The Gospel > Your Rights

I wrote this blog back in January, but it is more relevant today. The Gospel is greater than your rights — yes, even those rights to fly a Flag that you believe represents your heritage.

(For further reading, check out Russell Moore’s “The Cross and the Confederate Flag.”)

Nathaniel D. Williams

I’ve been a political junkie ever since middle school. While most kids were watching Nickelodeon or playing football, I was the oddball reading USA Today, watching cable news, and vehemently arguing politics with friends and family.

As an American, I had every right to assert my political opinions. To take a stand. To make my position known. And though I have mellowed in recent years, that itch never went away. As a result, I still liked posting opinion columns on controversial issues to my Facebook.

Then, last spring, I ran across this line in D.A. Carson’s book The Cross and Christian Ministry:

 “How can Christians stand beside the cross and insist on their rights?”

This quote—and the passage in 1 Corinthians 9 it referred to—floored me. I was immediately convicted about my “right” to assert my political views.

You see, when I ardently posted my political views, I was inevitably driving away the friends…

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Chris Pratt, Shia LaBeouf, and the Troubling Infatuation with Christian Celebrities

Chris Pratt has been all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds this week — not just for his role in Jurassic World, but because of his comments about faith. Evidently he turned to God at his son’s premature birth, posts verses to Facebook, and goes to church.

Last year, Shia LaBeouf received similar attention when he said he “became a Christian man” on the set of Fury. Then, as now, Christians excitedly shared the story across Facebook and Twitter.

But it’s not just these guys. We tend to glorify the Christian athletes who praise God after a victory, musicians who sing vaguely inspirational songs, or reality TV stars who say they’re Christians. In each situation, we hastily, enthusiastically share the story with glowing comments:

  • “Can’t believe that he is a Christian, too!”
  • “Wow, God could really use her!”
  • “Take that liberals in Hollywood!”

We treat their faith, no matter how genuine, as a cause for unbridled celebration.

To be clear, my issue isn’t with Pratt, LaBeouf, and others. I desperately hope they know our Savior, and I applaud their openness to talk about matters of faith.

Rather, my issue is with us. Our frenzied reaction to such stories points to a problem: we have an unhealthy infatuation with Christian celebrities. I’m afraid we subtly believe that we need Christian celebrities to vindicate our beliefs — or worse, that God needs Christian celebrities to accomplish His will. Continue reading

Seven Seminary Clichés (AKA How to Understand Seminary Students)

I feel for the friends and family of seminary students. I really do. Seminarians incessantly name drop dead Puritans, use big words that end with –ology, quote books you’ve never heard of, and spice up their conversation with Greek and Hebrew. To the untrained ear, most seminarians don’t make a lick of sense.

Throughout my seminary career, I collected a list of the most common seminary clichés — and what they really mean — to help you understand what your seminarian is talking about.

“Land the Plane.”

Example: “I know we’re talking about some weighty theology, but soon we’re going to land the plane.”

What it really means: “I’m finally ready to tell you why this matters.”

No, your seminarian didn’t accidentally register for flight school. When he tells you he’s going to land the plane, it’s usually because he’s been droning on about a difficult-to-understand topic and he’s finally ready to tell you the point. Continue reading

When God Calls You to Wait

I used to hate waiting at red lights. As I approached each intersection on my hour-long commute, I would strategically examine the multiple lanes of traffic, identify which lanes had the highest ratio of slow cars or trucks, and pick the lane that I thought would move the fastest. I wanted to expedite my journey with as little waiting as possible.

I wonder if the disciples felt this way at the start of Acts. I mean, they had sat at Jesus’ feet for three years. They had experienced remarkable, life-changing things—miracles, healings, cast out demons, teaching about the Kingdom of God, and their Messiah being brutally crucified and rising from the grave. I would have been itching to share these things with the world. I would have been sizing up the different lanes to pick the quickest one in spreading the good news.

Yet Jesus gave them a most curious command: Continue reading

A Life Worth Saving

A guest post from my wife Katie.

Someone once told me this about deeply troubled children:

“It would have been better for these children to have been aborted as fetuses than to live such tragic lives.”

I disagreed then.

Recently, though, the overwhelming realities of my young people’s lives confronted me again. As I witnessed more heartbreak, lives filled with more tragic events than years, and little ones who only know anger, frustration, anxiety, and self-hate, that comment came back to mind. Continue reading

Mercy Ministry Matters to God — and Why It Should Matter to You, Too

The Great Physician at Work

I have a soft spot for mercy ministries — those outward-focused ministries that serve the less fortunate in a community. Some of my sweetest ministry experiences have come through my nearly eight years of serving with English as a Second Language (ESL).

One day, though, I stepped back and asked the question: Why do we do ESL? Yes, ESL meets a practical need (teaching English), a relational need (building friendships), and can open doors to a spiritual need (presenting the gospel). But beyond an ESL ministry’s practicality, does it — or any mercy ministry — have biblical warrant to be a ministry of the church?

So I set out on a quest. I scoured Scripture to see if the Bible commands us to care for the needy (it does). And I surveyed church history to see if our spiritual predecessors cared for the less fortunate (they did).

In my studies, four theological principles emerged: Continue reading

Restoring Joy

[Please enjoy this guest post from my wife Katie.]

We know the feeling of being “on fire” for God.

Much like the burning passion that new lovers feel in the peak of a relationship. Or the deep longing a mother feels to meet the long-awaited-for child in her womb.

But then time passes by. Life happens. The relationship turns to coordinating schedules, making weighty decisions about bills/children/in-laws, and taking care of the mundane responsibilities of life that fail to ignite that deep joy we had once known. New babies — with the added kisses, hugs, and smiles — lead to lots of cleaning, laundry, bills, and carpooling and little to no rest. There may be no set routine (as much as new moms and dads try to establish one), but you find that the element of unpredictable sleep patterns leave little room for a person to experience even a minute amount of joy.

Over time, you find yourself getting frustrated with that individual that you waited for, prayed for, and felt so much stirring passion for. The passion fades.

This can also happen in our relationship with Christ. Continue reading

How You Can Be Like Jeff Gordon — In A Way That Truly Matters

Jeff Gordon is retiring. Whether you love him or hate him, odds are he comes to mind when you think about NASCAR. He was the face of the sport for more than 20 years, and many little race fans wanted to be like him.

You probably remember Gordon as the guy who drove the rainbow-colored DuPont car. And for good reason. DuPont shelled out tens of millions of dollars to his team every year.

By Darryl Moran [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
But Gordon didn’t pocket the money and run. He never said, “I got my paycheck, so I’m going to hit the lake this weekend. You guys can take care of the race, right?” Continue reading