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PROPOSED RESOLUTION ON KINGDOM UNITY IN THE SBC AND THE NATION WORKING DRAFT BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR. I plan to present a “Resolution On Kingdom Unity In The SBC And The Nation” to the SBC June 2017 Phoenix Resolutions Committee that if accepted and adhered to will advance the Southern Baptist Convention toward the […]
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INC: How This Entrepreneur Turned a Passion Into a $2 Million Business After the Death of His Wife

Starting a business is challenging and risky at the same time but launching it while your spouse is dying is even worse. Paul David spent over a decade working for a company that recruited top talent for businesses. He had … Continue reading
Posted in Archives, Belong, Blog, consulting, Corruption, fourth of july, God's Family, good works, Hebrews 12, Kilimanjaro, made by God, matriarchs, non-calvinism, Preacher, productization, unhealthy competition, Writing | Comments Off

You Never Have to Pray Alone, Part 7 (Praying Through the Bible #237)


TEXT: Romans 8:18-28:

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

We are in a series of messages titled “Praying Through the Bible: A Series on Every Passage and Verse Regarding Prayer in the Bible.” The purpose of this series is to encourage and motivate you to pray to the God of the Bible. We highlighted each of these over 500 verses and passages in the Prayer Motivator Devotional Bible. So far, we have completed 236 messages in this series.

This is message #237 titled, You Never Have to Pray Alone, Part 7.

Romans 8:28 is a very popular verse of Scripture. It is a “feel good” verse. However, it is one that is most often quoted out of context. The preposition “and” at the beginning of this verse tells us that it does not stand alone. It comes in addition to what Paul has been talking about before, and that is how the Holy Spirit helps believers in prayer. It is only in that context that we can fully understand the meaning of the following words: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Regarding the Holy Spirit’s prayer work on behalf of the believer, we have learned that He helps us pray when we are weak, He helps us pray when we do not know what to pray for, and He helps us pray when we do not know how to pray for a certain situation. He comes alongside us, taking the burden of prayer on His shoulders, so that even when we are experiencing feelings that we do not know how to express, He expresses them to the father in “groanings that cannot be uttered.” More than that, He also abides in us and prays for us according to the will of God. Only when we are in the will of God and receiving those things that He sees fit to give us — be they good or bad — can all things truly work out for our good.

Our highest good is the good that God has for us. This means that everything we experience in life will not be “good” by human standards. Some of what God has in store for us will be downright awful (from our perspective). But we know that God brings good out of ugly situations. That is why the verse says, “all things work together for our good.” Every individual aspect of our lives may not be good in the moment. But in the end, all of that difficulty, pain, tribulation, chastisement, and persecution will work together for our good because, as His children, God has called us “according to His purpose.”

Deborah Ann Belka wrote in “In God’s Training Room”:

In God’s training room,
there’s a lot for us to learn
for, He wants to teach us
He’s with us at every turn.

We wrestle with the pain,
weep long into the night
so God can show us
the joy in His morning light.

We confront our sorrow,
the source of our fears
so God can collect for us
in His bottle all our tears.

We struggle with our past,
we scramble with its strife
so God can help us see
the temperance of this life.

In God’s training room,
He’s teaching us to know
all thing work for good
to them who love Him so!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now, if you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your first prayer needs to be what we call the Sinner’s Prayer. First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”

Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.

Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You have done the most important thing in life. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.

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Color of Money Live (March 23)

Post columnist Michelle Singletary offers her advice and answers your questions.

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Princeton Theological Seminary Writes Its Own Epitaph

Although Princeton Theological Seminary departed from biblical Orthodoxy many decades ago, this once venerable institution has crossed a new, shameful line, thereby writing its own epitaph. It may still have brilliant scholars on its faculty and some truly Christian students in its midst, and it may continue to function for years to come. But by revoking its decision to honor Rev. Tim Keller with a special award, it has announced to the world that it worships at the altar of political correctness, showing more allegiance to the prevailing culture than to the timeless Word of God.

First, a short history of the school.

The seminary was founded in 1812 and was led by Dr. Archibald Alexander, who would hardly recognize the institution today, so far has it departed from its roots.

Through the rest of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, Princeton was graced with the presence of top biblical scholars and theologians such as Charles Hodge, J. A. Alexander, B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen and Geerhardus Vos. But in 1929, when the seminary went in an anti-fundamentalist (anti-evangelical) direction, embracing "modernism" instead, Machen resigned, along with Oswald T. Allis, Robert Dick Wilson and Cornelius Van Til—all great luminaries in evangelical Christian scholarship—and together they founded Westminster Theological Seminary.

