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10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling
November 11, 2015

Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling is a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. According to publisher Thomas Nelson, it “continues to grow in units sold each year since it was released [and] has surpassed 15 million copies sold.” Nelson is involved in an expansive new marketing campaign that involves a new web site and daily radio devotionals. ECPA reports that “Thomas Nelson began its partnership with the Salem Media group to provide 60-second daily messages on Eric Metaxas’ show, which is carried on more than 100 stations nationwide and worldwide on SiriusXM Radio. The Jesus Calling radio devotional reaches more than 500,000 people each day through these segments.” With 15 million copies sold, it has marched its way into rare company.

Yet it is a deeply troubling book. I am going to point out 10 serious problems with Jesus Calling in the hope that you will consider and heed these warnings.

1. She speaks for God. Far and away the most troubling aspect of the book is its very premise—that Sarah Young hears from Jesus and then dutifully brings his messages to her readers. Jesus Calling makes the boldest, gutsiest, and, to my mind, most arrogant claim of any book ever to be considered Christian. The publisher describes the book in this way: “After many years of writing her own words in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to be more attentive to the Savior’s voice and begin listening for what He was saying. So with pen in hand, she embarked on a journey that forever changed her—and many others around the world. In these powerful pages are the words and Scriptures Jesus lovingly laid on her heart. Words of reassurance, comfort, and hope. Words that have made her increasingly aware of His presence and allowed her to enjoy His peace (italics mine).” There is no way to avoid her claim that she is communicating divine revelation, a claim that raises a host of questions and concerns, not the least of which is the doctrine of Scripture alone which assures us that the Bible and the Bible alone is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith and practice.

2. She proclaims the insufficiency of the BibleJesus Calling only exists because Sarah Young had a deep desire to hear from God outside of the Bible. In the introduction she describes the book’s genesis: “I began to wonder if I … could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day.” In those few sentences she sets up unnecessary competition between her revelation and what we are told of the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Biblically, there is no category for what she provides as the heart and soul of her book. Biblically, there is no need for it and no reason we should expect or heed it.

3. Her deepest experience of God comes through a practice God does not endorse. Young does not only endorse her practice of listening, but goes so far as to elevate it as the chief spiritual discipline. “This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need.” Notice that her solution to addressing the desire for Jesus’ Presence and Peace is not Scripture or any other means of grace, but the very messages she provides in her book.

4. She is inspired by untrustworthy models. In early versions of Jesus Calling, Young tells of her discovery of the book God Calling and the way she modeled her practice of listening on it. She describes it as “a devotional book written by two anonymous ‘listeners.’ These women practiced waiting quietly in God’s Presence, pencils and paper in hand, recording the messages they received from Him. This little paperback became a treasure to me. It dove-tailed remarkably well with my longing to live in Jesus’ Presence.” It is worth noting that recent versions of Jesus Calling have been scrubbed of this information. God Calling is an equally troubling book that saw much success beginning in the 1930s and has seen a revival of interest in the wake of Jesus Calling. It is at times subbiblical and at other times patently unbiblical. And yet it is a book she regards as a treasure and a model for her own work.

5. She provides lesser revelation. Young admits that her revelation is different from the Bible’s (“The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard”), but does not explain how her writings are different. Jesse Johnson says, “She does grant that the content of Jesus Calling should be measured against Scripture—but that is true of Scripture as well. In the end, there is no substantial difference in how Young expects us to view Jesus’ words to her, than how we are to view the Bible. I mean, Jesus’ words to Sarah are literally packaged into a devotional, so that we can do our devotionals from them every day.” If her words are actually from Jesus, how can they be any less authoritative or less binding than any word of Scripture?

6. She mimics occult practices. The way in which Young receives her revelation from Jesus smacks of the occult. “I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believe He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.” This is not a far cry from a practice known as “automatic writing” which Wikipedia describes as “an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.” Her inspiration was God Calling where it is even clearer that the authors allowed their minds to go blank at which point they supposedly received messages from God. This practice is very different from the giving of biblical revelation where God worked through the thoughts, personalities, and even research of the authors.

