Tag Archives: Celtic Church

Celtic Christianity and the Legend of the Wild Goose

IMG_0894A cool bonus about attending St. Stephen’s University is that they have a professor who loves Celtic Christianity. Sadly enough he was on a trip during the two weeks I attended class so I was unable to meet him. However I did take advance of the school’s library which had excellent collection of Celtic Christianity books thanks to this gentlemen’s influence. =D

Buried within this collection was a copy of Ian Bradley’s “Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams.” This was a book that I have been wanting to read since 2006 – yeah, nine years is a long time to wait…but wow, the book was worth it!

Ian Bradley is a British academic, author, and theologian who teaches at University of St Andrews in Scotland. With over 30 books in print, Bradley is one of the most well-known experts on Celtic Christianity and spirituality. His book “Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams” reflects the depth of his knowledge in this area as he traces the development of Celtic Christianity from the early days of the Celtic church to today.

History, while only lived once, is never really static with folks of the current time reading their own wishes and desires back into the actions and thoughts of their forefathers. The various quests for the historical Jesus is a prime example of this human tendency. Bradley, being a professor of church history, not only looks at what actually happened on the British Isle, but also at how folks interpreted the historical events.

In other words just like there has been three quests for the historical Jesus within modern times, there have been multiple movements in which the Celtic Christianity was used as a political pawn. Bradley looks at all these movements, from the time when Celtic Christianity was used as a standard against the Roman Catholic Church (i.e. the Celtic church developed independent of Rome in ancient times so its descendants need not look towards Rome) to the time when the Roman Catholic Church used it against the Protestants (i.e. the Celtic saints of old honored Rome, therefore its descendants need to do so). Etc., etc.

All in all, Bradley’s book Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams” is definitely worth reading if you are at all interested in Celtic Christianity and spirituality. It gives you a frame work to understand all the different players and political/religious motivations behind the books.

Wild Goose Chase PaintingOn a personal note, the primary reason I wanted to read this book was that I had heard that Bradley addressed the historical origins of the legend of the Wild Goose. And in reading the book, I found that he does in fact address the legend…only it is not an origin that I particularly like…granted, it was the origin that I figured I would find. =P In other words, the legend of the Wild Goose, according to Bradley, was most likely started in the early 20th century by George Macleod, the founder of the Iona Community which operates the Wild Goose Publications and Wild Goose Worship Group.

However even though the ancient historically of the legend isn’t quite there, I have to mention that I’m still going to promote the legend (just without the historical claim). The reason I’m going to do this is not just because I have a vested interest in the legend (even though having a painting, tattoo and blog site connected to the legend does mean I have a lot to lose if I give up on the story!). Rather, my decision to retain the legend is due to cultural and biblical reasons. Allow me to explain.

If one was to search the Scriptures, you would find that the only time the Hold Spirit is symbolized as a dove is at Jesus’ baptism (as recorded in all four Gospels). This is very telling at all other times within the Old and New Testaments, the symbols of the Spirit are oil, water or fire. So why do the four Gospel writers use the symbol of a dove?

R. Alan Streett answers this question in his book “Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now.” In this book, Streett talks about how the Romans practiced augury divination (i.e. interpreting omens from the observed flight of birds) with the eagle being especially important to them as eagles were the sacred animals of Jupiter (supreme god of the Romans). When a new emperor took over, they would seek to have an eagle land on their arms and/or body as a testimony of the good pleasure of Jupiter towards themselves.

In the baptism of Jesus, the Gospels tell us that God the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This was, as the spoken words of God the Father confirmed, a testimony of the good pleasure of the Supreme Creator toward Jesus, the Son. In other words, the reason the Gospel writers use the symbol of the dove (or should I say, the reason God revealed himself as a dove) was that they were contracting the rule and kingdom of Jesus over and against the rule and kingdom of the Roman Emperor.

The kingdom of Rome was symbolized by the eagle (a meat-eating birds of prey)while the kingdom of God was symbolized by the dove (a gentle, nonviolence bird). Rome ruled through fear, violence and war; Jesus rules through love, peace and his self-sacrificing death on a cross. Two different views of kingdom; each symbolized by a bird.

So what does this have to do with the Wild Goose legend?

The point of this back story is that the Gospel writers used the dove as a symbol for the Holy Spirit because it fit the culture of the time. In today’s culture and time, I believe there is a need for a new symbol that will catch the imagination of a new generation of people.

