Suffering is a Doorway, Not a Dead End

Suffering for Christ is the calling of every Christian. It is like a doorway we cannot get around, but must walk through. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22); “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12); “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). There are lots of reasons to be modest about whatever suffering we are going through. For example: we don’t suffer as much…

7 Ways to Fight Distraction During Prayer

I’ve been trying to pray more this year. But prayer does not always come easily to me. I often find (can you relate?) that I sit down to pray with the best of intentions, only to suddenly catch myself, a few moments later, daydreaming about yesterday’s conversation, tomorrow’s meeting, or next week’s vacation. Most of us have experienced this, and the rest of us are liars! Distraction can be a huge hindrance in our prayer life, but I am also discovering that it provides an opportunity for growth. Here are seven strategies for fighting distraction, and harnessing it to deepen…

Three Ways Movies are Searching for the Gospel

I love movies. I always have, but for some reason I’ve grown more and more fascinated with movies in the last three or four years—the massive industry that stands behind them, the intricacies and subtleties that make for good acting and good narration, and most of all, the power of stories to communicate at such a deep, complex, emotional level. I can’t wait for Star Wars next week. Maybe part of it is living in Southern California. The other week Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler were filming part of their new movie The House right here in Sierra Madre, and as I walked…

Five Strategies for Daily Bible Reading

I’ve always been amazed by Jesus’ response to Satan’s first temptation: “if you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3). I picture Jesus there, looking at the stones. His ribs are poking out, and his body is worn away after 40 days of fasting. But even in extreme hunger, Jesus prioritizes spiritual food above our physical food: “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). In other words, Jesus’ response is not simply a rejection of Satan’s offer, but a…

The Psychology of Law and Grace in Les Mis

For both the legalist and the lawbreaker, the experience of grace is agony. But it is a sweet agony for those who know they need it.

So: are we fundamentally self-presuming or fundamentally self-despairing? Is the world of grace a threat, or a liberation? Are we Javert or Valjean?

This will determine what happens when the agony of grace touches us, scalds us. This will determine our fate for all eternity.

What Does it Mean to “Find Your Identity in Christ?”

We are often told (or tell ourselves) to “find our identity in Christ.” And rightly so, because living out of our new identity in Christ is the defining root of true sanctification. But it can also seem like a rather abstract concept. What does it actually feel like to find our identity in Christ in real time and amidst genuine struggle? How do we unite this great comprehensive category of sanctification to the concrete particulars of Scripture and everyday life? I was thinking about this the other idea day and jotted down 5 initial thoughts, though I am sure we could add more.

What My Daughter is Teaching me about Life and Joy

We are here at the hospital for the birth of our daughter, Naomi Hannah Ortlund. She was born safely at 1:06 PM on Monday afternoon, 7 lbs, 19.5 inches. She is beautiful and tiny and precious. She is tough. She is gentle. She is curious. She is fun to hold. I love her! These words still feel great: “my daughter.” Wow. Bringing a helpless baby girl into a fallen world is a vulnerable feeling. You feel such love and protectiveness for this little person that the thought of them being damaged by the world is the darkest and most terrible…