Category archives: Religion & Culture

Understanding Millennials and Loving Them Into the Kingdom of God

by George Barna

May 11, 2022

Generations fascinate Americans. Among other things, we study them for clues about who we are becoming as a nation. The recent research report from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, entitled Millennials in America: A Generation in Crisis, reveals new insights into where the nation is heading as the individuals in the youngest adult generation take on a growing number of positions of power and influence.

Defining Millennials as those born between 1984 and 2002, keep in mind that this group constitutes the largest generation living in the United States today. Some 80 million strong (and growing, thanks to immigration), they are roughly one-quarter of the nation’s total population and about one-third of the adult population. They currently outnumber Baby Boomers by some eight million people, a gap that is expanding by more than one million people per year. Their influence in the marketplace is already substantial: they are four out of every 10 working-age Americans, three out of every 10 registered voters, and the prime segment of consumers in a nation driven by consumption. They are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in our history.

Like every generation before them, they have been shaped by world events and how their nation and family responded to those events. Among the most significant life-shaping events they have experienced during their formative years are the end of the Cold War; the Rodney King beatings and subsequent riots; the introduction and rapid growth of the internet; the mass shooting at Columbine High School; the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the introduction of groundbreaking technology such as the iPod, tablets, digital video game consoles, and smartphones; game-changing social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter; the destructive fury of numerous hurricanes, including Katrina and Sandy; the economic crisis of 2008; and the election of Barack Obama.

Considering the impact of those life-shaping events helps us to understand some of the life choices and goals that are defining Millennials. For instance, they have been actively redefining and redesigning family through their beliefs about the value of life, marriage, the appeal of raising children, and even their ideas about sexual identity and behavior. They have struggled to experience healthy relationships, at least partly due to their immersion in and reliance upon digital technology.

Millennials are known as poster children for the narcissistic lifestyle. That encompasses their pervasive yet uncomfortable materialism; hypersensitivity to criticism; and inconsistent and fluid norms, values, attitudes, and lifestyles. They are seeking to rewrite employment norms by valuing achievements (rather than hours worked) and the social value of the tasks performed. They are leading the “cancel culture” movement. Millennials are redefining religious norms as well, responsible for a long list of faith-related transitions. These include fewer self-professed Christians, less acceptance of the Bible and absolute moral truth, severely diminished interest in organized religion or institutional faith commitments (e.g., church engagement, prayer, Bible reading), strikingly low levels of trust in Christian pastors, common perceptions about Christians being hypocrites, and record levels of biblical illiteracy.

The research contained in Millennials in America: New Insights into the Generation of Growing Influence provides specific evidence of these trends. The analysis describes how all those conditions are summarized in four major symptoms of a deeper crisis. Those symptoms are the generation’s lack of a sense of purpose to life (acknowledged by 75 percent); the widespread, constant fear and anxiety they experience (admitted to by 54 percent); the struggle most of them have making, maintaining, and enjoying personal relationships; and the absence of a life-sustaining religious faith alluded to by more than three-quarters of them.

But if those are the symptoms, what do they indicate? The data produce an inescapable conclusion: the absence of a biblical worldview.

Worldview Is the Root Issue

Given the breadth and depth of the changes characterizing Millennials, some people question how worldview can be the central issue behind those transitions. The explanation, though, is deceptively simple. Worldview is the foundation of every decision made by every person every moment of every day! Understanding what motivates a person to make their choices, no matter what kind of choice it may be, requires an understanding of their worldview. There are numerous worldviews from which people may pick and choose desirable options. Some of the best-known are postmodernism, secular humanism, modern mysticism, biblical theism (i.e., the biblical worldview), and Marxism. Groundbreaking research by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University has shown that almost nine out of 10 American adults select appealing ideas from a variety of worldviews and create a unique, personally appealing worldview that is best known as syncretism. Even four out of every five born-again Christians have syncretism as their guiding philosophy of life.

How, then, do we explain the fact that seven out of every 10 American adults claim to be Christian but so few—just six percent of all adults and only nine percent who claim to be Christian—have a biblical worldview? The answer is that families and churches have been neither intentional nor strategic at shaping the worldview of their children; it has largely developed by default, influenced primarily by media, government, and schools.

Millennials fit the same pattern as everyone else. Slightly fewer of them claim to be Christian than is true among older adults, and slightly fewer of them (only four percent) possess a biblical worldview.

Because one’s worldview drives their choices every minute of every day, why would we expect our nation to reflect biblical behavior when we do not accept biblical principles? After all, we do what we believe. Most Americans do not really believe biblical principles; therefore their behaviors do not reflect those principles. Millennials are simply a more extreme example of these realities in practice.

The Millennial Worldview

To gain insight into Millennials—and the future they will create in America—let’s take a look at a few of the most significant spiritual perspectives of the generation. What we are about to examine are the most common perspectives; millions of Millennials are exceptions to every one of these views, but we are seeking to understand the flow and momentum of the generation’s thinking.

Millennials perceive themselves to be “good” people. Sin is not a concept with which they are comfortable, and thus they do not dwell on it. They do not believe that we are born into sin; they believe that every person makes life whatever they choose it to be, and most of them dismiss the idea of having a sinful nature.

They believe the purpose of life is to experience as much happiness as possible. They expect such experiences to come from personal accomplishments and material goods. Most Millennials contend that wisdom, insight, and meaning in life are the products of dialogue and voluntary acts of goodwill.

The much-discussed Millennial identity crisis is due to their excessive and biblically-unwarranted trust and belief in themselves. As a result of that self-reliance, they define their identity based upon a variety of self-determined attributes: gender, education, wealth, personal accomplishments, titles, and so forth.

Their relational challenges are not surprising in light of their worldview. After all, young adults typically harbor intolerance of opposing ideas and a conditional disrespect for the value of life. The Cultural Research Center data even show that most Millennials are indifferent to the “Golden Rule,” instead indicating that their response to other human beings should be driven by their emotions at the moment.

We might like to think that if they would just turn to God and understand who He is and how He is involved in their life, things would be better. Unfortunately, the foundations for such insights are missing. Consider the implications of these beliefs:

  • 74 percent believe that all religious faiths are of equal value.
  • 56 percent reject the existence of absolute moral truth; they list feelings, personal experiences, and advice from family and friends as their most trusted sources of moral guidance.
  • 35 percent believe that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, just and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules that universe today.
  • 40 percent are “Don’ts”—that is, people who don’t know if God exists, don’t believe that God exists, or don’t care if He exists; they are increasingly inclined to think of themselves as being their own “higher power.”
  • 16 percent believe that when they die, they will spend eternity in God’s presence because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
  • 22 percent believe that life is sacred.
  • 11 percent define “consistent obedience to God” as the best indicator of a successful life.

In essence, then, the Millennial worldview can be summarized in four words: “life is about me.” Consequently, it is not surprising that this is a generation known for doing what is right in their own eyes.

See the Connections

Can you see the connections between Millennial’s worldviews and their life challenges?

