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Sunday, June 16, 2019

"Disability and the Way of Jesus" by Bethany McKinney Fox. A Review

Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the ChurchDisability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church by Bethany McKinney Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked it up because it is addressing an important subject: how we should look at healing; better ways to approach people who have disabilities or disease; and what wholeness really means. Bethany McKinney Fox, director of student success and adjunct professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, has compiled an interesting approach to the subject in her new paperback, "Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church". This intriguing volume is readable, moves fairly quickly through its material, and helpfully addresses "a framework for Christian communities to be places of healing in the way of Jesus, with particular attention to members with disabilities," which the author believes is found in our Lord's own life and ministry (4).

Fox begins with a chapter that examines models that have been, and are being, employed in understanding disease and disability. She gives readers a better sense of what was going on in the first century, and what is happening in the twenty-first. In the next chapter the author then moves deeper into what our Lord was up to in his context when he healed. She observes that based on Jesus' words and ways, then "in our contemporary practices of healing, we need to pay attention to the symbolic world we inhabit and work within it to show how the kingdom of God is transforming what we think of as normal too" (46).

The meat and potatoes of "Disability and the Way of Jesus" comes in the middle three chapters. Fox takes on a highly stimulating approach to the subject. She examines the works of several Christian physicians pulling out the ways they interpret Jesus' healings in the gospel accounts. Then she surveys some writers who are engaged in disability studies, disability rights, and/or are disabled themselves, and how they read the stories of healing in the gospels. Finally, the author probes seven pastors from various traditions, interviewing each to see the way they handle those healing passages in Jesus' life. These three chapters truly were the main course, and the author productively achieves her desired end of "exploring the interpretations of Gospel healing narratives from medical doctors, people with disabilities, pastors, and others connected to the disability community...not to find the one right hermeneutic and toss out all the others. notice how each perspective brought to light certain aspects of the text in a valuable way" (135). The final two chapters are where Fox gives her "Seven Marks of Healing in Action," and leaves the reader pondering possibilities and plans.

"Disability and the Way of Jesus" is a good place to begin scrutinizing how we and our churches can truly be part of the "healing way of Jesus". There were spots that disappointed me. Such as Fox's idea that we need to completely revamp or adapt our ways of worship to welcome a broader variety of worshipers, and specifically those with disability, and to not do so is idolatry (190). I understand the sentiment, but find the assertion and accusation too much in line with pragmatism and utilitarianism. Overall, if the reader will allow Fox to stretch them and their perception, they will find this much-needed work worthwhile. Even with my one criticism, I highly recommend the book.

Thanks to IVP Academic. At my request they sent a copy of the book used for this review, and asked nothing more from me than an honest review. My assessments are freely made and freely given.

The book can be obtained here: Disability and the Way of Jesus

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"Unless the LORD Builds the House" Congregational Prayer - 16 June 2019

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. LORD, you are the One who builds the house, and watches over the city. We plant and water, but you are the one who gives the growth! Bless our congregation with fitting and fair growth; that we would grow roots downward and bear fruit upward; that you would add to our number such as are being saved. And, Mighty God, we pray for your Church all around this marvelous globe, as well as New Day Church of the Nazarene, The Fellowship at Western Oaks, Southpointe Church, and 8th St. Church of the Nazarene; and we pray for our General Assembly that meets at the end of this month. Preserve and protect your Church from scandal and suffering; repair her breaches and breaks with the healing glue of the Holy Spirit; with the supremacy of the Gospel; and with all that accords with sound doctrine. / And, LORD, since we are so dependent on you for life, health, wholeness and livelihood, we pray for those who are feeling the slowing effects of age…; the wearisomeness of having more month than money…; the cruddy results of sickness, disease, cancer and confusion….; give to your beloved sleep, rest, fullness, and restoration that they may rise up and sing your praises. / And finally, Lord, as our team heads out to Anadarko tomorrow, build our work that we may enjoy the fruits of our labor, be part of many coming to faith in Christ, and have a hand in many faithful Native American believers flourish in Christ.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. High King of Heaven, take care of our country. Prosper, replenish and promote what is good, just, decent, and fair. Bring a change of heart and a change of mind to that which is cramped, crooked, or corrupt. Make America great again, great in ways that are ethical, sensible and moral. Lead our leaders to truly be for America, and for the honorable ideals America once stood for. Finally, good Father, we give you thanks for the fathers in our lives, especially those who tried to be good fathers; who toiled to provide and parent well. For the fathers here we ask you to guide and steer them as reflections of your Fatherhood. For those who are heartbroken because of their children’s choices and directions, help them to know that you know what that’s like so that they would find comfort in being close to you, a Father of many ornery and obstinate children. For those who had absentee, abusive or overassertive fathers, may there be repentance, reconciliation, and forgiveness before it’s too late. In Christ’s name, Amen (from Psalm 127)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

"Ascribe to the LORD..." Congregational Prayer - 9 June 2019

(This congregational prayer is dressed up in Psalm 29)

Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. Royal and regal God, who sits above all that claims our allegiances; who is enthroned even over all who are deified and idolized. We pray that you would bring all self-made divas and divinities (like youthfulness, money, health, musicians, movie stars, politicians; and whatever else we are prone to fawn over and grovel before) to see that there is no authority or acclaim outside of you and your control. Raise up the humble and cast the wicked to the ground.

