Category Archives: Social Issues

Is the Transgender Discussion Exposing Our Hypocrisy?

Transgender Bathroom Kids

 

This article is co-authored with our associate pastor John Henderson, PhD.

According to a recent New York Times article, the Department of Justice is planning to issue the following statement to public schools across the United States:

“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”[1]

According to this thinking, chromosomes and biology should not determine the sex, gender, and bathroom assignment of a person. Rather, each person is to lean upon his or her own understanding to make the determination.

Another New York Times article reports that gender binary thinking, which assumes there are only two distinct genders, male and female, is becoming a thing of the past.[2] People can now decide to be whatever they sense they really are. Apparently, when it comes to gender and gender identity, biological determinism is being shown the door.

This should raise questions for all us. For many years now we have been told that biology actually determines a ton of stuff. Alcohol abuse, according to various scientists, has “key biological causes.”[3] Scores of scientific studies claim that Bipolar disorder, Major Depression, and other experiences we call mental illness are in some way caused by our genetic and biochemical makeup.

Most notably, the argument that homosexuality is not a choice or preference, but a genetically and biochemically determined reality, saturates the scientific literature today. Each new study along this vein is simply, “the latest in a growing scientific literature suggesting that sexual preferences may be not simply a matter of personal preference but part of our ingrained biology.”[4]

Am I the only one who finds this confusing? If gender and gender identity is no longer biologically determined, but a matter of choice, then we have some questions to answer.

  1. Do we plan to say the same about sexual identity?

Are we now saying we choose to be heterosexual or homosexual? Previously we accepted a direct link between genes, biological, anatomy, and gender, but now we’re saying that link does not matter when it comes to gender. Perhaps this is fine, but for the sake of consistency, do we plan to say the same about sexual identity, which has no direct genetic or biological link anyway? Are we saying that just as we choose gender preferences, we choose sexual preferences?

  1. Do we plan to say the same about alcohol and drug abuse?

No reasonable person doubts that biology plays a role in alcohol and drug abuse. Biochemistry is involved. But the social sciences have taken this concept much farther. Alcohol and drug abuse, as taught in hundreds of psychology, sociology, and psychiatry programs all over the world, has biological causes. Not merely influences, but determining forces inside the body and somehow connected to genes. Is this no longer true? Again, for the sake of consistency, are we supposed to apply the gender identity rubric to the abuse of substances?

  1. Do we plan to say the same about Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression?

Once more, there are scores of studies and articles placing responsibility for various “mental illnesses” at the doorstep of biology. According to those studies, the experience of mania and depression are not about the conscious thinking of the person or layers of life decisions, but almost solely about underlying biochemical forces. Is this approach to understanding mental illness now wrong and cast aside?

  1. Or do we plan to use biological determinism only when convenient?

In other words, do we apply biological determinism when talking about something for which we do not want to be held responsible and then reject biological determinism when talking about something for which we want full control?

Are we far more interested in moral flexibility and political convenience than fidelity to the truth and consistency?

Among the various things discussed on this page, none is more biologically determined than gender. There are actual chromosomes (XX, XY) that link directly to actual anatomy (ovaries, testes, etc.) that we call “female” and “male.” If we’re saying those links no longer matter, then it only stands to reason the less tenable links in other areas of human experience be severed in the same fashion.

If this is the case, then everything that has no direct link to genetics and biology should be left to preference as well. If a person can go against their genetics and biology when it comes to gender, then how much more able is a person to go against any and all genetic or biological forces when it comes to sexual identity, drug abuse, and mental illness?

  1. Do we just make stuff up so that we can do what we want to do?

I mean, this seems like what is really going on. Is it that we just don’t want someone, anyone, telling us how to live if it goes against what we desire? Do we just want to do what is right in our own eyes? I’m not sure how familiar you are with history, but cultures where everyone did what was right in their own eyes always ended in a pile of rubble. Can we just admit that our desire to do what we want might be driving this brave new world agenda? And is it possible that it is driving it off a cliff?

  1. Do we want our children to be the experimental guinea pigs while we figure out these kinds of questions?

One of the most terrifying things in all this is how flippantly we are treating our children. We are heading down a road of experimentation and using our very own children as lab rats. We have no idea what kinds of affects these measures and others like them will have on young, developing, and perplexed children. Are we really willing to drive political and personal agendas at the expense of a confused child who is trying to figure out their bodies and desires and sexuality? If this open-ended experimentation isn’t child abuse, then I’m not sure what really is.

  1. Can we admit we have no idea what we are doing?

Is it possible that we have reached a point where it is blatantly obvious that we have no idea what we are doing? Can we admit our hypocrisies, even as it has been displayed in our contradicting approaches to biological determinism? Are we really just using science as smoke and mirrors to allow us to justify whatever we feel like doing?

Is it possible that our culture’s mantra of do not judge has caught up with us and led us to the place where we can receive no instruction, even if it would rescue us from the destruction of our own lives and the lives of our families? At the end of the day, is self-determinism really our god?

Might it be time for us to humble ourselves and realize that leaning on our own understanding has taken us down a dangerous road and that we need help? My hope for us is that God might show us mercy and that we will stop being wise in our own eyes and look to Him who made us and loves us and stands ready to rescue us.
Friend, this is the hope God promises in His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is no flip-flopper. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever more (Hebrews 13:8). He came into our world and proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Let us step out of the darkness and into the light. We may not know what we are doing, but He does. Look to Him.

 

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/us/politics/obama-administration-to-issue-decree-on-transgender-access-to-school-restrooms.html?_r=1

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/fashion/pronoun-confusion-sexual-fluidity.html

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/1984/08/14/science/scientists-find-key-biological-causes-of-alcoholism.html?pagewanted=all

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/25/opinion/gay-at-birth.html

Picture courtesy of Nick Cimarusti | Daily Trojan

Life is Short. Don’t Have an Affair.

Ashley Madison

 

“Life is Short. Have An Affair.” – Ashley Madison

Their message was clear. You don’t have time to waste in a difficult or unsatisfying marriage. You don’t have time to waste in the boredom of faithful, sacrificial service to your spouse. You deserve better. You are better, so secretly step out and be satisfied. Find someone who fits you—and nobody has to know.

