If You Found Jesus in a Time of Crisis, You're Not Alone

Crises are no fun.

Whether they come in the form of an automobile accident, cancer, natural disasters, or any other myriad catastrophes, crises are things we'd all rather avoid if possible.

Alex Blăjan

Nevertheless, in the midst of such events, God can use these circumstances to bring about amazing results.

Look no further than the jailer at Philippi responsible for prisoners Paul and Silas. When God sent an earthquake and the bonds fell off the hands and feet of the prisoners, the prison guard unsheathed his sword to end his own life.

He knew worse things befall those who let prisoners escape.

If You Ever Struggle with Telling Others about Jesus, You Are Not Alone

I'm excited to have written another guest article for Unlocking the Bible.

I wrote about how I have struggled with sharing my faith, and I offer some encouragement and practical advice for those of us in the same boat.

Alex Holyoake

Here's how it begins:

If you’ve ever wrestled with the idea of sharing your faith with those around you, let me assure you you’re not alone. 
As an introvert, I’ve spent years of my life trying to fly under the radar and to avoid having awkward or confrontational conversations about faith. Yet when I got serious about my faith several years ago, I felt the Spirit burdening my heart for the lost. 
I still think I’m a lousy evangelist, but I’ve learned a few things I think will be a source of encouragement to you in your pursuit to tell others about Jesus.

You can read the rest at Unlocking the Bible.

Our Relationship Status with Food: It's Complicated

Photo by Grant Barker

Did you know I write a monthly article for my email subscribers?

This month I wrote about how food can aid our knowledge of spiritual things. Here's how it begins:

No matter how you slice it, our relationship with food has always been complicated. The food that tastes the best also seems to be the worst for us. Too many doughnuts and cheeseburgers will render us obese and lethargic. Too little food? You’ll surely die. 
Spiritually speaking, our dealings with food might be even more bizarre. In the beginning, Adam and Eve tasted fruit they weren’t supposed to touch, even though they didn’t have to eat at all since death was not yet a thing. 
Because of those bites, we lost paradise, God cursed the ground, and suddenly not only was food now required for survival, it also became difficult to obtain. 
And that’s just the beginning. 
We don’t even have time to address vegetarianism, clean and unclean food, manna and quail in the wilderness, the Passover lamb, unleavened bread, food sacrificed to idols, Nazarite vows, our daily bread, cooking goats in their mother’s milk, fasting, eating with sinners and a whole multitude of other issues. 
Nevertheless, food provides a critical conduit for spiritual knowledge and realization, both as a metaphor and in the actual act of chowing down. This isn’t some sort of new age mysticism I’m hawking here, but stick with me as we focus in on two specific Bible passages with eerily similar wording. Coincidence? I think not, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Want to read the rest? Just enter your email address below and I'll send it your way.

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Maybe Vegetarians Know Something We Meat-Eaters Don't

Fifteen years ago I almost died. Not literally, but I felt like death, and I may have been okay with that outcome. What happened?

I stopped eating meat.

Photo by Monica Infiesto

This was one of those Lenten convictions I had back in my more pious days. And what better to give up for Jesus than the one thing I love the most? What’s next? Coffee and football?

I know I’m making light of it, but I assure you the decision was born out of a desire to please God and get nearer to Him, and I think I accomplished that goal.

But when I do something, I like to do it right. So I gave up eggs and fish too. But not dairy. Then I literally would have died. Suffice to say I ate a lot of Mac and Cheese and minestrone those forty days. (If only I had known about hummus back then.)

I felt drained and fatigued much of the time during those forty days. These sensations were perfect for accomplishing my Lenten goals of relying on God more, but as a way of life? I shudder at the thought.

On the other side now, I wonder how vegetarians and vegans do what they do and survive. Thrive even. One of my favorite athletes, hall of fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, turned pseudo vegan while still playing professional football, consuming only 20% of his protein from animals—primarily fish.[1]

And yet, as untenable as it sounds to me, maybe vegetarians are on to something. Maybe deep down they know something we carnivores don’t understand.

Is There a Good Way to Tell If God Has Spoken to Me?

Did you know I write a monthly email article just for my subscribers?

This month I answered the question, Is there a good way to tell if God has spoken to me?

Photo by Sai DeSilva

It's a question we all want to be able to answer, right?

