AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    No Comments

    Every Monday, I run a series on this blog that bring written prayers that I have found encouraging.  It is my hope these written prayers will help encourage you at the start of each week and they might draw you closer to Jesus.  You can find the whole collection here.

    Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open,

    all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid:

    Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit,

    that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name,

    through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    -The Anglican Book of Common Prayer   


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    No Comments


    “The LORD your God is in your midst,

    a mighty one who will save;

    he will rejoice over you with gladness;

    he will quiet you by his love;

    he will exult over you with loud singing.”

    Zephaniah 3:17

    The God of the universe is in the middle of your life.  If you affirm the Christian faith, you know that we claim God became man and dwelled with us.  Yet chew on the fact that throughout the history of God’s covenantal relationship with his people, “God with us” is terribly frightening.  God with us makes us quake in our shoes, because God is so unbelievably holy, big, and other.

    But then, something happened to change all of this.

    As Eugene Peterson puts it: God moved into the neighborhood.

    God experienced all that we wrestle with.  He experienced unmet desires, pain, rejection, loneliness, sorrow, and death.  Yet in his grace we are assured how he will rejoice over his children with gladness and will uplift us in much signing.  He sits with us in our pain and glories in our triumphs.

    I, for one, am so glad God moved into the neighborhood.


    Photo Credit: Wysz via Compfight cc


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    No Comments


    The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him…

    To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made use kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory, dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

    Revelation 1:1a, 5b-6

    Christians are a people rooted in Easter — rooted in the resurrection of Jesus and rooted in the hope of the resurrection of our bodies to future glory.  However, Christians are also an Advent people.  We grasp onto the Incarnation and how God-enfleshed suffered alongside humanity.  We also cling to the hope of Christ’s Second Advent– when he will come again to right the unjust powers and principalities.  When he will send the rich and powerful away empty and fill the portion of the powerless and poor, as the Magnificat reminds us.  Until then, we wait for when he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

    Yes, as an Advent people, we wait.  We wait in humility knowing full well that God’s time is not our time.  We wait in humility knowing full well that we sound like fools, claiming for centuries that Jesus will return.  While God might have waited for the fullness of time for the Incarnation of the Word in Bethlehem centuries ago, he also waits longing for all to come to faith.

    Yet in all of this we wait.  We wait.

    O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
    Our spirits by Thine advent here
    Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
    And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
    Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


    Photo Credit: BarrySherbeck via Compfight cc


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    No Comments

    Every Monday, I run a series on this blog that bring written prayers that I have found encouraging.  It is my hope these written prayers will help encourage you at the start of each week and they might draw you closer to Jesus.  You can find the whole collection here.

    And Mary said,

    “My soul magnifies the Lord,

         and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

    for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

       For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

    for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

       and holy is his name.

    And his mercy is for those who fear him

       from generation to generation.

    He has shown strength with his arm;

       he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

    he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

       and exalted those of humble estate;

    he has filled the hungry with good things,

       and the rich he has sent away empty.

    He has helped his servant Israel,

       in remembrance of his mercy,

    as he spoke to our fathers,

       to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

    Luke 1:46-55



    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    No Comments


    The Christian faith speaks into a world marked by suffering.  It also speaks into a world marked with unmet desires.  It speaks into a world marked by working harder—often for little solid gain.  It speaks into both our dark moments and in the triumphant mountain top experience.

    It speaks by confirming the words of Jeremiah by a person embodying the long hoped for longing of Jeremiah: “the LORD is our righteousness (Jer 33:16).”

    However, it is not in my righteousness that I cling to, but the righteousness of Jesus.  And he suffered in the darkness of unmet desires while thriving in righteousness.

    In Luke 13, we read Jesus’ lament,

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

    Jesus cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22, ”Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

    Jesus experienced unmet expectations and hope in the faithfulness of God.  In fact, we’re told that he rejoices when we rejoice and weeps when we weep.  Jesus offers us remarkable hope, a hope that is tangible.  A hope that has meat on its bones.

    As the Christmas hymn, A Virgin Unspotted, relays this hope:

    A Virgin unspotted the Prophet foretold,

    Should bring forth a Saviour which now we behold,

    To be our Redeemer from Death, Hell and Sin,

    Which Adam’s transgression involved us in.

