Posts by Justin Poythress

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“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” “The church is full of hypocrites.” That’s often the conclusion of those who have been there, seen it, tasted the potluck and the politics, and decided that, on the whole, a Sunday morning bike ride is the better option. To be fair, you’re...
Thieves are typically pegged under one of two caricatures. The first is the burglar ruffian who picks your pocket, breaks into your car, or steals your Amazon package. The second is the white-collar fat cat, embezzling from his employees and clients or pulling the strings of a Ponzi scheme. Both...
“You shall not steal” – Deut. 5:19 Back when Immanuel Church Nashville was first planted, Ray Ortlund made a case for spending money so people could have Starbucks brand coffee in the lobby. Setting aside the fact that Starbucks coffee by itself is not actually that good (it’s the blends), he made...
“You shall not commit adultery.” — Ex 20:14 When the internet was in its infancy, in the days of AIM and dial-up modems, there were some voices warning us to patch up the leaks in the dam against unbridled smut. The holes were small then, but people were warning us they would grow quickly, and...
“You shall not commit adultery.” For a single Christian, marriage is often sold like 21 st -century snake oil: “Having trouble with lust? Feel assaulted by a hyper-sexualized world? Do you sometimes struggle to find purpose? Do you ever feel distance between you and God? Are you searching for, and...
“You shall not murder.” Death. It happens every day, everywhere across the world, and yet there is something about death that sets it apart from other common events in the world. We approach it with a mixture of contradictory feelings, all of them strong. Awe, horror, fascination, confusion,...
“You shall not murder” “Have you lived a good life?” “Well, I’ve never killed anyone.” Christians know that line won’t stand up in God’s courtroom. We quickly pivot away from murder to press the sin issue from other angles. “Have you loved God perfectly, every moment of your life? Have you ever...
“Honor your father and mother... that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Few things seem more American than rebelling against authority. After all, that’s how we started as a country, right? Leaving aside lengthy historical and...
“Honor your father and mother...that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” If we were to put together ten rules for constructing a moral society, it is doubtful that many would emphasize parental respect. Why then does God bother...
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy...Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” — Deut. 5:12-14 “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” If you’ve ever heard that maddening one-liner, you may have spent some time in...
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The service ended a couple of minutes ago. The momentary silence of the sanctuary was punctured by the children, whose failed attempts to whisper quickly rose to shouts as they joined friends. A gentle buzz of pleasantries then filled the ambient...
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” If ‘90s trends are truly back, it’s about time we dusted off the W.W.J.D. bracelets—the Evangelical craze that attempted to stamp into teenage minds the importance of imitating Jesus. What would Jesus do? Usually it turned out that He...
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” If there is any commandment that is broken more consistently, habitually, historically, and egregiously by Christians than by non-Christians, it is the third commandment. That’s because taking God’s name in vain goes a lot farther than...
“You shall not make for yourself an image…” Don’t be a "person of faith." It’s a meaningless statement, like saying “I like food” or “I like to sleep.” Be a person who admits he doesn’t know what he believes, or a devout Buddhist or Muslim. Then, at least, you stand in well-defined ignorance or...
“You shall not make for yourself an image…” Do you remember the worship wars of the ‘90s? People were ready to burn their church down because a drum set ("Satan sticks") appeared on stage. Today, people may accuse a church of diffusing the world’s essential oils through their fog machine. I’m not...
What use are the Ten Commandments today? Last time we looked at the First Commandment as it specifically relates to the Church; now we’ll consider it with respect to the world in general. As it appears in the Bible, the term “world” could mean a couple things. In some places it means the wide,...
What use are the Ten Commandments today? We already know them, and we already know no one follows them. Except Jesus, and that’s why we need him. Let’s move on. Yet, as Treebeard would say, let’s not be so hasty. [1] The Decalogue, like the Gospel, has a way of compressing galaxies of truth, wisdom...
We are rounding the curve into the reckoning phase. When disaster strikes, people (or communities, or nations) often move through three stages: crisis triage, reckoning/ regrouping, and finally redirecting. Crisis triage looks like keeping the ship afloat and surviving till tomorrow. Shell-shocked...
Back in Superbowl 2020, Michelob Ultra ran a commercial promising that, for each 6 pack you buy, they will help transition 6 feet of farmland to be organic. When you do the math, the actual impact of Michelob’s commitment seems to be negligible . It’s safe to say they could have had a much larger...
What would a world without forgiveness look like? We could expect constant wars, fighting, and conflict. We would witness the dissolution of marriage, family, and all but the most casual friendships. Court systems would clog. Everyone would seek to live and work alone. We would settle and adopt a...
The truths of the Gospel are stable across time; people, places, and situations, on the other hand, are fluid. This means that Christians need to be very, very cautious whenever we engage with an evangelistic “program”. All of us have an innate craving for programs according to which we can live...
One pandemic leads to another. Because our lives are never compartmentalized, we can expect that the effects of a global epidemic will not be limited to the metrics of active cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. We know that natural disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires, have far more wide-...
Did you know the that top 1% own over 50% of the world’s wealth? Maybe you did, and think that disparity is grossly unfair. After all, there's a high chance—99% chance, to be precise—that you are not part of that 1%. Are not all human beings equal? Are we not all made in the image of God? Do we not...
