Blog Archive


2010 (89)

  • 15.03. - It’s Not About You, It’s About Me (0) (Uncategorized)
    What other kind of preaching would we expect from a church which takes its cues from the marketplace? Why should we be surprised to find that we have traded our prophets for Madison Avenue pitchmen? Our best sellers and our worship leaders may say that it’s not about us, but everything about the church’s practice proves otherwise.
  • 16.03. - My Tribe (8) (The Church, Uncategorized) (attendance, christian, church, house, Koessler, stranger)
    For years we have largely blamed ourselves for this struggle. We have been convinced that the problem is us. It must be our fault. We have expressed our grief to God, repented weekly and tried to soldier on, doing our best not to “forsake the assembling” of ourselves together. All the while living a kind of gypsy life, moving from congregation to congregation (I warned you that my story was a sordid one).
  • 17.03. - Playing Technopoly (1) (Culture)
    I have been reading Wendell Berry on my digital reader. I feel guilty about it. Berry, a beautiful writer whose prose reads like poetry, composes all his books in longhand. His wife types the manuscript on an old Royal typewriter. He will not purchase a computer.
  • 18.03. - George Bailey Lassos the Moon (6) (Christian Life, Uncategorized, Will of God)
    I haven’t thought about God’s will for some time. Not seriously. Not in that obsessive way that I used to back when I was a college student, wondering about God’s plan for my future.
  • 18.03. - 100 Top Church Blogs (1) (Uncategorized)
    Saw this list of the 100 top church blogs ( on Tim Challies blog today ( Very helpful!
  • 21.03. - God is Your Gardener (0) (Uncategorized)
    But by-and-by there came a change. Somehow it lost all power to raise itself. It trailed in circling disorder on the ground. And when its flowers blossomed, and cried for air and sunlight, do what it could, it could not raise them from the mud.
  • 22.03. - A Forgotten Classic on Preaching (3) (Preaching, Uncategorized)
    Not long ago while rummaging through Google books, I stumbled across a forgotten classic on preaching by J. C. Ryle.
  • 24.03. - Sentimentality and Preaching (0) (Preaching)
    Sentimentality is not confined to the arts. It can also afflict the sermon. When the sermon becomes sentimentalized the preacher’s need to feel good about the experience of preaching leads to manipulation.
  • 25.03. - Apostolic “Strategery” (6) (Uncategorized)
  • 26.03. - The Holy Spirit and Strategic Planning (4) (Uncategorized)
  • 27.03. - Saturday Night Fever (1) (Uncategorized)
  • 28.03. - Behold, Thy King Cometh Unto Thee (0) (Uncategorized)
  • 29.03. - The Rhythm of Holy Week (0) (Uncategorized)
  • 30.03. - When Communication is Not Proclamation (0) (Uncategorized)
    "We preachers so want to be heard that we are willing to make the gospel more accessible than it really is, to remove the scandal, the offense of the cross, to deceive people into thinking that it is possible to hear without conversion.”
  • 31.03. - The Gospel of Judas (0) (Uncategorized)
    Why do we try so hard to rehabilitate Judas? To explain his false heart and find some hope for his redemption?
  • 01.04. - Love Bade Me Welcome (0) (Uncategorized)
  • 05.04. - Ministry Monday-Shepherd of the Flock (6) (Uncategorized)
  • 07.04. - On Preachers and Preaching: Are Preachers Born or Made? (7) (Preaching, Uncategorized) (church, homiletics, preachers, Preaching)
  • 09.04. - Out of My Mind: Going to the Dogs (11) (Uncategorized) (death, dogs, heaven, Jesus' words, love, marriage, middle age, Yorkshire Terriers)
    If I find it hard to imagine a heaven without my dog, it is even harder to picture a heaven in which I am not married to my wife Jane. We have enjoyed so many things on earth together it only seems natural that we would explore the undiscovered country hand in hand. It disturbs me to read Matthew 22:30, where Jesus says, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”
  • 12.04. - Ministry Monday: Vision’s Dirty Little Secret (4) (Uncategorized) (leadership, ministry, ministry vision, pastoral ministry, vision, Wendell Berry)
    In saying this, Berry has uncovered the dirty little secret of most vision work. Vision is often as much about us as it is about the future, a fact which explains why so many visionary leaders also turn out to be narcissists.
  • 14.04. - On Preachers and Preaching-Inflecting the Text (2) (Preaching) (Harry Emerson Fosdick, on preaching and preachers, preachers, Preaching, sermon, sermon application, sermons)
  • 16.04. - Out of My Mind: Housecleaning as a Spiritual Discipline (0) (Uncategorized)
  • 19.04. - Ministry Monday: The Best Day to Take Off (9) (Uncategorized)
    Why do so many hate Mondays? Monday's curse is that it is a day of starting over. No matter how well the service went yesterday, when the next Sunday rolls around, we will have to do it all again.
  • 21.04. - On Preachers and Preaching: Haddon Robinson on Sermon Application (1) (Preaching, Uncategorized) (Center for Preaching at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Haddon Robinson, Preaching, sermon application, sermons)
    Listen to Haddon Robinson talk about the importance of nuanced sermon application.
  • 23.04. - Out of My Mind: What Kind of Personality Does Jesus Have? (4) (Jesus, Uncategorized) (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Christianity Today, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Jesus, personality, Scott McKnight, When Kingfishers Catch Fire)
    The Gospel writers emphasize the person of Christ but not his personality.
  • 26.04. - Ministry Monday: The Future of Ministry (3) (Culture, The Church, Uncategorized) (church, ministry, pastoral ministry, the future of the church, William Willimon)
    What is the future of ministry? In a recent blog post William Willimon proposes ten theses about the future of the mainline church.
  • 28.04. - On Preachers and Preaching-Why I Use Notes When I Preach (9) (Preaching, Uncategorized)
    Is it better to preach without notes? Why I use a manuscript.
  • 30.04. - Out of My Mind: Flat on My Back (10) (Uncategorized) (ambulance, death, emt, last words, police, purpose, taxi, taxi cab)
    There is nothing like getting run over by a car to provide a moment of clarity.
  • 03.05. - Ministry Monday: How Soon is Too Soon to Move On? (11) (Pastoral Ministry, The Church) (accepting a call to a new church, call, pastor, pastoral change, pastoral ministry)
    Unfortunately, steady is not very appealing to churches. Today’s church would rather have dynamic instead. Ours is a Corinthian age which prefers the silken color and flash of Apollos to the plain cloth and reliable stitching of Paul.
  • 05.05. - On Preachers and Preaching-Why Theology Matters in Preaching (10) (Preaching) (doctrine, on preaching and preachers, Preaching, theology, theology and preaching)
    Church members are asking fundamental and profound questions about the nature of God’s relationship with humanity, the origin of evil, and about their own personal significance. Meanwhile, the church’s theologians, who have been reflecting on these questions for over two millennia, are talking among themselves.
  • 07.05. - Out of My Mind: John Wayne, Jesus and Me (4) (Uncategorized) (Bible Study, Cavalry Trilogy, John Ford, John Wayne, John Wayne Movie Bible Study, Nick at Nite)
    If Nick at Nite got religion and started a Sunday school, I imagine it would look something like this.
  • 10.05. - Ministry Monday: The Lost Language of Worship (7) (Uncategorized)
  • 13.05. - On Preachers and Preaching: Text or Audience? (0) (Preaching, Uncategorized) (Biblical Preaching, Bryan Chapell, Chapell, Christ Centered Preaching, expository preaching, Haddon Robinson, Joseph Stowell, Preaching, Robinson, Stowell, textual preaching)
    Should the preacher begin with the text or the audience? In this video Joseph Stowell, Haddon Robinson and Bryan Chapell discuss the legitimacy of textual preaching.
  • 14.05. - Out of My Mind: Just Another Barbarian at the Gate (3) (Uncategorized, Writing) (Anne Lamotte, Annie Dillard, Donald Miller, Kathleen Norris, writing)
    There is a general trajectory toward entropy in all artistic progression which suggests that my day will eventually come.
  • 17.05. - Ministry Monday: What Happened to Bob? (2) (Pastoral Ministry, Preaching, Uncategorized) (evangelism, gospel, Martyn Lloyd Jones, on preaching and preachers, pastoral ministry, Preaching)
    I have been preaching long enough to know that the power does not lie in my rhetoric or my structure, as important as those things are to my preaching. This is not the first time that the Holy Spirit has stolen my thunder.
  • 19.05. - Jonathan Edwards: Marks of a Work of the True Spirit (2) (Revival, Uncategorized) (Douglas A. Sweeney, Essential Edwards Collection, Jonathan Edwards, Moody Publishers, Owen Strachen, revival)
    I have always maintained that it is not hard to bring "revival" to Bible college students. All you need is a hot day, a chapel service and an open mike. Wait long enough and eventually somebody will take the mike and confess to looking at pornography in the dorm.
  • 21.05. - Pitfalls for those in Ministry: The Holy Becomes Commonplace (4) (Uncategorized) (exegesis, Holiness, ministry, pastoral ministry, piety, Preaching)
    "You will not have been long in the ministry before you discover that it is possible to be fussily busy about the Holy Place and yet to lose the wondering sense of the Holy Lord.”
  • 24.05. - Ministry Monday: Attending to the Culture of Our Souls (2) (Pastoral Ministry, Uncategorized) (ministry, pastoral ministry, pastors, silence, solitude, spiritual disciplines)
    John Henry Jowett says, "We must assiduously attend to the culture of our souls."
  • 25.05. - The Mourner as Leader (0) (Uncategorized) (Jason Byassee, Kaddish, mourning, Steven Kepnes, worship)
    My colleague Heather Moffitt sent me a link to Jason Byassee's post on "The Mourner as Leader." Byassee comments on Steven Kepnes' book Jewish Liturgical Reasoning. It is Kepnes' observation about the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning for the dead, that captures Byassee's attention.
  • 27.05. - Out of My Mind: Not With a Bang (0) (Uncategorized) (aging, ceremonies, graduation, time)
    This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but a whimper. I often think of these words of T. S. Eliot this time of year. His description of the end of the world feels very much like the end of the school year to me.
  • 01.06. - Deliver us From Our Strengths, O Lord (0) (Pastoral Ministry, Uncategorized) (clergy, leadership, pastoral ministry, pastors)
    From our strengths and social virtues, O Lord, deliver us.
  • 03.06. - How ‘Christ Centered’ Should Our Preaching Be? (1) (Preaching) (Christ Centered Preaching, evangelism, evangelistic preaching, gospel, Jesus Christ, preach, preacher, Preaching)
    One of disparities between apostolic preaching and our own is the degree to which we have marginalized the gospel. We have not abandoned the gospel, only relegated it to the outskirts of our Christian experience.
  • 07.06. - On Preachers and Preaching: Why Don’t We Preach Like Jesus? (4) (Preaching) (Jesus, on preachers and preaching, Preaching, the preaching of Jesus, The Preaching of Jesus: Gospel Proclamation Then and Now, William Brosend)
    Why don't we preach like Jesus did?
  • 09.06. - Out of My Mind: Shame on You (1) (Uncategorized) (forgiveness, grace, shame)
