On Suicide

The incidence of depression, anxiety, and suicide has skyrocketed as the isolation and life-disruption from Covid-19 has ravaged our world. I wrote this post in April 2013, but it’s even more salient today.

Over the weekend, Rick Warren (pastor of Saddleback Church in California, author of The Purpose Driven Life) and his wife Kay revealed that their son Matthew had taken his life after a lifelong struggle with mental illness. In an email to his church, Pastor Warren wrote, “[O]nly those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided.”

Many years ago, I was privileged to take a three-year lay counseling class from a wise and experienced man who taught us that those who commit suicide don’t really want to die; they just want the pain to end. Deep depression feels like being locked in a dark dungeon with no way out. The pain can become intolerably intense; one friend likened it to being forced to hold a large cauldron of boiling liquid with no hot pads. Those of us who have been spared from deep depression cannot really imagine how dark and how painful it is.

Psalm 139:16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” That means that before God even creates us, He knows the day of our death. That also means that those who commit suicide are dying on their ordained last day. Most of the time, though, God intervenes in people’s plans to end their lives, each story different and drenched in grace.

When one teenage girl learned she was pregnant, she planned to drive one of her family’s cars into an embankment at the end of the week-but her parents sold that car before she could carry out her plan, and she decided she couldn’t wreck the one remaining vehicle. Today, she is so glad she gave birth to her baby girl, who brought immeasurable joy to her adoptive parents, and enjoys her life of service to God which includes her own family.

Another friend lay in bed one night planning to end her life by walking out in front of an 18-wheeler on the nearby interstate. As she thought about making her way in her nightgown across the empty field that lay between her house and the highway, she suddenly thought, “I can’t walk across that field in my bare feet!” . . . and turned over and went back to sleep.

When our son was suicidally depressed in high school, his friend came to us and told us of his plan to hurt himself a few days later. He was not pleased that his friend had “betrayed” him, but we were so grateful-and it enabled us to get him some badly-needed help.

There are so many stories of God’s intervention that when we do hear of someone taking their own life, I do believe it means God allowed it because it was their ordained day. This doesn’t diminish the pain for the survivors, though.

My dear friend Caren Austen, responding to the news of Matthew Warren’s suicide, wrote an essay revealing her own struggles with mental illness and suicidal depression so that people would know what it’s like. With her permission, I gratefully share these excerpts:

“I am not weak, lacking in faith, demon-possessed or oppressed or anything else but suffering from faulty brain chemistry.

“The disorder affects my daily life: my ability to work, interact with other people, activities of daily living to the point of sometimes being unable to get out of bed or leave my house. I hate it. I hate that God has chosen this path for my growth and sanctification. Depression is my nearly constant companion. I rarely get a break. I wake up with it. I work with it. I go to sleep with it, knowing that tomorrow I’ll wake up and live it all over again.

“There are so many of us who suffer silently, because it is not acceptable to discuss mental illness. Cancer is OK. People have sympathy and understanding for that. Cystic Fibrosis, diabetes, MS and the multitude of other terrible diseases and disorders are acceptable. Mental illness is considered taboo. The stigma attached to it prevents people from getting the help they need, from picking up the phone, from asking for prayer.

“Many, many people, especially Christians, negatively judge people with mental illness and especially those who have made the awful decision to take their own lives. A common statement is: ‘It’s the ultimate selfish act.’ I’d ask you to consider what agony any individual must be enduring to fight every natural instinct for survival to choose instead to die. To be feeling psychic pain so incredible that the very thought of even one more moment is unendurable. I have, in the past, been completely and thoroughly convinced that if I loved my family, especially my children, as I said I did, I would remove the evil (me) from their lives, so I would no longer influence them for evil.

“These are the kinds of thoughts that people who choose suicide experience. They are not to be judged harshly. They are to be seen with compassion. Yes, it is an unspeakable tragedy that leaves those left behind with the worst kind of pain. A pain that I can’t even imagine as they believe that the one who died didn’t love them enough to fight. I know those are the thoughts, the feelings of those left behind, but they are not the actual reasons suicide was chosen. In fact, just the opposite is likely true. The one who chooses suicide often does it out of love for those they care most about, as strange as that may seem.”

Please, please pray for the Warren family and for all those teetering on the edge of suicide. God knows who they are. It may even be someone you know and love.

 

This blog post originally appeared at blogs.bible.org/on_suicide/.


What a Biblical Worldview Looks Like

Sue Bohlin explores elements of a way of looking at life that provides a biblical world and life view.

What Is a Worldview?

A young Christian couple I know married with high hopes for the future. Within three years they were divorced; the husband handled his hatred for his job by snapping at his wife and retreating to online gaming, and the wife shut down her heart to him and opened it to someone else.

Download the PodcastIn her book Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey tells of a Christian lawyer whose job was to find loopholes in the contracts with clients his law firm wanted to get rid of—that is, which enabled his company to break promises.{1} She tells another story of a Christian who worked at an abortion facility and never saw any conflict between the Bible she studied and its command not to murder.{2}

This disconnect between biblical teaching and the way it’s lived out is not just an American problem. Many African Christians go to church on Sundays and pray to Jesus for healing or prosperity, but when He doesn’t answer the way they wanted, they go to the village witch doctor.

All these people profess to be Christ-followers and agree that the Bible is the Word of God, yet they don’t view reality or live out their lives as if Jesus were Lord and the Bible is true. They don’t have a biblical worldview. They don’t “think Christianly.”

Nancy Pearcey writes, “‘Thinking Christianly’ means understanding that Christianity gives the truth about the whole of reality, a perspective for interpreting every subject matter.”{3} It means we learn to interpret everything in light of its relationship to God. The title of Nancy’s book, Total Truth, reflects her premise: that Christianity is not just a collection of religious truths, it is total truth. Thinking Christianly—which equips us to then live out a biblical worldview—means we understand that natural and supernatural are seamlessly woven into one reality.

Our worldview is like an invisible pair of glasses through which we see reality and life. If we have the wrong prescription, the wrong beliefs and assumptions, what we see will be fuzzy and undependable. If we have the right prescription, we will see things as they are. The prescription of these glasses consists of our beliefs and the things we assume to be true. These beliefs and assumptions comprise the filter through which we experience and interpret life. And we all have a filter.

For example, let’s say you walk into a Walmart and discover you are their zillionth customer. Balloons drop, strobe lights go off, and you are handed a $1000 gift card, a trip to Disneyworld, and the keys to a new car. Your worldview will determine how you interpret that event. If you believe in fate, you will think, “It’s my lucky day! The stars are shining on me!” If you believe in only this physical, material universe, you will think, “Nice, but it’s a totally random and meaningless occurrence.” If you believe that Jesus is Lord over everything, you will think, “I so do not deserve this gift of grace, but I thank You for it, Lord. How do You want me to be a good steward of this amazing blessing?”

Everyone has a worldview, even though most people aren’t aware of it. We believe a biblical worldview is the right prescription for both living and understanding life.

Creation, Fall, and Redemption

My friend Dr. Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries says, “[A] person’s worldview is his default answers to life’s most pressing questions: Where did I come from? How should I live? What happens when I die?, and How do I know my answers to these questions are true?”{4}

We all buy into an overarching story that explains much of why things are the way they are. For example, people who believe in traditional folk religion (animism) believe there are spirits connected to every physical item and event and place, and this way of looking at life shapes their response to the things that happen in life. People who embrace pantheism—a view of life that sees everything connected as part of a divine but impersonal force with no personal God and no distinctions between good and evil—will respond differently.

If we draw our worldview from the story of God’s dealing with mankind from the Bible, a helpful way to structure it is terms of creation, fall, and redemption. They answer the big three universal questions: Where did we come from? Why are things so messed up? How can it be fixed? Everything that exists and everything that happens falls into one of these categories.

Creation answers the question, where did we come from? as well as a basic philosophical question, why is there something rather than nothing at all? God created us in His image for the purpose of having a relationship with us, and He created the universe and our world as well. This explains the exquisite design we see in the human body, right down to the molecular machines inside cells. Creation explains why the earth is so finely tuned for life—just the right distance from just the right kind of star and the right kind of moon, just the right temperature for liquid water, just the right kind of atmosphere for us to breathe.

