Wisdom as Authoritative Tradition

Nick is 13. His parents were divorced when he was eight, and it was not cordial. He lives with his mom, and his dad doesn’t seem interested in spending time with him. Nick’s dad cancels most of the planned weekend visits, sometimes with advanced warning, but most of the time he simply doesn’t show up to the agreed-upon meeting place. Nick’s mom is, at best, distracted. She works a full time job, but her typical week night is spent drinking a bottle of wine, staring at her phone.

Everything about Nick – his body, his mind, his heart, and his environment – is in a constant state of change. Eighth grade is hard enough for kids from stable families; it’s eating Nick alive. The pressure to do, to achieve, is overwhelming. He wants to go to college, but admissions standards have gone through the roof. Even the state school is turning away kids with 4.0 grade averages. He is afraid that a single bad grade on a test or a project could derail his entire life. Nick feels immense pressure to achieve, and exceed, perfection in his academic performance, and he hasn’t even entered high school yet.

Not only is he crushed by the weight of academic standards and their bearing on his future career, Nick also lives with the burden of self-determination. He feels tremendous peer (and cultural) pressure to decide for himself who he truly is, particularly sexually. Everything sexual is new for him, and he has no internal foundation upon which to build his identity. He thinks he’s probably straight, but occasionally he hears a voice in his head that tells him he’s gay. But he also wonders about being trans. A lot of kids in his school have come out as gay or trans, and they seem so confident about it. But if Nick is honest with himself, he has no idea who he is or who he is supposed to be. The burden to be, like the burden to do, is crushing him.

Both his internal and external worlds are in a constant state of flux, and because of his parents’ distraction and indifference, he must navigate this chaos on his own. Like so many kids, Nick is alone, confused, and angry. Almost everything in his life causes him anxiety. He is adrift at sea, with no north star to guide him. What does Nick need? (At this point I’d like to say that Nick is an entirely fictionalized character, although I suspect many teenagers – both boys and girls – can relate to some of Nick’s anxieties. His experience may not be typical, but I imagine that it is more common than we might think.)

Continue reading
Avengers: Infinity War is the greatest Catholic film of all time. That statement is a bit cheeky, given that: a) There is no Christ-figure in the film; and b) I’m not Catholic. But the force that drives the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to resist the archvillain Thanos is the same force that animates the Catholic Church against the culture of death: the conviction that life is inherently sacred.

As an evangelical Protestant, I used to perceive Catholicism as a works-based religion that taught its unwitting adherents to try to earn their way into heaven. While I am less certain that I understand Catholic soteriology today than I did in my twenties, one thing has become clear to me about the Catholic Church: it is the last great bulwark against the culture of death in the West. One by one, the Protestant denominations have fallen, giving up the fight against the creeping malevolence of the sexual revolution and its self-interested ideology of population control. Like second-tier Marvel superheroes, many Protestants have disappeared into thin air, but Bishop Thor and Cardinal Iron Man remain in the battle.

Thanos is the classic, militant hippie who never gave up on the, now discredited, teachings of The Population Bomb. There are too many people! The universe can’t possibly support them all! Humans (and their other world counterparts) are stripping the cosmos bare, voraciously devouring the scarce resources of every planet. Thanos’ own home world, we are led to believe, suffered such a fate. But did it? The ruins of his planet resemble the ravages of war, not the desperation of famine.

Continue reading

There is no bigger question for sincere, young Christians (or all Christians for that matter) than this one: What is God’s will for my life? When we face major life transitions (like graduating from college), we stare into an uncertain future, looking for any signpost that will guide us toward taking that first step into the unknown. Where should I work? Who should I marry? In what city should I live? Our questions are large in scope and specific in nature. Because we desperately want to get it right, we beg God to reveal his will to us. Unfortunately, when we are young, we often lack the wisdom required to see or hear God’s answers to these pressing questions.

Paul prayed that the people of the church in Colossae would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. (Colossians 1:9) That is a beautiful prayer, one that resonates with me every time I face a difficult decision. But Paul isn’t praying that this knowledge would magically drop on them from heaven. Instead, he’s praying that they would undergo a process of receiving wisdom so that they can know God’s will for themselves.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Entitlement is a silent killer. It creeps in through your mind, nestles down in your heart, and slowly eats you alive from the inside. Entitlement is a virus of the soul. It puts you at odds with God. It stridently shouts at heaven, “What you have given me is insufficient. I must have more!” Entitlement prays blasphemously, “Give me today my daily bread all that You owe me.”

Entitlement takes many forms, but it is always destructive. Shopping entitlement will impoverish you. Food entitlement will wreck your health. Emotional entitlement will ruin your relationships. Spiritual entitlement will shipwreck your faith.


We don’t recognize our entitlements for the soul-assassins that they are because we have bought into their lie.
My first year of seminary was a difficult time for me, emotionally. I had just left a thriving young adult ministry and a wide circle of friends in Ohio to enroll at a well-respected evangelical seminary in Boston. Moving from the Midwest to New England gave me a serious dose of culture shock. Everything is so much different on the East Coast. As the darkness of winter dominated my days, I sank deeper and deeper into depression. (I hesitate to use that word because I don’t know if I was clinically depressed, but I don’t know what else to call it.) By way of medicating myself, I began to collect DVDs – as in, I would go to the store and buy five or ten DVDs at a time. Shopping became a form of emotional medication, and my DVD collection quickly turned into a source of pride and a sense of entitlement. “I deserve to buy these DVDs,” I told myself. But I was wasting money and feeding a monster by giving into my entitlement. The more you feed your entitlement, the harder it becomes to kill it.

Continue reading

Page 1 of 71234...Last »