7. Her emphasis does not match the Bible’s. Young’s emphasis in Jesus Calling is markedly different from the emphases of the Bible. For example, she speaks seldom of sin and repentance and even less of Christ’s work on the cross. Michael Horton says, “In terms of content, the message is reducible to one point: Trust me more in daily dependence and you’ll enjoy my presence.” While this is not necessarily an unbiblical or inappropriate message, it hardly matches the thrust of the Bible which always pushes toward or flows from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Horton adds, “The first mention of Christ even dying for our sins appears on February 28 (page 61). The next reference (to wearing Christ’s robe) is August 9 (p. 232). Even the December readings focus on a general presence of Jesus in our hearts and daily lives, without anchoring it in Jesus’s person and work in history.”

8. Her tone does not match the Bible’s. It can’t be denied: The Jesus of Sarah Young sounds suspiciously like a twenty-first century, Western, middle-aged woman. If this is, indeed, Jesus speaking, we need to explain why he sounds so markedly different from the Jesus of the gospels or the Jesus of the book of Revelation. Nowhere in Scripture do we find Jesus (or his Father) speaking like this: “When your Joy in Me meets My Joy in you, there are fireworks of heavenly ecstasy.” Or again, “Wear my Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe.” And, “Bring me the sacrifice of your precious time. This creates sacred space around you—space permeated with My Presence and My Peace.” Why does Jesus suddenly speak in such different language?

9. She generates confusion. By fabricating the spiritual discipline of listening and elevating it to the first place, she generates confusion about the disciplines that God does prescribe for Christians. Michael Horton addresses this one well: “According to the Reformation stream of evangelicalism, God speaks to us in his Word (the arrow pointing down from God to us) and we speak to him in prayer (the arrow directed up to God). However, Jesus Calling confuses the direction of these arrows, blurring the distinction between God’s speech and our response.” What she models and endorses is both confusing and unhelpful.

10. Her book has been corrected. Most people don’t know that Jesus Calling has undergone revisions, not only in the introduction where she removed references to God Calling, but also in the words she claims to have received from Jesus. This, of course, casts even further doubt on the trustworthiness of the revelation she receives. After all, why would words from Jesus need to be revised? Did God lie? Did he change? Did she mis-hear him? There is no good option here, other than to doubt all she has ever claimed to receive. This comparison from CARM highlights one significant correction to the text:

Jesus Calling Comparison

The point is clear: Jesus Calling is a book built upon a faulty premise and in that way a book that is dangerous and unworthy of our attention or affirmation. The great tragedy is that it is leading people away from God’s means of grace that are so sweet and so satisfying, if only we will accept and embrace them.

God Is Not That Holy I Am Not That Bad
November 09, 2015

How do you know that you really get the gospel, that you really understand and believe it? Or perhaps better said, how do you know that the gospel has really gotten you, that it has taken hold of you and begun to permanently transform you? I found myself pondering this question last week and was soon thinking about people I have known who once professed faith, but who eventually grew cold, grew distant, and fell away.

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you, too, have known people like this. Over time it became clear that their faith had been a mirage. They had deceived the people around them, but they had first deceived themselves. And any time I see these people fall away I am left asking, What would have marked them as true believers? How could I have known that they really got the gospel? How could they have known that they really got the gospel?

Maybe it would have been this: You know that you really get the gospel when it is God’s grace rather than God’s wrath that amazes you. I often hear people express their amazement and even their disgust at the very notion of a wrathful God. But when I hear true believers, I hear them express amazement at the reality of a gracious God. It is grace, not wrath, that baffles them. “Why? Why me? Why would God extend such grace to me?”

This is, I think, why John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” has remained such a popular and powerful hymn. Newton’s cry was “amazing grace.” Wrath did not surprise or offend him. He knew of his wretchedness, his own deep depravity. He was already convicted that he was fully deserving of God’s justice. So it was grace that shocked him. It was grace that seemed so out-of-place. If there was any offense to the gospel it was that God would take the sin of a very bad man like John Newton and place it on the perfect man Jesus Christ.

You know that you really get it when the shocking thing about the gospel is not that God extends wrath to sinners, but that he extends grace. And here’s why: The basic human condition is to believe that God isn’t really all that holy and that I’m not really that bad. God is lenient toward sin, and, as it happens, I am not really all that deeply sinful anyway. So we are a good match, God and I. It takes no faith to believe that. It takes no great change of mind and heart.

But the gospel unmasks that kind of delusion. The gospel helps us see things as they really are. The gospel says that God really is far holier than I dared even imagine and that I am far more sinful than I ever could have guessed. And, right there—with the right assessment of both God and me—right there the gospel blazes forth. Right there the gospel gives hope.

