Is Dungeons & Dragons Demonic?

I recently made this YouTube video about Dungeons & Dragons, so I thought I would write a post as well with a little more info. Enjoy!


When I was growing up, Dungeons and Dragons was the stuff of legend, an ancient evil as terrifying as it was mysterious. I was homeschooled in a Christian household. I loved it! But I was definitely sheltered from some things, such as roleplaying games.

When I got older, I decided to find out for myself if they were really all that bad. So my wife and I joined a local D&D group to learn how it all worked. Today, we play D&D all the time and it’s a blast. But I didn’t have to give up my soul for it. This is your guide to D&D for Christians and homeschoolers, from a Christian homeschooler.

What Kind of Game is This?

Dungeons and Dragons is just one of many “table-top roleplaying games” or TTRPGs. These games are kind of like playing pretend with your friends. Remember when you were a kid and you said, “I am the legendary warrior! I will defeat you, villain!” and then you dueled your brother with a plastic sword? This is basically that, except you’re sitting at a table rolling dice to determine what happens. It’s make-believe, math, and a board game all rolled into one.

But that’s not all. Everyone at the table is telling a story together through the game. Groups usually meet a few times a month to keep those stories going for months or even years. There are no cults or satanic rituals. It’s just a good time with friends.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What about all those stories I’ve heard? Isn’t D&D demonic? Aren’t the kinds of people playing this game interested in the occult? What if players pretend to be evil? Let’s address these concerns one at a time.

The “Lord of the Rings” Rule

First, here’s a good rule of thumb. If you’re okay with Lord of the Rings, you shouldn’t have any problem with D&D. They are very similar in their aesthetics and setting. There are other roleplaying games out there with all kinds of different settings such as sci-fi, the old west, superheroes, and more. But today, we’ll focus on D&D.

Magic and Fantasy Themes

Like Lord of the Rings, D&D has magic as well as good and evil fantasy elements. There are noble wizards, scary ghosts, and cursed orcs alike. That being said, every D&D group is different. Players usually sit down before starting a game to talk about what themes they’re comfortable with so everyone has a good time. If you want, you can avoid vampires or demons and just stick to fighting plain old bad guys.

Remember, it’s all make-believe. Nobody is actually trying to cast spells or speak to the dead. Yes, D&D has magic as well as good and evil fantasy tropes, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. That’s the great thing about this game. The adventure you have is up to you.

Religious Themes

As a Christian, I exclude made-up religions and gods from my D&D games. I prefer to play without them. But D&D was designed for a fantasy world where many gods exist and behave similar to the pantheons in Norse, Roman, or Greek mythology. They’re spiritual beings who fight with each other, bestow power upon mortals, and cause general chaos. They aren’t there to temp you into denouncing Christianity. They simply serve a narrative purpose, providing outside forces to explain the presence of magic, influence the world, or offer a challenge for the players. But remember, you can run the game however you want. You could have only good gods, only one god, or no gods at all! It’s entirely up to you.

Now, one core part of the game is your character’s class. This determines whether you’re a wizard like Gandalf or a ranger like Aragorn. There are a couple classes themed around magic given to you by a divine being. But this is really just for flavor. If you want, you can ignore all of that and come up with your own reason for having magic. Likewise, there are some spells designed so that your character asks a god for guidance or wisdom, but you could just flavor it so they have a keen sense of their surroundings or something. It’s not a big deal. Again, you control how the game is played.

Can Players Pretend to be Evil?

Pretending to slay foul beasts and find buried treasure is all well and good, but what if you wanted to do something bad? What if you wanted to kill innocent civilians, partake in evil rituals, or just be a creep? Well, you’ll be glad to know that for most D&D groups, this isn’t a problem. You see, D&D is a cooperative game. You have to work together with your friends. It’s difficult to function as a team with evil characters. It just doesn’t work. This is why most groups don’t allow evil characters at all.

If someone is sabotaging your team’s plans or going against their morals, that’s the fault of the player, not the game. Talk to them like an adult. If you can’t come to an agreement, you’ll be better off finding a different group to play with. It’s that simple. My best tip to avoid inappropriate roleplaying is to be mature about things and communicate, just like you would for any other conflict.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

How Much Does it Cost?

D&D can cost as little or as much as you want. The basic rules are available online for free. You can get a set of dice for a few bucks. The rest of the game is pen and paper. You don’t need miniatures, maps, or a dungeon master screen, but those are pretty affordable and useful to have. A great way to get into D&D is to buy a starter kit for about $20 dollars. This will give you dice, rules, premade characters, and a prewritten adventure—everything you need to play. The official books with more character options, more monsters, and more adventures usually cost 20 to 40 dollars each. It’s a very affordable hobby if you have any amount of self-control.

Is D&D Addictive?

Like any other hobby, roleplaying games are a fun pastime that can be turned into an unhealthy obsession. But there’s nothing unique about D&D in this regard. It doesn’t have expensive packs to collect like some card games. It doesn’t use instant gratification to get you addicted like some video games. It isn’t physically unhealthy like energy drinks or sugar. It’s just a game, and if you treat it like one, you have nothing to be concerned about.

“‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but I will not be mastered by anything.”

1 Corinthians 6:12 (CSB)

The Satanic Panic

The media did a lot of fear-mongering about D&D in the 80s that, simply put, wasn’t substantiated. If you’ve heard stories about kids who played D&D and were stolen away by demon worshipers, it’s probably nonsense.

Ever heard of James Dallas Egbert? He was a student at Michigan State University in 1979 who played D&D. As the story goes, he got lost in the steam tunnels under the campus while playing a real-life version of the game with his friends. A detective found a bulletin board in his room with thumbtacks in it. He said it looked like a map of the tunnels. The media ate it up and took the opportunity to blame the entire thing on D&D with headlines like, “Game Might Have Turned Into Deathtrap” and “Did Dragons & Dungeons Swallow Dallas Egbert?”

So… what actually happened? Well, Egbert did enter the tunnels, but he left them shortly afterwards and he wasn’t playing a real-life version of D&D. The tacks in the bulletin board were not a map. In fact, D&D had nothing to do with his disappearance at all. The detective who made those claims later admitted to not knowing much of anything about the game. He just made wild speculations. As it turns out, Egbert was just a kid dealing with a stressful household, depression, and eventually substance abuse. He went into the tunnels with the intention of self-harm, but came back out to go visit a friend some distance away. Sadly, he lost his battle with depression a year later.

That’s just one of many stories the media manipulated so they could blame Dungeons & Dragons. But trust me when I say this hobby is not a cover up for cultic indoctrination, pagan rituals, or evil death traps. It’s just a roleplaying game that nerds and theater kids play for fun. Anything you hear otherwise is exaggerated by the media or just pure fiction.

How is D&D Actually Played?

Now that I’ve addressed some concerns, let me give you an idea of what playing D&D is like. First, you schedule a time to meet (that’s the hardest part). Once everyone arrives, you lay out some snacks and begin the game. One player is called the “dungeon master” (or DM for short). His job is to set the stage for the game by explaining where the party is, determining what happens when they do things, and standing in for all the different characters they meet. Everyone else plays as one of the heroes. Together, they’re the adventuring party the story revolves around, the “Fellowship of the Ring,” if you will.

“We begin where we left off last time,” says George the DM. “You enter the Gilded Hopper tavern, tired from your journey. You see all manner of travelers exchanging stories. The bartender is a pale dwarf with a sullen expression on his face. What do you do?”

“I walk up to the bartender,” says Claire the rogue.

“What can I get ye?” says George.

“Some information,” says Claire. “Have you seen a shady-looking orc with a red bandana? His name is Grimrock.”