For me, I love the picture of the Wild Goose and the wild mystery that it represents. The age of the symbol is not as important as whether or not the symbol captures the essence of God and pulls you into the radical nature of the rule of Jesus. Geese, after all, are prey animals like doves – highlighting the value of the Cross and the way of peace.

Thank you George Macleod for creating/promoting the symbol of the Wild Goose.

Top 14 Books For Every Pastor or Church Leader

My friends over at Think Theology have started listing out their top books every pastor should either own or have read. After reading over Able Baker, Robby McAlpine, and Kenny Burchard lists, I just had to respond as I think they missed the mark on some must have books!! 😀

breakthrough1) “Breakthrough: Discovering the Kingdom” by Derek Morphew

The Scriptures tell us that central message of Jesus and the 12 was the Kingdom of God. Sadly the original meaning behind these words have been shifted and changed as the years march by. Building upon the works of George Ladd, Albert Schweitzer, John Wimber and others, Derek Morphew lays out the historical and biblical foundation for the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God in human history. If you are at all interested in Enacted Inaugurated Eschatology of Kingdom Theology, you simply MUST read this book.

the pastor2) “The Pastor: A Memoir” by Eugene Peterson

I first read this book a few months after I became a senior pastor, and I have to say that it did more to shape my view of pastoring than any other book I have ever read. Drawing from 30 years of experience as the pastor of a small 300 member church in Maryland, Peterson shares the tough times and the good times, the happy times and the not-so-happy times. And in doing so he lays out an amazing pastoral model built on empowering the people to be the people of God. A model that can, and should be adapted to the modern setting through the use of modern Church Software. Due to technological and software advance pastors can now effectively manage and monitor their flocks mental and spiritual well-being, and empower people to be people of God.

Gods epic adventure3) God’s EPIC Adventureby Winn Griffin

A lot of Christians know the different Bible stories, but very few actually know how they are connected. Winn Griffin connects all the dots with an amazing book that outlines the grant meta-narrative of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. An added bonus is that the book gives detailed information about each book of the Bible: author, date written, theme, purchase, audient, and outline. This is truly a great resource that I constantly refer too when preaching/teaching.

start here4) “Start Here: Kingdom Essentials for Christians” by Don Williams

The book’s subtitle says it all. Don did a great job listing out and talking about the kingdom essentials for all Jesus followers. Things like spiritual warfare, prayer, allowing God to change your desires and actions… it is all here. Not only does it make a good reference book, it is one of those books that should be read every few years as it reminds you about the basics of Christianity and what we should be focused on.

doing church5) “Doing Church: Building from the Bottom Up” by Alexander Venter

This is a more practical book on the philosophy of ministry along with various tips and points on how to do church. For many years, this was the premier church planting book for the Vineyard as it was written out of Venter’s work with John Wimber in the early 1980s. While I highly recommend this book, I do have to say that I disagree with Venter’s view on women leaders (he’s more complementarian while I’m egalitarian; or at least he was in the first edition of this book, I don’t know if he has changed his view or not in the later editions).

The Biblical Metanarrative6) “The Biblical Metanarrative: One God, One Plan, One Story” by Bill Jackson

This volume is similar to Winn’s book in that it tells the grand story of the Scriptures. Only instead of outlining each book of the Bible, Bill stays focused on the main themes of the Bible: kingdom, covenant and the great rescue mission of the Creator King. Bill also brings in some cool historical and cultural facts that breathes life into the story of the Bible.

12 steps with Jesus7) “12 Steps with Jesus” by Don Williams

Every living human being is an addict. The only difference is what we are addicted too – chemicals, relationship, work, actions, etc. In this book, Don talks about finding freedom from addictions by embracing the abundant life that God has promised to each person who follows Him. This is a powerful book that will challenge you to your core.

speaking of Jesus8) Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism by Carl Medearis

The church at large has embraced a lot of different things over the past two thousand years since Jesus walked this earth, some good and some not so good. In this book, Carl walks you through a process of separating the culture trappings of Christianity as a religion and the person of Jesus. For some this can be a hard journey as it is easy to confuse the way we do something with being in relationship with Jesus. Definitely a book to read for any Jesus follower – let along a pastor or leader.

working the angles9) “Working The Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity” by Eugene Peterson

Every pastor has a TON of pressure placed on them by the culture at large, the folks in their church, those in authority above them as well as by themselves. As such it is easy to drift away from the essentials of what it means to be a pastor and start doing everything else. In an effort to call pastors back to their calling, Peterson outlines the three essentials jobs of a pastor: praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. Everything else is icing on the cake; no matter how “good” or “profitable” those tacks are, if you aren’t doing these three things, you are not pastoring.