(Once again I’m indebted to Michael Kruger’s lectures on Romans)

Letters to the Editor
November 08, 2015

A couple of months ago I made the decision to remove the comment section on my blog. I did so largely because comments can only succeed where there is good moderation, and I was increasingly unable to provide that. In lieu of comments I have decided to accept (and encourage) letters to the editor. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week—letters that are representative of the ones I received this week. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.

Comments on A Quiz on the Doctrine of Scripture

I got 32 out of 33, and the one I got wrong was about the overarching message of the Bible [“The overarching goal of the Bible is to bring readers into a saving relationship with God through faith in Christ Jesus.”]. The Shorter Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, so I would contend that that is the message, and that it includes our salvation via the Cross, and that Christ is the central Character but that the goal and message is that God would be glorified; it is our preparation for Eternity where we will live constantly glorifying Him, for Who He is and for what He has done.
—Michael M, Christchurch, New Zealand


Really liked the quiz. It was a good mix of true and false, had some good depth, and the Scripture and WCF support passages were helpful. The only question that I think is wrong is #32. The answer in the quiz made it man-centered rather than Christ-centered. While the Scripture passages given state the purposes of those particular books as convincing the reader to believe, I don’t think that is the overarching purpose of the Bible. You could look to some of the OT prophets, Isaiah in particular, where God said He was giving His word to harden hearts and most would not hear and believe. Jesus said that He spoke in parables to keep some (Pharisees) from hearing and seeing. Ultimately, the Gospel has a dual purpose - to bring salvation and to harden. If you had to go with an overarching purpose, it may be better to say something like it is about revealing God’s covenant faithfulness to His people, whom He created and who fell into sin, fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. (I’m sure there is a better worded way of saying this, but I’m doing this off the top of my head.)
—Tom C, Acworth, GA


I wonder about question 32, I think it was, concerning the main purpose of scripture. I don’t think scripture’s main purpose concerns the salvation of people although it is undoubtably important. My take is that the entire biblical story, from beginning to end it about God, and how he will ultimately accomplish his purposes, for his glory, regardless of the sin and failure of people. The scriptures center on God who created the heavens and the earth.
—Loren B, Temple, TX

Tim: Of all the questions I asked in the quiz on the doctrine of Scripture, #32 was the one that generated the most questions and confusion. And, in retrospect, I see why. I will rewrite it to maintain the intent of the question, but to add clarity.


I really appreciate the quizzes that you have been running lately, especially how you give the rationale/doctrinal basis for each as each question is answered. It is encouraging to me both to see what I have learned in my years of study and to get further motivation to dig even deeper. Thank you so much for all that you do.
—Andrea N, Canton, NY

Tim: I’m glad they have proven helpful. I have thoroughly enjoyed putting them together and have more in the works!


First, let me say that you have had a profound impact on my Spiritual life over the past few years that I have been following you. Your insights are simple but deep, well stated and I have found them to be Biblically sound. When you challenge my point of view, I study and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and usually find a new insight that I have not considered. I enjoyed the quiz on the Doctrine of Scripture and would like a printable copy of the quiz and the answers/Scripture references to use as a reference for a ladies Bible study class that I am in at my church. Thank you for all you do! God Bless!
—Kellye B, Crystal Springs, MS

Tim: Thanks so much, Kellye. That is very encouraging. And I plan to have downloadable, printable copies available very soon. There is a surprising amount of copying, pasting, and formatting involved.

Comments on Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie?

Hi Mr. Challies, I’m writing you to say thank you for a really wonderful website that is thought provoking, educational, and adheres to the gospel.This morning, as I was reading through the different articles delivered to my inbox, I happened across the Joel Osteen quiz, and instantly got convicted of something that I harbor within myself, and am seeing on your website. The lampooning of another person as a form of entertainment for a group of people. The issue that convicts me is that does this edify the listener, or reader? Is it an act of love, or will this turn people against another in hate or ridicule? Now, I am well aware of Mr. Osteen’s lack of theology and doctrine, but maybe the times spent discussing him can be in prayer for him? Describing bullet-points of his wrong theology, and the the hopes for the eventual turn of his heart to that of Christ’s?This is just food-for-thought on how we may want to act around others with ideas that are off, and not necessarily in line with that of Christ. We have churches full of them, do we ridicule these people, or do we help teach them? Would it benefit Joel Osteen to come across your website and see ridicule, or a systematic breakdown of where he is wrong, how it can be righted, and knowing that people are praying for him and encouraging him to be doctrinally sound.
—Matthew D, Canyon Country, CA


Where in the bible are we called to mock another’s ministry for furtherance of our own kingdom?
—Brad D, Spokane, WA

Tim: I received a few comments about mocking Joel Osteen through the Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie quiz. I rarely mock other people, but in this case I consider it well-founded and would compare it to Elijah mocking the priests of Baal: “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). This mockery is not done out of spite for Osteen, but out of hatred for the feel-good, unbiblical, soul-destroying false gospel he advocates. The very fact that most people got only 6 or 7 out of 12 on the quiz just proves the feebleness of his message. I hope that the mockery is effective in helping people see this.