“Make a persuasion check,” says George. Claire rolls a 20 sided die, gets a 2, and adds 6 to represent her skills in negotiation.

“Eight,” she says. Unfortunately, this is too low.

“I don’t mettle in personal business. Can I get ye anything else?”

“Let’s just leave,” says Jeff the wizard.

“Suddenly, you notice a flash of red from the corner of the room. A hulking figure steps out of the shadows,” says George. “I told you lot to stay away. But it seems you’ve forced my hand. Two more orcs join him at his shoulders and raise their swords. Roll for initiative!”

The fight begins! Each character moves and attacks one by one in turn order. The wizard casts a spell on the fighter, making him grow twice his size. The fighter lands a blow on one of the orcs. The other orc throws a javelin at the wizard, but misses. Grimrock swipes at the fighter with his axe. The rogue darts forward for a sneak attack, finishing off one of the orcs. Eventually, victory is claimed! The party regroups to make peace with the town and decide what they want to do next.

Conclusion

That’s basically D&D. It’s a lot of fun. It’s not about devil worship or corrupting the youth. It’s about nerding out over cool-looking dice and miniatures, developing creative backstories for characters, and channeling your inner actor through a hilariously bad accent. It’s about solving mysteries and defeating nefarious villains just like you pretended to do when you were a kid. Most of all, it’s about telling a story with your friends and improvising your way through a crazy fantasy world that’s part Lord of the Rings, part Breakfast Club, and part Princess Bride. So give it a try. You don’t have to sacrifice your soul to play a game with your friends.

What do you think about roleplaying games? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Steven Crowder VS. The Daily Wire — What’s Going On?

On Tuesday, January 17th, conservative talk show host Steven Crowder posted a YouTube video titled, “It’s time to stop…” He says he got an offer from an unnamed conservative media group punishing conservative voices on behalf of “big tech” like YouTube and Facebook. The document spells out the terms of payment, saying that demonetization on YouTube and other platforms would cut pay by 25%. Content strikes for not falling in line with community guidelines is another 20% cut. Being banned off a platform is yet another 10-20% cut. So what’s the problem here?

Crowder says that major players in the conservative movement or “big con,” as he puts it, are in bed with big tech. They’re silencing controversial ideas to make more money on ads. Crowder says he’s been demonetized for years on YouTube and yet he still makes his show, Louder with Crowder, using money from his paid subscribers called the “Mug Club.” He believes in his business model.

Crowder mentioned some other details in the offer that concerned him, including the demanding work schedule, the fact that the company would own the signer’s content and social channels, the high number of ad reads, and more payment cuts for failing to deliver a certain number of episodes per month.

Crowder closed by saying he’s looking to build his own network to support up and coming conservatives. He invited content creators to reach out if they want to partner with him against big tech and “big con.”

The Daily Wire’s Response

One day later, The Daily Wire uploaded a video titled, “Our Offer to Steven Crowder.” Jeremy Boreing, Co-CEO of the company, openly admits the offer came from them. He says he thinks it’s a very good offer, but that Crowder is misunderstanding it. He then goes through the document piece by piece, breaking down the reasoning behind it.

Boreing starts by saying that the offer was a way to open up negotiations, but Crowder was not interested in coming to any agreement. The offer was for $50 million over four years, which he emphasizes several times throughout the video.

Boreing then addresses one of Crowder’s criticisms, saying that the Daily Wire would own the signer’s social channels (aside from Twitter and Instagram) and content while they’re on the team. This is standard procedure for media companies. Part of making their money back is using the signer’s social media for monetization and promotion. He also defends their proposed pay cuts for failing to deliver a specified number of episodes per month. As Boreing puts it, “You can’t pay someone… an unimaginably huge amount of money for their show and then not get the show.”

Boreing then addresses Crowder’s accusation that The Daily Wire is in bed with big tech, saying the assertion is “personally incredibly offensive.” He says The Daily Wire gets demonetized all the time, but their audience and advertisers are on YouTube. It’s the platform that gives them (and Crowder) the best reach. Other platforms like Rumble are nowhere near as big and The Daily Wire hasn’t yet built up their own YouTube alternative. A project like that is a “long term investment,” he says.

Regarding the large pay cuts for demonetization, Boreing says it’s not about punishing content creators, but rather covering the costs of running a business. If a show brings in less money, The Daily Wire pays less money in turn. Boreing says Crowder fails to understand the business model and has “never had to create the company that actually distributes, markets, and monetizes all of that content.”

Boreing asks why it’s so hard for Crowder to “preserve the revenue” on free platforms like YouTube. After all, he could speak his mind freely on paid content such as DailyWire+ without fear of demonetization. Boreing compares this to Crowder’s current model where he will sometimes ask his audience to join him on Mug Club to talk about things that might get him banned from YouTube. But just Mug Club isn’t enough revenue for Boreing. “That’s not a risk that I can take,” he says. He concludes that Crowder’s actions are wrong and that he’s burning a friend in the process.

The Recorded Phone Call

Crowder quickly shot back with another video revealing clips from a phone call he had with Boreing. In it, Boreing can be heard discussing how young talent “can be wage slaves for a little bit” with a company like The Daily Wire before using their newfound fame to go independent.

Crowder accuses Boreing of focusing on the money when “it’s not about the money.” Crowder says it’s about the conservative movement and big tech. He’s concerned about up and coming talent facing these kinds of “slave” contracts. He then plays part of the phone call where he asks Boreing if pay cuts for demonetization would apply to smaller content creators, not just Crowder. Boreing says yes, retorting that everybody loses money when monetization goes away. “You can’t pay the same amount with less revenue.” Crowder can be heard responding, “You need to change your business model or this movement cannot work, Jeremy.”

Crowder says he understands that people like to run businesses differently, but he’s firmly opposed to relying on YouTube revenue as a conservative—so much so that he walked away from $50 million for the sake of those coming after him. He even offers to guide The Daily Wire into a scaled-up version of his own business model. He maintains that taking ownership of a creator’s content is wrong, even with Boreing’s retort that the media company paid to produce this content and should therefore own it. Speaking of plans for a network of his own, Crowder says he will never take ownership of any talent’s work, social channels, or YouTube revenue.

The Bottom Line

So, what’s my take on all of this? I think the disagreement is clear. The Daily Wire has built a successful business model that relies on YouTube revenue. They are not willing to part with it right now. This means they are unable to take on “controversial” talent like Crowder without using heavy pay cuts to make up for lost funds. This leads to softer, more advertiser-friendly content on free platforms like YouTube. The raw, unfiltered content is provided on their paid platform, DailyWire+. This doesn’t mean they’re out to exploit young conservatives and it also doesn’t mean they approve of YouTube’s policies. They just don’t see any other way forward right now.

Then you have Steven. He started out with YouTube revenue as a large part of his income. Over time, he realized he couldn’t rely on it. They demonetized him over and over, but he wasn’t going to censor himself to stay in YouTube’s good graces. Instead, he would fund his show using his own paid platform, Mug Club. His business model today is successful without Google’s money and he’s very proud of that. He believes that big tech’s censorship requires conservatives to cut ties with these platforms. The first step is being financially independent from them.

Both parties agree on a lot, but they draw the (bottom) line in two separate places. The Daily Wire draws the line at demonetization. If any YouTube revenue is lost, it must be met with pay cuts to compensate. Steven Crowder draws the line at getting banned from YouTube (for now). He’s already been demonetized for years and no longer relies on them for revenue. But whether he admits it or not, he still relies on them for exposure. Those viewers contribute significantly to his Mug Club subscriptions. Crowder knows this, but he continues to push hard for a future where sites like Rumble can replace YouTube as a primary platform for conservatives. He believes in cutting all ties with big tech eventually.

