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Literacy Crisis: The Way Forward is to Go Back | Guest Post by Douglas Bond

Guest Post by Douglas Bond

Literacy Crisis: The Way Forward is to Go Back

Guest Post by Douglas Bond

True confession. I am a slow reader. My wife blows through a book at three times my reading rate. While on a flight once, we found ourselves with only one book (pre E-book world, but more of that in a moment). She was drumming her fingers on the armrest when I was still solidly on the first page. She maintains that she remembers almost nothing of what she reads while I seem to retain much more. She retains more than she thinks; I wish I retained more than I do. Some of this is DNA.

My father had dyslexia and was held back in elementary school for the crime of writing in mirror image and reading too slowly. His writing looked fine to him and it worked better that way with his left hand. He read Scripture every morning with us, one word at a time. I was embarrassed when I had a friend over, but look back on it now, thirteen years after his homegoing, in an entirely different light: he was given the gift of being a slow reader and loved every word of it. He read God’s Word with such affection and appreciation—of every single word. When he was writing his doctoral dissertation, my mother (who reads like a hummingbird hovering over a hibiscus) read his source material out loud to him, he stroking his chin, nodding in thought, and jotting a note down here and there, his mind retaining and processing every word.

SCREEN TIME

Some of this is the way God has made us. But not all. I’ve often told my children and students that the more they watch movies and television and play video games the more it will destroy their creative imagination. Unlike a book where my imagination must be awake and doing its job: creating images, awakening my senses, getting me involved in the story; on the screen, it’s all done for me. I become a passive receptor not an active participant, and my imagination grows dull.

Screen time retards our reading ability. But not only our ability, our interest in reading wanes as a direct result of too much screen time. Recent studies are piling up that indicate there are many disadvantages to spending excessive time on screen, including anxiety, depression, and more serious mental health issues that are being correlated to screen addiction. Studies show that, while Americans check their phones on average seventeen times a day, we are reader fewer and fewer books.

I hate my phone. Some of my best days are when my battery dies early in the day and I don’t bother to plug the thing in. I catch grief later for not replying to a critical email or answering texts or private messages from those I love. But the day was bliss and imminently productive. As a writer I’m forced to spend far more time in front of a screen than I would like. I’d prefer a goose quill or, better yet, a hammer and chisel and a chunk of rock. But that’s not the world I live in. So, I sit here in Iceland where I began this article, awaiting my connecting flight to London typing on my laptop, and staring at these words magically popping up on the screen before my bloodshot eyes.

C. S. Lewis never learned to “drive a typewriter,” as he termed it, because he knew it would destroy his sense of rhythm. He wrote by hand with a dip pen and persuaded his devoted brother Warnie to drive the typewriter for him. But the screen removes us another giant step from the tactile world of the typewriter with its ink ribbon, levers and gadgets, and real paper.

HOW TO RETAIN LESS OF WHAT YOU READ

Because I find myself travelling quite a bit, and because I’m a firm believer in travelling light, I do read some books on my phone while flying. But I do so with great frustration. I never quite know where I am in the scope of the argument or story. However unscientific and unsophisticated it sounds, I retain much less when I read on a screen. For a time, I tried memorizing Scripture using my phone, but I discovered a significant barrier to my ability to retain, a barrier that was only broken when I returned to writing down the biblical passage on 3×5 cards. Call me a dinosaur.

I do occasionally read my Bible app on my phone, at the dentists, or while waiting to pick up one of my kids, or while flying. But, there again, it’s with enormous distraction and peril to my ability to retain what I’m reading. One reason is all those pop-up notifications telling me that so-and-so just got a new puppy, or posted a picture of what they’re eating for their anniversary dinner, or of their lost cat. Think where I’d be if I didn’t know these things! My mind is flouncing here and there, assaulted by the chaos of busyness called modern life. I’ve discovered that by putting my phone on airplane mode, I can eliminate the pop-up notifications, but I usually remember this after the fifty-seventh notification has derailed my ability to concentrate.

Visual stimulation distracts me, as does being an extrovert. I like interacting with people, but the older I get, the more the Bond hereditary dyslexia kicks in, and I find myself far more easily distracted. When I’m in a church service where there’s a band and instruments stretching across the stage (yes, they even call it a stage), as I attempt to murmur along with the rest of the folks, I find myself studying the different people singing, swaying, crooning, strumming, and drumming on the stage; the words on the screens (so much for too much screen time again), well, they’re far from the most important part of what we’re supposed to be doing. It may be the sense that something is out of proportion that makes worship leaders keep repeating the words over and over again. Surely vain repetition will help us cut through all the distractions and get at the meaning of the words.

THE WAY BACK

What are ways you and I can help solve the literacy crisis? Unplug your phone. Let it go dead, for long stretches. Sing from real hymnals. Read real books, you know, the kind with paper pages and real letters and words inked on the paper. The tactile activity of reading a real book will slow you down. This is a good thing. As you read real books do so with real pen or real pencil in hand. I jot notes down, yes, with paper and pencil, and sometimes I use 3 x 5 cards or post-it notes, then organize the ideas I’ve jotted on the notes by moving them around on the desk or table. Sometimes I brainstorm using a white board and erasable markers, adding sketches of characters, or diagramming the progression of thought that I just read.