I have a bone to pick with you. I woke up the kids by my laughing hysterically while taking your quiz. Please keep up the good work!
—Christopher V, Ypsilanti, MI

Comments on Weekend A La Carte (November 7)

Was it intentional or coincidental that you linked an article about Perry Noble being in favor of women preachers, right about a link to an article about the dangers of celebrity pastors?
—Joel E, Greenville, SC

Tim: Well, I had planned to link to them both and it seemed serendipitous to put them one after the other.

General Comments

Like the majority of the civilized world, I was extremely blessed by the comments at the end of articles. Would you be able to solicit a pool of dudes you trust to be guest moderators of comments? Then just put the statements “views of the the guest moderators may or may not reflect whatever. I may not agree with them, but I really like them as people.” THEN, someone else could moderate the comments of gold then you could be off the hook and could write us more books.
—Michael F, East Peoria, IL

Tim: Thanks, Michael. I continue to debate bringing back the comments section.


As an author and reviewer, would you want to be informed by someone who noticed your work being plagiarized? I’ve seen that done blatantly, and was unable to point it out to the one who used your work (no way to reach the individual that I could find.) It was a source I thought you’d probably see and perhaps address yourself, so I decided to leave it alone. Would you want to be informed?
—Chip G, Plano, TX

Tim: There is a surprising amount of “Christian plagiarism,” whether that is people posting whole books online or people copying blog articles to their own site. In general I do not respond to it except in the case of books. But if you see it consistently, I would be glad to know about it.

Comments on The Most Terrifying Thing God Can Do

Your article has “fleshed” out a thought I’ve been pondering from Rom. 1 for a while. This thought of God giving over, letting go… The analogy that works for me is that He takes the brakes off. The car (my life) then goes unimpeded down the hill, picking up speed, careening off of other lives, & causing greater & greater damage. You hit the nail on the head. Thanks a bunch.
—Jeff J, Columbus, IN

At the age of 13 I was molested in Scouts by a trusted scout dad. That night changed me forever. I immediately started using drugs and alcohol. By the time I’m 15/16, I’m using all drugs. I’m a full-blown alcoholic and drug addict. My soul was ripped from my chest by that attack at scout camp. I took a hostage as we say in A.A. We got married and started a family. In a short period of time, I ripped my wife’s soul from her chest. She was depressed and suicidal. I was a lunatic. In January of 2010, with the aid of a believer I met in an A.A. meeting, I walked into Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, Ohio. I had been sober for 14 years but I was still empty inside. In a short period of time Christ entered my life. That empty cavern inside was now filled. Within a year, my Lord saw fit to reveal many suppressed memories of my attack 3 decades earlier. For the next two years, I relived the horrors of that night. With the aid of my community group, we walked through the healing process. I was told I must forgive my molester, even if he new nothing about it. I learned of my Lord’s tremendous grace and love freely given me, now I must do the same. I found out my attacker had done prison time for similar crimes against kids. I found his address. With the help of my friend, we wrote Mr Smith a letter. I told him what he did to me was forgiven. The actions he did to me ultimately brought me to Christ. I told him if he wanted to accept Christ as I did, that I would help walk with him through it. Mr Smith would be a very old man now and I didn’t know if he would respond or whatever. But, I sent him the letter. I did not hear back from him but I learned so much about the power of the cross and its healing powers. What one man meant for evil, God meant for good.
—Tom S, Sagamore Hills, OH

Tim: Thanks for sharing your story, Tom. It is encouraging to hear such a powerful testimony to God’s grace.

