Your Questions Answered (Article + Podcast)

Initially, I started this blog specifically to answer questions I repeatedly received from people in my church and community. This format was just an easy way for me to answer a lot of people at the same time. I know, I know, that’s a very introverted thing to do. Also, it probably demonstrates my conversational laziness as well. I knew, too, that the questions being asked were pretty common questions in other church settings as well, which turned out to be truer than I realized at the time.

Often people will write with a question and begin by apologizing for being a bother. I always try to respond by assuring them that there is no such thing as a stupid question. And, if pastors can’t or won’t answer the difficult questions, they aren’t fulfilling their God-given leadership role (2 Timothy 4:2). There is a sentiment floating around asserting that we shouldn’t respond to questions asked in the spirit of entrapment. That is to say, a question designed to back someone into a corner and elicit a response that can be misconstrued or used against the answerer. I sympathize to a certain degree with that mindset. However, it’s worth noting that Jesus still responded to the Pharisees when they poised their poisonous questions.

Regardless, if we’re not careful, we will fall into the trap of viewing every questioner as bad intentioned when they are just uninformed or misinformed. Even the first apostolic sermon on salvation was preached in response to a question (Acts 2:37-38). Many years ago, I was influenced by the book by Conrad Gempf called Jesus Asked. That little book opened my eyes to something that should have been obvious to me as a prolific reader of the Gospels. Jesus avidly employed the Socratic method of answering questions with a question. Jesus rebuked with questions (Luke 8:25, Mark 8:21), provoked deeper thought with questions (Mark 11:28, Mark 12:16), and asked rhetorical questions (Matthew 21:31, Mark 8:19). It’s nearly impossible to find a passage where Jesus interacted with people that He did not ask a question or a series of questions. That illumination forever impacted my thinking on preaching, teaching, and engaging in thought with others.

I believe Jesus utilized questions for several reasons: One, it forced the other person to think and engage. Two, it introduced new lines of thought and brought clarity to issues. Three, it was more approachable than domineering. Four, it put the questioner on the defensive rather than the offensive. Five, it took Him out of the faulty framework of preconceived ideas contained within the original question. Six, it invited people to find Truth in answering His question rather than simply believing a declaration. There is a time for declaration, and Jesus made plenty of bold declarations (John 14:6, John 10:7). Still, there is also a time to ask questions and invite others to find the answers with us, which has always been the philosophy of Apostolic Voice.

That was a ridiculously long way of saying keep the questions coming. Sometimes your questions send me on a journey of discovery. Some questions are humbling because they show me how little I know about the Bible. In a recent podcast (click here to listen), I thoroughly enjoyed tackling some great questions from you folks. I’m posting that Q&A in written form for those who prefer reading over listening. Or for those who might want to easily reference back to this article in the future. No names are mentioned because I wouldn’t want to risk embarrassing anyone.

Q1: How should we feel about going to church when a threat or danger is at hand?

Before jumping into a biblical discussion of this topic, allow me to begin by pointing out the obvious: There is always a certain level of danger when we physically gather for worship. I know this question is likely referring to COVID-19. I think it helps if we put a few things into perspective. Here’s some simple math, 38,000 people tragically die in car accidents each year in the United States. Meaning, just driving to church has some inherent risks. Sadly, 28,000 people die of the common flu each year in the United States. Also, I think we have to weigh the physical and spiritual risks of not attending church.

Some Common Sense Observations

I’m not qualified enough to emphatically argue the suicidal impact of the shutdowns, but I have the common sense to know it’s been substantial. People have been alienated from friends, sequestered away from family, blocked from healthy social interaction, kept from education, hindered from church attendance (and church socialization). We’ve all been fed a steady diet of fear, politicized, marginalized, and handcuffed by despair with seemingly no end in sight. You can’t tell me all that hasn’t harmed people in ways we can’t even fathom right now. Books and studies will look back over these things and tell countless stories of tragedy. My heart breaks for children who endured 2020-2021 (and maybe 2022) during their most formative years. They will deal with neuroses and developmental disorders that go far beyond the ordinary. On the other end of the spectrum, elders who are certainly the most vulnerable to COVID-19 among us have suffered tremendous emotional pain and loneliness in their twilight years as we have tried our best to protect them. It’s truly sad.

The Long-Term Fallout of Fear

I’ve written about spiritual problems and solutions related to COVID-19 in the past (A Christian Manuel For Navigating Uncertain Times, Unmasked – Cogent Covid Thoughts). However, we are only just now seeing the overwhelming negative spiritual impacts of our churches being severely impaired and restricted for over a year and a half. An alarming 7% of past churchgoers claim they will not be resuming in-person services again even once the pandemic is over.[iii] That stat is probably higher because many who will not return to church aren’t willing to talk about it with pollsters. And the falling church attendance is minor compared to the spiritual devastation many people have experienced due to increased carnality and lack of accountability. Countless churches are reeling from that reality. Not to mention how the media has demonized worship or the social stigma of churches being labeled super-spreaders.

What Does the Bible Say?

Before jumping straight to “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), let’s go a few verses back and examine the context of that often-quoted verse. Remember, Paul (the writer of Hebrews, in my opinion) was no stranger to danger. He was beaten, stoned to death, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). The First Church met under threat of death, persecution, imprisonment, and more. So, Paul did not write from the Western standpoint of one who has never genuinely suffered for the Gospel or to gather. Hebrews 10:22-23 are admonishments to remain pure (holy), faithful, hopeful, unwavering, and uncompromising. Hebrews 10:24 is a call to think carefully about how we can encourage one another to do all of the above, love our fellow Christians, and do good deeds. All of that was Paul’s way of leading up to the importance of Hebrews 10:25, which is a familiar verse to most churchgoers.

So, when Paul said, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).” He emphasized the universal human need for the people of God to gather regularly if they are to remain strong in faith, love, and works. Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) had already considered the intrinsic dangers of gathering in that apostolic command. Yet, he gave no caveats or wiggle room for the Church to use as convenient excuses. In fact, he doubles down by denouncing those who had already forsaken assembly and encouraging the future church to gather more often as the rapture draws closer.

