How Satan is destroying American culture and how Christians should respond.

We have an enemy who is real and personal. Ever since the fall of man he has made it his business to bring chaos and destruction into the world and to distract people from the life and love that is available through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians need to wake up and recognize what he is doing to our culture today.
 

Here are three tactics Satan is currently using and what Christians can do to combat them.

1. Satan is using television media. From the 1960’s to the early 1980’s, the evening news brought our culture together. There were only 3 television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC). With so few choices there was not much need for networks to compete. Watching the news was a shared experience. That changed with the advent of cable and the 24hr news cycle. Suddenly, Americans had more than a dozen choices for their television news. The competitive new environment drove the networks to add more sensational programs and use more shocking headlines. Plus, the 24hr cycle necessitated the covering of “news” that would have previously been left on the cutting room floor.

 

Fast forward to 2018. If the competition between networks was “cut-throat” in the late 80’s through the 90’s, then today’s competition can only be characterized as nuclear warfare. Rage, that’s current strategy to claim more viewers and gain more market share. Rage against the president. Rage against the liberals. Rage against this tribe or that tribe. This is from Satan. And it is hurting our country.

 

Christians should respond to this Satanic activity by refusing to buy into it. Recognize that the national television news media, like Satan, cares absolutely nothing about you. Their goal is not to give you the news. Their goal is to grab your eyeballs and sell you a product (rage) that will destroy your spirit and make you doubt the power of God’s love. Don’t buy it.
 
2. Satan is using social media. Satan is an expert at offering us shortcuts. Just as he tempted Jesus to satisfy His hunger by making bread from a stone, he also tempts us to satisfy our need for community by appealing to social media. Humans have a God-given desire to know and be known. This desire is what drives us to intimate relationships with one another (think Jonathan and David in the Old Testament). Social media seems like an easier way to fulfill that desire, but the only way to know and be known is through personal relationships. Social media does not cultivate personal relationships, it cultivates pride and low self-esteem, and loneliness. As a result, Americans are more divided and lonelier than ever. This is from Satan.
 

Christians can counter Satan’s social media missiles by limiting its consumption. Get to know real people. Spend time with them. Share meals with them. Don’t take the shortcut. It is not worth it. If the only meaningful relationships you have are online, then you have no meaningful relationships, and this is dangerously unhealthy in every sense.

3. Satan is exploiting our dichotomous thinking. God made humans to live in harmony with one another as one body. However, after the fall, brother was divided against brother, husband against wife, and children against their parents, so, we responded by forming tribes. We began to see everyone as either a friend or an enemy. We all believed that our tribe was the good guys and all the other tribes were the bad guys. This dichotomous thinking survives to this day, and it is being exploited by our enemy.

 

Christians can respond to Satan exploitation by studying God’s word. God teaches us that the line between good people and evil people cuts through the heart of every human being. None of us is without sin. Read 1 John 1:8-9. Remember Jesus’ words. We are commanded to love our enemies and thereby demonstrate the gospel to a lost and dying world through the way that we treat those who hate us (Luke 6:27-31).
 

Jesus told us that we would be known by our love (John 13:35) and that by our love, the world would come to know Him (1 John 4:7-12). It sounds cliché to say that what the world needs is more love, but this is the truth. This trend of American culture toward more divisiveness is not sustainable. America as we know it is dying. So is the American church. However, I am hopeful that Christian Americans will wake up to Satan’s activity, and will engage him in battle. I am hopeful that our Lord will work in us to bring healing to our great nation.


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Leader’s, Please Remember the Children

We do a lot of “children’s ministry” in the American church. There’s AWANA, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Bible drill, RA’s, GA’s, Mission Friends, and many more programs that could be named. I wonder, though, how much we really minister to children. Sure, we are getting them to do stuff, and learn stuff, but are we taking all the interest that we should?
 
Too often we look at our children as the “future of the church.” I wonder if we should not see them more as our church in the present. Leaders listen to adults in the church. They try to get to know them. Leaders look for ways to demonstrate the love of Christ to the adults in their congregation, but the children often get overlooked. Their voices are unheard, and they go uncared for outside of our programs.
 
I read a biography of Dwight L. Moody that recounted Moody’s experience as a child in the church. He had two childhood pastors. One did not show him any attention at all. The other would always pat him on the head, lean down, talk to him, and just generally show a lot of interest in Moody’s little life. Which one of these two pastors do you think inspired Moody to become the monumental evangelist of the 19th century? His passion for souls was sparked by his childhood pastor’s passion for his own soul.
 
Ever since I read Moody’s biography a few months ago, I really stepped up my intentionality in showing interest in the children of our church. I love to see their face light up when I call them by name. Following the example of Moody’s pastor, I will get down on my knees so that I can look the little toddlers in the eyes, and comment on their outfit or something that I know is happening in their lives. They look so impressed that their pastor is interested in them.
 
I may have taken it too far with one toddler whose whole family are huge Ole Miss fans. Every time I see him, I call him over, and send him to his papaw to tell him “Hail State! Go Dawgs!” He has obeyed me every single time. I don’t think papaw approves of my method of children’s ministry.
 
There’s another little one who I know is a chatterbox at home, but who I have honestly not heard say a single word in my three and a half years as her pastor. Every time I come near her, she slides in behind her mom or dad’s leg. I talk to her anyway. I ask her questions and all she can do is giggle. It has become our little game.
 
Then there is the teenager who comes in nearly every Sunday with a new wild and colorful hairstyle. She knows as soon as she walks in the door that Bro. Robby is going to be shocked at her new hairdo and is going to have something to say about it. I’m never critical, only playful. I can tell she loves the attention, and it ministers to her when she is noticed.
 