November 02, 2015

Have you ever seen one of those photo collages of a drug addict as she descends deeper and deeper into her addiction? It is startling to see that in just a few short years an addict can be transformed—or perhaps better, deformed—from an attractive, fresh-faced young lady to a hollow-eyed shadow of a human being. Some drugs are so powerful and so devastating that they rot not only the mind and soul but the body as well. The substance that promises such delight actually delivers terrible destruction.

addictI see the horror of sin pictured in the decaying face of the addict. Her drug is both alluring and punishing. It promises joy and delivers bondage. Meth is its own punishment. It takes captive. It rots. It destroys. And in that way it is a particularly vivid illustration of every other sin.

I have been working my way back through the book of Romans, and am just now wading through the terrible truths that come at the end of the first chapter. Here Paul explains why and how God’s wrath is a just response to human depravity. As I have read and considered this passage I have been struck anew with the horror of sin. I have been startled again by the way in which God expresses his wrath.

What we learn from Romans 1 is that the most terrifying thing God can do in this life is give you over to your sin. We see that God is the one who restrains human evil—he restrains evil in this world and evil within each one of our hearts. But as people continue to rebel and as they continue to pursue their sin, God eventually lessens his restraint, he loosens his grip on the chain that is holding back the great waves of depravity within each human heart. As the rebellion continues, God eventually lets go, giving people their desire, giving them over to their sin.

We speak often of hell and eternal consequences for sin, but perhaps we give too little attention to God’s action against sin in this world and this life. God’s punishment for sin is sin. His punishment is allowing people to experience the life-stealing, soul-rotting consequences of their sin. He expresses his wrath by allowing them the very thing they want. He does this because when they get the thing they want, it only deepens their destruction. In this way, sin is its own punishment. And in all the world I see nothing more terrifying than this: the prospect of God allowing people to experience the full impact and weight of their sinfulness. Nothing is more terrifying than God determining that he will no longer restrain the evil within them.

There is a call here for each one of us to identify sin in our lives and to put it to death. We need to pray that we would have a tender conscience that responds eagerly and immediately to the Spirit speaking through the Word. We need to heed the Holy Spirit as he calls and enables us to do this. We must take care that we do not harden ourselves against his presence lest he give us the very thing we want. How many who were once sure of their salvation were left spinning and doubting when God relaxed his grip and allowed them to sink deeper into that ongoing sin?

There is a call here as we interact with unbelievers as well, and it is a call to compassion. We can be compassionate because we get this glimpse into what God is doing, into how he is expressing his wrath against sinners. This compassion expresses itself in imploring people to turn from their sin, to understand that their sin only deepens their captivity, to understand that their growing desire to sin only proves their bondage. The greatest act of compassion is to tell people of their sinfulness and to point them to the hope of the gospel. It is for them, and for us, the deepest hope and the only hope.

I am now accepting (and encouraging) letters to the editor. This is an experimental feature meant to replace the comments section. If you would like to write a letter to the editor, you can do so here.

Letters to the Editor
November 01, 2015

A couple of months ago I made the decision to remove the comment section on my blog. I did so largely because comments can only succeed where there is good moderation, and I was increasingly unable to provide that. The fault, then, was not in the commenters, but in me. In lieu of comments I have decided to accept (and encourage) letters to the editor. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.

General Comments

I have long wondered how you manage to find such a delightful range of fascinating articles for your a la carte posts. There are so many that I want to follow up on (though I don’t have time to read them all), and I wondered where you find and how you choose the best ones to feature?
—Megan S, Moneta, VA

Tim: In short, I use Feedly to collect and collate a lot of blogs and other sites. A couple of times every day I see what’s there, read the ones that look best, and share the few that I think will be interesting to others. My general sense is that if it is interesting to me, it is probably interesting to others as well. I deliberately attempt not to share things that I don’t find interesting, even if I think others will.


I am a bit concerned about your decision to remove comments from your blog. I have noticed that this is a growing practice on many blogs and news outlets these days. In fact, I am not the only one to notice. Breitbart just published an excellent article on the matter. I have always found the comments section to be a great way for readers to interact with one another on the things that you have posted about. I really think that we lose a bit of community when the comment sections are taken from us. I really do hope you will consider bringing them back.—Jeremy P, Denton, TX

Tim: I do not disagree. However, successful comment sections require a lot of moderating and oversight; I haven’t been convinced that this would be the best use of my time right now.