the orthodox way10) The Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware

Most Christian books that I have read over the years are written with the view that humanity can understand God if only we study hard and apply the right theology mindset. This book offers a different route. Written by an Eastern Orthodox bishop, this book lays out a way to embrace the mystery of God without having to understand everything. It is truly a spring of fresh water in the middle of a dry desert of sureties and I-know-everythings. The book also gives us Protestants a chance to learn from our brothers and sisters in the East.

a theology of the NT11) “A Theology of the New Testament” by George Ladd

George Ladd was one of the pioneers in the re-discovering the message of the Kingdom within the Scriptures. His “Theology of the New Testament” is a gold mine of information about the Kingdom of God. Definitely a must have.

celtic daily prayer12) “Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community”

It may sound odd to place a daily prayer book on a list of books for pastors…but the fact remains that if your soul is dry then nothing you do matters. This book has some beautiful and ancient prayers that will refresh your soul and draw you deeply into the love and grace of the Creator King. It also has some great situational and seasonal prayers that make excellent congregational prayers. An added bonus is that the book is written from a very strong Trinitarian theology viewpoint.

hope13) “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church” by N.T. Wright

One of the awesome things about following Jesus is that He told us about the end – that He will defeat sin, evil and death and restore the earth and heaven while giving us new physical bodies. Sadly enough very few church going people really know about or understand the blessed hope of the second coming. Instead they rely on popular culture for their view of heaven and life after death. In this book, N.T. Wright lays out the end game of Bible in a matter that will change the way you live your life in the here and now.

church history14) “Church History in Plain Language” by Bruce Shelly

King Solomon once said that there is nothing new under the sun. Sadly however, the church today seems to think that the struggles we face are brand new instead of just a variation of what happened before. As such, I think all pastors and church leaders should be a student of history. Bruce Shelly’s “Church History in Plain Language” is a great place to start as tells the story of the church in an engaging manner that should keep the attention of pretty everyone.

A Pull To The Mystical Side Of Christianity

Coptic icon of Saint Anthony the Great
Coptic icon of Saint Anthony the Great

A few days ago I admitted my desire to listen to the song of the Sirens of Doing…the song that takes one heart and pulls it into the active world of busyness. At some level, everyone struggles with listening to their song as it courses through our culture like the Mighty Mississippi runs through our nation.

Some are able to sit on its shores and causally fish for a while before walking away into the stillness of the woods. Others, like me, long to float the river of busyness thinking that they can tame the rapids and wilds of the coursing waves. It is a strong desire that is on one hand a blessing while being a curse in the other hand.

The one thing that keeps me sane and anchored to the shore of calmness is an equally strong pull to the mystical side of Christianity. For those unfamiliar with that term or its association with Christianity, let me assure you that it is a good thing and not a snare of the evil one. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “mystical” in the following manner:

  • having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence
  • of or relating to mystics or mysticism : resulting from prayer or deep thought

Throughout the history of Christianity (and Judaism before that) there have been followers of Jesus who have basked in the mystery of God without trying to define or explain everything they saw, felt or hear. Some of these Mystics followed Antony the Great into the starry skies of the desert away from the river of busyness and the cry of the Sirens of Doing. Yet in doing so, one wonders whether or not they forsook the mission of the King to proclaim His rule and reign…

The anchor and the river… the tension of the song and the breath of the wind…..living between two worlds…..doing and being…understanding and mystery…..

To bring these two worlds together….to join the doing with the being… the contemplative with the mission….it is a hard tension to maintain…yet it has been done before by the Celtic monks of old who not only had their beehive caves but also their monasteries close to the local villages – becoming the hospital and anchor of the people, drawing them away from the Sirens song….

This past week as I’ve fought the Siren’s song I couldn’t help but think about the future and what I would like my legacy to be…to be known as a pastor who started a big church that touches a lot of lives? As the man who worked his way up the corporate letter, giving away his money and time to the church? As a pastor who started this and that ministry/church? The mystic who sought God through the mystery?

Good things all of them….all powerful legacies to leave behind …but do they fit me and the call that the Lord has given me?  At the moment I don’t have an answer…just lots of questions…perhaps that’s why I’m on Sabbatical?! =P

In ending, I would like to leave you all with a quote from Eugene Peterson as his writings have influenced my life and ministry style these last few years:

[box]“Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts are praying, reading Scriptures, and giving spiritual direction. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to. In the clamorous world of pastoral work nobody yells at us to engage in these acts. It is possible to do pastoral work to the satisfaction of the people who judge our competence and pay our salaries without being either diligent or skilled in them. Since almost never does anyone notice whether we do these things or not, and only occasionally does someone ask that we do them, these three acts of ministry suffer widespread neglect.

