I really hope this column will bless you. You can read the most recent column below and previous columns at the archive.
There’s a funny little word in the New Testament. I don’t want to tell you it’s English translation yet, though, because its English counterpart is extremely unpopular and misunderstood. It only accounted for .00025 percent of the words in works published in 2007.
There was a king who loved this woman. He wouldn’t do anything without first consulting her. When he started one of his greatest construction projects, he consulted her first. She helped him with every decision on how it should be built. They worked side-by-side. She was perfect and he loved her. And what they built together was perfect ...
One of my greatest failures in ministry came in the middle of a particularly hard mission trip.
Every now and then, you might get the opportunity to minister to someone who just gets it. They actually live like they love God and his people, and you can see them growing in leaps and bounds. They are natural leaders who draw other people in and make them feel comfortable in their own skin. They smile no matter what.
Martin Luther — hero of the reformation and champion of the phrase “sola fide,” or “by faith alone” — hated the book of James.
On the one hand, he thought the book as a whole lacked a clear and logical line of thought from beginning to end and that it seemed to be a disjointed collection of wisdom sayings. (Luther and I completely disagree here.)
Are you a good person?
I like to think of myself as someone who “has it together,” is kind to the people I love, and doesn’t delight in cruelty to others. I even treat my waiters well.
But does that make me good? Does that make you good?
A dream job is getting paid to do the thing you would do even if you weren’t being paid. Last May, I started my dream job.
My church, where I had been volunteering as the youth program director for several years, hired me as a full-time associate pastor for the purpose of helping the church grow in the areas of youth, young adults and young families.
True to my considerable book-learning and no so considerable experience, I began gathering information and formulating plans. I decided I wanted to know what my own generation thinks about church, and I discovered something kind of heartbreaking.
Everybody knows James 1:22, even if they don’t know where it is. It’s one of the more forceful and convicting verses in all of Scripture:
“But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
If you’re in the Bible, hearing the “Word” at church and think you’re a “Christian,” but don’t actually do what the Bible says you should, James is calling you a fool.
Some questions are hard enough to think about when you take a break to sit down and peruse the paper.
Questions of why some people suffer so much, or maybe why you yourself are suffering so much. Why does there seem to be so much hurt in a world with so much potential for good? Why doesn’t an omnipotent and perfectly good God stop so much evil from happening in the first place?
God’s plan for life does not necessarily include being rich.
I know there are members of a growing theological movement who would disagree. They would cite the way God answered the prayer of Jabez and made him wealthy (1 Chron 4:10). They would look to instances of poverty and suffering in Scripture and universally call them punishment from God for a lack of faith. Even Job, they say, didn’t have enough faith.
This line of thinking is often referred to as the health and wealth gospel, or prosperity theology. Wherever this thinking comes from, it’s not from the Bible.
Scripture, in fact, reveals something quite the opposite.
I am convinced that you and I have a friend in common. That friend who always seems to make really bad decisions, who’s always reading and talking about success, who’s always talking about the next big accomplishment — except the last big accomplishment didn’t pan out. It wasn’t that friend’s fault, though.
Then there’s that other friend I’m sure you and I both have. This person has seen some hard times. Times that the other friend can’t even imagine. Somehow, that second friend has managed to come out on top, weathered the storm and still managed to be successful.
I’m sure you’ve found out by now that life is not a walk in the park.
In fact, life hurts. We get injured, sometimes seriously. We get sick. Friends and loved ones betray us. Sometimes everything just falls apart.
When things do come undone, and we are hurting in ways we didn’t know we could, it’s easy to think of God as an incompetent nincompoop who can’t help us, at best, or a sadistic despot, at worst.
Jesus said, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58) He also commanded wealthy people to give away their money and that’s exactly what his early followers did. (Matthew 19:21 and Acts 2:4) He gave up glory in heaven to come to earth. (Philippians 2:6-7) So, as Christians in the wealthiest nation in the world, what should our response to material wealth be?
May I suggest that wealth perhaps isn’t the issue at all? I think, instead, the credit we give for that wealth should be the litmus for our response.
I realized it the other day, and it’s about time to just admit it. I am a religious extremist, and I’d like you to join me.
In the 21st century, fundamentalism and religious extremism, I will admit, have earned a bad name. Groups like al-Qaida, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have all, in the name of fundamentalism, wrought unspeakable violence on our world.
Some even pervert the Gospel, calling their brand of extremism “Christian.” Groups like the Westboro Baptist Church have used it as a guise for hate, while popular televangelists extort the zealous with promises that enough faith — and contributions to their ministries — will solve all their problems.
Every now and then, the Standard-Times publishes a story that hits a nerve with San Angeloans, as evidenced by the comments on our website. Usually, these stories touch a moral issue and tend to report salacious or wild behavior.
By “every now and then,” I mean frequently.
A good example of this is the story reporting a franchiser’s plans to open a Twin Peaks restaurant in the old Golden Corral building on Knickerbocker Road.
“You can do this. You have a harness, a rope and a helmet. We’re not going to let you fall.”
Often, that’s all it takes.
I used to be a facilitator for a team- and leadership-building Boy Scouts program called COPE, or Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience. It’s one of those weekend courses that involves exercises like the trust fall. Another part of the course involves a high-elements obstacle course. Imagine a 33-foot-high, 200-foot-long zip line preceded by a 27-foot high, 30-foot long log you have to cross to get to it.