Are You Close to God? Your Answer Affects How You Read Scripture

A new study suggests that both men and women who seek spiritual intimacy view the Bible more literally.
Are You Close to God? Your Answer Affects How You Read Scripture

Sociologists have long suggested that Christian women are more religious than men, but Blake Victor Kent wondered if this discrepancy has something to do with gender differences and intimacy.

A former pastor who grew up in the evangelical church, Kent took interest in how gender roles were articulated abstractly but then lived out differently. He saw a disconnect. For example, he noticed that some evangelicals draw firm theological boundaries around formal leadership but then allow women to lead informally all the time.

During graduate school, some prominent research on gender caught Kent’s eye and made him wonder if sociologists were missing part of the story. A study by John Hoffmann and John Bartkowski found that women are more likely than men to view the Bible as the literal Word of God. The authors viewed this result as a comment on female social standing in the church, a woman’s way of asserting her faith in a culture that won’t accept her leadership. But Kent thought it might have more to do with a person’s belief in the simple biblical truth that God is near us.

There are some differences in how men and women relate to God, which Kent argues could be cultural. His analysis, however, found that men and women who experience an intimate relationship with God are more likely to have a literal view of the Bible.

Kent, now at Harvard Medical School doing postdoctoral research on religion and health, recently published this passion project along with Christopher Pieper, a colleague from his alma mater, Baylor University. Their study compared men’s and women’s answers on the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey on two sets of questions: how intimate they feel with God and how they view the Bible

Kent spoke to CT about what he thinks pastors and ministry leaders can learn from gender differences in the context of spiritual intimacy.

The survey results give three ways of viewing the Bible: skeptical, interpreted, and literal. Can you explain these orientations?

We want to make the categories a little more nuanced than the authors of the other study did. They collapsed multiple categories of answers into two options. Either you’re a full literalist, or if you say anything else, you’re a non-literalist. We expanded that into three categories instead of two. The first category is “The Bible is the literal word of God.” The interpreted category is “The Bible is entirely true, but it takes interpretation to fully understand its meaning.” The third category we call “skeptics,” which is two different categories combined into one. One is “The Bible contains some human error,” and the other is “The Bible is a collection of myths and legends.” There’s also a fifth one that says, “I don’t know,” but these answers were not included in the study.

How do you define a “literal” versus an “interpreted” understanding of the Bible?

Literalism is an interesting variable. In some ways, people are talking about their true views of Scripture, but in some ways, they are also making a statement about their religious or political identity. So most people who say they are literalists, when it comes down to it, aren’t actually literalists. They still choose to interpret portions of Scripture in a selective way. The New Testament talks about women not wearing jewelry and women wearing head coverings and literalists would say, “Oh, well, that’s a cultural thing, and we don’t do that anymore.” So literalism means something different to different people.

What did you find?

The main thing is: Yes, women are likely to report higher levels of literalism, but when we account for people’s attachment to God, we find that that relationship goes away. It’s not so much that women are more likely to be literalists, but people who experience a secure, personal, intimate relationship with God are more likely to be literalists. If you take a man and a woman who report the same level of closeness to God, there is no difference in their likelihood of being literalists. So then you get into questions of socialization: Why do we find that women are more likely to seek that intimacy than men?

So that gets into attachment theory. Can you explain how that relates?

Attachment theory, which is a psychological theory developed in the 1960s, posits that the dynamics of the relationship you have with your primary caregiver in the first four or five years of life tend to set the tone for how you relate to people for the rest of your life. If I have a warm, secure relationship with a primary caregiver, I’m likely to carry that into future friendships, workplaces, or a marriage, and I’m likely to carry that into how I perceive God. If I have this anxious or avoidant orientation, despite my best intentions, I’m wired to be not quite as trusting or open, so that carries into those close relationships, including my relationship with God.

You mentioned something particular about adolescence in the paper. Can you elaborate?

One of the interesting things about attachment theory is that at a young age, boys and girls don’t attach any differently. What we observe is that as kids get older, they start to diverge in how they attach and relate. We see this in contemporary Western culture. In a marriage that doesn’t have a huge amount of relational intimacy, the research shows that women are going to be more dissatisfied than men are. That hasn’t always been the case.

Historically, views of male friendship were very high. Aristotle talked about platonic relationships between men as the highest form of friendship. Aelred of Rievaulx, a monk and theologian, talked of spiritual friendship. In Scripture, we think about Jonathan and David and what we observe as their intimate friendship with one another.

Even in contemporary culture—I used to live in China, and it’s very common to see two men who are friends walking down the street armin-arm or holding hands. I recognize that not everything comes down to socialization. There may be some biology that exacerbates or promotes some behaviors, but in the paper, we primarily argue that there’s a differential in the socialization of men and women, and that results in adult men engaging with God a little differently than women.

Let’s talk about the implications. What does your research suggest about adult ministry?

