Tag Archives: Gospel

Christian Reflections on Mental Illness

Across the world millions of people struggle with the pain of a mental illness diagnosis. I am a biblical counselor and have walked with many people down the dark, hard road of responding to these problems. From dysthymia to panic disorder there are few difficulties in human experience as painful, isolating, and complex as the ones our culture calls mental illness.

I, along with many others, am trying to devote my life to helping people overcome the pain of these diagnoses. There are many challenges involved in overcoming them. One of those challenges is that when we use the term “mental illness” nobody really understands what we are talking about.

Most Christians simply do not have a clear understanding about the nature of mental illness. I think when most Christians use the term they are talking about hard and complicated problems that produce significant debilitating effects. When they see these problems they find them to be so extreme and troubling that they believe they must require some type of medication to correct a perceived physical problem.

Mental illness

Christians are right to want to provide all the help possible for these kinds of problems. If we want to provide real help, however, it will be important to know what we’re talking about when we use the term.

What Is Mental Illness?

Defining mental illness is a hard thing to do. The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the catalogue of mental illnesses created by the American Psychiatric Association, regularly changes the definition of mental illness. Their changing definitions are meant to keep up with the changing opinions in psychology about mental illness. But they’re often at odds with the definitions provided by other entities like The National Alliance of Mental Illness. Writing in Psychology Todaysecular psychologist Eric Maisel points to the failure of psychologists to define mental illness as proof that the phenomenon doesn’t even exist.

Everybody knows that people with a mental illness diagnosis have genuine problems. The question concerns the nature of the problem. The DSM was first published in 1952 to create a system of language for new kinds of problems. Psychologists had a good desire to provide categories for serious issues that overwhelmed people with difficulty, but for which they could find no evidence of pathology.

Pathology is what physicians look for when they diagnose disease. It is a physical abnormality that is the cause of illness. For example, people receive a diagnosis of cancer when they have a mass of cells in their body that divides and multiplies at a rapid and uncontrollable rate. Scientists know about this pathology because of repeated testing and observation of normal cell growth compared to abnormal cell growth. Physicians perform medical exams and determine objective results against a clear standard. They render a medical diagnosis of diseases by doing tests that demonstrate concrete evidence of pathology.

Most people wrongly assume that mental illnesses in the DSM are characterized by this same level of medical precision. They are not. Unfortunately, there are no medical tests to determine the existence of most of the disorders in DSM. In general the disorders listed in the DSM have several characteristics that separate them from the diseases in the rest of medicine. Below I list three of them.

1. Not pathology, but committee votes

Unlike diseases in medicine, diseases in psychology are created by committee votes. One reason there are so many different versions of the DSM is because different committees keep voting to add, subtract, and modify the various disorders. There are many examples of this practice in the history of DSM. One glaring example is homosexuality.

In the early editions of the DSM homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder. In 1974, the APA removed homosexuality from the DSM-II. Homosexuality was declared to be normal by the vote of a 15-member committee. This committee was not responding to any new scientific information, but rather to political pressures supplied by gay-rights activists.

Not all the DSM disorders are as politically volatile as homosexuality, but all of them are characterized by the fact that they are created, removed, and modified by committee votes. Votes like this are altogether different from the medical science behind diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

2. Not pathology, but subjective behavior descriptions

The objective science of medicine determines disease through biopsies, blood work, X-rays and other tests, which discover pathology. Psychology determines mental illnesses differently. The same committees that vote on which problems are normal and which ones are not also vote on the descriptive behaviors that determine the illnesses. Depression is just one example.

The committee working on DSM-IV agreed that people would be considered mentally ill with a diagnosis of major depression if they had a depressed mood for two weeks and manifested five out of nine criteria including changes in sleep, changes in activity, and feelings of guilt. The committee on DSM-V voted to make significant changes to these criteria so that now, a woman grieving the death of her husband can receive this diagnosis.

People who meet these criteria in the DSM have a problem for which they need help. Christians ought to be eager to help them. But it is not typically the work of medicine, seeking pathology, to make a medical diagnosis from a changing list of subjective behavior descriptions.

3. Not pathology, but moral behaviors

Many of the behaviors that the DSM describes are moral categories that God describes. I previously mentioned homosexuality. But consider Gender Identity Disorder (GID), which is described in the DSM as a mental disorder.

GID is trans-sexualism. The DSM defines it as a strong, persistent feeling of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one’s own assigned sex. People with GID desire to live as members of the opposite sex and often dress and use mannerisms associated with the other gender. Psychologists recommend several different kinds of treatments for GID, from counseling to deal with the pain over being assigned the “wrong” gender, to gender-reassignment surgery.

It is characteristic of the DSM to medicalize moral problems—from GID to worry—addressed by God in his Word.

What This Does and Does Not Mean

None of this description diminishes the significant suffering going on in the lives of people diagnosed with mental illness. People struggling with these problems need complex and multi-faceted help. People with a mental illness often have a physical pathology for which they need medical interventions.

But this understanding means we need to admit that these problems are typically different from mere medical problems. If we want to help people with mental illnesses we need to have an accurate understanding of what we are talking about. When we conclude that mental illnesses are equivalent to something like Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in their level of pathology we are saying more than even the secular psychologists who write DSM.

Biblical Anthropology

As Christians we believe that human beings have both a body and a soul. This is something that the Bible teaches clearly and repeatedly (Gen 2:7; Matt 10:28; 2 Cor 5:1; 1 Tim 4:8). The Bible affirms both physical and spiritual problems because God created mankind to consist in each of these realities.

This biblical teaching, called dichotomy, means that it is just as biblical to take a Tylenol for a headache as it is to fight to depend on the Lord in times of financial stress. The biblical teaching on dichotomy is also a warning to Christians. Because humans are both soul and body, it is sinful and ignorant to reduce all problems to the spiritual. The inverse is also true: it is wrong to reduce all problems to being physical in nature.

As I mentioned previously, I think Christians look at the problems represented in mental illness diagnoses and think that they are so extreme in nature that they must be physical problems. A biblical understanding of humanity and the importance of the soul demonstrates that problems do not have to be medical to be serious. Job’s overwhelming grief, Saul’s murderous rampages, Nebuchadnezzer’s deranged behavior, and the ravings of demoniacs in the New Testament are all examples of extreme spiritual problems that medical intervention will never help. Christians must not assume that all serious problems are medical problems.

