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.”
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.
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.
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.
ccording to family legend, my great grandfather was the first one to drive the twenty-mule team out of Death Valley loaded with borax. I have no idea whether this is actually true or not. Like most family legends, I suspect that it is a work of fiction. But I liked to recount this story to … Continue reading Clean
have reached the age where a large percentage of the articles that show up on my social media feed offer suggestions about retirement. They appeal to a combination of greed and fear. Apparently, your retirement savings need to be at least a million (if not more). Social security won’t be enough to cover your expenses. … Continue reading Empty is Enough