Halloween Versus Reformation Day: To Trick-or-Treat or Not to Trick-or-Treat?

john-13_35

by John Ellis

Tomorrow is October 31, generally called either Halloween or Reformation Day. And, sadly, it’s one of the more divisive days of the year among followers of Jesus. Many have entrenched positions about the day over which they are willing to do battle on social media. Guilt is heaped. Eyes are rolled. Minor fallacies are flung near and far. Egos are bruised. On both sides, self-righteousness threatens to raise its ugly, unfruitful, and divisive head.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Thou Shalt Not Pirate Movies Nor Music

copyrightcriminal

by John Ellis

My six-year old heathen heart knew two things: I wanted some candy and an entire wall of candy was spread out before me. So, I took some candy, opened it, and began satisfying the lust of my little, heathen heart.

Later, as we piled into the station wagon, my mom knew two things, too: I hadn’t entered the store with any candy and she hadn’t purchased any for me while we were in the store. So, she marched me back into the store, and under her flashing, stern eyes I admitted to the manager what I had done.

Continue reading

‘American Gospel: Christ Alone’ Takes on Joel Osteen and the Prosperity Gospel


joel osteen

by John Ellis

When you read the Bible, are you the hero? Do you see yourself as Joshua? As David? As Daniel?

If you answered “yes” to those questions, you should meet Katherine Berger who gently smiles into the camera as she says, “I have so much more happiness now than I ever did before.”

You see, as a wife and mother of two, Katherine is a modern-day Job, suffering immeasurable physical pain from a failing body racked by numerous diseases. And, yet, Katherine, who once prided herself on her physical strength and abilities, now confesses that she loves her current life more than her past life because when she wakes up in the morning, she now realizes that she needs God.

Continue reading

We Are All Atheists

broken_people1

by John Ellis

“Even the Bible says that there isn’t a God,” my roommate smugly blustered.

The girl he was arguing with was incredulous, but as she pushed back it became obvious that a lack of confidence in her own position was growing. My roommate picked up on that, and went in for the dialectical kill, proud that he was about to convert another soul to atheism.

“It’s in one of the Psalms,” he shrugged. “I’m not making it up. The Bible says that there is no God.”

Gesturing towards me, he added, “Ask him.”

Continue reading

God Is a Storyteller and He Calls His People to Love and Tell Stories

sistine-chapel

by John Ellis

During our annual church men’s retreat, I had the privilege of spending about thirty minutes discussing philosophy, art, and the Bible with the guest speaker. He’s an accomplished and feted theologian, and I was happy to discover that he is also incredibly knowledgeable and conversant about art, specifically storytelling.

At one point, our conversation turned to the parallels between ancient Greek drama (post-Thespis) and the Old Testament prophets, specifically Ezekiel. As we discussed the various dramas enacted by the priestly-prophet known for his vivid storytelling, the guest speaker threw in a rueful aside about how many within the reformed tradition are opposed to drama in the worship service. He then added the off-hand comment, “Pointing to Ezekiel, I tell people that skits and drama are appropriate for the worship of God.”

Continue reading

Social Justice and the Gospel


soup kitchen

by John Ellis

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. Genesis 18:19

The most frequent questions I field of late are about social justice and the gospel, and the ongoing dustup over social justice within conservative evangelicalism. People want to know which “side” I’m on and if I’ve signed any statements. In answer to those two questions, I don’t think that I’m on any “side” and I haven’t signed any statements about social justice, nor do I intend to (that’s not to say that it’s wrong to do so).

Continue reading

Parents, Broken Bones, and Sin’s Curse

broken arm cast

by John Ellis

There are moments that remind parents that our children aren’t really ours, not really. Moments that interrupt daily life, underscoring parents’ finiteness and the fragility of our children. Moments that stand still in pain and hopelessness while you implore, to no avail, for time to reset itself back into daily life.

Tuesday evening as I sat reading on our back-deck, the weak yet desperate cries of help coming from the front yard were the first signal that a chain of unwanted moments for my family had been set in motion.

Continue reading