Blogroll: The Good Book Company

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Mike and Emma’s Monday Morning. A short story by Tim Chester

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 13:35

Sunday morning. As Mike sings he is filled with joy. His pastor has just preached on God’s love to us in Christ. Mike has felt afresh that he is unworthy, but Christ is worthy. Now, as he lifts his voice in praise, his love for Christ feels strong. He has no doubt God is present in this moment. Besides, there are tears running down Emma’s cheeks.

Monday morning. The day had started so well. Still buoyed by yesterday’s experience at church, he’d sat down to a bacon sandwich. The kids were playing quietly in the front room. He took Emma a coffee to drink in bed and kissed her gently on the cheek. Outside the sun was shining and the birds were singing. Could life be any better?

Mike arrives at the station to find his train has been cancelled. Two train-loads of passengers are now crammed onto the next train and Mike is having to stand. He’s given up any hope of reading his book. The guy pushed up against him has clearly not heard of deodorant. The next 40 minutes are not going to be fun.

Meanwhile Emma is wiping up milk from the kitchen floor. Sam and Jamie are arguing about socks. And little Poppy... Where’s Poppy? Emma looks up to see the box of cornflakes topple off the kitchen table. “How can a day go so wrong so quickly?” she thinks.

Ten minutes later Emma takes a bite of toast and opens her Bible. She reads a few verses and then she closes her eyes to pray. “Father, may Mike have a good day at work. Please bless...” Jamie bursts into the room. “Where’s my school sweater?” Sam’s not far behind. “Have you seen my homework?” And Poppy... Where’s Poppy?

Mike closes his eyes again and heads off in his imagination to a place far away from this crowded carriage. He’s just about to dive into the blue water of a tropical lagoon when someone spills tea down his shirt. He swears. Immediately he flushes. And not just because warm tea is spreading across his stomach. He’s embarrassed. “I’m so sorry. Really sorry. It’s the delay, the standing. I’m not normally so grumpy.” The young woman holding what remains of her tea is just as embarrassed. “No, no, it’s my fault,” she says as she squeezes past and disappears.

Back at home Emma is ushering the children out of the door. One, two, three. She thinks of Rosie. Four. Every day she thinks of Rosie, their fourth child, born with a malformed heart and dead at three months. Absent and yet always present. Two years on, Emma still feels the loss. It hurts. Here on the doorstep it hurts. “Time will heal,” people had said. She knows they’re trying to be positive. But she doesn’t want to “be positive”. Sometimes she just wants to weep.

Yesterday God had felt so present to Mike. But today... today is different. Today is over-crowded trains, sweaty passengers, a wet shirt and the all-too-present void left by little Rosie. Today God is... What is he? Not absent—Mike doesn’t doubt that God is everywhere. But God doesn’t exactly feel present either. Not in a way he can touch or see.

Emma’s standing in the playground, chatting to other mums while Poppy pulls on her shirt. “Have you heard about Roxanne? You know, Jamal’s mum? Well, I’ve heard...” Emma’s not heard. She wants to. A bit of gossip to spice up her morning. A bit of scandal to make her feel superior. She moves in so she can hear better.

“No,” she says to herself. “Don’t go there. Bad idea.” She turns round. Was it a bad idea? What harm would come of a little gossip? It would distract from the tedium of the day. But Emma thinks of God’s word. She thinks of Christ’s grace to her. She wants to show the same grace to others. “Sorry,” she shouts over her shoulder, “I need to dash.” Nobody notices. They’re all huddled round the latest rumour.

The train is slowly coming to a halt. Mike ducks down to look out the window, hoping to see the station platform coming into view. But all he sees is a wall of graffiti. “As a result of signal failure we’ll be subject to a 15-minute delay. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.” Mike lets out an audible groan. He’s not the only one. The carriage comes alive with shared grumbles.

Mike closes his eyes. He tries to recall yesterday’s sermon. What had his pastor said? Something about Christ being our righteousness. Nothing new. Mike had heard it many times before. But it was such a comfort to hear again yesterday. And it is a comfort to remember it again this morning.

Meanwhile, and a little late, Emma’s walking up the path to Amanda’s front door. They meet most weeks to read the Bible together and pray. Emma tries to remember what it was they looked at last week. Something in Philippians. Something about knowing Christ. Whatever it was, she remembers feeling excited about it at the time.

“Sorry about the mess,” says Amanda. Emma smiles. It’s always messy in Amanda’s house. She moves a pile of laundry off the chair onto the table so she can sit down. Amanda hands her a rather strong cup of tea. Emma doesn’t know how Amanda copes with the chaos.

Half an hour late, Mike is finally sitting at his desk. “How was church?” Bob had asked. Bob is Mike’s only Christian colleague. How was church? The truth is it seems a long time ago. Yesterday his pastor had spoken of a relationship with God. And on Sunday it had seemed like a real possibility. But that was Sunday and this is Monday. Today it feels so much more elusive. If only he had more time to pray, then maybe he could enjoy God. Maybe he could recreate that feeling he had enjoyed on Sunday morning. Or maybe he will just have to wait until next Sunday.

Next Sunday? It is still only Monday morning.

This is an extract from Enjoying God by Tim Chester. Is God involved in the nitty-gritty of our daily lives? How can we bridge the gap between Sunday morning and Monday morning? How can we experience God’s presence when we’re commuting to work or washing the dishes? We believe in God, we serve God, we trust God, but would we say that we experience God on a day to day basis? Discover the key to enjoying God in every moment of everyday. Enjoying God, available to buy now

Categories: Christian Resources

Why you should be talking to your children about gender

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 09:44

There’s a conversation going on about gender and our kids are listening in. The question is not “will our children be a part of this conversation?” but rather, “will we lead it?”

The problem: misplaced identity

Have you noticed that our culture discusses hot-button issues differently than it did ten years ago? It seems that people are much quicker to label disagreement as “hatred” or “bigotry.” Failing to affirm what someone believes or does can often be taken as failing to love them at all. While there are many reasons for this, the main reason is that society has bought into the lie that people are what they believe and what they do. Think about it: if this is true and someone critiques your beliefs, you’re much more likely to consider a mere rejection of ideas as a rejection of you personally.

[inline_product:genderconv]

We all have a longing to be loved and accepted. Often, our fallenness leads us to want to be accepted for our brokenness, not in spite of it. Our identity can become based on things directly opposed to God’s design. The antidote to this problem is the gospel, where we find acceptance by God in the midst of our brokenness, not because of it; we find fulfillment that was elusive when we tried to locate our identity and self-worth internally.

When our identity is based on anything other than being an adopted and ransomed child of God, we stand awaiting an inevitable fall.

We all live in a world that is vying not only for our attention but also our allegiance. This sets Christians—especially children—up for an inevitable collision. When two objects collide, the stronger prevails over the weaker.

Raising children in this culture

We have to raise our children in the world the way it is, not the way we would like it to be.

As parents and pastors, we need to be equipped with what the Bible says about gender and how to approach it with our children in an appropriate way for their respective ages.

In a world cluttered with opinions about gender, we don’t need to be louder; we need to be clearer

In a very real way, our children need to be trained to handle the strongest assault the world will bring, and yet remain committed to God’s word.

In a world cluttered with opinions about gender, sexuality, race, and truth, we don’t need to be louder; we need to be clearer. We need to be compelling and competent to answer the questions that face the next generation, and to do so in a way that is loving, intelligent and honoring to God.

Gender: A Conversation Guide for Parents and Pastors by Brian Seagraves and Hunter Leavine is available to buy now.

Categories: Christian Resources

Why you should be talking to your children about gender

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 09:44

There’s a conversation going on about gender and our kids are listening in. The question is not “will our children be a part of this conversation?” but rather, “will we lead it?”

The problem: misplaced identity

Have you noticed that our culture discusses hot-button issues differently than it did ten years ago? It seems that people are much quicker to label disagreement as “hatred” or “bigotry.” Failing to affirm what someone believes or does can often be taken as failing to love them at all. While there are many reasons for this, the main reason is that society has bought into the lie that people are what they believe and what they do. Think about it: if this is true and someone critiques your beliefs, you’re much more likely to consider a mere rejection of ideas as a rejection of you personally.

We all have a longing to be loved and accepted. Often, our fallenness leads us to want to be accepted for our brokenness, not in spite of it. Our identity can become based on things directly opposed to God’s design. The antidote to this problem is the gospel, where we find acceptance by God in the midst of our brokenness, not because of it; we find fulfillment that was elusive when we tried to locate our identity and self-worth internally.

In a world cluttered with opinions about gender, we don’t need to be louder; we need to be clearer

When our identity is based on anything other than being an adopted and ransomed child of God, we stand awaiting an inevitable fall.