    There is nothing quite so healthy as shame.
  • 14.06. - On Preachers and Preaching: The Divorce Between Theology and the Pulpit (2) (Preaching) (on preachers and preaching, Preaching, theology, theology and preaching)
    Preaching and theology were lovers once. As is so often the case in these matters, each is inclined to blame the other for the separation.
  • 16.06. - On Preachers and Preaching: The Divorce Between Theology and the Pulpit Part II (0) (Preaching) (on preachers and preaching, preachers, Preaching, theology, theology and preaching)
    The church’s suspicion of the practical value of theology, though misguided, is not without some basis in experience.
  • 18.06. - A Rumor of Angels (1) (Uncategorized)
    In a world in which enchantment has once again been awakened and where angels and demons are part of our every day entertainment, we must keep the “rumor of God” alive.
  • 21.06. - Preaching and the Authority of the Text (0) (Preaching) (authority, authority in preaching, authority of Scripture, Jesus, on preachers and preaching, preachers, Preaching)
    We cannot put Jesus at odds with the text of Scripture without putting Jesus at odds with himself. To attribute authority to Christ but to deny it to the Scriptures is a contradiction.
  • 23.06. - Worse Things Have Been Said (10) (Pastoral Ministry, Preaching, Uncategorized) (authority, leadership, pastor, pastoral authority, pastoral criticism, pastoral ministry)
    A few months after I graduated from seminary, I spoke to a friend about my discouragement with the church I was serving. I was annoyed by his blunt reply but could not disagree with his point.
  • 24.06. - Helmut Thielicke: Preaching Amidst the Rubble (2) (Preaching) (death, Helmut Thielicke, Preaching, Thy Kingdom Come)
    To preach is to take your stand before the pit and bear witness to the rubble of this ash heap world that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
  • 30.06. - Death: Our Enemy and Teacher (0) (Uncategorized) (death, sin, sin and death, sting of death)
    We are pilgrims who traverse an “empire of ruins” with death as our fellow traveler. Unable to rid ourselves of this cheerless companion, we attempt to rehabilitate it instead, treating death as if it were a neighbor and not a trespasser.
  • 06.07. - Offering the Hope of the Gospel in the House of Death (6) (Uncategorized) (comfort, funerals, gospel, Preaching)
    How do you offer comfort to people who have no reason to hope for it? What can you say to those whose loved ones have ordered their lives in such a way that they have left little room for God?
  • 12.07. - The Role of Theology in Preaching (4) (Uncategorized)
    Joe Thorn was kind enough to interview me on the subject of theology and preaching. If you are interested, check out his blog:
  • 13.07. - Now That the Book is Done… (1) (Writing) (writing)
    This is the kind of joy that I think a mother must feel just after giving birth.
  • 15.07. - They Still Speak Even Though They Are Dead (0) (Uncategorized)
    For an author this is a little like strolling through the graveyard and meditating on the day of your death.
  • 16.07. - When the Prayer Matters to Us More Than God (0) (Prayer) (answers to prayer, Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray, difficulties with prayer, how to pray, prayer, praying)
    There are times when the prayer matters to us more than God.
  • 22.07. - The Power of the Pulpit (16) (Uncategorized) (Preaching, pulpits)
    The pulpit has fallen on hard times in today’s evangelical churches.
  • 27.07. - Disappointed With Jesus? (12) (Uncategorized) (disappointment, disappointment with God, disappointment with the church, doubt, Ravi Zacharias)
    We often say, “Christianity may disappoint you, but Jesus never will.” I do not believe this for a moment.
  • 03.08. - With Wandering Steps and Slow (1) (Christian Life, Uncategorized)
    "They hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, through Eden took their solitary way." John Milton-Paradise Lost
  • 05.08. - The Problem with the Problem of Evil (2) (Uncategorized) (apologetics, God, questions about God, the problem of evil)
    For my part, I do not think the Bible answers the question about the problem of the origin of evil in a way that elimnates the tension we feel.
  • 10.08. - (0) (Uncategorized)
    God grant me the grace...
  • 11.08. - Worship With a Difficult Child (1) (The Church) (children, church, grace)
    “Reality doesn’t always conform to expectation,” Heather observes. When her son was 14 months old he began to exhibit what she describes as “debilitating behavioral challenges,” just weeks after she joined a new church.
  • 12.08. - Four Reasons We Are Disapponted With Jesus (0) (Uncategorized) (disappointment, disappointment with God, God)
    Four reasons why we may be disappointed with God.
  • 17.08. - My Conversation with Chris Fabry (0) (Uncategorized) (Chris Fabry Live, Disappointed with Jesus, disappointment, Moody Radio)
    Here is a link for those who are interested in listening to my conversation with Chris about disappointment with Jesus.
  • 18.08. - Every Pastor a Potential Hero (16) (Christian Life, Pastoral Ministry, Uncategorized) (pastoral ministry, pastors, trials, trouble)
    We must not fear to bring before us the gloomy view of the ministry.
  • 19.08. - Ten Challenges Pastors Face: Challenge #1-Hard Work (3) (Pastoral Ministry) (pastor, pastoral ministry, pastors, work)
    It is may be easier for the pastor than for any other professional to look so busy and do so little.
  • 23.08. - Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #2: Routine (0) (Pastoral Ministry) (Christianity, Local church, pastor, Pastoral care, pastoral ministry, Pastoral Resources, Religion and Spirituality, sermon)
    Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #2: Routine Even the best of us must sometimes feel as if we are on a treadmill. Sunday night leaves many a pastor dreading the approach of a new work week as much as any factory worker or office employee.
  • 25.08. - Ten Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #3: The Challenge of Being Misunderstood (2) (Pastoral Ministry, Uncategorized) (Christianity, Churches, Local church, pastor, Pastoral care, Religion and Spirituality)
  • 31.08. - Challenges Pastors Face-#4: Ministry to those in Distress (4) (Christian Life, Pastoral Ministry, Uncategorized) (Christianity, God, Jeremy Begbie, pastor, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, suffering)
  • 02.09. - Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #5: Living Under Scrutiny (3) (Pastoral Ministry, The Church, Uncategorized) (Christianity, pastor, pastoral ministry, Religion and Spirituality, the pastor's family)
    Every pastor feels the pressure of living under scrutiny. It is not the pressure of living in a “glass house” that creates difficulties so much as it is the burden of expectation. Often church members hold the pastor to a double standard, expecting far more of him than they do of themselves. Some of expectations are warranted. James warns those who teach that they will be “judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Does he mean that they are held to a higher standard? Or simply that those who prove to be hypocrites will be condemned more severely? He is at least implying that teachers will be held to their word. Unfortunately, congregations do not always limit their expectation to the pastor. Sometimes the entire family feels pressured to live by a standard that church members do not always apply to themselves. The embittered pastors’ child is so common it is almost a cliché. The factors that contribute to this are complex and not always easily addressed. But a basic starting point must be the recognition that contrary to the expectation of some church members (and a few pastoral parents), God does not hold the children of clergy to a higher standard. They are not more holy than other children. Though there are certainly some benefits to growing up in a pastor’s home, this “privilege” also has its drawback. The children of pastors are exposed to the inconsistencies of the church more than other children in the congregation. They hear the criticisms leveled against the pastor and feel the pain when he is mistreated. You cannot avoid the scrutiny of the congregation. Nor can you keep them from having unrealistic expectations. But you don’t have to live up to a double standard. Nor are you required to enforce it upon your family. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. 1 Cor. 4:1-5
  • 07.09. - Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #6: Feeling Underutilized (0) (Pastoral Ministry, The Church) (Christianity, pastor, pastoral ministry, success, William Carey)
  • 11.09. - Lone Pilgrim (4) (Uncategorized) (bobdylan, Lone Pilgrim, Sacred Harp, World Gone Wrong)
  • 13.09. - Ten Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #7: Social and Intellectual Isolation (0) (Uncategorized) (Christianity, church, Minister (Christianity), pastor, Pastoral, pastoral ministry, Pastoral Resources)
  • 15.09. - Ten Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #8: Prophet or Priest? (0) (Pastoral Ministry, Preaching) (Christianity, God, Minister (Christianity), pastor, pastoral ministry, Priest, Pulpit, Religion and Spirituality, sermon)
  • 21.09. - Ten Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #9: Preaching Beyond Our Experience (0) (Preaching, Uncategorized) (Christianity, pastor, Pastoral Ministry; Ministry, prayer, Pulpit, Religion and Spirituality, sermon)
  • 23.09. - Ten Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #10: Feeling Inadquate (2) (Uncategorized) (Christianity, John Newton, pastor, pastoral ministry, pastors, Religion and Spirituality)
  • 27.09. - Working For God: Part I (0) (Pastoral Ministry, The Church) (Christianity, christinan work, Jesus, pastor, pastoral ministry, pastorate, Religion and Spirituality)
  • 05.10. - Working for God: Part II (0) (Uncategorized) (Christian work, God, Jesus, ministry, Parable, Parable of the talents or minas, pastor, pastoral ministry)
  • 07.10. - Downward Facing Dog (5) (Uncategorized) (Christianity, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Religion and Spirituality, Wii Sports, Yoga)
  • 13.10. - Falling Into the Culture Gap: The Allure of “Hipster” Christianity (3) (Culture, Uncategorized) (Brett McCracken, Christianity, Christianity Today, gap, Hipster Faith)
  • 19.10. - Fear and Loathing in Deerfield (2) (Uncategorized) (EHS, Evangelical Homiletics Society, Pastoral Resources, preachers, Preaching, sermon, Trinity International University)
  • 22.10. - Ordinary Radicals (5) (Uncategorized)
  • 28.10. - Are You “The One?” (1) (Uncategorized) (Christianity, Denominations, leadership, Organization, Pastoral Leadership, pastoral ministry, pastors, Patrick Lencioni, Religion and Spirituality)
  • 31.10. - Giving Up the Ghost (1) (Uncategorized) (Ghost, Halloween)
  • 20.11. - The Preacher Who Failed (1) (Pastoral Ministry, Preaching, The Church, Uncategorized)
  • 28.11. - Worship’s Dull Surprise (2) (Uncategorized) (Boredom, Christ, church, Fred Craddock, God, sermon, Sundays, worship)
  • 30.11. - Echoes of Heaven (0) (Uncategorized) (Christianity, Christmas, God, Hymn, Robert Wuthnow)
  • 16.12. - What I Learned During Final Exams (6) (Uncategorized)
  • 24.12. - The Myth that Became Reality (3) (Uncategorized) (Christ, christian, Christianity, God, Jesus, Virgin birth of Jesus)

