What I Really Want

What I Really Want

It’s RARE I have a morning alone.  But today is one of those blessed days.   I mean, I love my kiddos and my man — don’t get me wrong — but the kids spent the night at Aunt Jessica’s (after a day of negotiating and some serious 10-year old manipulation.  That kid should be a lawyer!), and the husband had an early morning appointment with a pool.

So, I’ve had some time to study and plan and reflect (and clean) and the Lord has softly spoken to my heart and asked me to share.  I’ll make this quick because the troops will march back home any minute.

Jesus is my first love.  I don’t understand exactly how He has won me over, but He has.  By His grace.  Because heaven knows I’m self-centered and arrogant and without the grace of God I’d be a hot mess.  But His pursuit is real and the more I surrender, the more I change.  And this morning I can honestly say that more than anything in life I desperately WANT EVERYTHING God has for me.  I want to know Him.  I want to be used by Him.  I want to make a difference in the lives of people around me for His glory.  I really do.  My heart aches toward that goal everyday.  And I’m asking Him for it.  Finally.

Everyday.

I don’t always obey.  I don’t always get it.  I fail more than I even want to think about.  I’m so far from perfect and so far from being like Jesus I don’t even know how any of it is possible, but it IS what I want.

Here’s what hit me as I was watering some plants on my balcony: MOST people don’t.  My heart physically hurts this morning, burdened by the reality that most people I interact with on  a daily and weekly basis, at their core do not care about what God wants for them.  At least not enough for it to matter.

Many of them are Christians.  At least they say or think they are one.

It makes me so sad.  Sad is the best word to describe it.  Not like a “You’re so sad you make me sick” attitude.  No.  A genuine sadness born out of God’s love for others.  He so beautifully and willingly wants people’s hearts, wants to bless, wants to give, wants to have a relationship with them, wants to change them, wants to heal them, wants to give them a life of purpose and abundance, wants to LOVE them — but no.

People don’t want what God wants.  People don’t really want God.  They may want the blessings of God, but they don’t really want Him and they don’t want more than anything else the things He wants.

And I’m guilty too.

Which also makes me sad.

There are days that I MORE want success in business, affirmation from people and security in life.  Safety.  Comfort . The American Dream.  I want those things sometimes.  But, once God gets a true hold on your heart and His truth has penetrated your mind, you can’t really stay there.  You go back to Him and slowly but surely your desires change and you just want Him.

I don’t know how it all looks.  I don’t know how it all will work itself out. I just know that with every fiber of my being I want all God has for me and I want it for you too.

What do you really want?


Soak up the SON

I feel like I’ve been in recovery for the last nine days.  March 10th came and went like a SHINEtastic whirlwind of emotion, exhilaration and exhaustion.  Ministering to over 500 teen girls and their mamas is no easy task, but so very worth it.

Every time I invest myself in planning and executing an event, really of any scale, I always learn more than I’m privileged to teach.  This time was no exception.  While I could carry on for hours about all God taught me through the process, I just want to focus on one really important, foundational thing.  It was point number one in my second session, SERVE, and the one point I’ve been stuck on and stuck to ever since.

Soak up the SON. 

My goal was to challenge the girls to get serious about learning about Jesus and being willing to do whatever that takes.  Go to church.  Get in a Bible study.  Download resources.  Use those resources.  Find a mentor.  Whatever it takes, just soak up more of the Son of God.  Why?

Jesus is simply the one and only.  There are SO MANY topics, issues, struggles, choices, and voices our children face.  Our culture is dark in many ways, but truly Jesus is the answer.  Sounds so —cheesy—churchy, cliché, underwhelming, understated, underestimated, too simple; but nothing could be more profound and more true.   You may be asking, “the answer to what exactly?”  That’s just it.  That’s the crazy thing.  Jesus is the answer to whatever it is you need.  Fill in the blank.  Whatever “it” is, if you get Jesus involved you’ll figure it out.  What we need most, what our children need most, what I NEED MOST is to soak up some more Jesus.  I need His truth equally in my heart and mind.  I need to know better who He was, what He did, what He said, how He lived and what it all means.

Then, BAM!,  suddenly He becomes THE answer.  He just is.

I just need Him.  More of Him.

So do you.

Jesus being the answer is easy to claim, but hard to learn.  Hard to teach and often even harder to convince others of.  So, how do we begin?  Or if you are like me, begin AGAIN.

Well, why not start here.  Answer these questions:

1) Do I think I need Jesus?  Like, really need Jesus.  Or do I pretty much have things/life figured out on my own?

2) How desperate are you?  So long as life is easy, smooth, COMFORTABLE, you won’t really seek Him and therefore, you won’t really know Him and therefore, the answer to whatever it is you’re missing will always allude you.

3) Do your actions match your claims?  This one gets me.  If I say I really need Him, what do I actually do to back that up.  Do I study His word, His life, His story?  Do I surround myself with the influence of other Jesus followers or am I too busy “following” everyone else and seeking to be “followed” myself?  I mean, all those LIKES and SHARES matter.  Right?

4) When I do learn about Jesus, does it matter to me?  Do I change?  Anything?

I hope you’ll take some time just to ponder these questions.  Take a deep look inside.  How is your heart?  Who sits on the throne?   The answers will come.

Perhaps it is time to consider something new.  Make room and then there will be room for THE answer to come.

Soak Him up.

Shine On.


Sex Symbols

Sex and Trees

In light of recent events, I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I am going to write something that specifically addresses the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. I think anything I write would just be “white noise” at this point, but I wanted to repost something from a few years ago that might give you a different perspective on Christian sexual ethics in general.

(However, if you would like a pretty good *quick reference with responses to a lot of the common arguments for SSM, this link is pretty good: http://www.compassdistributors.ca/topics/homoargs.htm)

Below is the original article:

Sexuality is one of the most difficult topics for Christians to dialogue with the rest of the world about.  In fact, it might be one of the most difficult subjects to discuss within the Church.

