The Hoosier State is at the center of a national controversy because of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Gov. Mike Pence signed into law this week.

In part, the law provides that the government may not substantially burden a person’s right to practice their religion unless it is essential for a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive way of doing so.

cutting the wedding cake, focus on hands

It’s billed as a protection of religious freedom, and as a Hoosier and a pastor, I’m all for that.

But this law isn’t so much about religious freedom as about something that has become a symbol for the latest battle in our culture war—wedding cake.

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Heaven tourism books were pulled from LifeWay Christian Resources this week. The Christian retail giant will no longer carry titles like 90 Minutes in Heaven, Heaven Is for Real, and The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.

The D.l.moody Memorial Church In Chicago

The latter book caused a stir when its subject and coauthor, Alex Malarkey, admitted that he lied about having a vision of heaven as a 6-year-old.

So that’s that. Another Evangelical blockbuster bites the dust.

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A clock is something you can take apart, analyze, clean, improve, and put back together. If it works properly, it will produce the same result every time.

A cloud exists all around you, perceptible but intangible, ethereal yet powerful. It produces a different effect on nearly every person nearly every time they encounter it.

Clockwork Background

For decades we’ve treated the church as if it were a clock when it’s really a cloud. The result is a mechanized religion that defines spirituality in terms of voting records and a church that is more commodity than community, a product to be consumed.

How did this happen?

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One of the core activities of Christian spirituality is the daily pursuit of God through personal spiritual disciplines. For centuries, Christians have done this to become more aware of themselves and more in tune with God.

Zen Balancing Rocks o a Deck, New Zealand

But few Christians today practice these habits—which may account for the generally low level of personal spirituality in the church.

We have lively worship, lots of great activities, and strong opinions on public morals. Yet we often behave selfishly and with a sense of entitlement, as if we don’t know Jesus all that well.

Spiritual disciplines correct that. They expose sin, bring us to repentance, and open a clear channel for communication with God.

Here are seven disciplines you can try during Lent—or anytime.

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Readership of this blog grew dramatically in 2014. Overall traffic rose by more than 250 percent, and the number of unique readers climbed by more than 80 percent. Hopefully, that’s an indication that the posts are helpful and meaningful to a growing number of folk.

Top 10 Letterpress

Through the year I learned a couple of lessons about blogging. But my greatest insights are about the state of the church.

Here are my top 10 posts for 2014 and what I’ve learned from your responses.

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In July 1967, when I was seven years old, I woke up on a bright summer’s day to find that the city of Detroit, just an hour’s drive from my home, was on fire. Police had raided an after-hours club where a group of African American men were celebrating the return of two GIs from Vietnam. An altercation broke out. The situation escalated. A full-scale riot ensued.

FERGUSON, MO/USA-  AUGUST 15, 2014: Group prays at the site of d

As a child I knew nothing of the causes and barely understood the events, but I saw pictures in my parents’ newspaper and on evening news. It was like watching a nightmare, black-and-white images of Black and White people killing each other. After five days there were 43 dead and some 2,000 buildings burned.

And then, thank God, it was over and life returned to normal. Or so I believed.

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A short-term mission trip is an intense experience in many ways. And that’s a good thing. Leaving home, being immersed in another culture, and learning to work as a team creates a perfect storm of stress that can be a prime setting for spiritual discovery, if you’re open to it.

Closeup On Female Hand Holding Mobile, Passport And Air Ticket N

Although there is much debate about the effectiveness of short-term efforts, I see a great value. In fact, I think every pastor should lead a trip at least once. You learn things on a mission trip that you just won’t get any other way.

One of those learnings has do do with the big question not just for short-termers, but for all missional work: “What are we doing here anyway?”

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