Refugees and the Moral Crisis of Our National Debt
Area Middle East churches have invested themselves in working in these refugee camps, seeking to alleviate the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. International groups such as Samaritan’s Purse and Doctors Without Borders have been working tirelessly. And yet, the overall American response to this unprecedented crisis of displacement has been underwhelming. But, what can you expect from a nation that already has $18 trillion in debt? We’ve compromised our own ability to help.
Calculated Killing of Christians in Roseburg?
If Christians are labeled as “haters” simply because they hold views derived from their Scriptures, the elevated rhetoric can, and indeed does lead to violent actions. It is inevitable. I am not saying we don’t criticize, but we must not demonize. When we demonize others — Christians, Muslims, gays, African-Americans or whomever — we give mentally unstable or hate-filled people additional justification to kill. Such actions are not our fault. But, everyone should remember the influence our words can have.
10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the New Charismatics
For New Charismatics, gone are the days of an eschatological worldview where a bloodthirsty God requires militant pro-Israel support and violent American nationalism. Even as the 2016 GOP primary race heats up, we are more determined than ever to leave this behind for a God who looks like Jesus, that preacher of peace who taught forgiveness, equality, and nonviolence before he submitted to his own death on the empire’s cross….
The Fourth Person of the Trinity?
While we want to be faithful as pastors and spiritually fruitful congregants to help those entrusted to our care–as well as members of the same body, we must ever guard against allowing ourselves to slide into a role that God hasn’t given to us–a role that only He possesses.
6 Reasons Why Anxiety, Worry, & Fear are Particular Problems for Christians
So baseline, you’ll find more anxious people in a church than waiting in line to bungee jump. I don’t have hard statistics on this, but I think the incidence of anxiety disorders in a church congregation is higher than the 20% you find in the general US population. Plus anxious people tend to also be imaginative, deeply feeling, empathetic people–the kind of people who are drawn to the kindness and compassion found in good churches.
Have Church Your Way: The High Cost of the Worship Wars
We’re building Burger Kings when we should be planting gardens and digging wells. We’re further indulging the carb-addicted, malnourished population with the same cheap fluff, instead of offering them a balanced meal of Word and Sacrament. Be hospitable, yes, but don’t dumb it down. Don’t make it easy. Trading the body and blood for donuts and coffee is robbing you blind. It might allow you to survive for a while, but it won’t empower, it won’t sustain. It won’t last.
Homeschooled Children Do Not Grow Up To Be More Religious
So what does it all mean? Anecdotes and biased studies aside, it seems from this emerging body of work that homeschooling itself will not automatically produce adults who share the conservative political, religious and moral beliefs of their parents. The data also suggest that family climate, especially faithful religious devotion by both parents, delivered in a context of loving nurture, is far more important than where a child goes to school.
High School Rejects ACLU Bid to Block Prayer Boxes
“The board wishes to publicly reaffirm its intent to operate a successful school district in which equal access is recognized and the legal rights of all students are respected, including those of its students who wish to engage in student-lead, student-initiated religious expression,” the statement said.
Will Russian Military Build Up In Middle East Lead To Gog/Magog War?
In Ezekiel 38, the prophet Ezekiel warned of a future war known as the war of “Gog and Magog” in which the people of Magog and their leader Gog will lead a coalition of nations (including Persia/Iran) to attack Israel.
Many Bible teachers believe historical records point to Russia as the descendants of the people of Magog which would seem to confirm Ezekiel’s warning that this invasion would be led from the people of the “far north.” Russia is the farthest country directly north of Israel. Prophecy scholars watch with fascination as Russia returns to the Middle East after a thirty-year absence and the positioning of its troops ever closer to Israel.
Demonomics – Todd Strandberg
As we draw closer to the Tribulation hour, Satan’s influence in this world will only grow stronger. I think we are already at a point where numerous situations can only be explained by factoring in the devil’s involvement. Because the supernatural often defies logic, a secular minded person must think our world is going mad. I’ve coined the term demonomics to categorize these oddities and compiled them into the following list:
Workers remove Ten Commandments from Oklahoma Capitol
A granite monument of the Ten Commandments that has sparked controversy since its installation on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds was being removed late Monday and will be transported to a private conservative think tank for storage.
12 Christians Brutally Executed By ISIS Refused to Renounce Name of Christ
Twelve Christians have been brutally executed by the Islamic State, including the 12-year-old son of a Syrian ministry team leader who had planted nine churches, because they refused to renounce the name of Jesus Christ and embrace Islam. The martyrs were faithful to the very end; right before one woman was beheaded by the terror group, she appeared to be smiling slightly as she said, “Jesus!”
Many Shall Come in My Name
Jan Markell and Eric Barger host former New Ager Warren Smith for the hour. This movement is now called the “new spirituality” and you would be surprised how even evangelical leaders fit into it. The chief proponent of it is Oprah Winfrey who is now utilizing Rob Bell to further this Satanic agenda. Why would Rick Warren tap into three men with involvement in this “new spirituality” to be a part of a program at Saddleback Church? Hear from one who attended this outrageous seminar.
Third, Pope Francis said, “We can accomplish miraculous things in the world by merging our faiths, and the time for such a movement is now.” “Merging our faiths” is a call for a one-world religion. Evidently, the Pope thinks we need to start merging our faiths now because the UN wants to establish a one-world government by 2030.
Preview Of World War III? Russia Is Putting On A Display Of Firepower That Is Shocking The World
I had to smile when I first read that. Without a doubt, this entire episode is making the Obama administration look rather pathetic.
For weeks, Obama seemed to have little idea what the Russians intended to do in Syria. And now that the Russians are bombing the living daylights out of ISIS, the best that Obama can do is whine loudly about it.
The Russians appear to be succeeding where Obama failed, and this has put the U.S. government in a very precarious position in the Middle East.
Defining God: Oprah’s New Age Spirituality and the Power of Influence
By David Fiorazo
Oprah Winfrey has become more influential than most of America’s pastors and religious leaders. Too many people today follow pop-culture icons and celebrities and even many Christians end up believing their teachings. Oprah has launched book sales and resuscitated careers for many authors and spiritual gurus while giving proponents of higher spirituality a platform, particularly those who promote a New Age philosophy.
Where We Aren’t
The reason it was difficult to gauge where we were on God’s calendar from the 1st century until the 20th, was because the only nation God ever used as His ‘geo-political’ time-piece, Israel, hadn’t been a nation for 1,878 years. (See Daniel 2, 9) The Dispensationalists came to understand that the Jewish nation would HAVE to be reinserted onto the world’s stage again, because that is the conclusion God’s word comes too if taken at face value. Isaiah 2, 11; Jeremiah 30; Ezekiel 37-39; Amos 9; Zech. 12-14 all speak to Israel existing again as a nation, for a second time, in the last days.
Bauer: Obama is a ‘blessing’ to world dictators
Conservative activist Gary Bauer is praising Benjamin Netanyahu for assuring the U.N. and Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel will defend its interests – a stance seemingly in direct contrast to the White House.
The world’s first lesbian bishop of a mainstream Christian denomination has put forth a call for one of the country’s seaport churches to remove its crosses as to make it less offensive to Muslims. Her plan calls for removing crosses and other Christian symbols while setting up a prayer room inside the church that marks the direction of Mecca……….. Click here for full story
Former allies of Israel worldwide have gradually deserted her and revoked their support and goodwill in droves. Even the United States, long a staunch ally and supporter of the Jewish state, has over the last decade or so wavered much in its commitment to Israel and in favor of the Palestinian cause. Indications however abound that Israel still has staunch friends and supporters around the world, especially from many Christian groups..…….. Click here for full story
WORLD’S FIRST LESBIAN BISHOP CALLS FOR CHURCH TO REMOVE CROSSES, TO INSTALL MUSLIM PRAYER SPACE
Here’s what happens when liberal lesbians become Bishops. Eva Brunne, who is the bishop of a Swedish church, believes that “removing Christian symbols from the church and preparing the building for Muslim prayer doesn’t make a priest any less a defender of the faith.” Breitbart has the full report:
The Bishop of Stockholm has proposed a church in her diocese remove all signs of the cross and put down markings showing the direction to Mecca for the benefit of Muslim worshippers.
Eva Brunne, who was made the world’s first openly lesbian bishop by the church of Sweden in 2009, and has a young son with her wife and fellow lesbian priest Gunilla Linden, made the suggestion to make those of other faiths more welcome.
The Founding Fathers of our nation were adamant and unified that freedom of religious expression and practice were a fundamental right and necessity for our nation to survive and thrive. But in light of growing secular humanism, a federal government increasingly intruding into the lives of Americans, and a Christian Church asleep at the switch, […]
If your church is so large that the pastor doesn’t know your name, your church is too large. It’s time to start a new work. The church exists to glorify God, minister to his community, and share the gospel with the world; it does NOT exist to feed the pastor’s ego.
Birds of a feather? David Jeremiah teams up with Osteen and Meyer
A picture is worth a thousand words:
Join us as we share the journey of what God has done through our Dream Center, dynamic outreach, and community engagement. You’ll leave inspired and purposeful to make a bigger difference in your community. Be sure to bring your leaders and associates with you to this purpose-driven event.
Hat tip to Amy Spreeman of Berean Research. “So what do we have…Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer…what’s David Jeremiah doing there?” she asked.
Inquiring minds want to know.
Christian Missionaries Crucified by ISIS After Refusing to Deny Christ
According to Christian News Network:
Ten Christian missionaries and a 12-year-old boy lost their lives in August after they were executed by the barbaric Islamic group ISIS because they refused to deny Christ.
Christian Aid Mission (CAM) reports that on Aug. 7th, the indigenous missionaries were captured near Aleppo, Syria after rejecting advice by their ministry director to leave the area due to violence. The men chose to stay to share the gospel with those suffering from the ISIS insurgency.
Americans lining up behind “right to die”
Christian Examiner</em? reports:
Just as the gay rights juggernaut turned America toward same-sex marriage state by state, a new movement to allow Americans who are terminally ill to take their own lives with the help of a physician is also gaining momentum.