We all live in a world that is vying not only for our attention but also our allegiance. This sets Christians—especially children—up for an inevitable collision. When two objects collide, the stronger prevails over the weaker.

[inline_product:gender]

Raising children in this culture

We have to raise our children in the world the way it is, not the way we would like it to be.

As parents and pastors, we need to be equipped with what the Bible says about gender and how to approach it with our children in an appropriate way for their respective ages.

The question is not “will our children be a part of this conversation?” but rather, “will we lead it?”

In a very real way, our children need to be trained to handle the strongest assault the world will bring, and yet remain committed to God’s word.

In a world cluttered with opinions about gender, sexuality, race, and truth, we don’t need to be louder; we need to be clearer. We need to be compelling and competent to answer the questions that face the next generation, and to do so in a way that is loving, intelligent and honoring to God.

Gender: A Conversation Guide for Parents and Pastors by Brian Seagraves and Hunter Leavine is available to buy now.

Categories: Christian Resources

A conversation on human dignity

Mon, 17/09/2018 - 16:43

With all the discussion swirling around about the proper place and value of justice in our Christian witness, it's imperative that we put human dignity at the forefront. 

Here I talk to my fellow colleagues at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission about what human dignity is and how God is calling all of us not just to see that people have dignity, but to act accordingly. 

In The Dignity Revolution, Daniel Darling shows us that each one of us can be, and are called to be, part of this new movement—a human dignity revolution that our societies desperately need, and how we—you—are uniquely placed to join.

[inline_product:digrev]

Categories: Christian Resources

A conversion on human dignity

Mon, 17/09/2018 - 16:43

With all the discussion swirling around about the proper place and value of justice in our Christian witness, it's imperative that we put human dignity at the forefront. 

Here I talk to my fellow colleagues at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission about what human dignity is and how God is calling all of us not just to see that people have dignity, but to act accordingly. 

In The Dignity Revolution, Daniel Darling shows us that each one of us can be, and are called to be, part of this new movement—a human dignity revolution that our societies desperately need, and how we—you—are uniquely placed to join.

[inline_product:digrev]

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: The Letter G

Fri, 14/09/2018 - 10:41
Categories: Christian Resources

How to model forgiveness with your own children - thoughts from a mum in the trenches

Wed, 12/09/2018 - 11:21

To coincide with the release of our latest children’s book, The Friend Who Forgives, we have interviewed two parents about how they handle forgiveness in their own homes. Yesterday, we heard from someone who’s children are now grown up. Today, it’s the turn of a mother with young children.

Disclaimer: I’ve laid out below what my husband and I are seeking to teach our children about forgiveness with the gospel as our guide. However, life is messy, busy, and often stressful, and situations don’t always work out as we hope they will. So we are constantly seeking God’s help in the weakness we feel and display, and are prayerful that God would show our children the heights and depths of his own loving kindness to them, which—even on our best days—we can only poorly reflect. It’s also true to say that having children is, in itself, a lesson to us—as parents—about the unending patience, mercy, forgiveness, and grace of God!

How do you handle the issue of forgiveness with your children?

My husband and I are seeking to teach our girls that we are ALL sinful, and that we have each been forgiven by a loving God who is merciful and kind when we confess our sins and seek forgiveness. In our home, this means that we seek to remind our girls to be quick to say sorry and to forgive one another when we do each other wrong (as we do frequently) because this is the way that God treats us. This is our end goal! On many occasions I’ve tried to remind warring parties that our relationships and love for one another is more important that what is being squabbled over and that, because of this, we love each other well when we forgive—remembering that we have been forgiven much.

Instead of just saying “sorry”, I also try to prompt our children to ask the other for forgiveness so that they can see more clearly that when you’re forgiving someone, something is required of you. Forgiveness comes at a cost. We are asked to lay aside our indignation and pride for the sake of the other person—remembering that the cost to Jesus was much greater.

How do you balance offering a fresh start (as the gospel so wonderfully offers to us) with the need for their behaviour to actually change?

This is a particularly challenging balance to strike when trying to model gospel forgiveness with children. One way we try to do this in our home is to offer forgiveness freely and without exception when sorrow is apparent. This is hard as a parent when you’ve been tried and tested over the same issue multiple times. However, this is what God does for us and so I try to hold this in my mind when dealing with a particularly rebellious child or a recurring offence. And so, when sorrow is apparent, we offer forgiveness and the chance of a new beginning.

But I don’t think it can stop there…

Mercifully, God accepts our repentance but doesn’t leave us as he finds us. I think we’ve found that taking a short break from the situation, maybe imposing a time out, and then returning to talk about what has happened works best—before we both come back together and talk about how we can move forward. This really helps to take the heat out of the situation and means that I have time to quickly ask the Lord for his help in dealing not only with behaviour of one of my children but with what lies at the heart of it. 

When we come back together, I try to ask questions about the behaviour rather than preaching a mini-sermon (!) and then we try to consider how the other person might be feeling and reflect on ways in which next time things could be done differently. If something practical can be done to remedy a situation, then I also pursue that. I’ve often asked one of my children to help fix the damage they may have caused, or to help repair a toy they may have deliberately broken, for example. My hope is that in time they might see that “saying sorry” is the beginning of meaningful change and not merely a “get out of jail free card”.

When do you find this particularly easy or difficult?

It’s always easier to offer forgiveness when the child in front of you is sorry! Much less so when there’s resistance or a refusal to admit wrongdoing. On occasions where there isn’t much sorrow, I’ve tried to give my child the space to reflect on what’s happened and have then returned to talking about it later on. I don’t think repentance is something you can extract from someone under pressure!! 

It’s also difficult to offer forgiveness when it’s a repeat offence, and change feels slow or even non-existent. In my more self-aware moments, I’m conscious of the fact that this slowness to make progress is merely a reflection of my own spiritual state. This gives me a much needed sense of humility and empathy with my child in moments of frustration and anger.

On occasions where the child in front of me is genuinely sorry and repentant for what they have done, forgiveness is a beautiful gift. It restores brokenness. It covers wrong and it allows us to start again. 

How has your own upbringing made an impact on how you handle or talk about forgiveness with your children?

When growing up, I wasn’t ever explicitly said sorry to, and forgiveness was often held back in favour of bitterness and anger. I think that’s left a deep impression on me. It has radically impacted the way in which I deal with my own children as I seek to always give them a route back to a restored relationship after making mistakes. 

I’m very open with my own children about the fact that I make mistakes and that I too am a sinner in need of a saviour. I won’t always be right, and there are times when I have needed to say sorry to my children for my impatience, wrongdoing or mis-handling of a situation.  My hope is that by being open about my own failings, my children will learn to recognise their own sinful behaviour and seek forgiveness for it. This is not easy, but my hope and prayer is that in the long term this open humility will reap dividends for their spiritual growth and understanding of God’s goodness to them.

Children know all about failing, but they don’t always experience true forgiveness. The Friend Who Forgives points them to Jesus, the Friend who will forgive them again and again and again.

Categories: Christian Resources

5 myths about Christian engagement in the public square

Tue, 11/09/2018 - 15:08

As they have in every generation, evangelicals are wrestling with their role in the larger culture. Today’s increasingly post-Christian West has added new urgency to the discussion. Should Christians be involved in politics? Or should we simply preach and live out the gospel in our communities? Or are these two paradigms as mutually exclusive as they are sometimes branded?

I’ve been on both sides of this debate most of my life. I’ve served at various levels of church and organizational ministry, I’ve been active in political campaigns, and now I have the privilege of serving the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the entity representing Southern Baptists in Washington. I’ve been the pastor aghast at a parishioner’s crude political Facebook posts. I’ve been the activist wishing Christians were more aware of the issues.

This is a tension that won’t go away until Christ consummates his kingdom. Until that glorious day, we must wrestle with very real questions. Let’s start by deconstructing some myths about Christian engagement in the public square:

1. We shouldn’t judge the world, because the world is full of unbelievers.

Paul wrote this very advice in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:5). They were a church who had imbibed the sexual values of their culture, to the point where they openly bragged about a “grace” that overlooked and even celebrated open sexual sin (1 Cor. 5:1-2, 6). This was also a church that arrogantly preached to the culture but refused to guard their family of faith.

On the surface, Paul’s words might seem a rebuke to any level of Christian cultural engagement. After all, the Church should expect believers to act like believers and unbelievers to act like unbelievers. This is true in one sense. Our message to the world should not be one of condemnation (John 3:17), but of love, announcing the good news that salvation is available to those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, the rightful King who conquered sin, death and the serpent.

