According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Science Mike + Mars Hill - The Psalms + The Stars



I recently met and spoke with Mick McHargue not long ago and would recommend his podcasts and science critiques of sharing God's "evolutionary creationism" and the searching questions he asks in the context of the bible. Like myself, Mike went through a period of spiritual crisis in his life where God turned his world upside down before propelling him forward into the teaching of his Word.

Now evolutionary creationism is not the pseudo-science-7-day-creationism-stuff but the real, hard-core, Darwinian evolutionary schemata placed into a post-evangelical theological context as we have discussed here at Relevancy22 in hundreds of past articles. My church, Mars Hill, recently began its science series in the late fall of 2016 starting with Science Mike whose vimeo link is listed first with an introduction by our newest pastor AJ Sherrill. The remaining three vimeo links are from AJ himself, but the deep stuff, the scientific stuff, can be found on Science Mike's website that I've linked directly below.

Enjoy!

R.E. Slater
Thanksgiving 2016


More on Science Mike - http://mikemchargue.com/





* * * * * * * *


The Series: "The Psalms + The Stars," by AJ Sherrill

I.
The Psalms + The Stars: Psalm 147
Posted on October 30, 2016 | Pastor: AJ SherrillScience Mike



II.
The Psalms + The Stars: Psalm 8
Posted on November 6, 2016 | Pastor: AJ Sherrill



III.
The Psalms + The Stars: Psalm 13
Posted on November 13, 2016 | Pastor: AJ Sherrill



IV.
The Psalms + The Stars: Psalm 133
Posted on November 20, 2016 | Pastor: AJ Sherrill

11/20/16 - AJ Sherrill - The Psalms + The Stars: Psalm 133


"Don't you just love it when coming to God's Creation
to discover that He SINGS all the time, and especially
when creating both the worlds and our own souls!?"
- R.E. Slater



Thursday, November 24, 2016

Lutheran Hour Ministries - Advent & Lenten Devotionals



Lutheran Hour Ministries



Directions on using the devotionalhttps://www.lhm.org/lent/downloads/directions_full.pdf




Advent Devotional - .pdf or online



Lent Devotional - .pdf or online
https://www.lhm.org/lent/downloads/lent16.pdf



What is Advent? - https://www.lhm.org/advent/advent.asp
The Church divides the year into different seasons that emphasize the life of Christ and the life of the Church. Beginning on Sunday November 27th, 2016, we will enter the season of the Church year called Advent. Advent is the season of preparation and anticipation leading up to Christmas, on December 25th, 2016 and continuing to Epiphany January 6th, 2017.

The focus of Advent is two-fold. On the one hand, we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world as both God and man so that our sins might be forgiven. On the other hand, we anticipate the day when Jesus will return to Earth and bring an end to this world. Those will be scary days, but we can look forward to the end of the world with hope because through faith in Jesus, the end of this world will mean the beginning of a new life with Christ for eternity.

Advent, then, is a time for us to repent and believe. Knowing that Jesus was born to forgive our sins, we repent (admit our failures to God) and believe that we are forgiven because of the death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf. Also, knowing that Jesus is coming back, we repent and believe that when He returns, He will give us eternal life.



For most Christians, Lent is a season of soul-searching, reflection and repentance. Lent is defined as the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter observed by the Roman Catholic, Eastern, and some Protestant churches as a period of penitence and fasting. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus' withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days.

Special Days During Lent

Ash Wednesday

In the Western church, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and the seventh Wednesday before Easter. Its name comes from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of worshipers to symbolize death and sorrow for sin. In the Orthodox Church, Lent begins on a Monday rather than on Ash Wednesday.

Holy Week (the week before Easter):

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter Sunday. It recalls Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem one week before His execution, when people celebrated His coming by throwing palm branches in His path.

Holy Monday

Commemorates Jesus' cleansing of the temple, when He assaulted money changers and overturned their tables, proclaiming the temple to be a house of prayer. Some believe that this triggered His arrest and crucifixion.

Holy Tuesday

Recalls Jesus' prediction made to His disciples on the Mount of Olives, of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Holy Wednesday

Recalls Judas' decision to betray Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver (once called Spy Wednesday).

Maundy Thursday

Commemorates the Last Supper, Jesus agony in the garden and His arrest. "Maundy" is derived from the Latin "mandatum" (commandment of God in John 13:34-35) For centuries, people in authority have washed the feet of their followers on this day.

Good Friday

Recalls Jesus death on the cross. The origin of the word "good" has been lost. Some claim that it is a corruption of "God" and that the early Christian called this day "God's Friday." Others claim that "good" refers to the blessings of humanity that arose as a result of Jesus' execution.