I’ve had the privilege of coaching several of our church boys and girls in basketball and football. They know the Bro. Robby that stands in the pulpit, and the Bro. Robby that yells instructions from the sidelines. They’ve seen me at my best and my worst, and I like to believe that in the process they have learned a lot about the grace of God from me.
 
Brothers and sisters, I have learned that this is what children’s ministry really is. It is not merely herding them through our various programs. It is about getting to know them. It is about listening to them. It is about modeling the Christian life… the abundant life for them.
 
May we remember the stories of how Jesus handled the little children:

 “And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’

Church leaders, let us not forget the children. To minister to them is to minister to Christ.

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Get Rid of Your Stinking Thinking

Most people incorrectly believe that negative feelings are their major problem when in fact it is their thinking that is the real problem. People will say to themselves, I feel so sad all the time. Why am I so angry? Why can’t I let things go and stop feeling so sorry for myself all the time? The truth is that all those “feelings” began with some event that caused them to think negatively, and that negative thinking (stinking thinking) led to negative feelings. What if I told you that there is a gospel-centered way to get rid of your stinking thinking? What if I told you that by getting rid of your stinking thinking, you can get rid of your stinking feelings too?

 

  Here’s how:
  1. Trace your negative feelings back to the event that caused them and write it down. Write it out by finishing this sentence: “I feel (blank) because (blank).” For example: “I feel guilty because I gave into temptation and sin yesterday.” Or, “I feel anxious because I said something to my coworker that could have been taken wrongly.” Or, “I feel angry because my best friend did not include me in her plans last weekend.”
 
Be sure not to mix your thoughts with your feelings. We’ll get to thoughts next, but you first need to identify what happened and how you felt about it. Feelings are usually identified with one word. The most common feelings are happy, mad, glad, scared, guilty, and sad.

 

  1. Write down the automatic thoughts you had after the event. Finish this sentence: “After (blank), I thought for sure (blank).” For example, “After I sinned, I thought for sure that I was a total failure.” Or, “After I said that thing to my coworker I thought for sure he must have taken it the wrong way because…” Or, “After I learned my best friend didn’t invite me to her outing, I thought for sure that it was because she doesn’t like me as much anymore.”

 

The point is to get to the bottom of the thoughts that caused your feelings. Remember, your feelings are not the problem. It is your stinking thinking. The reason why your stinking thinking persists is that you get caught in a feedback loop. Something happens that causes you to think negatively and then thinking negatively causes you to feel bad. Then you start thinking about feeling bad, and this makes you feel worse! You get yourself caught in the wormhole that leads to despair.

 

  1. Write down any scriptures that contradict your negative thoughts. For example, Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This verse, and really all of Romans 8 is a weapon against thoughts of failure. If you are in Christ, then you are a winner! By His grace, you have escaped condemnation. He’s cast your sin away as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)! If your escape from condemnation was dependent upon your righteousness, then you would have reason to sit and dwell on your failures. Since it doesn’t… you don’t!

 

Here’s another example: Luke 12:4-7 teaches us that we should care more about what God thinks of us than what other people think. If we belong to the Lord, then He cares for us immensely. He knows us intimately. He knows every thought and intention of our hearts. Say you said something that could have been taken wrongly by your co-worker. Sure it is possible that your thinking could be right, but there is no cause for you to dwell on it. Apologize if you think you should and move on because God knows what you meant or didn’t mean. The process is the same even if you did mean harm in what you said (see Romans 8 again). In the case of thinking you were slighted by your friend, it is possible that your thinking is accurate. It is also possible that it isn’t. But is this something you should dwell on according to scripture? What matters most is that you are loved by God. Forgive your friend and move on.

  If you will practice this little exercise at least once a day, it will change your life. This is a matter of bringing your flesh into subjection (1 Cor 9:24-27). When you take “every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Cor 10:5b) your feelings will follow. Just try it!  


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Why is heaven called “Beulah Land?”

I was an adult before I ever heard the Squire Parson’s song, “Sweet Beulah Land.” It is a pretty song about heaven. Some of the phrases are strikingly beautiful. The first couple of lines are, “I’m kind of homesick for a country, to which I’ve never been before.” What a paradox! How can you be homesick for someplace that you have never been? I’ll tell you how… it is a place that you see with an eye of faith.
 
Abraham was described by the author of Hebrews (11:10) as “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” This phrase indicates that Abraham was not merely looking for Canaan, a promised land located on this earth. He looked forward to a city like no other, whose streets were designed and built by the Almighty. This knowledge that such a city even existed was the tangible evidence of Abraham’s faith. He could not physically perceive heaven with his eyes, but he could see it with the eyes of his heart of faith.
 
In the second verse of Sweet Beulah Land, Squire Parsons sings, “I’m looking now across the river, to where my faith shall end in sight.” This line expresses a confidence and conviction that the place that he sees with eyes of faith in the first verse is the very place he will see with his own physical eyes someday. Abraham had this confidence too. He believed that God did not call Him in vain, but that his faith would “end in sight.” 
 
Abraham’s is a faith and a confidence that we can have as well. When God transforms your heart, He makes you to long for Him and for the place He designed and built. You long for that place so much that you can see it in your heart, and He gives you so much confidence that you can just know that one day you will cross the river of death and see the place He has prepared for you. 
 