    Then let us be Merry, put Sorrow away,

    Our Saviour, Christ Jesus, was born on this day.

    As we journey through the remainder of this Advent season, sit through the hope, even if it is too dark to see.  When sorrows hit, remember God experienced our pains.  He experienced our sufferings.  Even in seasons of unmet expectations, there is a glimpse of hope in the one who experienced unrealized expectations.

    Photo Credit: Luukyi via Compfight cc


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    No Comments

    Every Monday, I run a series on this blog that bring written prayers that I have found encouraging.  It is my hope these written prayers will help encourage you at the start of each week and they might draw you closer to Jesus.  You can find the whole collection here.

    If indeed it be necessary, O Lord, to bury the workman that my work may be finished by other hands.  Help me never to think of myself as indispensable.  May I be content to die with my work undone, knowing that my task is to work at the fulfillment of your purposes, not to work them out.



    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    No Comments


    “and He shall reign for ever and ever…King of Kings…and Lord of Lords…Hallelujah!”

    It wouldn’t be quite the Christmas season if we didn’t hear a rendition of Handel’s famous “Hallelujah” chorus.  Perhaps you heard it on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation recently or from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, this tune is pretty familiar within the Western world (and rightly so!).

    But do you know where these lyrics come from?  They don’t come from Handel’s mind. They actually come from the Book of Revelation.

    Wait, that book?  Yes, that one.

    It comes in the middle of the judgments associated with the Trumpets in Revelation 11.  We read that the 7th Angel blows his trumpet at the beginning of the 3rd woe and the loud of voice of heaven exclaims,

    “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”

    Why, you may wonder, would this glorious exclamation be categorized under a woe?  After all, this is the same tune that helps Clark Griswold christen his home!

    This can be considered a woe because the kingdom of this world (read: all our corporate and personal kingdoms of power, prestige, reputation, and wealth) is overshadowed by the kingdom of the Messiah.  Those who want to be kings and queens of their own “castle” will one day have their false reign overthrown, as the rightful reign of the King of Kings is made fully known.

    Yes, my friends, the kingdom of this world and all the injustice therein will be removed and the Kingdom of our Lord will be completely known.  And he shall reign forever and ever.  Hallelujah!


    (This post was originally seen on December 23, 2014)

    Photo Credit: spbpda via Compfight cc


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    No Comments

    Every Monday, I run a series on this blog that bring written prayers that I have found encouraging.  It is my hope these written prayers will help encourage you at the start of each week and they might draw you closer to Jesus.  You can find the whole collection here.

    My God, I wish to give myself to thee.  Give me the courage to do so.

    -François Fenelon


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    No Comments

    Every Monday, I run a series on this blog that bring written prayers that I have found encouraging.  It is my hope these written prayers will help encourage you at the start of each week and they might draw you closer to Jesus.  You can find the whole collection here.

    Lord, it is my chief complaint

    That my love is weak and faint;

    Yet I love thee, and adore;

    O for grace to love thee more!

    -William Cowper


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews, Culture

    1 Comment


    As I mentioned weeks back, I finished Reza Aslan’s book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth and came to many different conclusions from the book.  Among those is that Aslan overcorrected his fundamentalist upbringing by tossing out the baby with the bathwater.  51lP2ZBJ7hL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

    Aslan forcefully argued for the narrative of Jesus the historical figure transforming into a divine “Christ of faith” through the exploits of Paul and later century figures.  He saw that after the many messianic claims of the early centuries, the belief that Jesus the Nazarene was God is purely wishful thinking from later followers of Jesus.  However, I find his thesis lacking, and let me tell you why.*

    Something Crazy Happened

    Here’s what we know concerning the claims of the New Testament and First Century Palestine:

    • Messiahs were meant to lead military revolutions in First Century Israel.
    • Messiahs and good Jews do not typically claim to be god/God.
    • Jews worship on Saturdays.
    • Women are not reliable legal witnesses.
    • Resurrection of the dead was believed to happen at the end of history.

    Here’s what we know from common sense:

    • Dead men stay dead— this is a fact of nature.
    • If you make something up, at least make the leaders look somewhat intelligent.

