I’m grateful to all of you who read what I post here at One Degree to Another. Writing is an enjoyable outlet for me and is an outgrowth of my passion to see men, women, boy, and girls transformed into the image of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18) A lot of what I write here comes from reflections on my own life, thoughts that come to me as I read, and my now 15 years of full-time pastoral ministry.
It was fun to look back at what connected with readers this year and to think back at what led me to write these posts. These are my ten most popular posts from the past year.
I made the fatal mistake of believing the furor over Donald Trump and the 2016 election would die down once Inauguration Day passed. Boy, was I wrong? Over that weekend as people argued about how many people attended the Inauguration, the content of his speech, the First Lady’s body language, and the Women’s March, I cut out the noise and read Cal Newport’s Deep Work. (This was one of my favorite books of 2017.)
For the next week, I purposely tuned out social media and the debates going on about President Trump. Then, one day I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter and saw many Christians speaking irresponsibly about politics and political figures. I started wondering if Christians were thinking before they posted and wanted to give them a helpful guide for thinking about how to engage politically on social media.
I did not know if anyone would read or care about this post, but the response exceeding anything that has I had written on this site before or since. Over 230,000 people read this post, most of them in the first three or four days after I wrote it. I’m grateful for the response and pray that it has been a help to believers as they think through this important issue.
It’s astonishing how many things I write came from the thought, “I can’t believe I used to believe that.” I never have that thought more than in my parenting. Raising four children who are 12 and under has tested every theory I hold about parenting and found many of them wanting. It will be interesting to see how many more parenting myths I abandon in the next year, as I’ll have both a teenage daughter and a three-year-old son living in the same house.
I love the idea of tweaking my work and life rhythms at the beginning of the year. I’ve ditched New Year’s resolutions, but benefit from the natural opportunity in the calendar to evaluate my life and see where change needs to happen. I’m asking myself these questions this week and may pull these back out at the end of every quarter to reevaluate.
I found myself hopelessly behind on my overly ambitious Bible reading plan a few months ago and started trying to think about what I could do to get myself back on track. This post came out of my scribblings to redeem my own Bible reading for 2017.
After reflecting on this post for a few months, I think I can boil down my advice to this- just read something. If you get bogged down in a reading plan, blow it off for a week or so and read whatever you want to.
The time change each year usually heralds a time of emotional, spiritual, and mental difficulty for me. It’s dark when I leave the house for the first time and dark when I get home from work. Over the years, by God’s grace, I have learned some strategies for dealing with what Winston Churchill called “the black dog.”
I’m becoming increasingly convinced that we don’t know how to deal with the pain in our lives. We look out at our broken world and lack the vocabulary for understanding how these sad things can be true when God is good. This problem is only exacerbated by our overly triumphalist music and rhetoric that stress the victory we experience in the here and now.
The Psalms help us understand how to lament and how to process our pain. They also teach us wisdom and how to praise God when we see the riches of his grace. Spending prolonged time in the Psalms will deepen our spiritual lives and help us to learn to look to God in our pain and suffering.
I keep hearing Christians say that one of the things they look for in a church is a place where the people and the preaching are not “judgmental.” In one sense, I get it. I don’t want to be in an overly critical environment with no grace either. However, I think most people mean they want preaching and community that does not confront what they believe or call them into account. If that is what we mean by judging, then we actually need a church that judges us.
Every year, I preach a message touching on depression and anxiety on the Sunday between Christmas and New Years. This post is a shortened version of the sermon I preached on New Year’s Day 2017. I realize the title is not cheery, but every year is not going to be better than the year before and we often don’t know what pain or sorrow a year may bring until we are in the middle of it. Reflecting on Paul’s thorn in the flesh, I wanted to help believers understand what God may do through their pain and weakness this year.
Today, I am going to finish the Minor Prophets in my Bible reading. I wrote this post a couple of days before I started reading them. Many Christians aren’t sure how to read these books or what to do with their message. In this post, I share a few principles for profitably reading the Minor Prophets.
“My Favorite Books of 2017“