We like extremes. We feel comfortable when problems are all one thing and none of something else. The biblical teaching on dichotomy teaches that problems can be physical, spiritual, or any combination of the two. Caring for people means being alert to physical problems that require medical treatments and spiritual problems that require Christ and his Word. The designation of mental illness by the DSM is not as helpful in determining the difference between these matters as I wish it were.

I’m praying for a revival of uniquely Christian concern with troubled people. When Christians look at folks diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorder, and gender identity disorder we are not allowed to see merely medical problems. Medical issues may be on the table, but where are the Christians who will do more than encourage medication? Where are the Christians who will plead with those locked in a mighty struggle with everything from depression to GID to draw near to Jesus Christ, the comforter of their souls?

When we look at mental illnesses and only find medical categories, we do not understand the term, and we dishonor Jesus Christ. In doing so we will also keep troubled people from the fullness of help they need. Yes, people with severe problems often need medication. But even when medication is necessary no medical doctor can prescribe what the Great Physician alone can provide.

This year’s conference of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, October 6 to 8 in Sun Valley, California, will address “The Gospel and Mental Illness.” Visit the site for more details on speakers and registration.

How a Dad Loves a Prodigal

My dad and I are really close. In fact, we’re so close that I worked for him doing all of his bookkeeping for the year before my twins were born. I loved talking to him nearly every day, especially since he lives so far away from me now. But we weren’t always so close.

I was once a prodigal daughter.

For nearly two years I ran from my parents, family, and the Lord. I liked sin and liked living in sin. Talking to my dad (and mom) meant conviction, and I wanted nothing to do with it. If you peered through the window of my past you would have seen that I perfectly fit the profile of the son in Luke 15:11-32. I was wild, impulsive, and opposed to authority on every level.

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A quick survey of the families in your church would probably reveal that many have or had children who in some way have strayed from the faith of their upbringing. Parenting is hard work with no real guarantee of the outcome. While every situation is unique and has its own challenges, one thing is certain—prodigal children need to know they are loved. And my parents made sure of that.

In the years I lived away from them, they never abandoned contact with me. While our interactions looked different, they made sure to take advantage of moments where they felt I needed exhortation, encouragement, or just the acknowledgment that I was loved by them. My mom bought me Christmas and birthday presents every year, even though I never once tried to see them for holidays or family gatherings. The presents waited for an opportune time, revealing to my brothers and ultimately me that I was never once forgotten from their grieving memory. I have a box full of letters from them that serves as a painful yet necessary reminder that while my sin was (and still is) grievous, the grace I have received is extravagant.

Love, No Matter the Cost

We often talk about memories from our childhood. For me, my childhood was pretty good. We made wonderful memories together as a family of six. But the memory that captures the most formative event in my life is the one that I rarely think about anymore.

The entire time I was living in rebellion, my parents prayed for me every day. So when I told them I wanted to move home one cold December morning, and was tired of my life of sin, they were overjoyed. This rock-bottom-moment was exactly what they were praying to see. Immediately they began helping me prepare for the move. They arranged flights for me to come home, paid for a moving truck, and began helping me think through where to finish college.

And then I got mono.

I suddenly found myself uninsured and in the emergency room. At this point I was too sick to do anything besides barely plug along to finish my school semester. There was no way I was going to be able to pack up and get myself to Dallas (three hours away) to the airport. My dad had already intended to come help me move home by picking up my car and driving it to Michigan. At this point, I needed him. I had no energy, no real friends, and no ability to think through a move. I was helpless.

My dad flew to Dallas and picked up a car from a friend to drive down to where I was living. Less than an hour outside of the city, the car he was driving broke down. But nothing was going to stop my dad from getting to me. I will never forget the words he said to me as he sat in the Greyhound station waiting on his bus to drive him to San Marcos.

I will get to you, Court. If I have to walk there, I will get to you.

Rescue Mission

When I picked him up at the Greyhound station he embraced me with tears streaming down his face. It was exactly what I needed. The softening of my heart had begun with the mono and continued with the love and care of a dad who didn’t hold my past hatred of him against me. In those moments, he didn’t hound me about how I scorned him and my mom all those years. He was on a rescue mission. I needed help physically and spiritually, and he was there to give it.

For more than a week my dad stayed with me in my dorm, packing up all my boxes, getting reacquainted with me, and showing me what it means to live like Christ. His example humbled me on so many levels. For two years I had spurned his and my mom’s love, care, and fellowship. And here he was forgiving all of it and welcoming me back in. I was floored and a little self-conscious. In my heart, I was ready to come home, but I couldn’t shake this nagging guilt that told me my parents deserved better than how I had treated them. I was unable to help myself in any tangible way, and I was further placing myself in their debt by their selfless care for me.

There are so many more pieces to this story, like the fact that my dad stayed in the dorms with me for a week to make sure I was eating and getting rest. Or the fact that he went to the cafeteria with me every day to watch me fix my plate and send me back for more nutritious fare. Or the fact that my parents paid all of my medical bills despite the fact that I was the one who abandoned them. This is what makes it all memorable. They didn’t abandon me. Ever.

You don’t always appreciate and understand your parents when you are younger. At 31 now I see my dad (and mom) as instruments used by God to help me understand the gospel. God is relentless in his pursuit of us. So were my parents. They never stopped pursuing me until they had me safely home. Sometimes they pursued through prayer, begging God to open my eyes to my sin. Other times they pursued through letters, e-mails, and occasional phone calls. Even though I didn’t always see it as love, every form of contact was laced with love and care for the outcome of my life.

By God’s grace, he answered those prayers.

Deep Spiritual Need

Prodigal children do a number on the hearts of their parents. And no one understands that agony more than God does. By understanding my sin against my earthly parents, I grew to understand how my sin against my heavenly Father was far worse and deserved a much stricter punishment. In caring for my physical needs through the love of my parents, God revealed to me my deep spiritual need that could only be remedied by Christ.

This is how a parent loves a prodigal. In the same way that God never abandons his children but lovingly pursues us even to the depths of our sin, so parents model (to a lesser and more imperfect degree) the abundant grace of God poured out through them.

God was kind to restore my relationship with my family ten thousand fold. And while I still mourn the loss of those rebellious years, I praise God that he gave me parents who loved me enough to pursue me to the end of myself and point me to the only one who could save me.

My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage and New Birth

My wedding was last Saturday. And I didn’t marry the girl of my dreams.