No wonder many lack a sense of direction, purpose, and meaning in life. They have closed their eyes, ears, and hearts to their Creator. They have rejected His words. They believe that success is experienced through temporal pursuits driven by their intelligence and abilities.

No doubt they are having relational troubles. They have not invested in their relationship with God. They have placed themselves at the center of their reality and expect everyone to serve and care for them. They place the ultimate value upon themselves and little (if any) value upon others.

Of course, they are mired in emotional and mental health issues. They embrace wacky ideas from worldly philosophies, such as karma. That philosophy teaches that you get what you deserve. Naturally, a majority of young adults are troubled by anxiety and depression; what else would the notion of karma possibly produce? Our young adults fail to see that one of the beauties of a relationship with Jesus is that through His forgiveness and restoration, we do not get what we deserve! Instead, we get eternal life, forgiveness, hope, a special calling, and the gifts to carry out that calling. What a relief!

The anxiety and depression that most Millennials admit to is a natural consequence of a worldview that submits the God of Israel does not exist. Imagine waking up every morning thinking that it all depends on you, that there is no higher power to control evil or supply truth and guidance; you’re it! How could anyone possibly come to such an inane conclusion? Ask the millions of young adults who freely entertain the principles of Marxism, postmodernism, secular humanism, or nihilism, because those popular worldviews propose such foolishness. These fundamentally-flawed philosophies shape the decisions of Millennials and cause debilitating outcomes such as mental illness and emotional dissonance.

It is no surprise that young adults are feeling spiritually bankrupt. They have rejected the God of all creation. They have rejected the Savior of humankind. They have denied the existence of the Holy Spirit whom God has graciously sent to help us from moment to moment. They see themselves as good and ignore their sin and its implications.

They have bought into the notion of love as a feeling. They do not realize that God helps us understand that love is a commitment made real by doing what is best for others. Millennial love is narcissistic; Christian love is sacrificial.

Millennials are self-centered enough to think that because they choose a sexual identity based on emotion and desire, that is their identity. They fail to recognize the One who created them defines every element of their being, based on His perfect wisdom and purposes. As created subjects of the Master, we have no authority, competence, or capacity to determine our sexual identity.

How heartbreaking it is to watch a large majority of an entire generation so completely and unknowingly miss the truth of life and eternity. Contrary to their grand conclusion—“life is about me”—nothing could be further from the truth. Life is about God. We simply have the privilege of taking part in His universe, for His purposes, to enjoy and serve and glorify Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Anything else is just wasting time and opportunity.

Can They Become Disciples of Jesus?

Those with eyes to see and ears to hear understand Jesus is the only hope for deliverance from the devastating lies of the world. But most Millennials—24 out of every 25 of them, according to the research—do not have the eyes and ears to perceive truth. Can we do anything to help them see God’s truth?

Of course we can. There is a remnant of believers in America— you are likely among them—who are called to be the salt and light so desperately needed by these young adults.

Here are four ideas for you to consider as you pray and prepare for your role in renewing the heart and soul of America, especially through your interactions with Millennials.

1. Know what you believe and why

This suggestion is neither new nor groundbreaking. Unfortunately, it is inadequately practiced by the Christian body, an unfortunate consequence of only six percent of American adults possessing a biblical worldview. The ability and bold willingness to articulate and demonstrate God’s principles and truths to a doubting and hurting world is crucial to Christ becoming more real to the people we encounter.

With the local church having a limited impact on our culture today, the importance of the roles of advocate, evangelist, role model, and disciple-maker is magnified for each of us who claims Christ as Savior. To be effective in that multifaceted role, we must be able and willing to make the case for the relevance and reliability of the Bible and to share and explain its meaning to a world that is doubting and largely ignorant of its content.

Those conversations will enable us to reshape peoples’ notions of purpose and success and make God real to others. But we must be alert to those opportunities and be prepared to exploit them out of our genuine love for God and people.

 2. Build relationships based on trust

Young adults these days are suspicious of other people’s motives; that’s part of their daily fear and anxiety. We are most likely to defuse their suspicions if we do not perceive them as evangelistic projects but as the beloved sons and daughters of God whom we have the privilege of getting to know, love, and serve.

The research indicates that the most effective form of outreach is Socratic dialogue. That practice relies upon objective listening, followed by non-aggressive responses in the form of questions. Beware: seeking to be an agent of transformation without first investing in bridge-building usually produces disappointment. The process takes time; there are no shortcuts to loving people into the presence and kingdom of God.

3. Tell your story

Millennials are sensitive to what postmodernists call “the grand narrative”—an explanation of the big picture of life and its foundations. The arc of the Christian story represents a grand narrative. Consequently, our hope to lead young adults into a deep, life-transforming relationship with Christ can be more easily accomplished by placing biblical life principles within the larger context of the creation-fall-restoration account.

Millennials are an anecdotal generation. They often adopt principles based on someone’s example. In such an environment, linking personal stories to biblical principles becomes invaluable. Making the stories personal is crucial because most Millennials do not believe there are absolute moral truths or principles, yet they also believe “your truth” is irrefutable for your life. Conveying your story and seamlessly weaving biblical truths into it is putting your best foot forward.

4. Model it

Millennials are famously judgmental of others, but that often simply means they are looking for people, practices, and philosophies that seem genuine and authentic. Their immersion in the brutal world of social media exposes them to constant judgment, personal drama, and conflict.

Disciples of Jesus who are confident but humble regarding their worldview and immune to the criticisms of the world arrest their attention. When those people prove to be authentically in love with Christ and fully devoted to being Christ-like, Millennials will not instantly surrender to Christ, but they are likely to closely observe the believer in question as they seek to understand the motivation and means to such a life. If that Christ-follower remains true to the ways of Jesus and does not engage in evangelistic pandering, harsh criticism, or biblical compromise, meaningful and pointed dialogue is a frequent outcome.

Additional Pieces to the Puzzle

Other courses of action may be important in pointing Millennials toward Jesus and life lived through a biblical worldview. For instance, because most people’s worldview was developed on the run, anyone who can winsomely and strategically guide them toward connecting biblically-based life principles to a more compelling worldview is likely to have influence.

Also, because a person’s worldview is almost completely formed by the age of 13, working with people younger than Millennials is particularly productive. One way to reach Millennials is by working with their children. Most Millennials cannot guide their children to a biblical worldview because they cannot impart what they do not have. Working with Millennials’ children will sometimes cause Millennial parents to traverse that discovery journey alongside their youngsters.

Further, having reliable metrics to evaluate how you are doing in your quest to be an agent of transformation is crucial. After all, you get what you measure: unless you objectively measure outcomes that matter, it is unlikely that those outcomes will emerge.

Dobbs Leak: A Leftist Pastor Takes on Abortion

by Joshua Arnold

May 9, 2022

When words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Proverbs 10:19), so it’s little surprise that among all the ink spilled over the leaked Dobbs decision draft, there were at least a few shockingly poor takes.