Arthur Pink: “If we are content to offend God rather than displease our friends or relatives, then we are greatly deceived if we regard ourselves as genuine Christians.” HT: http://www.surphside.blogspot.ca/2015/07/please-friends-or-please-god.html
Christians are meant to be students of the Word. We should always do things by the Book – the Word of God. Our marching orders and instructions should always come from Scripture, not from popular opinion, not from trendy movements, and not even from Christian leaders.
Sure, God has raised up pastors and teachers, but we are to only faithfully follow them as they faithfully follow the Bible. Our first port of call must always be Scripture, and whatever does not line up with it must be rejected. Recall the “noble” Bereans in Acts 17:11 who were “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things [that Paul and Silas taught] were so”.
We all must have this dedication to the truth of Scripture. It matters not what I say or some teacher says or your pastor says – what matters is what God has said. If what we say does not align with the teachings of Scripture, then believers have a duty to reject us and stick with the Word.
I say all this because on a regular basis I hear believers saying things that ‘just ain’t so’. I hear so many unbiblical things coming from the mouths of Christians that I find it frightening actually. I am not sure where they get all this dodgy stuff from – from tele-evangelists, or from friends, or from books, or from the social media, etc.
But unless it is true to Scripture, they should not be peddling this stuff. Yesterday I had a further example of this. A gal on another site took umbrage at the fact that I and others were “judging” a non-believer. Despite the fact that this non-Christian was indeed guilty of horrific evil, this gal insisted that we could not say anything negative about her.
And she went on to insist that Jesus never judged sinners, so obviously neither should we. In a very brief reply I urged her to read her Bible a bit more carefully. I reminded her that the book of Revelation is jam-packed with the judgment of sinners.
And I reminded her that the one doing the judging was none other than Jesus himself. So simply going by this one book alone, we can see how biblically incorrect she was. But, she or other critics might reply, “That is in Revelation: Jesus never judged sinners in the gospels”.
Is that in fact true? The easiest way to answer this claim is to simply read the four gospels and see if Jesus does in fact speak in judgmental terms to sinners. That exercise would take not too long, but let me offer a briefer response, based on nothing more than the handful of chapters I read just moments ago in my morning daily reading.
If you are reading through the Bible in a year, beginning on January 1, you should be in Matthew right about now. And that is where I am. And in the chapters I read this morning (Matt 10-13) I found heaps of sinners being judged by Jesus. If I can find so much in just four chapters, imagine what all four gospels will produce on this. So let me mention some of these passages. In Matt. 10:11-15 we find these words:
And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Um, that sounds like judgment talk to me. And it is directed squarely at sinners – in this case, those who refuse to accept the gospel message. The shaking off of dust is a symbolic action denoting they are leaving themselves open to inevitable judgment.
As John Nolland comments, “Shaking off the dust is a symbolically enacted statement of fundamental separation. Luke’s parallel in 10:11 expands by having the symbolism explained to the rejecters (and has ‘wipe off’ rather that ‘shake off’). Such unresponsive places are to be left to the judgment of God.”
While this does indeed refer primarily to the final judgment, Jesus spoke of it to sinners in the here and now – and in the gospels. Too many squeamish Christians seems to overlook this and many dozens of other hard sayings of Jesus – sayings that speak of wrath, punishment and judgment.
Indeed, Jesus continues with this same theme in Matt 11 where we read about woes on unrepentant cities (vv. 20-24):
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Although again Jesus warns of the final eschatological judgment, he is pronouncing it now, to the hard-hearted sinners who would not believe. And although these happen to be Jewish cities, the promised judgment is for their unbelief, and he even echoes the language of Isaiah in his prophecies of judgment on pagan nations.
And whether speaking of Jewish sinners or Gentile sinners, the message of Jesus is the same: repentance. As Leon Morris remarks, “Jesus was not looking for amazement and admiration, but for repentance. That was the first note he struck in his preaching (4:17), and it remained a constant. People will never advance spiritually unless they take the first step of turning away from the evil they have done.”
Lastly, in Matt 13:37-43 we find the parable of the weeds explained by Jesus:
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Once again Jesus warns in the present about judgment to come in the future. Sinners are the object of his words, and the message is clearly one of judgment. Grant Osborne comments:
The parable of the weeds has several implications and a rich theological heritage. The context is critical. This parable is part of the seven parables of conflict in ch. 13 and with the others is interpreting the kingdom reality behind the unbelief and rejection in chs. 11-12. As such it is portraying the true spiritual reality of the unbelieving Jews of those chapters but at the same time expanding the horizon to the world of humankind as a whole, Gentile as well as Jew.
As mentioned, these are just the examples of the judgment of Jesus on unbelieving sinners (be they Jew or Gentile) as found in a few chapters of Matthew. More examples can be found in all four gospel accounts. The point is simply this: yes, Jesus often reserved his harshest words for the religious leaders of the day, but anyone who refused to hear his words and repent were the object of his stern and fierce warnings.
Judgment will come just as surly on the unrepentant as blessing and salvation will come on the repentant. So we dare not suggest that Jesus has nothing to do with judging sinners. His very walk on earth was a type of judgment – a separation of the sheep from the goats. A separation of those who responded to the gospel call and those who rejected it.
So this gal needs to go back and reread her Bible. Unfortunately on the site where she upbraided me for judgmentalism, she did not stay around but cut off all connection with me – hopefully not in a judgmental fashion however!
Sin leads to more sin, and error leads to more error. When we reject God and his Word – even if claiming to represent him – we begin the steep descent into increasing rebellion, idolatry and apostasy. We have the entire Old Testament to give us clear examples of this.
And the New Testament further warns against this, reminding us over and over again to stay clear of sin and deception. Yet we find this happening all the time, as if the warnings of Jesus and the disciples were never given. Consider the sad case of Swedish church leader Eva Brunne.
We learned about her six years ago when the openly lesbian Lutheran was to be ordained. Thankfully some church leaders did not go along with this, and made a very public display of their disagreement:
Anglican bishops from England and Northern Ireland have rebuffed invitations to attend the ordination of the openly gay Eva Brunne to be the next Bishop of Stockholm. Five bishops from various levels within the Anglican Church, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, have decided not to attend the November 8th ceremony, the Dagen newspaper reports.
Alan Harper, a bishop from Armagh in Northern Ireland, is also reported to be observing a moratorium on the ordination same sex bishops. Coming just three weeks after Sweden granted same-sex marriages the same legal status as those between heterosexual couples, Brunne’s appointment in May 2009 to be the next bishop of the Church of Sweden’ Stockholm Diocese raised eyebrows in Sweden and abroad.
As the Church of Sweden has taken a more welcoming stance toward homosexuality, exemplified most recently in the October 22nd decision to allow church weddings for gay couples, its relations with the Church of England have become increasingly strained.
Her rejection of biblical morality has not stopped there, and she now is proud to reject the exclusivity of biblical truth claims as well. Consider this news item from just a few days ago:
Bishop Eva Brunne has proposed to remove the Christian symbols of the Seamen’s Church in Freeport to make it more inviting for visiting sailors from other religions. The bishop wants to temporarily make the Seamen’s Church available to all, for example by marking the direction of Mecca and removing Christian symbols, as is already done in common prayer rooms at airports and in some hospital chapel….
The proposal has triggered protests. Patrik Pettersson, priest of the Oscars parish in Stockholm, thinks that the proposal is noteworthy and writes on his blog: “The church chapel cannot reasonably be equated with prayer rooms at airports and hospital chapels anyway. The Christian churches and chapels are not public areas at any time.”
And Seamen’s Mission Director Kiki Wetterberg does not agree with the bishop. “I have no problem with Muslim or Hindu sailors coming here and praying. But I believe that we are a Christian church, so we keep the symbols. If I visit a mosque, I do not ask them to take down their symbols. It’s my choice to go in there,” she says to the newspaper Dagen.
Remove crosses and point the way to Mecca? What does that have to do with defending the truth claims of Christianity? Absolutely nothing of course. Instead, it has everything to do with promoting the false religion and dangerous political ideology of Islam.
This type of “interfaith dialogue” of comes straight out of the pit of hell. Muslims need to learn about the truthfulness of Christianity, not be reinforced in their deception. Making things easier for Muslims to remain Muslim is not how we proclaim the Christian gospel.
And that is not how we are going to reach Muslims, moving them from darkness to light. One might as well throw away Bibles and offer atheists free copies of books by Dawkins and others in order to “reach” them or make them feel more welcome.
One might as well ditch biblical warnings about holiness and instead provide free Internet access to porn to those addicted to pornography. We want to make them feel welcome of course and we don’t want to turn them away.
One might as well abandon teachings on Christian theology and offer instead course on astral projection and astrology to make New Agers feel at home.
As mentioned, the rot of course set in a long time ago. If a church thinks it can have leaders who live in known, defiant sin and rebellion, then of course all the rest of the Christian message is going to be abandoned as well. This is as inevitable as night following day.
This is a prime example of a church and its leadership in deep apostasy. Christ has been rejected and the world embraced. These “enlightened” church leaders may think this is the way forward, to better reach out to folks, but of course it is simply the way backward – back to paganism and perversion.
Compromise never works with the gospel – it is always all or nothing. Either Jesus and the Word are proclaimed uncompromisingly and boldly, or we might as well just give up any pretence of being his representatives. Then we might as well just turn the churches into gay discos or Islamic meeting places. Oh wait, that is just what they have already done in Sweden.
