• IP addresses are NOT logged in this forum so there's no point asking. Please note that this forum is full of homophobes, racists, lunatics, schizophrenics & absolute nut jobs with a smattering of geniuses, Chinese chauvinists, Moderate Muslims and last but not least a couple of "know-it-alls" constantly sprouting their dubious wisdom. If you believe that content generated by unsavory characters might cause you offense PLEASE LEAVE NOW! Sammyboy Admin and Staff are not responsible for your hurt feelings should you choose to read any of the content here.

    The OTHER forum is HERE so please stop asking.

In step



Standing Firm In God’s Grace: Putting Away Sinful Habits​



I remember when I was 8 years old and my dad was the pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Knob Lick, Kentucky in 1980. I had recently given my life to Jesus Christ, and I was in Sunday School class that morning. My teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up.

We went around the room and answered the question, at the time, I don’t remember what I said or the other kids for that matter. But I remember her telling a story.

She said, “One time a Sunday school teacher asked her class the same question I asked you today. One little boy in the room named Johnny spoke up and said, ‘Teacher, I am either going to be a missionary or work for the mafia.’ She said, ‘Johnny that’s an interesting response, there is a big difference between being a missionary and working for the mafia. What do you think will determine which you do?’ He smiled and said, ‘I guess it depends on who gets to me first.’”

The same is true for us.

Are you going to live for Christ or are we going to live for our sinful habits? I guess it depends on what gets the best of us, first. And the great news is, we get to play a part in that decision.

“How do we put away sinful habits?”

The Apostle Peter shows in 1 Peter…

1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

Peter tells us to put away a list of actions.

What does it mean to put away?

It means to rid yourself of them and make them not easily accessible to your behavior.

My family and I just completed our 13th annual sugar fast. And for the most part, I do well, but when I see things I want, the temptation grows. So, we put away, get rid of the temptations out of our house. We put out of our sight our favorite sweets.

Peter wants the followers of Jesus, to put some things out of their sight, behavior, emotions, and so forth and so on. What is it in your life that just keeps triggering bad behavior?

You need to put it away. You need to put it out of your life.

Peter gives a grocery list of things people need to put out of their lives in his day.

Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.

Let’s define these words…

Key Definitions:

  • Malice: the intention or desire to do evil.

Now you might say, “I don’t have any intention or desire to do evil.” So let me ask you this, “Do you have anyone you want revenge on?”

Well…that is the desire to do evil.

  • Deceit: the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing (not telling the whole truth) or misrepresenting the truth (presenting it in a less than accurate way for your benefit)

  • Hypocrisy: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.

Peter is telling them to put away actions that try to convey to others images that are better than you are.

  • Envy: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck

Peter is telling them to stop focusing on the success of someone and turn their attention elsewhere. It is okay to learn from others how to do things, but it is not okay to covet what someone else has to the point you are miserable because you don’t have it.

Life is not about the getting, it is about the wanting of what you got.

  • Slander: the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.

Peter is telling them, “Don’t lie about someone else to make them look back so you can look better.” Live in the truth, even if it hurts, don’t run from it.

Peter tells them, “Put all this junk away.”

In essence, fast from it, don’t let your body have it. When you sense yourself going to these five areas, say to the Lord, “Take it away Lord, I don’t want it. I don’t want that feeling, emotion, thought, or action in my life.”

But if you are going to take something away, what do you have to do? You must replace it with something. Peter says, “Long for the pure spiritual milk?”

2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

What is the pure spiritual milk?

It is God’s Word. Peter is telling them to replace these sinful actions with a longing for God’s Word. How do you grow your palate to crave something?

You taste it.

How do you taste the Word of God?

You read it.

For something to become a habit they say you must do it for 30 days. I want to give you a challenge, start reading the Bible every day. Begin with the book of Provers and read 1 chapter a day for 31 days. There are 31 Proverbs for 31 days. Also, I want to challenge you to get a devotional like Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost For His Highest.” It has 365 devotions for 365 days. This will help you begin and continue a daily dose of tasting the word so that you develop a craving for The Word of God.

You will not develop a craving for God’s Word until you read it.

You just won’t.

And some days you will crave it more than others depending on a myriad of factors.

Remember this, no child is born loving vegetables, but sugar comes naturally. The same is true in the spiritual realm. When we come to Christ it is not natural to desire the Word of God, but sin still comes naturally. We must ween these things out of our lives through the craving of God’s Word through reading it and applying it.

3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

What is Peter saying? He is saying, if you have given your life to Jesus, if you have tasted the grace of God, you can do this. He is making a statement of trust and confidence in them. I am saying to you today, “If you know the Lord, you can do this.”
If you and I are going to put away sinful habits, we need to get out our Bibles and put away our sinful actions.

Peter continues in 1 Peter 2:4…

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

When you come to God through reading His Word, confession of sin, for me (confessing of sin through journaling), fasting to hear His voice speak louder than the voice of hunger pains, urges, and desires, and listening to hear his voice through prayer, you are being built up into His spiritual house, priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.

And what is acceptable to God? Because of Jesus, you are. He wants you to offer yourself to Him as a living sacrifice. When you wake up in the morning you say, “Good Morning Holy Spirit, this is your day. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

That is what a spiritual sacrifice to God looks like.

You won’t be able to fight the demons of your life if you don’t welcome God to join you in the battle. Malic, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander will get the best of you if you don’t welcome God into your day.

When we welcome Jesus to join us in our day, we are in essence putting away sinful habits and choosing Him over them.

Those first few moments when we first wake up are critical. Ask Him to meet you in your day first thing.

His presence will be the difference maker. Look at 1 Peter 2:6…

Peter emphasizes the significance of Christ’s presence and strength in our days.

6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

In building terms, do you know what a cornerstone means to a building? It is the stone the building depends on to keep it standing.

Jesus is our cornerstone. He is the stone that keeps us standing. If we believe in Him, we will not be put to shame because He will so to speak, “Keep our lives standing” in faith in God.

Therefore, it is so important to welcome Him into our day, so we can rid ourselves of what we don’t’ need to focus on, so we can focus on what we do need to focus on.

Peter continues in 1 Peter 2:7…

7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

What is Peter saying? He is saying this about Jesus as the cornerstone. He holds our lives up by His grace, but we choose to ignore Him, He becomes a rock of offense that causes us to stumble.

The choice is ours.

I encourage you to choose Jesus to be your strength not your stumbling block, but the choice is yours.

But rest assured, he will be one or the other. He will either be the source of your strength or the pain in your backside, but He will have an impact on your life one way or another.

Peter continues in 1 Peter 2:9…

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

God has already chosen you; it is time for you to choose Him. He doesn’t want to be a stumbling block in your life. He doesn’t want to be primarily Judge, but He will, and He is. He wants to be the Lord and Savior.

I don’t want to have to discipline my children. I don’t like being the heavy. I will because it is my job. But I much prefer to be a compassionate, grace-filled father who shows mercy to His children.

Choose Jesus as your strength not your stumbling block.

Peter continues in 1 Peter 2:11…

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
It is important to remember why you are here on planet earth.

Why are we here? So, others may see your good deeds and what? Glorify God!
How we act increases or decreases the future praise God will receive from others around us. Our conduct matters because it is the conduit that God uses to bring others into real relationship with Him as well.

Your actions speak the presence of Christ into other people’s lives.

I want my life to count for Christ’s glory and remembering why I am here has probably the greatest impact on how I act. It causes me to put away my sinful habits, even the ones only I or a few know about, so that the Lord can receive yet more glory through my life by those who don’t know him, yet.

What will choose today?

I pray you choose Jesus and put away your sinful habits and advance His Kingdom today through your everyday moments for His glory and others good.

It begins today with a simple, “Yes Lord and a ‘no’ to yourself.”

Easier said than done, but no doubt, it will be worth it in the end.



Moving Past Regret: How To Fix A Painful Past.​

Retrospect is a human luxury. It’s great to remember the good, the joyous journey of the past. But it also serves as a painful, backwards glance at what-could-have-been, should-have-been.

When I look back at some of the decisions I’ve made regarding relationships, actions, and spoken words, I have to wonder, “What was I thinking?” I admit there are times when I wonder what my life would have been like without those stupid, silly, and often sinful decisions.

The rear-view mirror provides a different perspective if slightly skewed view of the past. My life is replete with these memories.
And it isn’t just the big things – the explosive decisions that can ruin a man or a woman. It’s the everyday lazy actions, the misplaced word, the shaded truth.
The problem is that you can never go back and undo the past. You can’t jump in the DeLorean and go back in time to change.
Regret is one of life’s most painful lessons. And without good perspective, that regret leads to shame.
Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash
All I have is grace

The world tells us that the good decisions eventually outweigh the bad, that in the end, as long as you are a “good person” that it all works out. The problem is that a single bad decision can ruin a lifetime of good decisions. I’ve done that in marriage, at work, and with friends.
There are natural consequences to our actions. I’m living with some of those right now. I have strained relationships at work. There are acquaintances who are no longer friends. Mostly, I live with the stern finger-pointing to my heart, the accusations still fresh, raw. I often lie awake at night, unable to stop the ship that has sailed.

