Lent 2019: A Few Thoughts

Isn’t Lent A Catholic Thing? Technically, no! It is most broadly practiced by Catholics, but also by ‘high-church’ traditions such as Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Anglicans. However, is has been observed by the church for a VERY long time. “In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting, but it's unclear whether its original intent was just for new Christians preparing for Baptism, but it soon encompassed the whole Church.” A Discipline of Abstinence - “Following Jesus means denying yourself, saying ‘no’ to the things that you imagine make up your ‘self,’ and finding to your astonishment that the ‘self’ you get back is more glorious, more joyful than you could have imagined.” - N.T. Wright Often, lent is associated with fasting (giving up on chocolate, coffee, social media, etc.). But if we are not careful, this can just make a hole that we will with something else (more food, other phone time, etc.). Therefore, rather than beginning a...
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Worship Album: KXC – All Things New

Recently I became aware of a church located in Kings Cross London called KXC (get it, Kings Cross Church - KXC). Shortly after listening to the album, I realized I had found the soundtrack of my first month of 2019. I have found the expression in the worship refreshing (not canned), the lyrics accessible and focused on God and his attributes. I have especially enjoyed the title track, Be Lifted Up, and David's Song. If you are looking for something to mix up the worship soundtrack of old staples like Hillsong or Passion, you might give this 2018 release a spin. https://open.spotify.com/album/6dyY0EjV3fwxl3JqK69VM3 ...
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Seeing God’s Goodness

Seeing God’s Goodness

The following are a few thoughts on the passages The Cornerstone church is reading together for Jan 28th-Feb 3rd (Genesis 39-50) . "Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that is may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time." - Deuteronomy 4:40 My wife, Melissa, and I were recently talking about Deuteronomy and Jeremiah's promises that if we obey, it will go well with us. (Deut 4:40, 5:16, 5:33, 6:3, 6:18, 12:25-28, 22:7, Jer 7:23, Jer 38:20, Jer 40:9) In our earlier years, we tended to place the emphasis on: Do the right thing, and God will reward you. Ironically, I was not prepared that "it will go will with you" (at least by practical worldly standards) could also be happening to those who didn't put the same priority...
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Are We Disregarding Spiritual Practice?

Are We Disregarding Spiritual Practice?

Good theology has long been a priority among evangelical churches. Pastors spend years studying, reading, and refining their theological understanding. Church members expect teachings that are biblically sound, critically sharp, historically grounded, with cultural savvy. And no-one is suggesting that we relax these high standards. As Hebrews suggests, believers should be concerned with their spiritual nutrition, "Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced...But solid food is for the mature - for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil" (Heb 5:13-14). But what if churches have put all their focus on nutrition, at the expense of spiritual practices? Ask any coach if nutrition is important, they will tell you definitely. Ask any coach is practice is important, and they will tell you that it is absolutely critical! In fact, given the choice between a team going for a week or two without good nutrition verses good practices, it is probable that most (if not...
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Turning Eyes into Ears

The following excerpt is from a book I am reading that I pray will be helpful as you read common passages in Genesis this week. The premise of the chapter is that reading and listening are not necessarily the same action, and that we very much need to hear the word of God. In summary, "Listening and reading are not the same thing. They involve different senses. IN listening we use our ears; in reading we use our eyes... These differences are significant and have profound consequences. Listening is an interpersonal act; it involves two or more people in fairly close proximity. Reading involves one person with a book written by someone who can be miles away or centuries dead, or both. The listener is required to be attentive to the speaker and is more or less at the speakers mercy. For the reader it is quite different, since the book is at the reader's mercy..." The author goes on to...
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Letters To The Church

For the past several weeks I've been working my way through Francis Chan's latest book Letters To The Church. In it, Chan challenges stereotypes of the American church, calling for a group of Christians more in tune with Biblical priorities than consumer Christianity. None of this is new, as Christian thinker's have been bemoaning the state of the attraction-growth model Christianity for years. But what Chan does add to this conversation is a fresh, or perhaps an ancient, appreciation of the Biblical emphasis on priorities that while not ground-breaking, is a timely reminder all wrapped up in just over 200 easy to read pages. I highly recommend reading this book, partly because it does not simply deconstruct the church as is, but replaces current practice with simple suggestions that are both practical and Biblical. The following are some excerpts that I found convicting: "My fellow elders and I repented...(when) we realized that there were many in our congregation we didn't expect much of....
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Q Podcast: Getting Along, Despite Differences – Oz Guinness

Chances are good that you have been asking yourself, "Is civility dead?" Any time spent on social media will likely make you wish that people, especially people who hold your own views, would master the art of being generous and courteous in their discussions, or not say (or post) anything at all. Most of the time when folks engage in difficult topics, we all end of looking like this classic photo from the movie 12 Angry Men. One of the podcast's I (John) have found helpful, challenging, and socially relevant over the past several years is The Q Podcast. This podcast highlights a spectrum of views on hot-button social issues and to use their tagline, Stay Curious. Think Well. Advance Good. Using a Ted-Talk type approach to presentations, the speakers on this podcast have recently covered topics including titles like "Post-Election Reflections" and "How Do I Love and Support My Gay Friends." Speakers on these podcasts range from long-time Christian radio preacher...
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The Man Who Invented Christmas

Our family just re-watched 2017 holiday movie The Man Who Invented Christmas and loved it. Now, to be fair, The Thompson Family have read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens from beginning to end on or around Christmas day for the last five years, so we are fans, but often movies are never as a good as the book. In fact, I usually tell folks, "Don't judge a book by its movie!" The Man Who Invented Christmas is the exception! First of all, it's not a direct book to movie re-telling, as it focuses on the complicated personal life of Dickens as he writes what has been come to known as one of the great pieces of literature. Because of this unique perspective, we see Dickens picking famous lines out of everyday conversations with family members, servants, upper-crust socialites, loan-sharks, and street-people. The concept works beautifully, especially if you recognize the characters and quotes as they appear. While not a "Christian" film, this beautiful...
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Songs of The Common Prayer

Songs of Common Prayer: Greg LaFollette This album has been haunting me. Not because it is a masterpiece, or a creative piece of art. Don't get me wrong, the music is crisp and professional, but nothing about it screams I STAND APART AND CHANGE THE PARADIGM OF CULTURE IN THE WESTERN WORLD. However, what the album does do is create a safe space to think, pray, and mediate on some of the most common prayers of the Christian tradition. And maybe that in and of itself is unique, a musician not afraid to put a new twist on old words, to freshen up Orthodox liturgies without indie influenced instrumentation or arrangements. Whatever the reason, the album has been on almost non-stop in our home for the past week. Give it a listen.   https://open.spotify.com/album/07uDxYbS8pkDsBIX3vmYEA...
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