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Recent posts

Good Friday and Reservoir Dogs

When the Church tries to embody the rule of God in the forms of earthly power it may achieve that power, but it is no longer a sign of the kingdom. ― Lesslie Newbigin I recently rewatched Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece of pacing and tension, Reservoir Dogs. Notorious for its profanity and violent imagery, it is broadly considered one of the most influential and important independent films ever made. Most of the movie is filmed in the suffocating confines of a former mortuary lined with coffins and a hurst, while the actors, full of sound and fury, are either dying or soon to be dead. The climactic scene of the movie comes when Mr. Blonde, the “bad guy” (in a room where even the good guy is a bad guy), cuts off the ear of a police officer while dancing to “Stuck in the Middle with You.” It was a moment where killers, men who had already bent the moral restraints of the law to suit their desires, were shocked by how far a bad man can spin into that badness. Like a Shakespearean t

When Good Theology Blocks Us From God

I made a point in a recent sermon  that sometimes we block ourselves from growing in our faith with good theology. I think some people thought it was a strange point and I’d like to explain why I think it is a point worth making. First, to make it clear, theology is not the problem. Having a sound theology is a good thing - it helps clarify our thinking about ourselves and about God. It gives us a framework for understanding who God is, what he has done, and how we take hold of his covenant promises. It gives us a scope of God’s awesome control and nature and our dignity and depravity. All good things. Sound theology is (to quote Paul) “holy and righteous and good,” but sometimes how we use it isn’t. Culturally, we have a very low tolerance for sorrow and negative feelings. We are like the character Joy in the movie Inside Out. We want to draw a little circle around our sad feelings and say, “This is your place, you stay in there. Don’t touch anything.” And the circle we draw is a

We are Losing by Trying to Win

Most people have heard of Jonathan Swift's classic novel, Gulliver's Travels. In it, Gulliver travels from one strange place to another, encountering tiny people, giant people, talking horses, and all kinds of adventures. Most people today think of it as a children's storybook because the scene where he is tied down on a beach by little people who feel threatened by him has made its way into almost every children's cartoon. But Gulliver's Travels is far from a children's storybook. It is an insightful and often cutting look at human nature. Swift was a careful observer of human behavior and lampooned it mercilessly. Swift was an Irish writer and clergyman and said that he wrote this novel to "vex the world, not divert it." I think we could use some of that vexing - and could do with some learning from it. In Gulliver's last adventure, he runs across creatures called "Yahoos." They are nasty creatures who horde shiny rocks and hur

Sanctified Diversity: Learning how to Keep in Step with the Gospel

Last Sunday (March 26, 2017), I preached a message at Trailhead Church in Edwardsville, IL , called Sanctified Diversity, looking at Paul's rebuke of Peter for not "keeping in step with the truth of the gospel." The clear implication of this passage is that it's not enough to only know the truth as a follower of Jesus. You must also lean in and learn to live out its implications in the difficult spaces of life.  There are few areas that our culture needs us to lean in with gospel grace, humility, and empathy more than in the area of racial and cultural diversity. It's just not optional. We can be orthodox in our words and heretics with our lives, undermining the integrity of the message of the gospel because we are not walking in its power. To be true to the gospel, we need to do more than just believe its truths. We need to walk out their applications in our lives.  My sermon was called Sanctified Diversity . You can follow that link to listen to it on Tr

A Case for Confession

Confession. We need it. And we hate it.  We hate to do it because it forces us to admit things about ourselves we don't want to admit. But we all have hidden things in our lives that sit in the dark and gnaw on our souls - things that scratch at locked doors of our conscience, aching to get out... things like weaknesses, shameful appetites, betrayals, besetting sins - they almost demand that we put them into words and share them. But to do so feels often like a form of death in itself. And this isn't a religious impulse. It's a human one. We all feel the need. All you have to do is look at the crazy popularity of a site like postsecret . I have to admit that I like postsecret. I find it intriguing and, at times, disturbing. I have sympathy for some confessions and repulsion at others. And there have been some wonderful stories that have emerged of people actually making real, personal, human connections with others through the site when someone recognizes their

5 Questions to Ask Before Hitting Share

Almost everyone I know has experienced post-regret, the feeling you get after you post something on social media and then wish you hadn't. I know a few people who haven't. Actually, I don't. Who hasn't jumped into the black hole of a Facebook argument or posted something personal in a moment of frustration only have the wrong people see it (and comment on it) or impulsively hit share on a witty-but-cutting meme or tweet? Social media is a great way to connect with others, but it is full of potential hazards and hassles. And, as a Christ-follower, this can be particularly dangerous, since what I say, post, repost, or share, reflects not just on me, but on my savior. So, how can I make wise social media decisions? In the hope of helping us all use our social media more responsibly and effectively, I thought through five questions that we should ask before we hit that "share" button: Is it true? As people of the Bible, this should be a no-brainer, but i