A prayer for Sunday (Kierkegaard)

[Thursday was the birthday of Danish philosopher/theologian Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813). In honor of that anniversary, today's prayer comes from him.]

Father in Heaven! You have loved us first, help us never to forget that You are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment. But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom You have commanded us to love as we love ourselves.

You have loved us first, O God, alas! We speak of it in terms of history as if You have only loved us first but a single time, rather than that without ceasing You have loved us first many things and every day and our whole life through. When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul toward You – You are the first – You have loved us first; if I rise at dawn and at the same second turn my soul toward You in prayer, You are there ahead of me, You have loved me first. When I withdraw from the distractions of the day and turn my soul toward You, You are the first and thus forever. And yet we always speak ungratefully as if You have loved us first only once.

April’s Top Posts

Here are the five most viewed posts from the month of April. The first one should come as no surprise, since Freshly Pressed sent quite a bit of traffic our way when it highlighted that one a few weeks ago. And, apparently lots of people are searching for vampire pictures these days, explaining the high ranking of the second one. My ETS devotional, “Put the theology book down and do something that matters,” is the only one on the list that was not originally published in April. But, for some reason, it continues to generate a fair amount of attention. (Our reviews of Half the Church by Todd Miles and Brad Harper would have  come in at number 4 if I combined their total views.) Overall, it was a very interesting month. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read and/or comment on our various posts. And, thanks especially to Jesse Richards, the guest blogger who contributed “Marcus Borg – from a Charismatic Cuban Perspective.”

  1. The 100 Most Influential People in the World?
  2. Vampires are lame, but they’re good for understanding blood
  3. When words mean more than they seem, or not
  4. Put the theology book down and do something that matters
  5. Marcus Borg – from a Charismatic Cuban Perspective

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10 Historic Tweets that Captivated the World

Some tweets document history. Others make history. Others simply serve as a zeitgeist for how our culture and communication are evolving.

That’s how Mashable begins their fascinating list of 10 Historic Tweets that Captivated the World. It’s an interesting look at the collision of history, technology, and culture. (Somehow, though, Justin Bieber made it into this list as well. Why is it that every time I find an interesting list, his name is on it somewhere?)

Here are my two favorites.

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Check out the rest here.

What are you tired of reading about on blogs?

You know the feeling. You’re scanning your favorite blogs looking for something to read and you see it. Instantly you’re thinking to yourself, “Seriously? Again? Aren’t we done with that topic yet?” And, it can be anything: an event, an article, a book, a person, a movie…and so on. But, whatever it is, you’re done with it.

If you have a spare minute in your busy Saturday. I’d be curious to know what it is for you. What are you tired of reading about on blogs? And, of course, you can have more than one it. I have a short attention span. So, on any given day, I probably have at least four or five. What are yours?

Saturday morning fun: Dog trying to play fetch with a statue

Should a worship service have security guards?

You walk through the front doors. Although you’ve been hearing about this church for a while, you’ve never actually been inside. You’re wondering about the kind of people who will be there, what the service will be like, and since you just finished a large latte, whether you’ll be able to find the bathroom fast enough. Wiping the rain from your glasses (you’re in Seattle), you’re hoping to see an information table or someone who can point you to the facilities. You weren’t expecting to see a bouncer.

At least, that’s what he looks like. He’s big, serious, and he’s wearing a tight, black shirt with “security” printed in large, white letters. Confused, you pause, looking around for Bibles or a cross or something. Is this really a church? What kind of church has security? Then, a few feet away, you see two uniformed police officers, obviously on duty. With their guns. In a church. Why would a church need this level of security? Is the governor visiting today?

No, it’s just a normal Sunday at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Every Sunday they provide significant levels of security at all their services, some more so than others. Explaining why this is necessary was the task of Nate Finn’s post, “Why Does a Church Need a Security Team?” And, to summarize his arguments, Finn offers the following basic reasons:

  • Effective Worship: They want people to “be able to come to a Mars Hill Church service and worship in peace,” something made difficult at times by the fact that there are people in Seattle “who are simply opposed to our church and the gospel of Jesus.” Specifically, they’re concerned about “the integrity of the service and how people are receiving the Word that’s being preached.” If there’s a disruption in the service, the ministry of the Spirit might be impeded.
  • Safe Environment: Given a number of prominent kidnappings and killings at churches in the US, they feel that it’s wise to provide some level of security in the church. Though Mars Hill has not yet faced any of these, they do struggle regularly with theft and vandalism. So, they see security as exemplifying wise stewardship.
  • Biblical Model: Finn uses the example of Israel in Nehemiah’s day as prominent biblical support for providing security in the context of worship: “God told Nehemiah to place guards along the wall to protect his people and the work, and we must place guards within our walls to protect God’s people and the work of sharing the Gospel.”

