sad-smear

Pornography’s War on You and Your Neighbor

Government officials in Ohio are raising an alarm for a new epidemic: heroin use is ravaging the state. In 2015, the state recorded 65 deaths due to overdose. In 2016, that same number was tallied within the first half of the year. If epidemics are defined by their breadth and a government’s present inability to arrest the problem, then Ohio is under the scourge of an epidemic.

But there is an even greater epidemic traversing the American landscape. While its affects are not felt in numbers of fatalities, it is just as potent and dangerous as the heroin problem in the upper mid-west. The epidemic is pornography. Continue reading “Pornography’s War on You and Your Neighbor”

Courtroom - Karen Neoh

Justification, Works, and the Final Judgment: Making Sense of Romans 2:6-16

For those who love the truth of Romans 3:27 and 4:5—that we are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law—Romans 2:6-16 can be a tough, even unsettling passage. But it is vital that we understand this passage so that our minds and hearts remain clear and our walk with Christ unhindered. Every passage of Scripture is given to us as a gift from a wise and good God, and spiritual blessing comes by wrestling with difficult texts, not setting them aside in favor of familiar, less intimidating passages. Continue reading “Justification, Works, and the Final Judgment: Making Sense of Romans 2:6-16”

A photo by Annie Spratt. unsplash.com/photos/SVR0YpsHH-8

Replacing Christ with Spiritual Growth

Are there times when our desire for spiritual growth could hinder us from walking in the truth of the gospel?

For Christians serious about making progress in their spiritual lives, such a question sounds either intuitively wrong-headed or so easy to answer that it doesn’t even merit a response. Growth in godliness and right affections is one of the primary aims of the Christian life. Peter commands us, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The sign of a sound pastoral ministry is individual and corporate spiritual growth (see Eph 4:15, 18). But is there a way to approach spiritual growth that actually keeps us from making progress and diverts our gaze from Christ? Continue reading “Replacing Christ with Spiritual Growth”

Montana Mountains

Better than "Outdoorsy": Jesus, Hobbies, and Your Identity

Growing up in Montana afforded me many good days in the great outdoors. Whether it was skiing the Beartooths, camping in West Rosebud, hiking the Absaroka wilderness, kayaking the Stillwater, rafting the Gallatin, or mountain biking and running through the Rims (a 600-1400 ft. sandstone shelf that spans west to east through Billings), there was never any shortage of adventure to be had in Big Sky country.

But it wasn’t until trusted Christ at age nineteen that my eyes were opened to the glory of God in the beauty of his creation. The pursuit of outdoor pleasure took on a whole new meaning as I beheld God’s power in jagged granite peaks or his creativity in a lake-mirrored sunset. The quiet seclusion of a forest trail was a welcome respite from the busyness of life, and a full day of dropping the tips of my skis into narrow, tree-flanked chutes offered not only exercise to refresh the body but matchless glimpses of snow, sky, and mountain to invigorate the soul. Continue reading “Better than "Outdoorsy": Jesus, Hobbies, and Your Identity”

writing-aaron-burden

In Praise of Private Writing

One of the most fascinating portions of Jonathan Edwards’s collected works is a 350 page section entitled “Miscellaneous Observations” and “Notes on the Bible.” This section comprises a large collection of Edwards’s personal notes on various subjects including philosophical, theological, and biblical musings. The depth and breadth of these writings are remarkable.

But what is most intriguing to me is not the content of these writings, despite the profound and deep insights contained in Edwards’s notes. Rather, it is that fact that these notes were never originally intended for publication. While it’s true that Edwards would use some of these notes in later sermons and publications, they didn’t originate for that reason. These notes were Edwards’s private thoughts on Scripture and theology, and it was here that Edwards was forging and refining his convictions. Continue reading “In Praise of Private Writing”

road

7 Practices for Preserving Unity On Your Elder Team

Six months ago I was ordained as an elder at Grace Bible Fellowship in Sunnyvale, CA. Prior to my ordination I was required complete an oral examination. This two-hour, 70-question theological interview and was the final step in a multi-step ordination process that was designed to revere Paul’s admonishment to Timothy: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Tim 5:22). These elders were not hasty, and I am grateful for their patience and care.
Continue reading “7 Practices for Preserving Unity On Your Elder Team”

A Sustainable Christian Life Requires that We Love Those Around Us

OrdinaryThe past thirty years have seen an increase in the phenomenon known as short-term missions. In the last three decades, American church members have enjoyed a growing ease of access to multi-week foreign mission trips in which they provide assistance to the ministry of overseas missionaries and Christian workers. Many churches have joined in what has been called the Short-Term Missions Movement by sending their members across the world on these single or multi-week ventures.

Certainly there is value in this kind of ministry. Although writers like Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert offer poignant criticism of how many churches are conducting their short-term mission trips in their book When Helping Hurts, they also conclude that these overseas trips should not be eradicated from church budgets. Reformation, not removal, is the aim of their critique. (see also Robert Lupton’s Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help for a trenchant critique of and recommendations for our short-term mission projects). Nevertheless, there is a hidden danger in these noble attempts at getting Christians to be more globally-minded. Continue reading “A Sustainable Christian Life Requires that We Love Those Around Us”