But consequences are far different from karma, the belief that the good will reward the good and the bad will haunt the bad.
I have to keep reminding myself, “Karma is a lie. In God’s world, grace rules.”

Finding our way back home
In the book of Samuel, a widow approached the king, looking for justice for her family. And in her simplicity, she uttered these words. “But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.” 2 Samuel 14.14.
As His children, we need to allow Father God to delight us with His grace. Forgiving ourselves without regressing to shame isn’t easy, especially when the tape keeps playing in the memory bank. But I no longer have to wonder, “What was I thinking” because He is continually finding ways to bring us home. We don’t have to piece it all together.

An even more powerful force is when we display that same grace to a world around us – friends, family and coworkers who don’t have the same sense of perspective. To look at someone who has failed, hold out a hand and lift them up is an act that change a life – maybe change a world.
Yesterday is suddenly no longer anchor that weighs us down. We have today — and tomorrow, too.

The song that helped “The Greatest Showman” come to the big screen​

I heard a story in church about the song that was sung to help film executives “sign off” on the film, “The Greatest Showman.”
It’s a passionate presentation by someone who doesn’t seem to be faking. When she pushes away the microphone, our pastor said that was the moment when shame was defeated. “This is me” isn’t a declaration of doing anything, saying anything. It’s a declaration that our past will not dictate our future nor will it determine our present.
“All things are made new.”

There isn’t perfect theology here, but this is a gospel message. Shame no More
“This Is Me”
I’m not a stranger to the dark Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

Run away, they say
No one will love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat
I drum I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades
And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become

Won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
out (…this is me)



No Single Molecule, Or Virus, Is Outside The Orbit Of God’s Sovereign Control​

One of the fundamental truths of the Scriptures is the reality that God is utterly sovereign in all things. Not only has God made everything for its own purpose, including the wicked for the day of evil (Pro. 16:4), but He has done so for His own glory (Rom. 9:16-24). There is no single molecule, or virus, outside of the orbit of God’s control. This logically means that all things which were, are, and will be, are totally governed by God. Not a single thing has happened, is happening, or will happen, outside of God’s sovereign control. What’s more than this is that all things are being worked out according to His purposes, meaning that He is very much active in and through all things. This means that even in the midst of any and every disaster, whether natural or man-made, it is not only under the sovereign control of God, but actively brought about by Him for His purposes.

Many wrestle with the implications of this, as they cannot wrap their heads around the notion that God is not de facto evil if He has orchestrated every event in the history of mankind. However, I would argue that fundamentally, the complete sovereign action and initiation of the Triune Lord is the only sufficient answer when it comes to tragedy. The simple reason for this is that an utterly sovereign Lord is the only One who is not impotent in the face of adversity. He is not blindsided by tragedy. He is not surprised when disease and sickness runs rampant in the land.

He is not shocked by the wicked intentions and actions of men. Furthermore, He is not even languishing as those in positions of power and influence abuse their power and influence. He is not a reactive God, scrambling to action only when disaster strikes. There is not a single thing in all of time and space that slips by His gaze unnoticed or even uncaused, namely, because He has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

How then do we understand the problem of evil when it comes to this, particularly with the Lord Himself? Quite simply, actually. God is good. It is intrinsic to His nature to be good. He is the very fountainhead of goodness, therefore, anything that comes from Him is de facto good, in fact, it is very good. What that means is that when God handles anything, even things which are not good by their nature, they become good by extension of His own qualities and actions upon them. This is particularly why the same exact action can be described as both evil and good; it is evil from the hands of the finite creature who commits it, yet it is fundamentally good from the hands of the infinite God who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

This theme is brought up routinely within the Scriptures, so much so, in fact, that the only way to get around it is to simply redefine the terms, shift things to blind circumstance and thus remove their purpose, or dismiss the notion out of hand by making God out to be some sort of Divine Superintendent. In reality, this is often little more than Open-Theism, at least if its logical implications are teased out to where they lead. Yet if suffering has a purpose and it is in fact a God-ordained one, that necessarily means that such suffering is actually for our good and His glory.

I have a hunch, and I’ll admit that it is pure speculation on my part, that most reject the Doctrines of Grace on account of the implications of what that means for personal suffering and autonomy. In other words, I tend to believe that many will not accept that God is not passive when it comes to the human will simply because that then means God is active in causing their hardships. One of the reasons I believe this is so, is due to the fact that we have an extremely myopic understanding of the Christian life, one which does not readily accept that we must suffer in order to inherit eternal life (James. 1:12).

Instead, we build exceptions to this general rule because it rubs us the wrong way that God ordains our sufferings. These exceptions are simply measures to escape the hard truth that God appoints our sufferings, and furthermore, that He has declared them very good. What that indicates is that we are not a people who are willing to call hardship a blessing from the Lord.

Why do I bring suffering to the discussion on God’s sovereignty? Again, I firmly believe that God’s complete control over human suffering is the only sufficient answer to the problem of evil in our world. It is the only thing that provides a true balm to the soul in the midst of hardship. God is not only above evil and unaffected by it, but actively in sovereign control of it, working it, handling it, shaping us by it—all for the purpose of working all things for good for the one who loves Him and was called according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28).

It is not the product of universal laws of chaos, nor is it attributed to Satan, but in fact is a means for grace to abound with the result of abundant thanksgiving to God (2 Cor. 4:15). While the adversary may have a direct role in afflicting us, the reality is that as with Job, God is directing Satan’s gaze upon His servants (Job 1:8). Yet just as God has directed the evildoer’s eyes to consider His servants to do them harm, God causes it to bring about His intended result (Gen. 50:20). It is not merely that He uses such things as a result of what some other agent has decided, but that He actively works out all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11).

The question is not so much if the Lord is the One who brings suffering upon His people. That God appoints suffering is an incontrovertible teaching of Scripture—one which is not a theme for controversy, but worship. Thus, the question is not if the Lord appoints suffering, but if we believe that He truly does work all things for good for those who love Him. If indeed God’s Word stands true, that He does work all things for good, shall we not accept both good and evil days as from the Lord (Job 2:10; Ecc. 7:14)?

If all our days are written in His book and ordained before one came to be—shall we not accept both cursing and blessing, knowing that out of the mouth of the Most-High, both evil and good proceed (Lam. 3:38)? If these things work to our blessing, shall we not praise the One whose hand directed it our way (1 Pet. 3:14), rather than curse God and die, as the bitter wife of Job suggested (Job 2:9)? Shall we not embrace the furnace of affliction so that the pure metal of our faith is revealed (1 Pet. 1:7)?

God’s complete sovereignty over all things indicates that He is a God who is a proactive God. He is not reactionary, but is very much involved in the details of all that comes to pass so that His ultimate purposes will be realized. God’s handling of evil for our good indicates that evil does not have the final word. In fact, it teaches that evil has no word except that which the Lord has given it, for in its utterance, it cannot go forth without it being for our blessing. In some grand mystery, by virtue of His being and action upon it, God takes that which is evil and makes it good. God has always maintained a knowledge of both good and evil without being subject to fall as man, which provides man with the ultimate hope that evil is no true conqueror. It may for a season beset us with many hardships and struggles, yet it ultimately must and will work to our good and to His glory because God has ordained that it be so.

This is perhaps most clearly seen in the evil brought upon our Savior for our ultimate good. God not only brought excruciating pain and death upon His Son, but His life was one of many sorrows and He was well-acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3). He was despised, forsaken, and rejected of men. He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk. 9:58). His own disciples fled from His presence as one betrayed him with a kiss (Matt. 26:47-56). He endured a criminal’s death upon the cross, dying innocently in the place of those who deserved to be hung on the cross instead of Him. It was through these heinous acts and more that He who knew no sin then became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). In other words, it was through His suffering that the child of God could be counted righteous in the Father’s sight. Our sin was reckoned to Him, yet His righteousness was reckoned to us, on the basis of His pleasing sacrifice to end all sacrifices (Heb. 10:1-18).

Yet all such things were prophesied of the Christ who was to come and set right the curse of sin through His sufferings (Acts 3:18). Though the hands of lawless men nailed Him to the tree, He was only delivered up by God’s set plan and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23). He was known before the foundations of the world in this capacity, and revealed to us in time for our sake (1 Pet. 1:20). What this invariably means is that the sacrifice of Christ was never merely a “Plan B” or a reaction to the Original Sin of our federal head, Adam.