2011 (23)

2012 (7)

  • 16.02. - Book of the Year (0) (Uncategorized) (& Power: The Mysterious Act of Preaching, Folly, grace, PreachingToday Book of the Year,
  • 05.03. - How Do You Preach Easter? (0) (Uncategorized)
  • 09.03. - First Person (0) (Uncategorized) (First Person, stranger, Stranger in the House of God, Wayne Shepherde)
  • 18.10. - Imagine There’s a Heaven (1) (Uncategorized) (heaven, Religion, spirituality, theology)
  • 14.12. - Advent Poem (0) (Uncategorized) (Advent, Christianity, Christmas, Christmas poetry)
  • 21.12. - The Announcement to the Shepherds (2) (Uncategorized) (Advent, Advent poem, Advent poetry, Bethlehem, Christ, Christmas, Christmas poem, Christmas poetry, Jesu, poem, Sheep, Shepherd)
  • 23.12. - The Myth That Became Reality (0) (Uncategorized) (C. S. Lewis, Christ, Christianity, Christmas, gospel, Jesu, Nativity, Religion, theology)

2013 (13)

2014 (6)

  • 10.04. - Breaking Silence (0) (Uncategorized)
  • 15.04. - Easter and My Fear of Death (0) (death, Uncategorized) (Christ, death, Easter, fear, fear of death, Jesus, Jesus Chris)
  • 25.04. - Black Box (0) (Uncategorized)
  • 01.05. - Shepherding the Suffering (1) (Pastoral Ministry, Uncategorized) (hospital, hospital visitation, pastor, Pastoral care, pastoral ministry)
  • 22.12. - Still Wonderful (0) (Pastoral Ministry, Uncategorized) (Christ's Bith, Christmas, Holiday spirit, Nativity)
  • 27.12. - Now That Christmas is Gone (1) (Uncategorized) (Christmas, Holiday Blues, Holidays, New Year's Day, Post Christmas Blues)

2016 (1)

  • 15.12. - Silent Night (1) (Christmas) (Advent, Christmas, Nativity)
    Now that Advent has arrived, I suppose it is time for my annual Christmas lament. I am reluctant to speak. I am afraid of adding another shrill note to the year’s collective shriek. Everybody, it seems to me, is up in arms. Every word is an affront. It is tempting to blame our national mood on the election, but I believe its roots go deeper. If the outcome of the election had been different, I do not think that the tone would have changed. It would only have meant that different voices would be singing the same parts. We are all outraged now.

2017 (5)

  • 12.04. - Believing is Seeing (Jesus, Uncategorized)
    I think that the experience of the disciples during the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry was a lot like ours. The week started with such promise. Yet almost immediately things begin to go South.
  • 20.04. - How to Create the Ideal Colleague (0) (Uncategorized) (Community, Hypocrisy, Idealism)
  • 25.04. - Speaking of God (0) (Prayer, Uncategorized) (How to Address God in Prayer, Lord's Prayer, prayer)
    When I was a pastor some people addressed me as “pastor.” Others called me “Pastor John.” Some called me “Preacher” and a few referred to me as “Reverend.” If they asked what I preferred, I usually said, “My friends call me John.” But what about God? How should we address Him? Sir? Your Majesty? Some other title? He has several in Scripture. Jesus reveals the answer in the opening to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9: “This, then is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven….”
  • 28.11. - How Silently, How Silently (2) (Advent, Christmas, Uncategorized)
  • 12.12. - Bethlehem Night (0) (Advent, Christmas) (Advent, Bethlehem, Christmas, Shepherds)

2018 (54)