So, as stated, the seminary has not been a bastion of orthodoxy for nearly a century, but it has never before stooped this low in exalting the opinions of people over the truth of Scripture (or, to be charitable, over historic Christian positions), and in the name of progressive Christianity, it has further announced its departure from the faith.

Rev. Timothy Keller, longtime leader of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and one of the most respected and irenic pastors in America, was scheduled to speak at the seminary and receive the Kuyper Prize, named after Dutch Christian leader Abraham Kuyper (more on Kuyper at the end of the article).

However, the announcement that Keller would be receiving this award created an uproar at the school, prompting the school's president, Prof. Craig Barnes, to write a letter to the seminary community on March 10. He explained, "The focus of the concerns that have come to me is that Rev. Keller is a leader of the Presbyterian Church in America, which prevents women and LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the ordained ministry to Word and Sacrament."

He continued, "Our seminary embraces full inclusion for ordained leadership of the church. We clearly stand in prophetic opposition to the PCA and many other Christian denominations that do not extend the full exercise of Spirit filled gifts for women or those of various sexual orientations. We know that many have been hurt by being excluded from ministry, and we have worked hard to be an affirming place of preparation for service to the church."

So, it is not just an issue of the PCA not ordaining women (where there have been different views among Christian conservatives, who can point to women serving in various leadership capacities in the Church from New Testament times until today); it is an issue of the PCA not ordaining practicing gays, lesbians and others (where there have been virtually no differences among Christian conservatives from New Testament times until today in light of the categorical teaching of Scripture and the unanimous verdict of Church history until recent years). And note that the seminary stands in "prophetic opposition" to these positions, finding the battle to be a "critical issue of justice."

Nonetheless, Barnes wrote, because it is a "a core conviction of our seminary to be a serious academic institution that will sometimes bring controversial speakers to campus because we refuse to exclude voices within the church," he hoped that Keller would be welcomed in "a spirit of grace and academic freedom" when he received his award and gave a lecture to the school.

Twelve days later, on March 22, Barnes wrote again. The outcry was too great. Keller would not receive the award (although, remarkably, Keller agreed to deliver his lecture as planned; I question if he will be received in "a spirit of grace and academic freedom").

Yes, Barnes explained, "In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America's views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year."

Ironically (really, that is too weak a description), Barnes stated that, "We are a community that does not silence voices in the church. [You might want to pause for a moment and read that again. He actually wrote they do "not silence voices in the church."] In this spirit, we are a school that can welcome a church leader to address one of its centers about his subject, even if we strongly disagree with his theology on ordination to ministry. Reverend Keller will be lecturing on Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church—not on ordination"

Is this not outright professorial double-talk? We don't silence other voices; no, we welcome leaders with other views. We just dishonor them by revoking a promised award, and we effectively muzzle them by having them speak on a non-controversial subject.

No wonder Rod Dreher said that, "If I were Tim Keller, I would let the dying Mainline bury the dying Mainline, and not bother with them. Mainline Protestantism in most places has become a suicide cult."

Dreher has not overstated his case.

In a further stroke of irony, Barnes closed his letter saying, "In the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we strive to be a community that can engage with generosity and respect those with whom we disagree about important issues."

Generosity and respect indeed.

And who is this Abraham Kuyper after whom the award is named? He was a Dutch theologian, journalist and political leader, serving as Holland's Prime Minister from 1901-1905. And Kuyper was a staunch opponent of theological liberalism who believed in the absolute lordship of Christ, famously writing, "Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

That applies to Princeton Theological Seminary as well, and if this school does not fully reverse its course, repent, and go back to its foundations, it will become increasingly irrelevant and impotent—again, despite some of the brilliant scholars who teach there and despite the presence of some fine Christians who attend there.

And what would Kuyper say to each of us today?

I leave you with his resounding words. May we take them to heart and put them into practice: "When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith."

The time is now. {eoa}

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When unemployment looms: What to do before and after losing your job

For starters, begin hoarding cash.

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Healing Victims of Human Trafficking: A Long, Slow Road to Transformation

When we give our lives to the service of others, THEY will change US.

