Transparency Builds Trust

Often we want to present ourself to others as we have it all together, sometimes we even deceive ourselves that we do. But when we are hurting or struggling, the ones we seek for comfort or counsel are those who’ve been there and understand, not the “perfect” people.

Broken people who have gotten through and healed can offer compassion, understanding and wisdom that others cannot.

Perhaps the most valuable thing about us that we can offer the world is ourselves, real and transparent. Perhaps our mistakes, failures, pain and struggle are more valuable than our successes, because they empower us to have an eternal impact loving and helping others right where they are.

If you hide who you are and what you’ve been through from people, how will they know you are someone THEY can go to when they are hurting or struggling?

I’ve had people tell me I share too much, and they show their disapproval, including judging and condemning me for it. Sometimes they question my motives, or think I’m just saying things for attention. I can’t control what people think or how they perceive my words or actions, so I’m not going to try.

I value sincerity, and despise when people are false and shallow, because they are acting like they are better than others. When people look down on the hurting and suffering, it reminds me of when Jesus confronted the religious leaders in Matthew 23:27-28, where He referred to them as white-washed tombs filled with rotting bones. It also reminds me of Job’s accusers (his friends by the way) who claimed that his suffering must be because he did something that caused him to deserve his misfortune.

As a result, we keep to ourselves and don’t reveal what is going on in our hearts, minds, and lives, because we fear the judgement and accusations from others. We also want to avoid the embarrassment of appearing weak or not meeting up to the expectations others place on us. This leads to isolation and loneliness, even when surrounded by people, within our own families, friendships, and churches. I’m sure this has led to the downfall of many in positions of leadership.

There have been countless times that someone has reached out to me privately to discuss something they were going through, simply because I shared something publicly about my own life or experience. Being transparent opened a door for someone to not feel so alone. It resulted in an opportunity for my pain, struggle, or experience to transform into wisdom and healing for someone else. Transparency builds trust. Because of that, I won’t be silent. I won’t fear what people think. I like helping people, and believe the world would be a better place if there were more “real” people in it.

5 Indicators Of An Evil Heart

As Christian counselors, pastors and people helpers we often have a hard time discerning between an evil heart and an ordinary sinner who messes up, who isn’t perfect, and full of weakness and sin.

I think one of the reasons we don’t “see” evil is because we find it so difficult to believe that evil individuals actually exist. We can’t imagine someone deceiving us with no conscience, hurting others with no remorse, spinning outrageous fabrications to ruin someone’s reputation, or pretending he or she is spiritually committed yet has no fear of God before his or her eyes.

The Bible clearly tells us that among God’s people there are wolves that wear sheep’s clothing (Jeremiah 23:14; Titus 1:10; Revelations 2:2). It’s true that every human heart is inclined toward sin (Romans 3:23), and that includes evil (Genesis 8:21; James 1:4). We all miss God’ mark of moral perfection. However, most ordinary sinners do not happily indulge evil urges, nor do we feel good about having them. We feel ashamed and guilty, rightly so (Romans 7:19–21). These things are not true of the evil heart.

Below are five indicators that you may be dealing with an evil heart rather than an ordinary sinful heart.  If so, it requires a radically different treatment approach.

They twist the facts, mislead, lie, avoid taking responsibility, deny reality, make up stories, and withhold information. (Psalms 5:8; 10:7; 58:3; 109:2–5; 140:2; Proverbs 6:13,14; 6:18,19; 12:13; 16:20; 16:27, 28; 30:14; Job 15:35; Jeremiah 18:18; Nehemiah 6:8; Micah 2:1; Matthew 12:34,35; Acts 6:11–13; 2 Peter 3:16)

2. Evil hearts are experts at fooling others with their smooth speech and flattering words.

But if you look at the fruit of their lives or the follow through of their words, you will find no real evidence of godly growth or change. It’s all smoke and mirrors. (Psalms 50:19; 52:2,3; 57:4; 59:7; 101:7; Proverbs 12:5; 26:23–26; 26:28; Job 20:12; Jeremiah 12:6; Matthew 26:59; Acts 6:11–13; Romans 16:17,18; 2 Corinthians 11:13,14; 2 Timothy 3:2–5; 3:13; Titus 1:10,16).

