Christian Living

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      How America Grew Bored with Love: This is a damning indictment by David Masciotra: " It has become the stuff of cliché to read “cutting edge” cultural critics deconstruct popular love stories like Pretty Woman and Say Anything, reimagining them as predatory tales of women surrendering to sexual harassment. Never mind that the largest audiences for these films were always and will likely remain women."

2.      Are you Middle Class? Helpful little chart.

3.      Confessions of a Glory Hoarder: Cassi Crowley talks about the painful sanctification of motherhood: " Not surprisingly, motherhood threw a wrench into my self-glorification. I haven’t received nearly as much glory as I’ve been accustomed to in previous seasons. In the academic world, you get grades and diplomas. In the professional world, you get performance reviews and promotions. In the social world, you get friends and influence. In motherhood, you get dirty diapers and sleep deprivation."

4.      A Hundred Year-Old Reflection on Self-Forgetfulness: BB Warfield concludes, "Only, when, like Christ, and in loving obedience to His call and example, we take no account of ourselves, but freely give ourselves to others, we shall find, each in his measure, the saying true of himself also: “Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.” The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory."

5.      The Earth Below: Beautiful time lapse. Makes you want to pick up Genesis 1, doesn't it?

The Power of Hope and the Rising Suns

The Power of Hope and the Rising Suns

The Suns currently sit at dead last in the Western conference at 17-55. They are a full 12 games behind the next worst teams, the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, and 24.5 games (count ‘em!) out of playoff contention. They are in a fierce competition with the Knicks and Cavaliers to finish in last place. If they finished in last place in the entire league that would be their third year in a row finishing in last (four years ago, they finished second to last! Woo!). It’s not been a fun run as a Suns fan.

Between 2006-2010, the Suns appeared in the Western Conference finals three times, tantalizingly close to an elusive NBA championship. For the past nine seasons the team has slid further and further into the abyss with only one season where we won more games than we lost in that span. Our best players over that nine year stretch were such NBA legends as Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic, and Eric Bledsoe (my tongue is firmly in cheek). We weren’t just bad; we were bad and our future was bleak.

But this year is different.

We’re every bit as bad as we’ve been the past three years, maybe worse, but this year we have hope. We have one of the best young players in the NBA: 22 year old Devin Booker[i], and the first pick of last year’s draft: 20 year old DeAndre Ayton, who has impressed in his first year.  We’ve actually gotten better as the year has gone on and we’ve even won 6 of our last 10 games (meaning a third of our victories have come in the last three weeks). And hey! We’re going to get yet another high draft pick!

You see, it’s not so bad to be awful if there is hope. You can endure a lot as a fan if you think that things are going to get better.

That’s a lot like life, isn’t it?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     The Way We Prepare For Marriages is All WrongAaron Earls considers cultural trends that undermine marriage and the data that undoes those trends: "In recent decades, however, new advice began to take root. It argued you will be most ready for marriage if you delay marriage into the 30s or later, “sow wild oats” before you’re ready to settle down, find someone with whom you share “sexual chemistry,” and live together with potential spouses to determine if the relationship is ready for the marital commitment. At the Institute for Family Studies, professor and researcher Jason Carroll analyzed data that confronts each of these points of accepted cultural wisdom."

2.     6 Ways Watching Pornography Affects Your Mental Health: Among those issues, Brad Hambrick points out is, "Mindfulness – the ability to willfully focus one’s attention during adverse circumstances – is a significant contributor to mental health. Pornography is nearly the complete opposite of mindfulness. Pornography uses sound, site, and tactile sensation to pull an individual from their actual world into an artificial, fantasy world. Combining multiple senses with an enticing narrative makes it increasingly difficult for less stimulating activities (which is most of life) to hold an individual’s attention."

3.     The Sabbath as a Radical ActThis is as good an article as I've read in some time. William Black argues that, "There was a reason the fourth commandment came where it did, bridging the commandments on how humans should relate to God with the commandments on how humans should relate to one another. As the Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann points out in his book Sabbath as Resistance (2014), a pharaonic economy driven by anxiety begets violence, dishonesty, jealousy, theft, the commodification of sex and familial alienation. None of these had a place in the Torahic economy, which was driven not by anxiety but by wholeness, enoughness."

