Faith is confidence in the ability of some external power, namely God, to bend all things toward some better end than what naturally occurs. It is openness to—and ultimately, dependence upon—the ways and wisdom of God as a new power for daily living. It is the vital connection to life and reality itself while all things within and without would drift toward wreckage and ruin.

My confession is that Jesus is the one who satisfies faith as I described it. I confess that the purpose of life is not to forestall death, prolong life, pursue pleasure, or find myself, as it were. In every effort to find myself, I have found myself more mystified and alone, more helpless and undone. I have needed some trustworthy word from an outside source to find me under the heap of ill-fitting clothes I’ve worn. I have needed a new source of power for daily living and the healing of relationships. Even suffering and loss and terrible disappointment can push me toward the satisfaction of my faith, which is a tree rooted in my chest somewhere safe from storm and fire. Because Jesus is Lord over all such forces, in the great and terrible and awesome wisdom of God, they are at times permitted to pass into our lives for the express purpose of getting us closer to the unending and overflowing life that is accessed in Jesus. They are given just enough power to be rendered powerless in achieving their own intended ends. Faith in Jesus is the great subversive conspiracy against the march of sin and death. This is a mystery I don’t claim to fully understand, but I have lived with Jesus long enough to trust Him.

I have faith that Jesus does such things better than all rivals, and that Jesus alone responds to this universal problem with the healing we seek. Amen.


Hearing Jesus in the Visual Age

I’ve come to really enjoy Mark Galli’s weekly meditations on culture, which attempt to advance a “beautiful orthodoxy” (as the Christianity Today editor often puts it). Galli aspires to this with humility, admitting that our best efforts tend to be shaded and partial. Even still, we mumbling, stumbling Christians ought to help convey God’s truth to a watching world. So it matters that we think about things—everything, in fact—seriously.

To the point, I don’t think Galli is taking our day’s “visual tsunami” too seriously. It sure seems like a true diagnosis when he writes:

One thing I have noticed is this: images help me feel quickly and with relative ease—and for this I am grateful. But a steady diet of images seduces me to stop thinking. Critical thinking isn’t everything, but when one is assaulted with images day after day, and when images (in the form of television, movies, and Instagram) pull me away from reading that makes demands on me (and thus can change me), I worry that I will end up breezing along in the jetsam of culture instead of living with freedom and intention.

He then admits, “These reflections are clumsy and hardly do justice to the writings that explore in great depth the relationship of word and image, much of which I find hard to fathom frankly.” Read the whole (and brief) piece here, and let me know what you think of his observations:

As a Christian, I savor humble and honest commentary on this broken and beautiful world without the rancor or neurosis of the loudest and proudest talking heads out there. Jesus spoke a lot about his own true judgement of things and the need for deeper healing than we’d care to admit (John 5, Luke 11-12…), but he spoke without malice or damaging criticism. “It’s not a coincidence that Jesus is named the Word,” Galli remarks. Though Jesus is heralded in the book of Hebrews as the “radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint [or image] of his nature,” the insta-gratification of our visual culture should tell us that to fully understand Jesus, the Word, he must be listened to diligently and read intently. We’ll then see him as he is with eyes of faith.


The right way to get low on Good Friday

This Friday, we and our church family will be rolling out small rugs on the floor of our mid-century gymnasium-turned-sanctuary. As we sit, bow, kneel, or lie, we’ll be taking a low posture for an hour during our Good Friday service. We feel that at least one time out of the 50+ times we gather in that room, we can certainly express with our bodies the posture of our hearts and minds. These are not so subdivided as a post-Enlightenment culture may assume. So we’ll make ourselves low tomorrow.

Our pastor will be reading various passages from Genesis to the Revelation of John that chronicle our human sinfulness. We’ll be measuring the distance we have made between us and God–personal, ultimate reality who seeks and creates relationship with sinful folk like us. And this Friday will only be called “good” because it marks God crossing that distance to bring us near.

Continue reading The right way to get low on Good Friday

How should we respond to Ted Cruz’s call to fight for America?

While considering the question posed above the other day, I found myself quoting out of the book of Hebrews, verse 13:14:

Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

As an American, I’m a citizen of a temporal nation in the midst of great cultural shifts away from its deistic moorings. I can acknowledge that well enough. But I am slow to agree with some quasi-historical narrative about America’s forsaken destiny as a Christian nation (was the writer of Hebrews hinting that such a thing can’t even exist?). If we have here no lasting Christian city (nation), we must be here as ambassadors of a different sort of kingdom. We should stop pledging ourselves most passionately to building a Christian nation when God is far more passionate about building from all nations his church–Christ’s visible body.

So on the other side of a couple thousand years, junior senator Ted Cruz launches his bid for president within the embrace of the largest Christian university in the world. I have to tread very slowly here. I can stumble into making some sharp comments about how events and narratives like these convey the faith to the watching world. Give me grace, God. Continue reading How should we respond to Ted Cruz’s call to fight for America?

To Christian couples delaying marriage and planning vacations

The purpose of this post is to offer a word of caution toward a trend we have noticed in young Christian couples. It comes from a place of confessed weakness, and lived experience. It is for that reason we ask to be heard.

When we decided to get married, Jennifer had one more year left of college, that, for all intents and purposes, we would pay for out of pocket. On top of that, Levi was an English major without a concrete job prospect. At ages 20 and 21, we were thought by many to be too young to make such an important decision. It was, however, a decision that likely saved our relationship. Continue reading To Christian couples delaying marriage and planning vacations