One such take came from Leftist pastor Brandan Robertson, “God has given all human beings authority and autonomy over our own bodies. And if Roe v Wade is struck down, this will be yet another assault on women’s authority and autonomy over their own bodies.” No Psalm 139 for him. I guess consistency requires anyone ignoring “you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (verse 14) to also ignore “you hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (verse 5) and “search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (verse 23)—not to mention the rest of the Bible.

It’s difficult to even call him a ‘Christian’ pastor,” said David Closson, Director of FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview. “At one level, yes,” we do have autonomy over our own bodies, he noted. “That’s one of the reasons I was against the vaccine mandates…. But do we have unlimited autonomy? No. And do we have the unlimited right to do something with someone else’s body? Absolutely not.”

Closson explained Robertson’s beliefs track with the worldly perspective identified by Carl Trueman in his mighty book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. That worldview lauds “being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want. You follow the dictates of your feelings, your emotions, your desires. And so it’s disconnected from any understanding of accountability or responsibility to God.”

The secular world says, ‘my body, my choice,’” added Joseph Backholm, host of Friday’s Worldview Conversation on “Washington Watch.” “Scripture says the opposite.” Christians are called to live as if their body belongs to Jesus, not themselves. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20), and “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), and “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). “The starting assumption is that I am submitted to Christ,” Backholm explained.

In previous eras, even non-Christians in America understood that each person is accountable to God; this assumption undergirded oath requirements for holding certain offices or testifying in court. Accountability and rights are two sides of the same coin—a coin God minted. Today, people pick and choose which parts of religion to believe (a.k.a. inventing their own), embracing rights and jettisoning responsibility. So, President Joe Biden could say (in defense of abortion), “I believe I have the rights that I have not because the government gave them to me, which you believe, but because I’m just a child of God, I exist.” Rights do come from God, remarked Closson, but “President Biden doesn’t really believe that.” If he did, he would show more fear wielding such an argument to justify denying unborn children the rights God gave them.

Robertson had another zinger, “If we are going to bend the moral arc of this nation towards God’s vision of justice and equity, we must demand that women’s rights are protected and abortion is health care.” Backholm warned that Robertson employed “buzzwords” to “generate sympathy,” and “linguistic maneuvers like that can be persuasive unless we have a framework” for understanding what the Bible actually teaches. “When that’s our framework, then we can look at somebody who’s well intentioned [but wrong]… and we can say, ‘well, maybe a nice guy, but the things that he’s saying are not true.’”

Abortion activists “have an idea of what they think justice or equity should look like,” which they “superimpose… on holy Scripture,” said Closson. “We don’t start with our own ideas of justice…. We want to go to the Bible first and foremost and ask, what is God’s idea of justice?” Someone who fixes up cars in his spare time won’t get hoodwinked by a dishonest mechanic because he knows what he’s talking about. In the same way, a Christian who studies the Bible regularly, and understands it, won’t be misled by someone trying to twist it to mean something it doesn’t.

The Bible is not a philosophical textbook” where “we go just to debate…. It’s God’s revealed word, and so we go to it for belief and obedience,” said Closson. He has authored a publication on Biblical Principles for Pro-Life Engagement that starts with what the Bible teaches, not what man’s faulty reason has invented.

Emotional manipulation… ad hominem attack… these tactics are employed so often in public policy debates,” said Backholm. But “[blessed is the man whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2-3). How firmly are you planted on God’s word?

Most Parents Have Worldview Confusion. Is It Any Wonder That Kids Do Too?

by George Barna

May 4, 2022

Do you ever wonder why Little Johnny or Little Suzie does not obey their parents or consider them their primary role models?

New research from the American Worldview Inventory conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University reveals that children’s disregard for their parents often has to do with the worldview confusion caused by the parents.

More than nine out of 10 parents of preteens (94 percent) have a syncretistic worldview—a grab bag of beliefs and behaviors taken from a variety of philosophies of life. Most parents mix some biblical ideals with elements drawn from comprehensive philosophies ranging from Marxism to Eastern Mysticism and everything in between. The result is a hot mess of guidelines that parents use when trying to make sense of their own lives and craft decisions that seem right and feel good.

One of the inevitable consequences of living by syncretism is contradictions. Most people who embrace syncretistic thinking not only hold conflicting beliefs but also say one thing while doing another. The research confirms that such conflicts among an adult’s thoughts, words, and deeds generate little concern—as long as they feel they are doing what is right in that context, at that moment.

Those choices are perceived and interpreted quite differently by their children. Because a worldview is fully developed before the age of 13, young children listen to and watch their parents for clues on how to live an appropriate and successful life. The problem they often encounter is the inconsistency between what their parents say and do. The cute expression “do as I say, not as I do” is inadequate to alleviate the cognitive dissonance and confusion such inconsistencies cause within children.

How do youngsters reconcile the parental inconsistencies? Many of them conclude that their parents are just as confused about life as they are, and that sends the child deeper into the surrounding culture to search for sources of clarity and wisdom. In fact, the research suggests that millions of children go so far as to conclude that because their parents claim to be Christian (as 67 percent of the parents of preteens do), the Christian faith must not have the answers to life that they so desperately need to make sense of the world and their place within it. Usually, their limited experience with the Christian faith and the Bible provides nothing to override that skepticism, and they decide they must look elsewhere for wisdom and guidance.

Enter the arts and entertainment media.

Past studies have shown that of the many entities that affect children’s worldview, arts and entertainment media have the greatest influence. Why? One reason is because entertainment media—television shows, current music, movies, social media videos, video games, etc.—typically provide a unified worldview message. When children watch a television program that provides a postmodern perspective that is carried throughout the entire performance, children will consider that point of view because it is coherent and consistent. When children listen to a pop song that makes a simple set of assertions about life, they absorb the message if it provides a unified point of view. They are attracted to social media personalities who have a consistent message that underlies their presentations. Some media are rejected by children not because of issues of taste or sophistication level but because the messages provided are confusing or inconsistent. So, even media producers have to be careful about the substance they are developing for their young audience if they want to do more than simply entertain the audience.

Can parents recover from their own inconsistencies to more effectively shape the worldview of their young children? Of course. To do so, however, requires a series of integrated commitments.

For starters, parents have to possess a biblical worldview in order to impart one to their children. Currently, just two percent of parents of preteens have a biblical worldview as their dominant philosophy of life. Before parents can be instrumental in developing a biblical worldview in the mind and heart of their child, they must wholeheartedly embody that same way of life. That’s a big task, but one that every human being can accomplish. God wants each of us to thrive. Because one’s worldview determines every decision one makes, pursuing His principles and commands will bear incredible benefits to those who make the investment.

Second, to shape their child’s worldview, parents have to embrace it as a high-priority life goal. It will demand constant time and energy, and the results will not be immediate; just ask Jesus, based on His investment in His disciples.

