Forget Religion, We’re Spiritual (and Dying)

LifeWay Research’s recent survey of 1,200 18- to 29-year-olds showed that 72% of them are “really more spiritual than religious.” Spirituality is good. But there’s a catch. (There always is).

“65% rarely or never pray with others, and 38% almost never pray by themselves either.” How can you be spiritual without prayer? I would argue that you can’t. We have to pray to reach the spiritual. Praying is certainly not the only way to be spiritual, but it is one of the primary ways we build relationship with God. “Living kindly” or “being one with ourselves” is not enough. That’s not spiritual; that’s humanitarian and egocentric. (Yes, you can be both a humanitarian and egocentric.) We have to commune with God to truly be spiritual. Otherwise, we are just being good humans. Being good humans is indeed good, but we can never be “good enough” to be accepted by God. We need Jesus. So how are we going to convince people to pray?

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How to Get Published: 10 Unpublished Rules

“How can I get published?” I regularly get asked this question. I have read incredible article pitches, and incredibly horrible article pitches. In return, I have a set of 10 unpublished rules. Some of my 10 unpublished rules are obvious, some are not. All are reminders to me that I can’t be oblivious to an editor’s needs when emailing them.

Remember, I was once unpublished. And if you really want it, someone will publish something by you too. We all start by being unpublished.

My first publication was not my magnus opus. It was just a creative take on something everyone knew intuitively, but few scholars were bold (or naïve) enough to say. (I caught a bit of scholastic flack for it, because I was daring enough to offend dead people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scholars get mad about all kinds of stuff.) The article was called “Early Evidence of Subjective Interpretation in the Pesharim of Qumran.” Yep, that was the title, and someone published it. Did it have original ideas? Yes. Did I think it was good, and did they? Well, of course. But who were “they”? They were a niche French publication out of a Canadian university, who published my article as the only English article in their academic journal. How many people read it? Probably five, not including my family and friends. But it mattered. Why? Because from that point forward I was published, and my career officially began. Now, I am the Editor-in-Chief of Bible Study Magazine, the author of a forthcoming coming book called The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, and have published (or have forthcoming) over 50 articles.

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5 Things Jesus Taught Me on the Cross (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 5)

The cross is more about life than death. Jesus teaches us how to live life in his last moments. He teaches us what it means to be godly—to love those who hate you, even in the most painful circumstances. Here are the five things Jesus taught me on the cross:

1. Forgiveness is about us, not them. Forgiveness is not dependent upon other people’s actions. Luke’s gospel records Jesus looking down on the men who beat him and crucified him, and saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus doesn’t ask God to forgive the men who crucified him, and the crowd who mocked and beat him, because they deserve mercy, but because they are ignorant. They are anything but deserving. Jesus forgiving those who killed him shows us more about him than it does them. He was right with God, even when people had done wrong by him. We should forgive others because God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it.

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The Lost Servant: Really Good on Good Friday (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Bonus Post)

Was Jesus’ death and resurrection prophesied? I think so. Was it prophesied that he would suffer on our behalf? I think so. Try “prophesied 500 years before Jesus came on the scene” on for size:

Isaiah 53:10 (My Translation)

Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush [the servant]; he afflicted [him] (with sickness). If [Zion or Jerusalem] places his life a guilt offering

Then Something Miraculous Happens: Isaiah 53:10–12 (My Translation)

[The servant] will see offspring, he will prolong days and the will of Yahweh in his hand will succeed. From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied.

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10 Gooder Things about Good Friday (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 4)

‘Gooder’ is not a word, but it should be. Here are 10 gooder things we can learn from Jesus on Good Friday.

 

1.      Jesus knows our flaws. Even though Jesus knew Peter would deny him, he chose the cross for him (and us) anyways (Matt 26:75). This gooder thing happens before sunrise on Good Friday.

2.      Jesus’ suffering happens on a holy day: the Passover. It’s so holy that the priests won’t enter the Roman governor’s house because they are worried about being defiled. If you like irony, this is it. The priests basically say, “We are happy to convince a Roman governor to crucify an innocent man, but entering his house, that won’t work. You see, we really want to eat a holy, religious meal. We love the God of Israel, and wish to obey all his commandments.” Sure you do, you sleezsters. Now tell me this, “Is religion a problem?” I think so, people. I think so. This gooder thing happens at day break on Good Friday (Luke 23:66).

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The Drama Queen High Priest (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 3)

In our “5 Days in 4 Gospels” series we have talked about why Pastor Eastwood is wrong and discussed why Peter went Jackie Chan on a mobster. Now let’s talk about the drama queen high priest. Why does Jesus react the way he does to the priest? Why doesn’t he call down angels from heaven? Answer: To fulfill prophecy.

After a mob nabs Jesus, they take him to Caiaphus the high priest. Peter follows at a distance, because he is a bit hesitant about admitting his connection to Jesus (Matt 26:58). (He will say he doesn’t know Jesus shortly.) The chief priests, some elders, some experts in the law of Moses, and the entire Sanhedrin (an upper-class, religiously-authoritative group), begin to prompt people to testify falsely against Jesus. When? The middle of the night. Their deeds will be done in darkness, because their deeds are dark. Why? Power. They want to kill Jesus because they are afraid of losing their position of authority. But they couldn’t prove that he had said anything false, even though lots of people testified against him (Matt 26:59–60).

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Peter Goes Jackie Chan and a Naked Guy Runs Away (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 2)

"A mob came to arrest his teacher, so Simon Peter cut off one of the mobster’s ears to spite his face. This is pre-Van Gogh, so it wasn’t like Peter was trying to make the guy a fashionable, quirky artist. Peter was either Zorro, or meant to kill the guy and missed. Either way, Jesus’ response is unexpected: He touches the man’s ear and heals him (Luke 22:51). Then a naked dude runs off in the wilderness. (And he’s not a frat boy at halftime; he’s just scared.)" That’s the way the story is (sort of) told on Good Friday, but this telling leaves me with unanswered questions. Why did Peter go "Jackie Chan" (as it's often pitched) on the "mobster"? Why did Jesus heal the guy? And what’s the deal with the naked dude?

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When My Pastor Became Clint Eastwood (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 1)

On Good Friday, my childhood pastor would become Clint Eastwood. He would basically tell us, “You are a know good-for-nothing-yellow-bellied-gizzard. You are a worthless worm. You killed Jesus! Feel guilty.” (And we wondered why people didn’t come to church on Good Friday.) What if we told the story like the gospel writers? In Jesus’ last moments, he teaches us the greatest lesson of all: how to love those who hate you. He teaches us how God suffers. The point is not guilt; it’s godliness—no matter what the circumstances.

T-Minus 2 Days until Jesus Dies. The chief priests and the scribes want to kill Jesus. Why? Power. They can’t have a rabbi around who teaches against their religious power plays. But wait: they can’t kill him during the Passover feast, because that would ruin the party and could create an uprising among all the peasants—Jesus’ main following—who were in Jerusalem for the festival.

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.