GOOD FRIDAY AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

GOOD FRIDAY AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

One of the great questions of the skeptic, the greatest objection to Christianity as we know it is: How can a good God let bad things happen to good people? How does Christianity deal with that question?

The standard answers run something like this:
 He loves us but he isn’t powerful enough to do anything about it.
 He’s powerful enough to do something but he really doesn’t love us.
 He’s not there.

But when we look at Psalm 22 and see that David prophesied all of it 1000 years before Christ quoted it from the Cross, it opens up an answer that we hadn’t considered:

God is doing something to overcome evil that we never would have dreamed.
• He is wrestling evil to the death in the body of the king of goodness.
• He is swallowing all injustice in the suffering of the just one.
• He is putting out the fire of death in the unquenchable life of the Living One.
• He is breaking the power of sin and the curse by nailing it to the Cross of the sinless one.

What did God do with the problem of evil? He absorbed it all in the person of his son who sang the great question out of the depth of his soul while nailed to a cross.

CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME FROM COVID-19?

CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME FROM COVID-19?

A visionary leader gets betrayed and kicked out of his spiritual community. He is deeply hurt and confused. He cannot see a way forward. Can anything good come out of that?

A decorated war veteran gets court-martialed, ruined by the Army and the country he seeks to serve, simply for telling the truth. Can anything good come out of that?

The world succumbs to a global pandemic, the likes of which hasn’t happened in a hundred years. Can anything good come out of that?

Several conversations, books, and documentaries posed the same question: A disaster happens. Maybe it is personal. Perhaps it is public. It could be global, but it happens, and all that people in the middle of it can see is the downside.

I’m learning that if we watch and wait, if we trust God and keep a positive attitude, there can be an upside. I’m looking for that with Covid-19, and here’s what I’ve found.

Remarkable advances have happened in medical technology and vaccine development. Scientists and pharmaceutical companies produced vaccines in record time with new methodologies. Global trade almost guarantees that more viruses, perhaps much worse, are coming. We now have the medical science to combat them.

Many people heard the phrase “supply chain” for the first time in 2020. Everyone in the logistics business is figuring out how to do it better. We also have a deeper appreciation for truck drivers, grocery store clerks, and toilet paper!

Forced isolation created powerful opportunities for personal reflection on what matters. Too many of us go thoughtlessly through life. Covid-19 forced us to slow down and consider how we spend our time.

Fear of death caused all to pause momentarily to think about our eternity. That is never a bad thing.

We appreciate and support the performing arts. Great music performed by gifted artists is a uniquely uplifting human experience. I plan to attend more concerts.  

Public worship. Nothing can duplicate the experience of the gathered church in worship. I can’t wait till we can all be together again, singing our hearts out to God and experiencing his presence in our praises.

The visionary leader was Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery. God used him to save his family and Israel, from whom came the Savior of the world. Joseph is a model for several people I know today, whose stories are still being written.

The military leader was General William “Billy” Mitchel. He foresaw the role of airpower in the 1920s. He publicly accused the War and Navy departments of “incompetency, criminal negligence, and almost treasonable administration of the national defense” for refusing to recognize it. He predicted the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and his followers successfully led the Army Air Force through WWII. In 1946 the U.S. Congress authorized a special medal in his honor; it was presented to his son in 1948 by one of his disciples, Gen. Carl Spaatz, chief of staff of the newly created U.S. Air Force.[1]

The greatest disaster happened to the man from Nazareth on what we now call Good Friday. Or was it a disaster after all?

What good can you find from Covid-19?


[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Mitchell

RECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES: 3 Steps to Conflict Resolution

RECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES: 3 Steps to Conflict Resolution

I am a pragmatic guy who likes internal combustion engines. My wife is an artist who wouldn’t know a piston from a wrist pin. But she is great with flowers and has an eye for color and style. We had a dogwood tree at our house in Georgia, a beautiful tree that had a branch growing right out into the driveway. It swiped the car every time I parked.

Someone gave me a used chain saw. I got it running and was cutting up some old trees in the backyard. Gas remained in the tank when I finished. You can guess what happened next.