If you would have told me when I was a teenager that my wife would have seven tattoos and a history in drugs, alcohol, and heavy metal concerts, I would have laughed at you, given you one of my courtship books, and told you to take a hike. My plans were much different, much more nuanced with careful planning, much more clean-cut, and much more, well, about me.

It wasn’t my dream to marry a complicated girl. I never dreamed I’d sit on a couch with my future wife in premarital counseling listening to her cry and tell stories of drunken nights, listing the drugs she used, confessing mistakes made in past relationships.


This isn’t my dream—it’s better.

Many people wouldn’t put Taylor and me together. In high school, we probably would not have been friends. She probably would have thought I was a nice, boring, judgmental Christian kid; I probably would have thought she was a nice, lost, party-scene girl who guys like me are supposed to avoid. People like us, with our backgrounds and histories, are not supposed to meet, fall in love, and covenant their lives to each other.

But everything changes when people meet Jesus. He takes rebellious teenage partiers and goody-two-shoes homeschoolers and puts them together in marriage to put something on display much bigger than their own handcrafted, perfectly planned love story.

Right in the middle of the mess of life, Taylor met Jesus, and he planted his flag in her life. She believed in him, and he transformed her. The Taylor who spent her life living from one pleasure to the next died, and a new person was born. A new person with new desires and a new heart that longed to please God, serve people, and treasure Jesus Christ above every other pleasure.

And this is how I see Taylor. She is completely new, completely transformed, and completely clean. This is not because she joined a helpful program or because she really “pulled herself together.” It’s because God, in his incredible, infinite kindness, took Taylor’s dark, crimson life, and made her white as snow. He took all of her sins, placed them on his Son, and then gave her Jesus’ righteousness to wear like a perfectly white wedding dress.

In reality, Taylor’s story is my story as well. As she walked down the aisle toward me, I was reminded of how much I don’t deserve the precious gift she is to me. I’ve spent much of my life singing a self-centered siren song. Nothing about my life cries for blessings; it calls for curses forever. Yet God has dressed me in white, put my sin upon his Son, and given me a heart that loves him.

I love Taylor with all that I am. She is gentle, kind, patient, joyful, beautiful, and loving. I don’t deserve to be married to someone like her. I didn’t plan for this, but I’m so glad I didn’t get what I planned for.

Last weekend I was reminded of the beautiful reality that God exchanges the sin of our past for the perfect righteousness of his Son. Contrary to popular opinion, our wedding day was not our wedding day; it was a display of the most stunning reality in the universe—that God sent his Son to redeem a people made clean by the blood of his Son.

God’s ultimate plan in putting Taylor and me together is to uniquely display his grace so that other people will praise him (Eph. 1:5-6). That’s his purpose for our marriage, and that’s his purpose in the world at large. Taylor and I have taken part in that display, and we hope you will too.

Editors’ note: This article originally appeared at the Unspoken blog.

Restoration in the South Bronx

The South Bronx of New York City is filled with loud, creative, proud, and resilient people. Yet it’s still an incredibly poor neighborhood where we do all we can to get by from one week to the next. Our community is host to countless liquor stores, check-cashing spots, and methadone clinics. You’ll also find a church or two, but despite the presence of a few older churches, our people don’t often see Jesus as precious. Finding joy in the cross is a foreign idea. All we can see are the hard truths we face on a daily basis:


  • Surveys reveal 37 percent of our families cannot provide enough food to feed their families because of a lack of financial resources.
  • Median annual income for Melrose and Morrisania is $8,694. Yes, you read that right.
  • One out of three South Bronx residents lives in subsidized housing (the projects).
  • As many as 98 percent of homeless families in the South Bronx are black and Latino.

These statistics give you a small idea of the daily hardships we’ve faced for as long as I can remember.

The question I’ve begun asking myself is this: What would the South Bronx look like if everybody who “made it out” didn’t leave but instead made their home in the same neighborhood that formed them, where they grew up? What if instead of placing our children in a private school (that we can’t afford in the first place), my wife and I got to know the teachers and parents in the school across the street? What if it were possible for a church to be “present” on the block, bodega, and parks of the South Bronx? What if the local church were actually local?

Of course, the hardships would persist. After all, no one knows the hardships our community faces better than we do. But would our neighborhood and community be better equipped to serve those needs if the local church truly became local? Would we be able to face them—hand-in-hand with our neighbors—with a stronger united force for good? Although overwhelming and monstrous to undertake, this strategy is the only way to face these needs.

Real and Hard

Contemplating that scenario ultimately instigated my desire to plant Restoration Church in the South Bronx. I read Matthew 9:36, and I was completely broken. God moved me to understand his grace in a way that I never had before. I began to see the people as Jesus sees them. Because of the real and hard circumstances in our neighborhood, we simply do not see hope or help as viable options. Then God opened my eyes to an incredible truth. Grace is hard to extend if it has never been received. Because the everyday difficulties of living in the South Bronx are indeed real and hard, it’s challenging to grasp God’s grace when life is seemingly absent of grace or second chances. We need someone to point us toward the real hope and help we so desperately need. I knew immediately that God was calling me to say, “Yeah, I know how you feel, but take a look at Jesus. Do you see what I see?”

So when I walk around my community, I know in my bones that this place was built for the gospel. The hope and help that comes attached to God’s grace is precisely what we need to grab a hold of the good things we’ve made ultimate things and put them back in their proper place. Preaching the power of God’s truth in the same community that I call home makes his undeserved grace even sweeter to my soul.

While there are many organizations doing amazing work around the globe, not many are doing ministry in my neck of the woods. That’s why we need more men who have been called to cultivate the natural resources of a people made to create culture. My dream is that God would use Restoration Community Church to crank out men who are rightly motivated and gracefully equipped to make the South Bronx a cultural stronghold of the Christian faith in New York City.

Call me crazy if you want, but I believe God can make it happen. After all, our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (Ps. 115:3).

Redeemer City to City helps local leaders start churches in global cities.

When God’s Sovereignty Scares You

As I listened to my husband preach on Sunday, I attempted to hold back the flood of mixed emotions rushing over the internal dam I’d thrown up. I was stunned, reeling from self-reflection. I came to the conclusion, doubtless with the help of the Spirit, that I’d been scared, frightened, terrified of God.

Suffering and affliction are no strangers to my life. Most of us will suffer to varying degrees in this broken world. Being in ministry as a pastor’s wife, and in counseling for many of those years, I’ve experienced plenty of circumstances that have led to my own suffering or crises of faith.

