My Spouse Is Getting Worse

Dear Roger,

I’m a very worried Christian wife. My husband has completely changed over the last several months. He is constantly surfing the internet and delivering angry “the sky is falling” messages to me and our adult children. He claims he is only the “watchman on the wall” and that he has to deliver his messages, or our blood will be on his hands.
He sucks the joy and peace out of life now, and he gets very angry, gives us the silent treatment, or belittles us if we disagree with him. I don’t mind the occasional “Well, God says it’s going to get worse in the end days” talk, but I’m hearing this almost every second sentence, and it’s driving me crazy! He tells me I’m ignorant and a sheep.
I’m just a Christian woman who believes that God is sovereign and in control even when we don’t see it. I trust in God, and I’m very troubled by his haughty, prideful anger and bitterness. How do I handle this? How can my so-called Christian husband be so scared and try to ram his ideas down the throats of me and our adult (unbelieving and thoroughly disgusted) children? I’m scared and confused.
Sincerely, A Worried Wife

Dear Worried Wife,

You must be so disappointed. What’s happening now with your husband is certainly not the way that you dreamed marriage would be. I feel so sorry for you and for your children. In fact, let me say it again; I am so sorry for what’s going on with your husband. I know that you’re hurting a lot.

As I read your email, it seems to me that at one time he was a good husband but has suddenly turned into something else. You are obviously concerned for you and your children and the damage that he’s doing. Obviously, you’re brokenhearted for him and for the broken relationships which are multiplying throughout your family.

From reading your email, his sudden change in behavior caught you off guard. I know that you are hurting deeply about his downward progression.

All those things being said, let me give some suggestions that might prove helpful to you in the days ahead.

Consider Physical and Mental Causes
First, your husband may be dealing with some severe medical issues. Sudden, drastic shifts in thoughts or personality can often indicate brain tumors or hormonal changes. I don’t mention this to scare you; but, just to keep this possibility in the back of your mind as you work through this struggle with him. After pastoring over five decades, I have observed this scenario occur numerous times.

He almost sounds delusional as he pictures himself as the “watchman on the wall” and also by declaring that your “blood will be on his hands” if you do not see things as he does.

I’m certainly not a physician, nor do I give medical advice, but because of his sudden change in personality and rapid deterioration, I would recommend pursuing medical help.

By the way, his unstoppable repetition of things may be a tipoff to mental issues that a psychiatrist can help fix. Brain chemistry can change swiftly due to stressors, illness, or simply “just because.” For example, paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can have a sudden onset of symptoms.

Fortunately, these can often be treated well with medication and therapy. I would encourage you to seek out psychiatric care as well. This can be a hard sell when a loved one is struggling—they often believe that there is nothing wrong with their way of thinking and resist even the thought of treatment. Family intervention, conversation with a respected friend, or even an ultimatum (be very careful) can become necessary.

Note that your description of his internet addiction may need extra special care if he’s to get free. I’m so sorry about this. It may prove profitable to help him get involved with an internet support group.

All of these suggestions may seem impossible, but it’s amazing what God can do as we pray for His will to be accomplished in the lives of our husbands and wives!

Set Secure Boundaries
Second, his mental, verbal, and emotional abuse must not be tolerated. It’s time to set secure boundaries. For example, make it clear that his behavior is unacceptable and that you will not continue to endure it. Follow through. Leave the house if necessary. Go spend some time with a friend, relative, or neighbor. Only return when he’s had time to settle down.

This will be a judgment call. It sounds as if he is quite a volatile man. Setting boundaries may simply make him angry. You will have to decide this for yourself and proceed carefully as necessary.

Be creative in setting boundaries. I know of one woman whose husband loved to eat. She made a boundary that affected his eating. Whenever he breached the boundary, she simply stopped cooking. He began changing his behavior.

Call Attention to Abusive Behavior
Third, call him out on his abusive behavior or berating language. Let him know how his behavior is wrong, and that it’s hurting you and the children. Scripture clearly teaches that that abusive behavior between husbands and wives, or parents and children, is wrong in God’s eyes.

Remind your husband that not all abuse is physical or sexual. Explain to him that abuse can be mental, verbal, emotional, or spiritual. He may not understand that there are more types of abuse, and he needs to know that these other types can produce a tremendous amount of hurt as well.

This would be a good time to see if you can communicate to him how much he is hurting relationships with you and your children. Let him know we all need a support system to handle the issues of life, and he’s ruining his.

What Your Role Is
Fourth, you make it quite obvious that you are a Christian, and I’m assuming that he is not, on the basis of his behavior. I’ve had many women ask me how they should help their husbands to change their behavior, and if they are not already a Christian, to become one.

Peter says that the best way to do this is not to argue, judge or berate your husband. Instead, he encourages us to keep quiet and live a lovely and consistent Christian life. Pray that he will be attracted to your love and compassion (1 Peter 3:1-3).

Finally, if his abusive behavior and language continue, and if he refuses to get counseling, medical or psychiatric help, make an exit plan. You need to keep yourself and your children safe.

Well, Worried Wife,

I hope this helps.

