The Weight of Gratitude: A Sermon of Mine


job-silohetteI’m going on three decades of attending church services. I’ve heard a lot of sermons on gratitude and almost all of them are the same.

They spend much of their time trying to convince us Americans that we actually are far more wealthy than we ever thought. We have more stuff than most any other people in human history, and so we need to stop being so consumeristic and unsatisfied and just learn to be grateful and give thanks for what we have—because we have a lot. And us Christians have even more reason to be thankful, as we have the greatest gift of all: Jesus!

But all this does is lead us towards some brief, unsustainable, inch-deep emotion of happiness which we then call “gratefulness” and then walk out the door thinking we’ve gotten our annual “gratitude shot”—all while being able to ignore the violence raging in the world and in our souls.

So where is gratitude when we face violence and doubt, or when we hit the muck and mire of life, the pits and poverties of existence, the pain and injustice? Does gratitude have nothing to say?

Well that’s what my most recent sermon discusses (I’ve also written about this before). The sermon text is Psalm 40,  Let me know what you think. Here’s the audio:

You can also download it here, or subscribe to our podcast. If reading is more your style, here is my manuscript for your perusal. Continue reading

Using the Bible to Meet with God


Last week, I asked a bunch of you how you go about using the Bible and the study of its contents to actually nourish your soul and meet with God. I got some great responses both here and on Facebook. This week, I wanted to put up how I ended up approaching this during the class I taught at my church. It’s super short, not very deep, and much more can/should/will be said. For what it is, I hope it’s genuinely helpful and speaks to how we might meet God through the Scriptures.

How do we move from the Facts of the Bible to the God of the Bible? From knowing the Bible, to knowing the Person? From Scripture being informational to formational?

The Meeting Place of God

As I said in the first class I taught, the Bible is not the passive “Revelation of God”. It is the place through which the Holy Spirit actively “reveals God” to us. When it comes to the Bible, we should start thinking more in verbs, not nouns. The Bible is “simply” a meeting place for God and his people, where he might meet them as he desires, by His Spirit.

When we meet God in Scripture, its the convergence of four things: Us and our faith, God and His Spirit.
Continue reading

Lent-erpretative Musings {a theological interlude} {3a}


WARNING: this post gets into some theological discussion that, for most everyone out there, will be neither helpful nor interesting. And it’s way too long (which is why I’ve broken it up into two separate posts). Forgive me and please be gracious.

_____________

Anyone that follows the blog knows that I’m currently thinking through and writing a Lent series on the theological idea that Jesus was slain “before the foundations of the world” (Part 1, Part 2). Even though no one has said anything to this effect, I have felt like somewhat of a hypocrite. As I’ve been doing this, I’ve been haunted by a little voice reminding me that it seems like I’m employing many of the same techniques of interpretation and viewing the Bible that I’ve criticized in others before. This post is my attempt at reconciling this in my own head (in front of all of you).

As J.R.D. Kirk (and others) has often talked about, many of our theological disagreements in the church boil down to a simple question “what is the Bible?”. At the end of the day, we can argue about any number of things appealing to the Bible, but if we believe fundamentally different things about what the Bible is–and how it is that–we will never get anywhere.

And here’s where I’m getting into problems with this series: there are ways of viewing the Bible that, in others, I have criticized as reductionistic, simplistic, and frankly, abusive to the text itself, and I fear that I’m employing many of those same techniques in my thinking through this series. Here are two of those ways (two more later):
Continue reading

A Theology of Sleep (i need it)


Lately, I haven’t been able to sleep. It’s not that if I lay in my bed, I can’t fall asleep, mind you. It’s the getting to bed part that keeps getting to me. I find myself staying up way too late (usually writing up these blog posts) until I can barely function, and then falling into my bed–unconscious even before my head hits the pillow. I then struggle to wake up and don’t end up having time and energy to start my day in the way I would hope.

Continue reading

REVIEW: “The Voice of Psalms” by Ecclesia Bible Society


The Voice of Psalms
Ecclesia Bible Society
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009
Purchase at Amazon

__________

The Voice of Psalms (Thomas Nelson) is a special collection of the Psalms in the new Voice translation of the Bible. It contains four reading plans (one for Advent, Lent, Praise, and one for comfort and guidance). It has also has 75 “practical and insightful reflections” on various Psalms.

Most Bibles are translated with the assumptions of systematic theology undergirding them, acting as if what makes the Bible divine is that is has this particular combination of these particular words. The Voice, on the other hand takes seriously the assumptions of biblical theology, that the Bible is divine because of the true God and true story of redemption it testifies to. In translating The Voice, biblical scholars and theologians are teamed up with artists, writers, poets, novelists, memoirists, playwrights, lyricists, and other creative minds in order to make the translation both beautiful and unique for each book of the Bible.

Continue reading