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Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship

Danger Signs book cover

Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship

A valuable resource for dating couples, by Lou Priolo

Among the counseling I’ve done during my pastoral career in serving various churches, one of the most common settings has been what is commonly called premarital counseling.  Meeting with an engaged young man and young lady and going over a few biblical principles about marriage, to be sure they are well-prepared for the leap into matrimony that they’re about to take.

Of course, engaged couples are some of the most confident people on earth about their future.  They’re usually quite sure that they have it all together, or at least enough of it together that they see no reason to anticipate any meaningful rifts or difficulties in their marriage. “After all, we love each other so much.”  (allegedly and apparently, unlike nearly everyone else who has gone before them who expressed the same sentiment).  It comes as no surprise to older marriage couples, seasoned pastors, or parents that a young, dating or engaged couple see themselves as going into marriage with very few issues – minor ones, if any at all.

But of course, this is far from the reality.  They are of the same flesh and blood and flawed human nature as the rest of us, and their overconfidence is quite unwarranted.  Author and counselor Lou Priolo has been a careful observer of that human nature for over 30 years and his book Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship is a goldmine for either dating / engaged couples or counselors of such couples.

Priolo cites 26 different “red flags” which should grab – and hold – the attention of either the guy, the girl, their parents, or their counselor, if manifested in the relationship.  Now, on the one hand, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even an experienced counselor, to take notice that traits like impatience, selfishness, and deceitfulness are danger signs and certain to lead to serious and lasting conflict in a marriage. These are some of the more obvious deal-breakers, features sure to bring catastrophe to the relationship if not identified and corrected.  And “few areas of common interest” is one very commonly raised, even though I’d say it’s less important than it’s purported to be.  But Priolo also takes us into territory often uncharted by counselors; and, all too often, utterly ignored by the swooning man and woman in the relationship.

For instance, think of yourself for the moment as a premarital counselor.  How concerned would you be if your conversations with the couple revealed that one of them was excessively passive in their handling of decisions, while the other was quick on the draw to make a decision?  Or what if you noticed that they had two or more areas of significant difference of opinion, which they had never resolved – matters such as, how to budget, or how to correct children, or more urgently early in their marriage, a conflicting definition of what the submission of a Christian wife actually means and works out in practice?

If you think any of the above aren’t particularly crucial to a happy and harmonious marriage, I sincerely hope you aren’t their counselor.  Or, if you are, then please get a copy of Lou’s book. These are some of what he wrote Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship for.

Many of the danger signs he identifies in his book aren’t necessarily a firm reason to call the wedding off.  But they all bring to light areas that can’t be ignored and simply must be worked on, to have a God-honoring marriage that brings the pleasure and companionship that marriage is intended to.

You can purchase Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship by Lou Priolo here:






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Why I Chase Waterfalls

Stepp Creek Waterfall picture

Why I Chase Waterfalls

I’ve been a hiker since 1969.  I was 17 years old, and my first serious hike was in Arizona. Until then, I’d never hiked, and yet – I can’t explain it, call me ambitious – there we were, me and my parents in a hotel at the rim of the Grand Canyon, and one morning I decided to take the trail to the bottom. Why not?  It seemed doable.  Only after reaching the bottom three hours later did I realize that one bottle of water was pretty inadequate for hiking back to the top on an Arizona summer afternoon. But I made it.  I did mention that I was 17, ignorant, and yet healthy, didn’t I?

From that day on, a passion for hiking had a hold on me.  The scenery around me was no longer just there; it called my name and implored me to come discover its beauties.  So, within the next three years, I had climbed in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Shenandoah range of Virginia, the Adirondacks of New York.  Before I was 23 years old I’d hiked to the high point of a dozen states.

The passion has never abated.  Decades later, at age 67, I’ve now hiked to the highest points of 34 states. Some of the 50, I’m sure I’ll never achieve, which is quite alright.  This isn’t a contest and I’m not out to prove to anyone that I can complete a list.  And at this age, I’m not so capable anymore of ascending to the lofty mountain peaks.  But living near the Arkansas Ozarks, I’ve recently discovered a new set of hiking destinations.  Those who share this aspiration with me call it “chasing waterfalls.”

That may strike you as a peculiar phrase: chasing waterfalls.  Because we know that to speak of chasing means, a moving target, and a pursuit to catch it.  Now I’ll admit, I’ve been to several waterfalls again and again, and have yet to find one that isn’t right where I last found it.  But those of us who delight in this hobby are, I suppose, taking a bit of poetic liberty. We’re putting our own meaning on the chase. 

In the Ozarks, the waterfalls are everywhere.  About all you have to do is venture into the woods, make sure you’re not on someone’s private property, and chances are, if you follow a creek, you’ll find a waterfall soon.  Chasing waterfalls is, of course, just a witty expression. But there’s more to it, in a way.  For after all, they are a moving target.  A moving target because, once you’ve found one waterfall, you crave seeing the next one.  And there are always more of them to go hunt down.  It’s you who has to keep moving, not them. You are the one who ends up on the chase.

