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Article

Top view of religious male crossed hands in prayer

A prayer for this time

Perhaps it’s somewhat oversimplified, but I agree with the gist of what Esau McCaulley wrote in an opinion piece to The New York Times this past week: “What about the rest of us [who aren’t medical professionals]? This remains certain in the ever-shifting narrative of Covid-19: the most effective ways of stopping the spread of the virus is by social distancing (avoiding large gatherings) and good personal hygiene (washing our hands). The data suggests that what the world needs now…
A woman reading a bible

Do it

Mark Twain famously quipped, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me; it is the parts that I do understand.” I’m not sure exactly how he meant that, but in some ways I agree with him. There’s a lot about the Bible I don’t grasp, but I’ve got plenty to do just to work on the parts I get. Here’s one of the parts I understand: God wants us to do what he says. You…
Drawn scales with empty cups on chalkboard

Big sins, little sins

Sometimes we put sins into categories, probably without even thinking: “really bad sins,” “bad sins,” and “not-so-bad sins.” Sure, I’m a sinner, but none of mine are the really bad ones. I’d never commit those. Like murder. Or adultery. My sins are smaller stuff like sometimes thinking bad thoughts, losing my temper with my kids, spreading a little gossip, or being impatient and irritable. Everybody does that stuff. Sound familiar? The Christians James was writing to apparently made the same…
One house model ahead of the others, red color background

Love that neighbor

Love your neighbor. It just sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? It’s such a nice thought, and pretty much everybody agrees that we ought to do it. Do we? Of course, we do, or at least we think we do. We know Jesus commanded it. We know we’re supposed to love everyone. James apparently thought it was a big deal. He wrote, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor…
system escape concept on the wooden background

Prejudice

I took a class on the Civil Rights movement once, and I’ve often thought of something the professor told us. “We’re all prejudiced. Every single one of us.” I don’t know if you agree with him, but I think he touched on an important point. Let me reword it slightly: We’re all tempted to view people according to superficial qualities. In fact, we do it so often and so subconsciously that we might not even notice it. We put people…
Stack of clean towels on wooden table in bathroom.

Unstained

We live in the world, and it’s hard to keep it from rubbing off on us. Sometimes it’s tempting just to escape it, isn’t it? Move to the proverbial deserted island or to a rural mountain in Tibet. Some believers in church history tried that route, retreating to caves, deserts, or monasteries, but it didn’t always work well. Tempting as it might be sometimes, God never called us to retreat from the world. So here we are. We live and…
Man stressed while working on laptop

That makes me uncomfortable

Taking the Bible seriously will absolutely make you uncomfortable. Not all of it, of course. I like the parts about Jesus giving me rest and the abundant life and preparing a beautiful mansion for me. All that sounds nice. I don’t even mind the parts about being a good person, because being reasonably good isn’t that hard most of the time. But you don’t have to look far to see something considerably more difficult than that. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right…
mysterious cloud

Braggin’ Rights

I thought about beginning this article by discussing football in the state of Alabama.  Every year at this time, fans wearing either crimson and white or orange and blue claim bragging rights for the next 364 days.  But I’ll turn in a different direction here.  People enjoy being able to boast about things.  Whether it’s football, some other sport, or even the time we rang the garbage can with a wad of paper from 20 feet away, many of us…

Real Religion

One of the scariest things about faith for me is the incredible ability most of us have to deceive ourselves. Occasionally I’ve been appalled at the behavior of someone who called himself a Christian and wondered how he could ever reconcile his behavior with his claim to follow Jesus. “What a hypocrite!”, I’ve self-righteously mumbled. Then it hits me: Where are my blind spots? What sins am I committing but ignoring, or perhaps justifying? Maybe I don’t do what he…
Worship and praise

Here we are to worship

There’s stuff to joke about, things to be flippant and casual about, to laugh at. God is not one of those things. I cringe when I hear someone refer to God as “the Man upstairs.” I’m sure most of them don’t mean anything disrespectful, but I think they’re missing something important about God. Several times in the Bible people came into God’s presence in a special, miraculous way. It scared them to death. Here’s one of those times: In the…
Top view of the hands of a programmer on his laptop

The Preacher and Porn

Not long ago I read an all-too-familiar story: another preacher got caught. He was looking at pornography on his computer, then switching to his Bible software program to work on his upcoming sermon, then back to porn . . . all in the span of a few hours. Are you shocked? Unfortunately, you’ve probably seen too many headlines to be too surprised. I don’t know this preacher, and I don’t know any of his circumstances, but I think I can…

On Level Ground

Things aren’t always fair down here, but they ought to be. The poor don’t get the same treatment as the rich, and minorities are often pushed to the margins. We love a good David-and-Goliath story. We like to see Cinderella make it to the big dance. We love the Rudys of the world, the underdogs, the outmanned, outmatched, and overpowered. Occasionally, we like to see the little guy winning and the big guy begging for mercy. We like to see…