Love, Roger Barrier

We’re Taking Back the Rainbow

Men and women who once lived and identified as part of the LGBT community are confident that a “rainbow revival” is at hand.

Gathered under the blazing sun with temperatures in the mid-90s at the Sylvan Theater in the shadow of the Washington Monument, approximately 200 attended the Freedom March, an event for formerly LGBT-identifying people who share testimonies of how Jesus transformed their lives.

The gathering was first held in the same location in 2018. Last year’s Freedom March was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With many sporting T-shirts decorated with rainbow flags and the words “Rainbow Revival,” march participants spoke with The Christian Post about the transforming power of Jesus.

Angel Colon, who miraculously survived after Omar Mateen shot him several times at the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting in Orlando in June 2016, said the “rainbow revival” is a sign of God’s covenant.

“We are taking back the rainbow,” Colon said. “It’s His. For us, it’s something beautiful.”

Colon and his compatriots are hearing from increasing numbers of people who desire to leave the LGBT life to follow Jesus, as Freedom March events have continued. He believes that the Covid-19 pandemic was a blessing in disguise because it forced many to go deep with the Lord.

“Especially now during Pride month, we want to say we love you” to the LGBT community, Colon said.

“We want to tell the gay community that we love them. We don’t want to judge you or condemn you and welcome you with open arms and be a reflection of Jesus. We’re not the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to do anything but love everyone.”

Freedom March co-founder Jeffrey McCall told CP that he noticed an uptick in emails he received from people wishing to leave the LGBT life and identity behind last summer.

That uptick in correspondence “has never stopped since last summer,” McCall said.

“We are getting more emails, more people reaching out and wanting help than we’ve ever had in the past three years,” he continued. He believes that the Church is at the beginning stage of reaching out effectively to LGBT individuals with the transformational power of life in Christ.

“In 20 years of ministry to the LGBT community, I know there are many people that they were Christians, that they loved Jesus in their childhood, but they just felt disqualified from His love and grace and redemption because of what they experienced,” he told CP.

“And I’m here to say — and I know that we all are — that the blood of Jesus speaks a better word.”

Kim Zember, who is Catholic and on the march’s board of directors, shared with CP that the phrase “conversion therapy” is misleading.

“It’s not about ‘converting’ someone,” Zember said. “When Jesus walked the earth, he didn’t walk around converting people. He invited people to be transformed. And we’re transformed in a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus went into the dark places,” She stressed. “He encountered those who were sick, those who were blind and broken.”

The Freedom March board member said that those who participated in the event believe they have been “touched by who we believe is the Physician, Jesus Christ.”

“He transforms our lives, not forcing us, not changing us because we have to,” Zember explained. “[It’s] not a doctrine or certain church teaching, but because Christ Himself has encountered each one of us and we want to share that, not only the transformation He has brought to our lives but [it’s] continuing as well.”

In order for churches to posture themselves effectively to reach the LGBT community, she said the Church needs an increase in humility and realize “we ourselves are broken as well and allow Jesus to mend our own brokenness.” She says churches must be “willing to be transparent with others struggling about our own battles and share about Jesus who is our only hope for complete healing.”

B. Showalter

Good News for a Weary Generation

As you’re trying to make sense of what’s happening in our culture and how we should respond as Christians, I highly recommend Thaddeus Williams’s Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice. In the book, Williams contrasts biblical ideas of justice, which he calls “Social Justice A,” with the current ideas of justice, referred to as “Social Justice B”.

Here is one contrast that particularly caught my attention:

Social Justice B offers no grace, no forgiveness, no open doors to paradise. Why? Because it ignores the most important distinction there is—the Creator-creature distinction….

What happens if we erase the Creator-creature distinction? Instead of standing before a quick-to-forgive Creator, we stand before our fellow creatures. Instead of having a God willing to take the nails in our place, we face a quick-to-anger mob, ready to drive digital nails to crucify us for every sin against its ever-evolving standards of righteousness.

What we are slowly realizing as a culture is the impossible demands of justice and our irrepressible need for justification.

As concerned as Williams may be about “Social Justice B” ideas, he points out that this development gives Christians reasons to hope rather than to despair. Since we human beings truly do need justification, we should view this emerging cultural awareness as an opportunity to tell the good news to people who are now ready to hear it:

[W]hat if, in God’s providence, the rise of Social Justice B makes this a golden moment to be alive and proclaim the gospel? Under postmodernism, recognizing any meaningful sense of guilt was extremely difficult for people. Under postmodernism, which championed moral relativism and prided itself on nonjudgmentalism, recognizing any meaningful sense of guilt was extremely difficult for people. Under the new rising cultural epoch of activism, what I have called “post-postmodernism,” we are conditioned to judge the moral shortcomings of everyone all the time. Guilt is the world we all now inhabit. The West now feels the weight of “infinite responsibility” and “infinite guilt” in a way it hasn’t in a long time.

