Reformation Day and Deathworks

On Saturday we visited St Andrews Castle. It lays in ruins, with the occasional structure intact. A room in the tower gate where pedestrians would have entered still remains, as does the room housing the dungeon - a circular opening into which prisoners were lowered into a larger room underneath. Practically medieval. The ruins tell a story of the fall of the Roman Catholic church, the death of Cardinal Beaty (who fathered over 20 illegitimate children) at the hands of reformers, and the eventual capture of the castle by French Catholic reinforcements who captured and enslaved John Knox for two years before his eventual release. But it is not all that is in ruins. Nor is it all that tells a story. Before exiting the gift shop where tickets are sold, one has the chance to walk through a brief series of displays telling illustrating the castle's story. Towards the end, a statue of John Knox, the famous Scottish Reformer, leans over the pulpit in the middle of an earnest sermon. The r

The Big 15... part 1

 This is my final week studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I will walk May 14, but my last assignment gets turned in this Thursday. The end of this 5-year journey brings a nostalgic reflection of these formative years. I will probably write several posts about this in the coming month or two.  I thought I would kick it off with 15 books that were influential for my growth. Some were required reading (R) and some were not required reading (NR). I found that as I studied, I learned to choose better books to read on my own time. These often integrated quite well with other things I was learning over the semester. These are not all of the top books I read - for example, I chose to leave out books that did not deal with Christianty in some way. For example, I recently read a couple of books on economics that I found immensely useful and practical even for Christian ministry. But they are not included in this list. I provide the author, title, year publishes, whether it was requ

Three Things I'd Like to Tell Myself Ten Years Ago (Before Going Into Ministry...)

Subject: From 2020  Dear Jonathan, Don’t freak out – I am writing to you from the future. This week you will graduate from college! That’s quite an achievement! Ok, the truth? (You should hear it from me) It isn't  that much of an achievement. Over the next ten years you’ll find that it was one of the easier things you did in life. Trust me, in about 9 months you’ll be in the hospital encouraging Maggie while she is having your first... never mind. You’ll cross that bridge when you get to it. That is not why I’m writing. Look, the year is 2020, we’re in the middle of a… thing… and it sparked a bit of introspection. I know you are excited to really get to work and start the path towards full-time vocational ministry. Before you start, there are some things that I really wish I had known in 2010. I know you hate reading right now, so here are the top three: 1.  Talk less, listen more. First, when you start talking, you stop listening. I know you hold your con

My Prayer for 2020

Saints, Each new year feels in some way like a fresh start, giving the option of a second chance at something failed. I think perhaps that is why New Year’s resolutions are made. I have a few personal resolutions of my own, but instead of sharing those, I thought I’d share some specific prayers I will be praying for me and for the whole flock of God around the world. I thought I would share in case you echo them, and we can together lift our voices. Fight the good fight, running the race, all for the King. Lord, help us be learners, not leaders. Our churches, businesses, ministries, and communities are saturated with people trying to raise up an enterprise in the name of Jesus. But often these degrade into human endeavors in search of personal success. O, the shame – O, the tears. Look on your people with mercy, and teach us your ways which are not like ours. May we count all gains and successes as loss for the sake of knowing you. May we shun the praise and applause an

Advent 2 - Meditations from Jeremiah

Read Jeremiah 11:1-8; 16:10-15 Consider The indictments against the chosen people only intensify after chapter Jeremiah chapter two. Their evil has long enough been a stain not only on the earth, but against God whose name they bear. God will be faithful to his word, and there will be no escaping the promised judgments. In today’s world, the word ‘faith’ has become a harmless word, stripped strength and substance. When something goes wrong, we ‘have faith’ that things will turn out right. But why? What basis is there for such a claim? Faith is a word that demands a foundation. If my wife tells me she will buy milk at the store on her way home, I can have faith that she will – because she has proven herself trustworthy and has given me something in which to trust (the words she spoke). If she did not say anything about buying milk, I would have no grounds to trust that she will buy anything whatsoever, regardless of how trustworthy she is – because she has not given me a

Advent - Meditations from Jeremiah

1. Reminder: Why We Hope  (Jeremiah 2:5-13) Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake your God... (Jer 2:19a) When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the people of God were waiting for God’s promised savior. They were ruled by foreign powers who were unsympathetic to them and the worship of God. There was the haunting recollection that their God had brought them into a land to rule themselves, to be a kingdom of priests before God in the world. But darkness had come upon the land and the kingdom of priests reveled in evil and wickedness. God thrust them into the captivity and punishment which had been promised since Sinai, and so patiently delayed for centuries. They never ruled the land again like they had at first. They were looking for a savior, a rescuer, someone to lead the charge against the Romans like Moses against the Egyptians, Joshua against the Canaanites, or David against the Philistines. They expected God to fix the problem of Roman rule. But tha

Love The Glory That Comes From God: Commencement Address, Class of 2019

May 11, 2019 Dear Ashley, Libby, Sam, and Sienna -                                                                   Congratulations. I hope you know how proud everyone here is of you. Your parents have treasured you from the moment they knew you were coming. They changed your diapers, held your hands as you learned to walk, and tenderly washed scraped knees. Countless sleepless nights and long days were poured into nurturing and guiding and teaching. Today's ceremony marks both a celebration and a loss. Even as you still have to finish some coursework, today we also celebrate your readiness to enter the world: the hope and dread of every parent who still sees in your eyes the same baby they held in their arms when you first arrived. Take to heart the words of scripture: honor your father and your mother. It is customary in such commencement speeches to share words of inspiration and motivation. But, for those of you who have read Winnie the Pooh, I'm afraid I'