My wife came running out of the house, “Why are you killing the dogwood tree!”

“I’m not killing it! I’m just taking off this branch!”

“But why?”

“There was still some gas in the chainsaw!”

You can imagine where the conversation went next. Krista and I were still learning conflict resolution skills back then. We’ve learned what works, not only in marriage but in all walks of life. Here are three steps everyone can use.

1st Slowdown

Fast is slow, and slow is fast. Misunderstanding creates most conflict, and speed aggravates it. I didn’t know how important that one branch with flowers on it was to Krista. She didn’t know how much it bothered me when it scratched the car. For all she knew, I was going to cut the whole tree down. So she was urgent to stop me. And I was impressed! It takes a brave woman to yell at a man with a chainsaw buzzing in his hands. But I was also insulted. Why is she yelling at me? Can’t she see that the branch is in the driveway?

Too many assumptions happen too fast when we rush into a conflict. Slow the communication process down; proceed with extra respect, especially if others are present. Bonus thought: never attempt conflict resolution via text or email. Assumptions multiply when we can’t hear the tone of voice or read body-language.

2nd Calm down

Get control of yourself before working through conflict. Keep your voice down. Be the NAP, the Non-Anxious Presence. When a crisis is looming, or you are already in a dispute, be the one who has self-control. If you can’t, don’t engage in discussion until you can figure out why. Take a break and, without blaming others for how you feel, take responsibility for your emotions.

For Christians, self-control is a gift of the Spirit. If you feel your temper rising, excuse yourself for a while, agree to take a breather, and tell the Spirit of God, “Lord, you say that in Christ I am not a slave. I feel enslaved to anger right now. I confess that as sin and ask you to be within me the peaceful presence that I do not have the power to be right now.” He will help.

3rd Reason instead of ranting

Ranting is popular entertainment in America, taking the place of serious discussion. But it is incredibly destructive and has no home in Christian life.

James, the brother of Jesus, said it this way.

         But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

         And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. [1]

Reason is pure, peaceable, and gentle. Reason is full of mercy. You can go a long way toward achieving this by removing two phrases from your vocabulary: “You never …” and “You always …” When we say those things, we are saying that, even though we said we forgave some insult, we never really did; even though we promised we would agree to something, internally we never did.

Ranting raises walls. Reasonableness builds bridges.

“We have met the enemy, and he is us,” said Walt Kelly’s Pogo. We are our own worst adversaries in conflict resolution. We usually rush into it, raise our voices, and rant about the issue. Slow down, calm down, reason instead of ranting, and you will eat the fruit of peace in all your relationships.


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Jas 3:13–18). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

YOU HAVE A STAKE

YOU HAVE A STAKE

“Imagine a world in which the government suddenly decreed that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east and penalized those who insist otherwise. The sun would still rise in the east and set in the west, but we wouldn’t be allowed to say so out loud, teach it to our children or organize our lives around that fact. The consequences would be absurd and dangerous. The world becomes similarly absurd and dangerous if the Equality Act becomes law.”  Mary Rice Hasson

Read any mainstream media account of the Equality Act, which the House of Representatives just passed on a party-line vote, and you will hear that it is all about making life safe and fair for transgendered people.  Read a conservative media account, and you will see something quite the opposite. I’ve read several of each, and the most charitable thing I can say about what the LGBTQ activists, mainstream media, and Democrat leaders in the house are saying about it is this: They are deeply deceived and deceiving. This proposed amendment is so bad for America, so bad for religious freedom, and so bad for women in particular that The Women’s Liberation Front is battling side-by-side with Evangelicals and conservatives of all stripes against it.

The Equality Act needs sixty votes in the Senate to pass. Ten Republicans would need to support it, and that is unlikely. Why make so much noise about it now? Because every time this bill comes up, and versions of it have come up several times over the last few decades, politicians, advocates, consultants, the corporations and financiers who support them, and ordinary voters count who is for it and who is against it. We want to think that all of our neighbors and political leaders have the courage of our convictions. Some do, but many follow the polls. The more the numbers shift in one direction or another, the more their vote is likely to change. Your voice matters more than you think. I’ve included a template for a letter to send to your Senators at the end of this post. I urge you to use it and contact your Senators today.

