The Gospels are full of stories and moments that challenge us, as the reader, to take a long hard look at ourselves. The woman caught in adultery (John 8), the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) all challenge the reader to reassess grace, holiness, and mercy in their own lives. One story that I don’t think gets the attention it deserves for it’s challenge to the reader is the story of Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the wilderness. It’s found in three of the four Gospels (John never really plays by anyone’s rules)
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to it for a long stretch. I think I got lost in the details of it; fasting for 40 days and a conversation with the devil can make the story feel incredibly unrelatable. I’ve done short fasts, but nothing close to a month. And while I’ve had some incredibly spiritual moments, both good and evil, I can’t say I’ve ever had a direct conversation with the devil.
But if you move past the sensational parts of the story, you can begin to see the true humanity of Christ. And that, after all, is the point of the story.
We’re too quick to dismiss this story out of hand. After all, how tempting can anything be for God? That question neglects the crucial component of Christ which is His humanity. He was one of us. (If you read nothing else, pause and let that thought bounce around in your head for a little bit – Christ was, and is, one of us). The temptations that Jesus faces are temptations that every one of us can relate too. Here’s how: Continue reading
You can do a lot in the world of online garage sales. You can have auctions, sell some of your own stuff, and even place a ‘Wanted’ ad if you’re in the market for something. It’s recommended that you include a ‘condition’ (usually new, gently used, used, etc.) in the description to help people figure out if they should respond. So, for example, if I wanted a dining room table, and I was comfortable with a couple of dings or scratches, I might put out an ad like this:
‘Wanted – Dining Room Table, New or Gently Used’
Over the last few years, I’ve watched as Christianity and culture seem to get further and further from each other. And while I certainly don’t know all of the reasons why the walls of the church get higher, so to speak, each year, I do have an idea or two.
Many in the church seem to be trying to ‘collect’ their Christianity, in the same way as any other collector would. Churches seem to serve as large display cases or china cabinets for pristine figures, comics, or dishes. They seem to be concerned with preserving the quality of their wares instead of fully using them.
Here are a couple of thoughts on ‘collecting’ Christianity: Continue reading
A few years ago, I was training to run a marathon when I came across an interesting technique for getting through the race. Most experienced coaches were advising that you have a “rest plan” or strategy for pacing and recovering during the race. Among planning on trying to drink water and gatorade early on and eat some fruit along the way, they advised that you plan on times where you intentionally back off your pace. It was a way of building rest into the race.
It’s tempting to live life like a sprint, where you dash as fast as you can from one task to the next, trying to get everything finished. And there are definitely times when you just have to push through and get stuff done. But it’s also been shown that having something to look forward too, a “rest day” of sorts, is also critical. It turns out that life is much more like a marathon than a sprint, and we may need to dangle some carrots along the way to help us get through.
So here are three ways to dangle a carrot (and hopefully get some rest along the way)
Way back when, the apostle Paul wrote a couple of letters to the Thessalonians (Thessaloopians if you’re a Veggietales fan). Near the end of the first letter, Paul tells the reader to “pray without stopping” (1 Thess. 5:17). And without fail, every time this phrase gets brought up at a Bible study or Sunday school, everyone in the class turns to me and asks: “Preacher, how do we do this?”
The implication is that we as people don’t have time to pray throughout our entire day. We have families, careers, and numerous other things that all clamor for our attention, so we can’t just stay home and pray all day, every day. What about when we’re eating, or sleeping, or going to the bathroom?
So here are a couple of my thoughts on praying without stopping: Continue reading
When I was in college, I participated in the Army ROTC program. One of the fundamental skill sets we learned early on was Land Navigation, which consisted of map reading, orienteering, and plotting out a course over the terrain to find different points on the map. We would often use a variety of skills and tools to hike through the woods to these points. We’d use compasses, protractors, and different techniques to find our points.
When I think of trying to better understand or connect with God, I think of this hiking or map reading imagery. So here are four things that you can use to connect with God: Continue reading