Holy Saturday

The final day of Holy Week and of Lent, a day of sorrowful remembrance of Jesus' time in the tomb.

Easter Sunday

Celebrates Jesus Christ's resurrection. In the early church, converts were baptized into church membership on this day after a lengthy period of instruction. This tradition continues today in some churches.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Psalm 13 - A Pslam of Deep Grief & Lament





Psalm 13

1
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? (Lament)
How long will You hide Your face from me? (Abandonment)

2
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? (Agony)
How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (Shame)

3
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; (Waiting)
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, (Mortality)

4
And my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," (Death)
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. (Wickedness)

5
But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; (Faith)
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. (Deliverance)

6
I will sing to the LORD, (Celebration)
Because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Hope)



* * * * * * * * *




Psalm 13 Commentary
by C. Wess Daniels


Lament, as Walter Brueggemann says, is about

“Calling attention to the reality of human loss.
It is a given that needs to be processed theologically.”

Lament is prayers and emotions that express deep loss, deep disconnect from how things ought to be and the reality of things are. Lament is protest, it can be expressed in anger, or desperation as we will see. Lament is like a deep and emotional groan that becomes prayer to God.

In order to understand lament better, let’s look at a contrasting poem in Psalm 13.

Remember that the book of Psalms is the prayer book of the Bible. Quakers aren’t particularly great at using written prayers but these Psalms “praises” have been being used as prayers for thousands of years. They are collected here as prayers that we can use for ourselves.

I think this is especially helpful when we don’t know how to pray, or what kind of words to say to God. We can turn to the Psalms and begin to steep in these “praises” which, once you start reading them, aren’t all praises.

Henri Nouwen has said that these Psalms of lament are,

“For those who cannot articulate their own pain.”

In other words: here is a tool for deeper spirituality right here. Learn, pray, read, meditate on the Psalms. Take them and pray them verbatim or put them into your own words.

Let’s Read Psalm 13, our first Psalm of Lament, again.

Q: What are some of the things you notice right off the bat?
Q: Do you see any patterns or developments as the poem progresses?

People call Psalm 13 a Psalm of disorientation or a Psalm of darkness.

Those who understand Psalms of disorientation better than me suggest that there is a basic framework to these we can discern. (This same structure is taken from Brueggemann’s “Message of the Psalms” p.58–60).

A. Questions (v. 1–2)

(1-2) How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

There are 4–5 rhetorical questions here. God is put on trial. This is where we see the blame or the address made directly to God. The Psalmist here is not interested in having anyone explain what is going on or give any excuses. The Psalmist is only interested in questioning God for what is going on.

There are two major problems the Psalmist has with God:
  • Absence of God
  • My enemies prevail

For the Psalmist, there is something amiss in the relationship and the injustice, the brokenness drives his request into what Brueggemann calls “Bold Faith.” The accusatory language of this prayer may feel weird or unnatural but within the Hebrew tradition this is what the practice of lament looks like. Nothing is off limits. No prayer is inappropriate to God. To bring all your pain, your complaints, your nice prayers and the ugly ones are all a part of having a “bold faith.”

It is bold because it refuses to live in a pretend reality. It faces squarely into the darkness and disorientation of life. And it declares that this darkness, especially our darkness, must be put into conversation with God. Nothing should be held back from God. Everything must be brought to speech, and everything brought to speech must be addressed to God, who is the final reference for all of life” (The Message of the Psalms, 52).

B. Beyond Coping (v. 3–4)

(3-4) Consider and answer me, O LORD my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

The Psalmist is beyond coping. He is at his wit’s end. There are no more explanations, not more resources, no more excuses that can be given. But he refuses to give up.

He too, like Abigail, is about to die.

I sympathize with the prayer’s author because he stands in that in between life and death; where there is a teetering on just making it and completely losing himself. I feel as though I have no place left to stand.

“Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.”

This truly is disorientation.

In Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book “Lament for a Son” he describes this in-between well:

"But the pain of the no more outweighs the gratitude of the once was."

He knows the in-between and describes it well when he receives a call about the death of his son:

“The call came at 3:30 on that Sunday afternoon, a bright sunny day. We had just sent a younger brother off to the plane to be with him for the summer.

”Mr. Wolterstorff?“

”Yes.“

”Is this Eric’s father?“

”Yes.“

Mr. Wolterstorff, I must give you some bad news.”

“Yes.”

“Eric has been climbing in the mountains and has had an accident.”

“Yes.”

“Eric has had a serious accident.”

“Yes.”

“Mr. Wolterstorff, I must tell you , Eric is dead. Mr. Wolderstorff, are you there? You must come at once. Mr. Wolterstorff, Eric is dead.”

