Those who have yet to receive Christ need to be reborn into the kingdom and family of God. But for those already born-again, we sometimes need to be re-awakened or possibly even resurrected, spiritually speaking. I am not talking about our future resurrection when Christ returns, but here and now while still alive. We easily can forget our true identity, purpose, and calling in Christ and slip back into our old way of life.
If you struggle with feeling overlooked or rejected, look no further than Jesus. And if you are guilty of dismissing and overlooking others, look at the lengths God went to let us know our worth in his eyes.
Christmas is not just about a child in a manger. It’s about a King who will come again to rule and reign. We are not just preparing our hearts to celebrate his birth as a baby. We are preparing our hearts for his return as King.
The reminder and command regarding the poor serves to check these two extremes. On the one hand, we should not be so naïve as to think we can end world poverty. On the other hand, we should not be so discouraged that we grow weary and callous. Instead, we need a posture of constant pro-active generosity towards the poor who are always among us. We need to be “open-handed,” which requires an “open heart” of compassion.
Too often and easily, we get set in our ways and fail to think about why we do what we do or honestly examine what we are doing. But what if we stripped everything away and started over? What would we do? What are we called to do? Could it be that we lost our way, purpose, mission, and calling that Jesus outlined for us?
An either/or mentality is never truer than in our present polarized, politically charged culture. Everything seems to be put in terms of either being for or against with no room for nuance or complexity. Tribal loyalty carries more weight and importance than anything else. Unfortunately, this cultural and political mentality impacts our reading and understanding of Scripture, especially the mission that Jesus has called us to.
We need the perspective of the global church and our brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide. When we get outside our own culture, our eyes are opened in new ways. And Jesus often works in our hearts and lives in unusual or even unconventional ways. Miracles even begin to unfold as we open ourselves to what God might have for us.
We all like to think our culture is “the norm.” And we all tend to judge and see things differently from an outside perspective. But each culture ironically similarly looks at other cultures and finds something hard to understand. My point is it is harder to see our cultural blindness and grip of idols in our hearts and lives. However, traveling outside our environments can open our eyes not only to other cultural dynamics but also our blind spots. We all are influenced by any number of things that we treat as cultural norms, and the real question is whether they hold up to the biblical ethic and way of life for a Christ-follower.
I don’t usually have time to do much sightseeing on mission trips, but because of a late-night flight departure, I could make a visit to a slave trade route in Benin that I wanted to experience for myself. It was my first time seeing with my own eyes and imagining just some of the horrors of what slaves endured. I want to document some of what I learned and felt.
Check out this video reveal of my new book, Everything is Meaningless: Finding Purpose in a World of Despair! Order a copy today here: https://weservenow.org/books/everything-is-meaningless/.
According to God’s Word, focusing on the “good ole days” is not wise. Having the unique ability to remember primarily the things we miss about the past while forgetting its difficulties, is part of the human condition. We glamorize decades past and complain about the present. But the past was not as great as we might recall it to be in our selective minds and hearts. And the present will one day be remembered as the “good ole days” that we will long for again, despite how crazy that seems in the present.
If we study the Bible and compare it to the daily paper, we’ll see the seductive power of temptation remains as potent today as ever. Just one generation after Adam and Eve chose rebellion, we witness a jealous Cain murdering his brother Abel. Not long afterward, jealousy leads Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. Today, we see the same forces of jealousy, envy, and murder at work worldwide. It may be different people but the problems are the same.
“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.”
If you have ever been puzzled or intrigued by the book of Ecclesiastes and how to understand it and apply it practically and straightforwardly…my new book is for you!
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.
Pre-order for my second book is now available: Everything is Meaningless: Finding Purpose in a World of Despair!
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.
As a pastor and someone who travels the world, I am aware of the profound struggles and suffering many people face. And let us face it, this is a traumatic time.
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.