Thoughts

Christian Americans

I love America. Now that I’ve made that clear, let me talk about how difficult it is to love America and God at the same time, and to do it in a way that respects both the country and the deity. When I was in Boy Scouts growing up, we learned flag etiquette – things like not letting the flag touch the ground, putting the flag on the speaker’s right, saluting while you say the Pledge of Allegiance, how to fold a flag, and so on. Working at a summer camp, I even trained boys on how to perform a…
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Perfectly Depraved

The first of the five points of Calvinism is Total Depravity: as I understand it, the idea that on our own we can do no good, but that the good things we do are a result of God’s grace working through us. This leads to a troubling, ambiguous place: how should I feel about good works? Good Works are Good Good works are something to be proud of. I should try to be as good as possible, because faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Responding to God’s grace by loving others, not being jealous, greedy, lustful, mean-spirited, etc. is…
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5 Great Things About Small Churches

As a small church pastor, I have to believe that small churches can and should do great things as small churches without becoming large. This means that no matter the size, a church has something good to offer, that each church has a purpose given by God other than to grow or die. I think small churches offer a few competitive advantages, to use the language of economics, that we ought to take advantage of, instead of sitting around being envious of megachurches. (Note: This almost goes without saying, but megachurches and program-size churches have their roles too, and are…
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Decoding Jesus

Jesus lived quite a while ago. In the meantime, we followers of Jesus have had ample opportunity to tell stories about him, put some spin on his life, and generally mold him into a leader who tells us to go exactly where we already are. Fortunately, we have the Bible, which contains four books of stories about his life, so that we can read those stories and bring ourselves back to who Jesus actually was. Or can we? So often pastors tell people to read their Bibles and believe what they read, to view the Bible as the instruction manual…
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Discipleship

For a while, I’ve tried to imagine a church that took obedience to the greatest commandment as its primary mission – to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. To me, this is one of the best ways to be Calvinist as well: to respond to God’s irresistible grace and unconditional election with a gratitude that manifests itself in love, which to me is God’s primary characteristic. Everything we know about God flows from God’s love for the world and for us: God created the world out of love, God created…
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Happiness

I just experienced a great birthday weekend. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, so part of the birthday present was a conscious effort to focus on positivity – positive thoughts, fun activities, and paying attention to what I needed to do to enjoy life. It didn’t take too much effort, and it worked! Despite a couple distressing things happening over the past two days, I have felt happier, “lighter”, and more in control of my life than I would have otherwise. The funny thing about the Kingdom of God that Jesus promises is coming soon is that it’s already…
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Stuck in the Mud, in a Pit, in a War

Lately, Jeremiah’s situation right before the fall of Jerusalem has been speaking to me. The whole situation surrounding Jerusalem’s fall in 587 BCE was terrible: The Jewish people, under the leadership of King Zedekiah, had revolted against Babylonian leadership and allied with Egypt (against God’s wishes, of course). Babylon responded by seeking a more complete control over its newly acquired territory, laying siege to Jerusalem for over two years. The city’s resources were strained to the breaking point; living conditions were abysmal. No one could see any hope unless the Egyptian army came to save them. In the midst of…
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Justice Like Water

“Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great- grandfather, and great- great- grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy. Cotton’s family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises— the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws that govern one’s life. Cotton’s great- great- grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great- grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His…
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What is the Bible?

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember, but I spent 7 years of my life slowly, bit by bit, coming to a greater understanding of what the Bible is and what it means for me. And honestly, who has the time to do that? Certainly very, very few people other than those who are preparing themselves for ministry like I was. And so, as someone who has invested my life into the study of the Bible and discipleship to Christ, I have a great responsibility to communicate what I have learned with others so that the body of Christ can…
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A reinterpretation of 1 John 4:7-12

Love one another. Why? Because love is from God. That is, love is created by God. If love is created by God and is a part of God, then everyone who loves knows God. Furthermore, if love is from God, then those who love are also from God. By contrast, those who do not love do not know God, which implies that the only way to know God is through love, since love comes from God. Love must, therefore, be the only approachable part of God for humanity. Love is not only from God, God is love. This must be…
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