Past Pain, Future Fears

About 10 years ago, I endured what some call a “dark night of the soul.” Throughout that ominous year I was under a dark cloud that wouldn’t lift. The lack of an obvious circumstance to which I could attach my emotions made it all the more confusing.

I did everything I knew to do to change my heart. I read Scripture voraciously. I searched my heart thoroughly for “hidden sins” that may have brought this on. The hardest part about that year was that I daily, desperately cried out for God to come to my aid and lift me out of the pit. I felt like I was asking for bread and getting stones, though my faith and my Bible told me otherwise (Luke 11:11).

I knew enough about life and the Lord to know there was nowhere else to go, and no one else to turn to, but him. I worshiped Sunday after Sunday—in faith. I prayed day after day—in faith. Slowly, over time, the darkness lifted, but the affliction changed me forever. My wrestling with God left me with a limp.

I can now look back and see God’s wisdom in allowing such a difficult season. It produced changes in me that were indispensable, as I’d later be called to walk through dark days with others. But then, every day felt like a battle to keep moving forward. The possibility of walking through a season like this again terrifies me.

Presently my family and I are facing something dreadful. My brother has a life-threatening disease. We’ve had the privilege of walking through this with him since his diagnosis five years ago at 31 years old. It’s been a brutal—and beautiful—journey together. Last month, a doctor’s appointment revealed that we have reached the frightful place we’ve been preparing for. I find myself feeling panicky and terrified about what may lie ahead.

God’s Sovereignty Over Suffering

Scripture doesn’t hide the fact that bad things sometimes happen to God’s people by God’s design. Job stands in blazing contradiction to the myth that if you do good, only good will result (or if you do bad, only bad will ensue). Such was the faulty “wisdom” of Job’s “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). The Bible doesn’t promote karma. Job was a good guy, and bad things happened to him. In fact, Jesus was the best of the good guys, and the worst of the bad things happened to him. Scripture unflinchingly affirms that in God’s sovereign wisdom he may purposely ordain the things we most fear.

To be sure, there are always good purposes in trials for those who belong to him. Yes, suffering produces in his saints endurance, godly character, and hope (Rom. 5:3). God causes all things to work together for good for those who love him (Rom. 8:28). I heartily affirm these precious, anchoring truths. But if I’m honest, the things God might use to bring about this promised good can sometimes frighten me. Will he give me another dark year to sanctify me? Part of my current situation feels frighteningly familiar. Could he take someone from me I love fiercely? I have to admit I’ve been deeply afraid of what he might allow.

Facing my Heart

So with past reflections and future fears swirling streams of confusion in my heart that Sunday morning, I wrestled with thoughts about God’s goodness and love. My clandestine fears had apparently given way to cruel doubts concerning his character. The words about Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia began ringing in my ears:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

It took some time to come to terms with the fact I’d been living in (the wrong sort of) fear of God. I wanted to justify it, excuse it, deny it. I felt exposed, embarrassed, and ashamed of my unbelief. But though this revelation was difficult to admit, my honest confession to God that Sunday morning left me feeling liberated, lightened, and loved.

The sermon ended with the gospel, as it always should. The stabilizing good news brought clarity and peace to my chaotic heart.

Suffering Sovereign

Scripture reveals God as the loving King who ordains and oversees all suffering. If he were only portrayed as sovereign, we might be tempted to shrink back from him in fear. But because he’s also shown to be our suffering God, who willingly stepped into unthinkable affliction on our behalf, we can be assured of his goodness and move toward him in love.

Our God understands suffering and loss. At great cost to himself, Jesus volunteered to empty himself of heavenly glory to become a humble servant (Phil. 2:6-8). Out of love for us he died the death we deserved. On the cross, Jesus lost his Father’s tender intimacy in exchange for the fury of his fierce wrath. Jesus was afflicted and forsaken by his Father to ensure that we’d never be alone or forsaken in our afflictions.

Likewise, the Father didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all (Rom. 8:32). He endured the ache of turning away from the Son he’d eternally loved so he’d never have to turn away from us. Though they both felt otherworldly grief, they chose this death and loss in order to ultimately defeat the suffering that comes from sin, death, and loss for us. What love! When we feel like God is distant, indifferent, or uncaring toward us in our suffering, the cross stands as compelling evidence that he’s not.

Yes, our sovereign God may wisely allow what we most fear, but our suffering God convinces us of his deep love as we face these things. The powerful hands that uphold all things are the hands that were pierced for us. Freshly seeing God as God—the suffering, sovereign One—is freeing me from fear to trust again.

Gospel Inclusion and Instagram

When I was in elementary and junior high school, my parents insisted I never talk about invitations. Other parents similarly instructed my peers. When you get invited to a birthday party, your mom beat your brow to not talk about it at school, because you did not know who may or may not have been invited. If your buddy asked you and some friends over for a sleepover, you didn’t brag about it at school. You did not want to make anyone feel excluded.

Instagram_Icon_LargeParents had good sense in that rule. Childhood and adolescence are delicate times when kids have a fragile sense of self. The feeling of rejection that comes from being left outside the circle stings particularly deeply.

I don’t think I felt the sting of being left out until the end of high school when senior trip came around. One group of girls invited five of my friends to go with them. Another group of girls invited the other half of my guy friends to join their trip. I was the odd man out.

It stung. Badly. I felt rejected and alone. I had visions of all the fun everyone was having at the beach, while I headed to the mountains with my parents and our dog. It was not the finale to my senior year that I had envisioned.

Now imagine that experience being the daily rhythm for most teenagers who have been cursed with a smart phone and double cursed with the desire to download Instagram. A barrage of exclusion and rejection hammers kids each day.

While the ethic during my day was never to reveal your plans and invitations, today a competitive feeding frenzy occurs on Instagram throughout the week as kids vie to portray their life as the most fun, included, social euphoria one ever could imagine. It is common teen behavior to show up for a party with your friends, take a picture of the crew at said party, post it on Instagram, and then leave within ten minutes. For those not immersed in teen culture, this trend sounds like an outlier. Trust me, it’s the normal routine of the weekend for many, many kids.

A parent told me a story about how on a holiday her son wanted his mom to take a picture of him lighting fireworks. She found this request strange since the family didn’t do anything with fireworks this year. He lit one fuse, picture snapped, and the fireworks show concluded. Then she did further analysis after seeing the picture on Instagram. The child wanted to say, “Look everyone, we’re having so much fun over here!” when in reality, he was chilling with his parents, watching Netflix on New Year’s Eve.

