All posts filed under: Teaching

Be wise as a serpent

By Rick Renner …be ye therefore wise as serpents. — Matthew 10:16 Over the years in our ministry, I have discovered timing to be extremely important. I have certainly found it to be true that we need to act when favor is obviously on our side. But let me also say that wonderful opportunities can also come packaged with difficult challenges. Knowing exactly which opportunities to take — and which ones to let pass us by — has been one of my personal challenges in the former Soviet Union. One day I was seeking the Lord about several opportunities that were presenting themselves. The Lord said to me, “If you’re going to survive and do what I’ve called you to do in this part of the world, you have to learn to think like a snake.” At first, these words caught me off guard. But immediately Matthew 10:16 came to my mind: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” In …

Why Did God Leave the Words of David and Solomon in the Bible?

By Michael Brown Originally published on June 14, 2019 I was on the phone last week with Stream founder James Robison, when he broke down weeping as he shared God’s heart. His words have stayed with me every day since, leading to the article you’re now reading. “Why,” James sobbed, “is Solomon still in the Bible with all the sin he committed? Why is David still there?” If it were up to us, would we have preserved their words in the Scriptures? The Lives and Writings of David and Solomon David was a man after God’s own heart, writing most of the Book of Psalms. But he also committed grievous sin, committing adultery with a woman named Bathsheba. Then, when he found out she was pregnant, he had her husband killed. David the adulterer and the murderer, yet still commended for his godliness and devotion through the rest of the Scriptures. And those very Scriptures record the depth of David’s repentance after his terrible sins. (See 2 Samuel 11-12, then read Psalm 51.) If it were …

What the Taliban guidelines on polygamy, tell us about Abraham’s day

I recently read an interesting article on BBC about an edict issued by the Afghanistan Taliban regarding polygamy earlier this year. In her article, Taliban Cracks Down on ‘Costly’ Polygamy, Author Khudai Noor Nasar states that in its two-page edict, the Taliban urges its commanders and officers not to take multiple wives. Curiously, this partial ban on polygamy has an interesting connection to a story in the Book of Genesis involving Abraham and his wife Sarah. Islam allows a man to have up to four wives and essentially an unlimited number of concubines. This has resulted in a shortage of women in countries such as Afghanistan for marriage and thousands of single men who have no hope of marrying and raising a family. Most of the Taliban’s recruits come from this large pool of single men. When the BBC contacted the Taliban asking how many of its leaders have more than one wife, they were simply retorted: “Which one hasn’t.?” But polygamy has resulted in an increased corruption among Taliban officers, who require extra money …

Don’t worry about anything

By Rick Renner Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.— Philippians 4:6 Over many years and through many experiences, I have learned that I have to be proactive to keep my spiritual life strong and healthy. We can’t ignore our spiritual life and expect it to remain strong. Just as our bodies need regular care and attention, our spiritual lives need a maintenance schedule in order to remain healthy. I want to give you five principles that Denise and I have learned over the years to keep us strong and vibrant. These five principles have become essential elements in our daily lives — and they have resulted in our being continually strengthened to accomplish the tasks the Holy Spirit has entrusted to us. These five elements are very simple, but if you will do them faithfully, I am fully convinced that your life will be strengthened in every way. 1. Every day spend time with God in the morning. In …

One prescription for mental stress

I was watching an interesting video the other day by famed University of Toronto psychologist, Jordan Peterson, and he was talking about the mental health struggles that people go through. He compared this problem to a balloon that if you keep pumping air into it will eventually blow up. But, he noted, that this break will take place at the balloon’s weakest point. He says that the same thing happens to people. When life starts getting complicated, and things start piling up, and we are hit with multiple issues at the same time, job loss, health issues, marital problems, the death of family or friends, the pressure builds until sometimes we break at our weakest psychological point. And we are living in very complicated times, with all those issues compounded by a virus, lockdowns and growing societal unrest. So, how to we deal with stress during these anxiety-filled days? Several years back, two researchers, Joshua Brown and Joel Wong, decided to study the impact that thankfulness has on a person’s mental well-being. In their article, …

