A Wise and Understanding People

This is the next in a series of pastoral reflections from 2020 about academic research: “Researching Christianly.” Read the previous post, “Love of Wisdom.”

Last week, I wrote about the dignified and noble search for all kinds of knowledge about the world and our place in it. This week I would ask: under what terms of engagement should we as Christian researchers join the broader academy in this search for knowledge? In research, we stand on the shoulders of, and beside, other scholars in our fields. Besides the general imperative to conduct our research ethically—do the premises and aims of our research overlap with those of other convictions?

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Love of Wisdom

This is the next in a series of pastoral reflections from 2020 about academic research: “Researching Christianly.” Read the first post, “It Must Not Be This Way Among You.”

The terminal degree in most of our fields is doctor of philosophy—“philosophy,” of course, meaning “love of wisdom.” The wide purview of “wisdom” applied to all our fields (not just theology or ethics) has biblical precedent.

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Sermon: “I Have Dealt With You for My Name’s Sake” (Ezekiel 20:30-44)

This is the audio (38:03, 11.7 MB) of a sermon preached at our Lithuania home church, Klaipėda Free Christian Church, on September 5, 2021. The main text is Ezekiel 20:30-44.

The elders in Ezekiel’s day were at a loss as to how to approach God. Their guilt was before them, and everything that YHWH said through Ezekiel was abundantly true. Continuing to the time of Jesus: How did God deal with his sinful people, still in exile, still oppressed by the Romans and their gods, and victims of their own sinfulness? There seemed to be no way out.

But God, who was rich in mercy, provided a solution for his people, in Christ. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days, as Israel was for 40 years. Jesus went into “exile,” the death of a cross, separation from his father. Not because he deserved it, but because he chose to take our sin upon himself. Jesus “passed under the rod of the Father’s anger” for us! Jesus did so, so that he could bring his people into the land, that we would be fit to bear the name of YHWH God! And, he gave us his body and blood, continuing offerings so that we can be in fellowship with God!

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It Must Not Be This Way Among You (Series: Researching Christian-ly)

Last summer, I had the pleasure of facilitating a hybrid “Writer’s Workshop” for LCC colleagues. We heard from three experienced researchers from the US, UK, and Hungary about how to conceive of, generate, and popularize our research as Christian academics. Then about seven of us LCC faculty continued to meet in person to work through a book that takes a novice researcher from raw data to submitting to a journal in 12 weeks.

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Sermon: “Laws Through Which They Could Not Live” (Ezekiel 20:11-29)

This is the audio (40:26, 29.5 MB) of a sermon preached at our Lithuania home church, Klaipėda Free Christian Church, on August 1, 2021. The main text is Ezekiel 20:11-29.

If we don’t live by God’s law, the alternative is not “freedom”—it is slavery—either slavery to chaos and disorder, or to human-made law. If we will not say to God, “Let your will be done!” then God says to us, “OK, let your will be done.” We probably live in the time where at least people in the developed world have the most self-determination, but it seems to lead to depression and anxiety, rather than to liberation.

God wants us to be holy because it’s good for us, and because of his reputation. If were so consumed with God’s reputation, what would that mean for our personal discipleship—the choices we make on an hour to hour, day to day, year by year basis? For our worship? For our evangelism? We should be shouting it from the rooftops, and it should work into our lives like yeast and affect everything that we do.

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Sermon: “Shame Rolled Away” (Ezekiel 20:1-11)

This is the audio (48:16, 35.8 MB) of a sermon preached at our Lithuania home church, Klaipėda Free Christian Church, on July 18, 2021. The main text is Ezekiel 20:1-11; we also read Joshua 4:19-24 and 5:2-9; Psalm 106:1-12; John 8:1-11; and 1 Cor 6:9-11.

Each of us still lives with the scars and the effects of sin in our life: the sins that we have committed, and the sins committed against us. That is a reality of life in this fallen world. But the good news is that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, for those who believe and turn to God in repentance, we are no longer defined by our past sins.

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Re-Forming Church Biblically

Each tradition needs to think critically before simply adopting practices from other traditions—and perhaps seek out and retrieve better alternatives from its own past. Moreover, churches should be extremely cautious about introducing technology into our worship; it never merely replicates the old—it restructures into something new. If we choose to stick with a technology temporarily during a crisis, we must openly name and steadfastly resist its negative effects, and (preferably) go back to a biblical structure of worship as soon as possible.

Note: This is the concluding piece in a series, “Technologizing of Worship Before, During, and After COVID: Epistemology, Eschatology, and Presence, part of a larger project suggesting a pastoral response to COVID and lockdowns in the church. Read more and subscribe here.

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“Ancient” Re-Post: Screens, Fatherhood and Distractions

Screens let me be “present” in some limited way with my sister and her husband across the country or across the world. But they also make me absent from those actually in my presence. Screens connect and disconnect.

(December 2013)

Note: This is part of a series of pieces providing a pastoral response to COVID and lockdowns in the church. Read more and subscribe here.

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Guest Post: Why Go Back to Church?

Jesus wants His people to love one another. To love others, you sometimes have to be in the same room. Sometimes you have to hold their babies, wash their dishes, or look them straight in their unmediated eyes as you listen to them share their story. You have to stay in the room when the stories get rambly. You might have to get up and get a box of tissues. You may have to lay hands on them and pray for them. Yes, sometimes you have to touch them.

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Sermon: What Are You Building? (Eccl 3; 6; 7)

Things fall apart, and they don’t bear fruit like they should. Sometimes, a farmer plants a seed in the ground—and there is no rain. Sometimes, an entrepreneur builds a great business by wise decisions and honest dealings—and a hurricane wind comes through and wipes her investment away. Sometimes, a married couple tries for years and years to get pregnant—with no success. Sometimes, a single mom works for years scrubbing floors to get out of debt—and then she gets sick, can’t work, and falls right back into debt. In a broken world, wisdom, hard work and obedience to God’s law don’t always yield the results they should.

But the good news, Paul says, is that there is hope for redemption and re-creation. Human beings subjected the world entrusted to them to frustration, to futility—but because of what one perfect Human Being has done, all of creation can be reborn. The creation itself, Paul says, groans as if in labor pains, waiting for us as reborn human beings to be re-created in our resurrection bodies. In one sense, the creation has more “faith” and hope than we humans have! The trees and beasts of the field know that Jesus Christ is risen, and when he returns they will rejoice to see him restore creation to its full purpose.

This is the video (37.17, 222 MB) of a sermon preached at First Presbyterian Church of Dunellen, NJ, on June 20, 2021 (Father’s Day). The main texts are Ecclesiastes 3:9-15; 6:1-2; and 7:15-17.

We always enjoy our visits to Dunellen, one of ECO’s bilingual churches! Here is the service in Spanish, if you are interested in hearing the songs and the sermon bilingually.

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