broken toys

My oldest son loves big cats. He knows everything there is to know about every breed of tiger, panther, or lion. When a school report is due, he will finagle his way into reporting on the sad destruction of the Siberian tigers, the fate of the endangered big cats, or the hunting patterns of African lions. He is obsessed with carnivorous beasts.

To his everlasting disappointment, we purchased a dog as our one and only pet. If he had had his druthers, we would have bought a baby tiger, raising it in our cul-de-sac to be a ferocious killing machine. “Tigers are awesome because they’re carnivores,” he reasons. “But Mocha just eats dog food.”

While his love affair with all things carnivorous can be a bit tiresome (“No, Cyrus, you are not a carnivore,” I have said on multiple occasions), I find his affection for the animal kingdom endearing. In fact, it reminds me of the first, and eventual, calling given to humanity: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” (Genesis 1:28) My son’s love for big cats is an echo of the task which God first gave humanity – the wise care of the earth and the tender governance of the animals.


The world was made for us, but we brought death into it.
The anonymous author of the ancient Letter to Diognetus put it like this: “For God loved men, and made the world for their sake, and put everything on earth under them. He gave them reason and intelligence, and to them alone he entrusted the capacity for looking upward to him, since he formed them after his own image.” There is a terrible beauty in the ponderance of our first, failed mission. The world was made for us, but we brought death into it. What deep sadness, simultaneously rich and empty, overcomes my soul as I reflect on this.

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Individual Autonomy

When I was in college (1996-2001), the primary cultural issue that Christians were mobilizing against was relativism. We were being called to stand for “absolute truth” in the face of a creeping postmodernism which taught that everybody’s beliefs are valid, and no one person or religion has a monopoly on truth. What’s true for you may not be true for me, but that doesn’t make your beliefs (or mine) any less true. The danger of this teaching, we were told, was that it compromised the unique place of Jesus Christ (or Scripture) as the source of all truth. Relativism reduced the majesty of Christ, robbing him of his uniqueness by placing him on the same level as other teachers of religious dogma. If Christianity was as true as, say, Buddhism, then it wasn’t really true at all.


Americans believe in Individual Autonomy like they breathe oxygen.
What I see now is that creeping postmodern relativism was not the great problem we thought it was. In fact, it was merely an aftershock of the great cultural shift that had been taking place for decades. It was the symptom of something much deeper, something more far-reaching than anything we could have possibly imagined at the time. Fighting for absolute truth, noble as it may have been, was a fool’s errand. We had lost our grip on that long before I entered college, and it was certainly never going to come back, at least not in a form by which we Christians might have recognized it.

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We are preaching our way through 1 Peter at Hope Church, where I serve as one of the pastors. This is a very relevant book for modern Americans, as the original recipients of Peter’s letter were dealing with widespread social disfavor and increasing marginalization. The more that our culture becomes like ancient, pagan Rome, the more we will find that we have in common with the first Gentile Christians.


A Christianity that dominates and subjugates women is not a faithful version of itself.
A couple of weeks ago I preached 1 Peter 3:1-7, which contains the apostle’s admonitions for wives and husbands. This text includes the [unpopular] command, “wives…submit to your own husbands.” This is a difficult verse, in no small part because of all the cultural and personal baggage that comes with it. This passage has been misused and abused within the church. Preachers and teachers have taken this text to say that women are second-class citizens of God’s kingdom. We have used it to spiritually manipulate wives into submitting to husbands who are physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive. And that is wrong. That is sin.

A Christianity that dominates and subjugates women is not a faithful version of itself, because it was mostly women who were first drawn to the message of the gospel and the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Women were flocking to Christianity in the early days because they found in the gospel something they couldn’t find anywhere else. They heard a message that proclaimed, “You are valued by your Creator. You have tremendous worth. You have an inheritance.” God doesn’t sell his daughters for a bride price; he gives them the full inheritance of the kingdom.

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Defining the Humanity of Others at thesometimespreacher.com

In September, 2015, an effort was made through social media to challenge the stigma of abortion through the use of the hashtag #shoutyourabortion. Women who had had an abortion were encouraged to speak out, be proud, and reject the stigma of guilt and shame placed on them by society. I confess that the brazenness of many of these abortion supporters makes me angry. But I believe in the slow play of the kingdom of God. I believe that one day, at the resurrection, these women will meet the person they chose to terminate. I sincerely hope and pray that on that day they can embrace, be reconciled together through Christ, enjoy fellowship with one another in the eternal, healing new creation of God. For it is only then and there that all manner of things shall be well.


Humans have a long, sad history of deciding who is and isn’t fully human.
But in the meantime, a debate rages in our culture over abortion, a debate that seems to be full of rhetoric and vitriol, but too often void of coherent argument. Just read the tweets. (However, this article by Frederica Mathewes-Green is excellent.) We are entrenched in our positions, and there is little hope that any of us might give ground willingly.

During this year’s Super Bowl, Doritos aired an ad of an unborn child with an unusually advanced appetite for their delicious chips. This ad was criticized in a tweet by NARAL, an organization committed to advocating for abortion rights, as “humanizing fetuses.” (Their exact words.) Defining the humanity of the fetus really is the heart of the abortion debate, though it is still shocking to see it put so bluntly, as though “humanizing fetuses” were either objectionable, immoral, or unnatural.

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The church where I now pastor made an important decision not long ago that resulted in significant organizational change. Sensing God leading them in a new and radical direction, they voted to join forces with a church plant in the area, and together these two bodies formed one new church, which is now Hope Church in Westerville, Ohio. As we walked through this process together, it became clear to me that there is a wide variety of emotional responses to significant changes in life. I called this The Emotional Spectrum of Change.


Knowing where we are in the process of change will help us to understand how to respond to those powerful emotions.
Whenever we make a major decision in our lives that results in substantial change, we go through an emotional process before, during, and especially after the choice has been made. These emotions are often magnified when the change in question is deeply personal, like making a major adjustment in your church organization.

For most Christians, the local church to which we belong has a rich and vital role in our lives. Not only is our soul nourished there through worship each Sunday, but many of our closest friends are there. Church is more than something to which we belong; church is something we are. The community with whom we gather to worship and follow Jesus is one of the most important things in our lives. So when we experience change in this area, we often feel the effects of that change on a deeply personal and emotional level.

I believe that it is immensely helpful to be able to identify where we are, emotionally, with whatever change we may be experiencing. Knowing where we are in the emotional process of change, as individuals or families, will help us to understand how to respond to these feelings. God expects us to live wisely, to respond well, and to understand ourselves relative to both our circumstances and our emotional conditions. With that, I would like to introduce you to The Emotional Spectrum of Change.

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