The relational God, whose very being consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, created us in His image to draw us into the circle of divine mutual love and fellowship and delight. The reason we are here is so God could lavish love on us by sharing Himself with us and inviting us to participate in the divine life. That explains why we are so relational, and why we need and enjoy other people. It explains why we are hard-wired to be spiritual—because He made us for Himself, and He is spirit. He created the universe and our planet as an expression of His love and glory, and because physical people need a physical place to live. A beautiful God creating us in His image explains why we love beauty in the world, in art, in music, and in every other expression of human culture.

The Fall answers the question, what went wrong? Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God brought sin into His marvelous creation, resulting in brokenness, blindness, and nothing working the way it did in the perfect, pre-fall world. The fall explains why death feels so unnatural, why there is suffering and sickness. It explains why there is moral evil like murder, rape and theft, and why there is natural evil like earthquakes and tsunamis and tornadoes. Many people are angry at God at these things. But they are all effects of the fall. He didn’t create the world this way; we’re the ones who messed it up. This fallen world breaks His heart far more than it breaks ours.

The good news is Redemption. God is working to set things right and restore His damaged, distorted creation. This explains why our souls long for justice, for the wicked to face the consequences of their evil choices, and for things to be fair and right. A just God will fulfill our longing for justice. He will make the wrongs right and the shattered whole. Good will triumph over evil once and for all. God’s promise of restoration explains why we still long for the perfection of Eden, even while we live immersed in a world and relationships that are far from perfect: He’s going to bring it back. The Lord Jesus Christ, who came to earth as fully God and fully man, living as one of us and then dying in our place, rising again, and ascending back to the Father’s right hand, promises He is making all things new (Rev. 21:5). God’s got a plan and He’s working it!

Living in Two Worlds

One of my favorite things to do is go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. When I’m wearing a mask and a snorkel tube, I can float on the water’s surface and enjoy the beautiful fish and corals that live in the underwater world. But I can also breathe air from the above-water world. When I’m snorkeling, I get to enjoy two worlds, two spheres of life, at the same time.

This is a picture of what it looks like to live out a biblical worldview. Paul exhorts us to focus “not [on] the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). We live in a physical world, but looking at life biblically also means living in awareness of the unseen, eternal spiritual reality that also surrounds us. Many believers make the mistake of living as if they were functional naturalists—as if the material, physical world were all there is.

Thinking biblically means staying aware and focused on the spiritual and eternal part of life, letting that guide our interpretation of physical and temporal events. That doesn’t mean dismissing or denying the physical, living like some sort of ascetic who refuses to engage with the world; we just keep it in perspective.

I believe this is what the Lord Jesus intended when He said to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33). The physical world is so in-your-face about its reality—especially when we get tired, hungry, thirsty every day—that we don’t have any trouble being aware of this sphere of life. But focusing on (or even just staying aware of) the unseen, eternal part of life, like donning snorkel gear and going face-down in the water, allows us to function in both worlds at the same time. Next time you’re in a group where people share prayer requests, pay attention to how many of them are in the physical realm: health, finances, jobs, etc. These things are important, but according to Jesus’ priorities, the Kingdom —the unseen realm where He is Lord—is more important. I wonder what would happen if our prayer requests started reflecting this priority?

The seventeenth century monk Brother Lawrence lived out an important spiritual discipline he called “practicing the presence of God.” When we do this, we are able to process the heartbreak of living in a fallen world and the apparent unfairness of what looks like evil winning. When we read what the prophet Habbakuk wrote, and what Asaph recorded in Psalm 73, we see what it looks like to remember that God is sovereign, and He is able to make all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). It helps us see all people as beloved image bearers for whom Christ died, even the jerks who cut us off in traffic. It helps us remember that what may feel like a bizarre random event may actually be the attack of spiritual warfare. It helps us balance our now-fallen feelings, which were impacted by the Fall like everything else, with the truth of God’s word. For example, one Christian woman filed for divorce from her husband with no biblical grounds, claiming that it must be okay since she didn’t feel “convicted by God.”

Thinking biblically means cultivating an awareness of the spiritual realm: the eternally important things, and the activity of God, angels, and demons. It’s like going through life wearing snorkel gear!

Refusing the Sacred/Secular Split

Have you ever heard someone saying something like, “Well, I personally oppose abortion, but I would never say that it’s wrong for anyone else because that’s a private issue.” Or, do you give ten percent of what you think of as your money to the Lord because that’s His portion? Do you think of your spiritual life as time spent reading the Bible and going to church, but the rest of the week is yours? One of the ways Christians fail to live out a biblical worldview is when we buy into the false division of the sacred and the secular.

Thinking biblically means not only believing that Jesus is Lord at the moment of our deaths, but He is also Lord over every aspect of our lives and every aspect of His creation. He created this world, He owns it, He entered it, and He redeemed it. He created us in His image, and then commanded us to take the salt and light of our image-bearing influence into every aspect of life: business, science, law, education, politics, and art, to name a few. The “Creation Mandate” is found in Genesis 1:2:

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (emphasis mine).

Let’s look at some examples:

• I’ve had a freelance calligraphy business for thirty years. Beyond showing honesty and integrity in my business dealings, there is also value in the beauty I bring into people’s lives through my hand lettering as a reflection of God’s beauty.

• All of my husband Ray’s education is in biology. He lives out his biblical worldview by seeking to explore and understand God’s creation through science, then explaining it to others in a way that gives glory to God.

• Christian educators who express a biblical worldview are teaching about God’s world and God’s truths whether they mention Him or not. Whether it’s the glorious patterns of mathematics or the themes of great literature, the Lordship of Christ ties it all together.

• My son’s undergraduate education was in art, and we loved seeing how he wove his biblical worldview into his art pieces. He suggests that a Christian artist has the opportunity to express both the brokenness of life in a fallen world as well as the hope and redemption found in Christ.

• Christians in law can live out their biblical worldview by using their knowledge of the law to create protection for the weak and defenseless, to criminalize criminal behavior, and to codify making restitution, all of which are biblical values.

One element of living out a biblical worldview is refusing to compartmentalize life into our religious activities and then everything else, as if spiritual truth and concepts were unrelated to how we live our lives. One of my dear friends has lived in moral and emotional purity for three years after repenting of her lesbian relationship. The temptation can be strong some days, but she consistently chooses Jesus over her feelings. One day her supervisor, who goes to a large church, asked if she were gay. My friend replied that she used to claim a gay identity, but she’s been emotionally and sexually sober for three years. Her supervisor asked why, and my friend said, “Because it’s sin! It’s not God’s design or intention.”

“Oh, it’s not sin!” her supervisor cheerfully assured her. “God wants you to be happy! You just need to find the right girl and settle down.” My friend is living out a biblical worldview; her Christian supervisor , who most definitely does not, relegates the Bible to religious topics that don’t intersect with where the rest of life is lived. (Not only that: the Enemy used the supervisor’s lies and wrong beliefs to harass my friend as part of an all-out spiritual warfare attack.)

Jesus is Lord, and He loves and provides for His creation through people, whether we are delivering milk or delivering babies, serving in the military or the government, growing corn or managing hedge funds, raising our family or even serving in ministry. It’s all God’s work and we get to share in it (1 Cor. 3:9). Just as we can’t divide colors into sacred and secular, we shouldn’t do it with the rest of life either.

Processing Life Through a Biblical Worldview

I said earlier that a worldview is like a pair of glasses that is comprised of our beliefs and assumptions through which we see and interpret life. My husband, Ray, and I got a chance to put our biblical worldview into practice a few years ago when someone ran a red light and slammed into his car. He sustained a concussion but, miraculously, no cuts or scratches or broken anything. It took almost a year for him to recover from both the impact on his body and the mental fuzziness of his concussion.

As we processed this accident and the difficulties that unfolded from it, we experienced the wisdom that comes from interpreting life according to the truth of God’s word. Other worldviews would have interpreted this experience differently:

• Naturalism, the belief that the physical world is all there is, and there is no spiritual or supernatural component to life, would say, “Ray was in a car wreck, but there’s no meaning to it. It was just another accident; everything is an accident without purpose. Whether he survived or had been killed, ultimately that wouldn’t make any difference anyway since all of life is a random, meaningless existence.”

• Pantheism, the belief that all of life is a spiritual reality and the physical world is an illusion, would say, “Ray, his car, the other driver, and her car, are all part of ‘the one,’ the unifying essence of the universe. All of these particulars are an illusion, since there is only one reality where everything and everyone is divine.” And since many pantheists also share many of Eastern mysticism’s beliefs, we would hear, “Ray must have done something terrible in a previous life to have experienced this trauma in this life. He was working off his bad karma from an earlier existence.”

