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Peace

Introduction: Peace

Introduction: Peace

One of our young men training to be an Army Ranger remarked it’s a real dilemma trying to reconcile Jesus telling him to love his enemies and the Army teaching him to kill them.

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Lesson 1: Is Peace Possible?

Lesson 1: Is Peace Possible?

When I was growing up, my assumption was that history involved periods of warfare followed by periods of peace. I believed that one of the goals of Christianity was to lengthen the peaceful times. Although I was not certain any of the conflicts after the Second World War were warranted, I swallowed hard and chalked […]

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Lesson 2: Does Peace Begin With Me?

Lesson 2: Does Peace Begin With Me?

Recently I received a long Facebook post from a young man who grew up in our congregation and now serves as an officer in Iraq. He was responding to the incident when a lady in a burka was thrown out of a Trump rally after she stood up. I received the post while pondering why […]

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Sabbath

Lesson 1: Introduction

Lesson 1: Introduction

I have attended many, many academic talks. An Anglican bishop at a Muhlenberg college commencement gave the best I’ve heard. He argued observing the Sabbath as a way of life enabled Christians to live with integrity in our technological society. In fact, he went on to suggest the Sabbath was the key to healing our […]

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Lesson 2: Torah Law

Lesson 2: Torah Law

Our project is seeking ways to observe the Sabbath Way of life in our technological society. Let’s begin by looking at the two versions found in the Ten Commandments. Respected scholars claim we should regard these as teachings or guidelines rather than as laws. Exodus 20: 8-11: “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. […]

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Lesson 3: Sabbath and Wealth

Lesson 3: Sabbath and Wealth

If you had any doubts about the Sabbath commands being more than setting aside a special day for worship, take a look at how the commandment is explicated in other parts of the Torah. Exodus 23: 10-12 expands it to include the land, wild beasts, and the poor. “For six years you shall sow your […]

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Christian Ethics

Lesson 1: The Moral Crisis

Lesson 1: The Moral Crisis

Why is Michael Sandel’s introduction to ethics the most popular class at Harvard? What led “China Newsweek” to name Sandel the most influential foreign figure of the year 2011? How come my classes report using Sandel’s book has provoked some of our most exciting discussions? I suspect the answer has something to do with the […]

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Lesson 2: What are Ethics?

Lesson 2: What are Ethics?

When I began my face-to-face classes by asking how many ethical decisions they had made that day, I received a variety of answers. Some felt these were confined to big questions that demanded carefully considering the proprieties and priorities of the options before taking action. Others believed just about all their acts involved some form […]

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Lesson 3: Utilitarianism

Lesson 3: Utilitarianism

Sandel first takes a look at utilitarianism, the way our modern society usually does ethics. (See Chapter 2 of his book.) In the past we determined right and wrong by using laws or principles to evaluate an action. You did not kill, because there was a law that prohibited it. Today, utilitarians decide by measuirng […]

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Practical Theology

Lesson 1: Practical Christianity

Lesson 1: Practical Christianity

Obviously, the first task is to define what I mean by Practical Christianity. Not so obviously, the second is to point out this is a very controversial subject. When I speak of Practical Christianity I simply mean what faith offers for everyday living here and now. People used to speak of it as “Applied Christianity”. […]

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Lesson 2: Overcoming Suffering

Lesson 2: Overcoming Suffering

The course will look at some of the components of Practical Christianity, sometimes described as the art of Christian living. It will begin examining how Christianity offers a way to overcome suffering, whether this is from natural disaster, social injustice, or personal problems. God obviously does not promise to shield us from the suffering caused […]

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Lesson 3: Cause of Suffering

Lesson 3: Cause of Suffering

After writing, “Suffering is inevitable for all, but some suffer more, and some feel the pains of life more deeply than others, or so it often appears,” Concordia asked, “Is there a point or purpose to any kind of suffering? Does suffering build character?” The answer to those questions is essential for understanding our way […]

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The Gospel of John

Lesson 1: Introduction to John

Lesson 1: Introduction to John

As soon as you start reading John’s Gospel, you know you are into something very different. Mark starts with a carpenter having a religious experience and leaving his business and family; Matthew with foreign scholars worshiping an infant the Jewish king is trying to kill; Luke with shepherds of the third shift visiting a son […]

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Lesson 2: Who is God? (John 1: 1-5, 10-13)

Lesson 2: Who is God? (John 1: 1-5, 10-13)

What is John up to? Seems to me he is tackling perhaps the most difficult problem of Christianity: how to explain what it means to proclaim a human being is God. There is no way you can convey how he does this inside the limitations of an electronic blog, so what I’ll offer is theological […]

