Blogroll: The Good Book Company
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 26 posts from the blog 'The Good Book Company.'
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There is something special about music. Something that’s hard to explain. It stirs our emotions; it lifts our hearts—but that is not all it does.
Words set to music have the unique ability to burrow deep into our hearts in a way that enables us to remember them. And that means that singing in church, for ourselves, with our children or even in the shower is not just an “optional extra” for the Christian life, but a practice that can profoundly strengthen our faith, and our ability to persevere in the hardest of times.Remember, remember…
I have friends who seem to have a photographic memory for Bible verses. They can recite bible text, complete with chapter and verse reference, without a moment’s hesitation. But those friends are rare. I have many more friends who, like me, struggle to retain even those verses they’ve only recently read!
Unless that is, they are put to music. For some reason, that changes the whole equation. In the same way that I can still remember random pop lyrics from the ‘80s, Bible verses set to music seem to find a place in my brain that is altogether easier to access. I am sure that there must be a scientific explanation for this, but I have irrefutable anecdotal evidence that this is true.
I used to feel a bit embarrassed about this; it felt to me as though the godly people were the ones who could remember a Bible passage studied years ago as though they had only just read it that morning. Whereas I couldn’t even remember which order the minor prophets come in, let alone quote any verses from them! Then I started to notice some encouragement from God’s word. I noticed that people in the Bible sing rather a lot. They sing for joy (Isaiah 65:14). They sing their praises to the Lord (Psalm 9:11). But they also sing to remember.
In Deuteronomy 31:19, The LORD has Moses write down a song and teach it to the Israelites “because it will not be forgotten by their descendants” (Deut 31:21). In Judges, the singers at the watering places "recite the victories of the Lord” (Judges 5:11). The Psalmist writes that he will "sing of your strength, in the morning” during times of trouble (Psalm 59:16). And Paul encourages the Colossians to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the spirit" (Col 3:16).
Singing is not an “optional extra” for the Christian, but a practice that strengthens faith and helps us persevereFor the young…
We’ve been singing memory verses with our kids since they were babies—Colin Buchanan and Randall Goodgame are our favourites—my wife and I are convinced that we’ve learned just as much as them, if not more, over the years! I trust that these verses will stand us in good stead in the years to come.For the middle...
Singing not only prompts mindful remembrance of God’s character and promises, it also has a powerful effect in reassuring our wavering hearts of the same truths. Time and time again we return to song when words fail, when weariness overwhelms us and when gospel truths rendered in song are needed to soften our stony hearts.
The Sing Conference has been happening this week in Nashville, organised by Keith and Kristyn Getty and featuring a wonderful line-up of Bible teachers and musicians. I’m a huge fan of the Getty’s music—not only are the melodies so well crafted, but the words (often written by Stuart Townend) have a depth and richness to them which is unusual in modern praise music. These songs remind us of God’s promises, reassure us and move us to rejoice.For the old…
We sing carols every year in a local retirement home. Many of the residents are unable to engage in conversation, and many of those who can are not able to remember much to talk about. Yet when the carols begin, they start to sing. The words seem to bubble upon from some secret place and smiles spread across their faces.
I can’t explain how it works, but my experience of song gives me hope that if I reach some ripe old age where my memory is fading daily, the songs that I’ve learned over the years will remind and reassure me of my Saviour and of the sure and certain hope that He has won for me. And that is worth singing about!
For children, that’s an easy question. Depending on the context it’s “Please”, “Thank you” or “Sorry”. These are the sacred utterances that secure blessings from the hands of grown- ups everywhere. The juice is passed down from the counter. Another episode is permitted. Trouble is averted. Your mother beams with pride as someone says of you, “What lovely manners!”
Yes, if you’re a kid, these truly are magic words.
But the parent of said child knows that these words aren’t enough. Sure, teaching good manners is an important part of raising young ones to be helpful members of polite society.
Yet every Christian parent wants something more than manners for their child—we long for them to know Jesus, love Jesus, and see their personal need of Jesus. And you can’t raise a Christian just by teaching them the right words to say (although you can raise a little Pharisee that way).
Ultimately, what every child needs is a heart that’s transformed by the Holy Spirit—a heart of gratitude, repentance and dependence. And these are the heart attitudes that will cause children to use the “magic words” in a sincere way—not as get-out-of-jail-free-cards deployed to meet their own ends.
Every Christian parent wants something more than manners for their child
That’s the philosophy behind Dai Hankey’s trilogy of “Eric Says...” story- books: Eric Says Thanks, Eric Says Sorry and—brand new this month—Eric Says Please. These are fast-paced and fun rhyming stories, with great illustrations. In fact, they’re some of the books my kids choose to pull off their shelf for me to read with them, along with Peppa Pig, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and virtually anything by Julia Donaldson.
But... and here’s why I’m always thrilled when an Eric Says book is plucked from the shelf... they’re about more than rhyme and fun. And they’re about more than morals and manners.
They’re about God.