  • 22.05. - About Time (0) (Eternity, time, Uncategorized) (soul)
    I had a dream about my boys the other night. They really aren’t boys anymore. My two sons are young men in their late 20’s and early 30’s. But when I dream about them, they almost always appear as little boys. I, on the other hand, am ageless in my dreams. Not so much when I wake up.
  • 23.05. - This is What Forgiveness Feels Like (0) (Forgiveness, Grace, Uncategorized)
  • 23.05. - Just As He Was (0) (Uncategorized) (Billy Graham, calling, success)
  • 23.05. - Mob Action (0) (Jesus, Uncategorized)
  • 23.05. - What’s in a Name? (0) (Uncategorized)
  • 23.05. - The Seven Deadly Virtues (0) (Sin, Uncategorized, Virtue)
  • 23.05. - The Seven Deadly Virtues-Love (0) (Love, Seven Deadly Sins, Sin, Uncategorized, Virtue) (love, lust, seven deadly sins, sin)
  • 29.05. - The Seven Deadly Virtues-Satisfaction (0) (Seven Deadly Sins, Sin, Uncategorized)
  • 05.06. - The Seven Deadly Virtues-Prosperity (0) (Seven Deadly Sins, Sin, Uncategorized) (Greed)
  • 08.06. - Stupid is as Stupid Does (0) (Forgiveness, Grace, Jesus, Remorse, Sin, Uncategorized) (regret, remorse, sin, stupid, stupidity)
  • 13.06. - The Seven Deadly Virtues-Leisure (0) (Seven Deadly Sins, Sin, Uncategorized) (acedia, capital sins, leisure, rest, seven deadly sins, sin, sins, sloth)
  • 17.06. - My Dad (2) (Uncategorized) (Dad, Father, Father's Day)
  • 20.06. - Secular Eating and Daily Bread (0) (Christian Life, Prayer) (anxiety, bread, daily bread, economy, prayer, Wendell Berry, work, worry)
  • 22.06. - The Writing Life (0) (Uncategorized) (Annie Dillard, writing)
  • 28.06. - The Seven Deadly Virtues-Justice (2) (Uncategorized)
  • 11.07. - The Day After the Funeral (3) (death, Uncategorized) (death, eternal life, funeral, heaven)
  • 16.07. - The Geography of Somewhere (2) (Culture, Uncategorized) (culture, home, MI, neighborhood, Roseville, suburbia)
  • 19.07. - Saved by Science Fiction (0) (Culture, Uncategorized) (Heinlein, Junior High, Robert Heinlein, Science Fiction)
  • 23.07. - The Unexamined Life (1) (Uncategorized) (denial, Plato, se, self, self-examination)
  • 26.07. - Baptists Gone Wild (2) (Baptists, Culture, The Church) (baptists, Christian films, Christian movies, film, movies)
  • 31.07. - Strive for Mediocrity (5) (Culture, pride, Uncategorized) (Avis, humility, mediocrity, pride)
  • 02.08. - The True Prosperity Gospel (1) (Prosperity Gospel, Uncategorized) (giving, gospel, prosperity, prosperity gospel, tithe)
  • 06.08. - The Last Whole Earth Catalog (2) (Culture, Uncategorized) (church, Community, counter-culture, Whole Earth Catalog)
  • 09.08. - Denial is not a River in Egypt (11) (The Church, Uncategorized) (denial, Willow Creek, Willow Creek Community Church)
  • 14.08. - The Trouble with the 80/20 Rule (1) (Leadership, Ministry, The Church, Uncategorized) (congregational involvement, involvement, leadership, ministry, service)
  • 17.08. - Leadership by Path or Road? (0) (Congregational Culture, Leadership, Uncategorized) (congregational culture, leadership, leadership style, Wendell Berry)
  • 21.08. - Real Authentic (0) (Culture, Language, Uncategorized) (authentic, authenticity, genuine, genuineness, real, sincere, sincerity)
  • 23.08. - Same Story, Different Players (0) (Grace, Uncategorized) (Bible, Bible Narratives, failure, grace, mistakes, Narratives, Old Testament, salvation)
  • 28.08. - Hope, Agony, & Prayer (0) (Prayer, Uncategorized) (answers to prayer, faith, hope, prayer, unanswered prayer)
  • 04.09. - Anti-Hero Worship (0) (Culture, Leadership, Uncategorized)
  • 11.09. - Shadow of a Doubt (0) (Doubt, Faith, Jesus, Uncategorized) (doubt, faith, Jesus)
  • 17.09. - The Personality of Jesus (6) (Jesus) (Christ, emotional life of Christ, humanity of Christ, Jesus, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, personality of Christ)
  • 20.09. - Signs & Wonders (5) (Jesus Freaks, Jesus Movement, Music, Uncategorized) (Bob Dylan, Christian Music, Christian Rock, Father of Night, Fisherman's Net, Frank Majewski, Jesus Movement, Kelefa Sanneh, Larry Norman, New Morning)
  • 25.09. - What Not to Say on Your Next Job Interview (2) (Eternity, Future, Uncategorized) (Eternity, Future, interview tips, Interviews, Job Interviews, Vocation)
  • 04.10. - Added Value (2) (church, The Church, Uncategorized) (church, church membership, people, the body of Christ)
  • 09.10. - Empty is Enough (0) (Beatitudes, Gospel, Grace, Jesus, Uncategorized) (beatitudes, grace, poor in spirit)
  • 12.10. - Performance Review (1) (Beatitudes, Sin, Uncategorized) (Blessed are those who Mourn, Repentance, Sermon on the Mount, sin)
  • 15.10. - Godspeed, Eugene Peterson (6) (Eugene Peterson, Uncategorized) (Eugene Peterson, ministry, Under the Unpredictable Plant)
  • 18.10. - The Man Christ Jesus (4) (Beatitudes, Christian Life, Uncategorized) (Blessed are the Meek, Jesus Christ, Meekness, Muscular Christianity, Promise Keepers)
  • 23.10. - A Hunger for Justice (2) (Beatitudes, Justice, Righteousness, Uncategorized) (beatitudes, Daredevil, hunger and thirst for righteousness, Justice, Righteousness)
  • 30.10. - The Quality of Mercy (3) (Beatitudes, Grace, Mercy, Uncategorized) (beatitudes, blessed are the merciful, grace, mercy)
  • 06.11. - Election Day (1) (Uncategorized) (contentment, election, elections, happiness, satisfaction)
  • 08.11. - Extraordinarily Ordinary (6) (Christian Life, Uncategorized, Will of God) (@wendellberry, @WendellDaily, Christian life, martyrdom, ordinary, ordinary life, Wendell Berry)
  • 13.11. - Clean (1) (Beatitudes, Gospel, Grace, Righteousness, Uncategorized) (blessed are the pure in heart, pure, pure in heart. beatitudes, purity)
  • 27.11. - Once Upon a Time (5) (Advent, Christmas, Uncategorized) (Advent, C. S. Lewis, Chrismtas, Myth, Nativity)
  • 29.11. - The Trajectory of Worship (3) (Uncategorized)
  • 02.12. - Antiphony: The Song of Zechariah and Elizabeth (1) (Advent, Christmas, Uncategorized) (Advent, Angels, Christmas, John the Baptist)
  • 06.12. - Should We Observe Advent? (2) (Advent, Christmas, Uncategorized) (Advent, C. S. Lewis, Christmas)
  • 09.12. - Angels We Have Heard (0) (Advent, Christmas, Uncategorized) (Advent, Angels, Christmas, Mary, The Annunciation)
  • 13.12. - My Dickensian Christmas (0) (Advent, Christmas, Uncategorized) (A Christmas Carol, Christmas, Dickens, The Ghost of Christmas Future, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present)
  • 16.12. - The Dogs of Heaven (6) (death, Doubt, Heaven, Uncategorized) (death, Do dogs go to heaven?, dogs, doubt, heaven)
  • 19.12. - Joseph’s Dream (2) (Advent, Christmas, Jesus, Uncategorized) (Christmas, Joseph, Joseph and Mary, Mary, Nativity)
  • 24.12. - While Shepherds Watched their Flocks (2) (Advent, Christmas, Uncategorized) (Advent, Announcement to the Shepherds, Annunciation, Christmas, Christmas Shepherds, Christmas Story)
  • 25.12. - The Birth of Jesus – Gospel of Luke Ch. 1-2 (0) (Uncategorized)

2019 (29)

