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The Rhythm of the Christian Life

Abilene: Leafwood Publishers, 2019.
Available at Amazon.com.

This book by my former PhD student Dr. Brian Wright resources Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together for a pattern of modern discipleship.

The foreword is by Timothy George!

Blurb: Most of us think that if we could simply balance our lives better, we would be happier. But what we actually need is to rediscover the rhythm. As Christians, our whole life consists of loving God and loving others, just like Jesus did. In this book, Wright invites us to find true joy as we embrace these two core realities and discover how they are meant to work in tandem. Explore The Rhythm of Christian Life and recapture the joy of life together as God always intended.

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Ernst Lohmeyer (1890-1946) was a Lutheran pastor and scholar in Hitler’s Germany.  He opposed the Nazis–particularly the “German Christian” movement that sought to purge Christianity of its “Jewish” elements (that is, the Bible)–and after the war opposed the Communists, who took over where he lived in East Germany.  The Nazis sent him to the Eastern Front.  The Communists murdered him.

The theologian James R. Edwards tells his story in a new book entitled Between the Swastika and the Sickle: The Life, Disappearance, and Execution of Ernst Lohmeyer.

From the review in Christianity Today by Christopher Gehrz, The Nazis Persecuted Him. The Soviets Killed Him. Today He’s Barely Known:

Whenever I teach the history of 20th-century Europe, I incorporate stories from Christians who resisted the evils of totalitarianism. That list always includes martyred anti-Nazis like the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the university student Sophie Scholl. But thanks to theologian James R. Edwards, this fall I can add one more name to that cloud of witnesses: the German Lutheran Ernst Lohmeyer, who stood fast against Nazism and survived fighting in two world wars, only to be executed by Soviet authorities in 1946.

Having first encountered Lohmeyer’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark in graduate school, Edwards’s interest was kindled on a 1979 visit to Greifswald, East Germany. A local pastor told him that “we cannot mention the name of Ernst Lohmeyer” in the city whose university Lohmeyer served as theology professor and president. As he began a decades-long research project, Edwards “joined the small company of people dedicated to remembering, recovering, and recording the life of Ernst Lohmeyer.”

His labors have resulted in a new biography, Between the Swastika & the Sickle: The Life, Disappearance, & Execution of Ernst Lohmeyer.

For the rest of the article…

In May of this year Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, published “An Antiracist Reading List” in the New York Times. His list popped my bubble of self-perceived, well-read, wokeness given that, to date, I’ve read one (yes, one) of the books on his list. I plan to correct that in the months ahead. His list, however, inspired me to come up with a list of my own. Not an antiracist reading list (I am not qualified to curate such a resource), but rather a books-that-inspire-me-to-be-better list.

“Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It takes brilliance and spiritual maturity to pack so much profound wisdom into so few pages. My copy dons various colors of highlighter and pen, revealing the many times I’ve returned to this book for a booster shot of biblically-shaped inspiration for not only my call to ministry but my call to human decency.

“The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein. Rothstein details policy after government policy that continues to shape our country, oppress people of color and render racial equity impossible. Every white person in America needs to read this book. The sin I must confess is that of my surprise. My African American siblings know all too well the reality and scourge of these long-standing laws.

“Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum-Security Detention” edited by Seth Michelson. Read these poems and weep. Heart-wrenching and yet relentlessly hopeful, the words of these young people whose lives overflow with hardship humble and convict me. Christians should be flooding the halls of power and demanding better for the least of these languishing behind locked gates and prison bars.

“The Junkyard Wonders” by Patricia Polacco. This beautifully written and illustrated children’s book speaks to young and old alike. Children with various disabilities are relegated to the classroom known as the “junkyard” only to be met there by a teacher who sees their value, giftedness and possibilities. Polacco based this book on her own childhood experience. Everything she writes unveils the glorious that lives within the junkyards of our world.

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Defying Hitler: The Germans Who Resisted Nazi Rule
By Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis
Dutton, 542 pages, $30

The most famous episode of German resistance to the Nazis is Operation Valkyrie, the unsuccessful July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler and install a constitutional government to negotiate the end of the war.

