MIddle School, Back to School, Anxieties, & the Gospel

Our youngest is navigating middle school.  This is her second year, but her first without a sister, as my oldest two are now in high school.   Whew, we are off to a tough start.

Let me just say that my youngest is awesome.  She is super creative and energetic, but her highs are high and her lows are low (isn’t that all of us?). 

As we head into the third week, a very common challenge has sprung up:  gym.  As a kid, I was fast, but that didn’t earn me much in gym as I was like 4 foot 3.  I was picked on, and I hated the whole locker room.  As best as I can tell, the lack of a close friend seems to be the culprit in this case. 

As we headed to school, Em’s just didn’t want to go.  Since there is a 10 min gap between dropping off my high schoolers and going to the middle school, I took the opportunity to try to soothe her.

We talked about David and King Saul in 1 Samuel 24.  This is the story about David cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe while David hid in a cave and Saul relieved himself (for real).  As soon as David cuts of the corner of the robe, he immediately repents.  He runs out to Saul, lies prostrate on the dust, and confesses his sin. 

How risky!  Saul wants to kill David, but David knows that he has disrespected the Lord’s anointed and sinned.  The two leave in peace, and we have a great testimony about how to interact with authority, loving our enemies, and an example of repentance.

Em and I talked about his.  I ask her if anyone in there is her enemy.  She says no.  Then we talked bout how to bless the people in her class.  We come up with this plan.  She is going to begin the class by praying for herself – praying that God would sustain her when she is miserable in gym.  Then, she is going to look at each person in the class.  She knows their names.  Then, she is going for God to bless each one of them.  It will take most of the class to get through every person’s name and to pray for them.  Then, she is going to pray for herself again.  My encouragement is that I am sure that God will bless her if she is praying that God will bless them. 

Will she find new friends?  Will gym by enjoyable?  We’ll see, but the time will be redeemed if she blesses those that she feels alienated from, and that is a pretty sweet work of the Gospel. 

Middle school is tough.  Emotionally loving (and sometimes nudging) your kids is a challenge, but we trust God sustains our kids and ourselves as we seek to bless the world. 

Gordon Duncan

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Godliness Affects Leadership

1 Samuel is an amazing picture of how Godliness affects leadership.  Take for example the contrast between King Saul and King David.

  1. Rationalization for Sin – In Samuel 13, Saul is facing defeat from the Philistines, so he asked for the priest Samuel to come onto the field to offer a sacrifice to God. But he wasn’t patient, so he offered the sacrifice himself which was unbiblical and disobedient.  When Samuel confronted him about it, Saul lied.  When he was caught in the lie, he then blamed the people. At that point, Samuel tells Saul that his kingdom will be given to another.
  2. Endangers the People He Leads – Later on in a battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 14), Saul foolishly declares that any of his solders who eat before the victory is won will be put to death. His son, Jonathan, doesn’t know about this vow.  Jonathan eats, feels better, battles the Philistines and wins.  Saul foolishly declares that Jonathan must die, but the people ransom Jonathan so he isn’t executed.
  3. Selfish – Saul is then commanded to go and strike the Amalekites down. God commands him not to leave any single thing alive and to devote everything to destruction.  Saul instead takes their best livestock and keeps the King of the Amalekites alive (1 Samuel 15).
  4. Ignores God’s Honor – When Goliath threatened the Israelite army (1 Samuel 17), Saul didn’t lead them into battle and didn’t inspire anyone enough to fight for him and the people of God.

Now we know that David is not perfect.  He lied and deceived the priest when he was hungry.  As a result, David sinned, a mass of priests died, and an entire city was wiped out (1 Samuel 21-22).  But here is the difference between David and Saul.

  1. Ownership of Sin – Unlike Saul who lied when confronted with his sin, David admits his sin. He shows what true sorrow and repentance looks like. The next time David is put in a stressful place, he asks God for wisdom about what to do, not one, not two, but three times (1 Samuel 21-22).
  2. Protects the People He Leads – Whereas Saul threatened his men with death to motivate them, David leads a group of debt-dodging soldiers into battle, and when they express their concern and weariness, David takes their concern to God in prayer (1 Samuel 23).
  3. Selfless – When Saul disobeyed and withheld the best for himself against the Amalekites, when David fought for Israel, he obeyed completely and God gave them the victory (1 Samuel 18).
  4. Defends God’s Honor – And when Saul wouldn’t fight for Israel against Goliath, David boldly defended the honor of God (1 Samuel 17).