Read challenging books from dead authors (what am I saying!), and read them slowly. We will descend further and further into the illiteracy abyss the less we are intentionally letting ourselves be shaped by the ideas and stories of the past. Reading old books will make us far more able to discern nonsense when we see it flit across the screen. We gain a vantage point from which we can see our own world more clearly, where it is going, why it is going there, and what we can do to halt the decline. Sometimes listening to the best music from composers living in other places and in other times, uncluttered by the distractions and presuppositions of our world, can aid us in understanding and appreciating challenging literature from the past.

But best of all, have a concerted family time where all devices are shut off and put away and everyone sits in the same room and reads their own copy of the Bible silently (we do this aloud too). We’ve started doing this in our home. Afterwards we talk together about where and what we read, and give a brief summary of what we learned. It’s remarkable how quiet it is, how uncluttered, how together we are—without distractions–and how much of God’s Word we can read and take in without being interrupted by cat videos.

It’s not rocket science, nor is it more information technology or more social media platforms. There’s no app that will solve the literacy crisis. The solution to mounting illiteracy in our new social order is simple. Augustine took the advice of children playing a game. “Take and read! Take and read!” And so must we.


Douglas Bond, author of numerous books of historical fiction, biography, devotion, and practical theology, is lyricist for New Reformation Hymns, directs the Oxford Creative Writing Master Class, and leads church history tours in Europe. Watch for his forthcoming book God Sings! (And Ways We Think He Ought To). Learn more at bondbooks.net.

You can also see Douglas Bond’s books at: Grace and Truth Books / Douglas Bond

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Praying the Lord’s Prayer in Heaven

A creative, beautiful thought about prayer in heaven. 

Praying the Lord’s Prayer in Heaven

 

“Father, hallowed be your name.

  Your kingdom come.

  Give us each day our daily bread,

  and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

  And lead us not into temptation.”   — Luke 11:2-4

 

One thing all believers seem to have in common is, we all want to learn better habits of prayer.  I’ve taught through the Lord’s Prayer several times over the years in a variety of churches.  After all, it’s the one place where Jesus was asked by His disciples, “Teach us to pray.”  Ever since, His reply has been rightly regarded as the best possible outline or summary of what we ought to be pray for.

How to Pray These Words

But this past Sunday I heard an insight on the Lord’s Prayer that never crossed my mind before!  A creative, beautiful thought about prayer in heaven.   Has it ever occurred to you … since we won’t have any needs in heaven and the world will be as it ought to be, all will be well, then what happens to prayer for us?  What will we talk to the Lord about?   Well, on Sunday, August 11, Pastor Michael Gabbert of Evergreen Baptist Church in Tulsa, OK closed a sermon from the Lord’s Prayer on how to pray  with these words:

 

Imagine if all of these parts of prayer are prayed in heaven some day, when we’re in the presence of God.  Requests will become praise.

 “Father, your name is honored as holy, without exception!”

 “Lord, your kingdom has come, and it’s in place, and everything is made right!”

 “Lord, you have given me everything I need, not just for today, but for eternity, because of what you’ve done in my life!”

 “Father, you have given me grace and you have surrounded me with people that have received grace, and we honor you.  And we will never face temptation because you in your holiness and justice, you have dealt with evil and the world is the way it was meant to be.”

 Listen, we’re not going to stop praying when we get to heaven; we’re just going to pray in the finished tense, instead of the request.  That’s coming.  But today, there are still battles to be fought, there are victories to be won, there are challenges to be faced, there are struggles to be overcome, there are storms to be stilled.

 

Glory to God!

Glory to God! What a pleasure it will be to reflect on how all these prayers were answered, with everlasting results that can never be altered.  I can hardly wait.   Come, Lord Jesus.

 

Dennis Gundersen
Grace & Truth Books
https://graceandtruthbooks.com
phone: 918.245.1500

“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience,
and a sincere faith.”  — 1 Timothy 1:5
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How Humility Tends to Bring Honor

Humility Tends to Bring Honor

How Humility tends to bring Honor

written by Dennis Gundersen

We’re known widely as speakers and exhibitors at homeschooling conventions these days.  But the first time we ever took our book business to a homeschooling convention was April 1994, when we set up on a little six-foot table at Baton Rouge for the Louisiana state conference.  Our anticipated profits were going to be pretty small stuff, so we stayed in the home of friends instead of a hotel.  We weren’t making enough in those days to be paying for hotels.

When we arrived at our long-time friend’s home, the wife was preparing dinner for us.  Her husband was on his way home from work.  In a phone call, we heard her request that he stop at the store and pick up a couple of items she needed to finish making dinner.

30 minutes later he walked in the door.  I think you know what’s coming next in the story.  He was, of course, empty-handed.  “Honey, do you have the (milk & sugar)?” (or whatever it was she had asked him to stop and get).

I’ve never forgotten what he said then:

“Oh dear. I let it slip my mind and blew it.  I apologize, and I will go right back out and get those.”

There’ s nothing particularly striking about him forgetting.  Many a man has done that!  But it was what followed that has made this moment memorable to me.  As he whirled back to the door and headed to his car to correct the neglected errand, I saw his wife smile.  She was not upset that dinner was now to be delayed briefly; it was no big deal to any of us.  I said, “Let me go with you” and headed for the car to accompany him on the ride to the store.  But just before closing the garage door, I faintly heard one of his children said to the others as we left, “What a great guy Dad is.”

