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A prayer for Sunday from Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Since tomorrow is the anniversary of Charles H. Spurgeon’s death, our Sunday prayer for this week will come from him.

….There was a time when we feared You, O God, with the fear of bondage. Now we reverence, but we love as much as we reverence. The thought of Your Omnipresence was once horrible to us. We said: “Where shall we flee from His presence?” and it seemed to make hell itself more dreadful because we heard a voice, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there:” But now, O Lord, we desire to find You. Our longing is to feel Your presence, and it is the heaven of heavens when You are there. The sick bed is soft when You are there. The furnace of affliction grows cool when You are there, and the house of prayer when You are present is none other than the house of God, and it is the very gate of heaven.

Come near, our Father, come very near to Your children. Some of us are very weak in body and faint in heart. Soon, O God, lay Your right hand on us and say to us, “Fear not.” Perhaps, some of us are alike, and the world is attracting us. Come near to kill the influence of the world with Your superior power.

Even to worship may not seem easy to some. The dragon seems to pursue them, and floods out of his mouth wash away their devotion. Give to them great wings as of an eagle, that each one may fly away in the place prepared for him and rest in the presence of God today.

Our Father, come and rest Your children now. Take the helmet from our brow, remove from us the weight of our heavy armor for awhile, and may we just have peace, perfect peace, and be at rest. Oh! help us, we pray You, now….

What if he doesn’t come? (When He Comes 8)

“I’ll be back.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger uttered this famous line many times in his various movies. As the hero of Terminator 2, though, he offered it as a promise to John and Sarah Connor—a promise that though he’s going to be gone for a while, he will return and rescue them from their predicament. Believing the promise, John and Sarah hunker down in a smoke-filled elevator, waiting for the hero to return with the promised salvation.

Isn’t that how it always works with heroes? Somebody’s in danger, the situation is dire, and the hero needs to be gone for a while. But don’t worry, he’ll be right back. And when he comes, everything will be just fine.

That’s reassuring.

But, what if he doesn’t make it back?

Imagine that you’re Sarah Connor and Arnold has just stepped out of the elevator. “Oh, you’ll be back soon? That’s good because those guys with the guns look pretty unhappy. We’ll just hang out here and wait for you to get back.”

Now, suppose that thirty minutes have gone by and he still hasn’t returned. There was a lot of shooting at first, but everything’s been quiet for a while. You’re starting to get a little nervous. What’s taking him so long? If those guys with the guns come back, this could get messy.

Three hours later. Now you’re just angry. Where’s that stupid robot? The elevator is hot, uncomfortable, and John is really starting to get on your nerves.

After just one day, I’m guessing that you’d have lost all hope. He’s not coming back. Now you’re hungry, you smell, you still have angry guys with guns chasing you, and still no hero.

Bad robot.

It’s easy to lose faith when the promised one doesn’t return.

Just one day and your hope is gone. How would you do after several centuries? That’s how long God’s people have been waiting by the time we reach the beginning of the New Testament. Hundreds of years with nothing but promises to hold onto.

When he comes, everything will be fine. When he comes, God’s promises will be fulfilled. When he comes, shalom will be restored. When he comes….

But, what if he doesn’t come?

[Read the rest of the posts in this series on the Gospel Book page.]

11 Trends for Churches in 2011

According to Will Mancini, we can expect smaller churches to thrive in 2011, especially those who tap into social media and online technologies. Here’s his list of 11 trends for 2011 and the years to come. Visit his post for more explanation and discussion of each one.

  1. Increasing diversity of opinion about what good vision and strategy look like.
  2. Articulating the biggest picture will be the leader’s greatest asset.
  3. Social media will open new possibilities for more churches.
  4. Visioning and spiritual formation will emerge more visibly as disciplines.
  5. Small will continue to be the new big.
  6. Networks will become the new denominations.
  7. Leaders will pay more attention to shorter time horizons.
  8. The intersection of personal and organizational vision will be magnified.
  9. Visioning will involve making meaning rather than predicting the future.
  10. External focus and biblical justice will stay prominent.
  11. Churches will consult for vision clarity rather than for capital campaigns.

One interesting quote from the article:

Every church leader is saturated with countless best practices, bombarded with more communication, and ministering to people struggling with increasingly complex lives. This gives us a hyper-need for clarity. Communicating Jesus-centered meaning in life has never had more competition. The best leaders won’t take the most basic assumptions for granted.

