Category Archives: Uncategorized

A caring, Christ-centered response to same-sex attraction

I commend to your listening – a podcast by Orthodox writer, Frederica Mathewes-Green who podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio – an internet site I value.  This is part 2 of 2 on the subject of ‘Gay Rights.’  It is one of the most pastorally sensitive and Christ-centered presentations I’ve come across.  Increasingly it is the way I go in explaining that all Christian disciples are called to chastity.  It is not a matter of ‘suffer’ or ‘be promiscuous,’ when engaging a Christian who is honest about same-sex attraction.

Here is the link – I urge you to take the time to listen to it.

Is God’s Word my delight?

B. Kowanz

I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119:16

We are exploring how to create or develop a “Game Plan” for our lives as Christ-followers; a Rule of Life as it has been called for centuries.  We begin with a Game Plan for “Feeding on the Word.”

In the sermon (listen/download here), I quoted Bonhoeffer, who loved Psalm 119 and started a book of meditations on it. Some of his comments on v. 16:

God gave us the Scriptures to be read and pondered anew every day…
Why do I forget God’s word? Because I cannot yet say as the Psalm says:
“I delight in your statutes.”
I do not forget the things in which I delight!
(Works, Vol. 15, pp. 517-18)

10 times in the great Psalm of the Word – Psalm 119, the word DELIGHT is used to describe the Psalmist’s response to the revealed Teaching of God. E.g.

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. (v.14)
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (v.92)

A suggested practice to do
As a way of increasing your delight in the Word, read and meditate on one 8-verse section of Psalm 119 each week-day for 4-5 weeks.

Who is Scot McKnight (and why is he coming to Providence?)

We’ve talked for several years about trying to have Scot McKnight in Rhode Island.  Scot is not your celebrity type Christian rock star.  But he is making a very rock-solid  contribution to the Christian world. McKnight is New Testament prof at North Park University (connected to our Evangelical Covenant denom.) He is a prolific author of both scholarly and ‘popular’ books on NT studies and the Christian life.  His blog, Jesus Creed, is one of the best in the world at engaging important issues of faith and culture. It has a following of thoughtful and respectful commenters who work through books and questions guided by McKnight.  Scot is also a sought after speaker all over the world on subjects of Jesus, biblical interpretation, and the state of the church.  I believe he has been gifted for these times to be a uniter instead of a divider while not being afraid to challenge the evangelical status quo.

(My son, Stephen, got to know McKnight while at North Park and invited him to Providence for November 4th when learning that he was speaking at Gordon College the same week. The Lord, through the generosity of an anonymous donor, is making it happen!)

Scot’s latest book is called The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited.  In it, he challenges the church’s understanding of the Gospel and her all-too common method of sharing the faith.  Our Gospel is often a shrunken version that leads to settling for “decisions” instead of making disciples. There is a lot more!

So here are the details:
** Nov. 4th, Friday evening is The One Event.  (click here for the Facebook page) – a large gathering from churches in Providence and around the state led by Andrew Mook and Scott Axtmann with a team from Sanctuary, Renaissance Church, Christ Church and others.

**The location is Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, with parking in the Providence Place Mall. (Go to the north end mall parking garage nearest the State House and the entrance is directly across from the church.

**Scot McKnight will preach at this unified worship service  which begins at 7 pm.

**Scot has graciously agreed to meet from 4-5:30 pm with pastors and church leaders.  We have designed this session under the title: “The Original Gospel Revisited, Sharing the Good News in Today’s World” – A Discussion with Scot McKnight.  Stephen, Todd Murphy (Sacred Journey Church) and I are coordinating this event with the great help of Cassandra Chavez, staff at Gloria Dei.

**We have room for about 200 at 4 pm and 600-700 at the 7 pm service.  So come on time and be praying for the Holy Spirit to do a wonderful work of unifying and equipping us for greater Kingdom impact in our state and region!

Right Motivations for Ministry

If you serve Christ in any kind of ministry, let me urge you to print this text and post it where you will see it often. Or better yet – memorize it! (Listen here to the sermon on this text from 10-2-11)

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentleamong you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children,12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you receivedthe word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.  (1 Thessalonians 2:3-13, ESV)

There are so many ways that we can dishonor God by insecure, false, or selfish motives.  We need to do Christ’s work in Christ-like ways.  It means starting with the authority of God’s Word, seeking only His glory, not serving ourselves or making up for deficits in our own lives.  It means having a ‘spiritual parent’ and being a spiritual parent for others in ways that honor God in everything.  It’s a high calling.  It’s the only way to truly ‘make disciples’ modeled for us in Scripture!