Eric Says Thanks is about living with deep gratitude to God. Eric Says Sorry is about being amazed by grace. Eric Says Please is about depending prayerfully on the Lord.
We want more than manners for the kids in our families, and in our church families. And if your kids are anything like mine, I’m confident that the Eric Says trilogy will support you in that.
We long for our children to know Jesus, love Jesus, and see their personal need of Jesus.
So why not consider doing one (or more!) of these three things:
• Buy them: enjoy these books with your own children, grandchildren and god-children.
• Use them: download digital copies of the artwork and use it as the basis of Sunday school lessons, kid’s slots, school assemblies and mums-and- tots storytimes. The possibilities are endless!
• Recommend them: chances are that parents in your church are busy— they just want recommendations of great resources that they can trust. So encourage parents in their task of training up their little ones by point- ing them to these fantastic books. Why not wave them from the front, stock them on your church bookstall and put a link to www.thegoodbook.co.uk/eric in your notice sheet?
Eric Says Please is available now and for a limited time you can recieve 50% OFF both Eric Says Thanks and Eric Says Sorry when you purchase Eric Says Please.
Good Book Company Events Manager Dean Faulkner shares his memories of a packed conference where the recently deceased Nabeel was the main speaker.
I first met Nabeel Querishi in the early part of 2016. He was the main speaker at an event I was involved in. Despite the demands on his time and the obvious attention he attracted Nabeel remained calm, hospitable and generous in how he engaged with people and dealt with the situation around him.
It was in preparation for this event that I started reading his books and discovering just what a journey this man had been on. Born in to a Muslim family and immersed in Muslin culture and Islamic apologetics, it took great courage and no little strength of character to examine in detail the claims of the Bible to the point where he came to faith through debate with a medical friend.
At that conference in East London, Nabeel spoke with great clarity, insight and understanding on all sorts of cross cultural issues. He answered the many general questions that were put to him in a way that was both profound and persuasive. But I was especially struck by the way he answered those of a more specific and personal nature in a sensitive and caring way; Every answer was rooted in and guided by scripture.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and Answering Jihad, just two of the books written by Nabeel have been outstanding in helping my understanding of the differences between two cultures and faiths. Through them Querishi helped me know how to engage with the various debates on world religion and gave me a deeper insight into the Muslim faith in general. His approach was from a deeply personal perspective, which makes these books unique. I would thoroughly recommend both.
Nabeel's death this weekend will be deeply felt by his family, and by his friends and colleagues at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). More, it will leave a huge hole in the cross-culture, cross-faith debate and the understanding needed to bring Muslim and Christian believers closer together in their understanding of and engagement with each other.
So I for one will be giving thanks for a life that, while shorter than we would have hoped, has impacted so many individuals around the world, and will continue to do through his books.
Join us in praying for the family, friends and colleagues of Nabeel, and for giving thanks for his life and witness.
Can I tell you a secret? Nothing makes you feel like a hypocrite faster than writing a book on prayer. Here I am, sat at my desk, trying to write a blog on praying for the world—and struggling to think of the last time I did that in any meaningful way.
And it’s not like there hasn’t been reason enough to pray recently. The last six months have seen terror attacks in London, Manchester and around the world. Grenfell Tower; North Korea’s nuclear tests, and just this week, we’ve seen the chaos of Hurricane Irma’s destructive power, and the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
And that’s just the stuff that regularly makes the headlines. I recently went to a war photography exhibition on the situation in Yemen. I left an hour later bewildered at the scale of suffering for something I had hardly heard about. I’m sure there are many more examples around the world, if I could be bothered to dig a little.
We switch on the news and our hearts break a world in need. So why am I—or perhaps, we—so slow to pray for it?
1. It’s too hard.
Often we just don’t know what to pray—these are complex national and international issues which are beyond our comprehension. I don’t know how to fix the Middle East, stop the war in South Sudan or negotiate the UK’s exit from the EU. Our prayers sometimes falter because we simply don’t know what to ask God for! And it seems just a bit weak and pointless to pray “God bless Iraq”.
But that’s false thinking. Prayer isn’t about presenting God with my suggested solutions for the world’s problems; it’s about crying to our wise and loving Heavenly Father to bring comfort, change and peace to these tragic situations.
And there are two great things to remember: First, we know that the Spirit is interceding on our behalf when we don’t know what to pray for (Romans 8 v 26-27). If the needs around us seem overwhelming, we can take them to God as best as we can, confident that God can use our less-than-perfect efforts. Second, there are some things we can pray for confidently from Scripture. When things are beyond our intellectual or ethical limits, we can confidently and simply ask that God would be glorified in and through the mess.
God, may your name be exalted among the nations; God, may your name be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46 v 10).
Prayer moves the hand that moves the world ~ Charles Spurgeon
2. It’s too far.
It’s so hard to connect emotionally with we what we see on the news—to get past the numbers and imagine the people. As I’m scrolling through my news app it’s far easier to click onto the next story than to stop and pray. But I must stop; it’s as we pray for people that our apathy towards them is kindled into empathy.
