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"In Assurance We Lift Our Hearts to You" - 24 May 2020

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In assurance we lift our hearts to you, O our God. As Jonathan told his armor bearer when heavily outnumbered, yet taking the daring risk to engage the Philistines, “nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6). We, too, are assured that there is nothing, no one, no condition, no circumstance, no competitor, no cerebral malfunction, no failure of courage, no catastrophe that can hinder you from saving, rescuing, and triumphing! And therefore, there is no created thing out there or in here that can separate us from your love! Truly in all these things we are more than conquerors, and the seal, the guarantee of this truth is Christ crucified for our transgressions, risen for our justification (Romans 8:37-39, 4:25), and ascended into heaven to hold sway!We pray on behalf of your Church world-over, this congregation, St. Andrew’s UMC, St. Mark’s UMC, St. Matthew’s UMC and Salt UMC.Raise up a defense around your people that the evil one may never get a footho…

"Viking Adventure" by Clyde Robert Bulla. A Review

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Viking Adventure is something of a reader for younger children, possibly as young as 2nd or 3rd Grade. It was originally written by Clyde Robert Bulla (1914-2007), author of over 50 children's books. The illustrator was Douglas W. Gorsline (1913-1985), who was an accomplished artist in his own right. The volume is not only a reader, but enjoyable material for parents and grandparents to read to their little ones.
The story-line follows Sigurd, who takes up his father's dream of finding Wineland. We move along from Sigurd's early childhood and regimen meant to prepare him for the rigors and hardships of war and sailing. Two old friends of his father come to Sigurd's home at just the right time. One of them has been made captain of a ship to seek out Wineland. The young man wins his way onto the ship, makes a friend, experiences adventures and betrayal's, ends up a castaway, and finally returns home to find...Well, one will simply have to read the book.
I have recorded…

"Solomon Says" by Mark Horne. A Review

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Probably one of the best pieces of advice my wife and I received as young parents is that we weren't raising children, we were raising adults! That changed our outlook and gave us a renewed direction amidst all of the normal and abnormal frustrations in our 34 years of parenting. Mark Horne, a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, executive director of Logo Sapiens Communications, and author, has mapped out a similar trail in his new 166-page softback "Solomon Says: Directions for Young Men". But the subtitle is a bit of a misnomer. The directions apply to young women as well. But are useful to adults just as much as to youth, because Horne is giving "a reader's guide to Proverbs that lays out some important themes in Proverbs" with the goal of inspiring readers at whatever age to read and memorize "Proverbs as you seek and find wisdom for your life" (xv). This is an easy-to-read manuscript that can be grasped by teenagers and septuagena…

"Lord, Have Mercy" - 17 May 2020

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Blessed are you, O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to your great mercy, you have caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We have been born anew to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us. And by your power we are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Bring us to rejoice in this imperishable inheritance, even though now for a little while, if necessary, we may be, at times, grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of our faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1.3-7). O God most high, we acknowledge that you are right and just, even when your wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who often suppress your truth in unrighteousness. We love…

"When Narcissism Comes to Church" by Chuck DeGroat. A Review

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Just like taking an abnormal psych class in college, a reader will likely see their reflection on many pages in the 200-page hardback "When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse". This newly released dossier, written by Chuck DeGroat, professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and senior fellow at Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco, is a velvet covered brick. It is easily readable, and reasonably attainable. 
DeGroat exposes the varied ways narcissism shows up in a parish, whether in the leadership, families, or congregational culture; and how it can show up in the corporate culture of an ecclesiastical denomination, association or network. It arises from the "lack of capacity for self-awareness and self-evaluation, shunning humility for defensive self-protection" (15). Further, according to the author, a deep, underlying shame is the driving forc…

"Strengthener of the Weak; Fortifier of the Faithful" - 10 May 2020

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Strengthener of the weak; fortifier of the faithful, rescuer of the wayward, restorer of the repentant; you are good, for your steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136:1). It is you who do great wonders so that by your most holy, wise and powerful preserving you govern all your creatures and all our actions; you are good, for your steadfast love endures forever. It is you who delivers your people from their enemies, elevating them from their low estate in due time, drawing them from the miry bog and setting their feet on a rock; you are good, for your steadfast love endures forever!O LORD Most High who is to be feared, for you are the great king over all the earth; we pray for all nations and all leaders. Bring all peoples of every nation and land to clap their hands, to shout to God with loud songs of joy; bring the princes of the peoples to gather as the people of the God of Abraham, for you reign over the nations, you sit on your holy throne (Psalm 47)! You are good, for your stea…

"The Story Retold" by G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. A Review

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I remember taking an Introduction to the New Testament class while I was in the Air Force. It was from a local college that met on the Air Base where I was stationed. I'd already been in the military 7 years and was a young Christian, having been converted while stationed in Turkey a few years earlier. The class was taught by a local pastor from a "mainline" denomination. Besides the questionable curriculum we had to read, there was a huge disjuncture between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. Now, many decades later, and after Seminary and my doctoral studies, I was delighted to see a new 560-page textbook that introduces the New Testament by couching "every major passage within the broad history of redemption," and that strives to "make sense of the New Testament in light of the Old" (XI). G. K. Beale, the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, has teamed up with Benjamin L. Gladd, associate professor…