• I Was the Keeper of the Flame

    This is the story of how I became the Keeper of the Flame, and how the world became the Keeper of the Flame, and how the fire – inside me – changed me.
  • Salvation, a Present Reality

    We often seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding that Scripture - Jesus and Paul and the prophets - are guiding us toward a particular destination, an afterlife. But the more I read and study Scripture, the more I think that's wrong.
  • God’s Holiness, Justice, and Love

    God's holiness and justness are products of God's love. They don't exist as independent characteristics, creating conflicts in God's character. Holiness and justice are outflows of God's nature, which is love.
  • Wounded for Fear

    A Good Friday meditation on why Jesus suffered the cross.
  • Why it’s been hard for me to feel my feelings

    I exist at the intersection of three groups that are really bad at expressing their feelings. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy working through this problem, and I want to share what that intersection has looked like in my life.
  • God is Love, Not a Slave Lord

    Despite what Paul says, I don’t think God desires us to be slaves of God.
  • 4. Paul and the Church in Corinth

    Paul's leadership and communication with the church in Corinth in the first century provides a basic framework that we can use to explore the application of an online church today.
  • Skittles and Sheep

    "If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem." That message, posted by Donald Trump Jr. yesterday, should be deeply concerning for Christians. The call of the gospel is not to protect ourselves, but to protect the abused, the broken, the exiles.
  • Winds of Change in the Church of the Nazarene

    The Church of the Nazarene is a small denomination, a true community where everyone knows everyone, yet there is a significant gap between the doctrinal interpretations of the predominantly "holiness" branches and those of the predominantly "Wesleyan" branches. These two descriptors are not exclusive, but the two seem to be drifting farther and farther apart these days. We are better than this.
  • A Nation After Christ

    There are a lot of different ideas about whether the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Regardless of those ideas, though, the majority of Americans now say that the United States of today isn’t Christian nation. The question, then, is whether we should strive to establish the United States as a Christian nation for tomorrow. Conservative voices across the country join together to demand laws that defend the biblical definitions of marriage and protect expressions of Christian faith on government property. They cry for Christian men and women to speak up, protest governmental authorities, and stop the rise of secularization in our nation. Certainly, Christians should hope for all Americans to come to know Christ in a real and personal way. We should have that same hope for all the world. But is legislating our Christian ethics the way we are to bring people to Christ? Let’s start with some of the core, universal beliefs of evangelical Christianity. At the heart of evangelicalism is the idea that authentic Christian faith is personal. The decision to live your life for Christ is one that each individual must make for himself. It’s not something that can be inherited or passed along or absorbed by sitting in a pew. We believe in the transformative power of a relationship with God. When a person commits their life to Christ, the Holy Spirit speaks to them and draws them closer to God. We believe that community is a vitally important part of Christian life. We come together to worship, to support one another, and to challenge each other. I understand the desire to create a Christian culture. After all, we want to live in a wholesome society that shares our values. And since we believe in the right-ness of our values, we believe society can be improved by adhering to our values. And we feel that if the world would simply live by our ethics, the United States would be a beautiful, happy place to live. But here’s one of my big hangups with that. When we create laws based on the Bible*, we are effectively discouraging people from having a personal relationship with Christ.  We’re telling them they have to live a Christian life rather than allowing them to discover the joy of living a Christian life. It’s like reading books. I’ve always loved reading - I was one of those kids that went to the library every other week and brought home 10 books to read over the next 14 days. In school, though, we were always assigned a list of books to read, and working through those books was torture. They weren’t bad books. They weren’t boring or difficult to understand. I just hated reading them. Since I’ve been out of school, I’ve re-read a number of those books for fun, and I’ve been astounded at how incredible those books are. I’ve loved reading them. Why do I enjoy them so much now even though I hated them in school?…
  • Adults, We Don’t Have to Agree.

