Christian Living

This Warning is for You!

This Warning is for You!

“The end is near!” “Repent!”

Have you ever seen a statement of prophetic warning spray-painted on a wall or in a subway station? Did you ever consider that statement might be for you? I’ve got to be honest, I don’t take much notice to such warnings.

Now, transport yourself back to the 7th century BC. You’re a Moabite living just across the Dead Sea from the Kingdom of Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel). One of the Jewish prophets speaks prophetic warnings over your country. Do you take any more heed to those warnings than I do to a spray-painted subway warning?

Why would the God of Israel speak a warning to a foreign country to the Israelites? I believe a strange section of Jeremiah shows us both God’s mercy and his patience with unbelievers even today.

The other day as I was nearing the end of Jeremiah’s prophecy, a section stood out to me like a sore thumb. After several dozen chapters devoted to warning Israel, Jeremiah carves out six chapters to warn other nations: Egypt, Philistia, Moab, and Babylon at the targets of Jeremiah’s warnings. In the middle of a book of warning and prophecy to Israel, God sends his warning to the nations.

These are not sugar-coated prophecies. These have all the brashness of the graffiti on the subway wall. God says things like:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        Proof that the Sexual Revolution Got Sexual Satisfaction All Wrong: David French reflects on surprising findings: " In a time when our nation has erased sexual taboos, cast off moral restraints, and become “more tolerant of sex in just about every permutation,” young Americans are having less sex. And one of the prime reasons is the “decline in couplehood among young people.” Married people have more sex than single people, yet fewer people get married, and the people who do marry “have been marrying later.”"

2.        Ergonomics Expert Explains How to Set Up Your Desk: Three worthwhile minutes for anyone who works at a desk.

3.       Against Open Doors: This is the second article I've posted pushing back the interpretation of interpreting God's will by interpreting open doors. Aaron Denlinger reminds us that Paul and Silas once had a prison door open in front of them and instead of seeing it as God's miraculous hand in freeing them, they saw it as an opportunity to save the jailer. Maybe we need to reconsider how we interpret open doors in our lives.

4.       5 Reasons to Treasure the Trinity: Each of Jerod Gilcher's five reasons opens up the fresh beauty of our Triune God. The first is: " The eternal relationship of the Trinity informs us that God is the happiest, most joyful Person in the universe. God has been infinitely happy because, within the context of the Trinity, He has been eternally enjoying, loving, and rejoicing in Himself. The fountain of our joy as believers is the joy that has always abounded within the Trinity."

5.       The Literal Translation of Every Country's Name: This is pretty fun. I like "Red Like An Ember," "Land of Burnt Faces," "I Go to the Beach," and "In the Naval of the Moon." What are your favorites?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       In Stores, Secret Surveillance Tracks Your Every Move: Well, this NY Times article by Michael Kwet certainly is disconcerting. He explains Bluetooth beacons, " ...are small, inobtrusive electronic devices that are hidden throughout the grocery store; an app on your phone that communicates with them informed the company not only that you had entered the building, but that you had lingered for two minutes in front of the low-fat Chobanis."

2.        Armchair Quarterbacks and Armchair Leaders: Eric Geiger reflects on a missed kick by Chicago's field goal kicker and the danger of Monday morning quarterbacking: " Whenever we evaluate a quarterback or a kicker, we typically evaluate them without understanding the whole context. For example, fans roasted Parkey before they discovered the kick was actually tipped off course by a defender. People often judge a leader’s decisions or actions without full understanding of the context surrounding those decisions. If the context were known, the armchair leader would likely make the same call."

3.       You've Heard of Cultural Marxism, Here is a Better Word to Call it: Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer with a dense, but thoughtful and helpful article on critical theory. They say that "critical theory claims that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth because of their “lived experience” of oppression. Such insight is unavailable to members of oppressor groups, who are blinded by their privilege."

4.       Are you Quarrelsome? The platform of social media seems to have unleashed a wave of quarrelsome people. Kevin DeYoung provides some helpful markers for us to consider. The first is " 1. You defend every conviction with the same degree of intensity. There are no secondary or tertiary issues. Everything is primary. You’ve never met a hill you wouldn’t die on."

5.       Stop Changing Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles: Edmunds on why you should be changing your oil closer to 7,500 to 10,000 miles.

Why I’m a Better Pastor (for you) than… (Rick Warren, Tony Evans, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Albert Tate, Matt Chandler, Joel Osteen, John Piper, or Andy Stanley)

Why I’m a Better Pastor (for you) than… (Rick Warren, Tony Evans, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Albert Tate, Matt Chandler, Joel Osteen, John Piper, or Andy Stanley)

You have access to the best pastors in America.

