How I would say what Victoria Osteen said differently

victoria-osteen

In a video clip that has been making the rounds on social media, prosperity gospel preacher Joel Osteen's wife Victoria goes on a rant about worship that has gotten many Christians up in arms. She said that worship is about making us happy more than it's about pleasing God. While I would say what Victoria Osteen said differently, I absolutely affirm the basic insight that worshiping God is not supposed to be moralistic drudgery but actually a genuine source of deep joy. … [Read more...]

Eucharistic life (more than just “being thankful”)

It seemed appropriate to write about the word Eucharist since it means "thanksgiving" in Greek. As part of writing my ordination papers recently, I flipped back through Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World, which talks about Eucharist not just in the sense of the church ritual but as a way of life. To Schmemann, it is much more than just "being thankful." He writes: ""We were created as celebrants of the sacrament of life, of its transformation into life in God, communion with God. We … [Read more...]

The painter’s studio: a metaphor for thinking about worship

I'm at the semiannual Five Talent Academy gathering. It's an initiative of the Virginia Methodist conference among churches who have covenanted around a set of goals for congregational vitality. Our topic today is worship, led by Rev. Dr. Constance Cherry. I'm seeing a lot of intersection between what is being said here and a book I just started reading by Andy Crouch called Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. And it put a metaphor in my head for thinking about worship that seems helpful … [Read more...]

Feminism, sex, and virtue in Margaret Farley’s Just Love

I have been reading Margaret Farley's Just Love: A Framework for Christian Ethics, the book that got the Vatican in a tizzy over renegade nuns several years ago under the grand inquisitor pope. To be fair, Just Love is more a feminist critique of Christian sexual ethics than it is a Christian sexual ethics, but the critique is apt and worth listening to. While Farley doesn't fortify herself with Biblical chapter verse citations, her perspective makes sense to me when I consider sexuality under … [Read more...]

Is the gospel the invitation to a party or a get out of hell card?

For the first 1500 years of Christianity, the high point of every worship gathering was Eucharist. The sermon served to prepare the hearts of the congregation to receive the body and blood of Christ. In today's Protestantism, the sermon has replaced Eucharist as the focal point of our worship. And the individualistic altar call has replaced the communal table as the congregation's standard response to the proclaimed word. I wonder if this change is the reason that the Protestant gospel became … [Read more...]

A brilliant rebuttal to my attack on suburbia

So I thought some of you who are tired of my blogomaniac hubris would get a kick out of watching me get owned by one of my friends in a response that he sent to my critique of suburban culture. He gave me permission to share it as long as he could remain anonymous. He's absolutely right that "suburbia" ends up being a scapegoat depository where hipsters like me project everything we don't like about America or even just modern culture. Anyway, what I really love is the way he shows how different … [Read more...]

Jonathan Martin’s Prototype: Salvation as the Restoration of Humanity

It's a strange and beautiful thing to hear someone preaching your own thoughts in a sermon. That's what happened for me last summer when I heard Pentecostal preacher Jonathan Martin's sermon series "The Songs of Ascent" about King David and the Psalms. My whole life, I have been on a journey of trying to understand the nature of worship. Growing up Baptist, I was instilled with a zeal for sincerity in worship. What is the difference between truly worshiping God and putting on a performance? In … [Read more...]

James KA Smith summarizes the battle of the 21st century

I've just started reading James KA Smith's new book Imagining the Kingdom. Smith's basic argument is that our actions are not really based on conscious rational choices but rather on how ritual behaviors have caused us to imagine the world around us. Most Christian thinkers from the beginning have unconsciously bought into a Platonic "rationalist" conception of human nature in which our behavior is supposed to be regulated by our conscious rationality, and the fact that it isn't reflects our … [Read more...]

Is Jesus saving the world from us?

Is Jesus saving the world from us? It's a different way to talk about salvation, but honestly it's the gospel that I'm hoping to be true as an evangelical afflicted by what Rachel Held Evans calls "the scandal of the evangelical heart." When did we become the Pharisees Jesus came to Earth to stop us from being? How many of us have been secretly asking that question in our minds? How many of us need to be saved from a toxic salvation? I really feel that we are in the midst of a great awakening. … [Read more...]

Kayal ta-arog (Psalm 42 in hip-hop)

Kayal ta-arog al afike mayim is how you write "As the deer panteth for the water" phonetically in Hebrew. That familiar heartwarming hymn has its place to be sure, but if you read the remainder of Psalm 42 from which it draws the first line, then you see that its tone is off. The psalmist says tears have been his food and his enemies' taunts are crushing his bones. Those sorts of images call for a hip-hop song rather than a churchy sounding hymn. I'm preaching on this psalm this weekend. I will … [Read more...]


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