3. Evil hearts crave and demand control, and their highest authority is their own self-reference.

They reject feedback, real accountability, and make up their own rules to live by. They use Scripture to their own advantage but ignore and reject passages that might require self-correction and repentance. (Romans 2:8; Psalms 10; 36:1–4; 50:16–22; 54:5,6; 73:6–9; Proverbs 21:24; Jude 1:8–16).

4. Evil hearts play on the sympathies of good-willed people, often trumping the grace card.

They demand mercy but give none themselves. They demand warmth, forgiveness, and intimacy from those they have harmed with no empathy for the pain they have caused and no real intention of making amends or working hard to rebuild broken trust. (Proverbs 21:10; 1 Peter 2:16; Jude 1:4).

5. Evil hearts have no conscience, no remorse.

They do not struggle against sin or evil—they delight in it—all the while masquerading as someone of noble character. (Proverbs 2:14–15; 10:23; 12:10; 21:27,29; Isaiah 32:6; Romans 1:30; 2 Corinthians 11:13–15)

If you are working with someone who exhibits these characteristics, it’s important that you confront them head on. You must name evil for what it is. The longer you try to reason with them or show mercy towards them, the more you, as the Christian counselor, will become a pawn in his or her game.

They want you to believe that:

1. Their horrible actions should have no serious or painful consequences.

When they say “I’m sorry,” they look to you as the pastor or Christian counselor to be their advocate for amnesty with the person he or she has harmed. They believe grace means they are immediately granted immunity from the relational fallout of their serious sin. They believe forgiveness entitles them to full reconciliation and will pressure you and their victim to comply.

The Bible warns us saying, “But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord (Isaiah 26:10).

The Bible tells us that talking doesn’t wake up evil people, but painful consequences might. Jesus didn’t wake up the Pharisee’s with his talk nor did God’s counsel impact Cain (Genesis 4). In addition, the Bible shows us that when someone is truly sorry for the pain they have caused, he or she is eager to make amends to those they have harmed by their sin (see Zacchaeus’ response when he repented of his greed in Luke 19).

Tim Keller writes, “If you have been the victim of a heinous crime. If you have suffered violence, and the perpetrator (or even the judge) says, ‘Sorry, can’t we just let it go?’ You would say, ‘No, that would be an injustice.’ Your refusal would rightly have nothing to do with bitterness or vengeance. If you have been badly wronged, you know that saying sorry is never enough. Something else is required—some kind of costly payment must be made to put things right.”1

As Biblical counselors let’s not collude with the evil one by turning our attention to the victim, requiring her to forgive, to forget, to trust again when there has been no evidence of inner change. Proverbs says, “Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips” (Proverbs. 25:19). It’s foolishness.

The evil person will also try to get you to believe

2. That if I talk like a gospel-believing Christian I am one, even if my actions don’t line up with my talk.

Remember, Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13–15). He knows more true doctrine than you or I will ever know, but his heart is wicked. Why? Because although he knows the truth, he does not believe it or live it.

The Bible has some strong words for those whose actions do not match their talk (1 John 3:17,18; Jeremiah 7:8,10; James 1:22, 26). John the Baptist said it best when he admonished the religious leaders, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

If week after week you hear the talk but there is no change in the walk, you have every reason to question someone’s relationship with God.

Part of our maturity as spiritual leaders is that we have been trained to discern between good and evil. Why is that so important? It’s important because evil usually pretends to be good, and without discernment we can be easily fooled (Hebrews 5:14).

