Finding a Life-Giving Approach to the Bible (part 1)

Guigo II, Ladder of Monks, on Amazon

If you want to understand your faith, whether to live it with confidence or to share it with others, you need to have a solid working knowledge of the Bible. The problem for a lot of Christians, though, is that we don't know where to start. Actually a lot of us don't want to start. Some are convinced that only scholars could understand an ancient book from unfamiliar … [Read more...]

A Better Way to Think About Heaven, via St. Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Christians in our culture have a pretty odd default view of life after death. We call it "heaven" and tell the world they ought to make sure they get to go there, but we portray it as frankly boring. You know the schtick: sitting forever on a cloud holding a harp you don't know how to play. Today the churches of the Anglican communion commemorate St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 … [Read more...]

How Can We Make Sense of God’s “Wrath”? A Parable

© Jorge Royan : http:::www.royan.com.ar : CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Once there was, and once there was not, an artist. He was good — very good. He painted beautiful scenes and portraits. He had some wit and whimsy about him: Always, whether at the center or somewhere hidden, his paintings included the faces of those he loved. His wife and children. Or his dog. His neighbors. Or his house. Even himself. The people and things that gave … [Read more...]

3 Insights on Freedom as Independence Day Approaches

freedom-307791_640

In America we always hear a great deal about freedom. Especially so around July 4, our Independence Day. And with our convoluted mixture of religious and political thought, Christian talk about freedom becomes a muddle. The muddle shouldn't surprise us: Scripture strongly emphasizes freedom as a gift at or near the heart of the Gospel. It starts with the Old Testament … [Read more...]

Presbyterian G.A. Approves New Translation of Heidelberg Catechism!

I am so very happy to share the news that Friday night, the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) gave final approval to the new translation of the Heidelberg Catechism! In 2008 I was called to participate in a national committee to resolve five translation problems in the version used by the PC(USA) since 1967. As we began our work we became aware of two … [Read more...]

6 Key Things to Know About the Holy Spirit

on the wings of a snowy white dove, by liz west. cc license

A week ago was Pentecost. This week was Trinity Sunday. A great time to continue blogging about the Holy Spirit. It took a while for Christians to become clear that the Holy Spirit is really and truly God. Father? Check. Son? Check. Spirit? Some ambiguity -- for centuries actually. Once that was clear, though, we joyfully proclaimed and celebrated the mystery: as … [Read more...]

Is Pentecost “The Birthday of the Church”?

Happy Birthday! By Vikas Bhardwaj CC-BY-SA-2.0

Here’s a question for you: How many of you have heard or preached a Pentecost sermon proclaiming it “the birthday of the Church”? That seems to be the understanding today among Christians. What really happened in Acts chapter 2? Was it “the first Pentecost”? No. Jews from around the world were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, aka the “Feast of Weeks,” when … [Read more...]

Want to Improve Your Praise Band? Consider St. Ephrem the Syrian

Ephraim the Syrian Ephrem, by Ted on Flikr under CC license

It seems like every church has a praise band leading worship these days, or wants to have one. But let's face it: a lot of modern worship music, whether praise songs or hymns, is theologically and spiritually shallow. A lot of it focuses on us and our feelings rather than on the glory of God. When it points beyond us, it often selects only a very narrow slice of the theological … [Read more...]

St. Boniface: Monk, Missionary, Martyr

Bonifatius Donareiche, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Today the Church remembers St. Boniface who died at the hands of a violent mob on this day in 754. He is called the "Apostle to the Germans" for his work as a missionary bishop. I want to highlight three things worth learning from his life today. First, Boniface shows us the counter-intuitive power of medieval monasticism. Boniface became a monk as a kid. His biographer … [Read more...]

Vocabulary Lesson: What’s Up with the “Ascension”? (Heidelberg Catechism Q. 49)

Ricky jetpacking with Relentless WaterSports [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

  We just rushed by the most neglected day of the Church’s year: the “Ascension”, forty days after Easter when the risen Christ left the earth and went to heaven. Part of the problem: the original event happened on a Thursday. Churches don't gather to take notice until the Sunday afterward. Another issue: Jesus lifting off without benefit of propellers or jets just … [Read more...]