Ashley Madison’s offer to arrange a secret fling was popular. The adultery promoting website boasted of some 38 million anonymous members before they were outed by a group of hackers this week.

The shockwaves from this exposure will be far reaching and the fallout will be devastating. The names on the lists are real people. They have real spouses, real children, and real parents who must now deal with the real and lasting effects. Tens of millions of lives are now different because of this unveiling of sinful escapades.

Times like this provide us a unique opportunity to consider the deadly deception of sin. Let’s reflect on Ashley Madison’s message in light of what we’ve learned.

 

  1. Life is short. Don’t believe the lie.

The Madison tag line does what all good temptations do—tell you a partial truth.

Life is short. This is true. We only have a brief amount of time to get the most out of our days before they are over. This makes the pains of a difficult marriage feel all the more imposing on our happiness.

Life is short. I deserve better.

Life is short. This isn’t who I thought I was marrying.

Life is short. I am tired of being the only one trying to make this work.

Pitting the difficulty of marriage against the brevity of life is a masterful way to allow discontentment to take a seat in the den of your heart.

It’s the same trick Satan pulled on Adam and Eve in the Garden when he told them that if they ate of the forbidden fruit they would “be like God knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-6).

Satan told the truth to them. When they ate, they would go from only knowing good, to now experiencing evil as well. All that was true. The lie was that knowing evil would be better for them than the goodness God had already supplied.

I bet that first bite of the forbidden fruit was amazing. But the aftertaste has been more bitter than they could have imagined.

The temptation of adultery plays the same trick. At first, there is pleasure. The thrill of secrecy. The power of curiosity. The excitement of newness. The satisfaction of passion.

But that’s where the truth ends and the bitterness of the lie begins. If Madison was honest, her tag line would have said:

Life is Short. Let us help you destroy it!

Life is short. Be ever anxious about covering your tracks and deleting emails and erasing texts.

Life is short. Be always imagining ways to explain your travels and bank withdrawals.

Life is short. Be racked with fear and indescribable guilt when you walk in your house and see the eyes of your spouse and children.

Life is short. Be ready to get caught, because you will get caught.

We all get caught.

 

  1. Life is short. You will be exposed.

On Tuesday, a list of adulterers was laid bare for all to see. We know no one expected this to happen. That’s why they used a site that promised anonymity for their adultery. They assumed, like we all do, that lies can be hidden.

We all do this don’t we? We think no one will know about that little lie we told. No one will see that Internet history we deleted. No one will see the way we judged that person in our heart.

We think that we can hide our sin, but the fact is that eventually “your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). And as shocking and devastating as the Ashley Madison unveiling was for those affected, it is merely a foreshadowing of what will happen for all people on one quickly approaching Day.

Jesus promised that “nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17). That means that every thing that has ever been done, thought, or imagined by every person who has ever lived, will one day be brought out in broad daylight.

The book of Revelation paints a picture of a day when all things will be exposed, not merely before other sinful people, but before the holy and just God of the universe.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away…and I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened…and the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:11-12).

On that day the list of all lists will be unveiled. Dates. Places. Actions. Motives. Lies. Cover-ups. Justifications.

Everything that has ever been done. By you. By me.

This is why the Ashley Madison exposure is such a blessing in disguise, both for those on the list, and for those on the outside looking in. It is a warning that one day all of our lists will be exposed, and God will not overlook any evil. But because He is good, He will bring just and eternal judgment on all people who have sinned (John 5:26-29).

 

  1. Life is short. Come to Jesus.

This brings us back to the truth that Ashley Madison reminded us: life is short. But the brevity of life should not lead us to pursue fleeting and deceptive escapes.

Rather, it should bring a sober realization that what we need is not deliverance from the pressures of this life, but we need a Savior. We need someone to deliver us from the judgment that awaits us all.

And here we find the scandal of the Gospel. That Jesus is the Savior of all sorts of sinners. He did not come for those who have no sin. Rather, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Jesus came and died on the cross as a substitute for adulterers and liars and religious hypocrites alike. He then rose from the dead to extend forgiveness to all who will come to Him. For those who turn from their sin and believe in Him, He “forgives all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us” Colossians 2:13-14.

If you were on the Ashley Madison list, come to Jesus. He will forgive you. No matter if you were an atheist or a Christian. Today is the day to turn from your sin and turn to the Savior.

If you were among the ones wounded by someone on the list, come to Jesus. He promises that “we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

If you are someone on the outside looking in, come to Jesus. Events like this remind us that we too can fall into grave sin (1 Corinthians 10:12) and that we must prepare to give an account for our own lives.

 

Life is short. Don’t believe sin’s lies. All things will be exposed. Come to Jesus.

What Would Jesus Say To People Buying and Selling Baby Body Parts?

In recent days, numerous videos have been released that show conversations between undercover investigators and representatives at Planned Parenthood. These taped discussions center around how body parts from aborted babies are being harvested and preserved for sale to biotech companies.

While there certainly should be political and legal discussions about these events, the most important question we must always ask is, “what would Jesus say about it?” What follows are just a few things He would certainly say.

 

  1. Jesus would say, I made those babies, just like I made you.

For some, it is difficult to imagine that what is in the womb is more than the developing cells of a fetus. But God wants us to know, that at the moment of conception, a baby is given life. Deep down, we all know this to be true.

If what is found in the womb was found on another planet, scientists would certainly claim they had discovered life. What is in the womb is a living human being. It is a baby, growing under the direction of God.

You were once in this state of being “under divine construction.” You were given unique DNA and a beating heart. You were fed in the womb by your mother, just as God designed. One Biblical author said it this way, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13–14).

The same is true of the babies who were killed through the abortion in which you participated. God made those hands that grasped at the forceps. He created those hearts that raced as you carefully crushed around them. Those legs that you kept intact were made by God to run and play, maybe with your own son or daughter.

When a pregnancy is terminated, it is not merely a medical procedure. What you took from the womb of that mother is not just a collection of neural tissue or cell specimens. A life that God was creating was ended—violently and unjustly, by you. All lives matter to God, even the smallest, weakest, and most vulnerable ones.