All of God’s great servants have warned against compromise and worldliness. We need to listen to their voices afresh. Let me close with a few of them here:
“We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.” A. W. Tozer
“The chief danger of the Church today is that it is trying to get on the same side as the world, instead of turning the world upside down. Our Master expects us to accomplish results, even if they bring opposition and conflict. Anything is better than compromise, apathy, and paralysis. God give to us an intense cry for the old-time power of the Gospel and the Holy Ghost!” A. B. Simpson
“No compromise is what the whole gospel of Jesus is all about. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says, ‘for I tell you…no man can serve two masters’. In a day when believers seem to be trying to please both the world and the Lord (which is an impossible thing), when people are far more concerned about offending their friends than offending God, there is only one answer: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him Jesus (Luke 9:23-24)” Keith Green
“Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this – namely accommodation. The evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age. First, there has been accommodation on Scripture, so that many who call themselves evangelicals hold a weakened view of the Bible and no longer affirm the truth of all the Bible teaches…. This accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of the Scriptures to confront the spirit of our age; second, in allowing the further slide of our culture.” Francis Schaeffer
“The chief danger of the twentieth century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, and heaven without hell.” William Booth
Most of the New Testament was written with a view to dealing with sin and controversy in the church. I have often taken comfort from the fact that the churches planted by the Apostles were fraught with contentions and controversy–it is a reminder that such challenges and controversies are not necessarily on account of poor leadership. We can be sure of one thing–if controversies, unjust complaints and contentions happened in the apostolic churches, they will most certainly happen in our churches. So, what are we to do when controversy strikes? How are pastors to navigate the challenges and trials that make them feel their own insufficiencies as they seek to shepherd God’s people to glory? Here are eight things for pastors to keep in mind while seeking to navigate the trials and controversies that local congregations often face:
1. Take all matters to the Lord in prayer. When the king of Assyria sent a letter to King Hezekiah, threatening to attack and oppress Israel, Hezekiah took the letter and spread it before the Lord–thus symbolizing what it means to bring the challenges and trials that we face to the Lord in prayer:
Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib… (2 Kings 19:14-16).
Pastors must call on the Lord and bring controversies and contentions to Him for resolution. A good under-shepherd loves the purity of the church and longs for the peace and unity of its members and pastors alike. It is the great burden of his heart because the Great Shepherd of the church is called the “God of peace” (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 13:20). The God of peace loves to answer the prayers of His ministers for peace in His church. While He may not–and often, does not–grant the petition as quickly as we desire, we are to continue calling on Him to bring controversy and contentions to an end.
2. Bring the Gospel to bear in every situation. Every controversy or trial is a platform for the Gospel. The Apostles modeled this for us throughout the New Testament epistles. The message of Christ crucified was the remedy for the schism and division among party factions in the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:10-25). When there was a sinful division between two women in the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul brought forth the deepest truths about the incarnation and the servant-like humility of the Lord Jesus Christ–servant-like humility to the point of death on the cross (see Philippians 4:2 in light of 2:1-11). The solution to the sinful division between these two women in the church would only be cured by them adopting the mind of Christ–a posture of humility and self-emptying that resulted in the good of others. When the Apostle Paul dealt with marriage issues, he did so by teaching those in the church in Ephesus that husbands were to learn how to love their wives by considering the sacrificial death of Jesus and wives were to learn how to respect their husbands from the submission of the church to the Savior (Eph. 5:22-33). When dealing with the controversy between those with strong consciences and those with weak consciences in the church, the Apostle wrote, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7). While there are many other examples and cases set out in the epistles in every case, the death and resurrection of Christ was the solution to all the problems that arose in the church.
3. Seek much counsel. The Proverbs tell us, “In the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). I have, by God’s grace, been able to navigate many challenges over 7 years of church planting because I have spent a seemingly endless number of hours pouring over the Scriptures and calling wiser and more seasoned pastors. Those who have gone before you have already faced most of the challenges, contentions or complaints that you will face in pastoral ministry–after all, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Sometimes you learn from the failings of those older and wise than you and sometimes you learn from their successes. Find the wisest pastors you can and attach yourself to them in order to glean every drop of wisdom that you can from them. This is paramount to learning how to bring contentions, complaints and controversies to an end. Pastors must pray for the wisdom needed to deal wisely and justly in overseeing God’s people.
4. Keep matters within the confines of the pastors and officers of a church. Always keep the substance of controversy or complaints within the confines of the session (i.e. the board) of elders and deacons. The church as a whole doesn’t need to know everything that happens. A wise friend once told me–as I faced one of the first challenges that I faced in the early days of church planting–“Never complain down the chain of command.” This is sage advice that–while difficult to follow–must be pursued every day of a pastor’s life. It is detrimental to the life of the church if a pastor complains to other members of the church about those who are causing problems within the congregation. Apart from taking matters outside of the officers of the church in order to seek counsel from mentors, keep the circle of knowledge about the sin of congregants as small as possible.
5. Speak collectively, not as an individual. Speaking as an individual–rather than as a session–to those in the church who are causing division, who are complaining, gossiping or slandering or who are spinning narratives and passive-agressively trying to get their own way is one of the great mistakes pastors frequently make. Rather than turning it into a personal matter between a single pastor and a congregant(s), the lead pastor should always get on board with the other pastors/elders of the church in order to speak collectively to an issue. Instead of the solo, senior or lead pastor responding to a complaint by saying, “I don’t think that we should…” the session should always respond to issues by saying, “We have decided…” This is the beauty of a Presbyterian form of government, however, it can be a reality in other fellowships where there are elders and deacons. The Lord wants his office-bearers to lead collectively (Acts 15:6 ff.).
6. Seek to defuse every situation as quickly as possible. A wise pastor will seek to defuse every contention, unjust complaint and controversy in the church as quickly and as effectively as possible. This is not always an easy thing to do. It may mean meeting for hours with one or more of the people causing the contentions or controversy. The goal of a pastor is to patiently and gently help such individuals see the severity of what they have created and to strongly encouraging them to set aside whatever contentions they may have. At times, defusing the situation may mean lightening the mood. More often than not, tensions run high unnecessarily in any given situation. If a minister can lighten the mood in an appropriate way to show that things are not as serious as some try to make them, it can, in certain circumstances defuse an escalating crisis. Great wisdom is need here, however. This can backfire on a pastor or session. If a person is perpetually contentious, he or she will not allow you to lighten the mood. In fact, they will despise you more for seeking to do so. Lightening the mood can also enable people in their sin. We don’t want to make contentious or complaining congregants think that their sin is not serious.
7. Never simply give in to contentious or complaining congregants for the sake of peace. One of the biggest mistakes that pastors make is to give in to the demands of discontent or contentious congregants simply to keep them happy. By doing so, they inadvertently empower sinful congregants. If pastors give in on one thing for which sinfully discontent congregants contend, be assured that there will be another and another and yet another. There will be congregants with legitimate concerns or requests. The session should weigh them seriously and carefully. It may be wise for the session to act in accord with the concerns or requests of congregants. However, the person bringing the concern and the nature of the concern are all at the foundation of whether or not a session should concede for the sake of peace. It may be wise to do so if you are dealing with a congregant who is not systemically contentious or discontent. This also takes much wisdom.
8. Be willing to lose congregants who continue to contend. While losing congregants is never something that pastors want, it is sometimes best for a congregation. If a matter cannot be resolved through the process of church discipline, pastors must be prepared to lose congregants. I have witnessed, on numerous occasions, individuals leave a church as soon as the session asked to meet with them. If a congregant willfully refuses to meet with a the elders to whom they have taken vows to submit, he or she is subject to excommunication. However, when the contentions or complaints of certain individuals are not severe enough to proceed to church discipline–it may come to the point where elders have to help discontent congregants move on to another congregation. While never something for which pastors should be eager, we must remember that perpetually discontent congregants cause much harm to a church. It may be that another church in the area is large enough or structured enough to care for such individuals. In smaller congregations, contentious or complaining individuals think that their complaints will be heard more readily. It may be necessary for pastors–who are not patiently able to get through to contentious, complaining or divisive congregants–to have to say, “Maybe this church isn’t a good fit for you…” This is not necessarily mean-spirited or selfish. Pastors are called to care for the flock as a whole. Such care for the entire body of believers may mean encouraging unthankful, discontent, bitter or selfish congregants to move on to another church.
No pastor enjoys the hard work of handling contentions and unjust complaints in the church. Most controversies in the church stem from contentions and unjust complaints being allowed to fester and run wild. Every situation is unique and there is never a one-size-fits-all approach to every contention and controversy with which pastors have to deal. The Gospel is the only sure and lasting remedy; however, much pastoral skill and wisdom is needed to guide the various challenges to a peaceful end. Thankfully, pastors are not alone–they have an Almighty God in heaven, who has promised to stand with them; they have the Scriptures as the perfect rule for how He wants His church to function in a fallen world; they have a cloud of witnesses who have gone before them, and who have left them an example to follow; and, they have a myriad of pastors who have born the burden of the day, and who can now give them counsel from their loses and victories. May the Lord give his under-shepherds wisdom as they face the unique challenges that bring them to an end of themselves (2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5, 6; and 12:9) and cause them to depend on the God of peace and wisdom.
The more we learn about the origin of life in our universe, the more reasonable the case for God’s existence. The building blocks of life (proteins, ribosomes, enzymes etc.) are formed at the direction of specific nucleotide sequencing in DNA, the largest molecule known. In humans, DNA contains as many as 10 billion atoms. The adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine bases in DNA are linked in a particular order to form the genetic code containing the master plan for every organism. The information in DNA guides and instructs the formation of proteins; without it, protein formation would be a haphazard, hit-or-miss proposal. The nucleic sequence in DNA is informational.
Physicist Paul Davies expresses it well: “Once this essential point is grasped, the real problem of biogenesis is clear. Since the heady successes of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is a classic case of confusing the medium with the message. The secret of life lies, not in its chemical basis, but in the logical and informational rules it exploits.”
Illustration from God’s Crime Scene
Information in RNA and DNA presents a problem for researchers, especially those who propose RNA as the first molecule to appear through some combination of chance and chemical necessity (known as the “RNA World Hypothesis”). Even if RNA is a precursor to DNA, the first RNA molecules would have to be rich in information to replicate. Information must exist first, before any other transformational process can take place. Without the prior genetic information in DNA and RNA, nothing of significance happens within cells.
Nucleotide sequences are more than statistical gibberish. They are semantically, pragmatically, and apobetically significant sources of information (for more information on these categories of information, see my new book, God’s Crime Scene). The genetic sequence has meaning and directs action for a specific purpose.
Our personal experience tells us information comes only from intelligent sources. In fact, in the entire history of the universe (and the history of science) a single instance of information arising from anything other than intelligence has never been identified. This presents a problem for those who attempt to stay “in the room” of the universe to account for genetic information. If we limit ourselves to the materials available to us in the universe, information must be explained from matter, chance, the laws of chemistry or physics, and nothing more. Nobel winning biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen recognized this challenge when he once said, “Our task is to find an algorithm, a natural law that leads to the origin of information.” Efforts to account for information in this way have repeatedly failed. In fact, the information in DNA proves to be the decisive stumbling block for every naturalistic theory offered for the origin of life.
