Questions in the Wake of Suffering

When tragedy strikes, as it did in Las Vegas this week, people begin to ask questions. It is part of human nature: we reason, consider, speculate, and ultimately seek to find answers that will provide meaning or comfort.   Why did this happen?   Where was God?   Couldn’t we have prevented this?   These are important questions, but they are not necessarily the questions to which Scripture gives answers. That is, if we look to…

Marks of Smoking Flax

The Puritans left behind a great store of wisdom—rigorously theological, warmly devotional, and always centered on Christ and his gospel. Sadly, given the diminishing attention paid to language, grammar, and the humanities, they are less accessible to modern audiences than they deserve. Still, there are a few Puritan works that are short and simple enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest every English-speaking Christian read them. John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress would head the list,…

Lessons from the Garden

I love to garden. When I’m outside planting or weeding or pruning, it reminds me that I was made to garden. I feel like I’m back in Eden, worshiping the Creator by stewarding his creation. Occasionally I even feel I’m imitating my Father—like the son who follows behind with his toy lawn mower while Dad actually mows the grass—by using the creativity he’s given each of us to design and develop (I won’t say create)…

A Virtual Gospel

Yesterday, Ezra Klein of Vox interviewed Yuval Hariri, the Israeli author of Sapiens and his latest, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. In Homo Deus Harari envisions humanity’s future (including its likely end) with specific focus on technology and artificial intelligence. Near the end of the interview, Harari makes this claim about religion generally, and Christianity in particular:   You can think about religion simply as a virtual reality game. You invent rules that…

The Cost of Prayer

When trouble hits, as it inevitably does, the human heart instinctively cries out in prayer. (To the best of my knowledge, no other species exhibits this tendency.) A majority of people the world over pray regularly, even daily; remarkably, this number includes a large percentage of those who profess not to believe in God. Theologians would attribute this to our sensus divinitatis : our innate sense of the divine (cf. Romans 1:20), or our “incurable…

Addition by Subtraction

The holiday season exposes the deep greed within us (or at least within our kids) as few other times can. If we are not careful—examining ourselves relentlessly, allowing others to correct and admonish us as needed—we can unwittingly believe the lie and buy the hype. If I had this or that, my life would truly be richer, and I, I would finally be content.   That last bit is an especially treacherous deceit. We are…

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…

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).…

Eight Reasons I Like to Fast

Jesus Christ expected that his people would fast (cf. Matthew 6:16-18), but many of us—myself included—find it hard to live up to expectations. One reason for this, I would suspect, is that we are never quite sure what fasting accomplishes. Is it simply to free up time to pray? Well, for those of us who eat quickly, little would seem to be gained then—and I could give up other much more time-consuming pursuits instead.  …

Love and a Multitude of Sins

I have noticed a curious phenomenon among Christians today: when it comes to sin in the church, we speak when we should remain silent, and remain silent when we should speak.   If someone sins against me, causing personal offense—by which we usually mean a wounded ego—I am likely to confront the person, sharing my hurt and frustrations with him. It is almost unforgivable that someone who claims Christ as Lord could treat me in…