Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Caring for Marriage Named in List of Top 10 Marriage Blogs

Back in March I told you about Daily Marriage Emails, written by Lori Odhner (of Caring for Marriage) called “Marriage Moats.”

Caring for Marriage has now been listed at #5 in a list of "The Top 10 Marriage Blogs of 2010"! (The list is put together by Stu Gray of TheMarryBlogger.com.)

The listing is well-deserved in my opinion. Frankly I'm amazed that, even though it's been months since the program started, every day there's another email in my inbox with an interesting image and yet another thoughtful insight, quote, tool, or anecdote about some aspect of marriage.

Congratulations Lori!


Sign up for “Marriage Moats” or view the archive of past emails.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Curtis Childs Wraps New Church Ideas in a Cool Video

Curtis Childs (who works for KidsLIVE) put together a cool little video called “How Do You Know God's Not in a Tree?” Here's his summary of it:
I don't understand the logic that says: “since I know a lot about something, I know everything about that thing.”
Curtis tells me that more videos are to come and, if you want to keep up with them, I'd recommend subscribing to his Youtube channel, offTheLeftEye.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

General Church Websites Get Shareable

A couple of General Church websites have recently gotten features that they should have had for a while—sharing tools and subscription tools.

If you go to newchurch.org, and you scroll down to the bottom of the homepage you'll see that you can now subscribe to the news feed, either by RSS or email. That means you'll be updated whenever there's new content on the homepage of newchurch.org. And if you click on one of the items, you'll see that you can now share it with other people via email, Facebook, Twitter, or a bunch of other services.

These features are also being rolled out to individual society sites like BrynAthynChurch.org. So if you want to stay up to date on a particular local society, or you want to promote an event that's happening at a local society, you now have more methods at your disposal.

The sharing features have also been implemented on NewChurchAudio.org so it's finally easy to send people a link to a sermon that you really liked. I happen to know that other improvements are also in the works for NewChurchAudio.org. I'll let you know when they've been implemented.


While we're on the topic of subscriptions, I'll mention that I recently made it so that you can subscribe to New Church Thought by email. If you scroll down on the right you'll see "Get New Posts Emailed to You" and a box where you can put your email address and hit subscribe. And you might just want to subscribe (if you haven't already) because New Church Thought is about to get an exciting overhaul and you'll want to keep up. (If you do subscribe there's a chance that you'll receive some nonsense posts as I work on revamping things. Just think of it as finding a couple of 2x4s in your inbox—part of the excitement of remodeling.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Proposal Competition

As a collaborative effort to generate dynamic book proposals and publications from aspiring authors, the General Church of the New Jerusalem and the Swedenborg Foundation, publisher of the theological works of Emanuel Swedenborg, are pleased to announce a new competition, called the Bridge Book Awards. The authors of the winning proposals will receive a cash award in the amount of $1,500, be honored at an awards ceremony, and be guaranteed a review by the Swedenborg Foundation Press editorial board with the possibility of publication.
There are 4 categories you can enter: The Afterlife, Living a Spiritual Life, Biblical Commentary from a Swedenborgian/New Church Perspective, and Swedenborg for Dummies.

Entries are due on February 1st, 2011 and must include an entry form, a query letter, a chapter outline or synopsis, and one to three sample chapters.

You can read more about what's required in the Entry Form (PDF) or in the news item about it on newchurch.org.

I'm excited to see what comes of this.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Church Christmas Readings

There are 2 ways you can get New Church Christmas readings this season.

The pastors of the Glenview New Church have put together readings on the theme of “Walking with the Lord.” You can read a description of the program, sign up to receive the readings in daily emails, or download a PDF of all the readings.

The pastors of the Olivet New Church have also put together daily readings. Their theme is “A New Birth.” You can read a description of the program or sign up to receive the readings in daily emails.

Both daily email programs start sending emails tomorrow so sign up today if you want to receive all of them.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Results of Swedenborgian Thought Survey

About a month ago I wrote a post about some surveys that Wendy Soneson put together to study present day thinking about Swedenborg's Writings. The results and her conclusions are now available on a website called Swedenborgian Thinking Today.

On the site there are the "Defining Faith" survey results and the "That's me in the Corner" survey results. For both Wendy gives some explanation of her thinking behind each question and how people tended to respond. She also provides some background on the survey and her thoughts about the implications of the survey results for evangelization.

The most interesting thing on the site to me, though, is a page where she describes the groups of believers that she observed in the survey results.
Based on the survey and communications related to the survey questions, I here group the respondents into categories. As an artist, I often turn to the arts, and now, songwriting, to help give a flavor of the group’s thinking. I use songs, loosely interpreted and with apologies to the writers, to give a right brain slant to these left-brain studies. Each group formed when I felt more than ten people fit the description. Surely there are more groups to come.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Audio from Swedenborg Colloquium on the Future of the New Church

On October 9th there was an awesome event. It's lengthy title was “‘Behold I Make All Things New’ — How? The Future of the New Church, Swedenborg Colloquium.” The advertisements for the event simply said,
The public is cordially invited to hear 12 Swedenborgian speakers present a variety of visions for the future of the New Church.
If you couldn't be there, the best way to get a sense for what the event was like is to listen to the recordings of the speeches. To listen to or download the audio recordings, go to Independent Voice for the General Church Community (ivotgc.org), specifically to the Swedenborg Colloquium Audio page. The files are all in MP3 format.

I'm also going to put links to the individual talks below with a few scattered notes from me. If you were at the event (or just listened to one of the recordings) and want to add some comments, please do. My notes do not adequately represent what each speaker said.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Everything to Do with "Pause: Make Space for God"

The most recent New Church spiritual growth program, "Pause: Make Space for God" just launched last week so I thought I'd let you know about all the different resources that are available for this program.

The main URL for all things Pause is newchurchpause.org. Almost everything is there I just want to highlight some of the things that you might not find otherwise. In particular I want to let you know that there are ways that you can participate even if you're not near one of the participating congregations.