A great guy?

What about this moment would bring out such words of honor?  Because Dad forgot the milk and sugar?  Not hardly – but don’t miss the rare element in his words.  For they had just heard in Dad what they had apparently seen over and over, as commonplace in his life: a plain, unvarnished demonstration of his commitment to truth.  In this instance, truth showing in the form of the gospel fruit of accepting responsibility without excuses.  Without qualifications.  What they had seen was, humility.  He didn’t blame her for asking him to do something else on a busy day.  He didn’t name reasons he had forgotten.  He simply said he blew it, let it slip his mind.

Kids pick up on such things.  Men, don’t ever be afraid to humble yourself before your family when you don’t complete or do something you said you’d do.  No matter how big, no matter how small.  Embrace the truth found often in Scripture: that what follows a display of humility is not humiliation – but honor.  God sees to that.  He has promised it many times – one for instance being Proverbs 15:33:

            “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”

Men eagerly desire honor.

We want our families to think highly of us.  We want them to be proud of us.  At heart, we’re all proud men inside who’d like to be honored.  And there’s nothing really even wrong with us wanting honor, as long as it’s not obsessive; because we see in the Word that a wife and children ought to honor the husband and father.  But our problem is, we’d like to have honor whether we gain or show humility, or not.  At best, every Christian man is a proud creature trying to learn humility at the feet of Christ.  Desiring honor without humility is a common temptation.  But recognize it for what it is: it’s really not much different than people wanting prosperity without work; fitness without exercise; health without nourishment.  God has ordered the world so that these things go together!  Likewise with honor and humility.  Most of the time, you can’t have one without the other.

 

Rather than faking a pretend image of having it all together before your family, practice humility in their midst – and see what the response is.  Trust that you can take God at His word on this. 


Recommended Reading on Honor:

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Profitable Bible Reading

Profitable Bible Reading

Profitable Bible Reading
Recently, I read a book about profitable Bible reading in which the author suggested, when you read the Scriptures, “Endeavor to learn something new from every verse before you leave it.”
Really?
Ok.
In other words, make it my aim to discover something new from every verse I read? And stay right there in my reading until I can find something new?
Well, that sounds like a sure-fire way to get stuck. With that approach, I’ll be at a lasting standstill for most of my Bible reading from now on. I know the author means well and wants us to get maximum profit from our Bible reading, and not read casually or inattentively. But I think this suggestion is quite a bit over the top.
I must say, let’s get real here. For one, after you’ve been a believer for a few years, most days it’s going to be rare that you discover something new even in each chapter you read. You may wear yourself out making the effort, but the fact is, you’ve become pretty familiar with a lot of the Scriptures and may not be at all able to spot something new.
I’ll even go so far as to say, if you do find something fresh in every verse you read, well … I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re not reading it right. With that approach, chances are, you’ll be making stuff up. If you can find something new in every verse, your imagination is getting carried away and you’ll be seeing what really isn’t there.
May I suggest a few sounder, more realistic goals about what to aim for in Bible reading? A lot more could be said, of course, but my purpose is to state a few goals that are in contrast with the idea that somehow a Bible reader needs to find something new or fresh in every verse he reads. Or that it’s even of benefit to your soul to try. No — how about these goals instead:

1) Ask the Lord to show you what you need for today

That’s really more of your need than to see something fresh or new. Why, even if you do find something fresh in a verse that you didn’t see before, how long is that going to stay with you anyway? You know. It’ll slip out of your head in no time. Probably before the day is done.
But the Spirit of God is probably not really interested in enlarging your storehouse of Bible knowledge. He is interested in equipping you for a holy walk with God – today. Ask Him to show you how to walk with Him today. After all, as Jesus said in another context, “each day has enough trouble of its own.” Each of your days has needs of its own, that the Lord knows are coming. Ask Him to prepare you by your reading.

2) Ask the Lord to feed you

If a man’s wife cooks him a meal with healthy, nutritious, and tasty foods, is it really important to him whether anything in the meal is new? Isn’t he glad and thankful to have this food again, even if it’s something he’s eaten a hundred times before? And he enjoys it. Again. It may even be a favorite. Much like singing a hymn that you’ve sung a hundred times before, and you love it every time. You need not concern yourself with newness in what you digest from the Word – look to the Lord to feed and nourish you. That’s more of what you need.

3) Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to you — again

If you’re a saved individual, the Spirit of God has already revealed Jesus to you. But what do you need more than to keep seeing Christ? Even if it’s features about Him that you have seen before. So what? You need to see Jesus again and worship Him again. The Spirit seeks to glorify Christ, we’re told in the gospel of John. Even the things you know about Jesus, you haven’t seen sufficient glory in those beautiful, wondrous features of Him. Ask Him to show you Jesus, again and again.

4) Ask the Lord to show you something in the Scriptures that you can serve others with today

Something that will help you be a blessing to others. Some light with which you can encourage other believers today. Or something that will provoke you to pray for people in need today. Or something that will help you be more effective in bringing the gospel to unconverted people you will meet, today. Again, this is a much more worthwhile goal than “show me something new I’ve never seen before.” How about, make me a useful instrument of love to others? As Jesus said, to love our neighbor, “This is the Law and the prophets.”

