Doing some research for an apologetics (defending the faith) series I’ll be preaching starting January 2020, I stumbled across author and blogger Natasha Crain. Wow! She has a fantastic website crammed with resources for parents trying to help their children with answers to common questions either they have–or will have the first time they encounter a friend who does. The following post is a wise callout to Christians about what we discussed yesterday: be discerning who you follow.
Some of you read the title and began to weep. You remember when your son was seven, or when your daughter was ten and you had such high hopes for them. You love the Lord and want to serve Him–and that’s what you wanted for him/her too.
But somewhere it all went south. Maybe it was in his late teens, maybe in her early to mid-twenties, but despite all that you’d done right as a parent, promises you’d heard from teachers saying X + Y always = Z, were broken.
The son of pastor and prolific author John Piper was on the run from Christ and his family for four years. I can only imagine the groan of grief that must have coursed through John’s heart when he joined his elders in excommunicating Abraham.
Having long since been reconciled to Christ and his family, Abraham has some wise counsel to offer other parents whose adult children are breaking their hearts. https://jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/12-suggestions-for-loving-a-prodigal-child/
You collide with the gospel everywhere: your church, maybe your parents/family, your friends–even internet podcasts. Is it even possible in this age of hi-tech communications that there are still billions who have never bumped into the gospel. Ever. Nor will they. They don’t know any Christians, none live near them and no Christian knows their language. Who will love the Jat people, the Hui, the Pashtun, the Ansaris, or the Kap people enough that they will sell all, sell out, and set out to live among them so that these frontier peoples can learn that Jesus died for their sins too?
May 19, 2019 will be Keystone’s mission conference, “To Congo, with Love”. And on May 12 I will speak on being “On Mission for the Whole World”. Every day the number of people who don’t live near any churches or have any Christian friends–who have never heard the gospel, grows. A few years ago, it was 2.8 billion. Now it’s 3.15 billion. Praise be to God for indigenous missionaries evangelizing their own, but the need and God’s call for the West to serve the unreached, has not been cancelled. What if God called you?
Maybe you so idealize missionaries that you think sainthood-or near sainthood, is required. Mission biographers can contribute to this nonsense by portraying their subjects with an angelic glow. The stories of some past missionaries have been so polished that no one can measure up. That’s why Kathryn Long may have done the world a service by publishing “God in the Rainforest: A Tale of Martyrdom and Redemption in Amazonian Ecuador”. I think very highly of Elizabeth Elliot but as reviewer Madeline Arthington shows, she was just a regular woman that–thanks to God’s grace, was greatly used in spite of her very human flaws. https://www.imb.org/2019/04/22/after-jim-elliot-good-bad-ugly/
Not only is the teaching of the Prosperity Gospel widespread (it has conquered so much of Africa and Latin America that in some places it is the only version of Christianity known), it traffics in half-truths and outright lies. Sufferers endure the worst. Initially some see hope in PG claims but in short order, are devastated by unfulfilled promises that heap unfounded blame and guilt onto the shoulders of those already at the end of their ropes.
Tragically, elements of the immensely marketable but sometimes sinister teachings of people like Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and Fred Price, have slipped unnoticed into the thinking of many Christians. While nearly all Christians believe God can and still does do miracles, PG advocates say He’s promised to. Always. If only you have enough faith. Or do quality praying. Or have a large number of people praying. Or obey perfectly. Or…
At the age of 38, Duke Divinity School professor Kate Bowler has stage 4 colon cancer, a battle she’s waged for several years. The author of Blessed, a well-researched 2013 book on the Prosperity Gospel, she made this observation in 2016. The “Prosperity gospel is a reflection of American avoidance of our finitude. Their denial of the inevitability of death taught me something about American confidence. Americans want to be in control. Self-determination is a theological good. It’s really hard when it comes to the fragility of the end.”