Godliness isn’t required to be a good leader as evidenced from the many amazing leaders in our world, but if someone has faith in Jesus, their Godliness directly affects their leadership.  Humility, faith, and boldness will either bolster one’s leadership or the lack of those things will hinder it.

May we pray for humility, faith, and boldness today as we are called to some measure of leadership.  David shows us that we don’t have to be perfect; we just need to be greatly dependent on the grace of Jesus.

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New Blog & Podcast Ask, “Is There a Theology of Vacation?”

The New “This is Gonna Hurt” podcast is out, and this week, we talk about a theology of vacation.  You can find all the links on all of our platforms at This is Gonna Hurt.

In this episode we discuss:

Is there a theology of vacation?  Well, not specifically, but in all things, we should build a theology around what we choose to do or not do.

Scripturally, there is definitive theology of sabbath – the commanded one day of rest in seven.  I think this is perhaps the hardest commandment given.  We all struggle with God having a say in our life.  The moment He says He is the Lord of our time, our hearts rebel, but that is a topic for another day.

As for vacation, Biblically, most people didn’t have the option in their day because they lived in an agrarian or agricultural society.  Oh, you can take a week off, but animals don’t milk themselves and crops aren’t harvested without you.  Leaving for any extended time might mean the death of your sources of income.

Mark 6:31 shows us Jesus took time away for rest, but no one with integrity could find an American styled vacation in His three years of ministry.

Really vacations are about being a good steward of all that God has given you.  As Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

So, how do you approach vacations?  I want to offer a few tips, especially as I approach my vacation very soon.  Full disclosure, many of my thoughts here are focused on vacations with a family with children.  I’ll leave that theology to someone else, but I will offer that some of the thoughts might be helpful to singles and married with no children couples.  For the sake of organization, I’ve divided my thoughts into three categories:

Time Alone

Vacation offers some rare time alone.  How do you redeem it?  I would say three ways:  exercising, reading, and spending time with God.  You may not get those each day, but if your family schedule allows, take it.  If you have small children who require attention, swap out time with your spouse so you can care for yourself.  Don’t let vacation be permission to eat terribly and not move.  If so, vacations just become a time of regret.  Don’t neglect time with God.  You won’t have more time when you get back home.  And read for goodness sake.  Engage those eyeballs in a good book.  Your brain will thank you.

Time with Spouse

This one can be tough when you have kids.  If you can’t get away from them, steal a few moments when they go to bed or get up.  If they are old enough and responsible enough, take a walk without them.  Make that time purposeful.  Have times where you talk about what you need to talk about.  Have times where you talk about interests (what you are reading, etc).  Enjoy each other.  Sit beside each other.  Walk on the beach.  Just don’t let vacation come and go without a few moment to be refreshed with each other.

Time with Children

Making vacation fun for your kids can make vacation not feel like vacation to the parents.  But here is the thing, there will come a day when your kids can’t take vacation with you because their lives are full.   Have fun with your kids.  Play board games.  Play on the beach.  Play, play, play.  Read together.  Whatever.  Just make the time with your kids purposeful.

Hopefully, you and your family can get a vacation this year, even if it is small.  Take it seriously.  Plan ahead so you can relax.  And in the everything, give thanks to God.

If you want to hear more about this thought.  Check out the “This is Gonna Hurt” podcast where I talk about this very topic.

Gordon

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Gordon Wrecks His Car and God Gets His Attention

This past week, my daughters and I were in a car crash.  Thank God everyone walked away okay.  Physically, there is nothing but bumps and bruises.  Mentally and spiritually, there is a lot more going on. 

First of all, the wreck was traumatic.  For various reasons, none nefarious, my Honda Accord wound up straddling two trees while being suspended over a 5-foot drainage ditch in my neighborhood.  Because of the trees, we never hit the bottom, and I fear the accident and wounds would have been much worse if we had hit the ground.  I’m thankful for God’s uses of those two trees.

Now, we sort out our hearts and minds post-wreck.

For example, my totaled car is 11 years old.  My children only know me driving that car.  They love it.  They said it smelled like me (coffee).  I was planning on gifting it to my daughter when she gets her license next year.  All of those plans have changed. 

