Posts by Joe Holland

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Swimmers fear and love the blocks, standing there before a race, waiting to climb that little platform, the brief prelude to the race. There is nervous, expectant anxiety there. And so we all develop little rituals, habitual movements to help calm our nerves—the stretches, arm swinging, and...
Repentance: uncomfortable and avoided whenever possible (at least that is the way Christians often look at the practice). So much so, that Martin Luther’s first of 95 theses—that “the entire life of believers [is] to be one of repentance”—can sound, even to Protestant...
I’m a reluctant extrovert, thrilled to talk to others long after they’re thrilled to talk to me yet intimidated to walk into a room full of strangers and social acquaintances. What I really want is a glance at a social key before parties as a way to find out everything I need to know...
My Muslim friend and I sat across the table from one another, enjoying gyros at a little Greek spot that had just opened. It was an exercise in co-education, each of us thoroughly convinced of our religious convictions yet wanting to be sure we heard opposing viewpoints accurately. So the Christian...
Practical atheism thrives on deficient views of God, eroding the joy that Christians should experience in their everyday lives, enveloping the disciple in a mist of uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety. The habits of Christianity (its diverse rituals and liturgies) can form disciplines of holiness--...
My neighborhood is one big loop with homes on each side. It’s an older neighborhood, filled with mature trees that, when covered in leaves, provide almost zero visibility for neighborhood happenings. But I can see all the way around our loop in the winter when deciduous trees stand bare. It...
Christopher Chambers sat as he usually did at his Formica kitchen table, the clock inching toward the time at which he would need to stand up and head into work, at least, to make it there on time. The coffee in a mug by his right hand was warm enough to drink but not in a particularly appetizing...
I am an inerrantist. I believe that the Bible is truthful and without error in every part. But there are two verses that challenge my inerrantist views. No, I’m not quibbling with Metzger or Aland on a textual-critical issue . And I’m not falling prey to some sort of silly trajectory...
There was a community service requirement for my high school, designed to make us well-rounded individuals, padding our college applications, and ensuring that local community organization didn’t think too poorly of “kids these days.” As a soon-to-graduate senior I quickly...
You’d think Pavlov invented it, that characteristic sound of a new instant message, the "buh-ding." That’s what Jack heard in his cubicle that morning, before caffeine had cleared the fog in his head. He clicked over to his messenger application as routinely as if distraction...
I can hear the squeak of new shoes. Somewhere there is a facility manager who is finishing the final buff on hardwood floors that display a painted collegiate name under layers of polyurethane and wax. Nets are being hung and balls are being inflated. It’s time for college basketball. Which...
Lisa sat there, one eye squinting a bit and her heart aflutter but she couldn’t tell if it was a good flutter or not. Romantic relationships are like that. You expect to know exactly how you’ll feel at those crucial moments, and then, when they come or might be coming, it’s...
I love playing ultimate frisbee. I’m pretty sure my GPA in college would have been a few points higher had I not spent so much time tossing a plastic disc around with friends. When people ask me why I love ultimate frisbee so much my recurring response is, “Come on! How many other...
The luxury of the unexamined life is never the luxury of the Christian. Self-examination and a preaching of the Gospel to your own heart is the duty of every Christian--always. The times during which Christians find themselves in most trouble are the times when they think that they have arrived at...
Because crisis is common to the human condition so is the cry for deliverance. A hand on a hot stove recoils just as a human facing danger cries out for help. It is primordial and ubiquitous. There is nothing uniquely "Christian" about the desire for deliverence and safety. It is a human...
I’ve been in ministry long enough now (well over a decade) to see friends enter the ministry and then leave it. Some of those exits have been for honorable reasons and some for dishonorable. I serve on two credentialing committees and have coached a few church planters over the years. I wish...
I was a theological polyglot before my arrival at seminary. It took three years to sort through the junk drawer of Evangelical aphorisms that filled my head. But seminary did its good work, a part of which was forcing me to memorize the Westminster Shorter Catechism . It was a blessed suffering. I...
