In December, it’s nice to spend some time looking back over the year. This week, I thought I’d share five of my favorite (and most popular) blog posts from 2016. I hope that’s not too narcissistic. There have been some new subscribers recently, and I thought it might help them become more familiar with the things I write.
If you had another favorite (not one of these five), I’d love to hear it! Let me know in the comments below.
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1. The Problem with the Pinterest Dream Wedding
Posted at Desiring God on June 6, 2016
Dear engaged Christian couple,
I’m honored that you would ask me to officiate your wedding and walk you through pre-marital counseling. It’s been a joy to see your faith in Christ, your service together in the church, and your love for each other grow.
During our counseling meetings, we’ll talk through things like the lifelong commitment of marriage, becoming a new family, having and raising children, budgeting and finances, and sexual intimacy. These tend to be the sensitive areas that have the potential to bring great joy, but also, at times, great pain in the years to come.
But I’m writing today about your wedding — about the day, the service, and the celebration after.
There seems to be a subtle, but growing, pressure on couples to make their wedding day better than others, a kind of competition to have the Pinterest dream wedding. No one says it outright (it would sound ridiculous). But it happens, and it seems to me like it happens a lot . . . [Continue Reading]
2. Can You Really Become Unoffendable?
(A Book Review of Unoffendable by Brant Hansen’s)
Posted at The Gospel Coalition, June 29, 2016
WARNING: You might not want to read Brant Hansen’s Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better because, as you read it, you’ll have more opportunities to practice being unoffended.
At least that’s what happened to me several times. As a teaching pastor in a local church, there always seems to be a cluster of people who run a low-grade fever of disappointment with me. Recently, the fever spiked. And despite my “warning” above, I was thankful to have Unoffendable coach me along the way.
But this isn’t just my life, is it? Likely you’ve also found ways to offend others. It’s not hard to do; it’s natural for us as sinners. Moreover, our world—sometimes even Christian subculture—trains us not to have a chip on our shoulder but a lumberyard. We see this when the predictable cultural “buttons” are pushed concerning issues like abortion and marriage, and now bathrooms, but also in less expected ways. Consider John Piper’s article last winter on guns and self-defense. The volley of response articles revealed his article didn’t simply touch a nerve; it grabbed one with tweezers and yanked. . . . [Continue Reading]
3. YOUR BEST LIFE NOW by Joel Osteen (FAN AND FLAME Book Reviews)
Posted at FAN AND FLAME, July 19, 2016
Joel Osteen is the pastor of Lakewood Baptist Church in Huston, Texas. He’s been the pastor there since 1999. Osteen is extremely popular. His sermons are broadcast all over the world. He even has his own Sirius radio station that plays 48 sermons a day (Channel 128, if you’re interested). And he has almost 4.5 million followers on Twitter. I’m one of them.
Yet for all this popularity, lots of people don’t like him. Some of those who don’t like him do so because he smiles a lot and has a huge church (I mean, huuge!). I think these are poor reasons to not like the guy. I’ll point out some better ones in a minute. But before I do, I’ll say that in Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, I actually appreciate several things. For one, I appreciate Joel’s repeated expressions of affection for his father, the late John Osteen to whom the book is dedicated. At one point, I even teared up as Joel recounted the last time he saw his father alive (pp. 247-8). I also appreciated Osteen’s belief in the supernatural; our culture is losing this. “We serve a supernatural God,” he writes. “He is not limited to the laws of nature. He can do what human beings cannot do” (p. 127). I suppose I agree.
However, all of us know people who speak well of their father. And all of us know people who believe in the supernatural. Neither of these—alone—makes a person a Christian. And this gets at my real frustration with the book: Your Best Life Now, though it fashions itself as a Christian book, is not. . . . [Continue Reading]
4. Consumer v. Covenant Relationships
Posted at FAN AND FLAME, July 19, 2016
Each time I share a message in a wedding, it’s a little different. That’s because every couple is different. Below is the most recent message I shared at a friend’s wedding. In it, I talk about the difference between “consumer” and “covenant” relationships. I find this distinction to be a helpful way to explain the greater meaning of marriage. . . . [Continue Reading]
5. Darkness Is My Only Food
Posted at FAN AND FLAME, February 23, 2016
I’m at a theology conference. It’s dinner time and a wonderful looking spread has been provided in the foyer of the mega-church hosting the conference. Just one thing left to do. I look for someone who seems to be in charge. I find a man and woman sitting at a desk. I ask if there is someone here from the catering company because I just need to ask a quick question.
He responds, “They already left. Can I help?”
“Maybe,” I say. “I just need to know about some of the ingredients. I have a few food allergies.”
“Oh, what are you allergic to?” he asks.
I lowered my head and began to walk away. “Thanks,” I mumbled, “I’ll just call the caterer myself.”
Tonight, I’m not in the mood to answer this question because sometimes—as my family jokes—it’s easier to talk about what I am not allergic to than what I am allergic to. . . . [Continue Reading]
[Top photo by Ben White / Unsplash]