Usually, the conversation is geared toward what is permissible.  Generally, homosexuality, adultery and pornography are right out and on the obvious “bad list” for most of the evangelical world.   Sadly, I am afraid I must use the word “most” in this case as there is certainly a movement of gay-marriage acceptance as a totally Biblical concept within Christianity.

But I’m not here to talk about that.  I think that the Bible is pretty clear on what God has intended marriage to be, and if a person has come to a conclusion that there is no Biblical issue with homosexual activity, then I really don’t think I could reason them out of it.

What I want to talk about is the root of our sin, especially in the sexual world.  This might be a perspective you’ve never thought of before, but hang with me.

Open your Bible to Genesis 2, and you’ll find paradise.  God has placed man and woman in a perfect, lush, wonderful garden.  They are free to roam around in the buff, in perfect relationship with each other and nature and God.  But in Genesis 3, it all falls apart.  Why?

“Read More”

The serpent convinces Eve that God is holding out on her.  I’ll bet in some way you are tempted to sympathize with her a little bit.  But just think of this for a moment.  God has given Adam and Eve free reign over PARADISE.  There are literally thousands, if not millions of wonderful non-thorny trees and bushes with all kinds of perfect fruits and berries to have their fill of.  But Eve is tricked into focusing on the one tree that she is restricted from.

If you are a parent, have you ever heard your child say something to the effect of, “You never let me do/have/get anything I want!” all while they have a room and back yard full of toys?

I bet you see where I’m going with this.  But have you ever considered that God didn’t have to make existence enjoyable in the first place at all?

As a man, I think women are just great.  They are beautiful, sweet, graceful creatures.  Never mind sexual attraction, they are great friends.  Long before I was married, I had girl friends and girlfriends whom I still think very highly of to this day.  I had the pleasure of knowing them as people.  It is a part of human experience to have meaningful relationships with other people and when those relationships are healthy, they are enjoyable.

God didn’t have to make it like that.  Look at the animal kingdom.  Many animals live solitary lives, only coming together to mate.

And speaking of mating, God didn’t have to make that enjoyable, either.  He could have made it purely instinctual.  He could have made that process completely devoid of meaning, pleasure, intimacy etc.  (I don’t want to write the details here, but Octopi are a prime example.)

So here we are, living on a planet where we can have many different kinds of meaningful relationships we enjoy, but only because God is good and made it that way.  We can have intimate physical and emotional relationships we enjoy, but only because God is good and made it that way.  And yet, when it comes to sex, and most all other sins for that matter, we look at God and say, “You tyrant! You won’t let me have any fun!”

From my perspective as a man (ladies, I understand what you get in a man isn’t all that great compared to what we men get in a woman), I must realize that God didn’t have to give me the opportunity or pleasure of knowing, loving or caring for anyone.  Let alone anything so great as a woman.  Let alone allow me to marry and be intimate with one!

Do I dare shake my fist at God and be angry that he says I should be faithful to the one?

Perhaps we need to remember God’s goodness.   Perhaps we need to remember that God made us for a purpose.  Perhaps we need to remember, “the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord.”  Perhaps we need to remember that it is God’s business what we do with our time, talents, money, mind and, yes, our genitals too.

If you don’t believe me, please read 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6 and see if what I am saying is true.   (It won’t take long)

We are not merely animals, PRAISE GOD.

By Klinton Silvey


Why College students are Really Leaving the Church

I’ve read several articles on the subject of  “Why the youth leave the church.”  Usually the articles give reasons such as, “They were never really saved,” or “they were never taught the importance of fellowship,” or “they weren’t discipled,” and the lists go on.

While I don’t think the points made in the articles are incorrect, I do believe most of the lists are incomplete and do not adequately address one of  the biggest reasons people leave the church after high school. 

It may be that, because they grew up in a culture that was friendlier to Christianity, church leaders don’t realize the need to prepare students for the intellectual challenges to Christianity in a deep way. Regardless, as someone who is much closer to college age than middle age I need to point out a harsh, possibly offensive reality:

Most churches — probably yours — have done and are doing a terrible job teaching people, especially youth, why they should believe Christianity is true. A lot of churches do a great job of teaching what the Bible says, but that does no good if a person does not believe or is later convinced that the Bible is not a supernaturally inspired book!

Now, this is article is no attack on my pastors or youth pastor. I imagine they did what they knew how to do and taught what they thought was important and followed the examples that they had.  I would imagine that a lot of what I will say might be “greek” to you. But times have changed and I promise you that your under-30 crowd is dealing with these issues.

Your youth-group kids are going to enter a college-world (if not a high school) that is openly hostile to the Christian faith. Be assured, your students will be challenged to defend — using evidence — every aspect of their faith. And most Christians, regardless of age, don’t know what the evidence is; and many of those who do, don’t know how to explain it.

As I see it, there seem to be two options which are regularly tried:

1. Try to convince students and parents (for those youths in your church who are lucky enough to have Christian parents) to go to private Christian high schools and colleges where they will be sheltered for a few more years or home-school.

2. Try to convince the youth of your church who choose to go to secular schools to avoid the parties and find a church. Hope and pray for the best even though statistically 60–70% won’t be seen in a church again. 

I would like to suggest to you a third option:

3. Give them the strong, battle-tested armor they need so no matter where they go they will be prepared to withstand all attacks and be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Greg Kokul — a great defender of the faith — compares learning Christian apologetics (rational, clear and complete arguments like a lawyer would make) is like putting on a bullet-proof vest. However, the only way a company or a police officer can put complete trust in that vest is to put it on a stand and shoot bullets at it. If a bullet gets through, then that area of the vest needs to be examined and reinforced.

Too many times, Christians only listen to teachers or learn from those with whom they already agree. We like to feel like the smartest people in the room and we like to be confirmed. That is just a fact of life. For example, I would bet almost everyone reading this who watches cable news has a particular news channel that they watch almost exclusively because “the other news people are biased.” What you really mean is that you disagree with the political point of view of the commentators on the other channel and you don’t want to hear what they have to say.