To drive the point home, Paul continues in Hebrews 10:26-29 with a grave warning about sinful Christians and backsliding. Christians who willfully sin after receiving the knowledge of Truth have no further sacrifice for their atonement (Hebrews 10:26). They can live with terrifying anticipation of the fiery judgment of God because they become adversaries of God even while calling themselves believers (Hebrews 10:27). If people were put to death for breaking the law of Moses, shouldn’t we expect far more significant punishment for disrespecting the blood of Jesus, trampling the son of God, and insulted God’s grace (Hebrews 10:28-29)? These four verses aren’t randomly placed after Paul’s apostolic command to gather. They are a continuation of that discussion. Because gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.

Gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.

Full Transparency

To be fully transparent, I do believe in being careful and using wisdom. I’ve lost friends and loved ones during this pandemic. My church has experienced heartbreaking COVID-19 related deaths. My father almost died when he contracted COVID-19, and it turned into COVID-pneumonia. My church has socially distanced, rearranged seating, canceled Sunday School for over a year (to protect the elderly teachers), worn masks, sanitized the building, provided sanitizer to saints, launched a live stream, and canceled many services to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during peak outbreaks. We’ve made hard calls and tried to use as much wisdom as humanly possible. But we also realize that fear cannot become hysteria, and our church is an essential service. Indefinite shutdowns are not an option, and any shutdown is the last resort.

Practical Considerations

There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral. If you have a fever or feel like you’re contagious to others, you should feel excused to stay home. Do your best to stay connected to that service remotely, either through technology or word of mouth. And remain accountable to your pastor or other saints (depending on your church’s protocol). Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership. If you are especially vulnerable (age, preexisting conditions, compromised immune system) and your church hasn’t canceled services, consult your leadership about it. Take extra precautions when you attend, wear a mask, keep a distance from others (wave hands, don’t shake hands), and ask to be temporarily excused from church responsibilities that might cause too much direct contact with people. Trust that your pastor is making godly decisions to keep you physically and spiritually safe.

There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral.

Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership.

If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church. If you feel comfortable being around people outside of the church, you should go to church. It really is that simple. The Church is an essential service for your soul. And if you are responsible for children, you should be factoring their spiritual well-being into your decision-making process too. Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.

If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church.

Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.

Power, Love & Sound Mind

In 2 Timothy 1:2-7, Paul charged Timothy to have peace (inner calm and spiritual well-being). Then, Paul praised the faithfulness of his godly mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). He reminded Timothy to keep the gift of God stirred up inside of him, which he had already received by the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6). Then, Paul launched into a verse that we often quote, and you’ll quickly recognize it even though I’m citing the Amplified version: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control] (2 Timothy 1:7). Notice the entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.

The entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.

Q2: What age is appropriate for an apostolic to start dating?

My daughter Julia Lynn is fourteen, and she is lovely, talented, brilliant, sweet, introverted, kind, and godly. Needless to say, I have strong opinions and emotions related to this topic (you’ve been warned). Also, I’ve written an in-depth article on apostolic dating called 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles. So, I’ll resist the temptation to repeat all of that here. If dating questions are relevant to you or someone you love, I recommend thoroughly reading that article. However, I did not specifically address this question in 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles, probably because I had older singles in mind at the time. Still, this is a very relevant and essential question to answer. It’s a question that should be taken seriously and not frivolously.

Real Life Dating Principles

Let me lay some framework around my answer. The Bible clearly states that we should abstain from sex outside the marriage covenant (Hebrews 13:4). I also know that human nature makes that incredibly difficult, especially in our current culture, unless we have careful guard rails in place (1 Corinthians 7:2). Keeping that in mind, I do not support long engagements or dating for years on end. Also, I do not believe an apostolic should marry outside the faith. And I don’t endorse casual dating. I think all dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end. Never date just to cure loneliness, fit it, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.

All dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end.

Never date just to cure loneliness, fit it, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.

The Answer… Kinda

Because of everything stated above, I feel that it is unwise to date before seventeen. For most people, even seventeen is probably far too young to begin dating. Why? Because you shouldn’t date unless you are mature enough to realistically get married within a year or year and a half (at the latest) of dating an individual. Most people are simply not spiritually or emotionally mature enough to get married by eighteen or nineteen. You would be an extremely rare exception to the rule if you are that person. Furthermore, you can’t be the one to decide if you are mature enough to be dating. You must allow elders, parents, church leaders, and godly friends to make that assessment for you (and with you).

A Few Quick Guard Rails

Before you reach an age where you could realistically think about getting married, all your relationships should be kept on the friendship level, at arm’s length, and never exclusive. You certainly shouldn’t be spending time alone with friends of the opposite sex or engaging in long intimate conversations via phone, text, or social media. That’s basically the definition of dating, whether you call it dating or not. This answer is probably a little frustrating, but I don’t think there is a one size fits all age where everyone should start dating. Seventeen at the absolute earliest and probably early twenties is a good average timeframe to begin dating safely. But even then, I default back to an earlier dating guard rail, never date just to date or to cure loneliness. Only date an individual if you see real marriage potential in that person and have the approval of godly mentors around you. Never date secretly or without consulting godly elder mentors (not just your best friends and peers).

Love God First & Foremost

Again, if you’re interested in a more in-depth conversation about dating, follow this link (6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles). Don’t be that flaky, wishy-washy, needy person who can’t live without a dating relationship. Learn to love yourself and be happy with who you are before you start the long, complex process of loving someone else. Keep God first, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Q3: I’m sitting with a dying friend suffering with stage 4 lung cancer. I would like topics on learning to trust Jesus and faith.

First, let me say to you, and everyone suffering from similar pain, that I’m so sorry for your situation. I know the heartbreak and helpless feelings are difficult to endure. And we can be forgiven for wondering how and why awful things like this happen. The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18). Sometimes the hurt numbs us to the presence of the Lord. Allow the Lord to draw close to you and give you the peace that only He can provide.

The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18).

Encouragement from Mother

My mother has written and spoken about this subject beautifully from her suffering and fiery trials. I encourage you to read her article called Praising the Lord in All Things and listen to her talk about it in this conversation called Talking with Mom (Rebecca French) About Pain, Sickness, Parenting, Faith, Ministry, Pastor’s Wives, and People with Special Needs. She has a unique perspective and special anointing that ministers to the hurting. I know her words will help you and anyone suffering or watching helplessly while a loved one suffers. Know that you’re not alone, and ultimately peace always comes while we wait on the Lord.

