I started seminary shortly after I became a Christian. Like many young, hungry Christians, I got really into apologetics (the practice of defending the faith). Unfortunately, like many Christians, I was more interested in winning arguments – not people. I looked for ways to intellectually shut people down, rather than to show them who Jesus was and what he accomplished for lost sinners like me. Those of you who knew me during this season can remember I was quite the bulldozer – something I’m still working on to this day.
Imagine my initial excitement when in my first year at seminary I signed up for a class on the Christian response to Islam. I was fired up. I thought to myself, “Alright, this class is going to give me a powerful 3-point argument to tear down any Muslim who tries to debate me!” I never once considered how I could approach people with love like Jesus did. I just wanted to shut people down.
I’ll never forget what happened to me during this course. During the first hour on the first day of class, the professor gave a powerful sermon that completely cut me shreds. He was preaching on the importance of actually loving others like Christ. Then he landed the finishing blow which pierced me to the core: “If you don’t love people, then you have no business being here.” Continue Reading
Last night President Trump gave his first State of the Union address. It was clear that one of his goals was to convince his audience that his administration has made our country safer and stronger. But in one of the high points of his address, it wasn’t the strength of his administration that he appealed to, but the strength of the American people: “The state of our union is strong because our people are strong.”
Strong, safe and healthy. It’s what we all want to be. While these things are fine for us to desire, what happens when we as a society become a little too obsessed with becoming strong and prosperous? Continue Reading
This is a lengthy article. It is best read as a pdf, which you may find here.
There is a great scene at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King that really captures what true friendship looks like. Sam and Frodo are nearing the end of their journey to destroy the One Ring. Frodo – even more so than Sam – is completely exhausted not only physically but also from the internal burden of carrying the Ring all this way. As they’re both collapsed on the side of Mount Doom, Sam asks Frodo, “Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo?…Do you remember the taste of strawberries?”
Tragically, Frodo replies, “No, Sam. I can’t recall the taste of food…nor the sound of water…nor the touch of grass. I’m naked in the dark, with nothing, no veil between me and the wheel of fire! I can see him with my waking eyes!”
Sam, responding perhaps as the greatest friend in cinema history says, “Then let us be rid of it, once and for all! Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it [the Ring] for you, but I can carry you!” He proceeds to pick up his dear friend, and although he can’t carry his friend’s deepest burdens, he can help get him to the place he needs to go. Recognizing his friend’s exhaustion, Sam helps him by meeting Frodo’s immediate physical need. Continue Reading
Doubt and fear are two responses to situations in life that are common to all of us. One could say that they’re woven into our spiritual DNA as fallen creatures this side of the curse. Maybe you fear and doubt that the Lord will provide for your family, so you overwork yourself to the point of exhaustion. Maybe you doubt the Lord’s goodness to you in the gift of your spouse, so you are constantly seeking to control your marriage. Perhaps struggles with infertility for years have become such a burden that you doubt if God even hears your cries at night. Or possibly you’re experiencing something that we’ve all experienced at some point in our Christian walk – doubt that we have even truly been saved by God.
Can you relate to experiences like these? If you can, then you know that fear and doubt has the capacity to absolutely paralyze us. Rather than living a life confidently in the graces of God, we respond with a life of both apathy and control. Our doubts and fears lead us toward bitterness and resentment, both toward God and other Christians. When life seems to be going so well for everyone else, what can we do when God feels distant and we doubt his promises to us? Continue Reading