We have the same problem in Christianity, only worse. There is often strong opposition to listening to speakers or teachers who are decidedly for us and for Christ and for the gospel just because they are part of another denomination! If we won’t listen to allies, then we certainly won’t listen to opposition, and, therefore, will be wholly unprepared to teach others why they should believe that God is real, what the Bible says is true and why our interpretation of it is the best doctrine.

It’s easy to be confident in your own rightness when you shut out all disagreement.

You can’t shut out disagreement in the college classroom.

You can’t shut out disagreement in the workplace.

We equip students with vests made of all sorts of “what we believe” materials, but the armor plating of “why we believe it” is missing. Then we send them off, heads held high, into a battlefield of intellectual snipers who are great at finding any weakness in the armor. Next week, I’ll discuss three major “weak spots” in Christian education.

This kind of argument is not the kind of "apologia" mentioned in scripture.  God always backed Himself up with evidence.

This kind of argument is not the kind of “apologia” mentioned in scripture. God always backed Himself up with evidence.

Cracks in the Armor:

While the motivations of those doing the questioning varies, it has been my experience that Christianity is tried in three major areas; and the truth is, a lot of times the skeptic has valid points that deserve deep, caring answers and not clever one-liners.

Area #1: The problem of evil.

If you cant sympathize with people who find this to be a problem, then you just arent thinking or youve never had any real tragedy in your life. The argument is usually something like this:

“Christians believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God, and yet we see horrible suffering around the world. Infants and children starve to death every day. Innocents are slaughtered. Babies are stillborn. Natural disasters kill thousands. Groups like ISIS rape, kill and enslave. Now, if God is so loving and so powerful, why does he let this continue? You say it has to do with free-will and people choosing to do wrong things, but God didnt have to make a world like this in the first place. Didnt he know how terrible it would be? And then, some of these people, after living horrible lives and never even hearing about Jesus, God then sends them to Hell for enternity!? It seems to make a lot more sense that if there is a god, at best he doesnt care or at worst is actually malicious.

Area #2: What we observe in science contradicts the Bible.

I would say there are definitely some valid points made in these arguments, especially against particular schools of creationism. All Christians ought to learn, with an open mind the strengths and weaknesses both scientifically and textually, of young-earth creationism, gap theory, day-age creationism, framework theory and theistic evolution. However, if you are not willing to learn from the proponents of each view, then dont bother. Belief systems should be judged fairly by the best they have to offer and not just by their critics. At any rate, the argument that what we can clearly observe contradicts the Bible usually contains elements such as:

“Doesnt the Bible say that the universe is only 6,000 years old? We can easily disprove that! The only reason cell phones, space travel and atomic bombs work is because we have calculated the speed of light. We know that galaxies really are millions of light-years away. We saw a star explode that was 114,000 light years away. When was that supposed to have happened if not 114,000 years ago? You say God can make anything look like anything He wants? If that is how He operates, then no evidence counts for the Bible any more than it does fo the Quran or the Book of Mormon. Is outer space just a big illusion? Am I really supposed to believe that the megaladon giant shark, the deep sea creatures with razor-sharp teeth and the tyranosaurus all lived 6,000 years ago and that they were herbivores! No death before sin, right? I cant look at evidence because sin messes up my logic? Well what about your logic? We are about to land a satellite on a comet that is 219 million miles away and hurtling through space at 64,000 mph. Obviously, we can calculate something correctly using our minds.

Would any of these questions make you uncomfortable? I know they certainly struck a chord with me. How would you answer them? Do you need to do some studying?

Area #3: Christians are immoral and judgmental.

These arguments are the ones we see most commonly in the news media and pop culture, and like the others, they should be taken seriously. Sometimes they sound like:

“Why are you Christians so against two people who genuinely care about each other spending the rest of their lives together just because they are of the same gender? Why cant people just be who they are inside? It isnt hurting you, so why dont you just stay out of it? Why should we all have to abide by morals written thousands of years ago? Even you Christians have changed. Men and women used to wear robes to the floor to be modest. You certainly dont do that anymore! You talk about things prohibited in the Old Testament, but you eat ham! Also, how many people have been killed in the name of Christ? Jesus said not to judge.

I Peter 3:15 (NASB) says, always being ready to make a defense (apolgia: a legal term like the defense a lawyer would make) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…”

This verse needs to be fulfilled now more than ever. I beg you to honestly consider how prepared you are to address some of the arguments Ive listed. It could be that you are very unprepared. It could be that you might need to learn from people with whom you think you disagree.

But I would ask you to put yourself in the shoes of your young people and imagine being faced with these sorts of questions.

My freshman year at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, I thought I knew why people ought to believe the Bible. I had watched Dr. Dino, and he made minced-meat of the arguments non-believers would have. I was in a BMA church every time the doors were open since birth! I was prepared.

Wrong.

I wasnt prepared at all. I had only been given a caricature of what other people believed, thought and felt. I had only been taught from a narrow perspective and didnt even know that other schools of interpretation existed within conservative, Bible-believing Christianity.

The worst part is, I am pretty sure I drove people further away from Christ by my ignorance-fueled arrogance and the apologeticsI had been taught. I wish I could go back in time and do it all over again.

What will you do to make your youth more prepared than I was?

Under the leading of the Holy Sprit, I have dedicated my life to contending for the faith in the arena of thought. I have a great list of resources on these subjects and would love to talk with you or your youth. For more information, visit lifeinprogressministries.com.


The Ripple of Ferguson

As I sat watching the news coverage of the events in Ferguson, MO last night, I had mixed emotions and many thoughts.  Although I am not directly affected by the chaos, I asked the Lord to show me what I can learn and how I could be used to help — if that is even possible.  I want to share with you what He spoke to me.  You may not like it.

I really don’t want to address the death of Micheal Brown.  Yes, it is very, very sad.  However, I do not know what happened.  I was not there and the reports have not been released.  So, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The issue I want to address is the issue of authority.  Where does authority come from?  Why do people really dismiss it?  And how does this include me?