If you’ve heard or know anything about human trafficking, then you’ve heard the term “modern-day slavery.” And that’s exactly what it is. There are more slaves in the world today than any other time in our history. We should be facing this social issue—this human issue—dead on, not stopping until human trafficking no longer exists. Men and women, boys and girls all over the globe are being forced into both labor and sex trafficking, and the life for someone coming out of this type of exploitation is devastating.

I first saw and experienced what human trafficking looks like on the streets of Chicago. It was 2011 when I participated in street outreach and met women and girls who were being forced to sell their bodies. It changed me forever, and led us to pursue opening a home for women who have been commercially sexually exploited. Five years later, Naomi’s House opened, and we welcomed our first resident in December 2016.

I’ve learned so much over the past five years. When I reflect on the journey, most of what I’ve learned has come from the survivors themselves, who have taught me that they are more than modern day slaves.

Clearing Up an Important Myth

Most women who are being sexually exploited are not being physically restrained. In fact, many survivor leaders warn anti-trafficking organizations not to use pictures of girls in handcuffs or chains to represent the women and girls who are stuck in this life. If we believe that sexually-exploited girls are always chained up, we’ll miss those who are being trafficked before our very eyes.

The exploitation of women and girls is everywhere, many times in plain sight. Nita Belles, author of In Our Backyard: A Christian ...

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I’m Successful, But Missing Something. Is it God?

Yes, I believe God is trying to tell you something—and I pray you won’t ignore Him or try to shut Him out of your life. I pray instead that your reaction will be the same as that of Samuel in the Bible: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9).

What is God saying to you? The first thing I suspect He is telling you is that you have been building your life on a false foundation—one that will not last. Success … wealth … prestige … influence … all of these could vanish in a moment—and where then will you be? But more than that, some day you will die and meet God—and of what use will your wealth be then? Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27).

But God is also telling you that you need Him. Down inside we all have an empty space at the center of our lives. We try to fill it in all kinds of ways—but only God can fill it, and we’ll never be truly content until we open our hearts and lives to Him.

Don’t leave God out of your life any longer. Instead, by a simple prayer of faith ask Jesus Christ to come into your life and fill that empty place. Jesus’ promise is for you: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Ask Jesus to come into your life.

The post I’m Successful, But Missing Something. Is it God? appeared first on Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

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8 Ways God Works Suffering for Our Good

It is a conviction meant to quiet our minds and encourage our hearts: In some way God has a hand in our suffering. Whatever circumstances we experience can no more arise without the hand of God than a saw can cut without the hand of the carpenter. Job in his suffering did not say, “The Lord gave and the devil took away,” but, “The Lord gave and the Lord took away.” Suffering never comes our way apart from the purpose and providence of God and for that reason, suffering is always significant, never meaningless. Here are some ways that God brings good from our suffering.

Suffering is our preacher and teacher. It was Luther who said that he could never properly understand some of the Psalms until he endured suffering. A sick bed often teaches more than a sermon, and suffering first teaches us about our sin and sinfulness. Suffering also teaches us about ourselves, for in times of health and prosperity all seems to be well and we are both humble and grateful, but in suffering we come to see the ingratitude and rebellion of our hearts. We can best see the ugly face of sin and the reality of spiritual childishness in the mirror of suffering.

Suffering is the means of making our hearts more upright. In times of prosperity our hearts are often divided, half pursuing God and half obsessed with the world. Our hearts can be like a compass needle that swings wildly between two poles. But in suffering God takes away the world so the heart will hold to him in full sincerity. Just as we heat a crooked rod to straighten it, God holds us over the fire of suffering to make us more upright. It is good that when sin has bent our souls away from God, he will use suffering to straighten them.

Suffering conforms us to Christ. There is meant to be symmetry and proportion between the model and the canvas, between Christ and his people. Suffering is like an artist’s pencil that draws Christ’s image upon us. If we want to be parts of Christ’s body, we must want to be like him, and his life was a series of sufferings, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). If Christ’s head was crowned with thorns, why do we think ours should only ever be crowned with roses? It is good to be like Christ, and conformity often comes through suffering.

Suffering destroys sin. There are loads of sin remaining in even the best heart and suffering serves to purge it, just like fire purifies gold. The fire of suffering purges away all spiritual impurities—pride, lust, covetousness, and a million more. It never harms the soul, but only ever leaves it more pure and more beautiful.