First, here's a little video introduction to the program:

Help Create an Accurate Picture of Present Day Thought on Swedenborg's Writings

Wendy Soneson is working on an article about what people these days think about Swedenborg's Writings. To this end she's created two short surveys to get input from people about what they believe. I took the "Defining Faith" survey and found it an interesting exercise and I'm even more interested to read the article that she writes. (I'll be sure to post a link to the article once it's written and published.)

Here's an introductory note from Wendy and links to the 2 surveys.
Dear Friends of Swedenborg,

I am collected data from two anonymous surveys for an article on present day thinking and belief among those familiar with Swedenborg’s Writings.

If you like to think about questions concerning your belief system, and have five minutes for either of these anonymous surveys (you would only be able to qualify for one), I would so much appreciate the information for my article. I will not know the names or emails of anyone who participates, or if you participate or not. Thank you.

Defining Faith
This survey is for those who are familiar with the Writings and think of themselves as generally in the category of a main stream General Church thinker.

That’s Me in the Corner
This survey is for those who are familiar with the Writings but do not think of themselves as mainstream General Church thinkers.

Contact Wendy with any questions at wendysoneson@mac.com.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Loving Arms Mission Has a NEW Web Site

The Loving Arms Mission used to have a web site at lovingarmsmission.org. Unfortunately that site got hacked and so had to be taken down. But, now they have a couple of new sites.

Their main site is lamchildren.org. It's a nice looking site with plenty of pictures and information. It looks like much of the same information that was on the old site (if you happen to be familiar with that site).

They also have a Facebook group which you can join. Recently there were links to 3 videos about the Loving Arms Mission posted on the wall. I'll embed them below. They also have a blog (lovingarmsmissionblog.blogspot.com) which seems to be under construction.

Enjoy the videos!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who is the Word for?

Those who confine themselves to the sense of the letter suppose that in the Word Jacob is used to mean every one of those people descended from Jacob, and for that reason they apply to those people everything that has been stated about Jacob either as history or as prophecy. But the Word is Divine in that first and foremost every single thing within it has regard not just to one particular nation or people but to the whole human race, namely to everyone present, past, and future. (Arcana Coelestia 3305:2)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sermon Organizing Solution

I've been looking for a way of organizing and storing my sermons for a while and, after experimenting with a bunch of different options, I decided to use Together, from Reinvented Software.

It's only available for Macs so, if you have a PC, I suppose there's no point in you reading on but, if you have a Mac and are interested in seeing how I use Together to organize my sermons, read on!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Does the Bible Have So Much Disturbing Stuff in It?

I recently read through Deuteronomy and was reminded of how confusingly harsh and disturbing certain parts of the Bible can seem at face value. It made me grateful again for the New Church teachings about how to understand scripture.

In the most recent issue of New Church Connection there's one of the best short explanations of these teachings that I've come across. Even if you're familiar with these teachings I recommend taking a look at Rev. Thane Glenn's article about this, "Real Challenges: Biblical Contradictions".

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good Articles About Grief and Suicide

Nothing works to totally make sense of death and suicide but sometimes words and ideas can help. Here are a couple of articles that I found helpful and useful.

Here's an article that Rev. John Odhner wrote about what we can learn from the Writings/Swedenborg about suicide: "Reflections on Suicide". (You can also download a Word doc version of it here.)

And here's an article that Rev. Brian Smith wrote about the wounds that come from losing a friend: "Tearing".

And here's a post that Rev. Mac Frazier wrote about despair.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Good Sermon about Bitter Waters

I was catching up with Rev. Coleman Glenn's blog (colemanglenn.wordpress.com) and read a sermon he preached 2 weeks ago in Toronto "Bitter Waters Made Sweet". It's a good one. Here's an excerpt:
And then you realize it: you’ve stopped focusing on the Lord. You’ve stopped focusing on your commitment. You’ve stopped taking the time to think about how to love the Lord, how to love the people around you. Maybe you’ve stopped reading the Word. Maybe you haven’t been going to church. You realize what’s been missing. And so with hope you open up the Word to your favourite passage, you attend a doctrinal class, you go to church. You recommit yourself to your goals. You’re ready to get back on the right path. You see the cool waters right in front of you, and you take a deep drink.

And there’s nothing there. The same words that in the past have inspired you fall flat. You read the Word, but it’s not joyful; it’s a chore. Your doctrinal class feels meaningless. Church is boring. The waters that looked so refreshing, so cooling, so life-giving, are bitter!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Find the Context of Passages from Arcana Coelestia

When I'm researching something in the Writings (the teachings of the New Church written by Emanuel Swedenborg) I often want to understand the context of what I'm reading. I want to know what chapter and section I'm reading from. In most cases I can find out what I want to know from looking at the tables of contents for the individual works on the Read the Revelation page of SwedenborgDigitalLibrary.org. (See, for example, the page for New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine.)

Passages from Arcana Coelestia (or Secrets of Heaven) are some of the main ones that I want context for—I want to know what text is being explained and what the general subject of the chapter is. If you look at the page for Arcana Coelestia on Swedenborg Digital Library, the first thing you'll see is a break out of all the doctrinal explanations that are interspersed between the explanations of the stories. This is helpful but not what I'm often looking for. If you read carefully, you'll see that you can also jump down to Auxilary Contents, which does tell you where the explanation of each chapter begins but not where it ends.

I wanted a little bit more so I decided to put together the tool below. A couple of notes: Typically the summary of the inner meaning of the chapter is the next passage after the first one listed for each chapter. The Kempton Project links take you to a more accurate translation of the text from the Word (read more about that here) and let you research where else in the Writings that text is discussed. The Bible Study Tools links take you to the New King James Version of the text on the very useful www.BibleStudyTools.com. And the chapter summaries come from here. I put this together mostly as a tool for myself but let me know if you find it useful or think of ways that it could be made better.

UPDATE: With help from Ian Thompson, the creator of www.BibleMeanings.info, the Arcana Coelestia links now take you to the relevant portion of that site. You'll find that it gives you a very handy interface for exploring the context of a given passage from Arcana Coelestia.

If you want to jump directly to a specific passage on BibleMeanings.info copy this URL and put the passage number you want at the end: http://www.biblemeanings.info/scgi-bin/hdref.cgi?p=AC (e.g. http://www.biblemeanings.info/scgi-bin/hdref.cgi?p=AC453).


