Our Top 10 Articles of 2019
These are our most popular articles of 2019. Enjoy!
He was from Chicago and happened to be a huge fan of the Chicago Bears. Growing up in San Diego, I knew what it was like to have a home team that you grew up watching and rooting for. This pastor took me under his wing, and we were having one of our discipleship meetings at a local Starbucks. He said something during our time together that stunned me. “Even if I had tickets to see the Bears in the Superbowl on a Sunday morning, I wouldn’t go…”
The prophet Jeremiah described how he felt driven to a place of “darkness without any light”:
"I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago … though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer."– Lamentations 3:1–8 ESV
No light. No hope. That’s how Jeremiah felt, and maybe you can relate. The “he” that Jeremiah is talking about is God. Maybe you’ve also felt like God is not listening—or, even more, you wonder, “God, are you behind this terrible circumstance? At the very least, you’re not doing anything to stop it.”
I want to encourage you no matter where you live (and for no matter how long you’re there) to do one thing, though: Love where you live. Jesus Christ calls us as his followers to love our neighbors. The people he had in mind weren’t those who shared our view of the family, sexual ethics, religion, or the economy. Our neighbors include the very people who sometimes get on our nerves. Jesus even took it a step further when he said that his followers were obligated to love their enemies. To pray for those who treated them spitefully.
“I didn’t grow up in a Christian home at all,” she explains. “So I guess I started life neutral towards Christianity, and then, as I moved into my high school years, I became more opposed to it. The main reason was that I saw it as being for stupid people. Then, as I was about 16, I started to understand my sexuality more. I’d already had some sexual relationships with men—well, high-school boys, really. But as I started to be attracted to women and then act on those attractions, I was like, ‘Oh, this is where my heart is. The reason stuff with boys felt out of place was because it’s not my place.’ I gradually started to own that identity more and more. I knew from the culture that Christianity was against homosexuality. So by the time I was 18, I had concluded that Christians were both stupid and bigots.”
Everything is built for speed, as our technological brilliance focuses in so many ways on us not having to wait. And that hasn’t been good for our souls—because the Christian life calls for patience. Not just the kind of patience that means that we don’t yell at our screen or scream at our spouse or snap at our children. God cares about those things, and he speaks into those things, but God is serious about patience because persevering faith and gladness in God requires it. We Christians are by definition a waiting people, and that requires patience—especially when life brings trials, hardships, or pain.
As earthly parents, while God calls us to be comforters and nurturers, God also calls us to be protectors. There is darkness in the world to which our children are naive. There is darkness in our sinful hearts which our children do not have a great deal of self-awareness of in their youth.
In no arena do we see both the darkness outside and inside play out more than in the space of technology and social media. These devices can be wonderful ways to connect with friends and family. They also can be the scenes of some of the worst acts and deeds we observe in teenage behavior.
I have heard many people say God will not give you more than you can handle and they often say it with good intentions – to try and comfort someone walking through difficulty or suffering. Maybe you have even said it. Let not your heart be troubled, I have said it many times myself. But the truth is, God will give you more than you can handle.
If you were to record my prayers, I have a sad suspicion you’d hear a lot of “be with”: “Dear Lord, I pray you will be with Tom as he goes to work, and be with Mary also, who’s having her wisdom teeth removed on Tuesday, and be with… and be with… and be with… and be with us all. Amen.” This is unimaginative. It’s limited. It’s certainly not spiritually ambitious, like Paul is. And it is, I think, unnecessary. Jesus said, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28 v 20). He’s promised to be with Tom and with Mary. It’s a bit of a waste to make the sum total of my prayer for them the request that Jesus would do what he already said he’d do, and has already started doing.
It may seem remarkable, but no Bible spokesman places more stress on hell as the final consequence of God’s judgment of condemnation than Jesus. God’s Son was the great theologian of hell. However, the Christian should not consider it strange that Christ has more to say about hell than anyone else. Jesus was the one who compared hell to the Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem (also called “Gehenna”), a huge public rubbish dump where dead bodies and trash burned in continually smoldering fires; thus “Gehenna” took hold as a name for hell. Jesus also compared hell to a prison and to outer darkness. It was he who likened hell to “a fire” at least twenty different times.
Many Christians oppose cremation because they believe it devalues the body that will be raised on the last day. Of course, they agree that God can raise the body in whatever form it has been cast into the ground or the water or the mountainside. But a lot of people say that since the body will be raised rather than being destroyed by fire why should we burn the body now?