I wish I knew what Peter was thinking when he was looking at Paul--a ministerial acquaintance at best--who was now confronting him publicly. Yes, publicly. At least some portion of the Antioch Church was looking on as it unfolded. Was Peter shocked, dumbstruck, mouth agape? Was he incredulous,...
Christmas is the time of year that Evangelicals register their shock. Christians are shocked when checkout clerks say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” They are shocked that consumerism is on such proud display when Fridays become “Blteststmas" or...
The Psalms form the largest corpus of one of the most unique genres within the biblical canon, namely, the genre of song and poetry. Evangelical Christians tend to neglect that genre for different reasons. In our post-Reformation, post-enlightenment Western way of thinking, most of us think that...
He makes an axe head float. He creates ex nihilo. He causes the sun to stand still. He can defeat an entire army on his own and cause his enemies to fall dead when he pleases. He brings the dead son of a widow back to life and commanded Lazarus to walk out of a tomb. The sick were healed, the blind...
As a pastor, I have a deep desire for my congregation to grow as a welcoming and inviting community. Humanly speaking, we feel good to be invited. Whether it is a party, a wedding, or just a meal shared with friends, the very experience of receiving an invitation communicates value and belonging...
They sit there next to you and their feet don’t even hit the floor. You’re thinking, “What, if anything, of this sermon is sinking into my kid’s head?” And with that little thought you’ve already decided not to engage with your child about the sermon. But it...
Whenever I’m leading the first few meetings of a small group or discussion group, I like to say, “You all can talk or I can talk. I prefer that you talk but I have no problem filling space with words, after all, I’m a pastor.” We all laugh and after a few people take me up...
My friends and I have thought up a genius idea to streamline the Christian book industry. Our plan is to create a random book title engine to maximize book hype. You would provide your favorite orthodox doctrine and the engine would add to it -driven, -centered, total-, or -everyday. And no, I...
Discouragement. Fear. Doubt. These three harbingers of anxiety may not have been Paul's “thorn in the flesh” but for most of us they remain as constant reminders of a fallen world still in need of mending. At the same time these negative emotions give us ample opportunity to look to...
He had patients who were suffering. It was the 1920’s and surgery was growing more and more effective with the development of anesthesia. But when it came to removing an appendix, general anesthesia like ether and local anesthesia like medicinal cocaine were less than desirable options. There...
I'm the sort of person who tends to focus on different aspects of theology, life, and ministry during various seasons of study. At the beginning of last year I decided to delve into the topic of "union with Christ." I had been interested in that area of study for quite some time,...
Allow me to ask this simple question: “Do you find yourself often looking down on others to make yourself feel better?” If so, please read and carefully consider the following story: Larry woke up on Sunday morning like every other Sunday. He dressed himself and with his wife and kids...
In December of 2013 we saw the cultural memorializing of two significant events—the first was the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, and the second, the death of Nelson Mandela. Both events, set in the context of death, stand in opposition to one another. One was a sad reminder of a...
Almost everything about Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman is unexpected. That Jesus, a Jewish male, is engaging a Samaritan woman in conversation is unexpected and unthinkable. That Jesus, a Jewish teacher, wants to offer eternal life to this religious polyglot is bewildering. That...
Words mean different things in different contexts. If I tell you that my favorite college basketball player is "on fire," either I'm telling you that he is running up the score or that we should be looking for a fire extinguisher. This isn’t anything specific to the English...
Imagine this situation. A man rolls into town. He performs an amazing feat to the applause of the crowd. Then he’s deified on the spot. No, I’m not talking about your average NFL game. I’m talking about Paul and Barnabas’s visit to Lystra, recorded in Acts 14:1-20...
We find an unexpected tension in the middle of Luke’s record of the Acts of the Apostles. The early disciples were trying to figure out how their Old Testament theology finds fulfillment in Jesus while practically attempting to disciple thousands of new converts. These were exciting times,...