Third, parents will need a viable and measurable plan for accomplishing the long-term task. One of the reasons why churches can be ineffective at this process is because they plan to simply provide loads of information to people and hope they figure out how to use it. Parents will require a more thoughtful and strategic plan in order to foster a biblical worldview in their children.

Next, parents will need a process and tools to evaluate how well they are doing and what tactics in worldview development seem to work best for their child. Keep in mind, “you get what you measure.” Figure out what outcomes matter and how to assess whether or not you are making progress toward those desired outcomes. If not, re-strategize and keep moving forward.

Finally, making a long-term commitment to this process is imperative because shaping a worldview takes years. There are starts and stops along the way. Prepare to be frustrated—and to nevertheless stick with the task. The life of your child is at stake. Should they develop a biblical worldview, they will experience what God has for them in this life: the ability to thrive. We thrive when we work within God’s plan. Possessing a biblical worldview facilitates that capacity.

For a parent who loves God and loves their child, that is worth committing to.

10 Tips for Discussing Infertility with Compassion

by Joy Zavalick

April 28, 2022

April 24 through 30 is Infertility Awareness Week, a time to become informed about a struggle that some couples face when seeking to grow their family and how we can respond to their experiences with love, encouragement, and compassion. An estimated 15 percent of couples will have trouble conceiving or experience infertility. Having a reservoir of helpful words to share with those facing infertility is an essential component of loving those particular neighbors well. Knowing which words are unhelpful to say is equally important.

5 Compassionate Things to Say

1. “I am praying for you.”

One helpful response to hearing about someone’s struggle with infertility is letting them know that you are talking to God about their pain and asking for His intervention. Prayers should not only be that the couple would be able to conceive but also that they will find peace and contentment with the path to parenthood that God desires for them—even if that looks like pursuing adoption instead of having biological children.

2. “I am here to listen if you want to vent.”

Many times, keeping silent and listening is the best way to show compassion to someone who is struggling with infertility. If someone has chosen to confide in you about their infertility struggles, honor that trust by patiently listening to them and allowing that conversation to occupy your time together.

3. “You will be wonderful parents, even if your path to parenthood looks different than you expected.”

Some couples facing infertility may greatly desire children but feel intimidated by the adoption process or have a stigmatized view of adoption. Encourage them that adoption is a beautiful form of growing a family if they feel led to pursue it.

4. “I know that today may be extra hard for you. Do you need anything?”

When someone is facing infertility, specific events or celebrations can lose their joy or become a source of pain. Sensitively reaching out on days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, or after events like baby showers or gender reveal parties for other people, can help your loved ones feel seen and understood.

5. “Seeking professional support and counseling is healthy, not shameful.”

Nearly 40 percent of women who experience infertility develop symptoms of depression. While lending a listening ear as a friend is always helpful, it may also be necessary to encourage a loved one struggling with depression as a result of infertility to seek further counseling.

5 Things Not to Say

1. “When are you going to have a baby?”

Unless a married couple shares with you that they are open to discussing their plans to become parents, it is not appropriate to ask; you never know who may be struggling with infertility or miscarriage. Respect the privacy of married couples in their fertility journey by allowing them to make announcements at their own pace about having a baby.

2. “At least…”

A compassionate response to hearing that a loved one is facing infertility does not include making them feel guilty or ungrateful by pointing out the ways they are blessed. Phrases such as “At least you have each other” or “At least you will save money without kids” are not the encouragement that couples need to hear.

3. “Not everyone is meant to be a parent.”

Just because a couple is struggling or unable to conceive biologically does not mean that they are not cut out to be parents. Infertility may be an indication that they should pursue adoption, not that they should abandon parenthood entirely.

4. “Here’s what worked for us when we were trying to conceive.”

Many couples facing infertility have already consulted with a doctor or fertility specialist about their dilemma. Unless the couple specifically requests your advice about conception, it is not your place to offer unsolicited solutions or home remedies.

5. “Just have faith, and God will allow you to conceive.”

Although doubtlessly tragic, it is a biological reality of living in a fallen world that some couples will never be able to conceive naturally. Compassionate encouragement to couples facing infertility should not include false promises or making them believe that a lack of faith is the reason why they cannot conceive. Couples should certainly seek God in their heartache, but infertility is not a punishment for a lack of faith and should not be treated as such. Examples in Scripture of God opening or closing a woman’s womb for a specific purpose can be distinguished from the everyday experience of infertility as a result of the fall, in which case God is not punishing a woman individually through infertility.

A Zero Star Review for Yelp’s Abortion Activism

by Joy Zavalick

April 18, 2022

The numerous pro-life protections being enacted across the country and the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are making the abortion industry increasingly desperate to maintain its place in American society. Recently, this mounting desperation has been seeping into the policies of some major corporations. Yelp is the latest in a string of private companies (such as Citigroup) that have announced that they will cover travel expenses for employees who desire to obtain an abortion that would not be legal in the state where they live.

This type of company policy is in direct response to state-level pro-life protections such as Texas’ heartbeat law, which has successfully saved thousands of babies’ lives by protecting life in the womb after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. By implementing such policies, these corporations have actively decided against remaining neutral on the topic of abortion.

The recent uptick in companies publicly declaring a position on abortion shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how corporate America has similarly caved to shareholder pressures on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. The activists behind progressive ESG investment organizations like As You Sow have consistently applied pressure to corporations, including Yelp.

In 2021, As You Sow published a report condemning Yelp for allowing Planned Parenthood sites to be “dogged by ongoing posting of unsubstantiated and illegitimate” reviews. The report concludes, “It is recommended that Yelp seek to engage harmed businesses”—such as Planned Parenthood—“in meaningful discussions about their experiences and desired alternative approaches.” Now, four months later, Yelp has chosen to enact a policy that will ensure that its employees continue contributing to the profits of the abortion industry by whatever means necessary.

Enabling female employees to obtain an out-of-state abortion instead of encouraging them to pursue motherhood is profitable—both for the abortion industry and the corporation that adopts such a policy. It minimizes the costs of providing maternity leave and keeps female employees actively engaged in the workplace for the obvious utilitarian purpose of maintaining productivity.

Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.) summarized the motivation for corporations to encourage abortions during a 2020 House Financial Services Committee hearing. She said, “In the span of four decades since the 1970s, 38 million women joined the workforce. Without those women, our economy would be 25 percent smaller.” Her point is clear: ever since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, companies have increasingly been able to profit from women employees—and they are not interested in going back.

Instead of liberating working women, Roe created a loophole for employers so they wouldn’t have to adapt to suit the needs of working mothers. Instead of creating an environment that embraced women in their totality, corporations could simply expect women to reject motherhood.

Employing a working mother often requires additional consideration beyond allowing for a few weeks of maternity leave once the child is born. Because of Roe, workplaces like Yelp have been able to take the easy way out for decades. Now, with the Dobbs decision on the horizon, they are doing everything in their power to make sure that the abortion loophole remains available.