  • 04.01. - Keeping it Real (6) (Uncategorized) (New Year's Day, optimism, pessimism, Retirement)
  • 11.01. - Writing and Rejection (7) (Uncategorized, Writing) (authors, rejection, writing)
  • 24.01. - Self-Absorbed (4) (Sin, Uncategorized) (narcissism, narcissistic leadership, narcissists, self-centeredness, sin)
  • 29.01. - Why Do Churches Put Up with Narcissistic Leaders? (6) (Leadership, Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, pride, Uncategorized) (dysfunctional leadership, leadership style, narcissistic leadership, narcissists, pride)
    Another high profile pastor has been accused of abusive leadership. The story is so familiar to us by now that it has become monotonous. We are sorry, but we are not surprised. What can you do if you believe your church has a culture of narcissistic leadership?
  • 03.02. - Do Dogs go to Heaven? (2) (death, Eternity, Heaven, Uncategorized)
  • 05.02. - Stuff Christians Hate (3) (Christian Life, Uncategorized) (Christian Liberty, Christians, culture, doctrine, theology)
    The other day I was thinking about the stuff Christians hate. In particular, I was thinking about the people Christians like to hate. Well, maybe hate is too strong. Let’s say, the people that Christians like to dislike. Or maybe, the people that Christians like to deplore. I was reviewing an article for a conservative publication which included a quote from a noted theologian whose views have sparked controversy in the past. I wondered if I should mention it to the editor. There was nothing wrong with the quote. But you know how these things go. Sometimes the mere mention of a name is enough to spark outrage among Christians. It’s not what is said that prompts the reaction. It’s the person who said it.
  • 14.02. - Praying to a Silent God (5) (Christian Life, Prayer, Uncategorized) (God's silence, prayer, silence)
  • 21.02. - Direction (0) (Christian Life, Uncategorized, Will of God) (advice, divine direction, finding God's will, God's will)
    The other day a woman stopped me on the street and asked for directions. Not wanting to be rude, I did my best to guide her and then went on my way. But after walking two blocks, I could tell I’d given her bad advice. I realized too late that she was trying to find the intersection of two streets that run parallel to each other. I’d pointed her in a direction that would never lead her to her desired destination. For some reason, it never occurred to me to check the map on my phone.
  • 25.02. - Ugly Duckling Theology (2) (church, Leadership, Pastoral Ministry, Uncategorized) (church size, Churches, Pastoral Leadership, pastoral ministry, pastors, small churches)
    I was looking at the results of a survey of pastors the other day and noticed a trend. Pastors of small churches are more likely to be less energized by their ministry than those who serve large churches. They are also more inclined to question their calling. The message seems to be twofold. First, large churches are more fun than small churches. Second, those who serve small congregations feel like they have missed the mark.
  • 03.03. - Life After Death by Meeting (4) (Leadership, Ministry, Uncategorized) (Committees, Meetings)
    I have spent a significant portion of my thirty-four years in ministry attending meetings. Sometimes I was in charge of the meeting. At other times, I was a reluctant participant, required to attend by the nature of my work. These experiences prompted me to try and understand the way groups and organizations work. Over the years I have come to few conclusions.
  • 11.03. - Get Out of Your Discomfort Zone (7) (Discipleship, Rest, Uncategorized) (comfort zone, cross, discipleship, get out of your comfort zone, rest, The Radical Pursuit of Rest)
    The other day a friend asked me, “What are you doing to challenge yourself?” “Nothing,” I replied. “I don’t believe in it.” He thought I was joking. If I was joking, it was only a little. I don’t believe in the theology which says that God’s chief aim for us is to move us out of our comfort zone. I think His purpose for us lies in the opposite direction.
  • 20.03. - Bread & Circuses (6) (Pastoral Ministry, Preaching, Uncategorized) (Harvest Bible Chapel, James MacDonald, pastoral ministry, pastors, shephderding)
    The recent implosion of James MacDonald’s ministry is a sobering reminder of how easily beguiled the church is by a pretty voice. Not only is the unfolding debacle painful to watch, it also ought to send a chill of fear down the spine of pastors and church leaders. MacDonald was no heretic. He was and is a biblical conservative. His failure, if the reports are true, was one of leadership character. I am not saying this as a mitigating factor. The pastoral epistles are clear that character and leadership style are as important in determining whether someone is fit to lead as doctrine.
  • 28.03. - Oh, Hell. (2) (Hell, Justice, Sin, Uncategorized) (Christ, cross, Hell, judgement, salvation)
    In the early days of my walk with Jesus, I did not believe in Hell. Or at least, I did not want to acknowledge the reality of Hell. I had heard about Hell and even prayed a prayer to Jesus to be saved from Hell as a child. But by the time I began to live seriously for Christ in my early 20’s, I had pushed that aspect of the gospel to the margins of my thinking. I was more interested in knowing whether God existed. I was attracted to Jesus because of the message of God’s love. I came to Him for the relationship.
  • 22.04. - Practicing the Present (1) (Uncategorized) (Christian life, Mindfulness, Practicing the Present, Spiritual Life)
  • 02.05. - Practicing the Present: The Courage of the Ordinary (2) (Uncategorized) (ambition, Mindfulness, Practicing the Present)
  • 09.05. - Practicing the Present: Race Among the Ruins (2) (Uncategorized) (Circumstances, Mindfulness, Practicing the Present, trials)
    When I was a pastor, I found that the hardest part of visiting church members at the hospital was leaving them in the same condition I found them in when I entered the room. It seemed to me that my visits should make a difference. If they did not, what good were they? On each occasion I read Scripture, spoke words of comfort, and prayed. Yet when I was done people seemed no better off. t’s one thing to talk about practicing the present when life is ordinary. But sometimes the circumstances that visit us arrive for the long term with no sign of leaving. They don’t come for a short stay. They move in and become part of the family.
  • 11.05. - Leaving Home (2) (Uncategorized) (home, location, place, rootlessness)
    We put our house up for sale a few weeks ago. It sold quickly, but it unnerved me to have strangers peering into our closets and judging us for even a few days. As anyone who has purchased a home can tell you, the experience is just as awkward for the buyers. Perhaps even more awkward. Buying a house is like getting engaged after a round of speed dating. You spend a few minutes with the object of your desire frantically trying to gauge what its bones really look like under all that makeup. Then with fingers crossed you commit your life and fortune to it.
  • 25.05. - Practicing the Present: The Art of Being Self-Conscious (2) (Uncategorized) (anxiety, Future, Mindfulness, Planning, Practicing the Presence of God, Practicing the Present)
    Practicing the present doesn’t mean that we live our lives with a kind of animal immediacy, thinking only of what we need or desire in the moment. It is not reactive living that responds to whatever stimulus I happen to be experiencing in the moment without reflection. Christian living in the present tense demands a kind of self-consciousness that is guided by the Holy Spirit and filtered by the truth of God’s Word. It is a reflection of our capacity to act as a volitional being created in the image of God.
  • 04.06. - Monotone Worship (7) (church, Uncategorized, Worship) (culture, music, worship, worship wars)
    The worship wars are over. In church after church that I visit, we all seem to be singing the same handful of songs. To me they seem more like chants and shouted slogans than than anything else. Melodically uninteresting and lyrically unimaginative, the music we are singing in the church these days isn’t composed, it is compiled. It feels more like the work of a committee than it does the creation of an artist. That’s because the songs we sing are often the result of a production process that might best be described as creation by committee. If you doubt this, count the number of names listed at the end when the song’s credit appears.
  • 13.06. - God’s Emotional Life (0) (Uncategorized) (Divine Attributes, Emotion, Emotions, God, Impassibility)
    That God does have feelings is the inevitable conclusion for anyone who takes divine self-revelation seriously. The Bible often speaks of God’s emotions. It does so in such human terms that we are sometimes disturbed by the thought. This is especially true of the three primary emotions which the Bible seems to mention in connection with God: love, anger, and jealousy. The problem is not that we can’t relate to such references but the opposite. We are all too familiar with these kinds of feelings and believe that God should rise above them.
  • 29.06. - Fame is a Fickle Food (4) (pride, Uncategorized, Writing) (blogging, Fame, humility, ordinary, ordinary life, writing)
  • 11.07. - God, Be Merciful to Me (0) (Grace, Sin, Uncategorized) (God be merciful to me, grace, Jesus prayer, mercy, sin)
    I am a sinner. I don’t deny it. But most of the time I don’t think much about it either. I don’t seem to obsess about sin the way the ancients used to, at least not about my own sins. I don’t punish myself or go to extreme measures to fight sin off. Most of the time, my sin feels more like a low-grade fever more than it does a raging fire. Its presence is an ongoing irritation that may hinder me from being my best, but it doesn’t keep me from functioning. Sin doesn’t bother me that much either. If anything, the fact that I am a sinner serves as a kind of escape clause when things go badly. “What did you think would happen?” I want to say. “I am a fallen person living in a fallen world. Of course, I went off the rails.”
  • 19.07. - Used Books, Annie Dillard, and the Vanity of Life (5) (Uncategorized, Writing) (Annie Dillard, books, Ecclesiastes, used books, vanity, writing)
  • 19.08. - When Faith Fails (4) (Faith, Gospel, Uncategorized) (apostasy, doubt, faith, Joshua Harris)
    Dale and Nancy had just started dating when someone who claimed to be speaking on God’s behalf told them that their relationship would “flow like a river.” They took it as a sign and got married. It didn’t take long for things to unravel. Dale was controlling and abusive. He went back to some of the habits of his pre-Christian days. Drugs, pornography, and threats of violence turned the beautiful promise they had heard into a nightmare. If you had asked Dale and Nancy why they married so quickly, I’m pretty sure they would have said that it was a simple act of faith. They believed they were supposed to be together.
  • 03.09. - Help My Unbelief (3) (Christian Life, Doubt, Faith, Prayer, Uncategorized) (answers to prayer, belief, doubt, faith, prayer)
    The first believers I knew talked a lot about faith. As far as I could tell from what they said, faith was a variable commodity. Some had more and others less. The difference mattered since the results one might expect from God depended upon the amount of faith one was able to muster. Perhaps that’s why we spent so much of our time declaring our faith. When it came to prayer, it seemed that quantity was associated with volume. The more faith we wanted to prove that we had, the louder we prayed. I am not sure who we were trying to reassure more. Was it for God’s benefit or ours? It did not seem to make a difference either way. I felt no more certain no matter what the volume, while God did not seem to give my loud prayers any more attention than my soft.
  • 25.09. - Faith, Anxiety, and Sloth (0) (Anxiety, Doubt, Faith, Fear, Sloth, Uncategorized)
  • 29.10. - The Christian Art of Incivil Discourse (2) (church, Culture, Doctrine, Uncategorized) (Beth Moore, differences in doctrine, doctrinal disputes, doctrine, Go Home, John MacArthur)
    For those who already agree with his views, MacArthur’s remark was simply a tersely stated biblical correction. For those who disagreed, it was a case of mean spirited bullying and prejudice. What was really at issue for them was not whether he should have used a different tone, but whether he had the right to hold his convictions at all.
  • 17.11. - The Things We Take for Granted (6) (Gratefulness, Gratitude, Thankfulness, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized) (Gilbert Meilaender, Gratefulness, Gratitude, Thankfulness, Thanksgiving)
    What are we to make of the losses that suddenly and painfully make us aware of the things we take for granted? Are they a kind of punishment? This is how we often view them. We worry that God has taken these things from us out of spite. Maybe if we had been more aware, if we hadn’t taken them for granted, they would still be with us. We should know better, of course. God is not spiteful. But I do think that God sometimes uses loss to bring past goodness into sharp relief and to provoke us to gratefulness.
  • 17.12. - The Ghosts of Christmas Past (2) (Advent, Christmas, Uncategorized) (A Christmas Carol, Birth of Jesus, Christmas, Dickens, Nativity, The Ghost of Christmas Past)
    Many of us are haunted, especially at this time of year. Not by literal ghosts but by memories. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, who was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, we are visited by the flickering memories of Christmases that are now gone.