 

  1. Jesus would say, if you thought you were doing good by helping others, be terrified.

Some will claim that harvesting tissue from aborted fetuses is the means to a greater good. They will suggest that with this research more lives can be saved and steps toward ending horrible diseases can be made. This line of reasoning must be seen for what it is.

In Matthew 6:23 Jesus says, “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” What that means in this case is that if you think that darkness (the killing of an unborn baby to sell its body parts) is actually light (the good of helping humanity), then you are deeply deceived.

Why do you really take part in this business? Is it really the pursuit of the greater human good?

How much does the desire for money and what it can get you motivate the way you justify your actions? We are all warned, “the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). It is difficult to watch those videos and read the reports and believe that the love of money is not leading to all sorts of evils—even killing and selling off baby body parts. Take a quiet moment and ask God to show you why you are doing what you are doing.

 

  1. Jesus would say, these videos don’t even begin to show the horror of what has really happened.

There is a reason those videos were shot undercover. You know why, and so does everyone else. You never would have spoken openly to the world about what you were doing, would you? And why not? Because deep down you know it isn’t just illegal, but it is wrong.

Your conscience testifies to you that something is wrong with what you are doing. You may have tried to suppress this truth, but did you not feel queasy the first time you saw a tiny person’s body parts laying before you? The videos were not able to catch the way you pushed down that feeling and pressed on with your procedure. But God saw it.

“No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). God sees all the conversations an undercover video does not catch. And He sees all your reasons and justifications for taking the life of a child that could not defend itself against your strength.

God hates all evil, especially the evil of oppressing helpless people. Hear this warning from the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who…withhold justice from the oppressed…What will you do on the day of reckoning…to whom will you run for help?” (Isaiah 10:1-3). No one can hide from a good God who will not allow any evil to go unaddressed.

Thankfully, He has provided a place to run—for people like you, and people like me.

 

  1. Jesus would say, that no matter how many babies you’ve killed, there is grace for you.

I’m sure you have heard hate-filled messages from people who oppose what you do. I do not bring you a message of hate, but one of warning and love. It is the message of a Savior who came to rescue murderers like you, and like me (Luke 19:10).

You see, I am a murderer too. Many years ago, I was part of an abortion that killed my first child. My friend and I were overwhelmed and confused, just like many of the people you deal with on a daily basis. Because I loved my life the way it was and I didn’t want the responsibility of a baby, I chose to murder my own child.

You and I are murderers. This is a horrible evil, but it is certainly not our only evil. We have turned away from God in many ways. But the good news that comes from God is this: “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Romans 5:20). Jesus came and died willingly to take the judgment you and I deserve for the ways we have sinned against God, and against those we have killed.

You may have horrible memories from some of the things you’ve done. The smell of rubber gloves. The forceps. The blood…so much blood.

While Jesus gives healing to people in different ways, I can assure you of this—if you come to Christ, He will help you. He gives this precious promise to sinners like us, “come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus shed His blood so that He can wash the blood from our hands. He rose to be the Savior of sinners like us.

Hear and believe these promises—

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out…” Acts 3:19

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

If you will come to Jesus and confess what you have done and ask Him to forgive you—He will do it. You will have the hope of being with God, and with the children we murdered, in heaven forever.

 

  1. Jesus would say, stop taking babies lives and begin saving them.

There is a holocaust happening in our land. Up to this point you have been a part of it. Now it is time to work against it. You know what is happening to those children, and the Lord calls you to do something about it.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “but we knew nothing about this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it?…Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Proverbs 24:11–12).

God has given you wisdom and experiences and skills that He intends you to use to save babies rather than hurt them. This is what Jesus calls repentance. He calls you to turn from using your hands to hurt children, and now do all in your power to help them.

I have a dear friend who performed countless abortions before God changed his life. I will never forget the day he took me aside and confessed what he had done and committed to follow Christ and never do it again. He once used his practice to help mothers end lives, but now he uses it to help mothers save the lives of their children.

Leaving the life you are in right now may seem daunting, but God will help you. There will be lost friendships. Many people will not understand why you would make such a change. What others will say does not matter.

What matters is what Jesus would say to you.

 

 

 

 

What Does God Think About The LBGT Rainbow?

If you’ve had your eyes open in recent weeks you’ve likely seen a lot of rainbows.

Dublin RainbowWhen Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage, rainbows broke out all over the country, even in the sky. A few weeks later, when the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States, rainbows took over the internet, streets, and national landmarks, including the White House.

Whitehouse RainbowRainbows, rainbows everywhere.

Since we are all seeing the colorful symbol, I think it is fair to ask—what do you think about when you see the rainbow?

Many “conservatives” would say it is a badge of bold defiance from traditional values.

Many “progressives” would wave the rainbow as a symbol of social advancement.

Others see it as an emblem of equality.

One person even assumed divine affirmation when they tweeted “There’s a big gay rainbow over Dublin, if that’s not Jesus giving the Yes vote I don’t know what is!”

That comment stirred me to consider, what does God think about all this rainbow flag flying? I mean, God loves rainbows, doesn’t He?

Why Does God Fly a Rainbow in the Sky?

Long before the colorful stripes were trendy, God created the rainbow to be reminder of a very important message to humanity. Let me give you the quick backstory.

In the book of Genesis, we learn about a time in history past where “man’s wickedness on the earth had become so great…that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). God had created the world to be a place of peace where love abounded between people and their Maker.

But instead of loving God and loving others, people hated each other and hated God’s rule over them. Because of this, “the Lord was grieved…and His heart was filled with pain…” so He decided to bring judgment and “wipe mankind…from the face of the earth…” (Genesis 6:6-7).

Double-rainbow-over-the-Merse-ScotlandGod judged the entire world with a flood of water, but in the midst of it, He extended mercy to one man and his family. After the water subsided, the Lord made a promise to Noah that He would never flood the world with water again.

And then, God hung a rainbow in the sky. But, why a rainbow?

He told Noah, “I have set my bow in the cloud” (Genesis 9:13). The word “bow” is the same word for the instrument of war that an archer used to shoot down their enemy. When God set the rainbow in the sky He was saying to the world, “I am putting down my weapon of war against you.”

This wasn’t because humanity all of a sudden would not offend God and deserve judgment. Instead, God promised to extend mercy to people, despite the fact that we all deserve judgment for the many ways we have turned away from Him. This means that God flies the rainbow in the sky as a message to each of us: today is another day of mercy from Me, to you.