Instead, it was God’s plan from before the foundations of the world, which is simply another means of saying it was His intent from eternity past. It was always His plan to sacrifice His Own Son for the redemption of many. But why? Again, for the grace given to more and more people, which rebounds in praise of thanksgiving to God (2 Cor. 4:15). In other words, God’s purposes in ordaining all that should come to be, is for the express purpose of Him receiving the full honor, praise, and glory that He is due as it culminates in the finished work of Christ (Eph. 1:11-12).

To put it even more clearly: God alone gets all the glory. In everything. He has so fashioned the world so that in all things that were, are, and will be rebound to glorify Him in an increasingly larger measure. What this reveals to us is that God is passionate about His own glory, so much so that all things are said to rebound to the glory of God (Rom. 11:36). When we consider this, the complete sovereignty of God is perhaps most simply expressed in the reality that God does all things for His Own Name’s sake. He will not let Himself be defamed, nor yield His glory to another (Is. 48:11).

Nothing in created order shall out-glorify our God—even that which is considered evil of men is fashioned and then directed by God for our good and for His glory. Thus, the natural conclusion is not for the lowly lump of clay to find fault with His will, nor to talk back to Him when He works in a way that betrays our sensibilities. It is so that the earth will be filled with a knowledge of His glory, as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). When faced with the complete sovereignty of God, if your default reaction is one where you find fault instead of rebound in praise and glory, you have not yet been captivated by the fact that all things were designed by God to bring Him glory.

“O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has first given to God, that God should repay him?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36).



The Bible: Getting Rich Quick & Stinginess Are A Formula For Poverty​

Proverbs 28:22​

“A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. “

The man described in this proverb has two overlapping issues: he is stingy and he hastens after wealth. Although he is racing toward poverty, he is oblivious to it.

Issue One: He is stingy, a word synonymous with selfishness and self-centeredness. We have all done business with this man: even when he gives you service, the odor of artificiality permeates the transaction. He is overly sweet until he doesn’t get his way, at which time he sours into contentiousness. This is a man you will not give repeat business to.
Issue Two: He hastens after wealth. He wants this wealth and wants it now, so he will take shortcuts to get it. In his rush for money, he will not only take advantage of others but will also be prey to “get rich quick” schemes. His haste will be his ruin.

Is Financial Advice Enough?​

We Financial advisors and educators in the world of personal finance are quick to give pragmatic solutions, and indeed we should help others with practical ideas. But we should never forget that personal finance is indeed personal; the character of the person will often dictate his behavior. This man, who is so driven to gain wealth that he thinks of nothing else and no one else, needs more than a formula.
Financial advice alone will not be enough.

Is There Hope For This Man?​

Of course. In God’s economy, there is always hope. This proverb is intended as a warning, not an absolute judgment. The man has a character flaw so he needs a character transplant. “How?” you ask. By taking on the character traits of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the polar opposite of this man, will impart his own character traits of selflessness and generosity into him.



Eve: Mother To All (Genesis 1:1–5:2)​

Read Genesis 1:1–5:2; Galatians 3:10-4:7

I’m 38 years old and have been in church my entire life. By my math, that means I’ve sat through close to 2,000 sermons, including approximately 38 sermons on Mother’s Day. And, yet, I can’t recall ever hearing a sermon extolling the virtue of Eve—and this despite her being called “the mother of all who live.”

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay
I’ve heard sermons preached on Eve, but they’re always on temptation, sin, and the fall. And, yes, those things are part of her story, but they don’t define Eve. There’s so much more to Eve that we overlook.

Indeed, I would venture to say that Eve has been more maligned throughout history than any other human. Literally all of the sin, evil, pain, suffering, and death in the world has been blamed on her. For making one bad choice, she has become the symbol of human weakness, ignorance, and sin—and, in particular, of the weakness, ignorance, and sin of women.

This is how our society—as with so many societies around the world and throughout history—treat women, isn’t it? Women are defined by their worst moments. One bad decision, one lapse of judgment, and that becomes their identity: the seductress, the adulterer, the prostitute.
Meanwhile, King David’s career includes rape and murder, and yet he goes down in history as “a man after God’s own heart.” His misdeeds are used to excuse the misconduct and bad character of other powerful men: King David raped and murdered, and he was a man after God’s own heart, chosen by God to lead a nation! Who’s to say that this powerful white male politician isn’t God’s chosen instrument too, despite his long litany of scandals?

If it seems there’s a double standard here, that’s because there is a double standard here. Powerful men are given chance after chance to redeem themselves, while for women, it’s one strike, and you’re out.
Whole theologies of men and women have been designed to support this disparity, and many of them originate from these early chapters of Genesis. Here we’ll mention three.

First, some argue that because the man was created first and the woman was created from the man to be his “helper,” this suggests that women are inherently weaker and subservient.
But this argument doesn’t hold up biblically. In Genesis 1, God states, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground” (1:26).

The narrative continues, “So God created human beings in God’s own image. In the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them” (1:27).
There is equality in the act of creation, as male and female alike are created in the image of God. And far from suggesting that what is created earlier is superior, Genesis suggests that creation keeps getting better with more additions. Thus, while God says that creation is “good” after each of the first five days of creation, after the sixth day when God creates humans, God looks over all creation and declares it “very good!” (1:31).

In the next chapter, when the creation of man and woman are narrated in greater detail, again there is no suggestion of inequality. When God decides to create woman to provide a “helper” for man, there is no indication that “helper” means “servant.” Instead, the “helper” is created to provide companionship, as Genesis describes how “the two are united into one” (2:24).

When I seek out help for a project, usually I go to someone who is more of an expert in the area than I am. In the Psalms, even God is given the name Eliezer, which means “God is my helper,” the same word that is used in Genesis. “God is our refuge and strength,” cry the Psalms, “always ready to help in times of trouble” (46:1). But surely God is not subservient to Israel!

So the notion that women are inherently weaker or subservient based on creation design doesn’t hold up scripturally. But there is yet a second theological argument made: whatever God may have intended in creation, it was still the woman who was deceived and gave in to temptation and sin.

This argument conveniently overlooks on important detail in the story: the man was with the woman the whole time! After describing the verbal interchange between the woman and the serpent, the text states this: “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too” (Gen. 3:6).

The man is standing there listening to the conversation the whole time and is willing to let the woman quite literally take the fall. When God asks what happened, the man responds, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it” (2:3). This is the first instance of one of the most common deflection tactics: blaming men’s misdeeds on the women in their lives.

But God doesn’t fall for it. God declares culpability and punishment for all three parties involved: serpent, woman, and man.
But if neither creation order nor the fall indicate inequality, from where does inequality come? Some argue, third, that God mandates inequality as a result of the fall, in God’s curses on the serpent, woman, and man.

Speaking to the woman directly, God declares this: “You will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you” (3:16).
Right there it is: the husband, or man, will “rule over” the wife, or woman. And, indeed, throughout history and across human societies, we have seen this to be the case: men rule over women; husbands rule over wives.

But within these very curses themselves is the seed of their undoing. Just one verse prior is a line that some have called the “proto-gospel.” This is the first prophecy of Scripture, and it’s declared directly by God.
Addressing the serpent, God states this: “I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (3:15).

God says that from the offspring of this woman will come one who will strike the head of the serpent, the deceiver. As Christians, we proclaim that this someone is none other than Jesus himself. Through his crucifixion, Jesus took the serpent’s strike on his heel. But through his incarnation, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus struck the head of the serpent. In so doing, Jesus reversed the curse.

As Paul writes to the Galatians, “Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (3:13).
Paul goes on to explain: “When the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir” (4:4–7).

Through the work of Jesus, who was born of a woman, we are able to receive God’s Spirit and be adopted into God’s family. And within God’s family, we find a home where the curse is reversed.
Thus Paul writes in that same passage: “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:26–28).

In Christ Jesus, we have become one, just as God intended human relationships to be in creation. And in this oneness in Jesus, there is no room for power imbalances between man and woman, husband and wife, or between any other human divisions. Those are all the curse of the fall, but in Jesus the curse is reversed.
Thus we find already in the story of Eve the story of God’s fierce faithfulness. And we also discover a story of Eve’s fierce faithfulness to God. Eve refuses to be defined by one bad decision in her life. In fact, it is only after the fall and after the curse that the woman receives her name: “Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live” (3:20).

Instead of being defined by her past mistakes, Eve leans into her new name and claims her own agency in the narrative. As she gives birth to her firstborn son, Cain, she declares her first recorded words as Eve: “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” (4:1).

Eve partners with God to continue God’s work of creation. In so doing, she lives into her name as “the mother of all who live.” She is fiercely faithful to the work with which God had entrusted her.
We honor Eve’s memory not be reinforcing the inequalities that resulted from the fall. Rather, we do so when we declare that, through Eve’s offspring, the curse is reversed!

