A Heart of Stone

Posted by tom | Apr 12, 2007

When I was first invited to join in the Transforming Community experience, I thought the description "Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership" was a bit of an oxymoron. I could imagine strengthening the "mind" of my leadership, but where did this soul thing fit into leadership? You see, I come from the intellectual world and that world has always been my comfort zone. -- I encourage you to take a few minutes to read A Heart of Stone to a Heart of Flesh: Experiencing Transformation in Community, a brief piece by InterVarsity's Tom Boyle, Director of Staff Development and Training.

What a joy to read this testimony to the work of God in the heart of an IVCF intellectual. Personally, I've found a number of the materials provided by the The Transforming Center and written by Ruth Hayley Barton to walk, maybe I should say breathe, in/through Christ.


Resurrection Reflection

Posted by tom | Apr 11, 2007

Keeping our focus on the resurrection, here's what Scot McKnight posted on Easter morning.  Take some time with me to return to this passage:  I Corinthians 15 connects resurrection and redemption more profoundly than anywhere else in the Bible. He became what we are so we could become what he is; our union with Christ ushers us into the resurrection. Here’s a scriptural reading for Easter morning:

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

Devout lover of God?

Posted by tom | Apr 9, 2007

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Amen!  May it be so as we by the power of the Spirit live in the light of the resurrection day-by-day.  Take some time today to reflect upon this stirring message by John Chrysostom (349-407), read every Easter by Eastern Orthodox churches across the world.  FYI:  Link laying out the celebration of Holy Week by the Eastern Orthodox.

new futures

Posted by tom | Apr 8, 2007

(note:  pic originally sent by The Transforming Center)

The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate energizing for the new future.  The wrenching of Friday had left only the despair of Saturday, and the disciples had no reason to expect Sunday after that Friday.  The resurrection cannot be explained on the basis of the previously existing reality.  The resurrection can only be received and affirmed and celebrated as the new action of God, whose province is to create new futures for people and to let them be amazed in the midst of despair.

Walter Brueggemann
The Prophetic Imagination

posted by http://www.cultureisnotoptional.com/, free on-line archives


Posted by tom | Apr 7, 2007

Came across the below pic/text at Defy the Gray. Speaks for itself on this in between day.


"I wish you knew today what would bring you peace."

"But now it is hidden from you."

How precious the gift of the cross

Posted by tom | Apr 4, 2007

Have I mentioned the Pontificator to you? [note: the site appears to now be down, but the archives, e.g., the link given for Holy Week still functioning] Take some to meditate upon the quotes given as part of the Holy Week series


How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return.

This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! . . . -- St Theodore the Studite (758-826)


the scandal of the incarnation

Posted by tom | Apr 3, 2007

Over the centuries, Christians have grown adept at finding ways to disincarnate the religion, resisting the scandalous notion that what is holy can have much to do with the muck and smell of a stable, the painful agony of death on a cross.  The Incarnation remains a scandal to anyone who wants religion to be a purely spiritual matter, an etherized, bloodless bliss.  It remains a scandal to Christians who fear and despise the human body, or those who want to hear only of a Jesus who is  all-knowing, all-powerful--surely not the human being of Matthew or Mark, subject to temptation and ordinary emotions such as irritation and weariness.

Kathleen Norris

Amazing Grace

posted by http://www.cultureisnotoptional.com/

The April Fool: Palm Sunday

Posted by tom | Apr 1, 2007

I came across this Palm Sunday reflection by Chip Stam, Director, Institute for Christian Worship, stirred by Samuel Crossman's (c. 1624-1683) My Song Is Love Unknown  It is so chilling and humbling for me to imagine myself as a part of the Jerusalem crowd that so easily waved their palm branches and shouted glorious praises to Jesus, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”; and then to realize that my fickle friends and I would be calling for his death a few short days later. This hurts! “No story so divine.” May I invite you to read the poem again, and notice the poet’s posture of worship in the final stanza.

Father, When I find myself in the wilderness (facing difficult circumstances as an individual or a member of the masses) grant me the grace to remember and give praise for your work through the ages, by/in your people, in the humble life/work/death of your Son, by the Presence of your Spirit, and deep within my own life. When I grumble not just in the difficult circumstances, but in my daily life like the Israelites in the wilderness, bring me to confession of my sin.  By your Spirit enable me to cast Satan from my presence and acknowledge you alone are to be worshipped, your grace alone provides the avenue and strength for the next step of the journey.  Each second of every day remind me that I am receiving your powerful, transformative, gracious work enabling me to live by faith in your promises with a glimpse of how you will complete the good work you began in creation and continued to be about in spite of the fall; responded to by your call of a people, the incarnation of His Son, and the gift of the Spirit to His People. Come Lord, come quickly! We look with eager expectation to the new heaven and new earth.  In the name of your Son Jesus who humbly gave His all for your creation and your people, Amen.

