Showing posts from 2014

Year in Review 2014

Blogging is like having a photo album of your thoughts. Some are posed, some are candid, some are blurry, and some make you wince. My album from this year has certainly made me feel all of those things. But like any other memory, I would never discard them. They remind me of who I was and who I need to be.
Most Read Posts

One of the main differences between blogging and journaling is the public scrutiny. While it's true that this is a risky endeavor, it's also incredibly rewarding. Wisdom and understanding are not solo pursuits, so I value the reactions of others. And since the only real metric I have is readership, here are the top five posts where I seemed to get something right:

Why White People Don't Want Darren Wilson to be Guilty
When I Left the Church
My Daughter is not My Princess
You're Loving Jesus Wrong
I Hate Sermons

Least Read Posts

Poor readership usually means dislike or disinterest. The latter can't always be helped, but these bottom four posts could indic…

How to Expose Evil (The Difference between Flashlights and Whistles)

Exposing evil isn't saying what no one else will say; it's saying what needs to be said.

Being in Christian media, I have to read a lot of Christian publications. And in my experience, Christians have made some of the worst "journalists." Not because their writing is terrible or their facts are inaccurate (although the latter is all too often true), but because their morality gets in the way.

It almost seems like they get a thrill from uncovering a scandal or secret sin that can be paraded about like some sort of macabre, dirty laundry party. They'll say that they only do it out of duty and faithfulness to God and his truth, but tabloids get published for a reason. And if gossip can be good for readership, it can't hurt one's reputation to be the bearer of juicy details.

Instead of taking tips from Star magazine, Christians ought to be more concerned with what the Bible says about exposing evil:
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but…

When Did Santa Replace Jesus?

You can ignore Santa Claus all you want, but that doesn't mean you don't worship him.
Some people think that Santa is dangerous. Not in a psychological way, like purposely lying to your kids. They think he's dangerous in a theological way. Santa Claus is a birthday thief whose sole purpose is to redirect our focus away from Christ at Christmastime. They might even go so far to say that since Jesus is our object of worship, Santa's attempt to replace Christ makes him demonic. The only problem with this perspective is that it assumes he hasn't already.
One of Santa's most well-known characteristics was canonized by this 1934 song: He's making a list and checking it twice
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is comin' to town He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake I never thought this was a fun song because it seemed really creepy. To manipula…

5 Myths about Christmas

If you're worried about America kicking Christ out of Christmas, you might need to brush up on your history.
There are lots of common myths about the birth of Christ our culture gets wrong from the date to the three wise men to the "No Vacancy" sign hanging in front of the inn (you can read about those here). But I'm not talking about Christ's birth; I'm talking about Christmas--particularly how it's celebrated in the U.S. So if you're concerned that Christmas is becoming increasingly secular in our country, fear not. It always has been.
Christmas is in the Bible
Leviticus 23 records the seven, main religious celebrations in the Bible from Pesach to Sukkot. But some national ones are also mentioned like Purim in Esther and Hanukkah (or the Feast of Dedication) which Jesus celebrated in John 10. What's not mentioned is Christmas. Yes, the birth of Christ is found in Matthew and Luke, but the celebration of Christmas as either a religious or national …

The Grinch Should've Stolen Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a heartwarming tale of an old hermit being bullied into the season by inconsiderate holiday racket.

Let's get one thing straight: the Whos are a bunch of bullies. Microscopic bullies, to be precise, which puts them in the same category as many beloved, wintry viruses like influenza. No one likes viruses because they barge in and disrupt our lives with their own agendas of conquest and domination. Much like the Whos' incessant noise:
For Tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would wake bright and early. They'd rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That's one thing he hated! The NOISE!
NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! Suess may have intended to stack the deck with popular opinion, but who can blame the Grinch for wanting more considerate neighbors? More to the point, who can blame him for wanting them to keep their holiday spirit to themselves?

If there is a war on Christmas (and I'm not convi…

My Relationship with Jesus Looks Terrible

Sanctification isn't a spiritual career measured by crowns, cities, or promotions. It's a spiritual relationship measured only by the faithfulness of love.

After six years of marriage, I have nothing to show for it. I can say I love my wife more today than the day we met, but I can't prove it. I don't write her more love notes, I don't buy her more flowers, and I don't take her on more vacations. You might say that our daughter is a tangible expression of our love, but that's like saying a 4 proves that two 2's feel affection for each other.
Yet even though I can't demonstrate a greater love for my wife, I'm not worried that my love is fake or my marriage in jeopardy. And my love for Jesus is no different.
I don't think the modern church sees it that way. They're obsessed with strong, mature Christians--Christians who have a measurably greater love for Jesus and his mission than others. Those metrics would include things like morality an…

Ferguson: Racism or Responsibility?

Government handouts aren't destroying the American spirit. They just might be the only thing that can save it.
When it comes to Ferguson, most people fall on one of two sides. Some say that racism is what keeps putting young, black men at odds with law enforcement. Others say that it's their own irresponsibility that puts them behind bars and gun barrels. But any thinking person knows that both are significant contributors to what it means to be black in America today. The real issue is which one will correct the stigma.

I used to be in the responsibility camp. I thought affirmative action was a tax on being white and welfare was social security for the maturity challenged. When my parents got divorced, I didn't spiral and blame society and circumstance for not handing me satisfaction. I did what all good Americans do: I worked hard and made something of myself. My story is not an excuse because obstacles are made to be overcome.
But there's a difference between obstac…

Why White People Don't Want Darren Wilson to be Guilty

When a nation can't forget its past, it turns it into folklore.