On a weekend night, many kids sit on the couch watching all of the “fun” their peers are having via their pictures on Instagram. Even the kids in the pictures who appear as if they are “in” admit the scene reflects only a fleeting moment of companionship. They either see pictures of other parties, or they feel both emotionally and existentially lonely from working so hard to “appear” accepted. For me, the exclusion was left to my imagination; for these kids, it’s in their face all the time.


The gospel is both narrow and wide. It is narrow in the sense that all implications of the gospel emerge from the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel is broad in the way that the benefits of Christ’s complete work on the Cross encompasses immense vastness.

For those ministering to and caring for teenagers—both parents, volunteers, and pastors alike—the good news of God including sinners in his family rings fresh in the ears of teenagers. In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about the affinity of God to draw those who are on the outside into his presence:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. . . He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

The feeling of exclusion and of being on the “outside” reflects the natural state of sinners in relation to God. The fear of social exclusion projects the dreaded fear of ultimate alienation from the Lord. Helping students understand the heart-level, spiritual reality of their fear and loneliness sets the stage for the hope described in this text.

But Paul describes the work of God as drawing those in isolation—those far on the fringes, those left on the couch with their parents on Friday night—near to God. In fact, he mentions those who are “near” (perhaps those at the party with 15,000 Instagram posts) being brought into this circle, as well. He speaks of an intimate unity whereby, all whom Christ has redeemed, enter into a communion with the triune God and all believers. This intimate connection is the substance of oneness with God, the deepest longing of every heart, especially the teenage heart.

Talking about the gospel in terms of forgiveness of sins, inheriting eternal life, and relationship with Christ always needs mention. And today’s teenagers also need to hear the healing, hopeful word that through the Cross God brings sinners, who are “left out,” into his inner circle, a place of intimate friendship with him.

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Cameron Cole chairs Rooted: Advancing Grace-Driven Ministry, which will host their next conference, Rooted 2014, from October 9 to 11 in New York City. This year’s theme, Truth in a World of Mixed Messages, focuses on the most prevalent messages—both good and bad—that teens are hearing in a world where they are bombarded every minute. Learn more about Rooted 2014 here.

Mama’s Hands Are Full: Gloria Furman on Treasuring Christ in the Trenches

It was 8:00 a.m., and I already longed for bedtime. I’d refereed two conflicts over toys. I attempted to tackle the mountain of laundry that seemed to quadruple overnight. I repeated instructions multiple times to easily distracted minds. “It’s time to brush your teeth.” “Keep your finger out of your nose.” “Only use kind words.” My head and throat hurt, and I could feel a fever brewing.

Motherhood is a life that stretches you both inside and out. It’s a daily practice of laying down your will and desires for the care of others. It’s an energy-sapping life where you start each day with less energy than you had the day before. Nothing belongs to you anymore—not your space, not your time, not your sleep. Some days feel like a bad version of Groundhog Day, a repeat of the day before.

As a mom, I usually get caught up in the details of my days. I get wrapped up and consumed by the chaos and unexpected situations that come my way. I struggle in my weakness against the current of life’s challenges, only to make no headway at all. And most of the time I end up spent, weary, discouraged, and alone.


On that day, when I felt sick and sapped of all strength, physical and otherwise, Gloria Furman’s new book, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms (Crossway) [video trailer], arrived in the mail. It was the perfect word of truth and encouragement my weary heart needed. The title alone spoke to me because my hands are always full. But too often I focus on everything I’m carrying in those hands rather than on my treasure, Jesus Christ.

Gloria’s book is filled with gospel wisdom from cover to cover. She reminds us that Christ is with us in every situation we encounter as mothers. Not only that, but we can treasure him amid every chaos, every sibling spat, every sickness, and every cup of spilled milk. These meditations cover situations to which every mom can relate. Filled with examples from her own life, Gloria weaves gospel encouragement into every page, bringing hope to the daily challenges of motherhood.

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full reminded me that the gospel is for all of life—including motherhood. Our theology of the cross and the redemption purchased by Christ’s blood intersect with bedtime battles, fatigue, and easily distracted children. What Jesus accomplished can be applied to every moment of our lives. Even when our head throbs from the resounding echoes of little voices calling our name all day, gospel peace is always available through Jesus Christ.

I asked Gloria a few questions about her new book to learn how moms can find quiet times, why she doesn’t offer more “how-to” advice, and what passages of Scripture have encouraged her lately.


What inspired you to write this book, and what do you hope women take away from it?

Busy moms have their hands full, and I want them to revel in the hope that comes from the gospel and see how their hands are full of blessings in Christ.

I appreciated your honesty in sharing the challenges you faced in early motherhood with having regular quiet times with the Lord. I remember this struggle myself. Finding quiet and solitude with God is hard. But, as you point out, the Lord is just as near to us in the chaos of our day as he is in the alone times. Do you think that moms can have a tendency to just give up on communing with God because of their season of life?

Sometimes we think that if only we could have peace and quiet in the house then we will have peace and quiet in our heart. How easy it is for us to relegate Jesus’ presence to an easy chair in a picture-perfect living room (with an accompanying cup of hot coffee)! For the mom facing that challenge of finding quiet time, I’d want her to know that, solitude or circus, it makes no difference in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ to give you everything you need for life and godliness.

In a day where mom blogs saturate the internet with “how-to” counsel and “5 steps to getting your kid to _______,” it seems we often clamor after quick fixes and step-by-step advice. Do readers ever complain that your writing is “just too much gospel” and not enough practical “how-to” advice? 

There’s no shortage of resources and practical tips for helping moms navigate the challenges they face; I surf these websites for tips all the time. I hesitate to share my practical advice because it really only works for my set of unique circumstances a pitifully tiny fraction of the time, and whenever I give other moms “how-to” advice I have to preface it with that disclaimer.

But I can, however, share the gospel confidently without reservation because the cross teaches us what to expect when we’re expecting challenging situations in motherhood—”mercy and grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Of course, solid practical advice is a mercy and a grace, but the cross addresses our deepest and most urgent need, which is to behold our God. In short, we can gain great benefit from practical how-tos, yet the implications of the help and hope we receive from the gospel are inexhaustible.

Is there one passage of Scripture, or a few passages, that have given you particular hope and peace during the often chaotic and busy season of motherhood?

Yes! In this particular season I have been particularly encouraged by Isaiah 40:11, Zephaniah 3:17, 1 Corinthians 15:58, Matthew 28:18-20, and the book of Ephesians.


