By / Dec 13

Most people look at me and see a cliché soccer mom from the suburbs trying to keep all the plates spinning: raising five kids, looking for that perfect Pinterest Instant Pot recipe that everyone will enjoy, racing to basketball games while practicing spelling words in the car, all while trying to squeeze in a weekly — OK, let’s be honest, monthly — date night with my husband. It’s the daily grind filled with small moments of joy, stress, pain, grief, and celebrations that many American families experience.  

What people would be surprised to learn is that my life didn’t always look so idyllic. I grew up in the 80s, amid the divorce boom. Every parent, grandparent, aunt, and uncle I knew was divorced. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my dad, and overall, in addition to divorce, I experienced addiction, abandonment, abuse, and general dysfunction throughout my childhood. These experiences gave me the desire to break the generational cycle of dysfunction in my own life.  

My childhood also gave me great empathy for those who have endured similar struggles. It opened my eyes to ways in which the church supports its flock — like the way Jesus ministered to the woman at the well. Unfortunately, my experience of growing up with great instability and dysfunction has also shown me ways in which the church has room for growth. I have seen the church respond with both empathy and judgment, and it has caused me to pause and ask myself, “In what ways are we doing well, and in what ways can we do better?”

Growing and thriving

There are many ways in which the church is caring well for people who have experienced abuse, addiction, abandonment, divorce, and general dysfunction. In past generations, some in the church perpetuated the notion that Christians must “have it all together.” Believers succumbed to an underlying pressure to look, act, and be perfect. This perfection drove many believers to live secret lives of sin and shame — to hide their addictions to pornography, drugs, sex, food, and alcohol, among others. And struggles with pride, anger, depression, mental illness, and more were pushed below the surface. When they perceived they could not confront their sin in a safe and healthy place, they fed their sins until they were bloated with depravity and buried under a heap of guilt.

Today, I see a shift. The church is actively acknowledging that we — Christians included — are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Preachers used to preach it from the pulpit, but now local churches are putting Scripture into action by providing a welcome place where people can process their sin, pain, and grief through programs like Celebrate Recovery, GriefShare, DivorceCare, and other local, faith-based recovery groups.  

I also see a shedding of the stoic exterior once worn by the baby boomers and Generation X. And I believe we have the millennials and Generation Z to thank for that. While the older generations tend to conceal their emotions, the younger generations revel in vulnerability and authenticity. They view openness and sharing their feelings as a strength, not a weakness. They are creating a culture of open dialogue through life groups, discipleship, and mentors, which is helping everyone within the church feel less ashamed and more apt to confess their emotional struggles, familial baggage, mental health issues, and spiritual doubts and confusion. This mentality of vulnerability — along with the ability to acknowledge one’s sin—cultivates a field ripe for more authentic relationships with Jesus and with each other.

Room for improvement

But there is still so much the church can do to improve how it cares for people who have experienced abuse, addiction, abandonment, divorce, and overall dysfunction.  

First, we must realize that those in church leadership are not above these issues. We must provide safeguards and accountability for our staff, elders, deacons, teachers, and the entire church body (because anyone who steps foot in the church building becomes a leader in some form or fashion). These safety measures can come in the form of accountability partners, prayer partners, and life groups, all of which must be shrouded with truth and grace.

We also need to shake off the attitude of “that would never happen to me.” We think dysfunction occurs in someone else’s family and life until our spouse has an affair, our teenager becomes addicted to drugs, we get addicted to prescription pain killers, our daughter struggles with an eating disorder, or our husband looks at pornography on his work computer. We believe these things only happen to other people until we are sitting on our counselor’s couch asking, “How did I get here? Where did it all go wrong?” The truth is, we are all one bad decision away from living a completely different life.

Next, we need to embrace the sinners among us with truth and grace. Instead of having the Pharisees’ hypocritical attitude of judgment (Luke 6), we should have the attitude of Paul who realized he was the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  Fred Rogers once said, “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” Wrong judgment ends when listening begins. When we hear someone’s story, we understand them a little more. When we understand, we empathize. When we empathize, we can offer them the help they need.  

