The Essential Pronouns of Christmas

As you undoubtedly know, pronouns are big news today.  The humble pronoun has found itself dragged to the front lines of a raging contest regarding ultimate questions of identity, authority, and meaning. Few of us could have imagined the current cultural clamor over such simple words as “he” and “she.” But here we are—and what a joy, then, to open the Scriptures and find those same simple words bursting with the glory of gospel truth! Matthew 1:21 reads, “ She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (emphasis added). Here we have, in one verse, four key pronouns that establish the saving purposes of God in Christ for this rebellious world. They represent all the essential participants in the story—a woman, a man, a Savior, and the sinners he came to save. She : “She Will Bear a Son” The first gospel pronoun refers to Mary, the young peasant girl from Nazareth, betrothed to a man named Joseph. Scripture ... Read more

Twenty-Two Years of Youth Ministry

“Okay, boys, grab your jackets; it’s time to go!” Church was starting in thirty minutes, and this morning was the annual Christmas play. My job as a Los Angeles firefighter required that I work three Sundays in a row followed by six off. The three Sundays that I worked were difficult for my wife, Diane. She felt very much alone dropping the kids off at Sunday school and then walking by herself into our non-denominational church’s large auditorium filled with strangers. So, instead, she and our three children would attend Faith Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Long Beach, California, during my three working Sundays. There, in the church of her youth, she felt more at home with friends and family around her. But because they were in Long Beach three Sundays straight, our boys had missed a Christmas play rehearsal. A Warm Welcome As we approached the school where church was held, our boys’ excitement was palpable. They could hardly wait to be in the play. We went straight to the Sunday school ... Read more

The Problem with People-Pleasing

In an episode of his hit podcast, Revisionist History , journalist Malcolm Gladwell provocatively claims that we could all improve our lives if we were more disagreeable. His theory, drawing from psychological research, is that success in life is inversely proportional to one’s level of agreeableness: the less agreeable you are, the more successful you will be. By “disagreeable,” Gladwell doesn’t mean being obnoxious but rather “not being dependent on or particularly interested in the approval of others.” He demonstrates how this quality can be extremely valuable. For example, mathematicians claim that the losing team in hockey would have a far greater chance of a comeback victory if coaches would simply pull the goalie earlier and more often. But coaches don’t, because they are afraid that their fans will think that they are crazy and quit buying tickets. They are too agreeable . I think Christians could learn a lot from this secular observation of agreeableness—not in order to be more ... Read more

You Are Not What You Eat

“You are what you eat.” This saying was coined by German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach who claimed that humans are material beings and no more. Today, our obsession with food—its source, ingredients, preparation, and presentation—exposes a hunger for meaningfulness even in the material. According to an article in New York Magazine , “food is now viewed as a legitimate option for a hobby, a topic of endless discussion, a playground for one-upmanship, and a measuring stick of cool” (March 25, 2012). As one food critic quips, “the unexamined meal is not worth eating.” Can Christians be foodies? Certainly, Christians may enjoy food of all sorts as God’s gift (see Gen. 9:3; 1 Tim. 4:4). Such is the commendation of the sage preacher: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (Eccl. 2:24). Yet at the same time, believers are reminded that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating ... Read more