And yet Paul can’t be saying we should ignore the false ideologies around us, turning a blind eye to injustice and caring little for the flourishing of our communities. If so, he’d be contradicting other very clear passages of Scripture that urge the Christian to apply the gospel to all of life.

For instance, are Paul’s words to the Corinthians a rebuke to John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest man who ever lived (Luke 7:28)? John called out Herod for marrying his brother’s wife (Luke 3:19). Were Paul’s words a rebuke to Jeremiah who encouraged the Jewish exiles in Jerusalem to “seek the welfare of the city” (Jer. 29:7)? Were they contradicting Paul’s own boldness in Athens, where he stood on Mars Hill and declared the falseness of the heathen gods?

When Paul says not to judge the world, he’s echoing similar themes as James, who in his letter to the Jerusalem church writes: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (1:27).

2. We shouldn’t be against things, only for things.

This is a common cliché. The church shouldn’t simply be known for what it is against, but what it is for. This sounds very good. Christians, after all, should be known for their love for Jesus and for each other. And the story we are announcing is the good news of the gospel, the evangel that Christ has come to reconcile sinners to God. This was Jesus’ mission, to announce the gospel of the Kingdom.

And yet, Jesus was also clearly against things. For instance, Jesus was strongly against the corruption of innocent children. His language in Luke 17:2 is provocative, saying that it would be a better fate for the abuser “if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea.”

I imagine if a politician used language like this today, we’d have a lot of Christians wringing their hands and wishing Jesus could just “show more love.” Jesus is against sin, against exploitation, against any spirit of the age that can corrupt, destroy and kill the very people he came to save.

Paul seems to affirm this when he says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). What we fail to understand is that to be against something is to be for something else. So to be against abortion is to be in favor of life. To be against poverty is to be for the well-being and nurture of humanity. To be against human trafficking is to be for the dignity and respect of innocent people.

The gospel is not only a positive declaration that Christ has conquered sin and death and has made a way for sinners to find their way to God. It’s not only a positive declaration that Christ is King over the earth. The gospel is also a crushing blow against the evil powers that enslave men in sin and death. You might argue that if Christians are only ever for things, they are preaching an incomplete gospel.

3. We should only preach the gospel and make disciples and not worry about politics.

It’s true that no political party or movement can change the world. Sometimes political activism on both the left and the right can be overly triumphalist. Only the gospel, not political ideology, has the power to change hearts. Yes and amen.

But the gospel, if you notice, is a rather political statement itself. The gospel declares, first of all, that Christ and not Caesar is the ultimate King (Mark 12:17) and that even the most powerful rulers serve under the authority of King Jesus (Rom. 13:1). Even the most popular prayer in the world, the Lord’s Prayer, is really a prayer of revolution, declaring that there is another King and another kingdom that is not of this world (Matt. 6:9-13).

So you can’t really preach the gospel and avoid politics. Politics are embedded in the very heart of the gospel. Furthermore, think about Jesus’ words in the Great Commission. The imperative is to “make disciples” and teach them “all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).

The gospel doesn’t simply punch your ticket to heaven; it empowers Christians for a radical new lifestyle, one that is at odds with the world (Jas. 4:4; Rom. 8:7). The most nonpolitical Christian, if he is faithful, is a political statement to a world system that is under the temporary and restrained rule of Satan (Eph. 2:2).

The Church is to be an alternate society, an outpost of the kingdom to come (1 Pet. 2:9). This means the gospel calls us not simply to make converts who have no effect on the world around them. The gospel calls us be agents of reconciliation, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to live and work toward justice and righteousness, to seek the welfare of our cities, to advance human flourishing. In fact, a Christianity that has no impact on the world around it, according to James, is a dead, lifeless faith (Jas. 2:14-16).

I’m glad, for instance, that men like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King Jr. and Deitrich Bonheoffer had a gospel big enough to demand justice for the innocents. To ignore injustice is to say to the 19th-century slave in America, to the 20th-century Jew in Germany, to the 21st-century unborn baby: “Be warmed and filled.” It’s a diminished gospel, a lifeless faith.

What our generation of evangelicals has to understand is that love of neighbor doesn’t mean only the politically safe endeavors of charity that everyone affirms. It might also mean having the courage to get involved in the socio-political structures that either advance or hurt human flourishing.

4. Courage and civility are incompatible.

We have this notion that in order to stand up for justice, we must embrace the carnal tools of warfare. But we’d be wise to heed the words of Peter, who encourages an apologetic bathed in kindness: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:15-17).

Notice the tension in Peter’s words. He calls Christians to have courage, to stand and declare what is true in the face of opposition. And yet we’re to do it with “gentleness and respect.” We are to disagree without being disagreeable. We’re to love and respect and honor even those we might consider political adversaries.

We do this, not simply as a new tactic to win hearts and minds, but as a representation of the gospel within us. We are, after all, a different people. We represent a different kingdom. This should affect even the way we speak and interact. How we post our opinions on social media. The types of emails we forward. The conversations we have about those with whom we disagree. Peter is reminding us that courage and civility are not enemies, but friends. Our culture sometimes confuses bravery with bravado, crassness with courage. But the gospel calls us to a new and different way to engage.

5. Our real enemies are human.

This is perhaps the biggest temptation for Christian political engagement. The yin and yang of politics can often drag us into the messy trench warfare, forgetting that our real enemies are not elected officials, presidents of activist groups, or even liberal seminary professors. The real battle is unseen, spiritual warfare at the highest levels. Paul reminds us that we don’t wage war with “flesh and blood” but “cosmic powers over this present darkness… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Every generation faces a battle of ideologies, a battle of worldviews. People who espouse and believe ungodly philosophies are held captive by the enemy, their minds blinded by unbelief (2 Cor. 4:4).

We err in two ways when we forget the spiritual nature of our political engagement. First, we concentrate on vanquishing seemingly human enemies. We want to see actual people destroyed. This was Peter’s problem when he chopped off the ear of the high priest's servant (John 18:10). This man was not the enemy, Satan was. Sin and death were. The servant was a mere pawn in a larger cosmic struggle. Which is why Jesus, in some of his last words on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do“ (Luke 23:34). When we make humans the enemies, we easily forget love and kindness and grace. We abandon the way of Jesus, who fellowshipped and ate with sinners, who tenderly loved even the one who would betray him, Judas.

Second, we put all of our faith in human instruments, the newest tactics and technologies, and the next election. While we should steward our citizenship wisely and vote for those whose positions most closely resemble biblical values, we must remember that all kingdoms of this world are temporal and that only the gospel has the ability to change hearts and minds.

Gospel warriors cannot be fatalistic, those whose hopes rise and fall based on fundraising numbers, Gallup polls, and the get-out-the-vote program in the suburbs. We are looking for another kingdom, a city whose builder and maker is not Republican or Democrat. Knowing that the cultural battles are simply proxies for larger spiritual warfare, we fight for justice and righteousness without the roller-coaster emotions attached to changing political currents.

Daniel Darling is the author of The Dignity Revolution, which shows us that each one of us can be, and are called to be, part of this new movement—a human dignity revolution that our societies desperately need, and how we—you—are uniquely placed to join.

This article originally appeared here. Used with permission. 

Categories: Christian Resources

How to model forgiveness with your own children – thoughts from an empty-nester

Tue, 11/09/2018 - 10:18

Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, we can be fully, totally, completely forgiven. That’s a wonderful truth and joy we will want to share with our own children (who will probably need to be forgiven most days!). But what does that look like in a Christian home? To coincide with the release of our latest children’s book, The Friend Who Forgives, we have interviewed two parents about how they handle this in their own homes. Tomorrow, we will hear from a mother with young children. Today, it’s the turn of someone whose children are now grown up.

How did you handle the issue of forgiveness with your children?

It was always in the context of a conversation, often with both parents (especially if it was a big issue, as this showed how serious we were). We would discuss the offence and why it was wrong, always focusing on the heart: “It wasn’t good that you did this, but it’s worse that you lied about it.” Mistakes happen, but betraying trust is much worse because that’s a breach of relationship, not just of a rule.

Sometimes, one of us would feel angry about what our child had done. Usually, when one is enraged the other tends to be calm, so the angry one would leave the room for a bit while the other parent kept talking with the child. “We realise you’re worried that we’ll get angry. We apologise for when we lose our temper, but our anger isn’t going to last.”

Afterwards, we would say, “We don’t need to talk about this again. Your mum and I are not going to bring it up.” (If you have a sensitive child, they may want to talk about it again for their own sake. That’s fine. We’d say, “If this bothers you, come and talk to me about it—but we’re not going to bring it up again ourselves.”)

How did you balance offering a fresh start (as the gospel so wonderfully offers to us) with the need for their behaviour to actually change?