Instead compartmentalizing our faith — consciously or unconsciously — to Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights — we must follow Jesus into the messiness of other people’s lives. We need to listen to the hurting, weep with the broken, hurt with the sick, and cry with the grieving. Due to my family’s circumstances, I lived with a friend’s family during my sophomore year in high school. Later, during my senior year in high school, I lived with a different friend’s family. These families saw a need, and they met it. This is the church — seeing the messy and the broken and putting it back together. Not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s needed. 

So, what can the church do to help those who have experienced abuse, addiction, abandonment, divorce, and general dysfunction?  We can listen and empathize. We can get involved for the long haul. We can point people to Scripture instead of offering pithy, empty clichés. We can be on guard and accept that these traumas can happen to us, even though we live in middle-to-upper class neighborhoods, we have a college education, or sit in the front row at church every Sunday. We can intentionally focus on connection and discipleship, and we can do all of this while offering authenticity and vulnerability along the way. 

By / Dec 7

In 2019, I was elected president of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists at 26 years old. Our state convention is much smaller than many others, so I’m under no illusion that being elected was some incredible feat. It was, however, an honor to be given the opportunity, and it has been an even greater honor to serve West Virginia Baptists in this capacity. As my term comes to an end, I’ve spent time reflecting on what I’ve learned over these last two years. I share these four thoughts in the hopes that they may be helpful as we navigate tumultuous days in Baptist life. 

  1. Disagreements are inevitable, but love is a choice

In denominational life, no one agrees with anyone on everything. Ideological camps don’t line up as clearly as it seems. I have found incessant gatekeeping simply exhausting. I’ve learned that my primary obligation to my brother or sister is to love them, not figure out what ideological tribe they really belong to. If they don’t love me back, that is okay. If they pigeonhole me into some particular tribe, so be it. My charge remains the same: love them. Love is the only way to survive for the long haul. 

  1. Institutions are frustrating, but institutions have value. 

We want institutions to perfectly reflect the sensibilities of our day. They simply do not. Institutions move slowly — frustratingly so. Now, this is no excuse for institutional dysfunction, obfuscation, or corruption; these things must not exist in healthy institutions. But in our institutions, the past and future collide. And therein lies their value. We must reckon with our institutions as they are, not as we wish they were. Good decisions and bad decisions made by scores of people across time and space have led us here, and the decisions we now make will shape those who will follow us.

  1. Our challenges are real, but so is God’s grace. 

I mentioned that disagreements are inevitable. To be clear, this does not mean all disagreements are created equally. We face real challenges in our day — challenges we must not downplay, trivialize, or spiritualize. Focusing on “the mission” demands a clear, biblical understanding of “the mission.” We may disagree about the biggest problems in our society. We may disagree about how we got here and where we should go. I do not offer a trite, overly spiritualized solution. I simply commend all of us to God’s grace as we discern these things together. His grace is sufficient for us.

  1. Falling from platforms is dangerous, but so is seeking them. 

We talk a lot about the dangers of falling, and rightfully so. But I think it’s important to talk about the dangers of climbing. Oh, I see this in myself! When I start asking, “What’s next for me?” I am in a dangerous spot. I want to be faithful; I want to utilize the gifts God has given me to serve God’s people. But it’s easy to convince myself that’s what I’m doing, when really, I am trying to grow my platform. It’s easy to talk about serving God’s people, when really, I want God’s people to serve me. 

That they may be one

We live at a time and in a culture that is fraught with division, even inside our churches. But this is not a time for Southern Baptists to mimic the cultural norms of our day. Now is the time for us to live into the words of Jesus in his high priestly prayer: “that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22).  

In a culture that is often hateful and ill-tempered on nearly every emerging issue, what might happen if Southern Baptists exercised an abundance of love and earnestly pursued the unity that Jesus prays for in John 17? He tells us: the world would come to know that Jesus has been sent by the Father who loves them like his own Son. They would come to know that John 3:16 is, in fact, true. The love and unity practiced and expressed in the church is a reflection of the love and unity practiced and expressed in the Godhead, and it is part of our witness to the surrounding culture. 

As my term as president of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists draws to a close, this is my hope: that we would take God’s call to pursue the love and unity that Jesus prays for seriously so that the watching world would know that God loves them and that Jesus has come to save them. 