And so does Boreing at The Daily Wire, but he doesn’t think it’s realistic to expect that anytime soon. He wants to build alternatives like his own DailyWire+, but in the meantime, he is perfectly happy to play ball with YouTube so he can build his empire of impactful conservative brands and personalities. He wants to compete with big media companies like Disney and Netflix, providing an alternative economy, not just one show. He doesn’t think a subscription-based model like Crowder’s would work for this kind of venture.

Who’s in the Wrong?

Crowder and Boreing disagree on the long-term vision for conservatism. Crowder sees it as a battle for the heart of America where sacrifices must be made to preserve integrity at all costs. Boreing sees it as a strategic path towards true competition and dominance in the market that takes capital to achieve.

I applaud both of their goals, but I’ll be honest, I’m leaning towards Crowder on this one. Hear me out. I don’t think he went about this the right way. I think he’s been unnecessarily confrontational and dramatic about The Daily Wire’s offer. But he’s right about one thing. It’s long past due for conservatives to abandon big tech as much as they reasonably can. I think Crowder’s success with Mug Club and his record-breaking numbers on Rumble speak to the untapped potential of taking risks and exploring other ways to fund conservative voices while still reaching a large audience. I hate self-censorship. I hate that contracts with so many media companies are overreaching and sometimes exploitative (though The Daily Wire isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary in that regard).

At the same time, I appreciate The Daily Wire’s vision of providing more than just a show. We do need an alternative economy for conservatives. We need to fight the culture war, not just the media war. The left brainwashes our kids when they’re at school, when they look at their phone, and when they go to the movies. We need to fight back with alternative social platforms, conservative education, and movies that promote our values. The Daily Wire is doing that, and it takes a lot of money to make it happen. I only worry that they might lose their edge in the meantime.

Crowder has always been at the front lines of conservatism delivering hard hits and taking the brunt of the hate for controversial opinions. I love him for that. His content feels raw and real. The Daily Wire in comparison feels a bit sanitized and their content is less interesting to watch as a result. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Their documentary “What is a Woman” changed the conversation on the trans movement. A message of truth with that kind of impact is a huge win for conservatives. Crowder simply isn’t making those kinds of moves yet.

Nobody Wins

It’s sad to see infighting like this. It’s the last thing conservatives need right now. We’re a divided movement after disappointing midterms, looking ahead to a turbulent future of Trumpers versus RINOs. It’s tiring.

I don’t think Crowder will get the kind of reaction he’s going for. He’s stirring the pot and promoting his own brand at the cost of another. It’s going to rub people the wrong way no matter what. His demeanor is needlessly antagonistic. He makes a big deal out of walking away from $50 million when he admits he doesn’t even need it. But The Daily Wire isn’t innocent either. Boreing says $50 million is an “unimaginably huge amount of money.” That might be true for the average American, but in the media space it’s not the killer deal he makes it out to be. The Daily Wire is looking out for their own financial interests at the end of the day. Boreing has also framed this situation as a personal betrayal of friendship on Crowder’s part. Don’t be fooled. This isn’t Crowder attacking Boreing as an individual. It’s a business strategy and a disagreement about the future of the conservative movement as a whole. I hope both parties are able to look past the opportunity for clout and move forward. It’s what’s best for everyone.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Logical Fallacies From a Biblical Perspective: Appeal to Authority

A logical fallacy is the use of faulty reasoning in the construction of an argument. It’s usually the rule, rather than the exception, that logical fallacies come into play in modern discourse. It’s far too common. Few people care to be internally consistent, form their statements properly, or in some cases use basic logic at all. It’s much better to copy the beliefs you think you’re supposed to have from the people you’ve been told are in the right, right?

No. That’s what today’s fallacy is about. I’ll be going through a bunch of these, but first on the agenda is the appeal to authority.

Appeal to Authority

It’s a very popular tactic to appeal to an authority figure (on the subject at hand, hopefully) when making a point. If the authority figure agrees with you, then it’s settled, right? After all, they must know better than us because they’re an expert on the matter. Maybe, but not necessarily.

When making an appeal, we argue that our position is the correct one. We claim it’s rooted in truth. But truth doesn’t care about authority. Truth stands alone, available for anyone of any status, any fame, any ability, any age, any gender, any location, any appearance, or any wealth to possess it. It cannot be held captive by any one person or group.

Truth in the Bible

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'”

John 8:31-32 (ESV)

God is the only one who has an unequivocal claim to truth.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

John 17:17 (ESV)

In John 17, we read that God’s word is truth. It doesn’t say God’s word is “true.” It says God’s word is literally “truth” itself. We ought to read the Scriptures if we desire to align ourselves with truth.

“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

Psalm 25:5 (ESV)

God speaks the truth, but people in authority are just people. They’re fallible and imperfect. Sometimes they’re right, but other times they’re wrong. What makes them valuable, then? Well, that depends on the authority.

The Value of Authority

Some authority figures are experts, meaning we trust them because they’ve done the research or have the experience to back up their claims. Others are leaders, meaning they know how to effectively direct people to action. The former is more likely to offer valuable insight on a given topic than the latter, but many still trust leaders because they inspire us on an emotional level.

Either kind of authority figure may know better than us, but they won’t always. This is why experts meet together on a regular basis to exchange ideas and information. If they were already individually perfect, there would be no need for this. But even after doing the research and discussing it with other professionals, authority figures in the same field still disagree with one another on a regular basis.

The Problem

The problem with appealing to authority is that truth is not inherent in any authority apart from the divine. Not even the apostles claimed to be perfect.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (ESV)

In 1 Corinthians, Paul rebukes the people for aligning themselves with specific authority figures and forming divisions among themselves. This passage is primarily about church unity, but there’s also a lesson to be learned about human authority. Paul asks, “Was Paul crucified for you?” No, of course not. Jesus was crucified for us. Rather than align ourselves with Paul, we should align ourselves with Jesus.

This fallacy betrays that the person using it probably doesn’t have an argument of their own. They either don’t have the truth or they don’t know how to express it. Pointing at someone else to do the job for them is irresponsible, ignorant, and risky. At best, the authority figure is correct and the person committing the fallacy is revealed to have taken a shortcut to truth with little to no idea why they believe what they believe. At worst, the authority figure is wrong and the person committing the fallacy is revealed to be incorrect, using confirmation bias to recklessly latch on to a claim they find attractive while forgoing an honest search for truth.

The Solution

What then should we do? If an authority figure claims something to be true, our goal should be to discover that truth for ourselves so we can understand it and make our own arguments based on it. Truth should be our appeal, not the person we hope possesses it.

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

Acts 17:11 (ESV)

Only by doing our due diligence will we be able to argue aright, with educated opinions of our own rather than appealing to someone else. By doing our own research, we learn so much more about the subject at hand. We’ll be better equipped to argue our position and we’ll be arguing from an informed perspective.

And guess what? If, after looking into something, you find yourself disagreeing with the opinion you previously had from an authority figure, so much the better! That’s called thinking for yourself and it’s a good thing. Don’t let your biases constrain you. Pursue truth relentlessly, holding God’s truth above all. In doing so, you’ll strengthen your worldview and ensure its foundations are solid.

That’s all for now. I’ll write about more logical fallacies in the future. Let me know which fallacy you want to see next by commenting below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Does Proposal 3 Legalize More Than Just Abortion?

