Shepherds Feed the Sheep

After his resurrection, before his ascension, Jesus has this moment with one of his chief traitors, one that is as tender as it is powerful:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-19)

This, then, serves as the great pastoral commission. And it centers not on building a large ministry or casting a large vision. The central pastoral commission centers on this mandate: Shepherds are to feed the sheep.

In the center of Peter’s restoration here is embedded not just a reality of identity but a reality of vocation. What I mean is, Jesus isn’t just reaffirming Peter’s right standing with himself; he is restoring Peter’s pastoral office. He’s giving him something to do, and it is the fundamental, essential, irreducible task of the shepherd—feed Christ’s sheep.

Three times he commands him to care for the flock:

v.15 He said to him, “Feed my lambs.
v.16 He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
v.17 Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

If I may speak briefly to one issue I believe central to the more recent debate about the sufficiency and reliability of the Bible in worship gatherings and in evangelism and apologetic conversations with unbelievers. I think if we trace back some of these applicational missteps to the core philosophy driving them, we find in the attractional church, for instance, a few misunderstandings. The whole enterprise has begun with a wrong idea of what—biblically speaking—the worship gathering is, and even what the church is.

In some of these churches where it is difficult to find the Scriptures preached clearly and faithfully as if it is reliable and authoritative and transformative as the very word of God, we find that things have effectively been turned upside down. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul uses the word “outsider” to describe unbelievers who are present in the worship gathering. He is making the case for our worship services to be intelligible, hospitable, and mindful of the unbelievers present, but his very use of the word “outsider” tells us that the Lord’s Day worship gathering is not meant to be primarily focused on the unbelieving visitor but on the believing saints gathered to exalt their king. In the attractional church paradigm, this biblical understanding of the worship gathering is turned upside down – and consequently mission and evangelism are actually inverted, because Christ’s command to the church to “Go and tell” has been replaced by “Come and see.”

Many of these churches – philosophically – operate more like parachurches. And the result is this: it is the sheep, the very lambs of God, who basically become the outsiders.

And so you will have leading practitioners of these churches saying things to believers like, “Church isn’t for you.”

For example, Steven Furtick, leader of attractional megachurch Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, in a series called “Confessions of a Pastor” says this:

If you know Jesus–I am sorry to break it to you–but this church is not for you.
“Yeah, but I just gave my life to Christ last week at Elevation.”
Last week was the last week that Elevation Church existed for you . . . Let me get a phone book; there are 720 churches in Charlotte. I’m sure we can find you one where you can stuff your face until you’re so obese spiritually that you can’t even move.

In response to the criticism that his teaching isn’t deep enough, Perry Noble, former leader of Newspring Church in South Carolina, once said this:

I’ve heard it…You have too…Christians saying, “I just want to be fed!” It blows my mind! This would be equal to you and I going to an all you can eat restaurant and crying because no one would bring us any food. Food is all around in this environment…but if the person is lazy and self centered, wanting to be waited on hand and foot, then they could possibly starve to death when food is merely a few feet away.

Church leader Ben Arment, who describes himself as a creator and entrepreneur, writes in a blog post:

“I’ve always felt troubled by phrases such as ‘I need to be fed’ … when referring to spiritual growth. I could never see this thinking in Scripture.”

Well, that is a strange statement to make, because we see it right here in John 21. Jesus, to Peter: “Feed. my. sheep.”

In 2007, Willow Creek Community Church published the results of their REVEAL survey, their intensive and ruthlessly self-critical evaluation of their own success in growing fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ. A 2008 Christianity Today article explained the results this way:

The study shows that while Willow has been successfully meeting the spiritual needs of those who describe themselves as “exploring Christianity” or “growing in Christ,” it has been less successful at doing so with those who self-report as being “close to Christ” or “Christ-centered.”

To summarize: Willow Creek had done exceptionally well at getting people into the pasture. But they discovered they weren’t doing so well at making sure the flock was nourished.

What was their response to this? How do you fix this discipleship deficiency? Here was the prescription found in the study itself: “Our people need to learn to feed themselves.”

This is something you hear over and over in certain kinds of churches and discipleship cultures—the notion of self-feeding. “You need to learn to self-feed.”

Do maturing Christians need to take responsibility for their personal growth? Do they need to take ownership (as it were) of their spiritual disciplines? Absolutely. You aren’t saved or sanctified by somebody else’s faith.

