Archives for March 2012

The Weekly Hit List: March 30, 2012


Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good has gotten a lot of attention online lately.

Several blogs have written on Volf’s significant book, including:

“Ends & Means” Blog

“DiocseofSheff” Blog

Faith & Globalisation Initiative

“Journey in the World” Blog


Elsewhere on the web:

John Byron, of “The Biblical World” Blog reviewed Peter Enns’s The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. Read the review here.

Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not Truly an Evangelical Reading of Scripture was reviewed on Read the review here.

David Benner’s new book Spirituality and the Awakening Self is currently a part of the Book Club. Be sure to check out all of the great discussion on this important book.

Lectionary Reflection for Palm Sunday

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 118:

Psalm 118 is a psalm of thanksgiving that features two primary emphases: a grand testimony regarding the deliverance of God (vv. 5-7, 10-18, 22-23) and a strong vow to praise and confess God in worship (vv. 19-21, 24, 26-29). An unusually complex psalm, these emphases are complemented by exhortations to worship God (vv. 1-4) and to trust God (vv. 8-9) and a short prayer for God’s continued deliverance (v. 25). It describes the work of God in terms of deliverance (v. 14), discipline (v. 18), and enlightenment (v. 27). The psalm offers a vivid imagery of salvation as the move from claustrophobic constraint (v. 5), made maddening by an enemy that felt like “buzzing bees” (vv. 5, 12) to a place of spaciousness (v. 5) marked by a joyful praise of God’s people (v. 15). This psalm is quoted several times in the New Testament.


©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: Pilate’s Wife

This is the fifth entry in our Lenten series of posts taken from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina. See our previous entries:

Week One: Abraham: “Ancestor of All”

Week Two:  David: “The Shepherd Who Is Also King”

Week Three: Sarah: “Listen to Sarah, the Quarry of Encouragement”

Week Four: Peter: “From Crumbled Failure to Rock of Strength”

Be sure to check out our videos that further explain this terrific series.

This week, we are posting a study from the introduction to Binz’s volume Women of the Gospels: Friends and Disciples of Jesus.

A Forgotten Advocate for Jesus


Carefully read these words from Matthew’s Gospel, asking God’s Spirit to open your heart.

Matthew 27:15–19

15Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

Continue seeking the significance of this passage for Matthew’s passion account.

Pilate’s wife is another of those unnamed women of the Gospel accounts who plays a behind-the-scenes role in relationship to an influential man. She intervenes with her powerful husband to try to stop the condemnation of Jesus, an “innocent man.” She doesn’t even appear in the scene at Pilate’s judgment hall; her voice is heard only through a messenger. Only this single verse of Scripture mentions her, so we have no indication whether she had even seen Jesus or encountered him during his ministry in Jerusalem.

The Gospel of Matthew sets up a dramatic contrast between the religious leaders who plead for Jesus Barabbas and Pilate’s wife, who pleads for Jesus the Messiah. The leaders are motivated by “jealousy,” while Pilate’s wife seeks justice for Jesus because of the truth revealed to her in a dream. Both the Jews and Romans took dreams very seriously, and Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth had already shown how the Gentile magi received God’s warning in a dream in order to save the newborn’s life (2:12). Now, in this account of Jesus’s death, this Gentile woman intercedes to try to save the life of the Jewish Messiah.

Her pleading is ultimately unsuccessful as her vacillating husband gives in to the pressure of the crowds. The Gospel doesn’t tell us what happened to Pilate’s wife, either immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus when she encountered her husband again, or the direction of her life from then on. However, the indication that she “suffered a great deal” for Jesus, a New Testament indicator of discipleship, may hint at the later tradition that she became a follower of Christ.


Imagine and consider the behind-the-scenes drama taking place in the heart of Pilate’s wife while her husband sits on the judgment seat.

What might be some of the motivations of Pilate’s wife in urging her husband to have nothing to do with the murder of this innocent man? What does it tell me about the importance of suffering for the truth?

After the death of Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” what might be some of the conversation between Pilate and his wife? What can I learn and imitate from her witness?


Respond in prayer to God, who gives you new insights and hope through listening to his Word.

God of all creation, you created man and woman in your image and sent Jesus the Christ to teach us how to live together in your love. Jesus drew forth the courage and beauty of the women of the Gospels and brought restoration and hope to their lives. He wept with them in their pains, laughed with them in their joys, affirmed them in their resiliency, and empowered their lives with confident trust. Bless my life as I listen, reflect, and pray with the Gospel texts of these women. Transform my life as you did theirs with the power of your Word.

