i am not my own (Abide with Me)

…fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord with me abide…

Both viruses and people get themselves into us, infect us, surprise us, and change us–both for good and ill. And when they depart we are left with that most complex simplicities of emotions, asking simply: what was that? The story, the episode, that previously seemed to exist with such continuity now seems so disjointed from all others that “the purpose” seems our only thought.

…When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, abide with me…

We wonder, we wander, seeking our Home, our Rest, our Selves. We recast our history in the eyes of this present trial, this present pain, this present darkness, and feel the twitch and fear that comes whenever we seriously consider all we’ve done before and all it represents within us–all the trials caused, the pains committed, and the darknesses within us.

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Discernment: Making Decisions Christianly & Why It Matters

paul-city-bwMore so than other practices, Discernment is not something we try to do to enrich our lives or draw closer to God. Rather, it is a basic function of our storied existence, driven by our own internal narratives. Because of this, we necessarily find ourselves in positions where decisions great and small need to be made.

Unlike most other practices of the Christian faith, the question here is not whether or not we will practice Discernment, but rather how well we will do it, and how intentionally we will cultivate it. The challenge is not so much to articulate a vision for Discernment so much as to find out what truly Christian Discernment looks like.

series intro

That is why I chose Discernment for a research paper I wrote for my seminary program this semester. It’s essential to human life and being. This is also why I want to share many of the lessons I learned along the way of writing this paper and putting into practice. And so today I’m starting a new blog series exploring this Christian practice of decision-making, also called Discernment.
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AMAZING Interview and Q&A about Women in the Church

haddad-mimi-rhe-egalitarian-womenWell, I think it’s time to restart our on-going series on Women in Ministry, don’t you?

While researching a particular argument for limiting Womens’ role in the Church, I stumbled on this interview and Q&A on Rachel Held Evans’ blog. It is a conversation with Mimi Haddad, President of Christians for Biblical Equality. And it is wonderful.

This whole disagreement about Women in the Church can produce a lot of noise that’s difficult to sift through. Too often, people on both sides end up retreating back to their respective sides and both fulfilling a lot of stereotypes while lobbing that accusation at the other side. This ends up entrenching the conversation even more deeply and intractably. The conservatives end up speaking sort of demeaningly about women (even unintentionally) and accusing egalitarians of not believing the Bible, all while egalitarians end up resorting to radical and simplistic feminist-sounding rants and calling all conservatives misogynists.

Haddad’s interview is wonderful because it moves against this. She is gracious, though firm in her convictions, and maintains the big picture of the discussion rather than getting lost in the rabbit-hole of interpreting individual proof-texts. She speaks in such a conversational, disarming, and winsome way. She brings up common-sense and clear-headed perspectives that are such a breath of fresh air for someone who sits for too long trying to pick apart individual texts. You can tell she loves the Church and the Bible and wants to honor them both well.

It also reinvigorated me to continue this discussion. There is still much more to be said, and as I have the privilege of being part of a church that will be ordaining its first female elder next month (the first church of this kind I’ve been a part of!), these issues are especially pertinent to those around me and the discussions we’re having.

And so, in the weeks to come, see this space fill back up with this discussion. Many of the things I want to write about will be building upon many of the ideas found in this interview and Q&A. So, if you want a big picture preview of what’s come, check it out. Really, I can’t recommend it enough.

Are Cities too broken for Christians to fix them?

philly-city-hall-1As I go through these seminary discussions and readings concerning the relationship between Christians and cities, two things are pretty certain for me. First, God loves cities and had/has great intentions for them. Second, things went horribly, completely, and utterly awry.

I have the privilege of taking these courses along with incredibly thoughtful people. They haven’t just taken wholesale this newly “rediscovered” urban emphasis of Christian faith. They get the reality that God and the Bible have an urban-centric feel to them, but they really want to fight for a conception of God’s work in the world that comes to bear upon every person in every type of place in the world–not just city-dwellers.

And so I’ve been wondering: is this “urban call” to Christians a general one, or does it only go out to a very specific type of person? Are the difficulties in cities so big, so intractable, and so unique that only certain types of Christians with certain types of giftings could find a place for Kingdom work?
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Could you maybe help me win some Bible stuff? One click is all that’s needed.

Hello, blog readers. I just ran across this sweepstakes on the site of my favorite Bible Study software, Logos. To celebrate the release of Logos 5, they are giving away a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet with Logos 5 on it. With my seminary and graduate school studies starting anew, both of these items would be of great, great value to me, my thinking, my studies, and my writing. Which means, if you all help me win this, I promise you’ll reap the benefits here on the blog as well.

With that being said, could I humbly ask you to click the this link? For each person that clicks, I get 5 more entries into the drawing: http://ptab.it/iGGA

Thanks again.