You set guidelines and expectations for the future. We would make it clear what we wanted them to do from now on, and we would discuss various strategies that would help our child(ren) if similar situations arose—things they could say, do or think when this happens. 

We also tried to help our children understand that their non-Christian friends don’t have God to turn to, so that’s why they sometimes behave badly. Then we’d remind them of the bigger picture: they are a loved child of God, with an eternal future and something to live for.

When did you find this particularly easy or difficult?

The most difficult was apologising for my own anger (because I felt very justified in my rage!). But we’re not God. He is our Parent as well as theirs. But however hard it is to ask for forgiveness, I’ve never regretted doing it.

How has your own upbringing made an impact on how you handle or talk about forgiveness with your children?

I don’t remember my parents ever talking about forgiveness at home. I wanted to treat my marriage and parenting differently. 

Years later, when I was an adult, my dad apologised for something he had done when I was a child. Even after all that time, it had a huge impact. 

Any other suggestions?

We had a rule that if one parent said something, the children were not allowed to ask the other parent. So when they did ask, the first thing we’d say was, “Have you asked your mum/dad?” If the answer was yes, we’d always back what our spouse had said (even if that might not have been the answer we’d have given). It saved a lot of battles. 

Children know all about failing, but they don’t always experience true forgiveness. The Friend Who Forgives points them to Jesus, the Friend who will forgive them again and again and again.

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: The Letter F

Thu, 06/09/2018 - 14:05
Categories: Christian Resources

3 parenting tips from the life of Peter

Thu, 06/09/2018 - 10:20

1. Peter’s Big Mouth and Learning to Say Sorry (Matthew 16)

Peter had a big mouth. If you read the stories in the gospels about the disciples you’ll notice he often spoke up before everyone else. But he also often spoke up before he gave much thought about the words that were about to come out of his mouth.

One time he performed both brilliantly and awfully in the same conversation. It’s when Jesus asked the disciples who people believed him to be. After they all gave their answers, Jesus made it personal. “Who do you say I am?” he asked them. In typical fashion, Peter spoke up right away. 

“You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God.” 

This time Peter got it right. But shortly afterwards he got it totally, and utterly wrong. When Jesus went on to describe what kind of Messiah he was—one who would die for his people— Peter told Jesus not to go to the cross. Jesus’ reply is shocking:

 “Get behind me Satan!” 

As parents, we know that we often regret things we say. We can be like Peter, one moment we get it right—we encourage our children for something they are doing well or we correct them with a gentle and loving tone. But sometimes we get it wrong. We raise our voice or we’re short with them, or worse we say something we wish we hadn’t.

One important way we can model grace in our homes is by saying we’re sorry. We can teach our children about their need for forgiveness by demonstrating our need for forgiveness. The next time you open your mouth and say something you shouldn’t, or say something in a way you shouldn’t, model grace by asking your child to forgive you. And then lead them in a prayer and ask Jesus to forgive you too. 


2: Temper Tantrums and Trusting God (John 18)

On the night Jesus was arrested Peter lost all control. In a flash of adrenaline and fear, Peter swiped his sword at one of the soldiers taking Jesus away. It seems he was aiming for his head. He missed—and cut off his ear.

It was another example of how Peter, and the other disciples, had not yet understood why Jesus came—the kind of messiah he was. Jesus wouldn’t stand any of this. He promptly picked up the ear and put it back on, completely healing the man. Jesus was prepared to walk the path of the cross and drink the full cup of God’s wrath on our behalf. He was ready to die for Peter, and for us too. 

In Peter’s zeal, he lashed out, seeking to claim what he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted. He didn’t want his best friend taken away, tried, and crucified. 
And that’s really at the heart of all our temper tantrums—a failure to trust God to meet our needs. 

A temper tantrum is a confession that we don’t trust the Lord. We want what we want, how we want it and when we want it. This story shows us that trusting God for his provision, in his time, is what God wants from us all. 

Peter’s last stand, his final act of courage before he denied Jesus, tells a tale of its own. Peter took matters into his own hands—an example of misplaced courage. Peter had courage in his own strength, and lashed out. True courage is trusting God. 

As you read this story with your child you might ask them why they think Peter was so impulsive. You might ask them about times when they get impatient, or mad, or throw fits. Have a good chat about what it looks like to calmly trust God to meet our needs. 

And while you’re at it, think about the ways you get ahead of God and throw your own temper tantrums. It’s easy to want what we want when we want it. It’s much harder to trust that God will meet all our needs. 

3: Preventing Pride In Our Little People (Luke 22)

Before the worst night of his life, Jesus had supper with his best friends. It was an intimate affair filled with poignant meaning, and with more than a hint of treachery thrown in, as Judas left to betray him. But immediately after he foretold all the horrors the night had in store, the disciples began fighting about who was the greatest among them. Can you believe that? 

Peter must have spoken up because Jesus quickly turned his attention towards him. Peter was ready to save the day. He told Jesus that even if all the other disciples turned away, he would never deny him, but stick with him until the end. 

If only that were true. 

Jesus told Peter that he would go so far as to deny that he even knew Jesus three times. And then the rooster would crow. 

This story demonstrates the power of pride. Pride blinds us to what is right in front of us. Even as Jesus—the prophet, teacher, master and Messiah— is telling Peter what will happen Peter is in denial. He’s insistent that he won’t turn away like everyone else.

Of course, Jesus’ words came true, as they always do. Peter, the man who stood up to a soldier with sword in hand, caved under the pressure of a young girl who asked if he was one of Jesus’ friends. “No, I don’t know him,” he casually said as he walked towards the fire to warm himself. Strike one. 

Two more times Peter denies Jesus. And then he heard the rooster and he turned to see Jesus looking at him. Can you imagine the pain he felt? It is a powerful and moving portrayal of pride and failure. Little wonder that John goes on to say that Peter wept bitter tears.

Your children, when they are younger, can be in awe of you as a parent. The best dad or mum in the world. Reality catches up when they become teenagers. So you can help your children by talking to them about this story. Share with them about a time when pride kept you from seeing God’s way as good and as what’s best. Share with them what happened, and how God humbled you, and about how difficult it was to repent. And above all share with them how you have experienced forgiveness from Jesus.

Dan DeWitt is the author of a new illustrated children's book, The Friend Who Forgives. Children know all about failing, but they don’t always experience true forgiveness. This book points them to Jesus, the Friend who will forgive them again and again and again. Watch a teaser of the book below... 

Categories: Christian Resources

An open letter to Kids Ministry leaders

Tue, 04/09/2018 - 10:56

Dear Sunday School teacher and kids club helper—cutter-upper of crafts, maker of drinks, do-er of actions, stacker of chairs and toilet attendant—

A new term is here. I hope you enjoyed the summer break (we both know you earned it) and that you’re feeling refreshed and ready another turn around the year’s merry-go-rota. 

Or maybe not. Maybe as you look ahead to a new term, you can’t help but quietly think that you’d rather be in proper church on a Sunday morning—or in bed. Perhaps you have a secret sense of dread at the gaps in your team. Or you’re discouraged by the shrinking numbers or the hit-and-miss attenders; the sea of blank expressions when you ask, “So, who can remember what we learned last week?” Or you’re already feeling weary at the thought of managing those kids who just will not do as they’re told, or saddened by the needs at home you feel powerless to address.  

I’ve been that leader.

But I’ve been that kid, too. 

Don’t lose heart. However weak your kid’s work might look in the world’s eyes, God can use it.

Monday nights when I was growing up were “Good News Club”. My sister and I didn’t like going but we had to because our dad was the vicar, and the lady who ran it gave us a lift, so there was really no way out of it. 

The room was cold. It was a tin chapel on the edge of someone’s farm—who built it or owned it or why, I still have no idea to this day. 

The songs were dated, even for the 90s. Our renditions of “The best book to read is the Bible” and “I met Jesus at the crossroads” were accompanied by an accordion, while a leader held a big flip book with the words at the front. “No you can’t get to heaven without salvation”—but at least there’s a generation of church-going children who know how to spell it (S-A-L-V-A-T-I-O-N).  

And we sure gave the leaders the run-around—talking and giggling and generally not being quiet when we were meant to be. I remember the week when they introduced a new strategy for managing behaviour. Assigned to one child’s seat, we were told, was a chocolate bar. If the child in that seat was good, at the end of the night they’d get to keep the chocolate bar, but if they were naughty they wouldn’t. So we had better all be on our best behaviour for the whole evening in case it was us. 

I remember the night it was me. I was thrilled because I never won anything. 

But it was one night at Good News Club—when I was in that cold room with the naughty kids singing dated songs only because my parents had made me—that I realised, perhaps for the first time or at least the first time I can remember, that I needed saving. I was sinful. I needed to ask Jesus to forgive me. 

