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Emergency Texts

Emergency Texts

According to a news announcement from the city where I reside, people can now send an emergency text to 911. No longer do you have to call 911, you can simply notify them by text.

No more calling to hear a live voice say, “Hello 911, what is your emergency?” Simply text the location and nature of the situation to 911, and help will be on the way.

Some days, when troubles or emergencies come, I forget that I can “dial direct” to another source of ever-present help: God Himself.

During life’s trials, we are quick to look elsewhere for help. We sometimes look to other people, friends included, for help (which can be very good and something God wants us to do). Other times, we turn to less helpful resources, like self-help books or Google, to look for solutions.

In her classic Christian work telling her life story, “The Hiding Place,” Nazi concentration camp survivor Corrie Ten Boom, recounts a time when she turned to a person to help instead of the Lord. Facing one of the many instances of injustices that she did, Corrie pleaded her case to a Nazi, only to be turned away cold.

After the encounter, Ten Boom was reminded that it is to God she could turn for real help, not man. This is the same spiritual giant who said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”

Today, when problems arise, call on Jesus through prayer. From God’s Word, we are promised that He will answer. And He may answer your emergency message even more immediately—and for sure more thoroughly—than 911 ever could.

What To Do If You Can’t Memorize Scripture

What To Do If You Can’t Memorize Scripture

I often get approached by an excited parishioner who has questions about a verse they read. They tell me the book, chapter and verse, but not what it actually says. I’m not sure if they think I have it all memorized, or perhaps it’s such a common verse that they assume I know it by heart.

Unfortunately, it’s very rare that I know that verse by its location, yet as soon as they begin to quote it, I have no problem remembering what it says.

That’s because I’m terrible at memorizing Scripture. I’m not sure if a pastor is allowed to say that, but it’s the truth.

This doesn’t mean I don’t know my Bible. I consider myself to be well educated on theology. For some reason, my brain just has a hard time memorizing certain things. I’ve tried to use books that teach you how to memorize Scripture. I’ve had flash cards I carry with me to help as well, but all to no avail.

I know I’m not alone in this because I have met lots of people who say the same thing. Although I don’t have it memorized, I can still quote large amounts of Scripture from memory.

How can I do that without memorizing it? Easy, I just remember it. Lots of us know things by heart that we never intentionally sat down to memorize. I can sing the entire theme to the Duck Tales cartoon series. I also know all the words to certain songs. Most of you reading this can at least get halfway through the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song.

I highly doubt you sat down with song lyrics, made flash cards and then worked for weeks to remember them all. It’s much more likely that you heard that song so many times that it just got stuck in your brain, and no matter what, you can’t get rid of it. This is how I know what I do with Scripture—not from intentional memorization but from constantly reading certain sections over and over.

If you find math difficult, it’s likely your brain also has a hard time sitting down and memorizing flash cards of Bible verses as well. So my encouragement to you is to not get frustrated but instead sit down and read the same chapter every day for a week. You may not retain all of it, but you will know a lot more than you did before. In fact, this is a very biblical way to do this.

If you haven’t noticed, there are lots of festivals mentioned in the Old Testament. One of the reasons for this was so that, every few months, a story about why that festival was created would be retold and passed onto the next generation.

Someone would read from the Bible, and after hearing it over and over you quickly knew the Bible in the same way you learned the story of The Three Little Pigs.

Not all of us learn the same way, but God’s Word is so rich that we should all strive to find a way to write it on our hearts.

Help me to be…

Help me to be…

Have you had one of those weeks you felt like you’re on the Titanic while it’s sinking? Day after day, week after week, your problems seem to persist and magnify.

We have all been there. Everyone—even followers of Christ—goes through suffering and periods of great difficultly. What separates Christians from unbelievers, though, is what—or rather Who—we can call on during times of trouble.

What also distinguishes us is how we view and respond to our problems. C.S. Lewis, in his masterpiece, “The Problem of Pain,” said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

No one wants trials to come. Indeed, we long for a day in which our difficulties cease and we dwell with the Lord, unstained by sin, pain and problems. In the meantime, God can use our present troubles to draw us closer to Him.

History tells us that, after the Titanic struck the iceberg and began to sink into the ocean, the band aboard continued to play music for the passengers. According to sources, the last song played by the musical group, each of whom would perish in the tragedy, was the hymn “Nearer, my God, to Thee.”

Consider the dire circumstances aboard the Titanic—and in your own life—as you ponder these hopeful lyrics:

“Nearer, my God to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.
E’en though it be a cross
That raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.

