By Paul Koch

As the 13th chapter of Mark’s Gospel comes to an end the focus or intended purpose of our Lord’s teaching becomes quite clear. It is summed up perfectly in the closing line, “What I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mark 13:37) Over and again the call of our Lord’s words have been to be on guard, to stay vigilant, to be watchful, to stay awake. All this comes from a discussion that he has been having with disciples concerning their questions about the end of times. When Jesus had told them that the temple itself would be thrown down, they wanted some assurance, some comfort about the unknowable future. “Tell us,” they said, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the signs when all these things are about to be accomplished.” (13:4) And so he has been telling them about the signs of the end: about what sort of things they might expect. He has spoken about wars and earthquakes and famines, about persecution and injustice. He has addressed false teaching and broken fidelity.

By Bob Hiller

Remember that song by Garth Brooks where he sang, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers?” Yeah, unfortunately, so do I. It’s this sappy romantic song about how Garth and his wife went back to his hometown and ran across his boyhood crush, the one he had prayed and prayed for God to let him marry. After seeing her he looks at his wife and is just so thankful that God ignored his prayers for the crush so he could marry his wife. God didn’t answer Garth’s prayer. He had a better plan in mind.

By Paul Koch

Do you remember drinking from the garden hose as a child? I do. In fact when I’m working in the yard these days I will still get a quick drink from time to time from the hose. I like it. I like the taste; compared to the water that comes from the dispenser on the door of my fridge you would almost think they were from a different source. The water in the house passes through our water softener system, then through a filtration system in the fridge while it is chilled down a bit before it reaches my glass. In my front yard the water takes a more direct route off the main water line through a tired old hose with a slightly corroded metal spigot and directly into my mouth. It may not be as healthy or safe as the filtered option inside, but there is something simple and enjoyable about it.

By Paul Koch

Deep down I have always been a fan of doing hard things. Not that I don’t thoroughly enjoy just lounging on the beach or getting in an afternoon nap. Rather, I believe if we simply default to the path of least resistance, to the easy and simple, we miss out on something important. For it is often in the strain and the hard of work of life, both work and play, that we find the greatest means to shape and build our character. I love going hiking in the mountains, having to work hard to make it just over the next pass. The tired legs and aching back make the expansive views even sweeter. I like taking my kids for little day hikes up in Arroyo Verde Park and when they begin to complain about how tired their little legs are, that’s when I tell them we have to go over just one more hill (or more likely two). It is that final press toward victory that makes the journey so rewarding, and you can see it in their faces when they smile under the shade of a tree and talk about how far they went.

By Paul Koch

This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 1 John 4:3

According to St. John, the spirit of the Antichrist is already among us. It roams about the world seeking to devour the saints of God. It is cunning and selective in its attacks. It doesn’t have to look evil or dangerous or ugly. In fact, it will most likely feel pleasant, look attractive and even righteous. There seems to be profound truth to Baudelaire’s verse, “The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.” For then your guard is down, your senses are dulled, and the Antichrist enters the sacred and holy spaces to do his work.

By Tim Winterstein

At one point in the documentary Karl Marx City (streaming on Netflix), the narrator (Matilda Tucker) translates two German words for dealing with memories. The first is Erinnerungskultur, or the “culture of remembrance,” and the second is Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or “the process of coming to terms with the past.” These are fitting terms for a country that seems to have more than its share of recent past with which to come to terms. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to watch this film so soon after seeing Hitler’s Children (which I wrote about here).

By Bob Hiller

A few weeks back, I was scrolling through Twitter in order to feel good about the world (because why else is anyone on Twitter?) when, lo and behold, I found a tweet I disagreed with! OK, have you picked your jaw up off the keyboard? Good. So, here’s what got me going. A rather popular and provocative author, Rachel Held Evans—who I suppose would be considered a part of the “evangelical left”—sent out this tweet: “We don’t have to cede the Bible to the fundamentalists.” At first, this statement got me all riled up. The arrogance of such a comment was, I thought, rather breathtaking, as though the Bible was a piece of property which we are all trying to control. But then it got me thinking: Who does get the final say over what the Bible says? Fundamentalists? Liberals? The church? My denomination? Who controls the Bible?