I have never considered myself much of a reader. I’m typically slow to read through a book and when I do have a moment to sit down with one of the two-dozen books on my “to read” shelf, I usually doze off about 3 pages in. Nevertheless, I still managed to get through a number of books this year, most of them dedicated to topics surrounding church planting (no surprise). So here it is, my top 5 books from 2017: Continue reading “My Top 5 Books in 2017”→
Do you ever feel like your faith as a Christian is one big circle that seems to go nowhere? Or perhaps is it better described as a tug-a-war match between God and Satan with you in the middle of it? More importantly, how is it that many of us can regularly participate in church, read scripture, pray, and attend a community group (what we call small groups or Bible studies at our church), but still feel as if we’re coming up short and unsatisfied in our Christian walk?
I’ve come to realize the answer is simple but deeply rooted within us: We love the Law. I’m not talking about the laws of the land, but the Biblical laws and mandates most commonly found in the Old Testament. Christians are labeled hypocrites because we spend more time learning to be legalists than walking in the freedom and grace of Jesus Christ. This should be of no surprise to us because we live in a hyper-pragmatic culture that loves to-do lists, steps to a better relationship, workout plans, specific diets, and life-hacks. It’s only natural that we would extend these behaviors into our faith, but the problem is they are totally incompatible.
More disturbing is that many Christian churches, preachers, authors, and musicians are unknowingly feeding the beast within us. With the rise in “experiential worship” and “Christian self-help” preaching and books masqueraded under the guise of “practical, life-application”, we’ve been creating a generation of Christians with a faith that places you and me at the center of the biblical story. The result? A neurotic life that is caught between the greatest source of hope and freedom the world has ever known and our pursuit of self-righteousness.
The reality is, we are prone to miss the central figure in the story of salvation – Jesus Christ.
I have to admit it’s often easier to be pessimistic, critical and negative than an optimistic contributor when it comes to how I feel about living in the Chicago suburbs sometimes. After all, there is plenty to choose to complain about: high taxes, corrupt government, and bitterly cold winters. I frequently desire to move south where the summers are twice as a long, property values are more affordable, and the people are friendlier (or so they tell me). At the heart, my complaint is a dissatisfaction for where I am today. I want to be anywhere else but here. I want the better life. I want what’s easier. Continue reading “For the City, State & Nation”→
That’s right, pray. Then wait. Then pray some more.
All too often our pragmatic “can-do” cultural attitude says get off your butt, wipe those tears and show them who’s boss by making lemonade out of a painful or disappointing situation. The problem is, on the surface it appears the making lemonade approach seems to work. After all, who really likes to wait for an answered prayer? I hate waiting. I once waited in line for a ride at an amusement park for over 2 hours, only for the ride to break down when I was steps away from getting on. What a waste of my life, I thought!
Our approach to prayer is much of the same. Why spend this time asking God for his will in the situation when I can muster up all the will-power, good vibes, and happy thoughts under the sun, all the while cranking my favorite playlist through my earbuds as I drown out the depressive thoughts? Clearly I can move forward in my life faster by making lemonade rather than by praying. But that’s the first lie we believe. We believe that by our doing, acting and will-power, we can overcome anything that comes our way. And just because we seemingly appear to have overcome it, then we assume it’s the best and healthiest means of achieving success over our misfortunes. The truth is, we are emotional beings who are designed to mourn, suffer and reflect, just as much as we are made to create and thrive.
I see my daughter wading through the chilly waters of a tiny lake a few blocks from our home on a warm spring day in late April. She slowly steps in by first dipping her toes, then her foot, followed by an adventurous spirit to keep on going. She does not spend much time thinking about the potential dangers of the water or what lurks underneath, or even how cold the water is. In other words, she doesn’t depend on her “own understanding.”
Today I was deeply saddened over the numerous reminders that our world is broken, imperfect and marred with evil. No one is immune from its widespread effect, but I have great hope knowing that evil does not have the last word.
If you’ve ever felt discouraged, weary or tired in your journey of faith, know that you’re not alone! This message from Psalm 134 will be an encouragement to you and your faith, irregardless if you’re just getting started, been on the journey for a long time, or have completely fallen off the track. Know that God has already finished the race and promises to carry you through to the end!