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

Father in Heaven, Creator of all and source of all goodness and love, please look kindly upon us on this Thanksgiving and receive our heartfelt gratitude in this time of giving thanks:

We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

We thank you for all the graces and blessings you have bestowed upon us, both spiritual and temporal: our faith and religious heritage, our food and shelter, our health, the loves we have for one another, our family and friends.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things.

Dear Father, in Your infinite generosity, please grant us continued graces and blessing throughout the coming year.


(modified from The Book of Common Prayer)

Debates with Atheists (And Good News for Them)

Recently, a friend sent me a link inviting me to a debate between a prominent evangelical intellectual and a prominent atheist thinker. It made me remember how I used to eat those sorts of things up when I was in college, and I really appreciated this friend sending it, but at this point in my life, I genuinely had no interest whatsoever.

Eventually, you realize that every debate of this sort goes the exact same way. At some point–without fail– there’s comes a moment when the evangelical says something to which the atheist responds with “well, what proof [or “evidence” or “basis” or “reason”] do you have to make such a claim!”, to which the evangelical responds with something like “well, it’s faith” (or something like that).

And then the debate should end. The fool’s errand of these events has been exposed.

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Class 6: NT Letters, Revelation, & The Bible in Worship (WE’RE DONE!)

This week was the last week in the six-week Bible Survey class I’m been doing at my church.

It’s been an honor to do this class, and I feel like this last one went especially well. Others seemed to find it genuinely helpful.

We ended our time in this class by talking for a little bit about how we can use the Bible–and all the information we just gleaned these past weeks–in our own, personal, spiritual lives.

To conclude the class, this Saturday we will be going to University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. You really won’t want to miss this. I’ll be putting a post up on this tomorrow.

For those that have followed in class and online, thank you so much for doing so. It was such an honor to be able to do this class, and I can’t believe I was given the time and grace to do it.

I hope that these resources are found to be helpful to those that invest their time into them; and that they draw each of you into a greater knowledge, love, and desire for our God as He meets us in our Scriptures.

And lastly, over the next months, I will be compiling all of these notes, as well as other essays I’ve written on the Bible in the past and self-publishing a book in both print and electronic forms. If you think about it, please pray for me. I’m starting to see that self-publishing is a lot more costly and complicated than I had originally thought.

This Lecture Covers:

  • A chronological survey of the contents and background of Paul’s letters
  • Discussion of the contents and background of the other letters of the  New Testament
  • A talk about that crowd-favorite, Revelation. We talked about how it fits into the greater story of Scripture, how it’s often misread, how to properly read it, and it’s contents and background
  • How one should approach the Bible to build up their spiritual life
  • Practical methods people can employ to know God through the Scriptures

**Side Note: twice in the audio of this lecture, I refer to Galatians and James as books that may each have been the “first book of the Bible written”. I meant to say “New Testament”, not “Bible”. Sorry.**

Download: [Audio] [Notes] Continue reading

Class 5: Intertestament, pt. 2; NT Intro; Gospels; Acts

This week was the fifth week in the six-week Bible Survey class I’m doing at my church.

And wow, we covered a lot in the class. But still, this class probably had the greatest percentage of material I had prepared that was not actually touched on in the talk. This makes the manuscript that much more full of extra material.

Covering the topics above, I have 35 pages of material below.

You may have noticed that I never actually finished the materials I talked about last week. Well, entering into an entirely new testament of the Bible put me in a mindset that I just couldn’t go back to finish up writing about every one of the Prophets. I’ll do it someday. I promise.

Lastly, mark your calendars for August 25th, where we will be going to University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. You really won’t want to miss this. Details to come next week.

This Lecture Covers:

  • A discussion of the Political and Religious history between the Old and New Testaments
  • An Introduction to the Background of the New Testament
  • Background and context of Jesus, his upbringing, and his life
  • Survey of the content and background of the Gospels.
  • An extensive and in-depth look at the book of Acts.

Download: [Audio] [Notes] Continue reading

Class 4: Prophets, pt. 2; Wisdom Books; & Intertestamental Period, pt. 1

This week was the fourth week in the six-week Bible Survey class I’m doing at my church.

We didn’t quite get to the Introduction of the New Testament like I had planned. This class was a bit different than other ones. Rather than focusing on a lot fo content of each book, this week was mostly a “tour” of these sections of the Bible and History, with some “highlights” along the way. The main point was to give people a bigger picture of these things to help them read the Bible themselves.

Just like last week, my notes are very incomplete. Most everything I said is in there, but I definitely want to provide a lot more in the notes than I say–and that hasn’t been filled in for most of the books so far. I will be spending the next two weeks filling that in. Once I’m done, I’ll let you all know. Thanks for your patience.

Lastly, I know I did a very poor job at telling the story of the Intertestamental history. I will try this again and condense it more in the next class. I will be much better prepared then.