Prayer really does change things. Charles Spurgeon expressed it powerfully: Prayer moves the hand that moves the world. But prayer also changes me. As I bring these things before the Lord of all creation, I am pushed out of the nice, tiny, cosy bubble I like to create for myself. I enter the throneroom of the universe, and can’t help but see that the world is about so much more than I can see. And I’m moved to see the needs of the world with compassion, as God does.
3. It doesn’t work
Deep down, many of us have a deep and persistent doubt: that God won’t actually answer. Hasn’t he decided what he’s going to do anyway? And if he does answer our prayers, how will we know? Besides, it seems that every day is a bad news day. The world never seems to get any better.
This is what, in many ways, makes praying for the world one of the greatest acts of faith—pouring time and energy into praying for people I’ll never meet, without ever expecting the satisfaction that comes from seeing prayer answered. At least, not in this life.
Perhaps in eternity we’ll meet people who God brought to faith 5000 miles away and 500 years from now, in answer to our prayers for an unreached people group today. We live by faith, not by sight—and that means trusting that the God who promises to answer prayer really will answer prayer. After all, God wouldn’t tell us to do something that wasn’t worth doing:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2 v 1).
I’m so glad there’s grace for prayerless hypocrites. But there’s a challenge for us too: why not go onto the news website now, choose one story, one situation—and pray.
5 Things to Pray for Your World by Rachel Jones is out now.
In this edited extract from God and the Transgender Debate, Andrew Walker gives some helpful ideas for how we can talk about sex and identity and how we can positively relate to transgender people.
If you are a parent, it is going to be impossible to avoid this topic. It’s not a question of if you’ll have to talk to your son or daughter about the growing acceptance of transgenderism; it’s a matter of when. When that happens, what will you say?
Will you shrug your shoulders in disbelief and avoid the topic altogether, leaving your child to be informed and have their opinions shaped only by the outside world?
Will you respond in mocking disbelief, and tell your kids, “Those people are crazy. They just need to know what it means to be a man or a woman. And that’ll take care of it.”
Will you panic, withdraw your child from school, and aim to shield them from this—and everything else that is wrong “out there” in the world?
Or will you sit down and have a difficult and honest conversation about a challenging topic that their young minds may find very difficult to understand?
You can’t avoid your child having this conversation, sooner or later. The question is whether your child will have it with you, or with someone else. If you find yourself wanting to avoid the topic altogether, and your child knows it, not only will it communicate that you don’t want to help them navigate challenging topics; it will suggest to them that Christians lack the ability to give a compassionate, nuanced answer, and that your faith can’t cope with reality.
The temptation to shield our children from such topics is understandable, but it is not acceptable. A part of being wise as a parent is balancing a desire to protect your child from the world with the need to prepare them for the world.
Walking and Talking
So here’s what I’d say to a ten-year-old on an hour-long walk:
People see reality in different ways, and Christians base our view of reality on what the Bible teaches about the world, because it is written by the God who made us.
God made men and women equally valuable, and he made them to be different, and this difference is wonderful and good, and is what leads to humans reproducing in every generation. The human race relies on sexual difference. I’d talk, in an age-appropriate way, about the unique traits of being a boy, and being a girl.
I’d also aim to poke holes in cultural stereotypes about gender. I’d tell my child that not every man likes to hunt or watch football. Some men enjoy cooking and writing poetry. Not every young girl wants to wear princess dresses. Some girls enjoy tramping through the woods in overalls. And that’s okay. I’d point out to them that in our church, there are men who are sports-obsessed, unlike me. Equally, there are men who can’t fix a car, like me. And there are women who don’t enjoy cooking, and women who run their own business, and women who love cooking and work in the home.
While God made a very good world, it’s been messed up by sin, and sin causes brokenness in the world and, in very different ways, in people’s lives. I would be looking to make very clear that there is a difference between suffering the effects of a sinful world, and active personal sin; and that we are all sinners, including them, in different ways.
You’ll notice I’m basically taking my child on a walking tour of Genesis 1 – 3.
A part of being wise as a parent is balancing a desire to protect your child from the world with the need to prepare them for the world.
Loving without agreeing
The biblical view of this world is not one that everyone shares. People who reject God’s good rule are not going to accept God’s teaching. Sometimes, we don’t feel like accepting it either.
Some people feel they were born a different gender than their birth sex and they feel alienated from their body. Feeling like this really upsets them, and it’s a very hard place to be in. We don’t need to be mean to these people, and we must never consider them weird or freakish because they’re made by God, in his image. But we need to remember that God made them to be a man or a woman, with a male body or a female body, and so how they feel about themselves is not what God wants for them. A girl is a girl, because God made her that way, even if she wants to be called David, and dress like a boy.
In a fallen world, every human, including us, is walking with sin and brokenness that they did not choose and that they cannot simply walk away from. And so every Christian sometimes has to say “no” to what they want or how they feel, because Jesus is their King. To be a Christian means we trust in God even when it seems different than what our experiences, perceptions, and desires say. To be a Christian also means loving those around us, even when—perhaps especially when—we disagree with them. That’s what Jesus did.
