Popular Online

We like to lump people into categories -- nationality, race, social class, etc. One sociological study after another classifies, analyzes, dissects. But one thing that all of us have in common is this: we are dying. How much do we reflect upon this reality? On a day-to-day level, do we live as if our days will have no end? The Psalmists suggest that many of us do: You have made my days a mere handbreadth;     the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath,     even those who seem secure. “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;     in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth     without knowing whose it will finally be. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” (Ps. 39:5-7, NIV)  This last year, I've been honored to lead a group of pastors in congregational ministry through a series of colloquies focused upon this question: How can we cultivate genuine resurrection hope...

I've been reflecting a lot on lament and racism, particularly in light of the current events that have plagued this country. We live in an age animated by social media -- social media which generates and spreads outrage and anger at extraordinary speeds. Exasperating our already polarized society, social media creates echo-chambers and demonizes any missteps of the “enemy” ideology. This polarized society has far reaches which have spread broadly, even in our public personas. For Christians, there is good can come from this, as it can awaken us from our slumber, reminding us that we live in the “already, but not yet.” Be it outrage that stems from the Planned Parenthood videos or the racism protested by Black Lives Matter, our world is filled with open wounds of sin and injustice. In a recent article I wrote for Relevant Magazine, I explore how within our 'twitter-world' learning how to lament "opens up a...

Last week, Christianity Today released my review article of Paul Kalanithi's amazing book, When Breath Becomes Air. He was a Stanford neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with an incurable cancer when he was 35. In the midst of the shadow of death placed upon him, he found his life invigorated in new and profound ways. Most reviews of his book have not highlighted his faith. But when you look for it, the book portrays a renewal and rediscovery of Christian hope. From the review: "With story after story, Kalanithi shows how our ambitions to 'save the world' run up against sharp limits. Our responses to shocking pain and evil are never enough, and we are likely to lose family, vocation, and perhaps even the desire to live if we do not honestly face our creaturely limits. Yet Kalanithi goes further, pointing to the One who can face the problem of death. Though 'raised in a devout Christian...

As Christians, we often pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in the hospital. This is as it should be. But how do we pray? And how do we pray when we are in the hospital bed ourselves? I've reflected a lot on these questions since my cancer diagnosis 3.5 years ago. It has not been in the abstract, but has related to my own praying, and praying for others. In the fall, Leadership Journal asked for me to address the question of how to pray for those with incurable conditions, in particular. You can find my article in response here. This last week, I published a book review of a small book which takes on the question in a more general sense: how God meets us in the hospital, and how to pray in that context. The book is John Piper's newest, Lessons from a Hospital Bed. On the one hand,...

 When disaster hits, it does not feel or look like God the King is ordaining what is right. The words of Psalm 102 stung, but they were nevertheless my prayer. The Lord “has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. ‘O my God,’ I say, ‘do not take me away at the midpoint of my life, you whose years endure throughout all generations.’” My wife and I had just celebrated our tenth anniversary and were the proud parents of lively 1- and 3-year-olds. But then I was diagnosed with cancer. A lethal cancer. An incurable cancer. The psalms of lament soon became a companion to myself and others traveling that journey with me—as all of our emotions of grief, anger, and alienation were brought before the Lord. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Ps. 13:1). After discovering that the...

Last night I joined a group of cancer patients to hear a professor give an update on research on the cancer we share. I’ve been to many lectures and conferences on the topic. But one point caught me off guard: a recent survey in which two-thirds of the cancer patients admitted that they had hidden information about their side-effects from their doctors. The professor struggled to find the words: had they lied to their doctors? No, they hid from their doctors. Why? As the professor explained it, he talked about the maintenance chemotherapy that I take – an expensive treatment which extends remission, but brings a host of side effects. The patients were afraid that if they shared how they really felt on the drugs, their doctors would take them off. And their cancer would come back sooner. This moment gives a glimpse into the strange world of cancer treatment. The...

Loss. A car accident -- with a "recovery" expected to last five years. Maybe ten. Maybe for the rest of this mortal life. Poverty -- not just for a year, but for generations. One generation after another. Obsession -- always needing another dozen Facebook likes, a new drug, a new "god" that leaves one hungry for more. Response to problems like these often comes in one form: advice. Do this, don't do that. Here are the steps to healing and success. Our own day has seen a revival of short, pithy proverbs -- with advice about "five steps to be happy" or "six ways to financial security" going viral through social media. Often, the way that Christians approach the Bible fits the same mold: we approach the Bible as a divine self-help manual, with a collection of Bible verses to give us advice to help us live healthier, happier lives. Indeed, good advice is a...

Posted on May 15, with Jonathan Merritt on the Religious News Service website. Click here, for a link to their website where you will find my latest thoughts on my diagnosis and some further theological reflections including responses to religious skeptics....

New strategies for interpreting Scripture turn out to be not so new—and deepen our life in Christ. J. Todd Billings, Christianity Today, October 2011 Awide range of voices claims that a crisis of biblical interpretation is taking place. But contrary to many pundits, the crisis does not simply involve a decline in the Bible's authority. Even when the Bible is turned to as the authority, it's not necessarily interpreted Christianly. Consider, for example, a recent Christian bestseller that offers a "Bible diet." The book claims to enable better concentration, improve appearance, increase energy, and reverse the process of "accelerated aging." To want to improve your appearance and energy level, do you have to be interested in knowing God or Jesus? Of course not. There is nothing intrinsically Christian about the advice. Similar trends appear in Christian books that promise biblical solutions for success in finances, relationships, and family. These books can help Christians see implications...