That joint civilian-military conspiracy is the centerpiece of the German Resistance Memorial Center, housed in the onetime Berlin headquarters of the German Army High Command. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the would-be assassin whose suitcase bomb exploded without killing its target, both worked and died at this historic site. His office is integral to the exhibition, and a commemorative courtyard marks the location of his peremptory execution. The museum details both the meticulous planning that led to his brave attempt, and the disastrous consequences of its failure, including hundreds of executions of the conspirators, their allies and others.

In their powerful new book, “Defying Hitler,” Gordon Thomas (a British investigative journalist who died in 2017) and Greg Lewis (a documentary filmmaker and journalist) give Operation Valkyrie, as well as years of frustrated coup planning by German military counter-intelligence officers, it’s due. But they re-contextualize the plot, according more weight to a broader narrative of German anti-Nazi resistance that included leafletting, graffiti, espionage and industrial sabotage.

Elucidating the contours of German resistance to the Nazi terror state has always been difficult. (It’s been equally hard to gauge the full extent of popular support for the regime, as opposed to fearful, tactical acquiescence.) From 1933 on, thousands of the Nazis’ political opponents were arrested, imprisoned and, in many cases, murdered. Public protests were rare, and even a refusal to give the Hitler salute or join the mandated Hitler Youth brigades entailed risk.

“Defying Hitler” foregrounds the extraordinary courage of the regime’s most implacable foes: The predominantly Jewish Baum group, the student martyrs of the White Rose, the German military counter-intelligence officer Hans Oster, the Protestant religious leader Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the spy Fritz Kolbe and others.

Read more: https://forward.com/culture/423434/hitler-nazis-german-opponents-sophie-scholl-baum-group-fritz-kolbe/

November 6, 2015

If anyone’s fully qualified to write a comprehensive manual on best practices of pastoral ministry, surely it is R. Kent Hughes.

Hughes served 41 years in pastoral ministry, including 27 at College Church outside Chicago. He’s also authored numerous books, including Disciplines of a Godly Man (Crossway, 2007) and Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life (Crossway, 2003), and serves as editor of Crossway’s Preaching the Word series. He’s written several volumes in that series, including commentaries on Acts, Ephesians, Colossians, and Hebrews.

His newest book, written with contributing editor Douglas Sean O’Donnell, will no doubt become a go-to manual for pastors. The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry (Crossway) is a wide-ranging and delightfully detailed 592-page work that offers wisdom on many aspects central to pastoral ministry—from the elements that compose a Christ-centered worship service to the important tasks of pastoral counseling and visiting the sick. I asked TGC Council member Hughes about The Pastor’s Book, reflections on four decades in ministry, wisdom for young pastors, and more.


The Pastor’s Book is comprehensive, covering everything from the ordering of worship services, to hospital visits, to the use of creeds, to selection of hymns for worship, to conducting funerals and weddings. What was the inspiration behind the book?

Lane Dennis, president of Crossway, asked me to consider the idea of authoring a book on pastoring, drawing on more than 40 years in ministry. I had never thought of such a project. But I agreed to give it some thought, which I did for several weeks, racking my brain as to what I would’ve liked to have had in a single “go to” volume for pastors.

The subjects that came to mind were: Sunday worship, annual services, weddings, funerals, public prayers, the use of creeds, hymns and songs, baptism, communion, pastoral counseling, and hospital visitation. I also asked that the book not suffer from brevity and lack of specificity. So, for example, in the past I wished for some sample homilies for marriages and funerals, so I suggested ten (which I did get!).

I then met with Dennis and team of editors and presented them with the tentative outline of topics covering a broad range of ministry that, after some discussion, they enthusiastically endorsed. Happily, Douglas Sean O’Donnell agreed to serve as contributing editor. And so the work began.

As a pastor I realize seminary prepared me well to do things like select and exegete a text, illustrate sermons, and teach doctrine, but there were many things in everyday ministry for which it could not prepare me. If you could address seminarians transitioning into real-life ministry, what one thing would you say?

