“There is a reason Ecclesiastes is in the Bible. Even Christians-committed or well known—battle with depression. Some great saints of Scripture and history have this trait in common. Think of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. After
experiencing the emotional high of a mountaintop revival, the prophet comes down exhausted, depressed, and wishing for his life to end. Think of David writing some of the psalms, questioning why he is so disturbed and wondering why he feels so depressed. Think of Jeremiah writing another neglected book—Lamentations—which is a lament for Jerusalem’s ruin because of the people’s sin.”
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic 9/11 events. Many have already shared tributes, posts, presidential speeches, and memories. There are undoubtedly many emotions. There are lessons to remember and learn. For others, there is also a sense of realizing how more deeply divided we have become since 9/11 over twenty years ago. Every issue now causes a level of controversy that destroys relationships and divides families. There are new domestic and international threats. A global pandemic continues to cause death, disrupt economies, and divide people. There is much that could be reflected on.
“Even within the first two chapters of reading this book, my mindset is changing about how I can see and relate to my pain, sadness, situational depression due to medical issues, stress, the events of the world, etc. Maybe it is here – in the hard part of life – that I will see what Hope really actually is. And maybe diving deeper into my struggle and being willing to wrestle with this hardship will give me the most compassionate, empathetic, and loving relationships with those around me.” -Everything is Meaningless early reader.
Do our lives matter? What is the point of life when it is fleeting, temporary, and finite? Where can we find meaning, significance, and purpose? In the follow-up to Hope Rising: Finding Hope in a Turbulent World, author Ben Foley takes an honest look at the despair and cynicism that characterize and plague our generation. From depression to the reality of injustice to the emptiness of pleasure, wealth, fame, education, and achievement, Everything is Meaningless wrestles with life’s philosophical and practical concerns.
Issues and causes come and go. Opinions, emotions, and perspectives ebb and flow. Circumstances constantly change. Only our labor in the Lord is worthwhile and worth giving our lives too. Only our work in the Lord will last and matter for eternity. And this is what the enemy is rather effectively distracting us from.
One of the most important distinctions I have come to see regarding suffering is that God’s silence is not evidence of God’s absence. His silence in our suffering may in fact be evidence of us gracious presence. Let me explain
Suicide can affect anyone, even those whose circumstances would otherwise suggest a “good life.” We need to talk about suicide more, because it’s an epidemic and a real struggle for so many. At its core, it’s also a loss of hope
When I travel I try to look for things God is teaching me. I just returned from a trip to Kenya and Tanzania for ServeNow. The lesson that stood out to me on this trip was a new appreciation of having an advocate on your side. For this article’s purpose, let me share what happened in the US and then Tanzania related to the COVID testing process necessary for travel.
This is what I mean by compassionate anger. Jesus channeled his anger in such a way that he created space for the humble to find the grace they needed to transform their lives. Jesus was not just dealing with injustice. He was restoring justice.
From Hans Rosling, Mark Manson, to Fareed Zakaria, multiple authors have written that contrary to popular belief, the world has gotten better, not worse, in modern times. The standard of living has improved worldwide. Access to education, healthcare, and technology has increased. Wars and violence are at the lowest globally from a historical perspective.
And yet, it seems as the world gets better, people’s hope is decreasing. This seeming contradiction is an interesting dynamic I write about in Chapter 3 of my book Hope Rising: Finding Hope in a Turbulent World. It was probably the most interesting chapter to write and wrestle with why this is the case.
The kind of hope the Bible speaks of is confident and sure. Hope is rooted in God’s character and nature, despite our feelings or situations. It’s a hope anchored in not just God’s promises but in his very person. It’s a hope that is eternal in nature and provides confidence found not in ourselves or in our circumstances. It’s a hope rooted in Jesus…
Sometimes, this message is why God leads us the way he leads us. I believe there is always a message in the miracle. Solutions exist to teach us something or learn a new lesson not just solve the present problem. They stretch our faith and deepen our trust in God.
Waiting sucks. Can I get an amen? I don’t like to wait for anything or anyone. Waiting is one of the most painful things to do in life for me. It is also one of the most critical parts of the Christian life
This weekend, American’s will be celebrating the 4th of July, which proclaims our independence and freedom. But often, I believe we miss what true freedom is and means according to Scripture. Regardless of how independent we may be externally, everyone is still a slave to something or someone. We are born slaves to sin according to Scripture with a propensity towards selfishness. Our sinfulness and selfishness are why we need a Savior; to set us free from our sin and deliver us from our selfishness. True freedom is not divorced from responsibility or found in indulging ourselves; it’s found instead in living for Christ and serving others.