    My faith has grown a lot over the years, and I hope that it keeps growing as I continue to mature. We all grow up with ideas about how life works. As we grow, we learn that some of them are right (don’t touch fire, because it burns), some are wrong (Santa brings us presents on Christmas), and some are simply matters of opinion (sauerkraut is nasty). Part of being a mature adult is having the ability to challenge - and find answers for - those assumptions. Being able to have truly open discussions about life questions is crucial to growing and learning. The key word in that sentence is “open.” We Christians (particularly evangelicals) love to talk about the hot topics in our social circles. We love making sure everyone knows exactly where we stand on abortion, creation, and homosexuality. The problem is that we are unwilling to concede that our views could possibly be wrong. When we approach the conversation in this way, we are behaving like a child who, upon being told that Santa isn't real, puts his hands over his ears and shouts “I’m not listening to you! Santa IS real!” If we are mature in our faith, we have to be able to approach these conversations with the mindset that we COULD be wrong in what we believe. That’s not to say that we definitely are wrong - but we must be able to admit that the possibility exists. Aristotle summed my thoughts up well. He said: It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
  • We Need to Have a Healthy Conversation

    In the last few weeks, I have become acutely aware of the fact that we evangelicals are horrible participants in discussions, particularly on social media. I am fortunate to have friends from a wide variety of faiths and religious backgrounds, and recently I've seen several of them publicly wrestling with tough, real-life questions. Through the sincerity of their questions, they have made themselves vulnerable, opening their hearts to the world. And I have been appalled at the way many well-meaning evangelicals have completely derailed the conversations with pat, predictable answers that harm more than they help. Most of the time, these answers don’t even address the question and aren't relevant to the discussion. Why do we do this? Math has always come really easily for me. From the time I first learned how to add and subtract, I've had this innate ability to see the answer long before others. I never had to memorize multiplication tables because I could do the calculations immediately in my head. I could shout out the answer to a problem before anyone else could even begin working it out, and I was rarely wrong. The first couple of  times I did this, everyone was impressed. Quickly, though, my immediate answers started to annoy my classmates. I thought I was being helpful (and truth be told, I was having fun), but my casual responses made them feel like I was showing off. To my friends, I was showboating - even arrogant - with my solutions. Even worse, by discouraging them from working out the answers for themselves, I was preventing them from learning. Fractions and long division came as naturally to me as the multiplication tables, but as the problems became more complex, I started getting my answers wrong more frequently. At first, I could convince myself that I’d simply misread the problem, but eventually I had to admit that my easy answers were flat out incorrect. Then I’d have to go back and actually work out the math to see what I’d done wrong. When I started learning more advanced mathematics like algebra and trigonometry, the answers that I got in my head were more often wrong than they were right. I was forced to admit that I needed to work out every problem if I wanted to get the correct answer, but since I’d spent my entire life skipping steps and figuring the problems in my head, I was woefully unprepared to do the work. I struggled with math for the first time in my life as I had to relearn all of the processes that my fellow classmates had been doing for years. I think that, as evangelicals participating in cultural discussions, we tend to make a lot of those exact same mistakes in our conversations about sensitive issues. When we respond to our friends with trite, quick answers, we’re devaluing the very real struggle that they are working through. We’re telling them that the answer is easy - it’s right there in front of them, how could they be confused? And…
  • If They’re Right

    What if the accusations against us are right? What if we're the monsters they say we are? We don't think they are, but could that be part of the problem?
  • Coffee, Creation, and Theistic Evolution