But in the dim light of modern evangelicalism, I still find it glaringly clear in John 21 that Jesus does not say to Peter, “Teach my sheep to self-feed.” He says, “Feed my sheep.” He says, “Tend my sheep.”

Pastor, if you call yourself a pastor, let’s start with your preaching: When the saints gather on Sunday, what kind of food are you giving them? Are you loading them up with the bread of Christ? Are you ladling out the living water that quenches thirst forever?

Or are you loading them down with law? One of the many other myriad upside-down-nesses of certain kind of churches is how they aim messages of practical Christianity at non-Christians. Handing out how-to’s on obedience to people whose hearts do not trust in Jesus. The best you can do with such a preaching strategy is create well-behaved pagans. Handing out how-to sermons is like commanding bricks without straw

Feed the sheep the gospel. The gospel is the only power of salvation – for the Jew and the Greek. Pastors, every week your people gather in starving. They are weary and worn-out and for some it takes all the faith they’ve got just to get through the door.

What is your job when they wander back into your pen on Sunday morning? Is it not to lay out the feast of the unsearchable riches of Christ? Is it not to present the true food of Christ and his matchless grace? They are hungry, brothers! They ask for bread. Don’t give them stones! Lay out generously the new wine of salvation and the juicy meat of the glory of Jesus Christ. Let’s send our people home fat with gospel!

How you see your sheep will certain affect how you feed them. If you see them as whiny babies you will be inclined to withhold the food of the gospel from them. But if you see them as Jesus saw them – as harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd – your compassion will move you to nourish them with the word.

Pastor, do you have compassion for your flock? It’s something I find startlingly missing in so much ink spilled on philosophy of ministry. I listen to guys talk about their churches and it has so much to do with strategy and technique and style and context – all important things – but sometimes I want to ask them: “Do you love your flock?”

Not every Christian man with an entrepreneurial spirit and a gift for speaking should be a pastor. I say this kindly — if your drive is not to feed the sheep, please quit. If you simply want to build something for Jesus, go sell cars or insurance or real estate. Start a non-profit. We don’t need any more salesmen in the pulpit.

We need tenders of the sheep. We need shepherds up to their elbows in Christ’s little lambs. Pastor, if you don’t get to the end of your week without at least a little wool on your jacket, you might not be a shepherd.

Jonathan Edwards was fired from the pastorate at Northampton in June 1750. But they asked him, until they could find his replacement, to stay on and preach. Astonishingly, he agreed. How could he do this? I think we find a glimpse in his official Farewell Sermon, preached July 1, 1750 (one month after they’d fired him):

I am not about to compare myself with the prophet Jeremiah, but in this respect I can say as he did that “I have spoken the Word of God to you, unto the three and twentieth year, rising early and speaking.” It was three and twenty years, the 15th day of last February, since I have labored in the work of the ministry, in the relation of a pastor to this church and congregation. And though my strength has been weakness, having always labored under great infirmity of body, besides my insufficiency for so great a charge in other respects, yet I have not spared my feeble strength, but have exerted it for the good of your souls. I can appeal to you, as the apostle does to his hearers, Gal. 4:13, “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the gospel unto you.” I have spent the prime of my life and strength in labors for your eternal welfare.

I have tried all ways that I could think of tending to awaken your consciences, and make you sensible of the necessity of your improving your time, and being speedy in flying from the wrath to come, and thorough in the use of means for your escape and safety. I have diligently endeavored to find out and use the most powerful motives to persuade you to take care for your own welfare and salvation. I have not only endeavored to awaken you, that you might be moved with fear, but I have used my utmost endeavors to win you: I have sought out acceptable words, that if possible I might prevail upon you to forsake sin, and turn to God, and accept of Christ as your Savior and Lord. I have spent my strength very much in these things.

Why would he accept their audacious request to keep preaching after they’d fired him? Because he loved Christ’s sheep and he knew the sheep needed to be fed.

Shepherds love the sheep and feed the sheep.

The Pronouns Preach: Lessons on the Glory of the Church

When reading the Bible, parts of speech make a big difference in our understanding. There are many examples, but here is one that demonstrates my point perfectly. It is found in Ephesians. I will be so bold as to say, “If you miss the pronouns, you miss the entire meaning of the epistle,” and you will miss a particularly important lesson we need today.

An Illustration

Ephesus was a center of pagan worship boasting one of the seven wonders of the world, the Temple to the Goddess Artemis. This temple was more than twice as large as the Parthenon in Athens, and attracted many from all over the world. There, in that great city, was the church God had birthed, made up of Gentile-born believers and Jewish-born believers.