Another positive and child-affirming way to participate is by signing on to The Promise to America’s Children. John Stonestreet covered it in a recent Breakpoint interview with coalition leader Emilie Kao.

As John Stonestreet says, “ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have victims.” The Equality Act is a very bad idea. Whether or not you are a religious person, if you have children, if you have a profession, if you own a business or work for a non-profit, if you are an American, you have a stake in this debate. If this is the first time you’ve heard of it and wonder about all the fuss, I urge you to read Mary Rice Hasson’s piece, The Equality Act and the End of Females, quoted above.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”― Edmund Burke 

OPPOSED TO EQUALITY ACT

Letter template for communicating with your Senators.

Dear Sir,                                                                                                                      March 1, 2021

I am writing to express my intense disagreement with the Equality Act. The Equality Act abrogates my constitutional rights. Please take a stand and vote against it for the following reasons:

1. The Equality Act will designate schools, churches, and healthcare organizations as “public accommodations.” With this, schools, churches, and hospitals could be forced to accept the government’s beliefs and mandates about sexual orientation and gender identity. That would be highly intrusive and incredibly far-reaching. It will threaten everyday speech where people can be fined or lose their jobs for using the wrong name or pronouns.

2. The Equality Act will legislate that we allow boys in girls’ sports. This is anti-girl, anti-women, and anti-scientific logic.

It would also allow boys in girls’ locker rooms, men in women’s shelters, and men in women’s prisons. Anyone with knowledge of how sexual abuse begins or affects its victims will never consider voting for this law.

3. The Equality Act is immoral. It will force teachers and students to publicly pretend that a biological male is a female. Schools will be encouraged or mandated to instruct first, second, and third graders that they can choose to be a boy or a girl, or neither, or both, making biological sex (and science) a relic of the past.

Children are not developmentally capable of making such permanently life-altering decisions. If you vote for this law, you will be voting for child abuse on a national scale.

4. The Equality Act would use the force of law across all 50 states to strip Christian and other religious ministries of their right to hire people of shared faith to pursue a shared mission. Christians serve the poor, minister to drug addicts, work in adoption agencies, and thousands of other ministries with people of like mind precisely because they believe God has told them to do so. This law would force Christian organizations to hire people hostile to their deeply held beliefs. If you vote for this law, you are voting against first amendment rights and for the dismantling of thousands of Christian ministries throughout America. Is that what you are trying to achieve?

5. The Equality Act will strip health professionals of their rights of conscience. It will force doctors and medical professionals who take an oath to do no harm to engage in gender transition treatments such as hormone-blocking, cross-sex hormones, or surgery. It is obvious that a Catholic or faith-based hospital should not have to perform gender transition surgeries that go entirely against all they believe, nor should any religious medical professional have to do that in any place of employment.

6. The Equality Act would be a tool used by the government to deny or threaten accreditation to private colleges and universities if they do not satisfy the demands of the Left to apply sexual orientation and gender identity to dorms, sports, places of privacy and even teachings. The Act could be used as a weapon to threaten the availability of federal student loans and grants to students at certain disfavored religious schools.

If you vote for this law, you will be making a direct assault on women’s rights and the rights of tens of millions of religious believers across the United States. I urge you to vote against it.

PREPARE FOR CULTURAL ICE STORMS

PREPARE FOR CULTURAL ICE STORMS

Our rural Virginia county got hit hard by the recent ice storms. It wasn’t as bad as Texas, but many people who had generators were still running them and hauling “flush water” a week later. And good luck buying a generator if you weren’t prepared.

Another storm is coming, a cultural ice storm that, like Narnia’s Ice Queen, is already freezing free speech, intimidating the weak, and punishing dissenters. Most of us are unprepared. Rod Dreher is and his recent books, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post Christian Nation (2017), and Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (2020), will alert readers, all readers, not just Christians, to what’s ahead and help them develop a plan.

I know that sounds sensational. Alarmist rhetoric across media has made us wary of all warnings. But when all the signs indicate a storm is coming, it is time to ring the bell and make a plan.

