He Gave Her the Number to the Rejection Hotline

[From the archives]

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Our son graduated college last May and is spending the year as a youth intern at a church here in town, so he’s living with us rather than trying to make his extremely meager salary cover a rent payment every month.* We’re thrilled because frankly he’s a ton of fun to have around.

The Rejection Hotline

He went to the store last Saturday to pick up a gallon of chocolate milk. As he went through the checkout line the young woman commented at length about the milk, how much she loved chocolate milk, how wonderful chocolate milk was, the joys of chocolate milk. Our son said he went into monosyllabic mode so as not to encourage her into further rhapsody on all things chocolate milk.

I said it may not have been the milk she was really taken with, and suggested half-seriously that perhaps she wanted his phone number. He looked at me with a smirk and said, “Yeah, but I gave her the number to the rejection hotline.”

It turns out there is such a thing. He said there is a website with a list of phone numbers for various area codes so that if someone is bugging you for your number you can hand this one over. If they call it, apparently there’s a message along the lines of “The person who gave you this number didn’t want to hand over their real number. Sorry, but you’ve reached The Rejection Hotline.”**

When Rejection is Part of Redemption

I got to thinking about how God didn’t hand me the number to The Rejection Hotline. But then I wondered if it’s ever OK to reject something and this passage came to mind:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:7-8.)

It is because of God’s acceptance that we are able to walk with God and resist the devil, to reject him. And there’s no need for a Rejection Hotline. We resist and Satan flees.

I saw this rejection and flight scenario work out in my life just yesterday. A blog friend, Ellen Painter Dollar, wrote on a very delicate topic and some comments were less than appreciative. In fact, some went so far as to question her motives for even choosing to write on the subject. She got savaged by one commenter in particular.

As some of you may suspect, I have a protective streak in me; you should have seen it coming out when I read those unfair and at times vicious criticisms. I wanted to blast them! But I didn’t. After all, Ellen’s been blogging a long time and has repeatedly proven that she can handle these types of situations very effectively and irenically. So I resisted the urge.

And then I noticed a curious thing. The urge to blast was no longer there. In its place I found an urge to engage constructively, and I tried to do so. Whether I was successful or not is up to whoever reads the comments, but I know that I was free of the urge to blast some poor person who is probably going through a rough patch and certainly doesn’t need me to make it any worse. It was as if Satan had fled from me at the moment of resisting him. And according to James, he did.

I am so glad that God works in me to give me the ability to do what needs doing.

Sometimes that includes a little rejection.

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Have you seen the devil flee when you’ve resisted him? What does that look like?

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*If you want to read about our daughter, check out yesterday’s post.

**He assured me he didn’t really hand over any number, real or fake. We can all breathe a little easier.

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Leaflets Handed Out In Eastern Ukraine “Order” Jews To Register Or Be Deported – time for Christians to stand up

USA Today just reported that a group claiming to be the new temporary government over a portion of eastern Ukraine is ordering Jews to register with the government or face, property confiscation and deportation. In what sounds a lot like the fascist and communist practices leading up to World War 2, the group is targeting people merely for being Jewish.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

The organization’s leadership admitted that members handed out the leaflets. NPR later reported that the group is now claiming the leaflets are fraudulently claiming to come from them.

No one disputes, however, that the leaflets themselves are real.

Christians everywhere need to stand in opposition. Romans 11 is clear that we are grafted into that portion of the people of God whom he has called Israel, and that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all. Jews and gentiles both are reconciled to God through Jesus, because those whom Jesus has called to himself are no longer divided from one another but are bound together as one people.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-18.)

It is in the Spirit of Christ that we now must stand with the Jews in Ukraine.

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My thanks to Karen Swallow Prior for linking the article on Twitter.

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We Are All Zombies

[Dana Tuttle and I have both written posts for Aimee Byrd's Housewife Theologian, although Dana's have a habit of always being about historical women who have been killed for their faith. Get beheaded and Dana might write about you too. Here she's deviated slightly from her usual fare in order to examine zombies and Christ, a worthy writing foray indeed.]