Comments on I Went Away for Just 6 Days…

I was just thinking. The picture you chose to depict Justin Trudeau, is that the most appropriate photo of him to use? It objectifies him, turning him into a sex symbol. Which is likely true of how society views him, but in the context of your blog, wouldn’t such a photo cause people to lust after Mr. Trudeau, i.e. sin? To help illustrate what I mean, you likely wouldn’t post a similar photo if Mr. Trudeau was a woman. And ultimately, there are a lots of more appropriate photos of Trudeau out there, fully clothed. Just something to think about.
Brian J, Ottawa, ON


Here in Kentucky we are having a gubernatorial election in a few days. I have been feeling the same way as you expressed yourself in this article. I normally always vote for the candidate from the same party, but this year neither candidate is someone I would like to have dinner with. But, I don’t want to throw my vote away by not using it. As my wife and I will be out of town on election day we absentee voted a few days ago and I had to pick one of the choices, neither of who I really want to see in the job for the next four years. I feel much better about voting since reading your blog post. I will also read it this Sunday to the Seniors Sunday School Class I teach at our PCA church. Thanks for your thoughts that showed me I did the right thing in voting no matter how I feel about the candidates. God will win the election ultimately!
Tom B, Georgetown, KY


First, is the half naked photo of Justin Trudeau a true representation of him? A rhetorical question. Next, the opinion not fact based comment of Trudeau’s eagerness to lead the people licentiously into the future. Pointing out the legalization of marijuana and the exclusion of pro lifers to his parliament. Really? The fact is Trudeau was elected as- a result of the citizens of Canada voting strategically in order to oust Harper. The Canadian voting system is flawed and the people want to see reforms to the current system. Canadians aren’t putting their trust in Trudeau so much as they are going to hold him accountable to fulfill the promises he made during the campaign. Canadians want a government that represents it’s values, beliefs and needs. One thing this election did was wake the people up and get them out to vote. We have the right and responsibility to hold the government accountable. Why are you making this about religion? Also rhetorical as you are clearly wanting to promote your religious agenda.
Helen S, Hells Gate, BC


I just wanted to say thank you for this article as a reminder that God is Sovereign. I work for a Fortune 50 company whereas my manager informed me about a month ago that our entire department (500+ employees) is being shipping offshore to India and we will be notified of losing our jobs sometime in the next 6 months. So my job search has begun. I have sent about 10-15 resumes out and have only heard back from one company. I have had 2 interviews with them, and I am anxiously awaiting feedback from them on whether I move to the final step or not. I do not do the waiting game very well and have been on an emotional rollercoaster. Part of this rollercoaster is trusting in myself or trusting in what the hiring manager at this potential new company thinks of me or what my current company thinks of me. This article served a great reminder and convicted me that God rules over all….over countries and their leaders and even companies and their leaders. The Lord will reign forever. Thank you for reminding me to hold to that truth for I was being rebellious and not wanting to believe that the Lord reigns and He cares. Now to wait upon the Lord for He reigns. Now to trust in the Lord for He reigns. Now to focus on the Lord for He reigns. Now to approach His throne and seek his Peace and Rest for He reigns.
Greg T , Prosper, TX

Comments on We Cannot Be Silent

In your recent review of Mohler’s “We Cannot Be Silent”, you wrote, ‘It closely and critically examines the defining moral issues of our day—sex, gender, and sexuality—and stands firm on the unpopular, traditional, biblical viewpoints.’ While I agree that clearly, graciously (and, if possible, winsomely) articulating the biblical vision for human sexuality is escapably the duty of the modern church, I think it is unfortunately reductive to describe sex, gender and sexuality as the ‘defining moral issues of our day.’ Unless Reformed, evangelical Christians simply identify with a particular political framework at every turn, it seems to me that there are other, equally pressing issues, that are no less definitive of the wasteland in which Western society finds itself. Global poverty, abortion, climate change, the role of corporations in the political sphere, mental illness, individualism - all of these are profoundly moral issues that are particular present in this late-modern age. To suggest otherwise is to truncate the breadth of the Scriptures’ prophetic witness to our world and diminish the scope of Christ’s lordship. It isn’t a question of choosing one and being silent on the other. Christianity is neither liberal, nor progressive. It is biblical, and therefore conforms to no predetermined label on the political spectrum.
Michael P, Sydney, NSW Australia

Comments on I Demand Justice

Hey Tim. I really appreciate this new forum, hope you are finding it beneficial. My husband’s father fought in WW II; we share a constant study of it and the truth that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. We were in Germany a few years ago, and the one place my husband could never visit is a concentration camp. Thank you for sharing the impact it had on you. Your gifted writing served your readers well, yet again. As I read your personal application to the demand for all justice or none at all, I thought of the abortion issue. Many rightly judge the abhorrence of it, the murder of millions of children. I was recently convicted of the words of Christ that I’m not sure we think about often enough. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;” (Matt 5:21) I have since taken that act of murder in my own heart more serious than ever.
Patti N, Berkley, Michigan