The Ephesian church is one the most talked about churches in the Bible. We have two accounts of Paul’s journeys there in the book of Acts and Paul’s letters to Timothy concerning the same church. We also read of the church at Ephesus as one of seven Christ speaks to in the first part of Revelation. Finally, we have an entire letter by Paul to them.

Among so much that Paul wishes to say to these people, one thing stands out in the book of Ephesians—although they came from extremely diverse backgrounds, they must learn to live together as believers.

“You” and “We”

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians assumes their great diversity, which comes to us in the form of his use of pronouns. When Paul speaks of “we,” he mostly means, “we who were born Jews but are now believers.” When Paul uses “you,” he mainly means, “you, the Gentile-born believers.”

Though the pronoun distinctions show up in the very first chapter, we perhaps can see it easiest in chapter two. Notice how this works:

And YOU [Gentile-born believers] were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which YOU formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:1)

Now see the shift in the next verse:

Among them WE [Jewish-born believers] too all formerly lived in the lust of our flesh, indulging in the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath EVEN AS THE REST. (Ephesians 2:3)

Now he brings both groups together by using “we” and “us” for all of them:

  • But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved US [Jewish born and Gentile-born believers together], even when WE were dead in our trespasses and sins, made us alive TOGETHER WITH CHRIST . . . (Ephesians 2:4)

Get it? Paul is preaching his great theme with these pronouns. The letter explains how Jewish-born believers and Gentile-born believers are brought together in Christ (Ephesians 2-3), and how Jewish-born and Gentile-born believers live together in Christ (Ephesians 4-6).

So What’s the Point?

Let’s put it this way. God receives glory from the church which He has made up of people of diverse backgrounds. In fact, He displays this glory to heavenly beings because it magnifies His grace. Diversity in the backgrounds of believers is something the church should aim for because it screams out praise to God.

Ever think of church life like this? This means that we should not seek to only bring one kind of Christian together in the churches. Rather, we should seek to cooperate with God in displaying His glory though our diversity. Paul is so burdened about this that he devotes much of almost every letter he writes to work on it. He simply refused to build a Gentile-born church on one side of town and a Jewish-born church on the other. They had to come together, because the gospel and God’s grace were on display. Only complete inability to speak the same language should make us separate.

So, you may be a “cowboy” church, but you better not try to be a cowboy church. You may become a wealthy church, but you better not try to be a wealthy church. You may be a church that has only one age group or one racial background, but you must never try to be such a church. If so, you are stealing away the glory of the church and are forsaking one of the most often repeated emphases of the New Testament. Don’t do it.

Let the pronouns preach.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at

Why Every Day is Thanksgiving

Which element of prayer is harder to practice? Confession or thanksgiving? This would seem to be an easy question to answer. The confession of sin is obviously more difficult than the offering of thanksgiving, right? Not necessarily. Pride makes our flesh resist both elements.

  • A proud heart cannot admit in confession, “I did it.”
  • A proud heart cannot acknowledge with thanksgiving, “I didn’t do it. God did!”

For that matter, pride makes adoration, supplication, intercession difficult to practice, as well. A godly heart is filled with perpetual thanksgiving. It is not merely a national holiday. For the humble spirit that knows where its help comes from, every day is a day of thanksgiving!

Psalm 100:1-4 records seven calls to worship: shout, serve, come, know, enter, give thanks, and bless. Psalm 100:5 explains why God is worthy of our grateful praise: “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

The three reasons for thanksgiving in this verse have nothing to do with the physical, material, or relational blessings we receive. Indeed, God is the source of these benefits and we should give thanks for them. But that is not the focus of this call to worship. The psalmist exhorts us to give thanks and praise to God for God’s sake, not ours. True worship is God-centered. It is rooted in the person, nature, and character of God.

Psalm 100:5 gives three reasons why every day is a day of thanksgiving:

God is good.

James 1:17 says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Everything God gives is good. His plans are good. His providence is good. His provisions are good. His protection is good. His patience is God. His pardon is good. But Psalm 100:5 is not a statement about what God gives; it is about who God is.

Nahum 1:7 says, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” When bad things happen, God’s goodness is demonstrated in the fact that he is a stronghold in the day of trouble. The goodness of God is not always obvious by sight. But it is always evident by faith. Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

God is love.

Verse 5 says: “His steadfast love endures forever.” Steadfast love is loyal love. God’s love is based on his promise, not our performance. God does not love us because we are worthy of his love. God loves us because God promised to love us and God always keeps his word.

Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” If God changed his mind about us, we would be consumed forever by his righteous wrath. But his steadfast love endures forever. People tend to love you until you give them a reason not to love you. But Romans 5:8 says: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God is faithful.

Verse 5 ends: “and his faithfulness to all generations.” God is a God of truth. Everything God speaks is true. God only and always acts according to the truth. This is the faithfulness of God. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

God’s faithfulness is great because it endures to all generations. God was faithful to past generations. God will be faithful to future generations. Psalm 100 begins by broadening our perspective to all the earth. It concludes by lengthening our perspective to all generations. We acknowledge the faithfulness of God by thanking him for what he has already done. We also acknowledge the faithfulness of God by trusting him for what he is yet to do.

Psalm 100:5 is a summary of the character of God. God is good. God is love. God is faithful. But there is a better way to see the character of God than these statements of his attributes. God’s goodness lived in a human body. God’s love died on an old rugged cross. God’s faithfulness conquered the power of sin, death, and hell. The Lord Jesus Christ is the walking, talking, breathing incarnation of divine goodness, steadfast love, and faithfulness.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” – 2 Corinthians  9:15

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at

Ben Mandrell on Kindness Worth Fighting For asks Ben Mandrell, President and CEO of Lifeway, “Why is kindness a virtue worth fighting for?”

Episode 197: Jason Thacker on Navigating Our Digital Age

On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson visits with Dr. Jason Thacker, a prof at Boyce College and the chair of research in technology ethics at the ERLC, about his book Following Jesus in the Digital Age

To Whom Shall We Go?

There are two opposing realities that every Christian will experience. On the one hand, we feel the joy of knowing God, and knowing that He satisfies our deepest hunger and thirst. Yet on the other hand, He will not always meet our expectations or fulfill what we thought were our truest desires. In this relationship, He does not conform to our will, but rather we conform to His. In truth, it’s not always comfortable. We are eternally satisfied to the core by God, and yet we are sometimes temporarily uncomfortable and even pained or confused when our feeble expectations meet His vast reality.

Large crowds often followed Jesus because of the miracles He performed, especially His healing the sick. The gospel of John records that when He multiplied food to feed thousands in an uninhabited place, the crowds even became convinced He was the Prophet they’d been waiting for, the Messiah and King to save Israel. In an attempt to make Jesus conform to their expectations, the crowds prepared to take Him by force and crown Him king. At that moment, Jesus withdrew from them, because as they clamored for the fulfillment of their expectations, they missed what He was really offering, something infinitely better than what they thought He’d come to do for them.

When the crowds found Jesus, He told them the truth—that they only wanted Him because he filled their bellies with bread. When He told them that He is the living bread from heaven, and that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, many of these disciples “turned back and no longer walked with him.” (John 6:66) Jesus would not settle for anything less than the hearts of the people, because feeding their mouths and delivering them from Roman occupation would have done nothing for their perishing souls. He loved them far too much to give them anything other than Himself—the true and living God.

God loves you too much to leave you feeling comfortable—to always give you what you think you want. He has his eyes set on giving you Himself, which necessarily means surprising you. The God of our imagination is perfectly predictable, offering no surprises, but the God of reality is more glorious than the highest realms our imaginations can reach. Who would have imagined that Jesus was promising to have his body broken and his blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins when he said “…whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life?” (John 6:54a)

The next time God subverts your expectations, remember that behind every painful truth in Scripture, every gut-wrenching life circumstance, is a promise—a promise that God will not settle to tell you what you think you want to hear or give you what you in your limited wisdom think you need; no, He will continue to satisfy you by giving you nothing less than Himself. What else could you want but the loving God who desires to forgive us and give Himself to us? When the journey of discipleship feels too weighty, and you think, I didn’t sign up for this, consider that question.

Near the end of the story in John 6, the deserted Messiah gives His closest followers a chance to leave too. Peter responds with the childlike wisdom of a man whom the Holy Spirit has shown something that can’t be unseen—that there is no satisfaction for our souls outside Jesus.

“So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:67-69)

To whom shall we go?

The Bible Warned Us About This

It feels all too common. I open Twitter and find news I wish wasn’t true. I hope it’s not true. But as I read I realize, tragically, it is all too true. A well-known Christian leader has fallen. He wasn’t what he seemed to be. His sins, as the Bible promises, have found him out (Numbers 32:23).