If you'd like to read the entire thing you can sign up below, and I'll send it to you immediately. Subscribing is totally free; all it costs is your email address, but I will never spam you or share your contact info with anyone.

Best part? You can unsubscribe at any time--no hurt feelings. (But I have a feeling you'll want to stick around.)

Anyway, here's how this month's article begins:

Several times throughout my life I’ve had a sense God was speaking to me. Once, about seven years ago, I felt God saying, “It’s time you started writing.” Because of that message, you are receiving this email today. 
Another time, as I documented in this blog post, I thought God was telling me my wife would have a baby boy. She was in fact pregnant with a girl, meaning either God did not speak to me or I misinterpreted his words. 
Lest you think I’m some kind of saint or crazy person, let me assure you (as you probably already know), I’m just a normal dude with no special qualifications to receive messages from God. What I will say is most, if not all, messages from God come during prayer time. I simply show up and God does the work. Anyone can show up. 
So if you hear something from God, how do you tell if the message is authentic or simply the delusions of a mad man (like myself)? Is it even possible?

Want to read the rest? Enter your email below, and I'll send it your way.

(Reading this via RSS? God bless you! Use this link: Send me my free article.)

Christianity Is Not an Ethnicity: What Jesus Really Meant When He Said "Born Again"

The most famous passage in all of Scripture is John 3 in which a Pharisee called Nicodemus visits Jesus at night.

During the encounter Jesus uttered the renowned verse sixteen stating, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the foundation for Christianity. It is the gospel encapsulated in one sentence.

Photo by Janko Ferlič

But the impressive nature of the chapter is the deep subtext which eludes the average reader, but enriches the reading for those in the know. This is the amazing thing about scripture. It is multi-layered, complex, and beautiful, but not so technical that the common man cannot understand it.

How to Work for God without Losing Your Religion

I'm over at Beliefs of the Heart today where I wrote a piece called How to Work for God without Losing Your Religion.

Photo by Samuel Zeller

Kingdom work is critical. Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. And yet serving the Lord in any capacity without the proper motivations bastardizes the Gospel, transforming it into a sort of karmic Christianity. Or worse!

Here's how the post begins. I hope you'll take the time to click over to Sam Williamson's site to read the rest:

A young man named Jacob was a fixture of service at my church. I was impressed at his level of ministry dedication. Whenever an event or project arose in the church, more often than not, Jacob was there, lending a hand. 
As time went on and I got to know Jacob better, I discovered something was awry; it just felt wrong. Come to find out, his primary motivation for serving was guilt. His dad, who was an associate pastor, pressured Jacob into serving every week and at every event. 
But guilt isn’t the only negative driver for Christians. For some, their motive is the hope of earning salvation. This motivation is subconscious; people in this camp agree we are saved by grace through faith alone, and yet their behavior tells a different story. 
Others serve to feel good about themselves. In doing so, we seek a different kind of salvation-by-works: salvation from low self-esteem. Enjoying serving the Lord is not wrong, but it is wrong to rely on our accomplishments to derive our worth. God values us not for what we have done, but for who we are. 
I’ve been in these latter camps, and I’ve dipped into Jacob’s camp too. But let me tell you: all three are folly. Working for God without proper motivation is, at best, meaningless. 
Why focus so much on motivations for serving? you might be asking. Who cares about motives if the work is getting done, right?

Want to read the rest? Here's that link one more time: How to Work for God without Losing Your Religion.

The Unbeliever’s Greatest Question (And How to Answer It)

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

Did you know I write some articles only for my email subscribers?

This month, I wrote about a problem that haunts all humanity, especially the unbeliever. Here's how it begins:

Toward the end of a book called If God Made the Universe, Who Made God?, the editors included an essay titled, “Intellectuals Who Found God”. It’s a short section, detailing the conversions of six men to Christianity. The piece included no introduction or concluding thoughts—just disparate transformation stories of six “intellectuals."

What I found interesting about these stories is that nearly every one involved someone rejecting God because of the existence of evil. For example, the write up on Aurelius Augustine says, “[Augustine’s] biggest problem with Christianity was its failure, in his opinion, to deal adequately with the problem of evil. If God is all powerful and all good, how can evil exist, and exist so prevalently and powerfully in the world?”

In C. S. Lewis’s blurb, the author wrote that, "[Lewis’s] great concerns were with whether Christianity was unique and how it could solve (or not solve) the problem of evil."