Arcana Coelestia Passage Context Finder

Jump to...
1000 | 2000 | 3000 | 4000 | 5000 | 6000 | Exodus (6633) | 7000 | 8000 | 9000 | 10000 | End (10832)

6 - 66 | Genesis 1
God created the heaven, the earth, plants, animals and man in six days
Genesis 1 on Kempton Project
Genesis 1 on Bible Study Tools

73 - 167 | Genesis 2
God blessed the seventh day; extra details of creation and the newly created earth
Genesis 2 on Kempton Project
Genesis 2 on Bible Study Tools

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Online Archive of Ornaments in Swedenborg's Theological Works

NewChurchHistory.org (read more about it here) has a blog called New Church History Fun Facts. Back in May they published a post titled "Ornaments in the Theological First Editions of Emanuel Swedenborg".

I finally got around to reading it and discovered that NewChurchHistory.org has an article by Jonathan Rose on it about the ornaments titled "The Ornaments in Swedenborg's Theological First Editions". He wrote the article in 1998 and, in addition to including lots of interesting original research, the article also includes good quality images of all of the ornaments used in Swedenborg's theological first editions. For example, here are all of the Title Page Ornaments. And don't be deceived by the display size of the images; if you click on them you can download nice big versions of them. (Note: the Fun Fact says that the images can be downloaded for educational purposes so don't go selling them for millions of dollars.)

I don't know, maybe this is only cool to me but I'm pretty excited about figuring out somewhere to use these cool images.

While we're on the topic of stuff from Swedenborg's first editions, I should mention that BaysideNewChurch.org, in addition to some other pretty cool resources, has scans of all of Swedenborg's first editions available for download. The files are mostly just dumped there so you have to hunt around to find a specific passage but it's a great resource to know about. (If you're lucky enough to have a copy of Kempton Project that's not too old and if you can get a copy of the first edition files on CD, then you might be able to use Kempton Project to jump directly to the relevant image for a specific passage.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Listen to Bishop Louis King's Service Online

Bishop Louis Blair King passed into the Spiritual World on June 21st, shortly before 6am. There's going to be a resurrection service for him tomorrow, June 23rd at 7pm EST at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral.

If you want to listen to the service online, you can try going to the Listen Live page on BrynAthynChurch.org but, because they're anticipating a lot of people wanting to listen, they've also made it so that you can listen by using GoToMeeting. Click on this link to register: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/795951673 and then after registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the online service.

In memory of Bishop King you might want to listen to one of the 758 recordings of him on NewChurchAudio.org. Or you might want to read the sweet, short article that Louis wrote for New Church Connection a while ago about marriage continuing after death.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Statement of Faith and Purpose

I got inaugurated into the first degree of the priesthood a couple of Sundays ago. In the service each of the people getting inaugurated made a statement of faith and purpose. You can listen to the service online but I also wanted to post a text version of my statement of faith and purpose here.

Before I get to that I want to mention a couple of other things. One is that I thought that the sermon that Bishop Tom Kline gave after the ordinations was really good. He used the Lord's example to illustrate the principle that priests should lead people but not compel them. I also want to mention that the Sunday after I got ordained there was another ordination service for Thane Glenn and Jay Barry and after their ordinations Thane preached a good sermon about what to do when we feel spiritually hopeless.

The final thing I want to tell you is that you can find other statements of faith and purpose in New Church Life. Every time a General Church minister gets ordained he makes a statement of faith and it eventually gets published in New Church Life. This means that you can find your favorite ministers' statements of faith and purpose on HeavenlyDoctrines.org. Select "New_Church_Life" and "all of the words" and in the search box put "declaration* of faith and purpose" [minister's name]. (Don't include the [] but do include the quotation marks.) If you don't find what you're looking for you could try "statement* of faith and purpose" [minister's name]. In either case the * is important because sometimes multiple declarations or statements of faith are published together.

Anyway I hope you enjoy reading a couple statements of faith and listening to some ordination services. Here's my statement of faith and purpose:
I believe in the Lord—Jesus Christ—the Savior of the world.1 He is my Lord and my God.2 He is God with us3—the infinite and Divine made visible4—Jehovah and Jesus—the Word made flesh who dwelt among us.5

I believe that He came into the world to subdue the hells and to glorify His Human and that without this no mortal could have been saved, and all people who believe in God and live according to what He teaches are saved.6

I believe that the Lord teaches people most clearly and completely in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the heavenly teachings of the New Church. I believe that the first and great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself. And that on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.7 I believe that the Lord has shown us what is good and what He requires of us: to first shun evils as sins against Him8 that we may do judgment, love mercy, and humble ourselves to walk with our God.9

I believe that, of ourselves, we are poor, broken, imprisoned, blind, and oppressed. I believe that the Lord is present with each person, urging and pressing to be received.10 And that He has come to preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.11

I believe that good priests teach truths and lead people by means of them to the good of life and so to the Lord.12 I pray that I may cooperate with the Lord in this work and be a good shepherd of His sheep.13

1 Arcana Coelestia 14
2 John 20:28
3 Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23
4 True Christian Religion 787
5 John 1:14
6 True Christian Religion 2; Divine Providence 330:5-6
7 Matthew 22:37-40
8 True Christian Religion 435-438; Doctrine of Life 24, 108
9 Micah 6:8
10 True Christian Religion 766
11 Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2
12 Arcana Coelestia 10794; New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 315
13 John 10:1-18

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NewSearch 4 / HeavenlyDoctrines.org Tips and Tricks

NewSearch 4

Back in February I let you know about NewSearch 4 being available for purchase. At that point I told you that you would soon be able to order it from the New Church Online Store. There was a bit of a delay but you can now buy NewSearch 4 from the online store.

In that post I also promised to post a full review of NewSearch 4. That may or may not happen. I also promised to explain how I got it working on my Mac. I'm pretty sure I'll do that.

For now I wanted to let you know about the NewSearch Support page (www.newsearchsupport.net). It's pretty basic but it does the trick. There is a description of a bug and how to get around it; there's a form where you can submit a description of the problem you're having with either the desktop or online version of NewSearch; and there's a known issues page where you can find instructions about how to get NewSearch to install on Windows 7 and how to make it work on the 64-Bit version of Windows 7.