“Though like the wanderer,
The sun gone down,
Darkness be over me,
My rest a stone,
Yet in my dreams I’d be
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.

“There let my way appear
Steps unto heaven;
All that Thou sendest me
In mercy given;
Angels to beckon me
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.

“Then with my waking thoughts
Bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs
Bethel I’ll raise,
So by my woes to be
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.

“Or if on joyful wing,
Cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot,
Upward I fly,
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.”

Today, if you are struggling, call out to God (Psalm 86). Ask Him to bring you, as you walk through your struggles and trials, nearer to Him.

Jesus Loves ‘Messy’ People

Jesus Loves ‘Messy’ People

Mark 2:15—“While he was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who were following him.”

Arts and crafts are one of my girls’ favorite things to do at the table! The more glitter, shine, colors, sparkle—man, that is what we are all about!

They find so much joy being creative, using their God-given artistic abilities. They learn to work together and encourage each other as their creation comes to life.

But let me tell you, it makes the biggest mess you have ever seen! My table has the scars to prove it. Dried on glue, stains from the paint, glitter stuck between the cracks. UGH! It will never be the same again!

In the grand scheme of things, it is so worth it.

In Mark 2 we see a man named Levi get an invitation from Jesus to “come follow me.” He immediately gets up, leaves all his possessions and follows Jesus.

Now this man was a tax collector. The Jews in this time considered a tax collector to be at the bottom of the social list along with murderers and thieves. To say the Jews disdained tax collectors would be an understatement! They wanted nothing to do with them.

I’m sure Levi was well aware of the scars he carried. Like most tax collectors of his time, he probably stole money from people, cheated them for his own personal gain and treated people unkind (No wonder the Jewish people didn’t like him). It would be safe to say he had made a mess of the life God gave him—having dried glue, stains and glitter in between the cracks of his life.

But instead of avoiding the tax collectors, Jesus responded differently. He not only wanted to talk with Levi; He wanted to eat with him.

God’s eternal salvation is for all mankind—not just the “good” people, the “worthy,” the “churchy” people, but even the lowliest of all. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and hurting, to give them a hope and a future—something the Pharisees couldn’t understand. Or maybe more accurately, they didn’t want to understand.

Jesus was going against everything the Pharisees had been taught and what they themselves were teaching in the synagogues. They wanted to be in charge; they wanted to teach their way; they wanted people to listen to them and them alone! Jesus was ruining their plan!

Jesus reached out to those messy people and told them they, too, could be worthy of a God who saves. Jesus was an expert in taking the old and making it new, taking what society said was unworthy and making it worthy again. In fact, he tells them that is the exact reason he came. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinner” (Mark 2:17).

When I sit at my stained-covered table, I am reminded how my life is tarnished with things too. I have made a mess of the beautiful life God has given me. I have taken His blessings, protection and provisions and wasted them on selfish things. Living my life with my own intentions instead of His.

But Jesus is in the restoration business!

No matter how many stains or blemishes I may have, He loves me still! He wants to renew the old and clean up the mess I have made!

Thank goodness I have a Savior who has the power to do all He has promised!

Book Review: ‘Confronting Christianity’

Book Review: ‘Confronting Christianity’

Books on Christian apologetics aren’t casually considered must-reads.

We associate apologetics with academia, doctrinal debates and something pastors do in comment sections of blogs.

But still, we have questions. Our world has questions. Our neighbors, co-workers, family members, all have questions about Christianity that often go unasked or assumed. Somewhere between the church doors on Sunday morning and the quiet solitude of our inner thoughts before sleep, we often think, “Yeah… but what about…?”

Is it okay to confront Christianity?

Questioning the Christian faith is okay – even for Christians. Throughout the Scriptures, we find even the most devout followers having questions, confronting issues and having to wrestle with tough circumstances and differing worldviews. Even more today, in a growing climate of Christian hostility and moralistic relativism, one may wonder if one can indeed face the head-wind of questions buffeting Christianity’s doors and still stand firm.

Whether we think so or not, we live in a day when Christianity is challenged in both public discourse and private vitriol. While the questions may echo in the minds of those struggling with faith both inside and outside the church, all too often these same questions don’t sound from our lips or resonate from our platforms.

This is why the book Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin is so timely.

McLaughlin is not your common stereotype of someone who might offer a book on Christian apologetics. She’s relatively young. She’s not American. Though married with children, she openly discusses her lifelong battle with same-sex attraction. She is friends with and respected by a wide assortment of people—from Ivy League academia to soup-kitchen homelessness—whom she engages in civil and contemplative discussion.