Sin and Death have been struck down at their head. And we are now set free to live as children of God, filled with the Spirit, in the family of Christ Jesus, where there is no male or female, for together we are made one.
Thanks and honor be to Eve, and all praise and glory be to her offspring, our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.


Dare You to Pray This ...

[ 1 min read ★ ]

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me—Psalm 51:10-11

In the aftermath of adultery and murder, King David pleaded with God. He begged God not to cut him off (Psalm 51:11). You see, David had experienced what it’s like to know God, what it’s like to spend time with him, to listen to him and trust him, to love and be loved by him—and he dreaded losing that closeness and goodness and truth. So, in desperation, he invited God to do something new in him. He invited God to rebuild his heart, in any way he would like (Psalm 51:10). He gave himself up. He gave himself over . . . to whatever work, whatever journey, whatever adventure God might have for him. He decided to trust God more than he trusted himself.

How about we do that too? We may or may not be guilty of adultery or murder, but we’re all sinners. We all carry sin’s taint. "If we say we have no sin . . . the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). So how about we too invite God to do something new in us? How about we too give ourselves over to whatever work, whatever journey, whatever adventure God might have for each of us? And, how about we do it, as men, together? We’ll be better for it—God’s brilliant, he’s good, and he loves us. Might it be scary? Sure it might. Might it be a little painful even? Sure it might. Will it be one of the best things we ever do? Absolutely it will.

Okay, so what do we do?

"Do a new work in me, God. You’re brilliant and good, and you love me. So do whatever you’d like. And, whatever it is, I’m in. I’ll trust you more than I trust myself."


Becoming Fast and Light

[ 1 min read ★ ]

How can we who died to sin still live in it?—Romans 6:2

Imagine being fast and light when moving through this life. Imagine being free from things that weigh you down, hold you back. Imagine being free to roam, free to rest. Imagine being free from sin and shame and striving and worry and self-doubt. Imagine being free to love, free to slow down, free to go wherever God calls you to go and to do whatever God calls you to do.

Brother, that’s the kind of life our King, Jesus Christ, has made available—and to which he calls us now. If he hadn’t come, we wouldn’t be able to access it. The things that encumber us would become prisons too strong for us to escape. But our King did come. He kicked open the prison doors. He knocked down the prison walls. He did what we could never do. He set us free (Galatians 5:1). Now we must do our part.

Because we find ourselves without prison walls, we’ve got to stop acting like prisoners and lay down prisoner habits and prisoner beliefs (Hebrews 12:1). We must adopt the practices of free men, men who’re fast and light . . . able to live transparent lives, free from hiding and posing, free to confess struggles and sin openly in community . . . able to make decisions with our lives and our families that align with our King, though probably not with our culture . . . and able to stop and care and help and love people, especially those in need.

Okay, so what do we do?

What weighs you down? What holds you back? Spend a moment praying and reflecting. Trust that God the Holy Spirit will guide your thoughts. Now, make two lists. On the left, name your top encumbrances—old sin habits, old beliefs. On the right, specify how you’ll commit to laying them down.



The Apostle Paul’s Last Will And Testament​

The Apostle Paul knew he was about to die, so he left Timothy, and all of us, his last will and testament.

Paul’s Purpose

With the Apostle Paul’s departure, he knew that soon enough, wolves in sheep’s clothing would subtly move in and try and fill the vacuum, but instead of focusing on Christ and repentance and faith, they would “devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Tim 1:4), as he warned in his first letter to Timothy. For decades, Paul had given stability to the churches in Asia and the Roman Empire, but with his departure, the old proverb rings true: “When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue” (Prov 28:2), so with Paul’s soon departure, the church would need to be prepared for an “enemy within,” and that’s what 2 Timothy is all about.

Endless Debates

The Apostle Paul delivering the Areopagus sermon in Athens, by Raphael, 1515.
The best way to discover money is counterfeit is to know what the original looks like so well that you can spot a fake in an instant. When we are regularly studying our Bible, we’re more armed with the Word of Truth to see error when we encounter it. If there’s something that appears to be contrary to Scripture, we would do well to look closer at the Word of God.

The Word is the standard for all teaching and preaching, so Paul commands Timothy to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). Apparently there were some, and there have always been some, who wrangle over words, so Paul tells Timothy to stay out of “quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim 2:14). He also wants Timothy to “void irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness” (2 Tim 2:16). Christians often get into debates (some are arguments!) about the tribulation, the rapture, the millennium, tongues, and…the list goes on. Even in Paul’s day, some had “swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some” (2 Tim 2:18), so Paul is reminding Timothy to stay out of these things, because they only lead to “more ungodliness.”

Last Days

Paul gives a host of things that the world will look like in the days leading up to Christ’s return, although Paul and many in the church expected Jesus to return that century, but Paul warned that “there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim2:3:1b-4).

They might not look like Satan’s ministers on TV or the Internet, but Paul warned that in the last days, many would have “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Tim 3:5). These are the kind of “religious” people that “creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:6-7). The number of ministers that have fallen by sexual immorality is innumerable, but only God knows whether these are only professing faith in Christ without actually knowing Christ. It’s not so much as them knowing Jesus that is vital, but rather, does He know them (Matt 7:21-23)! Apparently, many will be shocked that Jesus doesn’t even know them!

Preach the Word

Paul tells Timothy to stick to Scripture, saying that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16), so he must stick to preaching out of the Word, so “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17). Paul told Timothy that “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness” (2 Tim 3:10), so “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:14-15).

Before God and others, Paul says, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:1-2). Paul knew it wouldn’t be long “when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4).

Last Words

Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn c. 1657.
The Apostle Paul is now concluding his letter to Timothy, knowing that these would be his last words recorded on earth before he saw the Lord. He writes, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:6-7). Was Paul discouraged by this? Absolutely not! He said, “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim 4:8). Paul did feel a little like Christ at Calvary, writing, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them” (2 Tim 4:16)!


When all others had abandoned Paul, he said only “the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (2 Tim 4:17). Paul says with confidence and boldness that “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim 4:18). Yes and amen…to Him be all the glory, and “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1).



4 Things Your Worship Service Needs To Better Help People Know God​

This has nothing to do with style of music, the translation of the Bible you use or whether or not you employ a fog machine to enhance the light show. People worship in many different styles, and many forms can be successful, whether you have ancient pews or the newest stadium seating. Transcending personal preferences, I believe there are four things every worship service needs to better help people know God, and these four things aren’t as simple or as easy as you might think.

1). Authentic – People crave authenticity in a world of plastic fakeness. Everything is pre packaged and slick today to better help marketing, and churches are not immune. Worship services can become a cauldron of fakeness, where worshippers show only the side they think other people want to see and those on stage show only a photoshopped illusion of what Christianity should be. Authenticity transcends style of music or translation of the Bible. It’s a heart issue, starting with the pastor and working its way down to every volunteer serving as an usher. Has your church discovered its unique DNA? Are you comfortable being yourself, or do you feel the need to copy the megachurch down the road or blindly follow the prescribed rituals of your denomination? If your services feel inauthentic, people won’t engage on a heart level. (And by the way, authentic doesn’t mean lazy. Excellence provides a level of comfort for attenders, but it has to be done with authenticity).

2). Enjoyable – This doesn’t seem very spiritual at first but trust me it has a huge impact on helping people know God through your worship service. I recently visited a new church that my family had never been to before. After picking the kids up from their kids environments, the very first words out of my mouth as a father were “Did you have a good time?” Why? As a dad I instinctively know that if my kids enjoy church they’ll want to come back. If you go a restaurant with bad seating, horrible service and lukewarm food, what are the chances you’ll ever frequent that establishment again? From the friendliness of the greeters to the aesthetics in the room to the quality of the music to the relatability of the preacher, are your church services enjoyable? If they are, people will show back up, and the more people show up, the better chance they’ll have to know God through your services.

3). Helpful – You can go to a comedy show or watch a movie and have an enjoyable experience. But those experiences don’t help you throughout the week. What should mark a worship service as different is that it helps people throughout the week, not just entertaining them for an hour on Sundays. A lot of this comes down to the sermon itself. I recently had a guest come up to me and share how strange and different (in a good way) our worship service was. He understood us and he felt like I was talking directly to him when I preached. His background? Greek Orthodox. Half of his services were literally in Greek and form and ritual reigned over practical application. Are you giving people truth that is practically helpful in their everyday lives? People flock to helpful services.

4). Powerful – You have to have this or you don’t have a service at all. The hard part is, you can’t force or manipulate this. If you want your services to help people better know God, then God needs to show up. It’s as simple as that. You can’t manipulate it. The Holy Spirit has to do his work. Our part is to pray like crazy, get our hearts right and remove every distraction we can think of that keeps people from encountering God. But when God shows up in power, watch out! Lives start changing and your church will never be the same.