Suffering loosens our hearts from the world. If we want to remove a tree from the ground, we first need to loosen the earth from around its roots. Just like that, God digs away our earthly comforts to loosen our hearts from the world. It is God’s desire that our hearts hold to this world by only the smallest root, and suffering serves to shake away all attachments.

Suffering makes way for comfort. God tempers outward pain with inward peace. “Your sorrow shall be turned to joy” (John 16:20), promises Jesus. In suffering we see water turned into wine, bitter medicine being chased with choice desserts. Many believers can testify that in suffering they have had the sweetest experiences of joy and the closest sense of God’s nearness.

Suffering shows that God makes much of us. Job asked, “What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him?” (Job 7:17). In suffering, God makes much of us in at least three ways. First, he condescends so low as to take notice of us at all. It shows our place in God’s world that he thinks us worthy to suffer. Second, suffering is a sign of sonship. “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7). Third, suffering makes God’s people more renowned in the world. Soldiers are never so admired as for their victories, and saints never more so for their sufferings. After all, isn’t Job the sufferer more renowned than Alexander the conqueror?

Suffering is a means to joy. Suffering brings joy by bringing us nearer to God. The full moon is the furthest from the sun and, likewise, many people in the full moon of prosperity are furthest from God. When God begins to remove our worldly comforts, it is then that we run to him and make peace with him. It was only when the prodigal was needy that he returned home to his father (Luke 15:13) and only when the dove could not find any rest that she flew to the ark. When God brings a flood of suffering upon us, it is then that we fly to the ark, Christ.

Suffering silences the wicked. Unbelievers love to claim that Christians serve God only out of self-interest. Therefore, God has his people suffer so they will shut the mouths of those who cast aspersions on them and their God. It shuts the blasphemers’ mouths to see Christians hold fast to their God in suffering, for as they do so they prove that they serve God first out of love.

Suffering makes way for glory. As ploughing prepares the earth for a crop, so suffering prepares and makes us fit for glory. The skilled artist knows that gold paint shows best against dark colors, and, similarly, God first lays the dark colors of suffering, then brushes on the golden color of glory. Suffering does not earn us glory, but it does prepare us for it.

In all these ways we see that suffering is not harmful to believers but beneficial. Thus we should train ourselves to look less at the evil of suffering and more at the good, to look less at the dark side of the cloud and more at the light. The worst that God ever does to his children is to drive them toward heaven, toward himself.

I love to plunder the Puritans! These eight points and much of the wording was drawn from Thomas Watson’s A Divine Cordial.

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A La Carte (March 23)

Today’s Kindle deals include just a couple of titles, but ones worth checking out.

March Madness continues at Logos and that means lots more details. You can get books up to 45% off the list price.

Princeton Seminary Reforms Its Views on Honoring Tim Keller

And this is what it has come to: “The most popular Reformed preacher and author in America today is not eligible to receive Princeton Theological Seminary’s annual award in Reformed theology and public witness.”

Why Did People Stick One Hand in Their Jackets in Old Photographs? (Video)

I’ve wondered this one before. Now I know.

Making A Pastoral Apology

There’s this ugly lie in the back of our minds that apologizing as a leader causes people to distrust us. The opposite is actually true.

The Pastor As Navigator

Here’s a helpful analogy with good examples. “God’s people need navigation, and the pastor practiced at steering a course for his people between extremes that could shipwreck them, will ensure that they reach safe haven eventually.”

3 Reasons I’m Grateful to Have Married Young

Aileen and I often talk about these same three reasons we are grateful to have married young. (Also see Al Mohler on The Problem of Delaying Marriage.)

Do You Invite Critique of your Sermons?

Creating opportunities to evaluate sermons (and the rest of a worship service) is an important part of doing them well and doing them better.

How Can I Improve My Prayers? (Video)

Donald Whitney answers as part of this video series from Southern Seminary.

Flashback: The Holiness Instinct (and the Unexpected Temptation)

On Saturday I found myself musing on personal holiness and the joyful reality that you can be far holier than you ever would have thought possible. On Sunday I began scribbling thoughts about the fact that God is able to transform you to such a degree that you develop entirely new instincts toward sin so that what was once alluring is now appalling. On Monday I had the unexpected opportunity to see if this was true.