Comments on Custom-Crafted Kids

I have recently thought that what makes the electing work of God so marvelous is the fact that it is not only for a position or status (i.e. to be justified), but also for a purpose. Again in Romans, Paul makes the point that God’s foreknowledge and predestination of us was done so that we might be “conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:29) This concept is echoed in Ephesians 2:10 (“created in Christ Jesus for good works…”) and other places as well. So election aims at conformity to Christ, which should spur us to cultivate Christlikeness passionately and with highest priority. What is more, this goal of being made like Christ brings ultimate honor and glory to him. Yes, God loves us because he loves us (Deuteronomy 7:7-8), but also because he loves his Son and has planned to make us like him. May our view of election go beyond our appreciation that God would set his love on us and land on the glorious reality of how he loves his Son.
Alan S, Valencia, CA

Custom-Ordered Kids
October 30, 2015

Pepperoni on the whole thing, sausage on one half, mushroom on the other. Thin crust, extra cheese, and throw in a couple of the spicy dipping sauces. And why don’t you make it the combo that comes with a couple of cans of Mountain Dew…”

Just imagine if you could order children the way you order pizza. Imagine if God knew you were trying to have a child and approached you to ask what you’d like. “Just run through this checklist and put together your order.” What would you want your child to be? What traits would you choose? Beautiful? Brilliant? Athletic? All of the above? Tell you what: You probably would not choose kids that are below-average or physically disabled or mentally handicapped. You would probably not even choose kids who are just plain normal. You would want your children to be the best and brightest, to stand out in every way possible.

New advances in technology make it seem like we will soon have to grapple with questions like these. As we get to the depths of the human genome and as we learn more and more about reproduction, we gain new abilities to custom-order the traits we value most. The ethical implications are profound and, to my mind, terrifying. But, of course, we tend to allow technology to run rampant and worry about the ethics later on.

There is a real attraction when it comes to customizing children because in some way we believe that our children are a reflection of ourselves. Beautiful children make their parents feel beautiful. Brilliant children make their parents feel brilliant. Ordinary children make their parents feel, well, ordinary. And what parent wants children who make them feel ordinary? Or, even worse, who wants children who reflect poorly on their parents?

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…” (Romans 1:7a). I love this little line from the introduction to Romans. Paul writes to the Christians at Rome and reminds them of two simple truths: They have been loved by God and called by God. They were called because they were first loved. And why were they loved? Why are we loved? Well, that’s the great mystery, isn’t it? But we see hints all through the Bible.

What we find is that God loves us because he loved us. God loves us today because he set his love on us in eternity past. Any love we have for God today is a response to the love God had for us yesterday and for a billion yesterdays before that one. But why were we loved in eternity past? Israel once wondered the same and God told them, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you…” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). That’s no real help, is it? All God does is reaffirm his pre-existing love. “I love you because I loved you.”

The church in Corinth wondered this as well and God told them, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). Well, now we know that it was not because of what we are that God loved us, but because of what we are not. It’s not like in the distant past God surveyed humanity, saw the beautiful and brilliant, the good and the godly, and chose to love them. It’s not like he filled out a checklist to filter out everyone but the ones with the highest abilities or the greatest goodness. No, he chose the foolish, the weak, the despised, and the lowly. He set his love on them. And then, at the right time, he called them—he brought them from death to life.

God could have chosen anyone. He could have set his love on anyone. He could have been drawn to people with only the highest qualifications. He could have custom-crafted people that would only ever make him look great.

But he chose you. He chose me. And he chose us not because of what we are, but because of what we aren’t. He purposely chose the weak in order to better display his strength. He purposely chose the bad in order to better display his goodness. He purposely chose the foolish in order to better display his wisdom. As Michael Kruger says so well, What makes the gospel good news is that God decided to pour out his love on people who had nothing special to offer. He decided to pour out his love on people like you and me.

(I should note that much of what I’ve written here has been inspired by Michael Kruger’s excellent lectures on Romans.)

