Living Truthfully

IMG_2755“This above all: to thine own self be true”
(Hamlet, Acts 1, Scene 3).

With these eight words, Polonius summarizes well what, for many of us, has become the motto of the ideal life: to thine own self be true. They epitomize the constant drive we have for individual freedom. To be free is to be able to determine our own identity; it is to be able to define for ourselves who we are and how we will live. At its core is the ongoing quest that we all undertake to live authentically; to pursue a truthful life.

But what does it mean to live truthfully? Continue reading

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Mourn With Those Who Mourn

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Growing up, I remember going to public school and, every year, celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. day. We would watch documentaries, read books, and study his “I Have A Dream” speech. We were told that Dr. King had inaugurated a new age in American history, that we were beginning to see that dream being made a reality. That we were a post-racial society.

It is a beautiful dream.

But this Thursday we were once again woken up from that dream with the sound of gunfire as our world experienced another tragedy.

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Learning to Love the Detour

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Growing up in Chicago, I learned to hate detours. With highways already jam-packed 24/7, a detour just meant another 2 hours out of the way, often in directions that felt like they were taking you further away from where you wanted to be rather that toward it. “Detour” was synonymous with “U-turn”.

So it should be no surprise that when my faith life has hit what I would deem a “detour”, my response would not be stellar. In fact, ever since becoming a Christian I feel like that is all I’ve ever encountered: one detour after another.

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Redeeming the Law

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For most of my life I was not a Christian. Though my family celebrated Christmas and Easter when I was growing up, we didn’t really attend church. For us, life was about being a good person and trying our hardest. Which is why, when someone finally shared the Gospel with me it was revolutionary. It showed me that being good isn’t good enough, because though we try hard, we ultimately fall far short of our own standards of goodness, not to mention God’s.

But the good news of Christianity is that we have a Savior; one who came to save us when good just isn’t good enough. Jesus lives the life we should have lived and dies the death we should have died, so that we – imperfect people that we are – can have new life with God. So that we can stand in His perfect, pure, and holy presence as His beloved children. When God looks at us, he doesn’t see our imperfections and our shortcomings. He sees the perfect life of Christ.

And for all of us who fall short, that is the best news in the world.

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Why We Still Need the Church

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“Whoever seeks Christ must first find the church. Now the church is not wood and stone but the group of people who believe in Christ. Whoever seeks the church should join himself to them and observe what they teach, pray, and believe. For they certainly have Christ among them.”

~Martin Luther

There is a popular trend in the social media sphere that has really been picking up steam in recent years. No, I’m not talking about Snapchat or Dubsmash. I’m talking about the tendency by many to attack and criticize the church. And while, in some ways, criticizing the church is nothing new, what surprises me about this trend is that the ones leading the way this time around are Christians.

In fact, it is a rare week that I don’t see some article or blog post about the ways in which the church is failing to reach the young, the old, the hipsters, etc. Likewise there are countless “Things the Church Should Stop Doing” posts and top ten lists. I know because I’ve heard the gripe-fests, read the blog posts, and even tweeted and re-tweeted a fair number of them.

But I would argue that while the church is imperfect, that is also the very reason we need the church.

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Taking the “Me” Out of Service

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Growing up, service was always a big part of my family. Even before I was a Christian my parents were teaching my brother and I the value of serving others. So it was no surprise that, when I became a Christian, I was trying to find ways to connect my faith to a life of service. As a result, when I got to college I started to spend time with friends doing service projects and being active in the surrounding community. I was burdened by the question, “How can my faith be an active part of caring for my community?”

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The Problem With Being A Good Person

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For several years I worked in college ministry in the city of Chicago. Every year we would host various outreach events which were aimed at answering peoples’ questions about the Christian faith and introducing them to Jesus.

During one of these meetings I was approached by a young man who had a very good question.

I don’t know why Jesus is necessary. I mean…you guys keep saying that we need to believe in Jesus in order to be saved, but I just don’t know why. Why isn’t it enough to just be a good person?

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Worship as Re-Formation

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When we talk about worship, what do we usually mean? Oftentimes I think we mean…well…what we do on Sundays.  Worship is about music and sermons, robes and hymnals, praise bands and ProPresenter slides. But this is not how the Bible understands worship. Worship is far deeper and more encompassing than what happens on a Sunday morning. In fact, Christian theologians throughout the centuries have argued that worship is, in fact, an inescapable reality of human experience.

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Appreciating the Small Things

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*Photo Credit: Jason Long, Unsplash.com

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…”
~Romans 1:21

 When I first began pursuing my Seminary degree, one of my mentors and advisors warned me, “Seminary is a dangerous place to because it has the power to crush your soul.” The reason is because when we come to Seminary we take an internal passion (for God, the Scriptures, the Church, etc.) and we incentivize it. What I mean is that suddenly the Bible isn’t a way of connecting with God. Rather it is a textbook to be parsed, studied, analyzed, and dissected. Likewise, studying theology is not about growing your devotional life, but about giving you correct knowledge for the purpose of writing systematic papers. And, sad to say, he was right.

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When Tolerance Becomes Intolerant

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Several months ago, my former employer, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, was featured prominently in a New York Times article entitled “Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy”.  It highlights the growing tension on a number of college campuses between campus administration and religious groups, specifically around the issue of who can serve as leaders within these campus ministries.

While this is an issue that is now starting to garner national media attention, for those of us who have been involved in religious work on colleges and universities this issue is all too familiar.  I believe the New York Times piece does a good job highlighting the issues, but to summarize, many universities and college campuses have begun to ban religious organizations from using their rooms and facilities for meetings and prayer. They have also prevented such groups from applying to be student organizations, which often means that they are not allowed to apply for student life fund or advertise their events on campus.

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