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Lesson 3: Jesus is the Word Made Flesh (John 1)

Lesson 3: Jesus is the Word Made Flesh (John 1)

What does John mean when he writes, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth…From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came […]

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Ten Commandements

Introduction to the Ten Commandments

Introduction to the Ten Commandments

All Christians, all Jews, and even all Muslims agree the Ten Commandments are a basic statement of how to live according to God’s will. The disagreements come with how to codify these into specific laws. For instance, in our time you could argue all religious people are pro-life even though they do not agree on […]

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Lesson 1: The First Commandment

Lesson 1: The First Commandment

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. The command goes on to prohibit making graven images, a command that might appear to be simpler than it really is. It certainly does ban worshiping […]

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Lesson 2: The Second Commandment

Lesson 2: The Second Commandment

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. The ancient Israelites took this so seriously that they did not even utter God’s name in fear that they might use it incorrectly. They would insert “Lord” instead of the […]

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Bodily Resurrection

Lesson 1: Cremation

Lesson 1: Cremation

One of the most frequent questions asked throughout my ministry was whether cremation was acceptable. So when one of our participants suggested we look at it and other end- of- life issues, I welcomed the chance. The issue centers on our belief in the Resurrection of the Body and illustrates how theological and practical issues […]

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Lesson 2: Natural Death

Lesson 2: Natural Death

Another practical concern related to the resurrection of the body is what modern technology has done to our concept of natural death. Most of our customs about the end of life were based on accepting God’s will for our natural deaths. Suicide was a major sin, sometimes defined as the unforgivable sin, because it rejected […]

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Lesson 3: Resurrection of the Body

Lesson 3: Resurrection of the Body

Each Sunday many of us profess we believe in the resurrection of the body. We assert Jesus was resurrected in body as well as spirit. He ate with his friends, allowed them to touch him, and showed them the marks of his crucifixion. The resurrected Christ was the same person who loved them during their […]

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Faith Behind the Headlines

Lesson 1: The Reading Groups

Lesson 1: The Reading Groups

Many years ago my daughter and son-in-law asked me to lead a reading group for a few high school students. Before long it became apparent many more were interested in discussing their faith seriously. At present 30 plus high school students meet in my home every month,12 to 20 young adults gather every other month, […]

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Lesson 2: Speaking For God

Lesson 2: Speaking For God

All three of our youth groups are very troubled with those claiming to speak for God when uttering hate messages. Twice during the last year the High School Reading Group wanted to talk about Westboro Baptist’s antigovernment protests at veterans’ funerals. I sent the following paper to start discussion for one of those. You can […]

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Lesson 3: Ben Laden’s Assasination

Lesson 3: Ben Laden’s Assasination

Bob is quite right when he warns that our response to the actions of those we oppose too often plays into their hands. You see this in many of our reactions to 9/11. All three of our reading groups repeatedly brought this up. They wanted to talk about Islam more than any other subject, and […]

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Friendship

Lesson 1: Changes in Friendship

Lesson 1: Changes in Friendship

When I was growing up in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, people spoke of “family and friends.” I had all sorts of “family” throughout the small city. When we would gather for annual reunions, we would be joined by some of the few who had moved away to seek their fortunes. I could also point to many “friends” […]

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Lesson 2: Professional Friends

Lesson 2: Professional Friends

Last summer, I participated in a conversation that illustrates the current situation of friendship. A man sat down beside me and revealed he worked at the Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas. When I asked what he did, he hesitated. “It is hard to explain,” he responded. “Many people can not understand. I am a friend.” […]

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Lesson 3: Facebook Friends

Lesson 3: Facebook Friends

Supposedly, I have 48 Facebook friends. I can easily pick up more by accepting the invitations that daily arrive on my e-mail, often from people I have a hard time identifying. And, of course, I can unfriend any of the 48 by simply pushing a button. These Facebook friends are another example of modern negotiated […]

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Church & Society

Lesson 1: History

Lesson 1: History

Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment introduces a new stage in the ongoing conversation between Church and Society.

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Lesson 2: Sensus Fidei

Lesson 2: Sensus Fidei

Lupe mentioned the situation her son faced when on assignment for the World Bank in Pakistan during Ramadan. With extremely high temperatures, over 700 people died observing the fast that includes not drinking water during daylight hours. Does following God’s will include this kind of renunciation?

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Lesson 3: The Global Economic System

Lesson 3: The Global Economic System

Certainly a major factor Christians have to consider when making decisions in our modern world is the global economic system. Electronic media and computing enable us to engage with people we do not know on the other side of the earth, and we have used this primarily for economic transactions. This has brought new challenges […]

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