Four Simple Strategies for the Brokenhearted

I could write a lengthy essay about how the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Or I could wax eloquent about how sin ushered pain and suffering into the human condition. And I could write philosophically about how God is good even when we don’t understand His plan. But I know none of those things will help you right now. But I do know a few simple things that have helped me through similar situations.

One, turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation. When the pain is deep, don’t turn to anything other than God for relief. Two, keep connected to prayerful friends who will encourage you and pray for you. Our flesh wants to withdraw when hurting but resist that urge and stay (or get) closely connected to godly people. Three, find an encouraging Bible verse (if you don’t already have a favorite one) and quote it to yourself all the time. Write it down and read it. Write it over and over again. Put it on sticky notes all-around your house and car. Make it your screen saver on your phone. Let it penetrate past your mind and settle down in your soul. Four, don’t miss church. Again, it’s tempting to pull away when we’re hurting, but skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.

Turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation.

skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.

Q4: How many books will be opened on Judgment day? I only remember the Lambs Book of life. But as I have been reading, it says books. What are the books that will be opened?

Two passages of Scripture mention a plurality of books that will be opened on the Day of Judgment. The prophet Daniel described an apocalyptic vision (waking thoughts) and wrote, “the judgment was set, and the books were opened (Daniel 7:10)”. He was alluding to a courtroom scene where everything was rightfully placed, the court was called to attention, and the books were opened. In this particular context, the books shown are books of judgment. The book of Revelation seems to be referencing the same future apocalyptic scene where there will be a great white throne of judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). If these two passages are describing the same future event, John the Revelator (the writer of Revelation) received more details in his vision:

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-15).

The Book of Life & Books of Judgment

There are at least three books described in this vision. The names of all believers are listed in the book of life (Revelation 20:12). The “earth dwellers” names are not in the book of life (Revelation 13:8; 17:8). The first set of books mentioned appear to be the same books Daniel saw in his vision (Daniel 7:10). But John saw an additional book of life, and God revealed that anyone whose name is not in that book would be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). That will be the final eternal sentencing by God upon each individual human.

According to What They Had Done

The lives of all who did not obey the Gospel and live according to God’s eternal Word will be completely exposed before God. Every selfish and defiant act and ungodly thought will be called into account. Even the secret sins, which it seemed no one knew about, will be brought to light and judged (Luke 8:17, Romans 2:16). All will be judged individually for their works according to God’s standards and principles, with consideration for motives and opportunities (Luke 12:47–48), which indicates differences in the sentencing and degree of punishment but not in the duration. The torment of the lake of fire is unquenchable. It will last forever (for a detailed examination of what the Bible teaches about Hell, consider reading What About Hell? – Everything You Need to Know).

It appears to me that the names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them. However, the names listed in the judgment books (we have no idea how many books there will be) will be adjudicated based on their works. And because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that will be an unwinnable case for them (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, it appears that hell will bring forth the dead who are unsaved before the final judgment (Revelation 20:13). Meaning, the Day of Judgment will be more of a formality than an actual legal proceeding. The unsaved will have already tasted Hell, and the saved will have already experienced a sample of Heaven’s splendor.

The names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them.

A Final Possibility

Some scholars speculate that one of the judgment books mentioned might be the Bible itself. In my opinion, it would make sense for one book to be a record of every individual’s earthly conduct contrasted to God’s divine law recorded in Scripture. If God judges us according to our deeds, the standard of judgment will also be present, which is the Word of God. I have no problem accepting that as a possibility. All speculation aside, I just know my name needs to be in the book of life.

Q5: In Genesis 6:1-4, are the “sons of God” fallen angels, and did they marry and reproduce with the women of the earth? If not, what is the explanation of those chapters?

Genesis 6:1-4 is one of the most highly debated topics among saints and theologians alike. I’ll give my humble opinion on the subject as best I can. There are two (some would argue four) possible answers to your question. First (and most plausibly), the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain. God’s covenant people are often referred to in the Bible as “God’s sons” (Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 14:1, Romans 8:14). This view would explain why God eventually forbade the Israelites from marrying Canaanite women (Exodus 34:16, Deuteronomy 7:3).

Most plausibly, the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain.

Demonic Offspring

However, it is a widespread opinion that the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis were fallen angels marrying mortal women and producing giants. Although, you should know the word Nephilim or giants could mean giants in the sense of their fame, strength, or renown and does not necessarily refer to actual giants in the sense of height. There is some credence given to this idea in Peter’s epistles and the epistle of Jude (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). I don’t believe this view to be accurate. Proponents of this view still leave us with more questions than answers.

Final Possibility

It would be far more plausible, in my opinion, to say demon-possessed men married and produced wicked offspring rather than believing literal angelic (spiritual beings) married and had half-human half-demon offspring. As best we can tell from Scripture, actual angels (or demons) are incapable of doing such a thing. Otherwise, Satan and all the fallen angels would most certainly be doing just that regularly trying to wreak havoc in this world. They do not, and that alone is enough to convince me that such a thing is impossible.



The Narcissism of Knowing (Article + Podcast)

In the age of Twitter-isms where people ineffectively whittle truths down to grotesque snippets of useless information, it’s significantly rare for a tweet to grab my attention, much less cause me to linger for hours in thought. So, it took me off guard when I scrolled across a tweet from Kevin DeYoung (who remains one of my favorite authors despite our vast theological differences) that stopped me mid-sip of Coke Zero.

Loads Only God Can Carry

DeYoung’s tweet said: In our internet age, it is easy to be overwhelmed with burdens that only God is meant to carry (@RevKevDeYoung). Admittedly, I’m a bit weird and prone to introspective fits of circular thought, but if you chew on DeYoung’s tweet for just a minute, undoubtedly, you’ll feel anxiety lift off your shoulders too. Because it’s profoundly satisfying to admit some burdens are too heavy for we finite humans to carry. Some loads are so enormous only God can carry them.

Some loads are so enormous only God can carry them.

The Global Mental Crisis

We live in the golden age of the internet with global this and global that. Our economy is global. Our food is global. Our goods are global. With the click of a button, we have access to worldwide information. And while much of this is excellent, with it comes worries that previous societies did not entertain. For example, take the love-hate relationship most people have with social media. It gives us more unfettered access to daily information about other human beings. That steady stream of data can be nice, but it can also be stressful and worrisome. People often say our world has grown smaller, but the reality is that the world is just as big as it’s ever been. However, our sphere of awareness has increased exponentially. This ever-growing sphere of awareness means our sphere of worry has grown and continues to grow at the same pace. New knowledge generates new anxieties from which we once had a measure of blissful ignorance.

