Spending time in Russia inevitably leads me to think about the communist system, especially when you see how quickly it was replaced with a Russian form of capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union. Karl Marx famously proclaimed that “religion is the opiate of the masses,” but it seems that he may have missed the fact that material possessions are the strongest opiate of all.Read more
I spent the morning worshiping alongside Russian brothers and sisters at St. Petersburg Christian University at a time when relations between Russia and the West seem to be growing more tense every day. During the worship service, I was struck with the reality of how and why it is that Jesus Christ alone can bring peace to this world, both now and in the world to come.Read more
One more than one occasion, I’ve had the chance to teach on the Lord’s Prayer. Each time I got to the line “and lead us not into temptation,” I struggled with how to best explain this petition from the prayer. I knew there was a deep insight that lay just underneath these words, but I needed to experience these words a deeper level, to not only understand them in my mind, but in my heart as well. A month after I last taught on this petition, I found myself fervently praying these same words, but this time appreciating this line of the prayer at a level I had not previously grasped.Read more
Here is a verse that is not in the Bible: “Everything happens for a reason.” While the statement is logically true – everything does happen for some reason – the phrase itself is useless. It does not tell us what that reason is, nor does it tell us whether the reason is intended, accidental or naturally occurring. Saying that everything happens for a reason is no more informative than saying that something did or did not happen. The statement is always true, and yields nothing insightful.
Why are we so quick to write off real issues with trite phrases?Read more
We naturally consider the end of our life to be the conclusion of our life’s work. But I wonder what God could accomplish through us if we saw our life’s work as something that could only be completed by the Lord after we had departed this life. What if we were intentional about building our life’s work so that it had to be completed by someone else, such that without God’s involvement, it would not come to fruition? What if we trusted that God would inspire others that came along after us to bring about the culmination of what we began?Read more
In John 15, Jesus teaches that “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (v. 1) He goes on to tell the disciples that “you are the branches,” and the Father “cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.” (v. 2) We often focus our attention on the part of Jesus’ teaching that relates to remaining in him, so that we can bear fruit and avoid being cut off. But we ignore the fact that Jesus said that even branches that bear fruit will be pruned. How does the Lord prune those who bear fruit so that we bear even more fruit?Read more
In my last post, I highlighted the discomfort that Americans have with hospitality, and gave the first part of a response to those who wonder why hospitality should be an important part of the Christian life. For example, we often miss the emphasis of Jesus’ teachings because of our lack of familiarity with the practices of hospitality. Yet, despite their unfamiliarity or discomfort with the centuries-old customs of hospitality, Americans remain the most generous people in the amount of dollars contributed to causes outside of themselves. Why is it that those who are so generous and possess such a desire to help others are so uncomfortable expressing hospitality? In this post, we examine the obstacles created by privacy and our discomfort with receiving as possible explanations to resolve this seeming contradiction.Read more
One stark observation made in our series on “Recovering Christian Hospitality” is that Americans, by and large, are uncomfortable with hospitality. In response, one of the most frequent comments we get from people who have wondered about whether to engage the series is, “What is so important about hospitality?” Because most of us have never heard a sermon about hospitality, we’re often skeptical that this practice could be a priority for us as Christians. But many of the key teachings of Jesus were placed in the context of hospitality. Even more importantly, the practice of Eastern hospitality was central to the spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire, and it might be that our own awkwardness in practicing hospitality in the West is part of the reason we are encountering so much difficulty engaging others with the Gospel today.Read more
The question of “who is my neighbor” is a familiar one from Jesus’ interaction with the teacher of the law in Luke 10. It leads us to recognize that if we are to be obedient to Christ and love our neighbor as ourselves, everyone is our neighbor, even those whom we would normally regard as enemies.
But what about our actual neighbors? Do our actual neighbors qualify as “neighbors?”Read more
We received this email last night. I thought I’d pass it on. It hit me pretty hard getting this news literally 30 minutes after our discussion about what true Discipleship costs. —— Dear Partner, It is with a heavy heart…Read more
This last Wednesday night, we started discussing the book Irresistible Revolution and the subject of service came up. Specifically we began talking about our interactions (or lack thereof) with the poor and homeless. Everyone in our group agreed that it…Read more
A few weeks ago during our Wednesday night series on Lamentations, the concept of cursing our enemies during prayer came up. It seemed as if there are multiple places in the Bible where people call on God to be wrathful…Read more