Financially, waiting until next year to get a new car made a lot sense for us.  Now, we have to figure out whether we are shelling out cash to get an older car back on the road or whether we need to buy a newish car.  Neither were the plan right now.  What a time to trust God because I don’t have the answers

Spiritually, we are so thankful to God.  Once we got everybody home, we circled up and prayed.  I thanked God for his faithfulness and mercy in a wreck that could have been much worse.  I also encouraged my children in this way.  I told them, “I’ve said all summer that this is the summer we get closer to God.  God just agreed.”  I don’t want to waste this moment. 

The wreck last week was one of those moments where God just pushes the pause button in your life.  It was an occurrence that we just weren’t expecting.  Our plans were good, but they didn’t include the demolition of my car. 

Human wisdom says, “Man plans.  God laughs.”  Biblical wisdom says:

James 4: 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

I don’t know if we were boasting in our plan for a new car next year or not, but I do know that right now, I am praying a whole lot more about things like new cars, a new driver, and my finances. 

All in all, my family is okay.  We have such a more rich prayer life and dependence on God right now.  For those things, and my family’s safety, I am so thankful.

If you would like to hear more about this moment, I talk about it in my podcast, “This is Gonna Hurt”.  You can find the direct link here.

Gordon

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Saul Tries to Kill David and How We Should Be Like Him

In 1 Samuel 19, King Saul is trying to kill David. After David’s home is raided, he escapes to Naioth to spend time with Samuel.  Saul finds out that they are there, so Saul sends soldiers to kill David.  When the messengers of Saul show up to take David, God has other plans.

In fact, instead of capturing or killing David, they see Samuel and other prophets prophesying and proclaiming the glories of God, and at that point, they start to prophesy as well. Saul is so wicked, he doesn’t see God directly frustrating his plans.

He wants David dead.  He doesn’t want his men prophesying.  So, he sends a second set of messengers to capture David, and they start prophesying as well.  Then he sent a third set, and they start prophesying.

God will not be frustrated here.  Saul will be, but God won’t.

Saul is so resolute on capturing and killing David, he just takes things into his own hands.  He personally is planning on going to Naioth, capturing David and killing him himself.  It is like Saul is saying, “I know I won’t get distracted and prophesy.  I’ve got some killing to do.”

But sure enough, Saul shows up to Naioth, and he is completely undone.  Saul is so undone, he strips off his clothes, lies prostrate day and night in the nude, and declares the glories of God. This is so shocking and so out of place for Saul that folks begin to ask, “Is Saul a prophet now?”

David is so protected by the hand of God, that every time Saul tries to kill him, the accusers are turned away – not just turned away but speaking of the glory of God. Every sinful plan is turned and transformed to give God glory. Saul thought it couldn’t happen to him, but it did. 

Murderous letch to prophet of God.

One small note:  Wouldn’t it be great if the next time you planned on sinning, you did this?

You go online, and you are about to click on a link that you know you shouldn’t, and all of a sudden, you sing, “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…”

About to slander someone, and you break out into praises.

Tempted to be jealous?  Start singing your favorite hymn.

We might be transformed if we prayed that way.  “Dear God, next time I’m tempted, help me to sing your praises. Move me from my most selfish intent to glories in your name. Would I find that praising Jesus is all I can think of the next time I’m so tempted?”

And perhaps, you will be transformed in the process even more so than Saul was. 

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Podcast Interview with Dr. Ligon Duncan about the Church & the #metoo Movement

While at the Presbyterian Church of America’s (PCA) General Assembly, it was my privilege to interview Dr. Ligon Duncan.  If you don’t know who he is, Dr. Duncan is the Chancellor/CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology.

During our conversation, we discussed the #metoo movement, focusing on two areas:  how the movement can inform the church and how the church can inform the movement.  His insight was helpful, as one might imagine, and his starting point of the conversation was poignant.

Dr. Duncan emphasized that the beginning place of any conversation must be the church’s admittance of failure in protecting those who have been abused and also the church’s failure of calling out our its who are guilty.

He also feels that once that conversation begins and honest admittance of wrong is made, the church would then have an opportunity to speak about moral absolutes – meaning, how does the declaration of the wrongs of abuse speak to a higher authority of holiness.

Additionaly, he goes on to give advice to those who are starting new churches, and he also speaks to what he would say if he got to interact with #metoo leaders like Rose McGowan. 

If you want to explore more of this conversation, you can find the podcast link at https://anchor.fm/thisisgonnahurt/episodes/Episode-15—Interview-w-Ligon-Duncan–the-church–metoo-e1lvot.

Thanks go out to Dr. Duncan for taking the time to speak about these important topics.  Hopefully, his honesty will create more conversations between both the leaders of the #metoo movement and the church. 