On November 8th, Michigan citizens will vote on whether or not to adopt Proposal 3, a constitutional amendment to legalize abortion. But what about the claims you’ve heard from conservative sources? Does Proposal 3 legalize late-term abortions? Does it allow abortion and sex change therapy on minors without parental consent? Does it allow anyone to perform an abortion?

Today, I give you the answers. No propaganda, no vague nonsense, no misdirection. Just the facts. I highly recommend you also read the proposal yourself by CLICKING HERE. Let’s get to work.

Does Prop 3 Invalidate Existing Laws?

You’ve probably heard liberals claim that Prop 3 won’t change any existing laws. “It just affects abortion!” they say. This is patently false, as you can clearly see in the proposal language. The introductory section reads:

Constitutional Amendment to: …invalidate all state laws that conflict with this amendment.

This is not just an addition to our Constitution for abortion only. Prop 3 is specifically designed to invalidate existing laws that conflict with it. Keep that in mind. We’ll come back to it.

Sterilizing Kids

Now, let’s go over the body of the proposal language. Here’s the first section:

(1) Every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which entails the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.

Sounds tame enough, right? It seems like they just want women to be able to make all their own decisions regarding pregnancy. Who could argue with that? The problem is how vague the language is. This ambiguity is present throughout the proposal. Whether you believe it’s intentional or not, it opens the doors to some truly horrible things (besides just abortion).

First, this applies to “every individual.” Not just mothers. Not just women. Not just adults. It applies to a 6 year old boy just as much as a 36 year old woman. That’s important. It shows their fear of affirming the biological fact that only women can have pregnancies to begin with. But that’s not all.

“Every individual” is said to have the right to “reproductive freedom.” What does that mean? They define it as the right to make decisions about “all matters relating to pregnancy.” That’s quite broad. After all, sex is directly related to pregnancy. Can a 6 year old boy consent to sex under this proposal? We don’t know. What is clear is their list of examples, one of which is “sterilization.”

Already, we have a case that this proposal would reasonably allow for a 6 year old boy to choose to sterilize himself for life. That’s not conjecture or me twisting words. That’s explicitly allowed in the actual language. Are you starting to see the problem?

Late-Term Abortion

Conservatives say Prop 3 allows for late-term abortions. Is that true? Let’s review the language:

…the state may regulate the provision of abortion care after fetal viability, provided that in no circumstance shall the state prohibit an abortion that, in the professional judgment of an attending health care professional is medically indicated to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual.

At first, this appears to allow for abortion restrictions after “fetal viability” (defined later on). But this is made irrelevant by the exception for “mental health.” Under Prop 3, anyone could get a late-term abortion as long as their “attending health care professional” said it would protect their mental health. The baby can be perfectly healthy and fully developed, yet still killed at the last second because the mother has anxiety.

Not Just Doctors

Notice they don’t say “doctor,” but “health care professional.” This is important. It means anyone working in healthcare could approve of late-term abortions on “mental health” grounds. That applies to dentists, dietitians, and even veterinarians. But it gets worse. Anyone could perform an abortion as well, as we’ll see in a minute.

Enforcing Rights?

(2) The state shall not discriminate in the protection or enforcement of this fundamental right.

I won’t focus on this section too much, but the wording is a bit strange. Since when are rights enforced by the state? Having a right usually means you’re free to do something without the state impeding you. Does this section imply that the state could arrest people who try to discourage abortion or sterilization, such as parents or counselors? We don’t know.

Infanticide

(3) The state shall not penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action against an individual based on their actual, potential, perceived, or alleged pregnancy outcomes, including but not limited to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion.

On the surface, this seems to prevent the state from punishing women for miscarriages. That’s a good thing, right? Yes, but this is a solution for a problem that does not exist. The danger is that this prevents prosecution for any “pregnancy outcome,” real or alleged. This effectively legalizes infanticide. A woman who blatantly murders her baby after it’s born could not be investigated, as this would be an “adverse action” against an “alleged pregnancy outcome.” Nobody should be able to kill a newborn baby, and (almost) no liberal will argue for that. But Prop 3 could make the state enforce it as a right.

Anyone Can Perform Abortions

Nor shall the state penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action against someone for aiding or assisting a pregnant individual in exercising their right to reproductive freedom with their voluntary consent.

This language says the state can’t do anything to prevent anyone from “assisting” an abortion (or other “reproductive freedom”). This allows anyone to perform an abortion as long as the pregnant woman consents. This is even less strict than “health care professionals.”

Invalidating Existing Laws

Now let’s review the language that raises the most questions about existing laws and regulations (such as parental consent):

An individual’s right to reproductive freedom shall not be denied, burdened, nor infringed upon unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.

At first, this seems to allow for restrictions under certain circumstances. But what does “a compelling state interest” mean? This phrase is part of the strict scrutiny test, which is a judicial standard applied when a law might conflict with the Constitution. For the law to survive, it must be crafted to further a “compelling state interest,” such as protecting public health and safety or regulating violent crime. Not even a constitutional right can prevent the government from carrying out these essential functions. This is why crimes such as defamation are illegal despite the right to freedom of speech, for example.

If the writers of Prop 3 wanted these new “reproductive freedom” rights to be treated like all other constitutional rights, they would have stopped there. But they didn’t. They added the following language, drastically narrowing the definition of a “compelling state interest.”

(4) For the purposes of this section: A state interest is “compelling” only if it is for the limited purpose of protecting the health of an individual seeking care, consistent with accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine, and does not infringe on that individual’s autonomous decision-making.

We are given three conditions that must be met. For an existing law to restrict or regulate abortion, sterilization, or any other “reproductive freedom,” it must:

  1. Be for the purpose of protecting the health of the individual
  2. Be consistent with clinical standards of practice
  3. Not infringe on the individual’s decision-making

First, restrictions must be for the purpose of protecting the health of the individual. Does this include mental health? Again, we don’t know. This could invalidate laws preventing tax money from funding abortions, as they protect the conscience of taxpayers and have nothing to do with health. Theoretically, a doctor (or anyone for that matter) could not refuse to perform a late-term abortion on grounds of conscience or religion since this also isn’t concerned with health.

Second, restrictions must be consistent with “accepted clinical standards of practice.” If the “practice” is abortion, who writes these standards? The abortion clinics themselves. This means the abortion industry gets to dictate how abortions are done and remove anything that impedes their business. They make a lot of money from this, meaning they are incentivized to make abortions as expedient as possible. They could ignore health and safety regulations. They could ignore screening requirements designed to ensure that the woman isn’t being coerced into an abortion by an abuser or sex trafficker. They could ignore waiting periods and informed consent laws designed to educate women on the risks of and alternatives to an abortion. It gives abortion providers the power to completely deregulate abortion, making things more dangerous for women.

Third, restrictions must not infringe on the individual’s decision-making. This language is extremely broad, making consent the only real requirement for exercising “reproductive freedom.” Remember, “reproductive freedom” means anything related to pregnancy. A brother and sister could choose to have a baby together. A child could choose to be sterilized for life. A child could consent to sex with an adult, since sex is related to pregnancy. Michigan’s ban on cloning could be nullified, since this is also related to pregnancy. The open-ended language allows for so many horrific possibilities with no room for common-sense regulations applicable to other constitutional rights (via strict scrutiny).

Fetal Viability

One last section to review. Remember the exception for fetal viability I mentioned earlier? Here’s their definition of the term:

“Fetal viability” means: the point in pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of an attending health care professional and based on the particular facts of the case, there is a significant likelihood of the fetus’s sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.

This seems correct at first glance, but upon further inspection, it actually broadens the definition beyond its original meaning. If you look it up online, you’ll see that fetal viability is defined as “the ability of a human fetus to survive outside the uterus.” That’s it. But Prop 3 adds the condition, “without the application of extraordinary medical measures.” This means babies who could theoretically survive outside the womb with the aid of advanced medical assistance are not protected.