I’d say that if you’re committed, as I was, to a gospel-centered expository pulpit, you might be tempted to imagine that alone constitutes a gospel ministry. Well, the pulpit is certainly central (I devoted about 20 hours per week to sermon preparation, which amounted to some 24,000 hours while at College Church), but that centrality was the “ground game” for gospel ministry.

In truth, some of the things we may regard as diversions are in fact immensely gospel-freighted opportunities—events like weddings and funerals and hospital visitation. The Pastor’s Book posits that all ministry is, and must be, gospel-centered.

You write about the imaginary but ideal church, and ask the reader to ruminate on the question, “What does your biblical ideal of corporate worship look like?” What would your ideal corporate worship service include?

It would be a service of the Word in which the biblical text informs the shape and progress of the service so that the choice of songs, the Scripture reading(s), and the prayers would all elevate the preaching of the Word and exalt Christ. This kind of intentionality requires a lot of hard thinking and prayer from pastors and church leaders.

The Pastor’s Book includes an excellent section on hospital visits. I haven’t seen much written on that and similar topics like member visitation. But time is short for pastors; why not devote our limited time to sermon preparation, which benefits everyone, and trust others to handle visitation and care duties?  

Certainly a pastor isn’t doing his job if he imagines visitation is his singular domain. In fact, it unwittingly shadows a Roman Catholic view of ministry—that one hasn’t been truly visited by God unless the padre (you!) shows up. It implies your prayers and presence are more efficacious than those of the other elders and the flock. Indeed, this unfortunate view is reflected in many traditional and fundamentalist churches that expect the pastor to do all visitation of the sick. That said, the pastor who delegates all visitation to others will be functionally out of touch with his people (and it will show in his preaching).

When he visits, the pastor will be with families in their deepest times of crisis. And in all instances, he’ll be ministering to far more people than the sick and dying. And the deep needs to which he ministers will afford sweet gospel opportunities. This means the visitation of the hospitalized doesn’t derail the pastor from ministry, but is central to it. Of course, a church must seek to be organized so the ill are being cared for by elders, deacons, deaconesses, and the caring flock.

For the rest of the post…

A month later (May 1942) two Lutheran clergymen made direct contact with the British in Stockholm. These were Dr. Hans Schoenfeld, a member of the Foreign Relations Bureau of the German Evangelical Church, and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an eminent divine and an active conspirator, who on hearing that Dr. George Bell, the Anglican Bishop of Chichester, was visiting in Stockholm hastened there to visit him–Bonhoeffer traveling incognito on forged papers provided him by Colonel Oster of the Abwehr.

Both pastors informed the bishop of the plans of the conspirators and…inquired whether the Western Allies would make a decent peace with a non-Nazi government once Hitler had been overthrown. They asked for an answer–either by a private message or by a public announcement. To impress the bishop that the anti-Hitler conspiracy was a serious business, Bonhoeffer furnished him with a list  of the names of the leaders–an indiscretion which later was to cost him and to make certain the execution of many of the others. 

~ William L Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 1320-1321.

Christianity and Homosexuality: A Review of Books

A sign of this cultural moment is the wave of new books—from very divergent points of view—that have come out recently treating this topic. So over the next few months I will be reviewing several of these books. It’s my way as a pastor to point people to those volumes that both fit in with biblical teaching and are pastorally wise and sensitive, as well as those books that, for all their good intentions, are mistaken and unhelpful.

The first two books I’ll review are both written by authors who hold two things in common. In Sam Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay? Questions Christians Ask and Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, both authors relate that they are sexually attracted to the same gender, but at the same time, in the words of Hill, they testify:

“to the truth of the position the Christian church has held with almost total unanimity throughout the centuries—namely, that homosexuality was not God’s original creative intention for humanity…and therefore that homosexual practice goes against God’s express will for all human beings, especially those who trust in Christ.”

