Christian Living

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.

Of Mice and Men’s 3.8 Rating and Handling Criticism

Of Mice and Men’s 3.8 Rating and Handling Criticism

One of my favorite all-time books is the great American novel Of Mice and Men. This year I’ve been on a bit of a John Steinbeck binge. I’ve picked up some of his classics that I enjoyed in year’s past and I’ve picked up a couple that were new to me. I picked up Of Mice and Men for the first time in twenty-five years and dropped myself into the world of George and Lennie. It was just as immersive and heart-wrenching as the first time I read it as a fifteen-year-old. No, it was better. As perfect a novel as has ever been written.

I’m not a big crier, but my eyes welled, and then tears streamed down my cheeks as George has Lennie close his eyes and imagine their life on their own farm in the closing scene. Maybe you remember the emotional wallop or reading that final scene? Maybe you cried as well?

I went to Goodreads, where I rate and review books I’ve written (if you have an account, friend me!). My jaw dropped. On a 5 star scale, Steinbeck’s masterpiece has received a 3.86 rating with over 1.7 million ratings. A 3.86 for one of the finest pieces of writing on the planet. As of this writing 51,618 people rated Steinbeck’s novel a 1 out of 5 stars. 51,618 people, more than the population of Prescott, Arizona, decided that Steinbeck’s novel wasn’t just average or disappointing… no, it deserved the worst possible ranking they could give a book.

Confession: I handle criticism poorly.

By “handle criticism poorly” I don’t mean that I don’t receive criticism or seek it out. I do both. What I mean is that I tend to hear criticism in BOLD and CAPS LOCK. My default is to overstate the criticism, to universalize it, and to see too much merit in the criticism. I can slide into doubting my calling and gifting.

Fellow discouraged traveler, remember, 51,618 people gave Of Mice and Men 1 star.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       How 32 African Slaves Turned Into Millions: This year we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the tragic start of the slave trade to the Americas. This powerful info-graphic rich article shows how 32 slaves ballooned into millions. 

2.       Why People Don't Think You Appreciate Them Even When You Do: Suzanne Vickberg with helpful advice for any leader. She begins by quoting Gladys Bronwyn Stern: "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."

3.       Why Calvinists Should Be the Gentlest: John Newton, in his letter to fellow Christians exhorts gentleness and cautions a lack of gentleness, " If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable."

4.       Eternity and Mortality: Jennie Cesario with a beautiful reflection on how a scrape with death shaped her perspective about herself, God, and parenting.

5.       The Ugly History of Mass Incarceration: The United States imprisons more people than any country in the world. And with a disproportionate number of those inmates being black, it is an issue fraught with difficulty. As a former Detention Officer, the complicated history of and solution for our incarceration problem hits close to home. 

What Books Can Help me Talk to My Friend about Their Questions for God?

What Books Can Help me Talk to My Friend about Their Questions for God?

In the coming months at New Life we are looking forward to stepping into a series called Questions for God. In the series, we hope to openly and honestly engage the most difficult questions people have about Christianity. For some those questions keep them on the outside looking in. For others, it causes them to wrestle with their faith.

We hope that Questions for God invites everyone into the conversation no matter where you are spiritually. It is our aim to address these questions with respect and honesty. And it is our hope that some might lean in to engage their questions in a safe environment. It is hope as well that it might serve as an opportunity for Christians to open the doors for conversations with friends and family members.

As we prepare for this series, I would commend the following books. Maybe one of these piques your interest. I would encourage you to pick it up and start reading it in the next few weeks.

 

Two Books That Engage the Broader Questions

Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin

Deep thinkers have pointed questions for Christianity. “Aren’t we better off without religion?” “How can you say there’s only one true faith?” “Doesn’t religion cause violence?” “Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?” “Isn’t Christianity homophobic?” “How could a loving God send people to hell?”

In Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin takes those questions seriously. As a former skeptic, McLaughlin brings both empathy and clear reasoning. She does three things particularly well:

Celebrating God's Rescue

Celebrating God's Rescue

This past Sunday at New Life we had the privilege of celebrating the baptism of eight. Baptisms are one of the most precious celebrations for the family of God. It doesn’t matter how many I’ve done, each is as fresh and as joy-filled as my first.

These testimonies are too powerful not to share.

Here is one nugget:

“What do I love about Jesus? What’s not to love? I love that he loves me… That’s what I love most about our Lord, that he is so gracious and merciful despite how far we walk away from him.”

Make sure you watch to the end. How good is our Heavenly Father?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        3 Reasons Christians Cannot Commit the Unforgivable Sin: Michael Bird handles the question of whether Christians can commit the unforgivable sin. 

2.       America's Science-Denying, Antiquated Abortion Law: Ardee Coolidge with a strong opinion on America's abortion law, " [D]espite these amazing advancements in science, technology, and medicine, we lag behind the rest of the developed world in one very important area: our abortion laws. In fact, one key aspect of abortion in the United States is so outdated that only six other nations ON EARTH agree with our position (and one of those nations is the forward-thinking paradise of North Korea)."