You have at your fingertips access to a trove of virtually endless content by some of the wisest and most powerful thinkers and speakers on the planet. As soon as you finish this post you can have them piped into your office, car, or living room and be impacted by their words. And I hope you do!

What a ridiculous gift we have! If you were born five hundred and fifty years ago in Europe, in all likelihood not only could you not read the Bible, but it was likely that your parish priest didn’t own a whole copy of the Latin Bible and since he knew only a handful of Latin words, he couldn’t even read the Bible. Fast forward a few decades to the Reformation and now, for the first time, you would hear the Bible read in your own language and its words applied to your life.

Fast forward five centuries to today and not only do we (in the West) have unfettered access to the Bible, but we have almost limitless access to some of the very best Bible teaching. What a gift we have!

And yet, that begs a question: how is a normal pastor like myself supposed to compete? Why should you even bother with attending your local church? Why settle for the best I can offer when you can watch the best that Tim Keller and Albert Tate and (fill in your favorite preacher here) can offer?!

The truth is that I can’t compete. I’ll never be on an “America’s Best Preachers” list like this. And frankly, I have no aspirations for that.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Don't Let the Sexular Culture Leave Women as Also-Rans: Stephen McAlpine tells the story of a woman who was not awarded a prize in an Australian race despite being the first female finisher because of the organizer's attempt to be gender-blind. McAlpine reflects, " If it’s not bad enough that women are constantly the victims of testosterone-laden men off the sporting field, women are now becoming victims on the sporting field of testosterone laden men self-identifying as women.  There’s real anger, but it has to be muted by women, lest the culture warriors who promulgate the Sexular narrative hunt them down."

2.       Five Ways the Bible and Economic Principles are Connected: Shawn Ritenour makes the argument for why and how the Bible influences are understanding of economics.

3.      Why Are Calvinists So Mean?: As a Calvinist myself (although I typically prefer to describe myself with different language because of this very reality), I appreciate Jared Wilson's diagnosis. He concludes, " And if we are frequently charged with treating others in uncharitable ways, the humility necessary to the doctrine ought to produce a humility in its doctrinaires to ask if our lives actually contradict the doctrine we preach with our mouths."

4.      How You Have Been Training Artificial Intelligence for Free: Amazon and Google are two companies who have brilliantly (and perhaps mischievously) been using all sorts of ways to harness what we are already doing for their benefit.

5.      The Weird World of Recycling: Oh man, I've read a handful of articles recently on the realities of recycling that make me so disappointed. Here's to hoping someone can figure out a solution to this issue. 

Why Not to Floss Before You Go to Church

Why Not to Floss Before You Go to Church

“We’ve got just enough time. Let’s go!” My wife and I had run an errand on our day off and had a dentist appointment in 45 minutes. If we didn’t get caught in traffic we would just be able to get home, brush, floss, swish some Listerine, and then head to our afternoon dentist appointment. Why? Because in our world, you don’t show up to a dentist appointment without your teeth in their best condition.

Two days later I drop my car off at the shop. It has a strange squeak that has me nervous. I haven’t so much as popped the hood. The car isn’t washed and a fine powder of crumbs dusts the backseat.

When I go to the dentist I go hoping that I will get a good report. I don’t want any cavities, and I hope not to be scolded that I don’t floss enough. I have a strange desire to receive the dentist’s approval.

When I go to the car shop, I go messy. I go honest. I hope that they hear the squeak I keep hearing. I don’t know anything about cars and I hope that the mechanic can fix the problem. I know I sure can’t.

How do I go to church? Like I go to the dentist’s office or like I go to the car shop? Do we clean ourselves up or do we come messy?

Too many of us go to church like we go to the dentist’s office.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       When Life Gets Tough Self-Esteem Is Not the Answer: Shelby Abbott reminds us of a simple but important truth: " When we’re able to have a proper view of ourselves along with an honest view about the sinful state of the world, the solution to our rampant anxiety becomes more and more clear—it is not more self-esteem, self-trust, or self-love. The solution is God Almighty made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ."

2.      Surprisingly, Millennials are the Generation Most Likely to Attend Church: Aaron Earls reports on this surprising study: " A study commissioned by Dunham+Company found more than half of self-identified evangelicals say they attend church once a week or more. Among millennials, however, that number climbs to 61%—more than Gen Xers (44%) and Boomers (54%)."

3.      How we Can be Selfless without Being Needless: Caroline Saunders makes a helpful distinction in this article about the difference between being selfless and being needless. She suggests we ought to be the first but not the second. " Our neediness is also an instrument for God’s work through us. Our personal neediness can train us to see neediness in others. The surprising result? Selflessness!"

4.      10 Ways to Spoil an Apology: Emma Scrivener reminds us of just how easy it is to blow an apology. 