 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. We beseech you that your voice would go far and wide; your word would run free and unshackled so that all may hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. To this end, we pray for our team as we head out soon to Anadarko; and to this end we also pray for our July Mega Sports VBS; as well as for the Youngs; Iversons; Pardigons; Berrys; Shepherds; the Morrises and the Hatefields; may your work prosper in our hands, O God of glory! And may the Holy Spirit of Pentecost draw in many from every region and realm, to come and rely and submit to Jesus Christ the Lord!

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. Please supply us with moderate portions of rains and showers. Watch over us during this tornado season and preserve us. Grant that our farming, cattle industry, trade and commerce would burgeon. Raise up, restored and rejoicing, all who are presently going through rigorous regimens of treatment and those being ruthlessly wracked by grief, guilt, and depression… And Lord, bless the married and the single, filling our marriages and singleness with your joy, peace, health and most of all – with you.

The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” Preserve our State as we recover from the floods; and help those who have lost much. Restrain and rule our nation that all may continue to be able to freely enter your temple and cry out “Glory to God in the highest.” 

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! Holy God our Father, we implore your continued protection, provision and promotion of your Church here, world-over, as well as Calvary Nazarene Church, Bethany First Nazarene Church, Canadian Hills Church, and Southwest Church of the Nazarene. Give strength to your people, bless your people with peace, and show that you are enthroned as king forever. Finally, watch over, guide and lead our General Assembly as it meets at the end of this month. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

"Why Do the Nations Rage?" - Congregational Prayer 2 June 2019

[This congregational prayer is flowing from Psalm 2]

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” O God see how the peoples and nations of this world conspire and rage against your Son and his Lordship: through adjudication, legislation, execution of orders, shaming on the air waves, taunting and demonizing through social media and music, and in some places by downright brutality and cruelty. See, O Lord! Take note and come to the aid of your chosen ones. We long to see our own nation flourish as a just and lawful land. We long to see our neighborhoods, cities and State to show themselves to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Though all the world scoffs and scorns the coronation of your Son, we and all of your church, declare him to be Lord, and head of all things to his church. We pray on behalf of your church in this place, worldwide, as well as Rainbow, Trinity and Victory Temple Church of God in Christ, and Oklahoma City Family Church. Not only may we bow the knee to your Son, but may we be a people of utmost loyalty to him in our worship and ways, in our liturgy and life. May we not be frightened in anything by our opponents but always live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” For all national and international agencies that seek to subvert your church, and undermine your Son’s rule, we pray for them to be converted. Like Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, may they be confronted by your Son and his majesty, and call him “Lord” now. And if they will not, bring their power to nothing and their schemes down to the dust. 

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. We pray for those of our family, friends and fellows who have turned away from Christ, or have never known him …, Oh, that they will “Kiss the Son lest they perish in the way.” / We also pray for our brothers and sisters languishing in mental darkness of one kind or another…; those who are limping along with sickness, disease, or brokenness…; and those struggling with finances and family issues…; be their refuge and strength, lifting up their heads and hearts in hope, for truly “blessed are all those who take refuge in him.” Amen.  (Taken from Psalm 2)

Saturday, June 1, 2019

"The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt. A Review

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and ReligionThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Evolutionary biology and psychology, neurobiology, sociology, developmental and moral's all in there, along with some artfully crafted chutzpah. Jonathan Haidt, the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business, who is ethnically Jewish, religiously atheist, and vocationally a moral psychologist, has pulled together an intriguing read that skillfully and sportively answers - from his perspective - his subtitle "Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion."

Since there are thousands of reviews of the book that have already been broadcast, I'll simply say three things. First, it was fun to read, thought-provoking, instructive and insightful. As a Christian minister I can't, and don't, go along with many of his premises (evolution, utilitarianism, etc.); nevertheless, I found Haidt's analysis useful and it gave my mental muscles a good workout.

Second, I think Haidt is on to something. I'm not sure I always like the way he leans, but I do like his intentions and indications. An example of what he's up to can be found toward the end of the book when he writes, "This book explained why people are divided by politics and religion. The answer is not, as Manicheans would have it, because some people are good and others are evil. Instead, the explanation is that our minds were designed for groupish righteousness. We are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our strategic reasoning. This makes it difficult - but not impossible - to connect with those who live in other [moral] matrices, which are often built on different configurations of the available moral foundations" (370-1). I was happy with much that he aimed for, and disagreeably appreciated much that he reasoned from.