Suffering Is No Accident​

I write this on the one-month anniversary of Nanci’s homegoing. Strange to think that our true home is a place we’ve never been. Paul said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23). Yet our eternal home will be on the New Earth where “no longer will there be any curse” and “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:3).

Nanci was my beloved wife for 47 years and my best friend for 54 (we met at age 14 and never dated anyone else since). I recently shared this with a group of men online (it applies to both husbands and wives):
Brothers, cling to your wife, and don’t let a day go by without telling her how much you love her and thank God for her. By God’s grace, I can honestly say I don’t look back at my marriage with regrets. Like all husbands, I have a stupid gene, and I said my share of stupid things. But I also repented, often asked Nanci’s forgiveness, and had the privilege of becoming her primary caregiver, keeping my vows “for better or for worse” and “till death do us part.”
In her journal, Nanci shared these insights:
Serving God in our suffering is not an assignment given to us by God; it is the natural outcome of the level of trust which has been supernaturally infused into us by God through our study of God. Knowing God causes us to have the perspective which ignites our hearts and controls our actions. But we, in our complacent hearts, often fail to study God. We have other priorities. We don’t feel the need. Then when suffering/trials arise, we are ill-equipped to understand (and therefore not able to gain more understanding) of the good purposes God has for us in it all.
Faith is trust in what you have come to know as true. Faith is not instant. Faith comes from study. Faith comes from testing what you believe to be true.

As I share in today’s blog (from 90 Days of God’s Goodness), we owe it to God, ourselves, and those around us to prepare for suffering. Part of that preparation is choosing to allow suffering to drive us deeper into God’s love.
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.

Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.

The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
—Psalm 34:11–19, ESV

Many believe that suffering is never God’s will. But this Scripture tells us that it often is. And these verses affirm God’s faithfulness even as we suffer.
A young woman battling cancer wrote me, “I was surprised that when it happened, it was hard and it hurt and I was sad and I couldn’t find anything good or redeeming about my losses. I never expected that a Christian who had access to God could feel so empty and alone.”

Unfortunately, most of us don’t give focused thought to evil and suffering until we experience them. This forces us to formulate perspective on the fly, at a time when our thinking is muddled, and we’re exhausted and consumed by pressing issues. If you’ve been there, you’ll attest to the fact that it’s far better to think through suffering in advance.
Pastor James Montgomery Boice had a clear perspective. In May 2000, he stood before his Philadelphia church and explained that he’d been diagnosed with liver cancer:
Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you’re free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles—and He certainly can—is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they’re rare by definition.… Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying Himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified Himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though He could have.…
God is in charge. When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by.… God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything He does is good.… If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good.

Eight weeks later, having taught his people first how to live and then how to die, Pastor Boice departed this world to “be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).
Suffering will come; we owe it to God, ourselves, and those around us to prepare for it.
Lord, as I and those I love face hardship and suffering, give me that same sense of your grace and purpose that Pastor Boice enjoyed. Remind me that for those who bow their knees to you in repentance and faith, our present suffering will be replaced by the eternal pleasures of your presence, where joy will be the air we breathe.



The Secret To True Greatness​

Everybody wants to be great. We want lives of importance. Lives that matter and impact others around us. Lives that both satisfy our longings and affect the world around us.

In our pursuit of greatness, we have ruined ourselves. In the name of greatness, we are greedy, willing to lie and deceive, full of animosity and antagonism.
More and more people are seeing through the façade of superficial success into the heart of true greatness. Simple observation shows us that fame, money, and political power do not make a person great. They, like just about everything else, are neutral positions that can be used for evil just as much as good, if not more.
So, what does true greatness look like? The compulsion for importance still lingers in our souls. And despite our false starts and our pessimism, it really is available. Pursuing greatness means leaving the false perceptions behind and being willing to step into the strange and paradoxical truths about what it means to be a person of purpose.


One of the strangest truths about pursuing greatness is that a little bit of self-denial is actually good. We tend to think that since we want to be great, we have to pound the pavement of our own grandness all the time. Our greatness, though, is hiding behind a bush. It is elusive.

The secret to true greatness is that it requires humility. This certainly seems like a contradiction. But we become great by restraining ourselves. This is because greatness is bigger than we are. In order to discover it, we have to be willing to shut down the parts of us that are not in alignment with greatness. In order to participate in true freedom, we need boundaries. In order to be healthy, we need to refuse things that taste good. Self-restraint is a positive attribute throughout the structure of the human experience.
If we hold tightly to the current version of ourselves, we will never change. Never progress. Never grow or learn. Greatness is a process that requires boundaries. It requires a Transcendent Vision to stretch us past ourselves. We grow into greatness by discovering where we need to press forward and where we need to hold back.


Greatness is the degree to which we participate in truth. We waste so much time trying to redefine greatness to fit the mold we are currently operating in rather than finding the reality of what it is.
Greatness, like truth itself, thrives in community. It is WE There. Each of us is at our best in a context. When we become siloed and narcissistic, we disqualify ourselves from the truth.

Disciplines in all walks of life – spiritual to physical, mental to social – help invite us into a fuller understanding of the reality of life around us. Greatness is nothing more than understanding the world we live in and operating in response to the truths we’ve found. It is not about being worshipped. People resent those in charge who oppress and ignore them. It is about loving and serving. What makes us great is the ability to see ourselves as a beautiful part of a beautiful whole. This is why wisdom, vulnerability, discernment and compassion are the true marks of greatness.
Humility is hard work. We’d much rather give into our instincts and base desires. And then throw a tantrum until both we and others believe the lies we are operating out of. But these pursuits are a house of cards destined to crumble. True and lasting greatness is found in love alone.


Bring Life into Alignment

[ 1 min read ★ ]

. . . get out there and walk
. . . on the road God called you to travel—Ephesians 4:1-3

A steel beam has integrity when its purpose, its design, its manufacture, and its use are aligned. Said another way, to have integrity a beam must be designed and manufactured for a specific purpose—and it must actually be used toward that purpose. We can count on a beam like that, even to bear a heavy and important load, because all its existence is in alignment.

Though considerably more complex and wondrous, obviously, than a steel beam, we humans need alignment too, to have that kind of integrity. You see, God designs and builds us for specific purposes:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
God gives us natural talents and spiritual gifts and hearts with unique passions. And he shapes us further by our individual journeys. So, for each of us, our purposes, our design, and the way we’re built are always aligned. God does that. Unlike the beam, however, he allows us to choose our uses. He allows us to choose how we spend our lives. If we ask and search, listen and discover what he had in mind when he dreamt us up and knit us together—and then allow ourselves to be used in the ways he intends—we bring our lives into full alignment. If we strike out on our own, though, and follow the world’s “oughts” into other uses altogether, we commit ourselves to living lives of misalignment.

Okay, so what do we do?

Start small and be practical. Come up with a short-term project that requires your unique skills and abilities, your unique spiritual gifts (if you know them), and your unique passions. Choose something with significance—i.e., it helps others. Then, don’t wait. Get going on it.



Shielded By God​

The Christian needs the armor of God more today than ever, but God offers Himself as a shield to those who trust in Him.

The Bible tells us that we have an enemy and one that’s more dangerous because he’s invisible. The Apostle Paul wants us to be prepared and so writes in Ephesians 6:10-11 to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” This armor is a necessity because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). That means, the enemy is out of our league, but what is too powerful for us is nothing to God, but we still must “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Eph 6:13). It is up to us to “take up” and “put on” the whole armor of God, but once we have, we can say with confidence that God is “My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart” (Psalm 7:10).

“My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart” (Psalm 7:10).

Armor of God

The Apostle Paul has told us that we are fighting an invisible enemy and “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). Since this is true, we need to “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph 6:17-18). Prayer is a key to the armor of God as we take up the helmet of salvation, which guards our minds and thoughts and keep it from being taken captive.

The sword of the Spirit helps us fight off the enemy the way Jesus did during His temptation, and that’s with the Word of God. Three times Jesus rebuked the Devil by using the Word of God, and there’s more. We need to “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph 6:14). What we need is the truth of God’s Word that secures us in our stand against the enemy, and then the breastplate of righteousness which we attain once we trust in Christ (2 Cor 5:21), but we’re not quite done yet since we need “shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15). Once equipped, we can now be ready for spiritual warfare.

God as our Shield

The psalmist knew what it was like to be in fear and be running for your life. David was chased by King Saul for many years, and yet he could write that God’s way “is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30), and so “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:20). Sometimes we can run to God’s Word and rest in His promises because we know that “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov 30:5).

If God’s Word were not true, we would have no guarantee of any of His promises, but we know from Scripture that “Every word of God proves true.” As for us, we must “Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help” (Psalm 53:2)! He is the God of the Word and the Word of God assures us that “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler” (Psalm 91:4). How comforting to know that God “stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity” (Prov 2:7).