If someone says to you, “The solution to poverty is...,” and finishes that sentence with a single word, or a single phrase that doesn’t include ‘Jesus,’ then it's probably safe to stop listening. Our hunger for tweet-length solutions, for snackable, bite-sized redemption plans has collapsed our...
Every so often, a friend and I indulge a favorite argument. The debate is over what matters more when it comes to leadership: Character, or competence? While we both have similar worldviews, I have contended that character matters more, while my friend argues for the greater worth of competence...
Among the thinning list of vices still capable of generating unilateral moral outrage, bigotry has remained near the top. And for good reason. Bigotry involves the judging, excluding, discriminating, and oppressing of a human being made in God’s image. The seed of bigotry grows in the soil of...
You know what scares me the most? Boredom. And I have a sneaking suspicion you feel the same way, especially if you’re under thirty. I’ve been working with teenagers for the past ten years, and people consistently ask: "What do you think is the biggest challenge teenagers are facing today?" The...
Every so often, atrocities rise to the level of global attention in a way that triggers and disturbs our conscience, and evokes a collective outcry of “No! This isn’t right! This needs to stop.” These instances are sadly rare, not in the sense that the atrocities are rare—they are not—but rare in...
It’s time to bring back the phrase memento mori ("remember you must die"). Socrates taught that the proper practice of philosophy is nothing other than preparing to be dead. Stoics emphasized the value of living with death on the brain — meaning it was best to avoid emotional entanglements when...
Last month, the Atlantic published a provocative and fascinating article which, given its title, could not have come at a more poignantly ironic moment: “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake” . The article classifies the American obsession with nuclear families as a chronological aberration of the...
I would not describe myself as someone prone to anxiety or worry. I’ve never had a panic attack, and I prefer to insulate myself from trending news and media. However, in the past couple of weeks I have found myself (to use a phrase which is waxing tiresome) in unprecedented territory. There are...
Postmodernism has produced an heir, and its name is Consensus. Four years ago, the Oxford Dictionary announced that “post-truth” was its word of the year. Post-truth refers to our contemporary sense of justice, in which objective reality and facts bow the knee to personal emotions and beliefs. Ravi...
The battle cry of "equity" serves as a summons to action, or at least outrage, wherever a person feels an injustice, or a passing over. The trouble for Christians is, in a field of politically charged verbage, words like "equity" or "individualism" tend to get obscured by the broader political...
There was this nice, new family who was visiting your church for the past month or so. But you haven't seen them now for a couple weeks, and so you ask someone who was more connected with them: "What happened to the Jones family?" "Oh," your friend responds, "they didn't feel our church was meeting...
David and Goliath. Field of Dreams. Star Wars. Rocky. The Sandlot. The Hunger Games. Underdog stories never get old. We can't help loving them. They also contain a distinctively American flavor, probably because this country only exists because the underdog triumphed. A few ragged colonies, against...
Along with the carols, tinsel, gaudy inflatables, red kettle ringers, and frazzled faces of exhausted shoppers which appear around this time of year, another indication of Christmas arrives in the form of signs or bumper stickers reading: "Keep Christ in Christmas". Often, I see this slogan with a...
We need more people coming to church ready to consume. We need more churches ready to give the people the product they need. That's the trouble with the "hating on the consumer" mentality-- it's not always wrong. "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.....
The young man was sitting in the airport, wearing a Harry Potter World cap and a simple black tee shirt. The non-stylized white text on the shirt was small enough to make you linger an extra moment in order to read the sentence: "Freedom of speech is not a license to be stupid." This slogan, in...
In writing A Secular Age , Charles Taylor has slowly, and thoroughly built what is in essence his life's work. He first lays out the terms that he intends to work with in defining secularism. This is more than what flies in public spaces, and the decline of belief and practice. For Taylor,...
In writing A Secular Age , Charles Taylor has slowly, and thoroughly built what is in essence his life's work. He first lays out the terms that he intends to work with in defining secularism. This is more than what flies in public spaces, and the decline of belief and practice. For Taylor,...
We never forget our spectacular failures; but more often than not, the fear, regret, and embarrassment evaporate, leaving behind the residue of a humorous story. After we have healed, what remains is the callous of proven resilience. At least, that’s how we should work through our failures in...
Has free speech ever really been free? The growth spurt of ‘safe spaces’, the label of ‘hate speech’, and the push back against speech-induced violence have created a reactionary surge in America to protect our 1 st amendment rights. While the goal of safeguarding open...
Consistent throughout Scripture is the idea that the impossibility of perfection does not loosen its claim on us. God's vision of the bride of Christ, as of a people without spot or blemish, translates to an annoying shortage of loopholes. That means that when someone complains: "Shouldn't we be...
Aren’t you due for a fresh round of evangelism penance? Chances are your church is already offering a healthy assortment of channels through which you can merit some level of atonement for your recent oversight in this area. You could at least take a minute out of your day to savor, like a...
"What if you and your family were starving, and someone with an abundance of food responded by letting you know that they were 'offering thoughts and prayers'?" You're immediate inner thought would be, "Stop praying. Do something!" A preponderance of these and similar reactions fire around social...
Have you ever referred to another person’s weight without transgressing taboos, or creating discomfort? It’s a topic without a winning exit strategy. We’re all sensitive about our weight, and you can bet the person you’re speaking to is more conscious of it than you are. I...