McLaughlin isn’t afraid of tough questions, and she has little interest in providing platitudes. Confronting Christianity addresses real issues offered from both inside and outside the church. The book proves helpful for the committed churchgoer as well as the atheistic antagonist to Christianity.

In fact, through McLaughlin’s conversational, humble and vulnerable approach to writing, one could see the Christian and the atheist both enjoying healthy dialogue together over marked-up copies of this book and steaming cups of tea (not coffee—she’s British).

Consider the twelve questions McLaughlin addresses in Confronting Christianity:

  • Aren’t We Better Off Without Religion?
  • Doesn’t Christianity Crush Diversity?
  • How Can You Say There’s Only One True Faith?
  • Doesn’t Religion Hinder Morality?
  • Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?
  • How Can You Take the Bible Literally?
  • Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?
  • Doesn’t Christianity Denigrate Women?
  • Isn’t Christianity Homophobic?
  • Doesn’t the Bible Condone Slavery?
  • How Could a Loving God Allow So Much Suffering?
  • How Could a Loving God Send People to Hell?

My guess is either you or someone you know is asking these questions. Even if you are not, you may know the right answers but find yourself without compelling arguments as to why you hold your positions.

McLaughlin is disarming yet firm in her convictions. She is not afraid to chase steep rabbit trails or shed light on dark corners of Christianity’s history. In all of her attempts to answer today’s biggest critiques of Christianity, however, her tone is respectful, understanding and one that is to be emulated.

Confronting Christianity is the book you didn’t know you were looking for. Even if you’ve never read a book on Christianity in your life—much less one on Christian apologetics—you will find this book captivating. You may find answers to your questions. You may find even more questions you weren’t even asking. Either way, you will find sound Biblical truth presented with understanding and compassion.

Don’t be afraid to confront Christianity. I know you will be helped if you do so with this book.

Is Gender Descriptive or Prescriptive?

Is Gender Descriptive or Prescriptive?

Ideas have consequences. We are now reaping the consequence of certain ideas that have been a part of our society for so long we take them at face value. Yet when the face of culture changes, these values change, and we are left scrambling to make sense of how to address these issues.

This topic is one I have written and spoken about many times, but I want to make one more attempt to show how we can bring healing to those who struggle with issues regarding their sexual identity. I recently listened to an interview with a Christian woman who struggles with gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is the clinical name for what most people today know as transgender.

In her talk, she repeatedly commented on the fact that she never felt like she fit the typical world understanding of what it meant to be a woman. She would rather play contact sports than shop for clothes or wear makeup. She was often referred to as a tomboy growing up.  This is a problem that the Gospel can really help.

In Genesis, we are told that God created them male and female. What it doesn’t say is just as important as what it does say. It doesn’t say Adam was strong and was created to like football, and Eve spent her evenings sewing fig leaves for clothes. The reason it doesn’t say anything about how they behave is because gender is descriptive not prescriptive.

What do those two words mean? Descriptive is just describing their gender and nothing more. If it was prescriptive then it would be followed by certain traits that we are designed to adopt. Lots of descriptive Bible verses are incorrectly used in prescriptive ways. For example, Jer. 29:11 is a very popular verse. It reads, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans not to harm you but to give you a hope and a future.

This is a very nice verse, but it is descriptive. It’s God promising a certain group of people a certain thing. This thing that God promises is not applicable to all people at all times. How do I know this? It’s easy. This verse could not apply to Jesus and his disciples. Jesus and his disciples both had plans that included them being harmed. Yes, part of God’s plan for his disciples and himself included their own personal harm. They were beaten and sometimes killed.

So you can see how troublesome it would be if they tried to take that verse from Jeremiah and make it about them. Eventually, it would leave them confused when they faced hard times because it went counter to the promises they claimed for themselves. In the same way, we need to be aware that gender is descriptive not prescriptive.

When a transgender woman says she feels like a man on the inside, what she means is that she doesn’t fit the typical worldly view of femininity. The pressure that the world put on her to conform is not a biblical pressure. Very rarely does Scripture suggest that a man or woman should act a certain way, and when Scripture does, it has to do with how we interact with each other, not with what kind of personality we should have. Christians should be sounding the alarm against sexual stereotypes because we now see just how much harm they cause. They have drawn lines in the sand and when people don’t fit certain molds we reinforce those stereotypes instead of showing them that freedom can always be found in Christ alone.

As the culture flails about like a fish out of water, may we have the attitude of Christ who looked beyond worldly labels to the heart of each person, and then offered them a place to find rest for their souls.