    This may shock some of you, but I love coffee. Hot, iced, espresso, dark roast, light roast - it doesn't matter. It’s delicious. In case you don't believe me, here are just a few of the brewers that I have in my kitchen: Black & Decker Drip Pot Moka Pot Melitta Pourover Kalita Wave Pourover Aeropress French Press Filtron Cold Brewer Each of these methods makes a slightly different type of cup - some produce a more full-bodied cup, some bring out the sweetness of the coffee, some are just quick and easy to use. On any given morning (or afternoon…), I’ll use whichever one best fits my needs at that time. If you were to ask me which one is the best way to make coffee, I’d have a hard time answering. Certainly they each have their strengths and weaknesses (and everyone has their personal preferences), but I can make a great cup with any of them. All else being equal, the distinguishing factor between a great cup of coffee and a poor one is usually not the method of brewing - it’s the skill of the person brewing it. Young Earth Creationism vs. Theistic Evolution One of the big sticking points in evangelicalism these days is the debate between young earth creationism and theistic evolution. Young earth creationists say that the Genesis account of creation should be read as historical fact. They maintain that God created the light and separated it from the darkness, and that was Day 1, the first 24-hour period in history. The next day, God spoke and separated the water from the sky. The third day, he created dry ground and plants. And so on until the sixth day, when he created mankind. Theistic evolutionists, on the other hand, describe the Genesis account as being mostly symbolic. They say that the “days" referred to in the opening chapter of Genesis aren't literal 24-hour days - they are ambiguous “long ages” of time (this is based on an alternate meaning of the original Hebrew word). In addition to contesting the length of a “day” in Genesis, theistic evolutionists say that the account of God speaking the universe into existence is metaphorical and that he used the scientific process of evolution as his tool to accomplish it. Among Christians, this debate is a heated one. Simply mentioning the terms “young earth creationism” or “theistic evolution” is usually enough to get the opposing side worked up. For Christians on both ends, the issue has seemingly become a cornerstone of the faith. Indeed, we often behave as if a person's perspective on creation determines whether or not he follows the one true God. And this division breaks my heart. Remember the Maker I opened this post discussing coffee and how the most important factor in preparing a cup wasn't the method used to brew it, but the skill of the person brewing it. Plenty of people make the mistake of marveling over a coffee-brewing device, but the real credit belongs to the person brewing it. In the debate over how the…
  • Freedom in Biblical Inerrancy

    If I asked three different men to describe the perfect woman, I would get three completely different responses. The first man might describe a tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed bombshell. The second man might describe a woman of remarkable intellect and drive. And the third man might describe a woman who was 100% devoted to her family. They would each have their own interpretation of what “perfect” means. “Perfect” isn't enough. What, then, is the real perfect woman? Is one description right and the other two wrong? Is she a mixture of the three descriptions? Or should we boil the definition of a perfect woman down to primal evolutionary functions (in which case she would be any one who was able to survive and carry on the human race)? The term “perfect” can have a lot of different meanings and can be interpreted in many different ways. It isn't strong enough to stand on its own - it needs context in order to have any kind of practical purpose. For the word to have any real value in our conversations, we need to clarify which interpretation of perfection we mean. Biblical Inerrancy: The Question of Perfection We run into this very same issue when we discuss “biblical inerrancy” - at first glance, it means that the Bible is perfect and without error. Much of the discussion on the topic centers around 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (NLT) The beginning of that verse - “All Scripture is inspired by God…” - has been dissected and analyzed and interpreted, and it is the basis of the concept of biblical inerrancy. Basically, the idea is that since Scripture is inspired by God (alternately interpreted as “God-breathed”), it is perfect. But how do we really define this doctrine of inerrancy? Are we simply saying that the NLT (or whatever translation you prefer) that we hold in our hands has no typos? What about translation errors or discrepancies with other translations? Most Christians would agree that this definition is not accurate. Are we saying that every sentence of the Bible literally applies to our lives? Most Christians would agree that this definition is not accurate either. A more common definition of biblical inerrancy is that, with the exception of the parts of Scripture that are poetry or metaphor, the Bible is 100% factually accurate and should be read at face value. This is to say, for example, that since it describes the creation of the world as occurring over a period of six days, God created the world in six literal days. Within this view, there is some question about which books and passages are poetry or metaphor. (Who decides which parts are to be taken literally and which should be read figuratively?) Taking these questions even further,…
  • It’s My Right. (Part 2)

