True Life Church Community Blog

14 YEARS AFTER 9/11: FOUR LESSONS (Jim Denison)

world trade center Where were you 14 years ago today? Most Americans can answer that question, just as my parents could for Pearl Harbor. It’s often said that 9/11 changed the world. In a very real sense that’s true.

On September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists murdered 2,977 Americans. According to Brown University’s Watson Institute, warfare in the years since has killed 13,816 U.S. military personnel and contractors. The civilian death count in Iraq and Afghanistan stands between 184,500 and 212,500. The “War on Terror” has cost Americans more than $4.4 trillion. Imagine the impact that expenditure could make on hunger or education.

In another sense, however, 9/11 revealed a war that has been waged against the U.S. for decades. On November 4, 1979, radical Muslims took fifty-two American citizens hostage in Iran. In the years since, jihadists have attacked our embassies in Beirut, Kuwait, Kenya, Tanzania, Lima, Kurachi, and Libya. They attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, and the Boston Marathon in 2013. Their numbers and global reach are greater than ever before.

Now the self-proclaimed Islamic State has captured land the size of Great Britain, claims greater than $2 billion in assets, generates $2 million per week in oil revenues, and boasts a fighting force of up to 100,000 soldiers. They have more than 35 global affiliates, and intend to conquer Europe and then America. ISIS spokesman Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani: “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”

What lessons have we learned in the years since 9/11?

One: The Department of Homeland Security cannot secure the homeland. It is just too easy to enter a country whose borders exceed 5,830 miles, not to mention terrorists such as the Boston Marathon bombers who are already here. Mass shootings in schools, shopping malls and movie theaters prove that we can never be truly safe on this fallen planet.

Two: This is the war of our lifetime. Unlike conventional wars with leaders who could surrender to us, this enemy has no single head. So long as one jihadist is left, the threat is not over. Henry Kissinger noted, “The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.”

Three: Fearing terrorism is just what the terrorists want. We need to take all appropriate measures to secure ourselves and our families, then live with courage and passion. Claim this promise: “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Trust your fears to God in faith.

Four: This is a spiritual war. Our enemy is motivated by religious aims and has been deceived by the evil one. The gospel is the true answer to radical Islam. The spiritual awakening sweeping the Muslim world is our greatest hope. Praying for ISIS leaders and other jihadists is the church’s greatest responsibility.

On the Sunday after 9/11, I preached from Psalm 46. Its first assertion is our Father’s assurance on this somber day: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (v. 1). But a refuge can shelter only those who trust its protection.

Would God say he is your refuge today?



This blog was taken from

What God Gives When He Takes Away (Jon Bloom)

What God Gives When He Takes Away

What we really love and trust aren’t truly seen until we are tested by loss.

This is essentially the point that Satan made when talking to God about Job. In that odd scene in the first chapter of Job, when Satan presented himself before God, God said to him, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8).

Satan’s response was,

Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face. (Job 1:9–11)

Yeah, God, of course Job “fears” you when his life is full of blessings. But take away the blessings and his trust will turn to cursing.

Note the irony here. In this manipulative moment, Satan inadvertently pointed out the core error of Prosperity theology: prosperity obscures, rather than reveals, how much fallen humans love God. “Blessings” easily turn into curses as sinners subtly (or not so subtly) come to love and trust the blessings more than the Bless-er.

Satan knew this by experience. He was so confident that Job would curse God if the blessings were removed because he had seen it occur thousands and thousands of times in others.

Satan knew that the “take away” more than the “giving” would reveal the truth — what Job really trusted and loved. So did God. So God gave Satan permission to take away Job’s children, wealth, health, and reputation — all that most men place their hope in during life.

And the result?

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:20–21)

Satan was proven wrong about Job.

When You Know You Love Her

But Satan wasn’t wrong about the concealing power of prosperity and the revealing power of loss. Even the world sometimes catches glimpses of this principle, as the band Passenger captures in the song “Let Her Go.”

     Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
     Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
     Only know you love her when you let her go

     Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
     Only hate the road when you’re missin’ home
     Only know you love her when you let her go

You “only know you love her when you let her go.” Having concealed love, loss revealed love.

Satan gets no pleasure out of humans enjoying real pleasure. He would prefer to kill, maim, steal, destroy, and deprive, if doing so doesn’t push someone toward faith in God (John 10:10).

But he also knows that a consistently effective tool to weaken, impede, and disease the church is to let her prosper. Prosperity has a greater tendency to conceal idolatry and false faith. So like he tried with Jesus, Satan sometimes will offer us the world (Luke 4:5–7). He would rather us be faithlessly prosperous than afflicted and faithful.