Some recent examples: A friend and tenured professor at a state university tells me his department’s deputy director is pushing a diversity statement—Dreher calls it “a formal statement of loyalty to the ideology of diversity”—all faculty must sign. The situation is serious enough that he has retained legal counsel. The Virginia Values Act, which threatens freedom of conscience for all Virginians, was signed into law last July. Amazon just blocked the sale of Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally, the most scholarly, well-researched, and unpretentious book—every parent of a child in public school should read it—on the subject of transgenderism. School teachers tell me that their social media accounts are being watched, and somebody will punish them for any speech deemed out of line by school boards who are rapidly adopting state diversity guidelines. The Equal Rights Amendment will soon enshrine in Federal Law what the Virginia Values Act does on the state level. Attorneys who work in the religious freedom arena tell me that Christian business owners are increasingly at risk for business-destroying lawsuits. Politicians and policy wonks tell me the laws pursued by the left in general and the LGBTQ lobby, in particular, are meant not to secure equality of access—they already have that—but to “punish the wicked,” i.e., religious and other conservatives who disagree with them.

Meditate on that for a moment. It means using state and federal law to force agreement. Read thought police.

Dreher says, “As a journalist who writes about these issues, I often hear stories from people—always white-collar professionals like academics, doctors, lawyers, engineers—who live closeted lives as religious or social conservatives. They know that to dissent from the progressive regime in  the workplace, or even to be suspected of dissent, would likely mean burning their careers at the stake.”[1] He calls what’s happening “soft totalitarianism” and defines it thus:

Back in the Soviet era, totalitarianism demanded love for the Party, and compliance with the Party’s demands was enforced by the state. Today’s totalitarianism demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs, many of which are incompatible with logic—and certainly with Christianity. Compliance is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion, and by private corporations that, thanks to technology, control our lives far more than we would like to admit…Today in our societies, dissenters from the woke party line find their businesses, careers, and reputations destroyed. They are pushed out of the public square, stigmatized, canceled, and demonized as racists, sexists, homophobes, and the like. And they are afraid to resist, because they are confident that no one will join them or defend them.[2]

Samuel James, writing for Christianity Today, finds Dreher’s thesis unconvincing, commenting, “prophecy is tough work, and people who share the deepest religious and social convictions can nonetheless interpret all the moving parts differently.” I hope he is right. But Dreher’s cultural analysis has been dead on target so far.

Jesus rebuked his enemies by telling them, “You can read the weather, but you cannot read the signs of the times.” Rod Dreher has read the signs. Christians and others who believe in truth, reality, freedom, and justice need to prepare for what’s coming. Dreher’s insights are an excellent place to start.


[1] Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies, p. 58.

[2] Ibid, p. 8-9.

THE PLOW An Ash Wednesday Reflection

THE PLOW An Ash Wednesday Reflection

Every summer, we enjoy another of the benefits of living in a rural community: garden-fresh fruits and vegetables. I thought I knew what a fresh tomato was before I moved to the country. But then I ate an Abbott tomato. I thought I knew what sweet was, but then I tasted a Turbeville cantaloupe.

One such garden was across the street from our house. But none of its fruit would’ve been possible without Mr. Rice from down the street. He didn’t water the ground. He didn’t plant the seed. He didn’t even help in the harvest. He just appeared on his tractor every spring with the thing every garden needs: the plow. 

The plow is hard and sharp. It rips through weeds, punctures the hard surface, and breaks up the clotted dirt. The plow prepares the ground for the beginning of life-giving things.

The spiritual life has a parallel in the plow: repentance. Repentance penetrates hardened hearts, breaking up clods that clog our souls. Repentance opens the way for the word of God to work down into the soil of personality and bring forth the sweet fruit of a life empowered by the Spirit. Repentance is the first step in ‘putting off the old life’ and ‘putting on the new.’ Nothing happens without it.

Today is Ash Wednesday when some Christians mark their heads with an ashen cross to begin the season of Lent, a concentrated period of personal repentance before Easter. That’s good if it helps. Like an unused plow in an abandoned field, repentance has rusted away in our “self-esteem is everything” culture. But repentance is a spiritual discipline that requires regular practice if it’s to do us any good.

