There are no new sins, only more diverse and efficient ways of committing them. Before we let the mainstream of 21st Century culture catch us in its current, let’s hit pause for a moment and get our bearings. Perhaps it’s time to swim against the information flow.

Here are four godly disciplines to pursue in 2014 that have taken on a unique significance in the last five to ten years.

1. Pluck the I out of your iPhone.

not invincibleThe advent of smart phones has introduced an unprecedented rate of interruption into our social interactions. Phones have made us selfish and inconsiderate in ways that used to be deemed boorish and uncultured.

Formerly, if someone walked up to you and began talking while you were already engaged in another conversation, that the person would be considered rude.

But this decade has made us feel rude for not replying instantly to any interruption that hails from our phone.

You know how frustrating it is to be halted mid-sentence by a text chime tone, only to have the person you were talking with treat the “What’s up?” ping as if it were a life-and-death enquiry. I understand if Jack Bauer asked me to hold my thought while he checked the text message from the President. But very few people work for CTU or are on call to intercept a terrorist attack.

Most people answer their phones for one reason only: they heard it “Ping.” How Pavlovian can you get?

Continue Reading…

New Year 2014As we approach the beginning of the New Year, many people are reflecting on the previous year and how they’ve lived their lives, and are making resolutions and determinations to live better in the coming year, whatever that may mean. The process seems to involve a kind of refocusing on things that are important to us so that when we will have come to the end of this next year we will look even more favorably on it than the previous one.

Though I’m a few days early, as we anticipate the coming of 2014 I want to write an open letter of sorts that focuses on the most important realities in the world. And the addressee of my open letter is you. No matter who you are—whether young in the faith, a seasoned saint, or not a believer in Jesus at all; whether we’re good friends, have only spoken a few times, or if I don’t know you from Adam—I can think of nothing more profitable that I’d like to say directly to you. And perhaps the most interesting distinctive about this open letter for 2014 is that it’s nothing new. It’s the same old message for a brand new year, because it’s the only message that is sufficient to transcend all times and cultures. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll read carefully.

Continue Reading…

Avid readers expectantly await this time of year. Not the tinsel, trees, or trimmings allure them but the books, particularly lists of top books from the previous year. What follows is my modest contribution to the ubiquitous lists of the books for 2013.

I invite you to share your thoughts, to add other titles I grossly overlooked, and, moreover, to join me in reading good books. After all, a book in hand is worth a stack in the library: Continue Reading…

In Luke 2:14 the angels sang these words: “Glory to God in the highest heaven! Peace on earth to those whom he pleases.”

This week I heard a worship leader explain that the lyrics of “Joy to the World” only made sense within the concept of a future millenial kingdom–a time where Jesus reigned on earth, and the ground would refuse to allow sin and sorrow to grow on it. That got me thinking–what other Christmas promises are there that are realized in a future kingdom?

Then I came across a Christmas sermon from Spurgeon on the angel’s declaration in Luke 2:14. This is what he says, and it makes for a hopeful Christmas devotional:   Continue Reading…

How many times have you heard the Christmas story?  Probably dozens of times, if you’ve been in church for any length of time.  People  hear it year after year and everyone seems fairly familiar with it, so there’s always a little bit of pressure to make it fresh/interesting with either new details that may have been previously unknown or new angles that may give a previously unconsidered perspective.

Thinking of the “new details”, I remember when I was in my first or second year of Bible College and an upperclassman told me that the names of the three wise men were Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar (I’d always thought one of them was named “Frank”).  I looked at the upperclassman with shock and awe and immediately started flipping through my bible, wondering where in the Bible he found that amazing gem of insight!

Magician

In the following years, I’ve heard probably a dozen different versions of how many wise men there actually were and where they really came from…all of which were essentially guesses.  (Roman philosophers?  Indian Mystics?  Chinese Astrologers?  Ancient scientists following a UFO?  Yes, that’s a real theory that I’ve encountered…)  Most of the “new details” that I’ve encountered have been, well, questionable (to say the least). Continue Reading…

In preparation for my yearly resolution to read through the Bible (which often runs out of fuel at points and needs fresh motivation), I have begun to carbo-load on motivation by researching reading plans and getting poised for a good year of actually doing what I set out to do.

Lotito eating bicycle

I usually make ten resolutions with the hope of keeping about four. My theory is that’s better than making none or making four and keeping one.

Anyway, I came across this funny Frenchman who inspired me to keep nibbling at my old Bible reading plan until it is done. His name is Monsieur Mangetout (pronounced mun-jê-toot), which is a sobriquet meaning “Mr Eats it All.”

His real name is Michel Lotito (1950-2007). He made his living by entertaining people who were fascinated by what he could stomach. He could and did consume huge quantities of indigestible material, including metal, glass, and rubber. (Though he complained that eating hard-boiled eggs and bananas made him ill.)

In his illustrious career Mangetout downed (these figures might seem hard to swallow, but I’m really not making any of this up) …

Continue Reading…