Every geographic location proposed—whether in the atmosphere, in the water, on the ground, under the Earth’s crust, or from outer space—requires an explanation for the existence of information in the genetic code.
Every timeframe offered for life’s origin, be it earlier or later in the history of our planet, requires an explanation for this information.
Every description of why life emerges—whether by chance or some form of physical necessity—requires an explanation for information.
And finally, every mechanism proposed for the origin of life—be it through “protein first” models, “RNA first” models, or any other model—requires an explanation for the existence of genetic information. Cambridge education Philosopher of Science, Stephen C. Meyer, says “Proposals that merely transfer the information problem elsewhere necessarily fail because they assume the existence of the very entity—specified information—they are trying to explain. And new laws will never explain the origin of information, because the processes that laws describe necessarily lack the complexity that informative sequences require. To say otherwise betrays confusion about the nature of scientific laws, the nature of information, or both.”
The chance arrangement of information in DNA is prohibitively improbable, and there are no chemical or physical laws at work to dictate its existence. We are left, then, with a paradox: the laws and forces of nature cannot produce information, but information is required for life to begin. As Paul Davies laments, “we are still left with the mystery of where biological information comes from . . . If the normal laws of physics can’t inject information, and if we are ruling out miracles, then how can life be predetermined and inevitable rather than a freak accident? How is it possible to generate random complexity and specificity together in a lawlike manner? We always come back to that basic paradox.”
Given the utter inability of chance or natural law, and our observations related to the origin of information, intelligence is the best explanation. But this requires us to look for an intelligent source transcending the limits of the physical universe. Scientists trying to account for information by staying “inside the room” seem to be rejecting the obvious. In order to create information, the author of this information must have the ability to select between possible alternatives. This ability to choose selectively requires intelligence, will, and purpose. Unguided physical processes simply cannot accomplish the task. German engineer and IT specialist, Werner Gitt summarizes it this way: “A necessary requirement for generating meaningful information is the ability to select from alternatives and this requires an intelligent, volitional entity . . . Unguided, random processes cannot do this—not in any amount of time—because this selection process demands continuous guidance by intelligent beings that have a purpose.”
The selection process required in the creation of information requires an intelligent, volitional free agent. That’s why the information in DNA most reasonably points to the existence of God. For a much more thorough description of this evidence, please refer to God’s Crime Scene, Chapter Three – The Origin of Life: Does the Text Require an Author?
In light of one of my upcoming debates in South Africa next week I took the time to review one of the audience questions from the talk upon which our debate will be based, “Is Jesus God?” Of course, in the course of an hour, we covered a lot more than that. Hopefully helpful information for sharing with our Muslim friends!
Here is the YouTube link:
In nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry I have seen two kinds of people who struggle with the concept of God’s love. On the one hand we have those who simply assume God loves them and give it very little thought. On the other hand many doubt God’s love for them as they tend to evaluate his love based on their circumstances.How do we know God loves us, and what does His love look like? How we answer these questions, and we all hold answers to those questions whether we are aware of them or not, is what determines our view of God and the health of our faith.How do we know God love us? Many are assured of God’s love through his gentle or generous providences. Many believe the proof of God’s love can be found in the good things he gives us in this life. Prayers answered the way we desire, God loves me! Provision in a time of need, God loves me! Beautiful sunsets, delicious food, a happy family, a successful career—God loves me! Of course, this begs the question, does God not love those whose lives are characterized by loss, affliction, sorrow, and need?While it is fair to say that God’s benevolence is seen in the many ways he provides for both the righteous and the unrighteous (Mt. 5:45), we cannot look to our circumstances for assurance of God’s love. Not only would that lead us to believe that God loves some more than others, and often the wicked more than the righteous, but it also undermines faith.When we assure ourselves of God’s love through what he provides for us, we will then question his love when our needs are unmet. God might appear temperamental, unfair, or uninvolved if we allowed our changing station in life to be the hermeneutic by which we understand God’s love.If we cannot base our understanding of God’s love for us on our circumstances, what do we base it on?
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 ESV)
The love of God was manifested, presented publicly, in the sending of his Son, Jesus Christ. When it comes to the “sending” of the Son of God this does not merely mean his appearance on earth, but everything from his incarnation to the crucifixion and resurrection. (Gal. 4:4, 5; Rom. 8:3; 1 Jn. 4:10) God’s love is ultimately seen in what he did for us 2,000 years ago. And what did God do in sending Jesus? He sent a substitute who would accomplish the righteousness required of us, and atone for the sins we have committed. The word John uses to explain God’s love for us on the cross is propitiation. The word essentially means to satisfy, but more specifically propitiation is the satisfaction of God’s wrath against our sin through the death of Jesus Christ. (See also Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17)
How do we know God loves us? Because Jesus died for us. Through his sacrifice sin is paid for and God’s wrath against us came to an end. When we are wondering what God thinks of us as his people, when we are in doubt of God’s affection for us, we look back. God’s love is not seen today in our satisfaction in this life, but yesterday in his own satisfaction in his Son. God’s love is best seen, not in a pleasing providence in our lives, but in divine propitiation in the death of Jesus Christ.
R.C. Sproul God’s Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children (David C. Cook, 2012)
Neil Tolsma This is Love: Tracing the Love of God Throughout the Biblical Story (P&R Publishing, 2012)
J.W. Alexander God is Love (Banner of Truth, 1985)
Do you believe that God can author pain or suffering in your life for your good? Could affliction, from a larger, longer perspective, be a carefully, lovingly chosen method for blessing?
Some say absolutely not. If our heavenly Father brings pain, he would be an abusive parent. And so they are offended by statements like this:
Suffering is one of the great instruments in God’s hands to continue to reveal to us our dependence on him and our hope in him. God is good to give us the greatest gift he can give us, which is more of himself, and he’s good however he chooses to deliver that gift.
For some facing excruciating pain or loss, they’re some of the sweetest words they’ve ever heard. For others, the same vision of God makes them sick to their stomach.
At least part of the problem is how this vision of God’s goodness in bringing suffering is often presented. Sadly, some of us have been guilty of entering a painful situation, rattling off Romans 8:28, and expecting everyone to feel better. Romans 8:28 is a beautiful promise, but it can also feel like a blunt sledgehammer to people who are hurting and don’t yet understand quite what God is doing in their pain, even if they believe Romans 8:28 with all their hearts.
On the other hand, some will simply say that all Romans 8:28 means is that God will turn this evil thing, a thing that he could not help from happening, into some sort of good for us. They present a God suddenly sovereign enough to reverse the situation, a situation he wasn’t sovereign enough to stop in the first place.
With the first person, we are left wondering, “But what is the good in this situation, God? What is the good in this deep pain?” With the second, we have the nagging feeling that even though sin, Satan, and a fallen world have something to do with our pain, the all-sovereign God who loves us couldn’t stop it.
Two Layers of All Pain
A way forward lies in seeing the two-tiered reality of our pain. In all pain, there are always two sources or agents at work, but only one is ultimately ruling. One source is the reality of brokenness and sin. Because of the worldwide rebellion against God, Satan rules the current evil age. The other and ultimate source of every pain is God, who “declares the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10) and “does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 135:6).
In Job 2:5, Satan asks God for permission to afflict Job to prove that Job will turn his back on God. Satan does not get the final call. God grants him permission, and establishes rules (2:6). Satan afflicts him, sparing his life (2:7–8). Job’s wife comes and says, “Curse God and die,” because of the suffering (2:9). Job responds, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10).
God could have stopped it. Someone might protest and rebuke Job, “Job, don’t say that! God doesn’t bring pain. It was Satan!” However, the immediate context in Job says, “In all this, Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10). Job got it right. Later, his friends came to comfort and show sympathy for “the evil the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11).
Job’s experience sounds a lot like Amos 3:6, “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?”
The Pain of Calvary
Or, what about the most undeserved pain ever inflicted, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Clearly, Satan was at work, entering into Judas (Luke 22:3) to betray Jesus into the hands of his murderers. However, when we read about the suffering of Christ in the Bible, we find a different person writing the gruesome story.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief. (Isaiah 53:10)
Again, Satan seems to be instigating the evil, and yet God is sovereignly willing the death of his Son. Pilate and the religious leaders delivered him up to the cross, so maybe they’re the ones to blame. But ultimately the Bible won’t go there either: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). Satan is at work, yet God is still sovereign over the cross (and over Satan). God wills pain for good purposes and results. Like a Father disciplining his children for their long-term maturity and happiness, God brings pain into our lives for our good (Hebrews 12:5–11).
As we read and see that Christ endured the suffering “for the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2), we begin to see that maybe God knows what we need to be truly, eternally safe and happy far better than we do ourselves. Even when Satan and this broken world around us try and afflict us to kill us, if we belong to Christ, God is authoring it for our greatest, most lasting good (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20).
Two More Examples
In 2 Corinthians 12:7, a “messenger of Satan” afflicts Paul. Certainly, Satan is the source here, right? Yes, except that the purpose given for the messenger is, “to keep me from becoming conceited.” Do we think Satan didn’t want Paul to be conceited? No, this must be God’s purpose in Paul’s pain. And Paul asks God to take it away. But he says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Enduring pain, Paul learns to rely on the grace of God. Though afflicted, he gets more of God.
Likewise, Peter says these Christians he was writing to rejoice while they are “grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). The purpose of their suffering is that as their faith, when tested with trials, comes out on the other side, it becomes more precious than the most refined gold (1 Peter 1:7). Again, deep, durable, and precious faith must be a purpose of God, not of Satan. Satan hates faith. And this tested-through-fire faith results in “inexpressible and glorified joy” (1 Peter 1:8).
The Best God Gives
So, what is the good from God in pain? Where is the joy in suffering? It’s in more of God. It’s more dependence (2 Corinthians 1:9), less sin (2 Corinthians 12:7), deeper faith, and increasing, everlasting, unshakeable joy that can only be found through refining. To be sure, this process only works if you have a vision of life and reality that prizes God’s glory as the only place anyone can be fully and eternally happy.