2020 (26)

  • 01.01. - Practicing the Present in the New Year (2) (New Year, Practicing the Present, Uncategorized) (New Year's Day, Practicing the Presence of God, Practicing the Present)
    Of all the holidays in the year, I must confess that New Year’s Day has always had the least appeal for me. It is not a bad holiday. New Year’s Day just suffers from comparison with its more glamorous sibling Christmas, which comes robed in red velvet and laden with gifts. When the New Year arrives, for a few moments, at least, we feel as if time has granted us a “do-over.” Like the new calendar, all the days seem to lie before us with nothing written on them. As the clock strikes midnight, it is easy to convince ourselves that our life is a blank page upon which we might write anything we please. But when daylight comes, we will quickly discover that this isn’t exactly the case. The old year follows us into the new whether we like it or not.
  • 14.01. - Stop Shouting: A Few Quiet Thoughts About Writing & Publishing (8) (Uncategorized, Writing) (art, josef Pieper, publishing, writing)
    Publishing has never been easier. Just pay a few dollars and press a few keys, and before you know it, you have a website. With a click of the mouse, you can push your most reluctant thoughts out onto the stage for all to see. Eventually, you realize how crowded that stage actually is. You thought it would be enough just to put your thoughts out there. Now you find that you also have to get someone’s attention. You must say or do something to stand out from the rest.
  • 25.01. - Clay Feet (3) (Disappointment, Forgiveness, Heroes, Uncategorized) (disappointment, forgiveness, heroes, leadership, Mark Twain, Wendell Berry)
  • 11.02. - Ill at Ease in Zion: Why You Don’t Fit in at Church (6) (Christian Life, church, Congregational Culture, Culture, Jesus Freaks, Jesus Movement, Uncategorized) (belonging, Christian identity, church, church life, church membership)
    The first major challenge I faced after I became a serious follower of Jesus in the 1970s was that of telling my friends and family that I had “decided to become a Jesus freak.” The second was the decision to start attending church. That was almost 50 years ago. I am still going to church, but there are times when I am still ill at ease. I don’t always feel like I fit in. When I feel out of place in the church, I’ve noticed that it is usually the result of one of three factors: treatment, style, or identity.
  • 28.02. - Prayer and the Character of God (0) (Prayer, Uncategorized) (answers to prayer, difficulties with prayer, Divine Attributes, divine immutability, divine impassibility, prayer)
    There are some people who are skilled at prayer. I am not one of them. R. C. Trench, the 19th-century Anglican bishop, once described prayer as “the simplest act in all religion.” I am inclined to agree with him. Until I start to pray. Then, a kind of uncertainty overtakes me. I do not feel confident. It’s not that I doubt whether God can grant my requests. I question whether He will. I often feel as if I must somehow win God over to my side of things. When I first learned to pray, I thought the goal was to persuade God. But how does one do that? I believed it had to do with the manner of my approach. I thought that before God would answer my prayer, I had to show Him that I was sincere enough or convince Him of the merits of my case. When that didn’t seem to work, I wondered if prayer was more like a contractual dispute, and I had failed to grasp the terms. Prayer became a negotiation. I made requests, sometimes even demands, and then offered promises to God in return for the thing I wanted. That didn’t seem to work either. Then someone told me that prayer was simply a conversation with God. This view was more appealing to me. But I quickly discovered that I am not much of a conversationalist, and neither is God. It was hard enough for me to make small talk with ordinary people, let alone with the Creator of the Universe. I was awkward and easily distracted. I mumbled through my requests, like someone reading a grocery list. If I bored myself, how must God feel? And as for God, His response to my holy chatter, at least as far as I could tell, was mostly silence. Prayer may indeed be simple, but that does not make it is easy.
  • 28.03. - Love and Fear in the Year of the Plague (7) (Crisis, death, Fear, Uncategorized) (Coronavirus, COVID-19, fear, fear of death, illness, plague, sickness)
    A popular meme I see on Facebook asserts that times of crisis reveal one's true character. Posts like this are supposed to appeal to the better angels of our nature. Unfortunately, they have the opposite effect on me. It is not my better self that answers but the irritated version. But the problem The problem really isn’t with the people who post such things. It is just that I am nervous and sad. A few reflections on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and why it is not a cliche to say that those who go through such things must look to Jesus.
  • 08.04. - Holy Week’s Trajectory of Hope (0) (Easter, Easter, Hope, Uncategorized) (Coronavirus, COVID-19, Easter, fear, Holy Week, hope)
    In the Scriptures, the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is a day of silence. The Bible does not really say where the disciples were or what they were doing on that day. When Jesus appeared to them on Sunday evening, He found them behind locked doors and afraid (John 20:19). This description resonates, especially now that the spread of COVID-19 has disrupted the church’s normal rhythm of Holy Week observances. We too are huddled together in our homes. For many fear ear grows along with the body count.
  • 18.04. - Preaching in a Crisis (6) (Gospel, Preaching, Uncategorized) (church, COVID-19, gospel, Preaching)
    A former student of mine recently asked me how I thought the coronavirus was affecting pastoral ministry and preaching in particular. How do you preach in an environment like this? The simple answer is that you do the best you can, given the circumstances. Preaching is challenging enough under ordinary conditions. The nature of the current crisis has completely upended our normal patterns of meeting and communicating. Preachers are speaking to empty seats and recording their messages for broadcast over social media. As one popular meme observes, we are televangelists now.
  • 30.04. - Nativity Poem (10) (Advent, Christmas, Uncategorized) (Birth of Jesus, Nativity)
  • 04.06. - The Trouble With Normal (5) (Culture, Sin, Uncategorized) (C. S. Lewis, Cornelius Plantinga Jr., George Floyd, Guilt, Racism, sin)
    Ever since it happened, I have been trying to decide whether I should say anything about the tragic death of George Floyd. In part, this is because I don’t know what to say. Little of what I read on social media regarding the subject seems helpful to me. It is mostly a mixture of anger and guilt, with a few conspiracy theories mixed in. I have been reluctant to speak because so many others have said that silence is complicity. This rubric seems overly simplistic. It does little to help people process what has happened. Such a sentiment is merely an attempt to predispose people to a particular response. If the precipitating event weren’t so grievous and the subject less incendiary, we might even call it a thinly disguised attempt to bully others into a preferred opinion. Silence in times such as these can mean many things. Silence can be an expression of grief or dismay. It can signify disapproval. Silence may simply be the response of those who don’t know what to say. And, sometimes, silence is the disposition of the wise (Prov. 17:28).
  • 11.06. - The Hand that Moves the World (2) (Prayer, Uncategorized) (answers to prayer, B. B. Warfield, disappointment, disappointment with God, prayer, the importunate widow)
    Not long after I started following Christ, my mother became so sick that my father had to carry her to the car to drive her to the doctor. Unable to diagnose her condition, the doctor admitted her to the hospital, where she grew worse. All the Christians I knew at the time believed that miraculous healing was an everyday occurrence. I decided that it was God’s plan to heal her. Like the blind man in John 9:3, I thought God had allowed her sickness “so that the works of God might be displayed” in her. What better way to show my parents to the truth of the gospel? Someone has said that prayer moves the hand that moves the world. But if that means we can force God’s hand by praying, I have found it to be otherwise.
  • 17.06. - Fathers & Sons: The Hero’s Journey (6) (Uncategorized) (fathers, forgiveness, sons)
    k about my father every day. I can’t help it. Every morning when I stare into the mirror, there he is staring back. As long as I can recall, people who knew my father have said that we look alike. The comparison was a point of pride when I was a child and an aggravation when I became an adolescent. That irritation grew into something stronger in my teens and 20’s. Not hatred, exactly, but certainly anger mixed with aversion.
  • 25.06. - Dangerous Virtues: The Way of the Living (1) (Sin, Uncategorized, Virtue) (#Dangerous Virtues, Righteousness, seven deadly sins, sin, virtue)
    Sin and virtue sounds too abstract and detached for ordinary people like us. It’s one thing for theologians and philosophers to debate about sin and virtue. Why should we concern ourselves with such matters? We have jobs to go to and bills to pay. We mow the lawn and drive the kids to school. What does any of this have to do with the real world in which we live? The answer is that sin and virtue lie at the heart of everything we do. Our ideas of sin and virtue shape the way we work at our job, live in our neighborhood, and treat the members of our family.
