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I’m not a big fan of religious greeting cards, especially the schmaltzy, pastel-colored variety that feature flowers and rainbows along with an obligatory Bible verse. The verse often comes from Jesus’ opening words in the Sermon on the Mount. We call this passage in Matthew 5 the Beatitudes.
These are weighty, gutsy, penetrating words—but they are neutered when we treat them like sappy poetry. The Beatitudes are not platitudes. Jesus was not tiptoeing through the tulips and mouthing pleasant phrases so they could decorate crocheted pillows or stained-glass windows. read more
These days I’m questioning my faith. It’s something I should’ve done a long time ago. But before you assume I’m another crazy charismatic jumping ship on solid biblical theology, hear me out.
I once wrote a book for a Christian apologist wanting to help believers refute the typical arguments lobbied against our faith. I wasn’t the best candidate to explain why we believe what we believe; I had no theological schooling, was far from being a Bible scholar and could barely argue my way out of a paper bag. But I was exactly the kind of person he was trying to help. read more
Back in November when autumn leaves were their brightest orange, I met with a group of young men on the campus of a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire. While these students were eating bagels and drinking coffee I began our Bible study by asking each guy to share his name, his major and how long he’d been a Christian.
When it was time for a young man named Cody to share, he said innocently: “I haven’t given my life to Christ yet, but I’d like to.” So before our meeting was finished we led Cody in a sinner’s prayer, gave him a Bible and got him started on the road to discipleship by asking him to read the Gospel of Mark. read more
God is working all around us today. Don’t let negative headlines distract you from the real story.
2010 was a year of shaking. It began with a magnitude 7 earthquake in Haiti, followed by an 8.8 quake in Chile, followed by the eruption of the Iceland volcano that sent tons of ash into the skies over Europe and shut down air travel faster than you could say Eyjafjallajokull. While the ground shook, economies in Europe teetered. As floods displaced 13 million people in Pakistan, Americans worried that we might drown in federal debt.
There were plenty of negative headlines—which explains why one of the biggest movies of the year (Inception) was about a guy who escaped reality by dreaming. We had the BP oil spill, the WikiLeaks scandal, double-digit unemployment, and angry debates about Obamacare, illegal immigrants and full-body scanners. There were a few bright spots, especially in October when 33 Chilean miners climbed out of a dark shaft and donned T-shirts that read, “GRACIAS, SENOR!” read more
I have hesitated to publish this and have pondered carefully how I might word it in order to avoid contributing to the frenzy of fearmongering that too often passes for the prophetic word these days. Because I value accuracy in the prophetic I don’t like to speak until I am fairly certain of what I’m hearing or sensing.
To the point: We, the United States of America, are headed toward an intense crisis at the presidential level, the outcome of which will determine the direction of this country for a number of years to come. read more
Recently, my wife, Tammi, and I were with a small group of friends. Brock Gill, an amazing Christian illusionist, was a part of the group. Someone asked him to do a couple of “tricks” for us. He had been traveling all day with his wife, and was obviously very tired, but graciously agreed to entertain us (for free … which was really cool). read more
Christmas is usually cluttered. We’re overbooked with parties, concerts, football games and shopping trips while our houses are jammed with decorations, out-of-town guests and way too much food. Then on Christmas morning, after the presents have been opened, we sweep up the crumpled giftwrap, tinsel, ribbons, bows, pine needles and boxes that are scattered everywhere. As much as I love the joy of this season (eggnog is my weakness), I struggle to make sure I don’t lose the profound simplicity of Christmas amid the sensory overload.