3.       Do You Have a Child-Centered Home? This is a helpful questionnaire. 

4.       Don't Compliment by Comparing: Eric Geiger shares three reasons we shouldn't compare when we compliment and then concludes, "Compliment. Be liberal with encouragement. But work hard to offer compliments without comparisons. They are more effective and an indication of your maturing." 

5.       It Turns Out Sexual Liberation Isn't All That Liberating: David French concludes, " Faith and family aren’t guarantors of human flourishing (nothing is), but our nation certainly feels their absence, and our culture aches at their loss."

9 Ways to Flee From Lust

9 Ways to Flee From Lust

The past two weeks we’ve looked at Jesus’ difficult words about lust in the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s be honest: the standard Jesus calls us to can feel profoundly unfair. It is God, after all, who created us as physical beings. It is God who created us as sexual beings. It is God who gave us desires. God gave us libido. And God gave us imaginations.

And in this, God has created us in his image! God is the being with the most powerful desires in the universe! What kind of image bearers would we be if we did not also have desires?

And so, in recognizing the reality that God created us as desiring beings, we recognize that God has called us to direct those desires at himself and his righteousness.  

Is it possible to never lust? No. Not in this life.

But it is possible to fight against anger and lust? Yes.

Tolerating sin is not okay. We must fight with everything we’ve got, small and large.

Knowing what is at stake, Jesus calls us to take radical measures to flee from lust. He says:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

Let’s be clear what Jesus is and isn’t saying here. Jesus isn’t calling for self-mutilation. But Jesus is telling us to treat our twisted desires with the utmost seriousness. In fact that little phrase “causes you to” that Jesus applies to our right eye and our right hand is the same word for a trap in Greek. Jesus tells us to treat temptation to lust like a spring-loaded trap. Stay away!

The first two weeks we’ve addressed two large camps of how to do battle: 1) fight for the greatest pleasure of all (God himself); 2) consider the stakes of giving into our lust.

Today, let’s conclude by considering nine practical ways to battle lust in our lives[i]:

Can Lust Send Me to Hell?

Can Lust Send Me to Hell?

Our culture toys with lust.[i] We know the power of lust so well that we use it to sell hamburgers and cars and beer. I mean, seriously. Step back and consider how crazy that is. We take things that are already attractive and then add sex to them to sell them better! Burgers, sports cars, and beer! We crave these things on their own! And yet advertisers are still compelled to add an ingredient in to make them even more desirous: sex. On the flip side, you never see sex requiring anything else to sell it. Your local strip club isn’t trying to lure people in with their mouthwatering hamburgers.

Last week we considered Jesus’ difficult words about lust. Jesus takes the Old Testament standard of sexual purity of not committing adultery to a radical place: the heart. Jesus says that we are called by God to not even entertain lustful desires in our heart.

Jesus takes lust seriously. He takes lust seriously because when we lust we reveal that our heart is aimed at gratifying ourselves, not honoring God.

We tend to fear the wrong things when it comes to lust. We fear what a life of unfulfilled desires might look like. We fear the relational consequences of getting caught looking at pornography. We fear having our reputation marred.

But there are things we should really fear: the state of our soul, for starters. And of course, we should fear our Maker, God himself.

Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper

Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper

In Recapturing the Wonder, Mike Cosper has written a unique book that explores spiritual disciplines in our secular context. Cosper says that his book is “an attempt to sketch out the spiritual landscape of an age that has been called a ‘secular age,’ an ‘age of anxiety,’ and a ‘culture of narcissism,’ and an effort at finding a path into a different way of life.”

Cosper begins to explaining what it means that we live in a secular age. He explains that a secular world is a disenchanted world: “A disenchanted world has been drained of magic, of any supernatural presences, of spirits and God and transcendence. A disenchanted world is a material world, where what you see is what you get.”

The secular world responds to the religious world: “You can believe whatever you want so long as you don’t expect it to affect your everyday experience.”

In this world, spiritual disciplines are a counter-cultural act. They are not just formation: they are counter-formation. They shape us against the world we inhabit. It also means that these disciplines are going to be hard for us. “In a disenchanted world,” Cosper says, “solitude is terrifying.” As Christians, “We’re not called first to act but to cease.” Cosper continues, “As we take up ancient practices like prayer, Scripture reading, and fasting, we will see the way they confront our disenchanted way of knowing the world.”

Where the secular world creates religion of display, in Christ we can experience the reality of peace with God. “The alternative to the disenchanted religion of display--a life spent seeking affirmation in the mirror of the world—is to find rest in Jesus.” Cosper says we don’t need to manufacture spectacle, we need to experience the presence of God in daily disciplines.

What does your interior life look like? Who are you when you’re not displaying yourself?