There is one question that still has not been answered though. Why does Parson’s call our promised home, Beulah Land? I read a story about how the song was written. Squire, on the way to his job as a high school music teacher, recalled a song that he had heard in church as a teenager entitled “Is Not This the Land of Beulah?” He remembered how he had gotten swept up in the song, and was humming it in his head as he topped a West Virginia mountain and caught a view of the sunrise. By the time he reached the high school, he was singing the chorus of a different song… his own song. He immediately jotted the words down on the first scrap of paper he could find. 
 
It would seem that, while the song’s lyrics might have a biblical grounding in Hebrews 11, the title “Sweet Beulah Land” was born out of nostalgia. That could be true as far as Squire Parson’s is concerned, however, we do find the term “Beulah” in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah wrote: 
 
“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.”
 
If you read this ESV translation closely, then you will see that “Married” is capitalized. That is because it is a proper noun. The KJV and the NIV render it in the original as “Beulah.” This means that the land that God’s people look forward to is the “Married Land,” or more accurately the “Beulah Land.”
 
If you’re married, you probably remember the first home that you shared with your spouse before children and before life became so complicated. It was just you and the love of your life, and there was no place on earth you would rather be than with them. That is what heaven is like. It is a place of simplicity and happiness, where just being with the Lord takes away every sadness and every care. That is why God calls the place, “Beulah.”

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Powerful Humility

I first got really serious about serving the Lord in 2003. I started singing in the choir at our church. A little later I joined the praise band that led worship for the youth on Wednesday nights. After that, I began teaching the college and career Sunday School class. 
 
I was on fire. The joy of the Lord that comes by serving Him was the fuel for my fire and I could not get enough of it, but when I looked around at my church family, I saw that they were not serving as I was. Sadly, anger was the emotion that my disappointment stirred up in me. 
 
I could not understand how they were reading the same Bible and hearing the same sermons as me, yet they were not moved to action. I foolishly thought that the way to stir them to action was to berate them for their laziness. I thought I held all the answers. If they would just listen to what I had to say, and do what I said to do, then I could fix all that was wrong with the church and the world in general.
 
God was so patient with me during that season. Thankfully, my brothers and sisters were patient as well. I am so thankful because the grace and patience of God and my church family gave me time to grow and mature in my walk with the Lord. 
 
I began my first ministry position in the summer of 2006. On the job, God worked powerfully to soften my heart toward my brothers and sisters in Christ. I began to see them as people, like me, rather than problems that needed to be fixed. I came to the understanding that while I might be farther along in my maturity, I was no better them. I had been where they were… not following and not serving the Lord. In short, what I learned was the power of humility.
 
I learned the power of being obedient to 1 Peter 5:5, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I got nowhere with my anger. Looking back, I see that when I acted better than everyone else, I was opposed by God. However, when I humbled myself, God gave me the grace to be a leader. When I put on humility, I saw lives changed, wounds healed, marriages saved, and people entering into the service of the Lord. 
 
The Lord has taught me so much about the power of humility in the last 12 years. For example, I learned that the key to being a leader is to have the humility to entertain the possibility that I could be wrong even when I believe that I am right. This way, I do not come across as having all the answers. I learned that I am a human being and prone to make mistakes. When I make a mistake, I own it, and when I own my mistakes, it makes an impact on the people around me. They are moved to humility as well, and they discover the power of humility for themselves. 
 
To lead with humility seems so counter-intuitive, but the same can be said with most biblical principles. Being humble requires that you dial back your confidence in yourself and turn up your confidence in the Lord. Understanding that you are not the be all and end all and the chairman of the universe actually serves to boost your self-esteem because God unleashes His grace upon the humble servant. 
 
Even Paul the Apostle learned the power of humility. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3). Hear this, not just from an apostle, but also from a man who has experienced the grace of God that comes in response to humility. Strength comes not from thinking too highly of yourself. Instead, strength comes through sober judgment and realizing that you have not yet reached the full measure of faith. You only have the measure of faith that you have received from God, and the same goes for all the other people in your life. 
 
I encourage you to put these principles into practice in your daily life. Humility is powerful!

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A Husband’s Review of Girl Wash Your Face

Rachel Hollis’ Girl Wash Your Face (GWYF) is currently the #1 bestselling book in the country. Over 330,000 print copies have been sold since the book was published in February. It is the #3 best seller on audible and the #2 bestselling nonfiction eBook on Kindle. This book, published by Thomas Nelson, is making a huge impact on the genre of Christian nonfiction.      

GWYF has met with mixed reviews in the Christian conservative community. Some dub the book heretical and satanic and others helpful and inspiring. One thing is for sure, Christian women are flocking to the bookstores, buying GWYF, drinking it in, and recommending it to their girlfriends, mothers, sisters, and daughters.    
 
Before I launch into my own review of GWYF, I should be transparent about a few things that may shape my perspective on the book. In July, my wife (Jennifer) and I set out on a journey to change our lifestyle. We were tired of being overweight and sick, so together we determined to make healthy eating and exercise our new lifestyle. We were not looking for a diet; we were looking for a life change.    
 
About a month into our new life, we had gotten on track and found an eating and exercise regimen that we felt we could live with for the rest of our lives. About that same time, Jen purchased GWYF on Kindle. She liked it so much that she also purchased the audio version, which is read by Hollis, to listen to on her two and a half-mile morning and afternoon walks.    
 
After reading the book, Jen’s passion for our new lifestyle was taken to a whole other level. It made a tremendous impact on her drive and willpower. It also helped her work through some deep-seated baggage that she has been carrying around for years. I’ve no doubt that God used this book to encourage her in her walk with the Lord. She is happier and more positive than she has been in years. Much of this has to do with her getting fit and healthy and much of her becoming fit and healthy has to do with how the Lord spoke to her through Hollis’ work.    
 