    As the New Testament scholar N.T. Wright points out in Surprised by Hope, something happened that turned Second Temple Judaism on its head.  There was a historical Jesus who had a group of followers and he eventually was crucified for insurrection (claiming to be like God, claiming to be a king).  Instead of disbanding, as so many followers of crucified messiahs did, the disciples started saying he rose from the dead.  They claimed to have seen him as a physical person.  Not only that—women were the first to encounter the empty tomb and connect the dots to a resurrection!

    As alluded to above, if you are going to make something up in the First Century, don’t say women were there first.  Because in the First Century, women were not legal witnesses.  If you made something up, why not show Peter as the smart, faithful one?  Why not tell the great exploits of the early leaders and simply remove the asinine stories that portray the disciples as faithless, prejudiced people?

    The four gospel accounts recorded in the Bible provided differing accounts of the Jesus and are not four similar copies.  Aslan is certainly correct in this.  However, four witnesses will often times provide four different takes on a single event.  The existence of narrative tension does not make the four different accounts false.  It would be less believable and reliable if all four gospels were in unanimity in relaying the history (and theology) of Jesus the Messiah.

    On another point, to be Jewish meant that you worshipped at the Synagogue or Temple on Saturdays.  To move your worship day as a Jew to Sunday is a tremendous move.  Moving days is not just a convenience factor, instead it is a reflection of the culture-shattering resurrection of Jesus.  This is another element to hearing out the argument for a historical resurrection.

    Concerning the resurrection, a lot of Jews at that time believed in the bodily resurrection of the just.  Of course, this resurrection would occur at the end of time, when God intervenes in history.  They did not expect for a resurrection to occur at that particular time.  They certainly did not have a category to affirm a bodily resurrection in the Hellenistic Greek understanding either.  Unless something out of the ordinary happened.  

    James vs Paul?

    Surprisingly, Aslan created a narrative that pitted Paul against James the brother of Jesus and the Jerusalem church.  He suggested that Paul took the teaching of Jesus and perverted them, turning the vast majority of the diaspora (Jews who did not live in Israel) and Gentiles against the traditional Jewish church in Jerusalem.  However, this is grasping at straws, since Paul went throughout the Mediterranean collecting money to financial relieve a Jerusalem church.  He also came under their authority several points in Acts (not to mention his writings are the earliest ones we have).

    It is pretty well known that Martin Luther saw the Book of James as a sketchy book, propping up the false religion of works over faith in God.  Aslan flips Luther’s idea over and suggests that Paul attacked James in his writings.  However, the faith that Paul wrote about is not in opposition to the works that James wrote about.  We are saved for good works, not saved by them or from them.  This was his weakest point, because even a cursory look at how Reformational scholars interpret Paul and James shatter his hypothesis within a few pages.

    If Christ Was Not Raised…

    With all that said, Zealot is a well-researched book that is a very captivating read.  However, this book is done with a motive.  My guess is that Aslan’s work was written as a type of antidote to kids caught up in the subjective fervor of contemporary evangelicalism.  Yet, reading the New Testament with modern eyes is just as pervasive in secular heads as it is in orthodox Christian heads.  I simply do not think you have to separate the Christ of faith from the Christ of history.  Because something happened in the First Century that changed everything.  Something happened that has mystery to it.  Something happened that is not found on a recorded video.

    The Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith are the same person.  Jesus the Messiah changed the cultural script for a conquering messiah and he meant to die a brutal death on the cross.  It was not an accident that he died in his thirties.  This was his mission: to give his life as a ransom so that we can enjoy a life with God both now and forever.

    Maybe the reason why people argued with Jesus and rejected him at that time was because he claimed to be God and claimed to be a messiah who would not overthrow the Romans in a glorious coup d’etat.  Maybe the reason why people rejected him then is the same reason people reject him now: he interrupts our lives and our own preconceived notions of what it means to truly live.

    *I am indebted to the works of the brilliant scholar NT Wright for these arguments, and I commend you to read his material on the Early Church

    Photo: Christ Cleansing the Temple by Bernardino Mei (Courtesy of J. Paul Getty Museum)