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This article has been festering in my brain for a while and I am thankful that Tim offered me an opportunity to let it ooze out into the blogosphere. Hold on, as I try to steer this train without wrecking!

Zombies have infiltrated our culture. They are everywhere! From television to video games, they have taken over.

  • On the popular television show “The Walking Dead”, adults can tune in every week to see if their favorite character has been eaten.
  • On the video game “Plants vs. Zombies”, children of all ages can use household plants to throw at zombies.
  • While waiting in the car line at the local elementary school, I notice a zombie sticker family, on the minivan ahead of me. The sticker claims, “We ate your stick family.”
  • Marathon runners can sign up for “The Zombie Run” and race, while being chased by zombies.
  • And my personal favorite…an online quiz to see how long you would last during the zombie apocalypse. Apparently, I would last a year!*

According to pop culture, I will have a chance to test out my survival skills sometime in the near future. I’m thinking my beer brewing skills will come in handy during that time. I can see me now, running through the woods with my steel pot and my cast iron bottle capper. I will have a great bartering skill and I’ll bet that capper can do some damage!

Our culture has made zombies a household name, which is why I am not surprised that my friend, Dustin, has a zombie parody of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, “The Last supper”, in his home. A quick google search shows several pop culture parodies of this famous painting. Star Wars fans, Disney fans, and Michael Jackson fans can all have their favorite pop culture peeps posing in a Last Supper scene. There is a very large selection. If you are a fan of something, there is a parody for you!

The one that my friend owns shows Christ lying across the table, while being gruesomely eaten by his disciples, who happen to be zombies. It is extremely graphic. But when I look at it, I see a reflection of myself, of who we all are and who the disciples were – DEAD!

Some of you may find it offensive. I, on the other hand, found the gospel. I’m sure that was not the message that the artist intended, nonetheless it is there.

What I do find offensive is the way Christ is portrayed in our culture by Christians!

Portraying God Wrongly

We have the attractive white Jesus, located in the Christian book store, as well as the cartoon clip art Jesus, on our children’s coloring pages at church. Christian culture has made Jesus into a handsome guy and we have shrunk the Son of God into a thumb size picture to put on our church advertisements.

We are guilty of drinking out of Christian coffee mugs, with an image of Jesus slapped onto the cup. We hang our velvet poster of Jesus, next to our guest bathroom. (We pray our guests will come to know Jesus, as they make their way down the hall.) And don’t forget to “Honk, if you love Jesus” when we drive by you!

We are the ones who have made our Lord into a marketable product. We have reduced the one who “created all things” into home decorations, symbols on our car bumpers and jewelry around our neck.

Why do we do this? I think we do this because we are afraid to rely on the promise that scripture is powerful enough to change us without a visual image. So we create our own idea of his image and put it on anything and everything. We try to sell Jesus to our neighbor through merchandise, instead of loving our neighbor through ministry.

Why do we try to make any image of him at all? We glorify his physical appearance, yet, scripture says, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him … as one from whom men hide their faces.” (Isaiah 53:2-3) Why do you think God warns us in his commandments not to make an image of him? He knows that any attempt at doing this would cheapen the true beauty of his veiled image. It is veiled for a reason.

As believers, we should not get upset when the unbelieving culture creates their own image of our Lord. They see our tacky merchandise and the images that we have created and they follow suit. If we had refrained from making false images in the first place, we would not be able to even recognize a false image of Christ on anything. It would be foreign to us and therefore, not offensive.

We judge the unbelieving world’s ideas of what he looked like based on our own Christian culture’s “make believe” image of Christ.

We Are All Zombies

With all that said, I will bring us back around to my friend’s zombie parody of the “Last Supper”. I have never been upset that he has it hanging on his wall. I have always thought about my own guilt and how it is a reflection of our true identity as human beings. When I look at it, I see our total depravity.

All of us are fully corrupt, perverse, and sinful throughout our entire being. We are rotten in our body, our mind, and our spirit. We are “dead in our trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1-2) “No one is righteous, no, not one. No one understands; no one seeks after God…no one does good, not even one.” (Romans3:10-12) We are all zombies!