As believers, we should be slow to speak and quick to listen when we enter into others’ pain, giving time and perspective to let God speak into the situation. At the same time, let’s not run from the reality that God indeed brings pain. It’s a hard, but necessary truth for our faith and joy in Christ that will ultimately enable us to persevere and heal with hope and confidence. He knows what we need better than we do. As a master physician with a painful prescription, his ultimate goal is not our harm, but our greatest good.
Followers of Christ know we need to read the Bible. Knowing that responsibility, though, doesn’t always result in obedience. Sometimes we struggle with the task just because we don’t know how to get started. Here’s a simple plan to use as an “on ramp” to read the Scriptures more faithfully. Use it if you need it; if not, direct to this site others who might need it.
- Buy a good study Bible. This kind of Bible will give you just enough study notes to help you understand the Word without overwhelming you with additional reading. In the past few years, I’ve used the NIV Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, and the HCSB Study Bible.
- Get a reading partner. Reading the Bible can feel like a lonely act if you read alone. Enlist somebody who will read the same passages you’re reading, and the accountability and encouragement can make a difference.
- Be comfortable with starting small. Many of us overcommit to reading the Word when we first get started. We set our sights high (e.g., “I’ll read every day, and I’ll finish the Bible in one year, even though I’ve never kept that commitment before”) and then get discouraged the first time we miss a day. If you already know you’re unlikely to keep a commitment, start smaller. You’ll never read more until you at least read some.
- Think consistency and quality more than quantity. I would much rather you read and devour one verse a day than read three chapters a day only superficially. My suggestion is to read one chapter per day – and read it well. You can always increase the reading once you’ve established a pattern.
- Keep a simple journal. If you’re not accustomed to journaling, don’t worry about writing a daily novella. Write only a one-sentence summary of what you read each day. Jot down any questions you have for your pastor or reading partner. When you get an answer, briefly note it as well.
- Tell somebody what you read. I do this step via email and the daily devotions on this website. To your reading partner and other family or friends, send a simple accountability report. This step won’t add more than a few minutes to the task, and it allows you to be an encouragement and witness to others.
- Thank God for a day of reading. With so many other options available to us, we can always choose to do something other than read the Word. When you’ve finished reading, thank God for helping you turn to the Scriptures.
- If you miss a day, start again the next day. Don’t fret over a missed day, and certainly don’t give up your commitment. Accept God’s renewed mercies and start again. The Word will still be the Word.
Question: How does one repent from the sin of adultery when remarried after divorce as in the situation described in Matthew 5:32?
Hi, this is Pastor Tim from Unlocking the Bible. Pastor Colin asked me to thank you for your good question and respond to you.
You asked: How does one repent from the sin of adultery when remarried after divorce as in the situation described in Matthew 5:32?
It is probably more helpful to begin with what repentance does not look like in this situation. It certainly cannot mean that you divorce the woman you are remarried to.
That would involve sinning again, in order to try and put the first marriage right.
The best corollary in Scripture is probably found in 1 Corinthians 7. You know the biblical command: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
It is never God’s will for us to sin, even when it is our intention to try and put things right.
This command includes, but is not limited to marriage. So, when Paul addressed those in the church who were married to an unbelievers, he could have said, “Divorce them immediately!” But he doesn’t. Paul says, “If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her” (1 Corinthians 7:12).
It is never God’s will for us to sin (even when it is our intention to try and put things right). The rest of 1 Corinthians 7 explains.
Repentance probably looks more like confessing to God that your previous divorce and remarriage were sins against him, and that you’re sorry for them. You might consider asking your current wife and/or some other brothers and sisters in Christ to be there with you as you confess these things, especially if you are having a hard time experiencing God’s forgiveness.
I don’t know how the divorce affected your former wife (and kids?), but if you think it might encourage them in some way, you might reach out and apologize to them? If they knew you thought it was wrong, it might lessen the burden they carry in some way. Who knows how God could use your admission?
Anyway, hope this helps some. Praying that God will pour out peace and reconciliation in your family.
Warmly in Christ, Pastor Tim
- What Should I Do If I’m Doubting the Goodness of God?
- Have I Committed the Unforgivable Sin?
- Where Did Jesus Go When He Died?
The post Bible Q&A: How Do I Repent from Adultery after Remarriage? appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.
Infertility is tough. Guest blogger Brian Nicholson at Faith Ministries in LaFayette, IN, shares his own struggle as well as straightforward suggestions for all. “5 Things Infertile Couples Want Friends, Families, and Churches to Know” was originally posted on Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry’s “Counseling with Confidence & Compassion” blog, and is republished with permission. –Ed.
Let’s face it: infertility is awkward for everybody involved. Friends and family members often don’t know whether to broach the subject at all, let alone know what to say. Childless couples want some help and support, but they are often silent about their struggle. Churches know the issue exists, but often don’t quite know what to do about it. What we’re left with is the proverbial elephant in the room. Well, let’s talk about that elephant.
We dealt with infertility for about nine years before we adopted. We now have two children, and while we’re still technically dealing with infertility, that issue is mostly behind us. We cannot speak for all infertile couples (we welcome additions, subtractions, or other comments on this post), but we wanted to use our own experience—with the input of friends who have experienced infertility as well—to be very straight-up about what infertile couples want their family, friends, and churches to know.
1. You probably know someone who’s dealing with infertility, even if you don’t know it.
How common is infertility? One in ten couples of childbearing age face infertility, according to The American Pregnancy Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a similar statistic, saying that over 6 million US women age 15-44 experience infertility. (Infertility is not only a woman’s problem. A CDC study analyzed data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth and found that 7.5% of all sexually experienced men younger than age 45 reported seeing a fertility doctor during their lifetime—this equals 3.3–4.7 million men.– Ed.) Since many infertile couples suffer in silence, you need to trust the statistics. We’re not necessarily urging you to seek to identify these couples; we’re simply saying that in all likelihood, you do have some infertile couples in your life.
2. Your church can–and should–minister to couples struggling with infertility.
Some very simple decisions make the difference between your church helping infertile couples or pushing them away. To determine how you’re doing, consider these questions:
- When you celebrate events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, do you acknowledge—briefly—that while this is a day of rejoicing for many, it’s a day of mourning for others? These events can be brutal for infertile couples, since the purpose is to celebrate the beauty of a wonderful relationship that they are constantly being denied. To be clear, we’re not suggesting that the presence of a few childless couples in your church should drag down the entire celebration. We just think this is a great opportunity to follow Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:15 to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and mourn with those who are mourning. Our pastor does a fantastic job of striking an appropriate balance. He focuses on the celebration, but he also reminds the congregation that there are people for whom this day is difficult, and he prays for such couples. Just a few words can go a long way toward making infertile couples feel like part of the church family on those days. It’s appropriate for infertile couples to obey the first half of Romans 12:15, especially on days designated as celebrations; but it’s equally appropriate for the rest of your church body to obey the second half in some small way.
- Are infertile couples welcome in the classes and/or small groups that their peers attend, or are they encouraged to attend elsewhere because they’re “not a family yet?” Don’t exclude these couples from family-oriented classes. They may have some of their closest Christian friends in those classes; but also, these couples may have children any time, and can therefore benefit from your family-focused lessons. Maybe they’ll ultimately decide to try a different class, but why not let them decide?
- Are you providing ready counsel and classes to address the weighty moral questions these couples will face? It’s likely that their doctor will strongly suggest things like implanting several embryos with the intent to “selectively reduce if needed.” The couple may have to make decisions about whether to use donor eggs, sperm, or embryos. They may be asked whether they want to freeze some of their embryos. They may wonder whether setting out on a treatment path costing tens of thousands of dollars is good stewardship. The opportunities to help these couples make biblically informed decisions and solidify their beliefs are tremendous; don’t miss them. In addition to counsel and classes, these couples may need to talk with others going through similar challenges. Has your church done anything to facilitate such a group? If a couple struggling with infertility started attending your church, how long would it take for them to find others who share their struggle, and get the biblical help and Christian camaraderie they need?
3. How to be a blessing to infertile couples.
- Give them truth, not just sympathy. This point comes from Debbie Costa, a biblical counselor and member of our church who is dealing with cancer. When asked how others can minister to hurting people, Debbie said, “I need more than sympathy; I need truth.” She quoted Psalm 61:2: “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Sympathy is nice, but it doesn’t change us. Truth can help us think and respond differently.
- Pray for them. If you know them well enough, ask how you can specifically pray for them. They might tell you that they’re waiting on test results, or deciding on treatment options, or making some difficult financial decisions, etc. On their behalf, appeal to the One who is truly in control of the outcomes (Ephesians 1:11).
- Be careful when asking people “why don’t you have kids yet” or “when are you finally going to start your family?” If you’re thinking about posing those questions to a couple in their late 20s or older, understand that there may be some very private answers behind the questions. Are you close enough to this couple to have this conversation? If you are, consider having it (again, it’s often the elephant in the room). If not, let them bring it up if they choose.
- Maintain your friendships with them. Infertile couples can feel left behind as their friends and family members have children and begin new lives. Don’t be afraid to invite them to activities that involve children. And don’t assume that they won’t want to go out to eat with you if you’re going to bring your kids, or if you’re pregnant again. Whether they come to activities or not should be up to them. Don’t make the decision for them by choosing to not invite them.
4. Infertile couples are not completely clueless when it comes to children.
My wife was an early childhood education specialist who had worked with hundreds of children over several years’ time, and dealt with an amazing variety of behaviors. And yet, when she simply joined in a conversation that some young mothers were having about children, she was asked, “and how many children do you have?”—not in a way to invite her into the conversation, but as if to imply that she couldn’t relate since she didn’t have children of her own. Sadly, this wasn’t an isolated incident.
Such comments are almost certainly born out of ignorance more than malice, and we understand that. And developing a thick skin is part of handling this trial well. Insensitivity on the part of some does not justify over-sensitivity on the part of others. So the point here isn’t to say “shame on you if you ever hurt someone’s feelings.”