The Rebuttal

The left’s rebuttal to the arguments I’ve made here is that Proposal 3 is only designed to protect a right to abortion. They say the intent isn’t to legalize statutory rape, sterilization of minors, infanticide, or incest. They say they don’t want to erase parental consent or religious freedom. So how do they justify the broad language in the proposal?

They usually bring up other constitutional rights, such as the right to bear arms. The Michigan Constitution says that every person has this right, yet we know kids are excluded and guns are still regulated. Doesn’t the same logic apply to Prop 3?

No, it doesn’t. Regulations on the right to bear arms are tested under their own standard of “historical tradition of firearm regulation.” In addition, this and all other constitutional rights can be limited by regulations that further a “compelling state interest,” such as public health and safety. But Prop 3 goes out of its way to redefine “compelling state interest” such that any law infringing on an individual’s “decision-making” is invalidated.

Parental consent laws might infringe on a child’s decision to have an abortion or sterilize themselves. Statutory rape laws might infringe on a child’s decision to have sex with an adult. Informed consent laws might infringe on a woman’s decision to have a late-term abortion. All of these regulations (and more) have to be thrown out.

This is why Prop 3 is so radical. This is why its defenders rely heavily on “intent” to claim that future case law won’t affect anything but abortion. But how can they be sure? It’s funny. Conservative justices are usually the ones who interpret based on original intent. Liberal justices—the ones Prop 3 advocates will vote for—frequently argue that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the times. What happens when the times change? Why leave the possibility open for Prop 3 to be abused at all? Why not clarify the ambiguous language? Why redefine “compelling state interest?” They don’t have an answer.

The Bottom Line

Even if you believe abortion should be legal in some cases, Prop 3 is extremely problematic. What is meant and what is said are very different things. Aside from the goal of legalizing abortion, the problem with Prop 3 is that its language is far too broad. It fails to clarify questions about the age of those affected, the limits of “reproductive freedoms,” and the state’s ability to interfere. It explicitly removes nearly all restrictions on abortion and anything else related to pregnancy. As written, Prop 3 is a disaster. It’s unprofessional at best and downright villainous at worst.

I will be voting NO on Proposal 3 this coming Tuesday. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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How to Find Lasting Positive Change

Last time, we talked about what it means to acknowledge who you truly are. Far from self-centered affirmation, this entails the voluntary dissection of your very soul, the opening up of yourself to God. He created us. We ought to have the courage to face him and admit our shortcomings. That doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult, of course.

Today, I want to talk about some steps we can take to move towards lasting change in our lives. Acknowledging your sin and your tendencies is one thing, but repenting and moving unto action is another entirely. Let’s begin.

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:19-20 (ESV)

This verse shows us what it really means to let conviction move us to be more like Christ. Repentance isn’t just saying we’re sorry. Jesus stands at the door. He knocks, asking us to let him into our life. We cannot reap the benefits of a proper relationship with Christ unless we open the door and let him in. But letting him in requires us to surrender ourselves to him—not just the most attractive parts, either. We’re talking about everything. But “everything” is a rather unimpressive word on its own. Let me paint you a picture.

Jesus Pays a Visit

Imagine for a moment that Jesus knocks on the front door. We think of ourselves as a pretty good Christian, so we have no problem letting him in, right? We undo the lock. We turn the handle, slowly swinging the door open. We greet our Lord and Savior. He asks if we would like him to step inside. Oh, of course! How silly of us. So we step aside and allow him access to our living room. It’s organized fairly well. There’s a couch on the far side and a welcome mat laid before the door with a coat rack and a place for shoes. The room is well-lit and inviting.

This is nice, we think to ourselves. Jesus in my house? What a privilege! Pleasantries are exchanged. We shuffle our feet and stare up at the ceiling, wondering what to say next. Then Jesus asks if he might take a look around the house. What? We weren’t expecting this, but that’s okay. We lead him into the office and show him our projects. We lead him upstairs to the guest room. We show him where the bathroom is. We might even comment on the kitchen as we pass through it. But then Jesus speaks up.

“What about your closet?” We stop, stunned for a moment. Why on earth would he want to look in there, we ask ourselves. We weren’t planning on letting him see every part of the house. This is most irregular. Jesus asks where the bedroom is. We stare at our feet for a moment, trying to think of an excuse. “Oh, still tidying up in there. Sorry about that!”

Jesus still wants to see it. He waits, standing patiently. We swallow the lump in our throat and force our legs to move us towards the bedroom. This isn’t fun anymore. We weren’t prepared for this! How rude of Jesus to insist on seeing the parts of our house we obviously don’t want anyone snooping around in. We open the door to the bedroom, revealing a bit of a mess. The bed isn’t made. Clothes hang over the side of the hamper. There’s a stray pair of underwear peeking out from beneath the bed. Jesus looks around the room. Then he asks again to see the closet.

The Inner Conflict

What would you say? Would you let him see what you have hiding in the far reaches of your mind? Would you allow him access to the sins you hold most dear, the grudges you’ve held onto for years, or the bad habits you still try to ignore? Maybe you’d say, “Enough! Get out.” Most people do.

One of the hardest things in the world is to let someone else see the most intimate parts of you. It’s why divorce is so common and friendships can be so fragile. It challenges your ego, forcing you to come to grips with your weakness as others see it openly. We hate dealing with our flaws and sins. We hide them away beneath layers of veneer—the Facebook posts, friendly smiles, and displays of virtue we hope distracts onlookers from the complicated mess underneath.

Yet this internal struggle is one we must face if we hope to pursue a life that honors Christ.

“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

Leviticus 20:26 (ESV)

Lest you think of this as the grumpy, domineering God of the Old Testament, here it is again in the New Testament. God does not change.

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

Christ confirms the Leviticus passage here in the Sermon on the Mount. Peter confirms it in his epistle.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”

1 Peter 1:14-16 (ESV)

There is no such thing as a “drifting” Christian, a man of God who does not seek his face. If you let yourself drift, you will invariably find yourself moving closer to sin. So what are some practical ways to start opening up your life to Christ and letting him sanctify you?

Confess

It starts with confessing. In a therapy session, clients might be asked to verbalize their desires and their realizations about themselves. This might seem unnecessary. After all, we already know how we feel. But there’s something powerful about using audible words to confess inner realities. So confess your sins to God out loud. Admit your faults. Don’t skip this part. Remember, you can’t start with changing yourself. You have to let Christ reign first.

“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 5:32 (ESV)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9 (ESV)

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)

Center Yourself in Truth

Next, center yourself in the truth. Don’t just jump into self-help books or temporary, emotional effort. You won’t get far. You have to keep your eye focused on what matters in order to get out of the wilderness. Part of this is reading God’s Word and dwelling on his truth. You have to saturate yourself with it if you expect to see its fruit in your life.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32 (ESV)

The truth is the answer to your problems. But what is truth?

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

John 14:6 (ESV)

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

Ultimately, God is truth. Only by pursuing Christ will we find that truth. Dwell on God’s nature and become intimately familiar with Jesus and his teachings.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

John 17:17 (ESV)

Only when you become a real man of God—a student of theology, someone who’s “bananas for Jesus” as Keith Green said—will you become a man God uses to do great things.