As with everything else, the Bible has clear answers.  From the very beginning, the issue of authority has been at the forefront.  In the garden, Satan used the issue of authority to attack Eve and the chaos of sin entered the world.  Her creator had commanded she and Adam not eat of a certain tree.  The enemy planted a lie in her mind that went directly against what God had said.  Satan was really, really good at deception then, and he is really, really good at it now.  Eve usurped the authority of God and chose to be her own authority, as did Adam.  And therein lies our every trouble.   Virtually every problem you can imagine in this world stems from this event and this issue.  That is a huge statement, let it sink.  When Satan has his way, we always care more about ourselves than we do about God.  We always think our way is better for us and we are convinced we somehow deserve what we want regardless of what He says about it.  We usurp the authority of our creator and the enemy wins a battle in our life.  The Bible calls this sin, caused by our own pride, self-centeredness and unbelief in His truth.

Turn on the news and you will see the battle raging.  Satan has planted lies in the hearts and minds of people.  God’s word, truth, says this:  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”  (Romans 13:1-2)  Check out the next two verses: “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”  In other words, if you do good, you won’t have any reason to be afraid of the authorities.  Really! Gee, should we be surprised at the Bible’s wisdom?   I’ve never in my life been afraid of getting shot by a cop.  Why?  Well, I’ve never been a trespasser or a thief and I would never show an officer disrespect.  If I have been the one in the wrong — like the time I ran a stop sign and the time…okay, times…I was speeding — I knew I had rightfully earned my tickets.  (Although, generally, I don’t get a ticket because I have also learned to earn favor and forgiveness by being extra sweet when policemen approach my window. :))

Now, I know some of you are saying, “what if the authorities are bad?”  Bad how?  Like if they begin to agree that robbing someone’s house is no problem and you should get away with it?  Okay, that is a bad cop.  Like if they allow your husband to beat you and your children, allow people to cook meth on your street and men to abduct and sell girls into the sex trade?  Okay, that is corruption.  We should rise up against it because the Bible never agrees with supporting and upholding sinful behavior.  But, if authorities are working to stop the bad guys and keep the good, innocent guys safe, submit to their authority.  They have reasons for what and how they do things.  Submit because they’ve gone through training and you haven’t.  Submit because they have the good guys interest at heart.  Submit because God, your ultimate authority, SAYS YOU SHOULD.

So how does this apply to little ole’ me.  Two ways:

1) I am a parent.  Are you?  This issue of authority begins early.  Do you remember when your child hit that 18 month mark?  (I realize you’ve tried to forget.) Do you remember telling them NO, them looking you straight in the eye and proceeding to do the bad thing anyway?  Did you teach them what it means to submit to your authority then?  As parents, we are the ones who instill this in our children and ultimately in our society.   I can’t fix what has been done in Ferguson, but I can fix what happens or doesn’t happen in the Rowe house.  I will, as my parents did, teach my children what it means to listen to and respect authority.  My first grade son just left for school less than an hour ago.  He knows it is his job to obey his teacher, to follow the rules and to submit to the authority of his principals.  Every rule in place is for his safety, protection and learning.  If I didn’t agree with the rules, then my child would not attend or I would work to help get the rules changed.  But, I won’t encourage disrespect or lead my child to believe they can act out because they are part of a “messed up, corrupt system.”   Whether I am with my children or not, they understand that they are children.  Being a child means you are not the boss.  They know that if I have entrusted their care to someone else, they can trust that person and that person has authority over them whether they are at school, church or in the big slide line at the fair.  Teaching children obedience is far from easy.  There are days I feel like I am talking to a brick wall and I have to pray the Lord will guard my mouth and give me patience to not lose it!  (Can I get a witness?)  But, I know this issue of authority will translate to their adult life.  If my husband and I, with the Lord’s help, can pull this off, our children will be able to work peaceably under a boss, they will be able to learn from those who know more than they do and they will be able to succeed.  MOST IMPORTANTLY, above all else, my prayer is that they choose to submit to the ultimate authority of God in their life.  They will heed to His word and His will because they will understand that they are not supreme.  The world does not in fact revolve around them.  They are not number one.  He is.

Not all parents operate this way.  MANY, by example, teach their children to disrespect authority.  Many teach their children that respect is earned and that they don’t have to respect or listen to people they don’t like.  This is a lie Satan has planted.  We should be teaching children that respect is not dependent on how others treat us, but on how we have determined to treat others.  As a speaker who has spoken to over 85,000 students, I assure you, disregard for authority and disrespect are a problem.  I’m trying to tell you this problem begins in the home and ultimately with the parent’s position and belief about a higher authority.

2)  I need to check my own life.  What God reminded me last night, is that I need to refresh my commitment to teaching respect for authority in my home.  I need to support my husband as he parents our children. I need to check my own heart and surrender my own pride.  I need to be the example by continually submitting  to the authority of God, knowing His great love for me and recognizing that He has my safety and learning on His heart.

So, I guess the question is this: Do YOU have an issue with authority?

The truth is, Ferguson impacts us all.


Insecure, I Think

God has been stretching me — pushing me to my limits spiritually, emotionally and mentally.  It’s crazy.  If I’m honest, the push should inspire, strengthen and grow me.  However, more often than not I’ve been struggling with insecurities.  I always thought I’d be most confident and secure in my thirties! Not so.  I feel the Lord expanding my territory, increasing responsibility and requiring more than I ever imagined.  Of course, nothing is possible without Him. That much is clear.

What else is clear is that I’m not going to make it.  I need Him.  I need the Holy Spirit to correct me and make me into the person He needs to live out His purposes.  Over and over again, the Lord is reminding me of the influence of my mind.  Our minds are so uniquely powerful.  How and what we think transforms us.  Romans says, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Philippians gives us criteria for what kinds of things to think about. The list includes things that are:

  • TRUE
  • HONORABLE (NOBLE)
  • JUST (PURE)
  • LOVELY
  • COMMENDABLE (GOOD REPORT)
  • EXCELLENT (VIRTUOUS)
  • PRAISEWORTHY

Seems I might consider changing the way I think!  A fellow speaker and friend, Brooks Harper, always says “the most important conversation you have everyday is the one you have with yourself.” I need to speak TRUTH — not just to an audience — but to myself.  I need to be more intentional about filling my mind with God’s word, His truth, and allow it to transform the rest.