    God's Word is very clear about how we Christians should live our lives, but we, as a culture, have become adept at setting these rules aside by either conveniently ignoring them or writing them off as metaphors or altruistic ideals.
  • It’s My Right. (Part 1)

    I know my rights. It is my right as an American to say whatever I want to say. I have freedom of speech, and I have the right to exercise it.
  • Life In Pursuit

    Christianity, in a nutshell: God made me, but I screwed up the relationship that we had. God is so passionate about pursuing me, that he gave up his only son to restore our relationship. Because of his love for me, I am passionate about pursuing him, and I want others to discover his love, as well. If I am a Christian, then my strongest desire should be to grow closer to Christ. That desire should trump my desire for job security, healthiness, and family. My pursuit of God should come before my career, dreams, and my ministry. Re-read that. Really think about it for a minute. Do you agree or disagree? ... If, as a Christian, my strongest desire is to pursue Christ, then wouldn't I spend more time in communication with him than I do with my wife? Wouldn't I spend more time with him than I do working? Now I just sound like a hippie. Or some kind of radical. We can't all quit our jobs and devote our entire lives to meditating on the Bible – someone's gotta pay the bills! Besides, that's what we have pastors for, right? It's their job to study and share God's truth with us. Right? Right? ... Call me crazy, call me radical, or call me a hippie, but I think that if I am truly passionate about pursuing God, I should be focused on that task in every aspect of my life. That's not to say that I have to cease every "non-spiritual" activity (although it does seem to work well for the Benedictine monks), but I should engage in every area of my life with a focus on my pursuit of God. And when the times come that I have to choose between work and faith, my faith should always win. It's really easy to type this. It's even easy to say it out loud. It takes no real commitment to read it and nod my head in agreement. But it's a lot more difficult when Sunday morning comes around. I'm still sleepy, but the church has a class on Christian discipleship. Do I choose to sleep in (I can justify this, saying that I'm so sleepy that I probably wouldn't get much out of it anyways), or do I choose to do whatever it takes to relentlessly pursue God? Sunday afternoon rolls in. I've got my comfy sweatpants on, and I'm munching on popcorn and watching the game. It was a long week, so I'm glad for a little bit of relaxation time. A group of Christians are gathering across town to watch a Christian video and discuss it, but I figure that I already went to church once today, so I'm good. What do I choose to do? If I'm paying attention, the decisions that I make in these moments will show me where my heart truly is. And what if I discover that I'm not all that passionate about following Christ? If the passion of my life…
  • Love is Enough

    Why do I always expect God to give me things? Why do I think that God must reward my faithfulness – even though my faithfulness is often lacking? I expect that he will bless me richly, that he will cause my business to prosper and my life to flourish. I expect that he will give me all of the desires of my heart because, after all, he wants me to be happy. And I praise him in faith, trusting in his providence. Trusting in his blessing. But then, I wonder, if I weren't happy – if I were penniless; if my life were to crumble before me; if all that I had and all that I knew were to disappear – would I still praise him? Could I still praise him? Could I praise a God who, though he created the harvest, wouldn't give me bread to eat? Could I praise a God who, though he planted the trees, wouldn't give me a roof over my head? If God, in his mighty power, wouldn't provide such simple commodity, why should I love him? But then I stop and I think – how weak is my love for the one who gave me breath! If my affection is dependent on the gifts that he bestows upon me, how can I even claim to love my Father? If I really loved him, it wouldn't matter whether I had food, or shelter, or family, or health. True love for my Father would exist independently of his blessings. True love for my Father would see the value of the simple, extravagant love that he has for me, and would know that it is enough. And yet the truth is that he does bless me. He has prospered my business, and he has given me many of my heart's desires, and yet still my heart betrays him. What possible excuse could I have for my moments of weakness, my moments of doubt? His love for me has never wavered, never stumbled, never failed. In this, I find hope – that, in spite of my failures, he loves me still. And his love is enough.