The world has not turned upside down by experts, but converts. —Jared Wilson

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Inadequacy as a Blessing

Feeling inadequate can actually be a blessing—if it drives us to the Lord and we let His strength work through us.
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Turning Inadequacy Into Victory

When we acknowledge our insufficiency and rely on God’s power, He can turn our inadequacy into victory.
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Five Reasons Why This Millennial Still Likes Using Hymnals

By Jonathan Howe

I might lose my Millennial card for admitting this, but:

I like hymnals. A lot.

Yes, I realize I’m supposed to want to worship with fog machines and song lyrics on projector screens with cool moving backgrounds. And sometimes I enjoy that too—but not all the time.

So why would a 36-year old Millennial enjoy hymnals? Here are my five reasons:

  1. Holding the hymnal in my hands and reading the lyrics help me focus in worship. If my eyes are fixed on the words and notes to sing, I’m less distracted. Other than maybe the first and last verse of many hymns, I don’t know the words. Unlike many newer worship songs that I’ve memorized easily, I have to pay more attention to what I’m singing when using a hymnal because I’m less familiar with the words.
  2. I prefer the ability to read music and sing harmony. I’m one of the strange people you sit next to in church who default to singing harmony and not melody. Having the music in the hymnal helps—especially with unfamiliar tunes. While I can sing harmony by ear when needed, having the music in front of me is always preferred.
  3. Hymns use phrasing and words that modern songs don’t. Hymnals are full of rich theology and turns of phrase that we just don’t see anymore. Twitter’s 140 characters and the short lyrical hooks we find in modern songs have seemingly diminished our vocabulary. Hymns are full of poetic theological language missing in many contemporary songs.
  4. Responsive readings are virtually nonexistent in many protestant churches, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Our liturgies have left behind responsive readings—a core component found in many hymnals. Like the hymns mentioned in the previous point, responsive readings are filled with rich theology. As hymnals have been used less and less, responsive readings in our church services have all but disappeared.
  5. I want my kids to know hymns as well. I recently took my kids to an event that included a hymn sing. They knew virtually none of the songs. I knew all but one. I realized in that moment that they’ve never been in church services where hymnals were used. Everything is on the screen, and the songs being sung are the ones they hear on the radio. It’s good that they know the songs they do, but I’d also love for them to know hymns as well.

Does your church use hymnals? Do you have them and never use them? Are you a Millennial who misses using hymnals as well?

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources as well as the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.
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What Do I Do When My World Falls Apart?

When your world is falling apart, it’s so easy to focus on the pain, the problems, the pressure, and the difficulties. It’s the natural response. But the biblical response is to turn your focus to God’s love.
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The Cooperative Program And Future Baptists

By Dr.. Ronnie Floyd, Pastor Cross Church Springdale, Arkansas Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared here and is used by permission. Financing the work of God that we do together as Southern Baptists should never be minimized. The 51,000 plus churches and congregations that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention choose voluntarily to fund the work […]
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Are Christians Too Intentional in Dating?

Are Christians Too Intentional in Dating?

A coffee shop near the university — that’s where our story started.

I can remember, in vivid detail, walking into that familiar cafe with absolutely no clue I was about to meet her. As I stepped in, I saw a beautiful young woman, who I had never seen before, sitting on a couch. My heart beat faster. An ordinary night instantly transformed into “the rest of my life.” That was our beginning, seventeen years ago.

Beginnings are important. The Bible makes this abundantly clear. Again and again, the people of God remember their origins. In her histories (1 Samuel 12:8; 2 Kings 17:36), in her poetry (Psalm 81:4–10), and in her prophecies (Daniel 9:15; Amos 3:1) God retells the story of creating a nation for himself. Why is this rehearsed so often? Because remembering our past helps us make it through our present while we anticipate our future (Hebrews 11:24–26).

Couples who are just entering that beginning stage are a sight to behold. They often cannot get enough of each other. Even the most grounded men and women can be brought to a giddy, distracted mess. But as a pastor and counselor, I see two common problems in those happily in the midst of this infatuation-infused season of attraction.

Hyper-Intentional Beginnings

Some, often good-intentioned, end up being overly intentional. They miss the beauty of a fragile, uncertain beginning, because they’re chasing the phantom of a certain future. Every communication is diligently parsed, and every action painstakingly analyzed. I more easily fell into this flawed quest to determine the long-term viability of a relationship — immediately asking questions about families of origin, personality, and character.