Right about the time she finished GWYF, I started seeing some pretty damning reviews being shared on social media by a lot of our Christian friends and church members. And when I say the reviews were “damning,” I mean every sense that is implied by that word. It was breaking Jen’s heart.    
 
The ministry is a pressure cooker for pastor’s wives. They have to be so careful what they say or do because it reflects back on their husbands and affects his ability to effectively fulfill God’s call in leading the church. Here she was having loved and been deeply impacted by the book (she had even posted about it a few times and shared some of Hollis’ videos), while our friends are reading and sharing terrible and damning reviews saying that GWYF is the work of Satan.  
 
She was crushed, so naturally, I did what a husband who loves his wife should do. I read the book in order to offer her my best attempt at an objective opinion, and now I also hope to share it with you. So here goes…  
 
First, let me say that I cannot recommend that ladies read this book. I say that not because I believe GWYF is the work of Satan. I believe Hollis is a genuine Christian who loves and wants to help women, but she could go about it in a better and more Christ-centered way. Though her work comes from a genuine place, it can easily be used by the enemy to lead our weaker sisters astray. (The same, by the way, could be said of many things I have said in sermons throughout my 11 years of preaching.)  
 
Before I get into what is wrong with the book, let me tell you Rachel’s story as she relates it in GWYF. She grew up in the home of a type A, highly driven, well educated, and easily provoked Pentecostal pastor. She hungered for the love of her father, but as the youngest and most independent child in the family, she was often overlooked. Working hard and making the highest grades became the only way for her to gain any affirmation from her dad. As a result, Hollis became just as highly driven as her father, and it was not healthy.    
 
Another event that she says God used to make her into the woman she is today was the death of her older brother when she was 14 years old. She was extremely close with her brother who was diagnosed as borderline schizophrenic. Sadly, his illness got the best of him. She came home from school one day and found him in her room dead, the victim of suicide by means of a firearm.  
 
The only coping mechanism for stress that she ever really learned was to work even harder. She finished high school a year ahead of schedule and had only started college when she figured out it wasn’t the place for her, so she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of making something great of herself.  
 
She worked hard and used the money from her day job as a high-end event planner to build a lifestyle media empire. Subscribers to her website, TheChicSite.com, reached over a million subscribers and is growing more every day. She was named one of Inc. Magazines “Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30.”  
 
She met her husband, Dave not long after moving to LA. They were married and had three boys. They felt led by the Lord to adopt a daughter. She and her husband fought a 5-year uphill battle first with international adoption agencies, then with the public “foster to adopt” agencies, but finally through a private agency, they were able to adopt their daughter. It was a brutal rollercoaster process, and she now credits the sovereignty of God with carrying them through.  
 
I tell her story because you have to grasp where she is coming from to understand what is wrong with the book. Do you remember Jillian Michaels on that show The Biggest Loser? Well, Rachel Hollis reminds me of Michaels with how she could push the contestants so hard but also comfort them when they would break down. In the same way, Rachel compels ladies to chase their wildest dreams and work hard to become who they were meant to be while also being there to help and comfort them when they feel ovewhelmed by being real about her own struggles.  
 
This led many reviewers to charge that Hollis as a heretic for not acknowledging the sovereignty of God and the Supremacy of Christ. This charge doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny of the book. We have to remember that the sovereignty of God does not negate our responsibility to pursue Him and who He wants us to be.   God created all of us in His image. He ordained beforehand good works for us to accomplish in our lives (Ephesians 2:10). However, it is up to us to actually walk in those good works. He provides us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, however, it is up to us to actually walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-24).  
 
In her book’s intro, Hollis writes, “As a Christian, I grew up learning that God was in control, that God had a plan for my life, and I believe in the marrow of my bones that this is true… but I don’t think that means we get to squander the gifts and talents he’s given us…” (p. xv). In this statement and throughout the book, Hollis reveals a grasp of the antinomy in scripture; God is sovereign and we are responsible. These truths are meant to be held in tension because that is how they are revealed in scripture (think Romans 9 verses Romans 10).  
 
So here is my objection and the reason why I will not recommend this book to women with whom I have the opportunity to counsel. Hollis, because of her background and her drive to be successful swings too far toward the human responsibility side of the antinomy.  
 
On page 211, she wrote, “Only you have the power to change your life.” This is not true. At. All. If we are the only ones with the power to change our lives, then we are in the deepest trouble imaginable. Put another way, if my righteousness, my professional success, my ability to lose weight and get healthy, or to have a strong and lasting marriage depends solely on me… then I am doomed and I am the most to be pitied.  
 
I think what she wants to get across with “only you have the power to change your life,” is that you cannot just sit on your hands when there is a problem and expect God to intervene. You have to do something. This is truth, but when I am in trouble, I don’t just strike believing that I can overcome the problem by my sheer willpower. When my marriage is struggling, when my health is failing because I lay on the couch eating Little Debbie cakes, or when I am not progressing as I feel I should in my career, then I have a duty to look to the Lord first. I have a duty to pray, to repent, to seek wisdom and guidance from the Lord. Then, I can strike out doing what the Lord in His wisdom leads me to do with confidence knowing that it is in His strength and Spirit with which I go forward. If Hollis had framed the idea she was trying to get across in that way, then I would have no problem at all. The difference is “me-centered” vs “Christ-centered.”  
 