“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

James 1:25 (ESV)

Go Forth Unto Action

This leads us to action that is supported by faith, deeds that are backed by love, and a changed life as the result of a changed heart. Don’t put the cart before the horse. This kind of thing can’t be manufactured. It has to be genuine, overflowing out of the new creation God has made you into.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:45 (ESV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (ESV)

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

Romans 6:13 (ESV)

Persevere

But that’s not the end. The true test is consistency and perseverance. This is perhaps the least glamorous part of the process. Everyone loves stories of people who turned their life around, saved relationships, or overcame addictions. But nobody gets excited about the prospect of a long life of honest living in obedience to God, showing his love to strangers, coworkers, and family. We want the adventure and the drama without the commitment.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

If you feel like giving up, like putting a stop to this uncomfortable process of exposing your heart for replacement and sacrificing your whole being to God’s purposes, just remember Christ. Center yourself back to the truth. This last passage convicts me regularly that I have it far too comfortable in America to be complaining. I need to persevere, keeping my sights set firmly on Christ.

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Hebrews 12:3-4 (ESV)

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Who You Truly Are

Last week, I began a series about being true to yourself. No, I’m not talking about the self-love hippy dippy nonsense. I’m talking about boldly confronting yourself and making a choice—the choice to acknowledge who you are today, admit your shortcomings, see your potential, and move forward towards what God desires for you. We’ve already talked about recognizing the real you. Today, we tackle the next step.

Acknowledge Who You Are

Allowing yourself to think honestly about who you are can be quite the task, but it takes a bit more effort to accept the truths you find and acknowledge who you are, to yourself and to others. It’s easy to ask yourself what you enjoy, what makes you tick, and why you have certain tendencies. It’s a lot more difficult to say “I’m impatient,” “I care a lot about what certain people think of me,” or “I have potential I’m not realizing.”

You need to acknowledge where you are before you can get somewhere else. Nobody ever got good at playing the guitar by saying “learning guitar seems neat.” No. They first had to acknowledge their lack of ability, then let that drive them to learn. Only then did they grow and change for the better, gaining something new and valuable. The same holds true for character.

Words Have Power

I’ve noticed that the smallest of phrases can sometimes make a huge difference in living more authentically. When I got saved, I realized God had given me a heart for people I didn’t have before. So I started saying “thank you” a lot more often. I felt convicted to communicate gratitude to people, both as a form of encouragement and an acknowledgement that they met some of my needs. It was part of how I put my salvation into practice.

Another huge one for me was admitting fault or ignorance. Instead of coming up with excuses, I started saying “I was wrong.” Instead of guessing the answer to a question, I started saying “I don’t know.” It was weird at first. I was so used to putting up my guard to keep my pride and ego intact. Now I was fighting against that instinct. At first, it was uncomfortable. Then I realized it was freeing. I could be more honest with myself and others. I didn’t have to pretend. Being me was easier than fitting into the costume of a fictional character who was always right and always smart.

God Made You Special

One essential part of acknowledging who you are is accepting that God created and loves you. This is hard for some people. Whether it’s feeling like we’re unwanted, unloved, or unworthy, Christians regularly struggle with their identity in Christ. It’s something we overlook far too often. Here are some truths you can hold onto.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)

God created us. He formed us with love and care, designing a purpose and future for each of us. The Bible is clear about this. Paul reinforces that God not only made us, but predestined us for salvation and worship.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

The most important part of our identity in Christ is the work Christ did on the cross. This is when God truly proved his love for us and put it on magnificent display.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

John 3:16-17 (ESV)

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Jesus is the proof of God’s ultimate love for us. The cross is where God’s goodness and mercy finally win over mankind’s wickedness, forgiveness wins over judgement, and we gain new life in Christ rather than being condemned to death. Praise God for all that was accomplished. So what do we do now?

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”

John 15:5, 10-11, 16a (ESV)

We obey. We follow. We live our new lives for Christ. It only makes sense. He gave us a second chance. He loved us from the very beginning and saved us despite our rebellion and hatred for him. Now that our eyes are open, we look to God and do our very best with the short time we have to serve and worship our Lord. So acknowledge who you are, but more importantly, acknowledge what God has done for you, how he loves you, and what he desires for your life. Only there will you find true purpose and peace.

Next time, we’ll look at what it means to take the knowledge of who you truly are and move forward unto action. Let me know your thoughts about this series in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Be True to Yourself

Nothing annoys me more than someone fake.

I’d rather talk to a newly saved Christian who’s confused about why Jesus had to die on the cross than an educated theologian who tweets that “Jesus was a socialist.” The difference is that one of them is being honest, acknowledging their ignorance and seeking truth; the other is putting on a show to score political points. The theologian has no excuse. He knows better, yet still chooses to propagate a lie.

You see it every day. Maybe your dad has convinced himself that buying more gadgets will make him happy when you know he’s empty inside. Maybe your friend follows the latest trends and always seems to agree with whatever the news is saying. Maybe you’ve found yourself pressured by your peers, only to give in and conform to their preferences for the sake of feeling valued. It’s hard to resist. It’s hard to be true to yourself.

Isn’t That Sinful?

What complicates this further is that being true to oneself has gotten a bad rap in some Christian circles today. This is for good reason. When most modern media tells us to be true to ourselves, what they’re really saying is that we are the god of our own hedonistic pursuits. “Do what makes you happy! Live for you! Follow your heart!” This kind of thinking is purely selfish and runs counter to the truth of the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Luke 12:15 (ESV)

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:30 (ESV)

But let’s leave pride and pleasure-seeking aside for now. Today, I want to talk about being true to yourself in the context of following Christ. I’m talking about vulnerable authenticity and self-reflection followed by diligent sanctification and accountability.

Merriam-Webster defines authenticity as being “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” But if we stopped there, we’d be left in our own selfishness, authentically sinful. We have to go further. Recognize and acknowledge who you are, but proceed then to bold action in living out your potential as God’s child, remaining vigilant to combat temptation and darkness within you.

My goal is to take this process and address it one step at a time. Bear with me. I know some of this might sound like self-help mumbo jumbo on the surface, but I’m convinced this is an essential part of maturing in your faith and identity as a genuine Christian.

Recognize the Real You

The first step is to recognize the real you—not what you present to your friends, not what your social media shows, and not who you wish you were. Just you. Confront yourself and really dig deep. Who are you? What fulfills you? What makes you cry? What do you daydream about? What tempts you to sin? What do you spend most of your free time doing? What do you believe about the nature of God, your purpose on this earth, and the purpose of those around you?

If you have friends you can trust, ask them what they observe about you. What would they say are your habits, values, or fears? What would they say are the things you talk most passionately about and the weaknesses you display?

Some people live their whole lives without ever answering these questions. It’s too easy to live on autopilot, pretending that what matters most is what you’re doing right now and what form of entertainment or frivolity is waiting around the corner. But life’s substance doesn’t consist of Marvel movies, mocha lattes, or Instagram. Life’s substance consists of real people, real choices, and real consequences. If you don’t take ownership of your life, you’ll quickly find yourself drifting in a sea of mediocrity, bereft of purpose or identity. Don’t let it happen. You have to nail it down. Who are you?

This isn’t to say you have to figure everything out all at once. In fact, most people will give up if they try to handle too much too quickly. Instead, just challenge yourself a little bit every day. It’s part of how we all grow up. But while most people avoid the big questions until they’re staring them in the face, I’d argue the better approach is to seek them out and deal with them head on.

Talk to Yourself

An easy way to do this is to answer those questions in a journal or other creative outlet. For me, I wrote poems. Boy, did I write poems. I would whip out my phone wherever I was and write down exactly how I felt, what I was struggling with, or who I was becoming. It was immensely helpful in figuring out who I really was and what demons I needed to wrestle. I didn’t care if it was embarrassing. I would write down my sins in all their ugly detail. I didn’t care if I was immature. I would write the most edgy stuff sometimes. I didn’t care if I had all the answers yet. I would frequently have dialogues with myself about things I wasn’t yet decided on, just to get a better grasp on the issue or situation. It was therapeutic. I highly recommend it.