God’s law also brings “infinite responsibility” and “infinite guilt.” Here is the difference. The impossibility of keeping Social Justice B’s standards is cruel. There is no redemption. No grace. No salvation. It’s a game we can’t win. The impossibility of keeping God’s standards is a mercy. It shatters our self-righteousness. In Luther’s words, “God is trying us, that by His law He may bring us to a knowledge of our impotence.” Augustine echoes, “The law was given for this purpose: to make you, being great, little; to show that you do not have in yourself the strength to attain righteousness, and for you, thus helpless, unworthy, and destitute, to flee to grace.” Yes! Flee to grace. Run to the cross. Quit doing penance before creatures, and take your infinite guilt to the infinite Creator, who alone has the authority to declare us not guilty through the death and resurrection of Jesus. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is the good news we must declare as our first thing to this weary generation.

Amen!

A. Hall

How Much of the Bible Is Prophecy?

Prophecy accounts for a major portion of the entire canon of Scripture. Numerous books in the Old Testament contain prophecy—some include short statements about the future, and others feature entire prophetic visions. In the New Testament, almost every book contains some prophecy, with Revelation being wholly devoted to a prophetic vision.

By one count, about 27 percent of the Bible is predictive (Payne, J. B., The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, Baker Pub. Group, 1980, p. 675). This means that, when written, over one fourth of the Bible—more than one in four verses—was prophetic. Professor and theologian J. Barton Payne lists 1,817 prophecies in the Bible (ibid., p. 674). The consistent relation of prophecy in the Bible is staggering; on top of that is the amazing accuracy of those detailed prophecies.

At least one half of all biblical predictions have already been fulfilled precisely as God had declared. Because of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling these prophecies, we can be assured that He will fulfill the rest of the prophecies in Scripture without fault (see Numbers 23:19).

Prophecy in the Bible can be divided into two broad groups: fulfilled and not yet fulfilled. Some examples from these generalized groups include the following:

Fulfilled Prophecies: • The first coming of Christ (e.g., Deuteronomy 18:15–19; Numbers 24:17; Daniel 9:25–26; Micah 5:2). • Jesus as the Savior of mankind (e.g., Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:4–5). • Prophecies regarding individual people, such as the doom of Jezebel (2 Kings 9:10). • Prophecies regarding Israel, such as in the case of Israel’s exile to Babylon (2 Kings 20:18; Jeremiah 34:3). • The destruction of the temple, which occurred in AD 70 (Matthew 24:1–2). • Daniel’s prophecies about the rise and fall of many kingdoms (Daniel 7:2–6, 16).

Prophecies Still to Be Fulfilled: • The second coming of Christ (Zechariah 14:3–4; Matthew 24:44; Acts 1:10–11; Revelation 1:7). • The rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). • The tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15–22). • The resurrections of the saved and the unsaved (Daniel 12:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:20–23; Revelation 20:11–15). • The millennial reign of Christ (Psalm 72:7–11; Zechariah 2:10–11; Revelation 20:4). • The restoration of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31–37; Romans 11:26–27). • The new heavens and new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).

Some prophecies have a double fulfillment, one nearer to the time of the prophet and one further in the future. We see this in Isaiah 7:14, for example. The birth of a child served as a sign for King Ahaz, but the prophecy also pointed forward to the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:22–23). Some interpret Jesus’ explanation of the signs of the end times as having been fulfilled in some sense in AD 70 yet also signaling a future, more complete fulfillment during the end times tribulation.

Other prophecies have been fulfilled partially and are awaiting complete fulfillment. An example of this is found in Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 61:1–2, in which He declares the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. In the synagogue, Jesus read from the scroll: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19). He then proclaimed Himself as the fulfillment of that prophecy. But He had stopped reading in the middle of Isaiah 61:2. The reason is simple: the first part of that verse was fulfilled by Christ in His first advent, but the second half, concerning “the day of vengeance of our God,” was not. The Day of the Lord is still to be fulfilled in the future.

The amount of prophecy in the Bible is one of the things that make it unique among religious books. There is absolutely no emphasis on predictive prophecy in the Qu’ran or the Hindu Vedas, for example. In contrast, the Bible repeatedly points to fulfilled prophecy as direct proof that it is God who speaks (see Deuteronomy 18:22; 1 Kings 22:28; Jeremiah 28:9). Given God’s omniscience, it should come as no surprise that the Bible contains so many clear predictions or that those predictions are literally fulfilled: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done” (Isaiah 46:9–10, ESV).

How To Miss the Truth

Most of us think we are unbiased in our quest for truth. We like to think of ourselves as impartial evaluators of data who seek to arrive at the best decision. But the truth is, most of the time, we desire a specific conclusion, and we search the data in such a way that helps us end up there. We overlook red flags and yellow lights. We come up with excuses and unreasonable explanations. And we usually don’t even realize we are doing it. We think we are looking for the best answer, when in reality we are looking for the least complicated answer, the least demanding answer, the most convenient answer.

Such was the case for Pontius Pilate.

Searching for the Answer You Want to Find
Emperor Tiberius appointed Pilate in AD 26 to serve as governor of Judea, a post he filled for 11 years, including for the entirety of Jesus’ three-year public ministry. Throughout his governorship, Pilate made decisions that consistently advanced his own agenda at the expense of the people he governed.