“For three seconds I felt the peace of resignation: arms extended, limp son in hand, peacefully offering him to someone – Somone. Then the pain – cold burning pain.”

Our lament is like telephone call, the juncture between two great distances. We know it is true lament when we are beyond coping and we know that we are on the brink of life or death.

C. Waiting

And then the Psalmist waits. We don’t know for how long. But we know that he waits in the darkness. He becomes oriented with disorientation and stays there.

D. New Orientation (v 5)


(5-6) But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

And after so prolonged period of time he finds resolution in the lovingkindness of God. This is not some trite “everything works out to the good” because we know there are plenty of stories that never get told and plenty of endings that never end in a complete sentence or a period.

Instead, for the one who is transformed through lament, light comes to their eyes and they come to understand that “Nothing Shall Separate us from the Love of God.”

…Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:37–39 NRSV)

Brought to Speech

The important thing about Lament is that our suffering, our darkness, and disorientation is “brought to speech” in relationship with God. There is nothing you experience, no pain too deep, no sense of loss so tragic that you ought not to just take it to God but to make it God’s business to transform the situation.

All of our lives must be brought into dialogue with the lovingkindness of God if we are to be transformed. Even if the circumstances are irreversible, that does not mean we cannot find a new orientation by practicing this bold kind of faith.

The Psalmist knows that one option really is death, literal, spiritual or emotional death. These are always live options for us too. And to remain silent is to allow that death to creep in. It is to wall God off and and forego the change that is possible.

“Everything is awesome” is the theme song not just of the Lego movie but of all who live comfortably in America. To practice lament is to challenge this. It is to refuse to pretend and instead face reality squarely. To voice our disorientation. To address God fully. To pour out the depths of our hearts and to await transformation because we trust that God’s lovingkindness is the final reference for all of life.


* * * * * * * * *


Matthew Henry Commentary - Psalm 13


This psalm is the deserted soul's case and cure. Whether it was penned upon any particular occasion does not appear, but in general,

I. David sadly complains that God had long withdrawn from him and delayed to relieve him (v. 1, 2).

II. He earnestly prays to God to consider his case and comfort him (v. 3, 4).

III. He assures himself of an answer of peace, and therefore concludes the psalm with joy and triumph, because he concludes his deliverance to be as good as wrought (v. 5, 6).

To the chief musician. A psalm of David.

Verses 1-6

David, in affliction, is here pouring out his soul before God; his address is short, but the method is very observable, and of use for direction and encouragement.

I.

His troubles extort complaints (v. 1, 2); and the afflicted have liberty to pour out their complaint before the Lord, Ps. 102 title. It is some ease to a troubled spirit to give vent to its griefs, especially to give vent to them at the throne of grace, where we are sure to find one who is afflicted in the afflictions of his people and is troubled with the feeling of their infirmities; thither we have boldness of access by faith, and there we have parreµsia—freedom of speech.Observe here,

1. What David complains of. (1.) God's unkindness; so he construed it, and it was his infirmity. He thought God had forgotten him, had forgotten his promises to him, his covenant with him, his former lovingkindness which he had shown him and which he took to be an earnest of further mercy, had forgotten that there was such a man in the world, who needed and expected relief and succour from him. Thus Zion said, My God has forgotten me (Isa. 49:14), Israel said, My way is hidden from the Lord, Isa. 40:27. Not that any good man can doubt the omniscience, goodness, and faithfulness of God; but it is a peevish expression of prevailing fear, which yet, when it arises from a high esteem and earnest desire of God's favour, though it be indecent and culpable, shall be passed by and pardoned, for the second thought will retract it and repent of it. God hid his face from him, so that he wanted that inward comfort in God which he used to have, and herein was a type of Christ upon the cross, crying out, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?God sometimes hides his face from his own children, and leaves them in the dark concerning their interest in him; and this they lay to heart more than any outward trouble whatsoever. (2.) His own uneasiness. [1.] He was racked with care, which filled his head: I take counsel in my soul; "I am at a loss, and am inops consilii—without a friend to advise with that I can put any confidence in, and therefore am myself continually projecting what to do to help myself; but none of my projects are likely to take effect, so that I am at my wits' end, and in a continual agitation." Anxious cares are heavy burdens with which good people often load themselves more than they need. [2.] He was overwhelmed with sorrow, which filled his heart: I have sorrow in my heart daily. He had a constant disposition to sorrow and it preyed upon his spirits, not only in the night, when he was silent and solitary, but by day too, when lighter griefs are diverted and dissipated by conversation and business; nay, every day brought with it fresh occasions of grief; the clouds returned after the rain. The bread of sorrow is sometimes the saint's daily bread. Our Master himself was a man of sorrows. (3.) His enemies' insolence, which added to his grief. Saul his great enemy, and others under him, were exalted over him, triumphed in his distress, pleased themselves with his grief, and promised themselves a complete victory over him. This he complained of as reflecting dishonour upon God, and his power and promise.