Continue to pray to God from your heart . . .


Remain in peaceful quiet and place yourself in God’s loving embrace. Ask God to give you whatever gift he desires for you during these moments.

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with David Benner – Part 3

This is the third of a four-part interview we had with Dr. David Benner – author of the recent Brazos book Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation.

David’s book is currently a part of the Book Club at

In Part 1, Dr. Benner discussed his purpose for writing Spirituality and the Awakening Self.
In Part 2, he talked about Christian mysticism and what it has to offer for one’s journey of transformation.

In today’s post, David discusses the role of community for that journey.


You discuss the role that community can play in an individual’s spiritual journey. What are some helpful ways that a community can encourage its members’ journey? How can a community hinder one’s journey?

This is a tremendously important question because no one makes this transformational journey alone.  Our communities – familial and spiritual – either support or impede transformation.  Tragically, too often they impede it.

Communities that support transformation in their members are communities that are themselves open to transformation.  Rather than trying to preserve what they have always been, they embrace change and have learned to continuously evolve.  They know that the most basic lesson of life is that things that are brittle are either dying or have died whereas that which is flexible is that which is growing.  Communities that find a way to stay molten help their adherents and members also stay molten.  But sadly, individuals and organizations that may begin in a molten state quickly cool down and ossify.

Transformational communities embrace diversity as a way of honouring otherness.  They recognize that the other is a face of the self and a face of the Ultimate Other.  This is the motive for the hospitality to diversity and otherness that they offer. They make no demands that everyone be the same.  In fact, they recognize that their strength lies in diversity.  The broader the range of diversities that are welcomed, the healthier the community and the more capable it is of supporting transformation.

But the transformational journey will often require that we move from one primary support community to another.  This doesn’t represent a failure of the community we leave; it simply represents a reality that seldom can one spiritual community meet all our needs as we follow the path of authentic transformation.  A truly transformational community will always, therefore, be one that encourages seeking rather than self-contented finding.  Questions – all questions – will always be welcome because these communities are continuously open to further change and evolution.  This is what allows them to support, rather than fear, the same sort of change and evolution in people.

There is no single thing that could make a bigger positive change in the growth and development of persons than an increase in the number of communities that understand that the first rule of care is to offer support without constraint.  This is the lesson that parents must learn and it is equally true of couples and communities.  Good parents learn to celebrate when their children are ready to move beyond the family and healthy communities should be prepared to do the same.  Human coherence is enhanced when we are able to live within social groups for a considerable period of time but this only happens when communities learn the rhythm of holding, releasing and then staying involved until we are well embedded in the next community.  This allows us to move beyond old communities of belonging but still remain attached to them.  Separation from old places of belonging is always grievous because it involves separation from old meanings and previously significant relationships.  This always carries with it an extremely high price tag. In order to genuinely move beyond old places of belonging it is essential that we integrate that place of belonging into our self, not simply try and leave it behind.  This integration requires the support of those we hopefully remain connected to, even as our transformation and continuing growth often demand that we shift our primary context of belonging to another community.  Communities that can support people before, during and after their transitions can help their members both grieve the losses and celebrate the gains that are part of the human spiritual journey.

The Weekly Hit List: March 23, 2012

We’ve been posting a conversation we had with Dr. David Benner about his recent Brazos book Spirituality and the Awakening Self here on the blog.

Meanwhile, over at, Benner’s book is being featured in their Book Club. In a great article written for Patheos, titled “Being and Becoming: Learning from the Mystics,” Dr. Benner writes:

“Most Christians find the mystics mystifying. Their language often makes it hard to identify with them, their lifestyle seems out of sync with modernity, and their message simply doesn’t seem relevant to life as most of us know and live it. It’s easy, therefore, to think of mysticism as a hobby for people on the fringe of life—spiritual gurus or others seeking esoteric spiritual experiences. But this easy dismissal would be unfortunate because the mystics are surprisingly relevant to modern life and their message is much more practical than usually realized.”

Check out the entire article here.

See the rest of the Book Club content here.

Earlier this week we offered Charles Gutenson’s recent Brazos title Christians and the Common Good: How Faith Intersects with Public Life free as an ebook.

If you missed out on the offer (which, if I may point out, is a great reason to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!), the ebook is still available at an extremely reduced price!

You can get the ebook at Amazon,, and

This price is only around for a limited time.


Between the Lines: A Conversation with David Benner – Part 2

This is the second of a four-part interview we had with Dr. David Benner – author of the recent Brazos book Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation.

