Monthly Archives: November 2012

Presidential Prayer (Ugandan that is)


I read this prayer from the president Yoweri Museveni of Uganda upon the celebration of 50th year of independence from British rule.

“I stand here today to close the evil past, and especially in the last 50 years of our national leadership history and at the threshold of a new dispensation in the life of this nation. I stand here on my own behalf and on behalf of my predecessors to repent. We ask for your forgiveness…. We confess these sins, which have greatly hampered our national cohesion and delayed our political, social and economic transformation. We confess sins of idolatry and witchcraft which are rampant in our land. We confess sins of shedding innocent blood, sins of political hypocrisy, dishonesty, intrigue and betrayal….Forgive us of sins of pride, tribalism and sectarianism; sins of laziness, indifference and irresponsibility; sins of corruption and bribery that have eroded our national resources; sins of sexual immorality, drunkenness and debauchery; sins of unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred and revenge; sins of injustice, oppression and exploitation; sins of rebellion, insubordination, strife and conflict…. We want to dedicate this nation to you so that you will be our God and guide. We want Uganda to be known as a nation that fears God and as a nation whose foundations are firmly rooted in righteousness and justice to fulfill what the Bible says in Psalm 33:12: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. A people you have chosen as your own.”

The powerful prayer reminded me of Daniel’s prayer in the book of Daniel 9:1-27. Daniel in exile, recognized that the exile had to be coming to an end and prepared himself and the nation for return to the land. He confessed,

“We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land. Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us, including the people of Judah and Jerusalem and all Israel, scattered near and far, wherever you have driven us because of our disloyalty to you. O LORD, we and our kings, princes, and ancestors are covered with shame because we have sinned against you….Every curse written against us in the Law of Moses has come true. Yet we have refused to seek mercy from the LORD our God by turning from our sins and recognizing his truth. Therefore, the LORD has brought upon us the disaster he prepared. The LORD our God was right to do all of these things, for we did not obey him….”

Daniel too, repented for the offenses of the nation that were against God and against his fellow Israelites outlined in Torah. While I am not much for mixing religion and politics, I applaud the Ugandan president for his recognition of the state of the country that he oversees. Even apart from the theological implications, both the Prayer of Daniel and President Museveni invoke a sense of humility absent in politics today. It takes a certain level of humility to admit our deficiencies publicly, but it also brings a reality to the situation, that few other means can provide. I believe in this reality recovery can begin either politically and spiritually.

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Filed under Government Issues, Spirituality, Theology

‘I-ThouWe’ Relationship


‘I-ThouWe’ relationship has itself absolute, divine value: in the triune being of love. It is not possible to divorce the Christian love of neighbor from this theological presupposition, but one sees what Christianity is only by participating in the divine movement from the ‘vertical’ to the ‘horizontal’. This is shown once again in the synthesis that Jesus effects—as the profoundest self-expression of his existence and his mission—between the chief commandment of the love of God and the commandment of the love of neighbor which is ‘equal to it’ (Mt 22.39). Although both of its presuppositions already existed, this synthesis is absolutely creative; it is identical with the unique Christological synthesis itself, as this is given expression by Chalcedon. This uniqueness prevents the dissolution of the vertical dimension into the horizontal through the dissolution of the love of God into the love of neighbor, which would be the formation of a ‘Christian atheism’.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von, and John Kenneth Riches. Theology: The New Covenant. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989, 441.

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November 24, 2012 · 12:51 pm

The Sacrifice of Cultural Relevance


An interesting observation about  the cost of attempts by the church to be culturally relevant instead of truth-bearers.

It’s very English (and, therefore, quite Anglican) to dismiss the evangelicals as crazy people with an antiquated addiction to the Bible. But it’s actually the strength of their faith that makes them so attractive to people searching for certainty in a confusing and often horrible world. After all, “we offer the keys to the kingdom of heaven” is a far more compelling advertisement for a church than, “help us address alienation and the inexorable rise of consumerism.” Put aside your prejudices and ask why anyone might visit a church in a time of distress? To hear moral clarity; to be told that “you too can be saved!”? Or to discuss “how to protect the natural environment”?

Taken from: Stanley, Tim. “In Its Search for ‘relevance’, the Anglican Church Is Losing Relevance.” Telegraph.co.uk (blog). The Telegraph, 21 Nov. 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2012. <http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100190837/in-its-search-for-relevance-the-anglican-church-is-losing-relevance/&gt;.

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Filed under Current Church Trends, Spirituality, Theology

Prayer is a Wall of Faith


“The Prayer of Jesus (St John Passion – 3)” (1990) by Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz (b.1956), oil on canvas.

