What comes to mind when you think of the word “confession”?
Maybe the word reminds you of someone confessing to a crime in front of a judge or jury. Maybe you think of a written statement in a police station. Perhaps you remember a relationship that deepened – or collapsed – when something was confessed.
Maybe the word brings to mind a picture of a person sitting in a closed room and speaking to a priest on the other side of a screen. Maybe you remember a bedtime prayer or a youth camp where you confessed your sins to God.
Maybe the word “confession” makes you uncomfortable. Maybe it just doesn’t mean anything at all to you.
I would like to suggest that confession should play a role in our spiritual growth and development. Confession is part of the way in which we experience God’s love and new life. Continue reading
Do you know the “Great Commission” – those words Jesus said to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s gospel?
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)
I have often heard preachers and teachers comment on that pesky word “go,” as in, “go and make disciples.” In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word “go” is a participle, like our English words “going” or “walking” or “reading.” A participle indicates some kind of action, but it is not the main verb of the sentence. In the quote above, “make disciples” is the main verb, and it is an imperative, a command. The general feel of this sentence, then, shouldn’t be the two-fold command “go and make disciples,” but rather something more like “as you are going, make disciples.”
The reason people explain it this way is to suggest that making disciples is the most important work that we have as followers of Jesus. I think that’s true. And it’s to emphasize that you don’t necessarily have to go anywhere – to an overseas mission field, for instance – in order to make disciples. The danger, though, is that we can separate the intentionality of “going” from the activity of “making disciples.” That is, we can relax and lay back, waiting for the next opportunity to show up for us to make a new disciple. “As you are going,” you know, when you get around to it. Continue reading
The news coverage is nonstop. Twenty-four hours a day, we can find the latest information, gossip, analysis, and arguments about why Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (or Gary Johnson or Jill Stein) should or should not be our next President. One presidential debate took place earlier this week; two more will follow in the next month. As a nation, we can hardly contain our excitement – not to mention our hopes, our disillusionment, our fears, and our anger – about this whole process.
Honestly, I have grown weary of this political season. As I scrolled through my Facebook timeline last night, I saw nothing but aggressive, one-sided posts (supporting either major candidate). I saw people arguing angrily with their friends about one issue or another. I saw memes and jokes that belittled one candidate or another. I saw long, thoughtful articles explaining why we should all vote for one candidate or another.
But I didn’t see much of Jesus in the discussion. Continue reading
Charlotte. Tulsa. New York. Ferguson. Cleveland. Baltimore. North Charleston.
What these cities mean to you depends on a lot of factors. What they all have in common is a similar headline: “[Insert Name] Killed By [Insert Name].” If you’re like me, you live a very safe distance away from all these places which have experienced turmoil in recent days. Midland County, Michigan, has been far removed from scenes of police shootings and race-related protests. So it’s easy for people like me to form our own opinions without having to engage with actual people, on all sides of these issues, who are suffering. Continue reading
On Sunday, September 18, our worship service will be a special kind of service: it will be a “healing service.” I would like to explain exactly what this will look like, so you know what to expect and how to prepare yourself.
First, though, please read my previous thoughts on what divine healing is and what divine healing isn’t. Continue reading
Can prayer actually bring about physical healing in a person’s life? Is it right to pray for someone to be healed? How do we make sense of those times when we pray and the person is not healed? Are “divine healings” really just fraudulent parlor tricks?
Let’s start with Jesus. Continue reading
A Facebook friend of mine shared a video of a “divine healing” this morning. His comment on this video was simply “smh” – internet shorthand for “shaking my head.” The video showed a well-dressed preacher praying for a young boy, who apparently had one hand significantly shorter than the other due to some kind of abnormality. The preacher had the boy put his hands together, palm to palm, and then he adjusted the boy’s hands so that his fingertips were offset by a couple of inches. After calling on the name of Jesus and on the power of the Holy Spirit, and after encouraging the congregation to pray in the same way, the unbelievable happened:
The boy’s fingertips slowly moved closer and closer to each other. Continue reading
Sometimes we pray and expect God to answer our prayers. Sometimes we pray and hope God will hear us. Sometimes we don’t even know how to pray.
Fifty people died in a shooting rampage in Orlando early yesterday morning. The twenty-year-old son of Pastor Bill Greiner, the senior pastor of our sister church Eagle Ridge Church of God in Midland, died in a car collision last week, early on Sunday morning. And ten years ago last week, I wrote a blog post in which I tried to process the shooting deaths of seven people across the alley from our apartment in Indianapolis, which came just a month after the deaths of five people from our college in another auto collision.
How do we make sense of the tragedies in our lives? Where is God in all this mess?
Yesterday afternoon, Tara and I had the opportunity to sing in a “choral evensong,” a formal worship service in which most of the service is sung by a choir and accompanied by a pipe organ. This took place at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bay City, a church where we have sung on several occasions in the past few years. It’s a beautiful historic building with a high vaulted ceiling and wonderful acoustics. Prominent throughout the sanctuary, like many buildings of that period, are several stained glass windows.
I found myself looking up at one of these stained glass windows at the end of this evensong service. We choir members had walked down from the choir loft to the back of the sanctuary, where we sat to listen to the last piece of music from the pipe organ. As I looked up at the stained glass, I was amazed by the beauty of what I saw: not just the picture displayed in the window, but the way the glass shined in the sun. Here is something completely material – a window comprised of many different shapes and colors of glass – that shines with the light of something beyond itself, something immaterial. The beauty of the window cannot be seen completely until the light shines through the glass. Continue reading
“You know, it’s like I always said… the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
These were the final words spoken in my favorite television series of all time, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. After seven years of stories, conflicts, battles, and drama, the space station called “Deep Space Nine” comes to a place of peace and stability. The local bartender (a Ferengi named Quark) finds himself tending to his shop there once again as he had done for many years. And as the final episode draws to a close, Quark speaks the above words, which has become a favorite quote of mine over the years.
Life is full of transitions and adjustments. We leave one place or situation in life, and we move on to other challenges. One relationship ends, and another begins. Sometimes, when we’re experiencing many changes, we can feel a little out of sorts – as if the world is somehow unstable or unpredictable. For some people, this kind of unpredictability can be invigorating and exciting. For others (like me), big changes are a bit stressful. Continue reading