Holy Week Preparations

Posted by tom | Mar 25, 2007

The other day, I received a link to Discovering the Psalms during Holy Week. Upon review, I'll use these devotions during Holy Week, alongside our family Lenten devotional. Some of you may also find this a helpful resource.

This morning, In the Shadow of the Cross we reviewed Segment 2: Old Testament Perspectives on Evil (N.T. Wright's DVD on Evil) and viewed Segment 3: New Testament Perspectives on Evil. Three questions from Segment 2 became the focus of our brief time for conversation:

1. Why is it significant that the Bible doesn't give us a theory of evil, but rather tells us the story of evil and the actions God undertakes to deal with it?

2.  The people of Israel bore tremendous suffering throughout their existence as God's chosen ones.  How is the suffering of God's people related to God's way of overcoming evil in the world?

3.  In the midst of their many years of oppression, the people of Israel began hoping for God to send a Messiah who would finally rescue them from evil and set the world right.  In what ways did the prophet Isaiah transform this vision of a coming Messiah (see especially Isaiah 53)?


Billy Graham in Twilight

Posted by tom | Mar 14, 2007

I'm unpacking so much good stuff as I take some office time this afternoon. For example, I just finished reading an August 14, 2006 article entitled Pilgrim's Progress in which we are given a glimpse of the last days of Billy Graham. Graham testifies, All my life I've been taught how to die, but no one ever taught me how to grow old. But praise God, this has been a time when the primary thing becomes primary again -- and for Daddy, the primary thing is, as Jesus said, to try to love God totally, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Ann Graham Lotz).

Amen!  I'm only 33.  But health issues, raising children to follow Christ, serving God on campus, sharing the Word of God with Tom and Tom from the Jehovah Witnesses this morning, and leading an adult education class at our local assembly, bring me back again and again to what Scot McKnight has termed the Jesus Creed . . . loving God, loving others is the foundation upon which the actions of my heart, soul, mind, and strength receive proper direction.  May such be the case as I go to the park with the family in the amazing 76 degree F weather before heading to a time of prayer (Tom), fellowship (Theresa, Eden), and choir (Hayley, Ellen) at our local assembly.

Lent: 2nd Sunday

Posted by tom | Mar 10, 2007

The Lord has been pressing much upon my life. Pray for focus as I lead In the Shadow of the Cross. Last week I introduced the Adult Education Class using Dennis Bratcher's The Season of Lent, some material by Kenneth Bailey on The Parable of the Lost Sons, an overview of the Biblical Story, Psalm 51, and closed with Prayer of St. Ephraim (or Ephraem) the Syrian.

Tomorrow (after waking up too early, considering my runny nose and the time change), I'll open the class with a time of silent prayer in Psalm 51 and for the missionaries highlighted by the Brethren-in-Christ's World Prayer Day.  Then we'll dive into the first section of N.T. Wright's DVD on Evil and based on his Evil and the Justice of God (note:  earlier post on Evil and the Justice of God).  After some discussion regarding the questions provided by the DVD study guide . . .

1. We can't honestly look at the world without realizing there is serious evil going on all the time. What are some specific instances of evil -- whether political, social, natural, or personal -- that we see in the world around us?

2. In what ways do the "arrogance of modern life" and society's belief in progress fail to allow room for an honest assessment of evil and a genuine need for God?

3. How does labeling others as "evil" enable us to treat them as if they don't matter and even perpetrate injustice against them?

4. What steps can we take toward accepting that evil is not just "out there" in others, but in all of us as well?

5. "When people deny the humanity of others, they become evil themselves." Explain what this statement means and how it happens.

6. What can we do to avoid being pulled along this evil pathway?

As we close I'll bring attention to Brethren-in-Christ Lenten Resources, Christianity Today's Lenten Resources, and St. Patrick's Day Resources (for giving testimony to the work of God in St. Patrick's life over the course of the coming week. By-the-way, A Poem by St. Patrick and The Confession of St. Patrick are choice pieces for Lenten prayer and reflective consideration).

Shadow of the Cross

Posted by tom | Feb 23, 2007

Just returned from 'da Burgh. I had the opportunity to participate in Church of the Ascension's Ash Wednesday service. While receiving the imposition of the ashes, I was filled with Joy. Not how we're supposed to start Lent, but God may be calling me to give up brooding. That will be new one!

