏡
Rosaria Butterfield gives us six points about practicing hospitality. To highlight just one:
2. Hospitality puts the church on the frontline.
When inviting unsaved neighbors over, Kent and I always invite our church family, too. The more the merrier, especially in the summer. Your unsaved neighbors will benefit from seeing many different models of the covenant family, including singles (whose church membership renders them a covenant family) and older people.
Many Christian hands make the care of little ones easier. Also, with the church family on deck, your children will not feel neglected or isolated as they participate in hospitality. Hospitality means being profoundly unselfish, and small children need help to see the blessing in this.
- The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World | Rosaria Butterfield 📚 (Affiliate Link)
Explore the Scriptures 📖
New Testament scholar Dr. Esau McCauley answers questions from the Jude 3 project about the Old Testament. He knows he’s not in his field of specialty, but I think his answers were insightful. The best part, to me, was the emphasis he gives on how we should interpret scripture. This is so fundamental, and because it’s fundamental when it goes wrong, it sets off a chain reaction that can throw our theology and application from the text way off from the intention of the author and the Holy Spirit.
Dr. McCaulley’s perspective as a black scholar (and author of Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope | Esau McCaulley 📚) allows him to notice and point things out that people and interpreters of other ethnicities may miss.
As I said above, I found his answers insightful, and I think you will too.
Read and Reflect 📖
This was an extremely challenging article for me, but I think all the suggestions are good ones.
As we emerge from this pandemic, we have a fresh opportunity to embrace these essential relationships. We don’t just need to return to our pre-pandemic status-quo; we can move forward into something even better. So, how do we re-engage with friends that now feel distant? How do we establish and strengthen deeper connections? Here are seven tips to cultivate true friendship.
Pulling any out would do the article injustice.
- Made for Friendship: The Relationship That Halves Our Sorrows and Doubles Our Joys | Drew Hunter 📚 (Affiliate Link)
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
I’ve heard someone say, though I don’t remember who or when, that if you’ve never changed your mind on any theological or political issue, you probably don’t have good reasons for your beliefs. In other words, if you’ve never examined any of your beliefs closely enough to change, you probably don’t have good reasons to believe them.
All of us are certainly wrong about some closely held beliefs. The only human to walk the earth who wasn’t was the God-Man Messiah Jesus. The question is, are we willing to examine our beliefs and allow ourselves to be convinced of another position?
...The more I learned about theology, the less I felt I knew. There was always one more theological concept I hadn’t heard of yet, one new argument from an opposing side, one more misconception or stereotype I had previously held, or one newly discovered verse I’d never truly considered. Unsurprisingly, this led me to the belief that I can sometimes be wrong, even when something made a great deal of sense to me previously. In other words, my concerns about being wrong were valid. This sort of realization can either bring theological paralysis or theological freedom.
We must be willing to open ourselves to the idea that we might be wrong. That is, from personal experience, exceedingly difficult. I have changed my mind on both theological and political issues, and I will probably change it again.
This isn’t a wishy-washy change of mind wherever the winds take you. It must be a considered, slow, and thoughtful process. It can be easy to be reactionary, even against your own previously held views. It’s harder to consider new information without either immediately dismissing it or immediately adopting it.
This is especially difficult in a polarized culture with real relational consequences for changing your mind. Our tribal culture often requires that you adopt all the views of the tribe. But our pursuit of truth requires that we take the relational hit if necessary and that we not “cancel” others of our tribe who change their minds, either.
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Matthew 6:20–21