Guest blog by Dr. James E. Pedlar. Dr. Pedlar is Assistant Professor of Wesley Studies and Theology at Tyndale University and Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The areas of his specialization are: Wesleyan theology, ecclesiology, unity and diversity in the church, renewal and reform movements.
it says on his faculty bio: “James is a Wesleyan theologian whose work focuses on ecclesiology – especially questions involving the place of renewal and reform movements in the church. His doctoral dissertation explores the use of the Pauline concept of “charisms” as a way of thinking about the unique gifts that different movements bring to the life of the church as a whole.”
“God’s command to “pray without ceasing” is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.
“Whether we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him.
“All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice.
“Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on outward things.
“In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer.
“As the furious hate which the devil bears us is termed the roaring of a lion, so our vehement love may be termed crying after God.
“God only requires of his adult children, that their hearts be truly purified, and that they offer him continually the wishes and vows that naturally spring from perfect love. For these desires, being the genuine fruits of love, are the most perfect prayers that can spring from it.
I don’t know just exactly when it was. I don’t know exactly why. But, many years ago, some time while I was living up in the Boyne City area, I made a quiet spiritual breakthrough in my life. I started keeping regular morning devotions. It was not just that I started praying regularly in the mornings. That wasn’t the breakthrough.
The breakthrough was this: I wanted to pray.
To some, keeping morning devotions may not seem like much of an accomplishment. Isn’t this how Christians are supposed to begin their day? Maybe for some people prayer comes more naturally. Maybe for some people spiritual discipline comes more naturally. For me, it never did. So when I began keeping regular morning devotions, it was really something new.
Now, there had been many times when I resolved to be more faithful in prayer. (more…)
You are the giver of all good things.
All good things are sent from heaven above,
rain and sun,
day and night,
justice and righteousness,
bread to the eater and
seed to the sower,
peace to the old,
energy to the young,
joy to the babes.
We are takers, who take from you,
day by day, daily bread,
taking all we need as you supply,
taking in gratitude and wonder and joy.
And then taking more,
taking more than we need,
taking more than you give us,
taking from our sisters and brothers,
taking from the poor and the weak,
taking because we are frightened, and so greedy,
taking because we are anxious, and so fearful,
taking because we are driven, and so uncaring.
Give us peace beyond our fear, and so end our greed.
Give us well-being beyond our anxiety, and so end our fear.
Give us abundance beyond our drivenness,
and so end our uncaring.
Turn our taking into giving … since we are in your giving image:
Make us giving like you,
giving gladly and not taking,
giving in abundance, not taking,
giving in joy, not taking,
giving as he gave himself up for us all,
giving, never taking. Amen.
–Walter Brueggemann, from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann.
It consists of two rather long (over an hour) videos. These come by way of Wendy VanderWall Gritter of New Directions Ministries of Canada.
So, you will need to find some time to watch these — if you didn’t watch them back when I originally posted them in April of 2012.
I say this as a person who does not often watch videos of this length on the Internet myself. Nevertheless, they are well worth your time.
The videos are about homosexuality. The speakers are both sincere, same-gender attracted Christians who have come to opposite conclusions about whether or not same-gender sex is a sin. They have also managed to maintain a long standing friendship, in spite of this disagreement. They are: Justin Lee and Ron Belgau. (more…)
This is a continuation of yesterday’s post: “How I Still Think Like a Methodist.”
First, I need to explain this: when I say “Methodist” I don’t mean it in any denominational sense at all. Yes, I served for many years as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. And, at that time I was quite loyal. I came to Christ long ago at a holiness camp-meeting. But, I really don’t mean to speak of this in any sectarian sense at all.
I know many people who experienced the holiness denominations as spiritually oppressive and legalistic. This has not been my experience, but I know that it has been for many. (more…)
Prayer is by nature a dialogue and a union of man with God. Its effect is to hold the world together. It achieves a reconciliation with God.
Prayer is the mother and daughter of tears. It is an expiation of sin, a bridge across temptation, a bulwark against affliction. It wipes out conflict, is the work of angels, and is the nourishment of all bodiless beings. Prayer is future gladness, action without end, wellspring of virtues, source of grace, hidden progress, food of the soul, enlightenment of the mind, an axe against despair, hope demonstrated, sorrow done away with. It is wealth for monks, treasure of hermits, anger diminished. It is a mirror of progress, a demonstration of success, evidence of one’s condition, the future revealed, a sign of glory. For the man who really prays it is the court, the judgment hall, the tribunal of the Lord — and this prior to the judgment that is to come.
— St. John Climacus (ca. 579-649) Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28: On Prayer.
In the early part of his 2012 book How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, N. T. Wright remarks on how the Church has not always allowed itself to hear the full witness of the Gospels to Christ. I won’t attempt to reproduce the argument here: read the book. (Or, maybe: read this review.)