If your child asks a question you don’t have an answer to, have the courage to say, “I don’t know. But let me do some studying about what the Bible says about that.” Being honest with your children about hard topics, and letting them know you are committed to helping them instead of giving them some ham-fisted answer, will demonstrate that you are serious about helping them navigate a challenging culture thoughtfully.
Communicate confidently, but not arrogantly. Communicate compassionately, not harshly. Communicate honestly, not simplistically or tritely.
Keep the conversation going
Finally, find ways to keep this conversation going. As a child matures and experiences new phases of life, there are going to be natural questions about proper expectations and how that child understands himself or herself as a man or as a woman. Encourage that. Don’t run away from important questions about sexual and gender identity just because your pre-pubescent child, or pubescent teen, is asking hard and awkward questions. Reject the temptation to offload parental responsibility in the awkwardness of puberty. That’s when your child needs your greatest attention, your confidence, and your affirmation. In the home as much as in the church, we each bend toward harsh “truth” or untruthful “love”—and we need to be aware of this in our parenting. We need to pray about, and against, whatever particular tendency we as parents might have when parenting our kids.
Communicate confidently, but not arrogantly. Communicate compassionately, not harshly. Communicate honestly, not simplistically or tritely.
God and the Transgender Debate is available now from The Good Book Company
Good Book Company author Barry Cooper lives in Florida. We caught up with him by Skype for his reflections on the storm...
This is the first time I’ve experienced a hurricane. As most weather-obsessed Brits would, I was getting quite excited in anticipation of what was coming. But it was much more frightening than I thought it would be.
I've been in two earthquakes; one in Washington DC in 2011, and another in New Delhi twenty years before that. Neither of those experiences compared to this.
I live with my wife in a second floor apartment in New Smyrna Beach. It’s most famous for being the shark attack capital of the world. The building here seems pretty solid, so we didn’t think we’d be in personal peril, and I certainly didn’t want to admit to any fear - we’ve only just past our first anniversary, so I’m still pretending to be the fearless warrior husband. But that thought took a battering as the evening wore on.Genuinely scary
When the power went, I was outside trying to get some footage for Facebook Live. Red emergency lights suddenly illuminated, lighting the whole corridor like it was in a bad horror movie. We had a battery powered radio tuned in to the weather channel, which was giving constant updates. Every so often, it went completely silent as the transmission was interrupted. Then you heard the garbled screech of computer noise, followed by a robotic pre-recorded voice saying, “A tornado warning has been issued for the following location: New Smyrna Beach. Do not wait until you can see or hear the tornado. Take cover NOW.” It was unsettling, which I imagine was the point.
Worse was Irma’s voice. At the height of the storm, from midnight to 3am, there was a rising howl which sounded almost human. The front door of every apartment along the corridor was rattled, one by one, as if Irma was going from door to door, trying to get inside.
The front door of every apartment along the corridor was rattled, one by one, as if Irma was going from door to door, trying to get inside.
Outside there were gusts of 80mph. When you add a projectile into the mix, nothing is safe. So we ended up going to sleep on the kitchen floor, which was the only place that was fully shielded from our windows.Are you prepared?
One thing that struck me is the way that people have responded to threat and the warnings.
There's the danger that people don't heed the warnings because they think they’ve survived worse, or they imagine the threatened disaster won’t come their way. In this case, I think it could have been a lot worse - but thankfully, most people seemed to heed the warnings. We saw the pictures of Houston last week so it was uppermost in our minds.
And the people in our area really did prepare well. They bought bottled water and tinned food, they put metal corrugated shutters on their windows, and they stayed inside listening for tornado warnings.
People took so much time to prepare for the coming hurricane, but many of the same folks do nothing to prepare for the coming wrath which Jesus constantly spoke about. And it’s not as if the gospel message is unknown in these parts.
People took so much time to prepare for the coming hurricane, but many of the same folks do nothing to prepare for the coming wrath which Jesus constantly spoke about.Praying in the aftermath
As I’ve been researching Philippians for the new edition of Discipleship Explored, I’ve noticed that Paul never prays for his suffering friends by saying, “Lord please change their circumstances.” He prays instead that – in the middle of suffering – believers would be bold in their witness, and bold in their love. He wants their Christian love and service and unity to be so remarkable that the world sees Jesus in them.
So let’s pray for the aftermath of Irma the way Paul would pray. We should absolutely pray for those who are bringing aid and help; for those families touched by tragedy, that they would be comforted. But let’s also be praying for the church in Florida, and many others elsewhere—that they would shine like stars in the darkness (Philippians 2:15), so that the world would prepare for the coming wrath, and turn to the arms of Christ while there’s time.
Learn how to pray from the Bible for natural disasters and many other issues around the world by using 5 Things to Pray for Your World by Rachel Jones. Available here.