HT Out of Ur

Saturday morning fun: Jerry Seinfeld’s plot to take over the world

A Theological Critique of Philosophy

Many thanks to Ben Myers for pointing out that John Milbank’s 2011 Stanton Lectures, ”Philosophy: A Theological Critique,” will be made available on the ABC Religion & Ethics site.

This should be a fascinating lecture series worth following. As, Milbank explains:

This series of lectures will not be concerned with either the philosophy of religion or philosophical theology. Instead, they will be about the relationship between philosophy and theology.

Here’s the outline (I’ll try to remember to update this as each lecture becomes available):

19 January: The Return of Metaphysics in the 21st century

26 January: Immanence and Life

2 February: Immanence and Number

9 February: Transcendence without Participation

16 February: Participated Transcendence Reconceived

23 February: The Habit of Reason

2 March: The Realism of Feeling

9 March: The Surprise of the Imagined

Who should I invite to speak at NW ETS next year?

I’m serving on the regional ETS committee for the first time this year. As a result, I will get to decide who we should invite to be the plenary speakers at next year’s NW ETS meeting. Last year we invited Nancey Murphy and John Cooper (and me) to present papers on the dualism/physicalism debate. This year, we’ll be hearing from Marcus Borg and and Craig Blomberg on the historical Jesus debate. So, we’ve been able to invite and attract some good people recently and I’d like that to continue next year.

I’d like to hear what you think. And, feel free to offer suggestions even if you don’t live in the NW and you know you won’t be attending.

So, please let me know, Who do you think I should invite to speak at ETS next year? Or, another way to approach this would be to tell me, What key issue do you think should be the focus of next year’s plenaries?

Home Again (When He Comes 7)

The promises are adding up: a new king, a new prophet, forgiveness, healing, Spirit, life. Can it get any better?

Yes, it can.

Remember what God has been planning from the very beginning. He never intended just to create a people after his own heart. That’s an important part of the plan, but there’s more. God’s plan was always for his people to manifest his glory throughout his creation. God’s people, in God’s place, to God’s glory forever. Remember?

He’s not done.

There’s more.

When God pours his Spirit out on his people, all of creation will be renewed:

the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
(Isa. 32:15-17)

And the whole creation will again serve as the theater of God’s glory:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
(Isa. 35:1-2)

So, God’s place will again be what it was supposed to be.

And, when the promised one comes, God will reclaim his people. God will not hide his face from his people any longer (Ezek 39:29), but will instead make his glorious presence known among them once again. Looking at them, he will say, “They are my people,” and the people will say, “The Lord is my God” (Zech 13:9). And God will place his redeemed people in the land as his image bearers, manifesting his glory everywhere just as he intended from the very beginning: “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezek. 36:28).

God’s people, in God’s place, to God’s glory forever.

Shalom.

When he comes…shalom will be restored.

[Read the rest of the posts in this series on the Gospel Book page.]

Flotsam and jetsam (1/28)

People ask me all the time, “Who do you read?” In most cases they’re looking for book recommendations. (Some people, particularly Calvinistas, are trying to determine if I’m safe–are my ideas and my theology grounded in what they see as credible sources.) But my answer usually surprises them: “I read dead people.”

One of the problem in the origins of christology is the question, “When did Jesus become the Messiah?” Scholarship has often assumed that Jesus’ life was non-messianic, not only that, but Jesus in fact repudiated the messianic role.

I refuse. I absolutely refuse to go back to a god who is only interested in what I do, not who I am. I have no interest in a god who keeps score, who I have to appease by doing good things and avoiding bad things. A god who is more interested in institutes and forms and structures than he is in relationships.

To sum, I appreciate his provocative introduction of the subject but find his primary notion that “suffering has no inherent value in biblical faith” seriously wanting

The sad life of a grad student

The life of a grad fellow according to The Simpsons.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XViCOAu6UC0&feature=player_embedded

Thanks to  Near Emmaus for this one. But, contrary to the suggestions that they’ve raised over there, I’d like to point out that as a man of compassion and integrity, I would never use a whip on a student (in a public place where I could be so easily videotaped).

Is there a central message that runs through the whole Bible?

Here is a short video from D. A. Carson addressing the question of whether there is a single message that runs through the entire Bible. What do you think?

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