Staying Human with Technology

I recently listened to a balanced discussions on our  love-hate relationship with email and smart phones and social media. [I’ll share some of my favorite apps another time that can actually help us.] Take some time to listen to Krista Tippett’s interview from On Being. Its called, Alive Enough The author interviewed is Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.

The On Being site has transcripts if you’d rather read. Here’s an excerpt.

Krista Tippett, host: Sherry Turkle directs the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Her book, Alone Together, created a catchword for anxiety about the alienating potential of technology. But that’s not really Sherry Turkle’s message. This hour, for the Civil Conversations Project, we take on the real challenge she poses — that we must lead examined lives with our digital objects — actively shaping technology to human purposes.

Ms. Sherry Turkle: I’m not like a romantic or — I don’t have like a crazy nostalgia for an unplugged life in cabins on the woods. Not at all. I’m just saying that we have to ask ourselves, what is served by having an always on, always on you, open to anyone who wants to reach us way of life?

Ms. Tippett: Sherry Turkle founded and directs the intriguingly titled MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. She made waves with her book Alone Together; it was widely reviewed as a call to “unplug” our digital gadgets. But as I’ve read her and listened to her speak, I hear Sherry Turkle saying something far more thought-provoking: that we can lead examined lives with our technology. And this is a civic, not merely a private matter. So we’ve made Sherry Turkle part of the Civil Conversations Project. For how we live with our technology is reshaping human relationship. And Sherry Turkle is full of usable ideas — from how to declare email bankruptcy to teaching our children the rewards of solitude — a core human experience more elusive for their generation. In technology as in life, it seems, discontent can be the beginning of wisdom.

Exclusively Jesus? A new look at an old question

It’s a stumbling block for many who seek AND for many who share their faith.  In an age of religious and spiritual pluralism (many options) and “the new atheism” – how do we announce as the apostles did, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)

The book with the clever cover pictured here is God is Not One.   I find helpful in that it explodes  the myth that “all religions are the same,” or “It doesn’t matter what you believe.”   It is reviewed by Scot McKnight on Jesus Creed.

Two Christ Church audio teachings on this topic are available:

The Power of Jesus Name; and

Jesus is the ONLY Way? from our Sanctuary service.

“Keep Yourselves from Idols!”

“Little children – keep yourselves from idols.”  So the apostle John ends his first letter to the early church. (1 John 5:21)  I don’t think he was warning against Caesar dolls!  Interior idols and the cult of ‘Things’ is the ever-present danger.  Whenever we look to something other than God for our meaning or security – we become idolaters.

Imagine a community of people unattached to their stuff?  Living creatively, responsibly, generously in the world so that everyone can see the living God?
Jesus would call it ‘Church!’

I’d like to re-post something from a few years ago on the dangers of modern idolatry.

Consumerism has been called “The Cult of the Next Thing.”  The essay by Mark Buchanon and is available here. In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus calls us to check our hearts and our eyes as it relates to possessions and Kingdom priorities . If Money is one of the idols – or gods of this world, then Jesus wants us (in the words of Dale Bruner in his commentary on Matthew) to become the real atheists to the secular gods of consumerism, successism, pride in possessions, self-serving, overspending, and indifference to needs…” 

The antidote to terminal consumerism is generosity: both the tithe principle of regular, planned giving and offerings of what we have that come from a heart of compassion in the face of urgent needs.

Randy Alcorn has a voluminous website with a section on Money that is well worth checking out.  As with any author, we may not agree with every emphasis, but Alcorn covers the questions thoroughly and with a heart of Christ-centeredness. Alcorns books, The Treasure Principle, and especially Money, Possessions, and Eternity are excellent.  Much of their content is on the website in the form of articles or downloads.

Can Fasting Change the World?

Fasting is one of the disciplines of discipleship that we don’t seem to work on with the same conviction as prayer or serving or worship.  Yet it is so important in our struggle with the “passions;” our appetites that involve our bodies.  The Christ Church sermon page has some helpful resources in the document section in addition to the manuscript and audio of the teaching, Fasting for the World.  A recent book I recommend is Fasting: Spiritual Freedom Beyond Our Appetites.  Great title that summarizes the motivation for fasting. There is a wealth of resources from the Eastern church.  Here is an example from my friend, Frederica who I quote about jelly donuts in the sermon. She also explains the Wednesday, Friday practice of a limited fast practiced by Christians down through the centuries.