I also want to tell you about a couple of things that I've learned about the online version of NewSearch 4, HeavenlyDoctrines.org.

There are extensive instructions on the search page but, if you're like me, you've only scanned through them briefly and assumed that you'd be able to figure it out. My main piece of advice is, if you're interested in doing more detailed and powerful searches, read the instructions; and, if you're just interested in doing basic searches, pay attention to the drop-down menu (see my beautiful screenshot).

I assumed that if I wanted to search for Divine and Human I could just put Divine AND Human in the search box and hit Enter. But, if the drop-down menu is on the default ("all of the words"), then I'll get results containing Divine, and, and Human. If I want to use boolean operators like AND and OR, then I need to select "boolean".

People have been looking for the ability to jump directly to a specific passage for a while. Chuck Ebert, who's in charge of the NewSearch project, has said that that's on their list of features to add to the online version. In the meanwhile he's put up instructions about how jump directly to a passage using the search box. Set the drop-down menu to "the exact phrase" and put the passage and number in using this format: Brief Exposition * n. 27. Yes the * needs to be there, unless you're searching for a book in Latin. I've discovered that it also works if you use abbreviations for the book titles—e.g. be * n. 27.

I asked Chuck if it would be possible for him to make a similar feature for searching within just one book. He told me that he'd work on it later this week. So hopefully I'll be updating this post in a couple of days with instructions about how to do that.

As a final tip I should let you know that all of the things that I've mentioned are explained on the HeavenlyDoctrines.org homepage (heavenlydoctrines.org). If you're like me, you have the actual search page (heavenlydoctrines.org/dtSearch.html) bookmarked and so never see the homepage. It might be worth checking the homepage periodically to see if they've added any other new features.


Chuck has added a feature to search only within a certain book. Set the drop-down menu to "all of the words" and put what you want to search in this format: "brief exposition n. " regeneration. That will search for regeneration in just Brief Exposition. You do need the quotation marks and you do need the space after the n. and you do need the full title of the book.

It's not perfect. If you search for regeneration in Brief Exposition using this method, it also gives you a result from Conjugial Love that cites a passage in Brief Exposition. But that may be useful in your research as well. I've also discovered that you can imperfectly but usefully search within just one translation of a work by adding the translator's name to the end of your search—e.g. if you search for "True Christian Religion n. " regeneration rose it will mostly give you passages in Jonathan Rose's translation of True Christian Religion that mention regeneration. It will also give you a couple of other passages that happen to include the words true, christian, religion, regeneration, and rose.

Anyway, try it out and if you think of other features that you'd like or other ideas about how to improve the website go to www.newsearchsupport.net and submit a request.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

General Church Marketting Survey

The General Church has a new marketting consultant, Alicia Simons. One of the things that she's done is build an online survey to find out where current "members and friends of the New Church" are before she surveys people outside of the church. Here's her explanation of the survey:
We are presently launching an online survey for current Friends and Members of the New Church and are very much in need of your help and support to make this a success. This survey is the beginning of a multi-step process to help us learn how to better talk to people in our move towards a million meaningful contacts. In this case we are talking to people who are currently friends and members of the New Church in North America. Later in the process, with a different methodology, we will also talk to people who are less aware or unaware of the New Church. The point in this phase is to understand how friends and members are feeling about their New Church experience, and how the Church is fitting into their lives today. It is also to understand what people who love the New Church love about it. Why do they come? The thought is that this is likely a good reflection of why other people who don't know about the New Church may also want to come. We hope the information we obtain will help us both to understand the thoughts and behavior of current friends and members and also help us on the path to talking to potential new friends or members in the most meaningful language. Please know, in no way can respondents be identified personally, or even by congregation.
Obviously, the more people who take the survey, the better the results will be. If you want to take the survey you can find it here. You need a password to access it. I can't just post it here but you should be able to get it by contacting any General Church pastor or administrator.

The survey takes about 20 minutes. You'll be able to take it up until June 13th, I believe.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Why You Might Want to Invest in a Latin Copy of True Christian Religion

Freya Fitzpatrick has been working for a couple of years on a new Latin edition of Vera Christiana Religio (the book that's called True Christian Religion or True Christianity in English). The new Latin edition is now available and I wanted to share with you a little advertisement / explanation of why having new Latin editions is important that Freya wrote.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! A new Latin edition of True Christian Religion is available now at the low price of just $45 for a handsome red-bound, gold-lettered set of two volumes.

Well, OK, so you haven’t been sitting on the edge of your seat just waiting for this new release. And, maybe you’re wondering why you’re even being told about this when you can’t read a word of Latin – well maybe one or two words, but no more.

This project is important to you, and to me, and to the whole world because the Latin editions of the Writings are the foundation upon which translation into every other language depends.

Why can’t we just use existing Latin editions? Well, the first editions, published by Swedenborg himself are out of print, and extremely expensive if you could find them. The next editions were done in the 1800’s in Germany. They’re out of print too. The third Latin editions were edited and published in the USA in the early 1900’s, and these can still occasionally be found.

Newly edited editions (rather than reprints of older editions), however, are urgently needed because of the emergence of a new field of study called Neo-Latin. Neo-Latin generally describes Latin from the 1500s on, in other words, the Latin of Swedenborg’s day. Up until just about 1960 or so, Neo-Latin was not a recognized field of study. Scholars certainly knew that Latin was used during this period of history, but scholars had not studied the Latin of that era as unique in its own right.

This means that even the editions of the Writings from the early 1900’s are edited by people who “corrected” Swedenborg’s Latin to fit patterns of classical Latin – which are often very different in rules of spelling, grammar and punctuation than Neo-Latin. Also, Neo-Latin contains words that certainly didn’t exist in classical times, and in some places in older Latin editions, editors have attempted to suggest “correct” words to replace the words Swedenborg used – which as it turns out are legitimate Neo-Latin words.

This means new Latin editions are vital. But as you can imagine, the readership is infinitesimally small! We can sell less than half of the minimum number of books required for a print run.

You can support this use by purchasing a set of Vera Christiana Religio for: $45 plus shipping ($5 domestic, $30 international).