When the Gospel Transforms Your 9 to 5

Does Monday morning excite you? If so, good for you! But that’s not where many of us live.

Our jobs challenge and threaten to consume us. So what does devotion to Jesus Christ look like in competitive—and often cutthroat and insecure—workplace environments? How about in painfully mundane ones?

In their new book, The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Lives (Zondervan) [free study guidewebsite | Twitter], Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger bring their pastoral and workplace experience to bear on a constellation of issues concerning the intersection of faith and work.

I spoke with Gilbert (pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville) and Traeger (entrepreneur in Washington, D.C.) about idolatry and idleness, working for the weekend, how pastors can encourage people in their jobs, and more.


If this book is “not a theology of work,” what are you aiming to accomplish in The Gospel at Work?

When we say the book isn’t a theology of work, we certainly don’t mean that it avoids theology! We aren’t trying to say everything that could be said about work, and we’re certainly not trying to give an opinion on every question people ask about work and its place in God’s plan. But the whole book is built on theology. After all, theology explains why our work can be so frustrating, theology tells us why we can become so consumed by it, and theology explains why there can be so much conflict in it. And, ultimately, theology helps us understand how we really ought to think about our work, be encouraged in it, and do it well.


We want to encourage Christians in the workplace, whatever that means in their particular situation, to view what they do in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore do it with freedom and energy and joy. We want them to realize that whatever the particulars of their job right now, ultimately they are working for the King—and that perspective changes everything.

Many of us incline toward vocational idolatry—operating as if our jobs hold the key to ultimate satisfaction. What are some signs we might be succumbing to idolatry of work?

Making an idol of our work is extremely easy to do. Our jobs become the primary source of satisfaction, purpose, and meaning in our lives. Idolatry shows up not just in working too many hours, but in a heart that’s finding its sense of wellbeing in what we do. If work is going well and our professional stock is rising, we think life is good. We feel secure. But then when it’s not going well, our sense of wellbeing fades or even collapses.

If you look carefully at your own heart, you can see this kind of idolatry showing up in lots of different ways in how you think about work. Maybe it’s thinking of work primarily as a way to make a name for yourself or as a way to provide unfailing security. That’s not to say it’s categorically wrong to want to succeed or to make money to have influence; it’s just to say that if any one of those things becomes the controlling definition of your work and why you do it, you ought to check your heart and make sure you haven’t allowed work to become an idol.

But here’s the thing: When you realize that you actually and ultimately work for King Jesus—at his command, according to his plan, and for his glory—that realization cuts the root of idolatry. Because of Jesus’ work for us, we already have all we need. Identity, love, belonging, acceptance, forgiveness, meaning, and reward—it’s all ours already because of Jesus! And that means we no longer have to pursue those things in something that could never provide them in the first place—our jobs. Instead, we realize our jobs are an arena in which God will work in us and through us to make us more like Jesus and to glorify himself.

Others of us incline toward vocational idleness—operating as if God doesn’t care about our jobs. What are some signs we might be succumbing to idleness in work?

Idleness in work is the other major problem Christians tend to have when it comes to their work. At its most extreme, “idleness” means not doing the job. It’s wasting time, slacking off, and generally being unproductive. That’s a problem. But just because you’re “getting it done” doesn’t mean you’re avoiding idleness. That’s because the deepest problem is not so much idleness of the hands as it is idleness of the heart. In other words, many go through the motions—and even do the mechanics of their work with efficiency and productivity—but they’ve lost sight of God’s purposes for them in it. When Paul says we’re to do our work “with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord . . . as working for the Lord” (Col. 3:22-23), he means our work itself ought to be an act of worship to our King.

So how do you know if your heart is tending toward idleness? Some have come to see their jobs as merely a means to an end. “I work so I can play,” or ”I work so I can provide,” or even “I work so I can give to my church.” What’s wrong with that way of thinking? It ignores the fact that God has purposes for us in our work itself. Our jobs are more than just means to an end. They are one of the key ways God matures us as Christians and brings glory to himself.

What’s wrong with working for the weekend?

It depends on what you mean. If you mean that one of your primary motivations is to work to provide for your family, to support your church, to give to those in need, and to limit your time at work so you can spend time with family, then there’s nothing wrong with it. God gives us the freedom to have multiple motivations for our jobs. And it’s fine if the day-to-day mechanics of your job aren’t the most satisfying—you can still glorify God by working as unto him by doing work that is good, serves your boss and customers, and provides for the needs of others.

However, if by “working for the weekend” you mean I slog through the week or don’t really care about my job, that it’s simply a means to doing “the really important things,” then we’d like to challenge you to consider the purposes God has for you in your 9-to-5. One of the key themes of The Gospel at Work is that “who you work for is more important than what you do.” God isn’t compartmentalizing your life into the drudgery of 9-to-5 on the one hand and the “important stuff” of the weekends on the other.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones once remarked, “To me the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most gracious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” Was Lloyd-Jones mistaken to elevate one calling above the others?

Preaching is an awesome and wonderful calling. We pray and hope many will preach full-time, and for that matter become missionaries and seminary professors. I’ve heard others express this same thought, and I don’t think they’re making theological statements so much as personal ones. For example, for Lloyd-Jones I think preaching was the highest and greatest and most gracious calling he could possibly pursue. Anything else would’ve been “lower” for him. But is this true for everyone? No, it can’t be.

The idea espoused in this quote is one I’ve wrestled with over the years, so we wrote a chapter in The Gospel at Work specifically addressing the question: “Is full-time ministry more valuable than my job?” How do we come down on that question? By recognizing the King deploys (calls) different people to different roles.

We shouldn’t all be pastors, and we shouldn’t all be police officers, either. So how does it all get determined? The King deploys us as he wills. He puts us where we’ll serve his purposes best. Some he deploys as pastors and missionaries; others he deploys as teachers and businesspeople.

Ultimately, it’s up to him. It comes down to personally trusting the King with your life and working with others and through opportunities to discern where he’s assigning you to labor faithfully for him.

How can pastors better empathize with and encourage their people in regard to their work?

I’ve had many conversations with people in the workplace who feel discouraged. Of course, not all discouragement can be solved by a pastor. The point of The Gospel at Work is to help people start with their own hearts, goals, and expectations.