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“I am so done.” Jesus Knows Exactly How You Feel

Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t go on anymore?

Have you felt like your circumstances were too great to bear?

Have you ever prayed that God would just simply make things better?

You are not alone, and you are in good company. 

Right after Jesus gave His disciples the Lord’s Supper, and right before He was arrested, Jesus got away in order to spend time with His Father.  He spent the night in prayer.  This was a prayer of anguish and a prayer of pain.  

Luke 22 tells us that His prayers were in such earnest that He literally sweat drops of blood.  In fact, Luke 22 tells us that great drops of blood fell to the ground, and we are privileged to hear a few of the words that Jesus prayed that night. 

Now before I tell them to you, ask yourself what you would be praying.  If you had been betrayed by one of your best friends and you knew that you were about to be executed for a crime for which you were innocent, what would you be praying? 

I might be angry, bitter, depressed, or all of the above. 

I might pray for revenge.

Who knows?  Everything would be on the table.

Well here is what Jesus prays.

Jesus says, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 

Jesus, in one of His most human of moments, cries out to His Father.  He, in essence, says, “If there is any other plan for me other than my excruciating death on a cross, then please do that, but what I really want, Father, is your will and not mine. 

I don’t know how much comfort this brings you, but this passage should be one of the most fundamentally comforting passages in all of the scriptures. 

Jesus, our Savior, knows what it is like to anguish over a difficult set of circumstances and Jesus, our Savior, knows what it is like to wrestle with God’s will. 

Many of us right now are wrestling with God’s will as we know it, meaning we are struggling to be joyful and content in situations that we do not enjoy, and the rest of us are struggling with God’s unknown will.  We ask questions about school, marriage, jobs, children, finances, and the like. 

And here we see Jesus doing it in Godliness.  He cries to God asking for any change that is possible but resting ultimately in whatever God thinks is best. 

Our Savior knows our pain.  Our Savior secures for us, not only an example, but a hope through His death on the cross.  And our Savior gives us yet another reason to love Him.  He gets us.

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Why Did the Philistines and Israelites Constantly Fight, and What is the Christian’s Fight Today

The Philistines are a constant nuisance and danger to the people of God.  Why is that?

The Philistines were an ancient people, listed in the records of those who descended from Noah’s son, Ham, after the time of the flood (Genesis 10:14).  But it was during the time of the Exodus that the Lord promised that the land of Israel would include the territory of the Philistines (Exodus 23:31).  This promise meant that some kind of conflict would have to take place for Israel to displace the Philistines. 

When Joshua was old, he mentioned the land of the Philistines as one of the areas that still remained to be defeated by Israel (Joshua 13:1–3). Because the Philistines were not completely removed, Israel faced them as perennial enemies. 

The conflict between the two countries comes to a head in 1 Samuel.

In 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines defeated the people of God.  Israel illicitly brought out the ark to the battlefield, and Israel was decimated.

In 1 Samuel 7, the people of God defeated the Philistines.  “The LORD thundered loudly against the Philistines that day and threw them into such confusion that they fled before Israel” (7:10)

In 1 Samuel 13, the Philistines defeated Israel.  Saul asks Samuel to offer a sacrifice.  When it takes Samuel 7 days to get there, Saul offers an unbiblical sacrifice.

In 1 Samuel 14, Saul’s son, Jonathan defeats the Philistine’s, but because Saul said no one was allowed to eat until the Philistines were defeated, the whole battle falls apart and the Philistines are not entirely wiped out.

And of course, all of this comes to a head in 1 Samuel 17, the Philistines send Goliath, their champion, to find the champion of Israel.  David steps forward and defeats Goliath.

Biblically, this conflict goes on and on and on. The basis of the conflict between Israel and the Philistines is that Israel advanced into Philistine territory and took their land and that conflict always goes back and forth.

So now in the New Testament, we don’t live in the context of taking physical property on behalf the kingdom of God. But in the New Testament context in the light of Jesus in the arrival of the kingdom of God that he brings there still is territory for the Christian to take it is only spiritual.

Ephesians 6: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

That means that you are constantly called to advance and take spiritual territory for the kingdom of God in this world, and that means that if you live that out you will be constantly hated by the world.