So in the car on the way home, I did. (Because there’s nothing like being driven round the twists and turns of a dark country road by a harried kid’s ministry leader to make you feel that getting ready to meet your maker could, in fact, be a matter of some urgency). 

So, don’t lose heart. However weak your kid’s work might look in the world’s eyes, God can use it. Not just to make memories, but to save souls—right there among your hyperactive/ irregular/tiny group, in your too small/too hot/too cold room, through your low-tech/sometimes-slightly-boring/this-story-again-already? programme. 

So here’s what to do. Here’s what I want to do more of, and more earnestly, for my little band of terrors this year: 

  • Keep praying for them regularly. Pray that the “the eyes of their heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1 v 18), because unless God does that for them, nothing you do will be any use at all. But he can, and he will. 
  • Keep loving them practically—because the Lord Jesus took a child in his arms and told his self-important disciples that “whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me” (Mark 9 v 36-37). You’re doing something beautiful for Jesus. 
  • Keep teaching them faithfully—because as Paul wrote to Timothy: “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”. The Bible is what kids like Timothy in the first century needed, and it’s what kids in the twenty-first century need too.   

Keep going, dear leader, because Christ is keeping you going: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11 v 28).    

Stuck for ideas? Explore our range of children's resources here

Categories: Christian Resources

Seven things your small-group leader wishes you knew

Mon, 03/09/2018 - 16:08

As soon as September starts, the Autumn routine kicks in. Sunday school; guest events; youth groups; home groups. Apart from a brief breather in October, we’re all pretty much running hard until we collapse into bed filled with Christmas Dinner.

In all the busy-ness, it’s tempting to think of your home group as an optional extra—to fit in so long as you have the time, and the energy.

Here’s 7 things that your home group leaders wishes you knew:

  1. Your attendance really matters. Even if you are dead on your feet, with numbed neurones from a brutal day at the grindstone—just being there will be a massive encouragement and help to others.
  2. Your thoughts really matter. Your group leader doesn’t want the Bible study to be “lively” for the sake of it. A home group is an expression of a fundamental principle of the Christian life: God’s people gathered around God’s word, trying to work out how God would have us live for him today. Sharing your thoughts from the passage with the group—even if you are nervous to speaking up, or think your observations are obvious—is really important for everyone in the room. It’s what fellowship is all about.
  3. Your prayers really matter. We pray en masse at whole church gatherings, but it is in small groups that prayer takes on a more intimate character. You bless and encourage others by praying out loud for them, and by engaging with their prayer requests in a way that shows you have listened and understood what they are struggling with.
  4. Your prayer requests really matter. As forgiven sinners, Christians should be free-er than most to admit weakness, failures, needs. Doing so in a small group is easier than a larger group, and it helps others to know that they are not alone in their experience of weakness and failure. This surely part of what James means when he encourages us to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16).
  5. Your gratitude matters. Prayer times can often be characterised by a lot of grumbling: illness, trauma, conflict and … well, more illness! Expressing things we are grateful to God for is a great example to set for others—especially if what we are grateful for is everyday experiences that others will have. If you invite people to rejoice in God’s goodness and grace with you, you will make your group prayer times more rounded and rewarding.
  6. Your laughter matters. There should be moments for seriousness any time Christians meet. But our gatherings are chiefly characterised by joy. After all, we share the riches of Christ, and look forward to eternity together. Every home group should be a little taste of heaven. So smiling and laughing with the group is of particular importance; if we treat it as a business meeting, or a classroom, we’re missing the point.
  7. Your dependence on the group matters. All the above adds up one thing. Participating in your home group with joy is a sign that you have got a healthy relationship with church. Not a club to dip into. But a family to belong to, that depends on each other in tangible ways.

I know it can feel burdensome to get into gear for the season. But when you understand both what you receive and what you can give, home group takes on a whole new perspective.

Our Good Book Guides are an expanding and flexible range of Bible studies with a strong focus on application. Each session not only seeks to uncover the meaning of the passage, and see how it fits into the big picture of the Bible, but also leads people to apply what they have learned to their lives. 

What makes a good small group Bible study?

Here's what our Good Book Guide authors say...

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: The Letter E

Fri, 31/08/2018 - 11:09
Categories: Christian Resources

He, She, Ze, Zir? Navigating pronouns while loving your transgender neighbour

Fri, 31/08/2018 - 10:01

Since the release of my book, God and the Transgender Debate, I have traveled across the country and given numerous talks to Christian audiences on how to understand the new frontier of transgenderism.

In almost every instance, one of the first and most pressing questions I received after speaking was on the subject of pronoun usage concerning how a Christian relates to their transgender neighbor.

These questions came from sincere, compassionate Christians concerned about how to gracefully interact with transgender family members, coworkers, or church visitors while also obeying Scripture and their consciences.

Why pronouns?

Pronoun preference is all the rage in many circles. There is a growing phenomenon for people to state their preferred pronoun, whether on social media bios, email signatures, or even buttons someone wears in social settings. Pronoun preference is increasingly a cause célèbre for virtue signaling one’s social awareness in progressive circles.

At root, the transgender debate is a metaphysical debate about whose version of reality we live in, and only one account—Jesus Christ’s—can lead us into truth about reality and human flourishing.

Pronouns are not an insignificant issue. How a person wants to be referred to communicates how that person understands himself or herself at their deepest, most intimate level. This means that language has deeply significant meaning embedded in its usage. The use of language is an attempt to name and give meaning to reality. Pronouns and gendered names, therefore, refer to a reality in which the transgendered individual is wishing to live. The question we as Christians have to consider is whether the reality we are being asked to affirm is objective and corresponds to biblical truth, or whether the reality we are being asked to acknowledge is subjective and false. Nothing less than the truth and authority of God’s revelation over created reality is up for grabs in something as seemingly innocent as pronoun usage. Because, at root, the transgender debate is a metaphysical debate about whose version of reality we live in, and only one account—Jesus Christ’s (Colossians 1:15-20)—can lead us into truth about reality and human flourishing. No amount of willing something into existence that is at odds with one’s biology—such as one’s gender identity—can bring that desired reality about.

Before I state how I’ve evaluated the issue and the conclusion I’ve reached, I think it is important to state that Christians of goodwill who seek to obey and believe the Bible disagree, prudentially, on what the best pathway is concerning transgender persons and pronouns. This is important to establish because this should not be an issue that divides otherwise Bible-believing Christians.

First, let us establish a few general ethical principles that can help guide our thinking on pronoun usage.

Love rejoices in the truth

Paul tells the Corinthian church that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

This entails that the act of truth-telling from the perspective of the Bible is an act of love. This also means, however, that those who do not believe the Bible will likely not receive an act of truth-telling as loving. From the perspective of the non-Christian, shedding light on someone’s sin or error will likely be met with rejection or contempt. Nor is the obligation to state the truth a license to be obnoxious, condescending, or uncaring. The opposite, in fact, should occur (Colossians 4:6).

Concerning pronouns, Christians should, in principle, be willing to speak truthfully to their transgender neighbor if asked their opinion on the matter, and understand that truth-telling is loving, even if it is not received that way. In Article 11, The Nashville Statement helpfully clarifies “our duty [is] to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female.”

Love your neighbor

As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31) and to treat others how we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). The call to love our neighbors, however, is not a quid pro quo that permits us to affirm whatever your neighbor wants affirmed. As Francis Beckwith writes, “The Golden Rule is not about merely protecting your neighbor’s preferences, but rather, advancing your neighbor’s good.” This means that loving your neighbor may mean speaking something they will interpret as unloving. But Christian ethics assert that it is never loving to aid and abet a friend or family member who is in error, confusion, or sin—whether intentional or unintentional. The same can be said of all persons as well, while also acknowledging situational constraints may add additional difficulties.

Concerning pronouns, as in all other things, Christians are called to be for everyone—even if we disagree with them or if our neighbor does not perceive our truth-telling as loving.

Obey your conscience

The conscience is the internal tripwire stemming from God giving humans the ability to know right from wrong. When we act righteously in accordance with biblical truth, a freeing obedience and joy results from acting in accord with God’s moral law written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-16). When we act sinfully, our conscience makes us aware of that sin because God endowed us with the knowledge of right from wrong. It is our conscience that condemns us and makes us aware of our need for a Savior. While true that some consciences go awry from unrepentance (1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:5), for the Christian, the conscience is a vehicle God gives to direct us in the path of righteousness.

Christians should continually strive to reform their consciences according to God’s Word. This means a Christian should, in principle, always follow their conscience in how they respond to a request concerning someone’s preferred pronouns. Christians should speak of what they know to be true at their deepest core. Violating one’s conscience is never a place someone should find themselves.