You can:

1) Display this Latin work with pride.
2) Designate it to be donated to a Latin student at Bryn Athyn New Church College (www.brynathyn.edu) or a minister.
3) Designate it to be donated to a Neo-Latin scholar.

If you would like to support this use at less than $45, send a check in any $5 increment and specify whether it is for donated set for a student, minister or scholar.

Checks should be made out to:

Academy of the New Church, memo: Publication Committee
And mailed to: Publication Committee, Leslie Alden, PO Box 45, Bryn Athyn, PA 19009

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Next Journey Campaign

There's now information available about the next Journey campaign. (Journey campaigns are spiritual growth programs that involve sermons, small groups, and readings.) The title of the campaign is "Pause: Make Space for God." You can read a summary of the program on the Welcome page. You can also watch a 6 minute video in which Anna Woofenden and Rev. Mac Frazier introduce you to the program. And there's also a Program Overview page where you can get an overview of the content of the program week by week.

If you're new to the idea of Journey campaigns I recommend that you take a look at some of the other campaigns listed in the Spiritual Growth Program Materials section. If you go to the Program Materials page for last year's campaign, "Living Courageously," you can download a PDF of the workbook, listen to sermons, and look at Sunday School materials for it.

"Pause" is going to launch October 3, 2010 and January 30, 2011.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. Didn't Actually Write that Statement About Swedenborg

A little over a year ago various people announced that Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by Swedenborg. (You can find various reports of this if you Google Martin Luther King Jr. Swedenborg.)

What happened was in 2006 King's library was sold at an auction to Morehouse College in Atlanta. During the auction some of his books were displayed, one of which was Emerson's A Modern Anthology. Edward R. Bosley (a director of a National Historic Landmark) was at the auction and he found this written on the front page:
Swedenborg enables us to understand why we were created, why we are alive, and what happens to us after our bodies die. Swedenborg enables us to have the best possible understanding of God’s message as it exists in those Bible books which constitutes God’s Word.
Bosley assumed that this was written by King and told others and the news spread. However, in February Rev. Ray Silverman, chaplain of Bryn Athyn College, contacted the people working with the collection and received this response from Courtney Chartier, the Processing Archivist:
Dr. King’s volume of Emerson does have extensive notes on Swedenborg. However, the handwriting is not his. There is an inscription that reads “Rev Wm Fairfax (colored) Swedenborgian minster”, with an address in New York. He is the likely author of the notes.
So that's the news. It's disappointing but it's good to have the facts straight. I suppose that there's a chance that as they analyze the collection more they'll find other things to connect King and Swedenborg but for now we can't say that Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by Swedenborg. ---


Thanks to Jim Lawrence we now have a picture of Rev. William Fairfax and his wife, taken at the 1959 General Convention. Jim also did a little more research about him and found this much out:
William E. Fairfax was ordained by Convention in 1937 and he served until his death in 1964. His church was in Harlem. .... Basically, what we know is that he probably identified in important ways with MLK, and thought he might interest MLK in his favorite theologian as a fellow "colored" Christian minister in the U.S.
I also asked Jim where someone should start if they were interested in doing more research about Rev. Fairfax. He said, "Someone wanting to dig further on Fairfax would probably best start in our own collection here in Berkeley and the archives in Boston associated with our headquarters, which keeps a lot of records on the various societies past and present."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More New Church/Swedenborgian Blogs

Back in September I was celebrating the fact that I'm not the only New Church blogger and the New Church blogosphere (I use that word just to annoy the people who wrote this collection of definitions) has continued to expand since then.

I've mentioned MacFrazier.com, Dave Lindrooth's church growth blog (www.newchurchweblog.org), and my theological school classmate, Stephen Muires' blog (muires.wordpress.com) before. And they continue to be some of the most active New Church bloggers. (Far more active than me, in fact.) But they've also been joined by a couple of others that I want to tell you about.

Coleman Glenn's Blog

Rev. Coleman Glenn used to have a blog when he was in theological school and now he's started blogging again as a pastor at colemanglenn.wordpress.com. He's been blogging quite a bit—on an article from the New York Times about marriage, on the question of whether men and women can be "just friends", and, most recently, a fascinating discussion of the similarities and differences between New Church teachings and Arminianism.


Solomon Keal, another guy I'm in theological school with, has started a blog called Theologi-Keal (theologikeal.blogspot.com). It looks like it's mostly a place where he posts the papers he writes for school (like one on "Why was Jesus a man and not a woman?") and so the posts are pretty lengthy but he also has posted some short reflections on community and what a pastor's flock eats, for example.

Solomon and his wife Tirah also have a marriage blog called Loving Marriage (healthymarriages.blogspot.com).


I had to mention this blog because it's got such a great title—Swedenblogian (swedenblogian.blogspot.com). The author of the blog describes herself as
a wanna-be expert on Swedenborg.
a big fan of his.
happily Catholic.
happily married.
a grandmother.
turning out to love getting old, for some odd reason.
Her posts are usually a pleasant length and often have a picture and a couple of interesting reflections on Swedenborgian ideas.

Heavenly Doctrines Quotes

I found out about this blog from Swedenblogian. It's called Heavenly Doctrine Quotes: Words from the Lord to help us discover His Way (hd-quotes.blogspot.com). It's very simple and pleasant. Each day whoever updates it posts a short quotation from the Writings/Heavenly Doctrines, formatted in poem form.

TheGodGuy's Weblog

Swedenblogian also reminded me of this blog. I've come across it occasionally when I've done a search for Swedenborg on Google blog search. The tagline of TheGodGuy's Weblog (thegodguy.wordpress.com) is "Love is the Ultimate Science" and that gives you a pretty good idea of the stuff he likes to talk about—love, science, religion, philosophy, psychology. TheGodGuy is Edward F. Sylvia. He's the author of a book called Sermons from the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating an Inner Garden and a book coming out soon called Proving God: Swedenborg’s Remarkable Quest For The Quantum Fingerprints Of Love.

What I've read of his hasn't really grabbed me yet. (The main problem may be that I haven't read that much of it.) Maybe it's just not my particular blend of religion, philosophy, and science. Regardless, I'm glad that he's doing what he's doing and I hope you like it.