We are awaiting the transition from the earthly and imperfect; to the eternal and perfect. The paradox of the Christian life is that though we die, death does not have the final word. Just as the weakness of the cross gave way to the power of the resurrection, we have the same hope in Jesus. And that is why despite our earthly struggles, we do not lose hope in our eternal future.
For as long as I can remember, I have battled with cycles of depression to varying degrees. I recently just came through two of the worst and longest-lasting episodes in quite a while. Two of the lowest points in my life during these cycles were the day my first book, a book on Hope, was published and my master’s degree graduation day. What should have been two of the most joyful days of my life were instead two of the most depressing days of life.
Have you ever thought of faith being creative? Or how about the need for faith to be demonstrated in a creative way? I think many times we get stuck in the same routines and traditions that we fail to think outside the box and find new ways of doing things. Or maybe we see certain needs but think we are powerless to do anything about it and we give up rather than get creative.
Pentecost means there is a way to be brought together around the person of Jesus, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and the love of our Father in heaven. It means we can worship and fellowship with those different than us. You cannot choose your family. And neither can you choose your brothers and sisters in Christ. When was the last time you worshiped with those who viewed life differently than you, spoke a different language, have a different culture and life experiences, or even a different political view?
Greetings from Nigeria, the country with the largest population in Africa! I just wrapped up my first international trip in a YEAR due to COVID. It was so good to get back out there on behalf of ServeNow, the mission organization I lead. Being ServeNow has always heavily emphasized serving in, with, and through national leaders and churches, we have been able to carry on our work without skipping too much of a beat over this last year. In fact, we served far more people in the previous year over COVID than even the year before COVID! It may have looked different, but the impact is still just as incredible, if not more so than years past.
I believe if there is one universal need right now in these turbulent times, it is true hope. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13 boiled down the Christian life to the three most essential and irreplaceable basics: faith, hope, and love. But where do we find that hope? Or, how can our hope be renewed? My book tackles those questions and more through real life stories from around the world via the international mission organization I lead called ServeNow, and stories from those I know here in the US.
The only word or phrasing that I think comes close to what pastors and leaders will have to deal with is the reality of an age of cultism. In my opinion, I think a case can be made that cultic like behavior is manifesting and growing more and more. At the least, which I have written about in past articles, we see identity politics influencing more and more people on both the right and left. In this article, I will briefly share some of those cult-like characteristics. However, I want to focus more on some possible solutions going forward. My fear is that violence and division will only increase, not decrease, unless a different kind of radical change happens in our hearts, lives, and worldviews. Really, at the root of it all is that of idolatry. Our hope is being misplaced. The level of fear and anxiety is disproportionate to reality, driven by much misinformation and misguided in its focus.
Over the last couple of years, I have mostly been vocal about the dangers and idolatry of much of the evangelical conservative church wedding themselves to politics and its damage to our witness. I have also been vocal about our call as believers to serve the most vulnerable, whether refugees, immigrants, the disadvantaged, persecuted, or the oppressed. I have preached that racism has no place in our hearts, lives, families, or churches, even when it has cost me relationships and support. However, there is another philosophy on the other side making a lot of inroads among a portion of the church and believers in the US.
The good news of Christmas, the Good News of the Gospel, is that Christ has come for all, and all can come to him by faith in hope and find rest for their weary souls. This is the very promise of Christ himself. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Besides COVID in 2020, perhaps the next thing that has taken our culture by storm is “Baby Yoda!” Our family just returned from a trip to Disney World, and yes, we enjoyed Galaxies Edge where we got to pretend like we were in Star Wars! Perhaps that is part of why I cannot help but think as Christmas approaches, there are certain similarities between this “special child” in a galaxy far far away and the real Chosen Child born here on earth over 2,000 years ago.
2020 will be a year that will go down in history as the year of COVID-19! What a year it has been. 2020 has been full of challenges, uncertainty, disrupted plans, canceled trips, restrictions, limitations, hoarding, hunger, pivots, conspiracy theories, emotion, drama, protests, politics, riots, and our rights. And all in an election year, which added fuel to the fire! In this article, I want to reflect on some of these central themes and lessons I have learned from a Christian perspective and what I hope might be a helpful perspective for you as well.
