I’m putting this up not because it’s original or new, but to get it off my brain.


On Truth and Helpfulness

A. The Basics

A1. There are statements that are always true.
A2. There are statements that are sometimes true, depending on definitions and points of view.
A3. There are statements that are always (or almost always) true, but often are unhelpful or even harmful.
A4. There are statements that are a spinning of the truth, but are nevertheless helpful.
A5. There are statements that are always false.

It is wisdom to be able to differentiate between these five kinds of statements. A wise person will put some thought (particularly when speaking to a grieving person) as to which category his words will land in.

B. To that end …

B1. It is not the case that all true statements are helpful. Many can harm.
B2. If you’re talking to a person in crisis, it’s quite possible that a statement that is usually true is not true for them. People in crisis are often exceptions. (Example: You should obey people in authority)
B3. Not all seemingly helpful statements are true.
B4. Saying a false statement is almost always unhelpful in the long run.

C. Considering helpful and unhelpful statements, there are two kinds of people:
1. Those who need to be pushed forward or spurred on (i.e. people who can be best helped by encouraging them to move forward and do more)
2. Those who need to be shown grace, rest, peace (i.e. people who would be best helped by encouragement that they are okay where they stand, at least with respect to the life issue at hand).

C1. This is why there is danger in giving blanket statements of encouragement to large groups of people.
C1B. (So discernment and grace should be employed by the listener)
C2. This is why definitions and disclaimers are often necessary.
C3. This is why seeking first to understand is often necessary. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

So – two examples (I’ve recently seen on Facebook):
Example 1. “God will never give you more than you can handle”
The truth or falsehood of this statement is almost entirely determined by your definition of the phrase “what you can handle”. I assume, for example, that when people say this, they imply the phrase, “with His help” on the end. Or, “If you’re a Christian” at the beginning. Given these additions, this statement is generally true.

But it is also often unhelpful and sometime harmful. I wouldn’t recommend it from a person whose life is fairly easy to a person who is in crisis.

Example 2. “Everything happens for a reason”

In the worldview of Calvinists (and many Arminians), this statement is generally true. But I’d be hesitant to say it to someone who is going through a divorce or the loss of a child.

D. Regarding the response of the listener (even a listener who is in crisis)
D1. When the person talking to you says something unhelpful, consider his/her intent.
D2. Does she mean well?
D3. Is there truth in what he said?
D4. If you’re listening to someone speaking to a large group with advice that doesn’t apply to you, are you an exception? Is what he’s saying generally applicable?
D5. God calls for grace from the speaker as well as the receiver.

E. Now with a mind towards the more spiritual and eternal, consider:
E1. The Gospel, told correctly, is always helpful.
E2. Nevertheless, it’s possible to share the Gospel unhelpfully.
E3. While a person’s primary reason for sharing the Gospel is to help another person move towards salvation by glorifying God, there are other good reasons.
E4. Among them are encouragement and exhortation (I leave the others as an exercise for the reader).
E5. There are also bad motivations for sharing the Gospel.
E6. Among these are brow-beating and pride (I leave the others as a second exercise for the reader).
E7. If your motivations for sharing the Gospel are bad, don’t stop sharing the Gospel. Rather, find better motivations. You can do this by being “transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Included in “the will of God” is what you should say to your friend.

And included in “testing” is giving a few second thought before saying it.

“I might be doing it for the wrong reason,” is a bad excuse for not doing the right thing.

Yesterday my seven year old did what Donald Trump couldn’t: Say “2 Corinthians” correctly on his first try.

If you’re giving a presentation to a large group of people and, at the end, ask if there are any questions, don’t assume it’s a good sign if you don’t get any.

Head on over to the Fighter Verse Songs website to find out about this new resource!

Set 5 CDFace

After yesterday’s post, a friend (notable wise carpenter PhilTheCarl) made an astute comment regarding it’s likely overly simplistic view of reality.

His thoughts made me look at the chart in a new light. I’ve added a row into the chart that I think makes it more reasonable.

What do you think?


Further comments:

I think we all might be inclined to answer ‘I don’t know’ more often than is completely honest.

I also added ‘in the relatively near term’ to Question 2. I think this increased the truth of the chart a little.


… or not simple.


Other Comments:

Other versions of Question One: Will it glorify God? If Jesus were here right now, would he give you the okay?

Other versions of Question Two: Will it be pain-free? Will it be easy? Will it not be horribly unpleasant?

When answering Question Two, you should consider what the results have been when you’ve done similar things in the past.
Answering Question One is often very difficult.
Answering Question Two is often more difficult than we’d like.
I think it likely that too often, people answer question one incorrectly.

You should not feel guilty if God makes your path easy.
You should not necessarily feel guilty if God makes your path hard.
The answer to Question One is more important. It is, in fact, the primary question to ask when determining your steps.

But the answer to Question Two can be clarifying, informative and in some cases, motivating.

If it’s God’s will for you, it will give you joy in the long term.

If you typically leave your church within five minutes of the benediction, you are walking away from a significant portion of the blessing (fellowship, support) that God has for you and your family. You are leaving His gifts on the table.

The word ‘blessing’ does not rhyme with ‘sing’.

Bonus tip:

‘Generation’ doesn’t rhyme with ‘shun’

If you see someone using a Bible verse to show that what they’re saying is correct and you agree with them, it’s called, “Developing a Biblical foundation”.

If you see someone using a Bible verse to show that what they’re saying is correct and you don’t agree with them, it’s called, “Prooftexting”.

Nothing says, “My Love for you will soon fade away and leave messy dead organic material all over your counter,” like flowers.

I wonder – What’s caused more foolish decision making – words of discouragement or words of encouragement?