The ancient historians Josephus, Eusebius, and Philo provided unsavory accounts of Pilate’s leadership. They recorded how, under the cover of night, he set up imperial images throughout Jerusalem, knowing they would offend the Jews. And how he later brought golden shields with blasphemous inscriptions on them into the city and refused to remove them until Tiberius himself demanded it. They wrote of a time Pilate pilfered funds from the temple treasury to build a new aqueduct system and how, when a mob formed to protest the theft, he commanded his soldiers to beat them with clubs and trample them with horses, killing many. These stories align with Luke’s account in Luke 13:1, which reports about Pilate killing pilgrims from Galilee who were worshipping in the temple, and how he mixed their blood with the blood of their sacrifices.

Pilate was not a merciful or kind man. To make matters worse, he was unwilling to reevaluate his decisions and alter course when it was clear he was wrong. He changed his decisions only when forced to by an authority higher than him. Pilate was not interested in the truth; he was only interested in advancing his own agenda and solidifying his preestablished convictions. He had no interest in discovering an inconvenient truth that might require something from him.

We see these poor qualities on display in Pilate’s interaction with Jesus. When the Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pilate, the governor knew what they wanted. And he knew if he refused them, he would have an angry, riotous mob on his hands during Passover, the most important week of the year. So when Pilate questioned Jesus (as recorded in John 18:33-38), he wasn’t a neutral arbiter of justice searching for truth, he was a biased inquisitor looking for the answer that would help keep his city undisturbed and himself as popular with the people as possible.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” And after a bit of back and forth, Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.” This confused Pilate, so he said, “You are a king, then!” And Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Which prompted Pilate to ask, “What is truth?” It was perhaps the best possible question to ask. The only problem? Pilate wasn’t really interested in Jesus’ answer.

Pilate was interested only in an answer that was convenient, one that would help him further his political goals. So, even though his wife warned him not to trouble this innocent man, Pilate found the “answer” he was looking for and ordered Jesus flogged and then crucified. Not because it was right, just, or fair. Not because he was honestly searching for the truth and missed it. But, rather, because Pilate could hear only what he wanted to hear, what he thought he needed to hear.

And in that way, Pilate is like most of us.

Searching for the truth, even if it’s inconvenient
As we approach this Easter season, how can we ensure we are truly on the quest for truth and not just some answers that justify our already established convictions? How can we know we are sincerely seeking God’s will and not just confirmation of our predetermined conclusions?

Here are a few questions that might help:

Question 1: What do I honestly want the answer to be? Socrates was known for teaching his students two simple words, “Know thyself.” In order to discern truth, we need to be mindful of our personal desires and our propensity to pursue them at almost any cost.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” If we are not aware of our internal longings and desires, we will be hamstrung in our search for truth. Often, because we want a certain outcome, we stack the deck by painting an incomplete picture, which likely keeps us from arriving at the truth. Being honest and upfront about our personal preference can prevent this from happening, or at least significantly minimize the distortion.

Consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus began his prayer by honestly identifying his desire for the cup to pass. Such honesty allowed him to easily discern between his personal preference and his Father’s will.

Question 2: Am I willing to hold this decision with open hands? To be openhanded means we don’t hold on to something if it is being taken from us, and we don’t reject something that is being given to us. Our hands are open. To be openhanded means we don’t force our will upon a decision and fight for the outcome we want. Our hands are open. To be openhanded means we are willing to actually put into practice the words of the old hymn, “Wherever he leads I’ll go,” not the words of today’s anthem, “Wherever I lead, he’ll go.”

Question 3: Have I submitted this to others? This question helps us discern if we are walking exclusively in our own counsel or in the counsel of a wise community. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

When it comes to such things as finances, relationships, hiring, and vocations, are we making decisions for ourselves and then telling others what we believe God said? Or are we approaching others and saying, “I have an important decision to make. I think God might be moving and opening doors for me. Can you help me discern if this is truly from him and what he might be saying?” And when we include others, are we simply asking a few friends who we know are inclined to agree with us, or are we seeking counsel from people who ask probing questions, who are in different seasons of life than us, and who have experience outside of our realm of expertise? Moreover, have we sought the counsel of those with spiritual authority in our lives? What a blessing to have the prayerful wisdom and discernment of those who have been entrusted with keeping watch over our souls.

Interestingly, in my role as a pastor and elder, there is about a 50-to-1 ratio of being informed by someone what God wants them to do compared to being asked to pray with someone about what God wants them to do. The gift of community and spiritual authority in the search for truth cannot be overstated.

Pilate missed the Truth because he wasn’t really looking for it. The truth was inconvenient. The truth is almost always inconvenient. But what sort of people will we be? Those who only pretend to search for the right answers as a salve for our consciences as we proceed to do what we want? Or those who are honest about our personal preferences, who hold our futures with open hands, and who seek truth with the help of others. The truth may be inconvenient, but as Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.”

D. Hamel

I Woke Up Underwater

I woke up underwater. Icy cold. Lungs useless. Instinctively, I kicked and flailed. My backpack, clothes, and boots held me down. Why was I having such a hard time getting to the surface? I didn’t know that I had broken a wrist, cracked my skull, and fractured two vertebrae in my neck.