The Word of God

His presence may be found in His Word.
The Bible describes God as a Rock and often Jesus is mentioned as the Chief Cornerstone, and what better place to rest than in God Who is “a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3). More than a shield, God is a Rock…immovable and unshakeable, as the Psalmist says, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).

His presence may be found in His Word, and His Word is surer than anything in the universe. Indeed, God’s “way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30). Just like the armor of God, we must “Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help” (Psalm 35:2), so for all of those “who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield” (Psalm 115:11).


Romans 13:12 tells us that “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,” and put on the armor of God and stand on the Word of God and rest in His promises. That is a shield to those who are in difficult times. The psalmist says, “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word” (Psalm 119:114), and God “is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me” (Psalm 144:2).

Our God is a Rock, unmovable and unshakable; He is a refuge to run to in times of trouble; He is a shield that protects us from the enemy, and He makes the armor of God available to us so that we can fight in this time of spiritual warfare. The impetus is upon us. We must take it up…for He won’t put it on for us…we must take it up and put it on, and only then can we stand against the wiles of the Devil and his evil minions.



7 Ways The Church Can Stay Relevant In A World Where It’s Becoming Increasingly Irrelevant​

This past weekend (Memorial Day weekend) I enjoyed a rarity as a preacher: I had a Sunday off. I took the opportunity to travel with my boys up to Memphis for a baseball tournament my oldest son was playing in. As much as I enjoyed the weekend, the most disheartening thing was to be surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, and none of us were in church. Worse, none of us seemed to care.

The stats have undeniably proven that church is becoming increasingly irrelevant in today’s society. We’re self-sufficient, so we don’t feel the need for help from others or God as much. We’re distracted by so many fun and good things to do on the weekends. And churches themselves aren’t helping as they fail to adapt and translate the gospel into the 21st century. (Now, I know that the default mode for some churches is to simply judge those not in church and condemn them as unfit for the Kingdom. As much as that might make you feel justified, it’s a wasted exercise. When a sheep pen has one sheep left and ninety-nine missing, you don’t get points for how clean and organized the sheep pen is. Go get those lost sheep!!)

The gospel is always relevant. The message of salvation remains unchanged. But the way we communicate it and the way we do church should reflect the culture we’re trying to reach. In the same way, the need for personal communication and personal transportation are eternal, but how we express those needs change over time (which is why we write text messages rather than sending snail mail and why we drive cars rather than horse and buggies). The essence of church remains unchanged, but how we express it locally should reflect the culture we’re trying to reach. Here are seven ways the church can stay relevant in a world where it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant:

1). Get on mobile or go home. If you want to start finding lost sheep, I’ll tell you where to find them: they’re on their phones. The average person touches their smartphone 2,617 times a day (which is about 2,617 more times than we touch our Bibles in a given day). It’s not enough to have a church website. You need to develop an online presence that is customized for the cell phone, which is becoming a new front door to the church.

2). Preach better sermons. There’s never been a greater need for good preaching than today. The way most seminaries train preachers to preach is perfectly designed to reach a culture that no longer exists. The greatest advice my wife got as a schoolteacher was, “Don’t focus on what you’re teaching. Focus on what they’re learning.” If people are leaving our churches in droves, we need to change our approach. The reason megachurches continue to grow isn’t just because Christians are selling out, it’s because the teaching is better. We can learn from that. (here’s a blog I wrote on how to preach in a way that makes a difference).

3). Offer more worship experiences than just Sunday morning. Besides just the weekend travelers who like to get away, there is an increasing amount of people who have to work on Sunday mornings. If you only offer one opportunity to worship, you eliminate a sizable minority of the workforce. Whether it’s Sunday nights or something midweek, create other opportunities for people to worship.

4). Offer multiple small group times. All would agree that meaningful small group interaction is key for a church’s health and growth. But like the last point, if you only offer small groups on Sunday mornings, you eliminate a sizable portion of people for whom Sunday mornings aren’t optimal for them. Offer small groups that meet at night, throughout the week, in the community and not just at the church campus. Bring the sheep pen as close to the lost sheep as you can, and you’ll find it a lot easier to bring those sheep home.

5). Create meaningful places to serve in the church. I think one of the reasons so many people (including Christians) drift away from church is because they don’t feel needed. If all we expect of our church members is to sit in a pew and watch for an hour a week, then we’re expecting far too little of them. If you have 150 people in your church, then you need to create 150 meaningful opportunities to serve within your church. It takes extra work, but that’s why we pay church staff members, to equip the saints for works of service (Eph. 4:11-12). Right now at our church, we’ve got around 750 adults that actively call our church home. Right now we’ve got 667 volunteer positions, so we’re close to where we need to be. People stick around a place when they feel like they’re actually contributing, not just consuming.

6). Plan seasonally. There are going to be times in the year when people just ditch. It’s going to happen. You’re going to get your highest attendance in August-September, January-February, and around Easter. The summer months are going to be lean months. Plan seasonally to capitalize on your high capacity months and slow things down a little in your lean months. Don’t expect every Sunday and every month to look the same, because it’s never going to be that way.

7). Get the Ghost. I don’t know what your view is on the Holy Spirit and his involvement in your church, but if you want to create something in your church that people can’t get anywhere else, create an environment where the Holy Spirit shows up in power on a regular basis. I’ll let you fill in the blanks to what that actually looks like. People can listen to music outside of church. People can listed to TED talks if they want teaching. But if they want the supernatural, they should know that your church is where they can encounter the person and power of God.



Why A Clean House Won’t Clean Up Your Marriage.​

Does clutter cause conflict in your marriage? Or does a messy marriage cause clutter?

If your marriage feels hard and you have a messy house, it’s tempting to connect the two.
But a messy house is not at the root of your marriage problems.
I just watched my first episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo
is a popular reality TV show on Netflix.

Marie is a little Japanese organizing guru. The camera follows her as she visits families to help them organize and tidy their homes.
According to Marie, cleaning up will bring you joy.
It’s not like joy is hiding under a pile of dirty clothes.

The “joy’ Marie is talking about can’t be found by cleaning your house. You might have an easier time finding things, but you won’t find joy.
True joy comes from knowing God and accepting what He has done for you.
A clean house can’t give you that kind of joy.

The episode I watched was about a couple who was struggling in their marriage. They blamed their problems on their messy house.
The wife was overwhelmed and wanted peace and joy. So they called Marie to help them clean up their house.
Tidying up and organizing their house is not going to fix their marriage.

I’m all for cleanliness and being tidy, but a messy house is not at the root of your marital problems.
It’s a symptom.
It’s not the cause.
Tidying up your house won’t fix your marriage.
It just won’t.

The struggle in the relationship probably causes the mess.
And once you’re surrounded by clutter, you’re more irritable, stressed, anxious and frustrated.
Think about it.

How many times have you snapped at your husband or kids because you were late because you couldn’t find your phone or keys? Over time these interactions can really break down intimacy in our marriage.
After Marie took a tour of the couple’s home and examined their mess, she did some kind of ritual thingie where she sat on the floor with her palms facing backwards, closed her eyes and kind of prayed to the house.

She told the couple to thank their house for protecting them.
Next, the tidying up began. She instructed them to lay all their clothes on the bed and keep only the items that brought them joy.
If a piece of clothing didn’t bring them “joy,” she told them to thank it for letting them wear it and toss it.
Maybe I’m too cynical.
But I couldn’t help but think if they showed the same respect and gratitude towards each other that they show their stuff, they might find their marital problems start to clear up on their own.

If she showed her husband more respect, the messy house might not bother him so much.
If he showed his wife more gratitude, maybe she’d be more motivated to keep things in order.
Don’t get me wrong. There are cases when clutter is an issue like in the case of hoarders. This goes beyond the definition of “tidying up. Hoarding is a serious problem, which can cause real problems in families and relationships.
But true joy comes from knowing God and what He has done for you. Tidying up won’t teach you that.



What The Parable Of The Good Samaritan Teaches About Setting Boundaries​

Setting the right boundaries to help others.
In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus was challenged with the question, “Who is my neighbor?” As was typical of Jesus, he responded to this question with a parable, which is commonly referred to as the parable of “The Good Samaritan.”

Let me paraphrase essentially what Christ said.

There was a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was on a dangerous road and, unfortunately, he was attacked by robbers and left for dead. Well, along came a priest, who, instead of helping this poor man, he chose to cross to the other side of the road. He had places to go and important religious things to do. So, he just could not get involved. Soon, another guy came along, and this time he was a Levite. But, alas, just like the priest and probably for the same reason, he went to the other side of the road too. But, then a Samaritan man came along. He was moved with compassion and helped the injured man. He bandaged his wounds. Put the injured man on his donkey and took him to an inn and took care of him. And, when the Samaritan had to leave, he gave money to the innkeeper to cover the cost of the wounded man’s care and he promised to reimburse the innkeeper for any additional expenses.