Wait on the Lord to Shape Your Life with His Word

We all know that you’ll have occasions that you read the Word and none of the above will happen. You won’t experience any noticeable, felt edification at the moment. But you know that it’s still been worth your while to read and meditate on the Word. Often the effects and use of a reading are only consciously realized later.
When you’re reading and none of these benefits seem to be coming, you know what? Wait on the Lord to shape your life with His Word at the time of His choosing. And if you have time, keep reading until you have been fed. Years ago, I heard a young, new disciple say “I overcame this idea of getting my Bible reading done and then being satisfied that I did it, by taking a different approach. Now I keep reading until I don’t want to stop.” Not limiting yourself to the chapter numbers on a Bible reading plan or schedule. How about not quitting until you get something nourishing? Be like Jacob, refusing to go away until He blesses you.
Sure, there will be days that won’t work. You won’t have time to keep on reading. You have to get to work. The duties of the day press in on you. In that case, give thanks that you’ve been able to read the Word and know that God will produce fruit from the Word in your life, according to His will and in His time.

So, while more could be said, this is probably enough … for today.

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John Lennon’s Plea for Help and God’s Merciful Provision

 

John Lennon's Plea for Help and God's Merciful Provision

(published with permission)

John Lennon’s Plea for Help and God’s Merciful Provision

(Help) I need somebody
(Help) not just anybody
(Help) you know I need someone
(Help)

Recently I wrote about Paul McCartney. It seems only fitting that I write about his songwriting partner John Lennon as well.

In March 1965, only a year after the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Lennon wrote the #1 hit “Help!” McCartney was called in at the end to help with the countermelody but the song and lyrics were pure John Lennon. “Help!” spent three weeks atop both the US and UK pop charts and was the title song for the 1965 Beatles movie “Help!”

In a 1970 interview with “Rolling Stone” magazine, Lennon said he felt that “Help!” was ”among his most honest, genuine Beatles songs.” Writer Ian MacDonald described the song as “the first crack in the protective shell Lennon had built around his emotions during the Beatles’ rise to fame.”

Lennon had more to say about “Help!” in another interview but I’ll save that for later. First a personal memory.

Sometime in the early 1990’s I was walking through an upscale Kansas City mall and wandered into an autograph store. The store featured authenticated autographs of people like Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Einstein, Edison, Churchill and more. Each autograph was meticulously framed with some sort of letter establishing the provenance of the signature. Some were just a simple signed check or receipt yet the prices soared into the tens of thousands of dollars.

One document, in particular, caught my attention. It was the enormous, flowing, scrawl of John Lennon on a brief handwritten letter above his signature on Apple Records letterhead. A neatly type-written letter was framed next to it, explaining the story behind the letter. The explanatory letter was written by a college student at the University of Kansas. He explained that as a Christian, he was worried about John Lennon’s soul and had written him a brief letter in which he referred to Lennon as “brother” and briefly explained the gospel and encouraged him to consider asking Jesus to be his savior. The handwritten letter before me was Lennon’s angry response.

Of course, I’m paraphrasing from a memory more than 25 years ago, but Lennon’s response was terse: “First off, don’t ever call me brother. I’m not your brother and I don’t need a savior so you can keep your Jesus.” Those few words filled an entire page and Lennon ended the letter with a bold signature.

I was fascinated from a historical point of view, but perhaps more importantly as a Christian. Here was clear evidence that someone had explained God’s plan of salvation to Lennon and that it had been emphatically rejected.

“When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone I’m not so self-assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?

And now my life has changed in oh-so-many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I never done before.”

During a 1980 interview, Lennon recalled writing “Help!” saying “the whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension. I was subconsciously crying out for help.”

During the 15 years between the writing of “Help!” and that interview, Lennon had tried every imaginable avenue to find peace and meaning in this world from eastern mysticism to drugs and everything in between but without success.

And now, back to that framed, handwritten letter.

As I stood staring at Lennon’s letter the date leaped off the page. Lennon had written the letter in December 1980. I don’t recall the exact date, but it was no more than a week before he was shot to death by Mark David Chapman while walking home to his apartment from the recording studio with his wife Yoko Ono late one evening in New York.

God had mercifully thrown John Lennon a lifeline in the final days of his life but Lennon had angrily rejected true Peace and true Love in a furiously written response. It shocked me that Lennon felt so strongly about it that he sent a handwritten letter to a young college student. Why wouldn’t he just throw the offending letter away? Why bother to respond? My guess is that God wanted written evidence that His Mercy had been offered… and firmly rejected. Somewhere, someone owns that letter which stands forever as proof of God’s Mercy.

In Luke 12:20 Jesus says these words: “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”

I’ve lost several friends to sudden heart attacks and grinding automobile accidents. None of us knows when this life will come to an end and we will stand face-to-face with eternity and the One who created us.

(Help) I need somebody
(Help) not just anybody
(Help) you know I need someone
(Help)

©2019 Steve Lambert

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Free Bible Reading Plan

Bible Reading Plan

Grace & Truth _ Bible Reading Schedule from Grace & Truth Books, written by Dennis Gundersen.