The main reason why I give her the benefit of the doubt regarding her intention in the declaration on p. 211, is because when she tells her story, she affirms her dependence upon the Lord through the most difficult season of her adult life. In the chapter where she deals with the adoption of their daughter, she describes in detail how she sought the Lord. She asked Him all the hard questions. When she had no control over the situation, she held onto the threads of her faith and believed God. In the end, she acknowledged the Lord’s hand and His timing in everything that happened.  
 
In her well-intentioned, Jillian Michael’s styled, effort to rattle her readers into action, though, she actually puts them in danger of harm. What if she had believed, “only you have the power to change your life,” whenever she was struggling through the heartbreak of losing the twins they were hoping to adopt? All the weight of that loss would have fallen on her own shoulders. Instead of being lonely but not alone, she would have been lonely and all alone. Her drinking which she confessed came dangerously close to developing into an addiction around that time would have consumed her. This and her unwillingness to acknowledge sin and the need for repentance is what keeps me from recommending GWYF to my sisters in Christ.
 
I do not have as much problem with some of the things other reviewers have mentioned, namely the chapter on sex and the chapter on the need for diversity in friendships.   In Chapter 7, titled “I’m Bad at Sex,” Rachel contends for the need of married couples to feel free in their marriage beds, to communicate with one another about their needs, and in general just to have more sex. I know this makes many people uncomfortable because for generations the topic has been avoided. I believe the silence has harmed more than it has helped. My greatest disappointment with this chapter is that Rachel Hollis cut short the biblical basis of her arguments. All she offered as a foundation was Hebrews 13:4. She is more right than she gives herself credit for. She could have opened up 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 to her readers and accomplished the same objective, but the shock element would have come from what the Bible says on the topic rather than her use of edgy anecdotes.  
 
Chapter 19, “There’s Only One Right Way to Be,” drew a lot of outrage from reviewers. Aside from the melodramatic nature of the title of this chapter, I think Hollis is spot on. How can we expect to grow if we only engage people who look like us, believe like us, and vote like us? How can we become the people who God created us to be if we are not challenged by the ideas of others? It takes great confidence in what you believe to befriend a person from a different religion, voting bloc, or sexual orientation. If we are going to make disciples, we have to be in the world and not of the world. We have to become all things to all people if we hope to win some.  
 
There is a bigger problem that the Christian community needs to talk about. Why are Christian ladies flocking to GWYF? I believe it is because there are a lot of women out there starving for another woman to affirm their struggles. Hollis’ writing style is powerful. She writes like she is sitting across the table from you at Starbucks. She’s your best friend who will encourage you when you need encouragement, and she’ll shake you till your teeth rattle when you need it too.  
 
Where are the female Christian authors who will write with Rachel Hollis type transparency and encouragement, yet with a Christ-centered perspective? I could name at least a half dozen male authors who write with transparency, encouragement, and Christ-centeredness, Francis Chan, David Platt, Matt Chandler, Paul Tripp, Calvin Miller, J.D. Greear, and many more that I don’t know or can’t think of. Our sisters need older wiser women who will pour into them while being real and transparent at the same time. Many of them are drowning in “mommy guilt,” insecurity, body shame, and emotional baggage that men just can’t fully comprehend. Our sisters need other sisters to give them a hand up and point them to the healing that is found in the cross of Christ. May God raise them up.  
 
My wife was deeply and positively impacted by the book, so I know that God can use it. Like most anything else, Satan can use it too. I will not recommend that other women read it. Many will anyway. Many already have. I hope these will hear my caution. Girl Wash Your Face is strong in encouragement. Hollis’ story is inspiring. But overall the book’s tether to the Bible is weak which leaves room for some of the things she writes to be taken very wrong.

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A Homecoming Story

My cousin, Heath was a few years older than me. I really looked up to him. As an only child, I did a lot of playing by myself. Whenever I was playing alone, I would pretend I was playing with Heath. For example, I would go out in the yard with my plastic bat and ball, lob the ball up in the air, swing and hit it across the yard pretending that Heath was the ace pitcher, Allan Anderson, for the Minnesota Twins and I was Sid Bream of the Atlanta Braves.
 
One spring evening in 1988 (I was 8 years old), Heath and I were together visiting at my grandparents’ home in Pope, MS. That day, Heath had brought a pocketknife. He was infatuated with this knife. He would pull it out, unfold it, shave some hair on his arm, fold it back up, and stick it in his pocket. He and grandpa came to blows over the pocketknife, and he told Heath to put it up or he was going to take it away.
 
Angry at grandpa, Heath decided that we should take a walk. We crossed a rickety bridge over the ditch that ran behind the house. A few yards beyond the ditch was the tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad. We placed a quarter on the track and waited for a train to come by and flatten it, but we got bored waiting for the train and decided to go for a walk down the track. 
 
“Hey, look at that bridge up there,” Heath said noticing a pair of rusted trusses about a half a mile in the distance. “Let’s go throw rocks off it!”
 
After reaching the bridge and throwing a few rocks, we quickly got bored again and kept walking in search of more interesting stuff. As we continued farther and farther away from where we started we found railroad spikes, old rusty barrels, nuts and bolts, tools, and glass insulators that we presumed to be from the days of the telegraph. Soon, we spotted a huge bridge in the distance. It was the bridge over the Tallahatchie River. It was too interesting not to check out.
 
By the time we reached the Tallahatchie River, the day was fading into the evening. We suddenly realized how far we had walked. Worse, we heard a train coming. We hit the ditch to avoid getting hit by the train or seen by the conductor. By this time, I was terrified.
 