This year I decided to pay closer attention to the names of Jesus used in the Christmas story. These names are like wrapped gifts—you have to open them carefully to savor their meaning. You might want to share these names with your loved ones at your Christmas dinner, or take a break from the stress of the holidays to look up these Scriptures and ponder them carefully. Remember: Jesus is God’s present to us. Have you fully unwrapped this amazing gift? read more
Have you ever stopped to think about the scenes leading up to Jesus’ birth in their very human terms? We often wrap the Christmas story in a halo-like glow of wonder and the comfort of knowing the end of the story! But in between the awe of angelic visitation, the shining star and the rich gifts from the Magi, there was an impossible promise, wagging tongues of a scandalized community, a confused fiance, heartbroken parents, a bony donkey's back and a very dirty stable. Mary’s blessing came with a lot of contradictions!
God’s promises are often like that. Abraham was promised nations when he and Sarah were well beyond the age or natural ability to bear children. Moses was sent to set God’s people free from the most powerful nation on earth with a one-line memo and a stick. read more
Two weeks ago when I wrote about how God worked in the lives of people in the biblical Christmas story, several readers jumped in to remind me that the modern celebration of Christmas is a pagan holiday that is luring unsuspecting, gift-giving revelers into hell itself. One person who identified himself as “Albert” wrote in our online forum that he “isn’t comfortable celebrating Christmas” because of its demonic origins.
You probably know there are many Christians who boycott Christmas for various reasons—some factual and some quite debatable. These people insist:
* The holiday has become too commercialized and promotes greed. (I would agree.) read more
I have felt so strongly that we are in a season when God wants to bless us beyond our wildest imagination. I have no idea what that really means. I just sense that He is “on the way” to right some wrong or difficult situations, resolve conflicts, break us out of very narrow places, heal all kinds of things from physical to emotional to whatever, solve financial conundrums, etc.
With that awareness has also been the sense that I must carefully watch what I say and guard my expectations.
Most of us are in situations that speak something very contrary to blessing. They evoke feelings like worry, anxiety, despair, hopelessness, confusion, depression, oppression, even outright anger. I don’t know what you are experiencing but I am aware of my own situations. It is very easy to let the wave of feelings overtake emotions and then suddenly, out my mouth pops a perfectly wrong string of pronouncements. Those words set the stage for the enemy of our soul to overtake us. read more
Last Sunday I enjoyed lunch in an open courtyard at a modest home in El Rosario, Guatemala, a town I have visited six times since 2002. My friend Adolfo had invited me to eat with his family after the morning service at Iglesia de Nueva Vision, a Pentecostal congregation. Nothing thrills me more during my missionary trips to El Rosario than spending time with members of this church in their homes.
As we were eating a meal of chicken, rice and Coca-Cola, I noticed some green, volleyball-sized fruit hanging from a nearby tree. I had never seen such large fruit before, so I asked my friend Luis (in my broken Spanish) what they were. His father-in-law, Minor, immediately hopped up from the table, walked over to the tree and snapped one of the gigantic fruits from a branch. read more
Taxes, threat of terror attacks, illness and aging, finances, political conflicts, family relationships, church struggles, fears, insurance issues, air travel impositions, job loss, gasoline prices, war, injustice, death—these are just a few of the enemies most of us face daily. Yet, let me also tell you what the Lord has spoken to my soul:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7, NASB). read more
I used to be a consummate Christmas shopper. By the time December hit, I was way ahead of the game. I would have a mountain of bargain finds, admired goodies and toys to die for tucked away on a shelf just waiting to be wrapped and stowed lovingly under the tree. I found that shopping ahead spread the financial burden throughout the year and helped me avoid the last-minute holiday shopping rush. read more
We Christians are notorious for limiting the Holy Spirit. Many churches put Him in the back seat, confine Him in a box of tradition or ignore Him altogether. Some Christians treat the Third Person of the Trinity as if he magically materialized in the Book of Acts, like a genie out of a bottle, and then vanished after the early church was established.
But God is God, not a genie, and the same Holy Spirit who brooded over the waters at Creation, inspired the Old Testament prophets and empowered the first disciples at Pentecost is still doing miracles today. It is also important to recognize that the Holy Spirit was involved in every step of the Christmas story. This holiday, I’m paying closer attention to the Spirit’s work in the miracle of the Incarnation. read more
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