Fear, Superstition and Faith

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

It doesn’t matter what topic you happen to be thinking or talking about—the economy, politics, religion, the environment or morality—if you read too many blogs or listen to one too many media pundits, you’re likely to come away with a deep sense of dread over questions like these:

  • Is the economy going to take another tailspin?
  • Will the wrong candidate become president?
  • Is traditional marriage doomed?
  • Will Iran blow up Israel?

Nobody knows for sure how to answer these vexing questions, but the answers—even if we knew what they were—aren’t the problem. Truth be told, it’s the uncertainty of not knowing and the fear it inspires that has a fierce stranglehold on many people, and it’s threatening to undo us all.

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The bestselling books of all time are stories

I've always been fascinating with Top 10 lists, especially when they involve books. I suppose that comes from being around books all my life: selling them, writing them and now publishing them. Just this week I ran across a Top 10 book list that made me stop and reflect on what makes a book a bestseller. Thanks to a post from Justin Taylor, I found a graphic showing the Top 10 books over the last 50 years (If you can't quite read the graph, click here for a closer look). It's a fascinating and instructive list for one very simple reason: 8 of the Top 10 books are stories.

Number one, of course, is the Bible, the greatest Story of all (and the bestselling book, not just in the last 50 years, but for all time and by a wide margin), followed by Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, The Da Vinci Code, The Twilight Saga, Gone With the Wind, and The Diary of Anne Frank. The only exceptions are Quotations from Chairman Mao (otherwise known as The Little Red Book), and Think and Grow Rich (one of the bestselling "self-improvement" books of all time). And if you throw out Quotations from Chairman Mao, mainly because it's probably required reading in Chairman Mao's home country, you're left with just one book in the Top 10 most popular books of the last 50 years that isn't a story.

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What if Jesus Is Still Dead?

There have been a lot of great religious teachers throughout history. Confucius, Buddha and Mohammed are three of the most recognizable, and all have millions of followers to this day. Yet there's one thing about all three--and every other great teacher from the past--that should be somewhat disconcerting to their followers: they're all dead.

Then there's Jesus, the greatest teacher of all. Like Confucius, Buddha and Mohammed, Jesus died. But unlike the other great spiritual leaders and self-proclaimed prophets who have walked the earth throughout history, Jesus came back to life.

Now, this may not matter to some people (and by the sheer numbers people who follow dead teachers and prophets, it must not), but it should matter to you. if you are a follower of Christ, you need to know that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the most important part of your faith. 

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Every Day is Leap Day

Today is Leap Day, the so-called "extra day" that pops up every four years in order to keep our Gregorian calendar synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. Technically it's not an extra day in the sense that it's added to your life. Most likely you're living today like any other day, doing the same kinds of things you normally do.

But what if you really had an extra day that wasn't just a calendar adjustment, but a truly unique day that was added to your life, where you could do things you normally don't do because you don't have time for them? How would you spend your "extra" time?

King Hezekiah, who ruled over the Southern Kingdom of Judah at the end of the 8th century BC, was given a bunch of extra days--15 years to be exact. He was dying, and the prophet Isaiah told him to get his house in order. Like a lot of people (especially powerful people), Hezekiah wasn't ready to go quietly into that good night. He wanted more time. So he cried out to the Lord, saying, "Please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight" (2 Kings 20:3). Amazingly, the Lord answered Hezekiah's prayer and added 15 years to his life.

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Trend Forecasts for 2012

I’ve never been big on making predictions for any particular New Year. I suppose it has something to do with not wanting to be wrong, but 2012 seems different (and it’s not just because the Mayan calendar has the world ending on December 21). Because there are so many significant global trends that seem to be converging in a way that could produce more change and opportunity than any of us have seen in quite some time, I’m very interested in the future.

So, for what they’re worth, here are seven “trend forecasts” for 2012, and why I think they matter:

1. The 2012 U.S. elections will be contentious and bitterly fought (like it takes a genius to predict this one). We’ve all been disheartened at the way the political process has been working in the last few years, and the elections in 2012 may hit a new low point.
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The Wonders of His Love

There is a reason we call this the most wonderful day of the year: Christmas is truly filled with wonder. Or at least it should be. Somehow over the course of 2,000 years our wonder has become somewhat diluted, if not downright negative.

We consider the miracle of the incarnation--God taking on human form--and we pose a question we might ask of an illusionist: "I wonder how he did that?" Or worse, our wonder is more like doubt, mainly because we buy into the notion--on a practical level, at least--that Jesus was a wise teacher and a social justice advocate, but hardly the supernatural being Scripture makes Him out to be.

Neither of these senses of wonder--speculation or doubt--is anywhere near the wonder that Jesus should incite in us. We should be ashamed when we settle for a pedestrian kind of wonder. Our wonder at Jesus and the day He was born should rise far above our normal human emotions to the place where we are literally frightened at the very idea that the most holy God has identified with us in such a personal, self-sacrificial way.

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Sports and Christianity

Sports and Christianity have been linked since New Testament times. The apostle Paul encouraged first century believers to "run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:24). In the twenty centuries since then, countless numbers of athletes from various sports have taken Paul's advice quite literally, both on and off the field of play, and many have openly acknowledged their belief in Christ.

In fact, there are an astonishing number of professional atheletes who are publicly professing their faith in one way or another. And two of them--Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, and Los Angeles Doger pitching ace Clayton Kershaw--are getting a lot of attention from the media, albeit for different reasons. These two 23-year-olds are also demonstrating that there's no "one size fits all" approach to telling the watching world that you're a Christian.

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Inspired by Tozer

I've been a fan of A.W. Tozer for some time. His classic book, Knowledge of the Holy, had a profound influence on my early spiritual formation. And now that I'm the Publishing Director at Regal Books, I am thrilled that I am part of a team that is bringing previously unpublished content by Tozer to a new generaton of readers.

Recently I was asked to contribute to a new Regal book called Inspired by Tozer that features more than 50 artists, writers, and Christian leaders giving their own insights into Tozer's classic writings. It was an assignment I was eager to take on, especially because I share a singular connection with this man who has touched millions with his profound insights into the nature and character of God.

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Going on a quest is one of the most adventurous, important, and significant things any of us could ever do--if not the most important. Some of the greatest and most enduring stories told in books and film are about epic quests: The Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia, even the Wizard of Oz--all are stories of a hero in search of the one true thing that brings meaning to life.

Even ordinary people go on quests. They may not call it that, but they are on a search for meaning and something that offers true hope in a world that seems to be running out. Some people look for meaning in material things, while others search in various philosophies and religions. Still others seek after meaning by giving themselves to a cause or a political system they hope will make the world a better place. The problem is that at the end of these searches, no matter good or how worthwhile, is a host of unmet expectations.

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A Time for Humility

"God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble."

If there’s one thing above all others at the root of the ills of the human race, especially in these changing times, it’s pride. Wise King Solomon penned what is undoubtedly the most well known verse on pride in the Bible, and it speaks volumes about the damage pride can do: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Look at that last word: fall. When we read this verse, we usually think of a setback or someone getting knocked off a pedestal because of pride. But the word has a much more cosmic meaning when you think about the fact that pride was at the root of Satan’s rebellion against God and his banishment from heaven. “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High,” Satan declared (Isaiah 14:14).

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.