But just because a pastor can’t do everything doesn’t mean he can’t do some things. I wrote a longer article on how pastors can encourage their congregations, but I’ll just mention three ideas here:

  • Encourage those in the workplace by caring about their daily lives. Do this by praying for them publicly, hearing them share how they’re applying the gospel to some of the challenges they’re facing, and by intentionally encouraging them—especially on Mondays!
  • Give those in the workplace a vision for “vine work” in their families, in their workplaces, and in the church. This vision primarily means applying the gospel and the whole counsel of God to their whole lives. Work hard at application and show how the gospel seeps into every area of their lives.
  • Take advantage of the “trellis-building powers” of those in the workplace. Most people I know in the workplace would love to use their skills, creativity, expertise, and experience to serve the church. Yet most are frustrated that they’re rarely asked. One way to encourage folks, then, is to invite them to help you and the church.

God Meets Busy Moms Right Where They Are

When my first baby was born I sensed that my perspective on the nature of my spiritual life was being rattled and reshaped. In the midst of a venting session with a dear friend I confessed that I felt I’d forgotten the Lord since I became a mother. She shared with me 2 Corinthians 9:8: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” God plans the end from the beginning, and he governs all the time in between, and he is able to give me the grace I need for the times he has planned right when I need it so that I can be about his will. If Jesus has assured me that he is with me to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20), then surely he is with me in all of my baby carrying, house cleaning, car driving, nighttime parenting, and husband helping.

When we feel that our environment must be “just so” in order to have fellowship with God, any wild-card elements inherit the name Interruption. A toddler’s plea for help with a game is an interruption. The children’s early bedtime is an interruption. The baby who refuses to settle down is an interruption.

What if God wants to fellowship with us right where we are—even in the commotion of ordinary life? Most assuredly, he does. Consider how the triune God is working to ensure that you behold his glory throughout your days and nights.

Your heavenly Father is sovereign over all things. A sparrow drops its feather on the ground, escaping the clutches of a curious little boy. A car battery dies in the parking lot after a play date at the same moment your overtired children reach their limit. A pacifier falls out of a baby’s mouth just before the baby nods off to sleep. Nothing—nothing happens without the sovereign Lord’s ordaining it. He is trustworthy and praiseworthy in every moment in every circumstance.

The eternal Son of God is Immanuel—God with us. Jesus fulfilled God’s holy law, was crucified in our place, rose victorious from the dead, and is reigning at the Father’s right hand. Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against sin and purchased us from the slavery of sin. By faith we receive Jesus’ perfect righteousness, and he creates in us new hearts that are prone to love him. Even when you don’t feel this is true about yourself, a daughter of the King, it is. Even when you imagine that your life is hell and you have forgotten that you’ve been transferred into the kingdom of God’s marvelous light, you’re still his forever. You can be sure that nothing will separate you from God’s love for you in Christ Jesus your Lord—”neither death nor life” (Rom. 8:38).

The Holy Spirit of God indwells the heart of believers and writes God’s law on their heart. When we meditate on God’s Word, the Spirit delights to confirm in our heart that God is who he says he is. The Spirit graciously awakens us to the affliction of our sin, and he enlivens in us an affec­tion for God’s holiness. When we put our hand to the plow (or the scrub brush, bulb sucker, and pureed squash), the Spirit enlivens us to work as unto the Lord. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and ignorance, praying for us as we don’t know what to pray for. The Holy Spirit is like the neuron that travels from our taste buds to our brain with the message that dark-chocolate-covered orange slices are exquisite. When we taste things such as providence or our union with Christ, it’s the Spirit who tells ours heart that the Lord is good.

In our church’s weekly corporate worship gatherings, we have what you call the “Call to Worship.” Someone stands up front with the microphone and reads a portion of Scrip­ture, inviting everyone to worship God. In line with the “so-called interruptions” idea, mothers hear “calls to wor­ship” throughout their days and nights. If we have ears to hear these invitations, then we have opportunities to wor­ship the Lord, who is nearer to us than we often realize.

Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from Gloria Furman’s new book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms (Crossway, 2014). Download the free study guide here.


The ‘Gospel’ That Almost Killed Me

I’m in a bathtub. I can’t get up. I feel like I’m about to die. Mercury poisoning.

The water in the tub has grown cold. Maybe that’s why I feel so cold. I’ve been marinating in my own soup stock for the past two hours. I’m floating in and out of consciousness. Whenever I can concentrate I begin to pray.

Jesus, please, save me. Please, heal me. I repent, I put my whole heart into prayer right now, and I cast out any doubt or fear. I know you can heal me. Please heal me! My mom’s keys are rattling in the doorknob now, and I hear the door thud shut in the distance. I hear her purse sliding across the counter and her keys landing next to it. I barely recognize her figure as she tries with all of her wiry might to pull me out of the tub. I spend the next two days in the hospital. My mom wants to know why I didn’t let her know, why I didn’t want to go to the hospital, why I didn’t do something.

“Mom, Jesus is my doctor. I’m blessed, and I know that he would have healed me.” This is me trying to live out what I think is true Christianity.

I just got saved two months earlier. I’m fresh out of jail, and I’m walking around the projects where I used to stomp like a tiny teenage giant. I’ve got a bare back, a few tattoos, and a Bible in my hand. I’m just praying for the opportunity to share the Christ with someone.

I meet a man named Roger who invites me into his home. He buys me lunch, and we spend all day talking about the Bible. This guy knows way more than I do. I’ve never heard anyone spout off so many Scriptures in such rapid-fire succession. “This guy is legit,” I say under my breath.

Over the course of the next six months, this man indoctrinates me with the prosperity gospel. Just a few months earlier, I’d never even opened a Bible. I have no idea I’m being given arsenic in my Kool-Aid. I take it all. I believe it all. I know it’s true. It has to be. It’s all right here in Scripture. Look, she touched the hem of his garment and was healed. Look, Jesus couldn’t heal them because they didn’t have enough faith. Look, all throughout the Old Testament you see curses for sins and blessings for righteousness. Prosperity for the good, pain for the bad. It’s so plain. So obvious.

But stuff isn’t making sense. I’m still without a job. I can’t pay my rent. My mom isn’t getting saved, and I keep getting cold sores. None of these things should be happening. There must be sin hidden somewhere in my heart.

Now I have the flu, and I don’t have any money to buy groceries. I just need to claim it. I just need to rebuke Satan and his lies, and believe that what I’ve proclaimed in the name of Jesus will surely come to pass. Maybe I’m not tithing enough. Time to double up. I’ll get it back one hundredfold. Maybe more. I just need to sow in faith.