Live at peace

The Apostle Paul declares “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).

Concerning pronouns, this means that Christians should, in principle, not be needlessly combative or confrontational in how we navigate the language of transgenderism. We should attempt to be disarming and defuse circumstances ripe for conflict.

Getting practical

But what does this mean practically as Christians navigate relationships with family members, friends, co-workers and church visitors who may identify as transgender?

Much of how someone will determine their use of pronouns and names is based within a matrix that includes the Bible as the supreme guide, one’s social context where the relationship is occurring, and the depth of the relationship itself.

My principles for navigating pronouns and names are the following: First, context determines the level and type of engagement. Second, the depth of the relationship determines one’s authority to speak correctively. Third, speaking authoritatively and correctively must be guided preeminently by the authority of Scripture.

The more impersonal the context, the less likely a Christian will feel the need to correct pronoun requests; and the further removed someone is from their transgender family member, friend, or colleague, the less likely the Christian will have the ability to speak authoritatively and correctively to them.

Avoid if you can. If at all possible, avoid using pronouns altogether. Think to yourself: How often are you in conversation with a person where you have to refer to this person’s pronoun in the third person? Not very often. So, avoid pronoun use altogether.

Probably use preferred first name. Depending on the context and relationship, if (for example) someone is a biological male who requests to be called by a feminine name, I am more likely to use their preferred name on the grounds that names are not intrinsically gendered. Names are gendered culturally, which is important, but not the only point to consider. A man may be named Aaron and a woman Erin, yet both sound the same. I’ve known boys and girls named Kelly and Cameron. My own wife’s name, in fact, is the only time I’ve heard hers applied to a female.

Additionally, it is likely that if you are just meeting someone for the first time who identifies as transgender, the name associated with their biological sex will not be known, so by default you would be left calling them by the name given at their introduction.

Be honest in public. Though it is politically incorrect to do so,  I will not refer to someone with their desired pronoun in a public venue such as a talk. Those with writing or speaking platforms have an obligation to speak and write truthfully and not kowtow to political correctness or excuse falsehood. This means I will call Bruce Jenner “he,” or if I do say “Caitlyn,” I will still say, “him.” Political commentator David French argues that the pronoun debate is not simply about effete political manners, but compelled speech: “…when your definition of manners requires that I verbally consent to a fundamentally false and important premise, then I dissent. You cannot use my manners to win your culture war. I will speak respectfully, I will never use a pronoun with the intent of causing harm, and if I encounter a person in obvious emotional distress I will choose my words very carefully. But I will not say what I do not believe.” Furthermore, compulsion is unacceptable. The compelled speech element to the pronoun debate is significant, since in some areas of the country, “misgendering” someone with the wrong pronoun can result in civil penalties. That should be named for what it is: an unlawful power grab designed to conscript people’s consciences into cooperating with politically correct fiction. No government, movement, or ideology, however, can usurp the conscience’s right to speak freely and truthfully (Acts 5:29).

For the majority of us, this is not a culture war issue. It is an issue of neighborliness. Here is how I would evaluate some of the tricky situations.

Family. If I were to have a close family member (let us say a child or sibling) identify as transgender and request a first name or pronoun in line with their gender identity, I would not honor this request. Why? Because I know this person intimately (their history, their struggles), and in all likelihood I possess the relational capital to understand this person’s story and speak truthfully to them. I will not aid and abet my loved one’s confusion and sin. It is highly likely that my family member would find this offensive; but in being truthful with this person, who knows if I am the only remaining person in their life stirring their conscience with truth. I would communicate my unconditional love and desire for this person to be in my life, and how both motivate my concern to speak truthfully to them because I want what is best for them.

The same guidelines apply when navigating this issue with friends of varying degrees of relational depth.

Coworkers. This, admittedly, gets trickier. Many individuals are not looking to enter the fray in their workplaces. They want to do their jobs, provide for their families, and live their lives. This is where each person in the workplace has to evaluate their context and the relationship with their coworker. In general, here is my principle: Nearness means clarity. Think of a concentric circle. How someone will choose to refer to a colleague will depend on the depth of the relationship. If you have a transgender coworker in the same department whom you hardly ever see or talk to, you lack the relational capital and depth to speak truthfully into that person’s life. In fact, not speaking to the person except to correct them seems unseemly and rude. Some Christians’ consciences may have no problem calling a person they do not know by their desired name or pronoun, and I do not begrudge them for thinking this way if they are removed from the person and not in a context that makes authentic relationship building possible. While not avoiding the person, it is wise to evade circumstances that would put you in a position to violate your conscience.

One important caveat especially relevant to corporate settings is the expectation that employees sign statements to some effect signaling their agreement with a company’s diversity compliance standards, which may include invasive policies related to transgenderism, such as pronouns. Brothers and sisters, if this is you, you need to evaluate your conscience. If you find yourself in a setting where your employer is requiring you to violate your conscience as a condition of your employment, let me be as clear as possible: You need to be forthright with your employer. Ask for an exception. If it won’t be given, it might be time to find a new place of employment. None of this is easy, but Jesus never promised that following him would be without great personal cost. In fact, he said just the opposite—He foretold it (Matthew 16:24-26). But Christ also promised that taking up the cross at great cost to ourselves is the pathway to finding greater union with Him.

Church Settings. It is possible you may not know someone visiting your church is transgender and will unknowingly use their desired pronoun and name. If that is the case, a Christian is not at fault. Also, someone who is very obviously transgender may visit your church. I do not know how a question of pronouns would come up in a momentary introduction between persons, but I do think it would be needlessly confrontational to immediately correct someone’s pronoun preference if they are visiting. Again, avoid pronouns altogether. I think the more appropriate route is to gloss over whatever pronoun discussion ensues, greet the person kindly, listen to how they heard of your church, get to know them, and invite them back to church in hopes of building a relationship. Context and relationship matter. To the extent that individuals begin to gain the relational capital to speak truthfully to this person about their confusion, those attempts should be made and made soon. One important caveat: to the extent that a visitor becomes hostile, rudely adamant, or disruptive about pronoun usage, I can foresee the necessity of pastors and elders addressing it immediately in order to guard the flock (Acts 20:28; Titus 1).

Related, topics like this should prompt churches to preemptively develop policies on restroom usage so as to protect the privacy and safety of their members.

I do not deny that there may be contextual and relational ambiguities unique to each person's circumstances, but in general, if a Christian is asked his or her opinion on the matter of pronoun usage, whether by a transgender person themselves, or by a friend regarding the cultural debate around pronouns, a Christian ought always speak truthfully.

Pay the price

I often get asked questions about various vocations where dilemmas like pronoun usage are likely to arise. Most assume there is an easy resolution available. Increasingly, I find myself saying to people, “There’s not, so be prepared to pay the consequences for honoring your conscience and Scripture.”

That is sobering, right?

That is the age in which we live. There are vocations that I foresee being very difficult for Christians to enter in the future, among them public education, counseling, and medicine. This is tragic. The foreclosing of certain vocations from Christian influence will deny these vocations the common grace of Christian witness impacting them.

In my role at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, I get requests almost weekly from individuals who find themselves in compromising situations regarding transgenderism. In most of these circumstances, the solutions I provide are often not resolutions to their dilemma. I wish I had better answers, but the direction of culture, law, and government policy is making satisfactory resolution more and more difficult. What I do know is that Christians should seek guidance from mature Christians and from their pastors. Regardless of the circumstances, the task of the Christian in society remains the same: Love God, love your neighbor, and promote the truth of how God’s design is best for us and our neighbors.

God and The Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker will help you think through these issues, and equip you to engage positively in the discussions around the transgender movement. 

This article originally appeared here

Categories: Christian Resources

5 reasons to love September

Thu, 30/08/2018 - 09:35

For some of us, September can be a gloomy month. The kids are all back at school, the summer draws to a close, and the days get shorter. Winter is on its way. Ho-hum. 

But we shouldn’t despair. September can also be brilliant month. The trees begin to tease us with the promise of another beautiful autumn/fall, and as temperatures drop our taste palettes instinctively turn towards all the delicious homely recipes we love at this time of year. Home-made pies, chunky soups, roasted meats. Yum-yum.

It’s also a great time to build up a good stack of books to look forward to. As we pack away the picnic blanket in favour of a cosy nook, here are five titles we’re releasing in September that you can look forward to. I’ve asked the editor of each one to gives us their favourite thing about them. We’re sure you’ll love them just as much as they do!