First, as a sociologist, the data says what the data says. Anything we try to draw from the study is going beyond what it says. But as a person of faith and a former pastor, there’s a chance to try to draw some conclusions from here. I’ve engaged with a lot of people who have really benefited from thinking about these things in terms of attachment.

Let’s say a believer really strives to connect with God but for whatever reason never quite feels it. There can be self-recrimination: “Maybe I’m failing. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Maybe if I do the following spiritual practices, it will all come together.” Insight from attachment theory says that in many ways, how we perceive God in an emotional way is a little bit out of our control. I’ve done training with churches on attachment to God and had lots of conversations with people one-on-one, and the general reaction is a sigh of relief.

Probabilistically, 60 percent of the population tends to be securely connected and 40 percent are in this anxious or avoidant category. So it’s a large minority of the population that tend to experience relationships in this way. This can be a starting point for growth and conversation.

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Given what we know about the socialization of boys, how can we think about their discipleship?

There are a couple of approaches. One is to try to minimize the differences—try to help boys see that it’s emotionally and spiritually healthy to connect with other people and to God and to be open and vulnerable about feelings. The other approach some people have taken is to accept that “hey, in this cultural moment, we have these differences, so let’s just try to gear ministry and programs toward meeting those approaches.”

For example, have you heard of “fight church”? There are people trying to connect with men by literally having fight club at church. It’s like we can punch each other in the face and wrestle and do it as a way of connecting and having a manly spirituality.

In the early- to mid 20th century, you had this movement called “muscular Christianity”—evangelists that were trying to emphasize the masculine qualities of faith, like fighting for the good, fighting social ills. More recently, you had John Eldredge and the Wild at Heart movement. Mark Driscoll has sort of fallen by the wayside, but a lot of his success at Mars Hill was taking young men and saying, “Hey, this is what faith is for men.”

Trying to connect with men in those ways isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But treating those behaviors as if they’re some kind of essentialized difference that cannot change is probably the wrong approach. We can say, “This is where we are culturally; let’s also talk about where we want to be culturally.” We can think about how we raise and socialize our kids to get to that place.

Will there be any follow-up studies looking at a different aspect of your data?

The follow-up I’m most interested in doing is not a survey analysis but a series of interviews. Essentially, I want to figure out the relationship between how people connect with God and how they connect with the people around them. And when you experience a deep, meaningful connection with God, does that in turn inform how you connect and relate with people around you? When you find connection with God, does it spill over to your friendships, your marriage?

Similarly, if you were feeling alienated from God but you get into a church or a relationship that helps you connect emotionally and be more vulnerable, does that in turn help you start reconnecting with God in a way that you’ve been missing? I suspect that probably happens both ways, but I’m interested in hearing people talk about it retrospectively from a young age.

That would be very interesting.

I think it would be very informative. There’s a word I love called concatenation. As something changes in one aspect, things change in parallel in another aspect. In a sermon I really love called “How to Change,” Tim Keller talks about the concatenation of the fruits of the Spirit. They tend to not happen in isolation. When you see changes in self-control, you also see changes in gentleness. I suspect that the types of attachments we have in relationships between parent, God, work, spouse, and children also work in that way.

How Norine Brunson Prayed When Her Husband Was Imprisoned

Brunson describes the spiritual habits that helped her face persecution in Turkey.


How Norine Brunson Prayed When Her Husband Was Imprisoned

Officials arrested Andrew and Norine Brunson in 2016 when they applied for permanent visas in Turkey, where they’d lived and ministered for 23 years. Authorities released Norine 13 days later, but Andrew remained in prison for two years, accused of being a spy.

Norine stayed in Turkey after her release, advocating for Andrew’s freedom and helping to lead the church they’d planted. Andrew’s forthcoming book, God’s Hostage(Baker, October 2019), details the Brunson’s story of imprisonment and perseverance. CT spoke with Norine about the spiritual habits that strengthened her during her years of ministry and that sustained her marriage and her faith during persecution.

Your husband, Andrew, has said, “Norine was stronger than I was.” This strength came from a reservoir in your soul because of your daily time spent with God for years prior to the ordeal. What did that spiritual habit look like for you?

Well, it’s looked different depending on the season of life. There’s no single prescription. But I always include time in prayer and the Scriptures. And when I read the Word, I try to align myself with it. Like when I read, “Arm yourself with the same attitude” as Christ, in his suffering, I say, “Yes, Lord. Let me have that.” I also make it a habit to write down answers to prayer, blessings, things I am thankful for.

There were days during Andrew’s imprisonment where I would say, “Okay, Lord. I have prayed everything I know. Here I am again.” There is something about just sitting in the Lord’s presence. Just being. Does my mind wander when I spend time with the Lord? Absolutely. Do I check my phone? Often. That’s just the reality. But I’m persuaded that time with the Lord is essential. How can we have a relationship with God unless we spend time with God? It’s like putting reserves in your spirit. Then the Holy Spirit brings it up when it’s needed.