When you confront evil, chances are good that the evil heart will stop counseling with you because the darkness hates the light (John 3:20) and the foolish and evil heart reject correction (Proverbs 9:7,8). But that outcome is far better than allowing the evil heart to believe you are on his or her side, or that “he’s not that bad” or “that he’s really sorry” or “that he’s changing” when, in fact, he is not.

Daniel says, “[T]he wicked will continue to be wicked” (Daniel 12:10), which begs the question, do you think an evil person can really change?


It Matters Whom You Marry

weddingMy husband and I were once with a youth group. There were three kids sitting across from us at a meal: two guys and a girl. The one guy was a computer geek with glasses. The other one was a college student with slightly cooler hair and no glasses. The girl was obviously with him. But while the computer geek was busy serving everyone at the meal, clearing plates and garbage, the college student got angry with the girl for a small accident and poured red juice over her leather jacket and white shirt. She picked the wrong guy, and the juice didn’t seem to change her mind. She is in for some grief if that relationship continues and especially if it leads to marriage.

So to all the young, unmarried Christian girls out there, listen up: who you marry matters. You might think that the way he treats you isn’t so bad. It’s not going to get better after the wedding. You might think that he’ll change. It’s possible, but most don’t. You might think that you’ll be able to minister to him and help him. Possibly, but if you can’t now, you won’t then, and you will be at risk yourself. A husband should lead and cherish you, not need your counsel for basic personality or behavior issues.

Unless someone married is very frank with you, you can’t understand how much a husband will impact your entire life. Next to salvation there is no other long term event that will change so many areas of your life so deeply. Here are just some of the ways that marriage will impact every aspect of living.