Not sure how this will affect my Adult Education Class:

In the Shadow of the Cross: Reflections on daily life through the window of Lent, the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Kingdom of God . In addition to walking through the Lenten guide provided by our local congregation, we will meditate upon and discuss several pieces by N.T. (Tom) Wright. We'll dedicate a significant number of weeks to viewing, discussing in small groups, and praying responsively to the material presented in his DVDs on Evil and Resurrection, based on Wright's book Evil and the Justice of God (note:  earlier post on Evil and the Justice of God).

As I posted on Peter and Becky's blog (note: praise God for passports and the opportunity to be with your children in 24 days), I'm looking for input regarding good material to incorporate into the class (note: beginning on March 4). If you have suggestions post here or email me. This week I'll move in the direction of the new class by wrapping-up Questioning Evangelism with a look at the Parable of the Lost Sons.  Visit Finding the Lost for some material I'll be using. More will be posted when Eden gives me the opportunity Laughing

Piper's tribute to Metzger

Posted by tom | Feb 15, 2007

Thank-you to Miller for passing this along.  I never had the opportunity to meet or hear Bruce Metzger.  But it was hard to miss seeing the name of one who in his prime there was no greater authority on New Testament textual criticism again and again.  The Kingdom of God has been blessed by his training of many pastors and teachers of the New Testament.  Here's the link to John Piper's tribute in which he prays that he will fill his days as diligently as Bruce Metzger. His life gave the word assiduous flesh and blood meaning. May John's ministry continue to be a blessing to many and may each of us not forget the work of the saints who have gone before us, preparing us under the direction of the Father and inspiration of the Spirit of God to bring the Word of God to Life.  Note:  NY Times Obituary.


Posted by tom | Jan 21, 2007

Did I already rejoice in A call to honor the Sabbath? Not bad for USA Today :-0 Thank-you to Henry G. Brinton, pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia and author of Balancing Acts (anyone read this, looks interesting), for writing:


The problem with ignoring the Sabbath is that it hurts us as individuals, families and communities. Wayne Muller, a therapist, minister and best-selling author, is convinced that modern life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our bodies by pushing them beyond their limits, war on our children by failing to give them our time, and war on our communities by failing to be kind and generous and connected to our neighbors. To bring an end to this destruction, we have to establish a healthier balance between work and rest.


Later in the piece, he quotes from Marva Dawn's Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting, which is one of several helpful resources found at Calvin's Resource Library. Join me in dwelling in the Presence of the Lord every day, but taking particular moments to rest and remind myself to dial it down and replenish my strength through leaning upon the strength of the Lord

Social Justice Surprise

Posted by tom | Jan 16, 2007

Why is it so much a surprise that followers of Christ, empowered by the Spirit, follow his teachings? How about this wrap-up as we continue our reflection upon MLK Jr?

It means that the evangelical organizations are doing a good job and that they're respected for that. It also indicates the irrelevance of the more theoretical church-state separation debates that go on in Congress and among interest groups. A lot of these issues can be fought out theoretically, but in the real world, these groups are working together and resolving their disagreements. The lines between Christian agencies, government agencies, and secular nonprofits are not as sharp as they are made out to be in the more theoretical debates.

A related article of interest is Interfaith or Multi-faith? which concludes:

It would be a great tragedy if, after the faith-based initiative has assured people of faith that their religion need not be sidelined as the price of collaboration with government, contract officials, lawmakers, and courts would subtly make interfaithism a requirement for those who want to bring faith with them into public life and service. The government must not establish religion, not even a nonsectarian religion of humanitarianism and service. Government may promote multi-faith alliances, but must not require an interfaith approach.

Thanks for these links Kevin :-)

Why We Left

Posted by tom | Jan 15, 2007

Here's an articulate piece printed in the Washington Post regarding Why We Left the Episcopal Church. The authors Rev. John Yates, the rector, and Os Guinness, a parishioner, of The Falls Church, are well known Anglican Evangelicals -- thank-you to Kevin for forwarding the article.

John and Os start by pointing out Episcopal revisionism abandons the fidelity of faith. The Hebrew scriptures link matters of truth to a relationship with God. They speak of apostasy as adultery -- a form of betrayal as treacherous as a husband cheating on his wife.

Today take some time to pray for the People of God to receive discernment as they seek to follow the teachings/life of Jesus here and now on January 15, 2007. Part of our family's devotional time will include a consideration of Martin Luther King Jr's I have a dream speech. Lord come quickly, bring your kingdom in fullness for the purity of the Church and the full redemption of your creation to the praise of your Glory!

