This Broken, Beautiful World

For some it was a day of great rejoicing. For some it was a day of deep distress. Though Solomon’s temple had long since been destroyed by the order of King Nebuchadnezzar, the people had now returned from exile and had commenced work on a new temple, a new home for their God. Once the builders had finished laying the foundation, the priests and musicians called for a celebration, a time to praise God for the work begun. Then, as …

Could You Use Some Joy Today?

I abominate commercials for the lottery. Though there are thousands of variations of such ads, they all play off a common theme: Money brings joy. One recent ad showed people practicing the happy dance they would do when they found out they had won millions of dollars. Another had people describing the things they would buy for themselves when they finally came into great wealth. In one way or another, all these commercials express the same idea: more money equals …

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Does God Want Me to Obey Him Out Of Duty or Joy?

It is a question Christians often ask: What is the relationship between obedience and joy? I was asked about this during a recent Ask Me Anything event in Philippines (which followed a sermon I gave that focused on Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”). Here is my answer. Transcript How should Christians strike a balance between obedience out of duty and obedience out of joy in the Christian walk? Well, Christian …

The Best Day You’ve Ever Had

There are so many pleasures we experience as we live out our lives in this world. We have the pleasures that come with knowing and being known, the pleasures that come with beholding beauty, the pleasures that come with taste and touch and hearing. This world offers a cornucopia of pleasures to enjoy. And what joy they bring! Maybe it’s good to pause for a moment to consider the best day you’ve ever had. Was it a day of triumph …

Here Comes (U.S.) Thanksgiving: The Unbreakable Link between Gratitude and Joy

What are people willing to give for joy? What price are they willing to pay? Consider what people spend on vacations, luxury goods, entertainment, and stimulants and it’s clear the cost is sky-high. And yet all that time, money, and effort never seems to be enough. For so many people, joy remains elusive. And if they do find it, it is fleeting and unsatisfying. It’s ironic that during the holiday season—when we talk about joy the most—it seems to be the hardest to …

The Joy of Self-Discipline

We don’t accomplish much in life apart from self-discipline. Discipline plays an especially important role in life’s difficult or full-out unpleasant tasks, in those things we know we ought to do but struggle to accomplish. We discipline ourselves to get exercise and lose weight. We discipline ourselves to update the family budget on a regular basis. We discipline ourselves to read instead of watch television or to get up early instead of sleep in. In so many areas we rely …

Your Highest Privilege

Of all the privileges that are ours through the gospel, which is the greatest? According to many theologians, there is no privilege higher than adoption. J.I. Packer says it like this: “Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification.” He doesn’t just say it, but also defends it, and his defense is worth pondering. Packer acknowledges that justification is God’s supreme blessing to sinners. Justification is the primary blessing because it meets our primary spiritual …

No Platform High Enough

When it is platform you crave, when it is the size or the popularity of your following that you use as the measure of your success, you will inevitably and eventually find that there is no platform high enough. No success will ever perfectly fulfill your ambitions. When it is recognition that you are after, affirmation of your hard work, affirmation of your skills or wisdom or contributions, there can be no reward fulfilling enough. There will always be one …

5 Reasons to Rejoice in Persecution

When I was growing up and still living with my parents, my family supported ministries based in the USSR, and on our fridge we had a big poster covered in photographs of Russian pastors who were imprisoned or endangered because of their faith. Every night in our devotions we would pray for one of them, that God would bless and protect him. Meanwhile we lived in middle-class suburbia in Toronto. We freely told our neighbors about Jesus, we went to …

I Bought Some Joy (But Dropped It Down the Stairs)

It must have been six months or a year ago that I watched my iPhone–my brand new iPhone–sliding, then flipping, down a flight of stairs. I had just pulled it from my pocket and somehow lost my grip on it. It clattered down one step, then the next, then the next, all the way to bottom. Idolatry has been much on my mind lately, idolatry ancient and modern. In the Old Testament there must be a hundred stories of the …