links: this went thru my mind

Following are links to five articles on repentance that I’ve found to be of special interest and helpfulness.

Ash Wednesday – Applied Every Day

“So what’s the point of wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday? The cinder residue is reminiscent of the biblical act of repenting in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:6). … Many Christians have no connection with Ash Wednesday’s tradition. But we all have need of what it represents. Every day. Ash Wednesday represents our need to repent.”

Not Your Typical Ash Wednesday [essential reading]

“My name is Josh Patrick. I’m a 36-year-old pastor in the Nashville area. I’m married to a beautiful strawberry-blonde haired girl named Joni, and we have three daughters, ages 8, 5, and 2. Today is unlike any Ash Wednesday I’ve ever experienced. … 4 weeks ago today … it was determined that I had stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to my liver. And just like that, our little world was turned upside down.”

Lent: Because Sometimes Rich Christians Simply Need to Starve a Little [required reading]

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

An Ash Wednesday Prayer

“I’m sorry God, I truly am … I’m sorry that I have not loved you with all of my being.”

Litany of Penitence

“Have mercy on us, Lord. … Accept our repentance, Lord. … Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.”

this went thru my mind


Belief & doubt: How to Smartly Engage with the Young Doubters in Your Midst by Andrea Palpant Dilley

“Thirty-six percent of young people surveyed said they didn’t feel free ‘to ask [their] most pressing life questions in church.’ That’s a problem. Providing a space for open intellectual inquiry is essential for maintaining healthy conversation with people on the margins.”

Evangelism: Jesus 101 by Matt Dabbs

“This booklet is written to help guide you through the Gospel of Mark so that you can learn about Jesus, understand who He is, what He did, and find out what that means for you today.”

Memorial Day: Memorial Day by J. Daniel Kirk* ; * RE-Membering Memorial Day by Kurt Willems

* “This is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s a great day to be an American. And a dangerous day to be a Christian. … Let’s be careful how we remember today. Let’s be careful what we remember today. There is freedom that is bought with the price of precious blood. And it could never be gained by the swords, or guns, of war.”

* “Remember that violence always disrupts shalom. Jesus died, absorbing the violence of a military machine’s ultimate weapon for insurrectionists – the cross. This death unleashes the potential for shalom once again… something war can never bring.”

Pacifism: * Bonhoeffer Says; And a six-part series of posts by Paul Smith: * Pacifism and the Sermon on the Mount; * Reconsidering Pacifism – Definitions and Positions; * Reconsidering Pacifism – A Brief Old Testament Survey; * Reconsidering Pacifism – Gleanings from the New Testament; * Reconsidering Pacifism – A Personal Journey; * Reconsidering Pacifism – Final (and disjointed) Thoughts

* “I pray that God will give me the strength not to take up arms.” [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

* “In the past several weeks I have been engaged with the related concepts of pacifism and discipleship in a number of ways. … As I have read, studied and mentally debated with these giants of my faith I have been forced to think, and to rethink, my understanding and my conclusions on this subject. Over the next few posts I will share with you my convictions, and the Scriptural and theological foundations which underlie those convictions.” [Paul Smith]

Parenting: Lament and Faith and Childhood: Why My Kid and I Read the Sad Psalms by Micha Boyett

“Faith is complicated for me. I didn’t want it to be complicated for my kids.”

Sermon on the Mount: The Sermon on the Mount: Study Guide by Richard Beck

“… a condensed but comprehensive moral inventory of the Sermon.”

feed your head


I’m occasionally asked “What do you read?” Which in effect is the same as asking “What do you feed your head?

I’m glad you asked. Not just because what you deliberately feed your mind is extremely important, but because I’m happy to share with you something of what my brain daily consumes.

Though my daily reading certainly isn’t limited to what follows, my daily, personal reading revolves around four key areas, two of which are from Scripture and two of which stem from other matters, but which often deal with Scripture. Those four areas are: (1) the Psalms, (2) a daily Bible reading schedule, (3) what I have lined up to come to me through Google Reader, and (4) select books.

This year, my reading in the Psalms will consist of reading three Psalms each day (one in the morning, one at mid-day, and one in the evening). I read each of these three Psalms three times: once to understand the text, once to pray the text for myself, and once to pray the text with others in mind. Naturally, the first reading is a “normal” reading while the following two readings are “slow rides.”