For more New Church blogs check out my blogroll and the posts I have categorized as blog. And, if you have or know of an awesome New Church/Swedenborgian blog that I've failed to mention, please leave a comment.

Support for WWJD in the New Church

In the 90s a couple of my Christian friends wore WWJD bracelets and I wondered whether thinking about "What would Jesus do?" was a good idea in the New Church. It's probably pretty obvious that trying to live according to the Lord's example is a good idea but in case, like me, you weren't sure, here's a passage that confirms it.
[T]he Lord's life in the world was an example according to which the men of the church are to live, as the Lord Himself teaches in John:
"I have even unto you an example that ye also should do as I have done to you. If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them" (John 13:16, 17).
So in other places the Lord compares Himself with others; for example, in John:
"Jesus said, Even as the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you; abide ye in My love, as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love" (John 15:9, 10). (Apocalypse Explained 254:2)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Something New Church for Earth Day

Tomorrow is Earth Day. In celebration of that I wanted to point you to an article recently published on New Church Perspective on an Earth Day related topic—land ethic. In 6 parts Edmund Brown outlines what a land ethic is and various arguments for it, concluding with some New Church arguments. Here are links to the 6 parts: Introduction; Instrumental Arguments; Utilitarian Arguments; Intrinsic Value Arguments; Theological Arguments; New Church Arguments.

It's lengthy but very interesting. Edmund has evidently given careful thought to a topic that I haven't really put much thought into and I'm grateful to have his research and conclusions to draw on. If you're short on time, you could just jump to the section on New Church Arguments for a land ethic but, if you have the time, read the other sections because they give useful context and a brief history of the debate and help you understand what he's referring to in the New Church arguments section.

Here's a bit from his introduction to get you started:
Faced with the huge, daunting ecological challenges our technological society has created, what is an appropriate Christian response? More specifically, do the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg justify developing an intimate relationship with the land that supports us a la “The Land Ethic” so eloquently envisioned by Aldo Leopold

If you haven't heard of New Church Perspective you could read my post about New Church Perspective.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why Did the Lord Have to Die?

Have you ever wondered why the Lord had to die? In this week's Bryn Athyn Post Rev. Jeremy Simons provided a good explanation of how the New Church addresses this question. (Here's a link to the full April 1, 2010 issue (PDF))
A persistent question that comes up at Easter is the question of why it was necessary for the Lord to be put to death. The New Church rejects the traditional Christian teaching that He died to pay for the sins of the human race. But the New Church does teach that His death and resurrection were necessary as part of His saving work. The central New Church teaching about this is:

"The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to subjugate the hells and to glorify His Human; and the passion of the cross was the last combat by which He fully conquered the hells, and fully glorified His Human" (Doctrine of the Lord 12).

The Lord conquered hell and glorified His Human by choosing spiritual life over physical life, according to His words:

"He who loves his life will lose it, but he who hates his life in this world will keep it into eternal life" (John 12:25).

This is the same pattern that the process of regeneration follows:

"Regeneration takes place to the end that the life of the old man may die and a new, heavenly life may be instilled" (Arcana Coelestia 8403:2).

But whereas the "death" of the "old man" does not mean physical death in the regeneration process, in the Lord's case physical death was necessary.

"The Lord willed to undergo death and to rise again the third day to the end that He might put off everything human that He had from the mother and might put on the Divine Human" (Apocalypse Explained 899:14).

This "putting off" of what He had from Mary and "putting on" of the Divine Human was taken to the extreme of physical death because in His life everything was representative, so that spiritual processes were manifested tangibly - and recorded in the Word as events. Accordingly He rose again with His whole glorified body the third day.

We are also taught that this was a sign to the church about its rejection of God (True Christian Religion 130), which would result in understanding and new belief.

The passion of the cross should not be seen isolated from the Lord's whole life, teaching, and resurrection. In all of this He overcame the power of hell by making Himself visible, so that He can be known, loved, and obeyed, establishing the kingdom of heaven.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Daily Marriage Emails

Caring for Marriage (www.caringformarriage.org) has just started offering a free, daily marriage support email called "Marriage Moats." Here's the welcome message that you get sent when you sign up:
Welcome to Marriage Moats!

My son Benjamin's latest recurring question is about moats. He asks "What is a moat?" eager to hear again what he already knows.

"A moat is water that surrounds a castle and keeps it safe from enemies."

He smiles, and asks what enemies are.

"They are people who want to hurt you."

He wanders off into a memory about moats in movies he has seen, and laughs about bad guys who fell into them.

People sometimes say that a person's home is his or her castle.
Marriage can be a castle, but that does not mean it is never under attack.

I am intrigued by the idea of a moat, as a deterrent for flame flinging masked marauders.

This daily message is called Marriage Moats, because it is a modest obstacle to those influences that undermine marriage. It will offer a puddle of protection in the form of a quote, or anecdote, or book blurb. Some mornings it will slip into your inbox, and you will hurriedly delete it sight unseen. Other days you will open it, as you invite in those few sentences that may surround your mental fortress with a waterway that keeps you safer. Water is like truth, in that it keeps you clean and quenched, and paired with a boat, gets you to places you would be hard pressed to find otherwise. Truth can transport you to resorts as well, places of refuge, and beauty.

Marriage Moats is one wet barrier you can create to stave off the armies of negativity and apathy that incessantly bash on your door.

You may even find it funny to watch the critical thoughts splashing and thrashing, unable to reach you, while you watch from a turret in the clouds.
I'm on a couple of different lists that email me inspirational stuff daily or weekly (e.g. Daily Inspiration from www.newchurch.org and the weekly newsletter from Gary Chapman (www.5lovelanguages.com)). Like Lori says, often I delete them or archive them immediately but sometimes I find them really useful. To sign up for "Marriage Moats" go to www.caringformarriage.org. Currently you can sign up for the program right on the homepage. Eventually it will probably be relegated to the Online Programs section. (Techie note: If you use an add blocking addon like Adblock Plus you'll need to disable that to see the sign up form.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Church Podcasts

Do any New Church podcasts exist? Up until today I would have guessed the answer was no. But I just found out from Rev. Dave Lindrooth (www.newchurchweblog.org) that Rev. Ethan McCardell at the Light for Life New Church (www.lightforlifenewchurch.org) has just started publishing his sermons as a podcast. You can find the podcast here.