If your expression of Christianity in the proclaiming of Jesus Christ is not putting you in some conflict with the world that is the equivalent of an Israelite soldier who just doesn’t go into battle.  It doesn’t mean that the world doesn’t hate you, it just means that the world can’t distinguish you as a representative of the kingdom of God

But, so many years later, Paul understood the struggle of being a good soldier of Christ.  There are so many challenges and potential distractions.  He prays against them, and he asked others to pray for him as well.  In that, we see our hope (and a slight nod to David as well).

2 Timothy 2: 2 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.  8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel.

May the Lord bless you and make you strong for the battle at hand.

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If you want to follow more of what’s going on with Gordon, check out the website www.jgordonduncan.com and his recently launched podcast at

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/this-is-gonna-hurt-the-podcast-of-j-gordon-duncan/id1356352968

5 Steps to Build a Better Legalist

Jesus directed a large percentage of his teachings in the Gospels against the legalism of the Pharisees and other religious teachers of the day. A legalist is a person who thinks they have earned God’s love and affection based upon either how much they know, how many good things they do, or how many bad things they don’t do.

Now, legalism is the human heart’s problem.  Non-Christians can be legalists but unfortunately Christians are the worst legalists.

Despite the definition of a relationship with God as salvation by faith alone, human hearts are always going to be tempted to look at how good they think they are and think that even if God’s not impressed at least, everyone else should be.  The alternative to the life of legalism of course would be making your lone hope for forgiveness the work of Jesus, trusting only His righteousness and His goodness.

Now, when hearing the two side by side (trusting your goodness or trusting Jesus’) you might ask, “Why would anyone trust their goodness when Jesus’ life of love and perfection is so infinitely better?”

Simply:  we don’t see as God sees.  God sees our heart clearly, and we don’t.

He sees our sinful motives clearly, and we don’t.

And He sees Jesus’ work on our behalf constantly, and we don’t.

You would think that the church would fight harder against legalism, especially when Jesus uses such harsh language against legalists, calling them “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33) and “white washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27).

But I’m afraid the church in America is a legalist factory.  We just keep churning them out.  In fact, we are good at it.  Let me show you it’s done.

Here is the 5-point plan for building a better legalist.

One:  Withhold affection when someone sins or makes a mistake.

Two:  Invent rules for Godliness without either the desire to explain your reasoning or explain their benefit.

Three:  Care more about other’s opinion of your performance than you do God’s opinion.

Four:  Assume what you say or what you do gives you a place of superiority or authority.

Five:  Speak often of others who used to be really good but aren’t any more.

We are so prone to these 5 things, we often don’t see that those types of actions actually blind us from grace and inhibit compassion towards other.  We don’t see that those types of actions are traps that lead to self-righteousness, Christian ghettos, and hardness of heart.  Unfortunately, we are all susceptible to these types of thoughts and actions because we just don’t see our hearts and the hearts of others like God does.

1 Samuel 16:7 For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart

Thankfully, God sees differently than you and I see.  That means that God not only knows the things we think and do in secret, but He can also see all the great things that He is going to do in our lives.

So, when we are discouraged or sad, we can trust that God sees things and knows things that we don’t, and that gives us a great hope as we have faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

Can You Divorce Because of Physical Abuse? The “This is Gonna Hurt” Podcast

The most recent, “This is Gonna Hurt” podcast takes up the controversy surrounding Paige Patterson’s, the President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, comments about counseling an abused spouse to stay in her relationship.  Some of the questions we answer are:

What are the biblical reasons for divorce?

Is physical abuse biblical cause?

What are the responsibilities of the pastor?

What is Gordon’ opinion?

If you are unfamiliar with Dr. Patterson’s comments you can find them at:  https://baptistnews.com/article/sbc-leader-under-fire-for-comments-about-divorce-abuse/#.Wud7JUxFw2w

Essentially, he tells a story of counseling a wife to stay in an abusive relationship and stating to be “happy” when she comes back abused.  As the furor erupted over his comments, he issued a response.  You can find that below.

Paige Patterson’s Response: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/04/29/southern-baptist-leader-pushes-back-after-comments-leak-urging-abused-women-to-pray-and-avoid-divorce/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9518447f091b

In the podcast, I give my opinion on the issue and discuss the related bible verses: Matthew 19:3-9, 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.

Correction:  I believe at one point I say, “Matthew 7”, but I intended to say, “1 Corinthians 7”.

In reading this or listening to the podcast, I hope these links might be helpful.

Signs of Domestic Abuse:  https://helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm

Domestic Abuse Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/

This is Gonna Hurt can be found on six different platforms.  You can find them all linked at:

https://anchor.fm/thisisgonnahurt

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