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It's Gospel Law the Way Down

It’s Gospel Law the Way Down

I woke up yesterday morning feeling like I had time traveled 10 years back into the wonderful world of mockingbird.blogspot.com. Back then, a group of us were invited by David Zahl to start up a blog dedicated to the exposition of justification by faith alone as understood through the hermeneutical lens of the distinction between law and Gospel. This was not our first attempt at blogging, but it was different in that, as I wrote in a 2008 post, “Can’t See the Forest for the Blogs,”

Most theological blogs that I’ve found, like many political ones, are so rife with acrimony…

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You Are God's Favorite

You Are God’s Favorite

The Bible says that “every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of Lights” (James 1:17). This is a beautiful sentiment. The truth on the ground, though, if you just open your eyes and look around the world, is slightly different. It’s more like “every good and perfect gift comes with a warning.” Every toy my kids get for Christmas has large warnings on the packaging about how this toy—or the plastic bag it comes in—might kill them. Every movie I see warns me about the questionable content it contains. The roller coasters I ride are “not…

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The Law, the Gospel, and Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

The Law, the Gospel, and Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

I probably heard the gospel many times during my childhood, but it didn’t register until I was a junior in college. When it finally grabbed my attention one fall night outside Gorin’s ice cream shop in the Five Points South neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama, I saw my need to be rescued from my sin. I was with a friend who was a Christian when all of the puzzle pieces fit together. She prayed for me and with me after I acknowledged the fact that my efforts to perform and get my act together would never meet God’s expectations of holiness….

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The Church Built on the Rock of Hypocrisy

The Church Built on the Rock of Hypocrisy

The New York Times posted a video last month of an interview they conducted with Ray Dalio, the founder of the largest hedge fund in the world (Bridgewater Associates), and the captain of one of the more terrifying work cultures ever. Bridgewater, which manages $150 billion worldwide, preaches a work culture euphemized as “radical transparency,” a culture so monomaniacally focused on fact-checking and honesty that it goes beyond the work itself. Dalio was featured in a 2011 New Yorker profile, which introduces him in a standard weekly investment meeting with his subordinates. During that meeting he publicly upbraided a junior employee for speaking…

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April Fools! College Admission and Parental Validation

April Fools! College Admission and Parental Validation

As faithless as it is calculating, college admission becomes a decade of denial for most.

The first of April becomes the focus of lifetimes. Many parents and their issue have connived, planned, even negotiated for this date: college admission — April First. This April Fool’s Day, millions of households will have their 17-year-old collegiate lay locked and loaded, kinder-glued to their laptops. No, it’s not porn, binge-watching, or even OD-ing on FB. It’s all about admission to college. That’s Decision Day.

It used to be so simple: you got a fat envelope and were IN, thin envelope OUT, middle envelope MAYBE. We…

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Sin + Grace + Sin + Grace = Holiness?

Sin + Grace + Sin + Grace = Holiness?

Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts, recently published this article about her conviction to give up wine cold turkey. When I read it, I immediately experienced two conflicting emotions:

Glad it’s her who gave up the hooch and not me.
It is possible I should give this article a second read.

Bessey reveals in So I Quit Drinking that she had been a lover and consumer of wine throughout adulthood, and it “never bothered [her] in the least,” until it did.

…when it comes to conviction, I have found the Spirit to be gentle but relentless.

Change and transformation is an ongoing…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Romans Three Verse Thirty-One

This morning’s devotion was written by Paul Zahl. 

Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31, ESV)

Time and time again, Christian people stumble on this question of the Law.

The question I get, time and time (and time) again, is this one: How will I know to do right when grace and forgiveness are everything? Don’t we need a few tips, or pointers, say, from the Bible? Won’t people take advantage of grace?

That is the question you always get when you present the Gospel. You don’t get it from “non-believers,” who respond to the Gospel with incredible relief and assurance.