Loss for the Sake of the True Prosperity Gospel

But Jesus wants us to embrace the true prosperity gospel. He wants us to have real “treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21), the gift of “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). So when Jesus calls us, he often asks us to leave homes, land, family, and vocations for his sake and the gospel’s (Mark 10:29). It’s why he requires us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses (Matthew 16:24). Because, like Paul described, when for Christ’s sake we are willing to abandon those things that the world considers the only gain worth having, it shows that Christ is truly gain to us (Philippians 3:8).

It is also why, as God disciplines us (Hebrews 12:5–6) and conforms us to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29), he will, like Job, take away earthly things that are precious to us. The affections of our hearts, both sinful and righteous, that were more concealed in the having are more revealed in the losing. The sin that is revealed he seeks to mortify; the righteousness of faith that is revealed he seeks to display for us and for the watching world.

Testing Is More Than Just for Us

Yes, our testing is more than just for us. We must remember that, like Job’s experience, there is often more going on in our experience than meets our eyes. Job didn’t know when the calamities hit that God was putting Satan to shame.

Peter and the disciples wouldn’t have known Satan’s involvement in their temptations during the Passion week had Jesus not told them (Luke 22:31). Likewise, we often aren’t aware of the full cosmic struggle in which we are involved. But these texts and others remind us that the struggle is occurring, and we should be careful jumping to conclusions based on our perceptions alone.

God Takes Away for Our Joy

The crucial thing for us to remember is that all that God does for us as his children is for our good. He is blessed in both the giving and the taking away because both are for the sake of our joy.

Often it is in the taking away that our true love and trust are revealed, which is a great mercy to us and usually for others. And often, in this age, the most valuable, most satisfying, most beneficial, longest lasting gifts we receive and pass along to others end up coming through the experiences of our losses.

Repent and Believe in God’s Grace (Nancy Miszczenski)

Have you ever been in a dry season….spiritually dry that is.  I’m in one now – which is kind of hard to admit I must say!  I have a ‘clog in my fountain’.  Let me explain…   Sunday morning (2 weeks ago) during worship, I saw a picture of a pond with green slimy stuff floating on the top.  Ewww.  I don’t like the thought of that at all.   I knew that there was a fountain in that pond…why wasn’t it flowing?  And then I realized it was clogged with ‘gunk’ – a not-so-elegant-but-I-know-you-know-what-I-mean word.  I wanted the fountain to flow again and be fresh living water (with none of the icky stuff on top).  Of course I did!  We all do.  But what I didn’t like even MORE was the whisper in my heart that this pond is me.  Stagnant.

I needed a plumber to have this filter unclogged.  I know His name and I called His number.  (My mom used to say God’s phone # is Jeremiah 33:3 – Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known.) But I kept getting a busy signal – and I was the one who was too busy.  I knew this but felt stuck…and therefore dry.  So I kept calling, knowing that my call would be answered.  And it was – this past Sunday.

Bob Riconda visited True Life Church last Sunday and brought an excellent word to us…most especially to me!  (although I’m quite sure there are several of you who feel the same way)  He began with this scripture:  Col. 2:6 – So live in Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way as you received him.”   Just the way you received Him.  Go back to the basics.  I felt like the V8 commercial – you know, the one where the weight lifter gets smacked in the head.  The basics.

Bob said:  It started with a person, it continues with a person.  Jesus.  None other but Him.  Basic truth – but truly the bottom-line truth.  Don’t get distracted by ‘the other stuff’, he continued.  But I have to get this done, and be part of that, and he’s counting on me and – and even though the stuff seems good, I’m too busy ‘doing’ and therefore I can’t have quality time to be with Jesus.  Get to know the person.  Jesus.  Again.

I was challenged to  identify unbelief, mis-beliefs or false beliefs.  Stop trusting SELF.  (Ouch)  Do I fully believe that God is who he says He is?

Checking myself, while listening to this sermon I identified with the question “What am I not believing about God?  Since I’ve been rooted and built up in him (Colossians 2:7), I don’t have anything to prove.  I’m already accepted.  No more tryouts, I’m already on the team!  (loved that analogy!)  Do I really believe God is in control? That He is good? That He looks out for my best interests?  That His grace is sufficient for me and that He knows what’s best for me.    A moment of repentance for unbelief, misbeliefs and possibly false beliefs left me with a lighter spirit and a bubble of joy.  Then I remembered that I truly do believe that He is good and He is truly powerful enough to free me.  (from me!!)  My filter was becoming unclogged.  And today?  Well, my fountain is overflowing with thankfulness for His grace that has freed me and will continue to free me.  It’s as basic as that.