Flew to deism

Posted by tom | Jan 12, 2007

Thank-you to Miller for passing along the link to the exclusive interview of Prof. Antony Flew, a legendary British philosopher and atheist who recently became a deist, which ran in the Winter 2004 issue of Philosophia Christi, the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Rejoice in and continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to draw Flew closer to the embrace of God the Father through Jesus Christ. May this piece serve as a stimulation for you as you pray and engage in conversation many who believe in a God out there, but have yet to place their hope and trust in the revelation of God the Father through the incarnation of His Son Jesus and the outworking of His Spirit and Word through the People of God across time and geography.


Narcissism reaches its end

Posted by tom | Dec 31, 2006

Time magazine's "Person of the Year" is You says it all. A culture focused on self and all that I feel, think, and do is good. Praying for the People of God to be light shining in a different direction this new year, modeling and articulating lives given in worship to God to the blessing of our neighbors and all of creation. No more important environment to address than the college campus, Facebook: A campus fad becomes a campus fact

I surrender all

Posted by tom | Dec 29, 2006

This morning, gifted IVCF evangelist York Moore challenged delegates not just to know about Jesus, but to follow Jesus in word and action. A number of delegates responded, including four in the row just in front of us. What a joy to have the opportunity to lay hands in prayer upon a new follower of Christ.

Pray for my conversations with Roger (Pitt) and Taehee (CMU) in the next several days, as they take significant steps in living a life worthy of the calling of Christ Jesus as expressed in vocational decision making and applied in vision for campus mission next spring.


Walt Mueller on Christ-mas

Posted by tom | Dec 25, 2006

Link over to Center for Parent & Youth Understanding to read Walt Mueller's reflections, here's a taste:

Christmas. Lately it’s been an occasion for me to consciously pursue some re-directed thinking. The problem is that I’ve spent so many years immersed in and pursuing the nostalgic, commercialized, feel-good Christmas that’s so much a part of the American experience, that the December 25th that exists in my mind sometimes looks more like a Norman Rockwell painting than anything else. What a tragedy.

Perfectionistic Tendencies

Posted by tom | Dec 21, 2006

Nikki A Toyama writes in More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expections, Relationships, Leadership and Faith: Unhealthy perfectionism goes beyond striving for excellence. The ideal is the ultimate goal. Coming close doesn't count; there is no A for effort. Perfectionism sets unrealistically high standards. It is not unique to Asian culture; perfectionists live in every country of the world. But in many Asian communities there is a communal value for perfectionism. It's reinforced by how each group member functions and treats the others (p.52).

A chart on p.51 [taken from David Stoop, Hope for the Perfectionist (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998)] contrasts Perfectionism and the Pursuit of Excellence:

Idealist vs. Realistic.

Strives for the impossible vs. Strives for the doable.

Fears failure vs. anticipates success.

Dwells on mistakes vs. learns from mistakes.

Values self by what they do vs. values self by who they are.

Swallowing Suffering

Posted by tom | Dec 20, 2006

Tracey Gee wrote a powerful chapter on experiencing Jesus when we're going through painful times in IVP's new release More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expections, Relationships, Leadership and Faith. Based on Mary's response to Lazarus' death as recorded in John 11-12, we notice a pattern 1. Avoidance: staying in the house away from Jesus, 2. Telling the truth: speak honestly with Jesus, 3. Experiencing Jesus' compassion, 4. Experiencing Jesus' redemption, 5. Entering deep love and intimacy with Jesus. Leading to compassion for others and a vision with the end in sight as suffering is lived out in the Presence of God (pp.74-85). Amen.

Open for Business

Posted by tom | Dec 19, 2006

Pray for us as we prepare to lead (and engage in leading) a prayer team for participants in Urbana's Open For Business Track (OFB):

a specialized track for those who have a passion or growing interest in business and global missions. It will build, mobilize, and equip a multi-generational network of business practitioners who seek to harness the potential of business to contribute to the global advance of God's kingdom around the world.

Theresa and I will be praying for track leaders/presenters and those which are in need of prayer during the track time (dark blue sections of the schedule of the conference which runs from December 27-31). Pray for strength, stamina and focus as we lead one of the prayer teams. Pray us not to be distracted by leaving Hayley, Ellen, and Eden in the care of Grandma/Grandpa Ginder. Pray for both sets of grandparents to have the strenght, stamina and focus in their time with the girls while we're away. Pray for us to be ready to jump back into family life when we return. Track specific requests are below.


More Advent & Christmas worship quotes

Posted by tom | Dec 15, 2006

Here's links to more Advent & Christmas worhsip quotes from WQOTW.  May they be a rich blessing to you.

O Come, O Come, Immanuel
C. S. Lewis
Ambrose and Luther
Dutch Carol
Ulrich Shaffer

The Gift of Gifts

Posted by tom | Dec 14, 2006

O Source of all good,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp . . .

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