What Should the Rainbow Lead Us To Do?

While it is true that God has given today as another day of mercy, it is also true that God’s mercy is aimed at producing something very specific in us. The book of Romans 2:4 explains it like this, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

God gives today as a day of mercy so that we will turn away from our sin and turn to Him. 1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that God does this because He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

You see, as God once judged the entire world through a flood of water, we are promised that God will one day judge the world through a flood of fire (2 Peter 3:3-10). While the idea of judgment is offensive to the natural ear, it is actually one of the most hopeful promises God gives to us.

Why?

Can you imagine a world where God did not bring judgment on child molesters and rapists and religious con artists who steal from elderly widows? What a hopeless world this would be if God were not good enough to punish evil! But God doesn’t just deal with evil that offends us, He deals with all sin, because all sin is ultimately against Him.

But in spite of our sin against Him, God came into our world to rescue us. Jesus became human, lived a life of perfect love and then showed that love by dying on the cross in the place of people like you an me (Romans 5:8). He received the judgment that prostitutes and pastors and straights and gays all deserved. Then, three days later Jesus rose from the dead to extend forgiveness to all who will believe in Him.

The rainbow God flies in the sky is a reminder of mercy that He extends to all who will turn to Him through faith in His Son Jesus. If you are reading this, today is a day of mercy from God intended to move you to look to Him for forgiveness.

What Does God Want Us To Think When We See the LBGT Rainbow?

LGBT FlagIf you are among those who believe that God sees the LBGT lifestyle as sinful, I agree with you. But we need to be careful when we see the rainbow because we can forget that the bow in the sky is just as much about our sin as any one else’s.

Jesus died to pay the debt of self-righteous religious hypocrites who look down on others just as much as any other sort of sinner. Anger and disgust over sin is an appropriate response, but make sure you are most angry and disgusted with your own sin. When you see the rainbow, ensure that you are humbly repenting of your sin. This will give you the grace and humility you will need to speak truth to others in love (Matthew 7:1-5).

For those who believe homosexuality is a normal and good lifestyle, I encourage you to see the rainbow as a reminder of God’s mercy that is meant to lead you to repentance. As one former lesbian rightly said, “I was not converted out of homosexuality. I was converted out of unbelief.” The biggest sin all people, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is their unbelief in the true God of the Bible.

Jesus calls us, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity, to come to Him and be born again. Not to become a religious conservative, but to become a child of God whose identity is rooted in Christ (John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

I would also like you to consider whether the Bible could be right when it says that homosexuality is a sin against God. I know for some, this seems utterly unthinkable. But there have been sins in my life that I did not realize until I was corrected by God’s Word.

The reason this is so important is because if homosexuality is a sin, then proudly flying the rainbow flag is actually a mockery of the mercy He is showing us all in these days before the final judgment. So those rainbows over Dublin were not actually Jesus affirming with an “Amen” but rather He was reminding us of His scandalous mercy in the face of our sin.

 

So when you see a rainbow in the sky, or a rainbow flag flying in the air, remember that it is a call to repent of your sin and receive the forgiveness God offers you in His Son. Jesus is who the rainbow points to, the One who is the fulfillment of God’s promise for mercy for sinners like us.

When Grace and Evil Collide – A Reflection on Charleston

On Wednesday, June 17, 2015 we witnessed something remarkable.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church welcomed a young white man to sit in their pews and pray with them.

Dylann Roof certainly wasn’t the first white person to visit this historically black church, but their well-documented history reminds us why an unwelcoming spirit might have been a reasonable response when he walked through their doors.

Every Reason Not To Love

Emanuel was born out of a group of freed slaves who began worshipping together in 1791 while many of their wives and children remained the “property” of free white owners.

One hundred and forty members from this church were arrested and whipped by white authorities in 1818.

After a planned revolt by some of the slaves in 1822, white people publicly hanged 37 black slaves, including Emanuel’s founder.

The congregation’s building, which was erected with their own hands, was burned by an angry white mob in that same year.

White people had outlawed its services and the church was forced to worship in secret beginning in 1834.

In 1868, one of their former pastors, Benjamin Randolph, was shot in broad daylight by three white men.

Their church is in a state that flies a Confederate flag and has roads named after white generals who fought to keep them from freely driving to church on those roads.

Over the years they worshipped in a city where whites told them to use “colored” toilets and eat at other tables because “your kind isn’t welcomed here.”

Those memories could have clouded the air when Dylann Roof walked through their storied doors.

But instead of cold shoulders, he was offered a warm seat on a pew to pray.

History would have screamed not to let him in that night. Don’t let him close. He doesn’t deserve your love. He’s only going to hurt you.

Evil In The Face Of Grace

During the hour they sat with their would be killer, the church members shared songs and prayers and words of welcome.

But then evil showed its fangs.

Murderous, racist, grace-hating evil made fresh blood flow from old wounds.

Grace had smiled and evil struck it down.

When their killer walked out their doors, Emanuel AME was left with nine new reasons to hate the people who have hurt them.

Nine more funerals.

Nine more empty seats at the dinner table.

Nine more names forever etched into this church’s grueling history.

Suzy Jackson.

Daniel Simmons.

Myra Thompson.

Cynthia Hurd.

De’Payne Doctor.

Sharonda Singleton.

Clementa Pinckney.

TyWanda Sanders.

Left behind are widows and orphans and weeping family members with new reasons to withhold grace.

But that is not what they have done.

Instead, they have once again extended grace in the face of evil.

Grace In The Face Of Evil

At Roof’s bond hearing family members showed Dylann the same grace he saw when he sat down to kill their loved ones.

From broken hearts they spoke words that have stunned many:

“I forgive you…you took something very precious away from me…I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you…you hurt me and you hurt a lot of people, but God forgive you and I forgive you.” – the daughter of Ethel Lee Nance

“I forgive you and our family forgives you, but we would like you to take this opportunity and repent. Confess. And give your life to the One who matters most, Christ, so he can change it…He can change it.” – Anthony Thompson

“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate…everyone’s plea for your soul…is proof that they lived in love and that their legacy will live in love…and so hate will not win…” – Alana Simmons (granddaughter of Daniel Simmons)

Those were not empty words from thoughtless lips.