So,  along that line, over a year ago I read a book called “Self Talk, Soul Talk” by Jennifer Rothschild.  It was great.  Through my recent struggles, many of her ideas have resurfaced.

Thought you might enjoy this interview about the book.  There’s great insight here. Take a few minutes to think about what she says…

Q&A with Jennifer Rothschild

Author of Self Talk, Soul Talk

What is soul talk?

Over the years, I have gradually learned what to say when I talk to myself, and that has truly made all the difference in my life. After years of struggling beneath the weight of my own slander and lies, I have learned to speak truth into my soul. It’s what I call soul talk.

How does soul talk work?

Everybody practices self talk, but few of us actually take time to think about the things we say to ourselves. The process is so natural we don’t even notice it. Amazingly, much of our self talk is false. The words we say shape the way we think about ourselves. They influence our emotions, our thoughts, and our decisions. They resurface in our conversations with other people. They can spur us on to live meaningful, productive lives, or they can drag us down to lethargy and despair. Soul talk is about replacing the lies you may have been telling yourself with the truth.

What kinds of struggles with self talk have you had personally?

My steady flow of disapproving thoughts and self talk once formed a constant stream. I badgered, nagged, devalued, and said cutting words to myself. At times, all those dark, negative put-downs have felt like a raging river, tossing me mercilessly until I thought I might drown in my own self-condemnation.

What was the physical setback that you faced in your teens?

At the age of 15, I became legally blind due to a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Even though I received that difficulty with grace and resolve, the extra challenges of the disability and the knowledge that blindness was inevitable brought even more opportunities for me to struggle with negative thoughts and destructive self talk. For me, blindness is a circumstance that opens the door to a host of other bewildering issues. One of the biggest daily realities I face is the stress of not being able to drive, read, or enjoy independence. 

What is the paradox of emotions?

If you try to think with your feelings, you’ll fall into all manner of false conclusions. Emotions are supposed to serve and strengthen us. Left to themselves, however, they enslave and deplete us. We need a thought closet well stocked with timeless truth, or we will clothe ourselves with the feelings of the moment.

How important is physical well-being including exercise and healthy eating?

Living a healthy lifestyle is so important to our mental well-being. Never discount the impact of physical wellness on our souls’ wellness. Feelings of despair might really be our bodies’ signal that we need to meet some basic needs. Your body needs adequate rest, healthy food, and moderate exercise.

How important is mental well-being? How can we stimulate this?

Brains like to be challenged. Your mind needs to have something to do, or it will create something to do—something that might not be so constructive. If you don’t fully strengthen your brain, it will wiggle and jiggle itself just to alleviate the dullness and find a channel for all its energy. Spend a few minutes each day reading something that interests and challenges you. Pick up a journal and record your thoughts and questions.  Join a book club or audit a class from your local university. Feed your curiosity and you’ll stimulate an enjoyable, insatiable hunger.

How important is our spiritual well-being?

Hopelessness, fear and depression often grow out of unsatisfied longings. C.S. Lewis said, “If I can find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” We can try to fill the longing with relationships, religion, volunteerism, or just being good. But the deep ache from the bottom of our souls can only be satisfied in a relationship with God.

Is it healthy to remember the past? What memories should we revisit?

The real power of any moment is fully realized when it is remembered. The experience might have been painful or pleasant, but its intensity and meaning grow when we remember and reflect upon it. Remembering is essential to the health of our souls. So we must tell our souls to look back often. Memories store great anthologies of stories that tell us who we are. They become intimate reminders of our personal histories. However, tell your soul to look back only at what is profitable. Profitable memories are those that add to your soul wellness rather than subtract from it.

How destructive can fear become in our lives? What’s the alternative?

We can’t ever side with fear, because fear is never on our side. And we can’t let fear and despair shake and intimidate us. Fear betrays; hope never does. Fear and despair make us quiver; hope makes us unshakable. Rather than giving into fear and despair, we tell our souls to hope. Hope will always be on your side, cheering you on and defending you. Hope anchors us because it provides spiritual grounding. Hope brings stability to every part of our being: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. We speak the language of hope when we tell our souls to look up.

How can we cope with our busy lifestyles? Where can we find time to rest?

Life is busy. The demands are great, and we seem to have no time for rest. So much of our self-talk is directed at revving ourselves up. Excessive revving up, however, only leads to petering out. Daily we must tell ourselves to chill out. Rest isn’t only for our tired bodies. Weary souls need it too—our wills, our minds, and our emotions. The choice to rest is ours.

How can we press on despite fear and failure?

Steady, small actions will slowly reduce the big feeling that is paralyzing you. Just because you have failed at something does not mean you are a failure. If you quit, the world will be lacking what you alone bring to it. If you continue to feed your feelings of failure and defeat, those dark emotions will grow, creeping across your soul like long winter shadows. But if you begin to starve those feelings, they will slowly die.

How can we become less selfish and “others centered”?

It’s our nature to lift ourselves up, to be egocentric. Looking back at my life, I can say for sure that the most miserable times of my life have been when I was the most self-centered, self-aware and self-promoting. When we tell our souls to get the spotlight off our own preoccupations and onto the needs of others, we reopen the potential for joy in our lives. Only selfless, other-centered people are truly happy. They have learned the all-important key. When we lift others up, we grow stronger, healthier and happier.

If you’re interested in the book, you can find it online at http://www.jenniferrothschild.com/.

Blessings!


The Reality of Grammy Idols

I was so utterly discouraged Wednesday after my talk to nearly 150 teen girls, I couldn’t even write this article.  I couldn’t look at their evaluations of my program and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t overcome my despair.  I was spent.