In the end, there is no test like the test of time. Be it six months, twelve months, eighteen months, or even sometimes longer, things will reveal themselves. In the meantime, people can become so fixated on analysis and progress that they don’t take the time to take in the excitement and wonder of this unique moment in a relationship.

It’s no wonder why. Being in love is a very vulnerable act, and having one’s heart broken is an incredibly painful experience. But much like the Israelites who were too busy grumbling about their accommodations to take in the awesome sight of God leading them out of slavery, men and women can be so busy trying to test the strength of a relationship that they miss the awesome experience of a beautiful beginning. How might the grumbling wilderness generation have acted if they had known that the exodus would be rehearsed throughout Scripture more than thirty different times as a witness to God’s love for his people?

Don’t get me wrong, the exodus event is not about you and your dreamy significant other; it’s about God redeeming his people. Yet there are principles in that story about the beauty of beginnings, especially the beginnings God himself brings into our lives.

Less-Intentional Beginnings

On the opposite side of those that are too intentional are those that are not intentional enough. They flit from relationship to relationship, chasing the infatuation high. Each interaction is just one more in a string of experiences intent, consciously or unconsciously, on pursuing a personal sense of euphoria, with no regard for its longevity or for who might get hurt along the way. If they cannot cry out with the woman of Song of Solomon, “I am sick with love!” (Song 2:5), then they want no part of the relationship. They do not think about what makes love likely to last, or how they could better care for the person they are with, but simply seek a neurochemical re-up on their drug of choice.

As with the first problem, the reasons for this are hardly mysterious. Infatuation feels amazing. More than that, infatuation is given to us by God — just read Song of Solomon. There’s no rebuke for the romantic miracle of true love. It is the relational superglue that will help love hold fast when the stressors of life come. But like all things, we take that which is meant by God as a gift — the incredible and invigorating feeling of falling in love — and try to manufacture it in our own ways. We make it an idol.

It might surprise you to learn that in my role as a pastor and counselor, I actually see more of the former than the latter. I don’t think this is true in our culture broadly, but as Christians, I think we have reacted against the emotion-driven milieu in which we live, and sometimes swung too far. We have overvalued systems for determining a relationship’s worth and potential, such that by the time it gets the “Godly Spouse Material” seal of approval, the “you are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you” (Song 4:7) season has already begun to pass us by.

Just the Beginning

The good news is that the road between these two ditches is actually pretty wide. First, learn to enjoy the moments as they come. This isn’t a license to be naïve, but to put aside the constant craving to know if the person you are dating is your future spouse, and just enjoy getting to know each other.

Second, make some monuments along the way. Remember that first movie? Hold on to the tickets. Or that song that you danced to? Save it in a special playlist. Memorials functioned to help Israel remember God’s graciousness, especially when she later encountered trial, and they can do the same for you. Seeing that ticket or hearing that song later, when life has become difficult, can help remind you of that electrifying love you have enjoyed together.

Third, remember who is really in control. You both can be fooled — thought this was your future spouse and were wrong — and surprised — didn’t think it had a chance and it turns out to be your soulmate — even if you are being as discerning as possible. So, let your peace come from the place where you can genuinely find rest: the loving will of a gracious Father. Not from your own ability to perfectly predict or plan the future.

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What Does God Have To Say About This Friday Night?

This Sunday, we begin a series on dating at Abundant Life called, What Does God Have to Say About...
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NewsOne Now Audio Podcast: Moral March To Save The Affordable Care Act, SCOTUS Nominee Neil Gorsuch Grilled On The Hill, Philly DA Indicted On 32 Counts

• Rev. William Barbe and hundreds of Faith leaders will hold a Moral March and Rally on Capitol Hill to save the Affordable Care Act at 1PM EST. Rev. Barber, Rep. Robin Kelly, Rev. Jennifer Butler, and Rev. Bill Lamar joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now to discuss the movement to stop the GOP’s health care […]
Posted in do what you love, embarrassment, fall, holy of holies, homelife magazine, how you treat others, limitations, martyr, race relations, Week In Review, Wildin' Out Wednesdays | Comments Off

How We Know the Bible Is True: The Beauty of Scripture as the Ground of Its Truth

Satan believes the Scriptures are God’s very words. But the difference between us and him is that he doesn’t treasure that truth.

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How We Know the Bible Is True: The Beauty of Scripture as the Ground of Its Truth

Satan believes the Scriptures are God’s very words. But the difference between us and him is that he doesn’t treasure that truth.

Watch Now

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