Loving and Celebrating A Defective Nation (Jon Bloom)

There has always been a “culture war” of one kind or another being waged in America. It is actually part of the design of the American Experiment and the exercise of democracy. And so there is certainly a place for Christians to participate in this exercise and advocate for our constitutional rights.

But if Christians are mainly known as conservative cultural warriors and the defenders of our constitutional rights, the true gospel freedom that we are really here to promote will be obscured. Jesus said that the world would know that we are his disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35) and by the way we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Love is the greatest mark of the Christian (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The Greatest Freedom Ever Instituted

And the greatest love that we can show to our neighbors is to help them hear the gospel of the greatest freedom that has ever been instituted. Like Jesus, our primary focus must not be on the culture war, but on the kingdom mission. We must be mainly about planting gospel-proclaiming local churches, lovingly engaging our neighbors and family members, sending gospel-proclaiming missionaries to the unreached, and, like the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37, compassionately meeting every need the Lord brings across our path. Regardless of the media’s portrayal of Christians, let us show the people we actually live with the real gospel by embodying it in relationships.

And let us not lose sight of the fact that the American Experiment, for all its failings, remains a wonderful thing. It has secured, promoted, and defended unprecedented historical freedoms for an unprecedented and diverse amount of people. July 4th is a moment to remember and celebrate the remarkable common grace of God that we — and hundreds of millions of others — have received through the United States.

Our national celebrations have always been tempered with the reality that the U.S., throughout its history, has at times legalized terribly destructive immoral things, such as the enslavement of African peoples, the genocide and social alienation of native North American peoples, and the systematic killing of 50+ million unborn children, just to name a few. It is right to be grieved over legalized sin.

But let the current events increase our resolve to seek America’s greatest good. Being citizens of a better country frees us from trying to make this one the kingdom of heaven. Our time here is short and “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14). Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). So let us give ourselves to bringing as many Americans to the better, lasting country as possible.


The above was an excerpt taken from 


Charleston Attack: When God is at Work, Satan Reacts (Dr. Jim Denison)

“There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of Scripture.”  So said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks, condemning Wednesday night’s shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

Emmanuel AME Church, the scene of the attack, is historically African-American, tracing its roots to 1816.  One of its founders tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822; white landowners had his church burned in revenge.  Members worshiped underground until after the Civil WarWednesday’s shooting took the life of the church’s pastor and eight others, and has been labeled a hate crime (For more, see Nick Pitts’s article Tragedy in Charleston).

Wherever God is at work, Satan reacts.  His first strategy is “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). (Tweet this) When Jesus’ movement gained a national following, Satan led Judas to betray our Lord (John 13:2, 27).  When Peter preached at Pentecost and 3,000 were converted, Satan incited the religious authorities to arrest them and demand that they cease preaching (Acts 4).  When Paul’s ministry reached global status, Satan led the authorities arrest and eventually behead him.

More people are coming to Christ today than at any time in human history, and Satan is again responding through violence.  According to John Allen, longtime Vatican journalist, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination around the world are directed at Christians.  Ninety percent of all religious martyrs are Christians.  Terror attacks against Christians escalated 309 percent between 2003 and 2010.

Persecution is strongest where the Kingdom is advancing the fastest.  In the Muslim world, where more have come to Christ in the past 15 years than the previous 15 centuries, attacks on Christians are more common than ever before.  Newsweek recently reported: “In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania.”  The magazine then stated, “The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop.”  (For more, see my Respected to Irrelevant to Dangerous.)

Persecution against Christians is increasing in China, where as many as 100,000 people come to Christ every day.  It is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, where as many as 28,000 come to Christ daily.  It is increasing in Cuba, where more than a million have come to Christ in the last decade.  The pattern is clear.

How can we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters?  Acts 12:5 tells us that after Peter was arrested by Herod, “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”  Their intercession was passionate: “earnest” translates ektenos, fervent, zealous.  It was continual: “prayer was made” is in the imperfect tense, literally “prayer was constantly being made.”  It was specific: “for him.”  And it was collective: “by the church.”

God is calling his people to pray passionately, continually, specifically, and collectively for Emmanuel AME Church and for all who are risking their lives to follow Jesus. (Tweet this) And he has calling us to pray in the same way for the spiritual awakening we desperately need.