See, mid-day on Monday I began preparing for my speech to this group.   Since I am now in my thirties — can’t believe I’m saying that —I thought it might be a good idea to do a little research and figure out what’s hot and trending in pop culture to get a better grip on where most teenage minds reside.  So, I checked my DVR for the Grammy’s.  Now before you stop reading because you are thinking, “here we go, again” I hope you’ll hear me out.

I’ll admit, I primarily began watching because I really do need to understand teen culture and music is a good indicator, but if I’m honest, I also wanted to see Taylor Swift perform.  I don’t know why.  So, after a quick view of what I’m guessing was one-third of Beyonce’ and JayZ’s earth-shattering performance, I skimmed through in search of Taylor.  On my fast-forward journey I grew more and more irritated with the outfits, or lack-there-of, the extremely sexual choreography and the very dark and down right weird stuff.  I watched all of Taylor.  Her dress was gorgeous.  Her performance was what I expected and I truly wanted to jump through the TV and give her a hug when she was done.  She looked so hurt by that guy.  Seriously.  After that, I skimmed through a couple more morally disgusting jokes and performances and called it a day.  I didn’t watch most of it.

I had seen enough.

As I thought about the “show” I started to feel my reaction coming on strong.  This is MESSED UP.  I was mad.  Why are we so eager to support, applaud and give credit to these people?  Because they are famous, talented, beautiful and rich?  I guess so.  Are people really this enthralled by raunchy sex appeal?  Do we not see vulgarity as wrong anymore?  As quickly as I’m asking the questions, the answer came — yes.  Morality has no place in our culture.  Right is relative.  Tolerance and acceptance are our only beliefs and Yonce’ (as the girls I spoke to lovingly call her), JayZ, Katy Perry and the like are our nation’s most popular preachers.  Hollywood elite craft and deliver the message.  We accept. They set the standard.  We give them a golden statue and keep the cash flow goin’ so they can build their empires.  It’s crazy.  Ironically, many of their own children probably aren’t allowed to watch!

I thought about it all day Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday as I was driving to St. Louis.  I prayed and prayed, “Lord, what would you have me do?”  As I arrived at the school, I felt compelled to share with the girls how Christian Grammy nominee, Natalie Grant, left the Grammys early because it was so ridiculous.  After all, my presentation was on personal branding, image and character.  I thought the story would be a great way to conclude.

Here’s the thing; the girls totally did not get it.  It may because I didn’t communicate it well.  But, I have nine years of experience speaking to crowds just like this one.  I don’t think, in this case, I was the issue.  They cheered at my first mention of the Grammys.  Clearly, they LOVE Beyoncé.  They’ve never heard of Natalie Grant, not surprising, but you should know this was a private, Christian school.  I have spoken to over 80,000 teenagers and I’m telling you, these girls turned on me when I merely alluded to the idea that Yonce’ had been inappropriate.  They were absolutely dumbfounded at the thought of a Grammy nominee walking out.  Why?  They could not, in any way, wrap their minds around the notion that ANYTHING had been wrong at, with, or surrounding the Grammys.  They thought it was awesome.  I kept looking for faces that might show a glimpse of agreement with me.  None.

The bell rang, they handed in their evaluations and they were gone.  I was devastated.

Listen Christians; we have got to stop being gray.  We have got to stop being lukewarm.  We have got to stop allowing our children and the teens in our lives to go day-to-day thinking it is perfectly acceptable to act like a sex object, witch or whatever.  It is NOT okay.  You can call it art, you can call it performance, you can call it creativity, you can call it entertainment, you can even call it freedom of expression.  But, you, Christian, cannot call it right and you cannot act like it is no big deal.  It is profane.  It is a slap in the face of your creator.  It is WRONG.  WRONG.  Say the word.  Things that are profane are not beautiful.  Profanity is not to be celebrated, but exposed.  The church has been quiet or found ignorant while our culture has adopted, promoted and established profane idols of worship.  We’ve allowed our enemy to silence us and now I feel like an ancient prophet screaming,  “Stop the madness!  Turn back.  Destroy these idols or they will destroy us.”

This is nothing new.  This is what the enemy does.  He takes things, people, that were designed to be beautiful, created for eternal purpose and he destroys them.  The enemy perverts them.  What you saw — or hopefully didn’t see — was perversion.  Is Beyoncé talented and beautiful?  Of course!  But what God designed for His glory has been debauched.  The same formula could be said for nearly every artist that took the stage.  How does it happen?  Simple.  They — we — are born absolutely depraved.

The same formula would be said of me if Satan had his way.

God is love AND God is holy.  Everyone wants to talk about His love, but scarcely — especially in our pop culture and mainstream media — can you find anyone who wants to discuss His holiness.  The media push young people to believe that God loves everyone and therefore accepts everyone no matter what they do.  They push that since God made our emotions; whatever we feel must be okay.  OR, since there is no God, we can decide what’s good, bad, right and wrong.  Either way, we are in control.  They insist when you try to debate, discuss, reason or disagree with them, you’re an idiotic fool.  Get this: their god is not the God of the Bible.  Their god is one they have fabricated for their own comfort, ultimately resulting in the god of self.  They live to build their own kingdoms and to glorify themselves.  They DO NOT care about, nor do they know the God Christianity proclaims.

The God of the Bible, the only One who has revealed and proven Himself for thousands of years has not and will not tolerate sin. Nor does He casually overlook sin.  He never will.  God does not accept people the way they are!  Hello!?  There would have been NO REASON for Christ and the cross if that statement were true.  All people are not acceptable in the eyes of God.  Think about it.  We are only acceptable in the eyes of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s it.  Unless we have been “born again” by faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, we are not acceptable.  He takes what is corrupt, does away with it and replaces it with something better, His righteousness.  He redeems.  We praise Him for His grace because we have done NOTHING to deserve that chance.  That was ALL Him.  He chose us.  While we were still sinners, messed up, Christ died for us — all of us.