Nehemiah shows us how to do it.

Repentance Reviews the Offense

Repentance calls sin, sin. Nehemiah said, “I confess the sins…we have committed, including myself.” Neh.1: 6b-7.

There goes that plow blade, right into the toughest part of the ground, the hardened surface of self. We come before God and say, “Lord, I did it. It wasn’t my environment, it wasn’t my job, it wasn’t my family, I did something wrong, and I’m responsible for it.”

Repentance Is Specific 

Nehemiah confessed sins of commission, doing what we know is wrong. “We have acted very wickedly toward you,” he said. We might say it this way: “God, I have been corrupt in my dealings with you. I’ve played the religious pretend game. On the outside, I look fine. On the inside, my heart is far from you.”

Corruption is a heart hardening thing. It needs a sharp plow.

Nehemiah also confessed sins of omission, failing to do what we know is right. We have not obeyed the commands… you gave to Moses.”

Finally, Nehemiah confessed to group sins. He used the plural pronoun, “We.” We don’t imagine ourselves responsible for what our culture is doing. But when we fail to speak up for the defenseless unborn, are we not responsible? When we fail to care for the poor, are we not neglecting our responsibilities?

Repentance reviews the offense and takes responsibility, putting everything out on the table between God and us. That is essential if we want a response.

It has been a long time now since we ate the fruit of the garden across the street. The neighbors who tended it died or moved away, grass and trees now fill the lot. I chatted with Mr. Rice about that. He said, “I’ve been plowing gardens for folks in town here for decades. At one time, there were thirty-five that I plowed every spring. Now there are less than five.”

When I observe our culture and see the poison it produces, I wonder if the reason is that we have stopped tending the garden of the soul, we have stopped turning over the soil of the spirit with the plow of repentance. 

WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE

WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE

What does it mean to love your neighbor? Maybe this will help.

We took lots of trips to West Point, Georgia, when I was a child. Like our current hometown, West Point was small, straddled a big river, and in those days the home of a large textile plant and many farming families. When Dad went to drill with the reserves, we went with Mom to West Point.

On arrival, we had two “must visit” places: Grandmother’s house, my Dad’s Mom, and Grandmama and Granny, my Mom’s mother and grandmother who lived together. All three women were staunch members of 1st Baptist Church, upright, faithful, hard-working women. Grandmother and Grandmama had also suffered much as a result of their marriages. All three loved their three rambunctious grandsons. But the way they loved us was, well, it’s easier to show than tell.

Grandmother always wanted to see us, but you could feel the tension in the grass when you stepped out of the car at her house. She was prickly, agitated, and persnickety. The candy in the crystal bowl on the coffee table was only for display, not for little boys! We ate only at mealtimes, no snacking from the fridge. And she always burned the biscuits. It was hard to please Grandmother and easy to elicit rebukes.

Form-fitting clear plastic with little bumps in it, like sitting on your soccer cleats turned upside down, covered the furniture in Grandmother’s living room. And you didn’t sit on the couch anyway, much less jump on those lovely, firm cushions! You perched on it oh so delicately. Any other approach brought swift scolding.

The whole experience was like that: uncertain, uncomfortable, tight like plastic cushion covers. I tried to stay out of Grandmother’s way and begged Mom to leave as soon as possible.

Grandmama’s house was completely different. Oh, there were rules, but not so many that a boy couldn’t enjoy himself a bit. And the rules were more about who you were than what you did. For instance, we knew we weren’t supposed to use the pea gravel from the driveway as slingshot ammo to shoot at cars from the safety of the shrubbery. Of course, that was wrong. But it wasn’t wrong because of the minimal damage it did to those massive 1950’s & 60’s Detroit machines. It was wrong because the late Nolan Stanley’s great-grandsons should never do something so disrespectful to their neighbors. But I digress.

The minute you stepped out of the car at Grandmama’s, you could feel the love. You walked up the steps, down the long screen porch to the ornate door with the bell in the middle. But we never turned the bell. Just turn the knob, walk right in and race for Granny’s kitchen and the biscuit tin.