I had been fly-fishing the Pack River in the northern Idaho backcountry with my friend John. The day was warm and sunny; hemlocks with their shaggy boughs arched over the water. Sunlight dappled through the needles, illuminating every rock in the gin-clear water.

We were fishing a pool near a waterfall with a steep drop. I caught one small trout and then leapfrogged rock to rock, climbing upstream. At the crest of the falls, I waded out into the river. The second I stepped with my left foot, I knew I’d made an unfortunate choice. My feet flew out from under me on the slippery granite. Then nothing. I don’t recall being catapulted over the falls, tossed like a rag doll in a washing machine.

image of cover
Mar 10, 2021 issue
I had been knocked unconscious.

But at the base of the waterfall, the cold water startled me awake. I crawled out of the river, panicked, panting, grasping at the rocks. My hand reached for my forehead—my glasses were gone. But I could clearly see blood on my palm. I drifted in and out of consciousness, waking again to the sound of roaring water. I was shivering. How long had I lain there?

“Are you hurt?” It was John.

“I don’t know,” I said. I actually hoped I could get back to catching trout.

“We better get you to a hospital. Do you want to wait here while I go get help or try to walk out with me?”

We were in a steep embankment, a good half mile from the road. It would be a while before John returned. I thought about grizzly bears. I feared being left there in the wilderness, alone.

So we bushwhacked out of the canyon. John led the way, pushing away unforgiving branches, fallen limbs, and feral undergrowth. I limped along behind him, a wet T-shirt to my forehead to stem the flow of blood. When we reached the dirt road, I feared I would black out again. John helped me into an ATV. My body relaxed just a little, knowing I was in his capable hands.

Hours later I lay in a hospital bed, my arm in a cast, my head bandaged, and my neck in a brace. I wondered, how did I lose my balance? Did I misjudge the water’s depth or the strength of the current? Hadn’t I remembered I was wading into a river at the crest of a waterfall? What if the water had not awoken me? I could have drowned.

“God drew me out of deep water,” says the psalmist (18:16). “God rescued me.” Like Peter when he began to sink under the waves, I was saved from death—but it was more than that. The Latin word salvus is the basis for both “save” and “salve.” Being saved means being healed, rewoven into relationship with God—it’s more than simply being given more time on this planet. What was I being saved for? What would this experience teach me about what’s next?

I don’t know how Peter experienced life after he was saved. For me it was as if I had been standing apart from nature, in it but not of it; but now, having been taken by its power and tumbled down the frothy white chaos, I was part of creation itself. I realized that I am an animal, vulnerable to nature, gravity, and mortality. The Gospels teach me that such moments are the gateway to embracing our radical depen­dence upon God.

William Sloane Coffin said, “God provides minimum protection, maximum support.” This is what the Pack River taught me—the river that mauled me, that saved me.

Peter Luckey

The Cruel Age of Group Think

There must surely be a creeping anxiety spreading thoughout the English cricket team – what tweets from their teenage years lie like time bombs waiting to be discovered? What adolescent thought crimes may slip out of the long forgotten murky past to destroy their career?

I was thinking about my own past, teenage years and childhood. I once drank cider underage in a pub. I once put a bet on a horse, a shilling, underage as a teen. But the event where I really went off the rails happened when I was about 11.

I grew up in South West London, near Wimbledon Common. One night when it was about 11pm, long after we had been put to bed on a school night, I convened ‘my gang’. There were four of us and more ‘Just William’ than contemporary Brixton.

Our escapade involved putting a duffle bag and a mop in my bed to disguise the fact that I wasn’t there anymore, and shinning down the drain pipe outside my bedroom window to meet my friends – the gang. Sadly the evening ended up with an act of vandalism.

In mitigation, we were a bunch of socially responsible vigilante kids, trying to create a speed trap to deter cars from racing down a hill. It involved unscrewing a particular car aerial and extending it across the road, where it would be hit, too small to be seen by the offending car, and then slow the car to a stop as the driver wondered what the noise was. But that night the unscrewable aerial was not there and so…..

I obviously don’t want to incriminate myself. But even before my parents had discovered what I had actually been up to, shinning up the drain pipe I found the bedclothes pulled back, my subterfuge exposed. I went downstairs to face the music. My father caned me and, much much worse, stopped my pocket money for six months to pay for the damage.

I was lucky I didn’t get into trouble with the police. I was lucky my adolescent stupidity didn’t mark my card longer than it did. But the Christian culture I grew up in allowed penitence, sorrow, changes of direction and forgiveness.

But something has changed. It’s no longer about what you did. It’s what you thought – or what they think you thought.

I’m not about to be selected for the English cricket team, but if I was, today, someone might start looking into my past. Like all of us, they would find stuff I was ashamed of, stuff I had put behind me, stuff I had repudiated, and stuff I had forgotten. What a lucky break there was no Twitter when I was growing up. Because the first place everyone looks today is social media like Facebook or Twitter.

Sadly for Ollie Robinson, who had just been selected to play cricket for England, Twitter and his teenage years just overlapped.

He put out some silly, daft and, if you understand them, somewhat offensive tweets when he was 18. Like a lot of teen jokes, other people didn’t find them very funny. Some people would have been made very cross by some of them.