4.     Watching Rain: Need a stress reliever? Click on this simple and relaxing website and play around a little.

5.     The Science Behind Why Walking on Legos Hurts More Than Walking on Fire or Glass: Parents everywhere will feel validated reading this article from Smithsonian. 

7 Ways to Fight Well

7 Ways to Fight Well

We all have conflict in our lives. Have you ever slammed a door or punched a wall? Have you ever hung up on someone? Have you ever sent off an email or a text with the jab of an angry finger?

We walk through conflict every day: we have disagreements with our spouses, with our parents, with our children, with our co-workers, and with our neighbors. But how do we navigate conflict and come out the other side in one piece? How do we not become the worst version of ourselves in the midst of conflict? What if conflict actually provided an opportunity for us to grow as people, but also to glorify God?

There’s a passage in the Bible that shows just how well conflict can go when we respond out of humility instead of pride.

There’s a massive conflict that is brewing in the early church that has the possibility of destroying the church.

7 Ways to Fight Poorly

7 Ways to Fight Poorly

If you have breath, you are the proud owner of conflict.

It lurks around every corner of our days.

I wake up first in our home. I get dressed and start the coffee. I wake up Angel and our two teenage kids. The other day I kissed my daughter, “good morning, sweetie, it’s time to wake up.” “No, it isn’t!” she responded, pulling her covers over her head. My first whiff of conflict.

I go back downstairs and work on breakfast. At 6:50 everyone is supposed to be gathered around the table. Usually only one of the three is there. I would tell you who, but you know, conflict. It lurks again.

Eventually we are all around the table. We do our family devotions, but now they’re a little compressed and maybe one of the kids isn’t that engaged. Conflict sneaks its head in again.

We’re off to school, but there was a lunch forgotten at home, and so we’re circling back. Now we’re late. Frustration in my heart tells me conflict is all too near.

And now the two slowest drivers in Northwest Tucson have decided to drive side by side in front of me Parcheesi style, five miles below the speed limit. Conflict!

And now I’m pretty sure the lights are in on the conspiracy. One light turns red and there isn’t even anyone at the intersection. Seriously? In 2019, our traffic signals aren’t intelligent enough to catch that? Conflict, code red.

The kids are dropped off and now I’m headed to work. I pull in and head to the fridge to drop off my lunch. Seriously? Has anyone removed his lunch in the past month from this thing? More conflict?!

I look over to the office sink: is this just a holding bay for dirty dishes? Do we not use the cabinet anymore? Conflict!

I haven’t even reached my office door and conflict has reared its ugly head no less than eight times. And I’m not even mentioning the email I saw with the subject line that indicates my first email of the day is going to put my heart in knots.

Sound anything like your day?

How in the world can we navigate all of this conflict? The answer to that question is found in James 1:19, where James says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     Do You Treat Church Like a Cruise Ship? Or a Restaurant? Trevin Wax considers just how powerful the consumerist mindset is among American Christians: " The problem with viewing the church as a restaurant is that it amplifies the cruise liner mentality in that the service is all directed one-way. The attender pays with time or money and expects a religious service. This is consumerist, not missional. But the bigger challenge is that the person isn’t even committed to the cruise."

2.     Breaking Down the Living Organisms By Weight: Among the fascinating factoids here are that there are three times more viruses by weight! than human beings.

3.     What is the Rapture? David Chapman concludes that the best interpretation of the "rapture" passage is, " This would imply that, at Christ’s appearance, Paul expects the dead in Christ to be raised, followed by the lifting up of the living believers to welcome Jesus in the air, before Jesus descends to earth with his people in order to judge the world and establish fully his kingdom on earth."

4.     The Seven Bitter Fruits of SinColin Smith considers what happens when we live a life in rejection of God, "What you believe about sin will shape your convictions about missions and evangelism. How we engage in this work, and what we think needs to be done, will in large measure be shaped by what we believe the human problem really is."

5.     Aerial Tucson: I love our city and I love these videos.

The Gospel of Self-Forgiveness

The Gospel of Self-Forgiveness

She sits in my office, tears running down her face. Two years ago her mother died in hospice while she lay asleep at home. She was trying to get a decent night’s rest after days spent at her mother’s side. “I just can’t forgive myself. I let her die alone. I knew I should have been there, but I was selfish. I can never forgive myself for that.”