  1.  It will impact you spiritually. If the guy is not a believer, you can stop right there. You have no business yoking a redeemed soul with an unregenerate one, even if he seems open to change. Christ has bought you with a price and it is not an option to give away that blood bought heart to someone who doesn’t know and love your Lord. It will cripple your spiritual development, open up a host of temptations, stifle your prayer life, make regular church going difficult, and cause massive parenting conflict if you have children.  If the guy is a believer, is he a strong one? Will he lead you in prayer, Bible reading, family devotions, and public worship? Or will you be on your own? Is he going to make spiritual growth a priority or do other things come first? Is he going to ask you how it’s going with your soul so he can help you grow in holiness and love for Christ, or will he leave that to your pastor? Is he going to lead the children in this, or will you have to spearhead that? In church, is he going to help the kids sit well, pray, find the hymn, or will you be the one pointing out what is happening next and helping the family keep up? Many women have married spiritually immature men, thinking that it wasn’t a big issue, or that the man would change, and they were wrong. They bear the scars.  The health of your eternity is at stake. Think carefully.
  2. It will impact you emotionally. Is the guy you’re thinking of going to encourage you, love you, be kind to you, and seek to understand you, or will he want to go out with the guys when you’re having a hard night? Will he listen when you are struggling with something or will he be preoccupied with a video game? Is he going to be annoyed when you cry or will he get you Kleenex and give you a hug? Is he going to understand that you are probably more tender than he is, more sensitive to issues and comments, or is he regularly going to run rough shod over your feelings? One woman was struggling to breastfeed her new baby, believing that that was the best thing for her, but it was very difficult. Instead of giving support and encouragement, the husband would make mooing sounds whenever he saw his wife working at it. We have to get rid of princess complexes, but we do have emotional needs. Any guy who is uncaring about your feelings and self esteem is selfish and should be left alone.  Be careful – a husband can cripple or foster emotional health.
  3. It will impact you physically. Is the guy you’re with going to provide for your basic needs? Will he be able to shelter, clothe and feed you? At one point in our marriage, I was worried that there was no employment opportunity. My husband assured me that he would work at McDonalds, dig ditches, clean up roadkill – whatever it took to provide for the family, regardless of his gifts and training. That’s the kind of attitude you want. A man who doesn’t provide for his household is worse than an infidel (I Tim. 5:8). You might have to help ease the financial burden, but unless your husband is disabled or there is another unusual circumstance, you shouldn’t have to carry it yourself.  Will the man you are with care for your body or abuse it? If he gives you little smacks, kicks, etc. when you’re dating, get away. It’s almost guaranteed that he will abuse you after marriage, and stats show that’s especially true when you are pregnant. Is he going to care for and protect your body or will he hurt it? There are women in churches across America who thought it was no big deal to have little (sort of friendly) punches or slaps from their boyfriends, but who are covering up the bruises from their husbands. Will the man you are with care for you sexually? Is he going to honour the marriage bed in physical and mental faithfulness to you or will he flirt, feed his porn addiction, or even leave you for another woman? You can’t always predict these issues, but if the seeds or practices are already there, watch out. I recently saw a newly married couple and the husband was flirting openly with another woman. Unless something drastic happens, that marriage is headed for disaster.  Is he going to be tender and gentle to you in bed? An unbelieving co-worker once told my sister that after her first sexual encounter, she had trouble walking for a few days because her boyfriend was so rough. In other words, he wasn’t selfless enough to care for the body of the woman he said he loved.  Watch out. Your body needs care and protection.
  4. It will impact you mentally. Is the man that you’re thinking of going to be a source of worry or will he help you deal with your worries? Is he going to encourage your intellectual development, or will he neglect it? Is he going to value your opinions and listen to what you are thinking, or will he disregard your thoughts? Is he going to help you manage stress so that your mind is not burdened that way, or is he going to let you struggle through issues alone? Is he going to care for you and be thoughtful of you if you are experiencing mental strain, or will he ignore it? I know of a woman who could handle pregnancy and child birth very well physically but postpartum depression took a huge toll on her mind. The husband overlooked it, continuing to have more children, until his wife ended up in a mental institution. You might think that the intellectual or mental side of a marriage is small. It’s bigger than you think. Consider it seriously.
  5. It will impact you relationally. How’s your relationship with your mother? Your dad? Do you love them? Does your boyfriend? Fast forward ten years: you tell your husband that your mother is coming for the weekend. Is he excited? Disappointed? Angry? Making snide jokes with his friends? Of course, a husband should come first in your priority of relationships, as you both leave father and mother and cleave to one another. But parents are still a big part of the picture. Whatever negative feelings he has about your parents now will probably be amplified after marriage. Your marriage will either strengthen or damage – even destroy – your relationship with your parents. The people who know you best and love you most right now could be cut out of the picture by a husband who hates them.  It’s the same with sisters and friends. Will they be welcomed, at reasonable times, in your home? Will the guy who you’re with encourage healthy relationships with other women, or will he be jealous of normal, biblical friendships? Will he help you mentor younger women and be thankful when older women mentor you, or will he belittle that?Don’t sacrifice many good relationships for the sake of one guy who can’t value the people who love you. So how will your boyfriend do after the vows? Because this is just a sampling of the ways that a husband can bless or curse his wife. The effects are far reaching, long lasting, and either wonderful or difficult. True, there are no perfect men out there. But there are great ones. And it’s better to be single for life than to marry someone who will make your life a burden. Singleness can be great. Marriage to the wrong person is a nightmare. I’ve been in a church parking lot where the pastor had to call the police to protect a wife from a husband who was trying to stop her from worshiping and being with her family. It’s ugly. Don’t be so desperate to get married that your marriage is a grief. If you are in an unhappy marriage, there are ways to get help. But if you’re not married, don’t put yourself in that situation. Don’t marry someone whose leadership you can’t follow. Don’t marry someone who is not seeking to love you as Christ loved the church. Marry someone who knows and demonstrates the love of Christ.

click here for Guys, It Matters Who You Marry Too


What’s Wrong? 

1492742793431532362052I was just discussing this yesterday. I am dumbfounded dumbfounded by the degradation of our society. And then it dawned on me what’s essentially wrong… Kathy

In a very unscientific study, I asked a simple question regarding today’s culture. Fascinatingly, there seems significant belief that there is something wrong; however, there is also significant disagreement in regard to what that wrong actually is.

