Let’s be better versions of ourselves no matter who wins

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CNN’s John King and Wolf Blitzer are doing the electoral college map as votes roll in while I write this. I’m not paying attention really. It’s just noise in the background.

My wife is dozing off on the reclining sofa beside me. I realize my whiskey is empty and I need a refill. It’s already past my normal bedtime. I get up at 4 a.m. after all.

It’s 9:28 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Election night in America.

Probably the most important election of my lifetime. And maybe yours.

Four years ago on Election night, our living room was…


How the psalms of lament encourage us that our pain isn’t the end of the story

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There’s a lot to lament these days.

Covid.

Our partisan politics and ideological chasms.

Systemic racism and social injustice.

The economy.

The devastating effects of global climate change.

The list goes on.

Over the past several weeks I’ve been exploring some psalms of lament from the Bible. You can read two previously published pieces here and here.

These psalms of lament — which comprise the largest category of psalms in the Psalter — give us voice and language for crying out to God with our deepest anguish, anger, and despair. …


How the biblical psalms of lament invite us to tell our story with brutal and raw honesty

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I was a pastor for 10 years before leaving the vocational ministry in 2018. Over my decade of leading three different churches, I had a front-row seat to the suffering of many different people.

Cancer.

Death.

Divorce.

Among many other tragedies.

The list of devasting things that people endured in my little sphere of influence was a microcosm of the suffering and pain that happens every day all over the world.

It’s part of the unique calling and special privilege of pastors to walk alongside those under their care, especially in the darkest and most painful moments of their lives…


How the biblical psalms of lament give us permission to rage, wonder, and protest in these uncertain times

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I have a friend at work whose wife was murdered. He got the call a few hours into his shift. Does anyone imagine that they or someone they know will get such a devastating and horrific call?

I messaged him on Facebook. He asked me to pray for him. I said I would. And I did. I prayed for strength and comfort and healing in the face of such devastation. I prayed for justice to come to the perpetrator. I continue to pray.

But my prayers feel so . . . inadequate.

Another guy I know at work has a…


Christian Ethics in the Age of Coronavirus

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The world’s changed dramatically, perhaps indefinitely. Similarly to how things were different after 9/11 or after the Great Recession of 2008, I suspect that life after the Coronavirus will always be a little different.

I don’t mean that in an end-of-the-world apocalyptic sort of way. I don’t think the world’s ending. And I think — I hope and pray anyway — that most of us will come through this global pandemic.

Tragically, there’s already been and will continue to be loss of life. I grieve for those families. But the scientists and health experts working on this seem to be…


What happens when celebrity-status and businessy KPIs infiltrate the church

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There’s a passage in Luke’s Gospel that’s troubled, challenged, and fascinated me for some time. Jesus is going about with his disciples doing his Jesusy stuff — teaching, healing, casting out demons. You know, the usual.

And then suddenly the disciples start bickering about which among them is the top dog of their little inner circle. They’re jockeying for position, power, and status. All the things that Jesus is decidedly not really about.

You’d think this might be relatively obvious. Especially since immediately before this Jesus said they were going up to Jerusalem where he was going to be betrayed…


Why it matters that Jesus was truly and fully human

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I admit the title’s clickbaity. That was intentional. Is it irreverent? Maybe. Although I don’t think there’s anything irreverent about natural bodily functions. And if you’re offended, I’m sorry. But try to hear me out.

Because the fact of the matter is, if the Incarnation is true — if Jesus really was fully and truly a human being — then he did poop. And pee. And burp and fart. And hunger. And thirst. And laugh and love. And cry. And everything else we humans do and experience.

I think we struggle to entirely appreciate this, let alone accept it. I…


An annotated list of recommendations with a few honorable mentions

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about study Bibles and offering some recommendations. A good study Bible is a helpful, even essential, resource for anyone desiring to dive deeper into Scripture and grow in their knowledge and understanding.

However, since the Bible publishing industry has about a bazillion choices it can be overwhelming trying to decide which study Bible is the best for you and why some study Bibles may be more helpful and informative than others. That’s where this series of articles comes in.

As a dedicated student and teacher of Scripture over many years, I currently…


An annotated list of recommendations with a few honorable mentions

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In a previous post, I explained how a good study Bible can be a valuable tool for anyone that wants to dive deeper into Scripture. I also suggested three key questions for helping make an informed decision on which study Bible to choose.

Specifically, I suggested you first consider your purpose and intention for your study Bible. Are you looking for something that’s devotional and geared more towards practical application? Or are you looking for something that’s more academic and informed by rigorous scholarship? Perhaps you’re looking for more of a niche study Bible whose notes and study aids specialize…


Three key questions to help you make an informed decision

A quick perusal of my library before I started writing this piece revealed that I have 19 different study Bibles. Yes, you read that correctly. I have 19 different actual physical study Bibles on my bookshelves.

I suppose that’s a lot. Probably more than I need. It’s definitely more than I regularly and consistently use nowadays. I’ve had more study Bibles over the years and have given several away or donated them to Better World Books or Goodwill.

Why so many you ask?

Ten years of being a full-time pastor that wrote and delivered a weekly sermon and taught the…

Sam Ochstein

Former Pastor | Lover of whiskey | Educator | Communicator | Contemplative Extrovert |MMin, MATS, MDiv (unfinished) | Read more at https://formerlyreverend.com

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