The hymns they sang outside the courtroom afterwards were not the delirious songs of reeling family members.

What we witnessed is grace. The supernatural grace that flows from a spring that abides in the heart of God’s people.

The slain members of Emanuel AME welcomed Dylann Roof into their midst because Christ had first invited them (1 John 4:19-20).

They pressed past the temptation to say “your kind isn’t welcome here” and offered him a seat because Jesus had first given them a seat at His table.

And now, their family members have done the same. They have offered forgiveness because Christ has forgiven them (Ephesians 4:32). 

Grace Wins

On Sunday, June 21, 2015 the wounded but resilient Emanuel AME church assembled once again. The pews were filled with members and visitors from every color. As they walked through those doors they carried the strange mix of being heavy yet hopeful; afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).

The building that was filled with gun smoke on Wednesday was filled with joyful songs on Sunday.

The room that was stained with blood on Wednesday was saturated with praise on Sunday.

The place that was divided by hate on Wednesday was hand in hand in love on Sunday.

As they held each other up and sang hymns and proclaimed promises from God’s Word, the world witnessed the arresting reality that when evil and grace collide—grace wins. When hate strikes down love—it rises again. When Christians are separated from life through death—they are not separated from the love of God (Romans 8:28-39).

Why is this so? Because Emanuel’s strength finds its source in Jesus who was struck down by sinful hate, yet rose again to be the Savior and sustainer of God’s people (Psalm 54:4; Acts 2:22-24; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18).

What the world witnessed on Sunday was the resilience of a church who has not, will not, cannot, be killed.

Do they weep? Yes. Do they grieve? Yes. Will they ever be the same? No. But have they given up? No.

Why?

Because Emanuel AME has a Savior who lives forever to give them grace in the face of evil (Hebrews 4:14-16, 7:24-25). Jesus has promised He would do this, and Jesus always keeps His promises.

The scene from that Sunday took my mind to a scene in the book of Revelation where we see people from every tribe tongue and nation, standing together to praise the Lamb who was slain.

Revelation 7:9–17 “…I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!…they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Among those in that future heavenly scene are the members of Emanuel who have been beaten and mocked and lynched and gunned down, including the nine who fell on Wednesday. It is this heavenly picture that has sustained so many of God’s people over the years, and it is what sustains them even now.

Until Grace is All We Know

One day, grace is all we will know. There will be no more racism or evil or hate or murder or division. All those things will be cast in to the lake of fire with Satan and those who followed him. But that day is not yet.

Between now and then, we live here, in a world stained with sin. We walk through doors with stained histories of both evil and grace. Living in this tension is not easy for any of us, nor is it equal for all of us. Many in this life, including our black brothers and sisters from Emanuel and other communities like it, have unique challenges to face as they journey toward that heavenly day.

As a white man, I have so many questions for the people in Charleston. I want to know how the grace of God has sustained them for so long and through so much? I want to hear how are they helping each other avoid despair and revenge? I want to hear how they have leaned upon Jesus and how they have seen Him sustain them.

But I know I cannot just make it about what “I want” to hear. So I hope I can learn whatever it is my black brothers and sisters would want to share. I can’t do that in South Carolina, but I can strive to do that at home.

For people like me, it is easy to see events on the news, and become a spectator who says, “that man’s racist hate is so evil” and “their response is so gracious.”

But we can’t do that. Change in our church or our country or our hearts won’t happen by distant observing.

My prayer and cautious encouragement is for us to be intentional to lovingly and humbly learn from those God has placed around us. We grow when we follow the example of Christ and enter into each other’s worlds. We need to listen to each other and learn from each other.

Not all people will experience life in the same way, but Gospel-inspired conversations are the pathway to true change. Be slow to make assumptions about how others experience life, and even slower to assume no racism abides in your heart. I am still learning how to do this, and you can read about my journey here.

We can learn much about this by following the example we’ve seen from Emanuel AMC. The more we do what happened on Sunday, the more we’ll grow and avoid things like what happened on Wednesday. I don’t say that to be overly simplistic, but I do believe that racism dies when people come together at the feet of Jesus who died to “break down the dividing wall of hostility” that separates us (Ephesians 2:14).

I pray that we will follow the Christ-like path of grace. It is the way forward, because when grace and evil collide—grace wins.

 

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

 

 

Unashamed of My Abortion – Hope for Leyla Josephine

LEYLA-JOSEPHINE

 

“I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed. I’m so sick of keeping these words contained. I am not ashamed.” – Leyla Josephine

Leyla publicly shared her story about abortion, so I thought I would publicly share my thoughts with her. I hope these words are received with the grace they are intended to convey. If you have not seen her video, you can view it here, but be warned there are a few expletives in her presentation.

 

Leyla-

I recently watched your “I Think She Was a She” poem and think you are a gifted spoken word artist. I have several friends who do spoken word poetry and I’d encourage you to check out this poem by Blair Linne whom I trust you’ll agree is gifted as well.

Having these kinds of discussions publicly is a challenge. They are much better done over coffee with people you know and trust, but since you have chosen all to hear you, I assume it is acceptable to reply in this way. I’ve laid out a few questions for you to ponder and my wife and I are happy to discuss them with you if you would be willing.

Why did you share your story?

You say “this is my story and it won’t be written in pencil and erased with guilt. It will be written in pen and spoken with courage.”

We all have a story to tell and I think you are a skillful storyteller. You have a unique ability to use words that draw listeners into your pain, your confidence, and your ideas.

Have you considered why you want to tell your story? I’m not talking about your desire to encourage women to feel unashamed for decisions they make. I’m referring to reason behind that reason.
In your poem, you mention life being “His-story.” I’m not sure if you are making a reference to God or to man-centered history, but I would suggest that God is the reason you want to tell your story. In the Bible, we see that God is the great Storyteller and our lives are all part of that story.

God tell us that we are each made in His image. This truth is reflected in your passion to communicate your story to others. The Bible also says that all of our stories are filled with pain and suffering because of our turning away from God. That’s why life is so difficult and despairing at times.

The story of the Bible also calls us to look up from our suffering and see that God came into the world to liberate us through His Son, Jesus. Jesus is the great rescuer of rebels like us. He died on a cross and rose from the dead and will soon return to receive those who love Him.