By / Apr 8

As 2020 ended, many anticipated that the turning of the New Year would bring with it a fresh dose of hope and a reprieve from the hardships that marked the last year. And, in some ways, it has. COVID-19, at least in America, seems to be trending in a promising direction, vaccinations continue at a rapid pace, and life is slowly beginning to look more normal. But while one pandemic seems keen on abating, another more insidious pathogen continues to intensify. 

I’m speaking of our “outrage culture” and the anger that fuels it. Outrage culture, sadly, is a phenomenon that has enticed us far and wide, even within the church. And, based on Tim Kreider’s commentary, “enticed” is the exact right word. He says, “Outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but over time devour us from the inside out. And it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure” (emphasis added). Pete Ross calls our anger and outrage an “acceptable and addictive drug of society” which convinces us that we’re smart, we’re right, and “we have the necessary ideas to fix everything. That we’re the ones that need to be in charge.” We apparently can’t help but participate in outrage culture because doing so feeds a Pharisaical self-righteousness that feels good. It coddles the pride that, unless God grants repentance, will result in disgrace and, ultimately, our destruction.

Proverbs and the way of wisdom

Sadly, among the Christian community, our outrage and self-righteous Pharisaism is often aimed toward one another. Dan Darling calls this “a kind of performative self-flagellation incentivized by a social media environment that rewards hot-takes, shaming, and appealing to tribes,” all of which spills out of a heart angered by the internet controversy of the day. And day after day, Christians, with unbefitting outrage, continue to “rhetorically sacrifice” their own brothers and sisters in the faith. 

If our anger and outrage—forms of self-righteous pleasure-seeking—are rooted in pride, then the book of Proverbs shows us a better way. Proverbs 11:12 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” The way of outrage culture is the way of belligerence, the way lacking in self-control, the way of slander and self-righteousness; it is the way of pride. But the way of wisdom is the way of humility and charity, of compassion, of patience and long-suffering; it is the way of holiness. 

But, the question remains, can Christians resist the enticements of outrage culture? From the Proverbs of Solomon to the book of James, the Bible answers this contemporary question with a resounding yes. By the power of the Spirit, humility and charity are the first two steps forward. 

  1. Humility

Rick Warren, in his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less,” which is generally a fair statement. But, in the case of outrage culture, where the tendency is to lambaste our opponents because “we’re right and we need to be in charge,” thinking less of ourselves and the primacy of our expertise is an effective place to begin. Biblical humility, though, does not advocate for a self-deprecating view of oneself. Rather, it advocates for a right view of oneself, recognizing that we are creatures, recipients of God’s common grace who are offered God’s saving grace found in Christ, just like those we’re raging against.

Further, because we know that “pride goes before destruction,” as Solomon warns, we can be sure that if we practice the ethic of the outrage culture, with its furious fits and spats, any authority that we possess or hope to possess will ultimately be taken from us. In so doing, we will have proven ourselves unqualified. There is no attribute or behavior more unbefitting of the kingdom of God than the sin of pride.

Jesus tells us in his Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). Unimaginable honor and authority await those who have humbled themselves before God. We will not show ourselves capable of entering God’s kingdom or exercising the rule he promises to entrust us with until humility becomes our fundamental orientation toward our Father in Heaven, our brothers and sisters, and our neighbors, whether online or in-person.

  1. Charity

Scrolling down a Twitter feed or a Facebook timeline, it’s often hard to imagine that Christians take Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount seriously. Though he was clear on the mountainside that day that he expects his followers to love not only our neighbors but our enemies, this has proven to be an elusive standard. Even the most intuitive act of charity, “loving those who love you,” often seems too ambitious for the people of God in our online interactions.

But, Jesus and, later, the Apostle Paul, were not offering quips or suggestions to be implemented at our discretion. They were showing us the way of righteousness, the narrow way of the kingdom, the way of the children of God. “Love your enemies,” Jesus says, “For he (God) is gracious to the ungrateful and evil” (Luke 6:35). “Charity is kind,” says Paul, “it doth not behave itself unseemly . . . is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil . . . beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” (1 Cor. 13:4, 5, 7, KJV). “This is the way,” God is telling us. “Walk in it” (Isa.30:21).

