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I Was a Good Kid: Why Some Christian Faith Testimonies Seem Lame (but Aren't!)

Will and Monica were both drug users. They shared this dark fact from their past to build credibility with their audience: teens, parents, and youth workers. Will and Monica host "Christian Sexuality," the latest,  12-part video curriculum by the Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender and ProjectSix19 .  The series addresses society's constantly shifting norms about gender and sex by presenting a biblical call to sexual integrity. In the first video, Will and Monica set the tone by telling their stories of addiction, struggle, and overcoming temptation in the name of Jesus. Theirs was a powerful testimony. A moving testimony. Compelling testimony. Remarkable. My testimony, by comparison, is lame I grew up as a good, moral kid in suburbs of a midwestern city. I said grace before dinner, ate my peas, and asked to be excused from the table. I never smoked, drank, or advanced beyond a few awkward French kisses with neighborhood girls. I swore with my friends, teased my sis
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Seven Degrees of Satan: Blaming the Devil for Blame Shifting

We recently watched Tremors with our teenagers. As I typed those words, I felt like I was confessing a sin akin to stealing a neighbor's ladder ("He shouldn't have left it out!") or looking at pornography ("I thought when the email subject said 'Topless' it was advertising a Jeep!"). Yes, I confess, we watched Tremors . We even liked it. Guilty as charged. But before we go casting stones at the Sprankles, let's take seven steps backward to find the real culprit. I blame my wife for suggesting Tremors . She blames the kids for their indecision about other movie options.  They blame me for not putting a stop to it.  I blame Kevin Bacon (doesn't everything go back to him?) for bad acting.  He blames the '90's and Hollywood for creating an eco-system where B-grade, PG-13 horror movies about enormous, man-eating earthworms could even exist. They blame Baby Boomers for raising a generation of screen-addicted, self-indulgent, latchkey childr

Quit Quoting Scripture: How to Avoid Magical Thinking and Approach the Bible Like Jesus

Quoting Won't Cut It: The Problem of Magical Thinking Sermons about Jesus's temptation in the desert follow a predictable script. Part 1 : Jesus fasts for forty days and gets hungry. Pastor says, "Wow. That would be hard. I'm hungry right now and I just ate a donut." Part 2 : Satan shows up. Pastor says, "He's a liar, thief, and accuser of God's people. He's a defeated foe, but be warned, he still has power and looks stunning in red." Part 3 : The smackdown begins. Pastor says, "Let's... get... ready.... to... ruuuummmmble." Part 4 : The explanation follows: 3 tests, 3 Bible verses, 3 successes. "T-K-O," the pastor says, adding, "Jesus wins." Part 5 : The application brings it home. The pastor says, "The Bible is key to overcoming temptation. Read it. Quote it. Put it on a Post-it Note." I preached this text yesterday. I deviated slightly from the script, saying, Scripture anchors us in temptation.

Seeking TRANSFORMATION: A quest, goal, process, and partnership

Eric Carle wrote and illustrated a memorable children's story about transformation.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar chronicles the radical change of the big-eyed, pot-bellied bug who fills his stomach all week before retiring to his self-spun cocoon. Days later, the caterpillar is no more: a beautiful butterfly emerges.  Tada : Metamorphosis. Transformation. The end. I recently came across a similar story of transformation, written and photographed by a church member--only his narrative went in reverse. He reduced his caloric intake. He discriminated with his diet. He avoided the cocoon of couch time. The scale recorded his remarkable weight loss. Ten pounds. Twenty pounds. Forty pounds. His weight and waist line kept shrinking. And the word he used to describe the physical change in the last few months is...  Yes, you guessed: transformation . Image by  Vidmir Raic  from  Pixabay   In a follow up conversation, he shared how the physical transformation has spilled into other areas of

How to Keep Your Sanity at Christmas Time: 4 Traditions & 1 Conviction

Every year as Christmas approaches, I make a bold but empty threat: No presents. I figure if we cut out the shopping, we not only eliminate financial stress but also the countless trips through Kohl's, Walmart, or Meijer. And we spare our eyes the endless scrolling on Amazon.  I have never made good on my threat. I might lose my family if I did. So I have to accept the financial burden of Christmas and find other ways to keep sane during this season. Below are five things our family has stumbled upon that make Christmas less crazy. 1. Decorating Early Sets a Festive Tone Have you ever noticed how often in Christmas books and movies families wait until Christmas Eve to deck their halls and decorate the tree? This happens in most of our kids' Christmas books. It true in The Christmas Story . Get with the program people. Dress up your house as soon as you've stored away the Thanksgiving leftovers. It'll give you more time to locate that burned out bulb on the line. 2. Ince

Setting, Achieving, and Releasing My Goals: A Tale of 2020

 As I wrap up 2020, I am proud to report the achievement of a few personal goals. I've run more than 650 miles, eclipsing my goal of 600; I'm on pace for 700. I've read 59 books, passing last year's total of 42; I'll likely finish 3 more. I've observed a prayer retreat 11 of 12 months this year; usually I miss 2. I've posted 60 blog articles (assuming this one gets done), averaging more than one a week. (Admittedly, I was aided by a daily devotional I edited for our church during Lent.) I've published 78 YouTube videos on two separate channels, most of it original content. I paid off a small amount of debt (before financing another round of braces, bathroom remodel, and paying tuition costs). I joined Facebook and did not lose my soul. For the Year of the Global Pandemic (YGP), I'm rather impressed with my performance. So much so, I decided to brag about it. ( Tim. Tim. Tim. ) I may not be able to distribute a vaccine, stop a virus, eliminate racism

When I Realized I Became SPAM and How I Responded

During one of his podcast interviews, Carey Nieuwhof spoke with his guest about email lists. During their conversation, Neiuwhof shared one of his Best Practices. "I email my list every day." Did I hear that correctly? I hit the arrow to take me back fifteen seconds. "I email my list every day."  That's right, folks: E-V-E-R-Y D-A-Y. I get an email from Carey Nieuwhof on Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. You get the gist.  And I get the email. Even on Saturday and Sunday. "I want to be top of the mind," Nieuwhof explained. "When I deliver fresh content every day, my name, brand, and ministry become ingrained."* Full disclosure: I do not read Carey's email every day. I open them once or twice a week. If he captures my attention (or I'm on a lunch break), I may click a link and read a post. Sometimes I even comment or share the article with my vast Twitter audience. In other words, his strategy worked. After listening to Ni