Why we don’t bear fruit

Parable of the sower

One of Jesus' many well-known parables is the parable of the sower, which imagines a man with a bag of seed, casting the kernels this way and that. The seed, which represents the gospel, lands on different types of soil, which represent human hearts, human lives. We often think of this parable as speaking primarily about evangelism. The sower is the evangelist, spreading the Word. But that's only the most basic dimension. … [Read more...]

Testing in the Christian life

MforMarcus, Flickr

My son Fionn held up two toy cars. "Which one is faster?" he asked. I gave him my answer and he said, "No. Neither is faster. It depends on who is driving them." Trick question. I confess to being a little irritated in that moment by this answer. "Then why ask me which one?" I asked. Oblivious to my irritation, Fionn answered with a question: "What's the point of a test if you don't learn something?" That's an interesting answer. We are used to thinking of tests as a way to measure what … [Read more...]

Hope that does not disappoint

Hope that does not disappoint

Our days are marked by trouble. Illness in the family, perhaps dire, a child struggling with unbelief, a bad job situation, turmoil in a close relationship -- the list is as long and varied as you want to make it. We're all facing something, a unique trial, a particular pain. And it's not surprising. "Beloved," says Peter in his first letter, "do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you...." … [Read more...]

Christians making a difference

How Christians can make a difference

Whether it's the political activism of the eighties and nineties or the social activism of today, Christians want to make a difference in the world. But are we starting in the right place? Often we see a crisis or a need and jump to fix it. We raise funds, join a movement, buy a T-shirt, send our tithe, blog, campaign, distribute voters guides, do all kinds of things -- many of them good. But they're not enough. All those things are externally focused, which is only half the picture. "The … [Read more...]

How marriage works on you

How Marriage Works on You

I've written in the past about the mystery of marriage, how it transforms its participants. That's part of its very purpose, to conform us to the image of Christ and deepen our communion with God. I've still got a long way to go and, as they say, results may vary, but here are three positive ways that marriage to Megan has begun to change me. 1. Learning to love better The more circumstances require you to love like Christ, the more like Christ you become. That's the hope at least … [Read more...]

The gospel of radical submission

The gospel of radical submission

The Scripture commands husbands to love their wives, wives to respect their husbands, children to honor their parents, citizens to obey the authorities, employees to follow their employers, and believers to subject themselves to the elders of the Church. None of this has anything to do with how much or well the other party deserves it. There are plenty of unlovable wives, disreputable husbands, dishonorable parents, unworthy governments, ill-willed employers, and untrustworthy church leaders … [Read more...]

Are you making progress?

Are you making progress?

What does the perfect Christian life look like? When asked the question by a friend, Gregory of Nyssa said it looked like perpetual progress toward God, a thought stemming from Christ's statement that Christians are to be perfect like God is perfect. This is tricky business. Perfection is easy if we're talking about the length of a yard or the number ten, things that have attainable, comprehensible limits. But what if there is no spatial or conceptual boundary? Exactly how long is virtue, … [Read more...]

The sanctifying power of marriage

Icon of the wedding feast at Cana

When I think of marriage I think of grace, particularly the phrase “grace for the moment.” Marriage requires grace every moment if it’s going to be what God desires it to be. Thankfully, God extends his grace to us through marriage. Historically speaking, the church has always recognized marriage as a sacrament. This is important to understand when speaking of the mystery of marriage, as Paul does in Ephesians. The words “mystery” and “sacrament” are synonymous. The first is … [Read more...]

Participating in the light of Christ

The Cross and the World

Moses first meets God in the glow of a burning bush. After spending time with the Lord later in the story, he comes down from the mountain with a face that shines so bright he needs a veil. And when he appears in the gospel narratives with Elijah at the Transfiguration, he is awash with the uncreated light of God. These images from the scriptures are, among other things, snapshots in a progression of a life lived with God, a growing, intensifying illumination. The Church celebrated Epiphany … [Read more...]

Celebrating the circumcision of Christ

The Circumcision of Christ

It may sound like a curious thing to celebrate, but the circumcision of Christ is commemorated by Orthodox, Catholics, and Anglicans alike on New Year’s Day. Special scripture readings, hymns, and prayers mark the observance. There are even stained-glass windows and icons depicting Joseph and Mary handing the little Jesus to the priest for the ominous moment. The story is well known. In the second chapter of his Gospel, Luke tells us that Christ was circumcised on his eighth day in … [Read more...]