Jesus came to free us from sin and the death trap that it is.  He came to give us life.  He did that.  We did nothing.  Some choose to reject Him.  They don’t want what He offers.  They prefer their sin to His righteousness.  They don’t want to surrender their life to a God they can’t see.  They don’t want to be told what is right and what is wrong by a divine creator.  It is their right to make that choice (only because God created us with a free will to do so, ironically) but the REALITY is every knee is going to bow.  Every tongue that is making money mocking the holy God of the Bible now will someday confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Mark His words, it will happen.

But in the meantime, I don’t want a whole generation of people to be deceived by the enemy because I’m too afraid to speak out and proclaim the truth.

It is time we stand together and stand up for truth.  The human body is not a sex object and sexuality is sacred.  There is right and wrong.  Our Creator defines it.  We can prove morality.  If you claim Christianity, you must stop supporting and watching things that are profane in the eyes of your maker.  STOP.  Christ lives in you and is with you.  You must grasp what it means that your body is a temple of the living God.  You must stop putting trash in your mind.  You must believe God when he says those who sow to the flesh will reap corruption.  And stop justifying it.  Stop allowing your kids to bathe in this trash.  If you think your daughter is fine, I dare you to look at her iTunes account.  Check her list of artists and songs.  Google some lyrics.   This is what she’s listening to when you’re trying to get her attention. Parents, stand in the gap for your kids!  Get your own mind right.  Teach that there is in fact a line.  It is well past crossed and we cannot sit back and act like all is well.  All is not well.  I know because I saw it on the faces of 150 girls who have no idea why they matter or if their life has value.  They have no idea who they are or who they are supposed to be.  They have no idea that their body is a precious gift.  They have no clue despair and destruction wait for them at the hand of their enemy.  He is deceiving a generation and we are letting him.

There’s hope.  Christ asks us to be that hope.  He asks us to be salt and to be light, to push back the darkness and to share the TRUTH.   Smash the idols.  I believe if we are faithful to do our part, to be obedient to His commands, He will be faithful to do His.

I’m in.  Are you?


The Curse of a “Good” Life

I’m sure your life is good.  Normal.  Your life is a perfect picture of someone living out the American dream.  Life is not perfect.  You have your ups and downs.  But, you have a family and have landed a decent job.  Fun, social events and day trips fill your calendar.  Maybe you even attend church sometimes.  Anyone observing your day-to-day activities would conclude that things are, well, good.

Tonight as I sat in my living room floor, Bible open, King Hezekiah study on my lap and listening to a young woman who attends our weekly gathering talk, I realized something.   She was right.  While I don’t think she’d mind, I’ll keep her name to myself, but she said, “I don’t think most people realize how miserable they are.  They have nothing else to compare their life to.”  She went on to explain that before she started following Christ, she thought she had a great life.  She wasn’t unhappy.  She wasn’t depressed.  She wasn’t even looking for something different.  She was normal.

I pray someone reading this right now feels that same way — good and normal.  You are whom I’m talking to today.  Have you ever considered that there is more?  Have you ever wondered why “radical Christians” act the way they do?  They commit their lives to serving a God they can’t see, are passionate about church activities and Bible study and they do some weird things.  Perhaps they go out of their way, unnecessarily in your opinion, to take strong stands on issues and you feel sorry for them when they get slammed with the “don’t judge me” card.  Why do they care so much?  You don’t get it.  You respect it, but you don’t get it.

May I challenge you with something?  What if for one year, 2014, you determined to explore what they seem to have found?   What if you joined a Bible study and went to church regularly?   Not a church where tradition reigns.  Go to one where Christ is King and everyone knows it.  Go to one where the Bible is read and taught and God is praised.  Go to one where people are focused on sharing the good news of salvation around the world.  Participate in the classes and learn the teachings.  Ask hard questions and as you grow in knowledge continue to consider  “is there more?”

What might your life be like in a year if you did that?  Is that too weird to even ask?

When my friend started paying attention to God and began to understand what it meant to be a Christian, her life didn’t really change.  Same family.  Same job.  Same social events.  But she changed.  Her heart changed.  Her mind changed and eventually most everything else did to.  She found truth, joy, peace and purposes she’d never known existed.  She learned of God’s love and began to desire His best.  Soon, the old life…you know, the normal, good one…was no longer appealing and it certainly was no longer enough.  She tried to go back, but she couldn’t.  She was miserable in the life that used to seem so good.  She had to move on with Christ.

Over and over again I’ve heard stories so similar to this one.  I call it the Jesus effect.  Having a relationship with Him changes people…. as it should.  HE CHANGES PEOPLE. The beautiful thing is that it is always for the better.

Could it be that you presume your life is good because you’ve never experienced God’s best?  Once you taste His goodness, nothing else satisfies. Every time I’ve been tempted — and I have — to abandon my faith and walk away from my beliefs, I’m left with nowhere to go.  Who can compare to my God?  What other truth can I stand on?  What else can I build my life on?  To whom shall I go?  Better is one day in the courts of my God than a thousand elsewhere.

If I sound crazy, you’ve been cursed with a good life.

I dare you to come and see.


Truth, tolerance, logic

Why Bother With Apologetics?

If you believe in Jesus, then apologetics is for you; it is not just for “intellectuals.” The clearest definition I’ve heard is that apologetics is the communication and defense of the Christian gospel. I have heard some speakers say that “God does not need His people to defend Him.” Of course that is true in a literal sense, as if God is in danger. But God certainly uses people to speak for Him. God certainly does not accept blasphemy. And God does engage people intellectually. “Come now, let us reason together says the Lord…” (Isa. 1:18 ESV) So, if you’re thinking, “our faith doesn’t need defending,” I would challenge that assumption.

Consider I Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”

The word translated to “defense” in this word is the Greek word apologia, from which the word “apologetics” comes. The word is used seven other times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1; 25:16; I Cor. 9:3; II Cor. 10:5-6; Phil. 1:7; II Tim. 4:16). Apologia was a word used to describe the defense that a lawyer would make for a client in a court of law. It does not imply a clever “one-liner” response.