Charles Spurgeon: “I know of no better thermometer to your spiritual temperature than this, the measure of the intensity of your prayer.”  What is your spiritual temperature today?


this was taken from

Let them Come Home (John & Abraham Piper)



In a recent Christianity Today interview, John Piper recounts the painful events surrounding the excommunication of his 19 year old son, Abraham.

The night after that excommunication, I called him at 10:00 and said, “Abraham, you knew what was coming.” He said, “That’s what I expected you to do. That has integrity. I respect you for doing it.” From then on, for the next four years, he was walking away from the Lord, trying to make a name for himself in disco bars as a guitarist and singer, and just doing anything but destroying himself. We were praying like crazy that he wouldn’t get somebody pregnant, or marry the wrong person, or whatever. He came back to the Lord four years later and the church had a beautiful, beautiful restoration service. He wept his eyes out in front of the church and was restored. This is church discipline at its best.

The following is Abraham’s account written for Decision Magazine.

When I was 19, I decided I’d be honest and stop pretending I was a christian.  At first I pretended that my reasoning was high-minded and philosophical. But really I just wanted to drink gallons of cheap sangria and sleep around. Four years of this and I was strung out, stupefied and generally pretty low. Especially when I was sober or alone.

My parents, (John and Noel Piper) who are strong believers and who raised their kids as well as any parents I’ve ever seen, were brokenhearted and baffled. (See sidebar story below.) I’m sure they were wondering why the child they tried to raise right was such a ridiculous screw-up now. But God was in control.

One Tuesday morning, before 8 o’clock, I went to the library to check my e-mail. I had a message from a girl I’d met a few weeks before, and her e-mail mentioned a verse in Romans. I went down to the Circle K and bought a 40-ounce can of Miller High Life for $1.29. Then I went back to where I was staying, rolled a few cigarettes, cracked open my drink, and started reading Romans. I wanted to read the verse from the e-mail, but I couldn’t remember what it was, so I started at the beginning of the book. By the time I got to chapter 10, the beer was gone, the ashtray needed emptying and I was a Christian.

The best way I know to describe what happened to me that morning is that God made it possible for me to love Jesus. When He makes this possible and at the same time gives you a glimpse of the true wonder of Jesus, it is impossible to resist His call.

Looking back on my years of rejecting Christ, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child so that they, too, would wake up to Christ’s amazing power to save even the worst of us.

1. Point them to Christ.

Your rebellious child’s real problem is not drugs or sex or cigarettes or porn or laziness or crime or cussing or slovenliness or homosexuality or being in a punk band. The real problem is that your child doesn’t see Jesus clearly. The best thing you can do for rebellious children—and the only reason to follow any of these suggestions—is to show them Christ. It won’t be simple or immediate, but the sins in their life that distress you and destroy them will begin to disappear only when they see Jesus more as He actually is.

2. Pray.

Only God can save your children, so keep on asking Him to display Himself to them in a way they can’t resist worshiping Him for.

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.

When your daughter rejects Jesus, don’t pretend that everything is fine.

If you know she’s not a believer and you’re not reaching out to her, then start. And never stop. Don’t ignore her unbelief. Ignoring it might make holidays easier, but not eternity.

4. Don’t expect them to be Christlike.

If your son is not a Christian, he won’t act like one, and it’s hypocrisy if he does. If he has forsaken your faith, he has little motivation to live by your standards, and you have little reason to expect him to.

If he’s struggling to believe in Jesus, there is little significance in his admitting that it’s wrong to get wasted, for instance. You want to protect him, yes, but his most dangerous problem is unbelief—not partying. No matter how your child’s behavior proves his unbelief, always be sure to focus more on his heart’s sickness than its symptoms

5. Welcome them home.

Because your deepest concern is your son’s heart, not his actions, don’t create too many requirements for coming home. If he has any inkling to be with you, don’t make it hard for him. God may use your love to call him back to Christ. Obviously there are instances when parents must give ultimatums: “Don’t come to this house, if you are …” But these will be rare. Don’t lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by pushing him away with rules.

If your daughter stinks like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreeze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home. If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her 20-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money—and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s—or boyfriend’s—apartment, urge him not to go back, and let him come home.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.

Be gentle in your disappointment.

What concerns you most is that your child is destroying herself, not that she’s breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she’s doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is, so she doesn’t need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.

Her conscience can condemn her by itself. Your role is to stand kindly and firmly, always living in the hope that you want your child to return to.

7. Connect them to other believers.

Obviously, you are distant from your wayward child; otherwise you wouldn’t think they’re wayward. This is another reason why pleading is better than rebuking—your relationship with your rebellious child is tenuous and should be protected if at all possible.