Worried About What?

Psychologists have recently begun to notice a concerning pattern in their patients that ties into our topic at hand. Frequently individuals who are otherwise healthy seeking help for their anxiety are suffering from worry, but they aren’t sure what precisely has them worried. In other words, they’re anxious, and they don’t know why they are anxious. This troubling trend has led some health care professionals to prescribe a temporary distancing from the news, the internet, smartphones, and social media. Interestingly, in most cases, this led to a dramatic decrease in reported anxiety. A quick Google search will tell you that most psychologists attribute this almost wholly to social media. Mainly because of the unhealthy comparisons social media causes individuals to make either consciously or subconsciously. For many people, when they distance themselves from social media, their happiness increases drastically. But what if there is more to the story? You probably don’t need a statistic to tell you stress and anxiety levels are at all-time highs. And it certainly isn’t just because we’re all comparing ourselves to someone else’s Instagram.

Global Problems at the Local Level

I’m not anti-technology, nor do I look at the past with rose-colored glasses. Technology is just a tool that can be used for good or evil, and every past generation had its particular set of struggles and dangers. However, you don’t have to go too far back in history to find a time when people, in general, were far less neurotic and narcissistic (self-absorbed). For the most part, they were consumed with the problems of their families and their local communities. Those problems were real and very concerning, to be sure, but vast universal problems were only vague shadows on their radar screens. In my opinion, the rapid proliferation of modern information leaves the average individual feeling helpless and hopelessly aware of problems beyond their ability to solve. And, when they try to solve global problems, a significant disconnect from local reality occurs. For example, it isn’t uncommon to see local churches diligently striving to solve major water shortages on the other side of the world. That sort of social gospel works like a placebo that triggers a temporary dopamine spike. Everyone wants to feel like they’re making a global impact. Meanwhile, in their local community, their neighbors are still struggling in countless physical and spiritual ways.

The Disconnect

You see, global awareness can produce shortsightedness in our local area. Many people have settled for “feeling” like they’ve made a difference instead of making a difference. Flying into a third-world country for a photoshoot is way different than the hard work of loving our actual neighbors. That disconnect alone is enough to cause all kinds of anxieties. The concept of being a world changer is alluring. It almost makes Jesus’ call to love our neighbors sound a little shortsighted. But Jesus gave us achievable goals that, if followed, do change the world.

Global awareness can produce shortsightedness in our local area. Many people have settled for feeling like they’ve made a difference instead of making a difference.

I Don’t Want to Know

For a good portion of my life, I genuinely longed for the ability to know the future. At the very least, I really wanted to know the details of my future. The tension of not knowing how certain things would turn out left me feeling frustrated with God. In those days, much of my prayer life revolved around asking God to reveal things to me. I arrogantly assumed that knowing would give me confidence. God never answered those prayers. And I’m glad He didn’t. If past Ryan had known some of the things future Ryan would endure, he would’ve run away kicking and screaming. I look back on those times and shake my head in amazement. Now I understand that only God can handle knowing the future with all its twists and turns. It was incredibly narcissistic of me to long for something I couldn’t have managed. I’m at peace with not knowing because I know God knows, and that’s enough for me.

Now I understand that only God can handle knowing the future with all its twists and turns. I’m at peace with not knowing because I know God knows, and that’s enough for me.

Laying Unbearable Burdens Down in Prayer

Oddly enough, that brings us full circle back to the little tweet that started this whole thought process: In our internet age, it is easy to be overwhelmed with burdens that only God is meant to carry (@RevKevDeYoung). How often do we narcissistically worry about things we cannot fix? We have so much knowledge and so little power. My worry won’t fix a thing. Just knowing about a whole lot of issues and problems won’t change a thing. But I can pray. I can lay all these burdens down at God’s feet and trust that He knows what He’s doing. He was the solution long before there was a problem, and He was the answer long before the question was asked.

I can lay all these burdens down at God’s feet and trust that He knows what He’s doing. He was the solution long before there was a problem, and He was the answer long before the question was asked.


Don’t Settle for an iTunes version of the Gospel (Article + Podcast)

My kids inherited my deep love for music. But, unfortunately, they’re also picky and opinionated about the music we listen to regularly (also something they inherited from me). So, my iron-fisted reign over the music played in the car is being overthrown a little more each day. Complicating things further, my kids aren’t in total unity about which songs are “super great.” So, when they both like a particular singer, a tiny shred of heavenly peace fills our daily commutes.

Recently, we accidentally discovered Matthew West, a Christian solo artist. His lyrics are godly, and the kids are wild about it. Julia loves Becoming Me, and Talmadge thinks Amen is the anthem of the ages. After about a week straight of playing the “Anthem of the Ages” and the “Sweetest Song Ever Penned,” I couldn’t take it anymore. It turns out you can have too much of a good thing. So today, I gathered the kiddos around my outdated iPhone, fired up the iTunes store, and started sifting through all the Matthew West songs available. Fifteen dollars bought us all a little much-needed peace and sanity.

For those that don’t know, when you’re searching for music on the iTunes store, it allows you to listen to short clips of the songs before making a purchase. This had my kids up in arms. They reasoned that people couldn’t possibly decide if they liked a song in just a few seconds, which is kinda true. Their recommendation was to buy every song, but Matthew West has a big musical portfolio, and that was out of the question. So, we settled for doing our best to sort out which songs we truly enjoyed with limited information.

This whole process conjured up all kinds of happy memories from my childhood. Memories I happily shared with my kids. They were shocked to hear that you couldn’t buy one song at a time in the good old days and store them on your phone. They gasped at the concept of having to buy an entire CD and needed a detailed explanation of the word cassette tape. But, on the other hand, my eyes probably shined with joy telling stories of running into the Family Christian Store to buy the newest Steven Curtis Chapman album and listening to the entire thing from beginning to end. Not only would I listen to every word of every song, I’d open that slipcover and read all the lyrics, credits, and thank you’s too. Yep. Those are some of my favorite childhood memories.