Grandmama and Granny’s manner was always calm, dignified, peaceful, quiet, and affectionate.  They radiated welcome. They were glad to see us and sorry to see us go. And I never saw them flustered.

Their house was our house. We could wander through the secret closet and push our faces into the real mink stole that still had the heads with glass eyes. Climb the old magnolia out back, hide in the huge camellias out front, use pea gravel from the driveway in our slingshots (at authorized targets like each other), build forts under the tall beds. The kitchen was always open, and the biscuits never burned. If you’d never known it before, you knew what love was when you went to Grandmama’s house.

That’s what the two homes felt like to us. Grandmother told us she loved us. But we couldn’t feel it. All we felt were the restraints.

Grandmama and Granny welcomed us into their world and blessed us with actions, with demeanor, with the whole environment. We knew they loved us because we could feel it.

My friend Stephen Crotts of The Carolina Study Center said recently, “In the 1960s, students wanted to know the topic and the speaker before they would attend a talk or event. In the early 2000’s they wanted to know if the cool people would be there. Today, so many of them are victims of so many traumas that they just want to know if they will be treated kindly.”

Want to spread the gospel and change the world? Love your neighbor.  

WHEN SCIENCE CATCHES UP WITH SCRIPTURE: Self-Help Books on Mental & Emotional Health

WHEN SCIENCE CATCHES UP WITH SCRIPTURE: Self-Help Books on Mental & Emotional Health

I love it when science “catches up” to scripture. I especially love it when scientists discover help me and my friends live better, happier, healthier lives consistent with the gospel. My winter reading list and the speaker from a conference I recently attended reminded me of those things and, instead of waiting to write full book reviews on each one, I thought it would help you more to hear a few of their insights and provide links to their resources.

One caveat: I don’t agree with everything in these resources, nor do I wish to debate psychology v. scripture. So, as with all such things, use discernment, eat the meat and throw away the bones.

The Bible on Mental Health

The Bible is full of references to mental health and relationships. Here are just a few.

A heart at peace gives life to the body. (Prov. 14:30).

All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. (Prov 15:15).

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Prov. 17:22).

And of course, Philippians 4:4-9 on joy, anxiety, reasonableness, and the peace of God comes to mind along with many others.

Key Insights

When themes are repeated across several platforms and by different authors, it increases confidence in their validity. Here are some key insights I’ve picked up over the last few weeks, none earth-shattering but all worth remembering.

1. The critical importance of relationships to our mental and physical health. We need each other. We need small groups.

“More and more recent research has shown that lack of bonding can affect one’s ability to recover from an entire range of physical illness, including cancer, heart attack, and stroke…the nature of a patient’s emotional ties drastically affects whether or not this patient will get heart disease.” Even our blood chemistry changes when we have bitter thoughts. “A person’s ability to love and connect with others lays the foundation for both psychological and physical health.”[1]   

2. The damage we can do to ourselves and others when we fail to manage our emotions well.

Ever wondered why the Apostle Paul warned us “not to let the sun go down on your anger?”[2] Paul Meier, MD, ThD, asserts that 95% of depression is anger turned inward. Emotional pain most likely to become a lingering physical ailment is suppressed emotional pain. When we need to take a time-out or make an appointment to discuss an inflammatory issue, temporary repression is ok. Permanent suppression is deadly.

“When we pretend that all is well when all is not well, when we tell ourselves and others that nothing bad has happened when something very bad has happened, when we act as if we have suffered no loss or pain when we have suffered great loss or pain, it is then that we are stuffing what we should express. When a person begins to pack powerful and devastating emotions into the closet of his soul, he is setting himself up for trouble.”[3]  

3. The importance of time, grace, and practice in the development of relational capacity.

In RARE Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead, Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder wrote: “The critical point between the brain functioning well or starting to fail is where it runs out of joy and begins to run on fear as its motivation.” When that happens, we become “reactive, rigid, with serious implications to living and leading effectively.”

We tell each other, “Choose Joy.” But that’s like saying to a newbie at the gym, “Lift this 300 pounds.” It doesn’t work, and it’s insulting. But we can say, “Let’s go to the gym together and start lifting weights.” In that way, we build physical capacity. We build joy capacity the same way, with practice, with friends, over time.