I could list names, but you know them. We all do. Each one, whether in our theological tribe or not, causes grief. They seemed so gifted, so persuasive for Christ, so used by Christ. How could they do what they did? What will happen now? What else don’t we know?

Ancient Israel knew the feeling. In the Old Testament, we find the most complete biography of anyone in the ancient world: King David. From his anointing to his death, we live David’s life along with him through the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and, perhaps more poignantly, through the Psalms. All of David’s life is before us—his righteousness and his sins, his faithfulness and his disobedience, his heroics and his failures. It’s all there for the reading and the re-reading.

As the story begins, 1 Samuel 16-26 tell of David’s ascent. Samuel anoints him as king. Saul welcomes him into the palace. Jonathan befriends him and helps him. When Saul eventually turns on him, God clearly protects and delivers David from all evil. He’s the golden child who can do no wrong. Even when his men plead with him to execute Saul as he is at the mouth of the cave, David strongly denies them. He will not put his hand against the Lord’s anointed. Not once, but twice, David proves he means it.

After David spares Saul’s life a second time in 1 Samuel 26, he refuses to return home to Israel. He still fears Saul, and rightly so. But instead of staying where he is, David flees to a surprising place: into the land of the Philistines, Israel’s arch-enemy.

Go read 1 Samuel 27. It’s not a bright spot in David’s life.

In fact, it’s difficult to know what to do with it. Faithful David seems lost. He gives himself over to a foreign king in a foreign land, hiring himself out as a mercenary. Though the cities he raids aren’t Israel’s, he lies about what he’s doing, kills everyone so no one can break his cover, and puts himself in a deeply compromising situation. It’s the kind of season of David’s life that he wouldn’t put on his resume. Reading it later on as a member of the nation of Israel would have surely been jarring. His actions seem so out of character. No inquiring God for direction. Just merciless killing and lying. By this point of the story, we’ve become fans of David. It was clear he was the chosen one, the king Israel longed for. But why does it feel like a different person in this chapter?

As commentator Dale Ralph Davis says, by the time we finish the chapter, we’ve likely become an angry reader. Perhaps we even feel betrayed by him. Who is this David? What is he doing? These are the kinds of things that we’d see on the back-alleys of Twitter today, the rumors we hope aren’t true.

David is a sympathetic figure. He’s relentlessly hunted by Saul. He’s away from home. David is as good a guy as a good guy can get. But now? He’s a disappointment. There isn’t even a mention of God 1 Samuel 27. That’s no oversight. It’s an insight into David’s mindset. Far from depending upon God in the wilderness, he’s left him to make his own path.

For all the questions we have about David, Dale Ralph Davis helps us see what’s going on inside our hearts as we read the story

Did you ever think that perhaps the writer is trying to correct your mistake? Yes, you, Bible reader that you are, may have fallen into the trap of hero worship, of looking on your pet Bible characters and exalting them too highly. Why should you be surprised, shocked, off ended? Why should you talk about “betrayal”? The text is saying that this chosen, anointed servant is made of the same stuff as all the Lord’s people. Must we throw out God’s kingdom because not only its subjects but even its premier servants are sinners? Karl Gutbrod is right: the text will not allow us to view Saul with only contempt and save nothing but admiration for David; the text resists every attempt to make David the mirror of all virtue.[1]

What Davis says about looking on our pet Bible characters and exalting them too highly has sprung out of the Bible and into the Church. We do this all the time, don’t we? A gifted preaches rises to prominence and we jump on the bandwagon. We don’t mean to make more of him than we ought, but it happens anyway. His leadership seems impressive. People come to Christ from his preaching. He moves us deeply, and we thank God for him.

Then it crumbles.

Heroes fall apart.

All but one.

And that’s the point. That’s where a chapter like 1 Samuel 27 can help us. There is only one hero. Others may good models in some areas, maybe even in most areas, but all but Christ are fallen.

The Bible warned us about this. We could overlook David’s actions here, but even if we do, we cannot when he takes advantage of Bathsheba and kills her husband. David’s sins, too, will find him out, and the whole nation will be impacted.

Putting our faith in someone other than Jesus will inevitably lead to disappointment. Yet we do it anyway. That’s why it hurts so bad when our heroes fall.

The solution isn’t to never have a hero. I don’t think we can live that way. We need someone to look up to. We just must be sure we’re looking to the right one. Jesus is all the hero we will ever need with none of the failures of all the others.

He will never let us down.