Lelya, have you ever considered that God’s story is what gives your story, and my story, meaning? You said that if your daughter were here “she would have wondered about all the things that came before.” What a wonderful thing to ponder!

If you have never read the story of Jesus, I would encourage you to. In it you will find answers to that question and many more. I suspect you might be amazed at God’s story of love in the Bible.

What does it mean to be a woman?

I am not a woman, but I am married to a woman and have two young daughters. As a pastor, I also help give guidance to many women who desire to know who God made them to be. Because of this, I was perplexed by what you said about being a woman.

You said “This is my body. I don’t care about your ignorant views. When I become a mother, it will be when I choose.” Is being a woman really about having a right to choose what you want to do with your body?

Leyla, I do think you have rights over your body. You should be able to say “no” when you don’t want someone to touch your body or “yes” when you want them to. But this isn’t just a woman’s issue. It is a human issue. My sons have the right to tell someone “no” and “yes” just as much as my daughters do.

But the question that I have been wrestling with from your video is, do you really want to communicate to the world that being a woman means you have the freedom to use your body to do whatever you want, including taking the life of your daughter?

Leyla, this is the heart of your message. You say “I am woman now. I will not be tamed.” Do you really think that the supreme expression of being a woman is the freedom to use your body to stop the development of your daughter’s body?

Doesn’t being a woman of “courage” mean that you will accept responsibility of your actions for the good of others? Shouldn’t liberated women own their right and responsibility to use their bodies to love, protect, and care for others?

I certainly hope you don’t think that being a woman means that you are free to do anything you want, including sacrificing your child on the alter of your convenience. Saying to your daughter that I’m sorry I had to end your life, but you “came at the wrong time” does not sound like liberation toward love. Please don’t buy the lie that being a woman is about freedom to kill others. That isn’t what it means to be a woman, or a man.

Why not mutter murder on you?

“Don’t you mutter murder on me,” you requested.

Why would you not call what you did murder?

You said, “I had to carve down that little cherry tree that had rooted itself in my blood and blossomed in my brain. A responsibility I didn’t have the energy or age to maintain. The branches casting shadows over the rest of the garden.”

Is not a tree that has been planted and is blossoming alive?

What happens when you chop down that tree?

She had roots in your womb. She was blossoming. She was looking for you to maintain her. You said, “she could have been born.”

Please hear your own words.

Did you not stop a life from continuing?

What do you call that if you do not call it murder?

I do not ask you all these questions to paint you into a corner, but to urge you to step into the light and see what you have done. When someone stops another’s life, it is murder.

I do not share these weighty words with you as some self-righteous bystander screaming from the sidelines. I share them with you as a fellow human who also misused my right to choose. I too took the life of my own child. If you care to hear about my story, you can read more about it here.

Do you know the story of hope for people like you and me?

Leyla, I do not write these words to heap condemnation on you. Rather, I write them to point you to the story of hope about Jesus.

You said “I would have supported her right to choose. To choose a life for herself, a path for herself. I would have died for that right, just like she died for mine. I’m sorry but you came at the wrong time.”

The good news found in the Bible is that Jesus gave up His rights as God’s Son to come and lovingly surrender His rights to life so that we might have the “right to become children of God” when we believe in Him (John 1:12). The Bible says He came at “just the right time” to take our judgment on the cross and rise from the dead to now extend forgiveness and healing for all who will come to Him (Romans 5:6).

Jesus’ story is the story that gives your story and my story and every other person’s story hope. Leyla, God will forgive you for what you have done if you will draw near to Jesus in faith (Romans 10:9-13; 1 John 1:8-9). He will give you a new heart that loves Him and loves others.

So pray to God. Tell Him what you’ve done. Tell him you hardened your heart against your daughter. Tell Him you chopped her down. Tell Him you have called others to not feel guilt in doing the same kind of thing. Please, cry out and tell Him.

God will hear you if you truly seek Him (Jeremiah 29:13). This good news will give you something that you can truly be unashamed of because “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

 

Leyla, my hope for you is the same hope that I have for myself—that you will become unashamed of God who desires to give you new life. If you do turn from your sin and walk in that new life, you will begin a new chapter in your story. He will transform your story from being one that unashamedly takes life to one who unashamedly receives life and forgiveness from Him.

Please consider these words. My wife and I are happy to speak with you off line if you are willing.

What King Solomon Taught Me About Twitter

Twitter with a Crown

I’m guessing if Twitter was a thing in King Solomon’s day, he would have had a serious following with all his pithy proverbs. But this morning as I was reading the book of Ecclesiastes, I came across this word of caution that all Tweeters should keep close to heart:

“Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.” Ecclesiastes 10:20

Twitter is designed to proclaim what you’re thinking to the world, or at least anyone who wants to give you a listen. But Solomon says that a little bird taking what you think out for all to hear might not always be the best thing.

Politicians, athletes, executives, communications directors (ironic huh?) and even pastors have gotten in trouble for just letting their thoughts fly.

As a man who has deleted his own fare share of foolish tweets, I thought I’d pass along a few words of wisdom from the proverbs that I keep in mind before I invite the world hear what I’m thinking:

Proverbs 10:19 “Where there are many words transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

Proverbs 12:16 “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.”

Proverbs 12:23 “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly.”

Proverbs 17:27–28 “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”

Proverbs 25:28 “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

Proverbs 29:11 “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

Twitter can be a great tool to encourage, make people laugh, and share what’s happening in your life. It can also get you into a mess of trouble. So think before you tweet, or even better, pray and ask the Lord if what you are about to say is going to be helpful to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).

 

Here are a few other Twitter related articles to check out:

Why and How I am Tweeting – John Piper

The Ten Commandments of Twitter – Kevin DeYoung

What Kind of Online Culture Are We Cultivating? – Dane Ortlund

To Retweet Or Not To Retweet: The Question Of Retweeting Compliments – Nathan Bingham

The Discipline of Secrecy and the Joy of Honoring Others – Justin Taylor

Should a Christian Use Social Networking Tools – Got Questions?

 

 

Picture courtesy of LEADiFY

My Abortion Story, An Open Letter to Emily Letts

EMILY-LETTS-ABORTION-570Dear Emily Letts,

We have never met, but my wife and I just watched your abortion story video.