Recommended Resources

RARE Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead. Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder. Website: Deeper Walk International.

Changes That Heal: Four Practical Steps to a Happier, Healthier You. Dr. Henry Cloud. Website: Dr.Cloud.com.

DEADLY Emotions: Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection That Can Heal or Destroy You. Don Colbert, M.D.

DON’T LET JERKS GET THE BEST OF YOU: Advice for Dealing With Difficult People. Paul Meier, M.D.Meier Clinics.


[1] Dr. Henry Cloud, Changes That Heal: Four Practical Steps to a Happier Healthier You. Pg 66. Zondervan, 2018.

[2] Ephesians 4:26.

[3] Don Colbert, MD, Deadly Emotions: Understand the Mind-Body Connection That Can Heal or Destroy You. Pg. 53. Thomas Nelson, 2003.

GOD’S GRACE FOR AN ABORTIVE FATHER

GOD’S GRACE FOR AN ABORTIVE FATHER

The details are vague now, four decades hence. I sat on a curb, or was it a granite ledge? Outside the downtown clinic. Either way, it was cold, barren, like my heart. The girl—yes, still a girl only 17—had disappeared into the nondescript building’s sterile glass door. She had found the place, or had I? I couldn’t remember. Either way, it hadn’t been there long, a new edition to the healthcare—cruelest euphemism—landscape. But I found the money. That I clearly recalled. I found the two hundred dollars it took to end the life in her womb. I thought I was solving a problem, keeping our secret. But the cold reality of what I’d done seeped into my soul like the clammy chill coming through the concrete and into my bones. I paid the doctor to kill our son.

How could I have done that? How could I not see? Evil veiled itself in those days. “It’s just a blob of cells,” they said. But I knew it was wrong. I could feel it.

Little did I know, in 1977, that we were only grains of sand in the mammoth cultural landslide that was the sexual revolution. Free love never was victimless. Roe V. Wade, that revolution’s most significant victory, remains the greatest bloodbath in history, 60 million aborted Americans, with the longest trail of traumatized survivors, 120 million moms and dads.

Time moved on, and so did I until about a decade later, when my first child was born. Something clicked, a window opened, and I began to see. Life is precious! I should have taken the blow, not the girl. Not the child. I should have taken the guilt and shame with her and provided for them both. That is what my father would have done. That is when I started attending the annual pro-life march downtown on January 22nd. It was the least I could do, the only thing I knew to do besides giving to crisis pregnancy centers and advocating for life in the pulpit and print.

It wasn’t enough. At least, it hasn’t been so far. The Pro-Choice propaganda political action machine continues promoting the Big Lie that it is all about reproductive rights and the mother’s health. It is celebrating victory again today when Planned Parenthood’s chief political proponents—the non-profit donated $45 million to the victorious party—will be sworn in as president and vice president of the United States.

Instead of judgment, God gave me a cleansed conscience, a beautiful wife, and three beautiful daughters. Then, in my forties, a young man walked into my life. Energetic, intelligent, eager to serve alongside and be mentored. It took a while because I was so busy with family and work, but it finally clicked. Another window opened. “The timing is about right,” I thought. “This could be my son.” A strange wave of grief and gratitude washed over me. “God, you are so good to me. I don’t deserve this privilege, but I accept it as a gift from your hand.” Many more surrogate “sons” have come and gone since. Slowly the wound has healed.

Perhaps you are one of those men. You gave up a child and her mother to an abortion. You walked away, but you never forgot. You know what you did, and it gnaws at your soul. I can confidently tell you God’s grace extends to you. Reach out to him. Tell him what you did. Ask him to forgive you, to set you free from guilt, and to rebuild your heart. I tell you confidently, and in the name of Jesus Christ, that is a prayer that he will answer.

WHAT IF THE RIOT IN DC REALLY IS US?

WHAT IF THE RIOT IN DC REALLY IS US?

I have been praying for, advocating, and preaching conservative ideas based on the biblical worldview for over forty years. The events of January 6, on Capitol Hill, hit me, as I’m sure they did many of you, like a body blow. As is often the case, I’ve found John Stonestreet’s and Shane Morris’s analysis of the events much more comprehensive than anything I could compose. A more thorough discussion is available on the Breakpoint This Week podcast that followed it: Are We, as a Nation, Capable of Governing Ourselves? I commend both to you. D.S.

