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A Prayer for Sunday (Bonhoeffer)

Dietrich BonhoefferTomorrow is Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s birthday (February 4, 1906). Bonhoeffer was a leading German theologian and leader in the Lutheran church during the middle of the twentieth century, probably best known for his staunch resistance to Nazism and for his involvement with the German resistance and the plot to assassinate Hitler. Although he died when he was only 39 years old, Bonhoeffer still made a mark on theology with his sermons, letters, and his writings on the church, discipleship, and ethics, among other things.

In honor of Bonhoeffer’s 107th birthday, here is his famous morning prayer.

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.

Flotsam and jetsam (2/1)

Good Reads

  • Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Education: The advent of massively open online classes (MOOCs) is the single most important technological development of the millennium so far. I say this for two main reasons. First, for the enormously transformative impact MOOCs can have on literally billions of people in the world. Second, for the equally disruptive effect MOOCs will inevitably have on the global education industry.
  • Five Things Evangelicals Need to Face in the Next 10 Years: The sky isn’t falling for evangelicals, but we do have reason to look in the mirror. As the church continues to navigate an increasingly post-Christian culture, we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to face some truths and change some behaviors to reach the world with the message of the gospel.
  • Hebrews Out Loud: The book of Hebrews seems to have been written for the ear. Or, if that claim is true, perhaps it should be made in this form: the sermon to the Hebrews was designed to be spoken aloud.

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January’s Top Posts

Unfortunately, with the holidays and a couple of conferences, I haven’t written very much lately. But we’ve still managed to come up with at a least a few posts that people enjoyed, including a couple of videos, a good quote from Barth, some excellent life-advice from Gandalf, and a post on the importance of understanding Christ’s priestly work. Enjoy!

  1. When You Just Can’t Pray

  2. Saturday morning fun…Why Are Things Cute?

  3. How to Make Decisions Like Gandalf

  4. Theology Is Not a Leisure Activity

  5. How Imagination Shapes Your Brain

Flotsam and jetsam (1/30)

creative fortune cookie

Good Reads

  • Leaders can increase their emotional IQ: Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others…and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

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Matter Matters to God

“Matter matters to God. It’s what the sacraments teach: bread and wine and water and oil and hands matter to God.”

That’s one of the better quotes in this beautiful video on the fact that matter and flesh matter to God, and why that should matter to us. Other great lines include “God cares about your nostrils” and “Our souls have fingerprints all over them.”

Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Flotsam and jetsam (1/28)

HT Tim Challies

Good Reads

  • How difficulty nourishes creativity: Robert Frost famously quipped, “I’d no sooner write free verse than play tennis with the net down.” Frost had meter; Christian leaders have budget shortfalls and funding stipulations or liturgical formulae and intractable congregations. Such difficulties offer the gift of rough ground against which we find traction to press forward to solutions, and learning to receive such resistance as a gift is the heart of “traditioned innovation.”
  • Divine Rhetoric: God In The Inaugural Address: In modern times, religion has become so intertwined in our political rhetoric that the failure of any president to invoke God in a speech as important as the inaugural could hardly escape notice. Thanks to this graphic in The Wall Street Journal, we noticed the presidents who did (nearly all) and the few who didn’t (Teddy Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes).
  • Secret Fears of Your Pastor: The bottom line for many pastors…is that they are afraid to level with their people — person to person.

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When You Just Can’t Pray

Sometimes silence is the best you can do. Maybe you want to pray and just don’t know how. Maybe the press of life is so bad that you’re not even sure you want to pray. Either way, the prayers won’t come. You’re stuck. Now what?

prayer, priesthood of christ, christ's priesthood, jesus christ priest, intercession

According to Alan Torrance, this is where we need to understand the priesthood of Christ. That’s the core argument of a paper he recently presented at the first Los Angeles Theology Conference. Torrance argues that we focus too much on the priesthood of all believers, shifting attention away from Christ as the one mediator between humans and God, and placing the individual at the center of his/her own spiritual life. As he says early in the paper:

The priesthood of Christ was replaced by a quasi-democratic focus on the priesthood of all believers. The impact of this on the shape of evangelical worship…has been immense. As a result, the focus in the practice of worship and in our understanding of prayer was transferred to the individual, to the self. I become my own priest, the sole mediator of my own worship.