It says something about the clarity of the Bible’s teaching that neither of them can find any loopholes in the traditional Christian position, but affirm it completely. Hill, who is a New Testament scholar, sums up the biblical material nicely (and briefly) in his first chapter.

Allberry’s book does so as well and, though it is a shorter book overall, he gives the biblical teaching more sustained attention. There are two basic parts to it.

First, every place the Bible directly addresses sexual relations between people of the same gender, it is always unambiguously forbidden. This is not only true in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22) but also in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:9,10; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; Romans 1:18-32).

Allberry says the more he looks at the Bible the more he is convinced that what it says about homosexuality “makes most sense in light of what it says in general about sex and marriage.”

I would add that the Bible’s prohibitions are not motivated by animosity toward people with same sex attraction. Rather, they are there because homosexual practice doesn’t fit with God’s wonderful purposeful design for sexuality in our lives. Even the design of male and female bodies testifies to this design.

This purposeful design is made clear in at least three ways.

First, sex was given to men and women to enable whole life covenant bonding. God made sex to be a commitment-deepener—a way to say to someone else “I belong completely to you.”

Therefore it is only for use inside marriage, where it is designed to operate as a way to constantly renew, remake and re-energize your covenant with love and joy so it does not grow old or cold.

For the rest of the post…

JANUARY 22, 2013

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

Two new books are now available for the Lenten season from Westminster John Knox Press.

God Is on the Cross from Dietrich Bonhoeffer presents forty stirring devotions to guide and inspire readers through Lent and Easter. Each day of the season includes a Scripture passage, with the devotions following themes of prayerful reflection, self-denial, temptation, suffering, and the meaning of the cross. Passages from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and sermons are also included, along with an informative introduction to Bonhoeffer’s life.

Bonhoeffer (1906-45) was a Christian minister, seminary professor, and theologian who became one of the leading voices of opposition against Nazism during World War II. He was a founding member of Germany’s Confessing Church and was executed for participating in a plot to assassinate Hitler. His theological views have become highly influential in the years since his death.

Also available for Lent is N. T. Wright’s Lent for Everyone: Luke, Year C. The popular scholar and author provides his own Scripture translation, brief reflection, and a prayer for each of the days of the season, helping readers ponder how the text is relevant to their own lives today. By the end of the book readers will have been through the entirety of Luke, along with Psalm readings for each Sunday.

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Being A Pastor Is Not For Wimps – It’s A Dangerous Calling

dangerous calling

The Ministry Best Practices Staff will be on vacation and will be entering a “tech-free” zone. Therefore for the week we are sharing some of the best of MBP. Some of the content has been repurposed and updated.

Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are:

  • The President of the United States
  • A university president
  • A CEO of a hospital and
  • A pastor

Do you believe that?

Some of you may think that it’s a dream job. You can read the Bible all day, pray, play a little golf and preach.

Here is the secret. Being a pastor is hard work. It’s not for the faint of heart.

The reality is – the job of a pastor can be 24/7 and carry unique challenges. Some pastors wear themselves out trying to help people. Some wound their family because they are so involved in ministry. Others flourish in their ministry and personal life.  Here are a couple of statistics about pastors.

  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
  • 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
  • 40% report a conflict with a church member at least once a month. (Tweet This)
  • 85% of pastors said their greatest problem is they are tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors.
  • The #1 reason pastors leave the ministry is that church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.
  • 40% of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months. (Tweet This)
  • 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend. (Tweet This)
  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. (Tweet This)
  • 70% felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only 50% still felt called.
  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close. (Tweet This)
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year. (Tweet This)
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year. (Tweet This)
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 45.5 % of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.

According to the Barna report – the profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman”.

This is a most dangerous and difficult calling – not to be entered into lightly – and it is a calling that is in dire need of the prayers and support of those in the church, family and of close, personal confidants.  That begs the question, are you praying for your pastor?

– See more at: http://www.ministrybestpractices.com/2015/02/being-pastor-is-not-for-wimps-its.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FcLZC+%28Ministry+Best+Practices%29#sthash.ijkBGGnh.dpuf

 

“Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1987-074-16, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.jpg

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