Imagine for a moment that Darren Wilson isn't guilty. For some of you, this won't be difficult. Imagine that his encounter with Mike Brown happened just as he testified: a belligerent, young thief charged at him after clear instructions to stand down. Ferguson, then, becomes a cautionary tale (maybe even a future nursery rhyme) about not only obeying the law, but not looking suspicious.
Now imagine that Darren Wilson is guilty. For some of you, this won't be difficult. Imagine that his encounter with Mike Brown happened just as Brown's friend, Dorian Johnson, testified: a young, unarmed black male was walking down the street when a white police officer confronted him and subsequently shot him after he had surrendered. Ferguson, then, becomes an outcry of social injustice as racism returns to center stage in the hearts of Americans.
For the most part, Americans are divided on this down racial lines. Whi…

God Can't Do What He Won't

When waiting for God's deliverance, hindsight is twenty-twenty. But it's also revisionist.

I thank God daily for my wife. Say what you will about soul mates, but I can't think of a better way to describe her. She makes me laugh, she makes me think, she pushes me toward adventure, and she's helped heal many, many wounds. She was also instrumental in delivering me from pornography's unyielding grasp.

This among other things has greatly informed my theology of church and how God never intended sanctification to be a solo sport. However, despite the immense gratitude I have for my wife, I’m still very angry at God.

Gratitude that ignores the past is na├»ve, childish, and stupid. Of course I'm happy to have been granted deliverance, and yes, I recognize that God never owed it to me. But I haven't forgotten those nine years in the fox holes. I haven't forgotten the jeans with worn-out knees, the dehydration of tear-stained supplications, and the ragged voice o…

You Don't Have a Personal Relationship with Jesus

What if the mystery of relating to an invisible God is revealed through relating to the visible church?

My wife and I were that dating couple you hated. We were the can't-get-off-the-phone, gross-out-PDA kinda people. We found so much joy and stability in each other that, for a lot of reasons, we didn't take time to invest much in others.
That us-against-the-world complex worked for a while until we found ourselves pregnant in Chicago with all of our family in New Jersey and all of our college friends moved away. My wife's words still haunt me: "We should've made more friends."
So when our daughter was born in January, we had virtually no support (apart from one of my wife's very gracious friends) for this challenging new phase of life. And our daughter has been very challenging. Each new stage in development finds us rewriting not only our parenting paradigm, but how we interact as a couple. It can truly be said: you don't know the mettle of your mar…

You Can't Have a Victorious Life

If Christians are more than their morality, then Christianity isn't just about temporal victories.

I battled pornography for nine years. And when I say battled, I don't mean I just felt a little guilty every now and then. I tried everything: I told friends, I blocked websites, I busied my schedule, and, believe me, I wept regularly before God on my knees for victory.
One time, I even told my parents. Imagine how awkward that was: "Mom, Dad? You know all of those websites you told me to avoid? I've been to all of them." My mother was in tears, and my computer-analyst father immediately went to put some filters on my computer. While he was snooping around, he commented, "You cleaned up pretty good after yourself, huh?" Yes, I did. And those filters didn't last long.
It wasn't until I met my wife that I suddenly found the resolve to never look at that stuff again (at least, intentionally). But another nine years later, I still wouldn't say that…

You Can't Know Them by Their Fruit

When we confuse false believers with false teachers, we create a false salvation dependent on the immorality of non-believers.
Christians are terrified of false teaching. That's why we're quick to call each other heretics and ostracize those who believe differently because we don't want to get "infected." The Bible confirms that false teachers are dangerous and even provides criteria for spotting them, such as Jesus' famous words: "You will know them by their fruit" (Matthew 7:16). However, I fear that in our zeal for truth, we've overlooked our own insecurities.

Outside of sermons, I've never once heard this verse used by fellow believers in context with false teachers. Instead, I've heard it used to speak about false believers. This is not only hermeneutically unsound, it actually leads to its own false teaching.

Close behind the poor interpretation of this verse is Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfuln…

You Don't Inspire Me

Mistaking "Christian" for "inspirational" makes those with their own aspirations feel like apostates.

If you post a Bible verse on Facebook I won't like it. If you buy me a devotional I won't read it. If you pay for me to attend a Christian conference I won't go. Maybe it's time I admitted it: I'm a terrible Christian.

I just don't like most of the things Christians like. I don't listen to Christian music or watch Christian movies. I wish I could enjoy church yet there was a time when I left the church. I hate sermons and I often find myself asking, what if I don't want my faith? So perhaps I need to give up on this religion that doesn't want me. More to the point, perhaps I should give up on this religion whose people don't want me.

It's hard to be a part of a community that finds you frustrating, but I can't live the way many other Christians do. Unlike them, I think that the Bible doesn't have all the answers a…

The Bible Doesn't Have all the Answers

We don't have to have all the answers; we just have to trust the one who does.
Many Christians believe that there is nothing the Bible can't answer. It's not only God's inspired word, it's his final word on every topic. Which means that there's a verse for every single situation we encounter. If you're worried, read Matthew 6. If you're tempted, read 1 Corinthians 10. If you feel defeated, read Romans 8. Pretty soon, you're speaking Scripture so fluently that you're answering all of your friends' questions like you're studying for an exam: Hey, Alex? I'm having a hard time with God right now--I'm really angry at him.I'm sorry to hear that, but remember, Isaiah 55:8 says that God's ways are not our ways... You may have gotten an A on that self-proctored test, but you just failed at friendship. I know this because that used to be me.

Ask any of my friends and I'm sure they could recall at least one or two sermons I'…