These two men, of course, went on to overcome those objections and devote their lives to Christ. But how did they overcome them? Is their critique of Christianity valid?

 Want to read the rest? Just enter your email below, and I'll send you the entire article.

Another Age of the Earth Theory

You might remember my crazy age of the earth theory I wrote about a couple of years ago. In that post, which you can read here, I argued that since we measure time by the earth’s rotation and since that rotation is slowing down a little every year, it follows that time, at least as we used to measure it, is not constant. Therefore it is possible that the first seven days were seven literal days as marked by one full rotation of the earth on its axis, but measured in thousands of days as measured by the cesium second, which is constant. In this theory then, God gradually set the earth in rotation rather than set it at top speed from the beginning.

Photo by Greg Rakozy

As I wrote in the article, the theory is just that; theoretical. It is pure conjecture. Additionally, I have no stake in the age of the earth arguments. My theology, worldview, salvation, and security—none of these things hinge on how old the universe is. As for those who say the Bible would be invalidated were the seven days in Genesis not literal? Well, I’ve already offered one possible reconciliation between the two sides, but nevertheless even if the days were not literal, my faith would not be shattered and neither should yours be. Why not? You might ask.

What Jesus Would Say to the Helpless and Hopeless Inside Each of Us

I'm excited to be featured on Unlocking the Bible today!

Photo by Ethan Sykes

I wrote about what Jesus wants you to know in times when you feel overwhelmed or in situations when you are without hope. Here's how it begins:

If you are a human, no doubt you have felt hopeless at times. You’ve endured seasons in your life when everything around you seemed to be crumbling, and you couldn’t do anything about it. 
If you are human, you’ve probably felt helpless a time or two. You may have believed that nothing you could do would make any difference no matter how hard you tried. 
If we’re not careful, these seasons of hopelessness can morph into an ongoing outlook on life; we begin to expect the worst to happen. We believe things are already decided against us—and there’s nothing we can do. 
It’s almost impossible to turn on the news or swipe through social media feeds without seeing some sort of horrible incident played out. With so much devastation and injustice around us, it is tempting to give up and resign ourselves to the evil around us.

Want to read the rest? Click here to head over to UnlockingTheBible.org.

And if you enjoy the article, would please take a moment to share it?

If You Really Believe Luke, You Just Can't Be a Pessimist in 2019

If you had a few days left to live, what would you tell those around you?

You'd probably ensure that your loved ones know they are loved. You might reminisce with them about the past. You might even try to bury the hatchet with some contentious people from your past.

Photo by Bruce Mars

But in addition to nostalgia and forgiveness, I can bet there would be a good deal of practicality wrapped up in your last few days. Things like where you store the password for the retirement account. How to start up the lawn mower when it makes that pathetic sound. When to pay the water bill.

If anyone at all depends on you, you would prepare them for your absence. You would attempt to share all of the knowledge in your head so that your loved ones could carry on when you died.

This is exactly what Jesus did on his last trip to Jerusalem. He knew the end was near for him. In Luke 18 he even predicted his death for (at least) the third time. He said:

What I Read in 2018

I dreaded writing this report.

When I thought back to the past year, I remembered having read only one or two books worth sharing with you all in my annual What I Read post. I was embarrassed because as an author, I feel like it's my obligation to be reading deep and wide in order to hone my craft, become more knowledgeable in my subject matter, and to support the concept of reading as a whole. How could I, someone who aims to write books for a living, expect people to read what I write when I didn't read anything all last year!

Photo credit

But when I reviewed my list of finished books on Goodreads, I discovered all my fears were for naught because I actually read a healthy slate of books in 2018, saving my authorial face for another year. (Excepting, of course, that I just shared with you my insecurity and fear of hypocrisy.)

I've got four books to share, which, while not the largest number a person could muster, is a good clip for me. Nevertheless, just the past few weeks, I've felt a growing urge pressed into my subconscious to read even more than those I finished this year. I know of course that quality is more important than quantity, but I have many books I want to read. Books about martians, books about marketing, and books about Christ. Books by Carrie Fisher and Ray Bradbury. Books that will increase my understanding and appreciation of Jesus Christ and the world in which he operates.

If you only read one book this year, it should be my forthcoming book The Last Lessons of Christ. (Seriously, this one will knock your socks off.) But if you read two books in 2019, might I suggest one of these?