• Traditional folk religion (Animism), the belief that the spirit world is constantly manipulating life in the physical world, because there is a spirit or spiritual force behind every event, might say, “Ray must have made some spirit angry with him. He needs to say some magic words or burn some incense or build an altar or do something to get the angry spirit to not be angry with him anymore.”

Since we seek to make the truth of God’s word the pair of glasses through which we view life, our filter includes the question, what does God say about this? Together, we practiced responding to this trauma according to our Christian worldview.

The most important truth was that God exists, and He has revealed Himself to be all-powerful and all-knowing. That means that getting “t-boned” was not a random accident that just happened. We reminded ourselves that He was still sovereign; a loving God was in control, even though He allowed Ray to get hit and his car totaled by a driver without insurance. God is all-powerful and could have prevented the accident, but for some reason He didn’t. We determined to trust Him even though He wasn’t explaining Himself.

This was a very bad car wreck, and the witnesses couldn’t believe he wasn’t killed instantly. Instead, he was protected from serious injury. We have thanked God many times for His amazing protection that resulted in 100% recovery.

Ray experienced very real pain and suffering, but we know from the Bible where that comes from: the fall of man is responsible for most pain and all suffering. He was not troubled by the possibility that his suffering might be meaningless because there was no one “up there” or “out there” giving meaning to it, like the view of life that atheists and agnostics have to face.

Ray’s car wreck had a special impact on me. At the time, I was dealing with my fear for my son’s safety since he was about to enter the Air Force during a war. Because Ray’s car wreck happened just three blocks from home, God impressed on me that His protection has nothing to do with geography. The best place to be, the safest place to be, is in God’s hand, and He has promised that no one can snatch us from His hand (John 8:28-29). I sensed Him impressing me that I could trust Him with my son the same way He protected my husband from lasting damage.

I hope this article helps you grow in your ability to think biblically so you can see life as it really is—one reality comprised of both the physical and spiritual, God’s world, God’s life—that He invites you into.

Notes

1. Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004), 31.
2. Ibid., 97-98.
3. Ibid., 34.
4. Email from Dr. Jeff Myers, April 19, 2011.

© 2011 Probe Ministries


Grace and Truth About LGBT

Sue Bohlin provides a compassionate, biblically based look at what is happening as LGBT ideology has taken root in the culture.

What Does God Think About LGBT?

This article is about grace and truth in the context of LGBT, those who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender. What does God think about people for whom this is their primary (or even secret) identity?

download-podcast
After 20-plus years of walking with dear friends dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction, the very first thing that comes to my mind is the deep compassion and tenderness of our God toward wounded and deceived people that He loves very much. I am reminded of Isaiah’s words (42:3), “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

People discover attractions toward those of the same sex. They don’t initially choose them. These disordered feelings are like the warning lights on the dashboard of a car. They are saying, “Something’s wrong under the hood; check it out!” So in the beginning, same-sex attractions constitute temptation rather than sin, but it easily crosses over to sin when people choose to feed and nurture thought patterns that God’s word says are sin.

And God’s word has always called sexual behavior outside of marriage between a man and woman, sin. That’s because sex is deeply spiritual as well as physical, and He wants to protect us from the harmful consequences of sexual sin. His word will last forever, and it doesn’t change. So I believe God is grieved when people reject His clear biblical statements about sexual sin, as is now happening in many churches and individuals.

God’s word calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. An important part of the Kingdom message is that God changes believers more and more into the likeness of Jesus. That means that God endorses change, which makes sense since growth and change are an intrinsic part of life.

But the cultural narrative says that your sexuality can’t be changed. If people don’t want their
broken same-sex attractions, and seek help recovering God’s intended design for them, it is becoming illegal to do that. It’s labeled as “Conversion therapy.” But if someone says they’re transgender and seek to inject their healthy body with artificial hormones and mutilate it with surgery to pretend they are something they’re not, that’s called “gender affirmation.” Yes, it’s backward.

God addressed this backward thinking in Isaiah 5:20—“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

Back to the cultural narrative says that your sexuality can’t be changed. That’s not what some social scientists have found, which is that sexuality can be quite fluid and changeable.{1} There is no magic switch to flip from homosexual to heterosexual; but when people invite God into the woundings and deficits of their earlier life and receive healing in their souls, some can develop attractions to the opposite sex. I have personally seen this happen multiple times. The problem is
that people aren’t telling their stories, or when they try, they aren’t believed.

Disordered thinking and unnatural desires are not too hard for God to handle. Remember, He can raise the dead!

Cultural Lies vs. God’s Truth

There is a massive clash between the lies of our sex-saturated culture, and the eternal truth of God’s word.

CULTURE’S LIE: Who I am is a sexual being. Whether it’s a culture or an individual, when God is left out of the equation, sex is elevated to the #1 most important spot because it’s so powerful and a source of such intense pleasure (or can be). So people define themselves by their sexuality.
GOD’S TRUTH: Who I am is God’s beloved creation. Made in the image of God, created for intimacy and fellowship with Him, my worth proven by what the Son was willing to pay for me: His very life.

CULTURE’S LIE: Sex is a need and a right for everyone to experience. Many people believe it is on the same level of necessity as food, water and sleep.
GOD’S TRUTH: Sex is so powerful it is to be contained only within marriage between one man and one woman. The mingling of bodies and souls through sex is deeply spiritual as well as physical. God’s prohibitions against sex outside of marriage are His gift to us, meant for our protection from the painful consequences of sexual sin. They are like guard rails on a treacherous mountain road, intended to keep us from going off the cliff to pain and destruction.

CULTURE’S LIE: I create my own identity depending on what I feel. Untethered from a connection to God as Creator, people live out the sad, repeated description of Israel in the book of Judges, where “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Judges 17:6, for one).
GOD’S TRUTH: My identity is who my Creator says I am. All of us exist because God wanted us and hand-crafted each of us (Psalm 139). Feelings are real but they’re not reliable. Jeremiah 17:9 instructs us on why our feelings can’t be trusted: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”

CULTURE’S LIE: Gender is whatever we want it to be. Biological sex has been separated from gender (how one feels about maleness and femaleness). (Personally, this strikes me as illegitimate as proclaiming that the white keys on a piano are bad and the black keys are good.)
GOD’S TRUTH: God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27) The first words in the room when a baby is born are still, “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” Gender is still binary because God still creates only male and female.

 6-year-old transgender manCULTURE’S LIE: I can create my own reality. For example, recently a man abandoned his wife and seven children, announcing his chosen identity of a 6-year-old girl.{2}

dragon transgenderAnother man, deciding his identity is a female dragon, cut off his ears and nose, dyed his eyes, and inserted horns in his forehead.{3}

GOD’S TRUTH: There is objective truth and objective reality because God is real and true. We do not have the freedom to dismiss what is objectively true and real; 2 + 2 will always be 4, not 7 or 200, and gravity will always be operational on the planet. These things are real and true because a real and true God rooted His creation in His own nature.

CULTURE’S LIE: “Born this way.” This lie has so much traction because it’s repeated so often
people assume it to be true.
GOD’S TRUTH: No Evidence. There is actually no scientific evidence of a gay gene or any other determiner of same-sex attraction. And in identical twins (who share the same DNA), when one identifies as gay or lesbian, the other one only identifies as gay or lesbian about 11% of the time. If homosexuality were a genetic issue, the correspondence would be 100%.

American culture continues to pump out the illusion—the fantasy, the myth—that sexuality is the most important thing about life and about us, and that sexual identity and expression is where life is found.

Life is found in Jesus, and nowhere else.

Transgender: The Emperor’s New Clothes

In the old story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, scam artists appeal to the pride of a conceited emperor, claiming they can create a magical outfit for him that is invisible to anyone who is unfit for their position, stupid, or incompetent. He parades his new suit of clothes before his subjects, which of course no one can see because it’s a scam. But no one will say they don’t see it lest they be seen as stupid. Finally a little boy pipes up and blurts out the truth: “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”{4}

The transgender narrative is the equivalent of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The objective truth is that there is no such thing as magical clothes, and there’s no such thing as changing genders. People can only deceive themselves (and others), damage their bodies, and mutilate themselves—but our God-ordained maleness and femaleness, our biological sex, is stamped into every cell of our bodies.

It’s especially alarming when parents, educators and other authorities feed a child’s fantasy that they are the other gender. We would never do that if a child declared herself to be a cat or a unicorn; we would gently and lovingly correct her wrong thinking by speaking the truth to her. But if a boy insists he’s a girl or vice versa, many progressive-minded adults are so proud of their “wokeness” that they rush to board the child on the transgender train.