Nigel and Sally Rowe decided to pull their 6-year-old child out of school because he was confused and unhappy about a boy in his class who had started coming to school dressed as a girl. Cue a transgender media storm.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular story, it is clear that we all need to get up to speed with how to think, talk and respond to this question. Among Christians there seem to be three quite distinct approaches to the debate about Transgender issues that is raging in our culture at the moment.
- Very pro. Whatever a trans person wants to do they should be allowed to do it, and the law should be changed so that they are not discriminated against.
- Very anti. Its wrong, its harmful, its ridiculous and we should fight it at all costs.
- Very indifferent. If it doesn’t affect me and it doesn’t harm anyone, then I don’t really care.
Strangely, I have found myself drawn to all three of these reactions at different times.
- When I hear the heart-wrenching story of someone who has spent their life struggling with their gender identity, I find it hard not to sympathise with their plea to be allowed to be the person they feel they are.
- But then when I think through the ramifications for society of throwing out gender and replacing it with whatever anyone feels like at the time, it seems like madness that has to be stopped at all costs.
- And so I end up wishing it would all just go away and agreeing with my non-Christian friends who mostly say “if it doesn’t harm me then they can do what they like”.
Which is precisely why we need the Bible to help us think rightly about an issue which is so complex and so charged with emotion. We are too swayed by powerful and emotional stories. We are too influenced by our own circumstances to come to a good place in our thinking and attitudes on this.
That’s why I found Andrew Walker’s God and the Transgender Debate to be a breath of fresh air. It shows that, for Christians, none of these responses are helpful, and that there is a fourth approach we need to work at if we are to both love the Lord our God, and our neighbours as ourselves.
We need to be Very Pro, but in a different way. We are to be pro the people who are experiencing Gender dysphoria. It's not funny, it isn’t made up and it is deeply distressing. People who are prepared to undergo surgery to alter themselves are deeply serious about the feelings they have. And we need to make it clear that we are pro them as people, because they are made in the image of God, who live like all of us in a sinful and fallen world. They are people who need loving, and caring for and nurturing and encouraging and accepting, like we all do.
But we also need to be Very Anti, but in a different way. Not with a knee-jerk conservative response, but with a considered and thoughtful conviction. Like us, they are made but marred; fashioned but flawed; designed but damaged. Through no fault of their own, they find themselves wanting to identify with a gender contrary to their sex. We are not anti them, but we do want to show a better way to think and live. In their distress, they imagine that their personal happiness and flourishing can only come from being free to live as they want. Our message is that there is a better way of human flourishing which we start when we return to God through his Son Jesus. But this starts with a recognition of these two foundational truths: that we are created by God, and that we are sinners living in a fallen world who need rescuing.
So lastly, we must be a different kind of indifferent. Never indifferent on the issues. There are some good reasons why it will be unhelpful to our culture as a whole to have some of these “freedoms” enshrined in law. But there is a sense in which those who advocate for these rights are missing the point the bigger point. They are simply another expression of a world that has lost it’s bearings in relation to God. And we must never be indifferent to those who tell their attractive, beautiful, but ultimately deadly alternative gospels—whether that’s the gospel of gold, possessions, or personal freedom. We know that they are all gospels that enslave. There is only one authentic gospel that truly sets us free. And that is the gospel we must share lovingly, joyfully and passionately with a world that is hungry for it.
We have two resources that will help you understand these issues more carefully, prayerfully and biblically. Take the time to grab hold of either Transgender by Vaughan Roberts or God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker.
"Mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before any others… ‘'
With this radio announcement 60 years ago, the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, called off her plans to marry a divorcee— Group Captain Peter Townsend. She was heartbroken.
I was 6 years old and have only the vaguest recollection of that event. But the Townsend affair illustrates something of the cultural scaffolding of shame and disapproval that was erected around immorality and divorce at that time. The wider culture of the 1950s—when divorce was spoken about in hushed tones, “fallen women” were shamed for their “illegitimate” children, and homosexuals were sent to prison—remains deeply embedded in my psyche. It shaped my early childhood as profoundly as the sexual revolution impacted my teens a few years later.
Today that cultural landscape has changed beyond recognition. In the space of just a few decades, centuries-old convictions about sex, marriage and gender—all rooted in the old biblical moral codes—have effectively collapsed. Most people today would think “good-riddance”. And those who do remain “mindful of the Church’s teaching” are held to be slightly odd at best—and knuckle-dragging bigots at worst.
Church-going people are shifting in their convictions too, including those who call themselves evangelicals. We shouldn’t be surprised, of course, because many Christian leaders appear like rabbits caught in the headlights over this issue. They seem to be hoping that if they keep their heads down the whole wretched business will somehow go away. But it doesn’t and it won’t. We can sit here like King Canute, rebuking the waves, but the water will just keep rising until we disappear from sight.
And the challenge for us as believers is: How can we respond to this? This is the theme of the upcoming conference in October, where we will try to learn the lessons of how we have failed over the last 50 years to explain why the Gospel story is a better story of freedom, fulfilment and fairness, than the views we now find our culture have adopted.