Miriam Warren, chief diversity officer at Yelp, stated, “We’ve long been a strong advocate for equality in the workplace, and believe that gender equality cannot be achieved if women’s healthcare rights are restricted.” Corporate America has come alongside the abortion industry in normalizing the sexist myth that motherhood and career success are mutually exclusive.

No one makes the claim that men cannot progress in their careers when they become fathers. Female workers do not need to suffer the mental and physical trauma of abortion in order to be equal with their male counterparts.

Yelp has caved to pressure from the abortion lobby and hidden its true utilitarian agenda behind a façade of female empowerment. Other cowardly corporations will likely follow suit. As companies increasingly reveal their true colors and lack of spine, Christians must carefully consider which ones receive their business.

How Christ Transforms Passover

by Joshua Arnold

April 15, 2022

Today begins the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread, more commonly known as Passover. For Christians, today is observed as Good Friday, a less conspicuous counterpart to Resurrection Sunday which follows. However, while Christians don’t celebrate Passover, the chief festival of the Old Covenant is rich with symbolism of Christ. Why else would Paul, “A Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5), proclaim, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7)?

To understand the significance of Passover for Christians, let’s look back to Exodus 12, where God ordained the first Passover. In nine plagues, God has devastated Egypt, displaying his power over the Pharoah and all the nation’s idols, but the Israelites were still in slavery. God had promised that a tenth and final plague would kill every firstborn in Egypt and compel Pharoah to finally let them go. To prepare for the tenth plague and the exodus, God gave the people instructions to observe the Feast of Passover—a strange setting for a feast. They were to “eat it in haste” (Ex. 12:11), ready to begin their journey at any moment. They were to eat unleavened bread, and even purge all leaven out of their houses (Ex. 12:15). And they were to kill a yearling lamb to eat and sprinkle its blood on their doorframes (Ex 12:6-8).

The command to sprinkle a lamb’s blood may initially seem strange, but it was not without a purpose. God explained, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:13). When God’s angel saw the blood, he literally passed over those Israelite houses, sparing them from judgment. They were to stay inside all night (Ex. 12:22), so that the blood-marked doorway would stand literally between them and death. It was an act of obedience and faith; they stained their doors not because the blood had magical properties, but because God had commanded it. They had to believe God’s word that he would pass over houses sprinkled with blood.

Significantly, the sign of the blood was for the people of Israel, not for God. God knows everything, including the hearts who trust in him. He needs no physical symbols to guide him. No, this sign visibly represented for the people the distinction God was making between those who believed and obeyed him, and those who did not. The form of this sign was the blood of a sacrificial lamb.

The blood also served to teach the people of Israel that God did not spare them because of their inherent goodness. Abraham had asked God, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen. 18:23). The answer to the rhetorical question is, of course not, because “God is a righteous judge” (Ps. 7:11). If the Israelites were righteous, they would not have needed blood to protect them from God’s judgment.

In fact, “none is righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10). We, too, are guilty of sin against a holy God. We, like the Israelites, need forgiveness, and “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). So, like them, we need the blood of another to stand between us and God’s just wrath. The Bible teaches clearly and repeatedly (because we are naturally inclined to deny) that we are helpless to atone for our own sins.

But there is good news! “God will provide for himself the lamb,” said Abraham (Gen. 22:8)—and God provided a lamb, both for Abraham (Gen. 22:13-14) and for us. God sent John the Baptist to testify to his Lamb. When John saw Jesus, he proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29).

The inspired writers of the Bible leave no doubt concerning how Jesus is like the Passover lamb. Just as the blood of a lamb “without blemish” (Ex. 12:5) stood between the Israelites and death, so Christians are “ransomed… with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Jesus was crucified on “the day of Preparation of the Passover” (Jn. 19:14), the very day the Passover lamb was killed. Even Jesus’ silence before his accusers (Mat 26:63, 27:14) fulfilled the type of the Passover lamb, as Isaiah prophesied, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). This is the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was studying when the Holy Spirit providentially guided Philip to his chariot, where we read, “Beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). Jesus’ meekness, his perfection, and even the day of his death prove that he really is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Jesus fulfilled the type of the Passover lamb in his death (Mat. 5:17), but, before he died, he transformed the Passover into something new. At his last supper with his disciples, which was a Passover meal (Lk. 22:15), Jesus “took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Just as the Passover served as a perpetual memorial of God delivering his people from Egypt (Ex. 12:14,17), so the Lord’s Supper is a perpetual remembrance for Christians of Jesus Christ delivering us from sin.

Thus, for Christians, the Lord’s Supper has replaced the Passover; the substance has replaced the symbol; the reality has replaced the shadow (Heb. 10:1). Jesus did away with the yearly calendar of sacrifices when he “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:12). Through God’s deliverance, the people of Israel left their bondage in Egypt and sojourned in the wilderness on their way to the promised land of rest. Through’s Christ’s deliverance, the people of God now leave their bondage to sin (Rom 6:18) and live in the world as sojourners (1 Pet. 2:11) until they reach God’s promised, final rest (Heb. 4:6-10).

This is our hope: to see our precious Lord Jesus with uncorrupted eyes, and to rejoice in his glorious presence for all eternity. There he is in heaven, “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). Although a Lamb, he is also “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David,” who “has conquered” (Rev. 5:5). Our hope in him is sure, without any tinge of wavering. He will be victorious over all his enemies. As Paul reminds us, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31)?

How does seeing Christ in Passover apply to a Christian’s daily life? You may remember that one feature of the Passover meal was removing leaven from the house and eating unleavened bread. The reason Moses gives for this instruction is the urgency of their exodus, “because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait” (Ex. 12:39). To this reason Paul adds another, lasting one:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

In the passage’s context, Paul is rebuking the Corinthian church for tolerating incestual adultery in the church and not expelling the unrepentant sinner. Now that we are bought with the blood of Christ, we belong to him and ought to be holy as he is holy. The “old leaven” is our old sinful passions and habits, which can work through all our life, spoiling our witness. Throwing out the old leaven represents making a clean break with our old nature and living to God alone. Quoting from the Levitical law, Paul exhorts the Corinthian congregation to “purge the evil person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:13). And purge the evil from your heart, too.

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. Christ rose from the dead as the “firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:20), God’s guarantee that those who trust in him will also rise when Christ returns and live with him forever. Because that is certain, we must all consider this question: is there anything in your life that you would be ashamed to do in the presence of a holy God? Now is the time to repent. Those who harden their hearts (like Pharoah) will mourn when Christ returns. Those who repent now will rejoice when Christ returns. Risen Lord Jesus, come quickly!

Why “Good Friday” Is So Good

by David Closson

April 15, 2022

For many people, 2022 began with a lot of promise. But recent developments have once again reminded us of the consequences of living in a fallen world. Over the past few weeks, headlines have been dominated by ghastly war crimes committed against the Ukrainian people. We’ve also learned about five fully formed babies who may have been the victims of illegal partial-birth abortions or infanticide in our nation’s capital, and rising prices for gas and other consumer goods are forcing families to make difficult decisions. A divisive U.S. Supreme Court confirmation seems to have only exacerbated partisan political tensions.