Now, it’s pretty easy to see how relevant this parable is to what we are called to do as “life disciples” for those at risk for abortion. Often, these women and men are vulnerable. In a sense, they have physical, emotional, social and spiritual wounds that have left them broken and bruised on the highways of life. So much so, that they believe that aborting their unborn child is their best and only option. But, we are called to be their neighbors, in the name of Jesus Christ, and to bind their wounds with the life support that we are uniquely equipped to provide. However, if we are really honest…this call is a bit scary…and we can understand where the priest and the Levite were coming from. Helping others can be a messy business, especially if we don’t have proper boundaries.

Think about it this way. Let’s say that you are called to help someone. And, let’s say that it’s dark and to get to the person in need, you have to drive up a very steep and winding mountain road that takes your car right to the edge of cliffs. Moreover, the road has no guardrails. Well, if you’re like me, you would be pretty hesitant to go up this road, no matter how great the need. But, now let’s say that the road has guardrails. Now, that’s a different story. Isn’t it? You would be careful. But, you would be confident. Why? Because guardrails are boundaries.

And, this brings to mind an insight that God gave me about the parable of the Good Samaritan. Yes, the story is about caring for others in need but it’s also a story about setting proper boundaries and Jesus was simply challenging the hearers of the parable and us today to set the right boundaries. You see, the priest and the Levite set boundaries that were so far away from the need that they could not meet the need and get involved. But, here’s the thing. The Good Samaritan set boundaries too. For example, he bandaged the wounds that needed to be treated at that time. And, he focused on the man’s needs—not on the wounded man’s wants. That’s a boundary.

Also, when the Samaritan left the wounded man at the inn, he didn’t say give the man whatever he wants. Nope, the Good Samaritan was specific in his instruction to the innkeeper to focus on what was needed to make the broken man whole. Why? Because the Good Samaritan was not trying to create a dependence, which often can give a wounded person a sense of entitlement over time. He was seeking to give the wounded man back his God-ordained independence and dignity. Why? Because this would fill the wounded man with gratitude and then this healed man would be transformed from one who was served to the one who served others. Indeed, that’s what setting good and Godly boundaries will do.
So, as you embrace the call and develop the skills to be a life disciple who makes disciple for life of those considering abortion, I encourage you to remember the example of the Good Samaritan. He was wise as a serpent, as he set boundaries while at the same time, and he was as gentle as a dove as he met the needs of the hurting.



After My Spouse’s Infidelity, How Do I Get Her To Apologize And Repent?​

This is part of an ongoing Q&A series on “Counseling For Infidelity.” If your marriage has been rocked by an affair, please attend our free webinar for Patheos readers, provided by Your Family Expert.

Q: My wife had an affair. This was just over 18 months ago and, while we are doing better, I still harbor feelings of doubts. I have questions. Why she would have chosen that? Will she do it again? Additionally, I’m still bitter over her reaction after I discovered her indiscretions. She blamed me and threatened divorce. I feel like she’s stopped these behaviors, so in that sense we are better off, but I don’t feel like she has ever truly apologized or repented.

A: Thank you so much for reaching out to me with this. I’ll cover this in greater detail later, but here’s my short version. If she blamed you and threatened divorce, she was likely scared. She was ashamed because she was doing something that was against her values. So in order to be okay with that in her mind, she had to convince herself that she was justified and that it was your fault. But the simple fact is, affairs are only the fault of the people who have them. They cross a line, a moral line. They make a choice. Relationship problems we create together. But affairs, crossing that line… one person in the relationship makes that decision.

And if you’re in a relationship where she is hiding from apologizing, hiding from repenting, hiding from change, then right now there is no trust. And without trust there’s not a relationship. So what do you do? Once again, you tell her “I love you, I miss you. I want to be close with you right now. But I don’t trust you. I want to be able to trust you. And yes, part of it is that I need to choose to trust you, but part of it is also that there are steps that need to be taken so that I can feel safe. And I don’t feel they’ve been taken yet. And if I don’t feel safe, I can’t extend my trust. I want to leave this in the past. I’m sure you do, too. But I need us to do the work for that to happen. Are you willing?”
If that helps her to be willing to do whatever it takes, recommend infidelity marriage counseling with a qualified therapist, either at Your Family Expert or elsewhere.



Is Tithing A Christian Concept?​

The Old Testament is very clear on tithing – give the whole 10% and you’ll be blessed, give anything less and you are robbing God. Malachi 3:8-12.

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.”

‘But you ask, “How are we robbing you?”

‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – your whole nation – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.’

Interestingly, this is an occasion when God invited the people of Israel to test him, which is contrary to Deuteronomy 6:16,

‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.’

I’ll save the topic of testing God – how and when it can be an act of faith – for another day.

There is no doubt in the Hebrew scriptures that for the people of Israel, tithing was fundamental to being the people of God, living in obedience to God, and knowing the blessing of God.

You will rarely hear this said from the pulpit, but Jesus had very little to say about tithing. It gets a few mentions, but typically as something that can be abused or hidden behind. Luke 18:10-14,

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.”

Jesus did teach on giving and the attitude God looks for, but never emphasised tithing. In fact, tithing is not taught anywhere in the New Testament.

The clearest set of instructions on Christian giving can be found in 2 Corinthians 9, which seems to replace the notion of tithing with something more organic. 2 Corinthians 9:7,

‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’

How often do you hear this in church? Every congregation I’ve ever been part of has emphasised tithing, but talk of giving freely, with good cheer, and giving what you’ve decided in your heart to give rather than a specific proportion of your income, is almost never mentioned.

Why might this be? The cynic might argue that teaching a legalistic, 10% tithe is a method of control, or that emphasising the 2 Corinthians 9 principles of cheerful, intentional giving of an amount you choose might lead to loss of income for the church. If there’s a positive reason this isn’t emphasised, I can’t think of it. Perhaps readers can offer some thoughts?

Looking back at the clear Old Testament instructions, there were good reasons to tithe. The Levites made no money for themselves, owned no businesses, sold no books, and earned no salary. They devoted themselves to service at the temple, and needed to be looked after in order for the temple to function. The other 11 tribes of Israel were commanded to tithe their produce to feed the Levite priests, their fabrics to clothe them etc. The tithing system enabled the temple to continue to operate, and the Hebrew temple was at the absolute heart of worship and community life. This is the reason behind the command to tithe.

How might that translate to giving to a church? The principles are the same. If you belong to a community and value what it brings to your life, and if you have unpaid people working full time to ensure that community continues to operate, then they need financial support. That’s not hard to understand, but what is hard to grasp, at least for me, is why churches continue to teach tithing as a rule that must be obeyed – a law of sorts. We are not under law, but under grace.

Churches that run as a community are a worthy recipient of financial giving. It makes sense to contribute where you’re fed, and where you belong. But if you go to a megachurch, your pastors or teachers are salaried, your church or pastor makes significant income from book sales or other forms of income, or a church is sponsored by the state and has state money propping it up, I implore you to redirect your money to places where it is needed. Money can feed the poor, clothe and house the destitute, and bring safety to the vulnerable. This is something God takes seriously, and for which we will all one day answer.

Under grace, generosity abounds more greatly than it ever could under law, but grace relies on actions that flow from the heart, on tapping into the Lord’s boundless resources and giving in his strength rather than our own. New Testament giving is personal, joyful, and between each individual and God. When believers live under law, believing tithing to be a fundamental rule they have to obey – the obligation of giving 10% of your income to your church – there is no room for joy. It is merely a rule, the breaking of which is considered a sin.

There will be many believers who’ve never thought much about this. Their pastors and leaders will have presented it as a fundamental part of believing, and they will have accepted that as part of a package of beliefs. I’m never comfortable with that, and like to ask the hard questions.

If you want to give a set proportion of your income to one place, then continue to do so, but cheerfully, knowing you are not under an obligation or compulsion. If you want to split your giving between church and other expressions of divine love, go for it. You don’t answer to anyone but God on this. Give yourself the freedom to think through what the Bible says, and in what context. My prayer is that readers will take the opportunity to walk more closely with God in their giving, finding the supernatural dynamic of flowing in the abundance of God, and giving where there is real need, as the Spirit leads. Next time you are about to give out of rote or obligation, perhaps pause and turn to the Bible for guidance, dwelling on these words in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’



Is Prosperity Biblical?​

Many of us have watched on, horrified, as sections of the church have given themselves to an extreme of faith known as ‘The Prosperity Gospel’, have we not? Leaders have become gleaming, suited and booted celebrities, syphoning money from the wages of their millions of TV followers, and carving out extraordinary lifestyles of obscene wealth, enormous mansions and private jets. Some such leaders are straight-up fraudsters, and others have been sucked into a maelstrom of greed, endangering their faith and the faith of those who follow them. It is, undoubtedly, a perversion of the truth and a long way from the heart of Jesus.