Finally, Haidt, who was once a card-carrying "Liberal," surprises by making a case for political-social conservatism. Mind you, it is a pragmatic, utilitarian case, but it is a well reasoned case (from within his framework that I mentioned in the first paragraph). I think that he is truly worth hearing out. Get the book, read it, draw from it, and engage it. I recommend the book.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"Indispensable" by David P. Cassidy. A Review

Indispensable: The Basics of Christian BeliefIndispensable: The Basics of Christian Belief by David P. Cassidy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Are you looking for a book to hand to someone that strongly gives them the rudiments of the Christian faith? Is your young college student or High Schooler needing a good resource on the nitty-gritty of their Christianity to which they can return and use over and over again? New folks coming to your church, and you're wondering how to communicate the nuts-and-bolts of what we believe and why? David P. Cassidy, lead pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, has happily, healthily and handily provided us with just the thing in his new 240 page paperback, "Indispensable: The Basics of the Christian Faith". Easy to read and simple to follow, it's perfect for intelligent middle-schoolers to the seasoned and venerable.

The author walks readers through many important subjects. The book is not a systematic theology or a Confession of faith, but it does tackle huge subjects. Cassidy leads readers to find out who Jesus is, what is sin, the importance of Holy Scripture, why Christ had to be crucified, the necessity of faith, the gift of eternal life, the value of love, why justification and adoption are crucial, how and why union with Christ is constitutional, preparation for hostility with sin and Satan, what the sacraments are and why they're paramount, how the church fits into our life, and what are healthy ways of going forward. It sits down into the seat next to us, and often gets into our business, such as when the author writes, "We can't save ourselves if we are the problem that needs to be solved. While we are victims in certain ways, the more radical and unpleasant truth that we seldom like to face is that we are victimizers as well - we are the ones who have inflicted pain on ourselves, on others, on creation, and supremely on God himself" (62).

For my fellow Calvinsists, Cassidy brings in the doctrines of grace where they belong. Instead of pulling them out, cutting them off at the base, and setting them on the flower stand to wilt and die, this TULIP grows in the hearty loam of God's bigger story to thrive and flourish. Which means that my non-Calvinist friends will similarly find the book very fruitful as well. The author even takes on dispensationalism in a gracious, subtle manner. The book is chock-full of stories, personal experiences, and is quite affable. I highly recommend the book.

My thanks to the author who sent me a copy of the book at my request, which was used for this review. He made no demands on me, and I gave him no promises. Therefore, this positive review is because I truly enjoyed the book, and am certain you will likewise!

Here's where you can purchase the book:

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Sunday, May 26, 2019

"O God, You Are My God" - Congregational Prayer - 26 May 2019

{Today's prayer is led by Psalm 63. It concludes with a Memorial Day prayer at the end)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. It has been good to enter your great assembly; to earnestly seek you; to have our dry and thirsty souls quenched with you, O fountain of living waters. We pray for those who don’t know you and have never known the joy that you are and the life you give…. May they hear your invitation and come to the festival. Father, we pray for those who maybe feel themselves to be in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Maybe the parchedness is from their sickness or disease; maybe from depression or mental darkness of some kind; maybe from grief; possibly as a result of a long period of unsettledness and adversity in their homes… Draw them near, fill them up, raise their heads to see you restoring, refreshing and reconciling. And we ask you to have mercy on those in El Reno hit by the tornado last night…

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Together we have feasted with your people in this place, but we have also feasted with your church all over this big, wide world; and we have feasted with Greater St. Paul Church of God in Christ, Langston and Page Sanctuary COGIC. Be our help so that in the shadow of your wings we may rejoice. Bring us to cling to you, knowing that your right hand upholds us. We are dear to you; may we always walk near to you. And through your peoples’ prayers, giving, worship and work, further your world rescue operation until the knowledge of you will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped. We pray that in our own land, as well as for all the countries of this earth, that the mouths of liars will be stopped; especially among civil and governmental leaders. Bring peace, lawful justice, prosperity, better education and medical care to flourish in all places. And may greed, pride, unjust violence, and human trafficking come to an end (Taken from Psalm 63).

Finally, we remember that many have served in the fight for what clearly seemed right, in the struggle for justice and goodness. Many men and women swore to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and then followed through on that oath even when it required their death. Many families have wept and grieved those loses: mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, siblings, friends and comrades. Some have never fully recovered, such as our neighbors, Scott and Renee... We thank you for the tenacious loyalty of those who died; and we are sad with those who have been saddened. Oh, may we, the citizens of this land, not squander this precious loyalty, waste it or demean it. And may we not cheapen the grief of their families. We ask all of this, and more, in Jesus’ name. Amen.