We Must Never Become Black Holes

holeI can’t express how stoked I am. In order to convey my illustration, I have to be geeky – I have to accurately explain the nature of a black hole.

“Hole” has always been a misnomer (leading to a lot of inaccurate artists’ renderings over the years, corrected only recently for the mainstream in 2014’s Interstellar). A black hole is an exotic star, one collapsed so far and grown so dense that its gravity out to a certain spherical distance is strong enough to restrain all light emanating from it. Since an object is only seen by the light it reflects to your eyeballs, that spherical region of a black hole appears, well, black to the outside observer. The star itself is still inside, but forever hidden from view because its light can’t reach you.*

For a long time, I was a black hole. Sucking everything in, emitting very little. God was slowly working on my strength, changing me from the inside, but it was a process.

Then, a few years ago, I chanced into a dating relationship. We had a good five months together before she called it off. That’s okay. It happens. (She’s engaged now.) But it was a revealing time for me. I got a chance to see how such companionship affected me, what it brought out, what it exposed.

Amongst the discoveries was this: while we dated, I started taking risks I hadn’t taken before. I found a greater enthusiasm for people, asking how they were, hearing their stories. And later, after the relationship ended, I found myself tempted to revert to my usual introversion. After some self-reflection, I realized why.

Emotional gravity.

Continue reading

Do You Trust God to Reward You for Your Sacrifices?

jumpThe Jesus you love will cost you, millennials.

That message has largely been lost in this age of emotional Christianity. But Jesus himself said it so insistently, so repeatedly, that we can conclude this: if sharing the Gospel is not costing you, you might want to ensure that it’s really the gospel you’re sharing.

The Jesus who did so many wonderful things – ate with outcasts, railed against Pharisees, whispered “neither do I condemn you” to the adulterous woman – also said some other things, difficult things, which many Christians my age hesitate to accept. He compassionately asks us to release cherished sins. He urges us to put his Word before our deepest feelings and most precious relationships. He commands us to look to him, not the world, for our definition of love. He speaks of hell. Often. He calls us to tell decent, law-abiding citizens that their efforts are not enough, and that only turning to Jesus in repentance can save them.

Perhaps you already want to dismiss me.

But most importantly and hopefully, God offers to reward us for these sacrifices.

Would it make the Christian life easier if we were completely convinced of that last part?

Continue reading

It’s Not About You, Christian Graduates

Graduation is upon you.

What a relief. To be freed from the hallways of the high school you’ve learned to hate and launched upon the world full of possibility. Just to be celebrated is a great feeling. Goodness knows we don’t get enough of that these days. Everyone is flying in from across the country just to attend your party, churches are holding banquets in your honor, and all of it is wonderful. It’s your moment in the sun. Bask.

The graduation speeches are exciting. Live your dreams. Reach for the stars. Realize yourself and your potential. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are or what you can’t do. Perhaps there is some truth there.

But we have a few problems here.

Continue reading

When 1 Samuel 16:7 Rescues a Disappointing Life

crossingI’m not where I hoped to be.

That’s a common phrase amongst us, but there are seasons that echo it louder than others.

It used to be that when I looked around and saw others living larger lives than mine, I’d console myself with the knowledge that they were older than I. You’re young. Just give it a few more years, I’d say. Then I’ll be there.

Didn’t happen.

Well, I overstate. Getting a bachelor’s degree and being almost out of debt from it is an elephantine blessing. I could certainly be in worse health. I’m not desperately miserable at work. The list goes on. I’ve known for a while that there will always be someone better off, and that chasing that is chasing after the wind.

But the battle rose to a new pitch recently when I took another look around at the powerful men surrounding me and realized with a start…they’re all my age.

Continue reading

Not Excited Enough

catA few years ago, I and my friends DJ and Sarah, married for 2.25 years, took a road trip to Seattle. We were visiting our respective families, and as a bonus, DJ and I were going to catch a Seahawks game (during what turned out to be their Super Bowl season).

As we drove along a remote highway with the sun just dawning behind us, I remembered that I needed to check something on our online tickets. I’ve never bothered keeping up with the Joneses, so I had no smartphone. I asked DJ if I could borrow his, and I went to Google to type in my mailbox’s address. Well, as you know, when you use Google, it brings up the user’s Google “search history”. Here’s how DJ’s search history looked:

“what to eat while pregnant”
“how to exercise while pregnant”
“maternity clothes”

My mouth dropped open. I showed the screen to DJ with raised eyebrows and in his classic aw-shucks form, he grinned, “Oh. Yeah.”

They were gonna have a kid!

I was ecstatic. Two of my favorite people in the world and now there would be more of them??? Hot dog!!!! The world could only be improved by this development.

But the cool part was – I was actually the first person to find out besides DJ and Sarah themselves. Their real purpose for their trip (Seahawks, psh) was actually to announce the coming baby to her family; his family hadn’t heard yet. By accident, I, just a friend, intercepted a giant gobsmack of very privileged information. It was humbling, but also quite sneakily cool. Now, of course, that gobsmack is a delightful little girl of almost three, running around the church sanctuary with hands in the air and jumping up and down on the pews during worship.

And as I sat in church this last weekend behind that very family, hearing about the mystery of the Gospel, a question occurred to me.

Why was I more excited about that news than I ever am about my salvation?

Continue reading

I’m Going Back to the Czech Republic!

church2An update and a humble request.

It was Saturday afternoon, so there was nobody else around the small, square, gray Baptist church – so incongruous from the soaring double-spired cathedral down the street – in Vysoke Myto, Czech Republic. Its pastor, my friend Zdenek, and I had just finished loading our team’s luggage into the church (a relief after three days of travel). It was 2013; we were preparing for an English camp the upcoming week.

Continue reading

Love the Inconveniencers

lineI’m notorious at my church for car troubles.

In two separate cases over the years, I’ve experienced car troubles that forced me to drive markedly slower than the speed limit. One time, I had a engine trouble to where it would stay reasonably cool as long as I stayed under about 55 MPH. The other instance was a weird transmission problem – if I slowed down from fourth gear, there would be a noticeable bump, and then my car would refuse to get back up into fourth gear. Meaning I could not travel over about 55 MPH for fear of over-rpm’ing the engine. (I’m not a car person.)

No doubt this caused consternation for drivers behind me, especially on Montana’s many one-lane highways. Keep in mind that this is the state of “Reasonable and Prudent” fame. I can guess what was going through their minds as they stared endlessly at my tailpipe.

Continue reading