What Exactly Is The Gospel? (Part One)

Dear Mr. Lough:

You have referred several times to evangelical Christianity in this exchange of emails. You’ve made it clear that, although evangelicalism was the context for your early Christian formation, you no longer share some of the movement’s foundational presuppositions. In your last letter, however, you said something I had not heard before, and it raised a question I’d like to pursue.

You wrote, “Despite my belief that evangelicalism has lost its way and is flailing around in a confused state of self-misperception, I pray for the movement’s recovery of the gospel of the kingdom.” Could you say a bit more about that? Continue reading

I Do What I Can

There is very little I can do about anything these days. I have no wealth, and I own no property. Financially, my net worth is roughly zero. I have no power and an extremely limited sphere of influence. Seven years without a paying job will do that.

I do have a loving wife who has stood by me without complaint for more than forty-two years, even when things have been really rough and our circumstances difficult to comprehend. I also have an eight-year-old grandson, whom I adore, and a beautiful daughter who is making me proud as a hard-working nurse and single mom. I am trying to do everything I can to pour myself into their lives and to use my limited means and resources to help make their lives richer. Their happiness is my reward. Continue reading

The View from the Other Side

I’ve recently begun to think of my life as a long train ride to a destination about which I know very little for certain, but my impression is that it is a good place to go. Arrival time is not announced, but the older we passengers get, the more the conductor encourages us to be ready to disembark at any time.

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One thing I’ve noticed. For most of this journey so far, I could observe the passing countryside through the windows on one side of the train only. The windows on the other side were obscured in some way. I could see movement through them, but the images appeared blurred or distorted. Continue reading

A New Direction in Simple, Practical Faith

Have you ever noticed that, when you first identify with a new group and adopt its beliefs and tenets as your own, the members of that group commend you for your wisdom and discernment? Later, when your experience and careful consideration lead you to change 1your mind about one or more elements of the group’s shared beliefs, you are regarded as having somehow lost your ability to be wise and discerning. Instead, you have apparently succumbed to influences that have led you into error.

Or, as a friend of mine put it, “I was a prophet right up to the moment I became a heretic.” Continue reading

Introducing The Community of H-O-P-E

Let me be very clear. The Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition, which meets every other Saturday night in Plain City, Ohio, is not a church. The people who attend have not been recruited to participate in a church planting effort, nor is their association with an endeavor like that in the future either assumed or expected. Continue reading

“The Secret of the Kingdom”–The Homily from June 13, 2015 (Audio)

Mic 1Here is an audio recording of the sermon I preached at the Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition in Plain City, OH, on Saturday, June 13, 2015. It is titled “The Secret of the Kingdom” and is just over fifteen minutes long. The focus of the sermon was Jesus’ use of the short stories called parables in his teaching, particularly about the kingdom of God, and the ongoing value of parables for Christian discipleship today. It is based on the Gospel reading for the day, Mark 4:1-34. Click on the reference to read the passage in a separate window. For more information about “the gathering,” click on the tab for “A Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition” on the bar under the picture above.

The Hypocritical Pacifist: A Follow-Up

I knew that the post I published yesterday might generate some reaction from those who enjoy arguing about issues like this. I did not wish to engage in arguments of that sort, so I did not include a comments section following the post itself. I promoted the post on Facebook, however, and I knew that some might leave comments there.

One of my friends (a real friend, not merely a Facebook friend) saw the notice of yesterday’s post on The Relentless Pursuit’s Facebook page. He left a thoughtful comment there. I believe it deserves a thoughtful response. I know that most of my Facebook friends and most of my blog readers never see the FB page dedicated to this blog, so I decided to use this follow-up post to address the issues he raised in his comment. Continue reading

The Honest Confession of a Hypocritical Pacifist

I am a pacifist. I don’t say that very often. I am annoying in so many other ways that I try to avoid making an issue of my convictions in this area lest I provide people with either another reason to be annoyed with me or an explanation (at least in their minds) for why I am so annoying in the first place.

Once in a while I am pointedly asked, often as a result of something I have written, “Are you a pacifist?”. I usually obfuscate a bit in my reply, noting that pacifism is mainly a political position with philosophical roots. I prefer the term “biblical nonresistance,” since my objection to violence, including the violence associated with “justifiable” wars, is rooted in my understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Continue reading

More Listening, Less Judging

Here’s a radical idea, a heartfelt plea to my fellow Christ-followers. No matter what we think the Bible says about a particular group or category of people, could we agree that we will issue no blanket criticism or condemnation of that group until and unless we have a personal relationship with at least two or three people who are members of that group ortalking_over_coffee fall into that category? Not just a passing acquaintance, mind you, but an association that has produced meaningful conversation and a genuine attempt to empathize and see life from the “other” perspective.

I’ve come to the place where I don’t really want to hear any more exposition of “what the Bible says” about, for example, divorce, single parenthood, women’s ordination, etc., from teachers, preachers, or writers who don’t know people in those groups well enough to have coffee with them. Same thing is true regarding gay and lesbian Christians. Continue reading

Have We Given Up On Peace? (My Only Christmas Blog Post This Year)

To those of us for whom the church year calendar has meaning, the four weeks leading up to Christmas are known as Advent, and it is a time of spiritual preparation more than festivity. The real celebration begins on Christmas Eve and extends until January 6 (Epiphany). These “twelve days of Christmas” we call Christmastide. I came to this tradition only seven years ago, and the effect of this change in my thinking regarding how Christians approach and celebrate Christmas has been transformative. Continue reading