Those days are long gone. The only album I’ve purchased in full in the last several years is this one – and you should too. People typically buy one song per album. Usually, it’s a song they heard on the radio. Anyone with any musical taste knows the radio hit is rarely the best song on the album (I told you I was musically opinionated). We miss so much great music in the age of iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and whatever the other newfangled digital platform is ascending nowadays. We bypass wonderful songs because the little five-second clip doesn’t do it justice. We ignore songs because they’re not on the local Christian radio charts. Charts that increasingly seem to only have about five songs in rotation.

I may be pining for the old days now, but in reality, I love the convenience of not carrying 300 CDs around in my car. Also, it’s nice having all my music available at the touch of a button. Music is much cheaper when you aren’t forced to buy the entire album. In other words, there’s no going back now. And musically speaking, maybe that’s fine.

Every cultural revolution and technological advancement have unintended (or at least corresponding) sociological consequences. For example, many people approach the Bible like an iTunes playlist. They get little biblical snippets here and there, mostly from easily accessible digital sources. They’re familiar with the top ten Bible verses but rarely know the context or framework of their favorite scriptures. Their theology and understanding of the Gospel are based on sound clips and abbreviated versions that sound great but lack depth and richness. This is evidenced by nationwide lagging attendance during midweek Bible study services and further demonstrated by Christians who lack transformation and basic biblical knowledge. Unbelievers see and hear the lack of mainstream Christianity’s depth and want nothing to do with that slick, naive, cheap, polished brand of empty believe-ism.

Every cultural revolution and technological advancement have unintended (or at least corresponding) sociological consequences.

Unbelievers see and hear the lack of mainstream Christianity’s depth and want nothing to do with that slick, naive, cheap, polished brand of empty believe-ism.

It’s not possible to pick and choose the “highlights” or the “best of” moments of the Bible and leave the rest out. Jesus put it this way: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” Many churches are filled with sincere unsaved people who have not truly obeyed God’s Word because they unwittingly settled for an iTunes version of the Gospel. And the world is full of people who have rejected the iTunes version of the Gospel because they quickly recognized it as inconsistent, indefensible, and unsatisfying. You see, cheapening the Gospel doesn’t make it more palatable. It actually renders it worthless to the world. A little fly in the perfume gives the whole bottle a rotten smell (Ecclesiastes 10:1).

It’s not possible to pick and choose the “highlights” or the “best of” moments of the Bible and leave the rest out.

Many churches are filled with sincere unsaved people who have not truly obeyed God’s Word because they unwittingly settled for an iTunes version of the Gospel.

The saving power of the Gospel is more than mental assent, a moment of sincere belief, or an ecstatic emotional experience. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Before you can even enter into the plan of salvation, you must believe that God exists and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Many people believe in the idea of God but reject Jesus. But to embrace the Gospel, we first must believe that Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31, John 3:18, John 4:42).

The saving power of the Gospel is more than mental assent, a moment of sincere belief, or an ecstatic emotional experience. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

The heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:12-13). There is one recorded instance in the Bible where bystanders clearly asked a question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter gives the most concise biblical answer in the following verse, and everyone in the early Church followed that apostolic foundation for salvation. Next, the apostle Peter preached: “…repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” That precise formula is the only way to be birthed (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23) into the Kingdom of God.

The heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:12-13).

There is one recorded instance in the Bible where bystanders clearly asked a question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter gives the most concise biblical answer in the following verse…

Essentially, repentance is our spiritual death (Galatians 5:24, Romans 6:11, Galatians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:24, Romans 6:6), baptism in Jesus’ name is our spiritual burial (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12-13), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:5, Colossians 3:1, Romans 8:8-14). Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is first evidenced by supernaturally speaking in unknown (previously unlearned) tongues (languages) just as they did in the book of Acts (Mark 16:17, Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6) and every time from then on. And, baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).

Baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).

After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel, all the old sinful things pass away, and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4). The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily. Now that’s excellent news, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what it means to be transformed by the power of God.

After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel, all the old sinful things pass away, and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4).

I know that isn’t the slick version of the Gospel many people have seen on TV or heard on the radio. It doesn’t fit nicely on a bumper sticker. God didn’t design the Gospel to blend in with our overly commercialized culture. No. The Gospel is timeless, changeless, and sacred. So please don’t settle for an iTunes version of the Gospel that doesn’t save or satisfy.

Podcast Featuring the Above Article

9 Signs of a Prideful Heart (Article + Podcast)

God resists the proud (James 4:6), which is bad news for a church if it is full of pride. Spiritually dry and deadlocked churches are usually filled with pride. They’re spiritually stuck because God is literally resisting their efforts. What they’re doing might seem good on the surface, but their motivations are displeasing to God.

Spiritually dry and deadlocked churches are usually filled with pride. They’re spiritually stuck because God is literally resisting their efforts.

Scripture is very clear about proper motivations; God doesn’t just care what we do. He cares how and why we do it. For example, God doesn’t just want us to give, and He wants us to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). Jesus warned against displaying our righteousness just to be seen and admired by others; there’s no reward for that kind of conceited righteousness (Matthew 6:1). Paul even warned that preaching the Gospel must be done for the right reasons (1 Thessalonians 2:4). In a staggering display of immaturity, the disciples asked Jesus to decide who was the greatest in the kingdom; Jesus took it as an opportunity to teach them that without childlike humility, they would never see the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-35).

Scripture is very clear about proper motivations; God doesn’t just care what we do. He cares how and why we do it.

In a generation obsessed with talent competitions and spotlights, it’s no surprise that the thirst for attention has crept into the Church. It’s evidenced in pulpits and pews. It’s on full display if you know the signs. There are certain “tells” or “giveaways,” so to speak. There really is no way to overemphasize the importance of guarding our churches against being infected with prideful leaders. Even more importantly, we should carefully monitor our own motivations and quickly adjust when and where needed. Below are nine sure signs of a prideful heart. I use this list to check my own motives and those seeking positions or platforms in my local church. Many of these principles are universal and can be translated into any paradigm or organization.  

  1. They want to SING but they don’t want to SERVE.

  2. They want to PREACH but they don’t want to PRAISE.

  3. They want to LEAD but they don’t like LEADERSHIP.

  4. They want to TAKE but they don’t want to GIVE.

  5. They want RESPECT but they don’t show RESPECT.

  6. They want the SPOTLIGHT but they resent SACRIFICE.

  7. They like PUBLIC EMOTIONS but they dislike PRIVATE DEVOTIONS.

  8. They are SELFISH rather than SELFLESS.

  9. They produce FOLLOWERS rather than DISCIPLES of Jesus.

Now reread this list, but this time replace “they” with “I” and be brutally honest with yourself.