I came across this reminder from Tertullian (160-225AD) in part three of his writings in the Anti Nicene Fathers labeled Ethical. Here Tertllian speaks of the power of prayer comparing the objects of prayer in the Old World, or Hebrew Bible with the objects of prayer in the present. At first glance it seems like the objects prayer for of old– “used to free from fires, and from beasts, and from famine” appear more fantastic than objects prayed for in the present. However Tertullian rejects this notion as he asserts,

Christ has willed that it [prayer] be operative for no evil: He had conferred on it all its virtue in the cause of good. And so it knows nothing save how to recall the souls of the departed from the very path of death, to transform the weak, to restore the sick, to purge the possessed, to open prison-bars, to loose the bonds of the innocent.

Objects prayed for today may look different from the Old World, but in many ways the objects remain the same:

Likewise it washes away faults, repels temptations, extinguishes persecutions, consoles the faint-spirited, cheers the high-spirited, escorts travellers, appeases waves, makes robbers stand aghast, nourishes the poor, governs the rich, upraises the fallen, arrests the falling, confirms the standing.

Also, prayer reflects our faith in God and work power to work in our world. Tertullian reminds us,

Prayer is the wall of faith: her arms and missiles against the foe who keeps watch over us on all sides. And, so never walk we unarmed. By day, be we mindful of Station; by night, of vigil. Under the arms of prayer guard we the standard of our General; await we in prayer the angel’s trump. The angels, likewise, all pray; every creature prays; cattle and wild beasts pray and bend their knees; and when they issue from their layers and lairs, they look up heavenward with no idle mouth, making their breath vibrate after their own manner. Nay, the birds too, rising out of the nest, upraise themselves heavenward, and, instead of hands, expand the cross of their wings, and say somewhat to seem like prayer. What more then, touching the office of prayer? Even the Lord Himself prayed; to whom be honour and virtue unto the ages of the ages![1]

Many times we don’t pray as we ought thinking we can handle our own issues. Maybe this reflects our lack of faith in God to handle our issues for us or perhaps our pride in resting upon our own efforts instead resting in God provisional care. In either case, Tertullian provides a timely reminder of the power of prayer in the face of our efforts toward self-sufficiency.


[1] Tertullian, “On Prayer”, trans. S. Thelwall, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian ( ed. Alexander Roberts et al.;Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 690-91.

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Filed under Friday Prayers, Spirituality, Theology

Threats from within facing the church today


© Paweł Marynowski / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Michael Horton explains the “Greatest Ecclesiastical Threat Facing the Church Today.” Here he provides a helpful perspective on why the evangelical church is on the decline. He suggests,

“In an age when the faith of young Christians is going to be tested more than ever before, they are the least equipped to meet those challenges because they have not been integrated very well into the life of the living church. They have been in children’s church, youth group, then in a campus ministry, and they never had to join a church.”

I would agree with his assessment, but would like to add another culprit: the Christian College. Many Christian colleges see themselves as a surrogate to the church while the student is away from their home church. It is interesting that many parents and pastors alike urge college students to remain attached to the home church even though the student will spend nine of the twelve months of the next fours to five years at the college location. This provides the student an excuse to be nominally involved in the church they attend while at college, setting up a habit of nominal commitment for the future. Most colleges don’t set out to intentionally undermine the local churches, but policies, campus culture and sometimes teachings on the campus do just that. A healthier model might be for the parents and pastor of the sending church to assist the students in finding an appropriate local church to join while in college. This is perhaps one of the greatest teaching moments for both the pastor and the parents in the life of their child. It begins the process of understanding how to look and find a church wherever the student relocates after college.

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Filed under Current Church Trends, Spirituality

What does beauty have to do with goodness and truth?


It is generally thought that Plato introduced the world to transcendentals of goodness, beauty, and truth. His Symposium provides a peek into how Plato understood their order. He says, “The true order of going is to use the beauties of the earth as steps along which to mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty [beauty]: from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions [goodness]  until he arrives at the idea of absolute beauty [truth]”. Generally people understand the importance of goodness and truth to society, but many do not regard beauty as carrying the same significance as the former two. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but the marginalization of beauty’s role in the world becomes even more apparent in religious conversations. In the Christian faith, goodness and truth reign supreme. However, is that a proper way to order the three transcendentals? The Christian faith seems to order them reverse of Plato’s order and therefore suggest truth, goodness, and beauty. Now they might not overtly claim this to be true, but their orthopraxy produces a picture of what they value most. In suggesting truth and goodness over beauty, they may actually undercut the two they value most. For without a recognition and valuing of beauty, goodness and truth can be lost. Beauty is an attribute of God that we see through his revelation to us. Hans Urs von Balthasar suggests the significance of losing beauty as he states,

“In a world without beauty – even if people cannot dispense with the word and constantly have it on the tips of their tongues in order to abuse it – in a world which is perhaps not wholly without beauty, but which can no longer see it or reckon with it: in such a world the good also loses its attractiveness, a self evidence of why it must be carried out” [Glory of the Lord, I:19].

Goodness and truth demand the presence of beauty. C.S. proposed in Surprised by Joy that beauty is the finger that points us to goodness and truth. When good flourishes so does beauty.

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Filed under Aesthetics, Ethics, Philosophy