Were there other spiritual habits that were significant in your relationship with God before you and Andrew were arrested?

Andrew has always been a worshiper, and this carried into the church and has influenced me. Fasting is also a habit of our spiritual life—not all the time, but for specific situations in ministry or our family.

One time several years ago, I fasted specifically regarding my fear of persecution. I was afraid of being tortured, to be honest. And I was saying, “Lord, prepare me for anything like this that I might face.” Not that there was any particular threat at that time—it has just been a fear of mine. Fear is something I have way too much of, and I know God wants to change that.

During the two years Andrew was imprisoned, what did your spiritual life look like? How did you grow?

I was so aware that I couldn’t do it alone. It was so hard to get out of bed in the morning. I’d sleep well, but then I’d wake and think, Oh. We’re still here. It was so hard to get out of bed. Very hard. Really hard.

So I would put my hand up every day before I got out of bed and say, “Okay, Lord. I’m taking your hand. Walk through this day with me.”

And then at some point it shifted. Not like, “Okay, God. I’m taking your hand. Walk through this day with me.” But me saying, “God, you lead this day. I’m with you.” I would submit every interaction, every thought, every emotion, every minute, and just really, really, thoroughly say, “Lord, you lead and hold me through this day, as well as Andrew and our kids. But you lead.”

I think I grew in awareness of my dependence on God and also in willingness to let the Spirit lead me in my day instead of trying to control my schedule.

You’re a mom of three. What was God teaching you as a parent during this time?

You know, that was one of the hardest things. When I was first arrested, I didn’t know if we were going to get out. I said, “Okay, Lord. You have to take care of my kids.” Because all of a sudden, you are powerless. I couldn’t get any word to them or do anything. I was like, “This is way beyond me. Lord, You’re on. You have to do it.”

Obviously, I should say I learned to trust more. Did I or did I not? I don’t know. I hope so.

Were there challenges that surprised you as you continued to live and minister in Turkey during Andrew’s imprisonment?

It was difficult and unexpected for sure, but not surprising. I didn’t know if I was going to be re-arrested. I would hear voices coming up the stairs or in the hallway—and I wondered if they were coming to get me. Then the voices would continue past the floor or my door and I would feel relief.

On one end it was great to know that my kids were safely in the States, but it was also hard to be away from them and to know they were having to walk through this without me and without each other, as they were all in different places.

And then there were the things in daily life that Andrew would always take care of, like working the computer or making sensitive ministry decisions—and I had to do them without his help or advice. It was very difficult. I just did what I could and others helped.

Did persecution impact your practices of evangelism and ministry?

I don’t think anything changed. We’d never called ourselves “missionaries” because it’s a misunderstood word. But we always told the Turkish people who we are and what we do. We are Christians and we pray for people and share the gospel. That is who we are.

Actually, the man who was leading the church—he and I were doing it together, but he carried the bulk of the work—really kept things going and, in fact, pressed forward. This could have been a time when we retreated, but for us in the church, it was time to keep going.

While Andrew was imprisoned, authorities let you visit him for about 35 minutes a week. What did those visits look like?

Every week, I’d write down what I wanted to tell Andrew. I’d include what I thought God wanted me to impart in prayer over him that week, things others sensed the Lord was showing, diplomatic news, whatever might encourage Andrew. And then I would memorize it the best I could before our visit.

When I saw him, we put our hands on the glass and I prayed for him. I said something like, “I bless you in the name of the Lord. I speak life over you. I speak hope over you”—whatever the Lord led me to say. I just tried to pray over him and bless him briefly. Then we started to talk. I told him as much good news as I could. Then he would tell me how he was doing. But we watched our words because the government listened to everything we said.

Was there ever a time when you felt like you lacked that personal reservoir of strength to encourage him?

Absolutely. There were many times I thought, God, I’m so discouraged. How can I go and encourage him? How on earth can I do it?

But I’d still go in. And I started to go in deliberately. When I signed in and approached the gate, I lifted my head and said to myself, I’m the daughter of the King going in to see a son of the King. But I was also like, Lord, you back me up here. And oftentimes, the Lord gave me grace right when I was with him.

What would you say to someone who is in a season of darkness or facing persecution?

I recently listened to a Canadian couple who’d been imprisoned in China. I agree with what the wife said about facing difficulties or persecution: You have to go to God first. You don’t go to your Christian friends, your doctor, or your counselor first. Those things are all good, but you have to know to go to God first. And as you partner with him, you will be able to access his resources and make it through.

Why Is the Relationship between a Father and His Daughter So Special?

