Recently, much of the world was shocked and dismayed by the brutal murder of a young couple in rural Pakistan when their garbage man falsely accused the pair of desecrating the Koran after he found pages of the sacred book in their trash. Following the accusation, a local religious leader inflamed violent passions by telling the people to uphold the honor of their Prophet. Like most of the Christians in the region, the couple worked as indentured servants. Before the killings, the couple’s “employer” broke their legs so they could not flee. Afterward, a hostile crowd of over 1,200 villagers took the man and wife to a brick kiln, severely beat them, burned their clothing while holding them over a fire, and then threw them alive into the fiery kiln. The entire time the pair begged for mercy, apologized, and said they were innocent of the blasphemy charge. The wife was five months pregnant. They left behind four children.
The graphic story is the tip of a mushrooming iceberg. In fact, religious minorities are persecuted all over the world. According to a 2012 Pew Report, 74 percent of the world’s population lives in places where there are high levels of social hostility toward religious minorities.
Today, we bring you a sermon preached by our own Dr. Paul Overland. The message was recorded on Wednesday January 14, 2015 during our Seminary Chapel.
Dr. Overland’s gentle spirit and incredible kindness are the first thing one notices upon meeting him, and a certain depth marks his interactions with others. He has a love for the Hebrew Scriptures, and his desire as a professor is to awaken that same appreciation in his students. Through his classes, students deepen their ability to hear God’s voice in His Word.
Both Dr. Overland and his wife, Lorie, spent a portion of their childhood years in Japan. Upon completion of a doctoral program, they returned for two wonderful years to join the Tokyo Biblical Seminary faculty. Due to their time overseas, the Overlands have a deep appreciation for the richness of Asian culture.
Outside of his position at ATS, Dr. Overland is drawn to adventure, filling his free time with cycling, backpacking and woodworking.
As I reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I remember a time when I was in fourth grade watching a documentary on his life. As the projector reel spun, I took notice of two of my classmates – Edward & Timothy – who sat on the floor next to each other watching the documentary together. Edward was black; Timothy was white. In the safety of the classroom setting, we all watched this film at the ages of 9 & 10, and saw how cruel the world could be, and how the courage of one man could make a great difference in the world. After the documentary, with tears in her eyes, my fourth grade teacher made it a point to talk of Edward and Timothy. She believed it was a beautiful thing to see that what Dr. King fought so hard to accomplish regarding equal rights and social justice was playing out right before our eyes.
Theological Education is being formed in the love of Jesus for service in His Kingdom. Jesus is the Great Teacher and Instructor of our souls. Theological education is training in the wisdom, knowledge, and love of God.
Jesus touches our lives and transforms us by His grace through the work of the Holy Spirit. Our Christian calling is to attune ourselves to Jesus and his divine love and grace at work in our lives. It is to learn how to respond to the workings of His Spirit active in our lives of ministry.
This is a good time to stop for a minute, get yourself a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate for the non-coffee drinkers), find a quiet spot, pull up a chair and let God give you a Christmas present to last a lifetime. There are many incredible gifts hidden in the Christmas story, but the one I want to share with you is God’s gift of trust.
Who among us hasn’t at times wondered where God is or if God cares when things are out of hand? Certainly Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, had to wonder. In Matt. 1, he’s been hit with the news that Mary, his future wife, is expecting a child and the unbelievable part of the story is that this child is the son of God. In verse 19 we read, “when (Joseph) had considered this…” Can you imagine him up at night? Four times in these first 2 chapters of Matthew, the chapters of the Christmas story, Joseph has a dream where God speaks to him. Each time, God is giving Joseph the gift of trust. There are four ways God builds trust in our lives. Let me share them with you.
It seems that each year as the advent season approaches my memories immediately take me to December 1986 when I had the pleasure of singing Bach’s Magnificat Fugue with the Ashland University Choir. The music is as joyful, anxious, and reflective as the lyric itself. You can see and listen to the beauty of this piece of art by clicking here.
As most of the readers are aware, the Magnificat is Mary’s prayerful response to the new of the angel Gabriel: she was to give birth to a son, the Son, the promised Messiah. The prayer as recorded in Luke 1.46-55 begins with the words “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” This text is often seen reflected in the meek and humble “Mary” that we see in Christmas pageants and nativity scenes.
In Advent 2014 my heart is less warmed by this Mary and more burdened by the words she spoke in verses 51-53. Continue reading
Teresa of Avila: Called to Abiding Prayer. At the same time that Martin Luther was sending shock waves through the life of the church in central Europe, Teresa of Avila was breathing new life into her beloved Carmelite Order in Spain, and ushering in a new era of spirituality and prayer. In her Life, Teresa described prayer in a way that any common person could understand. She used various images related to water. She used the image of fetching water from a well and watering a garden bucket by bucket to describe what she called discursive meditation or intellectual prayer.
For several weeks I’ve wrestled with one phrase from the words of Jesus found in Matthew 5:16 (NASB): “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” What does it mean to “let your light shine before men in such a way”? As I’ve prayed this through, I have come to the conclusion that in every encounter we have with other people, there is an appropriate amount of light that should shine from our lives as Christians into theirs.
Welcome to the Table, our weekly blog from Ashland Theological Seminary. We want this blog to serve as an online resource where people from different Christian traditions can “come to the table” to exchange ideas about life and ministry. We believe that all of us are called to serve in the Kingdom. Whether you are a full-time minister, a bi-vocational minister or a lay or business leader, this blog is for you.
At Ashland Theological Seminary our calling is to equip people for various roles in ministry. Whether is at a church, a nonprofit organization or in the marketplace.