God the Father, through God the Son, by the power of God the Holy Spirit has commanded and empowered us to live our lives with a charity that is other-worldly and that we learn from him. Thus, as we seek to resist the lure of outrage culture and embody the way of Christ, let us take seriously these words of Andrew Murray: “Let our temper be under the rule of the love of Jesus. He alone can make us gentle and patient. Let the vow that not an unkind word about others will ever be heard from our lips (or read in our writing) be laid trustingly at His feet. Let the gentleness that refuses to take offense, that is always ready to excuse, to think and hope the best, mark our dealings with all.”

Outrage toward indwelling sin

Not all outrage is off-limits for the children of God, though. A Christian ought to be appalled at the lingering depravity and brokenness of the world; it is our native response. In fact, to pray “thy kingdom come,” as Jesus taught us, is itself a statement of outrage against the world’s fallenness. But woe to us if we believe it right to do violence against God’s image-bearers with uncharitable and outrageous words.

There is a place where the full force of our outrage can be levied: Toward indwelling sin. John Owen famously said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Rather than adopting the ethic of outrage culture and spewing rage at one another, and taking pleasure in it, we would do well to redirect our attention inward, toward the indwelling sin “waiting to destroy everything we love,” as Matt Chandler has said. The Apostle Paul says, “if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). Life and death are before us. Shall we yield to the pride of our flesh and join the carnal chorus of outrage culture, a culture that loves its sin and hates its neighbor? Or shall we aim our outrage inward and, by the Spirit, put to death these self-righteous deeds of the body?

Brothers and sisters, may we be a people who embody the ethic of God’s kingdom, not that of outrage culture. May we be a people who keep the commands of Jesus, all of them. And, humbly, may we begin by loving our neighbors and hating our sin.  

By / Feb 9

The Super Bowl ads this year were a mixed bag. From Ashton Kutcher’s embarrassing Cheetos ad featuring Shaggy, to the ode to oat milk—2021 will not necessarily go down in the history books as a year for great marketing. Then again, I don’t envy the position advertising agencies were in this year. It’s hard to convince Americans to go out and buy much of anything in a year when there has been so much turmoil. 

And then, all of the sudden, there was a cinematic moment. A girl with two legs amputated below the knee, swimming in a pool that seemed to stretch to all corners of the globe, “inception” style. I couldn’t quite hear over the chatter where I was watching the game. But even still, the hypnotic sound of water, the athlete swimming laps, the glimmering blue wake, all caught my attention. There was a family, a phone call, and a smile. I wondered, still unable to hear clearly — did I just see what I think I saw? An ad about adoption? 

I re-watched the ad when I got home, and it brought tears to my eyes. Toyota chose to tell the story of Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long, whose adoption from Russia brought her to America, and the family that helped her blossom.

This time last year, my husband and I were busy packing the car. Bottles? Check. Diapers? Check. A few good onesies, a blanket, a noise machine? Got ’em. Having been through the adoption process once before with our first son in 2017, we tried to maintain a sense of composure, and open-handedness about the future. Expectant mothers who have made an adoption plan retain the unquestioned right to change their minds and parent the baby. We planned to drive eight hours west, to Kansas City, knowing full well that we may return home with nothing more than a few hundred additional miles on our car’s speedometer. 

A few days later, a little boy was born, surrounded by a massive biological family that loves him. His biological mother didn’t give him to us; she asked us to give ourselves to him. (Read that again. The distinction is important.)

Watching the Toyota ad, I felt a surge of fear and anxiety, too. Because no matter how heartwarming I found the ad to be, there are plenty of people who oppose adoption, and who would use this ad to make predictable accusations. I hope I am wrong. But as I opened the internet this morning, I braced for the worst. 

Adoptive families have been accused of having a savior complex. Of participating in the trafficking of children. Of using their money to adopt, rather than using their money to support a single mother. Of participating in harmful trans-racial adoptions. Of using their adopted children as “props”. When adoption stories are hailed as “heartwarming,” nay-sayers often say that the story is minimizing the trauma that occurs within an adoption. 