The evangelical movement, by and large, is highly antagonistic towards any talk of prosperity, as a result. But here’s the rub – the promise of prosperity is in the Bible. It’s been misused and mis-taught, but it is undoubtedly based on scripture. In the heat of our impassioned opposition to the bastardised version of prosperity described above, we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Rather than jettison important promises of God in an attempt to avoid error, it would be better to achieve balance. So I’m going to present the case for Biblical prosperity, under both the Old Covenant and the New:

Under the Old Covenant, the promises of God were for the blessing and protection of the Jewish people, if they continued to live in submission to him. Their kingdom was a worldly one, and as such, the promised blessings and protections of God were physical and visible. The promise of prosperity was one such blessing, but it always came with the condition of obedience to God. There are dozens of verses on the topic, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll stick to a single passage, which is explicit about the prosperity God wanted to bring to his people. Deuteronomy 28: 1-14,

‘If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands that I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock – the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity – in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground – in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.’

Pretty clear, isn’t it? The abundance and productivity of land and crops was something he wanted the Israelites to know. His purpose was to mark out his people as blessed, as an expression of his love but also as a sign to the nations looking on, that the Israelites were his people and that he was Almighty God.

The question, then, is whether or not the physical blessings of God enjoyed by the Israelites are also part of the New Covenant, as they were of the old. Or are they somehow altered? It might be argued that Christ’s Kingdom is not a worldly kingdom, and as such his blessings are not physical or practical, in the way they were for the Israelites. Perhaps we only need spiritual blessings, in the Kingdom of God?

The problem with that argument is that it contradicts aspects of the New Testament. The clearest teaching on this is 2 Corinthians 9: 5-11,

‘So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.’

To the person who rejects any doctrine of prosperity, this passage presents a problem. Its context is singular – Paul is urging the Corinthians to put together a generous financial gift, for use in the spreading of the Gospel. I’ve slightly abbreviated the passage, but within it he quotes an Old Covenant promise of prosperity for the righteous person, and goes on to explain that God will prosper them for their faith, expressed in this gift. The two key verses, which are almost impossible to misinterpret, are these:

‘And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…’

Paul is telling the Corinthians that because of God’s abundant financial blessing, they would at all times, in every matter, having all that they need, be able to give to every good work. The second statement is this:

‘You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.’

In their obedience, the Corinthians would be enriched in every way, so that on every occasion, they would be able to be generous. He leans on the dynamics Jesus described when speaking of divine blessing. Luke 6:38,

‘Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.’

If we are to take this passage seriously, the promise of God for financial blessing (prosperity) is still intact under the New Covenant. It’s a shocking thought for the sombre-minded evangelical – that as an expression of his abundant nature, God wants to bless our businesses and careers, enriching us so that on every occasion, having everything we need, we can give generously to every good work. We’ve spent so long rejecting the extremes of the prosperity movement we seem to have neglected these important truths. Worse than that, by skirting around these promises of God, we fail to enter God’s grace for provision and blessing, which would in turn have enabled us to help others out. How many people have not received the mercy of God, because we aren’t receiving the blessings God intends?

So on the one hand, we have the grotesqueries of the prosperity movement, but on the other, we have the legitimate promises of God for financial blessing. How do we square this circle?

For me, the answer lies in understanding where the prosperity movement went wrong. My view is that it didn’t and doesn’t teach on the dangers of wealth, as clearly expressed in the Bible, resulting in a lack of balance. Where money is concerned, there are several dangerous pitfalls the Bible warns of, including loving money itself rather than what money can do, which leads to all kinds of sorrows and snares and can even result in straying from faith. 1 Timothy 6: 9-10,

‘But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.’

Jesus was clear about the spiritual difficulties that can arise from personal wealth. A wealthy person lives with the daily temptation to rely on their riches to get them through, instead of on God. Self-sufficiency is the enemy of a close walk with God, because it spins the illusion that we do not need his help. Indeed, it is entirely possible for a wealthy believer to go through their weeks without needing to trust God for any detail of their life, turn up on Sunday and appear just as devout as those who cling to their God each day. Spiritually, the one who clings is infinitely richer than the one who doesn’t. Mark 10: 24b,

“Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

The dynamics of self-reliance are demonstrated in one of Jesus’ parables. Luke 12:16-21,

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

So then, it seems there are two forms of wealth – personal wealth, horded primarily for the purpose of providing for oneself, and spiritually blessed wealth, which comes from the overflow of God’s abundant nature, and is acquired for the purposes of generosity and love.

The key to understanding the difference between the two is captured in the last sentence from the previously quoted passage in Luke 12:

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

If we lay up treasures for ourselves, we bar ourselves from the promises, provision and blessings of the Kingdom of God. A believer in such a state enjoys wealth in exactly the same way the world does. If, however, we are rich toward God in our hearts, seeking to enter the flow of his blessing and be his hands and feet to those in need, we walk in step with the Saviour and know what it means to see the Kingdom of God come in our lives, and in the lives God uses us to touch. As with all things, it’s all about the heart.

It has concerned me for years, that in rejecting the prosperity movement, we’ve stepped away from actual Biblical promises that are moving parts in the provision of God for the needy, and therefore moving parts in the coming of the Kingdom of God. If the prosperity movement is out of balance, focussing on money itself rather than the One who provides it, the evangelical movement is equally unbalanced, focussing on the dangers of wealth but ignoring the clear promises of God to bless us financially. Is it time then, for the evangelical movement to repent of its own imbalance, and to embrace the Word of God more closely?

For me, prosperity is as much a promise of God as peace. I trust that the Lord will bless the work of my hands. If I start a business, I do so clinging to him, trusting him to bless it, give me favour with decision makers, and lead me in its growth. I expect success, because I believe God wants me to do well, and be generous with his blessing to meet the needs of others. I believe that such generosity results in the world looking on and saying ‘Look what the Lord has done!’, just as it did for the Israelites, and just as it did for the Corinthians. That is the purpose of wealth – to provide for the needy, and to display the goodness of God. God is abundant in every aspect of his nature, and he calls us to be like him. 1 John 4: 17,

‘Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.’



Sharing The Good News About Jesus Is A Joy, Not A Burden​

Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness” (ESV). Here God tells us directly that as His followers, our mission is bringing everyone the “good news of happiness” about Jesus. This shouldn’t be seen as a grim duty, but as a sheer delight and a privilege for us to do so. After all, the gospel is the best news there has ever been or ever will be!

Consider these thoughts from Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), a British theologian, missiologist, missionary, and author:
There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of “the missionary mandate.” This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy.

The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.
One searches in vain through the letters of St. Paul to find any suggestion that he anywhere lays it on the conscience of his readers that they ought to be active in mission. For himself it is inconceivable that he should keep silent. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16). But no where do we find him telling his readers that they have a duty to do so.
…[In] the sermon of Peter on the day of Pentecost…something is happening which prompts the crowd to come together and ask, “What is going on?”

The answer of Peter is in effect a statement that what is going on is that the last day has arrived and the powers of the new age are already at work, and that this is so because of the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The sermon leads up to a climax in the citing of the Psalm 110 (Acts 2:34). Jesus, whom they had crucified, is now seated at the right hand of God until all things are put under his feet. This is the reality which all human beings must henceforth take into account. The real government of the universe, the final reality which in the end confronts every human being, is the crucified and risen Jesus.
And to the question “What, then, are we to do?” the answer is “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus.” To repent is to do the U-turn of the mind which enables you to believe what is hidden from sight, the reality of the presence of the reign of God in the crucified Jesus. …To be baptized is to be incorporated into the dying of Jesus so as to become a participant in his risen life, and so to share his ongoing mission to the world. It is to be baptized into his mission.
His mission. It is of the greatest importance to recognize that it remains his mission. One of the dangers of emphasizing the concept of mission as a mandate given to the Church is that it tempts us to do what we are always tempted to do, namely to see the work of mission as a good work and to seek to justify ourselves by our works. On this view, it is we who must save the unbelievers from perishing. The emphasis of the New Testament, it seems to me, is otherwise.
Even Jesus himself speaks of his words and works as not his own but those of the Father. His teaching is the teaching of the Father, and his mighty works are the work of the Father. So also in the Synoptic Gospels, the mighty works of Jesus are the work of God’s kingly power, of his Spirit. So also with the disciples. It is the Spirit who will give them power and the Spirit who will bear witness. It is not that they must speak and act, asking the help of the Spirit to do so. It is rather that in their faithfulness to Jesus they become the place where the Spirit speaks and acts.