WHAT IF WHAT WE SAW YESTERDAY AT THE CAPITAL IS US?

Breakpoint with John Stonestreet, January 7, 2021

In the introduction to his book The Content Trap, author Bharat Anand asks readers to consider what caused The Yellowstone Fires of 1988, which lasted for months and destroyed over 1.3 million acres of the world’s oldest, and one of our nation’s most treasured, national parks. The traditional story places the blame on a worker who dropped a single, still-lit cigarette. Anand disagrees.

The cigarette certainly triggered this fire, but a million cigarettes are dropped every single day. That year (likely even that day), other cigarettes and, for that matter, lightning strikes, fell in Yellowstone. Why did this one spark so much damage? Anand’s point has to do with the pre-existing conditions, which made something that is benign in most other circumstances, a trigger for incredible destruction.

Yesterday, as protestors stormed the Capitol, Illinois Representative Kinzinger, a Republican, said, “We (Americans) are not what we are seeing today…” Others remarked how shocking it was to see the sort of political unrest common to other countries, here in America. And, of course, it was shocking.

But we’d better be clear on why. It’s not because somehow Americans, even those who love freedom and wish to protect the remarkable gift that is our nation, are somehow exempt from the Fall. It’s not because America has some sort of Divine pass to last forever. It’s not because the rules that govern nations and civilizations, which have been proven over and over again throughout history, somehow do not apply to us.

In what now seems like an ominous prediction, my friend Trevin Wax tweeted out a quote from Chuck Colson Wednesday morning: “People who cannot restrain their own baser instincts, who cannot treat one another with civility, are not capable of self-government … without virtue, a society can be ruled only by fear, a truth that tyrants understand all too well.”

Colson was right. Another way of saying what he did is, “Character is destiny.” It’s tempting to apply this undeniable truism rather selectively, but it is as true for individuals on “our side” as it is for those on “their side.” It is true for presidents and for peasants. It’s as true about a President “not as bad as she would have been,” who delivers strong policy wins for our side as it is about anyone else. It is true for the narcissist and for the abortionist, for the one who rejects religious faith and the one who uses it for his own ends.

But, and this is the much more important point that many miss, character is destiny for a people as well as for a person. Yesterday, when President-elect Biden said that the actions of the mob did not reflect America, I wish he were correct. But he wasn’t. We are not a moral nation. We are lawless. We are not a nation that cultivates the kinds of families able to produce good citizens. Our institutions cannot be trusted to tell us the truth or advance the good. Our leaders think and live as if wrong means are justified by preferred ends. Our churches tickle ears and indulge narcissism. Our schools build frameworks of thinking that are not only wrong, but foster confusion and division.

Yesterday’s riot was not the first in our nation’s recent history, nor will it be the last. There are certainly immediate causes for what we witnessed, including the words of a President who appeared to care more about the attention the riots gave him than the rule of law that they violated. Still, there are ultimate causes, ones that predate his administration and that have created what is clearly a spark-ready environment.

Yesterday’s events cannot be understood, much less addressed outside this larger context. And the moment we excuse ourselves from being part of the problem, we have lost our saltiness.

Often throughout history, moments like this have been embraced by the Church as an opportunity by God’s people. When a people reach this level of vulnerability, either as individuals, as families, or as nations, it is clear that they are out of ideas. There is no sustainable way forward when the ideological divide reaches this level, not only about how best to reach commonly held aims but when there is no consensus on the aims themselves.

To be clear, civilizations usually die with a whimper, not a bang. America will go on, but we aren’t ok. Even more, the resources once found in various places within our culture to build new things or fix what’s broken are largely depleted. The only way out of the long decline of decadence, punctuated as it is by noisy, scary moments like yesterday, is either, as Ross Douthat wrote, revolution or religious revival. The story of Yellowstone Park is that now, decades letter, it has been largely revived and reborn. Let’s pray that’s also the story of the Church, and even our country.