Most often, children who reject their gender are reacting to gender stereotypes. Girls can think that boys get to do cooler stuff than girls, and sensitive boys who love pink and purple sparkly things can think it’s better to be a girl. Both sexes who experience abuse can believe that it would be safer to be the opposite sex.

Children never see the big picture—that’s why God gives them parents to help them see their world more accurately. One little boy told his parents he wanted to be a girl but no one inquired why, they just jumped on the transgender bandwagon. Turns out that when his baby sister was born and consumed a lot of attention because she was very sick, he concluded that if he were a girl, he would get the same attention.

Transgender – Part 2

When a person experiences a conflict between their biological sex and their internal sense of whether they are male or female, that’s called gender dysphoria. Various studies have shown that this very painful emotional state resolves itself about 85% of the time simply by going through puberty. It appears to reset things. So the best and wisest treatment is no treatment at all, but of course wise parents and other adults will continue to speak truth about a child’s identity—especially the truth that God who is good, loving and wise chose their gender for them, so we need to receive it as His gift.

This whole transgender phenomenon has ignited where children have access to the internet on their smart phones. The illusion of transgender is easily spread by social contagion. Children and teens talk about their beliefs that they are transgender on social media, and their impressionable peers are influenced to start thinking and feeling the same way. The popularity of social media has sped up the spread of this fantasy, especially on the Tumblr platform. One academic who studied the reports of parents alarmed by sudden changes in their children coined the term “rapid onset gender dysphoria.”{5}

Anyone who has been around adolescents for any length of time doesn’t need to be surprised by this dynamic. Teens copy each other in all kinds of ways.

Many adolescents who identify as transgender suffer from anxiety, depression, and self-injury.{6} There is a whole constellation of painful mental health struggles all bound up together. We are also finding that a disproportionate number of teens who explore the transgender identity are on the autism spectrum.{7}

They already feel the shame of being different, of being “other than,” and it’s easy for them to mislabel themselves as transgender instead of just different.

One final note on transgender: we must not go along with the Emperor’s New Clothes story that athletes can compete as the opposite sex just by declaring themselves so. It’s not just heartbreaking, it’s wrong for teenage boys to rob girl athletes of scholarships{8}, not to mention dignity, by unfairly competing against them and demanding to use their restrooms and locker rooms.{9}

Why Have So Many Christians and Entire Churches Become Pro-Gay?

More and more individuals and churches have come out in support of homosexuality and gay marriage. Why is that?

I think there are two big reasons so many confessing believers in Christ have allowed themselves to be more shaped by the culture than by the truth of God’s word, drifting into spiritual compromise and even into apostasy, which means abandoning the truth of one’s faith.

Reason One: Rejecting the Authority of God’s Word

The first reason is that millions of people are rejecting the authority of God’s word.

The bitter fruit of several decades of shallow preaching, teaching and discipleship is that many believers have been especially vulnerable to Satan’s deceptive question to Eve in the Garden of Eden: “Did God really say . . .?” When Christians ignore or flat-out reject the unmistakably clear biblical statements condemning homosexual behavior, they are playing into the enemy’s temptation to justify disobedience by making feelings and perceptions more important than God’s design and standards.

There are now two streams of thought on same-sex relationships and behavior: the Traditional, Biblical View and the Revisionist View.{10} The Revisionist View basically says, “It doesn’t matter what the Bible actually says, it doesn’t mean what 2000 years of church history has said it means, it means what we want it to say.” And we want it to say that God endorses all relationships that invoke love.”

Reason Two: Snagged by the Gay Agenda

When people don’t submit themselves to the truth of the Word of God, they are easily shaped and swayed by the six points of a brilliantly designed “Gay Manifesto” spelled out in a book called After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s.{11} This gay agenda has been executed perfectly in the United States. (Note: these are the authors’ words, not mine.)

1. Talk about gays and gayness as loudly and often as possible.

2. Portray members of the LGBTQ community as victims. Indoctrinate mainstream America that members of the LGBTQ community were “born this way.”

3. Give protectors a just cause: anti-discrimination.

4. The use of TV, music, film and social media to desensitize mainstream Americans to their plight as gay people.

5. Portray Gays and Lesbians as pillars in society. Make gays look good.

6. Once homosexuals have begun to gain acceptance, anti-gay opponents must be vilified, causing them to be viewed as repulsive outcasts of society.

This is how I see how we got to this place where so many people have been deceived. They didn’t anchor themselves to the Truth of the Word of God, and they opened themselves to the cultural brine of Kirk and Madsen’s plan to overhaul straight America.

I will close with four personal observations about this situation:

1. Christians have bought into the culture’s worship of feelings over God’s unchanging revelation

2. People love how making themselves an ally and protector of the underdog makes them feel, despite God’s design and standards for sexuality and marriage.

3. Not enough of us Christ-followers are living lives that demonstrate the beauty and satisfaction of abiding in Christ.

4. The church has been dismal at loving those who struggle with their sexuality and showing them the grace that is in God’s heart toward them. It’s essential to both speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and seek to show love filled with truth.

Notes

1. www.sciencealert.com/sexual-orientation-continues-to-change-right-through-our-teens-and-into-adulthood
2. www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3356084/I-ve-gone-child-Husband-father-seven-52-leaves-wife-kids-live-transgender-SIX-YEAR-OLD-girl-named-Stefonknee.html
3. unbelievable-facts.com/2016/04/transgender-dragon-lady.html
4. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor%27s_New_Clothes
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_onset_gender_dysphoria_controversy
6. www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2020-04-10/transgender-teens-have-high-rates-of-depression-suicidal-thoughts
7. www.com/science/article/pii/S1750946719301540
8. www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/06/19/transgender-athletes-robbing-girls-chance-win-sports-column/4856486002/
9. www.dailysignal.com/2015/12/21/why-these-high-school-girls-dont-want-transgender-student-a-in-their-locker-room/
10. bible.org/article/reformation-church-doesn-t-need-answering-revisionist-pro-gay-theology-part-i
11. Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s (New York: Doubleday, 1989).

©2020 Probe Ministries


The Internet Dad With Millions of Kids

A father’s YouTube channel went viral during the pandemic as he kindly taught adulting skills to the fatherless. Sue Bohlin just loves this sunny spot on the internet! 

This Father’s Day, millions of people worldwide will have a new dad to salute and appreciate. The “Internet Dad” is a warm, loving father-figure whose YouTube channel “Dad How Do I?” exploded during the Coronavirus quarantine.

Rob Kenney creates unfussy, easy-to-understand how-to videos on practical adulting tasks like how to change the tire on a car, how to iron a dress shirt, how to shave, and how to use tools like a stud finder, pliers and a wrench. He’s a natural teacher, but what has captivated over two million subscribers in just a couple of months is his heart.

Every single video radiates kindness. You know, the fruit of the Spirit that seems to be in alarmingly short supply these days?
Dad How Do I?

He starts his videos with a smiling, “Hi kids!” and always includes a dad joke. A perfect dad joke, even when he messes up. (“Did you hear the joke about the butter? . . . Oh, I just blew it. Did you hear the rumor about the butter? Well, I’m not gonna spread it . . .”) As a response to the overwhelming number of views and heartfelt comments, Rob started creating simple messages from the heart; his “Thank You” (for people’s enthusiastic response) video has had over 1.6 million views in just under a month. His description for a video titled “I Am Proud of You” reads, “The internet can’t understand what you all just did! Apparently it doesn’t have an algorithm for kindness. :0) I am proud of all of you!” He has read a children’s book with the intention to read one a month.

He’s being the dad every heart longs for.

Viewers’ comments on Rob’s videos are the most eloquent expression of the worldwide father hunger I’ve ever seen.

One repeated sentiment Rob himself has responded to, which really touched his heart, was the sweetly defensive “Protect this man at all costs!”

In the comments on the “I Am Proud of You” video, I was moved to tears by a long thread of “kids” from different countries responding to one poster’s heartbreaking comment: “The words any Asian child dreams of hearing their whole life.” Then “amens” from around the globe: China. India. Eastern Europe. Arabia. Indonesia. And, of course, the United States.

Such heart hunger! Such pain from absent, or distant, or abusive, fathers!