 

This Bible reading plan is designed with several original and unique features:

 

  • Rather than work consecutively through the entire Bible, start to finish, this schedule mingles readings in both Old and New Testaments at all times, providing daily time in each Testament.
  • It takes the reader through the Old Testament once/year, the Psalms twice/year, but the New Testament four times/year.  This is purposeful: to give a Christian a richer acquaintance with the gospels and letters written for believers, since the coming of Christ.  We who believe are members of  the New Covenant!  We ought to be frequently reading through the books of the New Covenant.
  • Almost every day, this schedule keeps the reader in one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or  John).  This is based on the conviction that constant exposure to the teachings of our Lord Jesus is vital to spiritual health.
  • The schedule’s pace slows down during the summer months, and in December as well, to make allowance for heavier demands on families and travel schedules.  It also includes “catch-up” days, in the event that you slip behind.  The “catch-up” dates are frequently arranged in connection with holidays and other busy times.
  • The Old Testament contains 929 chapters.  So, the reader is taken through the entire Old Testament in a year, merely by reading 2-3 chapters daily.
  • The New Testament contains 260 chapters.  So, the reader is taken through the entire New Testament, four times in a year! – by reading an average of 3 chapters daily.
  • Note: the Psalms and Prophets columns are dominantly devoted to those categories, 90% of the time.  But both of those categories include rare but brief departures from Psalms and Prophets, in  order to make the schedule workable.
  • You may notice the final column for Proverbs is blank.  Since most months are either 30 or 31 days, simply read the chapter corresponding to that day.

 

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Logical Conclusions, Pragmatic Emotionalism, and the LGBTQ (P?) Movement

 

Logical Conclusions, Pragmatic Emotionalism, and the LGBTQ (P?) Movement

A Guest Post by Van McDaniel

As Christians we have a monopoly on truth and morality.  Not because of anything true or moral within ourselves, but because we belong to and serve THE Standard of truth and morality.  Jesus Christ is the Truth, and His word is the objective, ultimate standard of what is moral, as well as what is immoral. As Christians we are obligated to seek truth and defend it through a proper, logically and philosophically consistent, biblical worldview.  If a non-believer wants truth they have no choice but to go through Christ. If a non-believer is seeking knowledge and wisdom on literally anything at all they must go through Jesus Christ, because as we see in Colossians 2:3, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.  We must see the world through a biblical lens in order to navigate the rough waters of every other worldview that stands in hostile opposition to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 the Apostle Paul writes “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”.  

A Biblically Correct View of Salvation

This is no easy task to be sure, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we persevere, and through faith in the Person and finished work of Christ we have absolute hope and assurance that the truth will stand alone on the last day when we are resurrected and glorified.  Until that day we run our race and fight for the truth of scripture without apology or compromise, while proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom to anyone and everyone indiscriminately with humility, love, and grace. This is not as easy as it sounds, but when we exercise a biblically correct view of salvation and see that the unmerited grace of a holy and righteous God is the only thing separating us as Christians from those who reject Christ and His gospel, we should feel compassion on the lost, which should compel us to brave the hostile waters of the secular world in order that those whom have yet to be called will be through the proclamation of the gospel.  This is what the Great Commission is all about, and it is our honor and privilege that the Lord of Glory would use us to accomplish His purpose and will.

The LGBTQ Movement

It’s important to lay the groundwork just laid, as I write about the LGBTQ movement.  When doing so we must remember that those who identify with the LGBTQ movement, either through action or support, bear the image of God and by virtue of that are worthy of dignity and respect.  Our disagreement isn’t personal… it’s biblical. Scripture gives us clear and objective commands in regards to human sexuality and gender, and as Christians we must adhere to what scripture teaches and commands.  More than that, we must not only adhere to it as if it’s something that we don’t want to do, but feel somehow coerced to; we should have a willing desire to affirm what scripture clearly teaches. I hate homosexuality, but I love homosexuals.  I hate transgenderism, but I love transgendered people. As Christians we are not to judge such people for their sin, because you and I are sinners saved by grace. Instead we love them by telling them about the holy and righteous God that will judge them unless they repent and surrender in faith to Christ.  Whether that happens or not is wholly the sovereign prerogative of God. Our job is simply to proclaim the truth in love and then pray for God to be glorified through our faithful witness of His truth.

Window of Discourse

Changing gears, there is a political theory known as the Overton Window, or the Window of Discourse.  This theory describes the process by which ideas or policies are considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion.  If a politician recommends an idea or policy that is outside of the window, it would be considered too radical and would not be accepted by the public.  The theory states that over a period of time this window can be slowly moved, or manipulated, so that what seemed radical 15 or 20 years ago would be acceptable today.  Both political parties have employed this strategy in the past, and continue to do so today. I can remember back in the 1990s when it was thought of as radical for two people of the same sex to be in a relationship, let alone get married.  It was a radical idea and was not accepted by the public. On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled 5-4 in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry. What happened between the 90s and 2015?  This was a very long argument that slowly gained traction and eventually became widely accepted by our society. It was argued in lower courts for years, until finally SCOTUS stepped in and ruled. As Christians such a decision should offend us because it offends the God that paid for us with the life of His Son.  God has objectively defined what marriage is in His word. Marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, created by God. Marriage is a picture of the gospel. Marriage is designed by God as the best means of human flourishing. In one ruling SCOTUS decimated this biblical truth, and we are now being told that if we do not fall in line and accept this ruling that we are judgmental, hateful bigots.  Political demagoguery at its best.