For every* good piece of advice, there is a subset of people for whom the advice is not applicable.
If you’re in that subset, you shouldn’t offended by the advice.

*even biblical guidance

God might be teaching you a lesson (with what he’s ordaining to happen in your life), but are you learning it?

… and personalizing last weeks TSAS:

If you read the Bible and don’t ask “What does this say about God?” or “How should this change my life?”, you’re just reading a historical document.


A sermon without application is a history lesson.

Book Review
Help My Unbelief – Why Doubt Is Not The Enemy Of Faith
By Barnabas Piper

This marks the second time that Barnabas has written a book and given it a title that made my nervous. And just like the last time, my nervousness was unnecessary.

And now having finished it, I find myself wondering: How is it that no one has thought to name a book “Help My Unbelief” before? Because it certainly is a topic that many people need help with.

To wit: Before reading this book, I certainly would have thought that doubt was the enemy of faith. I’m glad to have read it to learn otherwise. I recommend this book.

As I made my way through it, I found myself thinking that its content are shaped like this image:


The book starts on the topic of doubt.

And then the author loops out and talks about his testimony and the hollow faith of his adolescence.

And back to the subject of doubt and out in another direction – the gospel story of the father with the demon possessed child, and then how that man handled his doubt.

And then out from the center and a strong explanation of the gospel and back to how understanding the gospel is informed by the questions raised by doubt.

And then outward to the problem of pain and inward to how that issue causes doubt, but faith in God’s goodness can diffuse the doubt.

And so on.

And throughout, Piper’s goal is to encourage faith to those whose doubt is causing them to falter, and challenge those who think they have everything figured out and settled.

A few other notable items:
– Mr. Piper very helpfully splits up personal doubt into two types – unbelieving doubt and believing doubt. One is seeking to discredit belief in God and His goodness, the other is searching for understanding of God and eventually strengthens our ability to see His goodness.

– Other themes in the book is that of the tension between “already” and “not yet” and the tension between mystery and certainty. It’s always helpful to focus on those aspects of Christian Reality.

– In this book we are reminded that disobedience against God is really unbelief in his wisdom and love.

– There is a good mix of warning and encouragement. You’ll probably read about yourself in these pages.

– I probably will never get a tattoo, but I have to be honest – “I believe, help my unbelief” is an excellent choice.

– I really thought the discussion of how to handle hard times was helpful:
To be true believers we must come to the place of uncomfortable comfort. In this life we will never be settled. Every time a tragedy happens, we will ask why and an answer likely won’t be readily available … we might be greeted with silence. This the uncomfortable part. The comfort comes from drawing close to God, through his Word, and seeing the parts of Himself He has chosen to reveal. In those parts, those glimpses He has given through scripture, we have enough to be comforted as we live lives surrounded by mystery.

Amen. I pray this book will help many and that God will use it to draw people closer to him.

Ten years from now, everyone you know will be ten years older than they are now.

A Book Review: Tear Down This Wall Of Silence
Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches
Dale Ingraham (with Rebecca Davis)

Spread throughout this book is a story – the story of how the author learned that his future wife had been the victim of sexual abuse (he was the first person she told), how they dealt with the many repercussions of this abuse (legally, spiritually, personally and with their family) and how they’ve helped others work through these hard issues. The story, like this book, deals with very hard and disturbing issues, but ultimately ends in redemption, healing and love.

This is an important book.

In it, Ingraham and Davis develop two major themes. The first is that the church has failed many people with respect to this issue.

– Too many churches have covered up abuse that has happened to their members, or the abuse that been perpetrated by their members or their pastors.
– Too many times, victims have been advised not to report their abusers to the police.
– Too many times, victims haven’t been believed, sometimes because the abuser is so well respected.
– Too many times, victims have been blamed for the abuse that happened or for calling for justice.
– Too many times, no justice has happened.
– Too many times, church leaders have acted as enablers for the abusers, allowing the abuse to continue and more children are victimized.

The book devotes an entire chapter to these enablers – their motivations and they damage they do.

The second theme in the book is that our church must do better. And then it explains, in very helpful detail, what we must do:
– The victims must be trusted, and told that God hates what has happened to them.
– The abusers must be called to repentance.
– The victims must be loved, encouraged and counseled, for years.
– The abusers must be brought to justice (in the church, and where it is warranted, in the legal system).
– The victims must be aware that the church is a safe place to talk about what has been done to them.
– The victims must be shown and told that God loves them.

If I had a complaint about this book, it’s that I feel it’s overzealous in its negativity about specific ministries and organizations with which it disagrees. Vision Forum’s messages had significant flaws (or so I’m told), but it wasn’t unwise of them to discourage gossiping. Nancy Leigh DeMoss shouldn’t be chastised for encouraging women to not use “my rights” as a primary motivation. If a generally wise principle is unhelpful, or even wrong, in extreme situations (and sexual abuse is certainly an extreme situation), that doesn’t necessarily we should throw it away.

As I said, this book deals with many dark issues, and it’s not a light read. But there is much joy, peace and redemption in the later chapters. Here, it explains the Gospel and how it is true for the abuser and especially how it is true for the victims. The second to last chapter is “The Abuse Survivor’s Shepherd” – a message to people who have been abused – and it’s filled with good news, peace-giving truths and wisdom. For example:

The truth is that every Christian, no matter how wounded or scarred, has not only been adopted into God’s family but also bears His beautiful image … God is in the process of transforming His children into His own image, and this includes you. He loves you.

It would be force for good if every church in America got a copy of this book and made sure at least one of their leaders read it and followed through with what it teaches. And if you know someone who has been sexually abused, this would be a helpful book for you to read.

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