1. Enjoying God By Tim Chester

Editor Alison Mitchell: 
“I so loved working on this book—there are many sections that have stayed in my mind. One particular favourite comes from a part where Tim Chester is talking about the creativity with which God made our world:

‘Think about a glass of water. The simplest of things, yet my life depends on it. We drink water. Wash in it. Swim in it. Play with it. You can have water fights. We live in a world of water pistols. Why? Just so we can have fun. And it rains on you. We live in a world in which water just falls from the sky. Is that not the most extraordinary thing? Don’t moan about a rainy day. Which of us would have designed a world in which water falls out of the sky?’

I think about this every time it rains—every time water falls out of the sky—and it helps me to enjoy my relationship with God right at that moment.”

Find out more

2. The Friend Who Forgives by Dan DeWitt

Editor Alison Mitchell: 
“I was a children’s worker for many years, so I particularly enjoy working on our range of illustrated storybooks. I know from experience how many times children experience just partial forgiveness. They mess up—sometimes in the same way again and again—and even though they say sorry they may feel the slate is never fully wiped clean. So that’s something Dan DeWitt was keen to bring out in his story about Peter’s denial of Jesus. Peter failed Jesus many times, but Jesus forgave him completely, totally, utterly. This lovely book then reminds children (and any adults listening in) that Jesus will forgive us too—again and again and again.”

Find out more

3. Gender: A Conversation Guide For Parents and Pastors by Brian Seagraves and Hunter Leavine

Editor Tim Thornborough: 
“As a parent of three children, who are now young adults, I know the power of the culture to shape the minds of young people. And nowhere is that felt more strongly at the moment than in attitudes towards gender identity and sexuality. I think our biggest danger as parents, pastors or children’s group leaders is to stay silent. That’s why I’m delighted that this book not only gives us solid reasons for crossing the ‘pain threshold’ in conversations with our children, but really helpful practical advice on what to say and how to say it.”

Find out more

4. The Reluctant Evangelist by Richard Coekin

Editor Alison Mitchell: 
“We might expect a book called The Reluctant Evangelist to make us feel guilty about our failings and that we ‘ought to be better evangelists’. And of course this book encourages us to share the great news of Jesus as widely and well as we can. But for me, the big thrill was in seeing God himself as The Great Evangelist. Richard Coekin shows us that God has a greater heart for the lost than we ever will. So while Jonah just wanted to condemn the Ninevites for their wickedness, the Lord’s evangelistic heart was controlling everything so that they would repent and turn to him. I really appreciated that perspective.”

Find out more

5. Colossians and Philemon For You by Mark Meynell

Editor Tim Thornborough: 
“Mark Meynell has done something remarkable. He has written a commentary on Colossians and Philemon that is engaging, exciting, exploding with ideas, and thoroughly nourishing to read. His deft handling of the question of slavery in regard to Onesimus is worth the price of the book alone. And there are some awesome illustrations that really help nail down the heart of these New Testament letters.”

Find out more

Categories: Christian Resources

4 reasons why most of us are reluctant evangelists

Tue, 28/08/2018 - 10:27

Some years ago, before I was a pastor and church-planter, I managed to invite a friend I’d known at university called Rachel to come to a guest service at my church in London. When I phoned to remind her to come, her flatmate Sarah explained that Rachel had gone away for the weekend with friends. 

“Why, what were you inviting her to?” she asked. 
“Oh, nothing much,” I replied, feeling embarrassed. 
“No really,” she insisted. “Where were you going?” 
“Oh, just church—don’t worry about it,” I mumbled. 
“Oh great—can I come instead?” said Sarah brightly.

So she came to church that Sunday, and when the evangelist finished preaching, he asked if those who wanted to become Christians would come to the front of the congregation to be prayed for. To my complete shock, Sarah stood up and walked down to the front to become a Christian! My pathetic evangelistic reluctance was brutally exposed that night.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar. So why is it that so many of us are reluctant evangelists?

1. Temperamental reluctance

Some of us are painfully aware that we’re a little shy, reserved or introverted in character, and evangelism feels frightening.

2. Cultural reluctance

For others of us, our reluctance can be put down to learned behaviour—we’ve been raised to keep to ourselves, and evangelism seems rude.

3. Theological reluctance

For many of us, our reluctance comes down to what we think God is like—we’re just not sure if he wants all Christians to engage in mission, especially if we lack the gifts or “calling” in evangelism that others seem to have.

4. Motivational reluctance 

But for most of us, I fear that our reluctance could be desire—we have so many responsibilities and problems to face that we’re not persuaded that evangelism should really be an urgent priority for us right now.

Evangelism is not an optional extra

When our Lord Jesus first called his disciples he said, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people”; later he warned them, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory”; and when he left them he commanded, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 4 v 19; Mark 8 v 38; Matthew 28 v 19). So his apostle Peter insists, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3 v 15).

Thankfully, our reluctance is treatable—we really don’t have to find evangelism so hard or frightening. For Almighty God is a compassionate Evangelist, and his Spirit can transform us by his word to share his passion for mission. He really can teach us to find personal evangelism, church-planting and cross-cultural mission exciting—indeed the fulfilling purpose of our lives.

My new book, The Reluctant Evangelist, explores God’s basic mission principles as they are beautifully clarified in the gripping memoirs of the prophet Jonah, read in the light of Christ and the rest of the Bible. I want to help you conquer your reluctance—to follow Jesus unashamedly in making disciples for him, ready to explain your hope in a language your family, friends and colleagues can understand. 

If God can use someone as reluctant and selfish as Jonah to accomplish the greatest urban revival in Bible history (when the whole pagan city of Nineveh turned to the Lord), he can use us too.

Categories: Christian Resources

The Friday Quiz: The Letter D

Fri, 24/08/2018 - 09:42
Categories: Christian Resources

Understanding our advantage

Thu, 23/08/2018 - 15:04

When I was in college I took a trip to a very poor part of India. I had not traveled much outside the United States. What I saw stunned me. I saw extreme poverty and disease and illiteracy. After a week spent completely immersed in this environment, I flew home with a sense of shame, images of despair embedded in my consciousness. Why, I wondered, did God allow me to grow up with so many advantages while young people my age, around the world, lack the same access to opportunity? I am not smarter or more gifted or more benevolent then they. The reason that I have ended up so privileged is because of geography.

This access to opportunity is what many people refer to as privilege. This is a loaded word these days, but it is so important to understanding, and healing, our racial divide. As a man in America, I’ve been given advantages others have not received: access to education, freedom in a democracy, and life in a safe, stable country. What’s more, by virtue of being white in a majority-white country, I have been given advantages even over many of my fellow countrymen of color.

This doesn’t mean I should apologize for being white, but it should give me some context for understanding the experiences of those who live in the minority. To paraphrase a common baseball metaphor I often heard as a boy, I should not assume I hit a triple simply because I was born on third base.

Acknowledging my privilege is not about hating myself but about recognizing that because I was born white—because of the pigment of my skin—I’ve been given certain systemic advantages: advantages that others—because of the color of their skin—have not received.

Pastor Jonathan Leeman acknowledges this:

“This is simply a statistical reality. I, as a white man, am less likely to be aborted as a baby, less likely to be born into poverty, more likely to have two parents, more likely to attend good schools because I live in a good neighborhood, more likely to enjoy the social conditions that make law-breaking less likely, more likely to graduate high school and be accepted into college (absent deliberate admissions policies to the contrary), more likely to be hired (all things being equal), less likely to make shop owners feel nervous when I enter, less likely to be handled roughly and invasively by police officers when pulled over instead of being given a friendly warning (as happened the last few times I was pulled over)—the list goes on.”

Acknowledging my privilege is not about hating myself but about recognizing that because of the pigment of my skin, I’ve been given certain systemic advantages.

Jesus said, “To whom much [is] given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12 v 48). There are some in this world who are given much. We should not hesitate to acknowledge this, if it drives us to be grateful for our opportunities and to use them in service of others, rather than allow them to give rise to pride or a sense of superiority. My privilege does not make me any more of a man, or any better as a man, or any more valuable as a human, than my contemporaries who live in minority communities. My privilege does mean I have the responsibility to listen to them, to value them, and to contend for them.

The race issue is the church’s issue

As the struggles of the early church when it spread beyond the boundaries of Judea show, before we understand race as a social problem, we have to first honestly wrestle with it as a church problem. I’m always sobered by the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. It was, after all, religious people—members of God’s people—who refused to see the man laid in the street. He was there. But his pain didn’t discomfort the Levite or the priest. They were on their way to perform their religious practices, and went out of their way to avoid him, and blinded themselves to his humanity.