[1] Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, Focus on the Bible Commentary (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2000), 286–287.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at

Considering Grief

My kids love stories, and honestly, I would argue that we all do.

I remember around the age of ten, my dad would read a chapter of the Hardy Boys before bed. As my brothers and I listened, we would become engulfed in the story. However, as exciting as it was, there was always a quiet depression that would begin to set in upon realizing that the chapter was ending. 

As we consider grief there are three points that we should consider:

  1. Realizing Grief Will Come

Many times, the experience of a loved one’s death will bring the same sense of Déjà vu as their story comes to an end. Since the fall, loss has become a continued reality. The scriptures explain that as the descendants of Adam, humanity longs to do whatever can be done to add to the story of life. In the book of Hebrews, the author explains this by saying, that because of the fall, all have been placed under the bondage of death and will do anything and everything to outrun it. (Heb. 2:15) However, just as God brought grace to the garden after the fall, there is grace for our grieving as well.

  1. Redeeming Our Grief

The good news, the grace, is that the scriptures also give the hope that there is One that has already outrun death on our behalf. When faced with grief, the story of redemption and the new Creation gives hope and comfort. Without the story of redemption pointing to the future, those who grieve must settle for memories of the past. Memories that, while they are wonderful to enjoy, only leave emptiness, longing, and sorrow. (1 Thess. 4:13) But it is in the story of redemption that graces for grieving can be found. Isaiah writes that Christ took our griefs and bore the sorrows that we could never bear. (Is. 53:4) Grief for the sins that we or a loved one committed were borne by Him. The grief over times of failure has been swallowed up by His success. The grief that the loved one has departed is turned into a hope that we will see them again. Because of Christ, even in grief, redemption can be celebrated.

  1. Resting in Peace

The time at the grave is utterly difficult and the pain of loss is terrible, but it is at an open tomb that we can find an unexplainable peace. As believers, we don’t have to grieve like the rest of the world. (1 Thess. 4:13) We know that because of Christ’s declaration that “it is finished”, we have the promise that the sting of death has been taken away. Because of this, we can rest in peace knowing that at the end of the book of the believer’s life, God has written: “to be continued.” 

Episode 196: How to Make Christian Movies Better

Why are Christian movies so bad? On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson and Ross Ferguson discuss the state of Christian media and how it can be improved.

Cultivating Faith Like a Child

“I’m getting a new friend tomorrow!”

This was the announcement my 5-year-old daughter had for me when I picked her up from kindergarten. She was absolutely sure she would have a new friend coming. This was kind of mystifying for me, for while I am aware that little kids make friends with an ease that adults can only envy, to be so sure a new friend was coming seemed another level. It was only after some follow up questions that the truth was revealed. My daughter’s teacher was informing the class that they would have a new student joining them the next day. And as kindergarten teachers will, she used the language of a new friend joining their class.

But this was not just fun language to my daughter. If the teacher said there would be a new friend, then there would be a new friend. My daughter had faith in what her teacher said. She believed with conviction, and so loudly and proudly proclaimed to me that she would have a new friend arriving the next day. She had faith like only a child could.

Jesus spoke on several occasions about having a child-like faith. We see Jesus correcting the disciples’ mindset about who would be the greatest in the kingdom by using a child as an illustration (Matthew 18:1-6). We see Jesus receiving children in Matthew 19 and blessing them and when the disciples try to stop these parents from bringing their kids to Jesus, he says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus even calls for his disciples to have child-like faith in Mark 10:15, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” So what is this child like faith?

Faith like a child is a faith that believes because they trust. Like my daughter who believed she was getting a new friend because she trusted her teacher. We have child-like faith when we trust what Jesus says. When we trust the Word of God without asking endless questions or making countless caveats, we are experiencing child-like faith. The sad thing about growing up is experiencing people letting you down and realizing that things don’t always work out as you hoped or were promised. A level of cynicism creeps in and we start to doubt a little. We say things like “I believe… but.” Or we say we believe and trust but we are not shocked when it doesn’t happen.

Jesus is calling his disciples and us to have a faith that is sure and confident. A faith that leaves no room for doubt. A faith that hears the Word of God and is absolutely sure it is true. This is a faith that can carry us through the tough times of life. This is a faith that can withstand the storms of life. This is a faith that looks upon God as our good Father who is working all things for our sanctification and good. This is a faith that trusts.

So let’s practice a child-like faith. We can start easy by simply reading God’s Word and having the same conviction my daughter has when her teacher tells her something. This is true and I believe it.