In short, the religious, political, and cultural fault lines that divide Americans have resurfaced, and pessimism and anxiety are once again clouding the optimism that many of us felt earlier in the year.

On some level, the disillusionment many are feeling today is not unlike how Jesus’ followers must have felt on the first Good Friday. Less than a week after His triumphant arrival into Jerusalem, Jesus is now gasping for breath on a Roman cross while His friends look on helplessly and His enemies gloat. The hope and triumph of Palm Sunday is a distant memory.

Of course, those familiar with the Bible’s storyline know that Friday is not the end of the story. Easter is on the horizon. But Jesus’ resurrection is only glorious because of His obedience and faithfulness in death. Thus, it is appropriate on Good Friday to dwell for a while on the horror and sorrow of the crucifixion as we await Resurrection Sunday.

Jesus’ Final Hours

According to the New Testament, Jesus’ final week began with His euphoric entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Over the ensuing days, Jesus ministered to crowds of Jewish pilgrims, outmaneuvered religious leaders seeking to embarrass and ensnare Him, and prepared the disciples for the end of His earthly mission. By Thursday evening, Judas’ treasonous plan was in motion. Following the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus enters the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. In the shadows of the olive trees, Jesus prays earnestly and prepares to face God’s wrath against humanity’s sin (Luke 22:41-44).

After praying in the garden, Jesus is arrested, the disciples flee, and He is taken before the Sanhedrin. After a hastily arranged mock trial held in the middle of the night, Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the region. After an initial interrogation, Pilate has Jesus flogged, assuming this punishment would appease Jesus’ opponents. But the crowd, incited by their jealous leaders, demands Jesus’ crucifixion. Reluctantly, Pilate consents, fearful of the frenzied crowd’s growing unrest.

Forced to carry His own cross, Jesus arrives at Golgotha, a public place outside the city. There, He is crucified between two criminals, fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy that predicted God’s Messiah would be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). For about six hours, Jesus hangs on the cross, His bloodied body in view of everyone passing by, including jeering soldiers and Jewish religious leaders. At last, around three o’clock in the afternoon, the Son of God breathes His last and dies (Luke 23:46). Jesus’ body is given to Joseph of Arimathea, who quickly buries Jesus in a nearby tomb.  

God’s Plan for Salvation

Jesus’ final hours and crucifixion prompt questions. Why would God allow Jesus to endure so much pain and torture? In what way is the Bible’s teaching about Jesus’ death “good”? To answer these questions, it is important to recall what the Bible teaches about God’s heart for sinners and His plan to redeem them.

First, it is important to understand that the horrifying events of Good Friday were central to God’s plan of redeeming sinners. Scripture teaches that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). Moreover, Jesus’ enemies did what God “had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28). The infamy and pain of the crucifixion were God’s plan from the beginning. Everything that took place—Judas’ betraying, the Sanhedrin’s conniving, Pilate’s adjudicating, and the crucifixion itself—was the ordained means by which God worked to save sinners.

Consequently, the events of Friday must be seen within the context of God’s sovereignty; everything that occurred was ordained by God. Nothing surprised God or caught Him off guard. Every event, every decision, down to the last detail, was orchestrated and planned. Although the actors in the story—including Pilate, the Sanhedrin, and the Roman soldiers—were morally responsible for their actions, their actions unfolded within the sovereign determination of God.

This raises another question: if Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan to redeem sinners, why did He have to suffer so much? In other words, why was Jesus’ death so awful?

This brings us to our second point, the awful reality of human sinfulness. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given a choice. Instead of obeying God, the first couple listened to Satan and disobeyed their Creator. Their rebellion brought about massive consequences. In theological terms, Adam and Eve’s disobedience was sin, a blatant violation and transgression of God’s law. As humanity’s representative head, Adam’s sin was passed down to his descendants. As the apostle Paul explains, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

Sin separates us from God. And all of us have sinned. As Paul explains, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Moreover, because sin is such an affront to God, the consequence of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). This is what God had warned Adam and Eve about in Eden; rebellion against God would result in physical and spiritual death (Gen. 2:16-17).

Third, the reality of sin places humanity in a precarious state. God is perfect and cannot abide sin (Hab. 1:13). Therefore, if there is going to be any hope for humanity, God must take the initiative and reverse sin’s curse. And incredibly, that’s exactly what He did. The Bible teaches that God is loving and desires that none perish (1 Tim. 2:4). This is why Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, became incarnate (embodied in flesh) (Phil. 2:7). This brings us to Good Friday. Jesus lived a sinless life and died in the place of sinners as a sacrifice (Heb. 9:26). As Paul explains in Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The most well-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16, teaches the same truth: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

These verses relay the core of the gospel. By providing a perfect sacrifice for sin, Jesus removed God’s wrath toward sinners and fully satisfied God’s justice (1 John 4:10). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus overcame humanity’s separation from God and provided a way for us to be reconciled with God (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

In other words, the “good news” of Christianity is the atoning work of Jesus. Now, by repenting of sin and turning in faith to Christ, sinful people can be forgiven of their sins (Rom. 10:9-10). As Paul explains, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). In this verse and others, the Bible teaches what theologians refer to as “penal substitution,” the idea that Christ bore the penalty of sin when He died and that in death He substituted himself for sinners. Those who trust in Christ’s atoning work are justified in God’s sight, meaning they are now declared righteous.

Because of Jesus’ saving work on our behalf, it is appropriate to call this dark day “good.” Good Friday is good because Jesus paid the price for our sins. Moreover, it is good because He not only died in our place, but He was also raised to life. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, which attests to His power over death. His resurrection is what Scripture describes as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). As Jesus was resurrected, so will His followers when He comes again.

So, even as we reflect on a difficult year, Good Friday gives us perspective. If God can redeem Good Friday, with all of its pain, horror, and suffering, He can redeem anything—including us. For many of us, today might be dark. But take heart; hope is on the horizon. 

Today is Friday, but Sunday is coming.

4 Days (and Ways) to Enrich Your Easter Celebration

by Dan Hart

April 13, 2022

For believers, the holiest week of the year is upon us: the great celebration of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. While it’s wonderful to mark Easter with fun egg hunts and festive chocolate egg-filled baskets for the kids, there are a multitude of other Christian traditions and practices that believers of all ages can partake in to deepen our faith and enrich our experience as we celebrate “Holy Week” and consider Jesus’ last week on earth including His teachings in the temple, the Last Supper, His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, His arrest, trial, torture, and crucifixion, and His glorious rising from the grave.

1. Thursday: Commemorating the Last Supper

As recounted in the gospels, Jesus partook in the traditional Jewish Passover meal with His disciples on the night before He was crucified—which has become known as the Lord’s Supper or the Last Supper. In the Jewish custom, it is known as a Seder (or Passover) meal. It has since become a tradition in the Christian church to celebrate a symbolic Seder meal on Thursday night that can consist of wine, bitter herbs (such as parsley), salt water, unleavened matzah bread, hardboiled egg, and lamb (or other elements depending on the tradition).