I can’t remember who it was, but I once heard someone compare the need for teaching apologetics to teaching a missionary the language of the nation he is evangelizing. That’s a great illustration because that is what apologetics is all about – speaking the language of our culture. And the language of our culture is skepticism.

Christianity Today recently ran an article titled “Watch Out, Pastors, Millennials are Fact-Checking Your Sermons,” which revealed a Barna Group survey showing that about 40% of church-going Millennials will research and fact-check truth claims made by their pastor. Millennials are those born between the 1980’s and 2000s. They are the now teenagers through age 33.

They have good reason for this. Millennial Christians cannot afford to be uneducated in their beliefs. We live in a time where the Christian faith is put on trial daily. If Christians, especially those in high school and college, do not know how to defend their faith with truth and logic, or if they make any false claims, they will be intellectually chewed up and spit out.

For years, Christians have thought that sensual temptation is the biggest danger for the college-goer, but that is secondary. The biggest problem for the Christian in college is that they are made to feel stupid for believing in Jesus. Church, we must prepare our young people to face the intellectual challenges that the world is bringing upon them. Christianity is for the heart and mind.

Non-believers have legitimate questions to ask us such as, “If God exists, and is all loving and all powerful, why is there so much suffering and evil,” or “Why do you believe the Bible is the word of God other than because it says it’s the word of God?” or “What evidence is there that Jesus actually rose from the dead?” A lack of reasonable, logical answers to these and other questions are barriers to belief.

But there are good answers to be had, and I have personally witnessed people come to faith in Christ shortly after meeting a Christian who could dialogue with them and answer some of these questions. It was like the spiritual and intellectual walls of Jericho came crashing down and the Holy Spirit flooded the city!

For so long, we have been taught that we should believe that what the Bible says is true because the Bible is the Word of God because the Bible says it is the Word of God. This does no good unless we realize that we ought to believe the Bible is the Word of God because what the Bible says is true! The truths of the Bible do not need to be taken on “blind faith.” God’s word can stand up to any challenge, and that’s what apologetics is for. We have a most reasonable faith.

However, we must always remember the second half of I Peter 3:15: “…do it with gentleness and respect…” The art of apologetics is not a weapon. It must always be associated with evangelism. Winning an argument is not the goal. Winning a soul to Christ, is. Our world is searching for answers, and it is our duty as Christians to do our absolute best to show them that answer. There are many resources available to help you and your church delve into this wonderful, rich world of apologetics. Check out the “ASK” program at RZIM.org or visit sites such as apologetics315.com or bethinking.org to get started.


Progressive

Why Christians Should Be Progressive

­­This site is titled “Life in Progress,” which sounds more like your average self-help book than a Christian ministry. But there is a good reason why my sister, Jaclyn Rowe, gave that name to our speaking/writing ministry. It can be summed up in one word: Sanctification.

What we mean when we say “sanctification” is the process by which God is conforming us to the likeness of His son after we accept Christ and are born again. While some teach that sanctification can happen here, on this earth, in an instant; I am convinced that the New Testament clearly shows that this is an on-going process of growth. Even the apostle Paul longed to be free from “this body of death.”

So what does this have to do with being progressive?

Sanctification is a growing process, and things that are growing do not continue to look the same. This might sound like utter heresy on the surface, but Christians should be more open to change than just about anybody else. The Christian should always be making progress, and that requires change.

However, progress implies that there is a specific goal toward which you are moving. Unfortunately, the word “progress” has been hijacked and given a political connotation that is ultimately meaningless because it is almost never stated with a particular goal in mind. Change for the sake of change itself is not progress, it’s just change. But for the Christian, Christ is the goal, and constant change is always required – unless you’ve reached a state of sinless perfection and complete knowledge.

I don’t have complete knowledge, but what knowledge I do have and my love for the Lord is continually growing and it is exciting. Sadly, for many the Christian life is stale and becomes more about church business, tradition and routine rather than being conformed to the image of Christ – especially for those who grew up in the church and accepted Christ at a young age. If you went to church, you probably had a preacher who was never in doubt about anything and were probably never encouraged to question any doctrine or wrestle with big theological concepts. So, your life after salvation is very much the same as your life before salvation because we know that everything you could possibly need to know has been taught completely and perfectly in church, right? Why would you ever need to ask questions or study the Bible for yourself? But things that grow do not look the same.

I am convinced that God supernaturally adds verses to the Bible because when reading a “familiar” passage, I constantly find verses that “weren’t there before.” Truths that I never realized before seem to pop out of nowhere. I fully expect this phenomenon to continue for the rest of my life because there is always room to learn more of the mystery of God’s glory.

I want to be clear that this is not a hit against any specific church or denomination. I am trying to hit against complacency and/or the arrogance of thinking we “know it all.” At the risk of sounding like a rebel, I would encourage you to start examining every aspect of your faith if you never have. This is not license to simply believe whatever you like, but all things must stand the test of truth. If you are truly, honestly seeking the truth and asking God to reveal more of himself to you, then you will find it. And when your beliefs are affirmed or (gasp) changed by the truth given to you by the Holy Spirit and not just because the preacher said it, then your passion for the Lord will soar and you will truly begin to grow.

Sanctification can be a painful process. It might mean admitting you were wrong about a doctrine or belief that was handed down to you by elders. Such a break in tradition is a thing that should never be taken lightly. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Don’t ever take down a fence until you know the reason why it was put up.” But the Christian’s first loyalty must be to the truth and not to tradition or dogma, nor to the pressures of “relevance” or acceptance. To never question why you believe a doctrine or to go through life and never wrestle with a teaching from your elders is not a badge of honor. That kind of attitude implies that your teachers were perfect people with perfect interpretations, not people in the process of sanctification. There is a big difference between questioning the authority of the Bible and questioning your understanding of it.

And so, if your motives are true, ask your questions. Seek God and you will find that the more you learn, the more you realize just how much you don’t know.