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Registration Open for Harbor (75th Pepperdine Bible Lectures)

2018 January 23
by Mike

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Harbor: The Pepperdine Bible Lectures

2018 January 2
by Mike

The booklet is finished . . . my friend and coworker Joella is back in the office (thank you so much for your prayers for her this fall!) . . . and registration will open in three weeks.

Harbor 2018

2017 November 3
by Mike

How Not to Be Stupid With Your Money

2017 August 6
by Mike

There is really sane, compacted financial advice on these two episodes of the “Freakonomics” podcast:
“The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money” and

“Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Money (But Were Afraid to Ask).”

Preaching Through Doubt and Pain

2017 July 13
by Mike

Resources on the Book of Ruth

2017 May 12
by Mike

My sermon on Ruth:

Classes on Ruth by Tim Willis and Jarrod Robinson.

Easter Faith

2017 April 13
by Mike

Five years ago, I wrote this piece based on the wonderful movie “Higher Ground.” It still rings true for me now that I’m 60 and leaning into Easter.
– – – –

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day.
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground!”

This post is part movie review and part memoir of a winter Christian.

Higher Ground stars and is directed by Vera Farmiga. It follows the faith journey of Corinne Briggs—first as a child “asking Jesus into her heart” when the pastor tells the children that Jesus is polite, waiting to be invited into their lives; then as a young mother thrust back into belief when she, her husband, and their child are delivered from near drowning; and finally as a woman who lives in the middle of a fundamentalist group of self-proclaimed “Jesus freaks.”

This film avoids the easy road of turning all the Christians into hypocrites and judgmental clowns. They are three-dimensional people of faith, seeking to live in deep community. They are held together by lives of constant Bible study and prayer. They turn to God’s word for “answers” on everything—including the hilarious scene where the men gather in a circle to listen to seven cassette tapes on sex by some well-known Christian sex expert. (Yes, such tapes exist! I was forced to listen to them when I was an engaged student in college.)

Corinne wants desperately to share the easy faith and confidence of her husband, Ethan. She would love to believe that every prayer is answered, that every verse of scripture is literally true. She even begs God for the gift of tongues as a kind of confirmation, though it’s not endorsed by most in their community.

But in trying to survive in this fundamentalism, she keeps finding parts of her life that must be shut out—her love for literature, music, and creation. When her best friend is diagnosed with brain cancer and is left dramatically altered by surgery, she finds herself unable to just jump in and be thankful for God’s answer.

Following the surgery, the pastor leads the congregation in “It Is Well With My Soul.” At that point, you see Corinne joining in lifelessly at the chorus. You realize she can’t remain in this place. Not all is well with her soul.

A fundamentalist therapist tells her that she’s in danger of going to hell where her flesh will be whipped and ripped. He tells her that she must decide whether she’ll be inside with Jesus or outside with the dogs.

Corinne returns to her church building. Inside she sees all the signs of religious confidence; then as she walks outside dogs begin to gather around her. She realizes that her place is on the outside, without hating those on the inside.

As a winter Christian, my life has been dogged by doubts and questions. I tried many times to be a good fundamentalist. Six literal days of creation? Check. Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch? Check. God’s answer to every prayer? Check. I memorized large chunks of scripture and spent (literally) an hour a day in prayer. I listened to the sermons on the eternal, conscious torments of hell (a renewed favorite theme within Christian fundamentalism).

But, alas, there were gaps in the armor of faith. Some were caused by reading outside my protected circle. Some by over-thinking. (I’m always guilty of this.) But some just by life.

During my years as a minister, I constantly felt the disappointment of some who wanted more confidence. They needed miracles; their minister loved mystery. They loved The Prayer of Jabez; I was embarrassed by it. They turned to scripture as an answer book; I found in it life’s greatest questions (along with an “answer” in Jesus). They saw it as the inerrant blueprint for dating, marriage, job, etc.; I trusted it as my spiritual community’s library of faith. They wanted confident prayers expelling Satan and claiming spiritual victories; I turned to the Lord’s Prayer. They spotted God’s healing everywhere they turned; I kept performing funerals. They needed more “already”; I’m “not yet.” They wanted sermons where everyone could shout “Amen!”; I preached anticipating quiet nods, thoughtful expressions, and eyes moist with hope.

It may sound like I think I’m really more spiritual than others. I don’t. I’m a winter Christian. I love and desperately need my fellow summer believers. I’m drawn by their answers, their confidence, their optimism.

But at age 55, I’m thankful for this faith that has survived. Doubt-filled, less-than-confident faith. I’ve given up thinking that if I just try harder I’ll have the assurance others seem to have.

I will groan, long, wait, and hope. For I’m a believer in the resurrection of Jesus.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay
Tho’ some may dwell where these abound
My prayer, my aim is higher ground.

Invitation to 2017 PBL – “Spiritual Rhythms”

2017 January 8
by Mike

Chris and Chloe (married 8/6/16)

2016 August 7
by Mike

Be blessed on your journey, my dear ones.


“Dare We Pray to Become More Cruciformed?”

2016 May 12
by Mike

This is the prayer written and spoken by my dear friend Leonard Allen on the opening night of the 2016 Pepperdine Bible Lectures (just before N. T. Wright spoke):

Eternal God, we come to you through our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the power of your gracious Spirit. You are holy and your name is great.

We gather tonight as people whom you have welcomed into your household, and to your table. And you have surrounded us with sisters and brothers—the body of Christ—so that we are not alone. With them, we enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and experience the reality of your kingdom coming.

Tonight as we assemble in this place, we anticipate a feast—a feast from your Word, a feast of fellowship, a feast of friends old and new. We thank you for the gracious gift of hospitality by this institution. We thank you for the speakers, invited from all over the globe, who bring us their learning, their wisdom, their faith, their passion for your kingdom. And we thank you for our brother Tom Wright, from whom many of us have learned much over the years. What a rich blessing this week!

For these four days, oh God, let the table be wide and the welcome be wide. And let our hearts open wide to receive.Theme

Dare we pray to become more cruciformed? By the death of your beloved Son you took an instrument of shameful death and made it the means of life for us. So the cross has become for us a powerful and precious story. Through the cross we have been brought down to death and back to life through new birth. So we are your baptized people. You’ve raised us from our watery graves, made us alive with Jesus Christ, and touched us with the fire of the Spirit of Christ.

So I say to Jesus now:
Thank you for the cross, Lord
Thank you for the price you paid
Bearing all our sin and shame
In love you came
and gave amazing grace

And now, oh God, continue to form us through your Word and Spirit!
Make us, as Jesus was, lovers of truth and able to be trusted.
Make us, as Jesus was, full of kindness, even for those who dislike or even despise us.
Make us, as Jesus was, resolute in trust and steadfast in faith.
Make us, as Jesus was, instruments of your peace.

We want to live more deeply into the story of Jesus. May it be so, oh God, this very week.

I pray though Jesus. Amen.

Leonard Allen
PBL, May 3, 2016