It's free to subscribe and I recommend that you do because then the podcast will have more subscribers and, more importantly, then you'll have a couple of good sermons on your iPod when you need one. I haven't had the chance to listen to the podcast yet but I've gotten a lot out of other sermons I've heard by Ethan so I look forward to taking a listen.

On the subject of New Church podcasts, while looking at Ethan's podcast, I discovered that the Pittsburgh New Church had a podcast in 2008, though it doesn't look like it's been updated in a while. (You can find it here). And, I happen to know that another New Church podcast project is in the works so stay tuned for news about that.


For more information about Ethan, check out his blog (www.ethanmccardell.com) and for more of an idea of the services at Light for Life New Church watch this short video that Dave Lindrooth put together.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New Church Perspective on Clothing

I wrote an article titled "Clothing" for New Church Perspective about, you guessed it, New Church perspective on clothing.

If you haven't heard of New Church Perspective you might want to read my post about it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A New Online New Church Magazine

I've been really meaning to tell you all about New Church Perspective (www.newchurchperspective.com) and now I'm finally getting around to it. It's a really exciting, New Church online magazine project.

Here's a bit from the About page:
New Church Perspective is an online magazine celebrating the understanding and application of New Church ideas with weekly essay publication.

More than a discussion forum, New Church Perspective is based on essays from a wide variety of writers on a wide variety of topics. However, this is a two-way conversation. Discussion and response to the weekly essays are warmly encouraged. We ask only that people are respectful of each other, the Bible, and the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg referred to as the Heavenly Doctrines.
(For more about the idea behind New Church Perspective I recommend reading the launch day post from Brian Smith, the Editor-in-Chief.)

Every Friday morning a new essay is published with some perspective on the New Church or New Church perspective on some topic. It was launched on January 1st and so far 10 essays have been published. I'm now going to list them and give a summary of what they're about to give you the flavor of New Church Perspective so far.
  • "4 Reasons Most New Year's Resolutions and Other Habit Changes Fail and What You Can Do to Succeed" by Derrick Lumsden - The title pretty much says it. I particularly recommend the "Further Reading" at the end.
  • "Growing Up in The Park: Reflections on My Sub-Culture" by Freya Henry - Using the theories of various developmental psychologists, Freya analyzes her development growing up in a New Church congregation.
  • "Even as We are One" by Isaac Synnestvedt - This is my favorite article so far. If you only have the time to read one article, make this one it. It is an impassioned and humbling exploration of who is part of the New Church and an exhortation to try to see the Lord in all people.
  • "Meaning-making and the Power of Writing" by Chelsea Rose Odhner - This is a chapter from Chelsea's undergraduate thesis and so it incorporates a number of scholarly sources. But don't let the word scholarly make you think it's boring; it's a fascinating, well written, careful exploration of the act of writing.
  • "Are You Happy?" by Ronald Schnarr - Ronnie looks at what can keep us from being happy and encourages us to ask the Lord for real happiness.
  • "Spiritual Body Image" by Pearse and Taryn Frazier - This article looks at the spiritual meaning of being human.
  • "Buddhism and the New Church" by Ian Chapman - Ian's article is a short and interesting comparison of a couple of Buddhist teachings with New Church teachings.
  • "Marketing the Writings" by Coleman Glenn - In this article Coleman imagines what could happen if someone launched a huge, year-long marketing campaign for the Writings.
  • "Protecting Ideals and the Reality of the World in which We Live" by Stephanie King - In this heartfelt article Stephanie expresses both her strong ideals and her desire to understand and love people who don't. She raises a lot of good questions with no easy answers.
  • "We, Distinct from Our Teachings" by Derek Rose - In this article Derek encourages us to think carefully about what we mean when talk about the New Church—the teachings, the organization, or the culture?
Hopefully this makes you want to read some of these articles and subscribe to receive updates every Friday and, most importantly, inspires you to submit an article yourself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

NewSearch 4 Will Be Available Next Week

I just got an email announcing that NewSearch 4 will be available next week!

NewSearch 4 is the latest version of a software program designed for studying Emanuel Swedenborg's theological writings and collateral literature. I asked Chuck Ebert (one of the key people involved with developing NewSearch) about the history of it.
The first release of NewSearch was in 1989 for the PC DOS system. It came on 45 floppy disks. If you did not have a big enough hard drive, you could read in as many disks as your computer could hold and then change them out when you wanted to search other volumes of the Writings.

The second version was in 1994 for the Mac and Windows 3.1. The software came on a CD.

NewSearch 98 was released for the PC (Windows 95/98) in 1998. There was no Mac version because by then there were good Windows emulators for the Mac.

Shortly after NewSearch 98 (around 2001) the first Web version became available. It has been upgraded regularly.
The original version of this program allowed users to electronically search a number of translations of Swedenborg's works using basic Boolean search terms. This software was developed by the STAIRS (Swedenborgian Theological Automated Information Retrieval System) project which also did the work of digitizing Swedenborg's works. All of the Swedenborg search engine web sites use texts from STAIRS. (See my Swedenborg Search Engines Review.)

The new version of NewSearch has been completely rewritten and has way more content available to search. Chuck Ebert also sent me the description of NewSearch 4 that he wrote for the online bookstore which explains some of what's new with the new version.
NewSearch 4 (Windows) allows full searching of the theological Writings for the New Church. Compared to NewSearch 98 that it replaces, NewSearch 4 has much more extensive document collections and greater searching capability. Most of the English translations of the Writings are included and much of the original Latin. The user may choose to search other document collections including New Church Life (1881-2007), over 100 Books and Monographs by New Church authors, several New Church journals and some of Swedenborg’s Pre Revelatory works. Also included are New Church translations of the 5 books of Moses (Pentateuch) and the New Testament. The New Church Life collection allows field searching (author, title, etc.).