I’ve heard dozens share similar confessions with me. Does this resonate with you? What guilt do you bear? What burdens are you carrying because you can’t forgive yourself?

Many are trapped because they can’t forgive themselves. My friend isn’t alone. And she feels trapped. Because she will never hear her mother offer her forgiveness, she feels like she can’t release herself from her guilt.

Why can’t you release yourself from your sin? Is it because the weight is too much? Because you know you haven’t changed? Because the ripple effects of your sin can’t be reversed?

I have good news—such good news. You don’t need to forgive yourself, because you can’t forgive yourself.

What?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     Just How Big is the US Economy? This visual chart is a reminder of just how big the economies of the US and China are. Wow.

2.     5 Misconceptions About Heaven and the Afterlife: This is quite the read, with a lot loaded in here, but if you enjoyed my series on heaven last year, I think you will enjoy this more academic version. J. Richard Middleton's has several pointed moments including this one: "For many decades now I have been asking my students—whether in Bible studies, Sunday School, or in my college and seminary courses—to find even one biblical passage that clearly says that Christians will live in heaven forever (or that heaven is the eternal destiny of the believer). I have even offered a reward for success. So far no one has ever found such a passage."

3.     Why God Delights to Forgive: Scott Hubbard shares this wonderful news with us, "[D]eep down, where roots sink into soil, we wonder if God is really that happy forgiving us. Our suspicions easily replace the Bridegroom’s pleasure with pursed lips, the Shepherd’s song with a lecture, and the Father’s robe with the elder brother’s hand-me-downs. If we are going to feel and not just confess that God delights to forgive those who come to him through Jesus, we will need to grasp why he forgives."

4.     Don't Downplay Your Suffering: Regan Rose with a counter-intuitive admonition: " One of the biggest mistakes believers can make when facing a tragedy is to minimize it. I think so many of us do it because we are lacking a robust theology of suffering. So, our first reaction to a tragedy is to try and explain it away. “Hey, it could be worse!” “Everything will be okay.” “This is just a season.” Like a doctor slapping a smiley face sticker over a cancerous tumor, all some Christians know to do in the face of true calamity is to pave it over with platitudes."

5.     Crowder's Happy Day: How can you not smile when you watch this?

Good News, Ladies! You’re Sons!

Good News, Ladies! You’re Sons!

Want to know something weird? Women are never referred to as “daughters of God” in the Bible. Kind of odd, especially given how often that phrase is used in evangelical circles. “Daughter of God” nets over 1,000 books on Amazon. In the Bible, however, the seemingly clumsy phrase “sons of God” is used for men and women alike.

What gives? Is this a linguistic fluke? No, unlike the Greek word for brothers, adelphoi, which often means “brothers and sisters,” the Greek word for sons, huioi, rarely means “sons and daughters” with the full phrase “huious kai thugateras” used instead.[i]  So, while we might be tempted to add “daughters” when we see “sons of God” in the Bible, it’s unlikely that is what the authors intended.[ii]

Is the lack of inclusion of daughters a patriarchal blind spot in the Bible that we ought to rectify? On the contrary: the use of only “sons of God” is a radical move by the authors of scripture that raises the status of women.

The Tears of Success

The Tears of Success

In class, philosopher Cornell West once said that every story that has ever been told is either a tragedy, a story with a sorrowful ending, a comedy, a story with a happy ending, or a tragicomedy, a story with elements of both. The tragicomedy, West said, is the most difficult story to tell, but it is the most powerful.

Angel Mateo was 17 months old when he entered our lives. We were his first non-family placement, but his fourth placement in four months. He had been shipped from one family member to another until none were left. We expected a traumatized child to arrive at our front door. But Angel Mateo had almost no signs of trauma. He slept like a rock, met every strange new face with poise, and greeted every ball he saw with an enthusiastic “BALL!” as though it was the first time he had encountered this spherical admixture of magic and fun. Joy exuded through every pore of this boy.

We fell in love.

One of the beautiful things about fostering is that you learn to love the other. When you look at your own child in your arms, you can be captivated by the ways this being reflects yourself back at you. There is a powerful beauty in beholding oneself in another.