5.      The Problem With Banning Plastic Bags: Everyone knows plastic bags are bad for the environment. But what if banning them is worse?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      The Funeral As We Know it is Becoming a Relic: Karen Heller reports that just as we are on the verge of a death boom, the rules of funerals are undergoing significant changes. She shares, " The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger. In 2030, people over 65 will outnumber children, and by 2037, 3.6 million people are projected to die in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, 1 million more than in 2015, which is projected to outpace the growth of the overall population."

2.      Be Slow to Assume: Being slow to anger begins with being slow to assume, Lara D'Entremont suggests: " Maybe this is what Peter meant by, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8). In my desire to assume the best of another, the small sins of another towards me are overlooked and covered, rather than racked up to be something greater than they were. Let’s toss poor assumptions, give some charity, stretch ourselves a little, and put grace on display."

3.      Why We Need to Stop Saying, "Sorry for Your Loss": This is written from a secular psychological perspective from Ed Preston. Preston is correct though, and I would suggest that the reasons as Christians are even stronger. He suggests, " Perhaps it’s because of our cultural death phobia, and the way it pathologizes everything related to sadness. If we’re not better at dealing with grief, then it’s because we’ve never been taught better. Unfortunately, that leaves the majority of people with only one stock phrase in their repertoire, “I’m sorry for your loss.”" He also includes some practical advice for what you can say.

4.      How to Get Your Church to Engage Scripture More: JR Briggs offers seven great ideas including, " Read a passage, and then ask people to write out 10-to-15 questions about the passage on a piece of paper. Why did the woman ask that of Jesus? What was running through Abraham’s mind when he was walking up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac? Allow people to interact with the text by courageously wrestling with tough questions."

5.      1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left Church Over Abuse: Kate Shellnut reports on a recent Lifeway Research survey that contains sobering information. She concludes with practical changes churches can consider including, " Assess your church culture first and make needed changes: Do your current members experience safety and freedom in sharing their own stories of suffering?"

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Where do the Prayers of a Mom Go? I love this reflection from Sylvia Schroeder. She says, " My Mom will never be known through books or media, she wasn’t prominent in her community, nor did she pass on an inheritance of fame. Yet, her life rose much higher than diapers changed and tantrums stilled. It spanned veiled generations."

2.      Caring for Orphans Isn't a Command: Jason Johnson shares that, instead, "our participation in this work - and even more than that, our becoming these kind of people in the gospel - is “cleansing”. It puts a clean, unadulterated picture of the gospel on display, but it cleanses us as well.

3.      How to Become a Name Wizard: Remembering names matters and I need to improve. Dan Duckworth's practical suggestion begins with humility and care: "I became a Name Wizard when I discovered a reason to transcend my ego. Suddenly, what mattered most was that other people knew that I cared, that I valued them for their divine potential, whether we were strangers, acquaintances, or friends. Driven by that purpose, I could no longer tolerate social pretense. I had to be real. And this is real: “I don’t know [or remember] your name, but I want to.”"

4.      What is a Pupper? What is a Doggo? These final two are from my son who loves them. I think they're pretty cute too.

5.      Doggo Chart: Breaking it down :).

Can Yoga be Christian?

Can Yoga be Christian?

Would it surprise you to know that according to at least one study, 20.4 million Americans practice yoga?[i] Can Christians do yoga? Should Christians do yoga? When my wife approached me with an interest in considering practicing Holy Yoga (Christian yoga) I admit my default position was skepticism. For me, it smacked of the Oprah Winfrey-ization of contemporary American Christianity. I expected it to be seeped in self-help-ism and having the thinnest of Christian veneers.

Others have even stronger objectives: how can yoga, a practice developed first by Hindus, be able to be used by Christians? Isn’t that akin to Christians sacrificing on pagan altars? Stronger still: doesn’t yoga open Christians up to the presence of demonic presences?

Yoga means “to yoke.” In a Hindu context, it is understood that the goal of yoga is to free oneself from attachments to yoke together mind, spirit, and body with the Divine. For Hindus this is accomplished by emptying oneself to become part of the Supreme Consciousness.

Hindu yoga practice believes that the postures in yoga pay homage to open oneself up to spiritual energies (chakra theory). Some believe that Ishvara, who is mentioned in the Yoga Sutras, is a personal god (others argue Ishvara refers to a “special self” or “spiritual self”.[ii]  Some argue that the often-repeated “Om” breath in traditional yoga refers to Ishvara.[iii] It is argued is not a “religiously neutral practice that Christianity can be plugged into.”

Some argue that yoga predates its relationship with Hinduism,[iv] but whether or not that is true, it is clear that Hinduism was the ground that yoga grew up in and was propagated. Furthermore, there is no doubt that yoga, as traditionally practiced, is not religiously neutral.