Having a positive relationship with Dad can really influence a young girl’s whole life

by Godinterest

On the first day of their marriage, wife and husband agreed not to open the door for any visitor! That same day, the husband’s parents came to see them and knocked on the door. Husband and the wife looked at each other. The husband wanted to open the door, but since they had an agreement, he did not, so his parents left. After a while, the same day, the wife’s parents came visiting. Wife and husband looked at each other, and even though they had an agreement, the wife with tears on her eyes whispered and said “I can’t do this to my parents”, and she opened the door! Husband did not say anything. Years passed and they had 2 boys. Afterwards, they had a third child which was a girl. The father planned a very big and lavish party for the newborn baby girl, and he invited everyone over. Later that night, his wife asked him what was the reason for such a big celebration for this baby, while we did not do so for the boys!

The Husband simply replied, “because she is the one who will open the door for me!”

One of the most beautiful things in this world is – A Father-Daughter relationship.

We now live in a culture where Dad is an equal partner in caregiving. From day one, dads are encouraged to be hands-on, changing diapers, giving baths, putting Baby to sleep and calming her cries. That presence and effort is the beginning of a very important relationship.

Daughters are so special.  However,  a daughter needs a dad to be the standard against which she will judge all men.  It is also the reason why fathers are very influential in their daughter’s lives, especially when it comes to self-esteem and decision making.  A father may  hold his daughter’s hand for a short while, but she holds his heart forever.  Their inside jokes and understanding for each other make them absolutely adorable.

“How Dad approaches life will serve as an example for his daughter to build off of in her own life, even if she chooses a different view of the world,” says Michael Austin, associate professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and editor of Fatherhood – Philosophy for Everyone: The Dao of Daddy.

Let your heart be captivated as you go through these cute and short  father daughter quotes.

  1. He is the first man she looks up to and he totally brings out the best in her.  – Unknown
  2. There is this girl who stole my heart and she calls me Daddy.  – Unknown
  3. Dear Daddy, no matter where I go in life, you’ll always be my number one man.  – Unknown
  4. Fathers, be your daughter’s 1st love and she’ll never settle for anything less.  – Unknown
  5. Husbands, love your wives well, your children are noticing how you treat her.  – Unknown
  6. Some people don’t believe in heroes but they haven’t met my dad.  – Unknown
  7. The greatest thing a father can do for his daughter is to love her mother.  – Unknown
  8. As a daughter of the king of kings, your purpose is not to turn heads but to turn hearts toward our Heavenly Father.  – Unknown
  9. He gives her the confidence to do things on her own and become independent.
  10. It is admirable for a man to take his son fishing, but there is a special place in heaven for the father who takes his daughter shopping. –John Sinor
  11. Behind every great daughter is a truly amazing dad.  – Unknown
  12. When it comes to careers, a father is the first person every daughter goes to for proper guidance and advice.  – Unknown
  13. A real man treats his lady the same way he wants another man to treat his daughter.  – Unknown
  14. I’m so glad when daddy comes home, I would hug him and give him a great big kiss.  – Unknown
  15. Guns don’t kill people… dads with pretty daughters do.  – Unknown
  16. I am the daughter of a King who is not moved by the world for my God is with me.  – Unknown
  17. You are a daughter of an Almighty God, you are a princess destined to become a queen.  – Unknown
  18. No matter when a girl finds her Prince Charming, her father always remains the king of her life.  – Unknown
  19. A father opens doors for his daughter pulls her seat out and treats her with the utmost respect.  He sets a daughter’s expectations on how a man should treat a lady and that she should not settle for anything less.  – Unknown
  20. DAD — A son’s first hero. A Daughters first love.  – Unknown
  21. Fathers give the best piggyback rides. They are ready to do anything that makes their daughter smile.  – Unknown
  22. He dreams for you and takes pride even in your smallest achievements.  – Unknown
  23. He makes you feel like the most important person, most beautiful girl and the most capable person on earth.  – Unknown

Are you inspired by these cute and short father daughter quotes?

It’s ‘DAUGHTER’S WEEK’, and if you are a daughter or have a daughter who makes life worth living, by just being around – and you love her as much as your own breath. if you are proud of your daughter or being a daughter, send this to other people who have daughters or who are daughters. Daughters are angels!

Is America Incurring God’s Wrath Over Abortion?

August 4, 2018

[Picture of Longfellow, quoted here]

Is America shaking its collective fist at God through the wholesale slaughter of the unborn?

Some people virtually celebrate abortion.

  • Cecil Richards, president of Planned Parenthood for a dozen years, is leaving her position as a virtual celebrity. Her “legacy” includes 3.5 million abortions by Planned Parenthood during her tenure.

  • Some of the signs seen at January’s pro-abortion-rights march, such as “Abortion on Demand & Without Apology,” prompted to note, “New Women’s March T-shirts Celebrate Killing Babies in Abortion” (1/17/18).

Today we have surpassed the 60 million mark in number of abortions since the Supreme Court’s companion decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which on January 22, 1973, gave us abortion on demand.