No Time for Passivity

By Dr. Michael L. Brown It is 11:45 PM Tuesday night as I sit here in front of my computer, having just responded to some emails and after finishing some editorial work on an academic project. But I’m a late night person, and there’s still plenty of time to work. So, as I often do, I take a moment to pray, asking the Lord, “Is there anything You want me to write?” Immediately I hear the words (in my thoughts, not audibly), “No time for passivity.” Now, to be perfectly clear, I am not claiming special inspiration for this article. I’m simply saying that, as often happens when I pray about what to write, a thought comes strongly to mind. If you find the theme of this article relevant or helpful, great. The simple truth is that we are in a war. An ideological war. A spiritual war. A moral and cultural war. A war that, in many ways, is even more real than a physical war. The soul of our nation is at stake. …

Dealing with our shame and fear

2020 will go down as the year that everyone wants to forget, but will probably be the one we are most likely to remember. A recent survey conducted by Lifeway Research asked Americans what is the one feeling they most want to avoid this year. Not surprising, the big winner was fear, with 41% stating that this was the number one emotion they most wanted to get rid of. It suggests that for many Americans, fear is lurking in the background as people go about their everyday lives. But it’s not surprising that fear topped the list. Americans have faced a two pronged attack in 2020, with governments, the mainstream media and health officials driving a fear pandemic about COVID, and this combined with social unrest as protests and riots spread, have made an emotional impact. The second emotion that people wanted to get rid of was ‘shame,’ which at 24% came in a far second, followed by guilt at 22%. It was a complete turn around from 2016, when a similar survey by Lifeway …

The Humiliation of the Church and the Coming National Revival

By Dr. Michael L. Brown It has been a very difficult season for conservative Christians in America. There have been countless scandals, both minor and major, sexual and financial, rocking all different sectors of the church. There have been prominent leaders who have renounced their faith. There have been well-publicized, failed prophecies about Trump’s reelection. The list goes on and on, and we have egg on our face. Lots of it. And what about the extreme politicization of so many Christians in the last 5 years, to the point that some of us became better known for our support of a political leader than for our allegiance to Jesus? This is time of humiliation, of confusion, of dishonor, a time to get low before the Lord rather than a time to strut. Worst of all, we have brought reproach to the name of Jesus and disrepute to the reputation of the gospel. We have driven people away from the Lord more than drawn people to Him. Yet all is not lost. To the contrary, the …

Did God give us COVID? A plague of biblical proportions

Recently, I watched a new video of a doctor who disagreed with the Government. Where I live, The government has followed instructions and vaccinated large numbers of people against COVID. After achieving a successful number of vaccinations, they told us about their success, and lifted most restrictions and the way we live. We can now visit friends and go to church. Even infected people are free to travel. The doctor was furious, because he believes people are now in danger. If you want to see the interview, the link is here: I don’t want to argue with a doctor. He was very emotional when he talked about the dangers of COVID, and not always easy to understand. He thinks the government has made a mistake. Now there are rumors that people from our area will be restricted when they travel to other places. Some people believe that vaccines won’t protect us enough and we need to stay isolated. It’s ugly out there. And there are stories about demonstrations and possibly riots against COVID restrictions, in …

Survey: One in 10 pastors contemplated suicide in the past year

A 2021 survey conducted by Faithlife revealed that over one in 10 pastors contemplated committing suicide over the past year. This was a surprising indicator of the increasing stress that pastors faced during the COVID lockdowns, where church leaders were not only faced with restricted services, but as well the need to transition to an online ministry. In its report entitled, 2021 Pastoral Mental Health Report, Faithlife added that pastors also felt the pressures from the growing “social and political unrest” in society, that was even spilling over into their congregations. In addition, nearly 35% of the pastors survey reported feeling burned out, with 40% of pastors between the ages of 25-40 reporting they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that they’re sensing a burnout in their ministry. Faithlife CEO, Bob Pritchett, noted: “We knew it [COVID} took a toll on pastors, but we weren’t sure how it would look. This survey gives us a greater understanding of both the needs of pastors and ways we can help them as they shepherd us.” It …

The Importance of Finding Your Calling

By Dr. Michael L. Brown Can you imagine walking everywhere standing on your hands? Or writing a book using your toes? Or typing out text messages with your forehead? The fact is that our body was designed by God with great beauty and precision, with each part of the body having an important and unique role. It’s exactly the same with the Body of Christ. Every believer has an important and unique role. And that means if you are a believer, you have a calling and a mission. Not only so, but rightly understood, every believer has an indispensable role, since the Body can only function at its full capacity if every member of the Body is functioning properly. Do you see yourself in this way – as someone called and graced by God – or do you consider yourself of no spiritual or practical value? “After all,” you might think to yourself, “I’m just a businessman.” Or, “I’m just a home-schooling mom.” Or, “I’m just a young person in college. What can I do?” …