I am so excited to announce the arrival of my first book, Hope Rising: Finding Hope in a Turbulent World! In this blog post, I want to give you a little of the backstory and context for why I wrote this book, along with the Founder (Lars Dunberg) of the mission organization I lead, called ServeNow.
God has his own Sovereign purpose and plans for whoever is in power! Sometimes those reasons or purposes can be hard to see, but even more so when we are blinded by our own political doctrine or agenda. Our job as followers of King Jesus is not to fight the good fight of politics; but to fight the good fight of faith, no matter what happens. In other words, we are called to remain faithful to Jesus no matter who is in power, and no matter what policies might be prevailing in the land. Some things are more important than politics.
I loathe election years, and in general American politics. But it is not politics itself that I see as the problem. Instead, it is the relationship of the evangelical church in the United States to politics. I believe the great sin of the American church is an obsession with power and politics.
These are embarrassing and sad days for the church of Jesus Christ in America. These are days we may look back upon with deep shame. But when that day comes, it may be what finally brings us to our knees in recognizing our need for the only one with power to save, heal, redeem, restore, and deliver. We need Jesus. Only Jesus.
Take whatever challenges COVID has meant in the US and multiply that by at least 10X or more in other parts of the world. Additionally, it has officially been projected that an additional 130 million people (double last year) could be facing acute hunger (starvation) this year worldwide. In just one Asian country where the mission organization I lead serves, it is estimated that 300,000 children could die in the next 6 months. 350 million people in this one country alone are being thrust back below the poverty line of less than $2 a day.
However, the verse that most struck me and has stayed with me is how, the Lord had promised to keep the lamp of David’s kingdom burning brightly. Amid human failure, was still divine faithfulness! Among a people who had lost their way was a promise that not all was lost. Towards a nation living beneath their calling, was a word of eternal hope.
We have elevated lesser earthly values above more important kingdom values such as mercy, justice, grace, forgiveness, and love (Matthew 24). We have lost the spirit of Jesus who came not demanding his rights; but laying down his very life and “rights” for our sake and salvation (Philippians 2:5-11). I think we have become disconnected and disoriented from our primary passion for Christ and his eternal kingdom. I believe we have lost perspective and lost our way because it is not about us, it is about God being glorified in our lives. It is not about our rights above all or above the good or consideration of others. I want to get back to the heart of worship. I want to see only Jesus
Take a moment with me and press the fast-forward button on your life. Go to the end (for we know how it ends!) and hit pause. Imagine this day when you will stand before Jesus, the King himself. Imagine what that moment will be like. At that time, we will not have the luxury of looking ahead, but behind. What did we do with our lives? How did we demonstrate our love for Jesus in the brief time we were given on this earth? Who did we serve in his name and for his sake? How many received hope because we acted out of our love for Jesus?
Say what you want about the merits of climate change (maybe we have a defensive and dismissive posture to not have to examine our lifestyles?). Still, there is no disputing from a biblical perspective that our sin has thrown the earth off in ways that play out in real consequence around the world. Specifically, I would say our greed, selfishness, consumerism, and materialism.
There is no doubt we are a very divided nation this Fourth of July in 2020. And I have no answers to offer in this post (not that I think will change anyone’s minds anyway!). Instead, I just want to acknowledge that this Fourth of July, I see a flag tattered and torn not by outside enemies, but its own citizens internally. I see hope, and I see despair. I see stains, and I see beauty. In this, I see a reflection of the paradox that lies within us as it’s people. We are a mixture, a mystery, a contradiction.
What Jesus was teaching his disciples and us, is that when we pray, we pray not only in terms of intimate relationship personally with God but in view of our collective family relationship with one another as God’s people and community of brothers and sisters in Christ. God is not just my Father. God is our Father together. We are brothers and sisters in Christ despite our unique differences and races. In a culture that is so polarized, divided, and at odds with one another, I believe this is a message needed now more than ever! When we come together in worship and prayer, we come together diverse and different, but united in terms of who we are in Christ and with God as our Father. We come equally as brothers and sisters adopted into the family of God.
