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Passing The Plate In a Digital Age

I saw an offering plate before I was even old enough to attend church. My father was a lay elder and church treasurer. This usually meant I got to stay and play with my friends long after the services were finished, because Dad was counting the offering. The offering plate is as indelible in my mind as any image from over four decades of attending church—that smooth wooden bowl with a felt liner that got passed down the row every time we gathered for worship. I also remember watching my father help pass the plate on Sundays and hearing my…

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What We Learn from Peter’s Epic Fail

One of the most poignant scenes in the Easter narrative was written by someone who was not there, but who investigated the claims of the Christian movement and was able to paint for readers an agonizing scene of shame and betrayal. Luke, a medical doctor by trade and commissioned to chronicle the Jesus movement, zooms in on the ashen visage of Simon Peter as he utters his final denial of Jesus. Alone among the gospel writers, Luke captures Jesus’ slightly turned face, his eyes catching one of his most loyal lieutenants in his worst moment. Simon Peter seemed the least likely to feign…

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What Are You Building?

Too often our politics is one of mere deconstruction. Our advocacy is less about building coalitions of support to advance human flourishing or to advocate for a vulnerable people group but is instead a kind of performative activism.  This is why often the fights we see play out in the public square are less between opposing ideas but between people who, on a political Venn diagram, actually agree with each other. Building something takes hard work and ingenuity and patience. But online purity tests, launched with memes and snark, are easy. Today, our politics, our “speaking out” is not really…

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Why Is Our Activism So Mean?

From the time I can remember, I’ve been an avid follower of the news. When I was a kid the news came in two ways. It showed up every morning at the foot our driveway in the northern suburbs of Chicago in the form of three newspapers: The Chicago Tribune, The Daily Herald and The Chicago Sun Times. And the news showed up on the radio, as I listened to the WGN Radio or WBBM Newsradio, the all-news station, and sometimes at the top of the hour on Moody Radio. We didn’t have a TV. I also subscribed to magazines like U.S. News and World…

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How Pastors Can Combat Conspiracy Theories

It came as a text from a very close friend: “Did you know Mike Pence is part of a global human trafficking ring?” I didn’t really even know where to begin. I know people who have worked closely with the former vice president and repeatedly vouch for his character and integrity. What’s more, if a conservative vice president was leading this vast global criminal enterprise, certainly media outlets, especially hostile ones, would have reported it. There have always been conspiracy theories in human history because human history is full of conspiracy and evil. Sin has marbled its way so thoroughly…

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What do Christians Owe a President?

If you count my incoherent thoughts as a toddler, I’ve lived through the administrations of seven presidents and am now approaching life under the administration of a new one. On January 20th, former Vice-President Joe Biden put his hand on the Bible and took the oath of office to become America’s 46th President. Times like these are good opportunities to refresh ourselves on a Christian’s responsibility to the government. Read more: (photo source: Wikipedia commons)

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Resisting the Pharisee Temptation on Social Media

From COVID to racial unrest to a divisive political election, there was no shortage of ways in 2020 to trust in ourselves and look down on everyone else. Brands are quick to remind us they’re on the side of science, against racism, and want us to vote. And our social platforms are like modern-day temples where, like the Pharisee, we can clarify multiple times a day that we are not like those grifting public servants. Even at home, we are not immune to displaying our creeds on lawn signs. For Christians, there is value in letting the world know where we stand, declaring…

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Christmas During COVID: What the Incarnation Speaks to Our Troubled World

As 2020 careens to a close and we limp into Christmas season, most of us aren’t feeling very jolly. It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but we’re just hoping to make it through December. Preferably with a vaccine. Few us thought last year when we celebrated the season, that in a year this strange word called COVID would upend so much of our lives. And even as the virus began to spread, none of us thought pandemic Easter would turn into a Corona Christmas. And yet here we are. It’s been a rough year. Natural disasters. A global…

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Why It’s Okay To Cheer on Good Economic News

This year has been gut-wrenching for many on almost every level: a global pandemic sweeping through our country has left well over 200,000 dead and many other sick, the restrictions many states have enacted have left many others without work, especially those who labor in the service and hospitality industries, and political and social unrest has roiled the country. The headlines every day are rarely encouraging. Many pastors and church leaders are leading from a position of uncertainty, especially economically. While many of our ministries have stabilized because of the faithful giving of Christians, still we are nervous about future…

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How to Keep Your Friends In An Election Season

I recorded this video for Lifeway Voices on keeping your friends in an election season. I give four reasons: 1) Determine not to let politics be a litmus test for friendship. 2) Listen to those who disagree 3)  Look beyond the election 4) Take the long view

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How to Navigate the Election at Work

Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but we are in a divisive election season, perhaps one of the strangest and nastiest in recent memory. Politics is dividing people in churches, families and even in workplaces. But it doesn’t have to. As God’s people, we should model for the world what it looks like to love and get along with those who think differently than we do, to be both courageous and open-handed, convictional and humble at the same time in neighborly love. So here are three warnings for employees as we head down the home stretch of this election. 1. Don’t lose…

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What The Bible Says About Working for Religious Liberty

In America, unlike many places around the world, people of all religions can, for the most part, practice their faith freely without government intrusion or invention. This is a blessing that we often overlook and, at times, forget we enjoy. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world worship God under threat of death. They gather in secret, in homes, in caves, sometimes underground at great risk to their lives. In America, we not only can gather freely, but we have access to a flood of spiritual and theological resources. We have Christian schools, parachurch ministries, mission agencies,…

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Church Unity and The Presidential Election

We’re living in one of the most divisive years in American history, with a raging pandemic, racial tension and a contentious election. When I talk to pastors, they’re grieved at the way brothers and sisters in Christ are so divided—grieved at the way people are talking to each other and about each other. So how do pastors lead people through this season? I can’t say authoritatively how every pastor should lead in their own context, but here are three broad principles: 1. ADDRESS THE MOMENT A temptation for pastors in this moment is to never mention politics or the moment we’re in.…

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How Podcasts Shape Our Preaching

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend may seem like odd preparation for preaching. But I’ve found the podcast to be a helpful elixir as I get out of the world of sermons, commentaries, books, and conferences to think about engaging with people on Sunday. In his conversations with other comedians, Conan gets into the pathos behind entertainers’ acts and the hard work it takes to produce a simple laugh. I was struck, for instance, by Ray Romano’s admission that his father’s refusal to give him approval is what drove Ray to try so hard to get laughs, and by Howard Stern’s description…

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What I’ve Learned About Work from Working At Home

For most of my career, I’ve gone to the office. There is something to the ritual of getting dressed up, leaving the house, and reporting to work. My father didn’t do white-collar work, so I never saw him grab a briefcase, but I did hear him stir in the early morning hours before hearing the garage open and his work van pull out of the driveway. I’m glad my kids were accustomed to seeing me leave to go and do what we are created to do: work, create, and innovate. But this pandemic has forced us into new rhythms, hasn’t…

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Disinformation and Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories have always existed in American life and have especially risen during election seasons. But in these times, during a global pandemic, racial tension and an unusual presidential contest, it seems belief in outlandish and disproven narratives is reaching new heights. Easy communication via digital platforms, access to seemingly unlimited content online and deep distrust of key institutions in public life have created a toxic brew that many of our fellow citizens are willing to imbibe in times of fear and uncertainty. So how can we combat misinformation? Many are pressuring the social media platforms to be aggressive about moderating content, a job that is…

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Grace for Leaders in a Time of Covid

I’ve had conversations with pastors across the United States over the last few months. And while my friends do ministry in vastly different contexts, there is one thing they share in common: pastoring (and pastoral care) in 2020 is the most exhausting, frustrating, difficult season of their lives. The cross-pressures right now on leaders is immense. Some don’t understand why their churches can’t resume the full range of ministries they conducted before the pandemic. Others don’t think there should be ministry at all until there is a vaccine. And then the racial tension in the country has provided a whole…

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6 Social Media Habits Pastors Should Avoid

“… And he’s a pastor!” I hear this phrase almost every week about a pastor’s online activity—namely, their treatment toward another human being through harsh speech. It’s almost as if we get behind a keyboard or touchscreen and forget our calling as heralds of God’s Word, shepherds of God’s people. Today there are many ways for pastors to disqualify—or at least embarrass—themselves, but few are as easy and fatal as social media. One friend of mine remarked recently that before looking for a church, Christians should check a pastor’s social media feed. That’s good advice. Pastors—particularly when we have that…

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Jesus in the Bio But Nasty in the Timeline?

A follower of Jesus myself, I normally like to see those words on someone’s Twitter profile. Lately, however, I’m reluctant to scroll down for fear that this same follower has cussed out a politician on the social media platform or tweeted nasty things at a person they disagree with. How can people who claim Jesus as Lord act so mean? First, we often think that because we are fighting for the right things – justice, truth, righteousness — that it doesn’t matter how we say what we say. The Apostle Peter, no stranger to impulsive talk, has a tip for…

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Politics and the Pandemic

USA Today published my latest oped on politics and the pandemic. Here is an excerpt:  We are learning more and more about the virus every day and our responses are getting smarter and more targeted. And our best and brightest minds are working feverishly to develop vaccines and treatments to hold back this deadly contagion that threatens our most vulnerable. But we cannot succeed if we are divided. We need less finger-pointing and more cooperation. We need our institutions to display greater transparency. We need leaders with credibility in a time of cynicism. It erodes public trust when public officials…

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