But it’s still not happening. “Roger, hey man, I don’t understand. It seems like this stuff isn’t working. What am I doing wrong?”

“Dude, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I know the problem ain’t with God or his Word. It’s got to be something in your heart or in your life. Let’s pray about it.”

Fast forward a year. I’m 19 and married now. We’re struggling hard. I can’t pay the rent or the electricity bill, and I just lost another job. My wife wasn’t saved when we met. She gets saved during the course of our friendship, and somewhere in there, she starts listening to me and taking in all the “truth” I’m giving her. She does wonder, though, about the disconnect. When the ATM receipt says we’re $40 in the hole, I rebuke myself, the ATM, and the receipt. I claim my blessing even in the face of this lie from Satan. I know Jesus is looking down on me, proud of my strength amid such persecution and adversity. “In the name of Jesus!”—I keep claiming what he’s promised me.

The prosperity gospel and word-of-faith movement are basically the same thing, but I’ve never heard those labels before. All the good Bible-loving Baptists fear me because I probably robbed their sons, stole their cars, or vandalized their church. Yet because of my powerful testimony, scores of churches invite me to come and share. I preach a false gospel every time I go. Not once does anyone ever sit me down and talk with me about the danger to my soul. Not a word. Not a peep. Not to my face, anyway. Now I know they waited respectfully until I left, and then talked among themselves about how sad it is to see such passion so misdirected.

All I know, the only thing I know, is that I love Jesus. He saved me. I was destroying myself and anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in my gravitational pull. I was dying, and I was going to die twice. One night, on an empty road in the middle of nowhere, in a scene so strange it has to be true, Jesus saved me. He saved me from sin, death, and hell. I want to spend the rest of my life serving Jesus with all of me. I think this refuse called “gospel,” this message of prosperity and proclamation, is what I must do. So I obey. In my mind, this is what it means to be a Christian. This is all I’ve known. I think this is what God wants of me. So I continue in white-knuckled obedience. I keep pressing, keep pushing. And one random day I join Myspace.

I like to argue on Myspace. I’m 19 with a big mouth. The internet offers me a perfect avenue to express myself and condemn those who can’t see the truth I see, obey the law as well as I do, and lack the faith I radiate like a fiery sun. I’m perusing this wasteland one evening in Seattle, and an old man pops up on my QuickTime video player. He’s really bringing the thunder. He’s preaching on holiness like no one I’ve ever heard. I’m hooked. I go to the next video.

Amazing. I’ve never heard anyone preach this way. I go to the next one. It says “John Piper: Prosperity Gospel Sermon Jam.” I’m excited. He’s going to really give the jolt I need to keep going.

But after the clip I’m furious. I close my computer. Another wolf. Another preacher who just has it so wrong. The video was the worst attack on my faith I’ve ever seen or heard. I stop watching right after he says “this crap called gospel!” Unbelievable.

I carry on with my life, but I just can’t help it. I keep going back to YouTube, and eventually to this website that has all of his teachings. I tell myself I’m just going to read or listen to or watch his other stuff. I’ll avoid the stuff I don’t like—the stuff that’s wrong. The other stuff is just too good, though. It’s breathing life into my soul.

I don’t remember much about the night the truth took over. Sometimes our brains protect us from the trauma of reliving the pain over and over again. But this night, I’m crying. I’m devastated. I’ve been considering the possibility for months now, and it finally clicked about five minutes ago. Almost everything I think I know about God, the Bible, the cross, and the gospel is wrong. Dead wrong. I feel it now, down in my bones, and it burns with the pain only God can give.

Repentance begins. “Amber, baby, we need to talk. Everything I’ve ever taught you about Christ is wrong. Can you ever trust me again? Can we start over? Will you give me another chance?”

I feel like an adulterer. I begin undoing everything that needs to be undone. I failed as a husband, and by the grace of God I’m trying to fix it. I have no one and nothing. I don’t have any non-prosperity gospel friends, since I ditched them if they couldn’t get with the program. They were only holding me back and hurting my faith. That’s what I told myself. Now I’m alone. I do have the internet, though. . . .

So I’m watching Paul Washer videos and spending hours on DesiringGod.org. I’ve never even heard the word reformed, and I can’t find one single book about the prosperity gospel. Not one that’s attacking it, anyway. That’s what I really want.

I’m hurt—badly. I don’t trust anyone, and I’m angry at everyone—at Christians, anyway. Why didn’t anyone tell me? How could I have been so blind? I’m angry at myself. I’m broken, but the Spirit is carrying me.

God did heal my mercury poisoning, but it wasn’t because of my power to proclaim that healing into existence. And he accomplished a far greater rescue when he delivered me from the prosperity gospel. It’s been nearly six years since the Lord saved me from myself and the damnable heresy that had ensnared me.

I’m writing this account from Peru where my family and I are trying to reach a people group who don’t have the gospel. I’m still picking up the pieces. I still have a hard time praying for healing, or prosperity and blessing, both of which are thoroughly biblical. I still feel my diaphragm twitch whenever someone says “in the name of Jesus.” I know the truth now, and I try to walk in line with it every day. The white-knuckled discipline I once devoted to the prosperity gospel, I now devote to trusting fully in the finished work of Christ and the grace I breathe in to survive.

Here’s the bottom line: I was a heretic. But Christ had saved me from my sin, and he saved me from my heresy too. When it comes to embracing the prosperity gospel, I doubt you would’ve found anyone more dedicated or ruthless. I was the chosen one. But I was ensnared in a false gospel. And so is everyone else trusting in this “crap called gospel,” to borrow a phrase from that old man’s video.

Brothers and sisters, call it what it is. Pastors, call it what it is. Don’t let even a hint of this junk live in your church. Preach against it, and preach a gospel that shines so bright and burns so hot that any counterfeit that tries to approach it burns up upon entry. Don’t treat this disease like an asymptomatic sniffle in an otherwise healthy body; treat it like the cancer it is. Preach, teach, counsel, shepherd, and pray a clear and true gospel, and leave no room for anything less glorious or true.

If you meet someone lost in this false gospel, please, please, please love them and tell them the truth. Sit them down, buy them lunch, and open up your Bibles. Speak life. Be brave. Odds are, no one has ever loved them enough to tell them the truth about themselves. The truth is they cannot be saved by a false gospel, and the prosperity gospel is certainly that.

Jesus saved me from the prosperity gospel, and he can save more. He will save more. How could he not?

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the January-February issue of the 9Marks Journal, devoted to the prosperity gospel.