Monthly Archives: August 2019

Why Bother? The Problem of Prayer

Why should people bother to pray? For many people, both religious and irreligious, this question does not seem to have a satisfactory answer. They still pray when desperate – who doesn’t? – but even then, they can’t see the sense in it. If God already knows everything that is going to happen, if he has already decided what he is going to do, our prayers are irrelevant.
One way Christians have responded to this problem is to say, “We don’t pray to change what is going to happen but to change ourselves,” but this answer seems quite inadequate. If nothing changes because of our prayers, then, perforce, the person praying does not change either. If prayer can change the person praying, then it can change other things too. Continue reading

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Why Would I Jump out of an Airplane at 14,000 Feet?

The answer to the question in the title is: Because I want to. I’ve wanted to for decades. When I was younger, I often dreamed I was flying: I would jump in the air and just float, at will, over the neighborhood, the city, the countryside. Sometimes when I got into bed at night I would hope for that dream.
But that is flying, not falling, which is presumably what happens when one steps out of an airplane. Continue reading

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Nevertheless: God’s Will and Our Will

http://www.lockwoodchurch.org/media (Listening time: 27:00) Jesus taught his students that God is good and kind and loving. He’s better than we ever dreamed! But what about when things go sideways? Is he still good, kind, and loving when the thing we … Continue reading

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Our Faultfinder in Heaven?

I still remember where we were when our oldest son took his first steps. He was a year old, give or take a few days. We were in a cabin in northwestern Ontario. Joel had been pulling himself up and standing for a few weeks, but while we were there, he took his first steps. He got one solid step in, followed by a two-step Lindy Hop, and then crashed to the floor.
We all cheered. You’d have thought he’d won the Nobel Prize. Instead, he took three wobbly steps. Three wobbly steps, but full of promise. We knew this was just the beginning.
One can imagine the same scenario with a different outcome. We’re in the cabin. One-year-old Joel is standing up with his hands on the sofa, and I’m urging him to come to me. I say, “Come on, son. You can do it. Come on.” He turns toward me. He lifts and extends his foot. We all hold our breath. He shifts his weight – he’s taken his first step! He then quickly takes another and another, then goes crashing down in a heap.
And that’s when I say: “That’s all you got? What’s the matter with you? I give you a year, and all you can give me is three lousy steps! You are such a disappointment to me.”
Some people think God is like the critical, impossible-to-please me in the second scenario. Continue reading

Posted in Peace with God, Spiritual life, Theology | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Come Home: Does God Want You Back?

Young marrieds Jim and Jane Flynn were swimming in Lake George in New York state. When Jim got out of the water, he realized his wedding ring had slipped off and was somewhere at the bottom of the lake. Jane continued to wear her ring but Jim’s was lost.

Thirty-nine years later, a woman snorkeling in Lake George spotted something shiny on the bottom. She at first thought it must be a bottle cap, but when she retrieved it, she found it was an engraved wedding ring, with the anniversary date inscribed on the inside. After some research, she found Jim and Jane and returned the ring to them. How surprised and delighted they were to find it again! Jim now sleeps with it under his pillow.

To have the cherished thing returned after a long absence is a cause for celebration. That is just what Jesus says in Luke 15, only there we discover that we are the cherished thing! God cherishes us and wants us to be with him, no matter how long ago we hit bottom. Luke 15 shows us it is never too late to come home.
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What Is God Up To Now? (God’s purpose in our world)

I’ve had my share of discussions with people who identify as atheists. I respect them, for the most part. There have been a few whose anger damaged both the rationality of their argument and the mutual respect that would have made our discussion profitable. But anger and flawed reasoning are hardly unique to atheists.

Most people I’ve met who identify as atheists do so not because reason has compelled them but because experience has led them to believe the God presented in the Bible is unlikely to exist. That experience is generally characterized by two realities that are impossible to ignore: first, the overwhelming present-ness of physical things, coupled with the underwhelming present-ness of spiritual things; and, second, the undeniable presence of evil, expressed as suffering. Continue reading

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The Emu and the Kangaroo (Matthew 28:18-20) – What Is Baptism All About?

Many countries have a national coat of arms, often featuring magnificent beasts and birds, like the majestic lion and the soaring eagle. They carefully chose such images to convey the idea that their people are courageous and strong.

The Australian coat of arms also features two animals: The emu, a graceless bird that can’t even fly, and a kangaroo. Courage and strength are hardly the first things one thinks of when seeing the comical-looking emu and kangaroo. Why did Australia choose those two animals?

Because they share a common characteristic with which the Australians identify: Both the emu and the kangaroo can only move forward, not back. The emu’s three-toed foot causes it to fall if it tries to go backwards, and the kangaroo is prevented from moving backwards by its large tail.
Continue reading

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The Forgiver

During the closing song at a special service in an Indiana state prison, Chuck Colson noticed one of the inmates, a man named James Brewer, singing out at the top of his lungs. Colson says the man’s face was radiant. James Brewer had come to know Jesus Christ in prison and his life had been transformed.

As soon as the song was over, the Prison Fellowship Team began shaking hands and saying goodbye. Brewer returned to his cell, walking shoulder to shoulder with a Prison Fellowship volunteer. Colson was meeting the governor in Indianapolis in just two hours, so he followed them and urged the volunteer to hurry.

“We’ve got to go!” he called to the volunteer, but the man answered, “Just a minute, please!”

Colson shook his head. “I’m sorry, but the plane is waiting. We have to go right now!”

The volunteer said, “Please, please, this is very important. You see, I am Judge Clement. I sentenced this man to die. But now he is born again. He is my brother and we want a minute to pray together.”

Colson said, “I stood in the entrance to that solitary, dimly lit cell, frozen in place. Here were two men – one black, one white; one powerful, one powerless; one who had sentenced the other to die. Yet there they stood, grasping a Bible together, Brewer smiling so genuinely, the judge so filled with love for the prisoner at his side.”

Forgiveness. God is the Forgiver: he can forgive anyone – even me; even you. And because we are the Forgiven, we are called to forgive, just as God does. “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). To forgive like God does puts us in a place where remarkable things can happen in our lives. Continue reading

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Christians and Mental Illness

My son Joel Looper (PhD, University of Aberdeen) just published a moving article that looks at Christians and mental illness in Church Life Journal, a journal of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. Check … Continue reading

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The Millennials Migration from the Faith

Another young, prominent Evangelical Christian has left the fold. Joshua Harris was 21 years old when he wrote, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” Since being published in 1997, his book has sold over a million copies and has been hailed by conservatives for its guidance in navigating relationships with the opposite sex. Last year, Harris renounced the book. This year, he renounced the faith.

Harris joins other high-profile Evangelical millennials in the flight from faith. Non-Evangelical millennials are also leaving – a recent study suggests more than half are already gone – but they are more likely to drift from the faith quietly, not buzz the deck as they fly away. When people like Harris – people who have made a name for themselves precisely because they were Evangelicals – leave the faith, they make headlines. Depressing headlines.

Why are we seeing this exodus of young Christians, Evangelical and otherwise? Why is it happening now, at this point in history? Can anything be done to turn it around? Continue reading

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