90 respondents offered various insight. I was struck by the overlap; many people shared similar answers. But the reality within the responses is that there are some eye-opening themes, beginning with some basics…

What do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture? (Note that answers have been somewhat simplified and combined…)

  • Forgetting common courtesy
  • No more manners and patience
  • No kindness and humility
  • Entitlement (… even “in our youth,” said one, noting the infamous “participation trophy”…)
  • Expectation of immediate results; instant gratification
  • Denial of what is true
  • Hardheartedness
  • How political correctness inhibits teaching and truth
  • Little knowledge of history
  • The value of money being placed above that of humanity
  • Politics for profit
  • Polarization
  • Government dependency
  • Basic respect and appreciation of differences
  • Intolerance of different opinions
  • Ignorance disguised as confidence
  • The abandonment of “innocent until proven guilty”
  • Becoming a culture of entertainment rather than work

There is also significant concern about ethical activity… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • No common morality (no more right/wrong — do what feels right for you)
  • The erosion of any sense of moral standards
  • Fuzzy grey area being tolerated for everything

Many spoke about family and relationship… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • The breakdown of the family unit and prevalence of single parent households
  • Changed parenting expectations
  • Distracted parenting and distracted people (… usually via technology…)
  • The societal devaluation of God, life, and family
  • God being eliminated from everything
  • Not much emphasis on respect for another person/relationship
  • The way we interact with and treat each other
  • No grasp of authentic love (… without love, there is no discipline; without discipline, there is no respect…)
  • People no longer take the time to truly understand a situation before they give their opinion

One surprising thing to me was the number of different ways respondents expressed concern about how we see ourselves… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • Selfishness
  • Self-righteousness
  • Self centeredness (… this idea that “your happiness is all that matters”…)
  • We actually believe the advertisers claim that “it’s all about you!”
  • A “me-centered” outlook
  • Self-love or self-worship
  • Putting self and things in a role only capable of being filled by God
  • Relativism or self-exultation (…thinking oneself is what matters most…)
  • People believing their opinions/wants/needs are more important than anyone else’s
  • Minimal concern for others (It’s all about a “me first” attitude anymore; driving, waiting in line, etc.)
  • Our human nature to focus only on “me”

Not to be outdone, many mentioned some aspect of media or news… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • Social media (… it creates many different problems… from bullying, to the “keeping up with the Jones’s” or the “grass is always greener” mentalities, to the hiding behind the computer and saying things you might not say to someone’s face.)
  • Too much social media, news & no privacy (Everyone is looking at everyone’s lives and not living their own.)
  • Sensationalism in the news and everyday life
  • The free flow of information — creating, unknowingly, a surface-level-only knowledge

Lastly, I was struck by the plethora of “lack’s” (some just as above, that have been combined, and that overlap with above topics)… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • Lack of empathy
  • Lack of compassion for others
  • Lack of critical thinking
  • Lack of education
  • Lack of forgiveness
  • Lack of foundation on truth
  • Lack of commitment and loyalty
  • Lack of moral values and faith
  • Lack of reverence for God
  • Lack of knowledge/belief/honor/respect of God
  • Lack of decency and civility
  • Lack of personal responsibility
  • Lack of respect for the sanctity of human life (… including unborn, elderly, disabled, minority races…)
  • Lack of trust
  • Lack of tolerance
  • Lack of respect for other nationalities, religions, customs etc.
  • Lack of respect for our fellow man
  • Lack of self-awareness
  • Lack of perspective on how good a life we have and what we’re capable of accomplishing
  • Lack of thoughtfulness
  • Lack of accountability for one’s own actions
  • Lack of love — true love — wanting the “best” for another
  • Total lack of respect

That’s a lot of concern. Hence, allow me to conclude by sharing a single, brief reflection…

90 persons responded to my question. Of those 90 — people who hail from totally varied age, stage, circumstance, political leanings, etc. — there was much common ground and ample overlap. It thus seems to me that if we could somehow get past the age, stage, circumstance, political leanings stuff, then maybe, just maybe, we could start to wrestle with what’s actually wrong.