But then adolescents push the boundaries, don’t they. That’s what that period of life is supposed to be about.

This is what he wrote:-

“I wonder if Asian people put smileys like this ¦) #racist”;

“My new Muslim friend is the bomb. #wheeyyyyy”;

“Real n—– don’t let the microwave hit 0:00”; and

“Wash your fingers for the mingers #cuban”.”

On a scale of the offensive 1-10, I think they might hit about 4 in my judgement. If you are any of the above mentioned then you might be annoyed. But let’s try the boot on the other foot for a moment. I’m white so no one can be racist towards me (according to our social rules). But the thing I really dislike is being accused of toxic masculinity. Let’s imagine for a moment that the captain of the England women’s cricket team was to have a record of fulminating against toxic blokes. I might be irritated by it but I think I would just hope she could redirect whatever had annoyed her into playing better cricket. I would be mortified if she was sacked or dropped just because she offended me – and my kind.

The rapid river that is cultural change and has become cultural wokism, has turned out to have many unpleasant features to it, not least a brutality when it comes to forgiveness – because there isn’t any.

Astonishingly for an ideology steeped in the naive optimism of Rousseau which assumes that education and cultural improvement can make anyone better, no allowance is made for change.

Ollie Robinson grovelled – which wasn’t enough, apologised that it was a long time ago when he was 18 – again, not enough, that he had changed and improved his views – also not enough, and was professionally destroyed.

As Joni Mitchell so captivatingly crooned when I was a kid, “don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…. they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.”

The moral concrete of this ‘parking lot’ is an unyielding surface of ethical un-forgiveness on which we break our existential bones as we stumble and fall; and having fallen are held down and crushed by the moral disapproval of the woke.

It’s not clear in this brave new world of moral relativism what business a cricket selection board has in policing the ethical character of spin bowlers or ace batsmen. Who decided and when exactly did it happen that a qualification for playing sport for your country, or any team, required correct group-think?

Christians, and humanists even, ought to be up in arms in righteous indignation in the face of this pseudo-moral wokism claiming it has a right to police moral character in the public space.

The new zeitgeist that came quietly amongst us has lulled us into a false confidence that it is virtuous because it claims to be morally responsible. But not all moral stances are responsible just because they claim to be moral.

Whenever secularism apes religion, it unfailingly borrows traits that are bad and cruel from religiosity, and ignores what is good and noble.

It is bad and cruel to punish a man for his teenage excesses. It is bad and cruel to tell a sportsman who once had a stupid sense of humour that he is too corrupt to represent us in entertaining sport.

It is bad and cruel for sports coaches and administrators to claim moral qualifications they don’t have and should not be permitted to use. It is bad and cruel to withhold forgiveness.

But as always, as the last century should have taught us over and over again, all it takes for evil to prosper at the hands of people taking actions that are bad and cruel, is for the well-informed and well-inclined to do nothing.

Gavin Ashenden

How Is Mourning a Blessing?

While my focus is on mourning, each Beatitude builds on the previous so allow me a minute to address what it means to be both “blessed” and “poor in spirit.”

“Blessed” means to be a recipient of divine favor or approval. The opposite of blessed is cursed. There are only two paths, blessed or cursed. The blessed person in Matthew 5:3, the one who is “poor in spirit” is the one who is humble and acknowledges their need for God in every area of their life. God’s divine favor, approval, endorsement rests on those who are “poor in spirit” and their reward is “the kingdom of heaven” life spent in eternity with the Holy Triune God.

“Blessed [fortunate] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (5:4). In the Greek mourning is a present, active, participle which means that we should be repeatedly mourning. This is not a one time event! Only the person who is poor in spirit is the one who is able to authentically mourn. And how do we do this? Why should we mourn? My pastor gave three layers or reasons for why we mourn: over personal sin, over the persistence of sin, over the pervasiveness of sin.

Many cultures today (especially in the States) do everything they can to run from or mask pain and discomfort. The world promotes that we should be as happy as we can because the world is bad enough. As Lloyd-Jones states, “The whole organization of life, the pleasure mania, the money, energy, and enthusiasm that are expended in entertaining people, are all just an expression of the great aim of the world to get away from the idea of mourning and this spirit of mourning” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 1976, p. 43).

The Gospel does indeed say, “blessed are those who mourn.” Once we acknowledge that we are “poor in spirit” we have no choice but to authentically progress to mourning over our sins personally and corporately. We are called to mourn, to rejoice and to be content. I mourn and lament the sin that is within me that has helped promote the problems that we have in this world today. Like Paul, I mourn and hate the persistence and pervasiveness of my own sins and the sins of others that are causing the problems that we are seeing in society today (Romans 7:18-24).

Folks, I will be honest, I have been mourning what has happened and is happening in our world today. I am fully aware that for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ that we are Kingdom citizens first and foremost. I am NOT asking God for things to go back to how they were prior, I acknowledge and am fully aware that God’s ways, plans and thoughts are NOT mine and I am following Him!