David’s book is currently a part of the Book Club at Be sure to check it out.

In Part 1, Dr. Benner discussed his purpose for writing Spirituality and the Awakening Self.

In today’s post, David discusses what Christian mysticism has to offer for one’s journey of transformation.


One unique aspect of this book is your incorporation of Christian mysticism in your discussion of the transformational journey. Why did you feel this so important? What can we learn from this tradition?

The mystics provide our most helpful understanding of the map of the journey into God.  That is why they are so central to what I am doing in this book.  Easily misunderstood and usually marginalized, the mystics offer us a number of valuable gifts that I think are tremendously important to contemporary Christians.  This is why Karl Rahner argues that “Tomorrow’s devout person will either be a mystic—someone who has experienced something—or else they will not be devout at all.”

The Christian mystics offer us a number of immensely valuable gifts.  Central among these, I would suggest, is that they encourage us to trust in the darkness rather than simply try to eliminate it, they remind us of the importance of the alignment of head and heart in the process of transformation, and teach a way of unifying a divided consciousness.  But perhaps more basic than any of these is the understanding offered by the mystics of the fact that all of life is returning to God.  Life, they point out, is the continuous outflow of the very life of God – a flow that if we follow it, returns us to our Source, the Ground of our Being.  All human becoming involves, therefore, a fuller engagement with this outflowing life of God.  The map of human developmental possibilities sketched by the mystics is a map that includes possibilities that developmental psychologists could never imagine because it maps our journey toward union with God.  It is a map that shows us the contours of a life that is lived increasingly awake and fully conscious. Or, put in language I use in this book, it is a map of the expansion of consciousness.

You may wonder, however, if what the mystics have to offer is practical. Actually, it is profoundly practical.  It is relevant to anyone who seeks to become more than they are and who is open to authentic transformation, not merely the small incremental steps of growth. Once mysticism is demystified what we discover is that, unlike theologians, mystics are not interested in ideas and concepts but real life.  This is why they serve as such helpful guides for anyone seeking to live fully immersed in the flow of the river of transformational becoming that I would call the Life of God.

Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: Peter

This is the fourth entry in our Lenten series of posts taken from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina. Three weeks ago we introduced the concept of lectio divina and posted a study on Abraham. The following week we posted a study on David titled “The Shepherd Who Is Also King.” Last week we had a study on Sarah titled “Listen to Sarah, the Quarry of Encouragement.”

Be sure to check out our videos that further explain this terrific series.

This week, we are posting a study from the introduction to Binz’s volume Peter: Fisherman and Shepherd of the Church.

From Crumbled Failure to Rock of Strength


Listen to these challenging words that Jesus addressed to Peter at the Last Supper.

Luke 22:31–32

31“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

After letting these prophetic words sink in, continue searching for their significance in the ongoing ministry of Peter the apostle.

These brief verses from Luke’s account of the Last Supper summarize the ordeal of Simon Peter’s discipleship during the passion account and anticipate his role beyond the Gospel and into the life of Christ’s church. Jesus speaks of three aspects of Peter’s testing: his sifting by Satan, his turning back to following Jesus, and his role in strengthening his brothers.

Jesus says that Satan has demanded “to sift all of you like wheat” (v. 31), that is, to severely test the disciples for the purpose of destroying their faith. The devil has already taken Judas, and now he is attempting to take the other disciples too. Indeed, that very night Peter’s fear will overpower his faith, and he will deny Jesus three times.

Jesus’s plan for his community of disciples involves Peter’s repentance and return to discipleship. Jesus assures Peter that he has prayed for him so that his faith will not collapse in the time of crisis. Though Peter will falter in faith, he will weep bitterly over his failing, marking the beginning of his turning back to Jesus.

In the remainder of his Gospel and in his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, Luke demonstrates Peter’s pivotal role among the other disciples in his ministry of strengthening them. Peter’s complete return to Jesus is not brought about by his own initiative but through the sovereign initiative of his risen Lord. The disciples exclaim, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” (24:34). The strength of Peter’s testimony convinces the others to join in affirming Jesus’s resurrection. The Acts of the apostles shows that Peter gathers the disciples again as a community in Jerusalem and that he becomes the leading figure in the infant church.

Jesus’s double address, “Simon, Simon” (v. 31), signals Jesus’s particular concern for Simon Peter and his desire to assign a unique ministry to him. This is the only passage in Luke’s Gospel that indicates why Jesus might have given Simon the name “Peter,” a name that means “rock.” Though Simon certainly did not act very rocklike during the passion of Jesus, through genuine repentance and the forgiveness of the risen Jesus, he becomes the rock of strength for the early church.