I hope we can all learn something beyond where we started in our views, opinions, or despite political leanings. There is a way to hear others out, strengthen relationships (instead of destroying and dividing further) even if we still come away not fully agreeing. Also, if we never dive deeper into issues and others experiences, except becoming more entrenched in our pre-determined views/cliches/experiences, how can we ever grow as a people, emphasize with one another, love one another, and gain a deeper appreciation for others and their cultural dynamics even if different from us?
George Floyd, Minnesota, Pentecost. What do these three things have to do with each other? If you have been following the news recently, you know the connection between George Floyd and what is happening in Minnesota and other cities as I write this. But did you know this Sunday (May 31st, 2020) is also Pentecost Sunday? What does Pentecost, though, have to do with George Floyd and current events 2,000 plus years later from that historical event?
In times like this that are uncertain and unfamiliar, panic and fear grips hearts, and people begin to focus on their personal needs and concerns in a way that can lead to hoarding, selfishness, and self-preservation. In times opposite of this however, people become arrogant and overly confident in the stock market or their comfortable lives that they take for granted. That is why this passage caught my eye in a new way…
But as God keeps reminding me of in this interaction with Peter, following Jesus is not about making our lives comfortable, convenient, or experiencing spiritual highs all the time. It is about growing up, becoming mature in our faith, being stretched by our faith in uncomfortable ways, and living a life of sacrifice and service like the One we claim to follow.
These scenes remind me of passages right out of the bible. But I am not talking about the ones where God himself tells us he is with us. I am not diminishing those promises at all, but what I want to focus on in this blog is the fact that not only is God with us, but so are angels and other saints, both past and present. We are part of a much larger community and spiritual family than we often realize or remember. And it is this message that we are not alone that I believe needs rediscovered today.
One of the things contemporary cultural Christianity rejects or tries to ignore, downplay, explain away, or not honestly wrestle with is the fierce and wild judgment of God found throughout Scripture. Not only do we reject or ignore it, but we seem embarrassed by it. Because of that, we overemphasize God’s love to the exclusion of talking about his judgment and justice. In this article, however, I want to address the reality of judgment and speak directly to it. I want to make the case that God’s fierce judgment is a significant part of and evidence of his passionate love. Further, I want to make the case that the reality of God’s judgment is something the American church needs to hear and reflect upon more deeply.
I believe what I am about to articulate addresses, perhaps, the single greatest crisis at the core of our current cultural issues. Let me state these two truths and then expand on them a little further: The greatest current cultural, political, religious, societal, personal, family, organizational, leadership, ministry, social media crisis at present is a crisis of emotional intelligence. We are allowing our emotions to control us, divide us, and destroy us in many unhealthy ways. Secondly, I have come to realize that my most significant and personal regrets, failures, and mistakes in life, leadership, ministry, and relationships revolve around a lack of emotional intelligence, not so much spiritual depth or technical skill. The same is probably true for you too when you think about it!
I believe what is most needed is a call back to unwavering loyalty to Jesus Christ as King and pledging our full allegiance to his kingdom and Gospel regardless of who or what party is in political power. Earthly kingdoms and kings come and go, but his kingdom is eternal and his Gospel the greatest and most urgently needed message in this world. I believe we need to recommit ourselves to his Word and our Witness of him in this world, without the fear that it is dependent on who is in power. I believe we need to tear down this idol of fear and politics in our hearts and pledge ourselves to follow Jesus and stay faithful in our witness to him regardless of what happens in this fallen world. I believe we have and will continue to lose a whole generation who has no tolerance anymore for leaders who are more concerned about who is in power on earth than seeing a church pure in its witnesses for Christ and following the way of Christ. This is a real problem.
The first Christmas (and subsequent ones after) for Mary and Joseph were filled with interrupted plans, inconvenience, plans for divorce, monumental decisions, drama, death threats, murder of toddlers, rejection, uncertainty, narrow escape, refugee status, confusion, bewilderment, chaos, danger, and so much more. Joseph and Mary were swept up into an epic story far more significant than themselves. This was far beyond anything they asked for or were looking for.
One of those dreams that most resonated with our hearts on this specific trip is the dream of one of our partners adopted daughters. She wants to run a trade school for widows and young girls who either can’t go on to college or want to work with their hands. This young woman is just graduating with a degree in fashion, has already started her own business, and is very capable and gifted.