Each year’s reading from elsewhere in Scripture is different. It follows the church-wide reading track followed by by the church with which I minister. This year’s reading flows out of the Daily Companion Bible, a devotional edition of the Common English Bible. The reading is five-days-per-week (Mon.-Fri.) and will take me through a variety of OT and NT texts. Each week’s worth of reading centers on one particular theme.

My reading in Google Reader, that is the online articles that come to me through RSS, come from a wide variety of sources, all of which (save a couple of news feeds) are ministry related. If you’d like to see who some of the writers are that come to me via RSS simply read this post.

As to the books I read, they vary but the vast majority of them are ministry or Scripture related. Reading length over the course of a day naturally varies, but I would guess it would be somewhere between ten-to-twelve pages per day on average. Following are five books I plan to read over the course of the next three months.

  1. The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction by P.M. Forni
  2. How to Read the Psalms by Tremper Longman
  3. Talking Back to God: Speaking Your Heart to God Through the Psalms by Lynn Anderson
  4. New Testament Rhetoric: An Introductory Guide to the Art of Persuasion in and of the New Testament by Ben Witherington
  5. The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation by N.T. Wright

Now that you’ve peeked inside my reading habits a bit, let me ask you a question.

Question: What do you daily, deliberately feed your head in the way of reading?

Psalms: Prayers of the Heart (1)


A new Bible class quarter begins this Sun., Dec. 4 at MoSt Church. During this quarter several of our Sunday morning adult classes will focus on this question: How can I truly grow in my understanding and practice of prayer? To answer that question, we’ll do what the early church did – focus our attention on the Psalms.

As to the schedule for this study, we’ll follow the very practical outline (and title) of Eugene Peterson’s little study guide entitled Psalms: Prayers of the Heart:

  • Dec. 4 – Psalm 1Praying Our Inattention
  • Dec. 11 – Psalm 2Praying Our Intimidation
  • Dec. 18 – Psalm 3Praying Our Trouble
  • Dec. 25 – Psalm 8Praying Our Creation
  • Jan. 1 – Psalm 51Praying Our Sin
  • Jan. 8 – Psalm 103Praying Our Salvation
  • Jan. 15 – Psalm 23Praying Our Fear
  • Jan. 22 – Psalm 137Praying Our Hate
  • Jan. 29 – Psalm 6Praying Our Tears
  • Feb. 5 – Psalm 73Praying Our Doubt
  • Feb. 12 – Psalm 90Praying Our Death
  • Feb. 19 – Psalm 150Praying Our Praise
  • Feb. 26 – review & wrap-up

Starting tomorrow you’ll find posts here on Fridays related to this study. These posts will engage the Psalm we’ll focus on the following Sunday. That means tomorrow you’ll see some thoughts on Psalm 1. Additional posts will appear as the notion strikes me so watch this site daily, won’t you? As you read the Psalms, try studying them in a version you’ve not read before, the Common English Bible (CEB). Check it out on BibleGateway. In fact, be the first to comment here with the words, “I’d like one CEB to go, please!” and I’ll make sure you receive a free copy!

If you’d like to do some extra reading in connection with this study, I would steer you toward two fine works: (1) Lynn Anderson’s Talking Back to God and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible. The former is authored by a well-known minister/author in our church’s heritage and the latter is something a “classic” work on the Psalms.

Question: Have you ever seriously studied the Psalms to learn more about how to pray and if so, what did you learn?

if any of you are happy

If any of you are happy, they should sing. (James 5:13b CEB)

I confess it freely: I can’t hardly carry a tune in a bucket. Some of my best friends have the gift of song, but I don’t. But this passage need not make me shake my head and sigh, for it doesn’t speak so much of performance as it does perception. Let me explain.