For 20 years NewSearch has been a prime tool for the study of the Heavenly Doctrines. For a sampling of NewSearch 4, check out the online version at www.heavenlydoctrines.org.
NewSearch 4 has been a long time coming so it's exciting that it's finally done. I've been able to play with some pre-release versions which makes me excited and a little nervous—excited because I think it will be a very powerful and useful tool and nervous because it's had lots of bugs to work out.

Once I get a copy of it I'll play with it and post a full review. I'll be sure to include details about how it's better than the online version. (Although I've heard that, now that NewSearch 4 is done, the folks who were working on that will be able to devote more time to working on improving HeavenlyDoctrines.org.) I'll also explain what I had to do to get it to work on my Mac. There are no plans to write for the Mac or Linux because good Virtual Machines are available.

You will be able to buy NewSearch 4 from the Bryn Athyn Cathedral Book Room and also from the New Church Bookstore Online. The price will be $39.95. It requires Windows XP (Service Pack 2) or a new Windows OS.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Great Sermon on the Prodigal Son (and the other son)

Since the fall, Rev. Grant Schnarr has been leading contemporary style services at The Lord's New Church. You can find out more about these services at inewchurch.org. I finally got around to going to one of these services yesterday but Grant wasn't preaching.

Rev. Michael Cowley was preaching about the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and it was one of the best sermons I've heard in a while. It was heartfelt, totally relevant and applicable, and also doctrinally satisfying. Contemporary style services are sometimes accused of being fluffy, emotional, and without much substance but that wasn't the case with this service. Michael didn't quote piles of passages but he did reference a lot of relevant ideas from the Heavenly Doctrines that, for me, provided a strong frame for the rest of the message.

One thing that I particularly appreciated about this sermon was how he explained the other son in the parable—the "good" son who hasn't done anything wrong. So far in my life I've related more to this son than the prodigal son (we'll see if that changes over the course of my life) and so I didn't want to just hear about the meaning of the prodigal son but also the other son and Michael didn't disappoint. In fact, he argued that the punchline of the parable really is about that son, not the prodigal one. You'll have to listen to the sermon to find out what else Michael said about that son.

To listen to the sermon go to the Current Sermon Series page on inewchurch.org (it will probably eventually move to the sermon archive under the Mission of the Church series) and scroll down till you see "With Welcome Arms – The Prodigal Son – by Michael Cowley – February 14, 2010." If you have time, listen to the children's talk first and then the sermon.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sermon Series for Valentines Day

At the last 2 Bryn Athyn contemporary services Rev. Mac Frazier did a 2 part series on men and women in preparation for Valentines Day. First he gave a talk "For Men" (start at 17:30 to skip the singing) and then he gave a talk "For Women" (start at 9:30 to skip the singing).

Both talks have a good combination of teachings from the Word and practical advice. They're not particularly focused on just one point but it means that there are a bunch of different useful ideas about men and women and marriage to consider.

I was especially impressed that, in preparation for his talk for women, Mac made sure to talk to as many women as he could about what to say. As a result I think both talks were balanced and useful.


If you live within driving distance of Bryn Athyn, you might want to consider attending the Caring For Marriage marriage conference that's happening tomorrow and the next day. It's not just for married people and it has some great speakers, workshops, activities, and entertainment lined up.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sermon About Seeing the Lord in Other People

This Sunday at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral Rev. Grant Odhner gave a thought-provoking sermon about seeing the Lord in other people. The title of his sermon was "You Have Done it to Me" and was based on the parable of the goats and the sheep where the king says to the sheep, "inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:31-40). He used that text and a number of other interesting texts to explore how, without our awareness, the Lord is present with us all the time.

The text that I found most interesting, though, was a narrative account that I don't remember reading before about a conversation that Swedenborg had with some people sitting under a laurel-bush (True Christian Religion 461). They have a conversation about "how a person can do good coming from God, and yet do it exactly as if of himself." Grant wove this into the sermon as part of a broader discussion of how we can make progress in acknowledging that the Lord is the One Source of Life—in us and in other people.

Collection of Images of Swedenborg

In this week's Bryn Athyn Post Marvin Clymer writes,
If you would like to see a photograph of Emanuel Swedenborg you are not alone. Unfortunately (or Providentially), he was never photographed, primarily because the first camera was not invented until 67 years after his death. So how do we know what he looked like? Fortunately (Providentially), prominent members of society in the 18th century, including Swedenborg, hired artists to paint their portraits. If more paintings were needed artists often painted copies of the original portraits. In the case of famous people, like Swedenborg, artists created their own renditions many years later based on earlier paintings. Naturally, some were more accurate than others. A nice collection of images of Swedenborg can be viewed online in Swedenborg Library Digital Collections.
Check out the Swedenborg Library Digital Collections and the collection of images of Swedenborg.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Divine Compliment Sandwich?

Have you heard of a "compliment sandwich" or "feedback sandwich"? Here's a snarky definition from the Urban Dictionary:
When someone tries to ease the blow of a criticism by delivering it between two insincere compliments.
Scot: "Liza, I love your hair. Your work sucks. Where did you get that sweater?"
Liza: Thanks for the compliment sandwich, Scot.
This can be seen as an insincere, beating-around-the-bush approach to managing/manipulating people, but it also has a grain of truth in it. In work-related and private relationships I think we do need to make sure that we don't just criticize people all the time. We also need to sincerely acknowledge people for what they're doing right.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I recently read the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3 and saw a similar pattern in the way the letters were written. Take a look at the structure of the first letter.
[Introduction / Who the Letter is From]
To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, "These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:

[Compliment(s) / Acknowledgment of What They're Doing Right]
I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.

[Criticism / Explanation of Consequences / Explanation of What to Do]
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

[Second Acknowledgment of What They're Doing Right]
But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

[End / Explanation of Reward]
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." (Revelation 2:1-7)
These same basic elements are in all the letters. Can we consider this the Divine approach to delivering criticism?

As a proto-priest/pastor it seems important to me to remember when I'm preaching or counseling to not just focus on people's problems but also talk about what people need to do to deal with the problem, what rewards they'll receive if they do, and what people are already doing right. After making some bad decisions some people lose hope of ever being good people and so don't think it's worth trying; but the loud and clear message of the letters to the 7 churches is that everyone has something going for them and everyone can change.