In other words, when I am my own priest, I am solely responsible for making sure that my offering of worship is adequate, leaving me wracked with questions about the quality of my own spirituality: did I pray earnestly enough? did I worship sincerely enough? did I repent contritely enough? And what about those times when I’m not even sure how to pray and worship, those times when I’m overwhelmed by the tragic realities of living in a broken world, shattered and unable to serve as my own priest. What then?

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Flotsam and jetsam (1/23)

Coincidence? I think not.

Good Reads

  • As public religion declines, faith goes to the movies: The point is not that these movies are pro-Christian, or pro any other religion for that matter. Some of them are most definitely not. Still, it is striking how persistently we, as a culture, are addressing faith and spirituality in our films even as institutional religion recedes from our public lives.
  • On the Necessity of Theological Courage in the Public Square: In the grand Christian ethical tradition, prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude or ‘courage’ have formed what are called the cardinal virtues, from the Latin meaning ‘the hinge of the door.’ According to our guides, all other virtues “hinge” upon practicing these virtues as necessary for experiencing the moral life.
  • Reading Luther Wisely But Well:  Luther is a complex thinker whose writings in the hands of the inept enthusiast fulfill a function analogous to that of a cut-throat razor in the hands of a child who wants to emulate his father’s morning routine ‘so as to be just like daddy.’ The result can be messy and sometimes dangerous.

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How Imagination Shapes Your Brain

Did you know that you can get better at playing the piano just by thinking about it? That may sound like the beginning to a bad infomercial for a self-help seminar on the power of positive thinking, but according to recent research, it’s true. Thinking about an activity triggers the same part of the brain used when actually performing that activity, thus strengthening the neural structures associated with that activity and actually improving performance when you finally get around to doing more than just thinking about it. And you do have to perform the activity eventually, of course. Just thinking about it will only take you so far. But the fact that just thinking about the activity has any impact on performance is a testimony to how much we can impact our own brains through our thoughts.

I guess it really is the thought that counts.

Check out the video below for a nice introduction to the research. Although the video focuses specifically on using imagination to improve performance of specific tasks, it seems to have pretty obvious implications for how thinking about pretty much anything for extended periods can affect our brains. This could be quite positive (e.g. meditating on scripture), but similar research documents the negative impact that prolonged exposure to pornography can have on the brain. So this is just another reminder that our thoughts matter.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/21)

One of my favorite Calvin strips.

Good Reads

  • Chronicling Porn’s Damaging Effects: Last year, ExtremeTech ran a piece on some of the largest porn sites, to see how much traffic they generate, and the numbers they uncovered were simply staggering. One such site served over 100 million page views a day, which translated into 950 terabytes of data (most of it video) every single day… and this was only the second biggest porn site in the world.
  • A Fresh Look at Small Groups: Adult formation is the most broken part of the system. What the church has done is treat all adults the same. All adults are lumped together in terms of faith formation.
  • Why I Offer Clean Needles in Jesus’ Name: A clean needle is often that next teeny, tiny step forward. When the clients are met by volunteers who have walked the road of addiction and have emerged on the other side, a redemptive and profound connection emerges. As “sketchy” and misunderstood as this kind of work can be, it is undeniable that there is a redemptive element at work.
  • Five Reasons to Read the Heidelberg Catechism This Year: If you love the Heidelberg Catechism and have for a long time, read it again this year. If you learned the Heidelberg Catechism years ago and dismissed it as cruel and unusual punishment, give it another chance. If “Heidelberg” sounds like a disease to you and catechism sounds as thrilling as detasseling corn, try it anyway.

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