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Walking on Holy Ground

A Men of Integrity article I wrote last year:

A couple months ago I was standing in Jerusalem at the Garden Tomb. It was the last stop after a week of touring the Holy Land. My group spent most of its time seeing the sites of Jesus’ ministry in northern Israel, with the Dead Sea, Qumran, and Masada thrown in.

Along the way, we befriended fellow pilgrims like the men of a Congolese church in Dublin we met in Galilee. When they found out we were also “born again,” they gave us bear hugs, shouting “brother!” and “sister!” At Cana we met a Japanese woman with a church from Canada. She wept when she heard we were praying for Japan, hit by an earthquake and tsunami. We were all pilgrims traveling together on the road to holy sites.

The word pilgrim feels funny on Protestant lips. It makes me think of Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca, or Catholics visiting shrines to venerate relics, or John Bunyan’s allegory. What does pilgrimage mean for a modern day Protestant? The concept of “thin places” is a helpful starting point.

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Why Young Men Aren’t Manning Up

Where have the good men gone? Chances are you’ve counseled a frustrated young single woman in your church who has asked you this question. Or perhaps you’ve asked it yourself. This question is the catalyst for Kay Hymowitz’s book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, an indepth analysis of the state of the average middle-class American male in his twenties. …

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Book Review: Rage Against God

Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau: the story of feuding brothers is one of the oldest in the book. Now it’s time to add another chapter. In The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith, Peter Hitchens challenges, head-on, the claims of his older brother, Christopher, and like-minded atheists. As the provocative title suggests, Peter shares his brother’s cheeky style. His approach is simple. He pulls back the curtain on post-Christian societies of the past and examines the wreckage.

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The Rapper in Rehab

Theology and rap are hardly kissing cousins. One is the purview of academics laboring in seminaries, the other was born in the South Bronx in the 70s. Turns out they were made for one another. Rising rap star Lecrae seamlessly blends gospel-saturated lyrics with the hooks of southern style hip-hop, and the result is something you have to hear to believe.

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Photo credit: Reach Records

Sci-Fi and the Future of Humanity

We were created by God as embodied creatures with a unique form and function. But the desire to reshape this form and function has always been with us. In the garden, we see the roots of the technocratic impulse discussed in chapter one of Earthen Vessels. It has been enacted with ever increasing precision as human history unfolds and science advances. Science fiction has always served a prophetic role in our culture. As the lines between science and science-fiction are increasingly blurred, we would do well to pay attention to what it has to say about the limits of our scientific efforts.

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Joy and Living Water blog post

A blog post I wrote for inspiredfaith.com:

“My people have committed two sins:

They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water”
-Jeremiah 2:13

but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
-John 4:14

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
-Matt. 26:42

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty” … When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
-John 19:28,30

Joy is an elusive thing, moreso as we become adults. There’s a reason most of us are nostalgic for our childhoods. When we were kids, the world was a mystical place of discovery, safety, and fun. We were blissfully ignorant of the constant pressures of adult awareness. Adam and Eve reached out for a piece of fruit that promised knowledge and got more than they bargained for. God offered them the simplicity of living by faith, and they chose complexity. We’ve been trying to unlearn that knowledge ever since.

Joy is a close relative of contentment and thanksgiving. I think the reason joy is so elusive, is that our daily lives wage war against contentment and thanksgiving. There’s always something missing, and because we know there’s got to be more to life, we seek to fill our lives with more. Whether it’s something as obvious as the stuff we buy or something more subtle like seeking others’ acceptance, we’re always looking for something else. We are thirsty and the cups we drink from leave us that way.

So what’s the secret? How do we find the joy that’s so elusive? How do we quench our thirst?

One of my favorite passages of scripture is John 4. Here we read about a woman so broken and used that she comes to the well during the heat of the day to avoid the other women of her community. She’s had six husbands and the last one hasn’t even given her the dignity of marriage. We can easily read between the lines and see a cup filled to the brim with deep sorrow.

Jesus meets her at the well in this state of loneliness–like Isaac (through his servant), Jacob, and Moses before him–symbolically becoming her seventh husband. He offers her his right hand of fellowship, renewed hope, restoration, and the gift of living water.

This living water is costly. You can’t fill a cup that’s already full, and the woman, like us, has filled hers to the brim with other things that add up to wrath and sorrow. Jesus had to drink it to fill it. Like a dad who eats the nasty concoction his daughter created on her plate while playing with her food, Jesus took our cup, swished it around a little and then swallowed its contents. Then he filled it again, this time with living water that works a deep transformation within us to slake our thirst.

Joy starts with an awareness of this reality. When the truth catches up to us and slows us down enough so that we put down the nastiness we keep drinking, we can take a refreshing swallow of living water. Contentment and thanksgiving for what Christ has done bloom on the palate of our soul, and we can only respond with a joyful sigh.

Our lives on this earth are filled with trouble just as sparks fly up (Job 5:7), and many times we thirst for joy and relief from sorrow.

But Jesus drank the cup of wrath and sorrow that we might drink deeply of the cup of joy and quench our thirst forever.