But rebuke is still necessary. A lot of rebellious kids would do well to hear that they’re being fools, but you’re probably not the one to tell them. Try to keep other Christians in their lives and trust God to connect your son or daughter with a believer who can point out your child’s folly without getting the door slammed on them.

8. Respect their friends.

Of course your daughter’s relationships are founded on sin. And, yes, her friends are bad for her. But she’s bad for them, too. And nothing will be solved by making it evident that you don’t like who she’s hanging around with.

Be hospitable. Her friends are someone else’s wayward children, and they need Jesus, too.

9. E-mail them.

When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple of lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation—better than any correction—is for them to see Christ’s joy in your life

Don’t stress out when you’re composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child’s inbox. God’s Word is never useless.

10. Take them to lunch.

If possible, don’t let your only interaction with your child be electronic. Get together with him face to face if you can. You may think this is stressful and uncomfortable, but trust me that it’s far worse to be in the child’s shoes—he is experiencing all the same discomfort, but compounded by guilt. So if he is willing to get together with you for lunch, praise God, and use the opportunity.

It may almost feel hypocritical to talk about his daily life, since what you really care about is his eternal life, but be sure to do it anyway. He needs to know you care about all of him. Then, before lunch is over, ask about his soul. You don’t know how he’ll respond. Will he roll his eyes like you’re a moron? Will he get mad and leave? Or has God been working in him since you talked last? You don’t know until you risk asking. God will give you the gumption.

11. Take an interest in their pursuits.

Odds are that if your daughter is purposefully rejecting Christ, then the way she spends her time will disappoint you. Nevertheless, find the value in her interests, if possible, and encourage her. You went to her school plays and soccer games when she was 10; what can you do now that she’s 20 to show that you still really care about her interests?

Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and He wasn’t even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to where your daughter’s CD release show is. Encourage her and never stop praying that she will begin to use her gifts for Jesus’ glory instead of her own.

12. Point them to Christ.

This can’t be stressed enough. It’s the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.

The goal is not that they will be good kids again. It’s not that they’ll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it’s not that they’ll like classical music instead of deathcore; it’s not that they’ll vote conservative again by the next election. The goal is not for you to stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study or even for you to be able to sleep at night, knowing they’re not going to hell.

The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Jesus Christ.

And not only is He the only point, but He’s the only hope. When they see the wonder of Jesus, satisfaction will be redefined. He Himself will replace the money, or the praise of man, or the high, or the sex that they are staking their eternities on right now. Only His grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to Him—captive, but satisfied.

God will do this for many. Be faithful and don’t give up.








Why So Many Bible Translations (Pastor Rigo Mercado)


Have you ever wondered why there are so many Bible translations out there? We hear Christians say I read the New Kings James, another says I read the New International Version, and still another says the Message translation is the best.  Why so many translations?

The Bible was originally written in three languages. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament was written in Greek.  What Bible Scholars do is read the Bible in their original languages and translate it into today’s modern language.  The three primary ways the Bible is translated into English from its original text is through the following methods: word-for-word, thought-for-thought and free translation.

The word-for-word method of translation is also referred to as “literal” translation.  In this method the original word choice and phrases of the biblical authors are used.  The advantage of this method is that it keeps the translator’s own interpretation to a minimum. The disadvantage of this translation is that it can be hard to understand at times and seem stiff and unfamiliar. Over time, though, you can get used to its style.

The thought-for-thought translation approach uses everyday language familiar to English readers. This translation method is easier to understand, and it does not lose its original meaning. The disadvantage of this approach is that it usually refers to the translators writing what they think it means, instead of what the original text says word-for-word.  Thus, we may miss some of the nuances in the wording that the original writers intended for us to see.

Finally, there is what is called free translation or paraphrase (the far extreme of thought-for-thought). The purpose of this approach is to give the reader a flow of the general ideas of the bible in simplistic ways and at times render sentences in new ways. This approach can be used as more of a commentary to help clarify what you may not fully understand in other translations. The Message Bible is an example of this.  The down side of these translations is that the reader is relying heavily on the translators to explain the meaning through their own language, and thus one will definitely miss out on the subtle “brush strokes” that the writers of Scripture intended. And sometimes, in an effort to “explain” the text the translators will add qualifiers that weren’t included by the original writers. For example, Matthew 18:35 in the NKJV reads, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” The Message Bible reads, “And that’s exactly what My Father in Heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.” The phrase “anyone who asks for mercy” was not a qualifier in the original text. The writer of the MSG bible is inserting his own idea of when forgiveness is commanded and when it is not.