  • My dad.. Actually tried to kill me when I was little… He never loved me . . . Will you be my new dad?. . . My Internet dad?
  • I’ve always been scared that when I grow up and if I become a father I won’t be able to teach my children “dad” things because no one taught me. Thank you this might change that.
  • As someone who’s dad left behind 6 girls and a wife, i have NEVER ever appreciated a mans help before. ❤this makes my heart hurt in a good way❤
  • “You got this and I’m proud of you.” I have a dad and I’m still crying
  • Everytime he says hi kids i just wanna say hi dad.
  • “I Love you, I’m proud of you, God bless you.” All of the internet crying

(OK, I’m gonna stop pasting in comments now. I can’t see for the tears.)

What delights me the most about this “Mister Rogers for Adults” is that Rob is a Christ follower. He allows Father God to love His hurting (and not-so-hurting) children through him. The millions of people who watch his videos, and especially the over 100,000 commenters, are experiencing the affection and warmth of the God who loves them more than they can imagine, and this God is using technology to reach millions of people around the world with His love—packaged in a way they can receive.

And It. Is. Glorious!

In the midst of a very hard time for us as a society, it seems that God the Father has bestowed a Father’s Day gift on people they didn’t know they needed.

God bless you, Internet Dad. I’m proud of you, too. And Happy Father’s Day, brother.

 

This blog post originally appeared at blogs.bible.org/the-internet-dad-with-millions-of-kids/ on June 16, 2020.


Two Sides to Every Story. Especially Now.

Sue exhorts us to make Proverbs 18:17 our filter to find the balance in news stories, analyses, and opinion pieces by asking wise questions and finding trustworthy sources.

Please, please, please, make this powerful Proverb the filter through which you process information, especially during this Corona-Crazy time:

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
Proverbs 18:17

We HAVE to remember that there are two sides to every story, particularly now when we have to navigate a slippery slope of opinion, and fake news, and deliberately skewed news, and trustworthy reporting of facts.

Many people are grabbing one compelling-sounding video or article or even just a meme on social media, and they stop thinking there. We need to be asking ourselves the power questions that help us think:

What do they mean by _____? We need to make sure that we understand what others mean by the words and terms they use. Politically- and idealogically-charged rhetoric often uses language that means something very different from what it appears on the surface. For example, the innocuous-sounding “Equality Act” is intended to severely restrict and punish those who hold to a biblical perspective on gender and sexuality—who, it is clear, are not considered equal to those who hold pro-LGBT values.

Where do they get their information? There are extreme-right and extreme-left sources that pump out nothing but slanted and unbalanced ideas. We need to be aware of the difference between reports from the very conservative Infowars and The Blaze, and the leftist MSNBC and CNN.

How can we know it’s true? Much of what appears to be journalism today is analysis and opinion pieces. How are your discernment skills? Can you tell the difference between factual reporting and spin? Probably not if you live in a bubble of only opinions and voices you agree with. “Confirmation bias” is a powerful dynamic that keeps us from considering anything from a different perspective. This is why it’s essential to keep in mind, as Proverbs 18:17 reminds us, that there are two sides to every story, and we need to delay clamping down our minds on a position until we have more information and perspective. Do you know about allsides.com? That’s a good place to find news from the left, from the center, and the right.

(Please see my article “Four Killer Questions: Power Tools for Great Question-Asking”)

My extremely wise colleague at Probe Ministries, Steve Cable, offered this counsel in his article “Seeing Through News Media Bias: Exposing Deception and Proclaiming Truth in an Age of Misinformation”:

“[W]e need to be on the alert for the warning signs of misinformation. When we recognize the need for discernment, begin by asking God for wisdom in looking for and applying the truth:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5-6).

“Then we need to ask ourselves some tough questions about the article or news report:

1. Does it begin with truth?
2. Is it logical?
3. Does it consider all of the evidence?
4. Does the conclusion make sense apart from the argument?
5. Does it stand up to close examination?”

These are great questions.

And we need to hang on tight to common sense, not being afraid to ask questions of what we’re reading and hearing. Biological viruses will not be transmitted through cell towers. Washing our hands thoroughly will ALWAYS be a good idea. We were told not to wear masks, now we’re told to wear masks; maybe there’s not a one-size-fit-all rule?

Conspiracy theories abound; is anybody addressing the assertions in them? At this point in time, Google is still our friend in finding the answer to that question.

The bottom line is that we need to always remember that “the first to make his case seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” If we’ve only heard the first side, we need to hold our thoughts and judgments loosely until we hear if there is another side.

And be kind the whole time.

 

This blog post originally appeared at
blogs.bible.org/two-sides-to-every-story-especially-now/ on May 23, 2020.


Mind Games (radio transcript)

Mind Games 2020 BannerThere’s one thing we do here at Probe that is my favorite part of ministry. Our Student Mind Games Camp is a week-long, total immersion, give-it-all-we’ve-got experience for high school and college students that changes minds and hearts forever.

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Beautiful Camp Copass in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area is surrounded by a lake on three sides and it feels very secluded—even though it’s not far from the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, so students can easily fly in. We teach Christian students how to think biblically on a wide range of subjects: understanding how others think as they understand their worldviews, how they can know that Christianity is true, creation and evolution, human nature, the differences between guys and girls, the problem of evil and the value of suffering, campus Christianity, and even how to watch a movie with their brain turned on. They learn about Islam, a compassionate but biblical view of homosexuality, different views of science and Earth-history, and genetic engineering.

Returning campers get to experience what is always a highlight for our students, a special alumni track with new lectures in an intimate, personal setting. The alumni always tell the first-timers what an amazing difference it makes to come back a second or even third time, because they get so much more out of the conference than they ever thought possible.

The Probe teachers don’t just give the lectures, though; we continue conversations at meals where we eat and visit with the students instead of each other. We break up into discussion groups to help the students process what they’re learning in the sessions. There is free time every afternoon and evening to hike, swim, play basketball or card games, read or nap. Or of course, just hang out with new friends.

The students are delighted to meet other thinking Christians from all over the country, students eager to think and grow in their faith as they learn to love God with their minds together. They enjoy getting to know us as the instructors, too. We’re not only available the whole week; we look for opportunities to engage in conversations that will encourage and affirm what God is doing in the minds and hearts of these precious young people.

We’ll be talking about Mind Games in this article, but you can go to our website, Probe.org/mindgames, and check out our videos, a typical week’s schedule, and lots of other information. In the next sections you’ll hear a little bit from several lecturers, and also from several of our Mind Games alumni.

Sneak Peek of Probe Lectures

Here are snippets from lectures of four of our Probe Mind Games instructors, speaking on the Biology of Human Uniqueness, LGBT, Islam, and Nietzsche for Beginners:

Dr. Ray Bohlin:

Fire is also necessary for creating tools, particularly metal tools. You have to be able to heat metals to a really high temperature: copper, silver, gold—all their melting temperatures are over a thousand degrees centigrade. So you have to get a really hot fire to do that, and to be able to make the tools liquid, to make them malleable. So you’ve got not only to be able to make a fire, you have to be intentional as to how you make a really hot fire.

Sue Bohlin:

What I really love is my title for this, which is “Grace and Truth About Homosexuality,” because I think we need both. We need to be coming from a heart of compassion and sympathy and understanding for the sexual and relational brokenness that results in homosexuality, but we also need to be absolutely camped out on the truth of the Word of God.

Paul Rutherford:

The third of the five pillars of Islam is the giving of alms, what they call zakat. It’s much similar to Christian charity, to giving to a church or giving to the poor; Muslims likewise have a heart for their community, have a heart for those who are down and out. This is the giving to “the least of these,” as Christians might call it. The fourth pillar of Islam is Ramadan, and Ramadan is a fast. It is a month-long fast. This is a time when they train themselves in discipline, of practicing not eating during the day, and when they train themselves in increasing their desire for God, for Allah.

Todd Kappelman:

Adolph Hitler, when he was coming to power after 1939, he ordered just crates and crates and crates of Thus Spake Zarathustra and would give to his captains and his commanders and everything, and we believe by this action in some of Hitler’s own words that he saw himself to be the inheritor of much of Nietzsche’s philosophy and especially the aspect of the overman, the great world historical figure that Nietzsche is going to advocate for solving some of the problems that he’s going to look at.

Comments from Alumni, Part 1

In this article we’re talking about our memorable, life-impacting, week-long summer Mind Games conference. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Consider what some of our alumni have to say.

