Tendentiously Tense

My brother was a gymnast, so my whole family was interested in the sport and watched it avidly, especially during the Olympics. I can keenly remember watching the Magnificent Seven win the gold in 1996 while we were on summer vacation. My favorite event, by far, is the balance beam. To execute any of those maneuvers on the floor seems challenging enough; to perform them on a four-inch-wide beam defies understanding. To undertake the sublime…

When God Doesn’t Answer

I was recently having an important phone conversation with my wife, sharing my heart with her in a way that I’m not always wont to do. After a lengthy spell of pouring out my thoughts and emotions, I paused to give her a chance to answer—to laud me for my transparency and vulnerability—but got nothing. It’s not that my wife doesn’t speak words of affirmation though, or that she saw through my ploy to win…

The Accountable Heart

There is a lot of buzz about “authentic community” these days, stemming from either a robust reflection on key biblical teachings or millennial chutzpah about how much better at relating they are than previous generations. Regardless, the writers of Scripture place a transparent emphasis on genuine, biblical fellowship. This is a central component of life in the Spirit—and central to authentic community is the notion of accountability.   Accountability simply means inviting others to examine…

I Am My Own War Horse

Israel had trust issues.   Despite God’s unfailing love, unrelenting faithfulness, they so rarely managed to trust him for salvation. Had he rescued them from captivity in Egypt? Of course—dramatically. Had he delivered them into the Promised Land despite the size and strength of the inhabitants? Yup. Had he saved them from foreign yokes? Time and time again, whether Moabite, Edomite, Philistine.   And yet, whenever trouble threatened, they couldn’t seem to remember how faithful…

What Is an Elder?

This seems like a straightforward question—and one that may even have a straightforward answer. He is “above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2-3, NIV). We’ve got that much. Beyond that things can get a bit shaky.   It is important that we use biblical language biblically. Constant use frequently transforms language…

Words for Young Pastors

I am a young pastor. I graduated from seminary at age 24 and launched immediately into full-time ministry, which means I have no adult experience separate from my preparation for and participation in ministry. I was ordained by my sending church at age 26, so at least some would consider that I hold the office of pastor (if such a thing exists, if ordination has any place in the church, etc.). I am now 32,…

Punctuated Equilibrium

Throughout his first epistle, John declares his unwavering expectation that Christians will grow in obedience and love. For example, in one particularly strong passage, he writes, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:14-15, NIV).…

Until Another Comes Forward

Using an analogy drawn from the legal arena, Solomon writes, “In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines” (Proverbs 18:17, NIV). I suspect he does not intend to limit the application of his point to the courtroom, however. Whenever someone puts forth an argument, the audience will likely sway in their direction. Hearing one side of any debate will surely produce a single outcome. The first to speak…