To be fair, not every adoption story is one of triumph over adversity, like Jessica’s. There are plenty of horror stories — adoptions gone wrong, unethical agencies, etc. Those stories are prevalent and often garner plenty of attention. And I will be the first to say that it is essential to continue to regulate adoption both domestically and internationally to keep abuse and corruption to absolute zero. But for every awful adoption story, there are an untold number of faithful families doing the diligent, daily work of raising children and providing a stable, loving home where otherwise there was none.

No glossy advertisement will ever be able to make up for the trauma Jessica Long experienced, or the waves of challenges and heartache that her family — both her biological and adoptive families — have suffered. The waters she swims through are full of trauma just as much as triumph.

But we cannot as a society allow trauma to be a defining factor of our identity, and therefore rob us — or our children — of the dignity of future possibility. The future of hope. We should never let the fear of being accused of having a savior complex keep us from imitating Jesus. Critics may say we are “virtue signaling.” Let us go on living with virtue. 

I appreciate Toyota’s choice to create a beautiful depiction of hope in the face of adversity. It is a reminder that all children deserve a family that loves and supports them. No matter the challenges or traumas they’ve faced. 

It is a reminder that cynics — the critics — will never win, when compared to the great good of answering the call.

This article originally appeared in the author’s newsletter

By / Nov 12

It’s nearly Advent, but my mind is preoccupied with a different holiday. Four years ago, on Father’s Day weekend, my wife Chelsea penned an open letter to her father. I can only describe it as the most tender description of adoption I have ever read. Reflecting on her own adoption, Chelsea shared what her father’s love taught her about belonging and family: “Blood is the least of what makes a family. Godly love is the real lifeblood of a family.”

Love—and lots of paperwork.

The hard task of waiting

As I write these reflections in 2020, Chelsea and I are on our own adoptive journey. We hope to bring two little ones from India into our home in the near future, and are awash in paperwork. For any couple that has trod this road or is traveling it now, the rote act of filling out forms is a simple reality of adoption, and completing them is an infinitesimal price to pay for the inexpressible joy of building a family.

But in a way, the paperwork is deceitful. Or at least, it deceives me. When I complete a form or upload another document, I feel productive and preoccupied. And rightly so, for there is no way for us to bring children into our home apart from completing it. But the hustle of paperwork is really a façade that covers the deeper reality of adoption: waiting. 

Waiting for restoration. Waiting for healing. Waiting for them.

Chelsea and I can control the pace of paperwork, but we can’t control bureaucrats on the other side of the world. We can manage the tempo of appointments and fulfill obligations on our timetable, but we cannot bind God’s timing. We can position ourselves for success, but no amount of preparation will erase the brokenness and pain our future children will feel—for adoption always, always originates in loss. All we can do now is wait for our children’s safety, pray for their hearts, and hope that, by God’s grace, our meeting is soon.

The waiting of adoption is turning my gaze away from things and people beyond my control, and revealing my own desperate need to be restored and healed.

The lengthy nature of adoption is teaching me to sit in stillness and make peace with these truths, but, in honesty, I’d rather not. Deep in my heart, there is an innate discomfort with waiting, one I would rather avoid. As an American accustomed to the immediate, this disposition isn’t terribly surprising. But this fear goes beyond our cultural milieu to a deep place in my heart, beyond the reach or scope of paperwork or human power.

Facing fears

I want to believe the illusion that, just as it’s possible to perfectly complete an application without mistakes, it’s also possible to build a perfect family without brokenness. When I think of the “origin story” of our future children, it scares me to think that, before Chelsea or I enter the picture, others are already there as “mommy” and “daddy”—and that our kids will never fully understand themselves apart from the parents who were there first.

To put a finer point on it: I see so much that could come between my future children and me. And the only way to know what that chapter will actually entail is to, quite simply, wait for it.

These fears loom large, but I am finding comfort in my wife’s own story. To be sure, no two adoptions are alike. The more I listen to friends and acquaintances who have adopted or are adopted, the more I see this plain truth. But Chelsea’s dear letter to her father reveals, I think, a timeless truth that pervades every single adoption: God’s heart for the orphaned and abandoned. 

He created man and woman knowing our sin would separate us from him (Isa. 59:2). 