Here’s three-time alumnus, Noah:

Mind Games is a fun place of fellowship, you get a lot of excitement, there’s a ropes course that you go on so there’s a lot of excitement there, you do a lot of team-building activities, it’s a ton of fun, you get to learn a whole lot about life, about faith, about people, about relationships. You get to experience a whole new world of things that you’ve never experienced before in the faith. A lot of people, they just have a surface-level faith, but here at Mind Games we go a whole lot deeper into that faith, we lay it out and we explain philosophically how it works, reasonably how it works, how it works with science, how it works with other people, how it works with suffering, how it works with everything, just how the world works with faith.

Here’s Esther:

My faith before Mind Games was a little crazy . . . I had thoughts about suicide a few times, and then I started to doubt, “Is God even there?” Like, if He was there, then wouldn’t I feel His presence? Then I came to Mind Games and I was like, there’s no way He’s not real. For someone who hasn’t been here, Mind Games is a great experience. You not only gain friends and family, but you learn more about God and how to stay stronger in your faith.

Tyler had a major shift between his first and second time at Mind Games:

I’m Tyler Lord from Athens, Georgia. Last year when I came I was actually agnostic, so I didn’t really know. But kinda having experiences throughout the year after Mind Games and coming back, I’ve become a Christian. It’s lots of fun. You come and, you know, it’s not really all about religion. There’s a bunch of free time you get to play around. You come in, and you don’t really know what to expect, When you get here and you think, oh, it’s gonna be a bunch of lectures, but it’s really not. You get a good bond with everybody’s who’s here, like the other campers. And even though there are lectures, they’re really interesting. The apologetics ones are great for like if someone comes up to you and they’re like, “Why are you a Christian?”

Comments From Alumni, Part 2

Here are a few more alumni comments, starting with Arty:

Mind Games is a wonderful time of fellowship, worship and just gaining a lot of knowledge into why Christianity is reasonable, how Christianity can work with science, how your faith and science can work together and not against each other. Mind Games is fun, it’s very much about the relationships that you build, it’s about the people who you interact with on a daily basis for the week.

This was Anya’s second time through:

After this second round of Mind Games, I feel like I’ve grown much more as a person, not just due to time but also how much Mind Games has affected me personally, If I had to describe Mind Games to someone who’s never been here before, I would say it’s something that completely blows your mind away. Not in the sense that it’s all weighing over your head, but just how much they describe, how much detail and information you have on how to defend your faith. First year it was amazing, and second year it got even better.

Ben also returned:

Well it’s really that the first Mind Games for me was like planting the seed, this time it’s nurturing the plant. It was really so I could re-establish what they had taught me last year, cause last year was such an eye-opener I wanted to see if either I could experience that or build upon it this year, which I have.

Amy set a record of coming to Mind Games!

My name is Amy Klaschus, I’m from Orlando Florida, and I’ve been to Mind Games five times now! What keeps me coming back to Mind Games is the people, because I love the teachers—they’re very nice and they’re always willing to help and answer questions. Every year there have been at least a few people among the students who are just so welcoming and so Christian in a way I can’t really find back home as much. I know that in shaping my growth in faith, Mind Games has been just completely essential, because it’s given me the perspective and the ability to think biblically about all the problems I face, all the problems I faced in high school and now all the problems I’ve been facing this past year of college.

Why Go to Mind Games?

We now know that three out of four high school seniors who had been part of a church youth group drop out of church within a year.{1} One reason for this is that they don’t own their faith; they don’t know that Christianity is true, and they don’t know why it’s true. They tend to equate faith with a warm fuzzy feeling that doesn’t stand up to the challenges of life. Many students are afraid to express their doubts so they never learn that there are good, solid answers to their questions. They are sensitive to the disconnect that happens when those who profess to be Christ-followers act no differently from unbelievers.

For over twenty years, Probe’s Mind Games conferences have been preparing young people for the challenges to their faith. In that time, we have witnessed firsthand the incredible thirst for a reliable trustworthy faith. Again and again we hear that some had despaired of ever finding something like Mind Games. The conference consistently exceeds expectations, and students often tell us they wish they had brought their friends.

Alumni from these summer conferences have gone on to become leaders on their campuses, the government and the military. This week-long immersion truly changes lives, giving them a new confidence in their God, His Word, and in their role as His ambassadors. We know this because some of them come back as alumni a second or third year, and because they contact us years later and let us know how Mind Games continues to impact them.

Mornings start with an informal devotional by Probe staff and a time of prayer. They receive twenty-five hours of lecture using video clips, role play, Q and A, and other teaching techniques. They connect with each other and process what they’re learning in small groups. We as staff get to know and truly love them.

The Student Mind Games Camp is for those who have finished their junior or senior years of high school, and for college freshmen and sophomores. [Note: especially motivated students younger than that are welcome, though!] Please go to our Web site, Probe.org/mindgames, and check out videos. You can look at a typical schedule, and find out all the details. And then register someone you love. It will make a difference in time and eternity.

Note

1. Steve Cable, Is This the Last Christian Generation? probe.org/is-this-the-last-christian-generation/

©2018 Probe Ministries


3 Truths to Feed Our Hope in a Pandemic

When the world is upside down due to unforeseen circumstances, we need hope, but not just any hope. Sue explains that biblical hope is something different. Something better. Because it’s about God.

When pretty much the whole world is in stay-at-home mode . . . when pretty much the whole world is impacted by sudden unemployment because the whole world is in stay-at-home mode . . . when pretty much the whole world’s economy might be affected by the crazy fall in oil prices . . .

We desperately need hope.

Hope that things will get better. Hope that we will be able to experience “normal” again. Hope that everyone’s stress level will go down, especially health care heroes and first responders.

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately.

Your everyday kind of hope is a wish or expectation for the future. It’s oxygen for the soul. An important part of mental health is being able to look forward to something good.

But biblical hope is something different. Something better. Because it’s about God.

Where everyday hope is about wishing, biblical hope is a confident expectation that God will be good, and He will do good, toward us. It is faith in the future tense.

Everyday hope is horizontal, looking at circumstances, the world, and other people—which are all broken by the Fall, and they are guaranteed to disappoint. But biblical hope is vertical. It looks UP instead of out. Biblical hope is focused on a perfect, loving God who is all-knowing and all-powerful. He doesn’t just know the future, He holds the future.

We can encourage one another daily, as Hebrews 3:13 urges us, by reminding ourselves and each other of what is true. Let me suggest three truths that will feed our hope.

God is good.

Probably the #1 lie of the enemy is that God ISN’T good. It’s what was behind his temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden: that God was holding out on her because He’s not good.

And when life is hard and we live in pain, it’s easy to look through the filter of “God is not good, that’s why He’s letting me hurt.”

But the truth is that our circumstances are not an accurate indicator of whether God is good or not. Our logic and thinking are not accurate judges of whether God is good or not.

Even if we don’t say it out loud, we can sit in the self-pity puddle of the belief, “If God was good, He wouldn’t let me hurt.”

But our pain is achieving something eternally significant, an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). When life is hard, God is doing something really big in us. And eventually, for those who have trusted Christ, God’s goodness will mean He carries us to the place where there is no more pain, no more tears, no more sickness or weakness or even disappointment. That is our hope, that the future will hold nothing but GOOD for us.

We’re not there yet. But it’s coming!

God is faithful.

He is faithful in His character, He is faithful to His word, He is faithful to His promises.

Faithfulness means being a promise-keeper, even when it’s hard. The Hebrew word for faithfulness means steadfastness, firmness.

On a trip to Colorado, my brother-in-law Phil learned that a cashier at Rocky Mountain National Park was also from Chicago. He said, “It must be cool to be here with these mountains all the time.”

“Let me tell you something about the mountains,” she responded. “They’re . . . always . . . THERE.” Meaning, they don’t move, they don’t change, and it takes a long time to get from A to B because those mountains are always THERE.

Like God’s faithfulness.

We can have hope that God will remain faithful to His promises, such as Jesus promising, “I will be with you always.”

Sports Illustrated covered a memorable incident at the 1992 Olympics when runner Derek Redmond tore his hamstring near the end of the race. He fell face first onto the track in agony.

As the medical attendants were approaching, Redmond fought to his feet. “It was animal instinct,” he would say later. He set out hopping, in a crazed attempt to finish the race. When he reached the stretch, a large man in a T-shirt came out of the stands, hurled aside a security guard and ran to Redmond, embracing him. It was Jim Redmond, Derek’s father. “You don’t have to do this,” he told his weeping son. “Yes, I do,” said Derek. “Well, then,” said Jim, “we’re going to finish this together.” And so they did.