  • 02.07. - Dangerous Virtues: Love-The Seduction of Desire (0) (Uncategorized) (Dangerous Virtues, Deadly Sins, Desire, love, lust, seven deadly sins, sin)
    I first learned about sex from my father. The lesson came in the form of a brief hallway conversation. I don’t think my age was even in double digits at the time. I don’t recall who initiated the conversation, though I suspect it was in response to a question I had asked. I didn’t understand much of what he said. The whole thing sounded pretty unappealing to me at the time. I was sure I would never want to have sex with anyone. I was wrong, of course. The sexual revolution changed not only the shape of sexual morals for a large part of the culture, but also our view of the place of sexual desire in human experience. What we call love, the ancients labeled lust. But our struggle with lust is much larger than the desire for sex.
  • 13.07. - Dangerous Virtues: Satisfaction-Coping With the Hunger that Cannot be Satisfied (0) (Christian Life, Seven Deadly Sins, Sin, Uncategorized) (#Dangerous Virtues, capital sins, Dangerous Virtues, glutton, gluttony, satisfaction, seven deadly sins, sin)
  • 03.08. - Myth, Memory, & Reality (0) (Heroes, Myth, Uncategorized) (C. S. Lewis, Helmut Thielicke, heroes, Myth, Satan)
    Atheists have long accused Christians of casting God in their own image. Their complaint has some warrant. Sin has left us with a penchant for seeing ourselves in God. We want to believe that God is like us. We can easily persuade ourselves that He thinks like us and mirrors our values.
  • 13.08. - Dangerous Virtues: Prosperity (1) (Sin, Uncategorized) (Dangerous Virtues)
    A while back, I noticed a menu option on my retirement account’s website labeled “net worth.” When I clicked on it, the site asked me to type in information about my assets and liabilities. The result was a brightly colored graph that represented the total of all my worldly goods. I have looked at it many times since then, and its effect is always the same. Instead of making me feel secure about my future, it leaves me anxious. No matter how much I have, it seems that I would like to have just a little more.
  • 01.09. - Looking for Something to Do Next With Your Small Group? (0) (Uncategorized) (Dangerous Virtues, Righteousness, sin, virtue)
    Looking for something new to study with your small group? Check out the free small group resources for John Koessler's new book Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good. A practical study, Dangerous Virtues looks at those attitudes and actions that the church has traditionally called the seven deadly sins to show how today's culture has disguised sin as virtue.
  • 10.09. - Dangerous Virtues: Leisure (0) (Anxiety, Rest, Sloth, Uncategorized) (Dangerous Virtues, Laziness, Lazy, rest, sloth, The Radical Pursuit of Rest)
    Os Guinness has said, “Sloth is so much the climate of the modern age that it is hard to recognize as a deadly sin.” Guinness calls sloth “the underlying condition of a secular era.” In fact, in our leisure-oriented age, we kind of admire sloth. We smile at the person who has learned to game the system and can get others to do their work for them. It seems humorous, until we are being waited upon by a slothful person, or must depend upon that person for an important task. When we work with a slothful person and find that we must do their job as well as our own, it suddenly doesn’t seem so cool.
  • 22.09. - Dangerous Virtues: Justice-Life in an Age of Outrage (0) (Justice, Love, Mercy, Seven Deadly Sins, Sin, Uncategorized) (#Dangerous Virtues, #No Mercy No Justice, Anger, Justice, mercy, Micah 6:8, Outrage)
    A saying attributed to St. Augustine goes, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” No one seems to know where or even whether Augustine actually expressed such a thought. To be honest, it sounds more like something a modern would say. The view of the ancients was much less approving of anger than in our day. The ancient attitude was more like the one expressed by the fourth-century monk who warned: “If when you want to reprove someone you are stirred to anger, you are pandering to your own passion. Lose not yourself to save another.”
  • 02.10. - Uncivil Discourse: Why Our Speech Matters (0) (Culture, Language, Uncategorized, Words) (language, presidential debate 2020, sin, speech, words)
    Ken Myers has observed, “The Christian tradition has long placed great value on care about speech.” He notes that the sacred importance of language is signaled by the fact that two of the Ten Commandments are concerned with speech. One of them has to do with the way we speak about God. The other, not surprisingly, deals with the way we speak about others. It seems that the tongue is the primary instrument we use to fulfill the two Great Commandments, to love God with heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-38). Our most corrupt speech is often the most commonplace, expressing those sins that we have learned to tolerate in ourselves.
  • 16.10. - A Few Serious Thoughts About God & Laughter (2) (Humor, Jesus, Uncategorized) (Christ, Humor, Laughter)
    umor is not the first thing we think of when we think about God. His thundering holiness is more likely to come to mind. The handful of statements which make explicit reference to divine laughter reinforce this impression. When the nations conspire against the Lord's anointed, the One enthroned in heaven laughs at them in contempt (Ps. 2:4). The human face that Jesus puts on God in the Gospels is, for the most part, not a smiling face. As Isaiah predicted, He shows Himself to be "a man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3). Yet the God revealed in Scripture is not only a God who speaks but one who laughs. He is not the jolly god of pagan religion, but a being of infinite and inexpressible joy. Divine humor is a reflection of this joy.
  • 04.11. - Us Miserable Offenders (2) (Forgiveness, Grace, Mercy, Remorse, Sin, Uncategorized) (Book of Common Prayer, forgiveness, Miserable Sinners, Repentance)
    Despite the language of the prayer book, us miserable sinners aren’t always unhappy in our sin. We do not pine away about it the way the monastic fathers and the Puritans did. We have come to terms with our condition, which is just another way of saying that we tend to live our lives in a state of denial. But the fact that we do not always feel miserable does not make us any less miserable, at least not in the original sense of the word. The Latin root from which the word miserable comes is one that meant “pitiable.” In his essay entitled “Miserable Offenders: An Interpretation of Prayer Book Language,” C. S. Lewis observes, “I do not think whether we are feeling miserable or not matters. I think it is using the word miserable in the old sense–meaning an object of pity.” When the Book of Common Prayer calls us miserable sinners, it is both a recognition of what we are and a reminder of God’s response. Specifically, it tells us that we are those whose moral condition is so deplorable that the only remedy is the goodness and mercy of God, no matter how we may feel.
  • 25.11. - When God Says No (1) (Disappointment, Doubt, Prayer, Uncategorized)
    In the early days of my walk with Christ, I was taught to believe that miracles were an everyday occurrence. The Christians I knew were generous in their definition of what constituted a miracle, as likely to call a good parking spot an act of God as someone’s sudden recovery from cancer. Every situation was treated as an occasion for divine intervention. I confess that this was part of what attracted me to the Christian faith. I was not interested in a God who was merely an abstraction; I wanted to know that God was real. I was looking for a God who paid attention to me when I spoke to Him. It did not occur to me that I was the one who was supposed to do the listening. I often prayed for God to intervene in my life. But I did not always get what I wanted. I asked Him to heal my mother when she was unexpectedly hospitalized for an illness that the doctors did not seem to be able to diagnose. She died. I asked God to deliver my father from alcoholism. He did not. I prayed to win the lottery (only once). You can guess how that turned out. I am not saying that God has never answered my prayers. Only that God refused my request often enough to know that an affirmative answer is not always a given.
  • 10.12. - Awkward Conversations with God (0) (Prayer, Uncategorized) (difficulties with prayer, God's silence, listening prayer, prayer)
    I have found that God is not much of a conversationalist. He is mostly silent when I talk to Him. Not that I am such a good conversationalist either. My prayers tend to be repetitive, made up of the same requests every time. My attention span is short. I suppose that if I were the one on the other side of the conversation, I would probably be too bored to respond too. But at least I say something. God, as far as I can tell, doesn’t say anything. I pray and all I get in return is an awkward silence.
  • 20.12. - Christmas Traveler: Why the Nativity is About the Cross (0) (Advent, Christmas, Incarnation, Jesus, Uncategorized) (Advent, Birth of Jesus, Christmas, cross of Christ, Incarnation, Jesus)

2021 (18)