Then lying on the table is Christ, offering himself as the meal. He lays down his life and says,

“I am the bread of life … this is the bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh … unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him … . Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:48-61.)

Thankfully, he doesn’t leave us as zombies. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved.“ (Ephesians 2:4-6)

He makes us alive, when we were dead. He takes out our evil hearts and gives us his spirit as a deposit and a guarantee of this promise. He uses legal terminology to secure the hope of his believers and seals the deal with a covenant meal – his own flesh and blood.

Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

Are you offended?

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*Tim here: I took one of those zombie survival quizzes after reading this. How long would I last? “Until the end! – Congrats! You’re a fighter and clearly know what it takes to survive!” Yay me. You can take it here, but there are a couple zombie photos in there so be warned of slight horror pics.

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How to Stop the Hurt

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25.)

Sometimes I am the hurting person. Sometimes it’s you. A kind word can flow from one of us to the other, bringing healing along with it.

Who are you to bring healing? You are the image bearer of God, the Great Healer, so don’t be concerned with your abilities. As a child of Christ, you have his very Spirit in you. You have the Spirit of the Healer himself.

So remember, somewhere there’s a hurting person who will feel better because of something you will say.

Go ahead and say it.

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Pastors: stop putting women down with your cheap laugh lines

I recently tweeted:

If you are listening to a sermon and they use “You know how women are, they always …” for a laugh line, it’s OK to get up and walk out.

That must have struck a nerve, because this is turning out to be the most re-tweeted thing I’ve ever written on twitter. I think it’s because a lot of people have been hurt by humor from the pulpit that’s just not funny.

I’ve heard it from liberals and conservatives, from egalitarians and complementarians, from men about women and women about men. The lesson here is that it’s never appropriate to use a put-down for a cheap laugh in an effort to make a point about Jesus.

Not Just Sermons

One pastor at a recent conference tweeted:

It’s exciting to be in a room with 1,300+ people none of whom are Rachel Held Evans fans. It gives me hope for the future.

When I tweeted back a question as to why he would say such a thing he responded that it was all tongue in cheek, using the “I was only joking” defense. The Bible has something to say about that. (Proverbs 26:18-19.)

Whether it’s a sermon put-down about women in general or a tweet that throws one particular woman under the bus for a cheap laugh, pastors need to remember that members of their congregations are listening and reading. As James said:

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (James 3:1-2.)

I’ve said a lot of dumb things in my life, things I’ve regretted immediately and things I’ve come to regret over time, so my point isn’t to shut pastors up nor to ridicule those who misspeak. The point here is to bring awareness to the power of words, even those meant only as a joke.

Because some jokes just aren’t funny.

Joking for Jesus

There’s a place for laughter in God’s kingdom, though, and I think it’s a prominent place.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2.)

Laugh and sing and speak of God. Now there’s something for pastors to remember as they prepare their next sermon.

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Name Change

The family walked in late to the courtroom, after all the other cases were decided and everyone was gone. The bailiff showed them to the table usually used by attorneys. This family had no attorney. They took their seats and looked at me.

“Are you here for the name change?”

They said they were, their hair styles and clothing faintly reminiscent of the middle eastern heritage suggested by the names on the paperwork but their voices completely unaccented.

The mother and father appeared to be around 30 years old, their young son sitting with them.

“How old are you?” I asked.

He looked at his mother and then back at me, holding up four fingers.

“Four?” I said with exaggerated wonder. “I thought you were at least ten!”

He giggled silently, little shoulders shaking as he shared a grin with his mother.

I asked the reason for changing their son’s name and how they chose the new one. Both the old name and the new one reflected their heritage and – as they explained – faith.

“He chose the new one,” the father said as he smiled at his son.

I looked at the boy again. “Do you know that’s going to be your name now?”

He grinned some more.

I signed the name-change decree and sent them to the clerk’s office to finish the paperwork.

