Wisdom from Thomas a Kempis #1: esoteric words vs. virtuous life


Thomas a Kempis was a 15th century German monk who wrote The Imitation of Christ, a classic devotional book that was tremendously influential to John Wesley, the founder of United Methodism. I've flipped through this book many times, but I thought it would do both me and my readers good to go back to it and proceed more slowly through it to meditate upon the wisdom Thomas has to share with us. So I'm starting with the first chapter. I won't necessarily cover every chapter since there are over a … [Read more...]

What is Biblical obedience? Abraham, Huck Finn, and Adolf Eichmann

There's a movement within United Methodism called "Biblical Obedience" whose name itself is offensive to many Methodists because it advocates full inclusivity for LGBT people. I've already written about my understanding of what the Bible actually teaches on this issue, but what I really want to  contemplate today is the question of obedience itself, setting aside the LGBT issue for a moment. The most radical example of Biblical obedience I can think of (other than Jesus' journey to the cross) is … [Read more...]

Why you need to hear Jonathan Martin preach about heaven

I've got issues with how people talk about heaven. It bothers me that the most popular Christian books are "proofs" of the afterlife instead of accounts of how people have lived out the kingdom of God here on Earth. Last week, part of my sermon text came from a passage in Hebrews 11 that refers to the hope of the Israelite patriarchs: "All of these died in faith without having received the promises... They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be … [Read more...]

Mercy Not Sacrifice: A Recovering Evangelical’s Manifesto

I desperately need your help and feedback in pulling this book together. I have shared below summaries for the introduction and the 16 chapters of Mercy Not Sacrifice. I know this is a really long blog post, but it would mean so much to me if you would look at it and help me make some decisions that I haven’t yet been able to make. Paste it into MS Word and print it out if it’s easier. I’m going to be discouraged if nobody responds. I can’t help it. As I learned in church-planter training, God ma … [Read more...]

Is what I’m doing or thinking or saying building trust or undermining trust?

There's a song stuck in my head from our mission trip: "Is what I'm doing or thinking or saying building trust or undermining trust?" I learned it from a woman named Katie who has one of the most gentle, Christ-like spirits of anyone I've met in a long time. I think if God wanted to teach the world something, he would get the best results using someone like Katie whose demeanor builds trust. Being an impulsive, opinionated firebrand, I am convicted by those who actually embody the gospel that I … [Read more...]

Trust not opinion

In the information age, people define themselves primarily by their opinions rather than their actual behavior. This is not only the case for hard-core partisan ideologues, but also moderates who define themselves as more "reasonable" by balancing "conservative" opinions with "liberal" ones. While it used to be said that treating others with respect and integrity was the measure of one's character, many today evaluate their moral courage according to how willing they are to stand up for their … [Read more...]

God Will Provide: Abraham & Isaac

I don’t know about you but if God told me to kill my oldest son and offer him as a sacrifice, I’d tell God to go kick rocks. Of course, God would probably make me eat the rocks. But seriously what’s going on with Abraham in this story? What happened to the crafty Abraham in Genesis 12 who went to Egypt and pretended like his wife was his sister so the Pharaoh wouldn’t kill him and he’d get lots of cattle and cash? What happened to the sassy Abraham in Genesis 19 who argued with God for twenty min … [Read more...]

Fear & the Fixed Game of Following Jesus

Walking in the Valley Lenten Series #2, 3/19/2011 Text: Mark 14:32-42One of my favorite books is Where the Wild Things Are. How many of you read that book when you were little? I remember my dad telling me after reading it that if I had scary monsters in my dreams, I should ask them to play with me and it really worked. Sometimes fears have simple solutions, but that isn’t always true. So what are you afraid of? How many people are afraid of monsters? How many people are afraid of the dark? H … [Read more...]

Sloth: Burying God’s Gifts

Deadly Sins Sermon Series, 2 out of 7 -- 10/23/2010 Text: Matthew 25:14-30Some of you might be aware that the country of France is in the midst of major protests because the government has proposed to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. This has been an interesting backdrop for contemplating a sermon on sloth, the deadly sin of the week. Part of me wants to start singing Les Miserables. But another part of me wants to say to the French, “Are you serious? You have a 35-hour workweek with e … [Read more...]