  • 02.01. - The Recent History of God (1) (Faith, Fundamentals of the Faith, God, Uncategorized) (Bible, Christian Beliefs, Fundamentals of the Faith, God, Revelation, Scripture, theology)
    Where does one begin when speaking of God? A biography usually starts at the beginning with its subject's birth and ancestry. But the God of Scripture, unlike the gods of myth, is uncreated and eternal. He has no beginning or point of origin. He has no ancestors. For this reason, God's account of Himself in Scripture begins not with His creation but with ours. If the Bible is the history of God, it is only a record of recent history.
  • 23.01. - What is God Like? (1) (Divine Attributes, Doctrine, Fundamentals of the Faith, God, Uncategorized) (Attributes of God, Basic Doctrines, Fundamentals of the Faith, God, Holiness, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience)
    What is God like? The Bible teaches that God has revealed Himself to us through creation and by His word. But what does that revelation tell us about the nature of God? Theologians have traditionally divided God's attributes into two main categories. Some are attributes that have no analogy in human experience. These attributes, often called God's incommunicable attributes, display the uniqueness of the divine nature. Others, called communicable attributes, are characteristics that have some analogy in human experience. God's incommunicable attributes show how the divine nature is unlike our own. They display God's transcendence and reveal the great gulf that exists between the Creator and His creatures. God's communicable attributes remind us that we have been created in the image of God and, in some small measure, were designed to be like Him. Second in a series that deals with foundational teachings of the Christian faith. The video version of this post can be viewed on John's web page and his YouTube channel.
  • 09.02. - A Piece of Work: Understanding the Human Condition (2) (Christian Life, Fundamentals of the Faith, Human Nature, Sin, Uncategorized) (doctrine, doctrine of man, human nature, humanity, sin, sinful nature, works of the flesh)
    These days it is common to treat human beings as if they were only high functioning animals. Humans are indeed creatures. But the Bible teaches that we are much more. This is third in a series on foundational doctrines of the Christian faith.
  • 30.03. - Keeping the Cross in View (4) (Christian Life, Christmas, Easter, Easter, Gospel, The Cross, Uncategorized) (atonement, Easter, gospel, sanctification, sin, The Cross)
    When Christmas comes around, we remind ourselves of the need to observe it all year. For some reason, we never talk this way about Easter. We celebrate the Christmas spirit, but we seem to know nothing about the Spirit of Easter. We approach Christmas with excitement that builds for months. Its approach is announced with colored lights, a mountain of gifts, and endless parties. We are sad to see it go. Contrast this with Easter, who arrives sheepishly, bearing only a ham and a few jellied candies. The Bible's view is radically different. The cross has a unique place in the proclamation of the gospel and the believer's life.
  • 23.04. - Why We Need the Church (3) (Christian Life, church, Doctrine, Uncategorized) (Basic Doctrines, Christian life, church, ecclesiology, worship)
    In the early days of my walk with Jesus, it didn’t dawn on me that church was also part of the package. Our family didn’t attend church and now that I thought of myself as a Christian, it seemed unnecessary to me. I had Jesus and the Bible. I had made friends with others who shared my faith. Why ruin it all by adding church into the mix? I had visited a few churches in the past. With its unfamiliar people and odd music, the experience was more uncomfortable than anything else. We stood and sat. Stood and sat. And then a man got up and lectured us about things I didn’t really understand. But after I became a follower of Jesus, I started regularly attending because someone told me that it was what Christians do. The music was still strange to me, but the lectures made more sense now that I was reading the Bible. I have been going to church ever since, though not always with enthusiasm. The music and the people still seem odd to me at times. But I have come to see the church as an essential part of my Christian life.
  • 07.05. - Aging as Letting Go (7) (Aging, Eugene Peterson, Uncategorized) (aging, change, elderly, Eugene Peterson, Retirement)
    Since I retired, I find myself saying no to things that I once would have been eager to take on. I am not doing the things I thought I would do. Some of those things are no longer of interest to me. Others have grown more difficult, and I am either unwilling or unable to expend the energy. It is unnerving. I find that I am disappointed with myself for the things I no longer want to do and disappointed with God for the things He has not permitted me to do. Change is disorienting. Those stages associated with aging are also disquieting because they usually involve the laying aside of tasks and identities that we have carried with us for decades, perhaps for most of our lives. How are we to think about ourselves now that we are no longer what we once were?
  • 02.06. - Faith & Stupid (5) (Christian Life, Faith, Guidance, Uncategorized) (divine guidance, faith, Folly, guidance, providence, sovereignty of God, stupidity, will of God)
    The difference between faith, stubborn, and stupid is not as obvious as you might think. To the unbeliever, faith looks like stupid, and to the believer, stupid sometimes looks like faith.
  • 25.06. - Jesus and the Cult of Nice (1) (Culture, Gospel, Jesus, Love, The Cross, Uncategorized) (cross, gospel, grace, love, Mean, Nice, salvation)
    Every generation seems to have its own idol. Each one represents the spirit of the age, a false god who shapes the ethic of the culture at large. All too often, these idols find their way into the church. These days the idol of the age is best represented by what I would call “the cult of nice.” The cult of nice is a code that shapes ethics and whose appeal springs from its disarming simplicity. The basic rule of the cult of nice can be summarized in this sentence: “Whatever does not spring from niceness is not of God.”
  • 07.07. - Growing into Salvation (1) (Christian Life, church, Grace, Spiritual Growth, Uncategorized) (church, growth, pastor, Religion and Spirituality, spiritual development, spiritual growth)
    Some aspects of our development are programmed by heredity and DNA. But not everything. There are things we can do to nurture growth, or we can hamper it.  The same is true in the spiritual realm. What is the secret to spiritual growth?
  • 02.08. - Is God Hard of Hearing? (8) (Disappointment, Eugene Peterson, God, Prayer, Uncategorized) (disappointment with God, God, Jesus Christ, prayer, Unity)
    Books about prayer never seem to fit my situation. They either assume that I don’t want to pray or that I don’t know how. Neither is really the case. My problem lies elsewhere. They are relational. I don’t like the way God seems to treat me when I pray.
  • 04.09. - Heaven Can Wait (3) (Doubt, Faith, Heaven, Hope, Jesus, Prayer, Uncategorized) (#answers to prayer, #prayer, #speed, God, prayer, praying)
    Have you ever wondered how fast God is? It sounds like the kind of question a child might ask. But for many of us, the honest answer would probably be, "Not as fast as we would like Him to be." Although 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is not slow, waiting is so much a feature of the redemption story that Revelation 6:11 tells us that even the souls in heaven must wait (Rev. 6:11).  What is the speed of God?
  • 02.10. - Church Hunting: What People Want from Church (4) (church, Preaching, Uncategorized, Worship) (Christianity, church, pastor, pastoral ministry, Religion and Spirituality)
    When I was a pastor, it felt like the people who visited our church were looking for the congregational equivalent of a supermodel. We were a good little church but never quite good enough for them. The congregation was too small, and we didn’t have enough programs. It irritated me at the time. But when I became a civilian and started looking for a church myself, I saw things differently. In fact, according to a poll done by the Pew Research Center, what most people look for in a church is pretty basic.
  • 22.10. - Bright Lights in an Age of Complaint (0) (Christian Life, church, Grace, Uncategorized) (church, Community, criticism, disappointment with the church, grumbling)
    Tertullian, the second-century church father from Carthage, wrote that observers of the early Christians marveled at what they saw. "See how they love one another," they said. Those early pagans made their observations from the outside. They saw the behavior of Christians after grace and the gospel had done their work. Beyond their vision was the underworking of the flesh that created the occasion for those remarkable acts of love. If they had looked at the same deeds from that perspective, they might just as truthfully have declared, “See how they irritate one another.”
  • 20.11. - The Prickly Side of Grace (2) (church, church discipline, confrontation, Sin, Uncategorized) (Christianity, church, pastoral ministry, sin)
    Christ's command to point out a brother's fault in Matthew 18:15 is a hard pill to swallow in an age that regards amiability to be the chief of all Christian virtues. It doesn’t fit the image many of us have of Jesus. The contemporary church favors an uncritical and accepting Jesus. This popular Jesus doesn’t point fingers but stands with arms wide, ready to welcome everyone as they are without expecting either remorse or change. Rather than urging us to point out our brother’s fault, we would expect Him to say that we should let it slide. Christ's command is a stark reminder that grace has a prickly side.
  • 29.11. - It’s Cyber Monday! (0) (Uncategorized)
  • 11.12. - Christmas Traveler-free ebook by John Koessler (3) (Christmas, Uncategorized) (Advent, Christianity, Christmas, Christmas Devotional, Free book, Religion and Spirituality)
    Download Christmas Traveler, a free ebook by John Koessler. You can download it from the link on John's homepage.
  • 16.12. - What Mary Knew (0) (Advent, Christmas, Jesus, Uncategorized) (Advent, Christmas, Mary, Virgin Mary)
    These days Christmas music seems to like to portray Mary as fragile and uncertain. Mary was probably young, but I do not think she was fragile.
  • 24.12. - REMYTHOLOGIZING CHRISTMAS: Why it’s Better to Wonder as We Wander (0) (Advent, Christmas, Myth, Uncategorized) (C. S. Lewis, Christmas, Demythologizing, G. K. Chesterton, Gospels, Nativity, Scripture)

2022 (1)

  • 03.01. - Journey of the Magi (2) (Christian Life, Christmas, Discipleship, New Year, Uncategorized) (Christian life, Christmas, Feast of the Epiphany, Feast of the Three Kings, Magi, New Year)
    Redemption is a drama unfolding along two storylines. The story of the Magi is a reminder that the journey of redemption includes evil as well as good. God is not responsible for the evil, but He is not a hostage to it either.
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