Bruce Hillman is Lead Pastor at Hillside Lutheran Brethren Church (www.hillsidelbc.org) in Succasunna New Jersey. He Holds a BA in History and Political Science from Quinnipiac University, (Hamden, CT), an MDiv. from the Lutheran Brethren Seminary (Fergus Falls, MN) and an STM in Patristics from Drew University (Madison, NJ); his research involves Augustinian studies and Early Christianity. He is former pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Henning MN. He is co-founder of Fifth Act Church Planting, having served on their board (www.fifthactchurchplanting.com) Bruce enjoys cooking, reading, all things British, exploring the world of wine, and conversations with good friends.
Have you ever read the Old Testament book of Lamentations? It’s not one of those Bible books that tend to make it too often onto devotional lists, sermon schedules or motivational posters. That's too bad. At first glance, the book seems deeply depressing.
Sometimes the hardest part of the day is the time just before sleep. At that time, if struggles or stresses abound, we can be kept up by racing thoughts. This fretting and over-analyzation, the frantic search for options, can leave us exhausted and depleted, feeding the cycle of stress that is already at work in us.
The prophet Jonah longed for one thing: to see the Assyrian city of Nineveh utterly destroyed by the wrath of God. His wish eventually came true. The later prophet, Nahum, describes in terrible and graphic detail the fall of the city. Nahum is a book almost entirely devoted to the horrors of the wrath of God.
A few minutes from where I live there is a flat trail that leads for miles through a thick forest. I like to take my dog Winston there for walks, often over my lunch break, the sprightly excursion a nice respite from the office, meetings and other tasks that usually make up my day.
There are a few occasions in the Bible where the curtain lifts, and we get to peer into the inner workings of the Divine Court. There we see strange creatures and beasts, angels and thrones, throngs and thrills. The Bible writers struggle to describe these scenes which put the imagination into overdrive and surpass its ability to reconstruct clear or coherent images.
They are honest words, raw and revealing, a torrent of emotions surging with unrestrained manic. They are, perhaps surprisingly, the scathing lament of a holy man who devoted everything to his calling and had reached the end of his patience. The “deceiver,” named and accused, is God.
One of the things I enjoy the most about having four Gospels is that we get four diverse accounts of Jesus. That is not only helpful, it is realistic. For example, take four people to watch a film and they’ll have differing impressions. Having four Gospels gives us a realism and vantage that stays true to life’s diversity.
One of life’s hardest lessons, and a mark of maturity, is the realization that life is profoundly unfair. Your father was right when, objecting to his decisions, he calmly told you, “Well, life ain’t fair, deal with it!” And the same injustice we felt then, when dad pronounced his verdict on life, is only magnified in adulthood.
BY BRUCE HILLMAN
We all look forward to Lent’s conclusion and the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. This is the Sunday of victory and joy as the Church enters into the reality that Christ has defeated death and hell, declared victory over such enemies and set history on its final course of consummation.
For centuries the great problem with the existence of God was the problem of evil. If God is good and loves us, why is there evil? There are two kinds of evil, moral evil, like violence and abuse and natural evil, like earthquakes and child cancer.
“Who can be saved!?” the disciples asked in astonishment. For Jesus had just told them that camels passing through needle’s eyes was more probable than rich people entering heaven. For ancient Jews like the disciples, there was a centuries old understanding that wealth was a sign of God’s favor and blessing.
If the cross were to happen today, not on Golgotha, but in our own locale, would we take selfies? Instead of a hill, would we display the cross on the far more prominent vista of social media? It’s an abhorrent juxtaposition, but it may not be so far from reality.
This is the third time Jesus has told his disciples he is going to be killed. As I read these passages I am disturbed by how casually and pedestrian they ring in my ear. “Yes, yes, we know this, it’s the gospel, very good, next!”
“Are you Republican or Democrat?” “Liberal or conservative?” “Yankees or Red Sox?” “Star Wars or Star Trek?” Life presents us with lots of important choices and often times they are presented to us as binaries. Binaries are opposites of which one must choose a side...
You can see it far off, looming on the horizon, a thick fog menacing off the coast and swirling in the distance. You know the signs. You’ve been here many times before, but you’ve learned to carry on. At first you kind of ignore it, you are aware it’s there, but you don’t want to work yourself up...
One of my favorite things to do in the summer is read out under the shade of my backyard tree. There, I have a reclining chair and small little side table. I bring out my theology or anglophile books with a nice pot of tea and read away the later afternoons. With golden rays of sun twinkling through the leafy canopy above...
As a pastor I am often asked if pets go to heaven? The question may sound childish, or even sentimental, but it is extremely important for those who ask it. As the owner of a beloved German Shepherd myself, Winston, I know the deep love we can have for our animal companions.
When St. Augustine lost his best friend he writes what, up until that time, was the most personally revealing confession of pain and sorrow yet to be recorded in history. Scholars have noted that neither the Greeks nor Egyptians, the Romans or the Persians had ever thought or dared to pen a piece so introspectively graphic and emotional.
When we say we need something that means it’s indispensable. Without such a thing, our quality of life is drastically altered and likely endangered. I need food, air and water to sustain me physically, I need community, love and a healthy self-image to sustain me psychologically.
BY BRUCE HILLMAN
It is often the case that when dealing Divine, we find ourselves befuddled. For as relatable and surprisingly vulnerable God is as the man Jesus, he seems, at times, to retain a certain aloofness, a type of distance.