When Mental Health Professionals Recognize the Healing Powers of Spirituality

By Dr. Michael L. Brown Critics of the COVID lockdowns often argued that, in the end, the lockdowns would do more harm than good, not just financially but also medically. One reason was that patients needing treatment would be less inclined to visit a doctor or hospital, increasing their health risks. Critics also pointed to the psychological aspects of the lockdowns, leading to increased loneliness, depression and even suicide. What about forbidding Christians (and other people of faith) from gathering together for worship, prayer, and ministry? What kind of impact did this have on the overall health and wellbeing of tens of millions of Americans (along with countless others worldwide)? Or, conversely, what positive role did faith play in the overall health and wellbeing of Americans during the lockdowns? A new article posted in the Scientific American, by David H. Rosmarin, and titled “Psychiatry Needs to Get Right with God,” addresses these very questions. The Cost of Not Gathering for Worship According to Rosmarin, “Spirituality has historically been dismissed by psychiatrists, but results from a …

Covid Long-haul and Faith

When I first was diagnosed with COVID back in early May, most people were compassionate and helpful. Some were not, They simply rebuked COVID and claimed that if I had faith, I would not get sick. When I kept getting more sick, some said it was my fault since I was not vaccinated. Others explained that COVID was a judgment of God on the evil of this world and, well, just saying. The bottom line is that the response to this Christian pastor and his ministry leader wife getting COVID were mixed.  Believer and non-believer showered us with everything from anger to love, shame to hope. Now that we’re long haulers of COVID poisoning, we have to make adjustments. I am not good at making life limiting adjustments. I’d rather be in some lonely back alley talking to people and feeding them then sitting on my couch waiting for an improvement or just a good day. The prognosis is unclear since the medical profession just doesn’t know. So, we don’t know. We don’t know if …

No Time for Cowardice

By Dr. Michael L. Brown According to the book of Revelation, “the cowardly,” along with a host of other sinners, like murderers and the sexually immoral, will one day be cast into the lake of fire (see Revelation 21:8). But what is so bad about being cowardly? Why is it such a serious sin? The Greek word used for “cowardly” also means “fearful,” and it is found two other times in the New Testament.  As explained by the Greek scholar Celsas Spicq, “Jesus reproaches the apostles for this psychological fear when they are terrified by the storm (Matt 8:26; Mark 4:40), because it involves a moral deficiency: they no longer have faith, or they have but little faith in the presence of the Savior, who has to reassure them.” In contrast, “when one relies on God, there is nothing to fear.” (From his Theological Lexicon of the New Testament.) So, there is something morally deficient in being fearful when Jesus Himself is with you. And in the situation described in the Gospels, when the disciples …

God’s Impossible Standards

Why does God have such impossible standards? No one can live up to them. Take the end of 2nd Corinthians chapter 10, verse 5 for example. It says to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do this. I don’t know anyone who can do this. Even Peter, the rock upon whom the Christian church was formed, couldn’t do it. Almost everyone knows the time he denied Christ, shortly after claiming he would die for him. You can read about this in Luke chapter 22. So, if Peter couldn’t meet the standards of God, how can we? The law God gave the Israelites in the Old Testament was a huge burden to them, and they just couldn’t live up to it. That’s why they had rituals and sacrifices to purify themselves from their breaking of the law and sinning against God and each other. That law was put into effect by God to show the Israelites their need for salvation. They could not be righteous on …

Now Is the Time to Preach Endurance Not Escape

By Dr. Michael L. Brown Living in America, it is easy to develop a theology of escape, one that says, “When times really get hard, God will remove us from the scene. When real tribulation comes, we will be long gone.” But is that the attitude we should be encouraging? Is not the gospel made for hard times? I’m aware, of course, that there are divergent views of the end times among Christians, including the debate over a pre-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture (or a variation of those themes; for my own views, see here.) Fine Christians can disagree on this, and my goal here it not to debate eschatology. We can agree to disagree and work together just the same. Instead, my goal here is to focus on our attitude. What kind of mindset should we have in a difficult time like this? What should our mentality be? In the last decade, Christians in Syria suffered bombing, hunger, torture, exile, and death. They did not escape the hard times. To this moment, Christians in Nigeria …