However, I also know that if I do not acknowledge my grief and admit that I am mourning to God, myself and others two things will happen definitely happen 1. I will become angry and 2. Anger will cause me to sin in which I miss/forfeit God’s comfort. There’s also a 3rd component which is more of a risk, if I do not acknowledge to others that I am mourning, I may miss the comfort that God has given them to give to me.

Unlike the first hearers of Matthew’s Gospel, we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. We have the Comforter of comforters inside of us who will help us, strengthen us in our mourning when we acknowledge our brokenness over our sin, when we express our hurts, pain and fears to Him. We should not stay in mourning, we should experience His comfort and the comfort of others; however, we cannot deny that we have a need to mourn. Again, mourning is a byproduct of the one who is poor in spirit. Being poor in spirit and mourning both have to do with our vertical and our horizontal relationships in the face of oppression and opposition.

Mourning requires self-examination and self-reflection. This Advent season, may we not run from mourning but rather run to mourning, knowing that in the Incarnation, God Himself took on Flesh to reconcile sinful man to Holy God by dying a criminal’s death on a cross, buried and in the grave for three days, Resurrected from the dead, who is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Fifty days after Jesus Ascended to Heaven, the Father through the Son sent the Holy Spirit to indwell, comfort, advocate on behalf of all those who will believe in Him.

May we mourn knowing that God will comfort us now and even more so in eternity. I have no idea what mourning looks like for you dear reader, but know that Jesus is with you and that He loves you and so do I.

Our Prayer
Father God, help us to mourn and lament our sin and the sins of what we see around us. Thank You Father that although we are called to mourn we are also called to rejoice. Lord God, thank You for being a God who allows us to express our emotions and that You will help us process our emotions and circumstances in a manner that honors You and brings You glory. Lord God, Your glory is the manifestation of Your Holiness. Lord God, make us more aware and more sensitive to our spiritual poverty in this Christmas season. Lord God, 2020 has been a tough year for just about everyone in so many different ways. Lord God, make us sensitive to NOT look down on those who are mourning but to comfort them, being quick to listen and slow to speak. Lord God, thank You that mourning and comfort go together. Lord God, thank You for the gift of this reader. Meet with them today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

Did Christianity Evolve?

Skeptics sometimes argue that the Christianity in its early years looked different than modern-day Christianity. Specifically, they question whether Jesus claimed to be God or if he was deified by a band of disappointed followers after his crucifixion. Christianity is grounded on the view that the claims of the New Testament are true,]. The gospels describe historical events, accurately recorded. The Apostle Paul wrote, “if Christ is not [truly] raised… our preaching is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Did Christianity “evolve” as skeptics claim?

If the truth of Jesus of Nazareth has been radically changed; if his message has been altered, and the truth of the Resurrection changed, Christianity itself would collapse even by its own standard. New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman suggested the claims of Christianity had changed over time in a 2014 interview with NPR, stating:

“During his lifetime, Jesus himself didn’t call himself God and didn’t consider himself God, and… none of his disciples had any inkling at all that he was God.”

But early Christian literature written after the death of Jesus tells another story: that Jesus was considered God from the earliest days of the Christian faith.

The Apostle Paul, an early convert to Christianity, wrote some of the earliest texts of Christianity. Paul was martyred in the early-to-mid 60s A.D.and is traditionally thought to be the author of 13 New Testament books. Skeptics such as Ehrman question the authenticity of some of these writings; however, nearly all scholars agree that Paul authored at least 7 of these books.[2] Using just these 7 letters, written between the late-40 and early 60s A.D., we can capture a glimpse of Christianity just 15 to 30 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.

In these letters, Paul described Jesus as the “Lord Jesus Christ,” states Jesus died to provide salvation, claims Jesus was resurrected, and includes explicit language regarding Jesus’ deity. In Philippians 2:6-7, Paul wrote:

“as He [Jesus] already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men.”

Paul was converted well after the other apostles and began his mission after the other apostles had been preaching and teaching. As a result, Paul’s letters did not contain new teachings, but instead conformed to the pre-existing teachings of the other Apostles.

Some skeptics are quick to reject or minimize the whole of New Testament scripture, including even these early letters of Paul, insisting that the earliest Christian believers did not interpret Paul’s writings in the same way that modern orthodox Christian theologians typically interpret them. Luckily, the historical record between the New Testament and modern-day Christianity is not silent. Did Christianity Evolve? Click To Tweet

Numerous Christian believers wrote about their faith, even as early as the first and second centuries. These believers cited many theological truths, as they quoted or referenced many passages from the New Testament. In fact, much of the New Testament could be reconstructed from these early Christian writings.

Despite claims that a high Christology (that is, a belief that Jesus Christ was God) emerged late in history, the early writings of the apostolic fathers (the Christians that came after Jesus’ direct followers), tell a different story. For example, Ignatius of Antioch, writing in the late-first to early-second century, clearly believed Jesus was God. In a letter to the church in Ephesus, Ignatius begins with a greeting:

“Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia… being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God.”

Even at this early time, the deity of Christ was already accepted by Christians and being taught in churches.

Clement, who began as a companion to Paul, wrote concurrent to Ignatius and taught about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, writing:

“Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world.”

