Featured Study

Revelation

Lesson 1: An Introduction to Revelation

Lesson 1: An Introduction to Revelation

I decided to write a short series on Revelation after a number of onliners indicated that they were not aware that the book charted the fall of the Roman Empire. Once you begin reading it this way, it offers another perspective on the relation of church and state. Most of us think Paul’s instruction in […]

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Lesson 2: The Seven Churches of Revelation (Chapters 2 and 3)

Lesson 2: The Seven Churches of Revelation (Chapters 2 and 3)

Any decent understanding of Paul’s letters begins with an appreciation that they were written to particular congregations in a specific historical period. They were preserved in scripture, because the apostle handled their problems in a manner that remains relevant for us. So, too, any meaningful interpretation of Revelation depends on discerning the situation John was […]

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Lesson 3: The Heavenly Court in Revelation 4 -5

Lesson 3: The Heavenly Court in Revelation 4 -5

These two chapters lift the veil from heaven so we can see first hand what is happening there. When an angelic voice calls John and places him in his prophetic trance, he finds himself in a throne room at the time of Jesus’ ascension. The prophet describes incredibly magnificent cosmic phenomena and wondrously strange creatures […]

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Salvation

Lesson 1: Are You Saved?

Lesson 1: Are You Saved?

This will be an online version of a course on salvation I am teaching at two congregations this fall. It will be designed for those who find it difficult to attend a face-to-face class because of commuting or home responsibilities. The classes are using Kristin Johnston Largen’s What Christians Can Learn from Buddhism: Rethinking Salvation. […]

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Lesson 2: Now and Not Yet

Lesson 2: Now and Not Yet

This should be fun! I got all sorts of responses to our first lesson. Perhaps the one to which I should respond first was the popular understanding of salvation as something that happens after death. My very intelligent class at Good Shepherd reported trouble with the author we were reading, because she spoke of the […]

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Lesson 3: Resurrection – Salvation

Lesson 3: Resurrection – Salvation

Some people are having difficulty with my description of salvation as “now and not yet”. Myron says the problem is being conditioned to think of resurrection and salvation being almost synonymous and happening after our deaths. The New Testament agrees the two speak of the same thing, but regards them as more than simply being […]

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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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Revelation

Lesson 1: An Introduction to Revelation

Lesson 1: An Introduction to Revelation

I decided to write a short series on Revelation after a number of onliners indicated that they were not aware that the book charted the fall of the Roman Empire. Once you begin reading it this way, it offers another perspective on the relation of church and state. Most of us think Paul’s instruction in […]

Read More →

Lesson 2: The Seven Churches of Revelation (Chapters 2 and 3)

Lesson 2: The Seven Churches of Revelation (Chapters 2 and 3)

Any decent understanding of Paul’s letters begins with an appreciation that they were written to particular congregations in a specific historical period. They were preserved in scripture, because the apostle handled their problems in a manner that remains relevant for us. So, too, any meaningful interpretation of Revelation depends on discerning the situation John was […]

Read More →

Lesson 3: The Heavenly Court in Revelation 4 -5

Lesson 3: The Heavenly Court in Revelation 4 -5

These two chapters lift the veil from heaven so we can see first hand what is happening there. When an angelic voice calls John and places him in his prophetic trance, he finds himself in a throne room at the time of Jesus’ ascension. The prophet describes incredibly magnificent cosmic phenomena and wondrously strange creatures […]

Read More →

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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Sacraments

Lesson 1: Sacraments as a Means of Grace

Lesson 1: Sacraments as a Means of Grace

Talking to Derek last week, I was reminded that I wanted to push myself to look at the commandments and sacraments from a modern perspective. All of us are conditioned to use old concepts when speaking of ancient traditions. They roll off our tongues without much thought. There is certainly no great harm, except when […]

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Lesson 2: Sacrament as God’s Bodily Presence

Lesson 2: Sacrament as God’s Bodily Presence

The sacraments remind us that Christians claim that God is more than spirit. Although most of us can remember having defined God as a spirit at various times, the Church has insisted God is a person. And we all know a person is body as well as spirit. I can appreciate what our theologians are […]

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Lesson 3: The Meaning of Baptism

Lesson 3: The Meaning of Baptism

Early Christians felt baptism was so important they built their houses of worship near running water whenever possible. Those who have visited ancient churches in their travels have seen many were constructed right over springs so that baptisms could be performed with living water. The importance of the sacrament is also reflected in the New […]

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Christian Lifestyle

Lesson 1:   Jesus

Lesson 1: Jesus

Welcome to the new course. It’ll be a little different than the first. I shall try to offer one- page, four- sessions series. Hopefully, that will help everyone to keep up, as the course will work best if we have participants sharing their ideas. The goal is to develop a Christian lifestyle appropriate for our […]

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Lesson 2: The Counter Culture Church – The Radical Life

Lesson 2: The Counter Culture Church – The Radical Life

This is the second of the four Christian lifestyles we’ll examine from our past. Remember we are talking about designs for living rather than theologies, histories, or even ethics. Some believe this radical lifestyle is the only genuine one, because it was the first. It is certainly exemplified by the first three hundred years of […]

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Lesson 3:  The Established Church – The Balanced Life

Lesson 3: The Established Church – The Balanced Life

When Constantine accepted Christianity in the 300s, the counterculture community became one of many institutions performing their functions for the common good. This Established Church took the role of providing religion for conventional society. She has been part of the establishment in some form from that time. The Established Church serves sometimes as the conscience […]

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Ten Commandments

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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The Future Church

Lesson 1: Future Organization

Lesson 1: Future Organization

A Sunday School class in one of my sons-in-laws’ congregations was discussing the relationship of the Roman Catholics and Lutherans. A question arose why there was not more unity after 40 years of theological discussions that concluded agreement on just about all issues. These were topped off with a Joint Declaration on Justification, the very […]

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Lesson 2: Ecumenical Seminaries

Lesson 2: Ecumenical Seminaries

Several decades ago some writers observed progressives in all denominations are more comfortable with progressives in all other denominations than they are with conservatives in their own. Chances are this situation foreshadows what lies ahead for the American Church. It also captures the sense of the comment Derek made last week. Although our church bodies […]

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Lesson 3: Youth Groups

Lesson 3: Youth Groups

If recent refusals of denominations to finance their seminaries are self- defeating, the tendency of many to neglect youth work is just as silly. It is certainly a factor in the lack of young people at our worship services. I have some idea what is going on as my wife and I have hosted high […]

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What is Truth?

Lesson 1: Trust

Lesson 1: Trust

The present concern with fake news and a post-truth culture goes deeper than we usually acknowledge. I pulled out some quotes from Sissela Bok’s 1978 book, Lying, that I used when writing about trust decades ago. She wrote that “trust in some degree of veracity functions as a foundation of relations among human beings: when […]

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Lesson 2: Truth and Facts

Lesson 2: Truth and Facts

At first, I was taken aback when people read last week’s lesson as a political statement. My intention was simply to point out that a healthy society depends on being able to trust that people are telling the truth. The political examples were meant to show ours is ailing. This week, I wanted to suggest […]

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Lesson 3: Truth and Political Correctness

Lesson 3: Truth and Political Correctness

A few weeks ago, Father Jude reminded us that the given in a democracy is a reasonable, educated audience. “Absent that as the valid context, free speech in a democracy is just so much noise, at best, and, at worst, a detriment.” Knowing Jude, I am sure he did not mean that all reasonable and […]

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