Image credit: Shutterstock

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October 28, 2015

Justin TrudeauI went to Europe for just six days, and by the time I returned the Blue Jays had been turfed out of the playoffs and this guy had been elected as our Prime Minister. (I actually noticed that he was front-center on the cover of the German newspapers.) While I felt surprisingly little despair over the demise of my team, I couldn’t hold off some discouragement in seeing Trudeau and his Liberal Party of Canada sweep into power. He becomes Prime Minister at a time when Canadians are eager for change and when they are eager for someone to lead them into a liberal and licentious future—Trudeau, after all, made the legalization of marijuana one of his key campaign promises and told prospective members of parliament they were not welcome in his party if they are pro-life.

It was a sudden and interesting little realization that drew me out of my despair. I found myself pondering the well-known words of Psalm 146:3-4: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” Here the psalmist admits our temptation to find hope in men, to put our trust in princes and presidents and prime ministers. We know better. We know the futility of trusting in men. But still we are prone to it. Still we do it.

And it struck me that there are two sides to this temptation. The temptation is not only to put my hope in politicians but to put my despair in them as well. I will be tempted not only to find too much joy in the election of the person I voted for, but also to sink too far into despair in the election of the person I did not. Either way, whether I soar too high or sink too low, I am declaring that I have put my trust in a man more than in God. I have forgotten that, ultimately, it is God who rules over and through earthly rulers.

The psalmist gets this. He gets it and pushes back by declaring that our hope is to always be anchored in God: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” In the rest of the psalm he explains why God and God alone is worthy of our confidence: He is the one who created the world, he is the one who formed humanity, he is the one who sustains all that exists, he is the one who keeps faith, who executes justice, who provides for our needs, who brings the wicked to ruin. He is the one who rules whether through good rulers or bad ones, through the ones I would have chosen and the ones I just can’t stand.

“The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD” (Psalm 146:10)! Even while Justin Trudeau has the next 4 years to advance his agenda, it is the Lord who reigns.

I am now accepting (and encouraging) letters to the editor. This is an experimental feature meant to replace the comments section. If you would like to write a letter to the editor, you can do so here.

I Demand Justice
October 26, 2015

Last week I spent a few hours at Dachau, the infamous Nazi concentration camp. It stands today as a kind of monument to evil, a reminder of what humanity is capable of. It was sobering to walk the grounds, to view the barracks, to tour the museum, and to peer into the long rows of isolation cells. It was horrifying to see the pockmarked wall that was used as the backdrop for firing squads, to walk through a gas chamber, and to stare at the ovens that were once used to dispose of so many bodies. The things I had seen in movies and read about in books were right there in front of me. It was all so real.

As I walked back through the gates of Dachau and onto the streets of Munich, the cry of my heart was for justice. It is not right that so many people should have been rounded up and confined and killed in that camp (and in so many other camps like it). It is not right that people should have been executed for their unpopular political views, for their religion, for their ethnicity, or for all those other arbitrary reasons. It was wrong. Really, really wrong. The common experience when leaving a camp like that is to feel deep sorrow mixed with a deep desire for justice.

Justice exists to address evil. If there was no evil in this world there would be no need for justice. But evil does exist, and so justice must exist as well. The cry for justice is universal. There has never been a person who has not desired it at one time or another. This longing arises from the image of God within us. Rocks don’t want justice; animals don’t want it. We do. We long for justice because we bear the image of a just God.

As I walked out of Dachau I felt a deep longing for justice. I did not just want the kind of justice that would hand out a life sentence, but a cosmic justice, a complete justice, God’s own justice against the evildoers. A life sentence hardly pays the debt for a man who killed hundreds or thousands or millions.

But I had a deeper and more disturbing realization: If I want justice for them, I must also want justice for me. I can’t have it both ways. Either justice must exist for all crimes, or it must exist for no crimes. It must exist for those who violate God’s law in unusual and extreme ways and those who violate God’s law in the common and less remarkable ways. If there is to be justice for rapists and murderers and people who create concentration camps, there must also be justice for liars and lusters and gossips. If we want to live in a world where there is justice for war crimes, we must also live in a world where there is justice for heart crimes.

I like to be choosy about justice, to construct it in such a way that it falls on others but not on me. But what I realized as I walked out of Dachau is that if I want justice for them, I must also want it for me. If I want a world that is consistently rather than arbitrarily just, I must want justice for my own transgressions as well. And what cut through the gloom and gave me hope is that justice has been done and will be done. For those who are in Christ, the demands of justice have already been met by our Savior. For those who are not in Christ, the time of justice is looming. Justice will be done.