The point is that you should never assume that childless couples (infertile or not) are unloving or completely inexperienced. You don’t need to be afraid to leave your children with us in the church nursery. Don’t assume we don’t know how to feed a baby from a bottle or change a diaper. Don’t automatically think we can’t be effective Sunday School teachers. We can be as compassionate and competent as anyone else. (Just to be clear: we know that there are indeed things we can never completely understand without having children in our home day in, day out for years.)
5. Infertility can cause severe financial and marital strain, in addition to the emotional strain.
Infertility testing and treatment can cost thousands of dollars per round, and each time, there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. Worse yet, it’s common for these tests and procedures to not be covered by insurance.
You may have heard of couples trying a procedure like in vitro fertilization—or similar procedures like GIFT (the latter was our choice). Did you know that such procedures cost about $15,000 and offer only a modest chance of success? On top of that, couples are recommended to commit to multiple cycles of some of these treatments.
So now we get to the kinds of financial questions infertile couples have to answer: how much money are we willing to spend to try to have a child? Should we sell our house? Take out a second mortgage? Move to a state that mandates that insurance covers infertility treatment? Skip vacations? How many rounds of procedures can we afford? Are we being good stewards of our money by spending tens of thousands on procedures, or should we be investing that money in savings, retirement, or charitable causes? It’s easy to say that a life is priceless, but would you say that about just the possibility of life?
If you think the adoption path is much better, think again. Domestic and international adoptions can easily cost $25,000-30,000. And while this may be more of a ‘sure thing’ than infertility treatments, the very decision of when to change paths from treatments to adoption can cause a lot of strain as well. How do you both agree to stop trying to have children?
Combine the difficulty of these financial decisions—which can recur for years—with the emotional rollercoaster of getting your hopes up and having them dashed, over, and over, and over, and over. Is it any surprise that some marital strain can result? The unifying desire of starting a family can eventually become a source of conflict when emotions are running high and decisions are not clear.
What can family, friends, and the church do about this? Simple: pray, encourage, exhort.
If you have a close enough relationship with the husband or the wife, keep them accountable. Ask questions like, “how are you and your spouse doing? Are you praying together about these decisions (Philippians 4:6)? Are you showing submission to one another in the ways outlined in scripture?” Help them remember that God has a plan—not simply for their own temporary satisfaction, but for his glory and kingdom (Isaiah 55:8-9). They may need to take a hard look at whether their shared desire is indeed what God wants for them. Infertility isn’t a blank check for self-pity or lack of accountability. We need to be encouraged, but also exhorted
Join the Conversation
What additional words of counsel would you suggest for churches and individuals as they minister to couples facing infertility?
Resources for You!
COUNSELING: Several BCC counselors have walked the path of infertility personally or with their families. For compassionate, effective, gospel-centered counseling on infertility, adoption, and marriage/family topics, please contact us.
Notes: Contributions by Beth Nicholson. You may read the original post at 5 Things Infertile Couples Want Friends, Families, and Churches to Know.
In a word: Yes!
Today’s guest Rob Green at Faith Ministries in LaFayette, IN, answers this common question we at Biblical Counseling Center hear regularly from counselees and their families. Having just returned from ACBC’s conference on homosexuality, we at BCC are even more determined to offer compassionate care to those who struggle. Can a Christian Struggle with Homosexuality?” was originally posted on Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry’s “Counseling with Confidence & Compassion” blog, and is republished with permission. –Ed.
Maybe the best way to answer this question is to ask a few more:
- Can a Christian struggle with promiscuity?
- Can a Christian struggle with idolatry?
- Can a married Christian struggle with adultery?
- Can a Christian struggle with stealing?
- What about with drunkenness?
- What about with greed?
Are you seeing where this is going? Exactly. 1 Cor 6:9-11.
We are incredibly thankful that we were washed, we were justified, and our identity is found in Christ rather than our behavior. But no one would say that justification means that we will no longer struggle with our sins.
Does anyone really argue that a saved drunk will never struggle with alcohol? What about believer and the issue of acting out their lustful desires? What about the person who spends too much money on their own pleasures, or the person who used to steal?
Are we really going to say (as this question implies with the subject of homosexuality) that persons who continue to struggle with sin are not genuine Christians? I think not.
So Why Do We Think It Is Different for the Sin of Homosexuality?
That is a complicated question, but maybe it is best answered by the following:
- Homosexuality seems like a worse sin than other sins. Frankly, it is unnatural. Some, especially those who have personal stories of unwanted advances from homosexuals, find the whole issue disgusting. Those who have not struggled with homosexuality have a hard time even understanding it. No question … homosexuality is sin. It is always sin and we will not buy for one second the argument that homosexuality is right or acceptable in “genuine love relationships.” However, maybe some Christians have decided to put the sin of homosexuality in a category all by itself. In God’s economy, sin is sin. Sin, every kind of sin, is worthy of hell and it is every kind of sin that Jesus paid for on the cross.
- Some of us might be sick and tired of hearing about the homosexual agenda. One of the consequences is that we might be tempted to stereotype any Christian struggling with the homosexual thoughts or actions with the voices pushing their political and legal agendas. It may be that there are believers who know homosexuality is wrong. They confess every time they seek comfort in homosexual thoughts or actions. Yet they continue to struggle.
- Some of us might stereotype the Christian’s struggle with the worst examples of the homosexual movement. No one wants to be cast with the worst examples of their movement. We are a baptist church but that does not mean we want to be identified with those baptist churches that picket soldier’s funerals or seek to do overly offensive acts just to irritate the fire out of people. The Christian seeking victory from homosexuality, but struggling along the way, does not appreciate being labeled with the worst of that movement either.
My point is this … our tendency to believe that no Christian could continue to struggle with homosexuality is based on the fact that we think homosexuality is in a sin class all by itself.
We have allowed our minds to come to the conclusion that homosexuals are the worst of the worst.
A Better Way to Think About This Question
A better way to deal with this question is to acknowledge that just as a believer can struggle with greed, with lust, with stealing, with drunkenness, so can a believer struggle with homosexuality.
However, struggling with it and deciding that it is the lifestyle acceptable to God are two entirely different issues.
In other words, the homosexual needs to go to war against his homosexuality just as the believer must go to war against lust, against greed, against stealing – against any and all sin. Romans 6 explains, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
So, can a believer struggle with homosexuality? Yes. But he or she must see the homosexuality as sin, go to war against it, and seek to walk daily in the Spirit. After all, Scripture says, “If you walk by the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
So is it appropriate to bring church discipline and question the genuine salvation of a person who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior but chooses to follow a homosexual lifestyle? Absolutely. But then again, we should think the same thing about a person who was perpetually shoplifting, committing adultery, or engaging in a greed-driven lifestyle.
Note: You can read the original post on the Faith Ministries blog here.
I recently came across two principles that, when put together, show the spiritual difficulty that we often have in dealing with Christian gray areas. Before I share the principles, let me tell you about where I read them:
David Hazelton is a well-regarded attorney in the DC area. He wrote a book, The Simplified Guide to Paul’s Letters to the Churches, that systematizes all of Paul’s instructions to local churches in his Epistles. What makes this book so fascinating to me is that it reads almost like a legal brief—and I mean that as a compliment. Over the past few years I’ve developed a hobby of reading briefs filed with the US Supreme Court. A good brief asks the right questions, then answers the questions by assimilating the conclusions from many different cases, and then presents the desired conclusion in light of all of the evidence.
This is exactly what Hazelton does. He lays out his conclusion—for example: chapter 2 is called “The Threats of Addition and Subtraction.” He asks these questions: “How important is it for us to remain faithful to the gospel?” “What is an example of addition to the gospel?” “What is an example of subtraction from the gospel?” “Who poses these threats to the gospel?” and “Why isn’t the content of the gospel open for debate?”
He answers each question by pulling verses from Paul’s Epistles, and inserting his own paragraphs between the verses to explain how they relate. He doesn’t arrange them chronologically or canonically, but polemically. In other words, each paragraph makes his argument, and the pillars of the argument are carefully chosen Pauline passages.
For that reason, it reads like the Apostle Paul filed an amicus brief on each of these topics. Obviously this approach to writing about ethics is open to proof-texting, as well as the possibility that verses are taken out of context to imply something other than what they may have meant to the original recipients. But Hazelton avoids that—like a good attorney, he obviously realizes that if he were guilty of that, then than the credibility of all of his arguments would suffer.
I found The Simplified Guide: Paul’s Letters to the Churches to be very helpful. It is helpful in sermon prep, and even in thinking through ideas for a topical sermon (if I ever were to backslide and preach one of those!).
Which brings me to the point about Christian grey areas. Hazelton asks: “How should we deal with others who have different personal practices on secondary issues?” He answers with two principles:
First: “We should not be judgmental toward fellow believers.” He then quotes from Romans 14:4, 13-15, to make the point that Paul forbids elevating our conclusions on secondary matters into judgement against other Christians. And I think most Christians I know get this point. We use terms like “secondary” and “grey” and understand that people think differently on some issues, and that is because we live in a world where Jesus does not.
But then Hazelton adds his second principle: “The need to put others first.” Paul is not content to forbid a judgmental attitude. He goes beyond that and mandates that we actually prefer others. Hazelton writes:
After explaining that our purpose is “not to please ourselves,” he instructs: “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Rom 15:1-2). “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Cor 10:24). “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (Rom 14:19). “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Rom 15:7). When we put others first, what seemed to be serious differences on secondary issues can begin to lose some significance.
Paul lives out this truth in 1 Corinthians 9-10. To the Jews he became as a Jew, and to the Gentiles, he became as a gentile. In the context of secondary issues, Paul did not sacrifice truth, but he did sacrifice preference as a guard against a judgmental attitude.
This was convicting to me, as I am quick to say “I won’t judge that person” for a secondary issue, but am certainly not quick to go beyond that and say “I’ll put that person with whom I disagree first.” But only then am I applying the full weight of what Paul commands.
Recently someone asked me to respond to an article bashing biblical womanhood. It’s one subject I’ve been fairly silent about. Partly for fear of the backlash. But mostly because I am the last person who deserves to write about it. It’s not that I ever rejected the Bible’s call to submit to my husband (1 Peter 3:1,5) or to have the sort of spirit that’s beautiful in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:1–4). In fact, I embraced such teaching as sound doctrine from a wise and sovereign God. The problem was, I couldn’t live it to save my life.