AVP Ep. 44 | 9 Signs of a Prideful Heart

Special Guest Stan Gleason & Book Review of Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker

If you’re reading this article, you probably identify as a Christian. But are you a disciple? And if you are a disciple, are you a disciple-maker? Those are the questions posed in Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker by Stan O. Gleason. On the surface, it’s hard to pin down a category for Follow to Lead. It’s a leadership book, but not really. It’s a church growth book, but not really. Follow to Lead is a lifestyle book that challenges the reader to commit to a radical biblical lifestyle mandated by Jesus. Rather than selfishly hunkering down in our salvation bunkers, Gleason admonishes the Church to obey the Great Commission and go make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Gleason is emphatic that this co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

The co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

Interestingly, Gleason focuses on the ancient method of discipleship employed by Jesus during his relatively short earthly ministry. Unarguably, the replication of Jesus’ ministry through His disciples even after His death, burial, and resurrection was remarkable. Notably, though we often forget, the rabbi (teacher) relationship with the disciple (trainee) was not unique to Jesus’ ministry. This method was an integral part of Jewish culture, and it was highly relational. When Jesus invited fishermen to follow Him, they knew what He was asking of them. They were entering into a rabbi-disciple relationship. Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them. Gleason lovingly but convincingly cautions the Church to lay aside excuses and make disciples of our neighbors who will then make disciples of their own.  

Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them.

A thread runs throughout the chapters of Follow to Lead, reminding us repeatedly that there’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected. We’re partitioned off from one another by phone screens, computer screens, and tablet screens. Our communities are carefully fenced in, and we rarely know our next-door neighbors. However, Gleason implores us to break down these self-imposed barriers and disciple our neighbors by building trust, maintaining relationships, and being ready to teach. If we all genuinely followed this model, our churches would be overflowing within a few short years.

There’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected.

Follow to Lead is filled with practical examples for implementing a paradigm-shifting mindset in a local congregation. Transforming the culture of a local church begins from the top down. It’s hard work. But what a powerful transformation would take place in our local churches if we all simply did what Jesus commanded us to do. Gleason lays the groundwork for helping church leaders nudge a congregation away from being department-minded into being relationship-minded. This unifying concept brings everyone together in the mission of discipling the lost into a deep, Bible-based walk with God. With that in mind, our language matters. So, Gleason encourages us to lay aside terms like “soul-winner” and “evangelism” and pick up more appropriate (in it for the long haul) terminology like “disciples-makers.” As Gleason says:

After you “win,” then what? When you win, it’s over, but when you make disciples, the process is ongoing. Regardless of the implications, you can see the difference terminology makes when communicating the mission of the Church. Jesus did not tell us to win anything, but rather to go make everything.

I’m not ashamed to admit that Follow to Lead challenged my thinking and poked holes in some of my internal excuses. But it didn’t just leave me feeling shame. It inspired me to reach out to my community with fresh passion and renewed vision. Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region. Undoubtedly, practical application in your life and church will probably look slightly different from mine or even Gleason’s. Regardless, our mission and mindset will coincide because Gleason calls us to follow the most remarkable example of all… Jesus.

Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region.

AVP Episode Featuring Stan Gleason

Special Guest Carlton L. Coon Sr. & Book Review of Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression

In Grief Observed, the famed Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) wrote, “When He (God) seemed most gracious, He was really preparing the next torture.” I have a massive volume of C.S. Lewis quotes carefully alphabetized, calligraphed, and categorized for ease of use. Not surprisingly, the publisher didn’t include the above quote. The image of Lewis questioning the goodness of God doesn’t jive with our perception of the preeminent Christian thinker best known for writing things like: “The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” And yet, these two seemingly incongruent statements by Lewis make sense when viewed through the lens of his lifelong battle with depression. That battle intensified dramatically after Lewis’ beloved wife succumbed to the ravages of cancer, which is the primary subject of the work mentioned above (Grief Observed). But the melancholy portrayal of God “preparing the next torture” is a painfully candid example of Lewis momentarily allowing depression to taint his view of God. Eventually, in Grief Observed, he veers back into an understanding of God’s ultimate goodness.

Interestingly, despite Lewis’ transparency, it’s rare for Christian writers to discuss their battles with depression openly. And, in apostolic circles, it’s practically a graveyard of silence. Thankfully, Carlton L. Coon Sr. breathes life into that valley of dry bones with his book Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression. Coon isn’t self-absorbed but self-reflecting with a careful eye on practical helps for others battling the black dog of depression. Light in a Dark Place not only shines a ray of hope into depressed hearts but also brings a formerly taboo subject kicking and screaming into the spotlight. More apostolic books and resources need to be created on the complex topic of depression, as Coon mentions in the forward, but Light in a Dark Place will be remembered as the book that opened the floodgates.

Light in a Dark Place not only shines a ray of hope into depressed hearts but also brings a formerly taboo subject kicking and screaming into the spotlight.

Coon carefully explains the unseen and often misunderstood nature of depression, the root causes and indicators of depression, and the difference between situational and chronic depression. He outlines the temptation and peril of self-isolation and carefully approves the use of antidepressants, but not as a first resort. But most importantly, Coon calls those afflicted with depression to fight back: “Don’t settle in and make depression your permanent residence,” he warns. Light in a Dark Place isn’t a silver bullet or a magic pill. It doesn’t promise to cure depression in three easy steps, but it does equip the reader to fight with renewed vigor. A large portion of the book is comprised of down-to-earth strategies for warring against depression.

Don’t settle in and make depression your permanent residence.

I was particularly thankful Coon included a chapter on biblical characters who struggled with depression. For example, you can barely read through a few passages of the Psalms without encountering stanzas of raw, unfiltered melancholia. And it’s worth mentioning the Psalms weren’t written in a vacuum or hidden in secret journals. They were sung aloud in public as an act of worship. Meaning the author’s struggles were honest and transparent. If the Psalms were written by church leaders today, they would probably leave out the trials and focus solely on the victories. It’s difficult to imagine modern Pentecostals writing or publicly singing, “For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand (Psalm 88:3-5)”. Yet, we can’t appreciate the victories without understanding the battles. Therein lies the effectiveness of the Psalms. The transparency is what makes them so intrinsically relatable and transformative.