You invited us, and the world, into your story, so I thought I would invite you into mine.

While we may not have a lot in common, I know we have at least a few things, and they have to do with abortion. When I was 19 I got a friend pregnant. I too “wasn’t ready for a baby.” I had hopes and dreams ahead of me, and having a child seemed like the end of all those dreams. So we aborted our child.

Now, I am a man, so in some very significant ways my abortion experience was different than yours. But in many other ways, it was the same. You see, when our procedure was over, I too felt relief. I felt free to begin life again and make smarter choices. I could get a fresh start, and in many ways I did.

But what haunted me in the months and years afterwards was a reality similar to what you expressed in your video, “I feel in awe that I can make a baby, that I can make a life.” That was what I couldn’t escape.

I had been part of creating a life.

And then I had been part of ending that life.

There was a heartbeat and I stopped it. There was life and I ended it. That reality was inescapable. I tried to ignore it, but there was nowhere to hide. My telltale heart beat louder and louder. I had loved my life so much that I had been willing to kill my own child to protect my happiness.

I never got to hear their laughter. Never got to lock eyes for the first time. Never saw their smile or cheered for their first steps or understood their first words. I never heard them read for the first time or endure their endless questions about why the world is the way it is. I missed all that, and so did they because I took my child’s life.

Emily, my child would be 17 today. We would be planning road trips to look at colleges. We would be looking forward to our last family vacation before they left home. I would be giving my final parental pep talk about working hard and looking for the right kind of spouse. But none of that is happening.

The fact is that I cannot undo what I’ve done in the past. None of us can. What’s done is done. The only hope we have is found in the sinless Son of God who came to rescue people who have lost their way.

He entered into our broken world and our broken lives to rescue us from our sins, including the sin of taking the life of the children He gave to us. That’s why He died on the cross of Calvary, to take the judgment sinners like us deserve.

Emily, someday the YouTube hits will stop. Your supporters will put away their pom-poms and your opponents will put away their pitchforks. And my prayer for you is that when you can’t escape the haunting reality of what you’ve done, you will turn to Jesus.

Emily, Jesus will heal your wounds if you cry out to Him (Matthew 11:28). There is no sin so great that He cannot forgive and no sin so small that does not need to be forgiven. If you will confess what you have done and turn to Him in faith, He will wash away all your guilt and all your shame (1 John 1:9).

The Lord gives these words to people like us, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

There is a place to go to be made new. I hope you will come and ask Jesus to turn your story into one where life is given. That’s what happened in my abortion story. Thanks for taking the time to listen.

Sincerely,

 

Garrett Kell

 

 

 

 

 

How Do Atheists Get To Heaven? A Response to Pope Francis

Pope FrancisHow do atheists get into heaven?

This isn’t the opening line of a bad joke, but rather it’s an eternally important question that we all need to ask.

Yesterday (September 11, 2013)  Pope Francis wrote an open letter to Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in which he said, “God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.”

In other words, you can be an atheist, but if you follow your conscience, you can expect God to extend mercy to you and you will be with Him for eternity in heaven.

While I respect Pope Francis’ attempts to further dialogue with people who are not traditionally open to religious conversations, I am deeply saddened by his distortion of truth. The Pope and the Bible do not agree on this all important matter.

Below are a few lessons from the Scriptures that clearly state how an atheist goes to heaven. If you are an atheist, I encourage you to read these verses and ask if God is really there, that He will show Himself to you and lead you into truth.

1. An atheist must recognize that their disbelief in God is foolish.

Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’…”

There is a God who gave all of us life. Every breath we take is a testimony to His mercy, even if we don’t recognize it. If you’re an atheist, please know that you have a Maker and He says it is foolish for you to ignore that He made you (Psalm 139:13-14) and that He lovingly sustains you (Matthew 5:45).

2. An atheist must recognize that God has graciously given much evidence of His existence in creation.

Romans 1:19-20 “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

All of creation is a high-definition testimony of God’s existence and power and beauty. God says that there is no excuse not to believe in Him in light of all He has made. If you are an atheist, please pause and ponder where everything came from and if indeed it is possible that there is a God who did it all to point to Himself.

3. An atheist must recognize that if they try to obey their conscience they will only be condemned.

Romans 2:14-16 “When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

This is certainly the passage Pope Francis had in mind when he gave hope for people who don’t believe in God. The problem is that even when our conscience becomes a law to ourselves, we break it all the time. Sure there will be instances where our consciences “excuse” us because we avoid things we know we shouldn’t do, but how many times does it “accuse” us!

The reality is that all of us have many strikes against our conscience and that only further shows that we aren’t in good standing with God. The God of heaven is holy and He will not allow evil to remain forever (Habakkuk 1:13). Our conscience doesn’t excuse us ultimately, rather it condemns us before God and shows us that we need Him to forgive us. If you are an atheist, I encourage you to consider the times you have done things you know to be wrong. What if there is a God who really cares about those things?

4. An atheist must realize that they are already condemned before God because they haven’t believed in Jesus.

John 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

When we die we do not have to wonder what will happen. God tells us that if we turn from our sin and believe in Jesus, we will be forgiven and not be condemned before God for our rebellions. But if we do not believe in Jesus, we are already condemned because of the ways we have rejected His revelation to us in creation, in our conscience, and ultimately in His Son.

Revelation 21:8 “As for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

There is no hope for those who do not have faith in Christ. The only thing that awaits them is the eternal judgment of God. This not popular or palatable for many, but it should sober us and cause us to reflect on what the Bible says about eternity. If you are an atheist, please do not allow these warnings to fall on deaf ears. Ask God, if He is really there, to show you what is true.

5. An atheist must turn from their sin and trust in Jesus.

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”

1 John 5:11-12 “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

How can an atheist get into heaven? Not by denying God or attempting to follow their conscience. Atheists get to heaven by ceasing from their atheism and surrendering to Christ.

We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ is the Savior whom God sent to awaken us from our atheism or sleepy self-righteousness or dead religion. He is God’s only provision for to make us right with Him. There is no other way to heaven other than believing in Jesus. If you are an atheist, please give consideration to whether or not Jesus is who the Bible claims that He was.