What does God say about all this? Through the Hebrew prophets, God declared, “Woe to those who shed innocent blood.” Not only did He tell us to do no murder (which would include the unborn), but He tells us by way of the prophet Isaiah that we should not call evil good and good evil.

Yet today, rather than lament abortion, some celebrate it. A couple of weeks ago on national television Michele Wolf, the crude comedian, made people laugh at the White House Correspondents Dinner by joking about abortion. I suppose we could note that at least she recognized the unborn as a “baby.”

I find it fascinating to reflect on what some of our forebears said about the evils of slavery. Even some of those who owned slaves, like Thomas Jefferson, recognized it as a great sin. Jefferson said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

George Mason, one of our founding fathers—again, a slaveholder from Virginia—knew that it was wrong. He said, “Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a country.”

But someone might say, “Isn’t there a constitutional reason for abortion? The Supreme Court said so, and there it is.” However, they also said, in the Dred Scot case of 1857 that the slave has no constitutional rights. We fought a Civil War over it. Many see that great tragedy as God’s judgment—the judgment of heaven brought on by about two and a half centuries of slavery in America. (Lincoln implied that in his Second Inaugural Address.)

Meanwhile, is there a constitutional basis for Roe?

I once asked that question of former Yale Law professor, Robert Bork, who was nominated to the Supreme Court until he was so lied about by the left that he got “borked” and was unable to serve there. This happened, despite the fact that the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court, says “Bork’s legal competence and personal integrity were indisputable.”

Here is what Robert Bork told me about the infamous 1973 abortion decision: “If you read Roe against Wade, it’s a very interesting opinion.  It’s about 51 pages or something of that sort. There’s not an ounce of legal reasoning in it. He goes through what the ancient Egyptians thought about abortion, he goes through the English Common Law of abortion, he goes through what the American Hospital Association thinks about abortion, what the American Medical Association thinks about it, and then, suddenly, after all this history, which is utterly irrelevant to the issue before him, he suddenly says, ‘Well, there is a right of privacy and it’s broad enough to cover the right to abortion.’ Bang, it’s a terrible opinion.”

Some legal minds (even those who liked its pro-abortion rights outcome) called Roe “Harry’s abortion,” referring to Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion.

Does God sleep? Does the blood of tens of millions of aborted babies not cry out to Him?

During the Civil War, the great American author, William Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a Christmas carol, entitled, “I heard the bells on Christmas day.” In this poem, he struggles with how the bells peal out “peace on earth, good will to men,” but the reality he sees is anything but.

He continues: “And in despair I bowed my head: / ‘There is no peace on earth, ‘ I said / ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song / Of peace on earth, good will to men.’”

How to resolve this seeming conflict? He comes to this great conclusion: “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: / ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; / The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,  / With peace on earth, good will to men.’”

Just because evil may prevail for a time, God will only allow it for a while. There will come a time of reckoning. How can America pretend that God Almighty is pleased with the blood of 60 million unborn babies on our hands? Lord, have mercy.

Powerful Reasons to Use Object Lessons to Engage and Teach the Male Brain (Women and Kids Love it, Too!)

David Murrow

Powerful Reasons to Use Object Lessons to Engage and Teach the Male Brain (Women and Kids Love it, Too!)

It takes 20 hours to prepare a message – and 20 minutes for men to forget it.

God’s Word is preached, presented, and taught hundreds of thousands of times each week. Why isn’t it having greater impact? Because men are forgetting what they hear — moments after they hear it. The Word is being sown, but it is failing to implant and grow (Matthew 13:4).

It would be easy to pin this failure on poor preaching or men’s stony hearts. But in many cases the fault lies not with the messenger, the message, or the men. The problem is the method.

The Problem: Monologue Lectures

Most Christian teaching is delivered verbally. Somebody stands up and talks. People listen. Mission accomplished, right?

Not really. The verbal regions of a man’s brain are typically smaller and less interconnected than those in a woman’s brain. Therefore, the average man is less able to process a stream of verbal content, such as a lecture or sermon.

I’m not saying men can’t learn from a lecture. Some men have highly developed verbal skills (pastors, for example). But studies have shown that monologue lectures are one of the least effective ways to teach for comprehension and retention. This is true for both women and men – but especially true for men.

The Solution: Object-Based Illustrations

However, the male brain is very good at recalling and manipulating three-dimensional objects moving through space. If men see it, they tend to remember it.

So if you want men to remember your words, tie those words to common 3D objects men see all the time.

Jesus knew this. He built his teaching around things his hearers saw every day. Christ used sheep, wheat, coins, cadavers, lakes, fig trees, loaves, fish, children, nets, blind men, and many other physical objects to convey spiritual truths.

As a result, his teachings are still with us today. Why? Because men remembered them. Men recalled them so vividly they were able to write them down years after they happened.