Fighting off security men, the son’s head sometimes buried in his father’s shoulder, they stayed in Derek’s lane all the way to the end, as the crowd gaped, then rose and howled and wept.{{1}

Most people don’t remember who won the gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but millions will never forget the faithful love of a father who left his seat in the stands to enable his son to finish his race.

What a picture of our faithful heavenly Father who sent His Son from His seat in glory to earth to rescue and redeem us! Jesus promises that He will be with us always, to the end of the age—just as Derek Redmond’s father was with his son to the end of the race.

God is at work in my life.

Philippians 1:6 promises that He who began a good work in me will continue to complete it. Once God gets started on the process of making us like Jesus, He doesn’t quit!

One of my pastors has said that if you don’t like how things are, it means the story’s not over and God’s not finished.

How encouraging is that??!

Romans 8:28 teaches us, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Since God is at work in us, then He has a plan to make us like Jesus, and He’s using every situation and every circumstance in our lives as His tools.

When we open our hearts and minds to God’s plans to make us like Jesus, and we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the process, it strengthens our hope that our future will be different from the past or the present.

But to be like Jesus means we have to follow Him, which means denying ourselves, and taking up our cross. It means not fighting the tools of sanctification He is using to make us like Jesus. The best way to do that is to obey scripture, which says to give thanks IN everything, FOR everything. If God has allowed it, there must be a purpose in it. It means developing an attitude of gratitude by disciplining ourselves to say, “This stinks, Lord, but You have allowed it in my life so I will give You thanks for this crummy boss, or this difficult roommate situation, or this physical challenge, or this thorn in my flesh.”

When we realize we are not content with WHO we are or HOW we are, because we long to be better, it means God’s not finished with us. We are still a work in progress. The story’s not over.

It means there is hope. Biblical hope.

God is good, God is faithful, and God is at work in me. Those are the truths that will feed our hope and allow us to look at the future with confident expectation that it’s going to be better than OK . . . it’s going to be amazing. Either in this life, or on the other side, we can have hope.

A living hope. Hope has a name. His name is Jesus.

1. vault.si.com/vault/1992/08/17/track-and-field-ode-to-joy-carl-lewis-exulted-along-with-all-of-barcelonas-gold-medalists-many-of-whom-vanquished-giants-to-win-their-events. Accessed 4/21/2020.

 

This blog post originally appeared at
blogs.bible.org/3-truths-to-feed-our-hope-in-a-pandemic/ on April 21, 2020.


Responding to COVID-19: God Already Had It Figured Out

As America grinds almost to a halt as we try to suppress the spread of the Corona Virus, governments are closing things up and shutting things down. As we are instructed to stay in our homes and keep our distance from other people, we are also being encouraged about how to think about these restrictions. We’re hearing pleas to younger people, especially, not to gather in bars and restaurants, because it speeds up the transmission of the virus. This will help protect the physically vulnerable—older folks [um, *wince*—somehow that now includes me] and those with compromised immunity.

What strikes me about the messages we are receiving is that God came up with them first.

These calls to citizens parallel God’s calls to believers. Several of the “one anothers” of scripture are particularly salient to our needs right now to pull together to fight this invisible enemy: not merely as a nation, but as human beings facing a global pandemic together.

Love one another (John 15:12). It is loving to keep your distance from others and stay home in order to keep yourself from catching, and even worse become an unknowing carrier for, what is a serious and sometimes deadly virus. It is loving to wash our hands for 20 seconds because it kills the virus and helps us keep from spreading the virus to others.

Serve one another (Galatians 5:13). It just delights me to receive texts from friends asking if they can go to the store for us, and to read offers on my Next Door app from people offering to run errands and shop for the older and health-challenged people in our neighborhood.

Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Saying no to ourselves (such as wanting to hang out with friends in groups) in order to protect others is one way of bearing each other’s burdens. Buying online gift cards from restaurants that now can’t serve diners in order to provide a cash flow when they are strapped is another. Providing childcare, eldercare and respite care is yet another. Reaching out by phone, text and other social media is how we can bear the burden of loneliness to people in isolation.

Be hospitable to one other (1 Peter 4:9). Leaving food gifts on a neighbor’s door step. Sending/leaving notes to assure people they are remembered and they are important.

Pray for one another (James 5:16). We need to pray for protection, especially for health care workers who expose themselves to danger every minute of their working day. We need to pray for those struggling against the symptoms of the virus. Is there anything as scary as having trouble breathing? We need to pray for business owners and employees who have lost their ability to provide for themselves and their families.

I have a mental list that I pray through every time I wash my hands.

Finally, I especially love Philippians 2:3-4 in view of our current challenge:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

The entire country is being asked to put the risks and needs of other people ahead of our own. In a spectacular display of biblical thinking, Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins said we need to “turn from selfishness to sacrifice.”

Yes we do. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In big and small ways.

It’s an exceptional opportunity for all of us to do things God’s way. Because He knows what works best.

 

This blog post originally appeared at
blogs.bible.org/responding-to-covid-19-god-already-had-it-figured-out/
on March 17, 2020.


How Can I Make God Answer My Prayers My Way?

How can I get God to give me what I want? That’s often at the root of our interest in prayer. If we’re honest, that’s the question we want answered when we read books on prayer, listen to a message or podcast on prayer, or talk to people known as prayer warriors.

Recently there have been two high-profile stories involving prayer in the evangelical world. In December 2019, the two-year-old daughter of a worship leader at Bethel Church in Redding, California, suddenly died. When her body was taken to the morgue, the little girl’s mother at the church known for signs and wonders and strange phenomena such as “gold dust” and feathers floating down from the ceiling posted a message on social media, asking believers to pray that little Olive would rise from the dead:

“We are asking for bold, unified prayers from the global church to stand with us in belief that He will raise this little girl back to life. Her time here is not done, and it is our time to believe boldly, and with confidence wield what King Jesus paid for. It’s time for her to come to life.”

The hashtag #wakeupolive swept through the internet, with many people declaring a resurrection for Olive in Jesus’ name. There was a lot of the name-it-and-claim-it theology driving well-meaning people to declare what they were in reality demanding that God do. Some were saying that God’s name and character would be in question if He didn’t come through.

When some people expressed their concern that God might not do what people “declared” that He would—when they stated the truth that God is sovereign and He does what is best—they were shamed for their unbelief. As the wise ladies of Mama Bear Apologetics analyzed this criticism, “If you doubt that He will, that is equivalent to doubting that He can.”{1}

A LOT of people jumped on the #wakeupolive bandwagon, trusting that the strength and passion of their declarations would be sufficient to make God do what they wanted, as if His answer to prayer were contingent on how much emotional energy they could summon. When this happens, people are putting their faith in faith rather than God, who knows the whole big picture and always does the best, right thing. This is how they are trying to get God to do what they want.

This name-it-and-claim-it faith also warns against doubt, assuring people that if God doesn’t do what they are praying for, it’s because they didn’t have enough faith. Leaving any sort of open door for God to do His will independent of what is being asked is seen as doubting. When our premature baby died after nine days of faith-filled prayers, and many declarations of health and strength for her, we were told that we didn’t have enough faith. It was our fault.

When a lady in our Sunday School class battled cancer, she was so determined not to let doubt poison her declarations of healing that she stubbornly refused to discuss her funeral or how her house (and her many cats) should be disposed of if she didn’t get her miracle healing. It was a very sad thing to have to make these decisions for her when she died. She didn’t get what she wanted from God. In reality, she got something much better, but she would not allow for that possibility.

Little Olive did not rise from the dead.

People did not get what they were praying for, what they were declaring God would do.

That happens. A lot.

There was another request for prayer from believers when Lois Evans, the wife of pastor Dr. Tony Evans in Dallas, the mother of several amazing children including Priscilla Shirer, got to the end of her battle with cancer. Dr. Evans wrote,

Yet, even though chemotherapy and radiation are no longer options, we still have total confidence in our God’s ability to supernaturally intervene and do what man is unable to do. Our prayers are full of faith, hope and expectancy. We would appreciate you praying with that same spirit. . . .

We know God is still on the throne, and our faith is in Him and in His Word, and His love for us has not wavered in the least.

There is a huge difference between making a declaration, “standing in belief” for what people wanted, and this humble request for supernatural intervention that is still full of trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness.

God chose to bring Lois home, and her family responded with a stunning beauty in their trust in a good God even as they deeply grieved. Her memorial service was phenomenal.