He knew we would reject him (Isa. 53:5) and deny ever knowing him (Luke 22:54-62), and that we would even claim the devil himself as our father (John 8:44).

God knew it all. And still he chose not only to save us by dying in our place (Rom. 5:8), but to adopt us and be our “Abba” Father (Rom. 8:15).

When we rebelled against God’s perfect plan, he became our perfect Savior. He didn’t condemn us to utter darkness; he came to rescue us (John 3:17).

As I mediate on these gospel truths, my heart is slowly turning away from the unknowns about my future children and facing what I want for my own heart. Yes, I want my children to look like Jesus (even if they’ll look nothing like me). And I desperately want to look like Jesus too. Of course I want our kids to bond with Chelsea and me and see us as their parents by love, if not by blood—but even more than that, I want to bond with the Father and see myself for who I am: his adopted son.

The waiting of adoption is turning my gaze away from things and people beyond my control, and revealing my own desperate need to be restored and healed. As Chelsea and I wait for our children, my heavenly Father waits for me day by day, moment by moment, to heal me. Amidst the hustle of paperwork and the bustle of anxieties, he promises rest to his children. 

Oh Lord, regardless of what future Father’s Days, Mother’s Days, birthdays, or any other days may bring, give me grace to enter your rest today as we wait.

By / Dec 27

Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Depressed. Panicky. Stressed. Burned out. Broken. Paralyzed. Drowning. Empty. Recognize yourself in any of these words? Maybe in all of them? You’re not alone. These are the most common words I’ve heard Christian women using to describe themselves and their lives.

Whatever happened to the words peaceful, calm, joyful, content, quiet, rested, refreshed, and fulfilled? Wouldn’t you like to exchange the second set of words for the first?

It seems impossible, doesn’t it? Especially as the demands upon us keep multiplying: housework demands our energy, employers demand our hours, the church demands our commitment, friends demand our presence, kids demand our taxi-cab, credit cards demand our dollars, school sports demand our evenings and Saturdays, the yard demands our sweat, charities demand our donations, the sick demand our visits, marriage demands our time, relations demand our phone calls, email demands our replies, Pinterest demands our perfection, and on and on it incessantly goes.

Sometimes you want to run away, don’t you? Or curl up in a ball and hide under the covers. Or jam your fingers in your ears and silence the clamor. Or maybe lock the door and throw away the key, the phone, and the ever-lengthening to-do list. The demands are simply overwhelming. And there’s little prospect of change, little hope of experiencing the second group of words again, until, well, maybe retirement.

I sympathize, because I’ve been there too. However, over many years, and through many struggles, the Lord has graciously delivered me from the first set of words and into a more regular experience of the second. In short, he has taught me, and is teaching me, how to live a grace-paced life in a world of overwhelming demands.

The five wells of a grace-paced life

A grace-paced life? What’s that? It’s a pace of life that’s constantly refreshed by five different wells of divine grace.

Grace moderates our expectations of ourselves and others.

First, there’s the motivating well of grace. We used to be driven by money, family perfection, beauty, careers, or earning God’s favor. But instead of filling and fulfilling us, these motivations drained and dried us. Now though, we daily drop our buckets into the unsearchable depths of God’s saving grace in Christ to freely receive his overflowing mercy and love. Filled to overflowing with gospel grace, we are now energized and enthused to serve him at home, at work, and at church, as our heart beats, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Second there’s the moderating well of grace. Grace moderates our expectations of ourselves and others. At the foot of the cross, we have seen our sin and our sinfulness. We have learned that we are not perfect and never will be. Therefore, when we fall and fail, we don’t torment or torture ourselves. Instead, we calmly take our sins to Calvary knowing that God’s grace forgives us all our imperfections and lovingly accepts us as perfect in Christ. We don’t need to serve, sacrifice, or suffer our way to human or divine approval, because Christ has already served, sacrificed, and suffered for us. His perfection moderates our perfectionism as we remind ourselves, “Accepted, accepted, accepted.”

