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How to Wrestle with God: 4 Moves to Help You Grow Spiritually

I never understood professional wrestling. My introduction came from the likes of  "Hulk" Hogan and Randy "Macho Man" Savage. These were grown men--grotesquely, unnaturally grown--slathered in oil, dressed in spandex, bearing nicknames; and they slapped other men for a living. This was vaudeville for bullies who wanted to throw chairs. This was gymnastics for giants who wanted to land punches. Ohhhh yeahhhhh! But the alternative was worse: competitive wrestling. Picture gangly junior high boys, their ribs showing through their onesies. As they danced on the matt with their opponent, every spectator relived the horrors of puberty: acne and armpit hair on full display. Ohhh nooooo! Though wrestling does not have the fanfare of most modern sports, its history and tradition is rich. It is one of the oldest contests of the Olympic games. Sumo wrestlers are iconic. Moreover, like running and boxing, wrestling appears in the Bible as a metaphor for the Christian life (Ps.
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Life After "Indeed": Four Ways the Resurrection Undergirds Christian Work

People leave more quickly after the church service on Easter morning. They may have hams to glaze or eggs to hide. I wonder if they rush out to avoid one more call-and-response. ( Indeed , no one likes the word "indeed" more than a pastor on Resurrection Sunday.) Regardless, I watch as the last pink dress and turquoise shirt dash through the exit. Turning off the lights, I mutter, "It is finished."  Jesus's words echo in the dark and silent room. I pause, inhale deeply, and give thanks. Then, I depart, already plotting my sermon for the coming Sunday.  Life does not end after Easter. Indeed , the resurrection merely begins our work. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,  because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58, NIV) Here are four ways the resurrection undergirds Christian work. 1. The Resurrection Gives Us Living Hope Paul based his faith

Showing God's Heart Hurts: Four Lessons I've Learned Five Years into Adoption

On our most recent drive home from church, Sensi said three word. First, he pointed out his window and said, "Taco Bell." This profound utterance triggered his developing, neural network and prompted a third word: "Wendy's." This is standard conversational fare with Sensi. Using as few syllables as possible, he speaks of food, TV, or his sisters. The ordering may betray his pyramid of priorities. The way into Sensi's heart is through his stomach. He loves food and prefers the kind made quickly and wrapped in plastic. He also loves glowing screens, especially the Kindle Fire and Vizio flatscreen. His preferred shows use minimal talking and cartoon violence. The more anvils to the head or faceplants the better.  As for me and my house, we think Sensi loves us. It's hard to tell. He ignores our questions, worms out of hugs, avoids eye contact, and pursues us only if we're heading to the kitchen. Sadly, I hardly exaggerate. Thus, we interpret minute gest

Losers Like Me: Four Thoughts on Our Culture of Victimhood

"My ministry is eating breakfast with losers like you." My friend Ryan said this to me and Drew at our monthly accountability meeting. At least he paid for our meal.  Drew and I had just admitted how often we feel left out, an extension of our conversation about our culture of victimhood. Drew and I had examples aplenty:  when we didn't receive the invitation to Florida, a camping trip, or cookout;  when we were excluded from the March Madness pool or latest conversation about the Grammy's; when no one asked our opinions or feelings... about anything... ever... Ryan broke social distancing protocol. He put his arms around our shoulders. He drew us to his chest as our tears flowed. He cooed, "There, there, little losers. Ryan's here for you." Image by  Wokandapix  from  Pixabay   That's not exactly how the scenario played out, but there was definitely venting, labeling, and lamenting about our culture of victimhood. "It's the air we breathe,&

Abiding with Jesus: Reflections on John 15

One of the first verses I memorized was John 15:5. I read from from my New King James Bible as a junior high student. I can still see the red letters. Jesus used an agricultural metaphor (i.e., vines and branches) to describe his relationship to his followers (i.e., abiding).^ This was his final discourse before his departure. After breaking bread with the Twelve and releasing Judas for his betrayal, Jesus shared about his death, the Spirit's arrival, and their need to remain in him to bear fruit and do great works amid suffering (John 14-16).  John 15:5 stands at the heart of Jesus's closing instructions.  Twenty-eight years later, this verse remains seared in my memory. It abides in me, and I abide by it.^^   In John 15:5, Jesus employed a favorite relational term.* He provided a vision for an impactful life. Finally, he alluded to eternity. I will develop each of these ideas further to help us appreciate our life with Jesus. 1. Life with Jesus Is Deeply Mutual Last week I wr

Christ Be With You: Five Ways That Jesus Shows Up

"Christ be with you." It's the last thing my wife says as the girls head to school. She knows school has been miserable, especially this year. E-learning, masks, and COVID protocols have only amplified the isolation they feel. I understand this. High school for many teens is a working model of being "alone together." Middle school is "alone together and awkward." So it goes. But my girls will survive this year. They will survive this phase. I know this because Christ is with them. Their mother reminds them of this daily. "Christ be with you" is a blessing and reminder. It is also shorthand for St. Patrick's prepositionally packed prayer. Christ be with me, Christ within me Christ behind me, Christ before me Christ beside me, Christ to win me Christ to comfort me and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me Christ in quiet, Christ in danger Christ in hearts of all that love me Christ in mouth of friend or stranger. I love this prayer

Directionally Challenged: Why Training Matters in Discipleship (and Driving)

My eldest daughter recently received her driver's permit. Gulp. Gasp.  "Stay off the roads!"  Seriously, you and I need not fear. Claire is sticking to one-way streets in the neighborhood and staying five miles below the speed limit. (Please be nice when you pass her.) Twenty-six years have passed since I began driving. I learned in my parents' duotone, twelve-passenger, GMC van. My friend Kyle called it the Paddy Wagon. It didn't earn me any dates in high school. Those early, awkward days of checking mirrors, hugging curbs, and crawling around the corners are 300,000 miles behind me. Now I operate a vehicle without a conscious thought about turn signals, seat belts, and speed limits.  I'm a seasoned driver. I obey the rules of the road automatically; they are ingrained. Claire will eventually arrive at her destination. And by destination, I don't mean Culver's or Warsaw High School, but she'll become a competent driver. Reading the dials, reacting