Overton Window Strategy

This is just one of many examples of the Overton Window strategy being used.  If you have been paying attention since Obergefell, you have seen the window continue to move.  After same-sex marriage was normalized, soon after the transgender movement took center stage. Boys can become girls, and girls can become boys depending on how they “self-identify”.   Feel free to use whatever restroom you identify with. Biological males winning sports contests designed for females. We are told that such abominations are progressive and good and that these competitors are brave and virtuous. All of this is just another example of a world that hates God attempting to overturn His purposes in creation.  Biology has been thrown to the wind. The natural order of God’s good creation has been overturned, and we are told to just shut up and accept it. Some people who identify with this movement even try to claim Christ as their Lord, rewriting the text of scripture to fit their narrative. Biblical Christianity is being marginalized and is being replaced by a false Christianity… but that is a discussion for a different day.  

Love is Love, Right?

As the window continues to be moved by those with an antichrist agenda, we are now seeing Pedophilia take center stage.  Who would have thought 20 years ago that our society would even entertain such evil? When you are thinking logically such a thought is incomprehensible.  I personally see consistency in the fact that a nation that murders 3,000 children in the womb everyday would eventually turn those children who were fortunate enough to be born over to sexual predators.  I mean, love is love… right?

In 2018 what we are seeing is a godless worldview that is based in nothing more than subjective, blind emotional pragmatism.  There is no logic or reason. Critical thinking… what’s that? Your truth is just as true as mine, even though they stand in stark contrast to each other.  If you say that an eight year old child has the emotional and logical capacity to determine their gender, then in the interest of logical and philosophical consistency you must also say that same child has the emotional and logical capacity to consent to sex with an adult.  The only way around that is blind emotional pragmatism. In such a worldview there can be no objective, ultimate morality. There is only arbitrary personal preferences.

Objective Sources of Morality

Such a person can say that my seven year old son has the ability to determine that he should have been born a girl, and then call the 35 year old man who wants to have sex with him a pervert and call for him to be incarcerated.  The latter is certainly true to be sure, but from what objective source of morality is that conclusion being drawn from? As a Christian I can objectively say that it’s immoral and evil, because God calls it immoral and evil, but when your worldview rejects God and has placed man on the throne in place of Him what then?  Isn’t the 35 year old Pedophile just living his truth? Once again, love is love, right? It has already been conceded that a child is capable of determining his or her gender, and so it certainly must follow that they can choose their sexual partner. What if the 35 year old man self identifies as a nine year old? What if the eight year old boy self identifies as a 41 year old woman?  Do you see the infinite spiral of immoral absurdity that is the natural consequence of a rejection of the Lordship and authority of Jesus Christ and the ultimate standards of morality found only in biblical Christianity?

Spitting in God’s Face

Sure, the non-Christian can do moral things and have moral opinions, but because their worldview fundamentally cannot provide for it, they must steal it from the Christian worldview, and they do so while spitting in God’s face.   In closing, Christians, we haven’t seen bad yet. Bad is coming… are you ready for it? Can you defend the Christian worldview? You may know what you believe, but do you know WHY you believe it? How far will the window move in the next five years?  What about 15 or 20 years? Today as I write this, Pedophilia is still considered too radical, but if the secular totalitarians have their way, as they have for the past several decades, it will eventually be normalized and accepted. You may read that and think I’m crazy, but consider the public view on homosexuality 30 years ago compared to the view today.  

Good News

The good news is that this madness will eventually end when the sky cracks open and the Lord returns in glory to conquer His enemies once and for all and claim His Church.  Until that day comes we must remain vigilant and uncompromising. There is no neutrality. We are not to be apathetic or indifferent on this issue. May God grant all of His Church the strength to overcome as we look forward to the day when Jesus will make everything new.  No King but Christ.


Van McDaniel lives in Virginia Beach, VA with his wife Angela and 3 children.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and currently works as a Systems Analyst.  He is a member of New Song Fellowship Church in Virginia Beach. 

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Falling Asleep in Church

“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said ‘Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.’ And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.” — Acts 20:7-12

I feel sorry for Eutychus, first, because he fell asleep on the Apostle Paul, second, because his sleepiness had such unhappy results, and, third, because Luke was there to record the whole thing! This is the first record of someone falling asleep in church. There have been thousands of successors, but Eutychus is the one everyone remembers.

The Danger of Falling Asleep in Church

As a pastor I have again and again been reminded that on any given Sunday there are believers who are in danger of falling asleep in church. I have seen people fall asleep and bump their heads on the pews in front of them. I have been sitting on the platform when one my associates dozed off and dropped his hymnal! I have heard people awaken with a snort. In one congregation a certain young man sat on the front row and slept every Sunday. As soon as I was through the introduction, his eyes closed and his head tilted. The most memorable, however, was the Sunday both he and his wife fell asleep with their heads propped against one another. I’ve heard a preacher tell of an elder who fell asleep, and when his wife nudged him during the service, he stood and pronounced the benediction.”

I have great sympathy for those who have trouble staying awake in church. Some of us work such trying schedules that when we sit down, it is the first time we have relaxed all week. Others are sometimes victims of medication. Sometimes it is just so warm … The truth is, some of the best saints have fallen asleep in church. Eutychus was perhaps an enthusiastic new Christian who, though he was tired, would not miss church for anything. His spirit was willing, but his body was sleepy.