And I think of it as chasing waterfalls for another reason: when you walk into the forest and down a creek to find one, you never know if it’s going to be a dripping trickle, or a pleasant cascade, or a raging torrent with a thunderous voice.  Their roar has left me with many a memory of a power and glory so overwhelming, it was impossible to even hear one another speak.  Because another Voice was speaking louder.

Psalm 19 speaks of how the creation our Lord has made declares the glory of God.  Verse 4: “Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”  It has often seemed as if I walked to a remote “end of the earth” location to chase my next waterfall, but every time, without exception, it was worth it.  Because I once again saw and heard the glory of God in the splendor of what He has made.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the glory of God thunders, the Lord, over many waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” (Psalm 29:3-4).  That is the voice I’m hearing in the forest waterfall.  His is the glory I’m beholding as the creek beautifully cascades over the cliff.  There is power and beauty.  But it doesn’t belong to the falls.  Not innately.  The power and beauty is the Lord’s.

I’d be lying if I said that every time I stand at the base of a roaring waterfall, the first and only thought to cross my mind is thanks to God and rejoicing in His abundant glory and power. But after hiking to over a hundred of them, there’s no doubt … the impress of His glory in beholding these, some of His most gorgeous handiwork, has left its mark.  And each one makes me eager to chase down another, to enjoy more of His astonishing creativity and skillfulness.  May we ever praise Him for such beauties.

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In His Steps: The Classic that shouldn’t be

In His Steps old volumeIn His Steps

The classic that shouldn’t be

During my teen years, my mother would occasionally recommend books to me, out of a concern for my obvious disinterest in spiritual matters. She was deeply religious; I was not.  She was an active church member and an eager church-goer; I attended only due to parental mandate. Those teen years were decades ago, and of course, as a son should, I still feel a grateful debt of love to Mom for many reasons, not the least of which being her prayerful concern for my soul.

That said, one of the books she heartily recommended to me more than once was Charles H. Sheldon’s classic In His Steps.  First published in 1896 and having sold over 50 million copies since then, Sheldon’s book popularized the phrase “What would Jesus do?”   The plot, in short, revolves largely around a few key characters who take to heart their pastor’s exhortation to ask themselves that question as they make daily decisions, in particular in business and as touching their relationships with others.

Finally, at least 50 years later than Mom would have wanted, I picked up an old copy of In His Steps and read it during the first two weeks of 2020.  It was not without some heartfelt feeling that I read it from a ragged old, small hardcover copy belonging to Mom herself (pictured).

With the reading now behind me, I can see why a book that is focused on a self-evidently biblical theme (for, we are told that we should walk as He walked, 1 Peter 2:21, 1 John 2:6) was such popular reading during two generations in which true Christian faith was greatly on the decline.  For, to my great disappointment, I discovered that the book advocates a highly faulty definition of the vital topic: what is a Christian, after all? On this point, In His Steps misses the mark by a long shot. To the peril of those who read it, a fatal shot.

To even a casual reader, there can be no missing that Sheldon patently defines a Christian in two key ways: First, becoming a Christian is presented as forsaking bad habits and reforming one’s life to make it a habit to ask “What would Jesus do?” and then make decisions based on that criteria.  Second, being a Christian or living as one is posed as a lifestyle which is daily asking that same question of one’s self and again, using it as the guiding light of your choices.

I readily admit, as the verses cited above from New Testament epistles testify, the Christian life does call a believer to the imitation of Jesus Christ as one of the duties of the life of a disciple.  But to speak of this as the essence of becoming a Christian or as that which defines a Christian is to be gravely misled.

In 300 pages of this well-told story, the gospel of Christ’s grace is painfully absent.  The repeated encounters portrayed between any of the church-goers and the sinners of various wretched lifestyles always lack any mention of the most basic gospel facts: trust in the living Christ and His death on the cross for sinners is the indispensable step to salvation. Personal moral reform is what keeps coming up, which has no power to save anyone.

Whether it’s with the highly educated and refined of society, or among the ragged men at a rescue mission or the lady living under a bridge, anytime we reach out into the lives of the unbelieving to tell them about Christ, let our first words never be a call to start doing what Jesus do.  They must know that Jesus has done things for us that we could never do, that in fact we have no way to do or grounds to do.  He saves us. We cannot save ourselves.  It is His grace and forgiveness we need, not a change of behavior.

And when He ushers one into saving grace by faith in Him and His sacrifice for us, then we will start to see sanctifying changes, causing His people to walk in His steps.  But let’s never make that imitation the definition of a conversion or of a Christian, because that negates the most important feature of what Jesus is to us: the saving gospel of the grace of God.

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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.


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.


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.


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

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
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.”
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

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

©2019 Steve Lambert

Dennis Gundersen No Comments

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.


Dennis Gundersen No Comments

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.