This Lecture Covers:

  • Principles to keep in mind to help when reading the Prophetic books
  • Highlights from the Prophetic Books
  • Survey of the content and some of the background of the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament, with a special focus on the content of Job
  • Survey of the History between the Old Testament and New

Download: [Audio] [Notes] Continue reading

notes from last week’s class are finally done!

Earlier this week, I posted the audio and incomplete manuscript for Class 3 for the Bible Survey class I’m doing. Last night, I finally finished polishing up the notes with all the extra information I wasn’t able to say in the class. I hope it’s helpful. This final manuscript comes in at 36 pages long (admittedly, that’s with size 14 font to make it easier to read online, but still), so there is lots of stuff there that wasn’t talked about (especially with Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Esther).

So, check it out below, download it, share it, critique it, and let me know what you think! I’d love to get some feedback on these to know if they’re actually helpful. Enjoy, and thanks for your patience! (and P.S. don’t forget about the Dead Sea Scrolls trip tomorrow.)

Class 3: The Historical Books & Prophets, pt. 1

This week was the third week in the six-week Bible Survey class I’m doing at my church.

And yes, we actually covered all the books of the Old Testament from Joshua to Nehemiah, did an intro to the Prophets, and had a brief discussion on the ethical problems with the “Old Testament God” in an hour.

You can find a small article I wrote on those atrocities and “ethical dilemmas” of the Old Testament attached to the end of the Notes below.

At the time of this writing, I’m not quite done with the notes, but I wanted to get the lecture audio to everyone. So, below you will find an incomplete version of the notes. I will upload a revised version later today (or tonight) with everything else filled in. I’ll update this post when that happens, as well as the Scribd doc below.

Also, as I posted about earlier today, as part of this class we will be going to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit this Saturday in Philadelphia. There are also discounted tickets available. Check the link, and I hope to see you there!

This Lecture Covers:

  • A discussion of the Deuteronomistic and Priestly Histories of the Old Testament
  • Survey of the content and background of the Historical Books of the Old Testament from Joshua to Nehemiah
  • An general introduction to the Prophets
  • A discussion concerning the atrocities committed in God’s name by the Israelites in Joshua and Numbers

Download: [Audio] [Notes] Continue reading

Class 2: The Rest of the Pentateuch (from Exodus to Deuteronomy)

This week was the second week in the six-week Bible Survey class I’m doing at my church. We went through the rest of the Pentateuch, or more specifically, Exodus through Deuteronomy. I was originally hoping to do all the historical books of the Bible, then I was just hoping to get through Joshua. I did neither. We just got to Deuteronomy. But that will be okay.

In the recording, there’s also a brief discussion we ended up having on the importance of historicty and the Old Testament–a topic that’s only going to more of issue as we move forward in this class. Be sure to listen and get in on the discussion! You can follow the class on the class page above.

**Remember, we have next week off, so the next lecture is on 7/22, with our first field trip on 7/28.**

This Lecture Covers:

  • Review of the foundational ideas of the Bible we talked about last week
  • A more refined response on my part on the doctrine of “Revelation”
  • Survey of the content, background, and application of Exodus through Deuteronomy
  • Discussion concerning the historicity of the Old Testament and its importance

Download: [Audio] [Notes] Continue reading

Class 1: The Bible & it’s Story, OT Intro, & Genesis

This past week, I started the Bible Survey Class I mentioned earlier today. It’s a six-week class going through a theology and history of the Bible and its contents, with an emphasis on these facts helping to build up the spiritual life of Christians. It also goes into a lot of the historical development and issues behind the Bible, so it could also be of interest to non-Christians. You can follow the class on the class page above.

This Lecture Covers:

  • What is the Bible?
  • What is Revelation?
  • The History of Israel
  • The History of the Old Testament
  • Genesis: Contents, Background, and relevance to Christians

Download: [Audio] [Notes]

[audio http://prodigalpaul.com/Bible%20Survey/Bible%20Survey%201-Intro-OT-Genesis.mp3]

Bible Survey Class // liberti church center city

Update: I have the first lecture up.

For those interested, I have been given the opportunity to serve at my church this summer by teaching a six-week long Survey of the Bible class. It’s been super fun getting back into all my old seminary books (as well as getting some new ones).

In the class, we’ll go through a theology of the Bible, the history and background of the Bible, as well as go through each of the books of the Bible. In the last class, we’ll talk about how to use this knowledge and the Bible itself to cultivate an actual life of worship and  devotion. We will also taking two “field trips”. One to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Franklin Institute, the other to the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

We’ll be recording the lectures, and I’ll post both the audio and my manuscripts on this blog for your edification (hopefully). So feel free to take a look at the official page above for the Bible Survey Class.

Be sure to question, counter, encourage, and ask me on the posts for each of these posts.

Also, if you’re in Philly on Sundays through July and August, please feel free to stop by. We”ll be doing these classes at liberti church: center city from am to pm, after church, at 17th and Sansom in center city Philadelphia.

The first class audio and manuscript will be going up later today so check back!