So what translation should you read? The one that helps you understand the truths of the Word of God. There is no right or wrong translation to use, however it is always good to read different translations for your personal devotional readings and especially when preparing to teach from the Bible.

No matter what Bible translation you read, always remember the Holy Spirit is our teacher and ask Him to help you understand the deep treasures of the Word of God.


The Graph below shows which translation method each of today’s Bible versions fall under:

bible translations

Fanning the Flames of AWE (Chris Francis)

This past Sunday we talked about the importance of Awe — how there is a difference between believing in the truths about Jesus and having an awe over those glorious truths. Belief alone — in the sens of an intellectual agreement — does not lead to worship or life change or freedom. Awe does.


That was the purpose of the sermon on Sunday as we looked at 3 Stories of Awe.


But I wanted to write a follow-up about how we can Fan the Flames of Awe in our hearts.


Of course only the Holy Spirit can only spark that flame, but we are also called to fan those flames. So below are some thoughts:


The first are what have been traditionally called….




  • Reading the Bible to see God At Work — The bible is not primarily a moral guide. It is not primarily a book of wise counsel. The bible is primarily the grand story of humanity in desperate need of a Savior and Redeemer, and how God has been acting as that Savior and Redeemer in a huge huge way since the beginning of time. When we read the bible in order to see God at work, rather than to just get a moral nugget, then our hearts are stirred with awe and it leads us to worship him. And out of worship will flow morality…..but morality without worship is simply religiosity.
  • God-Centered Prayer — There is a self-centered way to pray, where I am focused on my need for security, my need for comfort, my need for justice….and there is  a God-centered way to pray, where I am focused on the Bigness of God and all that he has already secured for me in Christ. God-centered praying does not deny reality or pretend like our needs and desires do not exist, but it does emphasize God’s faithfulness and grace and sovereignty way more.
  • Fasting — Fasting from food, fasting from tv, fasting from facebook. Fasting is a way of saying “Shhhh….” to the physical and psychological longings that we feel. And it amplifies the spiritual longings that we should feel — the longings to know Jesus more and to see him do what we are unable to do in our own strength.
  • Being in Church Community — If we are not connected to the ups and downs of a church community, we will miss out on a big way that God reveals himself to us. We talked about this at the end of the sermon, so I won’t go into detail here.
  • Singing Songs — Singing songs is a spiritual discipline that sometimes flows out of awe, but often we do it in order to regain our awe. Like many of you, I don’t always like to sing in the beginning of a church service. But I need to. I need to lay aside my anxieties, my worries, and sing, and it may feel like discipline, but a discipline that leads to a renewing of my awe.


Then there are other things that we can do to stir our hearts that may work for one person but don’t necessarily do it for others. I’ll list a few of mind as well as some other peoples’.


Taking a Walk in a Cemetery

Sounds strange, I know. But when I’m in a cemetery, and looking at all the tombstones, I’m reminded of how short my life is, regardless of how much I succeed or fail. It reminds me of how God has given breath to all those lives, and how the purpose of giving breath to those lives has been to praise and honor him with their lives.


It reminds me of how nobody is going to talk about me for too long after I’m gone, and how I may go at any minute (because a good many of those tombstones have birth and death dates less than years apart) and so my primary pursuit should be to honor the one who is sovereign over all those lives and deaths.

Enjoying our Big & Beautiful Creation

Swimming in the ocean (especially at sun-down when most other people are gone) or standing at the top of the mountain helps to remind me of the grandeur of God’s great sovereignty over this world, and how futile it is to try to control things.

Remembering My Story

Thinking back over my life and about how God has orchestrated it, forgiven me and transformed me, blessed me when I least deserved it reminds of how much my life is in His hands.

Reading Biographies

Reading about the lives of men & women who have been rescued from sin & shame and then used for God’s glory on this broken Earth fuels my awe.

Studying Science

For some people, studying the human body or astronomy or biology points to God’s infinite Creative power.


There are many other things that might stir our affections for Jesus Christ, but the point is that we should intentionally work those things into our schedules. Because our Awe of Jesus is so important that we must protect and guard it.

Respectfully Leaving Your Parents (Dennis and Barbara Rainey)

You may have moved out from your childhood home, but have you really left your parents behind?

God did not mince words when instructing a married couple to leave their parents. The Hebrew words used in Genesis 2:24, which states that “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife,” mean “to forsake dependence upon,” “leave behind,” “release,” and “let go.”

Later, Jesus addressed the issue when he said that no one was ever intended to come between a husband and a wife (Matthew 19:6). No one! No in-laws, no mother, no father was meant to divide a couple who had made a covenant with each other to leave, cleave, and become one flesh.