If the Psalms were written by church leaders today, they would probably leave out the trials and focus solely on the victories.

We can’t appreciate the victories without understanding the battles. Therein lies the effectiveness of the Psalms. The transparency is what makes them so intrinsically relatable and transformative.

Light in a Dark Place is not a call to wallow in depression or use it as an excuse for failure. Instead, Coon calls us to fling open the shades and let the light in so healing can be achieved. Sometimes that healing is instantaneous, and other times it’s a daily battle. Ignoring, pretending, masking, and super spiritualizing depression are recipes for defeat. The numerous statistics and anecdotal stories make that abundantly clear. A friend of mine once said that depression is deadlier than cancer, but no one wants to talk about it out loud. There’s truth in that statement. Perhaps this book will help ignite conversations and inspire more resources to help arm the Church to combat the epidemic of situational depression, PTSD, and mild to severe depressive disorders. If you suffer under the weight of depression or know someone who does Light in a Dark Place is a must-read.

Ignoring, pretending, masking, and super spiritualizing depression are recipes for defeat.


Ep. 41 | Carlton L. Coon Sr. (Encountering & Battling Depression)

Special Guest L.J. Harry & Book Review of Ten Words: A Practical Look at the Ten Commandments

Having enjoyed the delightful 52-week devotional journey L.J. Harry takes us on in his first book, Simplify, I had high expectations for his newest work, Ten Words. However, I enjoyed Ten Words more than a kid loves ice cream on a hot summer afternoon to use the Harry colloquialism. Ten Words is precisely what its subtitle purports to be: A down-to-earth examination of the Ten Commandments full of orthopraxical information helpful for every believer regardless of their theological savvy. Young and old, new believers, and mature believers will find powerful nuggets of biblical truth in Ten Words.

Essentially, Harry has boiled down each of the Ten Commandments into a single word that captures the essence and spirit of each command, therefore, the title Ten Words. Some readers might find this strategy startling; however, they should note that the title “Ten Commandments” is not mentioned in Scripture. In fact, that particular phrase is extra-biblical. The early church referred to what we now call the Ten Commandments as the Decalogue, literally translated Ten Words.[i] Rest assured, Harry has heavily weighed every word initially written on tablets of stone by the finger of God and handed to Moses on Mount Sinai. In true apostolic fashion, Harry considers the spirit behind the law as well as the literal words themselves. Harry carefully eschews pharisaical loopholes in this examination of the Decalogue.

In his refreshing way, Harry pens tremendously convicting truths with disarming charm and wit. As a reader, I often found myself convicted without feeling attacked, belittled, or patronized. Harry’s self-deprecating style allows us the liberty to examine our weaknesses without feeling guarded or embarrassed. I’m confident readers will find this approach uplifting and feel a renewed inspiration to obey the Ten Commandments joyfully. And perhaps see their relevance in a way they have not previously understood. Harry presents the Ten Commandments as the foundation upon which the rest of our practical Christian lifestyle is built. In the postlude cleverly titled 1+1=10, Harry echoes Jesus’ encapsulation of the law: One, Love God plus two, love your neighbor equals all the commandments (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31). Be careful because that isn’t quite as simple as it seems on the surface. Genuinely loving God and your neighbor leads to a radical lifestyle of holiness that far exceeds a list of ten things. That reality explains why a book on the Ten Commandments is full of helpful insight related to marriage, parenting, childhood, careers, worship, friendships, authority, dating, church, attitude, and thought life. Our willingness to submit to spiritual principles contained in Ten Words impacts every aspect of our daily lives and interactions with God and one another. I consider Ten Words to be necessary reading for every person who calls themselves a Christian.


[i] Easton’s Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Decalogue,” paragraph 1928.

AVP Episode 40 | L.J. Harry Joins the Program

Don’t Let Where You Are Right Now Keep You From Where You’re Going

I don’t know where I picked up this little phrase: Don’t let where you are right now keep you from where you’re going. It might’ve been on a coffee mug. Perhaps it was something my grandma Smith said in her quiet, wise way. Maybe it was a quirky line in a long-forgotten song. I’m not sure, but I do know that over the years, that trite little phrase has been just the stabilizing mental note I’ve needed in difficult situations. Hey! Wait! It was on a bumper sticker. That’s where I first saw it: Don’t let where you are right now keep you from where you’re going. That’s mildly embarrassing to admit, but it just goes to show that God can inspire us in thousands of profound and sometimes profoundly silly ways. Anyway, the spiritual epiphany I got out of that phrase boils down to an admonishment to keep walking in the will of God even when the way forward seems perilous and the problems appear insurmountable.

Keep walking in the will of God even when the way forward seems perilous and the problems appear insurmountable.

Know You’re Not Alone

If you’re feeling like every effort you make to progress forward in the will of God is met with roadblock after roadblock, you’re not alone. Do the promises of God feel desperately far away? Then you’re the person I’m talking to right now. Overwhelmingly people feel as if they will never get where they want to go. Not just that, but they feel as if they can’t get where God called them to go. There are long seasons filled with potholes, debris, and manmade roadblocks littering the paths of life. It can be incredibly frustrating when you’re just trying to be faithful to God, but you feel stuck. These are dangerous seasons of life because we become especially prone to bitterness, discouragement, backsliding, compromise, and bad decision-making. Life isn’t fair. It just isn’t. And regardless of your level of anointing and favor with God, you will endure these seemingly (heavy emphasis on seemingly) endless seasons of isolation and obstruction. Let me say this clearly, your most significant danger in those seasons is you. It isn’t your enemies, your circumstances, or even your frenemies. It’s you.

Lessons from David’s Mistakes

Recently while I was complaining to the Lord in prayer (something I do more often than I care to admit), an often-overlooked season in the life of David came to mind. David was in an awkward position because he was already anointed to be the next king of Israel. He had earned great fame and recognition by killing Goliath, but King Saul was insanely (possibly even demonically) jealous of David. It must have been a confusing time because David went from being everyone’s favorite to the most wanted fugitive in Israel. Adding to the confusion, Saul would try to kill David, and then he would beg David’s forgiveness and ask him to come back home. So, almost overnight, David went from palace life to hiding in caves with his band of six hundred warriors.