Reflect on the experiences of Peter in his failure, his repentance, and his strengthening ministry. Consider how he might be a friend and mentor in your discipleship.

Jesus assured Peter of his prayers for him so that Peter’s faith would not fail. How might this assurance of Jesus’s prayers have helped Peter to get through his period of testing without abandoning his faith? In what way do I depend on prayer for my own strength in times of trial?

Peter’s experience of failure as a disciple enabled him later to be a bettersource of strength for others. In what way have I found strength for others through my experiences of failure?


After listening to God’s Word in Scripture, respond in prayer to God, who always listens to your voice.

Lord Jesus Christ, you chose Simon Peter as your disciple and prayed for him in times of trial. As the first among your stumbling disciples, he struggled with doubt and fear, failing you in your most desperate hour. Teach me, through the example of Peter’s life, how to trust in you and depend on your grace. As I continue to listen, reflect, and pray these biblical texts of Peter’s life, strengthen me and help me to be a source of strength for my brothers and sisters.

Continue to give voice to your heart . . .


Jesus assured Peter of his prayers for him so that Peter’s faith would not fail. Remain in peaceful quiet for a few minutes and be aware of Jesus’s prayerful support of you. Feel the passionate care of Jesus for you.

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

Today Only: Free “Christians and the Common Good” Ebook

We are running a special promotion today, offering a free ebook book of Charles Gutenson’s Christians and the Common Good: How Faith Intersects with Public Life!

Get a free digital copy at:


 Barnes & Noble


 Praise for Christians and the Common Good:

“This is a splendid springboard for political discussion and action.”—William J. Abraham

“This is an ideal book for Sunday school classes, Bible study groups, and other discussion groups.—Jim Wallis (from the foreword)

Brazos Author Edith Humphrey to Speak in Grand Rapids

For those who live in or around Grand Rapids, MI:

Orthodox Christian to Speak on Worship as Entry into God’s Presence

You are invited to hear Edith Humphrey speak on her book, Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven, published by Brazos Press

Where: St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, 2250 East Paris Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

When: Friday, March 23 at 8:00 p.m.
Edith’s talk will follow the 7:00 p.m. Akathist Service

Discounted books for sale and author book signing will follow. Event is free – light refreshments will be served.

 Facebook Event Page




Seeking to reclaim the forgotten theme of worship as entry into God’s presence, Edith Humphrey shows its prominence in the Bible, providing an accessible but thorough study of the Old and New Testaments. She analyzes key moments in church history to show how worship developed in Eastern and Western churches. She also draws insights from healthy worshiping communities around the globe. The book offers practical guidance on balanced and faithful worship.

“With eloquence and ecumenical hospitality—as well as laser-like insight—Edith Humphrey has given us a much-needed biblical and practical theology for entering into the worship of the Triune God.”—Michael J. Gorman, The Ecumenical Institute of Theology, St. Mary’s Seminary & University

“This book offers a compelling account of the way that God’s Spirit works through public worship to lead us from the claustrophobia of our own narcissism into the spacious, luminous reality of the Triune God—a place so expansive that we find ourselves in communion with God’s people across centuries and continents and in transformative encounter with the Holy Trinity. The book is an especially welcome tonic for all of us exhausted by the quest for endless innovation in church life—a quest that often reinforces rather than challenges the small, isolated spiritual world we occupy.”—John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary

“Worship, like Bible reading, is not about finding something new but about entering into the Old Story—something so old it overwhelms what is new, something so old it expands our future, and something so old it reframes who we are so that we become who we are meant to be. Don’t expect Edith Humphrey’s book to settle the worship wars. Expect it to go behind the wars into the great tradition where worship was about entrance into the presence of God.”—Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

“Instructed by the great biblical categories of redemption, covenant, worship, and assembly, Edith Humphrey has written a book rich in theology, contemplative wisdom, and practical insight. When I recall the ignorance, insensitivity, and intellectual morass attendant on so much of modern ‘liturgical renewal’ during almost my whole lifetime, I wish Dr. Humphrey were old enough to have written this excellent work a half century earlier.”—Patrick Henry Reardon, author, Chronicles of History and Worship; pastor, All Saints Orthodox Church, Chicago

“Spirituality and the Awakening Self” Book Club

Today we begin a two-week feature on Dr. David Benner’s Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation over at in their Book Club section.

At Patheos you can find an excerpt and an interview with Benner. And be on the lookout for further interactions with Awakening Self starting next week!