Falling asleep in church really does not concern me. It can happen for any number of reasons, both good and bad. What concerns me are the thousands who warm a pew every Lord’s Day with their bodies awake and their souls asleep. Some use the church hour to mentally complete the unfinished business of the preceding six days. Some people are more awake attending a garage sale or closing a business deal or even watching TV than they are when they sit with eyes wide open in church. Innumerable churchgoers appear to be perfectly awake but are spiritually asleep.

Why People are Asleep in Church

Some people are asleep because they have never been awake. I am familiar with that state because I was once in it myself. I attended church, heard God’s Word preached, sang the great hymns, listened to others pray – but with no depth of comprehension. I was simply present where others worshiped. I was on the outside. I was not alive to spiritual things. Perhaps you derive some vague comfort from being with religious people and doing Christian things, but inside you understand very little of what is going on. The pity is, it is possible to pass from this life into eternity without recognizing your slumber until it is too late. It is possible to be damned even in the church. As Screwtape, a senior devil, said to his trainee, Wormwood (in the great C. S. Lewis novel The Screwtape Letters), “The safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Have you ever been truly awake? Would you like to wake up?

Sin, a compromising backslidden state, is a second reason some are in spiritual slumber. Some people have experienced an awakening and are truly Christians but have slipped into a spiritually comatose state. Sometimes we hear of Christians who have fallen to unimaginable depths, although they regularly attended church. Though they seemed to listen, they were spiritually and morally asleep.

Samson is the preeminent example of this in Scripture. He began and ended in the faith but messed up big-time in between. Sin progressively and imperceptibly too such hold of him that he was no longer awake to spiritual realities. In fact, his final doze on Delilah’s lap was symbolic of his state. “He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ Bt he did not know that the Lord had left him.” (Judges 16:20) Sin desensitizes us, and we soon fall asleep, even in church. Though externally everything may appear fine, sin makes us indifferent and bored with spiritual things.

Familiarity is a third reason why some are spiritual slumberers. C. S. Lewis recognized this danger when he warned a friend who was considering the ministry that the constant familiarity with holy matters could dull him to their significance. Lewis summed it up by saying, “None are so unholy as those whose hands are cauterized with holy things.” We can become like the man who directs the trains at the railroad station and has been selling tickets to various towns for years. Though he has never himself traveled at all, he begins to think he has been to all the towns to which he sees other people traveling. Some of us had no children’s church when we were growing up but instead lay in our parents’ laps. On the way to Never-never Land, we would count the holes in the sanctuary ceiling. We knew all the hymns (and their parodies). We knew the Doxology before we knew our times tables. We become so familiar with it all that we took it for granted. Church can easily become ho-hum. Some, though not damned in the church, are bored in the church.

How to Stay Awake in Church

Each of us should periodically make a personal spiritual assessment. If we have never truly been awake, we must ask the God of grace to help us believe. We must confess our sin, declare our faith in Christ, and ask Christ to make us brand-new – to receive Him as our Savior. Church will then become more alive than we ever imagined. If we are already children of God and our slumber is due to sin in our lives, we must repent, do a U-turn, and allow the joy of Christ to refill us. The joy of worship will then flood our souls.

Those of us who suffer the problem of familiarity must consciously and deliberately participate with all our being in the corporate worship of the church. When we sing a hymn, we should shut everything else out and sing it to God, singing not only with the mouth but with the heart and mind. As others lead us in prayer, we should pray along with them – a spiritual concert. When we hear the Scriptures, we must listen, for we are hearing the voice of God. We must listen to God’s Word as we would to a love letter, for that is what the Bible is.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer ran a seminary in Nazi Germany that was not approved by the state. He was a critical and intelligent man, but in his homiletics class he always laid down his paper and pencil, opened his Bible, and listened to the students’ sermons, no matter how poor or unskilled they were. He felt that the preaching of God’s Word ought to be received as if he were listening to God Himself. That is how we should listen too.

If we have been born again from our slumber, and if we have confessed our sin, we must consciously, in dependence upon God, wake up to the wonders of worship. Our coming together with other believers should demonstrate that we are awake and alive in Christ! Worship is to be in technicolor, for Christ is with us! That is how to stay awake in church.

A Final Word

Martin Luther had a parable or a dream about how on one occasion the devil sat upon his throne listening to his agents report on the progress they had made in opposing the truth of Christ and destroying the souls of me. One spirit said there was a company of Christians crossing the desert. “I loosed the lions upon them, and soon the sands of the desert were strewn with their mangled corpses.”

“What of that?” answered Satan. “The lions destroyed their bodies, but their souls were saved. It is their souls that I am after.”

Another reported, “There was a company of Christian pilgrims sailing through the sea on a vessel. I sent a great wind against the ship that drove the ship on the rocks, and every Christian aboard the ship was drowned.”

“What of that?” said Satan. “Their bodies were drowned in the sea, but their souls were saved. It is their souls that I am after.”

The third came forward to give his report, and he said, “For ten years I have been trying to cast a Christian into a deep sleep, and at last I have succeeded.” And with that the corridors of Hell rang with shouts of malignant triumph.