You get the question from “Christians,” believers for some time, who seem fearful of it, or maybe even jealous, I don’t know. “Christians” just can’t seem to understand that grace always ends up “upholding the Law” in practice. You don’t have to worry. The Holy Spirit automatically creates works of loving from prior love.

Even so, I don’t think the ministers of grace are ever going to “persuade” the Christian community that grace applies to Christians. I have failed utterly at this for well over 30 years. Outsiders love the message; insiders resist it, even hate it. Probably we just have to “let them go”—the “Christians” I mean. Something about the way the religious (sub-)culture works just makes it impossible to hear the grace word there. I’ll try to keep on going, and “I won’t… back… down” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). But have no illusions: You’ll never persuade the “religious.”

Better maybe just open up a hospital for these people when they crash (they always crash). Take ‘em in then, offer the Old, Old Story, and maybe then, after crashing and burning, they’ll hear it with new ears.

Integrity, Parenting, and Always Calling Daddy

Integrity, Parenting, and Always Calling Daddy

A heartfelt reflection on raising kids who ask good questions, this one comes to us from our friend Jennifer Underwood.

I think that my strong determination for justice comes from the very strong, dynamic personality of my father…I have rarely ever met a person more fearless and courageous than my father…The thing that I admire most about my dad is his genuine Christian character. He is a man of real integrity, deeply committed to moral and ethical principles. He is conscientious in all of his undertakings…If I had a problem I could always call Daddy. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What a…

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Frak Me! On Cussing and Taboo Aversion

Frak Me! On Cussing and Taboo Aversion

This one, on cussing and cultural taboos, comes to us from Scott Larousse.

Of recent trends in language, the increased frequency of curse words stands out. On Twitter, in speeches, in pop books, and in online news and opinion outlets, certain words are on the rise. A recent Gmail ad invited me to sign up for its listserv by clicking a button labeled “Hello Yeah”; The A.V. Club’s report on the Oscars is headlined, “Here’s what we know about the great Best Picture f*%&-up of 2017.” The Net is increasingly rife with cuss-words.

As a kid, I remember our stunned silence when a…

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Performance, Death, and Grace in Sing

Performance, Death, and Grace in Sing

Buster Moon desperately wants to save his theater… and himself. When he was a young koala, his parents took him to see a stage production in which a sensational Suffolk sheep named Nana Noodleman (voiced by Jennifer Hudson) sang about ‘finding a way home’ and ‘carrying a weight’ as she gracefully performed an operatic rendition of the Beatles’ Golden Slumber. That moment convinced him that the theater would not only become his career aspiration, but his very identity and legacy in the world. Sing, directed by Garth Jennings and starring Matthew McConaughey in the lead role as Buster, aptly demonstrates…

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Orthorexia: The Fixation on Righteous Eating

Orthorexia: The Fixation on Righteous Eating

A first glimpse inside our Food & Drink Issue, by way of one Carrie Willard. The issues are flying off the shelf! Order up! 

When my parents were married in the 1960s, advice abounded about home entertaining. Etiquette books and magazine articles included tips on how to invite guests from any social station into one’s home, what to wear when they arrived, and how to set the table for the occasion.

With a few notable exceptions (Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking comes to mind), the focus seems to have been more on the etiquette of entertaining and all of…

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Alternative Faith: Click Crack, Fake News, and Good News

Alternative Faith: Click Crack, Fake News, and Good News

America has a Tweeter in Chief. The response is a seemingly unending stream of Facebook sites and posts and comments and likes and friending and unfriending. Drudge had a record month in January — over 1,000,000,000 hits.

Is “SEE-CLICK” rewiring our collective reality? Apple’s Tim Cook seems to think so:

“We are going through this period of time right here where unfortunately some of the people that are winning are the people that spend their time trying to get the most clicks, not tell the most truth,” Cook told the Daily Telegraph. “It’s killing people’s minds, in a way.”

I am typing this on an Apple…

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