Another tradition is washing the feet of our loved ones, just as Christ washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:1-20). We can also sacrifice some sleep on Thursday night and spend some quality time in prayer in order to “keep watch” as Christ did when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).

2. Friday: Remembering the Goodness of Christ’s Sacrifice

It may seem somewhat ironic to refer to the Friday before Easter as “Good Friday” given that it is the day Christ suffered a brutal crucifixion at the hands of sinners. However, “Good Friday” is indeed good because of the profound goodness of Christ’s victory over sin and death by means of His crucifixion and death on this day, culminating in His Resurrection on Easter. The gospels tell us that Christ was nailed to the cross between nine o’clock and noon and that He died around three o’clock. Therefore, Christians can set aside the time of noon to three for special prayer and meditation on the passion and death of Christ. We might also consider fasting as a tangible way to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice.

Some other ways we can observe Good Friday might be to take a long walk and meditate on Jesus’ road to Calvary. We could also watch a film adaptation of the passion narrative such as The Passion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Risen, or another well-produced movie to enter into the final hours of Jesus’ earthly life more fully.

For younger children, we can fill plastic Easter eggs with symbols of Christ’s passion and resurrection, such as a cross, nails, a stone, and other related items. When they open them, we can give age-appropriate explanations on how each symbol was part of the extent to which Jesus loved us by suffering, dying, and rising for us.

3. Saturday: Preparing for the Lord’s Rising

Historically, the Saturday before Easter has been referred to as “Silent Saturday.” As we await Christ’s Resurrection, we can engage in edifying activities to prepare our hearts for Easter. One idea is to create a traditional Polish Easter basket as a gift for your pastor. Each item in the basket is symbolic of different attributes of God. For example, eggs symbolize new life and Christ’s rising from the grave, sausage symbolizes God’s favor and generosity, ham symbolizes joy and abundance, a candle represents the light of Christ, and more.

A way to inspire our kids when they are painting Easter eggs could be to have them look at pictures of the traditional European art of painting eggs with intricate designs and Christian symbols.

Another fun activity to do with children is to make a Resurrection Garden. This consists of a large garden pot that can be transformed into a mini “garden” that symbolizes Calvary and Christ’s tomb using potting soil, rocks, moss, three homemade wood crosses, and more.

4. Sunday: The Resurrection of Our Lord

As we celebrate the glorious day on which Christ defeated death and saved us from our sins—the most consequential day in human history—we can enhance our celebration in a number of ways. One idea that may especially appeal to families is adding food to our Easter feasts that is rich in symbolism, such as Resurrection Rolls. These are made by stuffing crescent rolls with marshmallows, and when they are done baking, the marshmallow inside disappears, and you are left with a delicious “empty tomb.”

Adding candles to your Easter table is especially appropriate as we celebrate the light of Christ’s resurrected body. Singing traditional Easter hymns is another great way to revel in and truly celebrate the spirit of Easter.

Another idea is to make a traditional Easter wreath and hang it on your front door. The symbolism consists of (among other things) the wreath itself representing the crown of thorns, a purple ribbon representing royalty and the robe placed over Christ’s shoulders during His mock trial, a nail representing His crucifixion, grapes representing the blood He shed, and a lily representing the new life of the risen Christ.

Finally, in addition to attending an Easter morning worship service, it may be helpful to set aside some time to read the Bible’s account of the resurrection. The story of Jesus’ resurrection is told in Matthew 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-13, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-29. It is extremely encouraging to read the gospel accounts themselves, and Christians do well to ponder these glorious passages on Resurrection Sunday.

These are just a few ideas about how to enrich your Easter celebration among the multitude of traditions that have sprung up over the last two millennia since Jesus’ resurrection. No matter how you and your loved ones choose to commemorate Easter, the most important thing is to truly celebrate it in order to stir in our souls once again the hope that is in all of us as believers—that Jesus burst into our fallen world and redeemed it in the most astonishing of ways, conquering sin and death so that we might be forgiven our sin and reconciled to God the Father. It’s a message that our darkened world needs to hear now more than ever.

Thinking Biblically About Grief

by Worth Loving

April 5, 2022

A few months ago, one of my best friends moved away, and I was plunged into some of the deepest grief I have ever experienced. It sent me spiraling into a season of depression and provoked one of the deepest questionings of my Christian faith. At times, I cried out to God, pleading for an answer that would give me the peace and closure I needed to move on. At other times, I was filled with pride and arrogance, demanding an answer from God and refusing to trust Him again until I got one.

In the following paragraphs, I am going to be very open about my struggles because I believe that is what the church needs. For too long, we have kept inside what we should be sharing. In Galatians 6:2, Paul commands us to “bear one another’s burdens.” Most relationships in the church barely scratch the surface, either because we are too afraid to share with others or because we don’t know how to respond. My hope is that this article will help both those who are grieving and those who want to minister to others.

As I wrestled with my feelings, naturally I looked for others who had experienced something similar. I stumbled across C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed one day and decided to give it a read. I have read several of C.S. Lewis’ works in the past, most of which are either allegories or apologetics. A Grief Observed was very different, almost like a deeply personal journal that was not intended for public reading. Originally published under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk, Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after his dear wife Joy died of cancer. They were married for only four years before she passed away.

Now, I have certainly not experienced the death of my friend. Nonetheless, there is still incredible grief from his absence. Growing up as an only child, I always wanted a brother. The Lord most definitely filled that desire through my friend. For the past four years, we spent nearly every day together. And through my friend, I repeatedly experienced the unconditional love of God as he forgave me when I was wrong and saw past all my many faults. And now, suddenly, he is gone. I am thankful that we still have the ability to communicate and visit each other. But the fact is that my friend no longer lives close by, and things will never be the same. That void is often overwhelming.

As I read A Grief Observed, I found myself identifying with many of the feelings this giant of the faith experienced so many decades ago. At the start, Lewis addresses God’s apparent silence in our grief:

But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

Thankfully, these are only thoughts that crossed Lewis’ mind and not anything he actually came to believe. I know such thoughts have crossed my mind during the last few months, and I’m sure they have crossed yours as well during a time of grief. Later, Lewis acknowledges that grief is one of God’s methods to test our faith, to show us who or what our trust is really in:

God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.

Now, I admit, my suffering pales in comparison to that which so many others have experienced, for which I am very thankful. But I have often wondered why a good God would allow some of His choicest servants to experience such indescribable suffering. I have seen families lose loved ones in tragic car accidents. I have seen godly people endure excruciating pain from cancer. I have witnessed individuals forever scarred by years of abuse. In The Problem of Pain, Lewis describes our suffering not as punishment from God but rather as a loving act from our Sovereign Creator:

Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. We’re like blocks of stone out of which the Sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect. The suffering in the world is not the failure of God’s love for us; it is that love in action. For believe me, this world that seems to us so substantial, is no more than the shadowlands. Real life has not begun yet.