As a kid I was fairly compliant. So naturally, when I walked down the aisle, I believed this whole biblical womanhood thing would come easily for me. Sweet and submissive as a baby bunny. Boy, was my husband lucky!
It wasn’t my husband’s role I wanted; it was God’s.
Then somewhere within our first year of marriage, Xena Warrior Princess rose up within me and slaughtered the bunny. What I once believed to be compliance, I now recognize was pride. Back then it manifested itself in the arrogant belief that I could fulfill the call to biblical womanhood in my own strength. Once I realized I couldn’t, it manifested itself in utter outrage that I should ever be asked to. Why should I submit? I’m smart and gifted. I can get it done twice as well in half the time. And so I became controlling, disrespectful, and angry. But I could never control things as completely as I wanted to, which only made me more furious. Finally, all the anger gave way to deep discontentment.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you can’t. Maybe the entire notion of biblical womanhood makes you want to gag. Here is my challenge. If the thought of submitting to an honorable man feels old-fashioned or degrading to you, then for just a moment, set it aside. Forget all about submission and respect as it relates to a man, and ask yourself the one question I was forced to confront: Am I willing to submit to God?
Peace at Last
I finally came to see that my real fight was with Him. It wasn’t my husband’s role I wanted; it was God’s. I longed for the authority to control my life as I saw fit. Like Satan himself, my heart cried, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14). I’ll never forget the day God opened my eyes to what I was becoming. As I cried on my knees, He gave me a new verse from Isaiah: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (26:3).
The truth is, biblical submission has and always will be foundational to Christianity.
Oh, how I longed for peace! And I saw that it only came by way of trust. Deep down, if I really trusted God, I could stop trying to be Him. Then instead of being thrown into turmoil by the things I couldn’t control, my mind would be steadfast. And all the anger, anxiety, and discord I’d welcomed into my heart and home would be replaced, at last, with peace.
We often view submission as oppressive, but I’ll tell you, as I submitted to God that day, I’d never felt freer in my life. The truth is, biblical submission has and always will be foundational to Christianity. To quote Webster, to submit is to “yield to the authority of another.” Is this not the very heart and soul of the gospel?
Indeed, this is the example Christ Himself set when He submitted to the Father’s will, becoming obedient to the point of death (Phil. 2:2–8). And that is exactly what’s required of any who would follow Him. The call to Christianity is not a call to rule, but to die (Matt. 16:25). To become a bondservant, a slave, to the one true King (Rom. 6:22). And in so doing, to discover life and freedom for the very first time.
A Reason for the Roles
Do I believe God has a distinct vision for womanhood? Yes, I do. If He wanted men and women to function in exactly the same way, I believe He could’ve made one gender. We could’ve reproduced asexually, like starfish. But He didn’t. He could’ve made Eve first. Or inspired Paul to urge men to be keepers of the home, subject to their wives. But He didn’t. He intentionally created both men and women and through Scripture revealed the equal but different roles for which He designed them.
He intentionally created both men and women and through Scripture revealed the equal but different roles for which He designed them.
If you struggle with the doctrine or application of biblical womanhood, would you be willing to begin by yielding to the authority of Christ and then asking Him to teach you His vision for womanhood, as revealed in the Bible? Not what you want the Bible to teach or think the Bible should teach, but what it actually teaches. Because as Wayne Grudem points out, when we tweak Scripture to suit our preferences, what’s ultimately at stake isn’t merely manhood or womanhood. It’s the authority of the Bible itself.
So to the dear reader who asked for my thoughts on biblical womanhood, it is with great love and humility that I offer this response. In case you’re wondering, I still know what it’s like to struggle with respect, to long for control, and to be sick of managing a household. But because of His grace, I also know what it’s like to experience glimpses of harmony, when my husband and I embrace our God-ordained callings because we trust that His design is best. And I can say this—it is beautiful, it is peaceful, and it is freeing.
“7 Misconceptions About Submission” by Mary Kassian
“Biblical Womanhood in Five Minutes,” an audio interview with John Piper
Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth by Wayne Grudem
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem
What’s the Difference? by John Piper
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read “Still Learning . . . the Whole Submission Thing.”
J. Warner Wallace, author of God’s Crime Scene, was interviewed by Bobby Conway (The One Minute Apologist) and discussed the nature of inculpating and exculpating evidence. Does the existence of evil in the universe exclude the reasonable inference of God’s existence? (For more information related to Bobby’s great ministry, visit: http://oneminuteapologist.com/)
To see more training videos with J. Warner Wallace, visit the YouTube playlist.
In September of this year, Baylor University sponsored two lectures on the topic of religious persecution. The presenters were former congressman Frank Wolf (now the Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair of Religious Freedom at Baylor) and Princeton Professor Robert P. George, who currently serves as the Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Together they detailed a serious crisis. Religious persecution is spiraling out of control in countries around the world while Americans seem dangerously unaware or unconcerned.
Addressing thirty-eight undergraduates in a class on religious liberty, Mr. Wolf described the enormity of what ISIL has been doing in Iraq. “More biblical activity took place in Iraq than in any other region of the world,” noted Wolf. He went on to point out that Abraham’s homeland was Iraq (ancient Nazaria) and that Iraq is also the site of Ezekiel’s burial place. In a diabolically symbolic gesture in July of 2014, ISIL deliberately bombed the tomb of Jonah in an effort to erase the region’s religiously diverse history.
Unfortunately, ISIL is succeeding in its attempts to stamp out the region’s Judeo-Christian heritage. According to Wolf, there were roughly 150,000 Iraqi Jews in 1950. Today there are fewer than ten—a shocking statistic in its own right, but also an ominous sign in light of an old regional saying: “as go the Jews, so go the Christians.” Indeed, ISIL has its own version of that saying: “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.” In other words, ISIL is systematically expelling, converting, or exterminating two ancient faiths in sequential order. Christians in Iraq numbered 1.5 million in 2003, Wolf observed, but that number has now fallen to approximately 200,000.
In neighboring Syria, where the al-Assad regime has for the past four years been massacring Sunni Muslims, ISIL has moved into the vacuum to target all religions that oppose their radical ideology, including Alawites, Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, and Christians. Observers estimate that more than half of Syria’s pre-conflict population has now been displaced or exterminated.
And earlier this year in Libya, ISIL beheaded twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians in a symbolic act of anti-Christian terror. Wolf took pains to stress that these are not random acts of violence, but a “deliberate campaign of genocide,” and that Christians are in fact on the “edge of extinction” in the region where Christianity originated.
Professor Robert George’s talk in the majestic Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor summarized the 2015 annual report of the United States Commission on Religious Freedom. That report identifies 17 “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs), where religious persecution is especially severe. In last year’s report the number of CPCs was only nine: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Commission still regards those countries as CPCs, but has now added eight more: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. Space does not permit an account of the atrocities occurring in the countries on the Commission’s list, but the full report (quite readable and informative) is available online here and Professor George’s talk itself is available here.
The vital question is why the number of countries committing and supporting religious persecution is growing so rapidly. The number of CPSs has nearly doubled in a year. What lies behind this startling trend?
This question was posed to Professor George from the audience after his talk, and he did his best to address it, though he acknowledged its complexity. His answer was that liberal democracies in the 20th century left something undone when they defeated the oppressive ideological regimes of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, and eventually Soviet Communism. They defeated the powers but failed to defeat ideology itself. The word “ideology” in this context refers to a comprehensive worldview that attempts to explain and justify mass violence in the name of bringing about a more perfect world. But like a hydra with many regenerating heads, ideology is capable of recreating itself in new guises. The crisis, then, stems from the world’s failure to understand and prevent the ideological impulse, according to George.
Interestingly, Mr. Wolf was asked the same question: “Why is religious persecution on the rise around the world?” His answer was that during the era of Presidents Carter and Reagan, the U.S. government made human rights abuses a centerpiece of American diplomacy, often demanding progress on human rights as a condition of any “deal” with the U.S. But today things are quite different. Wolf mentioned the looming nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, a deal that requires nothing from Iran with respect to its ongoing practices of religious persecution. He likewise referenced American diplomacy with China, claiming that we fail to use their human rights violations as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table—even though Chinese government officials routinely violate human rights laws to which China is a signatory.
Mr. Wolf’s view, then, is that the failure of the United States to stand up for religious freedom around the world creates a tacit incentive for radical groups to commit crimes against religious believers. The groups are able to convince themselves (correctly) that no one will stop them.
But whatever the causes of the rise of persecution around the world, Mr. Wolf and Professor George both expressed alarm that Americans are unaware and unconcerned about the issue. If Americans do not care about the state of religious liberty around the world, neither will their government, nor will the leaders of other nations. Americans have historically been the most outspoken proponents of religious liberty in modern history. Should we fall silent now, either out of ignorance or apathy, the effects will be disastrous. This is what the sudden spike in religious persecution around the world already suggests. Unfortunately, matters can get much worse.
David Corey is associate professor of political philosophy at Baylor University.
With the semester well underway, many students have failed to live up to the expectations they’ve set for themselves and need help getting back on track. Some are discouraged and intend to wait until next semester to try again. If you’re a college student, be encouraged. It’s not too late to get your life under control. In three minutes, Ben Stuart offers brief and practical advice for college students that will enable them to glorify God and make the most of the semester.
Recommended New Book
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by bestselling author Shelley Turkle.
What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman $3.99.
The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose by Lisa Anderson $2.99.
At Justin Taylor’s blog, you can find another video interview with Paul Miller about the Bethesda Curriculum – Bible studies for those with intellectual disabilities.