Battling the PG lies, Vaneetha Risner reminds us how horribly wrong we can be–and how horribly hurtful to others when instead of a worshipful “let God be God” message, we take one to our suffering friend like,”If you just do it right, you’ll be healed/get your marriage back/have a child/child will live/the job will come through/your stocks will go through the roof…” https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/just-have-more-faith?utm_campaign=Daily%20Email&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=70927869&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–MJVPy9__xfBwp2bDZbQ05IywU55yfPCd2j3bjuX5lToSh6f47iX2zi2cyQdyYy4fu6AByLIeU19tnv3EOVkLihILt_De2pKth-3IPueE3YLmTaFs&_hsmi=70927869
Looking back now I wonder what I was thinking when I quit my job and began a journey through higher education that would take 7 years. Especially since we were young parents of not one, but two–soon to be three children. When we struggled to pay the bills on my part time salary, we kept eating because Betty did childcare in our home and held down other part time jobs. It’s not what either of us preferred but we made it work; she’d go to her job and I’d take care of the children. Then she would watch them if I was at my job or in class.
Back then there was tension between working moms and stay-at-home moms, with some of the SAH moms accusing the rest of neglecting their children. With some indignation the rest fired back that since they could (thanks to ability and/or education) they were going to do more than simply be a mother.
I don’t observe the same crossed arms today but I do think it’s impossible to overstate or too often repeat the high calling of being your children’s mom. I hope you’ll find this encouraging: https://jdgreear.com/blog/everyday-faith-3/
[November 9, 2016]
You happy, elated, jubilant, validated…?
Or are you stunned, terrified, anxious, worried, ticked off…?
You think as a Christian you’ll have an advocate in the WH…?
Or wonder how you’ll be able to make clear that the faith you have isn’t the sort that he claims to have?
(I wrote much of this post immediately after Donald Trump was declared the winner in 2016, but never published it. Now that we’re halfway through his term maybe it can be of benefit since I still hear a lot of conflicting voices about the election–and the Trump presidency, from followers of Jesus.)
The 2016 election was the first one in which I saw evangelical Christians (ones who believe the Bible’s true because it’s God’s voice, and that people are forgiven of sin only through trusting Christ) so divided over who to vote for. Although the faith vote usually leans one way, that wasn’t the case in 2016. Believers’ fervor went both directions with multiple reasons why Trump or Hillary was the only choice for a Christian. Initially, evangelical lion Wayne Grudem publicly vouched for Trump with a detailed justification, then withdrew his support in the wake of the Access Hollywood video. Early on several Gospel Coalition stalwarts urged evangelicals to vote Hillary, but supporters of each candidate admitted the race pitted “two flawed candidates” against each other.
Here we are 2 years later with a national sentiment still very divided about the original vote–and the current administration. Especially with Trump having appointed 2 originalists to the high court, some Trump supporters feel vindicated and remain convinced being a man who doesn’t care what people think is the best kind of person to be president. Meanwhile, while his political opponents despise him they look back on 2 years of bizarre tweets and White House dysfunction and salivate at the easy win they think lies ahead in 2020. They dismiss Trump’s 60 million voters as uneducated buffoons who will likely be unable to tilt the table his way in 2 years. If they can just hold out for that time they’re confident they can then consign his throwback immigration, anti-choice, and transgender policies to the trashheap of history where they belong.
When I originally penned this post we could have had the discussion around what all of this means for Christians who will be voting, but now it’s time to have it around what it means for Christians to be thinking, feeling, and living. Trump may be president for 2 more years–or 6, but whether you see that as good or bad, Yahweh of Israel is going to be God forever. Bible people know that in his management of the world’s kingdoms, God “…gives them to anyone he chooses.” (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32) He chose Donald Trump. And Barack Obama. And George Bush. And Bill Clinton. “Why?” is not our concern. He did. And if you believe the same One who is the Election-Decider is your Savior, it should bring comfort. Your emotions should not depend on how things go, but on Who controls how things go. What He’s doing with Mr. Trump may turn out to be a blessing to our nation, or a judgment upon it. We do not find hope in the arms of our elected officials, but in the arms of the One who rescued us from judgment through Jesus.
These are days to read the Word more than the world’s newspapers-or newsfeeds; to pray for our nation’s leaders more than to expect them to do what we want; to pray more for the moral fiber of the church than the moral fiber of the land (for, what good can we be to the land if we are broken ourselves?).