If we are asleep, let us hear God ‘s call today!

The night is nearly over, the day is almost here. So let us therefore put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:12)

“Awake to righteousness, and sin not.” (1 Corinthians 15:34, KJV)

“Wake up, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)

Used with permission. From Acts: The Church Afire, by R. Kent Hughes. Preaching the Word Commentary Series, Crossway Publishing 1996
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The Pope and Capital Punishment

The Pope and Capital Punishment

As of August 2, Pope Francis issued a declaration stating that the death penalty is unacceptable for the punishment of criminals, in all instances. This is to say, regardless of the crime committed. 

 thoughtful reading of this Vatican Files post, Evangelical Perspectives on Roman Catholicism will exhibit, to some extent, how a religious leader claiming to speak with authority for the Lord Jesus Christ can arrive at such a position. 

For any Christian scholar or reader, this is both enlightening and disturbing.  For it is clear that, the Pope (may we add, known to God as just another ordinary man by the name of Jorge Mario Bergoglio) has been influenced so heavily by varying voices outside of the Word of God that, he lacks rooted, firm, decisive beliefs of his own; and thus he is like the waves of the wind-tossed sea (Ephesians 4:14). 

Secondly, he has clearly become a leader far more fixated on pleasing people and seeking to be an advocate of what they feel they need, rather than on pleasing God in intellectual and practical submission to foundational biblical truth.  For, to this day, it does remain a baseline of biblical truth to accept the charge of God stated in Genesis 9:6 that, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image.”  

Real Dignity

For one to describe capital punishment as treating human life without dignity is evidence of a sound moral compass being missing in the Pope’s conscience, which has evidently been supplanted by a twisted and damaged one.  The fact is, the dignity of human life requires the death penalty for those who murder a human being.  For there is no appropriate expression or response to the egregious wrong of the act of murder but to forfeit your own life for so doing.   The dignity of human life, as the image of God, is something so exalted that we honor it by imposing the severest of consequences on those who take it unlawfully. 

Further, to make the focal point of a conversation about dignity in these matters revolve around having a higher regard for the life of the perpetrator rather than the victims of such crimes, is in itself a rude slap in the face to all who have suffered the loss of loved ones through an act of homicide.  

It’s remarkable that a Pope would dare to speak against the practice of capital punishment, when for so much of his Papal career he has spoken highly of Marxist regimes notorious for using summary executions as their political weapon of choice – and not to do away with murderers, but merely to rid their regime of outspoken individuals who differ with or question their policies.  What could possibly more vividly expose the fatal flaw of the doctrine of Papal infallibility?

A Long History of Contradictions

There is a glaring, all-too-obvious contradiction of this Pope’s opinion with that of those who occupied his office in past centuries, men who gleefully both ordered and oversaw the execution, not of criminals, nor murderers, but alleged “heretics”, declared as such for differing with them.  If capital punishment is inappropriate in all circumstances, then Protestants George Wishart, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer (among others) and one no less noble than William Tyndale are awaiting an appropriate apology and refund. 

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The Valley of Vision

 

At Grace and Truth Books, we often send out the classic devotional, The Valley of Vision, a compilation of prayers, intended to teach and encourage Christians to be faithful in their private and family worship. This beautiful volume has been the most popular Puritan book in print since its release in 1975. In it, the prayers of the Puritans are brought to life, including those of Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts and others.

I often offer up a quick prayer that it will bless the reader that I am sending it to as much as it has blessed me. I can’t help but smile as I think of the way that this devotional first intersected with my life.

We were facing financial stress. My husband’s commission checks had been unusually low for a long period of time. We were a little short for the bills, so I had called each company and had arranged to pay them late with his next check, which was supposed to have a $500 bonus included with it. For some reason, his check did not have the bonus and I did not have enough to follow through with the arrangements I had made. I was really dreading and fretting about calling those companies to tell them I didn’t have the money after all.

That morning, I had read a short passage in my new devotional, The Valley of Vision, which talked about, when in a trial, it is better to pray for God to be glorified in the trial, even if it means staying in it, instead of just praying for a way out of the trial. I remember not being able to earnestly pray in that way, so I started pleading with the Lord, “Help me to pray that prayer; grant me your Spirit’s power so that would be my plea- your glory, not my comfort or our stability.” And He did. Through the Spirit’s power, I prayed that God would be glorified through this trial, even if it meant keeping us in it for a time. As I was getting up from praying, now with a peaceful heart and ready to call about those bills, my phone rang.


A friend that I had not seen for a very long time, asked if I would be home for the next 30 minutes; she had something to bring by. She came over and handed me $500, telling me, she and her husband had prayed about a bonus that was coming to them that they didn’t need, asking God to whom they should give it to. The Lord had put us on their hearts and that morning, they had received the bonus. I never did have to make those phone calls! And even more importantly, I was taught to pray, as first importance, for the Lord’s glory through trials even when that won’t always mean deliverance. And for that lesson, I am thankful and will forever think of that devotional with much fondness. It has stretched my faith in so many other areas and has taught me to pray with a much higher purpose than I had before I began reading it.

If you’d like a copy of this gem, we offer The Valley of Vision in two different formats; paperback and a deluxe bonded leather edition. Come in to see us, give us a call or order from our website. You won’t be sorry.

-Nicci Medina