Kindle deals for Christian readers
- Crave by Chris Tomlinson—$2.99
- Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey—$5.99
- The Dating Manifesto by Lisa Anderson—$2.99
- What’s Best Next by Matt Perman—$3.99
- Onward by Russell Moore—$7.99
- The Apologetics Study Bible—$3.50
- Mirror Ball by Matt Redman—Free (ends today)
Jimmy Fowler shares why Redeemer Fellowship chooses to stay “small”:
Church growth is not evil or wicked. Church growth is good. And large churches aren’t inherently bad. Some larger churches are able to reach more people because their size. Some new to the faith feel more comfortable going to a larger church as they seek the Lord and what He has for them. Larger churches are able to provide more programs specific to where people are at or are dealing with. Larger churches have the finances and abilities to provide social assistance on a larger scale to their communities. They are also in a great position to plant more churches. Praise God for what He is doing in and through these churches!
But at Redeemer we value pastoral care and unified community which becomes difficult (if not impossible) for larger churches at multiple services.
Earlier today, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America,gave sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Throughout her testimony Richards provided a number of misleading claims, inaccurate statements, and downright falsehoods. Here are five in particular you should know about.
I was a fairly new Christian in my mid-twenties. I was running very hard fueled by zeal and far less knowledge. To my credit I was talking to a lot of people about the gospel. To my shame I was developing a bit of a self-righteousness toward those who did not. I remember judging people and whole churches’ faithfulness based upon the appearance of outward zeal or emotion. Until one day I got rebuked without a word.
Changing practices or strategies is one thing, but driving those new practices into a new culture is quite another. And changes in practice do not last if they are not used to help create a new culture and are not grounded in that culture. John Kotter has written, “Changes can come undone, even after years of effort, because the new approaches haven’t been anchored firmly in group norms and values.” This challenging paradox points to the power of organizational culture. The culture cannot be changed easily, but it must be changed or a new philosophy and vision will be swallowed by the old culture.
So what are some practical things leaders can do to create a new culture?
Psalm 119 is one long and exuberant song of delight in God’s Word. Multiple descriptions of God’s Word are punctuated with repeated exultations of joy in God’s Word (Ps. 119:14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 111, 143, 162, 174).
My favorite line is “I rejoice at your word, as one that finds great spoil” (v. 162). I love the imagery of someone who turns a corner one day only to find a huge pile of treasure left behind by a marauding army – and it’s all his. Can you imagine what that would feel like? That’s how we should feel when we open the Bible. So let me suggest a number of ways in which we can experience joy in God’s Word.
Today’s Kindle deals include The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken ($2.99); Ordinary by Tony Merida ($2.99); Preparing Expository Sermons by Ramesh Richard ($2.99); Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey ($2.99); My Daily Pursuit by A.W. Tozer ($1.99).
Joel Beeke has ten wise and helpful commandments for pastors.
I’m excited about this! GoThereFor, a ministry connected to Matthias Media, has announced The Vine Journal, a new journal they will be publishing 3 times a year. The first issue is free to download. (You can read the announcement and rationale here.)
This article was written specifically for worship leaders. But even though I’m no worship leader, it still slapped me across the face. “One issue that can sink worship leaders is a lack of confidence. And when I say ‘confidence’ I mean a confidence in the power of God’s call on you, the power of the Spirit within you, and the power of the gospel no thanks to you.”
Don’t wait to get your tickets for this year’s Christmas tour with the Gettys (since many of the shows will sell out!). I went last year and enjoyed it thoroughly. If you’re going to the Toronto concert, I’ll see you down at Roy Thompson Hall. If you’re going to the Louisville concert, you’ll get to support 20schemes.
This Day in 1536. William Tyndale is martyred at the stake in Antwerp for his Protestant views and for his efforts to translate the Bible into English. *
As Burk Parsons points out, “what is so hard about the hard sayings of Jesus is not our inability to understand them fully but to believe them fully and obey them fully.”
I am not certain if this will be relevant to any of my readers, but it may be good to know that The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) terminated the membership of Gospel for Asia Friday for violations of ECFA standards.
ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
(Click title to go to full article)
Is Bibliolatry the Real Danger? – “Which poses the bigger risk of idolatry–a high view of the Bible that sees Jesus submitting to the Scriptures or a low view of Scripture that sees Jesus standing apart from the Scriptures? Some Christians fear that if they have a high view of the Bible they will end up denigrating Jesus and being guilty of bibliolatry. But what if the danger of idolatry is much more likely when you try to place Jesus above the Bible?”
Thank God for William Tyndale – Were it not for William Tyndale, you would not be reading your Bible in English. Further, there is good reason Biblical Evangelicals reject Roman Catholicism as brothers/sisters in Christ.
No, you probably aren’t called to be a pastor – “It seems like every new believer—particularly the younger men—have a moment in those first couple of years of their faith where they ask, “Am I called to be a pastor?” I had that question rattling around in my head for several years. It was one that Emily and I spent a great deal of time alternately avoiding and praying about. And avoiding again. And praying about again. And so on.”
Dead Chickens Tell No Tales, Though Journalists Might – “If these scientists shopped at a typical grocery store, they couldn’t do their experiments. Apparently, they looked for chickens with their necks where they should be, and even with their heads still attached, and took pictures of them after pushing their necks around to various stages. Sound a bit macabre?”
The Simplified Guide – “I recently came across two principles that, when put together, show the spiritual difficulty that we often have in dealing with Christian gray areas. Before I share the principles, let me tell you about where I read them…”
Tom Buck – Characteristics of a Healthy Church (Part 2)
Conversation with a Catholic Named Calvin
Fear God and His Goodness
“All death can do to the believer is deliver him to Jesus. It brings us into the eternal presence of our Savior.” – John MacArthur
- Yet Another Reason to Believe Our Finite Universe Points to the Existence of God
- Don’t Brag About Your Faith. Live it!
- Hey Everybody, Let’s Take a Stand Against Animal Cruelty!
- Worship Without Words
- Could the Next Billy Graham be Drunk Right Now?
- Why the Information in Our DNA Points to the Existence of God
Three Christians Arrested in India and Accused of Converting Locals
Study Reveals More Americans are Concerned about Religious Freedom Rights
Some Evangelicals Aren’t Happy with Trump’s Meeting with Faith Leaders
Scientists Urge Jail Time for Those who Question Climate Change
High School Rejects ACLU Bid to Block Prayer Boxes
Oklahoma Republican Party Offers to House Banned Ten Commandments Monument
#YesImAChristian Trends on Social Media after Oregon College Shooting
Duck Dynasty Stars Comment on Duggar Scandal
Vatican Official Disputes Details of Kim Davis’ Meeting with the Pope
Senate Approves USCIRF Reauthorization
Roseburg Killings: How Should Christians Respond?
The War on Loneliness: a Different Look at Addiction
Why so Many Politicians on Late-night TV?
It’s Time for Evangelicals to Speak up for Animals
How ABC’s ‘The Muppets’ Killed Jim Henson’s Vision of Making the World a Kinder Place
READING: John 2-4
TEXTS AND APPLICATION: I remember when I was a brand new believer, and everything I learned about Jesus was fresh, novel, and alive. I couldn’t wait to learn more about Him and to do more for Him. In fact, all I knew to do was what Mary, the mother of Jesus, said to the servants at the wedding in Cana of Galilee: “Do whatever He tells you,” His mother told the servants (John 2:5). Now decades later, I think I’ve sometimes forgotten the simplicity of this call.
“Whatever He tells you to do, just do it,” Mary said.
The Christian life is really that basic and that profound. “He” is the Son of God who was instrumental in creation (John 1), the one who can turn water into wine (John 2), offer eternal life to the world (John 3), and go out of His way to teach the Good News to an often-married outcast woman (John 4).
“Whatever He tells you to do, just do it,” Mary said.
Perhaps we overcomplicate being faithful to Christ. We sometimes spend so much time trying to figure out what we don’t understand that we fail to obey what we do understand. Our task is as basic as doing what He expects.
“Whatever He tells you to do, just do it.” It’s really that simple.
ACTION STEPS: Determine 1-2 places in your life where you know you need to obey Christ more closely — and then be faithful. Do whatever He tells you to do.
PRAYER: “God, help me to obey whatever You tell me to do today. When I overanalyze, bring me back to Your feet, where I can worship You in obedience.”
Our Time is Short
What is The Gospel?
God made everything out of nothing, including you and me. His main purpose in creation was to bring him pleasure.
The chief way in which we as humanity do this is through loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.
Instead of this, we have sinned against our loving Creator and acted in high-handed rebellion.
God has vowed that he will righteously and lovingly judge sinners with eternal death.
But God, being merciful, loving, gracious, and just, sent his own son, Jesus Christ, in the likeness of man to live as a man; fulfilling his perfect requirements in the place of sinners; loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.
And further, his son bore the eternal judgment of God upon the cross of Calvary, as he satisfied the eternal anger of God, standing in the place of sinners. God treated Jesus as a sinner, though he was perfectly sinless, that he might declare sinners as perfect.
This glorious transaction occurs as the sinner puts their faith (dependence, trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ as their substitute. God then charges Christ’s perfection to the sinner, and no longer views him as an enemy but instead an adopted son covered in the perfect righteousness of his son.
God furnished proof that this sacrifice was accepted by raising Jesus from the dead.
God will judge the world in righteousness and all of those who are not covered in the righteousness of Christ, depending on him for forgiveness, will be forced to stand on their own to bear the eternal anger of God.
Therefore, all must turn from sin and receive Christ Jesus as Lord.
Ready to start your new life with God?
Who do you think that I am?
With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.
Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.
Consider what the Bible says about Him: Read more
CanIKnowGod.com is a website inspired by LifesGreatestQuestion.com, with new content, images, audio and video that will help you understand more about who God is and how to know Him. The site is mobile responsive and has an infinite scroll which makes for a very user-friendly experience. After you indicate a decision on CanIKnowGod.com, you are directed to a page that details what it means to have a new and transformed life through Jesus Christ. There’s even a Facebook page for daily updates, encouragement and scripture sharing.
Look to Jesus
Have you ever felt a little lost and wished there was a quick-start guide to your relationship with God? This is it!
30 Day Next Steps
John Beckett, a leading Christian businessman, has written a series to read over 30 days for new believers.
New Believers Guide
The New Believer’s Guide is a series of articles designed to show you how to walk in the new life Christ has given you— a life of faith and freedom.
Jesus is the Savior of the world. Discover who Jesus is today in this series.
Know Jesus Christ and your life will be transformed
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