Early Christian authors repeatedly reiterated the claims of the gospel authors, affirming the theological truths modern Christians accept today. Simply put, Jesus’ claim to deity, His death, crucifixion, resurrection, and offer of salvation emerged quickly after Jesus’ lifetime. These claims didn’t slowly develop over time.

In the Patristic period (the era following the eyewitnesses of Jesus), the “students of the eyewitness students” continued to write about their experiences and their perspective on Christianity. Writings which survive from this period are robust and contain extensive descriptions of Christianity. Justin Martyr, for example, wrote in the mid-second century and described the Christian position on Jesus as follows:

“In the books of the Prophets, indeed, we found Jesus our Christ foretold as coming to us born of a virgin, reaching manhood, curing every disease and ailment, raising the dead to life, being hated, unrecognized, and crucified, dying, rising from the dead, ascending into Heaven, and being called and actually being the Son of God.”[6]

Justin Martyr also described Jesus as the “Word” (or Logos) mentioned by John:

“The Logos is the pre-existent, absolute, personal Reason, and Christ is the embodiment of it, the Logos incarnate.”

This account of Jesus describes him as possessing all the attributes of deity: infinite in nature, all-powerful, and all-knowing.

Even Bart Ehrman tacitly admits that the early church, the Christians who immediately followed the life of the Apostles, accepted Jesus as God. In his book, Did Jesus Exist?, Ehrman writes that the deity of Jesus was not an invention of later Christians, but was instead a claim offered by the New Testament writers. When describing the New Testament authors’ description of Christian salvation, Ehrman states:

“Later Christians – including most notably Paul … but also the writers of the Gospels – maintained that it was belief in Jesus that would bring a person into the coming kingdom. But… these people didn’t even know him.”

Although Ehrman claims Jesus never envisioned himself a God capable of a salvific act, he admits that the earliest Christians claimed Jesus was God (and was, in fact, capable of saving them). Why would they believe such a thing? The most reasonable inference is that the real Jesus of history acted and existed in such a way that His followers could reasonably infer His Deity.

Christians proclaimed the deity of Jesus exceedingly early in history. Why? Because Jesus proclaimed this truth and demonstrated His deity repeatedly. Christianity hasn’t evolved. Instead, it has consistently proclaimed the deity of Christ.

J. Wallace

India Is Burning

‘We are immersed in fire. It is like watching an apocalyptic movie.”

That’s how Dr. Mani Pagidipalli describes his home country of India, which topped 20 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday with more than 350,000 new cases reported in a 24-hour period. At least 222,000 people have died since the pandemic began. Now some 3,600 people are dying per day.

“There is no place for the sick at hospitals, no place for the dead at the crematoriums and graveyards,” said Pagidipalli, a physician and evangelist who works with multiple Churches of Christ in southern India and oversees a medical mission and a preacher-training program. To the north, in the capital, Delhi, workers have built makeshift funeral pyres in public parks, the BBC reports.

Indian Christians are praying for vaccines, food and even air, preachers in this predominantly Hindu nation of 1.3 billion souls told The Christian Chronicle. Ventilators and oxygen canisters are in short supply, and lockdowns are preventing those who work as day laborers to earn enough money to feed their families.

Some 600 preachers for Churches of Christ alone have died from COVID-19 in the past year, according to workers with India Missions.

As the situation becomes increasingly “grim, grave and gloomy,” the minister said, church members are doing their best to serve and share Christ with the suffering.

“COVID is increasing exponentially here in India,” Pagidipalli said, “but the number of souls who are turning to Jesus as their Lord is also increasing every single day.”

Ministers across the subcontinent shared similar stories:

• In the seaside city of Kakinada, Ronnie Gootam scrolls through post after post on Facebook of people in his area asking for work — any work. Others seek people willing to deliver food to coronavirus patients or plead for leads on where they might find oxygen.

“We lost a church member a few days ago,” said Gootam. “He was pretty much asymptomatic until the day he passed away.” When the church member began to struggle to breathe, he was taken to a hospital, where he tested positive.

“Due to lack of oxygen in the hospital, he passed away shortly,” Gootam said.

Dr. Stanley Madiki said he knows of more than 900 preachers’ families affected by the virus in Kakinada and other parts of southern India.

Madiki, a physician and preacher for the Agraharam Church of Christ, and his wife Marcella distributed “Bags of Hope,” including food and medical supplies, to 1,500 families of preachers and 400-plus poor families during pandemic lockdowns last year.

“The risk is very high,” Madiki said of possible exposure to COVID-19 patients, “but that is what we have decided to do — to spread the love, to give hope and to pray for them and their loved ones.”

The virus “can shut down churches, choke the gospel and persecute,” he added, “but our faith, hope and love shall continue.”

Renganathan knows of nearly 500 deaths among members of Churches of Christ in the Chennai region, including several evangelists he worked with closely.

“That was one of those times I came to know that Christians have more Christ in them than I thought they did,” he added. He also learned that “people have more hunger for the Word of God than I thought they did.”

In India, there are many reasons for people of faith to be discouraged, Renganathan said.

“But this is the time when we have to be more like Christ,” he said, “and encourage our brothers in particular and the world in general.”

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