Respectfully… (yes, always…)


7 Friends That Will Ruin Your Life

Choose your friends wisely. They will impact who you are in the present and who you will become in the future.


I remember the night so clearly. I was driving down a dark, narrow two-lane road with the gas pedal to the floor. Intoxicated. It was the night my life hit rock bottom. I wasn’t man enough to throw my truck in front of a tree. But if I happened to lose control, then so be it.

How did I get to this point? One word: friends. Don’t get me wrong. I owned my actions. My friends didn’t put me behind the wheel. I was responsible for the mess that was my life.

But the man behind the steering wheel that night allowed the actions of his friends to influence the man God created him to be. “Bad company corrupts good morals.” These are the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. But the words never applied to me. Or so I thought.

Looking back, I realize my naivety. The words did apply to me. Truth isn’t selective. It doesn’t pick and choose. And the truth in Paul’s words is a warning for us. Your friends WILL shape your life.


In fact, friendships contribute more to the man or woman you are going to be (or have become) than any factor outside of God. Bold words, I know.

But this one reality might change the trajectory of your life. My prayer for this post is that one person will see that their friends are shackling them from becoming the man or woman God created them to be. And they will make some changes.

Your friends can challenge you to achieve things you never imagined. Your friends can also cripple your dreams, leaving you on a two-lane road feeling hopeless.

Here are 7 friends that will ruin your life.

1.) The “tells you what you want to hear” friend 

These friends say exactly what you want them to say. They do exactly what you want them to do. To put it bluntly, they are groupies, not friends. Groupies think their respective group, player, etc. hung the moon. The person they admire could open hand slap an old lady on a cane, and a groupie would find some way to justify it.

These friends don’t really love you. They are infatuated with something you have. Popularity. Looks. Athleticism. But they aren’t concerned with pointing you to God and challenging you to be the best man or woman you can be.

Friends who love you and want you to succeed point out flaws.

Friends who love you and want you to succeed will point out your inconsistencies.

They don’t enjoy doing this. But, with love and grace, they step into difficult conversations because they can’t bear to watch you continue down a path that might lead to destruction.

2.) The “not that serious about God” friend

You know these friends. They usually go to worship on Sunday. They might go on a foreign mission trip. But they never give God their lives. These friends are lukewarm. They think God is ok with having some of the pie.

These friends are toxic because they model a dangerous approach to Christian living. The approach that says status quo Christianity is ok. There is no reason to be a Jesus freak. Jesus freaks don’t enjoy life. So go to worship on Sunday. Read the Bible occasionally. But leave a piece of the pie for yourself.

And the moment you try to go “all in” for God, you will meet fierce resistance. Believe me. I have been there.

Several times in my teenage and early adult years, I wanted to go all in for God. But my friends weren’t there. And they saw my attempt to go all in as a threat to our Friday and Saturday nights. So, I heard statements like these:

“Are you really going to stop partying, getting drunk, etc.? You know there is no way you will stick to it? In two weeks, you will be back to your old self.”

And my friends were right. After a few weeks, I was back to my old self.

As long as “not that serious about God” friends are close enough to you to ask these questions, you will never give your full allegiance to God.

3.) The “no ambition” friend

Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.Francis Chan

These friends have ambition. But only towards things that don’t matter. Like completing two seasons of their favorite Netflix show in one day. If you mention Xbox, movies, the opposite sex, or the game plan for Friday and Saturday night, these friends perk up like the time I poured water on my roommate when he was sleeping.

But if you mention serving in the community, studying for a test, or attending a Bible study, you might as well be talking to a brick wall.