We need to learn a new, new way to tell the old, old story that resonates with the concerns, the hopes and the dreams of people today
Hard and soft power
How did this great social and cultural revolution succeed? Why were the ancient beliefs and convictions that were so firmly woven into the fabric of our laws and culture so rapidly overwhelmed and abandoned? This question is important because efforts to mount an effective apologetic by Christians who still hold to biblical teaching will continue to fail unless we understand the secret of the revolution's success. So what is it?
The political theorist Joseph Nye talks about hard power and soft power. Hard power is getting what you want by coercion. Soft power, on the other hand, is the ability to get what you want through attraction. And the secret of the sexual revolution, I believe, is its soft power.
The sexual revolutionaries know how to use hard power. Dare to offer an alternative view to theirs—for example on same-sex marriage—and you will soon experience the wrath of the Twitter mob shrieking “bigot!”.
But the secret weapon of the revolution isn’t found in its hard power, but its soft power. The change-makers were able to cast a vision and an offer an ideology that the human spirit finds deeply attractive. People see what is on offer and they want it to be true. And until we understand that and think it through seriously, our apologetics will remain feeble and our public posture confined to the defensive.
Of course, the cultural forces that drove the sexual revolution can be understood at many different levels of analysis – the economic and social changes that led to the emancipation of women from traditional roles in the home played a crucial part, as did the introduction of the contraceptive pill.
But these shifts in society developed hand in hand with radical new ideas about morality and human identity. New thinking about equality and freedom. The revolutionaries cast an inspiring vision drawn from an underlying narrative of authenticity, freedom and fairness. In sitcoms and romcoms the story was told over and over: compelling narratives about the little people—the oppressed and marginalised—who found their voice and claimed their freedom. The freedom to be truly, authentically, themselves.
How to respond
You can’t respond to a great story like this simply with facts – you have to tell a better story. A different story that connects with the issues the revolution places at the centre of our cultural narrative—its vision of authenticity, freedom and fairness. Our culture isn’t interested right now in what Christians are against. People want to know what we are for—especially in relation to today's big questions of what it means to be an authentic person, to be free to express yourself and to be treated fairly.
This represents a major shift in our thinking as Christians—whether you are a church leader who speaks from a pulpit, or a church member who chats with a friend over coffee. We need to learn a new, new way to tell the old, old story that resonates with the concerns, the hopes and the dreams of people today. And specifically, we need to learn how to better articulate the Bible’s story of human flourishing and freedom that can only be found in Christ.
This is the theme and aim of this year’s Evangelism Conference, where I will be joined by Rico Tice, John Steven and Jonty Allcock. Join us as we get very practical on this question of how we tell the better story of new life in Christ today.
Better. Story. The Evangelism Conference 2017:
· South: Tuesday 3rd October at All Soul’s Langham Place, London W1
· North: Thursday 5th October at Holy Trinity Platt Fields, Manchester.
Conferences run from 10am to 4pm. Materials, refreshments and lunch included.
Individual tickets are £20; reductions for students and groups.
For more information and to book tickets go to: www.evangelism-conference.org.uk. Check out our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/evangelismconference
“Mommy! Look at her, she’s really tall.”
“Why is he sitting in that chair, Dad?”
“I have freckles. You have freckles. But my skin is darker than yours.”
Children are curious about the world around them, and their questions can be sweet, funny and sometimes embarrassing. But with all things, we want to teach and guide children so that they are knowledgeable about the God-given differences seen in others. Like you’d teach them with anything else, it’s essential that we begin to teach our children about creation, specifically the image of God, at an early age. If you want your children to embrace those who are different than them, then you must start with helping them understand that God is the Creator of every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Here are four ways to help kids embrace those who are different than them:1. Teach that we are all made in the image of God
In the beginning, God created all of mankind in His image, male and female alike (Gen. 1:26). God created us to reflect aspects of his beauty and character, and the result is the human race we know today—amazingly varied and wonderfully diverse. Every single one of us reflects something about God.
Have you taken time to share and celebrate this amazing thought with your kids? As God’s image-bearers, we are all equal. We are equal in dignity and worth. Of all God’s creation, we are the only ones created in His very image. Too often we assume that just means us. But it doesn’t, it means everyone.
If you want your children to embrace those who are different from them, you must first, by example and conviction, embrace those who are different from you.2. Invite others into your home
Proximity changes the way we think about and relate to others. We can imagine all kinds of things about other people, and buy into all kinds of stereotypes—until we spend time them. It’s almost like we have a default setting that finds it easier to spend time with “people like us”. We need to resist that urge.
One practical way to show love to others in your home is simply to invite other Christians to spend time with you. This can be for lunch, dinner, parties or just to hang out. But make the effort to find those who are different from you, and model to your children how you take an interest in their lives.
Then look at your neighborhood and welcome your neighbors. Learn about them as people and if their culture is an important aspect of their lives, listen and learn. Your kids will recognize, remember and internalize this level of engagement with those who are not like you or them.3. Celebrate our differences
Heaven will be filled with people from Indonesia, Dubai, Zambia, the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee and the Grand Cayman Islands. And today we can get a foretaste of heaven when we step out of our comfort zones to get to know someone not like us.