Revealing these hidden parts of your identity and turning them inside out is a key step on the road to being true to yourself in a way that honors God more fully. Next week, we’ll talk about what it means to acknowledge who you are and really own up to it. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Do All Christians Have to go to Church?

I’ve seen some rather frustrating takes on the internet recently about church. It seems the obligation to go to church has all but died out with the general population, and many people who call themselves Christians have given up on church as well. But why is this?

I think, in part, it’s a natural progression of our increasingly secular society. Over time, America has turned from a very traditionalist, “Christian” country into a progressive melting pot of all kinds of ideas, religions, lifestyles, and peoples. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, per se. It’s definitely made it harder to be openly Christian, but we still have it great compared to most of the world. We can still worship, study the Word, and meet together without fear in the vast majority of situations. And one thing we consider all too infrequently is that genuine faith shines brightest in the darkness (check out this comic from Adam4d).

But this isn’t meant to be a post about the evolution of religion and Christianity in America, as fun as that would be to talk about. So let’s get back on track. Church. It’s a word that inspires indifference, disgust, or guilt for many. If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Let me tell you about my time wrestling with this issue; then we’ll look at what the Bible says about it.

My Experience Growing Up in the Church

As a kid, my parents always made us attend church on Sundays, and sometimes Sunday nights too. I knew it was something I was supposed to do. I knew it was a place with people I knew, and occasionally things to do or food to eat. But that was about it. Church wasn’t something I desired or enjoyed, in most cases. I always grumbled when dad got us out of bed early every week.

Then I got saved. At about age 14, I came to the realization that following in my parents’ footsteps was dumb. Either Christianity was right or it wasn’t. If it was, I needed to actually read the Bible and obey the God who was willing to die for me. If it wasn’t, the only logical thing to do would be to abandon the faith and not look back. After all, what’s the use of a religion if it isn’t true?

After reading through the entire Bible for the first time, praying more than I ever had in my life, studying practical and scientific objections to the Bible, and reading book after book, I came to the conclusion that the Bible is true. All the evidence pointed to Jesus. At this point, I felt I had no choice. To pursue truth was to pursue God’s words. The Bible clearly established church as something important (we’ll get to that). I now had a concrete reason to go to church. But as I grew up, I moved away to college. The drive to church was longer and my sleep schedule became downright irresponsible at times. I didn’t go every week, and many times I’d leave immediately after the service was over. I felt disillusioned at this time with more than just church, for more than a few reasons.

After a while, a lot of things improved for me, but I still wasn’t satisfied with church. Was it just me? Was I a bad Christian? After talking with my brothers, I realized they felt similarly. The church I was going to at the time felt a bit disconnected and aimless, especially for young people. This isn’t meant to discount the church as a whole. There were, and still are, some incredible Christians there. But I realized it wasn’t working for me, so I looked for a new group of Christians to meet with.

Today, I’m very thankful to God for the church I’ve found. I’ve had more opportunities to serve, hear truth, and meet fellow young Christians than ever. Part of this is because I matured over time. I realized I had to be more involved than I was. But part of this was the church itself. Why do I tell you this? Because I want you to know that even a “church kid” like me has had ups and downs. I’ve felt obligated, annoyed, and discouraged. I’ve skipped church to sleep in. I’ve avoided people and struggled finding my place. Despite the face a lot of Christians put on, church isn’t just a wonderful festival of joy every week for everyone.

What Does the Bible Say About Church?

Now that you know where I’m coming from on this issue, let’s take a look at what the Bible says regarding church. It’s important to note that the New Testament was written at a time when the early church was still developing. Today, we talk about buildings, potlucks, music teams, schedules, and special services. But to early Christians, church was a lot more simple than all of that. It was about meeting together to worship God and encourage one another. And remember, none of these letters were addressing individuals, but rather a whole group of Christians.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV)

Here, Paul gives us a beautiful picture of the church as a temple. Christians are the building blocks and Christ is the cornerstone. We are all joined together as one. We cannot fulfill this alone. To be a lone brick is to be useless. A brick is designed to come together with hundreds of other bricks to build a home. The same is true for how God designed us. This theme is throughout the New Testament.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (ESV)

More common than the brick analogy is Paul’s idea of a body with many limbs or “members.” Though many, we are one body of believers. This is the definition of the church. It’s the gathering of believers in the name of Christ. Now notice the last line: “The body does not consist of one member but of many.” This is undeniably proof that you cannot be a church-less Christian. It’s impossible. To be a Christian is to be a member of a body. If you aren’t a member of a group of believers, you simply aren’t living the life God has called you to.

“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”

Colossians 1:18 (ESV)

Christ is the head of the body, just as he is the cornerstone of the temple. His place as God’s Son, having all things created through him (John 1), and having risen from the dead, is what makes him worthy of our worship. He is why we gather together.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:15-16 (ESV)

Here, we get a better idea of what church ought to look like. We are called to peace and thankfulness to God. We should know his words. We should be teaching and keeping each other accountable. We should be singing together. You can see this pattern of the early church reflected in many churches of today. This is why we meet the way we do. This is why we have liturgies and music and sermons. This is why church cannot be appropriated to just you, a Bible, and nature. No matter how spiritual or helpful your solitary experiences are, they are not and can never be “church.” Don’t fool yourself.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

It’s not just Paul commanding us to meet for church. This passage from Hebrews is one of the clearest commands in the Bible to meet together regularly. The reason I saved it for last is because, on its own, it doesn’t fully define why we meet or what that looks like. But with the context of the other passages, it’s easy to see that this is a command not just to have more baby showers or game nights, but to have more church. A key part of that is encouraging one another towards love and good works. In today’s world, I think we could stand for a lot more of that kind of encouragement.

There are so many more passages we could talk about. We could look at church discipline, sacraments, baptism, persecution, unity, and much more. I encourage you to read the letters of the New Testament (as well as Acts) for more clarity on these issues. In all honesty, I’m convinced that those who choose not to belong to a church have little to no experience reading the Bible. It’s such a pervasive and dominant topic that it’s extremely hard to miss and impossible to deny its importance.

What Should Church Really Look Like?

Now, we might ask ourselves: What should church look like for us today? What are we actually called to do? Do we really need all these traditions and rituals? It’s clear that many aspects of modern church are rooted in Scripture. Some examples might be church leaders (Titus 1:5-9), music (Eph 5:19), baptism (1 Cor 12:13), prayer (Matt 18:20, James 5:16), public readings of the Bible (1 Tim 4:13), encouragement (1 Thess 5:11), and the sharing of food, resources, and money for the betterment of the church (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37).

But there are, of course, some things that go unmentioned in Scripture. There is no command to meet in a fancy building, to market your church to the world to boost attendance, to give exactly ten percent of your income, to meet on Sunday mornings, or to host social events. All these things, and more, are ancillary at best and heretical at worst. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor who was killed for his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler, had some harsh words for the churches he saw when he visited America.

“So what stands in place of the Christian message? An ethical and social idealism borne by a faith in progress that—who knows how—claims the right to call itself ‘Christian.’ And in the place of the church as the congregation of believers in Christ there stands the church as a social corporation.

“Anyone who has seen the weekly program of one of the large New York churches, with their daily, indeed almost hourly events, teas, lectures, concerts, charity events, opportunities for sports, games, bowling, dancing for every age group, anyone who has heard how they try to persuade a new resident to join the church, insisting that you’ll get into society quite differently by doing so, anyone who has become acquainted with the embarrassing nervousness with which the pastor lobbies for membership—that person can well assess the character of such a church.