Surround yourself with people who want to make the world a better place. Surround yourself with people who want to do well in areas that matter.

You were created in the image of God. This means you were created to learn, grow, and give. You were created to make the world a better place and do things with excellence. Surround yourself with people who get this…and practice it.

4.) The “attention must be on me” friend

Spotlight on me. All. The. Time. Do you have friends like this?

These friends are plagued with jealousy and bitterness. They are extremely insecure. And here’s the big one…their lives are plagued with drama. They live a real life soap opera. And most of these friends have no idea why drama always follows them.

Here’s why.

These friends sell their souls to the gods of attention and spotlight. These gods are ruthless. They require everything. And the gods of attention and spotlight kick you to the curb for their next victim once they destroy your worth and value.

These friends are toxic because they are always takers. They take your energy. They take your joy. They take your time. And they will never celebrate your successes. They can’t. The gods of spotlight and attention won’t allow them to celebrate you. It means they take a backseat.

True friends are givers. They celebrate you. Do your friends do these things?

True friends are givers. They celebrate you. They are ok with taking a back seat to you. They listen to you. Surround yourself with givers.

5.) The “everyone else is doing it” friend

If I had a nickel for every time I heard (or spoke) this phrase as a teenager and young adult, I would be writing this post from an oversized yacht in the Pacific. The “everyone else is doing it” friend justifies every action. Nothing is their fault.

“Yeah, I was doing that, but Jill made me do it.”

“Johnny actually sent the text, I just wrote it. So, it’s really his fault.”

You get the idea? Not only do these friends refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, they also refuse to stand for anything. They go with the flow. They roll with the crowd. They are influenced heavily by peer pressure. If the crowd is doing it, they are doing it.

Here’s why these friends are toxic. As they follow the crowd, they will encourage you to do so as well. As they refuse to take accept responsibility for their actions, they will encourage you to do so as well.

You need friends who are confident in their identity. They are content in Christ. They are steadfast in their convictions. Because even if you are the strong one, it only takes one moment of weakness for this friend to take you down a road you never intended to travel.

6.) The “sees the worst in everything” friend

We live in a world where cynicism is the default posture of the majority. It’s rare to find someone who looks at the world through a positive lens. Even Christian leaders and preachers (myself included, at times) present God as an angry cynic who can’t wait to destroy the world.

God’s default posture is optimism. Your friends should see the world through God’s lens.

But this is not God’s default posture. He looks at the world through the lens of restoration, redemption, and hope. You can’t look at the world through this lens unless you have an optimistic worldview.

Negative people are exhausting. They drain your life and enthusiasm. They leave you feeling like the world, in general, and your life, in particular, are hopeless.

If you have friendships that drive you deeper into cynicism and hopelessness, it’s time to consider ending the relationship. The world is how you see it. You can choose to see good. You can choose to see bad. Your friends should choose the former because your friends love Jesus.

Find those friends. And cling to them.

7.) The “doesn’t know how to forgive” friend

These friends make a list of every person who disses them, shames them, or shows them up. And they check it twice. They spend a lot of their time and energy seeking revenge. They wade in a pool of bitterness and resentment, drowning out any notion of forgiveness and grace.

“If Jesus was in my shoes, he would do the same thing!” This is a typical response from these friends.

These friends are cool with you…until you do something to belittle them. Then you go on the hit list with everyone else. Grace has a short leash. Oh, they want God to extend them grace, but they don’t believe God expects them to extend the same level of grace and forgiveness.

Find friends who model forgiveness and refuse to build a wall of bitterness over their heart. This is a rare virtue in our culture. So, if you find someone modeling gospel-centered forgiveness, hang on to them.


These words aren’t a call to cut ties with every friend who exhibits any of these qualities. Instead, I hope and pray you will seriously consider the people you allow to shape your life. The perfect friend doesn’t exist, but we shouldn’t settle when it comes to friendships. Too much is at stake.