When you have someone over, take the time to find out more about them. You can find out about their clothes or their culture, the food they like or the family they are part of. You can get out a map or a globe and look at where their family originates. You can share photos. You can ask them how they became a believer in Jesus, and just enjoy being with them.
But even if we don’t have different people right in front of us, we can still find ways to celebrate the reality of God’s wonderfully rich and diverse world. As you teach your kids about other people and cultures have fun! Get creative: cook different kinds of ethnic food, go to festivals celebrating different nationalities, have a history lesson with music from various locations, etc.4. Teach the Gospel
Christ continually related to people who were different from him—tax collectors, Samaritans, prostitutes and so on. Jesus was bold to share with them, and ignored the criticism of the establishment that came his way as a result. Why? Because of his love for the souls of his image bearers. The gospel has power to bring even the most unlikely of people together, and this brings glory to him. We want to teach our kids that it is only Jesus who can ultimately unite people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Bottom-line, if you want your children to embrace those who are different from them, you must first, by example and conviction, embrace those who are different from you. Your children are watching and learning from you. They will embrace whoever you embrace. It is God and the gospel of grace that motivates us to step outside ourselves, and celebrate the differences around us. God created, he redeems, and it is He who is calling all these different people together in Christ for His glory.
It’s very common to hear debates about pronoun usage. For example, should you call a transgender male “he” (as they identify themselves) or “she” (since they are biologically female)?
Christians disagree—hopefully charitably—about pronoun usage, but here is some helpful advice from Andrew Walker, author of God and The Transgender Debate.
The summer is winding up and a new academic year is about to begin. Schools are often at the heart of the community—and so it’s great to take this opportunity to make them the focus of our prayers.
Here are five things to pray, all drawn from Proverbs 1 v 1-7. You might also find them helpful to pray for your own children as they head into a new term.
1. Thank God for learning
Thank God that he has provided everything we need “for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight” in his word (v 1-2).
While human minds enjoy unravelling the puzzle of how the world around us works, God has not left us guessing on the question of why—he’s told us clearly through Scripture. That’s a big reason for thanksgiving!
Then pray that God would make this school a place where students and teachers…
2. Get future-proofed
Pray that students would learn “prudent behaviour” (v 3).
Thank God for the way he uses education as an instrument of his common grace in restraining the effects of sin on society. Pray that this school would teach children “prudent behaviour”, and equip them to make choices that do good, not harm, to others as they grow up.
3. Love fairness
Pray that students would learn to do “what is right and just and fair” in God’s eyes (v 3).
Sometimes it seems that our culture’s definition of right and wrong is drifting further and further from the Bible’s definition. But pray that children in this school would be taught that what God thinks is right is indeed right; that what God says is just is indeed just; and that what God says is fair is indeed fair.
4. Learn discretion
Ask God to teach “discretion to the young” (v 4).
Kids can be very cruel with their words. So pray that these children would learn to control their tongues and speak words that are kind and patient, not offensive or mean.
5. Fear God
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (v 7).
Pray that students and teachers would come to fear God—and realise that this is far more important than all the knowledge the world offers. Pray for Christian teachers you know, and anyone else who has an opportunity to witness to the gospel—ask that they too would fear God, not humans, and so speak faithfully and courageously of Jesus.
This blog is taken from Five Things to Pray for Your World: Prayers that Change Things for Your Community, Your Nation and the Wider World. Released Friday, but available to pre-order now.
My husband and I had been married for 15 years and had three children, and were actively involved in the ministry of our local church. We were just another one of those “keen Christian couples” that are the heart of church life.
You can imagine my shock when my husband told me that he felt he needed to cross dress. It was a bolt out of the blue. We talked about it over a period of a few weeks and then the discussion was left.
But a year later, having not discussed anything in any more detail, my husband announced that he was seeking counselling for his cross-dressing desires. It soon became evident that the counselling was not about helping him leave his desires behind, but about exploring his gender identity.
I see the command to be “true to” God our creator, and that is to take up our cross each day (Luke 9 v 23).
Unknown to me he had already talked to colleagues at work and had received significant support. We spent the next year talking through the issues, trying to find some common ground and having some relationship counselling together. But as we progressed through that year it became more and more clear that there was no common ground. As a Christian, I couldn’t endorse his choices. I believe the Bible when it says that God created us male and female (Genesis 1 v 27), and that that is expressed in the marriage union of one man to one woman. I thought my husband did too. But the agony of knowing the consequences of holding to these convictions for me and for us as a family was immense. Ultimately, it was me who said I couldn’t live with my husband if he insisted on identifying as a woman. And so he left.
The impact on our children has been greater than I could ever have imagined. I have questioned myself so often as to whether I made the correct choice—perhaps I will always wonder. It is very easy to find yourself contorting your mind to try and make sense of the situation.
Do I believe that gender reassignment surgery actually changes what God has created? If not, then can I continue to live with my husband despite him identifying as a woman? But if it does, and yet I also believe same-sex relationships are not right before God, then what would continuing this relationship do as a witness to those around me?