“Thank you, your honor,” the mother and father both said. “Can you say thank you to the judge?” the mother prompted the little boy.

He looked at me and grinned some more.

“As-salāmu ʿalaykum, little guy,” I said.

His father turned with a smile and waved over his shoulder as they disappeared out the door.

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I Get Paid To Wear A Black Muumuu

In one The Lizzie Bennet Diaries videos, one line hit me between the eyes: “Everyone’s wearing a costume every day.”

I know I do. Wear a costume, that is. It’s expected of me.

I call it my black muumuu.

Three people in black muu muus
(none of whom are me)

The thing is, people wear other types of costumes too, the kind we can’t see on the outside, the kind people use to mask their true selves from the world. Some even think they can hide from God:

Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” (Isaiah 29:15.)

They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” (Psalm 73:11.)

It doesn’t work:

Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24.)

Life Out In The Open

Jesus, the God who fills heaven and earth, lived his life right out in the open. His accusers, on the other hand, thought the cover of darkness would be their friend:

Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns. (Luke 22:53.)

I try to hide sometimes. I hide from my family and friends, I hide from people at work, and I hide from folks on the street or in restaurants or at the store. I do not always show them who I really am. Frankly, I don’t know what I can do about that except pray for God to open me up more and more to reflect Jesus and who he is in my life. Because that’s what it means to be a true person: I am who God intends me to really be because I am in Christ. And when I live my life in that truth, I join in Jesus’ ways and what was written about him:

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.

He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me!

It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up. (Isaiah 50:7-9.)

The Sovereign Lord helps me, who will condemn? Whoever does is just going to wear out like an old moth-eaten sweater, tattered and ragged. Why should I hide myself from them?

Jesus, on the other hand, is forever, and if I’m going to wear something I’m glad it’s Jesus:

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27.)

Clothed in Jesus? That’s nothing to hide.

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Questions to ponder: Do you ever hide behind a mask*? How do you handle it when you catch yourself doing this?

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*Best mask photo I’ve seen in a long time. What a hoot!

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David Platt Lets Complementarian Doctrine Trump The Gospel

David Platt delivered a sermon in a chapel service at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary last month. He preached:

“The gospel is most clear in the world when a man and a woman come together in the one-flesh union of marriage and unite their lives with one another in a picture of Christ’s love for his church.”

“Let us defend sexual complementarity with God’s word. Let’s defend sexual complementarity with our lives and our marriages … and let’s do this for the sake of the gospel in the world.”

Intriguing. I’ve never heard someone say the ability to present the gospel clearly depends on where one stands on the complementarian/egalitarian issue.

Let’s assume that Mr. Platt’s complementarian doctrine is correct and egalitarians are wrong, though. Would that justify Mr. Platt’s insistence that the gospel’s clarity depends on people living out complementarian doctrine through their marriages?

As Dee over at The Wartburg Watch put it, no one sees a marriage and thinks, “Gee, now I get the gospel. Fred and Mabel are perfect examples. Mabel submits like Christ and Fred rules like the Father. Yep-now it all makes sense.”

Mr. Platt’s position makes no sense because preaching a clear gospel message does not depend on getting the comp/egal debate right.

Preaching The Gospel Clearly

What does it take to preach the gospel clearly? That’s easy. The Bible clearly tells us the gospel message is:

  • to preach Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23),
  • to proclaim the Savior who conquered death and sin and rose from the grave (2 Timothy 2:8),
  • to point to the God who seated us with him in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 2:6).

Paul started his letter to the Galatians with a succinct statement of that gospel:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5.)

There’s gospel clarity for you. It’s God’s grace and peace to us. It’s Jesus giving himself for our sins, rescuing us from evil. It’s fulfilling God’s will, and doing it all for his glory. If you want to preach the gospel clearly, you can start with that passage and never once mention marriage relationships.

I think Mr. Platt knows this. I think he just let his desire to promote complementarian doctrine overcome his ability to present the gospel clearly.

The gospel is not about marriage, after all.

The gospel is about Jesus.