If we are serious about implanting God’s Word in men’s hearts, we must do what Jesus did: use live, object-based illustrations (OBIs) when we teach men.

Here are five steps to create a memorable object-based illustration (OBI):

You may be thinking, “I’m not creative enough to come up with an OBI.” Baloney. Any Christian can create a memorable OBI. I’ve created dozens of them – and I’m not even a preacher.

Let me walk you through the process. Along the way I’ll give you an example you’re free to steal.

Step 1: Pray.

Start by praying and asking God for the gift of creativity. God is first and foremost a creator — and you’re made in his image (Genesis 1:1). Ask him to give you the gift of a creative OBI so people will remember His Word.

Step 2: Focus.

Identify the central point you’re trying to convey. What’s the most important thing you want men to take away from your teaching?

Let’s say that you’re preaching on Ephesians 2:8-9For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Your central point? Salvation by faith vs. works.

Step 3: Find an object.

Ask, “What’s an object that’s LIKE my central point?”

In our example, what’s analogous to a free gift? Thinking…thinking…EUREKA! Salvation is like getting a gift card for your birthday. Somebody else paid the price; you get the benefit.

Step 4: Find a related object.

Next, develop the idea further. Are there any other closely related objects that fit your analogy?

Back to our example. Thinking…thinking…YES! Salvation is not like a debit card, where you deposit your own good works on account, hoping to withdraw them later. Salvation is not like a credit card where you work to pay back your crushing debt to God.

Step 5: Build your message.

Finally, build your entire message around the metaphor. In our example, you’d plan to bring three cards into the pulpit: a debit card, a credit card, and a gift card.

Stick with one OBI, build the entire talk around your OBI, and practice!

Before you teach – rehearse! Practice your OBI in front of the mirror – or with a friend. Have it down pat before you speak.

It’s better to stick with one OBI per message. Remember the saying: don’t mix your metaphors. Men will retain one strong OBI more readily than three or four weak ones.

You may be tempted to set up your talk with a two-minute OBI, and then spend the rest of your time delivering a traditional sermon. That’s a mistake.  If you really want your point to stick in men’s minds, build your entire talk around your OBI. Come back to it again and again. For example, keep holding up those plastic cards as you make your points.

Coin a phrase or phrases to reinforce the message. For example, “Debit Card Religion.” “Gift Card Faith.” Use your phrases repeatedly as you teach.

No matter how great any talk goes, there will always be some critics. Just be prepared to respond.

About 90 percent of your hearers will really appreciate this technique…and 10 percent will hate it. The latter will say things like this:

“This is juvenile. If I want a kids’ lesson I’ll go to Sunday school.”

“Object lessons are a gimmick. They’re a crutch for the spiritually immature.”

“This is milk. Give me the pure meat of God’s Word, preached with power!”

Here’s how to answer your critics:

  • Agree with them. Tell them you’re simplifying the message to reach the immature and the unchurched (implying that your critics, of course, are spiritual giants).
  • Gently remind them of how frequently Jesus used OBIs in his ministry.

Enjoy the eight great benefits of using OBIs:

You may be thinking, “Wow – I’d love to use more OBIs, but it seems like a lot of extra work.” Not really. A good OBI can actually save you time in preparation. And the benefits are huge:

Benefit 1: Greater retention.
Men will think about the illustration all week long. And some men will remember the point of your message weeks, months, or even years later.

Benefit 2: Life situations serving as lesson reminders.
For example, every time your men see a debit, credit, or gift card, they will recall God’s free gift of salvation.

Benefit 3: More men in your church.
If your church has an OBI in the pulpit every week, I can guarantee your church will grow. And men will be leading the parade.

Benefit 4: Greater interest among the men.
The male brain is also wired for novelty. Men love to be surprised. They’ll anticipate each message, wondering, “What’s he going to do this week?”

Benefit 5: Men emboldened to invite their friends to church.
Interesting sermons encourage people to invite their friends. And visitors generally love OBIs because they help them understand complex spiritual truths.

Benefit 6: People using your illustrations to disciple one another.
It’s true. I’ve seen it happen. Guys will get their wallets out and share their faith using their credit, debit, and gift cards. And guys will use the metaphor to challenge each other: “Hey – knock it off! You’re practicing debit card Christianity, dude!”

Benefit 7: Men equipped to disciple their children.
Fathers who would never re-preach a sermon would eagerly re-enact an OBI with their kids at home.

Benefit 8: Viral sharing.
Not long ago a three-minute video clip showed up in my Facebook feed. It featured a pastor clutching a balance beam for dear life (Google search: pastor balance beam). He was illustrating how timid most Christians are. The clip has been viewed almost 1.5 million times – and has been copied by pastors around the globe. People rarely watch 40-minute sermons online. But 2-minute OBIs get shared all the time.