2. How he expostulates with God hereupon: "How long shall it be thus?" And, "Shall it be thus for ever?" Long afflictions try our patience and often tire it. It is a common temptation, when trouble lasts long, to think it will last always; despondency then turns into despair, and those that have long been without joy begin, at last, to be without hope. "Lord, tell me how long thou wilt hide thy face, and assure me that it shall not be for ever, but that thou wilt return at length in mercy to me, and then I shall the more easily bear my present troubles."

II.

His complaints stir up his prayers, v. 3, 4. We should never allow ourselves to make any complaints but what are fit to be offered up to God and what drive us to our knees. Observe here,

1. What his petitions are: Consider my case, hear my complaints, and enlighten my eyes, that is, (1.) "Strengthen my faith;" for faith is the eye of the soul, with which it sees above, and sees through, the things of sense. "Lord, enable me to look beyond my present troubles and to foresee a happy issue of them." (2.) "Guide my way; enable me to look about me, that I may avoid the snares which are laid for me." (3.) "Refresh my soul with the joy of thy salvation." That which revives the drooping spirits is said to enlighten the eyes, 1 Sa. 14:27; Ezra 9:8. "Lord, scatter the cloud of melancholy which darkens my eyes, and let my countenance be made pleasant."

2. What his pleas are. He mentions his relation to God and interest in him (O Lord my God!) and insists upon the greatness of the peril, which called for speedy relief and succour. If his eyes were not enlightened quickly, (1.) He concludes that he must perish: "I shall sleep the sleep of death; I cannot live under the weight of all this care and grief." Nothing is more killing to a soul then the want of God's favour, nothing more reviving than the return of it. (2.) That then his enemies would triumph: "Lest my enemy say, So would I have it; lest Saul, lest Satan, be gratified in my fall." It would gratify the pride of his enemy: He will say, "I have prevailed, I have gotten the day, and been too hard for him and his God." It would gratify the malice of his enemies: They will rejoice when I am moved. And will it be for God's honour to suffer them thus to trample upon all that is sacred both in heaven and earth?

III.

His prayers are soon turned into praises (v. 5, 6): But my heart shall rejoice and I will sing to the Lord. What a surprising change is here in a few lines! In the beginning of the psalm we have him drooping, trembling, and ready to sink into melancholy and despair; but, in the close of it, rejoicing in God, and elevated and enlarged in his praises. See the power of faith, the power of prayer, and how good it is to draw near to God. If we bring our cares and griefs to the throne of grace, and leave them there, we may go away like Hannah, and our countenance will be no more sad, 1 Sa. 1:18. And here observe the method of his comfort. 1. God's mercy is the support of his faith. "My case is bad enough, and I am ready to think it deplorable, till I consider the infinite goodness of God; but, finding I have that to trust to, I am comforted, though I have no merit of my own. In former distresses I have trusted in the mercy of God, and I never found that it failed me; his mercy has in due time relieved me and my confidence in it has in the mean time supported me. Even in the depth of this distress, when God hid his face from me, when without were fightings and within were fears, yet I trusted in the mercy of God and that was as an anchor in a storm, by the help of which, though I was tossed, I was not overset." And still I do trust in thy mercy; so some read it. "I refer myself to that, with an assurance that it will do well for me at last." This he pleads with God, knowing what pleasure he takes in those that hope in his mercy, Ps. 147:11. 2. His faith in God's mercy filled his heart with joy in his salvation; for joy and peace come by believing, Rom. 15:13. Believing, you rejoice, 1 Pt. 1:8. Having put his trust in the mercy of God, he is fully assured of salvation, and that his heart, which was now daily grieving, should rejoice in that salvation. Though weeping endure long, joy will return. 3. His joy in God's salvation would fill his mouth with songs of praise (v. 6): "I will sing unto the Lord, sing in remembrance of what he has done formerly; though I should never recover the peace I have had, I will die blessing God that ever I had it. He has dealt bountifully with me formerly, and he shall have the glory of that, however he is pleased to deal with me now. I will sing in hope of what he will do for me at last, being confident that all will end well, will end everlastingly well." But he speaks of it as a thing past (He has dealt bountifully with me), because by faith he had received the earnest of the salvation and he was as confident of it as if it had been done already.

In singing this psalm and praying it over, if we have not the same complaints to make that David had, we must thank God that we have not, dread and deprecate his withdrawings, sympathize with those that are troubled in mind, and encourage ourselves in our most holy faith and joy.