Bleak to Enchanted: Exploring One Way Jesus Didn’t Come Down


Some days, the world seems pretty bleak.  Our bodies ache.  War and poverty prevail.   Natural disasters abound.  Just when we begin to get a little piece of mind, another tragedy strikes.

If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves living perpetually in hope of an escape.  We trod through the days; we fulfill our duties.  But we’re distracted.  Our eyes are always scanning the horizon, searching for the nearest exit, wondering when we’ll have the opportunity to finally check out and be done with this miserable planet.

At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that the God of Hope entered into all this mess.  “God came down to earth”, we say, echoing Jesus’ own description of his mission.

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The Problem with the Present Spiritual Consensus


The secular, post-modern world we inhabit has formed a consensus when it comes to a conception of god.

The consensus goes something like this:

Yes, I do believe in God. Or, at least, in a god. I do believe there is some kind of higher, transcendent power at work beyond the physical world. I am not merely a materialist, nor an atheist. I’m more of an agnostic. I do not believe we’re all here for just a few short years only to die and be gone forever in the most definitive sense. I believe there must be some kind of power that unites all humanity, and binds us with the created order. Whether we know it or not, whether our wars and violence veil it or not, we are all somehow connected.

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Dethroning Conversion: Correcting Evangelicalism’s Longstanding, Misplaced Priority


In any institution, behavior follows values. By “values”, I don’t necessarily mean morally praiseworthy values, but simply “whatever is valued” in that context. In addition, “values” do not necessarily correspond with the random posters hung around the office, nor the official company emails sent to the list serve.

Behavior follows actual values. If the senior leadership of a company values profit above all else, then employees will scramble to make the most money in whatever way possible and be noticed while doing so. If senior leadership values promptness and professionalism, then meetings will start on time, and everyone will be well dressed.

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Just Give Me Jesus…and Coffee…and a Couch

You can have all of this world,

just give me Jesus.

The lyrics of this beautiful old hymn communicate a classic Christian conviction: that the riches found in Jesus Christ are more valuable than all the riches this world has to offer. And by “riches”, we mean not only finances, but all material possessions and experiences. We know this life offers many delights we could chase. From seaside vacations to fine wines to an evening on Broadway, the landscape of the world beckons us to come and see, to sit and eat.

But this hymn directs our affections toward a different end. Instead of temporary pleasures, we seek the greater, more lasting delights found in a life faithfully given in pursuit of Jesus. He is the one great aim of a Christian life.

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Home Visits, Gun Shots and Snitches

This is a re-post of a blog I wrote in 2009.  At the time, I was a High School English Teacher on the southwest side of Chicago.  The original post can be seen here.

Today I left school about twenty minutes early and headed to the home of one of my students.  If you have read my previous posts, then you know that this was a sixteen-year-old male student who had been beaten within an inch of his life.  Turns out he was hit in the head with a hammer.  Last week I visited his house and heard he would be coming home.  Today was my follow-up visit to check in and see how he was doing.  I was a bit afraid to see him, but for some reason I had begun to build a relationship with his family, even before this injury, and I felt I had to keep going down this path.

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Two Boys, Two Names, Two Places

Baby Jayber

Theophilus Dunkin; aka “Theo”

Theo, you are our metropolitan boy. You came to us amidst towering buildings, bustling roadways, and ambitious pursuits. I hopped the train to grad school every morning, while mom biked through four miles of city traffic down Damen Avenue to her nanny job. An automobile was nothing to us but a means of revenue for the city, and an opportunity to keep curse words fresh in our vocabulary.

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Why We Shouldn’t Imitate the New Testament Church

I often hear church folks state a frustration that goes like this: “if only we could be more like the New Testament Church!”

This lament usually follows a number of observations.  The church isn’t as unified as it should be.  The church isn’t as generous as it should be.  The church isn’t as tight-knit as it should be.  The church doesn’t disciple people as well as it should.

And so, as a corrective to these blemishes, preachers and lay people alike exhort us to get back to our roots.  To go back to “the early church”, or “the new testament church”, and there find inspiration to change.

But there are several problems with this perspective.  And they’re not just academic problems, either.  They are the kind of problems that can lead us to pursue the wrongs things as we seek to follow Christ.

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What Every Christian Can Learn from Artists

Art is a unique activity available to humanity.  Indeed, it is one of the marks that makes us human.  After all, squirrels do not make art.

However, in our present day, many “ordinary people” (aka non-artists) have been turned off to art by a few encounters with bizarre, “modern” forms.

But in spite of these encounters (which I can readily relate to), most of us still appreciate the power of art.  We have songs we love to listen to.  Photographs that make us think.  Paintings that stir our hearts.  Movies that instill a sense of wonder and awe.

All of these experiences display the incredible potential of art.  They also explain why we like to look at it, listen to it, watch it, etc.  It’s for the experience.  The power.  The gut-level effect it has on us.

But I want to ask another question: why do people create art?  And more specifically, why would a follower of Jesus create art?

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In Celebration of Noise

There is a lot of talk about silence today.  And solitude.  And a tech-free, near-to-nature, God-voice-focused, Jesus-filled, near-hippy existence that all of us read about on our smartphones while hunched over our desks in our cubicles as we simultaneously slam our lunches and catch up on Facebook activity.

And I write that kind of stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for some solitude in the woods with just me, my Bible, and a journal.  I would love to be a monk.

But you know what?  I think it’s about time we gave a shout-out to shout-outs.  And no, not the electronic social media-based kind of shout out.  I mean, to SHOUTING.  As in, NOISE.

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