If you are a Christian–

Pray for your atheist friends to have soft hearts toward the Lord

Pray for divinely appointed opportunities to talk through the Scriptures with them.

Pray for Pope Francis to have humility before the Scriptures and “not be wise above what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).

It is only by grace that any of us are saved (Eph. 2:8-10), which should do nothing but produce humility toward God, compassion toward others, and patience with those who do not yet believe in God. It is not however loving or compassionate to tell people that they can go to heaven without believing in Jesus because that is a lie.

What Would Jesus Say to Miley Cyrus?

Miley Cyrus - editedIf you haven’t seen the video of Miley’s performance, I want to warn you that it is sexually suggestive and could be tempting to you. I’m not recommending that you watch it.

What might Jesus say to Miley Cyrus after Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards performance? While I’m not sure exactly what He’d say, there are several passages of from the Bible that give us a pretty good idea.

 

Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that she is the kind of girl He came to spend time with.

There are a lot of religious types who won’t like to hear this, but it’s true. Jesus came to spend time with people just like Miley Cyrus. In the Gospel of Luke 5:30 the religious conservatives of Jesus’ day grumbled and said “why do you eat and drink with…sinners?” The answer? Because Jesus has compassion on sinners (Matthew 9:36), He loves sinners (Romans 5:8), and He came to call sinners to believe in Him (Luke 5:32).

So Jesus may well have gone to the VMA after party last night and sat with Miley and her crew (including the bears). That would not be unlike Jesus at all. In fact, that’s the very reason He left the holiness of heaven—to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom to people just like Miley Cyrus.

How do I know this is true? Not only because the Bible says so, but also because Jesus came to rescue me—and I’m no different than Miley Cyrus. For the first twenty-one years of my life I loved attention and rebellion and sexual promiscuity and the thrill of the moment. If we’re honest, none of us are that different than Miley Cyrus. We might not parade our sin in front of the world on MTV, but Jesus sees the depths of all of our hearts—and we’re deeply deceived if we think that commends us to God.

The good news however is that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus came for people like me and Miley—and you. I’m certain Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that she is the kind of girl He came to spend time with.

 

Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that her sin is deadly for herself and for others.

Jesus would tell Miley that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (Jn. 10:10). He would say that while the sexual thrills and the power of captivating millions of viewers seems to be fulfilling  her soul, she actually is being robbed of the true joy that only Christ can give.

Jesus would also remind Miley that in her interview with Barbara Walters in 2008 (go to 6:37) she was convinced that she’d never go as far into sin’s arms as she has. He’d say something like, “Miley, sin is deceiving you. It’s blinding you. It has told you it only wants a little, but it always wants a little more. Sin will never stop until it has consumed you.”

Jesus would also tell Miley that her sin isn’t just corrupting her own heart, but that she’s leading others to into temptation as well. He’d remind her that the eyes of millions of young girls look to her to learn what it means to be a woman. But rather than find an example that leads them to fear the Lord (Prov. 31:30), they find one more reason to give their hearts and bodies to fleeting lovers.

He’d remind her that through her lyrics and promiscuous ways she tempts men and women to lust after her. He might liken her to the temptress who leads people away from the Lord and into the “chambers of death” (Prov. 5:1-14; 7:1-27). Of course, Miley isn’t the only one leading people to sin, but she needs to remember “temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Luke 17:1).  Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that her sin is deadly for herself and for others.

 

Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus to come to Him and He will give her rest.

Sin is fun. That’s why we don’t have to be commanded to do it. There’s joy in the drink. There’s comfort in the caress. There is fun in the one night fling. There are laughs with the high. There’s adrenaline with the affirmation. Sin gives us pleasure—but that pleasure is always short-lived and it always leaves us empty.

Jesus would tell Miley that sin will never satisfy her soul because she was made for so much more. As Augustine, who once found life in orgies and drink, said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” There is nothing down the road Miley is on but pain and sorrow with some cheap thrills along the way.

Jesus would say to Miley, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…learn from me…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-30). He would tell her “There is rest from trying to keep everyone happy. There is peace for your haunting conscience. There is an answer for what you are seeking—and I am it.”

In the Gospel of John chapter 4 Jesus encountered a woman who was notorious for being wildly promiscuous. She had known many lovers, but they had all left her (or she had left them). When she spoke with Jesus, He told her that He could give her what she was looking for when He said, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus promised that woman who had never been satisfied in her life the answer for her soul’s craving—Himself. Jesus could heal her and take away all her guilt and all her shame and all her wounds. He could give her rest. But to have it, she had to leave her old ways behind.

Rather than let her stay in the darkness, He called her sin into the light and exposed her for who she really was. He said to her “you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband” (John 4:29). Because God is holy, He will not accept us in our sin. He desires to give us peace and rest, but there must be repentance. We cannot love both sin and the Savior.  Jesus called the woman to choose.

By the end of the story, it appears that she chose to follow Christ. Jesus had given her that spring of water and she ran back to the town where she was a known whore and cried out to everyone “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). Jesus would tell Miley that He knows her sin and that it will not satisfy her—but He can.  Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus to turn from her sin, to come to Him, and He will give her rest.

Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that she will be judged one day and that she needs to get ready today.

We will all stand before God one day and give an account for our lives. This should sober us and cause us to take serious consideration of what we will say on that day. In the song Miley performed at the VMAs, she says “only God can judge us.” In one sense she is right. God is the final and ultimate judge. Only He knows our hearts and only He knows all our ways.

We should find not comfort in that idea however if we are not following after Jesus. In John 3:36 we are told that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” To rest in the mantra that “only God can judge us” should not bring us peace if we have not turned from our sin and trusted in Jesus. Instead, we should tremble at the prospect of standing before our Maker on that day when all secrets will be seen.

The good news is that God is a God who loves to extend mercy. In Ezekiel 33:11 He says “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?” Jesus would tell Miley that she will be judged one day and that she needs to get ready today. The way to do that is to trust in the One who died for sinners like her, and like me, and like you and turn from our sins and follow Him.

Jesus would have much to say to Miley Cyrus, and it would sound a lot like what He has to say to the rest of us. Let’s not harden our hearts to His voice, but rather, let’s follow the One who came to save sinners like us. Pray that Miley would as well.