As I’ve stumbled through this grieving process, I did some research on how Christians deal with grief, looking for similarities to what I was experiencing. My research concluded that there is indeed a cycle of shock, denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance—all of which I have experienced in this process and which C.S. Lewis experienced as well. He described grief as “not a state but a process. Grief is like a winding road where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” He also goes into detail describing the stages of grief and how they repeat, manifesting themselves differently in every person:

For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often—will it be for always?—how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.

It’s also important to realize how grief can cloud our judgment. Sometimes, we are so overwhelmed that we can’t receive the help we really need. Lewis described it this way:

The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.

While C.S. Lewis experienced a deep and terrible questioning of his faith in his time of grief, similar to what I and many others have experienced, thankfully, Lewis had the hope of Heaven just as we do today:

Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.

I confess that I still don’t have all the answers that I want from God. I still don’t fully understand why He called my friend to move away, and I’m still not completely at peace with His plan. The life that we lived together was incredibly special, and the reality that this stage of life is over is very difficult for me to accept. But I have been reminded of three precious promises as I’ve grieved over the last few months:

  1. God loves me unconditionally despite my doubts and lack of peace.
  2. God’s ways are higher than mine. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
  3. I know God is close to those who have a broken heart. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

For five months, I prayed that my friend wouldn’t leave. I begged God every single day that He would allow him to stay. But that was not His plan. And then came the day I prayed would never come; it was not the answer I had prayed for, wanted, or understood. I was devastated, and I still am. I’m not sure when I will stop grieving. I still don’t understand, but I know that I have a loving heavenly Father who has plans so much more than I can imagine, holds my broken heart, and wants me to trust Him completely.

One of my favorite quotes from John Piper describes how to grieve well: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” That’s a choice we will all face at some point. We have only two options—trust God or lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6). This is certainly not the life I hoped would be. At times, I still weep deeply and continue to grieve, but I am desperately trying to trust God’s sovereign plan. Grieving is completely natural, but I want to do it well. I don’t want to waste this time of suffering and miss what God is trying to teach me. My prayer is that, like Job, I will submit to God’s will and “come forth as gold” (Job 13:15; 23:10).

Whatever trial you are facing today, know that God has a purpose for your pain beyond your understanding. Know that He holds your broken heart in the palm of His hand. Let Him use your trial to refine you and minister to others. Better days are ahead, if not here, most assuredly in Heaven where all crying, sorrow, and pain will be gone (Rev. 21:4). And then, we will clearly see the purpose of what today seems so mysterious.

Ukraine, Russia, and Who to Believe

by Arielle Del Turco , Joseph Backholm

April 4, 2022

Most people believe journalists will lie to them. According to Gallup, only 36 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the media and there are lots of reasons why.

Most recently, the legacy media has finally decided to admit it really was Hunter Biden’s laptop found in a pawnshop loaded with incriminating information, including incriminating information about Joe Biden, just before the 2020 election. When the media partnered with the Biden campaign to claim it was Russian disinformation, they weren’t telling the truth.

They also told the nation a high school kid from Kentucky, Nick Sandmann, was racist because they didn’t like the look on his face, they said border patrol was whipping Haitian immigrants on horseback when they weren’t, and described riots they were sympathetic to as “fiery but mostly peaceful protests.” Big media has earned every bit of skepticism they receive.

As a result, many have viewed coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine skeptically. More than one month since the start of the unprovoked invasion, Russia has been brutal. Russian troops have attacked hospitals, including maternity hospitals, residential areas and apartment buildings, and refugee evacuation routes. A bombing of a Ukrainian theater where civilians were sheltering is estimated to have killed 300 people. Overwhelming public evidence and intelligence sources led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to officially declare that Russia is committing war crimes.

It is in situations like these that mistrust of the media can go too far. Rather than express shock and sympathy, there is almost a temptation to explain away the legacy media’s narrative. Some of us have become so cynical we assume everything we are being told is false. If they tell us Russia is the bad guy, they must be the good guy. If they tell us Ukraine is an innocent victim of a ruthless dictator, they must be the ruthless dictator.

We saw something similar, but different, happen recently when right-wing pundit Dave Rubin announced, along with his same-sex partner, that they are expecting two babies through surrogacy. In the past, Rubin tended to align more with the Left but developed an appreciation for the dangers of wokeness and stood up to the Left’s attempts to silence speech and punish those they disagree with. Upon his announcement, many conservatives, including professing social conservatives at Prager University and Glenn Beck’s Blaze TV, were quick to congratulate Rubin, apparently out of personal affection. It’s one thing to wish Dave Rubin well in life despite choices we disagree with—it’s another thing to celebrate decisions and developments we know to be wrong because the person doing the wrong thing is someone we generally like.

Which leads to the larger point.

As Christians, we must evaluate the truthfulness of a claim or the goodness of an action without regard to tribal identification or our personal feelings about the people involved. This is what the Apostle Peter refers to as being soberminded. We often think of sobriety as the opposite of drunkenness, but alcohol is not the only thing that can impair our mental capacity. Our emotions can be just as intoxicating. Peter warned us about the danger of emotional intoxication when he instructed us to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Mental intoxication makes it easy for others to deceive us and makes it easy for us to deceive ourselves.

Sober-mindedness is an underrated yet important qualification for leadership in the church (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 2:2). Someone who determines what is true based on how they feel is poorly equipped to lead people, especially the people of God.  

In other contexts, we immediately recognize the folly of focusing more on the messenger than the message. One common, and appropriate, criticism of Critical Race Theory (CRT) is that it calls us to consider someone’s racial identity before we consider the merits of their arguments. CRT discounts the perspectives of white people because they are white and it elevates the perspectives of non-white people based on the belief that lived experience gives non-white people a prioritized perspective.

This is both an irrational and unbiblical way of evaluating information. It goes without saying that people of all skin pigmentations are capable of being right and wrong and it is their ability to think and reason that determines their credibility, not their skin color. In the same way, our personal feelings towards something must not sway an objective assessment of truth and reality. Of course, it’s possible we might grow to dislike people we know to be untrustworthy, but it will always be true that those we love can say something false just as someone we dislike can say something true. The truth is the truth, even if someone who has lied in the past says it. These days, we tend to focus on the identity of the people involved more than the claims themselves to our own demise.

All this is important to keep in mind as we consume information and take in perspectives.

Yes, the mainstream, legacy media has said a lot of things that weren’t true. A lot. But that does not mean everything they say is false. We should not allow our personal frustration with someone’s willingness to misrepresent the truth prevent us from always looking for the truth. It is critical that we approach the situation of Ukraine with sober-mindedness and discernment. We must avoid the trap of calling good evil and evil good based on distrust of the media.

If we find ourselves trying to ignore information we might otherwise believe because of who it would force us to agree with, we may be more focused on fighting personal or partisan battles than trying to find the truth. That’s a dangerous place to be.

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