“The three areas constitute acts of attention: prayer is an act in which I bring myself to attention before God; reading Scripture in an act of attending to God in his speech and action across two millennia in Israel and Christ; spiritual direction is an act of giving attention to what God is doing in the person who happens to be before me at any given moment.”

-Eugene Peterson, “Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity” [/box]

Listening to the Song of the Doing Sirens

The Siren, by John William Waterhouse (circa 1900)

I’m supposed to be on Sabbatical…a time of reflection and re-evaluation after years of plowing the land of the King. Yet despite the desire to dial down and be, I found myself following the song the Doing Sirens….

Sirens, for those who don’t know, were beautiful creatures in Greek mythology who lured sailors to their death through their enchanting music. Their charm was so powerful that few who heard their voices lived to tell of the experience. Those who did live were forever changed as the song of the Sirens crept into their souls and tweaked their hearts.

The song of the Doing Sirens is just as powerful as those sirens of old – calling humanity ever forward, ever faster, ever doing while the wheels of life spins and spins and spins, slipping past the teeth of time on the way nowhere. Few who have heard their song completely break free – and none leave without scars.

For years I have plowed the fields of the Lord side by side with the fields of Pharaoh, tightening my muscles with each stone removed or jarring bump. Storms of emotions raged around me coupled with spiritual attacks and bouts of depression, yet despite it all I held on to the plow – a fated Odysseus bracing against the sound of the Sirens, desperately wanting to hear their song all the while knowing the fate of those who listen.

[box]“Come closer, famous Odysseus – Achaea’s pride and glory – moor you ship on our coast so you can hear our song! Never has any sailor passed our shores in his black craft until he has heard the honeyed voices pouring from our lips, and once he hears to his heart’s content sails on, a wiser man. We know all the pains that the Achaens and Trojans once endured on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods willed it so – all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all!”  [/box]

Oh, that I may be an Orpheus whose music drowned out their sounds…but alas I am a Butes whose ears betray the wisdom given to me by those who have sailed before me after the Wild Goose… Divinely the Creator King provided an Aphrodite to carry me away, reminding me of the danger of the Sirens. Ladan’s treacherous while working for Pharaoh also helped to awaken me to the song of death.

[box] “He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor” (Prov 21:21)[/box]

To slow down and pursue righteousness and love…..oh that I might be able to shape the angles of life, focusing on being…that way when I plow the fields of the King once again I may find joy and honor in prayer, proclaiming Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. oh that the below prayer be true in my life, soul, heart and mind….

[box]I am no longer my own, but Yours. Use me as you choose;  Rank me alongside whoever You choose; Put me to doing, put me to suffering; Let me be employed for You, or laid aside for You, Raised up for You, or brought down low for You; Let me be full, let me be empty; Let me have all things, let me have nothing; With my whole heart I freely choose to yield All things to Your ordering and approval.

So now, God of glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are mine, and I am Your own.

-the end of a Celtic Covenant Service[/box]

Embracing The New Year

celtic-crossA new year is upon us, beckoning us to embrace life with all its changes and mysteries.  This day, as an old Scottish New Year prayer says, is a “new day that has never been before.” And as a new day, let us embrace the newness of it and set our eyes ahead towards the rising sun.

The Lord Jesus is in our midst, walking with us and beckoning forward on His mission. The old year along with the old junk of our lives – our failures, mistakes, pains, sorrows, bitterness, and tears – have been laid at the foot of the cross and we are now new beings, washed pure by His light (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Let us, therefore, stand tall as sons and daughter of the Most High (Romans 8:14-17) and march forward together as one body under the leadership of Jesus, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace.

Christ has many services to be done;

Some are easy, others are difficult;

Some bring honor, others bring reproach;

Some are suitable to our natural

Inclinations and temporal interest,

Others are contrary to both.

In some we may please Christ and please ourselves,

In others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.

Yet the power to do all these things is assuredly given us in Christ, who strengthens us.


Therefore let us make the Covenant of God our own.

Let us engage our heart to the Lord,

And resolve in His strength never to go back!

 (Section of an old Celtic New Year covenant service)

An old Scottish Prayer for the New Year

open-door-eric-foltzThis day is a new day that has never been before.

This year is a new year, the opening door.