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Flunking High School Algebra Is Not The End Of The World

Sometimes high school students ask me how to become a judge. Here’s my standard answer:

First, study hard and get as good grades as you can, then apply to a good college. When you get there, study hard and get as good grades as you can, then apply to a good law school. Study hard at law school and get hired by a good law firm or public agency. Then do your best work so that when you apply for a judgeship people will think you’re capable and will want to support you.

But I have a confession to make. I didn’t always try my best in school. Not at law school, not in college, and certainly not in high school.

My lack of a studious nature in high school came up in a Twitter exchange I had with That Crazy Redhead. She was trying to encourage writers, but my response went in a different direction:

Algebra Tweet

My algebra travails are true. I got a C in my first semester of high school algebra and an incomplete for my second semester grade. That meant I had to make up the incomplete or it became an F.

I never made up the incomplete.

I got an F.

I flunked high school algebra.

But I Didn’t End Up Living In A Van Down By The River

Flunking algebra did not lead to a life of ruin and despair, no matter what Chris Farley might have said about ending up LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!

Instead, I ended up at a good college, I got into a good law school, and I tried to be a good attorney. It worked out because when I applied for a judgeship there were people who were willing to support me and write letters recommending me for the position.

This is really different from my walk with God, though.

God didn’t look at my life’s transcripts or my work record to decide whether I should be admitted to his kingdom. It’s a good thing, too, because my life was nowhere near worthy of him.

Paul might as well have been writing about me personally when he said:

Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:3-7.)

I was dead, spiritually dead. It wasn’t a matter of trying hard and still not being good enough. Dead is dead.

But God’s grace is rich, and while I was dead he made me alive in Jesus. How rich is that grace? God has not only made me alive but has raised me up and seated me with Jesus in heaven.

Our heavenly Father has already seated me with his Son? Yes, and that seat is on a throne that exceeds by an infinite measure any that has ever been seen in any earthly palace.

It sounds better than sitting in a van down by the river. It’s even better than sitting on the bench in my courtroom.

So really, flunking high school algebra is not the end of the world.

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TV Commercials Are Full Of Bad Advice

[From the archives.]

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Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2.)

I’m reading through the Psalms and the first verse of the first psalm stopped me cold. “Does not walk in step with the wicked.” An older translation puts it more literally as “walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.”

Ungodly counsel? Who would want to take advice from the wicked? That’s just nuts, right?

Apples are good for you! (source)

And yet …

  • A fast food commercial tells me that eating their food is fun. (Yep, higher cholesterol and acid reflux are a laugh a minute.)
  • Beer and wine ads promise to make me popular. (Because falling down drunk and vomiting all over people’s shoes is a sure way to win friends.)
  • Website after website says that porn is satisfying. (Talk about looking for love in all the wrong places.)
  • Society tells me that I’m only as valuable as I am attractive. (I’m sunk.)

Here’s the thing about ungodly counsel: it takes many forms, and is almost always tied to some shred of truth or beauty.

  • Fast food is not evil personified. I’ll stop by a burger joint once in a while and really enjoy the way a good burger and fries tastes. But I’m not looking for the food to be my source of fun. Making my stomach into an idol is not a good thing.
  • Beer’s in the Bible, folks, often right alongside wine. And we know what Jesus did with wine. But God’s good gift can be used in such bad ways.
  • Sex is awesome, but so easily abused.
  • Keeping ourselves fit has some value, but focusing on it as of prime importance is nuts.

So what is ungodly counsel? Anything that takes what God has called good and twists it around to use it for something he never intended.

Where is ungodly counsel? Unfortunately it’s all around us. That’s why Psalm 1 warns us away from it.

How do we avoid ungodly counsel? Psalm 1 tells us that as well: delight in God’s word and meditate on it constantly.

Walk in step with the wicked, or walk in the path of Jesus’ righteousness. The choice is yours.

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Questions to Ponder

What ungodly advice have you faced in your life? How did you respond to it?

When do you find yourself most delighted in being in God’s word? How has this equipped you for handling ungodly counsel?

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