When James uses the word “happy” here, he isn’t talking about being on top of the world. He’s not talking about when everything is “going our way,” when our spirit is just “floating.” The way I know that is because the word he uses for “happy” isn’t glib or bubbly, but is full of courage expressed in the face of trouble; it’s about being buoyed up in spirit when you’re swimming in stress. Why, it’s even the word used to describe how Paul once “encouraged” the sailors aboard a ship in the middle of a storm as he told them how they would survive an imminent shipwreck (Acts 27:22,25,36)! Luke Timothy Johnson notes:

“It basically means to be in good spirits or cheerful … but also means to give or take courage. … The English translation ‘be cheerful’ (RSV) is accurate but should not be understood simply as high spirits. It here stands in contrast to … suffering and sickness … so the translation ‘feeling good’ seems more fitting.”

All of this puts a bit more punch into the word “sing” too, doesn’t it? This singing James enjoins on us is not so much that of carefree music hardly considered, tunes we trot out to simply help us while away the time. No, they’re thoughtful, deliberate compositions that express our awareness of the powerful work of God in the very middle of what could even be some of the most difficult or dangerous times of our life. They’re “psalms.” Read the Psalms and one thing is immediately apparent: they’re carefully crafted expressions of deep devotion that required real reflection, meditation, time, and effort to create. They’re moving meditations grounded deep in our spirit, thoughtful prayers with wings.

James is telling us to go deep. He’s encouraging us to think about the lyrics, not merely pay attention to the notes. He’s telling us how to continue to keep our spirits buoyed up by deliberately engaging more than just our spirit when we sing. He’s telling us singing isn’t just for the talented, but is for everyone who takes the time to think about God and in so doing, takes heart.

If you’re feeling good, don’t stop. Make a psalm out of it. (James 5:13b DSV)

Father in heaven, thank you for putting a song in my heart each day. Amen!

the CEB blog tour begins!

Would you like a shot at receiving a free Bible? Keep reading!

Most of you know the Common English Bible (CEB) has been my go-to Bible for personal use as well as ministry for the past year. The CEB is the most recent committee-based translation of the Scriptures. It’s the product of serious scholarship and marvelously achieves its goals of being both accurate and accessible. It’s a translation children and adults alike can truly share. It’s freshness in rendering makes it a true pleasure to read for both newbies to Scripture and those of us who are quite familiar with the Bible. The more you read it, the more you’ll like it. More importantly, the more you read it the more you’ll understand Scripture. You owe it to yourself to learn more about this translation and to become very familiar with it. It would make a fine gift to give, or receive, this Christmas! Hint, hint.

And that’s one reason, starting today, you’ll see me participating in the CEB’s Thank You-Come Again-I Promise blog tour. That means you’ll see daily posts here from now until the end of January dealing with a variety of texts and topics, all of which will spotlight the Common English Bible.

So how do I get my free Bible?,” you ask. Simple. The publishers of the CEB are enabling me, and all of the participant writers for this blog tour, to give away a free CEB every week. You’ll have a shot at receiving a copy by being the first to leave an encouraging or helpful comment on any of my daily posts from today through the tour’s conclusion at the end of January. Be the first to end your comment with the statement “I’d like one CEB to go, please” and you’ll receive your free Bible, no strings attached. Sorry, no repeat winners. If you’re the winner one week, all you’ll need to do to receive your Bible is to send me your name, postal address, and e-mail address so I can pass it along to the CEB publishers. They’ll be the ones who mail your free Bible to you.

Finally, a few brief notes regarding upcoming postings here.

Since this is National Bible Week, this week’s CEB blog tour posts will deal specifically with the Common English Bible, its creation, content, and more. You’ll find this interesting.

Our daily devotional posts in our Journey Thru James will conclude this coming Sunday (Nov. 27). What a blessing this reflective walk with James has been for me and I pray it has been the same for you!

MoSt Church‘s winter Bible class quarter study in the Psalms – Prayers of the Heart – will begin on Sun., Dec. 4 and will run through the end of February. Watch for weekly posts here in connection with this study as we seek the answer to this question: “How can I truly grow in my understanding and practice of prayer?

MoSt Church’s church-wide Bible reading project for 2012Uncommon Truth for Common People (UTCP) – will start up on Mon., Jan. 2. You’ll find posts here supplementing the UTCP reading project most weekdays throughout 2012. I’ll make note here on my site as soon as I learn that the companion Bible for this project has come off the press, the Common English Daily Companion Bible.

Remember, be the first to comment with “I’d like one CEB to go, please” and you’ll receive a free Bible.