Knowing God as a Forgiving Father

by Dr. Michael L. Brown As many of you know, before I came to faith in Jesus in late 1971 as a 16-year-old, Jewish, hippie rock drummer, I was a heavy drug user, even boasting about my drug use. I also broke into a couple of houses with my friends, as well as a doctor’s office. (The primary motivation was just to do something crazy.) Even more shamefully, I stole money from my father on several occasions when some of my friends needed a few bucks. This was the most despicable act of all. A few weeks after coming to the Lord, I was sitting in the kitchen one night talking with my dad, who was the senior lawyer in the New York Supreme Court. As we sat there alone, he asked me a direct question: “Michael, did you steal that money from me a few months back?” Not only had I stolen the money, but I had cut through the screen door in the back of the house to make it look as if …

A broken heart can physically break your heart

According to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) an emotionally broken heart has the potential to physically damage a person’s heart. Though the condition called Takotsubo syndrome (TTS) is rare, it is potentially fatal and is found most often in women. Researchers from Harvard stated that 90% of the cases involved women between the ages of 58 to 75. The research team from MGH stated that TTS occurs when a person undergoes a stressful event that results in increased activity in a person’s amygdala, an organ located on either side of our cerebrum that controls our memory and emotions. This in turn can cause increased activity in a person’s heart that can actually cause physical damage resulting in what is referred to as a “broken-hearted syndrome. According to the researchers, there are several things that can lead to this condition including such stress producing factors as: Death of a child or spouse Death of a pet Divorce or break up Job loss Infidelity Unfortunately, these type of events are a part of real life. God …

When taxes get too high

A recent article by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) provided a list of the top ten most taxed states in America, and they broke it down in an unusual way. They looked at the total amount of taxes a person paid in their lifetime. According to FEE, you would be a millionaire if you lived in New Jersey and were able to keep all the taxes you paid over the course of your life, that amounted to $932,000 or about half a person’s lifetime earnings (49.51%). This compared to the average amount of taxes, $525,037, paid by Americans in their lifetime. So by just moving to an average tax state an American family could potentially save over $400,000 in a lifetime. But we need to understand the actual tax bite varied because the average wage also differed by state. Though some states paid less lifetime taxes, their average wage was also less turning it into a proportionally higher tax rates. So based on percentages, here is the amount paid by the top ten highest …

God Is Not Discouraged

By Dr. Michael L. Brown The Scriptures often speak of God being grieved or angry. But they never speak of Him being discouraged. That’s because discouragement is not an “emotion” that exists within the Godhead. How could it? Discouragement would imply despair. Or hopelessness. Or defeat. And all of these emotions – to speak of the Creator in human terms – are totally foreign to Him. Ultimately, in Jesus, they should be foreign to us as well. Of course, it is only natural that, as human beings, even human beings who have a close relationship with the Lord, we will pass through seasons of discouragement. The burdens of life overwhelm us. Or our hopes and expectations are not realized. Or our lofty dreams come crashing to the ground. Or things take much longer than expected. Or it seems that there’s just too much suffering and pain. Or we disappoint ourselves, convincing us that we will always be failures. Or . . . you can fill in the blank. There are countless reasons for discouragement, and, …

Survey: Everyone missed the city on the hill

We have family that lives several hours away and as we drove home after a visit, we often end up driving during the night. And towards the end of our journey, I would find myself looking for the lights of our city radiating into the night sky as it offered hope, that our hours spent in a car would soon be coming to an end, and we would be home. In Matthew 5, Jesus also spoke of light telling believers that we are a light to the world, and a city on a hill that can’t be hidden. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV) During dark times, light offers guidance and …

Five signs of a ‘spirit of fear’

Several polls over the past few months reveal how the pandemic is being driven by fear, not the science. People’s perception of how serious COVID is goes far beyond actual reality. This past February, Frontiers in Psychology conducted two surveys of people in France to compare their perception of how bad COVID was with actual reality. According to their polling, the French believe that one in six people who catch COVID will die from the virus. If this is what you believe, a person would be living in absolute terror of catching the disease. But the reality is much different. In fact, only one in 400 died in France after catching the virus, with the vast majority over the age of 70. It is the elderly and those with underlying health conditions (often the same people) who are most vulnerable to the virus and need protection. Nevertheless, based on their flawed perception, the French believe over one million have died of COVID in their country instead of the actual death total of 107,000, in a …

Christian Do Your Job!