In many ways, those of us who live in the white-majority culture have the luxury of avoiding the injustices of the minority because those injustices do not wound us. Like the Levite, like the priest, we can train our eyes to look past the humanity of those crushed under the inhumanity of racism. (Perhaps it should not surprise us that in Jesus’ parable, it was a Samaritan—a member of a despised race—who saw the man and treated him with dignity.) Every Sunday, when white evangelicals gather for worship, we may, sadly, gather only with those who look like us. We forget that our brothers and sisters of color are our brothers and sisters—and that when we pass by on the other side, it is our family who we are ignoring.

We know that until Christ returns to fully restore and renew all things, we will never see Christian unity in its fullest richest expression

I write this from my own context, as a denominational executive in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America. For those of you who live in other contexts, you might not be as familiar with the struggles and failures of churches in America, but I’m hoping you can learn from our experiences.

I’m proud to be Southern Baptist, a fellowship of churches who have delivered the gospel and have helped to alleviate human suffering around the globe. But we also bear a shameful legacy of racism that still haunts us. We were, after all, the denomination formed in the mid-nineteenth century to protect and provide theological justification to southern slave-owners. I am proud of the great strides we have made, repenting publically of this sin, issuing strong resolutions against racism and white supremacy, and working, albeit slowly, to nurture and sustain minority leadership in our churches and institutions. But we have much work to do, and still much more to repent of.

Yet although our size and our history mean that our problems are, perhaps, more pronounced, this is not just a Southern Baptist problem but a problem within the wider American evangelical movement. With few exceptions, much of our history includes shameful silence or complicity, by white evangelicals, when it comes to the burdens born by our brothers and sisters of color. The Civil War in America ended the practice of slavery, but it didn’t bring an end to racism. Sadly, during the 20th century, most white evangelicals were on the other side—let’s face it, the wrong side—of civil rights.

Living in the discomfort

We know that until Christ returns to fully restore and renew all things, we will never see Christian unity in its fullest richest expression. We will never see complete and total justice. But we can work for it, even as we fall short of it, because we know that one day we will experience it.

What gives me most hope is not, however, in our feeble work, but in the simple rhythms we experience in church life, particularly as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Every time we lift the cup to our lips, we celebrate the death of a Savior whose blood was spilled for people from every nation and tribe; every time we lift that bread to our mouths, we celebrate the broken and then resurrected body of our Lord.

The Lord's Supper envisions the great feast we will share one day, as God finally completes his work of bringing his fractured and divided body together

This is happening, every Sunday, in congregations around the globe, from Paris to Peru, from Denver to Denmark, from Harlem to Havana. This sacrament envisions the great feast we will share one day, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, as God finally completes his work of bringing his fractured and divided body together, and his whole multicolored bride dines with him at the King’s table. How we long for this day!

In my new book The Dignity Revolution I show how wonderful, liberating and empowering it is to be made in God’s image. Each one of us can be, and are called to be, part of this new movement—a human dignity revolution that our societies desperately need. Discover how we—you—are uniquely placed to join. You can buy it here

Categories: Christian Resources

Should I apologise for being white?

Thu, 23/08/2018 - 15:04

When I was in college I took a trip to a very poor part of India. I had not traveled much outside the United States. What I saw stunned me. I saw extreme poverty and disease and illiteracy. After a week spent completely immersed in this environment, I flew home with a sense of shame, images of despair embedded in my consciousness. Why, I wondered, did God allow me to grow up with so many advantages while young people my age, around the world, lack the same access to opportunity? I am not smarter or more gifted or more benevolent then they. The reason that I have ended up so privileged is because of geography.

This access to opportunity is what many people refer to as privilege. This is a loaded word these days, but it is so important to understanding, and healing, our racial divide. As a man in America, I’ve been given advantages others have not received: access to education, freedom in a democracy, and life in a safe, stable country. What’s more, by virtue of being white in a majority-white country, I have been given advantages even over many of my fellow countrymen of color.

This doesn’t mean I should apologize for being white, but it should give me some context for understanding the experiences of those who live in the minority. To paraphrase a common baseball metaphor I often heard as a boy, I should not assume I hit a triple simply because I was born on third base.

Acknowledging my privilege is not about hating myself but about recognizing that because I was born white—because of the pigment of my skin—I’ve been given certain systemic advantages: advantages that others—because of the color of their skin—have not received.

Pastor Jonathan Leeman acknowledges this:

“This is simply a statistical reality. I, as a white man, am less likely to be aborted as a baby, less likely to be born into poverty, more likely to have two parents, more likely to attend good schools because I live in a good neighborhood, more likely to enjoy the social conditions that make law-breaking less likely, more likely to graduate high school and be accepted into college (absent deliberate admissions policies to the contrary), more likely to be hired (all things being equal), less likely to make shop owners feel nervous when I enter, less likely to be handled roughly and invasively by police officers when pulled over instead of being given a friendly warning (as happened the last few times I was pulled over)—the list goes on.”

Acknowledging my privilege is not about hating myself but about recognizing that because of the pigment of my skin, I’ve been given certain systemic advantages.

Jesus said, “To whom much [is] given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12 v 48). There are some in this world who are given much. We should not hesitate to acknowledge this, if it drives us to be grateful for our opportunities and to use them in service of others, rather than allow them to give rise to pride or a sense of superiority. My privilege does not make me any more of a man, or any better as a man, or any more valuable as a human, than my contemporaries who live in minority communities. My privilege does mean I have the responsibility to listen to them, to value them, and to contend for them.

The race issue is the church’s issue

As the struggles of the early church when it spread beyond the boundaries of Judea show, before we understand race as a social problem, we have to first honestly wrestle with it as a church problem. I’m always sobered by the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. It was, after all, religious people—members of God’s people—who refused to see the man laid in the street. He was there. But his pain didn’t discomfort the Levite or the priest. They were on their way to perform their religious practices, and went out of their way to avoid him, and blinded themselves to his humanity.

In many ways, those of us who live in the white-majority culture have the luxury of avoiding the injustices of the minority because those injustices do not wound us. Like the Levite, like the priest, we can train our eyes to look past the humanity of those crushed under the inhumanity of racism. (Perhaps it should not surprise us that in Jesus’ parable, it was a Samaritan—a member of a despised race—who saw the man and treated him with dignity.) Every Sunday, when white evangelicals gather for worship, we may, sadly, gather only with those who look like us. We forget that our brothers and sisters of color are our brothers and sisters—and that when we pass by on the other side, it is our family who we are ignoring.

We know that until Christ returns to fully restore and renew all things, we will never see Christian unity in its fullest richest expression

I write this from my own context, as a denominational executive in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America. For those of you who live in other contexts, you might not be as familiar with the struggles and failures of churches in America, but I’m hoping you can learn from our experiences.

I’m proud to be Southern Baptist, a fellowship of churches who have delivered the gospel and have helped to alleviate human suffering around the globe. But we also bear a shameful legacy of racism that still haunts us. We were, after all, the denomination formed in the mid-nineteenth century to protect and provide theological justification to southern slave-owners. I am proud of the great strides we have made, repenting publically of this sin, issuing strong resolutions against racism and white supremacy, and working, albeit slowly, to nurture and sustain minority leadership in our churches and institutions. But we have much work to do, and still much more to repent of.

Yet although our size and our history mean that our problems are, perhaps, more pronounced, this is not just a Southern Baptist problem but a problem within the wider American evangelical movement. With few exceptions, much of our history includes shameful silence or complicity, by white evangelicals, when it comes to the burdens born by our brothers and sisters of color. The Civil War in America ended the practice of slavery, but it didn’t bring an end to racism. Sadly, during the 20th century, most white evangelicals were on the other side—let’s face it, the wrong side—of civil rights.

Living in the discomfort

We know that until Christ returns to fully restore and renew all things, we will never see Christian unity in its fullest richest expression. We will never see complete and total justice. But we can work for it, even as we fall short of it, because we know that one day we will experience it.

What gives me most hope is not, however, in our feeble work, but in the simple rhythms we experience in church life, particularly as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Every time we lift the cup to our lips, we celebrate the death of a Savior whose blood was spilled for people from every nation and tribe; every time we lift that bread to our mouths, we celebrate the broken and then resurrected body of our Lord.

The Lord's Supper envisions the great feast we will share one day, as God finally completes his work of bringing his fractured and divided body together

This is happening, every Sunday, in congregations around the globe, from Paris to Peru, from Denver to Denmark, from Harlem to Havana. This sacrament envisions the great feast we will share one day, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, as God finally completes his work of bringing his fractured and divided body together, and his whole multicolored bride dines with him at the King’s table. How we long for this day!

In my new book The Dignity Revolution I show how wonderful, liberating and empowering it is to be made in God’s image. Each one of us can be, and are called to be, part of this new movement—a human dignity revolution that our societies desperately need. Discover how we—you—are uniquely placed to join. You can buy it here

Categories: Christian Resources

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