“All these things, of course, take place with varying degrees of tactfulness, taste, and seriousness; some churches are basically ‘charitable’ churches; others have primarily a social identity. One cannot avoid the impression, however, that in both cases they have forgotten what the real point is.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Christians today have a responsibility to meet together in a way that honors our Lord rather than grieving him. In a time when church has become a dirty word and religion a bad taste in the mouth of the populace, it’s all too tempting to transform our churches into something more appealing and modern. But Jesus didn’t declare Peter to be a business tycoon. Paul never rebuked anyone for having small attendance numbers. Church was never supposed to be a social club.

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

Acts 17:11 (ESV)

It all comes back to the Bible. Hold it higher than any word spoken by men. Hold the Bible’s standard for church higher than your desire to make church into something more fun, attractive, or convenient. It’s not about you. It’s about Christ. It’s about meeting regularly to honor, worship, and serve our God together. “Let us go to the house of the Lord! (Psalm 122:1)”

Let me know your thoughts about church in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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What a Man Needs

Purpose

A man needs responsibility and ambition. He needs a Savior to follow and a Lord to worship. He needs a wife to love, a family to care for and protect. He needs a job to be done and done well. He needs a part of the world to repair and to keep. He needs a student to teach, a friend to stand with, a team to lead, an army to fight alongside. He needs a part in history. He needs a path to follow that sustains his soul rather than draining it slowly. He needs understanding of God, of himself, and of the reason he was created.

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV)

Discipline

A man needs to be the master of his own body, mind, and soul. He needs discipline of his spirit, that he follow Christ above all other pursuits and seek to know him more fully. He needs discipline of his thoughts, that they not lead him to worthlessness, greed, or evil. He needs discipline of his tongue, to reserve it for only that which is true and purposeful, never to use it as a weapon against the innocent. He needs discipline of his eyes, that they not lead him into envy, idolatry, or lust. He needs discipline of his hands, that he use his strength to build and to protect rather than to dominate those weaker than him.

“Urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity”

Titus 2:6-7 (ESV)

Freedom

A man needs liberation. He needs the freedom to worship God. He needs the freedom to love purely and to feel deeply. He needs the freedom to protect that which is precious to him. He needs freedom to say yes and freedom to say no. He needs freedom to uphold that which is good and destroy that which is evil. He needs freedom from tyranny and slavery; freedom from any fellow man who would keep his teeth in the mud. He needs freedom from dependence, from addiction, and from the sinful, lazy man inside himself.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Galatians 5:13 (ESV)

Respect

A man needs honor and dignity. He needs the respect of his family, his friends, and his peers. He needs the respect of his leaders, that they trust him to do what is necessary. Most of all, he needs self-respect and integrity. Those who believe in him, trust him, and challenge him towards greatness will fuel his actions, inspire his work, and mature his self-reflection from hollow selfishness into the humility he needs to receive respect like a man rather than a boy.

“Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.”

Proverbs 31:23 (ESV)

Influence

A man needs to determine his own destiny and change the world for the better. He needs to see the lasting impact of his acts of healing in people and objects alike. He needs to improve his environment, to create something new and captivating, to mold one thing into another. He needs to fell a forest, conquer a mountain, claim a land, slay a beast. His will is upheld by his ability to ultimately overcome through blood, sweat, and tears unto glorious victory.

“He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the Lord brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain.”

2 Samuel 23:10 (ESV)

Let me know your thoughts about what it means to be a man in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Entertaining Demons

Most people say they’re “fighting their demons” by overcoming weakness, addiction, or trauma. Recently, I’ve been fighting my demons in another way—by silencing the inner voices that I love to hear the most.

That Little Voice

If you mention an inner voice, most people immediately think of their conscience. This voice bugs you to stop before doing something wrong or encourages you towards something you ought to do. But I’m not talking about your conscience today. I’m talking about what some people might associate with self-esteem or ego.

This other voice is the one telling you that your significant other isn’t worthy of you, that you should be annoyed at your lazy roommate, or that you deserve more respect from your coworkers. In short, this voice is concerned with your pride and has an incredible talent for torturing you without your awareness.

The Inner War

Let me give you an example. This last week, I gave a presentation. I had been working on it for a while and I wanted it to go well. It did. Once it was over, I heard a soft voice in the back of my head.

Wouldn’t it be great if people congratulated you? That’s not too much to ask, is it? They should praise you. You deserve recognition for your hard work. Invite it. Bask in it.

At first, it sounds reasonable enough. I did work for this. Maybe I do deserve something for it. I can take a compliment, right? That’d be nice. Our culture loves this mentality. It’s easily disguised as confidence or healthy self-esteem. In reality, it’s usually nothing more than conceit.

“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Proverbs 26:12 (ESV)

“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Proverbs 16:5, 18 (ESV)

I hope you can see now what I mean. I’m not disparaging confidence, assertiveness, or a healthy mental attitude. Those are all great qualities to have. I’m simply trying to unmask the sinful pride we so often hide behind other labels.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

Romans 12:3 (ESV)

In my example, my inner voice is tempting me towards pride. It mixes truth in there to encourage me to justify it as something neutral or positive. The truth is that I gave a successful presentation, that I am valued, and that I’m using the gifts my Savior gave me. The lie is that I got to where I am independent of God, that I deserve praise, and that I need man’s approval to be satisfied in my work.

I like to think of that tempting voice as a demon of selfishness I have to constantly fight off or an enemy I have to guard against. But the thing is, it’s not a demon or a fiend. It’s me.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

James 1:14-15 (ESV)

This is the true culprit. It’s my selfish nature, my sinful flesh, the “old man.” But it doesn’t feel like it’s me. It just feels like a comforting resentment, a gentle push towards quick satisfaction, a quenching of my thirst for self-gratification. It feels good. And that’s the hardest part.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Romans 7:15, 18-20 (ESV)

We have to challenge this voice. We cannot let it go unrestrained. It will lead us away to death by continuously pulling us down into sin. So how do we fight it? What can save us from ourselves?

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9 (ESV)

Only by confessing and offering ourselves to God can we escape our enslavement to sin. We cannot live without a master. We must serve something. We are incapable of apathy, unable to rid ourselves of a desire to worship. So we must find something worthy of our worship, a substitute to our worship of self.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Romans 6:12-14 (ESV)

I’ve taken to using a unique strategy in being mindful about combating my inner voice. When I hear it tempting me, I yell at it… in my head, of course. “Shut up!” “No!” It’s a way I can interrupt my autopilot thoughts and refocus my attention in the moment. I question what I’m telling myself rather than accept it automatically. It helps. Obviously, there’s more to it than that. I have to offer myself to God and confess my sin if I want to keep it from gaining a foothold. Daily commitment to scripture reading and prayer, along with a church community willing to keep me accountable, is essential.

I love the way the King James Version puts these verses:

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Ephesians 4:22-24 (KJV)

That’s the key to this process of fighting off our inner voice of selfishness. We must put off the old man and renew our spirits, allowing the new man to take control and lead us towards holiness. Only with God’s help can we become people who truly serve him and are satisfied in him alone.

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1 (ESV)

So stop listening. Stop letting your inner voice lead you down paths of logic towards the gallows. Stop bargaining with yourself to see how much sin you can get away with before it catches up to you. Refuse to let it bind you. Run towards freedom. Freedom from our inner demons doesn’t come through acceptance of sin, blind positivity, or being self-sufficient. It comes through Christ.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

Let me know your thoughts about battling inner demons in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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