In his eulogy, her son Jonathan said in this scripture-studded message:

I was wrestling with God because I said, “If we have victory in Your name, didn’t You hear us when we were praying? Didn’t You see the cancer? … Didn’t You hear us? Why didn’t You do what we were asking of You?

“Because your Word says, ‘If we abide in You and Your Word abides in us we can ask whatever we will and it will be given to us’? Your Word tells us that if we ask according to Your will that You hear us.

“Your Word is telling us in Mark 11 that ‘if you pray believing you will receive.’ ‘To be anxious for nothing, but through prayer and supplication make your request known.’ Where are You?”

I was wrestling with God the last few days because “this was a great opportunity that we can tangibly see Your glory.

“Everybody was praying, not only in Dallas, but around the country and around the world. People were watching. Where are You? This was an opportunity to see Your glory.”

And as I was wrestling with God, He answered. And He said, “Number 1, You don’t understand the nature of My victory because just because I didn’t answer your prayer your way doesn’t mean that I haven’t already answered your prayer anyway.

“Because victory was already given to your mom. You don’t understand because of the victory that I have given you.

“There was always only two answers to your prayers—either she was going to be healed or she was going to be healed.

“Either she was going to live or she was going to live. Either she was going to be with family or she was going to be with family.

“Either she was going to be well taken care of or she was going to be well taken care of. Victory belongs to Me because of what I’ve already done for you.

“The two answers to your prayer are yes and yes. Because victory belongs to Jesus.”

Then He said to me, “You need to understand that I am God and I am sovereign. And My game plan is bigger than any one player on the field.

“So you need to trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on you, but lean on Me because I have the ability to make this crooked situation straight. I am the sovereign God. That’s why they say that I am that I am.

“As higher as the heavens are above the earth are My ways from your ways and My thoughts from your thoughts. We don’t think the same. P.S. Don’t tell me how to get my glory.”

And finally He just let me know, ‘I appreciate your prayers and your trust in Me, but the way that you are coming to Me now is a sense of entitlement like I owe you something.

“You can’t tell me what I’m supposed to do. I’m God. You can’t say, ‘Well it should’ve been this way.’

“You can’t tell me, ‘Well as much as she served you, You should’ve done it this way. As much as my dad has done in ministry and as much as we’ve done in ministry and how faithful this family is, it should be this way.’

“Don’t come to me with that entitlement. Because without My victory and what I have done all of You would be on the doorsteps of hell.

“I don’t owe you anything. You owe me everything.

“And I know that it was hard for you to sit there and watch your mom die, but don’t let that belittle the fact of how hard it was for Me to watch my Son die so she could live. So back up off Me with your entitlement.

“There were always two answers to your question—yes and yes—because of My grace being sufficient.”

Thank You Lord.{2}

The prayers of many people in both situations were not answered with the “yes” that so many wanted, but they were answered with the “something better” that God can know because He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and sovereign (in control)

How can we make God answer our prayers the way we want?

We can’t.

We don’t have that kind of power or influence.

It’s the wrong way to look at prayer.

The right way is always to follow the way Jesus modeled for us the night before He died, in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked for what He wanted—so passionately that He literally sweat blood about it—and then relinquished His request into His Father’s loving hand: “Not My will, but Thine be done.”

As wise people have observed, if we could see everything God sees, and know everything God knows, we would ask Him for exactly what He allows and what He does.

It’s about trust in a good God, not declarations about us.

1. mamabearapologetics.com/mba042-wake-up-olive/ Accessed January 21, 2020.
2. factsandtrends.net/2020/01/08/jonathan-evans-delivers-viral-eulogy-of-his-mother-lois-evans/ Accessed January 21, 2020.

 

This blog post originally appeared at
blogs.bible.org/how-can-i-make-god-answer-my-prayers-my-way/ on January 23, 2020.


Instead of New Year’s Resolutions

Fill in the blank: New Year’s __________.

You probably either supplied “Eve” or “Resolutions,” right?

Resolutions are intentions that may last days or weeks, but so often they peter out before we even get used to using the new year in our dates. May I suggest that instead of forming resolutions, we spend time asking some powerfully insightful questions that will help us evaluate ourselves
truthfully and helpfully?

Here are three questions that many community/accountability groups ask each other regularly (as in, weekly):

What am I doing to feed myself (spiritually)? How am I spending time in God’s word and other sources of spiritual truth and wisdom such as books?

What am I doing to feed my flesh? How am I indulging my appetites and desires in ways that glorify myself instead of God?

What am I doing to feed others? How am I pointing others to Christ and helping them grow spiritually?

My pastor at Watermark Community Church-Plano, Kyle Kaigler, is especially good at pointed questions. Every morning, as he thinks back on the previous day, he examines himself in four areas:

Where was I hooked? (caught in a bad habit that controls me)

Where was I cold? (being so self-focused that I failed to be loving and kind to those around me)

Where was I scared? (allowing my fear of man to keep me from saying and doing the things I should be)

Where was I proud? (taking credit for what God did)

(Pastor Tim Keller asks these same questions: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/erik-raymond/help-with-prayer-simple-clear-gospel-devotion-from-tim-keller/)

Kyle also offers these questions:

John Piper says that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” So, looking back over the last 12 months:

What are the most God-glorifying occasions over this past year that came from finding satisfaction in Him? When was I moved to erupt in gratitude and praise for what God did in my life? Were there sweet moments of deep connection with others, or a “lightbulb moment” when He revealed truth to me in a way that zapped lies and wrong beliefs? Were there moments of realizing I was just immersed in His goodness?  

What was a distraction to the glory of God? In what areas of my life is my stubborn affinity for my flesh, getting my way, insisting on staying in my comfort zone, serving like mud that covers up “Christ in me, the hope of glory”? Where did my entrenched habits (such as continually checking my phone) function like a stop sign, keeping God at a distance? How have I tuned Him out so that I miss the ways He wants to nudge me, direct me, lead me through the day?

Here are some helpful spiritual assessment questions:

What has God been teaching me in His word? We should be recording the things the Holy Spirit is showing us in our time in His word so we can remind ourselves of His lessons and insights. Otherwise we are the guy from James 1 who looks in a mirror and then turns away, thoughtlessly unaware of what he looks like.

How’s my time with the Lord?

a. Consistent and meaningful (It’s ok to choose this option)
b. Consistent but not so meaningful (I am faithful to go before the Lord but I leave the time unfulfilled)
c. Inconsistent but meaningful (I don’t do it very often but when I do, He is faithful to meet me there)
d. Inconsistent and not meaningful (it’s just not happening)

(If a or c) How is God transforming my life? What is God revealing about Himself and His desire for my life? How is my heart being changed to more faithfully follow where He is leading? What have I surrendered (or still working on surrendering) to Jesus’ control? How is my life changing so He is increasing, and I am decreasing?

(If b or d) What are the barriers to consistent and meaningful time with God?  (Busyness, worldliness, selfishness, sin—lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, sinful pride of life)

Am I sharing my story of how Jesus Christ changed my life?

Am I being a good steward of the body God gave me?

Am I being a good steward of the resources He has given me?

And finally, again thanks to Kyle, here are some interesting survey questions for family members:

Spouse survey

  1. What were the best memories that we made together this year as a couple?
  2. What were the best memories that we made together this year as a family?
  3. What would you consider the key challenges we faced as a family this past year? What about in our marriage?
  4. If someone were to ask you, “Describe your current marriage relationship.”  What would you say and why?
  5. If you could change anything about last year, what would it be and why?
  6. Based on the experiences that we have had as a couple and as a family, what have you learned about God and His work in
    our lives?
  7. What are 3 trips or activities that you would enjoy doing together this next year?
  8. What do I do that really ministers to you and you would love it if I did it more?
  9. What are your top fears/concerns for each of our children?

Kid Survey

  1. What have been some of the best times you have had with me this past year?
  2. If you had to give me some advice on being a better parent, what would it be and why?
  3. What are some things that you would like to talk with me about and why?
  4. What are some of your fears that you would like me to pray for you about?
  5. What is something that you would like to do with me?
  6. How can I help you grow as a Christian?
  7. As you consider conversations and time together as a family over the past year, what new things have you learned or understood more about God?

I think these powerful questions, answered thoughtfully and truthfully, will serve us better than any New Years Resolution we’ve ever made.

 

This blog post originally appeared at
blogs.bible.org/instead-of-new-years-resolutions/ on December 31, 2019.