This pointed instruction is needed. Psychologist Dan Allender says in the bookIntimate Allies that “the failure to shift loyalty from parents to spouse is a central issue in almost all marital conflict.'” God knows that leaving parents will always be a difficult transition, especially in homes where the child-parent bond has been solid and warm. Unfortunately, many (if not most) couples do not cut the apron strings—they lengthen them!

After our wedding ceremony, Barbara and I walked down the church aisle together, symbolically proclaiming to all those witnesses that we had left our parents. We had forsaken our dependence upon them for our livelihood and emotional support and were turning to each other as the primary relationship of our lives. The public affirmation of our covenant to each other meant, “No relationship on earth, other than my relationship with Jesus Christ and God, is more important than my relationship with my spouse.”If we do not leave our parents correctly, we will be like a couple I knew who were dependent financially on the wife’s family. The situation was robbing the husband of his family leadership potential. The wife kept looking to her dad to bail them out after poor choices. Her husband wasn’t able to grow up, face his responsibility to make correct choices for his family, and live with the consequences of his decisions. He was losing self-respect as a man, and it was undermining his wife’s respect for him as well.

It can be equally destructive to continue to be emotionally dependent on a parent. This dependence will hinder the Super Glue-like bonding that must occur between husband and wife.

How to leave, yet still honor, your parents

Leaving your home does not mean you permanently withdraw and no longer have a good relationship with your parents. That’s isolating yourself from your parents, not leaving. The commandment in Exodus 20:12 to honor your parents means that when you leave them, you need to go with respect, love, admiration, and affirmation for their sacrifices and efforts in raising you. But you must make a break from them and sever your dependence on them. As time passes, you must be diligent to prevent any reestablishment of dependence at critical points in your marriage.

Leaving certain kinds of parents requires special sensitivity. For example, if your mom or dad is a single parent, she or he may no longer have anyone at home to lean on and may feel terribly alone. Or perhaps you left behind a parent who endures a lifeless marriage devoid of passion. In either case, your leaving has created a big void in the home. Nevertheless, you must sever the ties.

You can honor your parents and also reap benefits by seeking their wisdom on certain issues. When you ask them to offer their insights, you must make it clear that you are seeking information and advice, not surrendering your right to make final decisions. A tip: Always try to consult your spouse before seeking input from parents. Give yourselves some time to become good at this. You may have depended on your parents for twenty years but have been married only one!

When parents want to reattach

Sometimes without realizing it, we may allow our parents to reestablish the severed connections. It could occur during a Christmas visit. It might happen during a phone call when the child mentions to the parent some disappointment or failure experienced in the marriage relationship.

I remember how, early in our marriage, I shared a weakness about Barbara with my mother. Now my mom is a great mother, but I was astounded at how she rushed to my side, like a mother hen coming to aid her wounded little chick. Her response startled me. I told Barbara about it and apologized. I promised I would not again discuss negative things about her with my mom.

You must not allow parents to innocently (or not so innocently) drive a wedge between you and your spouse. Some parents may seek to manipulate and control their child. For example, a father won’t stop telling his “little girl” what to do. The husband may need to step in and explain to his wife how destructive this is to the health of the marriage. Boundaries limiting the amount of communication between father and daughter may need to be installed for the long or short term.

Or a mother may be trying to call the shots with her son. The wife needs to explain carefully to her husband what she is observing. If the situation doesn’t improve, there may need to be a cooling-off period where the husband minimizes contact with his mother and directs his attention toward his wife.

These showdowns may be intimidating for either spouse, but boundaries need clarification. You may need to call on an older mentor for advice before you take action, but your allegiance must first and foremost be to your spouse.

At this point, I want to encourage you husbands to be “the man” and protect your wife. Sometimes you may need to graciously but firmly step in and shield her from a manipulative parent, but I implore you to guard gently your wife’s heart and your marriage from a dad or mom whose intentions may be good but counterproductive.

If as a couple you are having trouble maintaining a clean break, you may decide to spend less time at home for holiday visits. Instead of a week, perhaps the stay should be shortened to two or three days. Or skip a holiday altogether, just as a way of clarifying where your primary commitment lies.

A way to forestall some misunderstandings and help with decision making is to determine your family’s values early in the marriage. For instance, one value may be establishing your own family’s Christmas traditions as your children leave infancy. Having a clear idea of what you are doing and why will make it easier to explain your choices to parents.