I think about the friends in my life the night I hit bottom and the friends in my life today. When I sit down with friends today, we aren’t talking about the hottest girl, the latest gossip, or how drunk we were last weekend. We talk about stuff that matters. And that almost always includes Jesus. My friends today challenge me to love my wife more intimately, love my kids more passionately, and love God more fully.

Choose your friends wisely. They will impact who you are in the present and who you will become in the future.

By Frank Powell


Mercy Is Not Enough

The Hebrew prophets proclaimed over and over again the need for justice in the land. Micah was very clear about what he considered essential: “O mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness [to do mercy], and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). Isaiah says, “Seek justice,” and then he immediately enumerates some specifics of what that involved in his day and time: “Rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isa. 1:17).

Seeking justice meant standing with and advocating for the most vulnerable in society. That included at least three primary groups in ancient Israel: widows, orphans, and aliens (foreigners, immigrants, undocumented persons). The prophets railed against Israel’s leaders and the people at large when they prided themselves in being faithful to their religious rituals and practices, but neglected justice.

Unfortunately, many Christians in more conservative, evangelical traditions such as churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Pentecostal groups, the Church of God, the Church of Christ, etc, and some of the more conservative churches within mainline denominations, have never been challenged to consider all the biblical texts dealing with justice. They think justice means that a person gets what he or she deserves or they interpret it as satisfying some demand of the law. They have never been taught the concept of restorative justice that pervades the prophetic tradition and the Gospels. Their ministers have presented Jesus in such a way that the Gospel texts emphasizing Jesus’ passion for justice are either ignored or reinterpreted to fit an Americanized, individualized view of salvation that focuses on either heaven when we die or our own personal happiness and well-being now.

Luke’s Gospel sets forth Jesus’ mission in terms of Isaiah 61 as a justice agenda: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus’ ministry targeted the poor, the sick, the demonized, the condemned, and the outcasts. Jesus enlisted disciples to join him in announcing God’s will for the earth (the kingdom of God) and sent them out to also bring healing to the sick and liberation to the oppressed and demonized. His work centered on justice and mercy.

Many Christians get the part about mercy, but not about justice. Justice and mercy go hand-in-hand, but it’s important to understand the difference, because mercy is not enough.  Whereas mercy responds to the immediate needs of the homeless and the poor by offering shelter and food, justice confronts the systems we live in that create homelessness and poverty in the first place.

While mercy is about giving a hungry person some bread, justice is about trying to change the system so that no one has excess bread while some have none.
Mercy is about helping the victims of war; justice is about peacemaking and eliminating the conditions that lead to war.

The work of justice tackles such issues as poverty, inequality, war, racism, sexism, materialism, nationalism, heath care, violence, immigration, and the environment. Workers and advocates for justice often find themselves at odds with huge economic, political, social, and religious systems that dis-privilege some while they unduly privilege others–systems, by the way, that we each live in and are all complicit in–which, of course, complicates the struggle.

I refuse to believe that so many Christians in our country are so tribal and selfish and protectionistic that they do not care about the plight of refugees and undocumented persons. I put the blame on Christian leaders who have failed to teach their members and parishioners about the kind of justice God requires.  Work for justice is grounded in the theology that all human beings are God’s children and in God we all live and breathe (see Acts 17:28-29). Every person has worth and dignity. God loves the whole wide world, not just my little corner of it. I am my brother’s keeper, and my brother/sister, as Jesus taught, may be of a different race and religion (see Luke 10:29-37). On the basis of the worth and dignity of every person Jesus even taught his disciples to love those who were out to hurt them (see Luke 6:27-36).

Regardless of what one has been taught by Christian ministers and leaders, it’s time for more Christians to wake up to their responsibility to do justice, to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and to follow Jesus into the rank and file of the suffering refugees and immigrants, offering help and hope, standing strong against the President, Congress, State Legislators, and all the powers that would turn their backs on God’s “little ones.”

by Chuck Queen