Enter, Lord Christ – we have joy in your coming,

You have given us life; and we welcome your coming.

I turn now to face You, I lift up my eyes.

Be blessing my face, Lord; be blessing my eyes.

May all my eyes looks on be blessed and be bright, my neighbors, my loved ones, be blessed in Your slight.

You have given us life and we welcome Your coming.

Be with us, Lord, we have joy, we have joy.

This year is a new year, the opening door.

Be with us, Lord, we have joy, we have joy.

Morning Prayer For May 31, 2012

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening sentences

One thing I have asked of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life;
to behold the beauty of the Lord
and to seek Him in His temple.

Call: Who is it that you seek?
Response: We seek the Lord our God.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your heart?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your soul?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your mind?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your strength?
Response: Amen. Christ, have mercy.

Declaration of faith

To whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life,
and we have believed and have come to know
that You are the Holy One of God.

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ,
King of endless glory.

Scripture Reading:

Psalm 119:31–32 I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame. 32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Isaiah 40:28–31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Hebrews 10:38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”

Continue reading Morning Prayer For May 31, 2012

Church History (Act 5 Scene 2)

This last Sunday service was a a tad different as we looked at the church history between Acts chapter 28 and today (Act 5 Scene 2 in the Grand Story of God).

While history may not be in the Bible, this is a very, very important topic as God did not stop working after St. Luke penned the final words of Acts. He is very much active today and He has always been active within history.

There is a reason that the majority of the Scripture is written as history – Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah, Matthew, Luke, Mark, John, and Acts. They are all history books detailing the work of God among humanity… and if God deemed it important enough to include the history of the Jewish people in His Sacred Text, than I feel it is important to know the history of the Church, birthed with Jesus and infused with the Holy Spirit.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks to this in the sixth chapter:

16 This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
-Jeremiah 6:16

The “ancient paths” => we are not alone on this journey. There have been many followers of Jesus who has walked this path before us. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are “surrounded” by a “great cloud of witnesses” who are cheering us on – encouraging us to finish the race set before us by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Continue reading Church History (Act 5 Scene 2)

The Confession of St. Patrick

Courtesy of Wikipedia

I was browsing Amazon.com the other day when I noticed that they had St. Patrick’s autobiography on sale for two bucks. Seeing that, I quickly grabbed my rife, ran outside, shot two deer and mailed them to Brazil.

Ok… bad joke (I can hear my wife booing right now…or, worse still, staring at me with those ‘eyes’  telling me that I’m not funny…not funny at all….sigh).

Seriously though, when I saw that the Confession of St. Patrick cost $2.00 via the Kindle – I couldn’t wait to buy it!

For years I have been a fan of the early Christian church in Ireland and Scotland – yet, the holy grail of books written by the patron saint himself escape me.

But no more! I can proudly say that I have read the words of St. Patrick and have found them refreshing for they were full of humanity and Christ centeredness – both noble qualities.

Perhaps the best way to review this book is to allow you to read some quotes from the hand of St. Patrick himself:

“You are an epistle of Christ in greeting to the ends of the earth . . . written on your hearts, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.'”

“…but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.”

Continue reading The Confession of St. Patrick

“Wild Goose Chase” by Mark Batterson

I first heard about Mark Batterson’s book “Wild Goose Chase” about a year ago from a friend who knew of my vision to follow the Wild Goose (i.e. the Holy Spirit) to Sweet, Idaho. Being near a bookstore at the time, I bought the book that same day…

But I didn’t read it.

Oh, I tried to read it. It sat by my bed side for months – a silent monument to an impulse purchase… Shoot, I even tried reading it out loud to my wife as we navigated the joys of a newborn baby.

It didn’t last…

Months when by…then came Christmas of 2010 and the news that God was leading my good friend and pastor BH away from the Payette River Vineyard. Right behind this bombshell was the shockwave that God was calling Emily and me to be the next pastors of this stalwart family…

A few days later – once my head stopped spinning – I remembered this small book tucked away next to my bed. Digging through the bedside table, I found it and started reading.

The time was right; it held a jewel that I needed at that moment.

You see, Mark Batterson’s book “Wild Goose Chase” is all about joining God in His crazy goose chase of an adventure. It is about God breaking us out of our cages to follow the Wild Goose on His adventure even when it doesn’t sound wise or good according to human standards and wisdom.

In reading this book at this time…well…it was as if God was telling me that this was Him. I just had to let go of my plans and follow Him deeper into the Wild Goose Chase called life.