“Put me in coach, I’m ready!” How many coaches have heard this plea? And how many of us sitting on the bench are just waiting for our opportunity to shine, to show the world what we’re made of? In the past, a response may have been, “You’re not ready.” But now the response might be, “Put you in where?” A few years ago, it seemed like opportunities to shine were everywhere. Now, opportunities to just participate seem out of reach.  Ordinary life has been replaced by a blanket of illness and fear. This is even more complicated because of the credentials needed to participate. I have COVID at the time of this article. That means, according to our health authorities, I am immune from covid for about three months. A nurse told us that the vaccine immunity is for four months. Yet credentials to be put into the game include mask wearing, and in increasing cases, proof of vaccination. I get these things. I get that we need to feel safe. I also get that …

The counterintuitive church

It is one of those good news, bad news scenarios. No Christian likes persecution, and increasingly believers are being targeted for their beliefs in Western Democracies and as counterintuitive as it sounds, this may actually be good news for the church. According to a study by Nilay Saiya and Stuti Manchanda, published in Society of Religion, an academic journal, there is a strange anomaly in Christianity where it does better in places where it’s not the favoured religion and even faces active persecution, than in countries where it is embraced. The authors came to this conclusion after studying the growth and acceptance of Christianity in 166 nations between 2010 and 2020. The authors noted that of the ten countries with the fastest growing Christian populations today, seven of them involve nations that have low acceptance or even resistance to the Christian faith: Malawi, Uganda,  Rwanda,  Madagascar,  Liberia, DR Congo, and  Angola. Only three nations, where Christianity was politically and culturally accepted, made it in to the top ten: Tanzania, Zambia, and Kenya. Saiya and Manchand added …

Has God failed you?

By Dr. Michael L. Brown If God of the Bible is who the Bible says He is, then, by His very nature, it’s impossible for Him to fail. Then why ask the question, “Has God failed you?” It’s because, for all too many people, it feels as if God failed them. Perhaps you are one of those people? Maybe you suffered a devastating loss, something that was almost impossible to bear. But what made things even worse was that you felt abandoned by God. With tears of anguish you cried out, “God, where are You!?” To this day, you still wonder, “Where was God when I was hurting? Why didn’t He let me feel His presence? Why didn’t He speak to me or send help my way when I needed Him the most? What kind of God is that – if He even exists? Or was there something wrong with me?” Some of you wonder why your prayers for healing or provision or deliverance were not answered. As a result, you concluded that the Bible …

Reformed pastor denounces contemporary worship

A reformed pastor with a Presbyterian church recently caused controversy when he publicly criticized the styles of worship being used in many churches today. In his presentation to the Gospel Reformation Network conference, David McWilliams, who pastors Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lakeland, Florida, criticized the modern worship that is moving away from the hymns sung in traditional churches. In his presentation, Pastor McWilliams not only focussed on such trends as using smoke, lighting and video displays in sync with the music, but as well on the type of music being incorporated in these worship services. In his presentation, McWilliams noted: “For example, who can think that a service peppered with salsa rhythms will lead the congregation to worship God in reverence and awe? Or rock music. Will sentimental tunes or music that remind one of night clubs lead us to reverence and awe?” “Therefore, certain forms of music, attitudes, and actions are immediately excluded from worship by the one principle that we are to worship our God in reverence and awe.” It is an interesting …

Revival: When God Steps Down from Heaven

By Dr. Michael L. Brown In a certain sense, God’s presence fills the universe. Yet there are times in history when God manifests His presence in a particular place or in a particular way that is unique and distinct and powerful and transformative. We call those times “revival.” During such times in the past, children would say, “Did you hear that Jesus came to my village?” Preachers would say, “God stepped down from heaven.” Something had changed, and everyone knew it. As I explained in the definition I have used for revival for many years, “Revival is a season of unusual divine visitation resulting in deep repentance, supernatural renewal, and sweeping reformation in the Church, along with the radical conversion of sinners in the world, often producing moral, social, and even economic change in the local or national communities.” Note in particular those words “a season of unusual divine visitation.” That is the very essence of revival. There are passages in the Bible that describe God’s presence as being everywhere (see Psalm 139:7-12; Jeremiah 23:23-24). …