Wright begins by discussing some ways that the Church’s teachings unintentionally got off track. And, as he is discussing how these various theologians of the past attempted to defend orthodoxy in a way that misconstrued some of the Bible’s teachings, he says on page 37 that “the eighteenth century saw great movements of revival, particularly through the Methodist movement led by John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield.” and, he goes on to say: (more…)
It seems especially appropriate in the season of Lent to quote from John Wesley’s Sermon (# 48) on Self Denial:
The denying ourselves and the taking up our cross, in the full extent of the expression, is not a thing of small concern: It is not expedient only, as are some of the circumstantials of religion; but it is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing his disciples. It is absolutely necessary, in the very nature of the thing, to our coming after Him and following Him; insomuch that, as far as we do not practice it, we are not his disciples. If we do not continually deny ourselves, we do not learn of Him, but of other masters. If we do not take up our cross daily, we do not come after Him, but after the world, or the prince of the world, or our own fleshly mind. If we are not walking in the way of the cross, we are not following Him; we are not treading in his steps; but going back from, or at least wide of, Him.
— Sermon #48 “Self Denial.”
It seems to me that Lent can be a training ground for the practice of self-denial throughout the year. (more…)
“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
“Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. ”
— Revelation 1:4-7 (NRSV)
These scripture passages remind me of the words of an old favorite Gospel chorus:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
And, it is interesting to note that this is the message of the book of Revelation, also. Here, continually, Jesus Christ is held before us as Savior, Lord of history and the center of our hope. A study of the book of Revelation ought to bring to us a clearer vision of Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t, we have missed the point of it all. It is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1), and he appears in it continually. He is the Son of Pan, the Lamb, the White rider. He is always the central character. If we were to spend a lifetime studying this book (and you easily could) and miss the vision of Jesus Christ that lies at its heart, we would have wasted our time. John wrote this book to encourage people encountering persecution to “turn their eyes upon Jesus.” (more…)
Let me draw your attention to two particularly excellent — and very personal — posts by William Birch over at his new blog, the further. William Birch has been blogging for a long time about classical Arminian theology. But, at his new blog he is addressing issues related to Christian sexual ethics. And, he has reason to: he is himself a same-gender attracted person. He writes:
Often, Christian sexual ethics is at variance with the given surrounding culture. My goal is to challenge the Church to treat the LGBTQ community with dignity, honor, and respect; yet to do so and not compromise their varied, respective, biblical beliefs.
It is especially difficult to write about these issues in the church. So much of the church is caught up in the American Culture War, that it is often hard to hear what some people are actually saying. (more…)
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. This begins the important Church season of Lent. Robin & I will be getting up early tomorrow morning to participate in the 6:30 a.m. Ash Wednesday Service at the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville. They offer Ash Wednesday Services at 6:30 a.m. and at noon. I was asked to assist with the Imposition of the Ashes at the early service. I appreciate being asked.
You see, Ash Wednesday services are important to me — when I can attend. Some years, since my retirement, I’ve had to kind of search around for a nearby church that was holding such a service — this is not generally advertised on the church signs or on the church web sites.
I feel like something is missing if Ash Wednesday isn’t part of my Lent.
But, I haven’t always felt that way about it. (more…)
“Even now,’ declares the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your hearts and not Your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”
— Joel 2:12, 13
The season of Lent begins this week on Wednesday. It is Ash Wednesday that begins the season of the Church Year called Lent. Historically, the season of Lent is one of the most important seasons of the church year. The season of Lent moves toward Holy Week: the time when we remember the crucifixion. Lent looks toward the Cross — and then beyond it to the miracle of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus.
Ash Wednesday arrives this week: Wednesday March 5.
The history of the season of Lent is interesting for us today. Though we do not celebrate it as people did in the past, a look at the history of Lent can give meaning to this season of the Church year. (more…)
I am posting another of the excellent videos in Asbury Theological Seminary’s Seven Minute Seminary series.
In this video Dr. Craig Keener addresses the issue of Divorce and remarriage — particularly as it relates to the teaching of Jesus.
I appreciate the way he addresses this issue. But, I also wanted to post this for another reason. In this video, Dr. Keener raises the issue of whether Jesus used hyperbole (deliberate over-statement) in his teachings. Dr. Keener points out that he clearly did.
This is an important point to remember — especially for those of us who are tempted to ransack through Jesus’ teachings for rules and regulations — he just didn’t teach that way. He used overstatement to get our attention.
Dear Father in heaven, we come to you.
With thanks we come to you.
Again and again you have helped us.
Again and again you have let your light shine on us
so that we could be glad and know that our lives are in your hands.
Protect us on this earth, where it is so necessary.
We need your guiding light.
that the light of true life may shine more and more brightly
and we may praise your name with our whole heart.
Be with us this day, O God,
and touch our hearts with your Spirit. Amen.
— Based on a prayer found here.