David Began With Good Intentions

Interestingly, we know early on that David was trying his best to make righteous decisions despite the injustices. Twice he had the opportunity to kill King Saul (1 Samuel 23:14-24, 1 Samuel 24:22-26), but David refused to harm God’s anointed. Most of us would probably have found a way around that godly conviction, but David remained firm in his resolve to do what was most pleasing to the Lord. If you can forgive a little reading into the text, it seems that David kept hoping Saul would genuinely repent and put an end to the madness. But as we know, Saul’s madness was only beginning, and his ending would be tragic.

David Overwhelmed With Worry

We don’t know for sure how long this season lasted for David. But most scholars agree David ran from King Saul for at least eight to ten years. That’s a long season of being stuck, discouraged, and depressed. Long enough to start questioning God’s anointing. Certainly, long enough to doubt that God is going to keep His promises. I don’t know what the tipping point was for David, but somehow, he let the frustration with where he was in that moment take over his decision-making. Instead of remembering where he was going, David became overwhelmed by where he was. Because he focused on the problems instead of the promise, David made a terrible decision:

1 And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me anymore in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand. 2 And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. 3 And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David… (1 Samuel 27:1-3).

A Classic Mistake

David made a classic mistake. He joined the enemy out of desperation. Rather than trusting God to protect him, he fled to the enemy’s camp for safety. A close reading of chapter twenty-seven reveals that David tried to balance his unholy alliance with Achish. Rather than invading Israelite provinces, David and his men attacked pagan cities, but David would lie and tell Achish they had pillaged Israelites. He thought he could play both sides by tricking Achish. Like David, many Christians have tried to balance worldliness and godliness simultaneously, but the outcome is always more compromise and more pain. Unholy alliances, no matter how convenient or superficially necessary, always demand that we abandon more and more core convictions, eventually draining us of all righteousness. Think about it! God anointed David to be a Philistine killer, but now he lived among them and depended on them for safety.

Many Christians have tried to balance worldliness and godliness simultaneously, but the outcome is always more compromise and more pain.

Unholy alliances, no matter how convenient or superficially necessary, always demand that we abandon more and more core convictions, eventually draining us of all righteousness.

The Necessity of Spiritual Guidance

I think it’s relevant and necessary to pause here and remind you that no church hurt justifies joining the enemy’s camp. Sometimes wicked Sauls take advantage of God’s people and force Davids to go on the run. I have been there. I’ve seen it many times. Decisions during these seasons should be made carefully and prayerfully. Going back to the biblical text, Samuel died during this season. So, David lost his spiritual mentor. His pastor’s voice was silenced, and now his first big decision without spiritual guidance was horrible. The spiritual key here is that good spiritual guidance is something worth seeking. Samuel might be dead, and Saul might seem unbeatable, but there’s a Nathan out there somewhere. Always seek good godly spiritual advice in seasons of despair. But let me warn you, the devil will try to convince you there aren’t any holy prophets left to find. Ignore that lie and move on.

No church hurt justifies joining the enemy’s camp.

Samuel might be dead, and Saul might seem unbeatable, but there’s a Nathan out there somewhere.

Always seek good godly spiritual advice in seasons of despair.

The Consequence of Compromise

David lived with the Philistines for a year and four months. And things went pretty good until they didn’t. Predictably, King Achish asked David to do the unthinkable:

1 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men. 2 And David said to Achish, Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do. And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head for ever (1 Samuel 28:1-2).

Now David’s alliance with the Philistines required that he participate in active warfare against the people of God. Astonishingly, David agreed to do it. Don’t let the immensity of that pass you by; David was on the verge of battling the very people God had anointed him to rule. See how easy it is to let fear and discouragement send us in the opposite direction of what God has planned for our lives? Thankfully, God is merciful, and He often saves us from ourselves. David would have participated in that battle if not for several Philistine generals who objected to him being with them in action. God was protecting David in more ways than one because while David and his men were preparing to fight with the Philistines, the Amalekites raided his village and burned it to the ground. They took all their wives, children, and valuables. When David and his little army returned home, it seemed as if they had lost everything they had ever loved. David’s loyal band of warriors even considered stoning him to death in their anger and frustration. It was a hopeless situation set in motion by poor leadership on David’s part.

God is merciful, and He often saves us from ourselves.

The Reason for the Season

At this point in David’s life, it didn’t seem possible he would ever be a man after God’s own heart or the most highly esteemed ruler in Israel’s long, storied history. But David did something he should have done before he allied with Achish:

…David encouraged himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6).

I believe this is the moment David finally became a man after God’s own heart. Rather than passing the blame or shifting responsibility, David sought after the Lord for strength. David took a moment with God to recalibrate himself before making any decisions. And then he called for spiritual authority to help bring clarity before making any decisions about how to proceed:

7 And David said to Abiathar, the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. 8 And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all (1 Samuel 30:7-8).

Everything shifted in David’s life when he learned to call on the Lord rather than search his own flawed heart in times of trouble. You’ve probably heard it preached a thousand times how David went to the enemy’s camp and recovered everything the enemy had stolen. It makes for great preaching. But the larger lesson is that God saved David from himself. David should never have taken his family to Philistine territory. By doing so, he positioned his family and followers for pain. God allowed everything to be taken away from David to help him remember where he was going in the first place. David had to go through those awful seasons so he could write with assurance, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me… (Psalm 23:4)”.

Everything shifted in David’s life when he learned to call on the Lord rather than search his own flawed heart in times of trouble.

God allowed everything to be taken away from David to help him remember where he was going in the first place.

David had to go through awful seasons so he could write with assurance, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…

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In Case You Missed It – Apostolic Voice Podcast

The last three episodes of the Apostolic Voice Podcast have not incorporated articles from this site. That’s unusual and I know many of you kind folks listen directly from this blog. With that in mind, we’ve listed episodes 31, 32 & 33 below for you. I especially enjoyed recreating Patrick Henry’s in Episode 31 | What is Freedom, Episode 32 is tough but it’s a must-listen situation, and many of you have asked when Dad French (Dr. Talmadge French) would be back and the answer to that is Episode 33. Thanks so much for listening, sharing, supporting, and praying for AV.

Article Link Mentioned In Episode 32

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