And, he closes the post with a quote from Mark Driscoll:

Opposition only comes to those who are doing something. There are many people out there who live their life without being criticized or attacked because they spend their time lying on the couch with their finger up their nose not doing anything. There is no reason to oppose such people. So if you are doing something, expect opposition and be encouraged because you are doing something.

What do you think? Mars Hill receives a lot of questions and criticisms for its practice of providing security guards armed police officers at its worship services? Do you have any problem it? Do you see it as wise stewardship or a lack of faith? Being as shrewd as serpents or being conformed to the world? Gospel living or fearful hiding? Obviously those are extremes, so feel free to land in the middle somewhere.

Paul’s Baptism Oopsie

I think I’m going to start using this video in my ecclesiology classes to introduce our discussions on baptism. Just don’t tell my dean. He might not like it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwxHzo0QVYY

(Oops, I forgot to HT Unsettled Christianity)

Where does the Gospel begin?

I flopped onto the couch, one leg carelessly knocking several cushions to the floor, the other resting dangerously close to my glass on the coffee table. The scent of freshly popped popcorn permeated the room. Lights dimmed, family gone for the evening, I was ready for a movie.

Switching on the TV, I was about to head for my recorded shows, when something on the screen caught my eye—a room full of obviously terrified people, guarded by darkly threatening men with automatic weapons and bad accents. This looks interesting.

Suddenly the large window at one of the room burst inward as a black-clad body hurtled through shattered glass with guns blazing. Miraculously, the flurry of bullets missed the unarmed people huddled on the floor, striking only the guards as they turned in surprise toward this unexpected visitor.

Seconds later, it was over. Pausing only to toss a couple of suave one-liners into the now silent room, the dark hero leapt back through the window, disappearing into the gloom beyond.

Okay, so it wasn’t an Academy Award winner.

Grabbing my bowl of popcorn, I flipped to another channel. There was no point in watching more. After only two minutes, I knew the basic story: some bad guys captured some good guys, and the hero came to rescue the good guys so they can live happily ever after. I get it. Time for something else.

But, what if there’s more?

Suppose the next morning I talked with someone who had seen the whole movie. And, I discovered that the piece I’d seen was actually part of a much larger and more complicated story. From the beginning, the hero had been working to defeat some secret society bent on destroying the world. (That’s what secret societies do.) Instead of just being a simple rescue, the scene I’d watched was where hero finally defeated this evil group and rescued the entire world from its impending destruction. Sure, the hostages got rescued, and that’s still an important part of the story. But as I hear my friend explain the rest of the movie, I begin to realize how much more was involved.

It’s hard to understand the end if you don’t know the beginning.

Many of us approach the Gospel like I did this movie. We’re so eager to watch the hero (Jesus) burst onto the scene and save the hostages (the cross), that we don’t even notice how we’ve jumped in toward the end of the movie. It’s like we think the first ninety minutes were just a bunch of commercials and trailers, keeping the audience mildly entertained until the real story starts. We tune in at the rescue scene, never wondering if maybe there’s more to the story than we realize.

And, to be fair, I understand why we do this. That part of the story is pretty incredible. It’s worth watching over and over again, like my daughters do with their favorite cartoons. But, we need to be careful. Unless we understand the whole story, we’re likely to misunderstand what’s really happening in the dramatic—indeed, climactic—story of the cross.

It’s hard to understand the end if you don’t know the beginning.

So, if we want to know what the Gospel is all about, we can’t jump straight to the cross. Instead, we’ll have to start where all good stories do: the beginning.

[This is a piece that I’m thinking of using in the Gospel Book to introduce the importance of Genesis 1-2 for understanding the Gospel.]

Flotsam and jetsam (5/6)

In short, it’s starting to feel like Rob Bell is becoming a litmus test. If you like Bell, your orthodoxy may be suspect. And if you want to proclaim your orthodox credentials, you simply have to condemn Love Wins

I do theological interpretation because I am convinced that the Bible, a theological construct in its own right, continues to tell us what the church’s story is.

If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us….The want of this experience of the power of gospel truth on their own souls is that which gives us so many lifeless, sapless orations, quaint in words and dead as to power, instead of preaching the gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit.

Tim Keller on religious decline and the “mushy middle”

Here’s a short video of Tim Keller addressing the question: Do you think that religion is in decline and the world is becoming more secular? (Spoiler alert: he says “no.”)

http://vimeo.com/23187138

From Advance the Church.