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Being Open to Closed Doors

Have you ever been so sure that the Lord wanted something or someone for you, some particular way of serving Him, only to find in the end that you and the Lord were apparently not on the same page?  How are we to handle these disappointments, especially as they raise unsettling questions like these:  How could I have been so wrong about God’s will for me?  Did I unknowingly do something to disqualify myself from the blessing I so deeply desired, and if so, how will I ever know?  Or perhaps most painfully: “Now that He’s taken from me what I was certain He was giving to me – what do I do now?”     

Joy at Geneva, or: Oh, the Humanities!

Last night was one of the highlights of my 16 month tenure as chaplain of Geneva College.  I got to participate in the Geneva Reading Series, an initiative of the brilliantly creative Dr. Dan Williams.  GRS has become one of my favorite parts of being at Geneva.  It’s a time when the campus community can come together to enjoy and celebrate God’s good gifts among us.  Music, poetry, humorous stories, contemplative essays and other creative compositions by students and faculty remind us of the joy of being human.  GRS is a time to allow our souls a deep, cleansing breath, to revel in being image bearers of the God who has built spectacular beauty into his creation, and especially into humanity.

GRS represents so much of why I love being at Geneva, why I love Christian higher education rooted in the humanities, and why it breaks my heart that the academic disciplines which give rise to such joyful gatherings and which spark such brilliant fire in the hearts of students – music, literature, writing, history, philosophy and theology – are increasingly considered expendable in the brutal but necessary battle to keep college as inexpensive as possible.  Cutting deeply into such disciplines […]

This is My Father’s Word

Do you ever avoid certain passages of Scripture because they remind you so vividly of past sin?  You’ve confessed your sin, and you trust that God is faithful and just to forgive you of that sin and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). But still, certain Scriptures or sermons based upon them seem to reopen old wounds and to remind you anew of an old and deep pain.

We see something similar happening to Peter as he talks with Jesus following Christ’s resurrection.  Just prior to Jesus’s crucifixion, Peter faced three questions about his relationship to Jesus and he denied three times that he was the Lord’s disciple.  Jesus predicted that three-fold betrayal (Luke 22:34), and upon Peter’s final denial of his relationship to Jesus, the Lord looked at him knowingly (verse 61).  Peter saw the Savior’s stare and broke down, going out and weeping bitterly.

In John 21, the risen Jesus asks Peter his own series of questions about Peter’s relationship to him.  Several times in slightly nuanced ways, Jesus asks: “…do you love me?”  Though interesting, the questions’ nuances are not as important as their number:  three.  Clearly, Jesus wants Peter to recall his three failures to […]

A Time to Speak: The Conclusion of a Series on Emergence Christianity

Note:  As Gentle Reformation made the switch to its new format, the first three blogs in this series were lost.  Many thanks to The Aquila Report for keeping them online!  Here are links to  articles one  two and three   Below is the conclusion…better late than never, I hope! 

Though it feels like months have passed, it has only been a few days since you learned of your friend’s “Emergent” faith.  And yet these days have been packed with weeks’ worth of concern for him.  Your recent talk with your eccentric, eager-to-help professor was helpful, and you were especially strengthened by the prayer and Scriptural study which filled many sleepless hours since you saw your friend mark up his copy of the Apostle’s Creed with asterisks.

You’ve called your friend to invite him over, telling him that it’s cheaper to burn coffee at your place than to have it done professionally at the local shop.  As you wait for him, your thoughts turn again to the implications of his recasting of the Christian faith.

Given Emergent Theology’s (hereafter, ET) intentionally loose grip on biblical doctrine, you did some research on what its advocates deem distinctively Christian about the movement and how it interacts […]

Paternity, Prepositions and Painful Prayers

Worthless.  Disgusting.  Useless.  What would you think of a father who describes his children with these words?  And what if this father encourages his children to describe themselves and one another the same way, especially when speaking to him?  Such “fatherhood” deserves the deepest contempt and its victims the deepest compassion.  Stunningly, it is this contemptible version of fatherhood which some Christians attribute to our Heavenly Father; even more stunningly, they consider this attribution a biblically based act of praise.    

Distance Education

If you were told that a friend had suddenly become ill to the point of death, would you not do everything you could to get to your friend as soon as possible, especially if you knew it was within your power to help your friend survive the sickness?  Would you not literally leap at the chance to also spare your friend’s family the pain of seeing their loved one suffer and die, especially if that family was also dear to you?   Of course you would go; of course you would help!  Why?  Because you love those people.  But when Jesus was told this kind of news about His friend Lazarus, the all-powerful Savior did not rush to help.   In fact, He stayed where He was, allowing Lazarus to die and breaking the hearts of those who called for His help.  Why did Jesus delay?  For the same reason you would not delay:  Because He loved those people.

Bold or Brazen?

When does bold faith cross the line to become brazen presumption? It is easy as Christians to lose sight of that line, especially when we or those whom we love are hurting. Humble-hearted Christians will sometimes “claim” that a disease is healed, that a relationship is restored, that a job is secure because they have firm faith that these things will be so. They trust in the God who rewards those who “diligently seek Him” by faith (Hebrews 11:6); they trust that God’s plans for His people are for good, and not for harm (Jeremiah 29:11); therefore, they trust that strong, Christ-centered conviction will win from this generous God the particular good which they desire. While well-intentioned, this understanding of faith and therefore of faith’s object is deeply injurious to people who promote it and to the sometimes desperate hearts who receive it as good news concerning their hardships.

Whatever, part … whatever…

In the previous entry, we considered Paul’s willingness to give up “whatever” in order to gain a right standing before God, a standing only attainable by faith in the risen Christ (Philippians 3:7-12). Now we consider the reason why Paul and every other believer in history is brought by God’s grace into that standing. Contrary to the impression unintentionally given by popular approaches to evangelism, gaining a proper standing before God is not the culmination of a person’s spiritual journey; it is the beginning. After all, the purpose of standing is not to stay still. We stand in order to walk. Paul’s having gained Christ prepared him for his pursuit of Christ, and made him willing to walk right into and through…whatever.