Third, we are refreshed by the multiplying well of grace. We no longer believe that everything depends on us and our efforts. Rather, we trust God to multiply our few loaves and fishes. We don’t sit back and do nothing, but neither do we try to do everything. We sow and water, but we realize that it’s God who gives the increase. God’s blessing multiplies our work in a way that no amount of extra hours or effort can. How calming and soothing is this realization and the prayer it produces: “Multiply, multiply, multiply.”

Fourth, the releasing well of grace helps us hand control of our lives over to God. We trust his sovereignty not just in salvation but in every area of life. Yes, we still work diligently and carefully, but releasing grace humbly submits to setbacks, problems, and disappointments, accepting them as tests of our trust in God’s control. When tempted to micromanage and dictate our lives and the lives of others, we drop our bucket into this refreshing well as we whisper to ourselves, “Release, release, release.”

Finally, there’s the receiving well of grace. [C]loser inspection reveals [it] to be made up of a number of smaller wells. Each of them represents one of God’s gracious gifts to his needy creatures: a weekly Sabbath, sleep, physical exercise, family and friends, Christian fellowship, and so on. In our fast-paced life, we used to push these gifts away, thinking that we didn’t need them. But in the grace-paced life, we approach these wells saying, “Receive, receive, receive.” The more and more we see that our heavenly Father designed and drilled these wells for our good, the more we receive and enjoy their renewing and refreshing waters.

Editor’s note: Content taken from Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona and David Murray, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

By / Jul 11

Easy comes the belief that, "all is well," as long as there are no disadvantages or harms levied against my family, my party, my tribe, my faith, my community. So long as those we love are not in harm's way, we tend to downplay and ignore the challenge and plight of others. But when we see unfair treatment and inconsistently applied rules and expectations against someone in our own family, party, tribe, faith, and community, we are aggrieved and provoked.

We tend to live in self-cloistered, narrowly defined communities and social circles. We filter our news, social media, friends, and information resources to provide only those that reinforce or justify our perspective. Increasingly, those sources have stoked division, and civility has given way to the loudest, angriest, (often the most obnoxious) voice in the room, on the screen, and on the platform. But as long as our position isn't challenged, as long as our boat isn't rocked, we row merrily along, demanding others to move on and get over it. Which leads to further division, greater frustration, and headlines like those we have read this bloody week.

A large part of our problem is that we don't know one another and don't bother to try to know each other. And as long as we personally don't know someone from another tribe, we can ignore them. Worse, we can dismiss them and their community's unique histories, challenges, and experiences.

While I don't have the answers, I am convinced that we can take a step in the right direction if we will invest time in getting to know each other. At the very least, we expand our understanding as we acknowledge each other's experiences and stories.  More than likely, friendships will begin that foster mutual respect. When we know someone, hard-line divisions become increasingly difficult to maintain.

My oldest son was named after a dear friend whose politics are diametrically opposed to my own. I belong to a church predominantly not of my own race, and I've observed and grown sensitive to how many in my church face genuine struggles and challenges with which I am not forced to deal. A couple who I genuinely love are on the opposite side of the issue of traditional marriage, yet I would put myself in harm's way to protect them. One of my very favorite friends does not share my view on guns, but that is secondary to our friendship.

We've all decided that whatever our differences may be, we are going to love each other. Sincerely held convictions and deeply held beliefs can be maintained, but angry discourse and violent actions are relegated to the margins once we get to know each other and start communicating. Once we seek to understand instead of score debate points, once we determine that we actually like or even love someone from another community or tribe, we discover the ability to disagree yet love anyway. But it started with simply getting to know one another.

Until we take the time to step out of our own comfort zones and make an effort to genuinely know each other, we allow power-seeking political operatives, self-serving spokespersons, ratings seeking media outlets, and the loudest, angriest voices in the room to manipulate and keep us divided.

By / May 24

The ERLC Podcast highlights content from past conferences and events, featuring leading voices in the church and public square. 

In August, 2015, the ERLC hosted its annual National Conference at the Music City Center in Nashville, TN. The conference focused on how the gospel relates to politics.

By / Oct 9

Many churches rightly celebrate Sanctity of Life Sunday at the beginning of a new year. We stand and mourn the over 51 million children who have been killed innocently. Fifty-one million is a big number, equal to 40 times the total American war deaths, from the Revolutionary War until the present. Take New York and California and wipe out their populations. Take a fifth of the current U.S. Population.