Maybe you’re reading this and it sounds like my husband is the victim here. But in the end, the level of deceit that my husband had shown and the fact that he was unwilling to “forsake all others” and in particular his desire for a female identity, led me to the point of saying that I could not continue in the marriage. It has been an agonising road to travel. Although my husband hasn’t physically died, the man I was married to has.
Society shouts at us that everyone should be “true to themselves” regardless of the impact on anyone else. We are told that our happiness is the most important thing. But I don’t see that in Scripture. I see the command to be “true to” God our creator, and that is to take up our cross each day (Luke 9 v 23).
I lost the man I thought I had married, and it’s like a bereavement, but without a funeral. He still exists, but no longer dresses, speaks or looks like he once did. Grief is a process that you never get over, but this particular grief is compounded by the fact that it feels unacceptable to grieve publicly. It becomes less painful with time, but there are daily reminders for our whole family of how life was and is not now.
The children are acutely conscious of how people react when their friends find out. When faced with “but at least you’ve still got two parents,” their only reply is “yes, but I don’t know who one of them is.” And my girls are left wondering who will give them away at their own weddings.
Many of these scenarios are not unique to families who have faced gender dysphoria—each family is different and approaches things differently. There is currently very little support available to children or adults who are processing a parent or a spouse who is transitioning.
My church family have been an exception to that and I have found them to be incredibly supportive despite this being completely new territory for them. I am thankful to God each day for the church family he has planted me in, and for the fact that at no point in these last five years have I doubted Gods sovereignty. I’ve told him how unfair it feels, and that I never wanted to be a single mum, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is in control and nothing has taken him by surprise.
God and The Transgender Debate is a short book, written to help Christians engage lovingly, thoughtfully and faithfully with one of the greatest cultural discussions of our day.
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6 v 9-11 offer a helpful way to answer this question:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul’s words show that there are practices and lifestyles that, if left unrepented of, can prevent someone from inheriting—that is, having a place in—the kingdom of God. To live as a Christian is to accept God’s authority over our own.
Someone can embrace a transgender identity or find their identity in Christ, but not both.
Transgender identities fall into that category—they are, as I write in my book God and The Transgender Debate, not compatible with following Christ. A person’s gender identity reflects how they define what it means to be a human being. That self-definition will either correspond to God’s revelation in his word or it will not. As we have seen, God has created human beings in his own image as male and female. Our identity, therefore, is defined by God in his purposes for his creation and in his new creation in Christ. The design of humanity is purposeful and good, and part of our design is that we are men and women. To deny or overturn that distinction is to nullify God’s revelation both in nature and in Scripture. The Bible calls it suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1 v 18).
But experiencing gendor dysphoria does not mean you are not a Christian
That doesn’t mean that someone who struggles with gender identity conflicts is not a Christian. All Christians wrestle with life in this fallen world in one way or another. Let me underline that experiencing gender dysphoria does not mean you are not a Christian.
But it does mean that a settled rejection of God’s purposes for us as male or female cannot be reconciled with following Christ. Someone can embrace a transgender identity or find their identity in Christ, but not both.
Having said that, it is possible to sin in all kinds of ways in ignorance, rather than willfully and knowingly. A new Christian might not know that they are called to honor their parents, or that lust is sinful. The key is that when they read in Scripture that obedience to God means changing in these areas, they will work to do so, with God’s help. Likewise, it would be possible to identify as transgender and also be trusting Christ as Lord because they have not yet realized the implications of the lordship of Christ in this area of their life and identity. As and when they do realize it, a Christian person would change their behavior in this area, with God’s help.
This is an excerpt from God and The Transgender Debate, and short booked designed to help Christians engage lovingly, thoughtfully and faithfully with one of the greatest cultural discussions of our day.
It can be very difficult to know what or how to pray in the wake of an awful terrorist attack. Feel free to use this prayer as a guide.
Loving God and Father, we cry to you for our broken world, and for those who seek their own way through violence and threat.
We pray to you for the ones who have been wounded by these wicked acts of violence: young and old, at home or on holiday. Heal their bodies and hearts; console them with your presence and, at the same time, take away any hatred and a desire for revenge.
We pray that you would draw near and comfort the families and friends of those who have lost their lives. Enable them, in your mercy, to seek refuge in you as they grieve.
We pray for the police and intelligence services—that you would enable them to find and prosecute those responsible, and work to prevent future attacks.
We pray for the government—that you would inspire them to govern with wisdom and determination.
We pray for peace-loving Muslims—that you would protect them from unjust aggression and discrimination.
And we pray that you would touch the hearts of terrorists so that they may recognise the evil of their actions and may turn to the way of peace and goodness, of respect for the life and dignity of every human being, regardless of religion, origin, wealth or poverty.
And we pray that you would bring great glory to yourself through these troubled times, as you incline the hearts of people to seek you, and find forgiveness, new life and eternal peace through Christ our Lord. Amen