What about women and youth?

Let’s address the elephant in the room: If we teach for the male brain, will females feel left out? Not at all. Women benefit from OBIs just as much as men do.

Our children are growing up in a visual culture. Television, the Internet, and social media – it’s all about images. Innovative companies and schools are moving away from lectures and bullet points, toward interactive lessons involving 3D objects.

Is this really something new? Christ taught men this way 2,000 years ago – and those men turned the world upside down. We may not be able to walk on water, heal a paralytic, or wither a fig tree, but with God’s help we can take common, everyday objects and create unforgettable illustrations that change the lives of all those we teach.

David Murrow is the bestselling author of Why Men Hate Going to Church and several other books. He is the founder of Church for Men, an organization that helps congregations reach more men and boys. His web site is

Radioactive Faith

January 8, 2019 by Lighthouse Devotions by Joe


This is the Cape Aniva or Mys Aniva Lighthouse, aka Naka Shiretoko Saki. It was built by the Japanese in 1939 on a jagged rock just off the southeastern-most cape of Sakhalin island which was, at that time, divided between Japan and the USSR. Like all other lighthouses, it was originally manned by keepers for many years. But then at the end of World War II, the Soviets took full control of the island and installed a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) so that it could run by itself on nuclear electricity. Unfortunately, due to the fall of communism in the 1990s, the lighthouse fell under mismanagement and it didn’t take long before it was completely abandoned and then ransacked by looters in search of scrap metal. The tower’s fittings, furnishing, and equipment were either stolen or destroyed. Even the reactors are said to have been breached. As a result, this sentinel of the sea has been deemed radioactive.

The image below shows a section of the lighthouse with the word “radiation” written in Russian. Perhaps a government official or someone else familiar with the dangers of the RTG wrote it to warn future explorers or marauders. The tower’s history still keeps most people away, especially those who respect radioactivity.


When I think of how this lighthouse, which was once built to attract and guide mariners to safety, eventually became something that people intentionally avoid at all cost, I wonder how many Christians (lighthouses for God) have become “radioactive” in their faith. Not in the sense that they drive away people, but in the sense that they effectively repel the evil forces of darkness which I call “soul looters.”

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “radioactive”? Perhaps you think of danger, contamination, or even death. How about when you hear the word “faith”? Maybe you think of God/Jesus, the Bible, or the concept of believing/trusting in something or someone of divine nature. And, what was your first thought when you read the title of my devotion?


If you search for the definition of radioactivity and research its cause and effects on living organisms, you will obviously conclude that it is dangerous and potentially fatal. But even though coming into contact with radioactive material can be life-threatening, it can also be very beneficial. For example, systemic radiation therapy uses radioactive substances to treat and thereby prolong the life of patients suffering from certain types of cancer. It’s interesting to note, however, that it does this by actually disrupting and stopping the growth (ending the life) of malignant cells.



By the same token, if you study the biblical definition of faith and how it plays out in the life of a Christian, you will conclude that it is not only beneficial but essential for spiritual as well as physical and emotional health. And like radiation, faith helps the believer to live victoriously by simply disrupting and stopping the growth of the malignant spiritual disease known as sin.


So, if we combine the two words defined above you get what I call…


Every believer who wants to victoriously live the abundant life that Jesus offers needs to develop and maintain a radioactive faith. Such faith does not only disrupt the enemy’s schemes, but it renders any and all of his weapons useless. Even when full-blown sin is met with radioactive faith, it immediately breaks apart, disappears, and stops from spreading. However, in order to produce, release, and effectively use such overcoming power, one must be constantly connected to the ultimate sin-defeating source, namely Jesus Christ and His word.

Radioactivity is without a doubt detrimental to human life. That is why those working with or around it must exercise extreme caution. It would behoove anyone who is aware of the consequences of radiation to stay as far away possible from any area that displays the universal warning sign.


Likewise, when the forces of darkness encounter Christians who are serious about their walk with God and are truly committed to spiritual disciplines they ought to be extremely cautious in approaching them. In fact, it would also behoove them to stay as far away possible from those who are not just Christians by name but who evidently exercise Radioactive Faith. If they don’t, Scripture clearly warns them of their imminent fate.


Prayer: Almighty God, help me to diligently commit to serving you and obeying your word. Increase my faith so that it may keep the light of your salvation shining through me while fending off and destroying the works of the enemy in my life. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen. 

“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ”  – Romans 10:17

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” – Ephesians 6:16

“…I have come in order that you might have life —life in all its fullness.” – John 10:10 (GNT)

“No weapon formed against you will succeed…” – Isaiah 54:17a (CSB)

“The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” – 2 Cor. 10:4 (BSB)

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” – Romans 16:20


Radioactive Faith

VIDEO Criminal Son Finds Redemption Through Mother’s Prayers


by Danielle Thompson


Jed says, “I remember as a young kid, like, sharing some of my passion and-and dreams, and just kind of getting like an almost—almost like a blank stare.  Like, “Do you really think you could do that?”

