Monthly Archives: October 2006
1. Christianity Today - It’s the standard for evangelical Christians who want to know what is going on in the wider evangelical world. Sometimes broader than I like… but still very informative and thought-provoking.
2. World Magazine - Terrific analysis of today’s news and culture through the perspective of a Christian worldview. Sometimes World is too much in the Republican party pocket, but the great writers over there know it and try to maintain a critical distance.
3. Christian History & Biography - No better magazine will give you informative looks at Christian history and some of the most interesting people in our history.
4. Modern Reformation - Heavy doctrine, but still a great read. The guys at Modern Reformation have an interesting take on certain aspects of evangelical life.
5. Time - Every Christian should read it, just to know what others are reading. Interesting analysis, even if the magazine does lean left most of the time.
What magazines would you add?
We continue our Red Letter MonDays with the opening phrase of the Lord’s Prayer. (See last week’s “Pray Like This.“)
“Our Father in heaven…”
- Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9)
In the Old Testament, God promised the Jewish people, through the prophets, that He would one day establish His kingdom on earth. He also claimed He would be a “Father” to Israel. By the time of Jesus, those promises seemed distant and impossible. The Jews were suffering under foreign rule, facing exploitation by godless dictators. Instead of seeing God’s promises to vindicate His people fulfilled, they saw themselves as helpless orphans, jilted by the One they had believed to be their Father.
We often undergo similar periods of doubt and pain. The daily newspaper brings word of terrorism, suffering, starvation, injustice, persecution, sin, and immorality. We, as Christians, know that God has promised to raise the dead and reward the righteous in the future. We cling to hope in the coming new heaven and new earth. But that day seems so far away, and thus we cry out like those in Jesus’ day, “Where are You, God? What has happened to Your promises? Are You still our Father?”
Jesus instructs us to begin our prayers by acknowledging God as Father. In other words, He claims, “The day is here, My friends. You can call God your Father again because the dawn of hope is arising! You are not orphans! You have not been abandoned!” The first words of …
“Heavenly Father, you have promised to hear what we ask in the Name of your Son. Accept and fulfill my petitions, I pray, not as I ask in my ignorance, nor as I deserve in my sinfulness, but as you know and love me in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
– from The Book of Common Prayer
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I would, but cannot rest
in God’s most holy will;
I know what He appoints is best
and murmur at it still.
Help my unbelief…
My help must come from Thee.”
- John Newton (1725-1807)
(This hymn from which our Quote of the Week is taken is called “Help My Unbelief” and has been redone by the great musicians at Red Mountain Church.)
I just finished reading a great article from Christian History about why it is important to learn about our Christian heritage. One of the issues that kept coming up in the article centered on “old books,” and the importance of understanding where we’ve come from and what has been debated and studied in our past.
As a seminary student who hopes to soon be in the pastorate, I’d like to get your take on what “old books” have inspired you, taught you, or have been greatly informative for your Christian walk and your knowledge of Christianity. “Old” means keeping the list limited to books that are older than 50 years.
I already have a short list of books that have profoundly influenced me:
CONFESSIONS by Saint Augustine – quite possibly the first autobiography. A cross between a prayer and a journal.
MERE CHRISTIANITY by C.S. Lewis – to the point, easy to understand, and provocative, fresh takes on old, biblical truths
THE IMITATION OF CHRIST by Thomas a’Kempis – great meditative insights on what it means to live like Jesus
PRACTICING THE PRESENCE OF GOD by Brother Lawrence – a devotional classic
What books should I add to this list?
“When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.” – John Dagg
Most of the students I talk to at Southern (and many pastors I know who are serving in local churches) agree that church discipline is what Al Mohler calls “the missing mark” of the church. Most churches do not practice any church discipline whatsoever. Other churches only practice it in extreme cases of sexual misbehavior.
During my five year stay in Romania, I was first introduced to comprehensive church discipline. On the first Sunday of every month, when we took the Lord’s Supper at Emanuel Baptist Church, several dozen church members would get up and leave before the distribution of the elements. Sometimes these were members who were under discipline and thus “not allowed” to take Communion. Other times, these were members who were disciplining themselves and who had decided to abstain because of some private sin in their lives.
My first reaction to church discipline was that the Romanians were harsh. Why execute church punishment? Why not just take people off the rolls instead of having a public reading of excluded members every year?
Now, I realize that we in America are the anomaly when it comes to practicing church discipline. Baptists in the rest of the world cling to the practice as a vital aspect of church life.
My question is: How do we bring back church discipline? Even though many students and pastors agree that the lack of church discipline is a problem, few know just how to restore it …
Want to experience something strange? Go to www.churchoffools.com and visit the internet’s first online interactive “church.” This is more of a chat room than anything else, but you choose a screen name and character and actually walk into a 3-d, interactive church building where you can talk to other visitors. There’s a sermon every Sunday. You can kneel at the altar, shout Hallelujah and cross yourself.
As an internet chat room, the concept is flawless. But as a church? There’s no membership, no communion, no baptism. Just people surfing the web and stopping by a virtual church auditorium. Those who believe it’s really a church (the Methodists who are behind the concept) claim Jesus’ quote that where “two or three are gathered together, He is there in the midst of them.”
Okay… Jesus’ presence is one thing, but does that mean that whereever two or three Christians are together, that there is an official “church” set up? And are people gathered on the internet really “together” in any meaningful sense of the word anyway?
This is the first edition of Red Letter monDays. Over the next several weeks, we will be looking at each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer.
“Pray then like this. . .”
– Jesus, from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:9)
Having witnessed the quality of Jesus’ prayer life, the disciples approached their Master and asked Him how to pray. Perhaps they anticipated certain recommendations from their Messiah, ways to insure a quick ride to God’s throne and entice a surefire answer from heaven. As disciples, they awaited Jesus’ answer, fully intending to imitate His methods and words.
If today we could ask Jesus how to pray, He wouldn’t put us through lectures about whether or not we should be on our knees, whether we should pray with eyes closed or open, how long or short our prayers should be. He wouldn’t hand out the latest “learn how to pray” book from the local Christian bookstore or even recommend a nicely packaged book of written prayers. The disciples asked Jesus how to pray; “The Lord’s Prayer” was His answer.
For 2000 years, Christians have been saying this prayer – whether privately at home, corporately in church, or softly in times of persecution. Today, no other prayer falls from the lips of so many Christians. Still, a question begs to be heard: after 2000 years of tradition, do we truly understand the holy and awesome words that make up The Lord’s Prayer? Experience often reveals just how little we know how to pray like …
I’m going to be starting some new features on this blog over the next few weeks. Here is what you can expect to see:
Red Letter monDay
Every Monday, I will be posting one of my Red Letters Devotionals. Red Letters is a short devotional series based on the words of Jesus.
On Tuesdays, I will be posting a Top Five or Ten “something.” Sometimes, there will be funny Top Ten lists; other times I’ll be listing top books on a subject, top CDs, top thinkers, top TV shows… etc.
Quote of the Week
On weekends, I will be posting a “Quote of the Week.” It might be a current quote, a funny joke, a deep theological insight, or just something I read this week that I think is worth sharing.
I hope the features will give this blog a little more structure than my previous one. I’ll also be posting often on current events, theology, and current church issues.