As we made our way back to the crossing where we first laid the quarter on the track, the sky grew darker and darker. Two more trains came by and two more times we had to hide in the ditch beside the tracks. Directly, we noticed red and blue lights bouncing off the clouds in the direction of the crossing where we had begun our journey. We concluded that it must be another bigger train that was coming for us. 
 
I never felt more relief than when I saw the headlights of my dad’s four-wheeler coming down the tracks. I expected him to be mad. He wasn’t. Dad was so relieved to find us. When we reached the crossing where we started, we discovered the source of the red and blue lights. Our parents had called the fire department, the sheriff, the game wardens, the county rescue team, and the highway patrol to come and search for us. My mom hugged me tighter than she ever had before. 
 
This story serves as a good parable for life and our walk with the Lord. Often times, we wander away. The enemy strings us along with temptation. He puts shiny things in front of us that promise to complete our lives and heal our brokenness. Those shiny things never hold our attention for very long until he shows us the next thing leading us farther and farther away and into a darker and darker place.
 
Once we come to our senses and determine to make our way back to Him, not only do we find that He is ready to receive us back… we find that he has been pursuing us all along. We find that he has pulled out all the stops to find us and win us back to Him. 2 Chronicles 30:9 says, “the Lord is gracious and merciful and will not turn away His face from you if you return to Him.” If you have wandered astray, then you know the way back to Him. He will welcome you with the warmest embrace. You too will have a homecoming story to tell.

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The Theology of Work

Last week I read Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age-Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self Reliance. It is the Republican senator from Nebraska’s treatise on what he views as a crisis for our American youth and a prescription for how to fix it. I highly recommend this book to parents with children at home. Sasse will open your eyes to a lot of problems that you have been blind to as well as offer some great suggestions for how to correct those problems to ensure that your children are adequately prepared for the future.
 
One of the problems that Sasse points out is the lack of work ethic in our young people. It is not their fault. They are simply imitating what they see in the adults around them. When we lack an accurate theology of work, we teach our kids that work is a thing to be avoided. If, though, we correct our theology of work, then we will learn to rejoice in the work the Lord gives us, and our children will see that there is profit in a good work ethic. 
 
If you want to model a good work ethic for the young people in your life while finding joy in your work, consider these passages:
 
1. Genesis 2:15– “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” God’s very first act after forming the man, was to give him a job. Remember that man was created in the image of God. God creates. God builds. God sends the rain on the earth. God sustains the entire universe. In short, God works. Why shouldn’t the man be expected to work?
 
Many people erroneously believe that work is the punishment for sin. This could not be farther from the truth. Adam was given the job of tending the garden of Eden even before the curse. The curse of sin simply took the joy out of work, however like every other casualty of the curse, the joy of work is restored through faith in Christ and a personal relationship with Him.
 
2. Proverbs 14:23– “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Whether you are a stay-at-home parent who oversees the management of your household, or a school teacher who invests in the youth of our society, or a doctor who heals diseases, or a nurse who cares for the sick, or a lawyer who keeps our society honest, or the man who picks up my trash every Thursday, there is profit in your toil. Nothing meaningful is attained through any other means than hard work. 
 
“Mere talk tends only to poverty.” Why does talk tend to poverty? Because talk tends toward consumption rather than production. When you mindlessly scroll through social media, passively binge on Netflix, engage in office gossip, put off until tomorrow work that can and should be done today, you consume precious time and energy. Your time and energy are finite. You cannot get back a single second that you waste. While rest and escape are necessary, the goal should never be to work to escape but rather to be refreshed in rest so that you can be more purposeful in your work. 
 
3. 2 Thessalonians 3:10– “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” God in His sovereignty provides for us. He clothes us. He feeds us (See Matthew 6:25-34). However, He involves us in His provision. He gives us the pleasure of working so that we can enjoy His rewards. God’s intention is that we would find joy in work, just as He finds joy in His work. Remember, through Jesus, He makes us into who we were always meant to be before the fall. 
 
Certainly, not all people are able to work. These receive a special measure of grace from their Heavenly Father. In addition, He blesses those who are able to work with the opportunity to be His hands and feet for those who are less fortunate. The point of this passage is that those who are able, have no excuse for not working and should be refused charity so that they learn to work. 
 
Here are some other passages that shape a biblical theology of work:
 

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True or False: All people are children of God?

“If what you say is true, then why have I never heard it. Why are you the first person in all my years to tell me,” Mr. Z said with tears and more than a touch of indignation. I had just shared with him what the Bible says in John 3, that the only way to eternal life is by being born again. My heart was rent to pieces for this man. Mr. Z had spent his whole life believing that we were all children of God, and all that was required for life was to believe that God exists. He had been baptized twice, but no one ever told him that baptism signifies the new birth of a believer.
 
 
I don’t expect to make many friends from what I am about to write, but the Church has committed a terrible evil. It must be exposed and a solution must be offered. There are too many Mr. Z’s out there for us to ignore. They are the harvest of a watered-down gospel that is good for making converts but powerless to make disciples. Mr. Z had a right to be angry because he was sold a counterfeit product, which left him void of hope. Why should he believe me, someone he saw as just another counterfeit salesman?    

 

There are three lies that I want to confront in the false gospel that has been making rounds in the Church for the last 50 years. Then I will propose some solutions.  
 
 
1. All people are not children of God. The willingness to shirk the necessity of the new birth in order to make the gospel message more palatable for the masses is the most grievous evil that I can find in the Church and in Christian people in general today. If we were “all God’s children,” then why does Ephesians 2:3 tell us that apart from Christ we are all “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind?” Why does the Spirit tell us in 1 Timothy 2:5 that there is a need for a mediator between a holy God and sinful man? Children do not need mediators to represent them before their parents. They need a mediator to represent them in a court where they stand accused.  
 