As your parents grow older, they may need your assistance. Again, approach this issue prayerfully as a team. Take as much time as you can to make decisions, especially those with long-term ramifications. Some choices will be very difficult, but in most cases, the health of the marriage must take precedence. Although you must consider the financial situation, too, a parent may need to live at a retirement center instead of with you, if the parent’s presence will adversely affect your marriage.

One final thing to keep in mind: Leaving is not a one-time event or limited to the early years of marriage. The temptation to reconnect some of the old bonding lines will continue as long as parents are alive. For example, when grandchildren come along, most parents want to share from their vast stores of experience on how to raise kids.

Both parents and their children need to remain on guard so that leaving remains just that—a healthy, God-ordained realignment of the parent-child relationship.




Adapted from Starting Your Marriage Right,© 2000 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Four Ways to Fight the Fear of Missing Out (Jon Bloom)

Four Ways to Fight the Fear of Missing Out

The Thing. It’s a strange thing, because it’s there and not there at the same time. What I’m talking about is The Thing that you don’t have that you think you need in order to be happy. And you know when The Thing is there because you begin to feel a low-grade panic that you don’t have it. The Thing makes you afraid that by not having The Thing you’re missing out.

The Thing

What is The Thing? This is essential to define if we want to fight the fear that The Thing tempts us with.

The first thing we need to get clear is that The Thing is not actually a real thing. It’s a fantasy. It’s attaching our deep longing for happiness to the belief that a person or possession or achievement or status or experience will produce it rather than God or his promises. It’s the belief that something apart from God holds a key to our happiness if only we could have it or more of it.

The Bible calls The Thing covetousness (Exodus 20:17). The sin of coveting is a faithless desire to possess something that doesn’t belong to us, fueled by an idolatrous belief that it will satisfy us. The desire is “faithless” because it isn’t rooted in our trust in God’s promises. And it is “idolatrous” because we invest in the object of our desire the power to satisfy us that belongs only to God.

Jesus warns us about The Thing in this text:

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Jesus goes right to the heart of The Thing’s deception: It promises us life in some kind of possession, which has no life to give. The Thing is our belief that we can get life from an idol.

Missing Out

The fear of “missing out” is frequently the indicator that The Thing is present. Coveting can feel like fear, which is one reason it is so powerful. It lands on us with the threat that if we don’t have The Thing we will miss out on some vital part of living, something that will make us happy.

And The Thing is insidious because it is so illusive. It’s a shape-shifter that assumes whatever form matches our current vulnerability to feeling like we’re missing out. Today it might be coveting someone’s income, tomorrow it might be coveting someone’s achievement, the next day it might be coveting someone’s harmonious family, next week it might be coveting someone’s opportunities or church or culinary expertise or advanced degree or capacities or interior design or . . . you name it.

This is why we often experience Facebook and Pinterest as purveyors of “missing out.” They point out all the things that we don’t have. They remind us of what we are not. They show us where we have not been.

Not only that, but a consumer economy is engineered to discover and capitalize on our fears of missing out. We are told hundreds of times daily that life consists in possessing some material, status, or experiential thing that we currently don’t have.

But the root problem isn’t in social media or in marketing. Our root problem is our active sin natures that tell us that idols satisfy. That fear that we are missing out is coming from inside us (James 4:1–2). That’s why Jesus tells us to be on guard against our own covetousness.

L.I.F.E.: Four Ways to Escape The Thing

Since life does not consist in what we possess, and The Thing we think we need is nothing more than a covetous fantasy, what do we do to escape the grip of the fear that we are missing out? Here are four suggestions for L.I.F.E. . . .

Listen to Jesus.

He alone has the words of life (John 6:68).

  • “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
  • “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
  • “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
  • “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25)
  • “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life. . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

Instruct your heart.

Preach to yourself; don’t listen to The Thing.

  • “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
  • “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9–10)
  • Do not “set [your] hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” and seek to “take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17, 19)

Fast from feeding The Thing.

Shut down social media, turn off the TV, throw the magazine away. We need to starve our covetous appetite.

  • “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Matthew 18:9)

Engage in kingdom work.

The Thing focuses on what we don’t have. But God wants us to look to the needs of others. A God-given antidote to covetousness is serving the saints and others around us. Eyes off our navels and on to our neighbors.

  • “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10)

You Will Never Miss Out

If your trust is in the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15), “all things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21–22). Jesus has purchased for us “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3) and imperishable “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). No fantasy will ever deliver the happiness it promises us. We know this because no fantasy ever has. The fear that reveals The Thing is a false fear.

So leave it behind and “strain forward to what lies ahead [and] press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14).



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