Jed’s dad never told him the words he needed to hear – that he believed in him and loved him for who he was.

Jed explains, “My dad was very verbally abusive, and borderline physically abusive as well.”

Jed’s parents divorced when he was nine, and he went to live with his mother, Donna.  It was already hard on Jed, but made worse when his father disappeared from his life.

Donna says, “I saw a little boy that was devastated. In tears, crying. And of course I’m there holding him crying right along with him.  I was praying constantly. Like, Lord, help us. Lord, help us. Just screaming out for His guidance.”

Hurt and angry, Jed had already made his decision.

He remembers thinking, “I’m not going to let anybody love me. I’m not going to let anybody take care of me. I got this.”

Jed started lashing out at his mom and rebelling against anyone in authority.  As a teenager he was drawn to the kids who used drugs and lived by their own rules.

He says, “I just wanted anything where I could thrive as a person.  And so that kind of gave me that place where I could fit in.  Wow, I got all these guys and girls around, and we can hang out. We can party.  And we can do whatever we want.”

By the time he was 18, Jed was caught in a world of addiction, theft, and drug deals.

Jed says, “One of our main slogans, which is pretty big in the drug world which is ‘I’m down for whatever and I’ll die doing it.’ That was my mentality.  The level of crimes started getting really high.  I mean obviously you have a conscience. So I’m –I’m constantly knowing that what I’m doing is wrong, it really doesn’t matter.”

Over the years he bounced between crack houses, jail, and rehab.  His mom often drove through the streets looking for her son, at times pulling him out of the crack houses where she found him.  And she prayed.

Donna says, “I was praying constantly.  I was wailing, wailing and crying. And calling out to the Lord to save my child. A child that I would never, ever thought would have gone down this road.”

But Jed couldn’t see past his anger.

Jed recalls, “Every time I’d get brought back home by the police, I’d sit in my room and my mom would pray. And I remember hearing her. I’d be like mom, shut up, you know. Like, you know, ‘Mom, be quiet. I don’t want-I don’t want to hear that. I don’t want to hear that.’”

As drug addiction took complete control over his life, Jed decided he had nothing to live for.

Jed says, “Sooner or later I knew it was going to end.  I was either going to get clean or I was going to die that way. But I was enjoying the high, I was enjoying the escape.  Like, if I died, I figured I was buried, and life is done. So I figured I might as well party it up. Might as well, you know, live the way I want to live.”

There were times even his mom lost hope.

Donna says, “One time I just laid in bed and I said, is this going to be the call where he didn’t make it this time? And I would be planning his funeral.  That’s pretty scary as a parent.”

But that didn’t keep her from praying and trying to reach her son.

Jed remembers, “Mom would pick me up, and she’d be like, I don’t want to see you die this way.  Finally, I think it all just kind of came in on me. Like…maybe living is worth it.  Maybe living life is worth it.”

At 24, Jed was homeless and had a warrant out for his arrest.  Some friends gave him a place to stay, and one Sunday they took him to church.

Jed says at the church, “They did a call for communion.  And I just heard a voice say go up there.  Go up there.  And I remember walking up there. And that was one of the first times I really could feel the presence of God.  The next morning I called my mom and says I’m done living like this.”

His mom picked him up and took him to the county jail, where he turned himself in.  In his cell, he found a Bible.

Jed says, “So I went to the Bible right away and I literally opened up the Bible and I got on my knees and I just began to like weep. And I remember looking in the mirror just before I got on my–I was like looking at my eyes, I’m like—I, you know, I got to change.  I just said, ‘God, my life is Yours.’   It was like the hatred was gone, the anger was gone. I felt like the weight of all that junk was off of me.  God radically, uh, began to change my heart.”

Jed was convicted of four felonies and faced a mandatory three year sentence.  Donna prayed that the judge would show mercy and send him to rehab.

Donna remembers, “We were in the courtroom and I was just interceding, praying, praying, praying.  And finally the judge said, ‘I don’t even know why I’m saying this, but Jed will go to Teen Challenge.’  And I was like, woo! I wanted just to get up and-and shout and scream.”

Jed says, “You know, that was like a complete miracle.  I mean, it felt like I had another chance.”

Jed completed the program and got over his addictions.  Then after finishing Bible college, he went on to lead an international mission organization.  And now, with his wife Erica and six children, he has everything to live for.

Jed says, “God has, you know, radically restored, restored my life. Given me a family, given me beautiful children.  He gave me hope, and-and like the Word says, He gave me a hope and a future, something to look forward to.”

Donna adds, “Don’t worry about, your son or daughter has to do this, this, and this and this.  Pray and let go of it. Pray and let go of it.  Just watch how God unfolds.”’s-prayers