In John 1:11-13 it is written, “He (Jesus) came to his own, and His own people did not receive Him.
But to all who did receive Him, who believed on His name, he gave them the right to be called children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (emphasis mine). We see here that not even all of the Jews were children of God. Only those who “received Him and believed on His name” were given the right to be called children of God. Where do we get off saying, “We’re all God’s children?”  
 
Yes, it is true that we are all created in the image of God and as such we should love all people. We should value human life. More than that, we should treat all people no matter race, creed, political persuasion, sexual preference, or gender with the highest dignity. Every human being has the image of God etched into their DNA, so to mistreat anyone is an offense against the creator. (Cf. Galatians 6:10, Genesis 9:5-6)  
 
It is also true that God loves everyone. Indeed, “He makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends the rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Also, He desires all people to be saved. He rhetorically asks through His prophet Ezekiel, “Have I any pleasure in the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn away from His evil and live” (Ezekiel 18:23)? In 1 Timothy 2:4 we read that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  
 
God’s love for all is not His affirmation that all people are children of God. Quite contrarily, the common grace He shows to all is a kindness that is meant to lead to repentance (Romans 2:4). Romans 2:5 is a warning to those who presume upon the common grace of God– “But because of your hard impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”  
 
Clearly, there is a dichotomy of peoples in the Bible. There are those who have received Him and believed on Him with penitent hearts. These have been given the right to be called children of God. Then there are those who daily drink in His common grace, but because of their hard hearts refuse to submit to Him as their Lord. These are definitely not the children of God. They are children of wrath, who are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of judgment.  
 
 
2. Believing in Jesus is not the same as trusting in Him. We commit another grievous evil when we rush our “converts” through the baptismal waters based on their acknowledgments of a few propositions. Those responsible for the care of souls ask too many “yes” or “no” questions when assessing the readiness of a candidate for baptism. Of course, the candidate is going to say that they believe in Jesus as God’s son. Of course, they are going to say that they believe he died for their sins. Of course, they are going to say that they believe, but the real question is when and how they came to trust in Jesus alone for saving grace?  
 
I can study how a parachute works and come to the conclusion that I believe the concepts, but trusting in the parachute is another matter altogether. Trust cannot be demonstrated with words. Trust requires action– jumping out of the airplane.   Belief begins in the mind. The brain does all the calculations and if the math and logic work out then the person will believe the proposition. Trust, on the other hand, is a matter of the heart. Trust requires an existential demonstration of what one believes in the heart. In the Bible’s conversion stories, this is precisely what we see.  
 
Andrew, Peter, James, and John, when called by Jesus, immediately left their boats and their families behind to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-22). The Ethiopian Eunuch immediately desired to exercise his trust in Jesus by being baptized on the spot (Acts 8:29-36). Paul immediately called the one who struck him down, “Lord,” in acknowledgment of his wholehearted trust in Jesus and spent the rest of his days demonstrating his trust in the Lord (Acts 9:5). In the case of Lydia, the Philippian seller of royal robes, it is written that when Paul spoke to her “The Lord opened her heart (not her mind) to pay attention.” Because of this move of the heart, she was not only baptized but also moved to host the Philippian mission in her home (Acts 16:14-15).  
 
The Greek word for the verb “to believe” (pisteuo) occurs 132 times in the gospels, 37 times in Acts, and 54 times in the letters of Paul. Never is the word used to say that one merely ascribes to a set of propositions. In the gospels, when Jesus called for one to believe, He was calling for a demonstration of trust. He said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” When belief was described by Jesus and by the Holy Spirit through Paul it was not described as a mere acknowledgment of a set of propositions.  
 
Paul was in prison when he wrote, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12). He was so convinced of the truth of the gospel that he was willing to be placed in chains, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked to advance the gospel to the known world. This is the kind of trust that is required for salvation. It is the kind of trust demonstrated by jumping out of a plane, getting out of the boat and onto the raging seas, taking up a cross, being willing to die knowing that the One in whom you have believed is able to keep you in that day.  
 
 
3. Discipleship was Jesus’ goal, not baptism. Jesus doesn’t care about how many people your church baptizes. He cares how many disciples are being made. For far too long we have made baptism the goal and discipleship an afterthought. I am not saying that Baptism should be an afterthought, but it should not be the end that we seek.  
 
What would you think about a doctor who after delivering a baby never made an effort to bring the baby back to the parents where it could receive the nourishment needed for life? What if the doctor just set the baby out on the street believing that someone would come along and pick it up? And what if after doing such a horrible thing, he boasted in his advertisements about how many babies he had delivered? This is precisely what the Church is doing by making converts and not discipling them while boasting in their baptism numbers.    
 
When Jesus told us to make disciples, He told us that those disciples were to be baptized and taught. The onus is not on the convert seek discipleship, any more than a baby must fend for itself for nourishment and raising. Jesus calls upon his own disciples and gives them the authority to make more disciples.  
 
Back to Mr. Z: The first worst evil that the Church committed against him was allowing him to trust in a false gospel. The second was that they left him to fend for himself. The Church was eager to affirm his false conversion, but where were they when he needed a guide? Where were they when he was growing up in a violent home and needed comfort? Where were they when he faced temptation and needed to know there was another way out? Where were they when he was in prison? Where were they when he lost everything he was trusting in to save him?  
 
