Sent into Exile: Hope in the Sovereignty of God in Jeremiah 29:4-14

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most popular verses in all of the Bible. It is among the most searched and highlighted verses in all of Scripture on several Bible reading websites and applications, such as,, and the YouVersion Bible app. It is regularly included in gift books for graduates and daily devotionals, like an entry in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes devotional by Dan Frost, a former basketball player who, though his dreams for NBA stardom were unrealized, could still rest in that singular truth from that singular verse, that, “Yes, God was still in control, even if I was not aware of it.” When about-to-be-baptized believers share their testimonies before my local church, they always share a favorite verse. While the Scripture is encouragingly varied, one of the most popular verses is always Jeremiah 29:11—“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”

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Ralph Thomas Barber, “Papa,” R.I.P.

I delivered this eulogy for my Papa on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at Biola Congregational Church.

Ralph Thomas Barber was born on February 1, 1934, in Springfield, Illinois, and died on February 23, 2018, in Clovis, California. For most, he was Tom—as a son, to Ralph and Dorothy; as a student, graduating from John Muir High School and John Muir Junior College; in the U.S. Army, where he served from 1956-58 as a helicopter mechanic crew chief; as a Route Sales representative for Producers, Fritolay, Langendorf, and Swenhards. He was a husband—he married Barbara Schafer on July 5, 1958, right here in Biola Congregational Church. He was Dad to Rod and Lisa. And he was Papa to six grandchildren—me, along with my wife Roxanna, Sami, Taylor, Josh, Olivia, and Harlow—and one great-granddaughter, Charlotte.

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The Best Books I Read — 2017

Harry Potter series (1997-2007) by J.K. Rowling

Every time we read Harry Potter, we catch a glimpse of Eden and are pointed toward the cross.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road (1997) by Timothy Keller

After reading this book, I was inspired to care more about those less fortunate than I—while social justice may not be the core of the gospel, it is certainly part of the gospel.

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Discipleship: Moving from WWJD to WDJD

WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? We see this question everywhere, from car bumper stickers to Internet memes to the ubiquitous WWJD wristbands. (Yes, I had my very own WWJD wristband tan in middle school. As the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:17, “For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.”) And it’s a fair question. If, in every situation, we were to ask ourselves, “what would Jesus do,” and then live in that way, we would be doing pretty well. After all, Jesus was perfect—he never sinned, always honored God, and loved perfectly.

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An Appreciation of Harry Potter

[Warning: Spoilers are included, but just read the books already.]

Twenty years ago today, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. This is a pretty big deal — seeing as the Harry Potter books were (and are) a publishing phenomenon like none that has ever existed — but a certain amount of cynicism has cropped up regarding the books. It’s well deserved. Harry Potter has become the go-to illustration for anything anyone does or does not like.

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A Letter to my Anti-Trump Friends

Dear Friend,

There is no getting around it. This is going to be a rough (at least) four years. Odds are, you are a liberal who supported Hillary Clinton, but even a dyed-in-the-wool conservative like me appreciates the danger Trump is to our Republic. (I’ve written a bit about it.) He is a buffoon, he is arrogant, he definitely has authoritarian impulses, he traffics in anti-Semitic rhetoric, he conspired to bar black people from renting his apartments, he has abused eminent domain to take advantage of poor people, he has used incredibly sexist language, and he is a serial philanderer.

This is all absolutely true, and it should chill us all that such a grossly incompetent and immoral man now serves as our president.

But please — and I ask this as a fellow Donald Trump hater — let’s not go crazy when Trump does something that any other Republican would do.

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