That gives you an idea of the innocents killed. So we mourn. We’re prolife, not because it’s a conservative issue or a Republican issue. Truthfully, some of my political positions put me in the conservative camp and some put me in the liberal camp and I don’t mind that at all.

But to be pro-life is to be biblical, because God is the author and creator of life. It is an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty over all things. To fight for the unborn is to do our job as Christians fight against injustice.

So we mourn and we fight. But, the church, more than any other institution in society is uniquely poised to win this war, because the church lives, not on the sin side, with 51 million dead, but on the grace side, where the blood of Calvary’s cross empowers us to provide hope to the unwed mothers who face difficult choices.

In fact, abortion is one political issue where Christians can make a lasting and real difference and actually save lives. I’ve been digging deep into the work 0f compassionate pro-life work and have come away inspired and motivated.

Everyday, 3,300 young women wake up with an unplanned pregnancy. These are vulnerable young women, confused, ashamed, scared. And this is where we have the opportunity, as Christians, to live out the grace we’ve been given and help shepherd these women, not only toward good choices, but good parenting, and ultimately, peace with God through Christ.

I’m amazed at the effectiveness of prolife resource centers. There are around 23,000 across the United States. Many offer ultrasounds, all offer compassionate counseling by presenting the mother with options beyond abortion. Amazingly, this is done on a very shoestring budget and mostly volunteer. There are approximately 40,000 volunteers who staff such clinics, 29 out of every 30 workers are volunteer. Most are funded and staffed by local churches. It is estimated that these clinics have saved around 90,000 lives around the country.

I also believe we are winning the war in the culture. Recent data suggests that not only are a majority of Americans now prolife, but the younger generation is more prolife than it’s parents. Plus, more women are prolife than ever before.

The point is that through public advocacy for the unborn, compassionate counseling on the local level, and new emerging technologies, we may be turning a tide. I look at the pro-life movement as a steady march in the culture, not unlike the campaign of William Wilberforce against the slave trade in Britain. Perhaps we’ll look back one day and, like slavery, wonder how we ever affirmed the morality of abortion.

We’re even influencing Hollywood. In recent years episodes of Law and Order and House have wrestled with the moral questions raised by abortion. And even MTV recently portrayed the anguish of a young girl who chose to end the life in her womb.

We’re winning this war, because of the grace and love shown by volunteers and crisis clinics. Because of the resolute faithfulness of pastors and leaders who stand up for life. We’re winning because of technology that is showing the viability of babies in the womb. We’re winning because of creative strategies that are getting the word out.

Heroic Media is a pro-life media group that runs 30 second commericals over a course of ten weeks in selected markets, educating about life and offering a crisis helpline. They have found a 42 percent reduction in the abortion rate after their commercials have run.

You see, to be prolife, I believe means more than just checking that box, every two or four years, in an election cycle. I believe it means caring for orphans, caring for mothers, and caring for the children that are born. I believe it means we get involved in fighting human trafficking and sex slavery. I believe it means we work harder to mentor young, at-risk children, to help men become better fathers, to help moms become better moms. It means we stand up for the elderly, the disabled, the less fortunate. That’s what it means to be prolife.

When you see the vast numbers of children being killed every day due to abortion, it turns your stomach. But that anger should move us to concrete action, here in our community.

We ought to be horrified, sick to our stomachs at the thought of babies being mercilessly murdered, but if that anger only moves us to listen to more talk radio, to flip off liberals, and put a bumper sticker on the car, it does no good.

It must move us to save lives in our communities, to save babies from the precipice of death by reaching out to confused young women and sharing the love of Christ, guiding them in their decisions, and helping them embrace that life within them.

I think of the example of the midwives in Exodus. While Pharoah was slaughtering young boys, they couldn’t save them all, but they could save some, right there, in their midst. And so can we.

Elections come and go and we should have a say. In the meantime, there are vulnerable young girls who need guidance and direction. And we can make a dent in that abortion rate, one life at a time. Today, the church can’t do one single thing about Roe v. Wade. But they can offer support to the 3,300 women who wake up every day with a choice of what to do about an unplanned pregnancy.

This was originally published here.