 
Solutions to the Problem:  
 
Solution #1: Trust in Jesus. I’m convinced that the evils listed above stem from generations of false teaching in the Church. There are many in our pews today who preach, serve on committees, serve on deacon bodies, and direct ministries who have never trusted in Jesus alone for salvation. They are the lost seeking the lost and when they make a convert they only make him or her twice as fit for hell (Matthew 23:15). Many church leaders need to get into the Scripture and seek the deep conversion of their own souls. You cannot give away what you have not received.  
 
Solution #2: Preach the word. Stick to the Scripture. There is only one gospel and it is revealed in God’s word. All these other destructive and false gospels do not stand the biblical test. In the Bible, each false gospel is condemned even when preached by an angel from heaven (Galatians 1:7-9). Answer questions using the Bible and not popular wisdom. If you cannot answer a question from Scripture then say so, and seek God’s guidance.  
 
Solution #3: Ask hard questions of your Christian brothers and sisters. Yes or no questions are not hard questions. They can be answered without any search of the heart. Ask questions like, “When did you become a follower of Christ?” Then, listen to the answer and compare it to the conversion narratives in Scripture. Ask, “Who are you going to tell about Jesus?” Then, later follow up “Did you ever get an opportunity to speak with ‘so and so?’” Ask, “how is your prayer life? What are you praying for right now?” and “What can I ask God for on your behalf?” and “Is there any sin that you are hiding?” and “What is your greatest temptation right now?” and “How is God speaking to you in your daily Bible study? What is He doing in your heart?”  
 
Solution #4: Have a plan for discipleship. All followers of Christ are duty bound to preach the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). But what you do after a person is converted matters just as much. If your church is planning a major outreach event i.e. a revival, VBS, special Easter service, or a harvest festival where you will actively try to reach people with the gospel, the church must also have a plan in place to disciple those who respond. Sunday School classes are great but have specific people assigned to reach out to those who respond. Have someone assigned to invite them to worship and have them sit with their families and maybe even treat their guests to lunch. Build in your church a culture that will serve as a nursery for new baby Christians.  
 
Solution #5: Pray. It’s last on the list but not the least important. We cannot expect God to do what we do not ask of Him (James 4:2). He is sovereign. He does not need for us to ask, but He wants to hear our hearts. He loves it when His children demonstrate that they are depending upon Him in their prayers. If we ask, then we can have confidence that He will do what we ask especially when we know we are asking in accordance with His will (John 15:7-11).  

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A Review of Not Forgotten, By Kenneth Bae

Can you imagine a world where praying would be against the law or a country where bringing in groups of people to pray could be seen as an act of terrorism? That is precisely the situation in North Korea. A missionary and pastor named Kenneth Bae found that out the hard way, and he tells the story in his book Not Forgotten: The True Story of My Imprisonment in North Korea.
 
Years before his arrest, Kenneth felt the Lord calling him to be “a bridge connecting North Korea to the outside world.” He answered that call by setting up a ministry in Dandong China located on the Yolu River that forms the border between China and North Korea. His ministry was disguised as a travel agency that hosted tours inside the dark country. What the North Korean authorities did not know was that the tourists were all believers, and their purpose in the country was to pray for the North Korean people.
 
Bae’s ministry was strictly a ministry of prayer. Sharing the gospel would bring too much attention, so they simply walked the streets silently praying while doing acts of kindness for the North Korean people in order to demonstrate the love of Christ to them. God through Kenneth Bae, built a network of believers in the country that became hosts to Bea’s “tour groups.” The plans were in place to begin an organized and secret prayer meeting for believers at a hotel in Rason. Bae got busted before the plans could be executed.
 
You might wonder what could possibly be threatening about people praying especially in a country that does not believe in God? There are several reasons. First, in North Korea, everyone is suspect. Every American is assumed to be working for the CIA and planning a coupe. Second, it is not true to say that North Koreans, in general, do not believe in God. They do believe in God. At the time of Bae’s missionary activities, God’s name was Kim Jong Il. If people were in the country praying in the name of Jesus and working in the name of Jesus, then that was a threat to the man they believed to be the true God of all.
 
I want you to read the book, so I won’t spoil the story and tell you how he got caught. I will only tell you that Kenneth confessed everything to the authorities. He confessed to being a missionary and pastor. He confessed to bringing people into North Korea for the purpose of praying and loving on the Korean people in the name of Jesus. For these crimes, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison camp. 
 
What is most interesting about the story is that Kenneth Bae worked in North Korea for years. He led hundreds of Christians into the country to do mission work. However, he did not become the missionary that God called him to be until after he was arrested. Once arrested, God freed Kenneth to tell the truth. He truly became a “bridge” to the outside world for many of his guards in the labor camp, his prosecutors, and his wardens.
 
It took a while, but God worked through Kenneth in a powerful and miraculous way once he submitted himself to the Lord and recognized why he’d been caught. He prayed aloud. He sang praise songs while working in the labor camp. He even took some of the songs that the people sang to Kim Jong Il, and replaced the Supreme Leader’s name with the name of Jesus and sang those at night in prison.
 
This made a tremendous impact on his guards and handlers. They softened and started asking questions. He became a pastor to them. He gave them marriage advice from Scripture. He taught them what life was really like outside of North Korea. This might not sound like much, but understand, these people truly know nothing except what their country’s propaganda machine has fed them. It absolutely shocked me, how much the North Korean’s really don’t know about the outside world, especially America. This served to drastically shape and better inform my prayers for North Korea. 
 
I commend to you this book, Not Forgotten, by Kenneth Bae. It is the story of how God can accomplish His mighty purpose in us when we submit ourselves to Him. It will also aid you in praying for the people of North Korea. 

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